Pixel Scroll 2/15/24 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO HUGO AWARDS CENSORSHIP REPORT. Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford’s report “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion” (also available at Genre Grapevine and as an e-book epub file and as a PDF) has sparked the attention of mass media: .

The Guardian: “Authors ‘excluded from Hugo awards over China concerns’”. In addition to covering the report, the article includes an excellent quote from Chinese social media:

…The incident prompted discussion among the science fiction community in China. One commenter on Weibo wrote: “Diane Lacey’s courage to disclose the truth makes people feel that there is still hope in the world, and not everyone is so shameless … I can understand the concerns of the Hugo award staff, but ‘I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards.’”…

BBC Radio 4: Last night’s arts programme Front Row’s third quarter looked at the Hugo Awards debacle. “Ukraine drama A Small Stubborn Town, Emma Rice, The Hugo Awards”. Jonathan Cowie says, “It was a superficial dive. For example, it did not note that the nominating stats literally did not add up, so clear fraud, nor that Glasgow also is ignoring WSFS rules.” (Cowie adds, “Remember to skip to the programme’s final third quarter.”)

In the wake of the Hugo Awards scandal, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, culture critic and Hugo awards finalist, Han Zhang, editor-at-large at Riverhead Books, focussed on finding works in the Chinese language for translation and publication in the US, and Megan Walsh, author of The Subplot: What China is reading and why it matters, discuss the fallout and what is reveals about the popularity of Sci-Fi in China.

There’s also a paywalled article in New Scientist: “Amid (more) Hugo awards controversy, let’s remember some past greats”.

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that all awards are total bunk except for the ones you personally have lifted into the air in triumph. That rule doesn’t hold, however, if your prize is in some way sullied later on. This, sadly, is the situation for the winners of the 2023 Hugo awards….

Slashdot has an excerpt of 404 Media’s paywalled article: “Leaked Emails Show Hugo Awards Self-Censoring To Appease China”.

And here are some highlights from the vast social media discussion.

John Scalzi: “The 2023 Hugo Fraud and Where We Go From Here” at Whatever

Cora Buhlert: “The 2023 Hugo Nomination Scandal Gets Worse”

Mary Robinette Kowal’s thread on Bluesky starts with this link.

Neil Gaiman commented on Bluesky: “I’m unsure how comfortable I would be participating if anything I was involved in was nominated for a Hugo in 2024, if there were people involved who had been part of what happened in Chengdu.”

Chuck Tingle’s thread on X.com begins, “this report of leaks regarding what actually happened at hugo awards shows a disgusting way. years of buckaroos working in and around hugo awards popularizing phrases like ‘chuck tingle made the hugos illegitimate’ when the rot was starting with them.”

Courtney Milan, on Bluesky, offers a series of short scripts for how censorship could have been deflected. The first is: “Ways to handle censorship if someone asks you on the DL to censor your award. 1. ‘No, this isn’t in our rules. Is this going to be a problem? I can let the community know that the Hugo rules aren’t going to be applied if so.’”

(2) IT ONLY GETS VERSE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] A brilliant poem by TrishEM about the Hugo mess: “A Vanilla Villain’s Variant Villanelle” at What’s the Word Now. The first stanza is:

It’s wrong to allege we were mere censors’ tools;
If you knew all the facts, you’d condone our behavior.
I grok Chinese fans, and was their White Savior.
I maintain the Committee just followed the rules.

(3) HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS.  Ada Palmer’s post about censorship and self-censorship comes highly recommended: “Tools for Thinking About Censorship”. It begins:

“Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?”

This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.)

This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries….

(4) ELIGIBILITY UPDATE FOR US NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. “US National Book Awards: Opening to Non-US Citizens”Publishing Perspectives has the story.

In recent years, as readers of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of book and publishing awards know, there have been several cases in which higher-profile book and publishing awards programs have decided to broaden their eligibility requirements for authors whose work is submitted.

Today’s (February 15) announcement from the National Book Foundation about the United States’ National Book Awards‘ change in eligibility opens the program to submissions of work by authors who are not citizens of the United States, as long as they “maintain their primary, long-term home in the United States, US territories, or Tribal lands.”

These new updated criteria will be in effect as of March 13, when submissions for the 75th National Book Awards open….

(5) WAYWARD WORMHOLE. Two workshops will be available at “The Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024”.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The Chengdu SF Museum reopened to the public a few weeks ago, after an event a few days earlier involving Hai Ya and other authors.  The images I’ve selected here are primarily because of their potential interest to MPC types, but you can click on the following links to see the Xiaohongshu galleries these came from.

As far as I can tell, all of these photos have been taken in the past few weeks; there are none from when the Worldcon was running.

Gallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3Gallery 4Gallery 5Gallery 6Gallery 7Gallery 8Gallery 9

(7) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 103 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Just This Guy, Y’know?”, is available for listening. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say:

Octothorpe 103 is here! We discuss a bunch of stuff which isn’t Hugo Award-related before moving onto the bits of the kerfuffle that we couldn’t fit into 102 and hadn’t come out when we recorded.

The words “Octothorpe 103 Hugo Regalia Shop” appear above a selection of costumes. There are small depictions of a clown, a pirate, a panda and a banana above full-length depictions of a member of the Catholic church (with Hugos on their mitre and crosier), a gangster (labelled “boss”, holding a Hugo), Zaphod Beeblebrox (holding three Hugos) and Jesus (with a crown of thorns but made with Hugos).

(8) MOURNING MUSIC. “Matthew” (at Bandcamp) is a tribute song about Matthew Pavletich by his sister, Jo Morgan. Matthew died in January. The lyrics are heart-wrenching – see them at the link.

‘Matthew’ is a touching tribute dedicated to Jo’s beloved brother who passed away after a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Tenderly capturing the power of familial love, serving as an anthem honouring all the qualities defining him.

Jo says “I wrote this song to celebrate my brother Matthew who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in January 2024. There are so many wonderful qualities about this beautiful man and I am so blessed to have had him as my brother. He lost so much to this illness, and I want the world to know about this sweet and humble gentle man.”

Jo will be making a donation from some of the proceeds from the song to support MND NZ and animal welfare charities.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 79. It’s been awhile since we’ve done an Australian resident writer, so let’s do Jack Dann tonight. Yes, I know he’s American-born but he’s lived there for the past forty years and yes he’s citizen there.

In 1994 he had moved to Melbourne to join Janeen Webb, a Melbourne based academic, SF critic, and writer, whom he had met at a conference in San Francisco and who he married a year later. Thirty years later they’re still married. 

They would edit together In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories relating to the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m not aware who anyone else has done one on this subject, so go ahead and tell who else has. 

Jack Dann

He published his first book as an editor, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction forty years ago, (later followed up by More Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction) and his first novel, Starhiker, several years later. 

His Dreaming Again and Dreaming down-under are excellent anthologies of Australian genre short fiction. The latter, edited with his wife, would win a Ditmar and a World Fantasy Award. Dreaming Again, again edited with his wife, also won a Ditmar. 

With Nick Gever, he won a Shirley Jackson Award for one of my favorite reads, Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense.

He’s written roughly a hundred pieces of shorter fiction.  I’ve read enough of it to say that he’s quite excellent in that length of fiction.  Recently Centipede Press released in their Masters of Science Fiction, a volume devoted to him. Thirty stories, all quite excellent.

So what is worth reading for novels beyond Starhiker which I like a lot? Well if you’ve not read it, do read The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci in which de Vinci actually constructs his creations as it is indeed an amazing story. 

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean is extraordinary. All I’ll say here is Dean lived, had an amazing life and yes it’s genre. I see PS Publishing filled out the story when they gave us Promised Land.

Those are the three novels of his that I really, really like. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EVIL GENIUS GAMES. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Morrus, the owner of ENWorld, posted an article on “The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games” that may be of interest to the gaming contingent of File770’s readership: EGG has produced games for a number of licensed genre properties, including Pacific Rim, Escape from New York, and The Crow. “DriveThruRPG – Evil Genius Games”

How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company’s tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources….

(12) SFF FROM LAGOS. “’Iwájú’ trailer: Disney’s enticing limited series is set in a futuristic Nigeria” says Mashable. Available February 28 on Disney+.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

(13) NSFF770? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Zendaya walked the red carpet at the Dune Part Two premiere wearing a formfitting silver and translucent robot-inspired outfit. Friendly warning: anyone inclined to over-agitation at such a sight might want to make sure they’ve taken their heart medication before checking out the video. “Zendaya’s Robotic Outfit For The ‘Dune: Part Two’ Premiere Has To Be Seen To Be Believed” at Uproxx. Article includes a roundup of X.com posts with video.

(14) WHAT REALLY MATTERS. “This new map of the Universe suggests dark matter shaped the cosmos” at Nature. See the compilation photo at the link.

Astronomers have reconstructed nearly nine billion years of cosmic evolution by tracing the X-ray glow of distant clusters of galaxies. The analysis supports the standard model of cosmology, according to which the gravitational pull of dark matter — a still-mysterious substance — is the main factor shaping the Universe’s structure.

“We do not see any departures from the standard model of cosmology,” says Esra Bulbul, a senior member of the team and an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany. The results are described1 in a preprint posted online on 14 February.

The galactic clusters were spotted in the most detailed picture ever taken of the sky using X-rays, which was published late last month. This image revealed around 900,000 X-ray sources, from black holes to the relics of supernova explosions.

The picture was the result of the first six months of operation of eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), one of two X-ray telescopes that were launched into space in July 2019 aboard the Russian spacecraft SRG (Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma). eROSITA scans the sky as the spacecraft spins, and collects data over wider angles than are possible for most other X-ray observatories. This enables it to slowly sweep the entire sky every six months….

(15) VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE TARDIS. How can you not click when Radio Times offers to tell about “Doctor Who’s four greatest love stories – and why they make the cut”?

The love stories definitely aren’t the main focus in Doctor Who… but they certainly don’t hurt.

From David Tennant’s Ten and Billie Piper’s Rose being ripped away from each other in Doomsday, to Matt Smith’s Eleven and Alex Kingston’s River Song finding their way back to each other through time, some of them are love stories for the ages.

Some of them, perhaps, deserved a little more time (looking at Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen and Mandip Gill’s Yaz), and some don’t even feature the Doctor at all, with Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory melting our hearts….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/24 It’s The Big Bright Green Pixel Machine

(1) BOUCHERCON KERFUFFLE. Writers are showering letters of protest on the Bouchercon mystery convention committee about the selection of Otto Penzler to interview guest of honor Anthony Horowitz on stage. They are pointing to Penzler’s record of misogynistic comments about women writers, and insensitive statements about race.

Here is the text of Lee Goldberg’s letter to Bouchercon:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am shocked and disappointed that Otto Penzler has been selected to interview guest-of-honor Anthony Horowitz on the Bouchercon stage. It sends a horrible message to the crime fiction community.

For decades, Otto has publicly and repeatedly trashed women crime writers. Here are just some examples out of many:

He wrote: “Men take [writing] more seriously as art. Men labor over a book to make it literature. There are wonderful exceptions, of course—P.D. James, Ruth Rendell.”

