Pixel Scroll 2/20/24 The Scroll Of Theseus

(1) IN THE BEGINNING. Philip Athans asks everyone, “Don’t Be Hatin’ On Prologues (Again)” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

… Anyway, once again we’re being told that all prologues are bad, no books should ever have a prologue, and all authors who write prologues are bad, and anyway, it’s best to just skip over them if one should have the nerve to appear….

…Let’s take this monumental misconception in two parts. First, the notion that prologues are optional and no one reads them.

As both an editor and a reader I have never in my life skipped a prologue or in any way went in thinking it was not necessary to the story. Not one time, not ever. This notion is so alien to me I can’t even begin to understand the origin of it.

Richard Lee Byers, author of Called to Darkness and The Reaver (neither of which happen to have prologues) tried to help: “…the assumption is that the prologue is an info dump. Beyond that, even if it’s exciting in its own right, there’s a feeling that if Chapter 1 switches to different characters or is Ten Years Later, you’ve thrown away whatever narrative momentum you might have built up.”

There should never be an assumption that a prologue is an info dump, because prologues should never be info dumps—not ever, not under any circumstances. And yes, even if your world is really complex and you’ve spent years worldbuilding and you’re sure no one will understand your story unless you “set the scene” or teach them all about your amazing world, and all that nonsense. If this is what your prologue is doing, that’s why your book is being rejected, not because it has a prologue, but because it has a crappy prologue….

(3) HISTORY AND MORAL PHILOSOPHY. Canadian sff author D.G. Valdron writes about “Moral Compromise and the Lesson of the Hugos” on Medium.

… Well, the Hugos Scandal isn’t the battle for Civil Rights. But the sort of moral compromise and coercion that King criticized is on display here, and it’s frightening how unnecessary it was, how shallow virtue turned out to be.

How do we really act, how do we really think or behave, how virtuous are we if we are genuinely tested, if there’s a real push. How often have you bowed your head and simply gone along to get along.

And how brave will you be when there are real consequences? When taking a stand actually can get you arrested, or get you fired from your job, or get you beaten up? How principled are you, when there’s money involved, either to lose or to gain? When principles mean some form of inconvenience? When principles mean going against the crowd?

Sadly, I think that most of us won’t be. We’ll be just like the Hugo folk….

(4) THE FIRST. “’No one had done it before him’: the groundbreaking stories of Black astronauts” – the Guardian discusses the documentary film The Space Race.

…Glover describes the tension of code switching between his professional and personal lives. He is a military officer and Nasa astronaut – he will pilot the upcoming Artemis II mission that will orbit the moon – but also a Black man in America. “Is it really possible to have a double consciousness? No, but you almost have to think of it that way: there’s a bit of me that I am at home and then there’s a bit of me that I am at work, and the overlap is kind of small.”…

(5) STEVE MILLER (1950-2024). Sff author Steve Miller died this afternoon. His wife and co-author Sharon Lee told Facebook readers:

He went downstairs to take a walk at about 4:30. At about 5:30, I thought he’d been awhile and went downstairs to see what was going on.

He was on the floor, unconscious, and not breathing. I called 911, and did CPR until the ambulance and EMTs arrived. They did everything they could, but his heart just wouldn’t beat on its own.

Miller’s health had been failing; he recently wrote his own obituary, which Sharon Lee has allowed File 770 to post (see “Steven Richard Miller (July 31, 1950 – February 20, 2024)”.)

Steve and Sharon Lee declared themselves partners in life and in writing in 1978. They married in November 1980, and moved from Maryland to Skowhegan, Maine, in October 1988 after the publication of their first joint novel, Agent of Change, the first in what was to become a long series of space opera novels and stories set in their original Liaden Universe®. A book in that series, Scout’s Progress, won the 2002 Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Steve was an active member of fandom in earlier years, as Director of Information of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for some time, and as vice-chair of the bid committee to hold the 1980 Worldcon in Baltimore (they lost to Boston).

The SF Encyclopedia says Steve began publishing work of genre interest with “Shalgiel” for Flux Magazine in 1976, one of his few solo works. He began collaborating with Sharon with “The Naming of Kinzel: The Foolish” (June 1984 Fantasy Book); and all his novels have been with Lee, primarily the Liaden Universe® sequence. 

Steve ran his own small press from 1995 through 2012, specializing in chapbooks containing 2-3 short stories set in the Liaden Universe® and other settings from books by him, Sharon Lee and other authors.

For awhile Steve and Sharon ran Bookcastle & Dreamsgarth, Inc., a genre bookstore with a traveling convention SF art agency component.

Steve and Sharon were honored together in 2012 with NESFA’s Skylark Award, given for contributions to SF in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. (Died 2013.) Now we come to Richard Matheson. So where shall I start?  From a genre viewpoint, we should start with the Hugo he would share at Solacon for The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold from Matheson’s screenplay based off his novel. 

What next? Well The Twilight Zone, of course. He scripted thirteen episodes of which “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner is certainly the best-known. I’d also single out “Little Girl Lost” for just being out really, really scary, again it’s based off a story of his. Also, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” became part of the Twilight Zone film.

Richard Matheson

Oh, sweet mother, he was prolific! I mean really, really prolific. Just cinema films alone totaled up to at least twenty-eight: television work adds another thirty-four. So no, I’m not covering these in detail, am I? 

Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend was made into three movies – but he wondered in an interview why it kept being optioned when no one ever made a movie that actually followed the book. He hated The Last Man on Earth, so he’s credited as Logan Swanson instead. It got made twice more, as The Omega Man, and much later as I Am Legend with Will Smith.

Now where was I? (The phone rang from a medical office. Lots of those these days.) Ahhh, series work. 

The Night Stalker was his greatest success. The Night Stalker first aired in January 1972, and garnered the highest ratings of any television movie at that time. Matheson would receive an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Miniseries Teleplay. 

He scripted but a single episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., “The Atlantis Affair” and none of the other U.N.C.L.E. series. 

He did “The Enemy Within” episode of the Trek series, not one that I consider to be all that great.

Remember in the Jack Palance Birthday I mentioned Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula? Well guess who the scriptwriter was for it?

He’s the scriptwriter of The Martian Chronicles, the good, the bad whatever of that series. Seen it at least three times, still love the original version much more.

He was involved in Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. The first and much shorter segment, The Theatre, was expanded and scripted by him from a Serling outline. 

Now his fiction. 

Thirty novels which with the exception of the ones of the ones I’ve already noted and The Shrinking Man and The Night Stalker novels, I recognized absolutely nothing. What I found fascinating is that half of the nearly thirty novels had become films. Nearly all with him writing the scripts for them. 

Short stories. Oh yes. And as I’ve mentioned previously, many of them were adapted by him into scripts for such series as The Twilight Zone. He’s got literally dozens of collections but not being one who’s read him deeply, I cannot recommend what ones are the best to acquire.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) HOW EDUCATIONAL! The New York Times declares, “It’s Alive! EC Comics Returns”.

EC Comics, which specialized in tales of horror, crime and suspense, and was shut down in the “moral panic” of the 1950s, is making a comeback.

Oni Press will publish two new anthology series under the EC Comics banner. The first, Epitaphs From the Abyss, coming in July, will be horror focused; Cruel Universe, the second, arrives in August and will tell science fiction stories.

Hunter Gorinson, the president and publisher of Oni Press, said the new stories will interpret the world of today, much as EC Comics explored the American psyche of the 1950s. The cover designs will feel familiar to EC Comics fans: Running down the top left is a label declaring the type of story — “Terror” or “Horror” or “Science-Fiction” — and the logo evokes the bold colors and fonts of past series like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.”

The series are a partnership between Oni and the family of William M. Gaines, the original publisher of EC Comics, who died in 1992. Gary Groth, the editor of The Comics Journal, told The New York Times in 2013 that EC Comics was “arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium.”….

 (9) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. “I Went to Hogwarts for Seven Years and Did Not Learn Math or Spelling, and Now I Can’t Get a Job” is a 2020 humor piece from The New Yorker.

Dear Headmaster McGonagall:

I am a recent Hogwarts graduate, and, although my time with you was a literal fantasy, I unfortunately did not learn a lot of basic skills, like math or spelling, at your skool.

You may say, “Why do you need arithmetic? You’re a wizard. You can do magic!” To which I reply, sure, for some wizard careers that’s great, but other wizards work in middle management and just want a normal nine-to-five gig. When I graduated, I thought that all I would need was my wand and a couple of choice incantations, but these days, without at least a little algebra, you’re not even qualified to work in Bertie Bott’s retail department…

(10) ARTIFICIAL SURE, INTELLIGENT? MAYBE. Not including any copies of the images was an easy choice: “The rat with the big balls and the enormous penis – how Frontiers published a paper with botched AI-generated images” at Science Integrity Digest.

… The authors disclose that the figures were generated by Midjourney, but the images are – ahem – anatomically and scientifically incorrect.

Figure 1 features an illustration of a rat, sitting up like a squirrel, with four enormous testicles and a giant … penis? The figure includes indecipherable labels like ‘testtomcels‘, ‘senctolic‘, ‘dissilced‘, ‘iollotte sserotgomar‘ and ‘diƨlocttal stem ells’. At least the word ‘rat‘ is correct.

One of the insets shows a ‘retat‘, with some ‘sterrn cells‘ in a Petri dish with a serving spoon. Enjoy!…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Lise Andreasen, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John A Arkansawyer, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gladstone signal-boosted a mass letter which begins:

Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two new articles published by Southern Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

RiverFlow also posted some comments on Weibo about the piece.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Worldcon reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Attached images: chenmengyu[123].jpg)

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Shirley Jackson in 1940.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A long-distance glitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/23 I Was Watching A Pixel Walk Through A Wall

(1) GET ON BOARD. Join the mission and have your name engraved on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft as it travels 1.8 billion miles to explore Europa, an ocean world that may support life. Sign your name today to the… “Message in a Bottle”.

NASA’s Message in a Bottle campaign invites people around the world to sign their names to a poem written by the U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The poem connects the two water worlds — Earth, yearning to reach out and understand what makes a world habitable, and Europa, waiting with secrets yet to be explored. The campaign is a special collaboration, uniting art and science, by NASA, the U.S. Poet Laureate, and the Library of Congress.

The poem is engraved on NASA’s robotic Europa Clipper spacecraft, along with participants’ names that will be stenciled onto microchips mounted on the spacecraft. Together, the poem and names will travel 1.8 billion miles on Europa Clipper’s voyage to the Jupiter system. Europa Clipper is set to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in October 2024, and by 2030, it will be in orbit around Jupiter. Over several years, it will conduct dozens of flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, gathering detailed measurements to determine if the moon has conditions suitable for life….

(2) SURE, BUT DOES IT REALLY HAVE A FUTURE? “Alien nation: will the franchise’s new movie really cut all links to the past?” – the Guardian’s Ben Childtries to read the tea leaves.

…So what do you do when a sci-fi franchise has been poor to average for more than 30 years, yet everyone who has ever seen Ridley Scott’s gloomy yet exhilarating Alien (1979) or its all-American, gonad-swinging sequel Aliens (from James Cameron), is somehow still desperate for more? District 9 film-maker Neill Blomkamp clearly had the right idea in 2015, when without any apparent encouragement from Fox he decided he would make his own Alien film set in the wake of Aliens and before it all went wrong for Fincher. His idea was to bring back Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (who died in Alien 3 but was restored as about a dozen freaky clones in Resurrection) along with Michael Biehn’s Hicks and potentially even Carrie Henn’s Newt.

It didn’t happen, not just because the original stars would all have been a bit ancient, but because Fox put the kibosh on the whole concept. But somebody somewhere at Disney (which bought Fox and the rights to Alien in 2017) was clearly paying attention. For what’s this we hear from a Variety report this week? The new Alien movie, Fede Alvarez’s Romulus, will be neither a sequel nor a prequel, but rather a new film set between Alien and Aliens.

Speaking at the Gotham awards, star Cailee Spaeny told the trade bible: “It’s supposed to slot in between the first movie and the second movie, adding: “They brought the same team from Aliens, the James Cameron film. The same people who built those xenomorphs actually came on and built ours. So getting to see the original design with the original people who have been working on these films for 45-plus years and has been so much of their life has been really incredible.”

How then, is this going to work? Well, there are 57 years between the events of the two movies, which Ripley spent drifting in space in a state of stasis. What might have happened in the meantime? …

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss fell down 3-5 steps on flight of stairs while at SMOFCon and was taken by paramedics to a local Providence, RI hospital as a precaution.

Kevin Standlee reports, “I was the one on the scene when he fell (I was walking up the interior stairwell between the programming space and the ground floor of the Providence Marriott) while he was walking down the stairs and slipped, piling up in a heap on the landing. He never lost consciousness and remained alert and responsive, but after initially recovering a bid and starting to get up, announced that his neck hurt enough that he wanted me to call 911.”

Kevin has a longer post about it on his Dreamwidth blog. He adds, “I have no further update on his condition, but I’m hopeful that he’ll be okay. He reported nothing that sounded like anything broken, just bruised.”

(4) THEIR ONE DEMAND. “’Gay Furry Hackers’ Breached a Nuclear Lab to Demand Catgirl Research” reports Them.

A collective of self-professed “gay furry hackers” breached databases at a nuclear research laboratory in Idaho this week and released thousands of human resources records. Their only ransom demand? The lab must begin a catgirl research program.

SiegedSec, the hacker collective that attacked government systems in five states earlier this year, claimed responsibility for infiltrating the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in a Telegram post on November 16. According to its website, INL is one of the country’s largest nuclear research facilities and maintains the Advanced Test Reactor, which is used for both medical and military programs.

The records, which contain names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of employees and other users, were released through SiegedSec’s Telegram channel and confirmed to be authentic by the INL and East Idaho News.

“meow meow meow meow meow meow meow […] woah so much crunchy data :3” SiegedSec wrote on Telegram. “we’re willing to make a deal with INL. if they research creating irl catgirls we will take down this post.”

SiegedSec rose to prominence in 2022 with several hacks protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The hacker collective has since claimed responsibility for breaching government and NATO computer systems, as well as those of private companies, including software company Atlassian. They said their attacks on state governments earlier this year were in retaliation to those states’ anti-transgender laws. Since October, the group has also embarked on what it calls #OpIsrael, claiming responsibility for a string of cyber attacks on Israeli satellites, industrial systems, and telecommunications companies….

(5) UPDATED WSFS RULES AVAILABLE. The WSFS website has posted the latest draft of the Rules of the World Science Fiction Society with changes ratified by the Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting. These include the Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo and its cross-references.

(6) DIAZ Q&A. [Item by Steven French.] From the Guardian’s interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist: “Hernan Diaz: ‘The Tintin books were problematic but they were also gorgeous and gripping’”:

The book I am currently reading

Sly Stone’s memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). And today I also read the first chapter of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man.

Good choice!

(7) DOES THIS STORY DRAG ON? No, it apparently flies right along. “’House of the Dragon’: Season 2 Cast & Teaser Trailer Revealed” at Deadline.

House of the Dragon is set 172 years before the events of Game of Thrones and tells the story of House Targaryen. The two released posters for Season 2 are setting up an epic war between the Targaryens and the Hightowers following the crazy Season 1 finale that saw tragedy befall the former (R.I.P Prince Lucerys Velaryon) at the hands of the latter (Prince Aemond Targaryen)….

And according to Gizmodo’s article “House of the Dragon’s Season 2 Trailer Is All-Out Dragon War”:

…The first season ended with Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) getting eaten by Vhagar and his mother Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) swearing revenge for her loss. Thus begins the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of Dragons, which will run throughout the second season as the Green and Black factions of the family go head to head against one another. As the trailer shows us, there shall indeed be dragons and their riders engaging in fiery, bloody warfare, along with the requisite scheming, sex, and glares. And at least one gruesome part of the books is confirmed to be showing up in the new season, so longtime fans have that to look forward to….

(8) HOW NOT TO OPEN MOUTH AND INSERT FOOT. BookRiot knows “What Not To Say to Bookstore Employees”. Soon you will, too.

