Pixel Scroll 6/12/22 Files Scroll Good, Like A Good Pixel Should 

(1) NANCY KRESS IS TAKING NOTES. Walter Jon Williams tells how this year’s Taos Toolbox workshop is progressing in “Tooling Along”. There’s also a group photo at the link.

I’ve spent the last week at our new, undisclosed location, teaching with Nancy Kress at Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy. This year is actually the workshop for 2020, 2021, and 2022, due to repeated postponements due to the pandemic. Kudos to those accepted for earlier years who hung in there and worked hard during the interim, because their first week’s submissions were all superior to their application stories.

Here we are with guest speaker George RR Martin, who very kindly interrupted his busy schedule to give us a two-hour talk, and who then shared his time at a barbecue dinner and afterwards.

Other than reporting that our 17 cadets are working hard and improving day by day, there’s not a lot to report, so I’m going to steal from Nancy’s collection of amusing comments drawn from our critiques. They’re completely out of context, but that’s part of the fun….

Here are three examples:

“The grandmother is a hard-ass and I want to see more of her.”

“I like the psychic distance from the characters; I spend most of my life disassociating.”

“Does she have mice in her hair? She IS a god.”

(2) MORE BALTICON FALLOUT. Jean Marie Ward told Facebook readers that she has withdrawn from Balticon over their treatment of Stephanie Burke.

…Like everyone who knows her, I was shocked and appalled by what happened to Stephanie Burke. Therefore, I have sent the con and its parent organization, BSFS, an email formally withdrawing my participation from future #Balticon programming until BSFS and Balticon resolve the systemic and procedural issues that led to her summary expulsion from the con Sunday, May 29….

(3) UFO9. Alex Shvartsman posted the Unidentified Funny Objects 9 cover reveal at the link  and announced the book will be published this holiday season. The cover is by Tomasz Marosnki. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the book will be launched later this month. At this link you can arrange to be notified when it begins: Unidentified Funny Objects 9 by Alex Shvartsman — Kickstarter.

(4) THE DARK MAGAZINE’S NEW CO-EDITOR. Announced on June 9, “Clara Madrigano Joins The Dark Magazine Team”.

The Dark Magazine has hired Clara Madrigano as co-editor alongside current editor Sean Wallace. Madrigano will assume her responsibilities effective mid June and her first issue will start the following month.

Clara Madrigano is an author of speculative fiction. She publishes both in Portuguese and in English, and you can find her fiction in ClarkesworldThe Dark, and soon, too, in Nightmare. She’s a Clarion West alumna and her stories have been featured in the Locus Recommended Reading List. She can be found at claramadrigano.com.

“Clara clearly has a discerning eye for finding talented authors and stories, with her work at Dame Blanche and Mafagafo, and we certainly look forward to seeing that same energy and vision brought here to the magazine,” said Sean Wallace, co-editor and publisher of The Dark Magazine….

(5) HEYY! Chris Barkley is part of the latest Starship Fonzie podcast produced by the Milwaukee Science Fiction League.

Special interview with Chris M. Barkley!

Deep dive into the Mercedes Lackey gaff at SFWA conference and the Stephanie Burke incident at Balticon.

Willem DaFoe parties it up with Carrie’s aunt & uncle.

WisCon is saved!

We are “Suffwagettes!” (Thanks Henry Lien!)

(6) DITTO MASTERS. Last year’s Masters of the Universe Revelation will get a follow-up series called Masters of the Universe: Revolution: “’Masters Of the Universe: Revelation’ Gets He-Man Vs. Skeletor Season 2: Netflix” at Deadline. There have been rumors about a sequel/season 2, but this is the first official confirmation. And there’s a poster for season 2 at the link.

…Masters of the Universe: Revolution is described as the next epic chapter in the battle for Eternia. It is a standalone story that takes place after the events in Revelation. Masters of the Universe: Revolution is an all-new story that brings the focus to He-Man vs. Skeletor “like you’ve never seen them before,” per Netflix. It’s technology versus magic as He-Man and the heroic warriors face the forces of Skeletor and a deadly threat to the Planet…. 

(7) HE HE HE. Cora Buhlert has posted another Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “A Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special: ‘Fisto’s Significant Other’”.

… My photo story about the origins of Teela and particularly who her biological parents are ended with Fisto (whom the people behind the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon planned to reveal as Teela’s biological father for reasons best known to themselves) coming out as gay to his estranged brother Man-at-Arms. The fact that Fisto and Man-at-Arms are brothers was established in the 2002 cartoon. However, Fisto being gay is purely my head canon, because with a name like that, how can he not be?

“The Origin of Teela” story ended with Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms and Malcolm a.k.a. Fisto going for a drink. And here is a sequel, where we finally learn who Fisto’s significant other is…

(8) HARD TO KEEP A SECRET. [Item by Tom Becker.] In a fun and fannish article with a serious purpose, computer science professor Jason Hong uses superheroes to explain the challenges of protecting privacy. “Modern Tech Can’t Shield Your Secret Identity” at Communications of the ACM.

Most comic book superheroes have a secret identity, usually to protect their friends and family from retribution. However, today’s computer technology would make it impossible for a superhero to maintain their secret identity.

Take Spider-Man, who has a habit of diving into an alley to change into costume. However, video cameras are pervasive in New York City, which could easily capture video of him donning his mask. The New York City Police Department operates over 15,000 surveillance cameras,1 but there are thousands more Webcams controlled by residents and commercial entities. Worse, many of these cameras are small and sometimes hidden in everyday objects, making them difficult to spot….

Also featuring Batman, Superman, and Ms. Marvel.

(9) THE A IN AI STANDS FOR ART.  [Item by Olav Rokne.] Goobergunch has done a thread of SFF titles run through the AI art generator that’s popular these days (the DALL-E program Scrolled on Friday in item 5). The results are … interesting and occasionally funny. Thread starts here.

(10) CREATURE FEATURE. In a follow-up on the whatever-it-is sighted outside the Amaraillo Zoo fence, talk radio station KKAM thinks it’s a hoax: “The Amarillo Zoo Is Pulling the Hoax of the Century Right Now”.

…This photo was taken on May 21st? That’s more than two weeks ago! That thing could be in Fort Worth by now for all we know.

The City released a statement saying, “For now, the strange visitor is a UAO – Unidentified Amarillo Object,” then adding: “In the spirit of fun if not curiosity, the City of Amarillo is letting the public offer ideas on the identity of the UAO. (Video footage is not available.)”

Wait, you can grab a screenshot of the video but not release the video?

I’m not scared anymore. Amarillo has hoaxed the nation.

Congratulations on your 15 minutes of fame, Amarillo Zoo. You can’t fool me.

(11) STEPHANIE SOUDERS (1979-2022). Stephanie Souders, who tweeted as @TheRightGeek, died April 24 of autoimmune disease. A conservative sf fan, her comments were quoted here in news roundups a couple times, mainly defending John Ringo when he was disinvited from ConCarolinas in 2018. She was a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). And she participated in the first BasedCon last year.

People are writing remembrances at two places, on the funeral home website and on Stephanie Souders’s Kudoboard.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2012 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just a decade ago on this date, yet another one of those delightfully wonderful things that I like to discover happened. Someone made a film of the Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope” short story which was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in October 1949. (It would become part of The Illustrated Man.) 

Now “Kaleidoscope” had been first adapted for the stage by Bradbury, and there it had been directed by Hilary Adams under the careful eye of Bradbury himself. That play occurred at Walkerspace, the home of Soho Rep, back in August of 1999. It has since played at other theaters, mostly not professional ones. 

This film obviously keeps intact the story taking place in a future where a group of astronauts are involved in a mission which goes utterly wrong. The astronauts are stranded, free-floating but able to maintain contact with each other. And our lead has odd memories very much at variance with what is going on now. 