In an interview with Book Standard, he said cozy novels by women shouldn’t win Edgars.

“The women who write [cozies] stop the action to go shopping, create a recipe, or take care of cats. Cozies are not serious literature. They don’t deserve to win…”

He’s also said:

“We all have our prejudices (yes, you too). I admit that if I were on the Best Novel committee, books with cutesy pun titles would be eliminated before I read the first page. They may be fun, they may have their charm, but they are not serious literature and don’t deserve an Edgar. Which is why someone had the bright idea to create Malice Domestic, a conference devoted to fiction so lightweight that an anvil on top of it is the only way to prevent it from floating off to the great library in the sky.”

This is what Otto Penzler had to say when the International Thriller Writers was formed:

“A new organization has just started up as a counterweight to the literarilynegligible works honored at Malice Domestic.”

The ITW wisely and immediately disavowed his statement at the time. Those “literarily negligible works” honored with Agathas at Malice include novels by Ann Cleeves, Rhys Bowen, Laurie King, Kellye Garrett, Elizabeth George, Catriona McPherson, Louise Penny and so many others.

That attitude alone should make him the absolute wrong choice to interview a man who writes in the tradition of the literarily negligible works by Agatha Christie.

Otto doesn’t just spew sexism, he practices it. In the 23 years that Otto edited the Best American Mystery anthology series, it had 6 women as guest editors and not a single writer of color. Not one. And when Steph Cha, a woman he called “stupefyingly ignorant” and racist because she called for Linda Fairstein’s grandmaster honor to be rescinded, replaced him as the editor of the anthology, he wrote:

“This means that stories will no longer be selected for excellence, the major criterion evidently now being the race, ethnicity, or sexual preference of the author.”

And let’s not forget this is the same man who started Scarlet, a women’s suspense imprint for Pegasus, and then hired men to write the books under women’s names. That is Otto Penzler in a nutshell right there. The outcry was loud, immediate, and humiliating for the publisher, who swiftly and quietly killed the imprint.

That’s only a tiny sampling of his offensive words and conduct towards women writers…and yet Bouchercon still venerates this man. Yes, he did some admirable things for the genre a long, long time ago…but today he’s a dinosaur in a world that has changed around him…a man who doesn’t reflect our community or its basic standards (as expressed in the Bouchercon bylaws). I understand that Mr. Horowitz may have asked for Otto to be his interviewer because they edited an anthology together…but Bouchercon should have had the sensitivity and the courage to say no to his choice…and to explain why.

I am not saying Otto should be silenced. He has a right to his views, whether I agree with them or not. But with free speech comes the consequences of your words and actions (for example, all of his bookstore employees publicly disavowed, in a statement of their own, the views he expressed in his letter to the MWA in the Linda Fairstein Grandmaster controversy, which you ought to read). Another consequence of his offensive views should be losing the support and attention of the community he’s no longer philosophically and culturally aligned with. Unless, of course, Bouchercon agrees with his views. If so, you should keep him on the guest-of-honor stage with Mr. Horowitz.

If not, you should take a firm stand against the opinions Otto’s espoused by replacing him with an interviewer who actually respects, celebrates and champions the sexual, cultural and racial diversity of the crime fiction community this conference is supposed to reflect.

Lee Goldberg

Deborah Levinson is one of those who are echoing the call:

The Bouchercon committee responded to the first wave of messages on February 7 with a statement:

(2) DEADPOOL 3 TEASER. Uncorked during today’s Super Bowl broadcast, Deadpool & Wolverine Teaser.

(3) WICKED TEASER. Also advertised during the game, Wicked – First Look”.

After two decades as one of the most beloved and enduring musicals on the stage, Wicked makes its long-awaited journey to the big screen as a spectacular, generation-defining cinematic event this holiday season. Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, stars Emmy, Grammy and Tony winning powerhouse Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, Broadway’s The Color Purple) as Elphaba, a young woman, misunderstood because of her unusual green skin, who has yet to discover her true power, and Grammy-winning, multi-platinum recording artist and global superstar Ariana Grande as Glinda, a popular young woman, gilded by privilege and ambition, who has yet to discover her true heart. The two meet as students at Shiz University in the fantastical Land of Oz and forge an unlikely but profound friendship. Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power, while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences on her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfill their destinies as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

(4) CAREER IN A NUTSHELL. Chinaza Okorie discusses “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: Crafting Narratives and Shaping Worlds” at The Board.

… The synergy between Ekpeki’s writing and editing is palpable. His understanding of the craft, honed through his own creative pursuits, enhances his ability to curate anthologies that transcend mere collections of stories. Whether through his pen or editorial decisions, Ekpeki strives to redefine and expand the boundaries of speculative fiction, making room for narratives that challenge preconceptions and celebrate the diverse richness of African storytelling….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble garlic naan with Jo Miles in Episode 218 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Miles

Jo Miles is the author of The Gifted of Brennex trilogy, which began with Warped State, continued in Dissonant State, which was released the week before our get-together, and finishes up in Ravenous State, which will be available February 20th. Jo’s short fiction has been published in magazines such as Fantasy & Science FictionStrange HorizonsLightspeed, and Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact, as well as in the anthologies Little Blue MarbleGame On!Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Defiance in Victory, and others. Their story “The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea Fish” in Strange Horizons was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award. Jo is a graduate of the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox writers’ workshops.

Oh, and by the way — the ebook of Warped State is currently on sale for $2.99 in celebration of the upcoming release of Ravenous State.

We discussed how what began as a short story blossomed into a trilogy, the way to juggle multiple points of view and keep them balanced, the science fictional precursors which helped them create their sentient ship, how to properly pace the arc of a burgeoning romance, the importance of making sure a redemption arc feels earned, the way their mandate for writing optimistic science fiction came to be, the differing ways we were each affected by the pandemic, how the Taos Toolbox workshop teaches writers to break down the beats of their stories (and why that terrifies me), plus much more.

(6) THEIR RETIREMENT PLAN. Congratulations to authors Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni whose new Vortex Books & Comics store opened today.

… The store will be open for business Sunday at 10am. All that’s left to do is for Mike to finish Hylinus’s ear, after which we can move the glass display case which will hold the ashes of Dave Thomas and J. F. Gonzalez into place, and then steam clean the tiled floor. We also need to get the rare books and comics into their showcases, finish pricing and shelving the items on the stock cart, and finish the shipping and receiving area (which was finished before, but — based on initial online preorders — is going to be a very busy area and will need space for two employees to work with more room, so I decided we needed to reorganize it). We’ll also need to play with the cash register until we’re all confident with it. (I hooked it up yesterday while Justin Lutz installed our window decals, and while I’m not a man who suffers from anxiety, trying to figure the register out caused me a great deal of it)….

(7) MATTHEW PAVLETICH (1965-2024). New Zealand fan Matthew David Pavletich died from Motor Neurone Disease on January 26. A past president of the Stella Nova Science Fiction Club and veteran of the CoNZealand in 2020 Worldcon bid, Pavletich won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Services to Fandom in 2023. Here is the award citation that tells why he was honored:

Matthew has been active in New Zealand and international fandom for over 30 years.

He has lost count of the number of committees he has been on for running conventions. As a member of the Stella Nova Science Fiction Club he has been involved in all their activities over three decades, including serving as President.

Matthew was a keen actor, published writer, con-organiser and has lectured on Science Fiction both here in schools and seminars and overseas; plus his lifelong interest in spaceflight has seen him appearing as a recurring guest expert on breakfast TV shows and radio.

Matthew was a co-organiser, as a ground trooper, of the CoNZealand bid, being heavily involved in organising the parties at the World Science Fiction Convention and manning the Bid Table around the world every year from 2014 to 2019, and despite being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021, found the energy to help at the Thank You party in 2022. For many WorldCon attendees the parties and the Bid Table, at which he enthusiastically promoted NZ and CoNZealand, was the only physical experience of a New Zealand WorldCon that was possible, due to COVID making the 2020 WorldCon virtual.

Matthew epitomises what this award is about. He meets every criteria of service to fandom you can think of.

Matthew is survived by his wife, Maree.

Matthew Pavletich in TV appearance.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 85. And we come to one of my favorite writers who is on the chocolate gifting list, Jane Yolen. And no, that is not about how I ended getting name-checked as an ethnomusicologist in The One-Armed Queen asthat’s another story involving a successful hunt for a rare volume of fairytales.

Given that she written at least three hundred and sixty works at last count (and that may well be an undercount), the following is but a personal list of works that I like.

Jane Yolen. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Favorite Folktales From Around the World which garnered a well-deserved World Fantasy Award shows her editing side at its very best. She picked the folktales, some from authors whose names are forgotten, some who we still know such as Homer, Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde, and gave them much need explanatory notes. If you like folktales, I’d consider it essential and quite delightful reading.

The Transfigured Hart poses the delicate question of if unicorns are real and neatly merges that question with a coming of a story, something she handles oh so well. Originally published forty years ago, Tachyon Press, a publisher that should be always be praised for its work, republished it a few years back.

Briar Rose is a YA novel which is a retelling, more or less of the Sleeping Beauty tale. It was published as part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series. The novel won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Like everything else in that series, it’s most excellent. Or as I’ve said before, it’s just what Windling does. 

The Great Alta sequence consisting of Sister Light, Sister DarkWhite Jenna and The One-Armed Queen. Matriarchal warrior societies will rise and fall and rise again in this tale told with more than a bit of myth, poetry, and song.  Brilliantly told with characters that you’ll deeply care about and character you’ll hate. It’s a Meredith Moment at just $3.99. 

She also wrote the lyrics for the song “Robin’s Complaint”, recorded on the 1994 Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance recording on which her son Adam Stemple was the lead vocalist. 

Let’s finish off with The Wild Hunt. Myth as interpreted by her and merged with the evocative drawings of Francisco Mora which complement the text perfectly. Dark and dramatic, they bring the tale to life. It’s a work of pure magic which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Don’t buy the Scholastic paperback edition, just HMH hardcover edition. 

And yes, she’s getting chocolate for her Birthday. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy has a new variation on a technopest.
  • Sally Forth somehow merges myth with Monopoly. This is bizarre.
  • In the Bleachers’ mermaid joke might actually be even more bizarre.

(10) DON’T MISS THE LITERARY ALLUSIONS. Colleen Doran lends readers a hand by deciphering “The Secret Language of a Page of Chivalry”.

Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry is a sweet and simple story on the surface, but is full of allusions and literary references, and the symbolism in the art, as well as the art style, serves as meta-narrative. 

One of the pages readers ask about the most is this one, where Mrs. Whitaker in the Oxfam shop finds an old book entitled The Romance and Legend of Chivalry (1912).

Written by Scottish author A. R. Hope Moncrieff, this popular tome was published in multiple printings and editions in many languages. While most of his books were intended for young boys, they would be over the heads and/or not to the taste of many modern readers.

They are dense and wordy, but I love them. 