“Wow, you must love your job; you get to sit around and read all day. I am so jealous.” It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people TELL you that “you must love your job.” Like, it’s a job. I am giving away my free time for money to be here. And people tend to say it to those of us who work in the arts — which, sure, maybe people who work in the arts DO more often love their jobs. But the work is chronically undervalued and underpaid, and so people constantly telling you that “you must love your job” when you work in the arts feels like the collective culture telling you that because you get so much joy from your job, you don’t even really need to be paid for it. You just do it for the passion!!! The more specific response to this sentence is that working in a bookstore is not the “I wish I could just be paid to read all day” utopia that we all imagine it to be. Yes, there are great parts of the job. But most people who work in bookstores don’t sit around and read all day. It’s still customer service, and it’s still inventory, and it’s still packing up returns and orders and creating spreadsheets and data entry and and and. You get it…. 

(9) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the UK presents “Doctor Who’s futuristic Whomobile, Bessie and original Dalek feature in 60th anniversary display” through February 2024. The ClassicCars.com Journal tells more in a post here.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is set to transport visitors through time and space with the unveiling of a new temporary display featuring the most iconic vehicles from the beloved British sci-fi series, Doctor Who. From the sleek and stylish Bessie to the futuristic Whomobile and a menacing Dalek, this collection marks the 60th anniversary of the series and opened to visitors on November 23, 2023.

Heading the line-up is none other than Bessie, the Third Doctor’s trusty yellow roadster. Bessie’s first appearance was in Doctor Who and the Silurians in early 1970 and appeared regularly with the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. It also made single appearances in Fourth, Seventh, Eighth and Eleventh Doctor stories. Familiar to fans of the classic era, Bessie has become synonymous with the Doctor’s adventures….

…Zooming in from the 1970s, the display presents the Whomobile, a custom-designed vehicle created for the Doctor by the brilliant minds at UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. A sleek blend of style and functionality, the Whomobile is a testament to the Doctor’s ability to traverse the cosmos. It made its first appearance in Invasion of the Dinosaurs broadcast in January and February 1974. The vehicle’s only other appearance was in Planet of the Spiders, which was the final adventure for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and would see him regenerate as Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.

(10) WB RECOGNIZES ANIMATION UNION. Deadline reports “Warner Bros Discovery Welcomes WB Animation & Cartoon Network Unionization”.

David Zaslav has been preaching the gospel of Tinseltown labor peace since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended, and now the Warner Bros Discovery CEO is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to his own backyard.

Almost five months after dozens of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network production workers began their efforts to unionize with The Animation Guild, WBD this week has recognized the move.

“After months of discussions with the studio, I am proud that we were able to reach an agreement with Warner/Discovery for representation of animation production workers at Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios,” said TAG IATSE Local 839 Business Representative Steve Kaplan to Deadline today.

(11) RETURN TO SENDER. “Never mind returning the Parthenon marbles – Britain wants this lot back!” The Guardian has a little list. “It’s all very well Greece wanting its rightful treasure – but the Brits have left some pretty good artefacts lying around the planet. Surely it’s time they came home?”

 As Rishi Sunak continued his war of words with the Greek government and threw a tantrum at PMQs on Wednesday, what cunning plan might he deploy to appease Tory headbangers and distract the electorate?

The row kicked off when Sunak cancelled a meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after the latter said that Britain’s retention of a portion of the Parthenon marbles was like “cutting the Mona Lisa in half”. Mitsotakis was invited to see Oliver Dowden instead, to which he unsurprisingly replied “óchi efcharistó” (no thanks).

The ensuing furore may just have planted an idea in Sunak’s mind. After all, there are some on the Tory right who probably regret the Stone of Scone going north of the border in 1996 after centuries on display as Plantagenet war booty at Westminster Abbey.

The list of treasures actually stolen from the UK, given our former imperial power, is unsurprisingly small. But there are a number of either lost or stolen items, some entering the realm of mythology, others not. These include Excalibur, the earthly remains of Arthur, Alfred the Great, and Oliver Cromwell, the Three Crowns of East Anglia (immortalised in MR James’s A Warning to the Curious), Joseph of Arimathea’s staff and the Great Seal James II slung in the Thames during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After his unfortunate death at the hands of Native Hawaiians, Captain Cook was supposedly baked (not to eat) and his bones hidden; also in the Pacific during the same era, The Bounty was scuppered and sunk at Pitcairn by the mutineers.

So what artefacts can the UK government demand the return of – even if we gave them away in the first place?

Here’s one of the items.

11. AA Milne’s actual Winnie-the-Pooh (New York)

Like Paddington Bear (isn’t he Peruvian?) Winnie-the-Pooh is an British icon. So to find the poor fellow and friends Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, and Eeyore on display in New York’s Public Library is nothing short of a disgrace. We say free the Pooh Five – prisoners in Manhattan since 1956!

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 52. And tonight, we have Frank Cho. Surely many of you are familiar with the delightful obviously genre Liberty Meadows strip which he wrote and illustrated with its cast of not quite charming talking beasties and resident therapist to them Brandy Carter who Cho says is artistic crossing between Lynda Carter and Bettie Page. It ran from ‘97 to ‘01 with some additional material for a few years after that.  Here’s a Liberty Meadows strip.

Only in The Dreaming Library does this exist…he stated his comic career working for  Penthouse Comix along with Al Gross and Mark Wheatley. The three of them, likely after a very long weekend, thought up  a six-part “raunchy sci-fi fantasy romp” called The Body, centering on an intergalactic female merchant, Katy Wyndon, who can transfer her mind into any of her “wardrobe bodies”,  mindless vessels that she occupies to best suit her mediations with the local alien races that she encounters while traveling the galaxy trading and trying to become wealthy. 

The story was never published for several reasons. Even Kathy Keeton at Penthouse who published the raunchiest comics I’ve seen this side of The Hustler wasn’t interested. 

And then there’s Jungle Girl Comics which was created by Frank Cho, James Murray, and Adriano Batista. Think a female Tarzan. Cho loves young females in bikinis that barely cover the parts that need covering.

Unlike Marvel, he wrote nothing at all, the cover art work he did there was definitely worth seeing, so at just let’s do just that. His work there, well, other than the Harley Quinn covers which are decidedly on the silly edge of things are traditionally skewed and the Green Arrow one I’ve choose is certainly is too. And here it is. Yes I’m a really big Green Arrow fan, he’s one of my favorite DC characters, particularly the modern take on him.  Here’s a variant cover he did for volume 8, number 1 of that series. 

Name a character, Hulk, Spider-Gwen, Hellboy, Red Sonja, New Avengers, Batman, Harley Quinn, and Cho has likely had a hand in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grickle. Bruce D. Arthurs says, “Thought F770 readers might enjoy this cartoon from Graham Annable I came across on Mastodon. He’s also on Instagram & Tumblr. Quite a few genre-related cartoons.”
  • Tom Gauld squeezes in a lot of fun here:

(14) INTELLIGENT SFF ANIMATION. Camestros Felatpton would hate for you to miss “Pluto (Netflix)”.

…It is the future (and arguably an alternative history) and humanity lives side by side with intelligent robots. Some robots are big machines, others very human like and some shift bodies (giant mech at work and human-like body at home). Robots have only recently acquirred civil rights, including the right to have families and bring up robot children. The world in general is just getting over the trauma of a recent (three years prior) war in central asia between the nation of Persia (which is depicted more like Iraq than Iran) and the United States of Thracia (basically the USA).

Inspector Gesicht is a very human-like detective with Europol and is given the task of investigating two recent murders: a famous and popular Swiss robot and a human who was instrumental in securing civil rights for robots. In both cases the killer left the victims heads adorned with horns…

(15) BOOKEND. Cute as the dickens. “Bilbo Baggins Home” from Geometryk.

Refresh your bookshelf, add a charming little world to your room, and also a wonderful collection and decoration. Let’s stop using those old, ordinary bookends, okay?

(16) CELLING POINT. [Item by Steven French.] The beginning of The Rise of the Anthrobots:

Scientists have developed tiny robots made of human cells that are able to repair damaged neural tissue1. The ‘anthrobots’ were made using human tracheal cells and might, in future, be used in personalized medicine….

Levin and his team grew spheroids of human tracheal skin cells in a gel for two weeks, before removing the clusters and growing them for one week in a less viscous solution. This caused tiny hairs on the cells called cilia to move to the outside of the spheroids instead of the inside. These cilia acted as oars, and the researchers found that the resulting anthrobots — each containing a few hundred cells — often swam in one of several patterns. Some swam in straight lines, others swam in circles or arcs, and some moved chaotically.

To test the anthrobots’ therapeutic potential, Levin and his colleagues placed several into a small dish. There, the anthrobots fused together to form a ‘superbot’, which the researchers placed on a layer of neural tissue that had been scratched. Within three days, the sheet of neurons had completely healed under the superbot. This was surprising, says study co-author Gizem Gumuskaya, a developmental biologist also at Tufts, because the anthrobot cells were able to perform this repair function without requiring any genetic modification. “It’s not obvious that you’re going to get that kind of response,” she says….

From “Tiny robots made from human cells heal damaged tissue” in Nature.

(17) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature has a newsy article on space junk and its light pollution. Yes, it’s getting to be a problem, but for the most part the article is the same old, same old. (We at SF2 Concatenation even had a piece on space junk in our first (print) edition way back in 1987.)

However this week’s Nature news piece has a decidedly SFnal conclusion: our species might be trapping itself on Earth! (Behind a paywall.) “Bright satellites are disrupting astronomy research worldwide”.

Any collisions in orbit will release many pieces of debris travelling at several kilometres per second, which can cause further collisions, and could lead to a runaway collisional cascade referred to as the Kessler syndrome. This is the worst-case scenario: the onset of full Kessler syndrome would prevent the use of communication, weather, science and astronautical satellites in low Earth orbit for decades. And it is unclear whether a spacecraft could even be launched successfully through the debris shell to enable travel to other planets. Humans would effectively be trapped on Earth by space junk, with multiple tonnes of vaporised metal being added to the upper atmosphere every day through re-entry.

Below: An astronomical picture of a galaxy marred by satellite trails. The research article which instigated this piece is here.

(18) EYEBALL ATTRACTORS. JustWatch lists the top 10 streaming programs for November 2023.

(19) SPELL CHECKING. “The ‘Agatha: Darkhold Diaries’ Featurette is Online, and It Reveals What’s in Store for Agatha” – all explained at The Mary Sue.

So what does the preview reveal?

First off, we see Agatha in her new costume: an updated, more modern-looking version of her purple dress from WandaVision. However, we also see her in a couple of her Westview looks, including her ’80s-era workout leotard. The sets seem to be new, though, so it’s possible the show may reveal more of Wanda’s hex from WandaVision. After all, when WandaVision ended, Agatha was still caught in Wanda’s spell….

The slug with the video adds:

Emmy-nominee Kathryn Hahn reprises her role as Agatha Harkness for a brand new Disney+ Marvel series launching later in 2024. Agatha: Darkhold Diaries will reveal more about the character first introduced in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision. Jac Schaefer, who served as head writer and executive producer on WandaVision, returns for Agatha: Darkhold Diaries.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/23 A Pierson’s Puppeteer And A Pushmi-Pullyu Walk Into A Bar

(1) X FILES. Deadline covers the courthouse as “Elon Musk Files Lawsuit Over White Supremacist Ads Placement On X/Twitter”.

It wasn’t exactly the “split second” the courthouse opened this morning as promised, but Elon Musk has now filed his self-described “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters.

“Defendant Media Matters for America is a self-proclaimed media watchdog that decided it would not let the truth get in the way of a story it wanted to publish about X Corp,” proclaimed the jury trial seeking complaint filed in federal court in Texas.  Musk and X’s three-claim disparagement suit primarily wants a preliminary and permanent injunction against Media Matters’ report on the alleged placing of corporate ads next “Pro-Nazi Content.” (Read Elon Musk’s lawsuit over the pro-Nazi ad placement allegations here)

Enraged about studies by the media watchdog that claimed X/Twitter is placing the advertising of major brands and big corporations aside such vile material, Musk lashed put with his legal threats late on November 17. As there was more fallout from the Media Matters study, AppleDisney Comcast, Paramount Global, Warner Bros Discovery and others suspend their ad buys and presence on X/Twitter.

It is worth noting that none of the media companies and others actual given a reason why they paused their ad campaigns on X/Twitter – and certainly one could speculate it had to do with Musk’s personal online amplification of antisemitic screech as much as the Pro-Nazi ad placement accusations….

(2) GETTING PAID. Publishers Weekly covers a lot of ground in “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2023”. But here’s an excerpt about the money people are making.

… There was little change in the gender pay gap, even as more women moved into management ranks; the survey found women in management had a median income of $120,000. Men in management had a median income of $110,000. Overall, however, median compensation for men was $89,000 in 2022, while median compensation for women was $70,000.

The reasons for the disparity haven’t changed: while 56% of managers who responded were women, women have an even greater presence in the lower-paying areas of editorial, sales and marketing, and operations. And the median length of time in the industry from male respondents was 21 years, compared to 10 years for women….

(3) WORM VS. MEATBALL. “NASA Celebrates the Worm Logo Designer, Richard Danne” in PRINT Magazine.

Do you remember the moment the core concept of the Worm Logo came to you? How did it develop? Did you immediately know that you’d created something brilliant, or was that more of a surprise?

This logotype and its evolution in our Danne & Blackburn studio was arduous and definitely not a quick-hitting surprise.

Back in 1974, the mountain of current visual material supplied to us by NASA was almost overwhelming. And, by any standard, poor! There were no designers at Headquarters or any of the Centers. So Bruce and I went back and forth and kept simplifying our symbols and logotypes as we tried to make them work in all two and 3-dimensional applications: from publications to signs to rockets and space vehicles! We even designed to survive the mediocre printing from GPO back then.

We just kept refining until we had a strong, progressive mark that spoke for aeronautics and space exploration. We had decided early on to present only one solution and back it up with multiple applications to show it was a real Program, not just a badge. It was the analog age, so Bruce (the lead designer) rendered the final logotype solution in a Pentel pen, and we were airborne!

(4) THE MARVELS. Finally, someone reviews the movie and not just its box office. Camestros Felapton also notes interesting parallels between the film and current events in “Review: The Marvels”.

…. There are a few missteps but there is a decent plot, an interesting antagonist and some innovative action scenes. Iman Vellani steals the show as Ms. Marvel, with an infectious charm as the starstruck teen with bizarre superpowers but Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris give more grounded performances as Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau. Also, there are cats….

(5) MEMORIES. “‘I got to have an affair with Kylie!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part one” in the Guardian.

Simon Callow (played Charles Dickens, 2005-2011)

I was one of the very few children who had no time for Doctor Who. I saw the very first episode and said in scornful falsetto, “Science fiction? Ugh!” So when I appeared as Chas Dickens, I was a Doctor Who virgin. But I remember I was moved to tears, as was Christopher Eccleston, by our exchange at the end: “You seem to know a lot about the future,” says Dickens to the Doctor. “May I ask you a question?” “Go ahead.” “Will my books be read?” “Yes.” “How long for?” “For ever.” Exquisite.

(6) UNWRAPPED. Slashfilm is still traumatized by “Sci-Fi TV Shows That Were Canceled After A Cliffhanger”.

… With the stakes often so high for sci-fi television, that makes these unresolved plot threads all the more frustrating for fans following a series and invested in the characters. From being stranded across time and space to fan-favorite characters faced with mortal peril, these cliffhangers threaten to overshadow a show’s legacy. Here are the biggest television cliffhangers in the sci-fi genre that were left unresolved by cancelations from the studios or networks producing them….

One of those shows was —

Quantum Leap (1989)

Premiering in 1989, the original “Quantum Leap” rates as something of a television cult classic, running for five seasons on NBC until 1993. While conducting time travel experiments, scientist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is flung through the space-time continuum, temporarily possessing figures throughout history. In each leap, Sam corrects different anomalies in the past, hoping to one day return to his own body and time period.