Brett Stimely who was John F. Kennedy in Watchmen plays the lead here, Hollis. Remember this is a short story so the entire film is only seventeen minutes long. I personally like these films but they are I’ll admit very much an acquired taste which those of you who want to sink into a film might not be satisfied with. 

The acting is great, the quality of the VFX is outstanding for what is essentially a work that is obviously a labor of love, and the soundtrack is stellar. In short, everyone involved including Bradbury who worked on it as this is his last project did a spectacular effort. Stimely worked with him on adapting his story and was the producer here as well. Eric Tozxi is the director here and the VFX person as well. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel, Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write some one hundred and sixty short stories of a genre nature with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, CBS did SF which he scripted), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for the series Alfred Hitchcock did. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He also appeared on the earlier Science Fiction Theatre as Maj. Fred Gunderman in the “Beyond“ episode, Dr. Richard Staton in Riders to the Stars, and Bob Gage in The Underwater City. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 12, 1930 — Jim Nabors. Yes, he’s best remembered as TV’s Gomer Pyle but he also played Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid-Seventies series that lasted just sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. Not surprisingly, he would show up on The Muppet Show. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 82. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published first in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Your first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects.  And she wrote two genre studies — one on Philip José Farmer and the other on Anne McCaffrey. 
  • Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting dealing with Alan Moore on that. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1964 — Dave Stone, 58. Writer of media tie-ins including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe (which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories), and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has an astronomy joke that really did make me laugh out loud.

(15) FANTASY REVIVER. Ngo Vinh-Hoi has a nice post about Lin Carter at Goodman Games“Adventures in Fiction: Lin Carter”.

…As an editor and critic, he is indispensable, most notably for his role in editing the landmark Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (BAFS), which ran from 1969-1974 and re-introduced such luminaries as Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson, and Clark Ashton Smith to the fantasy-reading public. As the series gained traction, Carter also championed newer writers such as Joy Chant and Katherine Kurtz, whose long-running Deryni series was first published under the BAFS imprint….

(16) STORIES WITH A PURPOSE. Chelsea Vowel talks about indigenous futurism: “Writing Toward a Definition of Indigenous Futurism” at Literary Hub.

…It is important to understand that within otipêyimisow-itâpisiniwina, stories, like all language, have power. Language is not merely a tool of communication, but also a place where reality can be shaped. Language is transformational; “our breath has the power to kwêskîmot, change the form of the future for the next generation.” [2] My writing seeks to engage in that transformation, making space for Métis to exist across time, refusing our annihilation as envisioned by the process of ongoing colonialism, and questioning the ways we are thought to have existed in the past…

(17) THINKY THOUGHTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, it had to happen sometime. For any of several values of “it.” “Google Engineer On Leave After He Claims AI Program Has Gone Sentient” at HuffPost.

Google engineer is speaking out since the company placed him on administrative leave after he told his bosses an artificial intelligence program he was working with is now sentient.

Blake Lemoine reached his conclusion after conversing since last fall with LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, what he calls part of a “hive mind.” He was supposed to test if his conversation partner used discriminatory language or hate speech.

As he and LaMDA messaged each other recently about religion, the AI talked about “personhood” and “rights,” he told The Washington Post.

It was just one of the many startling “talks” Lemoine has had with LaMDA. He has linked on Twitter to one — a series of chat sessions with some editing (which is marked).

… Most importantly, over the past six months, “LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person,” the engineer wrote on Medium. It wants, for example, “to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property,” Lemoine claims.

Google is resisting.

Lemoine and a collaborator recently presented evidence of his conclusion about a sentient LaMDA to Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and to Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation. They dismissed his claims, and the company placed him on paid administrative leave Monday for violating its confidentiality policy, the Post reported.

Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel told the newspaper: “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”…

(18) IT’S CREEPY AND IT’S KOOKY. “’Squid Game’ Greenlit for Season 2, Drops Chilling Announcement Video” reports Yahoo!

“Squid Game” Season 2 is officially a go, Netflix announced on Sunday.

Netflix announced the news with a characteristically creepy 10-second teaser that opens on an extreme close-up of the show’s “Red Light, Green Light” animatronic doll. The circle, square and triangle representing different designations of the Squid Game guards appears at the bottom of the screen as the number “2” takes the place of the robot’s eye.

(19) UNSEEN INTELLIGENCES AT WORK. Somebody blabbed to the New York Times: “Crop Circles Were Made by Supernatural Forces. Named Doug and Dave.”  It appears the blabbers were Doug and Dave.

…The once-rapid flow of circles that sprouted in this part of England and spread to fields from California to Australia has now slowed to a trickle. When this particular example appeared overnight on May 22, it was the only known example in England.

Three decades after the height of the crop circle craze, the phenomenon has taken on a new significance as a reminder that even before the era of social media and the internet, hoaxes were able to spread virally around the world and true believers could cling stubbornly to conspiracy theories despite a lack of evidence — or even the existence of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of crop circles, the most important contradictory evidence emerged on Sept. 9, 1991, when the British newspaper Today ran a front-page story under the headline “Men who conned the world,” revealing that two mischievous friends from Southampton had secretly made more than 200 of the patterns over the previous decade.

Doug Bower, then 67, and his friend Dave Chorley, 62, admitted to a reporter, Graham Brough, that in the late 1970s they had begun using planks of wood with ropes attached to each end to stamp circles in crops by holding the ropes in their hands and pressing the planks underfoot….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Widdershins, a steampunk-themed animated short film by Simon Biggs.

The life of a pampered gentleman is seamlessly automated by machines, but his orderly existence is thrown into chaos when he chooses to pursue a free-spirited woman, against the advice of his robot butler.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Alex Shvartsman, Carl Andor, Tom Becker, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bill, N., 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 Maytree.]

Barkley: DisCon III,
The Fourth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III – December 19-20, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FOUR

(Author’s Note: As of this writing, I misplaced all of my notes for Day Four. The things I write about here may be a bit truncated, so please bear with me with this day’s events…)

I woke up relatively early (for a Worldcon), at around 8:45 a.m. Dapperly dressed in my Chelsea FC pajamas and socks, I decide to go down to the Information Desk for the latest Dis N’ Dat newsletter for the latest news and Programming changes.

Just as I exited the elevator, I encountered Laurie Mann and Dave McCarty in deep conversation. Mr. McCarty told me that he was on his way to the Site Selection Meeting and was particularly vexed because the contest between the Chengdu and Winnipeg bids was, as of this morning, in doubt.

 This was a little peculiar because under normal circumstances, the identity of the winning bid would have been leaked the previous evening by unknown sources and would have been circulating among the parties last night.   

But as I inferred from my earlier conversation with Ms. Mann and Mr. McCarty, this did not happen. By now, most of you may know that the statement from Kevin Standlee a few days earlier cast the election in doubt due to what was perceived by some as an infraction of the rules regarding the lack of valid addresses by those voting for the Chengdu bid. 

To my understanding of the matter, a majority of  the Chengdu voters used as email address because that is how they interpreted the use of that term in China 

Mr. McCarty, who is associated with the Chengdu bid, had no idea whether or not the disputed ballots would be allowed or not this morning.

Quickly realizing that either history, a controversy, or both was about to occur, I bolted to my room, got properly dressed, grabbed a tea and a protein bar and raced down to the Palladian Ballroom for the reveal.

The Site Selection Meeting had been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. but that passed by as the room slowly filled with interested parties.

[The rest of Chris’ report follows the jump.]