You can find good copies of the first edition with the gorgeous cover you see here at reasonable prices. If you can spare $20-$30, you shouldn’t have to settle for cheap, modern editions which are ugly and don’t have that pretty gold stamping.

It should be obvious why Mrs. Whitaker has focused on this book during the course of Chivalry.

What some didn’t understand is the reference there in the top corner written in red pen: “Ex Libris Fisher”.

This translates to “From the Library of Fisher” as in The Fisher King.

(11) HELLO DOWN THERE TRAILER. Another “Super Bowl commercial” except it’s already been out for four days: “Hello Down There (Extended)”.

What does a highly advanced civilization have to do to get noticed around here? Watch the extended cut of Hello Down There, a tale of intergalactic outreach, directed by Martin Scorsese.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Now, it saddens me when I am reminded yet again that I do have some SFnal misconceptions. Let me be clear, I had heard of A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay but I had foolishly, stupidly, idiotically assumed that it was a novel about a spacecraft voyage to a distant world and what was discovered there…  How wrong I was. Fortunately, Moid over at Media Death Cult has taken a quick 8-minute dive into this. (Filmed in England’s Shropshire. Note the managed woodland and the carboniferous limestone geology…)

This Forgotten Masterpiece Inspired Tolkien We voyaged the Shropshire countryside to bring you this video. A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay

You can see the 8-minute video here. It looks like this may be the first of a few vids Moid will do covering forgotton early 20th century SF former classics.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/24 We’ll Pixel Them All With Laughter And Merriment, Except For The Ones We Scroll For Experiments

(1) PRH PLANS EDITION OF A FAMOUS POTTER FANFIC. [Item by Anne Marble.] Penguin Random House (through Del Rey) is going to publish a revised version of “Manacled,” a very famous Harry Potter fanfic. This is a Hermione plus Draco (Dramione) fan fiction with a lot of trigger warnings. The author, SenLinYu, announcd this on Tumblr:

I’m excited to announce that I have signed a book deal with Del Rey at Penguin Random House in the US and Michael Joseph in the UK for my debut novel, Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them. It will grapple with themes of trauma and survival, legacy, and the way that love can drive one to extreme darkness, and it is, as you may be able to tell, a reimagined version of Manacled.

I know I’ve been rather quiet about my publishing journey, and a lot of that has been because I didn’t want to spark any concerns or worry that I might be abruptly taking away a story that is such a deep part of myself and that I know has meant so much to so many people. This process has unfolded very slowly and quietly because I have tried to be mindful as I could be in every step of the way. 

As most of you know, I have been a reader in fandom long before I ever began to write. Fanfiction is incredibly special to me, and I have tried to do my best not to undermine its legal protection or allow my works to do so either. During the last several years, there has been a growing issue with illegal sales of Manacled, putting both me and the incredible community that shares fanfiction freely in legal jeopardy. 

After consulting with the OTW as well as other lawyers, it has grown clear that as a transformative writer I have limited options in protecting my stories from this kind of exploitation, but I wasn’t sure what to do; I didn’t want to just take the story down, in part because I worried that might only exacerbate the issue, but I didn’t know what other options I had. Then I suddenly had this idea of alchemy, which was peculiarly appropriate; an academic world filled with unique transmutational abilities, and a necromantic war against people who had discovered the secrets of immortality, and I could see a path to reimagining the story while still holding on to as much of the original spirit of Manacled as possible.

I began redrafting the concept privately around Christmas 2022, and then as if the universe had aligned, just as I was finishing, Caitlin Mahony and Rivka Bergman of WME reached out to me and were delightfully enthusiastic about concepts and ideas for my new alchemical world and the ways I had reimagined the story. 

I’m thrilled to be working with Emily Archbold, my visionary editor at Del Rey, along with Rebecca Hilsdon at Michael Joseph in the UK, to polish this novel for publication in Fall 2025. I feel uniquely privileged that both my publishing teams are familiar with Manacled and understand how special it is to so many people, and how important it is that this reimagining captures the same spirit while also having its own wings. 

Manacled is not going anywhere at present. It will remain online throughout 2024, at which point it will, if you’ll pardon the pun, alchemise for 2025 and be removed from AO3….

The revised version is described as “Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them.” As far as I know, it will be published under the name SenLinYu — just like the original fan fic. A lot of people are happy for the author. They are happy she is finally going to get paid for her work. They also see it as Penguin Random House banking on the popularity of her fanfic.

One aspect that drove the author’s decision is that “Manacled” is so popular that some people have resold it online without the permission of the author. However, those sales are illegal, and they jeopardize both the original author and the fanfic community. The author mentioned that she consulted with the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) as well as lawyers about how to protect herself. So she decided to revise the fanfic and turn it into a new work. It will be sold in 2025. Until then, the original fanfic will still be available on A03. This news is not without its critics. First, a number of posts have accused the author of ripping off The Handmaid’s Tale alongside the Harry Potter elements. I haven’t read the fanfic, so I’m not sure how close it gets. From what I understand, there is a “concubine” element. (It seems a lot of dystopias have borrowed heavily from A Handmaid’s Tale in recent years.)

One poster got truly angry about this upcoming publication, calling the author a “freak” and a “horrible person” for romanticizing abuse. I’m sure this won’t be the only complaint along these lines. I’m torn with that sort of take. Yes, maybe some readers might get the wrong idea from reading a very dark story. But maybe we’re not giving readers (even young ones) enough credit.

(2) DON’T LET KIDS GET SMARTER. “LeVar Burton’s Banned Book Rainbow” is a show-within-the-show on Jimmy Kimmel Live, beginning at the 11:05 mark:

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Isabel Yap and Randee Dawn in person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, February 14 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

ISABEL YAP

Isabel Yap is the author of Never Have I Ever: Stories, which was published by Small Beer Press in 2021, and was named one of the 2021 Best Books for Adults by the New York Public Library. Her work has appeared in venues including Tor.com, Lithub, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her collection won the British Fantasy Award, and was a finalist for the Ignyte, Locus, Crawford, and World Fantasy Awards. By day she works in the tech industry as a Product Manager. She likes visiting museums, playing the ukulele, and commiserating with others about how hard it is to write books.

RANDEE DAWN

Randee Dawn is the author of the bestselling novel Tune in Tomorrow, which was a finalist in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her latest story, “The Fifth Horseman,” appears in the new anthology The Four ???? of the Apocalypse. Her stories have also appeared in Soul Scream, Horror for the Throne, and Even in the Grave, and she is the co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. An entertainment journalist who writes for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and other publications, Randee lives in Brooklyn with her spouse and a fluffy, sleepy Westie.

Location: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

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

Observations from Hugo winner Ling Shizhen regarding the trophies

As yet, I’ve not noticed any Chinese coverage of the core part of Chris M. Barkley’s interview with Dave McCarty on Weibo, perhaps because of the initial lack of transcripts making that less accessible to non-native speakers, plus I’m uncertain how accessible SoundCloud, Google Drive, etc are to Chinese users.  (Google Drive I’m fairly sure is inaccessible in China without workarounds)

However, the notes at the end of Chris’ piece, regarding damage to the trophies that were shipped to the US, have garnered some discussion.

One of my Chinese SF friends made me aware that Best Fanzine co-winner Ling Shizhen had spoken on WeChat about the subject.  I don’t personally have access to that app, nor did I have alternative contact details for Ling, so I reached out to RiverFlow to see if I could get more information which I might be able to share more widely. 

Here is the the subsequent response from Ling via RiverFlow, firstly in the original Chinese, and then a machine translation via DeepL, with minor manual edits for phrasing.

2023年10月22日,我自成都抵重庆。一路行程中,我的箱包被塞满,为防这奖杯受损,便基本手持,虽感沉重,这奖杯无事。

后由重庆回上海时,先快递回去一大批于2023成都世界科幻大会收到的物件,便想这奖杯放书包里会好些。这奖杯被安置妥当后,一路小心,最多受行走及列车难免的些许微小颠簸。

至家后,发现有问题:这奖杯底座上的“星门”和这奖杯底座间的衔接处,有此前未有的松动,那“星门”有点晃。才发现:那“星门”本不是整块完全焊死在这奖杯底座上。于是想还不如一路手持由重庆回上海。至少我的相关亲历可以说明这奖杯很经不得碰……

On 22nd October 2023, I arrived in Chongqing from Chengdu [a journey of approximately 300km per Google]. During the journey, my bag was stuffed to the brim, so I basically held the trophy in my hand to prevent it getting damaged, and although it felt heavy, the trophy was fine.

When I returned to Shanghai from Chongqing [a distance of just under 1,700km per Google], I couriered back a large number of items I received at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, so I thought it would be better to put the trophy in my backpack. After the trophy was properly placed, I was careful all the way, and it endured nothing worse than the inevitable bumps of walking and trains.

After arriving home, I found that there was a problem: the connection between the “stargate” and the base of the trophy had loosened up in a way that I had not been seen before, and the “stargate” was a bit shaky. It was only then that I realised that the “stargate” was not completely welded to the base of the trophy. So I think it would have been better to go all the way back to Shanghai from Chongqing carrying it by hand. At least my personal experience shows that this trophy is not very contact-friendly.

Many thanks to Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow for getting back to me so promptly, and for providing the information I requested.

Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow receiving the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Image from the 2023 Hugo Ceremony video stream
Close up of the 2023 Hugo base, taken from the 2023 Worldcon Opening Ceremony video stream, previously published in the 2023-10-18 Pixel Scroll.

(5) FLAME ON. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian is agog as “House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas races to the top of bestseller chart”.

The story of a half fairy, half human woman has gripped UK book buyers this week, as a novel about the hybrid heroine shot to the top of the bestseller chart.

House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas, the third book in the Crescent City series featuring Bryce Quinlan, has become the third fastest-selling science fiction and fantasy title since records began since its publication on 30 January.

Maas sold 44,761 copies of the new title in the week of its launch, coming in behind Terry Pratchett’s 2011 book Snuff with 54,687 launch week sales and Rebecca Yarros’s Iron Flame which saw a record-setting 57,055 sales last November, according to the Bookseller.

Maas and Yarros are driving a surge in popularity of the “romantasy” genre, which blends elements of romance and fantasy and has attracted huge numbers of readers through social media recommendations, particularly via TikTok. Videos with hashtags related to Maas have been viewed more than 14bn times, her publisher Bloomsbury said.”

(6) USED OR OVERUSED? At the Fantast Author’s Handbook, Philip Athans challenges the use of  particular word: “Active Search: Because”.

…I want to talk about the word “because.” I think “because,” which like all words is perfectly fine and in no way “banned,” sometimes—actually, fairly often—sounds clunky….

(7) COLLINS FUNDRAISER. Horror author, comics creator, and File 770 news contributor Nancy Collins was hospitalized earlier this week with blood clots in one lung, and as she says in the title of her GoFundMe, “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.