This hope is never fulfilled, with a title card in the series finale declaring that “Sam Becket never returned home.” The suddenness and finality of this statement, along with the show misspelling the last name of its own protagonist, gave “Quantum Leap” a laughably abrupt sendoff. A revival series, set in the same continuity as the original “Quantum Leap,” premiered in 2022, renewing hopes of closure for Sam Beckett. Unfortunately, series star Scott Bakula passed on an offer to return, with Sam described as lost in time at the beginning of the revival instead.

(7) WILLIAM B. ELLERN (1933-2023). Author, engineer and longtime LASFS member William B. Ellern died November 18. His daughter Jill made the announcement on Facebook.

With the permission of E. E. “Doc” Smith he extended the Lensman series. His first published story was “Moon Prospector” in Analog (1966). Later, “New Lensman” was serialized in 14 parts in Perry Rhodan #61-74 (1975) and “Triplanetary Agent” was serialized in 6 parts in Perry Rhodan #100-105 (1978).

Ellern worked as an engineer for JPL, Raytheon, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft and Northrop Corporation.

He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society board of directors for decades, ending his service in 2009.

He was married to Anne Morrel for 30 years; she predeceased him in 2015.

William Ellern and Anne Morrel in 2001. Photo by Dik Daniels.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1923 Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist. Her one genre novel was July’s People which was banned in her native country under both governments. Her three stories are collected in Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 20, 1923 Len Moffatt. He was a member of First Fandom. Len and his second wife June helped organize many of the early Bouchercons, for which he and June received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bouchercon staff. He was a member of LASFS. He wrote far too many zines to list here. Mike has an excellent look at his memorial here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Edmund Gardner. No, not the one that wrote that Grendel novel, and author of more Bond novels than one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films, License to Kill and GoldenEye. He’d also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed due to a lack of funding. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 20, 1932 Soma Vira. Indian-born British citizen mostly remembered for her Planet Keepers space opera series began with Checkmating Aliens. She’s unusual in that she started writing late in life, in her sixties to be precise. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 79. Her novel Wild Life won the 2000 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has two more SF novels, The Dazzle of Day and Outside the Gates. Her “Lambing season” short story was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3, and “The Grinnell Method” won a Sturgeon.  She’s available at the usual suspects. 

(9) WORLDS OF IF BONUS MATERIAL. [Item by Jean-Paul Garnier.] In anticipation of the relaunch of Worlds of IF Magazine in February 2024, over the next several months the editorial staff is regularly rolling out free online bonus materials on the IF site.

Recent additions include a new YouTube channel and video, History of IF through Cover Art, featuring all 176 covers throughout the entire run of IF, plus an interview with Jeremy Brett, curator of the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, Texas A&M University about the role that pulp magazines play in one of the largest SF archives in the world, and audio adaptations of classic Worlds of IF stories, most recently Time Enough at Last by Lynn Venable from the January 1953 issue (famously adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1959).  Find out more at Worlds of IF Magazine.

Jeremy Brett

(10) DON’T PANIC. Yesterday there reportedly were “Fears for Wallace and Gromit after clay manufacturer shuts up shop”

With innovative animation films featuring characters such as Wallace, Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, it was the production company that turned humble modelling clay into cinematic art.

But the closure of Aardman Animations’ only supplier of modelling clay has raised question marks over the future of the studio’s output, prompting drastic measures.

When Newclay Products announced it was closing its factory in Newton Abbot, near Torquay, in March this year, Aardman’s staff moved quickly to buy up all remaining stock of the clay, a specific type that is not made elsewhere, ensuring they could finish work in the studio’s production pipeline.

The Telegraph understands that the last remaining stock of “Newplast” clay was enough to allow Aardman’s animators to create one more film, a new Wallace and Gromit animation due to hit the screens next year….

But today Aardman told people not to worry:

(11) WERTHAM AGAINST THE COMICS. Bobby Derie looks at “’Beyond the Past’ (1953) by Lou Morales” and ruminates on the Necronomicon, Frederic Wertham, and the Fifties anti-comics crusade in a post on Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

… Wertham used the leading question about the Necronomicon more than once; a 1954 article titled “The curse of the comic books” appeared in the journal Religious Education Vol. 49, No. 6 a few months prior with essentially the same opening, and Wertham may have reused it elsewhere.

There is no surprise in this case that Wertham got the details wrong; there are numerous examples in Seduction of the Innocent where his apparent encyclopedic knowledge of comic characters and plots is shown to be superficial at best. What’s surprising is how he got ahold of a British newspaper article—possibly through a clipping service—and how swiftly and avidly he seized on the word Necronomicon, apparently in complete ignorance of its provenance….

(12) FRICKIN’ SPACECRAFT, WITH FRICKIN’ LASERS ON THEIR HEADS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is headed to the main asteroid belt to visit a metal rich body of the same name. While the journey will take about 3.5 years and cover over a quarter-billion miles, the craft has already started working on an interim task.

Psyche is being used to test deep space communication using near infrared lasers for both up- and downlink. These should prove to be more efficient than radio communications and provide 1-2 orders of magnitude improvement in bandwidth.

The narrower beam path of the laser (versus radio communications) does mean that the transmitting systems will need to more precisely predict where the receiver (spacecraft or Earth) will be when the beam arrives. Kind of like kicking a soccer ball to where the other player will be when the ball gets there rather than to where they are now. “NASA’s Psyche wins first deep space laser relay” at Popular Science.

… NASA also noted that, while similar infrared communications has been successfully achieved in low Earth orbit as well as to-and-from the moon, this week’s DSOC milestone marks the first test through deep space. This is more difficult thanks to the comparatively vast, growing distance between Earth and Psyche. During the November 14 test, data took roughly 50 seconds to travel from the spacecraft to researchers in California. At its farthest distance from home, Psyche’s data-encoded photons will take around 20 minutes to relay. That’s more than enough time for both Earth and Psyche to drift further along their own respective cosmic paths, so laser arrays on the craft and at NASA will need to adjust for the changes. Future testing will ensure the terrestrial and deep space tech is up to the task….

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

Pixel Scroll 11/8/23 This Pixel Will Self-Scroll In Five Seconds

(1) ACTORS AND STUDIOS REACH AGREEMENT. “SAG Strike Ends: Actors & Studios Reach Deal On New Three-Year Contract” reports Deadline.

After 118 days of the actors guild being out on strike, SAG-AFTRA and the studios on Wednesday reached a tentative deal on a new contract that could see Hollywood up and running again within weeks.

The strike will be over as of 12:01 a.m. PT on Thursday, November 9, we hear.

Culminating a dramatic day of studio earnings results and deadline ultimatums, the actors guild’s 17-member negotiating committee unanimously voted this afternoon to recommend a tentative agreement to the SAG-AFTRA board.

Specific details of the deal are expected to be revealed when the agreement goes to the board Friday.

Coming just less than a month after Writers Guild members overwhelmingly ratified their own agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG-AFTRA’s deal is the culmination of the latest round of renewed negotiations that began October 24. Indicating the seriousness and stakes of the negotiations, Netflix’s Ted SarandosDisney’s Bob IgerNBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav frequently directly participated in the talks.

The tentative agreement follows the studios responding last Friday to the guild’s last comprehensive counter with a self-described “historic” package. That was succeeded less than 24 hours later by an expanded group of studio leaders — including execs from Paramount, Amazon, Apple and more — joining the Gang of Four to brief SAG-AFTRA on the AMPTP’s offer, which was said to include big gains in wages and bonuses as well as sweeping AI protections….

(2) ELUSIVE PEACE. “’The good guys don’t always win’: Salman Rushdie on peace, Barbie and what freedom cost him” – an article by Salman Rushdie in the Guardian. (This is an edited extract from Salman Rushdie’s acceptance speech for the German peace prize awarded to him at the Frankfurt book fair last month.)

… What do we do about free speech when it is so widely abused? We should still do, with renewed vigour, what we have always needed to do: to answer bad speech with better speech, to counter false narratives with better narratives, to answer hate with love, and to believe that the truth can still succeed even in an age of lies. We must defend it fiercely and define it broadly. We should of course defend speech that offends us, otherwise we are not defending free expression at all….

(3) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Nov-Dec 2023 cover art is by Alan M. Clark.

(4) GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER. The teaser trailer for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire dropped today.

In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the Spengler family returns to where it all started – the iconic New York City firehouse – to team up with the original Ghostbusters, who’ve developed a top-secret research lab to take busting ghosts to the next level. But when the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an evil force, Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second Ice Age.

(5) NASA+ STREAMING SERVICE. [Item by Dan Bloch.] NASA launched their own streaming service today.  “NASA’s ad-free, no-cost streaming service launches this week – what to know” reports Fox 35 Orlando. The service’s URL is: NASA+.

NASA’s highly-anticipated streaming service is ready to take off, and viewers can experience the platform starting Wednesday, Nov. 8. 

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the space agency said NASA+ is a free, family friendly service that doesn’t require a subscription or have ads and features Emmy-winning live shows and original series.

(6) CARIBBEAN PANTHEOLOGY CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has opened submissions to Between Dystopias: The Passage To Caribbean Pantheology.

OD Ekpeki Presents is accepting submissions of fiction, poetry, essays, articles and reviews from October 16th to February 11th for The Passage To Caribbean Pantheology, a speculative fiction anthology, edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Tonya Liburd, E.G. Condé and Fabrice Guerrier. Publication date is in 2024.

Call: We define Caribbean Pantheology as stories spoken, sung, or written that evoke the wonder, horror, and joy of the Caribbean experience. Caribbean Pantheology will receive, read, translate and publish stories in all varieties of English (including Creole and Spanglish), Spanish, and French that engage with the diverse spiritual traditions of creators living in the Caribbean or its many diasporas. Between myth and legend, the fantastical and the speculative, the supernatural and the real, we seek stories that defy genre boundaries (fantasy, magical realism, surreal, the weird, speculative, science fiction) and the colonial borders that have long divided our islands into “Anglophone”, “Francophone”, and “Hispanophone” communities. Like the Caribbean, our pantheology is a meshwork of continents, deities, and languages, forged in the violence of colonialism, chattel slavery, and indentured labor. More than our scars, we Caribbean people are foundries of creativity and revolution. Like the maroon refuges built by our ancestors, we are spun from Indigenous (Garifuna, Guanahatabey, Kalinago, Taíno), African, Asian, and European traces. As such, we welcome stories that confront the spiritual wounds of our pasts, celebrate the rich traditions of our present, and imagine our flourishing futures. Send us your archipelagic tales of Soucouyants and Brujas; Orishas and Cemís; Loogaroos and Behikes; Jumbees and Ciguapas; Anansi and Chupacabras.

Eligibility: We seek works created by Caribbean people or anyone with ancestral or migratory ties to the region. If you are a marginalized creator, we encourage you to submit your work to us. We will reject any submissions that promote colorism, shadeism, or racism, to any degree. Please do not send us content generated by artificial intelligence applications.

Payment: $.08 per word up to 1,000 words; $.01 per word for longer submissions; $50 flat rate for poems, essays, articles and reviews.

Rights requested: All world English, French and Spanish rights, exclusive for one year after publication.

Submit to: [email protected]

This anthology will be co-published by OD Ekpeki Presents, the first Pantheology imprint, as a part of the larger body of Pantheology projects. OD Ekpeki Presents is an imprint of Jembefola Press, which has published projects which have won and been nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, British Science Fiction, and other awards. It’s run by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and you can contact him for collaborations on any of the pantheology projects here.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1944  — [Written by Cat Eldridge based on a selection by Mike Glyer.]

Killdozer is where our Beginning comes from this time. It’s by Theodore Sturgeon, a writer that I have a great deal of admiration for. More Than Human, an IFA Award winner, and The Dreaming Jewels are both amazing novels as are both of his produced Trek scripts, “Shore Leave” (one of my favorite ones) and “Amok Time”, a Hugo nominee.  Let’s not overlook that he wrote a mystery as he ghost-wrote the Ellery Queen mystery novel, The Player on the Other Side

Yes, that’s being terribly selective, but his career produced some hundred reviews plus more than one hundred and twenty short stories and eleven novels so it’s hard not to be selective, is it? So it is impressive indeed. 

Killdozer, a novella, was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in November of 1944. The cover art was by William Timmins. The novel was published inside in three parts with artwork by Paul Orban. 

It won a Retro Hugo at CoNewZealand. 

Now for the Beginning…

Before the race was the deluge, and before the deluge another race, whose nature it is not for mankind to understand. Not unearthly, not alien, for this was their earth and their home.

There was a war between this race, which was a great one, and another. The other was truly alien, a sentient cloudform, an intelligent grouping of tangible electrons. It was spawned by mighty machines in some accident of a science before our aboriginal conception in its complexities. And the machines, servants of the people, became the people’s masters, and great were the battles that followed. The electron- beings had the power to warp the delicate balances of atom-structure, and their life-medium was metal, which they permeated and used to their own ends. Each weapon the people developed was possessed and turned against them, until a time when the remnants of that vast civilization found a defense—

An insulator. The terminal product or by-product of all energy research—neutronium.

In its shelter they developed a weapon. What it was we shall never know, and our race will live— or we shall know, and our race will perish as theirs perished. For, to destroy the enemy, it got out of hand and its measureless power destroyed them with it, and their cities, and their possessed machines. The very earth dissolved in flame, the crust writhed and shook and the oceans boiled. Nothing escaped it, nothing that we know as life, and nothing of the pseudolife that had evolved within the mysterious force- fields of their incomprehensible incomprehensible machines, save one hardy mutant…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula but did you know that he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? Of course you do, being you. The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1906 Matt Fox. I’m here to praise him as an illustrator of those magazines that published the stories of such writers as Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman and Ray Bradbury. The covers by Fox were of course intended to lure you to magazine rack, pick up the magazine and purchase it. Such was what he did for Weird Tales from November 1944 to July 1950. After that, during the Fifties and Sixties he worked for Atlas Comics, inking and penciling Journey into MysteryWorld of FantasyTales of Suspense and Journey into Unknown Worlds. It is thought that his last known published work is an advertisement, printed in 1967, for original mail-order glow-in-the-dark posters. (Died 1988.)
  • Born November 8, 1918 Raymond E. Banks. Some thirty stories, many published in shorter form as well, often under mostly not so clever pseudonyms such as Ray Banks and Ray E. Banks. The novels, all three of them, got renamed multiple times, so Lust in Space became Ultimate Transform and The Moon Rapers. Did I mention he really liked including sex scenes in his writing hence such titles as Lust in Space. His writing did sell well perhaps because of the sex scenes. Most of the short stories were printed in slicks, so called at time because the magazines were printed on smooth, high-quality glossy paper.  I can’t find anything of his being in-print now in any format. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 Ben Bova. He’s the author of more than one hundred twenty fiction and nonfiction books. He won six Hugo Awards as editor of Analog, along with once being editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that though it’s uneven as overall it’s splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes on Baen. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 8, 1955 Jeffrey Ford, 67. Winner of seven World Fantasy Awards including for The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories, an excellent collection, and The Shadow Year which in turn is an expansion of “The Botch Town”, a novella that also won a WFA. His Nebula winning novelette, “The Empire of Ice Cream”, can be heard here. Did you know that he has written over one hundred and thirty short stories?  A wide selection of his writing are available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born November 8, 1956 Richard Curtis, 57. One of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters, he’s making the Birthday List for writing “Vincent and the Doctor”, a most excellent Eleventh Doctor story. He was also the writer of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot which isn’t really genre but it’s Roald Dahl which sort of make it genre adjacent. And he directed Blackadder which certainly should count as genre.

(9) DRAGON CHOW. “Millie Bobby Brown Snaps Into Action in First ‘Damsel’ Poster”, which is shared by Collider.

In Damsel, Brown stars as Elodie, a young woman who thinks she’s hit the jackpot after accepting her dream proposal from the most eligible bachelor in all the land. Excited about her new life, Elodie has the rug pulled out from under her when she realizes the entire engagement has been a clever ruse. Seeking to pay back an old debt to a dangerous and bloodthirsty dragon, Elodie’s new family only wanted her as a sacrifice to the fire-breathing beast. After being tossed into the dark and dank pit, it’s sink or swim for Elodie after realizing that no one is coming to save her, and she must be her own hero….