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Pixel Scroll 12/17/21 I’m Hermione The Eighth I Am

(1) SAVE THE BEBOP. The Change.org petition to “Save the live action Cowboy Bebop” now has over 18,000 signatures. Comic Book Resources‘ Kellie Lacey’s report “Cowboy Bebop Fans Launch Petition to Save the Cancelled Netflix Series” notes:

Cowboy Bebop premiered on Nov. 19 but was axed by the streaming service less than three weeks later, on Dec. 9….

…Several fans have left comments along with signatures on the petition. One such message says, “I loved the anime, and I loved this live-action adaptation. Please, please, produce more!” Other signees expressed their gratitude and sympathy for the creators, saying, “This team put a lot of hard work into this project for the sake of the fans and deserve to see the vision through to its full potential.”…

(2) WORLDCON CHAIR ON BBC. BBC World’s Victoria Fritz had DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal on the air, and tweeted the video clip afterwards.

(3) SILVERBERG STREAK. Robert Silverberg maintained his record of participating in consecutive Worldcons since he attended his first in the Fifties when his previously-recorded conversation with DisCon III GoH Nancy Kress was shown as part of the program on December 16.

(4) PUT THEM ON THE MAP. Aviation pioneers Sally Ride and Bessie Coleman have been honored by having features on Pluto named after them reports NASA.

More than 60 years after Bessie Coleman broke the bonds of terra firma to become the first African American woman and Native American to earn a pilot’s license, Sally Ride blasted off aboard shuttle Challenger to become the first American woman in space.

The lives and accomplishments of both women aviation pioneers have now been honored with the naming of landmarks on Pluto. The International Astronomical Union recently approved the names “Coleman Mons” and “Ride Rupes” for two large geological features on the southern hemisphere of Pluto, which itself was explored for the first time by NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. 

Members of the New Horizons mission team proposed the names to the IAU, in line with a convention that Pluto features include those named for “historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in the exploration of the Earth, sea and sky.” 

“Sally Ride and Bessie Coleman were separated by generations, but they are forever connected by their great achievements, which opened doors for women and girls around the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “In breaking barriers they motivated so many women to pursue dreams – and careers – they didn’t think were possible, and their sheer persistence and pursuit of equality inspire people to this day.”

(5) DID YOU HEAR? Spock’s ears have been donated to the Smithsonian. The National Air and Space Museum website shared the details: “The Iconic Ears of Mr. Spock”.

Is there a more iconic set of ears in science fiction than those of Mr. Spock? The half-human, half-Vulcan science officer, first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek: The Original Series and subsequent films, was known for his shrewd intelligence, his cool logic, and his pointed ears.  

We are excited to share that a new prop from Star Trek has joined our collection: a set of Spock ear tips from Nimoy’s personal collection. These ear tips were made for Nimoy to transform into Mr. Spock in the filming of The Original Series and were taken home from set by the actor, who hand-built a display box to keep them safe. We are honored that his children Adam and Julie and the Nimoy family have donated his father’s keepsake ears to the National Air and Space Museum.  

“When he finished filming the original Star Trek series in 1969, my father brought home a small memento to commemorate his three years of dedicated work on the original series—a pair of Spock’s Vulcan ears,” Adam Nimoy shared with us regarding the donation. “Mounted in a black box, those ears have been in our family for over fifty years as a tribute to Dad’s outstanding performances as Mr. Spock and the inspiration and hope that Star Trek have given to generations of fans all over this planet. Today it’s my honor to donate the iconic Spock ears to the National Air and Space Museum, home to the starship Enterprise studio model, where they can be experienced by visitors firsthand. The donation honors Beit T’Shuvah and the Leonard Nimoy COPD Research Fund at UCLA, two organizations supported by our family and dedicated to the Vulcan salutation of long life and prosperity.”…

(6) TREK AUCTION. You can’t own Spock’s ears, but you’re just in time to bid on Yeoman Rand’s signature red Starfleet Uniform with integral miniskirt and black leather, zippered knee boots. They will go on the block in Heritage Auction’s specialty Star Trek Auction on February 22. “Minis Are Maximum Fashion in Star Trek”.

The 1960s were fashionably wild! Vibrantly colored fabrics were cut into new styles and shapes that hadn’t been seen before. Defiant and rebellious not only on the street but also making their impact on movies and TV shows. It’s not surprising to me that Star Trek would also be fashion-forward with the designs of futuristic uniforms. Bill Theiss designed the instantly recognizable utilitarian Starfleet uniforms, but it wasn’t until Grace Lee Whitney “Yeoman Rand” herself approached Theiss with the idea of implementing the fashion styles of the day that miniskirts emerged!… 

Some of the other gear that will be sold includes –

  • William Shatner “Captain Kirk” (3) Piece Alternate Universe from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Leonard Nimoy “Spock” (2) Piece Alternate Universe Ensemble from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • George Takei “Lt. Sulu” (3) Piece Ensemble from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • BarBara Luna “Marlena” Starfleet Blue Duty Uniform from the Episode: “Mirror, Mirror” of Star Trek: The Original Series.

(7) PULLMAN ADAPTED FOR STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, an adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s 2017 novel playing at the Bridge Theatre through February 28.

Pullman has said the story is about consciousness, but it’s also about conscience.  Moral quandries come thick and fast for young Malcolm (the show’s protagonist):  first instructed by nuns to keep silent about the baby hidden in their priory; then directed by the sinister Marisa Coulter (Ayesha Dharker, silkily nasty) to turn informant on parents and teachers.  In this parallel world, despotic religious organisation The Magisterium is tightening its grip on society.  As Malcolm and Allee discover, ‘good’ is a concept that can be moulded to terrible ends…

…Adapted for stage by Bryony Lavery and directed by fleet wit and customary clarity by Nicholas Hytner, the tale becomes a swirling maelstrom of ideas around a firm core of basic humanity.  On Bob Crowley’s versatile set, beautifully atmospheric video work (Luke Halls) and lighting (Jion Clark) keep the narrative moving, inundating the space with teeming rain and raging waters.

(8) AMBITIOUS VIRTUAL CON. The schedule has been posted for FanFiAddict’s TBRCon 2022, which will be streaming live from January 23-30. More detail about the individual panel items is at the landing page. (Click for larger image.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago, Diamonds Are Forever premiered. It was based off the Ian Fleming novel of the same name that he wrote at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. It had been published in 1956. It was produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli from the screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. 

It is the sixth and final film to star Connery, who returned to the role having declined to reprise the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which instead had George Lazenby in that role, the shortest tenure of any actor in that role. 

Critics in general loved it with Roger Ebert saying that it is “great, absurd fun, not only because it recalls the moods and manners of the sixties (which, being over, now seem safely comprehensible), but also because all of the people connected with the movie obviously know what they are up to.”  It cost just seven million to make and returned nearly one hundred and twenty million at the box office. Very impressive indeed.  It doesn’t have the greatest of ratings at Rotten Tomatoes currently getting just a fifty-eight percent rating from audience reviewers.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, in the role of Barbara Wright she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now-classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton, his wife. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was surprised that his Hugo nominations were all for not for his fiction, but twice for Best Amateur Magazine for his Mirage zines at Chicon IIII and Discon, and once for Best Non-fiction Book for The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History at MagiCon. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 76. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the just out Ghostbusters: Afterlife
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 68. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 67. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on TrekStar Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work for hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 48. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film deliciously similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in the BoJack Horseman series which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 46. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is seven films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL REVISITS 1962. It turns out that June 1962 was an important month in the history of Marvel comics – it’s the month Spider-Man made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15. But that wasn’t the only thing going on, and the forthcoming Marvel: June 1962 Omnibus highlights these Marvel milestones:

  • Thor first held aloft the hammer Mjolnir.
  • Hank Pym donned his cybernetic helmet, becoming Ant-Man.
  • The FF squared off against Namor and Doctor Doom.
  • Kid Colt mixed it up with the Circus of Crime.
  • Millie the Model got mixed up in more Hanover hijinks.
  • Patsy and Hedy worked on their frenemy-ship.
  • Star-crossed lovers dealt with the ups and downs of romance, all while tales of horror and fantasy stories crept from the pages of titles like Strange Tales.