This past Saturday (February 3rd, 2024) I woke up to discomfort in my left chest every time I inhaled. As the day went on I experienced increasing pain that radiated into my armpit and through my left shoulder, accompanied by extreme exhaustion. That evening I drove myself to the E.R. at a hospital near my house here in Macon, GA. By that point I thought I was having some kind of cardiac episode, as my mother’s side of the family had a long history of heart issues.

Within 30 minutes of being taken into the exam area, I was screaming in agony and could no longer sit up. Being kept prone helped alleviate the intensity of the pain, but breathing was still an issue.

An EKG, a set of Xrays, and a MRI scan later, I was told I wasn’t having a heart attack. However, I did have a blood clot in my lower left lung–actually, several small ones, according to the doctor. He said that if I hadn’t come in when I did Saturday night, odds are I would not have woken up Sunday morning.

They admitted me into the hospital, where I was ordered bed rest, pumped full of blood thinners, and then underwent several ultrasounds. They kept me over the weekend, finally releasing me Monday evening with several prescriptions and an outpatient appointment with a hematologist. I suspect I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. (I know, ironic for someone best known for writing vampire stories. Even more ironic–the clots appear to be the result of me sitting too long in front of my laptop while writing. )

I’m setting up this campaign to help with the medical bills from this unexpected reminder that I am no longer a spring chicken. While I have medical insurance, it ain’t all that and a bag of chips. I’m still on the hook for 25% of my treatment–possibly more, if it turns out any of the physicians, technicians, or laboratories who handled my case happen to be out-of-network.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 64. How can I not do the Birthday of James Spader, the performer who played Dr. Daniel Jackson, Egyptologist in Stargate? Yes, I’m really fond of that film. And yes, I am equally fond of the Stargate SG-1 franchise. 

His first SF film actually came as a starring role as Joey Callaghan in Starcrossed where an alien woman is running from a deadly enemy and tries to hide here. She meets a young mechanic (Joey), who helps her to go home and to be a freedom fighter there.

James Spader in 2014. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

A decade later, his next role is in Stargate one. I thought it was a great performance by him. And yes, the character as performed by Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1 continuity is just as interesting, just completely different. His role I thought was more true to that of being an Egyptologist but the Stargate SG-1 continuity isn’t really concerned with the original premise, is it? 

If you saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I will readily admit that I have not, he not only voiced Ultron but did the motion capture for it. 

But his greatest role, and I readily admit that is not genre was in The Blacklist as Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former US Naval Intelligence officer turned fugitive who’s forced to become an FBI crime consultant. And I was surprised to learn that he was an executive producer for that series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TRACING THE ROOTS OF COMICS. At Colleen Doran’s Funny Business the artist takes her work on a Neil Gaiman book as the jumping-off point for a discussion of comic art history: “CHIVALRY: From Illuminated Manuscripts to Comics”.

One of the many reasons I wanted to adapt Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry into graphic novel form was to create a comic as a bridge and commentary re: comics and illuminated manuscripts.

We’re often told that the first comic was Action Comics #1 featuring Superman, a collection of Superman comic strips that morphed into comic books as an art form.

Sequential art predates Action Comics #1.

Action Comics popularized sequential art book storytelling that had already appeared in other forms in fits and starts throughout history. Comic books didn’t take off as a popular medium for several reasons, not least of which was the necessary printing process hadn’t been invented yet and it’s hard to popularize – and commercialize – something most people can never see. 

You find sequential art in cave paintings and in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’ve read that comics (manga) were invented by the Japanese in 12th century scrolls.

And sequential art appears over and over again in Western art going back well over 1000 years, and in book form at least 1100 years ago.

The most obvious example of early sequential art in Western art – as a complete narrative in sequence – is the Bayeux Tapestry. …

(11) GRIMDARK ARCHITECTURE. The completed Brooklyn Tower is being compared to Barad-dûr. “Brooklyn Tower and 100 Flatbush Lead a Borough’s Art Deco Revival” at Bloomberg.

On an overcast day, the delicate pointed crown of the Brooklyn Tower is invisible in the clouds, as if a vengeful enemy has shrouded its superlative vantage in smoke. Nonetheless, over the low-rise flatlands that comprise most of the borough, the jagged edges rising along the dark shaft are present and unmistakable.

The Batman building, the Tower of Sauron — the nicknames write themselves. And why not? Better this than another squared-off tower that simply fiddles with the ratio of white solid to blue glass. Maybe I should hate it for its bigness, its blackness, its thrust — but I don’t. Skylines need punctuation. The designers of the Brooklyn Tower, SHoP Architects, threw everything at this to make it an exclamation point…

….“The idea was Gotham, it was Deco,” says Gregg Pasquarelli, founding partner of SHoP Architects. “Batman should live here.”…

Color photo of Brooklyn Tower, a supertall skyscraper.
Brooklyn Tower is the borough’s first supertall skyscraper. Photo: Max Touhey, courtesy of SHoP Architects

(12) OMG! The H Book Club blog on X.com made this gobsmacking observation:

Footnote: In case you don’t already know the background:

(13) MARVEL TV CREW MEMBER LOSES LIFE. “’Wonder Man’ Crew Member Dies During Production Of Marvel TV Series” reports Deadline, and people are donating to the support of his widow.

Go Fund Me drive has already raised more than $115,000 for Juan Carlos Osorio, the crewmember on Marvel’s WonderMan series who died Tuesday after falling from a catwalk at Radford Studios.

“On February 6th, 2024, our friend Spike lost his life on the set of Marvels WonderMan shoot at CBS Radford studios due to a potential structural failure,” reads the fundraise, started by Bill Martel. “We are hoping the Production Company, The Facility, MBS, Marvel Studios handles things properly, but expect a long road fraught with attorney fees and expenses. In the mean time, bills will be mounting and the widow, Boom Operator Joanne W. will be left to deal with everything. Help if you’re able, it’s greatly appreciated.”…

(14) INVESTMENT MEANS ADDING DISNEY CONTENT TO FORTNITE. “Disney Invests $1.5 Billion in ‘Fortnite’ Developer Epic Games” reports Variety.

Disney is investing $1.5 billion in “Fortnite” developer Epic Games in what will be the Mouse House’s “biggest foray into the game space ever,” Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Wednesday.

…Per further information provided by Disney, “in addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with ‘Fortnite,’ the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Avatar’ and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”…

(15) RARE UNFINISHED DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM TRAILER FOOTAGE FROM “THE MAN WHO ‘SAVED’ THE MOVIES”. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Here’s the original theatrical trailer for the never completed feature length motion picture documentary, The Man Who “Saved” The Movies, concerning over half a century of published writings…associations with actors, composers, writers, and directors…and some seventy-six years devoted to a passion for both films and film makers, while lovingly chronicling the life and career of film, and film music historian Steve Vertlieb.

Featuring appearances by Veronica Carlson, Philippe Mora, Paul Clemens, Juliet Rozsa, Lee Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Patrick Russ, and Gregg Nestor, the film remains a work in progress. While financial difficulties have sadly plagued its production, it is my hope that it may one day reach completion.

… and, yes, that is me with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner, Jack Klugman, old friend and iconic American film director, Frank Capra, Oscar winning film composer, John Williams, Oscar winning film composer, Miklos Rozsa, famed science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, iconic special effects titan, Ray Harryhausen, “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, together with “The Time Machine” producer/director, George Pal, Hammer Films’ star, Peter Cushing, and screen hero/gold medal Olympian, Buster Crabbe.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob6-t0MKXRY

(16) COLD WAR SURPLUS? “Remnants of a Nuclear Missile Are Found in a Garage” – in Bellevue, WA – reports the New York Times. “The police responded to a call from a U.S. Air Force museum that said a man had offered to donate a Cold War-era missile stored in his late neighbor’s garage.”

Members of the bomb squad in Bellevue, Wash., on Thursday were called to inspect parts of a military-grade missile in the garage of a resident.

Elements of the larger, intact missile, such as the warhead, were missing and the authorities deemed the piece to be inert and safe, the police said in a news release on Friday.

An Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, contacted the police in Bellevue on Jan. 31 to report that a resident had offered to donate the missile, which belonged to his late neighbor….

…The next day, the man was “surprised” to hear from the police because he had not called them but invited the bomb squad to inspect the missile remnant, Officer Tyler said.

Squad members identified the rocket as a Douglas AIR-2 Genie missile, designed to carry a 1.5-kiloton nuclear warhead….

…It was clear that the missile remnant did not pose a threat given that it was missing its warhead and did not contain rocket fuel, Officer Tyler said.

“It was essentially just a rusted piece of metal at that point,” he said. “An artifact, in other words.”…

The NYT news report reminds me that when I first got into fandom I heard tell about Russell Seitz, a fan who was famous for having acquired the components of an ICBM. The following is one version of that story:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(17) EARLY RELEASE SUPER BOWL AD. Does having the Aquaman actor in it make this an item of genre interest? You decide! Zach Braff, Jason Momoa and Donald Faison appear in a Flashdance-themed Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The official trailer for Despicable Me 4 is out. The movie comes to theaters on July 3.

In the first Despicable Me movie in seven years, Gru, the world’s favorite supervillain-turned-Anti-Villain League-agent, returns for an exciting, bold new era of Minions mayhem in Illumination’s Despicable Me 4.

Following the 2022 summer blockbuster phenomenon of Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, which earned almost $1 billion worldwide, the biggest global animated franchise in history now begins a new chapter as Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Oscar® nominee Kristen Wiig) and their girls —Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Madison Polan)—welcome a new member to the Gru family, Gru Jr., who is intent on tormenting his dad.

Gru faces a new nemesis in Maxime Le Mal (Emmy winner Will Ferrell) and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Emmy nominee Sofia Vergara), and the family is forced to go on the run. The film features fresh new characters voiced by Joey King (Bullet Train), Emmy winner Stephen Colbert (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) and Chloe Fineman (Saturday Night Live). Pierre Coffin returns as the iconic voice of the Minions and Oscar® nominee Steve Coogan returns as Silas Ramsbottom.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/24 Are You There, Microcosmic God? It’s Margaret’s Mini-Me

 (0) Today’s Scroll will be lean because I’ve spent my hours writing about the 2023 Hugo Award Stats Final report posted today on the official Hugo Awards website. My analysis is here: “2023 Hugo Nomination Report Has Unexplained Ineligibility Rulings; Also Reveals Who Declined”.

(2) NEIL GAIMAN. And here’s what he had to say on Bluesky about a couple of those ineligibility rulings.

(3) DIFFERENCE ENGINEER. [Item by Steven French.] “Play about computing pioneer Ada Lovelace wins Women’s prize for playwriting” reports the Guardian.

A play about the reincarnation of the Victorian computing pioneer Ada Lovelace has won this year’s Women’s prize for playwriting.

Intelligence, by Sarah Grochala, follows Lovelace’s attempts to forge a career for herself as a serious scientist in 1840s London and being continually obstructed by men.

But in an unexpected twist of fate, Lovelace finds herself repeatedly reincarnated and gets the chance to try for fame again, first as Grace Hopper (creator of COBOL) in 1940s America, and then as Steve Jobs in 1980s Silicon Valley. Eventually, confronted with the destruction of all her work by a shady tech billionaire, she realises that it is the very nature of intelligence that she should be fighting for….