(10) ZELDA IS NEXT GAME TO GET A FILM ADAPTATION. “Zelda Live-Action Movie Announced by Nintendo, Director Wes Ball”Variety has the story.

Hollywood, meet Hyrule.

Nintendo is developing a live-action film based on The Legend of Zelda, creator and game developer Shigeru Miyamoto announced.

The gaming legend took to Nintendo’s official X/Twitter account to write, “This is Miyamoto. I have been working on the live-action film of The Legend of Zelda for many years now with Avi Arad-san, who has produced many mega hit films.”

He continued, “I have asked Avi-san to produce this film with me, and we have now officially started the development of the film with Nintendo itself heavily involved in the production. It will take time until its completion, but I hope you look forward to seeing it.”The movie will be directed by Wes Ball, who helmed the “Maze Runner” trilogy and the upcoming “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” written by “Jurassic World” screenwriter Derek Connolly and produced by Miyamoto, whose involvement in 2023’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” helped make it a groundbreaking box office success. Ball also produces with Joe Hartwick Jr. under their Oddball Entertainment banner….

(11) MOBY FORMAT. The New York Times brings word that “Orcas Sink Fourth Boat Off Iberia, Unnerving Sailors”.

The yacht Grazie Mamma II carried its crew along the coastlines and archipelagos of the Mediterranean. Its last adventure was off the coast of Morocco last week, when it encountered a pod of orcas.

The marine animals slammed the yacht’s rudder for 45 minutes, causing major damage and a leak, according to Morskie Mile, the boat’s Polish operators. The crew escaped, and rescuers and the Moroccan Navy tried to tow the yacht to safety, but it sank near the port of Tanger Med, the operator said on its website.

The account of the sinking is adding to the worries of many sailors along the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, where marine biologists are studying a puzzling phenomenon: Orcas are jostling and ramming boats in interactions that have disrupted dozens of voyages and caused at least four boats in the past two years to sink….

(12) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Humanity Just Witnessed Its First Space Battle” says Gizmodo.

Early last week, Israel’s Arrow 2 missile system successfully intercepted and destroyed a suborbital ballistic missile suspected of launching from Yemen. It’s a notable technological achievement, but one with potentially serious legal and geopolitical implications.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) shot down an Iranian-manufactured ballistic missile using its Arrow 2 anti-missile system, Haaretz reported. The incident happened on Tuesday, October 31, with Yemeni forces possibly targeting Eilat, an Israeli city on the coast of the Red Sea. The Telegraph claims the missile was intercepted and destroyed above the Kármán line, which at 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level is widely recognized as the boundary of space.

There have been many earlier instances of missile-on-missile interceptions above the Kármán, according to Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell. However, all previous cases involved interceptors targeting missiles launched by the same party for testing purposes, whereas this is the first occurrence of a missile successfully intercepting an incoming missile from an adversary in space, McDowell, an expert on space launches, explained to Gizmodo over email.

…Haaretz reports that the destroyed missile was a Qadar, an enhanced version of Iran’s Shahab 3 missile, and it says that the incident represents the farthest range attack attempted by the Houthis to date at an estimated 994 miles (1,600 kilometers), but the exact launch point is not yet known. The incident is possibly “the first combat ever to take place in space,” as The Telegraph reports….

(13) JURASSIC POOP. SYFY Wire knows how excited you’ll be to hear the news: “Woolly Rhino Genome Recovered from Fossilized Hyena Poop”.

When John Hammond cooked up the idea for Jurassic Park, he needed the skills of the world’s brightest geneticists and a little help from the fossil record. The earliest additions to the fledgling park were enabled by preserved DNA locked inside prehistoric mosquitoes trapped in orbs of amber. The basic premise was pretty simple: if you can’t get DNA straight from the source, look for another animal who ate the DNA you want.

Later, InGen scientists working for the updated Jurassic World facility found ways to extract DNA from other sources, including directly from well-preserved specimens, allowing them to expand their resurrected prehistoric menagerie. Now, InGen scientists (and real-world scientists) have a new source of extinct DNA: fossilized poop.

Ancient Hyenas Ate Woolly Rhinos and Pooped Out Their DNA

Getting usable DNA from dinosaurs 66 million years after the fact might be too much to ask for, but DNA from more recently deceased animals like the dodothe woolly mammoth, and the woolly rhinoceros is well within our possibility. But some extinct genomes are easier to recover than others….

(14) BOMBS AWAY. Forbes says “The Final ‘The Marvels’ Trailer Is Transparently Desperate”.

Marvel is bracing for impact as The Marvels is shaping up to be one of the MCU’s biggest box office bombs, really no matter what the quality of the film ends up being. It’s the wrong film at the wrong time for the MCU, and early pre-sales have it tracking below DC’s disastrous The Flash.

So, Marvel and Disney are now pulling out all the stops. And by that I mean releasing a “final” trailer for the film that is so transparently desperate it actually hurts to watch. And I say that not as some weird Brie Larson-hater but as someone who is genuinely looking forward to the film (more Iman Vellani as Kamala!).

The trailer sheds the lighthearted tone of the older spots and appears to be trying to make this a direct continuation of Avengers Endgame. It opens with multiple scenes of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, both of whom have both left the MCU at this point, flashing back to their final battle against Thanos, while reminding us that yes, Captain Marvel was also there….

And yet Deadline’s reviewer Valerie Complex praises it highly: “’The Marvels’ Review: A Cosmic Triumph Grounded In Sincerity And Humanity”.

In an era where the Marvel Cinematic Universe frequently shuttles between multiverse escapades and interplanetary conflicts, Nia DaCosta‘s The Marvels emerges as a breath of fresh air, eschewing bombast for a nuanced exploration of its characters. DaCosta, alongside writers Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, anchors the superhero spectacle in the tangible and personal, making the extraordinary feel accessible and grounded….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Dan Bloch, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 10/1/23 Only You Can Scroll Fankind

(1) SELLING FANTASY. [Item by Andrew (Not Werdna).] “Lester del Rey invented the fantasy genre in book publishing” alleges Slate’s Dan Sinykin.

Lester del Rey wore 1950s-style horn-rimmed glasses, an unruly billy-goat beard, and his silver hair brushed back above a big forehead. He liberally dispensed cards that said: Lester del Rey, Expert. He sometimes said his full name was Ramón Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del Rey y de los Verdes. He was in fact born Leonard Knapp, son of Wright Knapp, in 1915 in rural southeastern Minnesota, subject to the Minnesotan fever—Jay Gatz, Prince Rogers Nelson, Robert Zimmerman—for reinventing oneself. In 1977, del Rey, then in his 60s, turned his proclivity for fabulism to profit: He invented fantasy fiction as we know it….

(2) PAYING OUR RESPECTS. Condolences to Cora Buhlert whose father passed away today.

(3) JUMP ON THE BANNED WAGON. “Banned Books Week: PRH’s ‘Banned Wagon’ Hits the Road”Publishing Perspectives has the story. Banned Books Week is October 1-7. The tour schedule is at the link. The dozen showcased books include two genre works, The Handmaid’s Tale and Too Bright to See

The arrival of this year’s Banned Books Week—led by one of the most comprehensive coalitions of free-expression organizations in the business–is themed Let Freedom Read. Engaged in the effort are the American Library Association, Amnesty International USA, the Authors Guild, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Book Foundation, PEN America, and the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, among others.

Hearing the call, Penguin Random House–the world’s largest and most internationally positioned of trade publishers– is gassing up something new: its “Banned Wagon: A Vehicle for Change.”

The goal is to take the debate right into the American South during Banned Books Week. Putting wheels on its “Read Banned Books” message, the vehicle not only will showcase a selection of 12 of the publisher’s frequently challenged books but will also distribute free copies of those books to attendees in each of the cities in which the tour makes a stop….

These are the 12 books published by Penguin Random House and being loaded into the Banned Wagon as it rolls through the American South during Banned Books Week.

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

Chengdu Worldcon makes Chinese-language-only announcement about attending registration and participation rules

This has been published on the official Chinese-language site, WeChat and Weibo, but as of 19:00 BST, I haven’t seen any equivalent English language statement.  As such this item is very dependent on machine translation, and could contain misunderstandings.  However, the text has been run through Google Translate, DeepL and Vivaldi Lingvanex, with similar results output each time.

This is the Google Translate version of the main text of the page on the official site: https://www.chengduworldcon.com/Xnews/275.html

2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention Membership Registration and Drawing Participation Rules for Three Major Ceremonies Released

Release time: 2023-10-01 12:42

Dear fantasy fans:

Thank you for your attention to the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference. From now on, the WeChat applet for membership certificate registration (“Exhibition Hall Appointment”) is officially launched. Members who purchase offline conference passes need to register through the mini program [DeepL translates this as “app”] to obtain the QR code for the replacement certificate. The membership certificate [DeepL translates this as “membership ID”] exchanged with this code on site will be your only voucher [DeepL translates this as “credentials”] for entering the venue during the conference. Please log in and register in time.

In accordance with the convention [DeepL translates this as “usual practice”] of the World Science Fiction Convention, the opening ceremony, Hugo Award Ceremony and Closing Ceremony will have a maximum number of on-site spectators. This conference will confirm the offline participation pass members who will participate in the opening ceremony, Hugo Award ceremony and closing ceremony through online lottery in advance.

There’s a QR code which I presume links to the aforementioned WeChat applet, followed by details of the various rules and regulations; the bits that I thought noteworthy are:

  • From now until 24:00 on October 9, members with offline participation passes can register for certification by searching the “Exhibition Hall Appointment” WeChat applet.
  • The lottery will be sorted according to the information about the intended viewing activities filled in by each member, and will be notarized and implemented by the Shudu Notary Office in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Each winning member can only participate in one grand ceremony. The winning results will be sent to the winning members via SMS in a timely manner.
  • Starting from 15:00 on October 13, you can check the lottery results through the official website of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference and the “Exhibition Hall Appointment” WeChat applet.
  • The results of this lottery will not affect participation in other activities such as on-site theme salons and theme exhibitions. The relevant schedule of the theme salon and theme exhibition will be announced soon, so stay tuned.
  • The right to interpret these rules belongs to the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention Organizing Committee

The QQ link is: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/EFcTsNCg0pyt2qbTxVPzJg. The Weibo link is: https://weibo.com/7634468344/NlPaCz8yw (which has received 52 comments as I write this up)

Assuming that my interpretation of this is correct, in that it’s necessary to install the WeChat app on your phone to be able to even get into the con venue, it should be pointed out that concerns have been raised about the security and privacy aspects of that app: https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/privacynotincluded/wechat/ (2001)

I’d previously installed this app on an old unused Android phone (using a test Google account,) and I suspect that many foreign users will struggle to register a WeChat account, as it requires an existing user to verify you via a QR code:

  1. Contact a WeChat user who meets the following conditions.  (They do not have to be your
  WeChat friend.)

    a. Signed up for WeChat over 1 month ago if they are an international user or over 6

       months ago if they are a Chinese Mainland user

    b. Hasn’t completed “Help Friend Register” for other users in the past month

    c. Hasn’t been blocked in the past month

    d. Has activated WeChat Pay if they are a Chinese Mainland user

  2. Ask them to scan the following QR code using WeChat.

It has since been pointed out to me that the previously announced “100th Light-second Plan” covers some of this (maybe)?  That indicated that if attendees email the provided address, they will gain access to a “reservation channel” for the opening and Hugo ceremonies.

This doesn’t directly address the implication in today’s announcement that you need WeChat to enter the con venue – and I note that it only talks about the opening and Hugo ceremonies, not the closing ceremony – but maybe this hints that this has already been thought about?  On the other hand, I must confess I’m more than a bit uncomfortable at the idea that foreigners get privileged access to some of the main events, but locals have to take their chances in a lottery.

For reference, here are a couple of screenshots I was sent of what the WeChat app registration looks like.

(5) WHO SPEAKS FOR THE TREES? Alyssa Hall considers “’The Long Defeat’: Reading Tolkien in the Time of Climate Change” at Tor.com.

Allegorical readings of The Lord of the Rings vexed Tolkien. In the Foreword to the second edition of the books, he wrote of his distaste for allegory altogether: “I much prefer history, true or feigned.” The environmentalism that’s evident throughout his chronicles of Middle-earth, from the rebellion of Fangorn Forest to the Scouring of the Shire to the destruction of the Two Trees of Valinor? That was all based in history and autobiography, from a childhood in which “the country in which I lived was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten,” only made mythic.

Before I was ten, the third in a series of international scientific reports on our warming Earth was published, and the Kyoto Protocol set targets for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to those developments, Svante Arrhenius had connected the burning of coal to rising carbon dioxide levels and hotter climates; John Tyndall had identified the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect; and Eunice Foote had realized that carbon dioxide gas could trap heat from the sun. In fact, Arrhenius did his work long before I was born, near the beginning of Tolkien’s own lifetime; Tyndall and Foote, before Tolkien was born.

When it comes to what is true and what has been feigned, the historicity of climate change is an established fact, and the willful denial of its reality is a toxic fiction. Climate change was already occurring during the years when Tolkien lived and wrote. Though he may not have been aware of a growing knowledge of global warming, I think his work is directly applicable to all of us who face the current onslaught of frightening headlines about climate disasters and think, like Frodo, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Tolkien, if not a professed environmentalist, was certainly a pastoralist, a lover of trees and countryside and an opposer of polluting industrialization. Ents, Eagles, Beornings, and other forms of nature personified fill his work, as do plot points and revelations that hinge on the destruction of one or more trees (or Trees). His letters put it even more plainly: “The savage sound of an electric saw is never silent wherever trees are still found growing.” Climate change is industrial deforestation writ large. For me, there’s no author who gives the natural world its due the way Tolkien does.

With Amazon’s The Rings of Power series driving a new pop-cultural wave of interest in Middle-earth at the same time global temperatures are shattering records and driving extreme weather events around the world, I’ve found myself longing for Tolkien or a Tolkien-like voice of the twentieth-first century: Someone pouring out words about the living world, writing that emerges from unabashed, earnest love for nature. The mounting threat of climate change has me returning to my childhood favorites to seek wisdom for these long defeats in this Century of Disasters, to look for a light forward in dark times for the planet and its inhabitants….

(6) RECORD SETTING RESENTMENT. The Guardian lists the “Top 10 grudge holders in fiction”. No. 4 in the list is —

The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century by Olga Ravn, translated by Martin Aitken 

“Ravn’s novel is set on the Six-Thousand Ship, which is orbiting a faraway planet New Discovery, where the crew has discovered a number of strange objects. The book is structured around a series of recorded statements, of varied degrees of redaction and fullness, made by the ship’s human and humanoid crew to some kind of committee about the effects of these objects upon themselves. The objects have the effect of defamiliarising the workplace for the crew, making them see it anew, making them realise their lives might have meaning beyond work. Over the course of the book, their resentment against their employers grows and grows.”

Several others are genre by virtue of being ghost stories of one kind or another.

(7) SERIES KILLER. Hugo voting closed yesterday. Nicholas Whyte has something he’d like to say: “2023 Hugos: Best Series – why I voted No Award” at From the Heart of Europe.

I voted No Award for this year’s Hugo Award for Best Series. I think the category is a bad idea in principle which is now showing its limitations in practice. My objections are as follows:

  1. The Hugos ought to celebrate the best activity of the previous year, and only the previous year. For some of the other categories (Semiprozine, Fanzine, Fancast), earlier work is taken into account to determine eligibility, but the award is clearly for achievements of the previous calendar year. Best Series is inevitably an award for a multi-year set of activities.
  2. It is impossible for the diligent reader to read all of the work nominated for Best Series in a given year. By giving the award we are deliberately engineering a situation where voters cast their votes based on imperfect knowledge of the finalists.
  3. We are now seeing repeat nominations for series that have been unsuccessful finalists before. I feel sympathy for authors who must feel that they are waiting for their turn, but that’s not the way an awards system should run…

More analysis, and how he ranked the finalists, at the link.