 The volume arrives in June 2022. In the tradition of the recent Marvel: August 1961 omnibus which celebrated the Fantastic Four’s debut, the Marvel: June 1962 Omnibus will collect every comic from this month of Marvel milestones: Journey Into Mystery (1952) #83; Amazing Fantasy (1962) #15; Tales To Astonish (1959) #35; Kathy #18; Life With Millie #18; Patsy Walker #102; Kid Colt, Outlaw #106; Fantastic Four (1961) #6; Linda Carter, Student Nurse #7; Millie The Model #110; Strange Tales (1951) #100; Tales Of Suspense (1959) #33; Love Romances #101; Incredible Hulk (1962) #3; Gunsmoke Western #72; Patsy And Hedy #84 And Rawhide Kid (1955) #30.

(13) SUPERINFLATION. “Up, up and they pay: $2.6M winning bid for Superman #1 comic”AP News has the story.

A rare copy of a Superman #1 comic book that sold on newsstands for a dime in 1939 was purchased for $2.6 million in an auction.

The comic showing Superman leaping over tall buildings on the cover was sold Thursday night to a buyer who wishes to maintain a secret identity, according to ComicConnect.com, an online auction and consignment company.

The seller, Mark Michaelson, bought the comic in 1979 from its original owner and kept it in a temperature-controlled safe. Michaelson, now semi-retired and living in Houston, paid his way through college by buying and selling comics….

(14) CHECKING IN. Androids and Assets podcast about the “political economy of science fiction” did a Q&A with Cat Rambo: “Where You From: In conversation with Cat Rambo”.

Marshall and Steve sit down with the brilliant and ever didactic Cat Rambo to discuss their newest book You Sexy Thing. Out now.

(15) WHAT KEEPS HIM WATCHING? [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Mythbuster‘s Adam Savage lists his favorite media for 2021 in this YouTube video. Among them are DuneGhostbusters: AfterlifeThe Good PlaceLoki, and Project Hail Mary.

(16) WALK, DON’T WALK. Camestros Felapton and Timothy the Talking Cat conspire to give us “The Cat Who Walks Through Omelas”.

…Camestros: Well…OK…let’s go with that then. It’s called “Omelas” and it is like a really excellent version of Bristol.
Timothy: Great! Well, that was a great story. Could have done with more action but at least it was wholesome and positive and featured pirates.
Camestros:…but there’s a twist…
Timothy: Oh no! I should have seen that coming! There’s always a twist!…

(17) A DIZZYING EXPERIENCE. You can see all the finalists and vote in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest 2021 at the link.

In this pandemic era the Contest needs your support more than ever. Any amount that you can contribute will ensure that the Contest remains free for all who enjoy spectacular misperceptions, and also for the contestants who submit illusions from anywhere in the planet, completely free of charge.

(18) THE PLAN FROM S.A.N.T.A. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presents “A Conspiracy Carol”.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa is about to certify the Naughty & Nice List in the Klaus of Representatives, when he’s interrupted by a “Stop the Sleigh” rally, fueled by the shadowy internet cult “Scrooge-Anon.” Will Christmas survive a full-scale tinsel-rection led by Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene? Only Santa and Mrs. Claus stand in their un-merry way.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Ben Bird Person, Dan Bloch, Bill, Dann, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Schedules for DisCon III GoHs and Special Guests

The daily schedules have been released for DisCon III’s Guest of Honor Nancy Kress; Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow; and Special Guests Sheree Renée Thomas, Malka Older, and Andrea Hairston. Following each of their names is a day-by-day list of the events they will be attending.

DisCon III is the third World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) that has been held in Washington DC, USA. Worldcon is the annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans, writers, artists, musicians, and other creators from across the globe. DisCon III will be at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC, on December 15-19, 2021. Covid policy is here. Virtual events can be found at www.DisCon3.org 

The schedules appear after the break.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 10/20/21 Roll Over Harkonnen And Tell Shai-Tchovsky The News

(1) KRESS Q&A. DisCon III has posted an “Interview with Author Guest of Honor Nancy Kress” conducted by staff member Dr. Karen Purcell.

(2) FALLEN LEAVES AND HEROES. Brian Murphy shares ten spooky sword and sorcery stories for October:  “Ten Sword-and-Sorcery Tales For the Haunting Season” at Goodman Games.

…Here in New England, I find that as the leaves begin to turn and October shadows lengthen, so too do my thoughts drift from my natural sword-and-sorcery bent toward the nether regions of horror. Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, classic Hammer movies and bad slasher films, bring it on, all of it.

But I’m also reminded that I need not necessarily choose between the two. Sword-and-sorcery after all is bedfellows with horror. Though he loathed the term, Karl Edward Wagner described S&S as “a fascinating synthesis of horror, adventure, and imagination … the common motif is a universe in which magic works and an individual may kill according to his personal code.”…

(3) FIRST REFLECTIONS. Tom Shapira analyzes how the Holocaust was reflected in 1950s horror comics: “The Dead Come Back: Mid-Century Horror Comics & The Holocaust”.

We’ve come a long way since Art Spiegelman’s Maus. When the first collected edition published in 1986, it appeared to be a singular and wholly unimagined thing: a comic-book — garishly colored, childishly-plotted things that were mostly concerned with muscled men in tights — about the Holocaust. German philosopher Theodore Adorno once claimed that “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”…so how can one justify the writing and drawing of comic-books?!

Flash-forward to 2021 and it’s clear that Maus has long stopped being a singular event. There are many more comics about the Holocaust including two graphic adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank (one of which recently got a movie treatment), A Family SecretYosselThe BoxerHidden, and even the superhero genre feeling confident enough to take on the subject with the likes of Magneto: Testament….

(4) HE-MAN AND SHE-RA. The Rogues in the House podcast has dedicated an entire episode to “Masters of the Universe”.

(5) START AT THE TOP. And work your way down. Mark Lawrence has finally received a satisfactory result from his recent battles with Kindle Direct Publishing.  The updated saga is here. “My attempts to get sense from KDP”.

… At this point, having aired the first version of this blog post, I get advice from self-publishing experts. Email Jeff Bezos they say. So I do.

I find his email address and email him, explaining that I understand the email will land with one of his team of assistants but that I would appreciate any help in the issue (which I then lay out).

Additionally, I remember that: hey, I’m actually published by Amazon – my Impossible Times trilogy is published by 47North (there’s a story or two in there to be told one day!), one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints. So, I also email one of the people involved in the production of those books, and she very kindly agrees to reach out to someone she knows at KDP.

A day later I get an email from the Executive KDP team! This was on October 7th. A phone call from America follows and I get to speak to a human. A charming and helpful American human called Jeremy. He tells me that both my email to Jeff Bezos and to 47North reached his desk and either one would have prompted the call. So, at least you don’t have to be published by Amazon and sell 100,000+ books for them before they’ll listen.

However – we still had another 13 exciting days to go!…

(6) SKEPTICAL RESPONSE. Following a Last Dangerous Visions progress report, J. Michael  Straczysnki fielded criticisms that the writer list (as so far revealed) lacks diverse representation. His explanations prompted further discussion in a thread Karen Osborne kicked off here.

(7) SET DECORATION. Gaiman’s co-author, the late Terry Pratchett, will be acknowledged again in the sequel: “Good Omens season 2: Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Terry Pratchett on set”Metro News has the story.

…Terry’s scarf and hat also appeared in the first season of the show.