(4) APPEAL TO CONSERVE PRATCHETT COVER ARTIST’S WORK. The Guardian tells that “Family of Discworld illustrator seek wealthy patron to conserve legacy of ‘one of the great artists of our time’”.

 Josh Kirby’s art has adorned hundreds of book covers – perhaps most notably dozens of Terry Pratchett novels, especially the bestselling Discworld series.

His body of work is far more wide-ranging, though – Kirby’s paintings have graced the covers of volumes by Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, HG Wells, Jack Kerouac, Herman Melville and Neil Gaiman, and he’s done posters for movies including the Star Wars franchise.

Now the family of the artist, who died in 2001, is looking for a philanthropist of the arts to keep the vast collection of original paintings together and make sure Kirby’s original artworks are preserved for posterity in one or more museums or galleries.

(5) MORE ON ROGER PERKINS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The British SF fan recently sadly died.  He was introduced to fandom through the ‘City Illiterates’, the Phil Strick SF class at the Sandford Institute in 1971 before moving to the City of London Institute of Literature (City Lit – hence the  ‘City Illiterates’). His first convention was Chessmancon in 1972 after which he was an Eastercon and Novacon regular.  He then became part of the BECCON (Basildon Essex Centre/Crest CONvention) team that ran series of biennial SE England regional conventions (1981, ’83 and ’85) conventions before running the BECCON ’87 Eastercon (Britain’s national convention) in Birmingham (which saw the launch of SF2 Concatenation as an annual print zine as one of a couple of the convention’s spin-offs).  Roger was BECCON’s treasurer for all four conventions. He went on to be a member of the 1989 Contrivance Eastercon. In their bid to host that year’s Eastercon, they held a fan vote on two sites: one on mainland Britain and one on the Jersey Channel Isles.  The vote for Jersey was decisive but nonetheless caused the usual ire of fandom’s vocal minority who claimed that as the Channel Isles were not part of Britain (it is a UK protectorate), they should not host the British national convention. Nonetheless, that convention was such a success that it prompted others to put on the 1993 joint Eastercon-Eurocon in the same venue a couple of years later.  Roger gafiated shortly after moving from NE London to Wales where he had a boat called Chrestomancy.

BECCON ’81 committee and GoH. From left: Peter Tyers, Simon Beresford, Jonathan Cowie (behind), Mike Westhead, Anthony Heathcote, Bernie Peek, Barrington J. Bayley (GoH), Kathy Westhead, Roger Robinson, John Stewart, Brian Ameringen, Simon Beresford, Charles Goodwin, Roger Perkins.

(6) WHO COMPANION SHOWN THE TARDIS DOOR. Deadline says after her first season “’Doctor Who’ Star Millie Gibson Dropped; Varada Sethu Joins BBC Show”.

Here’s a shocker: the BBC and Bad Wolf have reportedly replaced Millie Gibson as Doctor Who‘s companion after she filmed just one season as Ncuti Gatwa‘s sidekick.

The Daily Mirror’s Nicola Methven, who is well-sourced on Doctor Who, said Gibson would be replaced by Andor star Varada Sethu in Gatwa’s second season as the Time Lord.

The BBC and Bad Wolf did not respond to a request for comment. The story has not been denied and appeared to be confirmed by Gatwa on Instagram (see below)….

…The Mirror said the decision was made by Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies and Gibson will not appear in the 2024 Christmas special after her first full season, which premieres in May.

“Millie Gibson has all but left now and there’s a brand new companion, which is really exciting,” a source told the Mirror. “Russell is keeping things moving and isn’t letting the grass grow, that’s for sure.”

On Sethu, a BBC source added: “Varada is a real gem, Russell was just blown away by her talent. The cast and crew have really warmed to her and he’s sure the fans will too.”…

Here’s the Wikipedia on Varada Sethu.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 20, 1948 Nancy Kress, 76. Another one of my favorite writers. Okay, I do like a lot of female writers. I also have a fair number who get chocolate. A coincidence? You decide. 

She has won two Hugos, the first for her “Beggars in Spain” novella — later a novel as well, both are excellent in their own way.  Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine published it first in April 1991 in three parts.  Avon than, after expanded it, adding three additional parts to the novel, published it two years. There followed Beggars and Choosers, and Beggars Ride. They make up the Sleepless series. 

Nancy Kress

She’s a prolific writer. The Probability Universe trilogy, or a trilogy so far, with an Earth wrecked by ecology disaster coupled with a stargate and an alien artifact of possible immense power is fascinating.

The Crossfire twofer reminds a bit of something Anderson might do if he was writing today with a colony finding that it’s sharing a world with an alien race. It’s excellent but then she’s a very, very good writer always.  

Under the pen name Anna Kendell, she wrote a trilogy of present day thrillers in a series called Robert Cavanaugh Genetic. Bit awkward I think but it gets some point across. 

Not to be outdone there, that name went all out fantasy in Soulvine Moor Chronicles Series where a man cross over to the land of the dead. It was set in imagined medieval times.

We’re back to her name and her fascination with genetics, so t Nebula Award-winning novella, the Yesterday’s Kin series, this purely SF looks the limits of human genetics.

Now for her short stories, oh my, I think she wrote, though I can’t count accurate that high, close to a hundred stories. So which collection is the best to get a reason sampling of these stories? That’s easy —the Subterranean Press’ massive 560 page The Best of Nancy Kress

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a writer in crisis.
  • Tom Gauld has gone revisionist.

(9) £1 MILLION COMICS. “First-edition Superman and Spider-Man comics sell for more than £3million” at Wales Online.

Heritage Auctions in Dallas, US, has sold a number of comics. A Superman> no. 1 went for £2,006,269 (US$2.34 million). The first Amazing Spider-Man from 1963 in mint condition fetched £1,086,990 (US$1.38 m) which is reportedly nearly three times the previous record for that title. Finally, an All-Star Comics no.8, which saw Wonder Woman’s debut, was sold for £1,182.166 (US$1.5m).

(10) MISSED CLOSE ENCOUNTER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I was disappointed to learn that I missed a close encounter with a UFO in central London this week: I was just several miles away and had I looked over the roof tops I would have seen it in the distance! “Massive Samsung drone show with colourful whirring lights ‘mistaken for UFO’ – and passerbys cry ‘call the Men In Black’” in The Sun.
 
The huge UFO seemed to have made it through the Moonbase interceptor shield, and evaded Sky Diver.  Over 100 feet across (police laser range finders put it at 100 cubits exactly), the UFO shone with many lights, some of which were presumably navigation landing lights.

The craft hovered and rotated for eight minutes before appearing to land on the River Thames.
 
So why did it pick Canary Wharf, London’s second financial centre and overflow from the city’s ‘Square Mile’?  Well, for us Brit Cit locals, who are used to seeing SHADO mobiles rumbling through green belt woodland, the prevailing view is that that location was picked to avoid the said SHADO mobiles as these are too bulky to operate in the city. (Besides, think of the damage a mobile cannon could do to the area’s opulent buildings.)

Of course, it wasn’t long before SHADO released its cover story. The UFO was composed of a hundred drones flying in formation to mark Samsung’s launch of its new AI powered Galaxy S smartphone. Believe that if you must.

The truth is up there.

(11) FOR YOUR BETROTHED. Manly Brands has plans for your wedding ceremony – give your spouse a selection from the “Lord of the Rings™ Ring Collection”. Others not shown include The Gollum and The Ringwraith. Fully endorsed by marriage counselors and divorce attorneys!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/29/23 My Mother Did-A Tell Me That I Go Pixel Scroll, And Read All The File Seven

(1) This will be a short Scroll because I am heading north today to attend the birthday celebration of one of my nephews. I’m looking forward to it.

(2) THE FUTURE OR ALREADY STALEDATED? The New York Times answers its own rhetorical question in “A.I. Can Make Art That Feels Human. Whose Fault Is That?”.

This was the year — ask your stockbroker, or the disgraced management of Sports Illustrated — that artificial intelligence went from a dreamy projection to an ambient menace and perpetual sales pitch. Does it feel like the future to you, or has A.I. already taken on the staleness and scamminess of the now-worthless nonfungible token?

Artists have been deploying A.I. technologies for a while, after all: Ed AtkinsMartine SymsIan Cheng and Agnieszka Kurant have made use of neural networks and large language models for years, and orchestras were playing A.I.-produced Bach variations back in the 1990s. I suppose there was something nifty the first time I tried ChatGPT — a slightly more sophisticated grandchild of Eliza, the ’60s therapist chatbot — though I’ve barely used it since then; the hallucinatory falsehoods of ChatGPT make it worthless for journalists, and even its tone seems an insult to my humanity. (I asked: “Who was the better painter, Manet or Degas?” Response: “It is not appropriate to compare artists in terms of ‘better’ or ‘worse,’ as art is a highly subjective field.”)

Still, the explosive growth of text-to-image generators such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and Dall-E (the last is named after the corniest artist of the 20th century; that should have been a clue) provoked anxieties that A.I. was coming for culture — that certain capabilities once understood as uniquely human now faced computational rivals. Is this really the case?

Without specific prompting, these A.I. images default to some common aesthetic characteristics: highly symmetrical composition, extreme depth of field, and sparkly and radiant edges that pop on a backlit smartphone screen. Figures have the waxed-fruit skin and deeply set eyes of video game characters; they also often have more than 10 fingers, though let’s hold out for a software update. There is little I’d call human here, and any one of these A.I. pictures, on its own, is an aesthetic irrelevance. But collectively they do signal a hazard we are already facing: the devaluation and trivialization of culture into just one more flavor of data.

A.I. cannot innovate. All it can produce are prompt-driven approximations and reconstitutions of preexisting materials. If you believe that culture is an imaginative human endeavor, then there should be nothing to fear, except that — what do you know? — a lot of humans have not been imagining anything more substantial. When a TikTok user in April posted an A.I.-generated song in the style (and voices) of Drake and the Weeknd, critics and copyright lawyers bayed that nothing less than our species’s self-definition was under threat, and a simpler sort of listener was left to wonder: Was this a “real” song? (A soulless engine that strings together a bunch of random formulas can pass as Drake — hard to believe, I know….)

(3) RICK AND MORTY. Animation World Network is there when “Adult Swim Drops First Sneak Peek of ‘Rick and Morty: The Anime’”.

Adult Swim recently took to YouTube to reveal a sneak peek for Rick and Morty: The Anime, the upcoming 10-episode 2D animated series following Rick as he encounters multiple versions of himself from parallel universes.

Based on the Emmy-award-winning adult animated series, the anime adventure will debut on Adult Swim and Max. Director Takashi Sano (Tower of God) previously directed two anime shortsRick and Morty vs. Genocider and Summer Meets God (Rick Meets Evil), which received widespread fan and critical acclaim upon release. The Anime was greenlit last May….

(4) BOOK QUESTIONS. An excerpt from “By the Book – Interview: David Mamet” in the New York Times.