(8) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport encourages subscriptions with this story by John Chu, “Halfway Between Albany and West Point”.

October kicks off with John Chu’s thrilling vision of academia and his spectacularly embattled graduate student. 

(9) TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Toxic Avenger Remake Trailer: First Look at Peter Dinklage Film”Gizmodo provides a gloss and a warning.

…Directed by Macon Blair, this new Toxic Avenger stars Game of Thrones fan favorite Peter Dinklage as Winston, a widower struggling to raise a stepson played by Jacob Tremblay. When his job, run by an evil corporate ass played by Kevin Bacon, won’t pay for health insurance, Winston fights back and ends up in a vat of toxic waste. Now, you don’t see really any of that in this first teaser (note that it’s very much NSFW!), but take that story and put it in this world, and you begin to get the idea of what this movie is….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1914 Donald Wollheim, 1914 – 1990. Created DAW Books. NolaCon II (1988) guest of honor. Founding member of the Futurians, Wollheim organized what was later deemed the first American science fiction convention, when a group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. As an editor, he published Le Guin’s first two novels as an Ace Double. And would someone please explain to me how he published an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings? (Died 1990.)
  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man him a nominee for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone seen that film? And why it got him that nomination? I saw the film a long time ago but don’t it clearly enough to say why this is so. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 88. Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) She had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncredited in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman.
  • Born October 1, 1943 Sharon Jarvis, 80. Did I ever tell you that aliases give me a mild headache? Well, they do. She did a splendid trilogy of somewhat erotic planetary adventures called These Lawless Worlds that Ellen Kozak co-wrote. She wrote two more series, charitably called pulp, one as Johanna Hailey and another as Kathleen Buckley. Now more interestingly to me, she was an editor in the early day, Seventies and Eighties. I’m going to quote at length from her website: “Sharon Jarvis has worked in the print media for more than twenty-five years for newspaper, magazine and in publishing companies. She has built a reputation for her market-wise expertise in the cutthroat world of publishing. Ms. Jarvis has been a sought-after editor from her days at Ballantine where she helped promote the billion-dollar science fiction boom. At Doubleday she was the acquisitions editor and worked with some of the biggest names in science fiction, including Isaac Asimov, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Harlan Ellison. At Playboy Press, Ms. Jarvis developed, instituted and promoted the science fiction line which helped sustain the publisher through many a setback in other general lines.”
  • Born October 1, 1944 Rick Katze, 79. A Boston fan and member of NESFA and MCFI. He’s chaired three Boskones, and worked many Worldcons. Quoting Fancyclopedia 3: “A lawyer professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee  and negotiated the purchase of Connie’s [1983 Worldcon’s] unpaid non-fannish debt at about sixty cents on the dollar.” He’s an active editor for the NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series.
  • Born October 1, 1948 Michael Ashley, 75. Way, way too prolific to cover in any detail so I’ll single out a few of his endeavors. The first, his magnificent The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1926 – 1965; the second being the companion series, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1990. This not to slight anything else he has done such as The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936.
  • Born October 1, 1964 John Ridley, 59. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novelsBoth excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority: human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that would last one season in the Nineties. 
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 34. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. She’s in The Marvels, scheduled out next month.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld has a sneak peek at a celebrity bio.

(12) SCIFI IN HOUSE OF GAMES. [Item by Steven French.] During the week BBC2 runs a nightly half-hour quiz show called House of Games in which each round features a different kind of puzzle and not even the host (Richard Osman, now perhaps even more well known as a crime writer) knows what kind is coming up next.

Watching a repeat from last year I noticed that one round featured science fiction movies whose titles were given in code; e.g.:

1 4  1 19 20 18 1

which one of the contestants got pretty quickly even though she’d never seen or even heard of the film!

(13) MORE THAN A SNOWBALL FIGHT. “What would happen if Russia invaded Finland? I went to a giant war game in London to find out” — the Guardian’s Tom Lamont brings back the story.

… It is 10am. Banks asks everyone present to imagine they are on the threshold of geopolitical catastrophe, somewhere a little beyond, though not that far beyond, our current perilous state. He fleshes out a scenario. Prolonged and humbling conflict in Ukraine as well as Finland’s recent accession to Nato has tested Russian pride to breaking point. Worsening matters, Nato has decided to press its advantage in the region by staging a military exercise on the Finnish-Russian border. China, Iran and India have made it plain: they’re not impressed by Nato. The Swedes are jangly, too. Spy planes, satellites and troop carriers are in play. A few wrong moves and all this posturing and provocation could ignite into something far worse. It is up to the players assembled in Bush House to try to war-game us back from the brink.

Now Banks moves among the crowd, handing out jobs like sweets. During this phase of a game, a real-life general might get a tap on the shoulder and tumble to become a low-level functionary for the first time in decades. A career shit-eater might get to feed somebody else the shit. (Maybe the general.) Anyone – a data specialist, a science nerd, an archive-dwelling academic – might find themselves near-omnipotent for the day. With a pointed finger, Banks elevates four random people to play as Russian high command. In a corner of one of the conference rooms, put aside for their exclusive use, the four newly minted Russians are told they can organise themselves and their decision-making however they want. “If you want to be equals here, that’s fine,” says one of Banks’s PhD students. “Or if you want to appoint a dictator, that’s fine, too.”…

(14) A DIFFERENT CHORD. “Queen guitarist Brian May helps NASA return asteroid sample to Earth” at USA Today.

When he’s not rocking out on stage as a founding member of Queen, Brian May enjoys a healthy scientific interest in outer space.

But it’s no mere hobby for the 76-year-old guitar legend to gaze upon the stars or research the nature of the universe. May, an accomplished scientist who has a doctorate in astrophysics, recently helped NASA return its first ever asteroid sample to Earth.

The sample consisting of rocks and dust was obtained from the asteroid Bennu and arrived Sunday back in Earth’s orbit. May was an integral part of the mission, creating stereoscopic images that allowed the mission’s leader and team to find a safe landing spot on the asteroid, which has the potential to crash into Earth sometime in the future…

(15) WHEN THINGS GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT. The New York Times discusses a hypothesis: “Saturn’s Rings May Have Formed in a Surprisingly Recent Crash of 2 Moons”.  

Try to imagine Saturn without its signature rings. Now picture two large icy moons shifting closer together little by little until — boom. Chaos. What was solid is now fluid. Diamantine shards scatter into the darkness. Many icy fragments tumble close to Saturn, remain there and dance around the gas giant in unison, ultimately forging the heavyweight body’s exquisite discs.

This spectacular scene comes from an attempt to answer one of the greatest mysteries of the solar system: Where did Saturn’s rings come from, and when did they form?

A study, published this week in The Astrophysical Journal, leans into the notion that they are not billions of years old, but were crafted in the recent astronomic past—perhaps by the collision of two modestly sized frost-flecked moons only a few hundred million years ago.

“I’m sure it would have been great to see if the dinosaurs had had a good enough telescope,” said Jacob Kegerreis, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and one of the study’s authors….

(16) DREAM HOMES. The New York Times speculates “Maybe in Your Lifetime, People Will Live on the Moon and Then Mars”. “Through partnerships and 3-D printing, NASA is plotting how to build houses on the moon by 2040.”

 … NASA is now plotting a return. This time around, the stay will be long-term. To make it happen, NASA is going to build houses on the moon — ones that can be used not just by astronauts but ordinary civilians as well. They believe that by 2040, Americans will have their first subdivision in space. Living on Mars isn’t far behind. Some in the scientific community say NASA’s timeline is overly ambitious, particularly before a proven success with a new lunar landing. But seven NASA scientists interviewed for this article all said that a 2040 goal for lunar structures is attainable if the agency can continue to hit their benchmarks.

The U.S. space agency will blast a 3-D printer up to the moon and then build structures, layer by additive layer, out of a specialized lunar concrete created from the rock chips, mineral fragments and dust that sits on the top layer of the moon’s cratered surface and billows in poisonous clouds whenever disturbed — a moonshot of a plan made possible through new technology and partnerships with universities and private companies….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Math counts as science. So this 14-minute animation by Alan Becker — which begins by providing simple visualizations of basic arithmetical concepts and quickly devolves into an all-out battle with lasers and giant mechs — is science fiction. “Animation vs. Math”.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Bill, Steven French, Danny Sichel, Jeff Smith, Andrew, (Not Werdna), Brown Robin, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/23 Only You Can Prevent Pixel Scrolls

(1) WHEN GRAVITY DOESN’T FAIL. “NASA Wants Ideas for How to Destroy the International Space Station”. Really. SYFY Wire explains why.

…At present, Roscosmos has committed to continued use and maintenance of the station through 2028 while the other four agencies will remain through 2030. After that, unless there’s another extension, everyone will come home, and the station’s life will end. Of course, we can’t just leave the largest spacecraft we’ve ever built unattended and uncontrolled. Instead, all five agencies share responsibility for bringing the ISS down in a controlled and safe way. No easy task.

Previous plans relied on Russian Progress vehicles to reduce the station’s orbit and push it into the atmosphere. Now, NASA is looking for a bespoke craft to do the job more efficiently. To that end, NASA has released their final Request for Proposals (RFP) for a novel deorbit vehicle to aid in the destruction of the International Space Station.

Interested parties must submit proposals by November 17. A virtual pre-proposal conference is planned for October 3 at 12:00 p.m. Central.

If you’ve ever wanted to destroy an orbiting science laboratory, this is probably your best chance. Who knows when we’ll have another station that needs vaporizing.

(2) WOLE TALABI INTERVIEW. “A Conversation With Wole Talabi” at the Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Talabi’s novelette A Dream of Electric Mothers was published in Africa Risen (edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight), which was one of the first anthologies published by a North American publisher focusing on science fiction and fantasy from African authors. He says the public response to the novelette — which explores identity, memory, and culture through artificial intelligence in an alternate history setting — has been gratifying.

“Some people have messaged me to ask if it’s a far-future science fiction story, and I enjoy telling them that it isn’t. It’s an alternate history story,” Talabi says. “I don’t make that obvious because the story uses the traditional Yoruba calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. It actually takes place in an alternate 2021 in a timeline where essentially European colonization of Africa never happened and they formed an intellectual partnership instead … that’s why it seems like a far-future story. Because we’ve made more progress by not fighting.”,,,

(3) WARNING. Ansible® 435, the October issue released today, warns fans:

Ripoff Alert. The US dealer Fifth Generation Books is selling Rob Hansen’s TAFF-benefit paperback Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles on the Walmart website for $43.50 (allegedly discounted from the wholly made-up figure of $50.50), presumably filling orders by buying copies at $22.50 from the official Ansible Editions/Lulu sales page (linked from ae.ansible.uk/?t=bixel). They reproduce the AE blurb in full, including the assurance IN CAPITAL LETTERS that all proceeds will go to TAFF, but somehow one has one’s doubts. [RH]

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

Some Worldcon guests/speakers announced https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/trpOJYSgoWertsvyoPE5JQ

Yesterday (28th) a couple of panels were announced, I think by a children’s book publisher.  Most of the names weren’t known to me, but ones that were are academic and author Wu Yan, and Hugo Best Novelette winner Hao Jingfang.

Ground level views of the con venue http://xhslink.com/kK7e1u

A few photos seemingly taken by a member of the public in the area around the venue were posted to the Xiaohongshu social network earlier today.  I think these give a better idea of what it looks like in-person, compared to a lot of the images that have appeared before now.

Reminder that you need to press Submit on your Hugo votes https://mastodon.social/@[email protected]/111149676161220869

This was something I didn’t realize when I did my votes yesterday, and looking at the reposts, I suspect I’m not the only one.

Translated video about Chengdu publisher 8 Light Minutes Culture https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1aT411n7NS/

This 6:45 video from the Chengdu_Plus channel on the Bilibili video site dates from April, and doesn’t directly reference the con or Hugo Awards.  However, Best Editor (Short Form) finalist Yang Feng is interviewed, along with a bit about her Best Related Work finalist.  The issue of Galaxy’s Edge magazine that features Best Novelette finalist The Space-Time Painter is also shown. Usefully, it has English subtitles and narration.

Note: Sergei Lukyanenko and his work are discussed at the 4 minute mark.

(5) SPACE COWBOY BOOKS CO-HOSTS BANNED BOOKS EVENT. A “Banned Books Reading with Desert Split Open”, co-hosted by Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA is an in-person event that will take place October 1 from 5-7 p.m. Pacific.

The Desert Split Open and Space Cowboy Books will again celebrate Banned Books Week. Let’s meet at the Sun Alley stage, behind the bookstore (61871 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA). We will read from books that have been challenged or banned. What some attempt to silence, we will amplify. All are welcome at this free community event.

The sudden increase in book challenges motivated us to hold last year’s Banned Books Week event. This year, the situation is worse:

“The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data more than 20 years ago. … Censors targeted a record 2,571 unique titles in 2022, a 38% increase from 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.” (ala.org)

This is not just an issue for “Red” states – in fact, in 2022, California saw 32 attempts to restrict access to 87 different titles. The most challenged title in CA was a tie between Gender Queer: A Memoir and Beyond Magenta.

Now, more than ever, we must speak up – not just against censorship but in favor of diverse voices and stories.

Here’s a list of the most challenged books of 2022

Register for free here.

(6) DON’T TAKE THE MASK OFF THE OLD LONG RANGER. “Oscar Meyer again renames its mobile back to Wienermobile” reports Yahoo! [The typo above is intentional.]

Slotted in between items on a recent Associated Press news round-up that mentioned the impeachment inquiry into President Biden and the looming government shutdown was the report that the Oscar Meyer brand was again changing the name of its famous…vehicle.

The Wienermobile was renamed the Frankmobile only four months ago. But the meat-maker, apparently caving to pressure from the Hotdoggers—those who drive the thing and were upset by the change—has reverted the name back to Wienermobile.

Roll out the bun puns. Like, “I guess Frankmobile didn’t cut the mustard.”

…Today, Oscar Mayer maintains six of the 23-foot-long motorized sausages across the US. The custom-made fiberglass dog sits atop a lightly toasted fiberglass bun on a converted Chevrolet chassis with a 300-horsepower Vortec V8. It was designed by the General Body Company of Chicago….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1934 Stuart M. Kaminsky. Though best remembered as a very prolific mystery writer for which I single out the Toby Peters series about a private detective in 1940s Hollywood and the Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov series about a Moscow police inspector, he does have genre works. He did two Kolchak the Night Stalker graphic novels, plus wrote the scripts for two Batman stories, “The Batman Memos” and “The Man Who Laughs”. As an editor, he’s responsible for the On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe anthology. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 29, 1947 Scott Baker, 76. His first novel, l’Idiot-roi (Symbiote’s Crown), won the French Prix Apollo Award. In addition, he won the World Fantasy Award for his “Still Life with Scorpion” short story. All three of his short story collections and his one anthology are French only, though all of his novels are in English.
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1954 Shariann Lewitt, 69. First, let me commend her for writing one of the better Trek novels in Cybersong set in the Voyager verse. Bravo, Shariann! Most of her fiction, be it Memento Mori or Rebel Sutra is definitely downbeat and usually dystopian in nature. Well written but not light reading by any means.
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 62. A Whovian among Whovians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Well not just them as he also voices the Judoon, the Ice Warriors, the Nestene Consciousness, the Jagrafess and the Zygons.  Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he did act twice in the Whoverse. Once on Torchwood as Rick Yates on “Children of Earth: Day Four” and The Sarah Jane Adventures as Captain Tybo in “Prisoner of the Judoon” episode. Fourth he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
  • Born September 29, 1968 Stephen Deas, 55. British writer. He is most known for his fantasy franchise, the Memory of Flames which is set in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons. Yes, more dragons! Though dragon free free, I highly recommended his Thief-Taker’s Apprentice series as well. Good fantasy doesn’t always need dragons, does it?

(8) BEHIND THE SCENES. “Doctor Who Is Restoring Tradition Canceled 12 Years Ago with David Tennant’s 60th Anniversary Episodes”.