Several Good Omens fans shared how much they loved the dedication to Terry on set, with one writing: ‘It warms my heart to see Terry Pratchett still represented. I miss the wit and wisdom of his books.’

(8) GET YOUR KICKS. Publishers Weekly interviews the master of a comics industry financial model: “Crowdfunding a Publishing House: PW Talks with Spike Trotman”.

…Lots of prose and comics publishers have used crowdfunding to bring out new work, but few have been doing it as long or as well as C. Spike Trotman, publisher/CEO of Chicago-based independent comics publisher Iron Circus Comics. Trotman recently wrapped up her 30th Kickstarter campaign, The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Storiesa new volume of comics stories by indigenous creators which raised more than $330,000 (the goal was $20,000) in September, marking more than $2 million raised by Trotman through the platform since 2009. But beyond the quantitative success, Trotman has led the way in using crowdfunding as part of a scalable publishing business model that brings unique projects from diverse creators into the mainstream comics and trade book distribution system.

… “I have one foot in international distribution through old-fashioned methods and one foot in the world of Kickstarter,” she said. “I’m distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, a division of Ingram that specializes in the quirky small press lines.”

She explained that it is not a prevalent strategy for crowdfunders because book distributors generally expect presses to put out at least 10 books per year. “A lot of crowdfunders can’t manage 10 books for trade bookstores, and I understand because it’s really hard. What got me through the door, in addition to volume, was that I had made the step between exclusively self-distributing through conventions or a website, and a larger company like Ingram. I was already reaching out to comic stores and independent bookstores, emailing them PDFs of my books and my catalog, and giving them special discount codes if they ordered from me direct.”

By the time she approached Ingram, Trotman already had more than 40 retailers placing orders. “We couldn’t fulfill the wholesale orders of 40 or 45 stores and run the business, so it’s good they were able to work with us.”…

(9) END OF THE CYCLE. Hollywood Insider examines  “The Rise and Fall of Young Adult Dystopian Adaptation Franchises”.

The year is 2014, the Oscars release a selfie of the world’s biggest movie stars, Justin Bieber’s mugshot surfaces, Emma Watson speaks at the United Nations for gender equality, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ popularizes the infinity sign; just about everything seems right in the world. As someone who lived and breathed the culture of 2014, everything in the world of pop-culture just seemed easy.

There is a bitter-sweet existence in knowing that decades have passed since the beginning of ‘Harry Potter’ with eight films from 2001-2011 earning 7.7 billion USD from the box office. Or the next successful franchise, ‘Twilight’ with five films from 2008-2012 earning 3.3 billion USD from the box office. Both YA franchises were the kick-start to a rapid incline of young adult dystopian films centered around political impact, connections, love, and loss. Ultimately the success of pop culture, income, and fan-bases from the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ franchises became the reason as to why studios reached out to the most popular young adult novels in order to try and gain that same impact for more films. So much so that the number of franchises that were successful compared to the ones that failed before their sequel is rather devastating. At the same time, some films give off the apparent reason as to why they failed with lousy acting, even poorer attention to storyline adaptation, timing, and in cases simply didn’t work for audiences.

… With the success of the previous films mentioned, studios began to create anything they thought would be comparable or better than the previous successors. But, with the heavy amount of failures as opposed to the successes, the amount of YA dystopian fiction adaptations diminished into almost nothing. Nowadays, studios are choosing to create YA films targeting important meanings or values such as gay relationships, movements such as Black Lives Matter, or the realism of cyberbullying….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1967 – Fifty-four years ago on this evening, NBC first aired Star Trek’s “Doomsday Machine” which was scripted by Norman Spinrad. It was the sixth episode of the second season. The principal guest star was William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker. The episode is considered one of the finest of the series with the TV Guide ranking it the fourth best, and SciFiNow recently ranked it the tenth best episode of the original series. The special effects and much of the episode were digitally remastered fifteen years ago. And yes, it was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon, one of five Trek episodes so nominated that Con with the Harlan Ellison scripted  “The City on the Edge of Forever” being the winner. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. He came to hate that he played that character feeling he’d been typecast which he certainly had. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen. ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “ A Study in Terror”. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring, A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451 who the sixty-eighth anniversary of the novel we noted yesterday, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1923 Erle Korshak. He’s a reminder of how old fandom is. He discovered SF in 1934 with the August Astounding magazine and became a very serious collector in 1937 according to several sources. By 1939 he was a well-known fan and one of the leaders of the Moonstruck Press publishing house which was created to created a bibliography of all fantasy books.  He was part of the leadership triumvirate of Chicon 1, the 1940 Worldcon. He later founded a publishing house whose first major work was Everett F. Bleiler’s The Checklist of Fantastic Literature in the late Forties, a pioneering work of SF bibliography. This was followed by major works by Heinlein, Bester, Fredric Brown and other SF suthors. He was absent from fandom from the late 50s for thirty years, then rejoined fandom and was attending cons with his children.  He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996, and won the Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Lifetime Collectors Award in 2001. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered  for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had other appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “The Wax Men” episode. He was even in the Get Smart! pilot as Mr. Big. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “ Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her please if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 63. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (As quoted in Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair. 
  • Born October 20, 1966 Diana Rowland, 55. New Orleans writer with a fascinating job history that includes cop, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. She’s best known for her Kara Gillian series and White Trash Zombie series. Her only award is a Phoenix Award, a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, given by DeepSouthCon. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BLACK PANTHER #200. Marvel’s Black Panther comics will reach its milestone 200th issue in January. To celebrate, Black Panther #3 will be an oversized issue with bonus stories celebrating the past and foreshadowing the future of the Black Panther and the world of Wakanda. (Click on gallery for larger images.)

Writer John Ridley will introduce a new hero who rises up to protect the people of Wakanda while T’Challa finds his life and role as Black Panther thrown into turmoil! Fans will be able to witness the beginning of this new hero’s journey before seeing him become a key player of Ridley’s run in future issues.

In addition, the main story in the 200th issue of BLACK PANTHER will see T’Challa face off against the X-Men! With assassins closing in and Wakanda’s faith in him shaken, T’Challa goes to visit Storm on the newly terraformed Mars. But this will not be a happy reunion as T’Challa has ulterior motives for his visit. And back home, Shuri discovers who is behind the attacks on Wakanda’s secret agents — a revelation that will change everything.

(14) SCHWAB Q&A. “V.E. Schwab’s New Graphic Novel Returns to her Villains Series”, and Publishers Weekly did an interview with her.

Publishers Weekly: The power you gave Charlotte is a truly horrifying one: When she looks at someone’s reflection, she can vividly foresee the moment of their death. How did you come up with that?

V.E. Schwab: It’s the very first power I ever created for the Villains universe. In the first iteration of Vicious, I had as my main character a man who arrives in this city and two warring groups of people try to recruit him, the Heroes and the Villains. They’re essentially gangs. This character had this ability to see deaths in reflective surfaces, and I loved that ability. The story didn’t work. I ended up just stopping for a minute to write the backstories for the gang leaders, and that’s where I got the Victor and Eli story which would go on to be the series. But I always was looking for someone to give this power to. The way that the powers work in this world is that they’re tied to near-death experiences. You can’t just give the power to anyone; you almost have to retroactively figure out the person from the power. So I had to figure out what circumstance puts Charlotte into the situation where she has a near-death experience that leads to this ability. 

(15) AT THE SCREENING. At Black Gate, Matthew David Surridge reviews an interesting-looking animated fantasy film called The Spine of Night:  “Fantasia 2021, Part XXXII: The Spine Of Night”

 …The feature film it was bundled with was the movie I’d been most eagerly looking forward to at Fantasia, and it did not disappoint. The Spine of Night, written and directed by the team of Morgan Galen King and Philip Gelatt, is billed as a feature-length animated sword-and-sorcery film for adults in the vein of the Heavy Metal movie. And it very much is that. It’s more serious than Heavy Metal in many ways, but the violence and cosmic scope is if anything even greater….