What book would you most like to see turned into a movie that hasn’t already been adapted?

The only book not adapted to the screen is the phone book. I tried, but only got as far as the title: “Funny Names, No Plot.”

What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?

“The Berenstain Bears Get Cancer.”

The last book that made you cry?

“Bambi.”

The last book that made you furious?

“The Wealth of Nations.”

Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

My wife once threw a book at me.

(5) TIPS FOR TEAMING UP. “Sharing the Spotlight: 6 Tips for Collaborative Storytelling” by Hildy Silverman at the SFWA Blog.

Sharing story creation and developmental duties with a writing partner might seem daunting, given that we authors tend to invest a certain amount of ego (to put it mildly) into our work. Writing alone, we can be possessive of our characters and staunch in our plans for their adventures. Yet co-authors must be willing to let some “darlings” die in order to successfully create a truly collaborative work—otherwise, hurt feelings and anger could ruin a promising authorial partnership.

In a previous post on this blog, Gareth L. Powell addressed the nuts and bolts of working with a co-author. Rather than rehashing his excellent advice, I am going to focus on the challenges of collaborating, and provide suggestions on how to proactively avoid bruised egos and hurt feelings.

Tip #1: Try before you buy (in)

Whether the other author is a longtime friend or merely a professional colleague, make sure you know what you are getting into before committing to a collaborative project. Read two or more stories they have written previously to discover whether they have a compatible style with yours and the fundamental skills to write at a professional level. You don’t necessarily have to love everything about their style, but you should not be so turned off that you cannot imagine finding common ground to create something new. You definitely should not find their work a chore to read as you mentally correct their every mistake…

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 58. So let’s talk about Dave McKean and let me state right upfront that I consider his most brilliant work to be his work with Gaiman on The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. An absolutely stellar work — violent, horrifying, thrilling. But then Mr. Punch always scared me… 

Now let’s go back to the beginning of his career. Violent Cases with Gaiman was his first work back thirty-six years ago.  It was drawn in shades of blue, brown, and grey, but when it was first published by Escape Books, it was printed in black-and-white. Later editions have been printed in colour. 

Several years later, Grant Morrison wrote and he illustrated Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (often called Batman: Arkham Asylum). It’s an absolutely brilliant look at Arkham Asylum, something neglected really in the comics. It’s considered one of Morrison’s best works. 

Remember Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers? It was really fun to leaf through that work and look at the covers. 

He and Gaiman did four children’s picture books, of which I’ve enjoyed just two but of course your opinions will be different — those two were The Wolves in the Walls and Mirrormask. Now the children’s novels Coraline and The Graveyard Book are wonderful indeed. 

(Digression away from McKean for a moment. Gaiman narrates the telling of Coralline and need I say that it’s a magnificent reading indeed?  The Graveyard Book is now a full cast production with him as the narrator. End of digression.) 

I did not know ‘til now that he was a concept artist on the Neverwhere series. Very interesting. 

So he was the director of his Mirrormask film which Kurt Loder of MTV said of, “This one-of-a-kind fantasy film may be seen as a classic someday, possibly quite soon.” It garnered an eighty percent approval rating among audience members there. Nice. 

He’s been nominated and won far too many Awards to list them here so I’m singling out just these. He has been nominated five times for a World Fantasy Award and he won the award  once. His graphic novel Cages won a Harvey Awards for best Graphic Novel.

(7) POWER IN SMALL PACKAGES. CBR.com thinks you will be more surprised than will probably be the case when they roll out their list of the “10 Best Movies You Didn’t Know Were Originally Short Stories”. At least half of them are sff or genre-adjacent.

When the credits roll, it’s not surprising to see that a film was based on a novel. Some authors, like Stephen King, are prolific in writing books that go on to be adapted for the big screen. Something less common, however, is seeing a film that has been adapted from a short story….

10. Arrival

Arrival (2016) was adapted from the novella Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which appears in his collection, Stories of Your Life and Others. As most adaptations do, the film takes some liberties, like adding action in the third act, but beyond that, much of the main plot stays the same.

Arrival is a remarkably easy-to-follow story considering that the content follows a linguist learning an entirely new language from aliens and a physicist discussing refraction and mathematical theories, all mixed with the idea of non-linear time. Both versions of the story are heartbreaking in their own way and deserve to be appreciated in their respective forms.

(8) REMEMBER SF PROMISING FOOD PILLS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, here they come. Except, in reverse. OK, so the whole thing is still an idea in development. But it’s pig approved.  “This Vibrating “Pill” May Be the Next Best Thing For Weight Loss” reports Inverse.

Imagine a pill no bigger than a multivitamin vibrating in your stomach. If that’s got your mind in the gutter, better shift it to your gut: such tiny devices are very real and maybe the future of weight loss.

That’s according to research out of MIT, where engineers developed a battery-operated capsule-like device that’s supposed to make you feel full by stretching out your stomach using vibration. When the pill was given to pigs 20 minutes before a meal, the animals ate 40 percent less than they usually did, all the while their bodies released the usual prandial melange of hormones involved in insulin production and appetite suppression….

(9) FOR THE ANTIQUARIANS AMONG US. Mark Funke, Bookseller – mentioned here the other day in connection with the sale of the Dillon art for The Left Hand of Darkness – previously published a catalog – Science Fiction – to promote the sales of several dozen historic letters, documents and publications. The catalog is still online, though seems to have succeeded in its purpose of selling everything listed in it. Makes interesting reading.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/23 Happiness Is A Scrolled Pixel

(1) CAN YOU DIG IT? “And the winner for San Jose BART’s boring machine name competition is…” The Mercury News tears open the envelope.

After more than 400 submissions and 1,175 votes on a name for San Jose BART’s tunnel boring machine, we have a winner — and it’s sure to make sci-fi fans giddy.

“Shai-Hulud” came in first place, with 229 votes, a nod to the sand worm creatures in the popular “Dune” novels and movies that many readers say resemble the boring machine that will carve a nearly five-mile tunnel underneath San Jose for the future BART extension. The Valley Transportation Authority purchased the $76 million dollar device in November from Germany and it will be shipped to the South Bay in pieces before being reassembled. Construction is set to begin in 2025.

…In second place is “Boris,” with 220 votes. In third: “Chewy” with 200 votes.

Here are the names that didn’t make it into the top three for BART’s project:

– Diggy McDigface – 127 votes

– Dionne Warwick (Grammy Award-winning singer of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) – 114 votes

– Boring McBoringface – 87 votes

– Janet Gray (San Jose’s first female mayor) – 86 votes

– Sarah Winchester (Designer and resident of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House) – 64 votes

– Susan Hammer (San Jose’s second female mayor) – 26 votes

– Dianne Feinstein (Former California senator) – 22 votes

(2) COURT SQUELCHES FANFIC PUBLISHER’S SUIT AGAINST AMAZON, TOLKIEN ESTATE. The BBC tells what the court decided after “Lord of the Rings fan fiction writer sued for publishing own sequel”.

A fan fiction writer has been sued by the estate of JRR Tolkien for copyright after publishing his own sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

US-based author Demetrious Polychron published a book called The Fellowship of the King in 2022.

He dubbed it “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings.”

The court ruled that Polychron must stop distributing copies of the book and destroy all physical and electronic copies.

In April 2023 Polychron attempted to sue the Tolkein estate and Amazon, claiming the TV series, Rings of Power, infringed the copyright in his book.

The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that Polychron’s own book was infringing on Amazon’s prequel that was released in September 2022.

Judge Steven V Wilson called the lawsuit “frivolous and unreasonably filed” and granted the permanent injunction, preventing him from selling his book and any other planned sequels, of which there were six….

Deadline’s story has additional details: “The Tolkien Estate & Amazon Win ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Lawsuits”.

The Tolkien Estate and Amazon have been victorious in their court battle with an author who first published a book titled The Fellowship of the King and then demanded $250M after claiming Prime Video had stolen the idea for its TV series.

In court documents issued by the District Court of California on December 14, both cases brought by Demetrious Polychron were thrown out by Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who ordered Polychron to pay the Tolkien Estate and Amazon’s legal fees totalling around $134,000 (read the Tolkien order here).

In 2017, the same year Warner Bros and the Tolkien Estate settled their five-year $80 million rights legal battle, Polychron registered a fan fiction sequel book titled The Fellowship of the King, which he claimed to be the  “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings,” according to the Tolkien Estate lawyers. Rather incredibly, he then commenced a $250M lawsuit against the Tolkien Estate and Amazon in April of this year, claiming that Amazon’s TV series The Rings of Power infringed the copyright in his book.

Wilson’s judgment threw out the claims around the Amazon TV series and granted a permanent injunction, which prevents Polychron from ever distributing any further copies of The Fellowship of the King, his planned sequels to that book, or any other derivative work based on the books of JRR Tolkien. He is also required to destroy all physical and electronic copies of his book and to file a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that he has complied. The judge also turned down Polychron’s requests to have his legal fees paid by Amazon and the estate….

(3) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a call for its “Illustration of the Year 2024” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2024.  Full guidelines at the link.

The Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF) announces an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes to be featured as its 2024 Illustration of the Year.

The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected artwork, on SLF’s website and social media and in a press release. The winning artwork will be displayed on the SLF’s website and social media accounts and used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag.

Submission Dates: The deadline for submissions has been extended to December 31, 2023. The winner will be announced in January 2024.

Submission Instructions: Email submissions to [email protected] with subject line: “YOUR NAME – Illustration of the Year 2024.” In the body of the email, please include your name, email address, phone number, name of your artwork (if any), and short bio.

For more information and complete criteria and terms, visit speculativeliterature.org/ioty .

(4) JAPAN SCIENCE FICTION AWARDS FINALISTS. The Science Fiction Writers of Japan have announced the finalists for the 44th Japan Science Fiction Awards. Names and titles from computer translation.

  • Mitsunori Yuki, “Absolute Cold” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Yuki Shinsendo, “Kaiju” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Fumio Takano, “Graf Zeppelin: That Summer Airship” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Toshiji Hase, “Protocol of Humanity” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Mikihiko Kunaga, “Our Monster” (Tokyo Sogensha)

(5) OUTCOME OF ACTIVISION SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. The New York Times analyzes “The Questions Raised by California’s Dropped Sexual Harassment Suit Against Activision”.

On Friday, the California state agency that accused the video game maker Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against women withdrew those allegations in a $54 million settlement with the company.

The California Civil Rights Department found that “no court or any independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” about “systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.”

As part of the settlement, however, Activision agreed to pay as much as $47 million to address accusations of pay disparity and discrimination. All female employees who worked at the company between 2015 to 2020 will be offered a kind of monetary relief; they will get paid based on a formula. The company maintains it has offered equitable pay.

It is a stunning reversal. In 2021, the state agency estimated that Activision’s liability was about $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. How the state agency went from accusing Activision of fostering a culture in which female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment” to withdrawing those claims a couple of years later isn’t clear.