…The excitement doesn’t just stop at the return of Tennant. A cherished post-show tradition is making a grand comeback after a long hiatus of 12 years. As whispers and wonders swirl around, an official post from BBC Three’s Instagram has put all speculation to rest. Yes, the behind-the-scenes specials are back! Giving fans an intimate look into the creation and the intricate details, the series, aptly named Doctor Who: Unleashed, is all set to satiate the curiosity of aficionados and novices alike….

(9) BOOK REVIEW. From the New York Times: Empire Of The Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator, by Keith Houston”. Daniel Dern notes, “I don’t necessarily feel the need/urge to read the book, but I love the title (which called to mind JG Ballard’s book Empire of the Sun, and while that book is not itself sf, Ballard of course wrote lots of sf, in case one wants a modicum of sfnality for items beyond simple, ‘an amusing pun.’).”

(10) PRODIGAL INSIGHTS. “Star Trek: Prodigy Featurette Clip Shows How Stories Go From Script to Screen (Exclusive)” at Comicbook.com.

Star Trek: Prodigy‘s final Season 1 comes to Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, and ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at one of the home media set’s bonus features. Star Trek: Prodigy: Season 1 – Episodes 11-20 is available to pre-order now on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon and features more than 45 minutes of features diving into Star Trek: Prodigy‘s creation and place within the Star Trek franchise. The “Creating New Wolrds” clip sees series creators Kevin Hageman and Dan Hageman discussing how consistently impressed they are with the Star Trek: Prodigy art team’s ability to go beyond their expectations, with director Ben Hibon chiming in toward the end. You can watch the clip above….

(11) A LOT OF DOLLAR SIGNS. “Mars Sample Return got a new price tag. It’s big” reports the journal Science. “Independent review finds mission could cost as much as $11 billion and pushes NASA to delay or rethink program”.

NASA’s audacious Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission has serious technical flaws and “unrealistic” assumptions about its budget and timetable, an independent review found in a report released yesterday. Originally estimated to cost some $4 billion, the reviewers found that NASA’s share of the mission could end up costing between $8 billion to $11 billion, and that launch could happen no sooner than 2030, 2 years later than now planned.

joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), MSR would gather rocks collected by the Perseverance rover, which has been drilling samples since it landed on Mars in 2020. MSR would then rocket the samples off the planet and ferry them to Earth, where scientists would study them for signs of past life and planetary evolution. The top priority of planetary science for several decades, it remains a worthy goal and one still worth pursuing, especially in light of similar sample return plans for Mars planned by China for later this decade, according to the review report, which was commissioned by NASA.

(12) MEASURING DELAYS CAUSED BY STRIKES. After 5 months, the writers’ strike has come to an end. On that note, JustWatch summarized how it influenced the number of delays of movies and TV shows of original productions of various streaming services.

Global streaming giant: Netflix is the most affected by the writer’s strike with 3x more production delays than Apple TV+. Other major US streaming services: Max, Prime Video and Disney+ all suffer, collectively taking up 27% of the total content disruption for streaming platforms in the country.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Wrap explains the “Argylle Trailer: Henry Cavill and Dua Lipa Are Spies in Meta Comedy”.

The first trailer for “Kingsman” and “X-Men: First Class” filmmaker Matthew Vaughn new spy film “Argylle” has arrived, and it’s hardly what anyone expected. The trailer begins as a standard spy thriller with Henry Cavill and Dua Lipa getting into some sexy spy shenanigans, but then the story pulls back to reveal they’re characters in a book written by a spy novel author played by Bryce Dallas Howard.

The problem? What she thinks is fiction is actually happening, and now real-life spies are after her for outing their dealings…

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

Pixel Scroll 9/16/23 Hush Little Pixel, Mama’s Going To Buy You A Scroll

(1) DOCTOROW ON FABLES TABLE-FLIP. Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic post “Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series ‘Fables’ into the public domain (15 Sept 2023)” assesses many IP rights issues triggered by Willingham’s announcement.

…It’s been 21 years since Bill Willingham launched Fables, his 110-issue, wide-ranging, delightful and brilliantly crafted author-owned comic series that imagines that the folkloric figures of the world’s fairytales are real people, who live in a secret society whose internal struggles and intersections with the mundane world are the source of endless drama.

Fables is a DC Comics title; DC is division of the massive entertainment conglomerate Warners, which is, in turn, part of the Warner/Discovery empire, a rapacious corporate behemoth whose screenwriters have been on strike for 137 days (and counting). DC is part of a comics duopoly; its rival, Marvel, is a division of the Disney/Fox juggernaut, whose writers are also on strike.

The DC that Willingham bargained with at the turn of the century isn’t the DC that he bargains with now. Back then, DC was still subject to a modicum of discipline from competition; its corporate owner’s shareholders had not yet acquired today’s appetite for meteoric returns on investment of the sort that can only be achieved through wage-theft and price-gouging….

…Rather than fight Warner, Willingham has embarked on what JWZ calls an act of “absolute table-flip badassery” – he has announced that Fables will hereafter be in the public domain, available for anyone to adapt commercially, in works that compete with whatever DC might be offering.

Now, this is huge, and it’s also shrewd. It’s the kind of thing that will bring lots of attention on Warner’s fraudulent dealings with its creative workforce, at a moment where the company is losing a public relations battle to the workers picketing in front of its gates. It constitutes a poison pill that is eminently satisfying to contemplate. It’s delicious.

But it’s also muddy. Willingham has since clarified that his public domain dedication means that the public can’t reproduce the existing comics. That’s not surprising; while Willingham doesn’t say so, it’s vanishingly unlikely that he owns the copyrights to the artwork created by other artists (Willingham is also a talented illustrator, but collaborated with a who’s-who of comics greats for Fables). He may or may not have control over trademarks, from the Fables wordmark to any trademark interests in the character designs. He certainly doesn’t have control over the trademarked logos for Warner and DC that adorn the books….

It is also interesting to read that Bill Willingham, praised today by Cory Doctorow for striking a blow against corporate IP abuse, attended BasedCon last weekend.   

(2) FANTASY REQUIRES A GOOD MAP. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Interesting piece at Mapping As Process about a 1917 map of Fairyland by artist Bernard Sleigh, with references to many stories in folklore and fable. There’s a link to a high-resolution image that can be zoomed in on: “An Anciente Mappe of Fairyland”.

…In December 1917, the British artist and wood engraver Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954) published a six-foot long, panoramic map of Fairyland in three sheets. Its style was that of the Arts and Crafts movement, an aesthetic championed by William Morris (1834–1896) in the second half of the nineteenth century, in reaction to the apparent destruction of individual skills and traditional designs by mass industrialization. Arts and Crafts generated intricately detailed designs and a retrogressive appeal to folk aesthetics. Sleigh, trained by one of Morris’s followers, cultivated a stylized mediaevalism in both the design and the subject matter of his drawings, prints, murals, and stained glass (Cooper 1997)….

(3) VOCAL COMPLAINT. Behind a paywall at Fortune: “Actor Stephen Fry says his voice was stolen from the Harry Potter audiobooks and replicated by AI—and warns this is just the beginning”. Wealth of Geeks has this report about what is in the article: “Actor Stephen Fry Claims AI Replicated His Voice from ‘Harry Potter’ Audiobooks”.

…Actor Stephen Fry claims that producers used AI to replicate his voice from the Harry Potter audiobooks without his permission. AI has become a central point of contention of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

As reported by Fortune, Fry told an audience at a London festival, “I’m a proud member of [SAG-AFTRA], as you know we’ve been on strike for three months now. And one of the burning issues is AI.”

At the festival, Fry played a clip of AI mimicking his voice as the narrator of a historical documentary. “I said not one word of that—it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me,” he said. “They used my reading of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter books, and from that dataset an AI of my voice was created and it made that new narration. What you heard was not the result of a mash-up, this is from a flexible artificial voice, where the words are modulated to fit the meaning of each sentence.”…

(4) DON’T BE A SUCKER. Victoria Strauss gives Writer Beware readers the “Anatomy of a Fake Film Company Scam: The Greendot Films / Better Bound House”.

…Here’s how it works. A film company–with a website and everything–calls or emails out of the blue with a tempting offer: your book has the potential to be made into a movie/TV series! And they want to represent you to studios/pitch you to producers/take you to a major conference where scores of film people will be present! Just one requirement: you need a screenplay/a pitch deck/a storyboard/some other product. Don’t have those things? No problem–they know a reputable and expert company that can create them for you…for a fee.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch setup. The “film company” is a front for the service provider, which in turn is owned by a parent company overseas. And that initial service that was pitched to you as absolutely essential? It’s just the start. By paying, you’ve marked yourself as fair game for escalating sales pressure and fraudulent offers involving large upfront payments. And the sales reps who staff the scams–who earn a commission on every dollar you spend–will take every opening you give them, and won’t stop unless you stop them.

This post takes a look at a real-life example, thanks to an author who has given me permission to share their experience.

Dramatis Personae

The fake film company: The Greendot Films. Its website includes a slideshow of movies Greendot is hoping you’ll assume they were responsible for creating, along with a fake history claiming that they’re a successor to two defunct production companies. The Greendot name itself has been “borrowed” from yet another defunct film company, Green Dot Films….

(5) BARRIERS TO FANDOM. Pocket reposts a 2021 Teen Vogue article which asks, “Who Actually Gets to ‘Escape’ Into Fandom?” and discusses antiracism resources.

… Escapism isn’t actually possible for everyone because of the nature of both fandom and the world around us. The best-worst example of the limits of fandom escapism? Racism.

Racism is global, and it infiltrates everything that we do; it’s close to inescapable offline, and it’s just as common online. Fandom is no exception.

In 2019, Dr. Rukmini Pande did an interview with Henry Jenkins about her book Squee From The Margins: Fandom and Race. “I found that while it is certainly possible for fans of color to ‘pass’ within online fan spaces, their modes of escapism are mostly contingent – I can enjoy a source or fan text until it gets racist,” Pande said in the interview. “Other fans articulated the importance of finding networks of fellow non-white fans so that they could curate their experiences to be safer. In all cases, fandom certainly isn’t a space where these fans can escape from race/racism even if it is not something that is engaged with publicly or vocally.”

It makes sense that people would resort to fandom escapism following natural disasters, or to have something to do other than overthink their local government’s COVID-19 response. But what about the times we’ve seen people talk about fandom being their “safe space” from them dealing with or seeing viral video recordings of Black people being killed, as we saw in the summer of 2020? What about people in the U.S. delving into fandom so they don’t have to think about American politics?

No matter the fandom, fans of color can’t reliably escape into fandom, because people don’t stop being racist just because they like the same things that people of color do. There’s always a racist person in fandom. There are always racist fanworks. There are always racist creators. There’s always racism in the source material that people will defend in your mentions for days….

(6) NM-AZ STATE BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST. The finalists for the 2023 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards include these science fiction books:

  • 3VE by Jason DeGrey
  • Mountain Knight by Avery Christy
  • Planet Quest by Kate Harrington
  • The Yewberry Way by Jack Gist

(7) NO, THERE IS ANOTHER. “C.I.A. Discloses Identity of Second Spy Involved in ‘Argo’ Operation” reports the New York Times.

In the midst of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A. began what came to be noted as one of the spy agency’s most successful publicly known operations: the rescue of six American diplomats who had escaped the overrun U.S. Embassy — using a fake movie as the cover story.

“Argo,” the real-life 2012 movie about the C.I.A.’s fake movie, portrayed a single C.I.A. officer, Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, sneaking into Tehran to rescue the American diplomats in a daring operation.

But in reality, the agency sent two officers into Tehran. For the first time on Thursday, the C.I.A. is releasing the identity of that second officer, Ed Johnson, in the season finale of its new podcast, “The Langley Files.”

Mr. Johnson, a linguist, accompanied Mr. Mendez, a master of disguise and forgery, on the flight to Tehran to cajole the diplomats into adopting the cover story, that they were Canadians who were part of a crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie called “Argo.” The two then helped the diplomats with forged documents and escorted them through Iranian airport security to fly them home.

Although Mr. Johnson’s name was classified, the C.I.A. had acknowledged a second officer had been involved. Mr. Mendez, who died in 2019, wrote about being accompanied by a second officer in his first book, but used a pseudonym, Julio. A painting that depicts a scene from the operation and hangs in the C.I.A.’s Langley, Va., headquarters, shows a second officer sitting across from Mr. Mendez in Tehran as they forge stamps in Canadian passports. But the second officer’s identity is obscured, his back turned to the viewer.

The agency began publicly talking about its role in rescuing the diplomats 26 years ago. On the agency’s 50th anniversary, in 1997, the C.I.A. declassified the operation, and allowed Mr. Mendez to tell his story, hoping to balance accounts of some of the agency’s ill-fated operations around the world with one that was a clear success.

But until recently, Mr. Johnson preferred that his identity remain secret….

 (8) CINEMATIC HISTORY MADE HERE. “George Lucas’ former Marin Industrial Light and Magic studio closing, some employees vow to save it” reports ABC7 San Francisco.

In the North Bay, it’s the end of an era of movie-making magic.

The original soundstage and production facility in San Rafael for Industrial Light and Magic, founded by George Lucas, is going away. Lucas moved his campus to the Presidio in San Francisco almost 20 years ago.

The facility’s new owners are retiring, but one employee would like to save the studio’s history and legacy.

It may be a surprise to know hundreds of other films were created inside the nondescript building on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael.

Now home to 32TEN Studios, this is the former campus of Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic.

“Right after the success of ‘Star Wars,’ George Lucas wanted to remove himself from the Hollywood system, so he moved the ILM shop from Van Nuys up here,” said House.

House is a longtime model shop supervisor, and says many props and models from movies are still there. That includes the Millennium Falcon, an anchor from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even a model of Chewbacca’s head.

Lucas relocated his campus to the Presidio in 2005 and he took the original door with him, which is now on display….

(9) BACK IN PORT. Having finished a series detailing her experiences aboard Disney’s Star Wars-themed Starcruiser, Cass Morris analyzes why it works in “The Stars Have Come Alive” at Scribendi.

As promised, this post is my attempt to analyze, for myself and for other interested parties, how the Starcruiser creates such an exceptional experience, and why it works so very well as it does.

I feel quite confident in the base assertion that it does, and has, because I’ve seen it in action on people who aren’t as deeply invested in the IP as I am. I’ve watched videos of influencers who are only surface-level conversant with Star Wars be moved to tears by Yoda’s holocron. I’ve seen parents who thought they were only their for their kids get wrapped up in the experience. I’ve seen people who arrived in civilian clothes buy garments on the ship or in Batuu so they could feel more a part of things.

And I’ve seen people who were already Star Wars fans go absolutely feral. In a good way! But the response that this experience has from people who fully give themselves over to it is astonishing.

So. It works. The Starcruiser is a phenomenal example of what immersive experiences can be. Now: Let’s unpack how and why…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1898 Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born September 15, 1932 Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the ever so delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born September 15, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 71. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.
  • Born September 15, 1954 Howard Weinstein, 69. At age 19, he was the youngest person to ever write a Trek script, selling “The Pirates of Orion” for use in the animated series. Though it would be his only script, he would go on to write quite a few Trek novels — thirteen are listed currently at the usual suspects — and comics. He gets a thanks credit in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. He wrote a script, “The Sky Above, the Mudd Below”, for the fanfic video affair Star Trek: New Voyages, but it never got made. And it won’t given that there’s a comic book series already made with its plot.  Paramount wasn’t at all pleased. To quote Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun and money / the shit has hit the fan.” 
  • Born September 15, 1955 Amanda Hemingway, 68. British author of fantasy novels who’s best known for the Fern Capel series written under the Jan Siegel name — it’s most excellent. I’d also recommend The Sangreal Trilogy penned under her own name. Alas her superb website has gone offline. She is available from the usual suspects — curiously her Hemingway novels are much more costly than her Seigel novels are. Oh and she invented this wonderful as noted on her Twitter site: “Schroedinger’s Cake: you don’t know it it’s been eaten until you open the tin.”
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kurt Busiek, 63. Writer whose work includes The Marvels limited series, ThuderboltsSuperman, his own outstanding Astro City series, and a very long run on The Avengers. He also worked at Dark Horse where he did Conan #1–28 and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles #1–8. 
  • Born September 15, 1960 Mike Mignola, 63. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check shows the results of a mixed message in Gotham.
  • Bliss explains the source of this superhero’s bliss.