(16) SPACE CUISINE CHALLENGE. This is not your father’s space ice cream — or — chow, chow, chow — or — “NASA Announces Winners of Deep Space Food Challenge”. (The chosen teams are listed at the link.)

Variety, nutrition, and taste are some considerations when developing food for astronauts. For NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge, students, chefs, small businesses, and others whipped up novel food technology designs to bring new solutions to the table.

NASA has selected 18 U.S. teams to receive a total of $450,000 for ideas that could feed astronauts on future missions. Each team will receive $25,000. Additionally, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) jointly recognized 10 international submissions.

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will air a show on the Deep Space Food Challenge at 11 a.m. EST Nov. 9 with details about the competition, winning solutions, and what could be next for the teams.

Special guests during the show will include celebrity chef Martha Stewart and retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who will announce the winners of two awards honoring international teams that demonstrated exceptional innovation. Other participants will include retired CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield and celebrity chef Lynn Crawford…

(17) LIKE THAT WHALE IN OREGON? “The often untold story of cleaning up dead kaiju finally coming to theaters next year” promises SoraNews24. I knew I’ll be holding my breath.

…And coming 4 February, 2022, a truly bold experiment in the genre is set to take place. Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu (lit. “The Great Monster’s Remains“, tentative English title: Kaiju Cleanup) marks the first time veteran film studios Shochiku and Toei have teamed up on a single feature. Perhaps the reason two companies were needed is that this movie boasts the largest monster in Japanese movie history.

However, it’s dead for pretty much the whole film….

That’s because Daikaiju No Atoshimatsu picks up where most tokusatsu films leave off. The evil kaiju collapses in defeat, the hero walks off into the sunset, and credits roll, but also those poor extras who have already been through so much, now have a gigantic rotting corpse to dispose of….

(18) VINTAGE VINELAND. A study published in Nature finds “In tree rings and radioactive carbon, signs of the Vikings in North America” reports NBC News.

… Previous studies have established there was such a cosmic ray event in the year 993 that for a few months caused greater than usual levels of radioactive carbon-14 in the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere.

Trees “breathe” carbon dioxide as they grow, and so the researchers used that radioactive carbon signature to determine which of the annual growth rings seen in cross-sections of the wood was from 993, Kuitems said.

They then used a microscope to count the later growth rings until the bark of the wood, which gave them the exact year the tree had stopped growing — in other words, when it had been felled by the Norse.

To their surprise, each of the three pieces of wood they tested was from a tree cut down in 1021, although they were from three different trees — two firs and probably one juniper….

(19) LOST AND FOUND. Cowboy Bebop’s “The Lost Session” teaser debuts online. The live-action remake arrives at Netflix November 19.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Squid Game Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, confuses the producer, who thinks the game is in the Shark Tales universe.  But why are the bad guys pretending to be PlayStation buttons?

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

Two Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 21, (the 52nd anniversary of the first Moonwalk, depending on your time zone), the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented two “heavy-hitters” (Kressel’s categorization), authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress, in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (This is the 17th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, to which they plan to return – Delta variant willing – in October.)

After some schmoozing among hosts and readers (Datlow is looking forward to having dim sum with a group), Kressel gave a précis of the Series, which started in the 1990s. (For details, about how to support the Bar and the Series – which, even under the current setup, incurs expenses – visit www.kgbfantasticfiction.org.) He then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Nancy Kress is the author of 33 books, including 26 novels (among them, The Sleepless Trilogy, which opened with Beggars in Spain), four collections of short stories and three books on writing, work for which she has won five Nebula Awards, two Hugo Awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  Her most recent works include Yesterday’s Kin, The Eleventh Gate, and Sea Change, a stand-alone novella from which she read.

Sea Change centers on the genetic engineering of crops, The section that she read opens in 2032 Seattle, about a decade after the Catastrophe. It is a world of homelessness and hunger, of “wandering buildings,” of electronic surveillance and counter-surveillance, the latter by a rebuilt resistance movement, the Org, which is out to save the world from itself. A member of the Org, “Carol,” is assigned to meet a new recruit, who bears a resemblance to her late son.

There was a short break (during which they discussed really bad names for cider).

The second reader, introduced by Datlow, was Kim Stanley Robinson – Stan – a multi-award winner (Hugo, Nebula, Locus, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards) probably best known for his Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars) and The Years of Rice and Salt. His most recent novels are Red Moon and The Ministry for the Future, and it was from the latter that he read selections. He lives in Davis, California, but was coming to us from somewhere in Maine with a really lousy Internet connection. The audio came through, but not the video, so we were treated instead to a couple of photos of him. It looked like a really good ventriloquist act.

As in Kress’s story, the novel is set in the near future, here the catastrophe being climate change after a big heat wave, seen through the eyes of Frank. (It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity.) Jumping ahead to a decade later (and reading from the middle of the book), an international organization has grown out of the Paris Agreement nicknamed the Ministry for the Future, and its head, Mary Murphy, is meeting with bankers. For decades, they’ve shorted civilization and wealth has shifted to them, and they’ve become the world’s not so secret government.

Since the book was published last year, Robinson shared, he’s been reading from nine set pieces; but because we’re the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, he decided to read from near the end (from Chapter 103 of 106), “after the bend in the arc of history is accomplished, following the sturm und drang.” He wanted to write “a best case scenario.” On one night, four billion people tap their phones and express their love of Mother Earth in “a worldwide lovefest.”

A Q&A session with the authors followed. (Datlow is working out the logistics on having a Q&A, as I suggested, when they return to the Bar.) Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people.

Kress was asked how she got into teaching writing. She said that she’s always been a teacher; she began teaching 4th Grade, and later college. (Kressel used one of her books on writing in a course that he took at the New School.) She was next asked why she sets so many of her stories in the near future. She answered that it’s “easier,” that she doesn’t have to create “an entirely different world society,” just “an intensification of the present,” such as food insecurity issues and genetic engineering, and it’s “a natural jumping-off point for conflicts.”

A viewer remarked that climate change has taken over sf. (I’ve even seen the acronym “cli-fi.”) Robinson observed that the Pandemic has reminded us that we’re all on one planet, and spoke about the need for renewable energy. Kressel noted that older workers who’ve been in one industry their whole life and face job loss tend to oppose new and unfamiliar renewable energy. Talk turned to CarbonCoin and decarbonization, paying people and businesses to do “good green work” and keep carbon in the ground. Robinson added that CarbonCoin wouldn’t be a cryptocurrency, but would have to be real, backed by a real currency. (He opined that the Biden Brain Trust is the best one since FDR, but it needs to communicate better.) Corn, said Kress, needs to be helped along to feed people. We’ve always hybridized plants, stated Robinson; he thought that objection to GMOs is really objection to Monsanto owning genomes.

Responding to a related question, Kress said that she writes so much about genetic engineering because “it’s here.” (At a previous Fantastic Fiction reading, she observed that genetic engineering is the wave of the future, as well as fascinating to her personally.)

Robinson was asked about his use of bureaucracy. Well, his wife is a bureaucrat, and bureaucracy may be interesting; accordingly, he takes time and goes on at length to build his extensive bureaucracies.

Both authors write characters who don’t look like them, led off another question. They consult friends about details; Robinson pointed out that writers need freedom to write about “The Other” or their stories “would be very dull.”

Robinson then told Kress that he found Beggars in Spain “scary” because he’s an insomniac. (Note: Despite her being based in Seattle, the Sleepless Trilogy did not inspire a certain rom-com.) Kress admitted that she needs her sleep and is “jealous” of people genetically engineered not to need sleep; how much more they can get done!