Was it enforcement zeal? This all started with an anonymous complaint in 2018. That letter was followed by a lawsuit from the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 and shortly later another from the California Civil Rights Department, which was then called the Department of Fair Employment Housing. The state agency objected to the settlement reached in the E.E.O.C. case. And then finally came a scathing Wall Street Journal story about accusations that the company didn’t handle sexual misconduct allegations properly.

The journalist Matt Taibbi wrote about this investigation: “Corporate regulation often begins with an investigation and ends with a devastating headline, but California flipped the script.”

The settlement leaves big questions unanswered. In a news release, the California Civil Rights Department declared victory, heralding the $54 million payout and stating that “California remains deeply committed to promoting and enforcing the civil rights of women in the workplace.” That the agency found no legal wrongdoing doesn’t mean it found no wrongdoing at all.

But the case utilized vast resources. The chief counsel at the agency was fired last year. And it all comes about a year after Microsoft, which presumably conducted its own due diligence, paid $69 billion to acquire the gaming company, whose shares took a hit after the allegations came to light.

(6) SPECTRAL DOGS. The first episode of Rhianna Pratchett’s BBC Radio 4 program Mythical Creatures is “Black Dogs”. Hear it at the link.

Fantasy writer Rhianna Pratchett takes us across an enchanted British Isles to discover mythical creatures that lurk in all corners of the land. She uncovers what they can tell us about our history, our world and our lives today.

In the first episode of the series, Rhianna is on the trail of Black Dogs. She visits Suffolk, to hear a tale of a hellhound that left its mark on the small town of Bungay. It’s one of many spectral black dogs that are said to stalk coastal paths and lonely crossroads. Rhianna explores why Black Dogs appear so often in folklore, and their psychological link to fear and negative emotions.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the fuller name being Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) first aired fifty-seven years ago this night on CBS. It was directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones. Who of course did the stellar animation. 

Jones and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II. Jones’s considered Grinch the equal of Scrooge for Christmas villains. 

The show is based on the 1957 children’s book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, and tells the story of the pre-reform Grinch, who tries to ruin Christmas for the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. (Whoville which lives on the trunk of Horton.) Will Christmas be saved? Will the Grinch be getting a bigger heart? I’m assuming I don’t need any spoilers here.

Boris Karloff is the Grinch and the narrator, and Thurl Ravenscroft sings that song which you know all so well: “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile! You have all the tender sweetness. Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.” 

Additional casting here is June Foray as Cindy Lou Who, Dallas McKennon as Max and the MGM Studio Chorus as the ever so talented Citizens of Whoville. Damn I loved those voices.

And now I must go watch it again…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 77. One of my favorite directors ever. Not as risk-taking as say Terry Gilliam but definitely one who’s done a lot of work that I find pleasing and that in my book counts for a lot.

I’m going to do a rewatch of Columbo this winter, so I was delighted to discover that he directed the first non-pilot episode of the series, “Murder by the Book”. He is credited with giving us the mannerisms of the detective and the look of the series.

He got that gig for having worked with Rod Serling on The Night Gallery where in one episode he directed Joan Crawford, that being “Eyes”. What other episodes that he directed are unclear because as a new director credit may gone to more senior directors, so it is thought that “A Matter of Semantics” that featured Cesar Romero and was credited to Jack Laird might have been his work. 

His first major hit was Jaws which is not my fish and chips so I’ll pass by it here as we’re discussing what I like by him. 

He made up for Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is simply brilliant, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which still makes me sniff, and two out of three of the Indiana Jones trilogy. 

No, I vehemently did not like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I saw it once and that was more than enough, thank you. 

Now Jurassic Park is one of the best monster films ever. Why it was so excellent that it even won a Hugo at ConAdian! Who came and accepted that Hugo? 

There is a lot of lot films next in his career that I didn’t care for until we come to the extraordinary undertaking that is The Adventures of Tintin from the French strip by Hergé. A true treat in animation this was. 

(Digression for a moment. He was an Executive Producer or Producer on way too many undertakings to list here that I liked. Who Framed Roger RabbitGremlinsAnimaniacs (both series), Pinky and the BrainFreakazoid! — that’s just a few I like.) 

Then there’s Hook with Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell and the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. Need I say more. Well there is the crocodile…

I think I’ll finish with The BFG, his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. Fantastic film that’s true to the book, no mean feat.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MAIL FROM RAY. Critic Dwight Garner throttles the new Ray Bradbury letter collection and its editor, Jonathan R. Eller, in a New York Times review: “What Wonders Do Ray Bradbury’s Letters Reveal?”

…There is no sugarcoating it: Bradbury’s letters are amazing in their dullness and sterility. If I had to sum up their tone and content in a sentence, it would be: “Thank you for your eight tons of sycophantic bloviating, here are 16 tons in return.” While reading “Remembrance” I began to dream about cutting off my fingers, like Brendan Gleeson in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” one by one, so I wouldn’t have to turn another page.

You can’t blame writers for the quality of their letters — unless they sought to have them published. Apparently, late in life, Bradbury did so. This collection was edited by Bradbury’s biographer, Jonathan R. Eller, who is also a co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.

His trilogy of Bradbury biographies is comprehensive and sympathetic, but here he’s done his subject no favors. I am going to resort to making a short list of this book’s drawbacks, to provide scaffolding for my inchoate feelings of distress.

A) The introduction doesn’t introduce Bradbury. The reader requires a certain amount of core information — a gloss of Bradbury’s childhood, education, career, prizes, family, homes, travel, the themes of his work — so as not to enter blind. The introduction is instead a summary of what is to come in the book. This is the least felicitous type of introduction, for the same reason that “as I will demonstrate later” are the worst five words in the English language, after “brace for a water landing.”

B) This book is oddly sorted. Bradbury’s letters are presented not in chronological order but grouped by theme and then, in sub-groupings, by correspondent, so that we are always pinging around in time, like Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure. A letter from 1965 will be followed by one from 2004, and then we are suddenly back in the 1950s. This prevents us from charting the development of Bradbury’s voice and of his inner resources. The hero of our narrative is lost in a maze.

C) Many letters not from Bradbury but to him are included. These are filler and might have been summarized. More to the point, they’re confusing. It’s easy to forget, in a book of Bradbury’s letters, that you are not currently reading Bradbury….

(11) TUNED UP. Neil Gaiman will be singing in the Sydney Opera House reports the Guardian: “’Like a gothy yoghurt starter’: how Neil Gaiman and an Australian string quartet fell in love”.

Neil Gaiman is well known for his melodic, dreamy voice, which has been put to use on everything from audiobooks to voicing the Simpsons’s cat Snowball. But Neil Gaiman the singer? When he’d occasionally perform live with his ex-wife, the musician Amanda Palmer, his voice was described by the New York Times, perhaps a little unkindly, as “a novelist’s version of singing”.

Next month Gaiman is bringing that voice to the Sydney Opera House, where he’ll be performing with the Australian string quartet FourPlay. How is he feeling about singing on one of the most prestigious stages in the world?

“Terrified. Absolutely terrified,” Gaiman sighs. “I’ve had to learn to trust FourPlay. I’m always reassured by the fact that Lara can actually sing.”

“I’ve been a singer for 30 years and I’m equally terrified, Neil!” interjects Lara Goodridge, one part of FourPlay along with Shenzo Gregorio and brothers Tim and Peter Hollo. “We are all vulnerable on stage together. But I think that’s a really lovely part of it – we’re there to catch each other. It’s exciting to be that alive.”…

(12) SHORE THING. [Item by Steven French.] From Viking longboats to satellites: “Shetland island to house UK’s first vertical rocket launch spaceport”.

For centuries, Unst has been famous for its richly varied wildlife, pristine beaches and unspoilt sea views. Now the remote Shetland island is leading Britain into space.

A former RAF base on a remote peninsula of the island has become the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches. It will allow up to 30 satellites and other payloads to be launched into commercially valuable polar, sun-synchronous orbits, which are in high demand from satellite operators for communications and Earth observation.

The site, SaxaVord spaceport, was identified in a 2017 report as a place where rockets carrying the greatest payloads could be launched into space with the lowest risk to people on the ground, if the spacecraft failed and crashed back to Earth.

The island, which has about 650 inhabitants, is at the northernmost tip of the British Isles and was one of the first Viking outposts in the North Atlantic. Its location means that rockets lifting off from the site do not need to pass over populated areas, unlike those launched from other sites, which have to perform dog-leg manoeuvres, limiting the weight of the payload they can carry…

…Developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets, has cost just under £30m so far. There are also plans to build a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord….

(13) FIRST ONE SHOE DROPS, THEN THE OTHER. The actor who played Kang lost in court, then lost his MCU role. Variety reports: “Jonathan Majors Guilty of Harassment and Assault”.

Jonathan Majors was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari. A Manhattan jury found the Marvel actor guilty on Monday of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault but acquitted him on two other counts. 

The six-person jury found Majors not guilty on one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree. Majors, wearing a dark gray suit and seated in the courtroom with his attorneys and current girlfriend Meagan Good, did not react when the verdict was read….

…Majors was arrested in March in New York City after he assaulted Jabbari in the backseat of a private vehicle. Jabbari, a 30-year-old choreographer who met Majors on the set of Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” testified she grabbed Majors’ phone after seeing a text message from another woman. Jabbari described that as Majors attempted to forcefully retrieve his phone from her, she felt “a hard blow” across her head that resulted in bruising, swelling and substantial pain….

Variety followed with news that “Jonathan Majors Dropped by Marvel Studios After Guilty Verdict”.

Marvel Studios has parted ways with Jonathan Majors — the actor cast to play Kang, the central antagonist in the Multiverse Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — after he was convicted on Dec. 18 of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault of Grace Jabbari, his ex-girlfriend. A source close to the studio confirmed the decision to Variety.

In the verdict, Majors was also found not guilty of one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree….

(14) FAST EXPOSURE. “MIT camera can capture the speed of light” at Upworthy.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.

The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, “If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years.”…

(15) THE FINAL GIFT. What the kids want to find under the tree. Humor or horror? “Pongo” on Saturday Night Live.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Pitch Meeting”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Boy and the Heron

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

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

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

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

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

‘Doctor Who’

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

Charles Addams at the New York Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Judi Dench in 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s the medium Madame Arcati In Blithe Spirit.

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

That’s her for now. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-order from —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he never found it.

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

It remained lost — until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/23 Never Feed Pixels During A Blood Moon. Why? That I Wasn’t Told

(1) NEW VONDA MCINTYRE COLLECTION. Clarion West has announced that Little Sisters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction by Clarion West founder and life-long supporter, Vonda N. McIntyre, will be released April 23, 2024 and is available for preorder now.

With story notes by Una McCormack, this collection spans the whole of McIntyre’s career, showing the broad range of her interests and her voice, taking us from bleak dystopian worlds on the verge of environmental collapse to baroque intergalactic civilizations populated by genetically modified humans; from cries for freedom to sharp-eyed satire to meditations on aging.

Published by Gold SF, an imprint of Goldsmiths Press dedicated to discovering and publishing new intersectional feminist science fiction, the collection captures McIntyre’s distinctive themes of gender and power dynamics, human and species diversity, and a pragmatic utopianism that emphasizes our mutual dependency.