(12) FEAST YOUR EYES. The Bristol Board has a wild gallery of “Basil Wolverton artwork for ‘Weird-Ass Tales of The Future’”, splash panels from Basil Wolverton’s science-fiction tales.  

(13) LOOKS WEIRD. Gizmodo delivers a “Weird Tales 100 Years of Weird Illustrated Anthology First Look”. There’s a slideshow of art at the link.

Weird Tales—which delivers exactly the kind of freaky, spooky stories you’d expect—marks its 100th anniversary this year, and is celebrating with the release of illustrated anthology Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird. It’ll include entries from authors like Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as contemporary writers….

(14) ALL ABOARD. GameRant calls these the “Best Sci-Fi Board Games Of All Time”.

…This shared love of science fiction has led to a plethora of sci-fi-themed board games that use the themes and aesthetic of sci-fi to create immersive, unique experiences on the tabletop. The following examples provide a broad and varied selection of games, both old and new, that use science fiction as their theme to great effect.

Ranked in first place:

1. Twilight Imperium

This sci-fi space opera from Fantasy Flight Games was originally produced back in 1997. Now in its fourth edition, Twilight Imperium is grand strategy on an epic scale, tasking players with controlling the burgeoning empires of various alien races.

Each race in Twilight Imperium encourages a different playstyle, making for a broad and replayable experience. The game is mainly focused on building and positioning fleets, as well as engaging in diplomacy with fellow players. Twilight Imperium is a huge game, and not necessarily accessible, not only because it takes roughly six hours to play depending on the player count, but because it requires a heavy amount of strategizing. However, Twilight Imperium is a dramatic and immersive experience that fans of sci-fi space operas are sure to love.

(15) BUDGET BREAKER? Science explains why “Mars Sample Return risks consuming NASA science”. “Forthcoming cost estimate for budget-busting mission could lead to strict caps from Congress.”

…The cost of the mission may become altogether too mighty, however. The most recent official figure now puts it at some $6 billion, up from some $4 billion, and a leaked report suggests that, in one scenario, it could exceed $8 billion. Cost overruns for MSR and a few other large missions have already forced NASA to squeeze or delay other science missions, and calls to rethink—or even kill—Mars Sample Return  have grown. When an independent review of the project delivers a fresh cost estimate later this month, advocates are praying it stays well below $10 billion, which has emerged as a sort of red line for the mission. “It’s fair to say that the future of Mars Sample Return lives and dies with the recommendations of that panel,” says Casey Dreier, chief of space policy at the Planetary Society….

(16) WE’LL GO AT NIGHT. PBS Space-Time wonders “What NEW SCIENCE Would We Discover with a Moon Telescope?”

In order to see the faint light from objects in deepest space, astronomers go to the darkest places on the planet. In order to listen to their quite radio signals, they head as far from any radio-noisy humans as possible. But there’s nowhere on the earth, or even orbiting the Earth, that’s far enough to hear to the faint radio hum from the time before stars. In fact, we may need to build a giant radio telescope in the quietest place in the solar system—the far side of the Moon.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid, over at YouTube’s Media Death Cult, has a new 10-minute video filmed appropriately, in sand dunes, on “How DUNE Became The Biggest Science Fiction Book In The Universe”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/23 Take Back The Links, Take Back The Scrolls

(1) WORLDCON VENUE CONSTRUCTION REPORT. A Weibo user posted a video showing progress at the Chengdu Science and Technology Museum and Science Fiction Museum construction site. Here is a screencap from the video.

(2) WHEN FACEBOOK IS OUT OF TUNE. Somtow Sucharitkul shared his good-natured response to an annoying example of Facebook moderation.

(3) FIGHTING BACK. “Booksellers Move to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Book Bans in Texas” reports the New York Times.

With a book-rating law set to take effect in September, a group of booksellers, along with publishers and authors, filed suit to argue that it is unconstitutional.

A group of booksellers, publishers and authors filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop a new law in Texas that would require stores to rate books based on sexual content, arguing the measure would violate their First Amendment rights and be all but impossible to implement.

The law, set to take effect in September, would force booksellers to evaluate and rate each title they sell to schools, as well as books they sold in the past. If they fail to comply, stores would be barred from doing business with schools….

…Charley Rejsek, the chief executive of BookPeople in Austin, said that complying with the law would be impossible. BookPeople — which takes its name from Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451,” in which a group of people try to preserve books in a world where they are burned — was founded in 1970, Rejsek said. The store does not have records of titles sold over the last half century, much less a way to know which of them are still in circulation — but under the law, BookPeople would be responsible for rating those books.

“I don’t see a clear path forward for complying with the law as written,” she said. “I don’t know how I can rate them if I don’t have any records.”

Going forward, she said, BookPeople would have to read and rate many thousands of titles requested by school districts. Some might be in languages her staff cannot read, she said.

“I want to work with schools,” she said. “But I just literally can’t find a way to comply.”

(4) BLERDCON. Listen as NPR’s “Here and Now” shares how “Blerdcon celebrates Black nerd fandom throughout the year.

While summer may be the season for fan conventions, Blerdcon is unique in catering expressly to Black nerds (or blerds).

Founder and CEO Hilton George explains the rise of Black nerdom and the events he puts on to celebrate it throughout the year.

(5) FAMED MYSTERY BOOKSTORE OWNER. The Bookshop Podcast’s Mandy Jackson-Beverly interviews Otto Penzler of The Mysterious Bookshop.

In this episode, I chat with Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop about publishing, the genre of mystery and crime fiction, female mystery writers, and collecting first editions.

Opened in 1979 by Otto Penzler, The Mysterious Bookshop is the oldest mystery specialist book store in America. Previously located in midtown, the bookshop now calls Tribeca its home.

The bookshop stocks the finest selection of new mystery hardcovers, paperbacks and periodicals and also features a superb collection of signed Modern First Editions, Rare/Collectible hardcovers and Sherlockiana.

(6) THE SPACE PROGRAM’S ORIGINAL COMPUTERS. PBS’ American Experience covers “The Women Who Brought Us the Moon”.

…The women working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1960s were all highly trained mathematicians, and many possessed advanced degrees. Helen Ling was born in China and experienced a tumultuous childhood formed under the pressures of WWII. Coming to the United States for college, she earned her master’s degree in mathematics before leading the computing section in a managerial role for over three decades. There was also Janez Lawson, the first African American hired in a technical position at the laboratory. She held a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UCLA and by modern qualifications would be hired today as an engineer. However, in the 1950s, her gender and race impeded her employment and she was brought in as a computer….

The section on JPL is followed by another devoted to the African American computers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautic laboratory in Hampton, Virginia made famous by Hidden Figures.

…In a system designed to repress their advancement, the African American women became indispensable. “A Trojan horse of segregation opening the door to integration,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in Hidden Figures, her 2016 nonfiction book documenting the groundbreaking female African American computers at Langley and adapted into a feature film of the same name. In the book, Shetterly focuses her narrative on three human computers turned engineers: Katherine Johnson, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. While their careers spanned decades, their contributions to early human spaceflight are most frequently lauded…

(7) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] A number of SF-related clues in Wednesday’s Jeopardy! episode, for some reason all in the first round.

I’m Blue, $200: This Oscar-winning actress has a certain mystique playing Mystique, who, deep down, is all blue

Challenger Lucas Partridge got it right: “Who is Jennifer Lawrence?”

All Kinds of Literature, $600: “Bowman could bear no more. He jerked out the last unit, and HAL was silent forever” is a line from this sci-fi work

Lucas knew this one.

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $400: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

Lucas tried “Obi-Wan”, which left the field open for returning champion Julie Sisson to respond, “What is ‘The Mandalorian’?”

I’m Blue, $400: In this novel, a character is described as having “the half-tint blue eyes that told of off-planet foods in his diet”

Nobody knew what this one does. (I’ll presume that all the Filers do.)

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $600: “Dear Offred”

Lucas got it right: “What is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?”

“Da” or “Ba” or “Dee”, $800: It’s a word describing motorcyclist Bud Ekins, or the name of a Marvel hero

The third player, Alex Muhler, responded with “What is Daredevil?”

(8) ONE RING. Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman star in 57 Seconds, debuting September 29.

Time bends, revenge ignites, and survival hangs by a thread in 57 SECONDS! Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman team up in this heart-racing action thriller. Franklin (Hutcherson) seeks vengeance against the man who killed his sister and the corporate empire he reigns, as he discovers a time-altering ring dropped by tech guru Anton (Freeman) that propels him into a pulse-pounding battle for survival.

(9) DAVID K. M. KLAUS (1955-2023). Longtime fan and File 770 contributor David K. M. Klaus died July 27 at the age of 67. He is survived by his sons Kevin and Ryan.

Gary Farber wrote a reminiscence on Facebook which begins with meeting David at Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. About the David he knew for the next almost-fifty-years he says:

…Eager to help, friendly like a puppy, and occasionally overdoing it a bit. He helped several more times on sf conventions I worked on in later years, as well as many others. He also remained a major fan of fanzines and attempted to contribute to local clubs in the various places he lived. Science fiction clubs being what they are, sometimes his efforts were more compatible than others. But he truly wanted to help and was looking for no other reward.

David felt passionately, beyond passionately, about his various enthusiasms, especially his beloved STAR TREK, which remained central to the core of his ethos and who we was. David Klaus was always Starfleet in his own mind.

And now he no longer has to deal with the pain of his relatively recently deceased wife of many years, Nila….

Nila and David met at a Star Trek club meeting, married, and were together for many years, til he lost her to ovarian cancer in 2016.

I was honored with the rare opportunity to have dinner with the whole family when I was in St. Louis on business in 2010.

However, over the years our friendship experienced sudden peaks and valleys, the reasons for which I won’t go into here. Fortunately our last exchange of emails in 2022 ended on an up note when I told him, “I should just point out some things I respect about you. You took care of your family, raised your sons, worked hard. You kept it together. There are some things in that line I’d like to have done as well as you did.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Pierre Christin, 85. French comics creator and writer. In the mid Sixties, collaborated with Jean-Claude Mézières to create the science-fiction series Valérian and Laureline for PiloteTime Jam: Valerian & Laureline, a French animated series was released, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released as well. A officially released compilation of the Valerian & Laureline series is on YouTube here.
  • Born July 27, 1948 — Juliet Marillier, 75. She’s a New Zealand-born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She contributed to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1939 — Sydney J. van Scyoc. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Assignment Nor’Dyren is one of her better novels. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. (Died 2023.)
  • Born July 27, 1952 Bud Webster. Writer known for his essays on the history of science fiction and genre anthologies. His Bubba Pritchert series, all four stories, is fun reading indeed. He did but a handful of stories but essays as I alluded to above, oh my. Mike has a loving look at him and everything he did here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 55. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, which won a BSFAHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she is a Karl Edward Wagner Award winner as well.
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 50. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? Interestingly she’s been nominated for myriad Goodreads Choice Awards and won two for City of Fallen Angels and City of Heavenly Fire.

(11) A HOWARD BROTHER. Slashfilm points out that “Star Trek: SNW’s Latest Guest Star Appeared in Star Trek When He Was Six Years Old”.

…In “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the U.S.S. Enterprise is approached by a massive and mysterious alien spaceship, perfectly spherical and possessed of immense destructive power. The ship is called the Fesarius, and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) can only communicate with the Fesarius’ captain, Balok (voiced by Ted Cassidy), via audio. Balok declares that he very much intends to destroy the Enterprise using his superior weapons. Thinking quickly, Kirk bluffs; he says that the Enterprise is equipped with an imaginary substance called Corbomite that would react negatively to a weapons attack and destroy both ships. The bulk of the episode is a standoff between the two captains. 

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is able to hack into the video cameras on board the Fesarius and gets a visual of Balok. Children of multiple generations likely recall the nightmare-inducing image of Balok’s evil face. Cruelly, the “Star Trek” producers included Balok’s evil face over the credits of every episode. 

At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that Balok was also enacting a bluff. He was not an evil, blue-skinned alien, but a creature that looks an awful lot like a six-year-old boy. Balok was merely testing Kirk and would love to chat diplomatically. 

Balok was played by a six-year-old Clint Howard, an actor who has revisited “Trek” periodically over the decades, and he appears in the latest episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” as a general in the Klingon Wars. 

…Howard’s latest “Star Trek” appearance is in “Under the Cloak of War,” a flashback episode which shows what Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) and Dr. M’Benga (Bab Olusanmokun) experienced during the Klingon Wars. Nurse Chapel arrives at a remote Federation outpost that is being aggressively bombarded by Klingon forces and is immediately made one of the chief medical officers because her predecessor was just killed in combat. Howard shows Nurse Chapel around, completely jaded by death and unaffected by the violence. …

Collider has an episode recap: “’Strange New Worlds’ Season 2 Episode 8 Recap: War Makes Monsters of Us All”.

(12) SFF COFFEE BREAK. Bones Coffee Company offers the Crusader’s Cup blend.

Crusader’s Cup is a wise choice for those who want to embark on a flavor-filled journey with hints of nutty chocolate, butterscotch, and caramel. If you’re ready to take on the world and explore new horizons, grab Crusader’s Cup and set out on your next adventure.

(13) PRIME REAL ESTATE CAN BE YOURS. Here’s another plug…. GameSpot says “Lord Of The Rings Monopoly Is On Sale At Amazon Right Now”.

Ever wondered what it would be like to own property in Middle-earth? Well, you can find out if you pick up the Amazon-exclusive Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition while it’s on sale for just $26 (normally $45). This price is from a third-party seller, but if you’d rather buy directly from Amazon, you can get it for $32.49 with Prime shipping.

Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Edition reimagines Hasbro’s classic board game with locations, characters, and items from The Lord of the Rings film series directed by Peter Jackson. For example, instead of the original game pieces like the top hat and thimble, the game uses the iconic members of the fellowship–Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, Boromir, and Gandalf. Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition also adds new rules where players compete for control over The One Ring and journey to Mordor along with the classic Monopoly gameplay….

(14) WRITER NOTED AS BODYPAINTING SUBJECT. “At NYC Bodypainting Day, Naked Bodies Become Artists’ Canvases” in the New York Times.

…Across from a Pret a Manger near Union Square Park, Nicolette Barischoff held still as an artist painted an open blue eye across her sternum on Sunday. It was around 88 degrees and a crowd had assembled around them. But the temperature and the audience did not faze Ms. Barischoff. Nor did the fact that she was naked.

“It’s a very Zen experience,” she said, as photographers snapped pictures from behind police barricades. “This is my fishing.”

Ms. Barischoff, 38, a writer in Los Angeles, was among the 60 people who had paid $100 to become mostly nude human canvases for 40 artists during NYC Bodypainting Day, a public art exhibition that has been staged annually since 2014. This year’s installment was the 10th — and the last, according to the event’s founder, Andy Golub, an artist. He said he was ending it to focus on other projects for his organization, Human Connection Arts….

Barischoff’s online bio at Uncanny Magazine tells about the many sff projects she’s worked on:

Nicolette Barischoff has spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. She qualified for SFWA with her first three stories, published in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, and Unlikely Story’s The Journal of Unlikely Academia. Her work has been spoken aloud by the wonderful people of PodCastle, and one of her novelettes is mandatory reading at the University of Texas, Dallas. She edited the personal essays section of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, which won a Hugo Award. She’s also a fierce advocate for disability and body-positivity, which has occasionally landed her in trouble. She made the front page of CBS New York, who called her activism “public pornography” and suggested her face was a public order crime. She has the exact same chair as Professor X, and it is also powered by Cerebro.

(15) THE MARTIAN PARTICLES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature reports a wide range of organic compounds found by Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars: “Diverse organic-mineral associations in Jezero crater, Mars”.

The results come from the rover’s Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument.