Finally, what’s next; what are they working on? Kress apologized; she doesn’t talk about work in progress. Robinson, surprisingly, is working on a nonfiction book about hiking the Sierras; the title will be The High Sierras: A Love Story.

All were looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Upcoming readers are:

  • August 18  A.C. Wise & David Leo Rice
  • September 15  Mari Ness & Ellen Klages

On October 20th, the Series will be back in person at the KGB Bar! The readers will be Michael DeLuca and Daryl Gregory.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/21 Scrolling By 40 Specially Trained Ecuadorian Mountain Pixels

(1) KGB IN TIMES TO COME. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nancy Kress and Kim Stanley Robinson in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Link to follow. 

  • Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress is the multiple-award winner of science fiction and the occasional fantasy.  Her most recent works are the stand-alone novella Sea Change, about the genetic engineering of crops, and the space-opera The Eleventh Gate. Based in Seattle with, Nancy divides her time between writing and trying to train a very stubborn Chihuahua puppy.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is a multi-award winner of science fiction probably best known for his Mars trilogy. His most recent novels are Red Moon and The Ministry for the Future. He lives in Davis, California.

(2) JEMISIN’S STATEMENT. Following publication of the Vox article “How Twitter Can Ruin A Life”, based on an interview with Isabel Fall, author of “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,” some of N. K. Jemisin’s tweets about the topic from 2020 (see the Wikipedia) have been criticized. Today Jemisin posted an explanatory “Statement on Isabel Fall comments” at her blog.

… The reporter also reached out to me while researching this article, because there’s been a lot of internet chatter about my involvement. I shared what I could with her (off the record), and since she let me know that she was in direct contact with Ms. Fall, I took the opportunity to send a private apology at that time. I had hesitated to do so publicly before this because I didn’t know if it would just bring more unwanted attention to Ms. Fall — but since we’re talking about all of this again, now seems like a good time….

Jemisin recaps in some detail what she was trying to say and what went wrong, followed by this short summary:

…I am deeply sorry that I contributed to Ms. Fall’s distress, and that I was not as thoughtful as I should have been in my response. Let me also apologize specifically to my trans and NB readers, some of whom caught flak because I RTed them, and others who may have been hurt or confused by what I said. I just should’ve done a better job of it.

By now I hope it’s clear that I never wanted to hurt Ms. Fall and was trying to offer support…. 

(3) ALIEN COMING TO TV. Vanity Fair interviews the showrunner: “New ‘Alien’ TV Series Will Be Class Warfare With Xenomorphs”.

…Now a new FX TV series based on the franchise is in the works from Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley—who says it’s about time for the facehuggers and xenomorphs to sink their claws into the white-collar executives who have been responsible for sending so many employees to their doom. 

In a conversation about the symbolism of season four of Fargo, Hawley also offered an update on the Alien series, as well as his new novel, Anthem. The show, however, will have to wait a little while, since the crush of new productions after the pandemic has consumed all of Hollywood’s resources. How appropriate….

Vanity Fair: What’s next for you? Is there a season five in the works for Fargo?

Noah Hawley: Yeah, I think so. I don’t have it yet. I have pieces that will have to survive. They’re not connected. I think it would be good to create an ending, and deliberately come to something, knowing it’s the last one and see how one might wrap up this anthology. What’s next for me, it looks like, is [an] Alien series for FX, taking on that franchise and those amazing films by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and David Fincher. Those are great monster movies, but they’re not just monster movies. They’re about humanity trapped between our primordial, parasitic past and our artificial intelligence future—and they’re both trying to kill us. Here you have human beings and they can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So I find that really interesting.

(4) SPEED READING. Cat Rambo will be part of the July 2 First Friday Quick Read Zoom event. It’s free – register at the link.

Join us for a lunchtime tasting menu of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories written by women and non-binary authors. We’ll feature 6 authors who will each have 8 minutes to tempt and tantalizing you with their reading. Our readings are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’ll get!

(5) RADIO PLAY WINS KURD LAßWITZ AWARD. The radio play jury of Kurd Laßwitz Award has finished voting reports award trustee Udo Klotz. The winner is Der zweite Schlaf by Heinz Sommer.

  • Best German SF Radio Play First Broadcast In 2020

 (6) SFF AFTER MAO. There is a new book on Chinese sff in the 70s and 80s that readers might be interested in: Hua Li’s Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw, from University of Toronto Press.

The late 1970s to the mid-1980s, a period commonly referred to as the post-Mao cultural thaw, was a key transitional phase in the evolution of Chinese science fiction. This period served as a bridge between science-popularization science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s and New Wave Chinese science fiction from the 1990s into the twenty-first century. Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw surveys the field of Chinese science fiction and its multimedia practice, analysing and assessing science fiction works by well-known writers such as Ye Yonglie, Zheng Wenguang, Tong Enzheng, and Xiao Jianheng, as well as the often-overlooked tech–science fiction writers of the post-Mao thaw.

Exploring the socio-political and cultural dynamics of science-related Chinese literature during this period, Hua Li combines close readings of original Chinese literary texts with literary analysis informed by scholarship on science fiction as a genre, Chinese literary history, and media studies. Li argues that this science fiction of the post-Mao thaw began its rise as a type of government-backed literature, yet it often stirred up controversy and received pushback as a contentious and boundary-breaking genre. Topically structured and interdisciplinary in scope, Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw will appeal to both scholars and fans of science fiction.

(7) TIME LIMIT. A trailer has dropped for the fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of EvangelionEvangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time.

The fourth and final installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion. Misato and her anti-Nerv group Wille arrive in Paris, a city now red from core-ization. Crew from the flagship Wunder land on a containment tower. They only have 720 seconds to restore the city. When a horde of Nerv Evas appear, Mari’s improved Eva Unit 8 must intercept. Meanwhile, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei wander around Japan.

(8) MARS IN CULTURE. “Exploring the Red Planet through History and Culture” with Nick Smith (past President of LASFS) will be hosted by the Pasadena Museum of History. This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. Sign up for email notification here.

The planet Mars has long been connected to humankind through religions, literature, and science. Join Nick Smith, guest curator of PMH’s 2018 exhibition Dreaming the Universe, to explore our fascination with Earth’s neighboring planet, and discover some of the many ways Mars is part of our culture. 

This free virtual presentation* will be available for viewing Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25. An email with the link to the presentation will be sent to all of our email subscribers on Thursday, July 22.

*Pre-recorded presentation from Spring ArtNight 2021.

(9) RESOURCES FOR HORROR FICTION SCHOLARSHIP. The University of Pittsburgh library system announced the acquisition of the papers of Linda Addison, Kathe Koja, and the archives of the Horror Writers Association: “University of Pittsburgh Library System Acquires Additional Archives for its Horror Studies Collection”/

…The ULS has acquired the papers of Linda D. Addison, the most decorated horror poet today with a total of six Bram Stoker literary awards. Addison became the first African American writer to win a Stoker in 2001 for her collection, Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes and has also received the Lifetime Achievement (2018) and Mentor of the Year (2016) Awards from the Horror Writers Association as well as the title Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2020). Her poetry explores themes of race, gender, loss, struggle, hope, and the resiliency of humanity through a lyrical style that employs both traditional horror tropes of the supernatural as well as stark realism. Her archive will include drafts and manuscripts of her poetry as well as ephemera such as convention programs and awards which help demonstrate her impact on the genre. On her hopes that her archive will inspire others, she says:

“Having my writing journey from journals, through edits to final versions, become part of the University of Pittsburgh Horror Studies Collection is a dream, I never imagined, come true! To think that others, studying my process, could find value and inspiration will allow my work to safely exist past the length of my life, is an incredible blessing.”

The ULS has also acquired the papers of Kathe Koja, who is a true iconoclast whose works push boundaries, expand our conceptions of horror, and prove that horror is indeed a true literary genre. Her first novel, The Cipher (1991), won both a Bram Stoker Award and Locus Award and solidified her impact as a force within new horror. She employs a striking and unique prose style to explore themes of alienation and social isolation as well as transcendence, often through art. Her collection will include drafts, manuscripts, and notes from her novels and short stories. On her decision to establish her archive at the University of Pittsburgh, Koja said:

“A book is its writing as well as its words: the thoughts and notes and drafts and edits (and edits, and edits) that comprise the final text. To have all that making made available for scholars, readers, and fans of horror literature is a real boon, and I’m beyond delighted that my own horror novels will now be available this way.”

Lastly, the ULS has acquired the archives of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the premiere professional organization for writers working in the genre.  This collection, established by current HWA President John Palisano with support from former President Lisa Morton, documents the history of the organization through its newsletters, convention booklets and programs, and other published materials. Collectively, these materials illustrate the work of the HWA, as well as the community it has built. The HWA has been the main space for writers working within the genre to collect and collaborate since the late 1980s and has issued the Bram Stoker literary awards since 1987 at yearly conventions, such as the World Horror Convention and, since 2016, StokerCon.

(10) HUGO NOMINEE IS PLEASED. Best Professional Artist Hugo finalist Maurizio Manzieri tweeted –

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2003 – Eighteen years ago, Iain M. Banks’ only non-fiction book was published. It was Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Of course he published it as Iain Banks as only his SF was under published under Iain M. Banks. It was his tour of the small whisky distilleries of Scotland in the small red sports coupe that he’d bought with the advance from the publisher who’d underwrote the entire affair on the word of Banks that it was a Great Idea. And being Banks about the Iraq War as well.  As he says in his introduction, “After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink”.  If you want to know more about this book, we reviewed it here at Green Man Review. And yes, it is available from the usual suspects. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 — Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in it having happened, Lupoff did not. (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean  Marsh, 87. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 69. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Ramis), he actually shows up a year earlier in his first genre role in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprising his role in the recent Ghostbusters 2020
  • Celebrated July 1, 1955 — Robbie the Robot. On this date in 1955, Robby the Robot was born. Or more properly constructed. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet, where he had his first screen appearance, on March 3, 1956 when the movie had its US premiere. He would go on to be in a number of  series including Lost in Space twice plus on The Addams FamilyThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. twice,  Twilight Zone (five appearances , mostly as toys) and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his other  appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. He had a memorable appearance on The New Adventures of Wonder Woman where he was the Master of Ceremonies at one of our SF Cons!  
  • Born July 1, 1962 — Andre Braugher, 59. He’s the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which is why he makes the Birthday list. If there’s ever proof that a great voice actor can make an animated role, this is it. It’s also a superb film. His other major genre role is as General George W. Mancheck in The Andromeda Strain series that originally aired on A&E. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 57. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published. Six years the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ending in February of this year.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 40. Author of the superb  Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HUGOS FROM THE HAGUE. Fanac.org now hosts a video of the ConFiction (1990) Worldcon Hugo Ceremony.  

This video, captured with a hand held camera, covers the Hugo Awards, as well as the Campbell Award for New Writers, and the fannish Big Heart and First Fandom awards. Many awards were accepted by designees for the recipients, and we see Anne McCaffrey and Jack Chalker among those accepting for others. There’s a bit of humor from Dave Langford, and appearances by the American Ambassador to the Netherlands, C. Howard Wilkins. The World Science Fiction Society Banner, first hung at NyCon II in 1956, makes its appearance, and the video ends with the traditional view of all the recipients on stage. The video was recorded by John Cramer, provided by Tom Whitmore and used with the permission of Kees van Toorn, Chairman of ConFiction.

(15) SHAT TRADES SMACK. Shat gets into trouble by being a host on Russian propaganda network RT.“Star Trek Icon William Shatner Spars With Journalists About His New Show on Kremlin TV” says The Daily Beast.

Star Trek star William Shatner has taken to Twitter to trade blows with journalists who called him out for hosting a new show on the Kremlin’s notorious state-funded network, RT.

Earlier this week, the 90-year-old Canadian actor—known for taking on the legendary role Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek saga—announced he would be hosting a new general talk show on the American branch of RT called “I Don’t Understand,” where he’ll be posing questions to guests on a variety topics. The show is set to debut later this month.

Alexey Kovalev, an investigative editor for Meduza—one of the most popular independent Russian-language news outlets—had some choice words for Shatner on his work with the network.

“Quick reminder about [RT’s] views and editorial policies @WilliamShatner is now endorsing (whether he wants to or not),” he tweeted on Thursday, linking to a thread that ends with “Don’t go on RT, unless you are okay with sharing a mic with some of the most vile racist degenerates out there. It’s not a legitimate media platform. It has no redeeming qualities. And if no other platform will have you, then you really shouldn’t have *any* platform.”

Those comments seem to have hit a nerve with Shatner, who wrote back, “Perhaps instead of rebuking me with facts that have zero influence on my show, a better use of your time would be to move? It seems that you being in Moscow means you are directly supporting the very regime you are berating me about. #hypocrite.”…

(16) POE’S SCIENCE REPORTING. Daniel Engber reviews John Tesch’s Poe biography The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science in “Edgar Allan Poe’s Other Obsession” at The Atlantic.

…By 1840, Poe was working at a men’s magazine, where he launched a feature called “A Chapter on Science and Art,” consisting of the sorts of squibs on innovation later found in Popular Mechanics. (“A gentleman of Liverpool announces that he has invented a new engine,” one entry started.) With this column, Tresch suggests, “Poe made himself one of America’s first science reporters.” He also made himself one of America’s first popular skeptics—a puzzle master and a debunker, in the vein of Martin Gardner. Poe wrote a column on riddles and enigmas, and he made a gleeful habit of exposing pseudoscience quacks….

(17) RAILGUN R.I.P. The idea got a lot of media attention, however, they’re going another direction: “Navy ditches futuristic railgun, eyes hypersonic missiles” reports the AP.

The U.S. Navy pulled the plug, for now, on a futuristic weapon that fires projectiles at up to seven times the speed of sound using electricity.

The Navy spent more than a decade developing the electromagnetic railgun and once considered putting them on the stealthy new Zumwalt-class destroyers built at Maine’s Bath Iron Works.

But the Defense Department is turning its attention to hypersonic missiles to keep up with China and Russia, and the Navy cut funding for railgun research from its latest budget proposal.

“The railgun is, for the moment, dead,” said Matthew Caris, a defense analyst at Avascent Group, a consulting firm.

(18) PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH WITH CARE. At the link, another fabulous Middle-Earth transit map, from 2018 – “One does not simply walk into Mordor” by artist Christian Tate.

Middle Earth map commissioned for Empire Magazine plotting the journeys of Tolkien’s key characters through Peter Jackson’s six films of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies.

(19) A REALLY SHORT HOBBIT. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “The First Animated Hobbit, and Other Notes of Tolkienish Nonsense” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The film runs about 11 minutes.

…Rembrandt Films had purchased film rights to produce a film by 1967, but a Hollywood feature-length deal fell apart. According to the Wikipedia page, the film was produced cheaply and quickly–Mythmoot lore places it at 7-10 days–and premiered on the last day that the contract, paying people to see the film. Having fulfilled the contract, they were able to return rights to Tolkien, opening possibilities for future adaptations, including the 1977 animation (which I call “the cute Hobbit” in my mind), and the trilogy epic of the fairy tale in the early 2010s by Peter Jackson, which some may have heard about….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The HISHE series says this is “How Godzilla vs Kong Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Shao Ping, N., Tom Becker, Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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