The SHERLOC instrument is a deep ultraviolet (DUV) Raman and fluorescence spectrometer designed to map the distribution of organic molecules and minerals on rock surfaces.

(16) NUCLEAR PROPULSION BACK ON THE DRAWING BOARD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Rocket geeks of a certain age will remember the NERVA program, one of the first attempts to design a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

Well, NASA and DARPA are reviving that concept with the intent of a test flight as early as 2027. This version will be limited to cislunar space, but the idea is to enable flight to Mars and possibly beyond. “The US government is taking a serious step toward space-based nuclear propulsion” at Ars Technica.

Four years from now, if all goes well, a nuclear-powered rocket engine will launch into space for the first time. The rocket itself will be conventional, but the payload boosted into orbit will be a different matter.

NASA announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the US Department of Defense to launch a nuclear-powered rocket engine into space as early as 2027. The US space agency will invest about $300 million in the project to develop a next-generation propulsion system for in-space transportation.

“NASA is looking to go to Mars with this system,” said Anthony Calomino, an engineer at NASA who is leading the agency’s space nuclear propulsion technology program. “And in this test is really going to give us that foundation.”

… The basic idea is straightforward: A nuclear reactor rapidly heats up a propellant, probably liquid hydrogen, and then this gas expands and is passed out a nozzle, creating thrust. But engineering all of this for in-space propulsion is challenging, and then there is the regulatory difficulty of building a nuclear reactor and safely launching it into space….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. One of many trailers shown at SDCC is this one for Popeye The Sailor, a live-action fan-made film.

Based on characters created by E.C. Segar, Popeye The Sailor is a No budget, action, adventure fan film coming later this year. Before Olive, before Bluto, before Sweet Haven and its many residents, this feature film tells the story of a younger Popeye, wandering the world alone, living with questions of his past. In his quest to find answers, new foes are met, and new allies are made.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/23 This Is Not A Test Of The Emergency Pixel System

(1) CLARION WEST’S EVOLVING WORKSHOP CULTURE REPORT. In 2020 Clarion West began a project to update how they run their workshops, especially the Six-Week Summer Workshop.

With project consultant Rachelle Cruz, Clarion West has finalized a report that covers what spurred this project and the conclusions they reached. S.L. Huang touched on the process in their Tor.com article last summer.

You can read the 90-page report on the Evolving Workshop Culture Project (2020-2022) here.

The Clarion West Writers Workshop was founded on the belief that writers from diverse backgrounds need an opportunity to be heard — and to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Clarion West has historically been successful in reaching women writers and LGBTQIA+ writers, and many of our graduates are actively publishing in the field. 

With 744 graduates from the Six-Week Workshop, Clarion West has played a significant role in shaping the careers of speculative fiction writers, and our work continues. As we explore our own efforts to further equity and inclusion, we see an ongoing disparity between the writers we serve and the greater community of published writers in speculative fiction who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), People of the Global Majority, LGBTQIA+, or disabled. As such, we are now seeking to do better at following our mission to help new and emerging voices in speculative fiction through an examination of our workshop techniques, workshop and organizational culture, community programs, and internal processes.

As a result of feedback and community forums with our alumni described in the report we’ve linked below, Clarion West has undertaken the process of making lasting structural changes that promote a Six-Week Workshop culture distinctive to Clarion West’s mission of equity, empowerment, and innovation — by providing a safer space for participants to explore concepts of race, class, nationality, disability, neurodivergence, gender, and sexual orientation within and beyond the genre of speculative fiction. We hope to expand the focus of this process to every program presented by Clarion West over the next few years.

Clarion West workshop staff and our project consultant and advisor, Rachelle Cruz, created the Overall Report on Evolving Workshop Culture, which details the changes undertaken from 2020–2022. We are excited to share our process, goals, and findings. While this part of the project is complete, we anticipate continuing to update our workshop methods and expectations for students, staff, and instructors each year.

A few findings:

  • The role of a workshop facilitator serves as an an advocate for our students and a resource to our instructors. All staff should be trained in workshop facilitation in order to help coach instructors and students in our new workshop models.
  • Elements like author statements and author-centered workshop models created excitement and engagement. One participant in testing the Lerman/Huang workshop model said: “I felt excited for a community driven toward building the story toward the author’s intent.”
  • Instructors may bring us new models that inspire us! Fonda Lee introduced a model to the 2022 Six-Week Workshop in Week 3 based on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. It proved so successful we continued using it the rest of the summer. A few key elements of this model include giving authors the opportunity to briefly describe their intentions for their work and the feedback they wish to receive, allowing participants to share what they admired about the work and to ask thought-provoking questions, and creating opportunities for full-group discussion.

(2) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY CASHING IN. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) squared off against Chris Pratt (The Super Mario Bros. Movie) this past weekend and Chris Pratt won.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 broke the other film’s four-week winning streak at the box office, although The Hollywood Reporter said the domestic opening of $118.4 million is “well behind the last film in the stand-alone Marvel Studios franchise but enough to prove that the new movie is already benefiting from strong audience sentiment.”

And Variety tallied the worldwide receipts:

At the international box office, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” added $170 million from 52 markets, bringing its global tally to $289 million. In China, which was once a huge territory for Marvel but has been increasingly hostile toward most Hollywood movies, the comic book threequel collected a better-than-expected $28 million to start.

Meanwhile, The Wrap anticipated The Super Mario Bros. Movie will pass a milestone today:

…On Monday, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” will pass the $1.15 billion total of “Minions” to become the highest grossing animated movie not produced by Disney or Pixar and one of the Top 5 highest grossing animated movies of all time. The No. 4 spot on that list currently belongs to “Incredibles 2” with $1.24 billion grossed in 2018….

(3) EDIFICE WRECKS. Robin Anne Reid shared the Call for Papers for “Tolkien’s Medievalism in Ruins: The Function of Relics and Ruins in Middle-earth”. Full details at the link.

Many notable scholars have probed the motif of ruins in ancient and medieval texts: Alain Schnapp, Alan Lupack, Geoffrey Ashe, and Richard Barber read the poetics of ruins in Latin poetry, the Exeter Book, and Arthuriana. Scholars working outside of the Classical Age and Middle Ages have also examined how this topos persists in literary periods up through the Renaissance, Romanticism, and to today. In short, the structural and symbolic purposes of ruins in literary texts have a long history, and the literary-critical history of engaging these poetics influences our interests in essays grounded in reading relationships between literary history and relics and ruins in Tolkien’s legendarium. It is time for a volume on the topic, and we are pleased to welcome proposals from a variety of theoretical approaches for a proposed edited collection.

Throughout J. R. R. Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth, relics and ruins appear as images that capture the mood, personality, and disposition of the characters. From the ruins of Erebor and the relics of Gondolin that appear in The Hobbit to the various images of Amon Sûl, Moria, Osgiliath, and post-war Isengard in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien captures each character’s awareness of the glories of the past and their desires to emulate them. The important roles of relics and ruins in the history of Middle-earth create opportunity for a more formal critical discourse on the topic. This proposed collection of essays will seek to deepen the awareness and importance of relics and ruins in Tolkien’s legendarium while simultaneously focusing on how Tolkien’s vision of history functions within and outside of the Middle Ages. In this vein, we are concerned with including essays that address a greater literary history of Tolkien’s work. We are equally concerned with including pieces that explore the representation of relics or ruins not only within The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but, also, the larger legendarium with The History of Middle-earth series, The Silmarillion, and the texts that Christopher Tolkien edited and published after his father’s death (The Children of HúrinBeren and LúthienThe Fall of GondolinThe Fall of Númenor)…. 

(4) BARD BLOOM (1963-2023). Sff writer Bard Bloom died April 29 at the age of 60 after a three-year struggle with glioblastoma. The family obituary is here.

Bard Bloom passed away at their home in Dobbs Ferry, NY on the morning of April 29, 2023, after a nearly three year struggle with glioblastoma. They were 60 years old.

Bard graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in mathematics and later earned a PhD in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They began their career as an academic specializing in programming languages and semantics and as a professor of computer science at Cornell University. Later, they became a software engineer with industry giants including IBM, Google, and Spotify.

Bard was a passionate writer of fantasy and science fiction, including the World Tree RPG (together with their wife Vicki) and several published novels, often featuring dragons, both inside the World Tree universe and in other original settings. Bard was also a prolific amateur potter and a skilled gamemaster who facilitated the co-creation of numerous stories with their friends.

Bard was a beloved friend to many and an advocate for their transgender and disabled peers, helping others find community, access support, and feel deeply heard. They will be remembered for their stunning intelligence, their insightful advice, their wild imagination, their snarky and occasionally surreal sense of humor, and their often unusually-colored hair….

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1983[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

My favorite Tim Powers novel is The Anubis Gates which was published forty years ago by Ace Books. I’ve read it a number of times and enjoyed it immensely each time. It’s got interesting characters, a weird story that’s among the best he’s written, and a setting that you have to read to believe. 

It won the Philip K. Dick Award and SF Chronicle Award, and was nominated for a BSFA as well.  

And now his Beginning…

PROLOGUE: 

FEBRUARY 2, 1802

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. . . .”

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

FROM BETWEEN TWO trees at the crest of the hill a very old man watched, with a nostalgic longing he thought he’d lost all capacity for, as the last group of picnickers packed up their baskets, mounted their horses, and rode away south—they moved a little hastily, for it was a good six miles back to London, and the red sun was already silhouetting the branches of the trees along the River Brent, two miles to the west. When they’d gone the old man turned around to watch the sun’s slow descent. The Boat of Millions of Years, he thought; the boat of the dying sungod Ra, tacking down the western sky to the source of the dark river that runs through the underworld from west to east, through the twelve hours of the night, at the far eastern end of which the boat will tomorrow reappear, bearing a once again youthful, newly reignited sun. Or, he thought bitterly, removed from us by a distance the universe shouldn’t even be able to encompass, it’s a vast motionless globe of burning gas, around which this little ball of a planet rolls like a pellet of dung propelled by a kephera beetle. Take your pick, he told himself as he started slowly down the hill. . . . But be willing to die for your choice.

He had to walk carefully, for his Japanese clogs were awkward on the uneven dirt and grass. Fires were already lit among the tents and wagons, and a weaving of wild odors whirled up to him on the cool evening breeze: a sharp, earthy reek from the tethered donkeys, wood smoke, and the aroma of roasting hedgehog, a dish his people particularly relished. Faintly, too, he thought he caught a whiff of stale breath from the crate that had arrived that afternoon—a musty fetor, as of perverse spices meant to elicit aversion rather than appetite, almost shockingly incongruous when carried on the clean breezes of Hampstead Heath. As he approached the cluster of tents he was met by a couple of the camp dogs; as always, they backed away from him when they recognized him, and one turned around and loped purposefully to the nearest tent; the other, with evident reluctance, escorted Amenophis Fikee into the camp. Responding to the dog’s summons, a dark man in a striped corduroy coat stepped out of the tent and strode across the grass toward Fikee. Like the dogs, he halted well short of the old man. “Good evening, rya,” he said. “Will you eat some dinner? They’ve got a hotchewitchi on the fire, smells very kushto.”

“As kushto as hotchewitchi ever does smell, I suppose,” Fikee muttered absently. “But no, thank you. You all help yourselves.”

“Not I, rya—my Bessie always loved cooked hotchewitchi; so since she mullered I don’t eat it anymore.” 

Fikee nodded, though he obviously hadn’t been listening. “Very well, Richard.” He paused as though hoping for an interruption, but none came. “When the sun is all the way down, have some of the chals carry that crate down the bank to the tent of Doctor Romany.” 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 87. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre. Or is. 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Ron Miller, 76. Illustrator who is quite knowledgeable about the work of astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell – his book The Art of Chesley Bonestell received a Hugo at ConJosé. The Grand Tour he did with William K. Hartmann was nominated at Chicon IV (1982) for Best Related Non-Fiction Book.
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, was married to Gardner Dozois. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper was edited just after her death by her husband. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. A prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 60. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (love that film), The Green Hornet, and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard of but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9. (Died 2010.)

(7) CURE FOR VIRAL. Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of Semafor, tells New York Times readers “We’re Watching the End of a Digital Media Age. It All Started With Jezebel.”

Ten years ago, a group of digital media companies thought the future belonged to us. New brands like Vice, Gawker, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and BuzzFeed News, which I helped start, had begun as blogs or something similar, outsider voices with audiences who were sick of the stuffy mainstream media. They’d grown steadily on the internet, and when Facebook arrived, they exploded with the social platform. They became expert in telling stories in a way people would like and share, and their links became omnipresent in readers’ newsfeeds. Their voices dominated the influential, sometimes toxic conversations on Twitter.

But they didn’t turn out to be the future. Gawker shut down in 2016, briefly revived and shut down again this February. Last month BuzzFeed News closed up shop. The other iconic brand of the era, Vice, is reportedly near bankruptcy and has laid off many journalists in recent weeks. On television, still America’s dominant medium, social media also helped boost a new kind of confrontational, hyperpolitical style, but that seems to be fading, too. Also last month the corporate owners of cable networks pushed out two of the defining voices of the confrontational Trump years, Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon.

Media commentators from CNN to The Financial Times are using the same phrase for this moment: “The end of an era.”

But when did this era in media begin? Where in the media did this remarkable new openness and uncontrollable anger start?

Smith goes on to explain why he thinks it started with Jezebel, a blog started in 2007, which thrived under the editorship of Anna Holmes.

(8) HELL IS HERE. Destination, Part 2 in Marc Watson’s Catching Hell duology, has been released and relaunched by Fluky Fiction.

A critical blow has been dealt to the robotic Army of the Old, but at a great price. Broken and weary, best friends Johan and Aryu have been separated while chasing forces from the distant past that they both fear.

Aryu, the man with wings, pursues the enemy while he slowly slips into the enticing magic and mystery of the Power, led by the great phoenix Nixon Ash.

Johan stands on the steps of Bankoor, a futuristic city full of wonder and mistrust. Here he must make his stand to avenge his destroyed home and find his friend.

As the gap between the brave warriors closes, the worlds of technology and magic will clash!

The book is available in paperback and ebook formats:

Marc Watson, an author of genre fiction of all lengths and styles, lives in Calgary, Alberta. He began writing at the age of 15 and continues to be a part-time writing student at Athabasca University. He has been published on flash fiction site 101words (find his stories here). Watson is a husband and proud father of two. He is an avid outdoorsman, martial artist, baseball player, and lover of all Mexican foods.

(9) POLYMATH. The immersive Leonard da Vinci experience, Leonardo: The Universal Man, is currently available in Phoenix. Buy tickets at the link.

Leonardo: The Universal Man will transport you into the Genius Mind of the original “Renaissance Man” using state of the art immersive design, light, sound, and projection technology. Experience a floor to ceiling spectacle as you embark on a visual and musical journey of da Vinci’s life including world-renowned masterpieces “The Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper”. This fantastical journey into the many phases of Leonardo’s expansive contribution to history, art, and technology has been reimagined alongside exciting visual animations and custom soundtrack – to bring a man from the 1400s into the wondrous future of today.

(10) FOMALHAUT IS READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP. “Webb Telescope Finds a Star Cloaked in 3 Rings of Ruined Worlds” reports the New York Times, where you can see several photos.

Fomalhaut, a star just 25 light-years away, is so dazzlingly bright that it blots out the faint light of other stars around it. Stargazers have been enraptured by its secrets for thousands of years.

Now, with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, astronomers have documented evidence that Fomalhaut is a dynamic star wreathed in cosmic chaos. The powerful observatory’s infrared vision is letting astronomers better understand Fomalhaut’s features, including a mysterious ring unlike anything found in our solar system.

“It’s complex — there’s so much going on!” said Andras Gaspar, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and one of the authors of a study using the Webb observations that was published Monday in Nature Astronomy. “It’s the first time we’ve seen such structures in an evolved system.”…

See the NASA press release here: “Webb Looks for Fomalhaut’s Asteroid Belt and Finds Much More”.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A new trailer has dropped for Oppenheimer. Opens in theaters July 21.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer is an IMAX®-shot epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man who must risk destroying the world in order to save it.

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