Featuring previously uncollected stories from McIntyre’s earlier career, including her first published piece, “Breaking Point” (1970), as well as McIntyre’s last two vivid and provocative pieces, the award-nominated “Little Faces” (2005) and “Little Sisters” (2015). One story, “XYY,” was intended for The Last Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison, and we are pleased to present it here for the first time. 

The ten stories in this collection include:

  • Breaking Point
  • Thanatos 
  • Shadows, Moving 
  • Elfleda 
  • A Story for Eilonwy 
  • Malheur Maar 
  • The Adventure of the Field Theorems 
  • Little Faces 
  • Little Sisters 
  • XYY

Clarion West is also actively seeking a publisher for The Curve of the World, Vonda’s last manuscript. Direct inquiries about that work and Vonda’s other stories to Jennifer Goloboy with the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

(2) AND WHEN IT ENDS, NO ONE CATCHES IT. The Westercon business meeting held at last weekend’s Loscon voted “None of the Above” when asked to pick a 2025 site, for reasons explained in Kevin Standlee’s post “Westercon 77 Site Selection Detailed Results”. Then they authorized a Caretaker Committee of Kevin and Lisa Hayes to consider proposals that may be made to host the con.

No bids filed to host the 2025 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 77). Nineteen voting fees were paid to vote in the election at Westercon 75 (Loscon 49) In Los Angeles on November 24, 2023, and nineteen ballots were cast. The detailed results were reported to the Westercon 75 Business Meeting on November 25. As there were no filed bids, none of the write-in votes were for valid candidates, and consequently None of the Above won, referring the selection to the Business Meeting.

The Westercon 75 Business Meeting awarded Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes, with the understanding that this committee will entertain proposals from groups that want to host the 2025 Westercon and select from among them, then transferring the right host Westercon 77 to one of those groups. The Caretaker Committee will announce additional details on how they will proceed before the end of 2023.

(3) HOW DISCREET. Futurism uncovered that “Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers”.

…There was nothing in Drew Ortiz’s author biography at Sports Illustrated to suggest that he was anything other than human.

“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”

The only problem? Outside of Sports Illustrated, Drew Ortiz doesn’t seem to exist. He has no social media presence and no publishing history. And even more strangely, his profile photo on Sports Illustrated is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”

Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author published by Sports Illustrated, according to a person involved with the creation of the content who asked to be kept anonymous to protect them from professional repercussions.

“There’s a lot,” they told us of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”…

… After we reached out with questions to the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated‘s site without explanation.

Initially, our questions received no response. But after we published this story, an Arena Group spokesperson provided the following statement that blamed a contractor for the content…

A disclaimer has been added to the pages noting that “a 3rd party” created the content and that Sports Illustrated editorial staff were not involved.

However, the article includes examples of the same issue with The Arena Group’s other publications.  

…Though Sports Illustrated‘s AI-generated authors and their articles disappeared after we asked about them, similar operations appear to be alive and well elsewhere in The Arena Group’s portfolio.

Take TheStreet, a financial publication cofounded by Jim Cramer in 1996 that The Arena Group bought for $16.5 million in 2019. Like at Sports Illustrated, we found authors at TheStreet with highly specific biographies detailing seemingly flesh-and-blood humans with specific areas of expertise — but with profile photos traceable to that same AI face website. And like at Sports Illustrated, these fake writers are periodically wiped from existence and their articles reattributed to new names, with no disclosure about the use of AI….

And there are further examples of other companies that have been detected running AI-generated content.

Deadline’s coverage of the Futurism news item includes the response from the Sports Illustrated Union: “Sports Illustrated Writers “Horrified” By Report About AI-Generated Stories”.

…Shortly after noon today, the Sports Illustrated Union, which bills itself as a the publication’s “united editorial staff” organized under the New Guild of New York, issued a response on social media….

(4) AI IMPACT ON PUBLISHING. Last night BBC Radio4’s Front Row general arts program took on “AI and publishing, terrible record covers, Fred D’Aguiar”.

Michael Connelly is one of several authors suing the tech company OpenAI for “theft” of his work. Nicola Solomon, outgoing Society of Authors CEO, and Sean Michaels, one of the first novelists to use AI, discuss the challenges and opportunities facing writers on the cusp of a new technological era.

(5) BANKS APPRECIATION. Eurogamer devotes an article to“Remembering Iain Banks: a prolific, terrific talent”.

…In 1996’s Excession, the fourth of Banks’s sci-fi novels set in the symbiotic human/machine intergalactic utopia of the Culture, artificial intelligence clever-clogs known as Minds entertain themselves by experimenting with the options sliders on virgin galaxies to analyse the pinballing ways in which they might evolve. This God Mode mucking about is interrupted when an inscrutable but all-powerful onyx sphere appears on the edge of Culture space. In interviews at the time Banks likened that plot development to the stomach-dropping sensation in Civilization of seeing a fleet of AI-controlled ironclad warships on the horizon when your fledgling society has barely mastered clay pots and raffia mats….

(6) A YEAR FROM NOW. Loscon 50 “Celebrating 50 Loscons” will be held next Thanksgiving Weekend at the LAX Hilton. Congratulations to the GoHs!

Guests of Honor
Writer: SPIDER ROBINSON
Musical Artist: KATHY MAR
Artist: DR. LAURA BRODIAN FREAS BERAHA
Ghost Artist: FRANK KELLY FREAS
Fan: GENNY DAZZO AND CRAIG MILLER

(7) NO CAPES ALLOWED. “Zack Snyder’s Cut: Filmmaker Talks Rebel Moon on Netflix, DC Movies” – a profile in the Hollywood Reporter.

…“It’s a compulsion,” Snyder admits on a balmy November day at his compound in the hills above Pasadena. He’s sitting in his home office, a modernist cube that also contains a screening room, an editing bay and a gym. Steps away is the pottery studio Snyder recently constructed on the property for his new hobby. Not far from that, near the pickleball court, is his family’s sprawling dwelling, a midcentury glass-and-concrete structure that bears more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Wayne’s house in Snyder’s 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Snyder’s compulsion to mold — and pull apart — has made him one of the most argued-about directors of the past couple of decades. To some, he was the savior of the DC superhero universe. To others, he was its destroyer. But his latest film, Rebel Moon, is something of a departure from his career trajectory up till now, a shift in genres, if not necessarily in tone or ambition, and perhaps a refreshing change of pace from the controversy magnets he was making in the 2010s. For one thing, his new film contains not a single comic book character for him to darkly reimagine. Instead, it’s a big-budget space epic about a group of outlaw rebels on a remote planetoid who battle an evil empire. Think Star Wars, only grittier, more violent, sexier and R-rated (at least in the negotiated director’s cut, but more on that later).

Ironically, Rebel Moon arrives on Netflix on Dec. 22, the very same date that Snyder’s former home, Warner Bros., will be releasing Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Snyder had nothing to do with that sequel, but technically it’s the final film in the so-called SnyderVerse, the constellation of DC comic book-inspired pictures — some of which Snyder directed, some of which he produced, most featuring actors he initially cast, like Henry Cavill in 2013’s Man of Steel, and Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa in the original 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — that all carry Snyder’s inimitable underglaze…. 

(8) THE SANDMAN. Variety shares a message from Neil Gaiman: “’The Sandman’ Season 2 Resumes Production, Neil Gaiman Pens Fan Letter”. Read Gaiman’s letter at the link.

Netflix has resumed production on Season 2 of “The Sandman” in London after it was initially interrupted by the Hollywood strikes.

The news comes on the 35th anniversary of the DC comic book series on which the show is based. Neil Gaiman, who wrote the comics and developed the TV series, celebrated the occasion with a letter to fans promising that “good things are coming.” Netflix also shared a new photo that shows Tom Sturridge, who plays Dream, and Mason Alexander Park, who plays Desire, on set….

(9) A WRITER WHO SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED. Rich Horton’s obituary of D.G. Compton is posted at Black Gate: “David Guy Compton, August 19, 1930 — November 10, 2023”.

… It was always clear that Compton was a major writer who never found a mass audience. And so he received two awards that were aimed at bringing deserved attention to neglected writers: the SFWA Author Emeritus in 2007, and the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2021….

(10) TAKING A BITE OUT OF COLLECTORS. The Wikipedia article on “Vampire killing kit” buries the lede, which I suppose is fitting to the subject, but gets there eventually.

…The items within vampire killing kits often date to the 19th century, although they may be combined with items such as paper labels that are significantly more recent.[1][8]

The kit in the collection of the Royal Armouries contains a pocket pistol dating from around the middle of the 19th century, wooden stakes with a mallet, a crucifix, jars for holy water, soil and garlic, a rosary, and an 1851 Book of Common Prayer.[3] The case has been assessed as dating to around 1920, although the full kit was likely assembled circa 1970 or later.[9]

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 29, Madeleine L’Engle. (Died 2007.) I first encountered her not as a genre writer but through her more literary work in the form of her Katherine Forrester Vigneras series, A Small Rain and A Severed Wasp which tell the tale of a woman who’s a pianist, first in her teens and then when she’s in her seventies. Most decidedly worth reading.

Then came the Time Quintet of A Wrinkle in TimeA Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Truly extraordinary novels. I see that A Wrinkle in Time won a Newberry Award which it richly deserved. 

I did not know until I was writing this up that there was a second series of four novels set a generation after these novels. Who’s read them?

There’s serious amounts of her writing that I’ve not touched upon as I’ve not read them, her in-depth Christian writings, her Children’s books, her non-fiction, her poetry and her more literature undertakings. Even a play was done by her. 

I did see the 2003 four miniseries version of A Wrinkle in Time that Disney did and I share what L’Engle told Time: “I have glimpsed it. I expected it to be bad, and it is.”  And we will not talk about the Disney 2018 A Wrinkle in Time film as polite company doesn’t do that. 

She would receive a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WHERE BEAR? THERE CASTLE. The New York Times finds that “With an Artist’s Help, Paddington Can Go Anywhere”. “For nearly 1,000 straight days, Jason Chou has inserted Paddington, the anthropomorphized bear, into absurd situations. He has no plans to stop.”

(14) VIRTUAL MONUMENTS. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Reminds me of something from William Gibson – the “locational art” from “Spook Country”, “The Statue Wars Turn to Cyberspace” in The New Yorker.

…Brewster is a co-founder of the Kinfolk Foundation, an organization attempting to remake the city’s streetscape with an app. In 2017, Brewster was working at Google, and he was among the many local activists who tried and failed to persuade lawmakers to remove the towering statue of Christopher Columbus on Fifty-ninth Street. “We were, like, ‘All right, we lost that one,’ ” Brewster recalled. “So we started creating monuments.”

Each was fashioned not from bronze or marble but from bits and bytes in the cloud, visible only on screens using augmented reality. “You can build hundreds of digital monuments for the price of one physical one,” he said.

He believes that in a nation where there are ten times as many monuments honoring mermaids as honoring U.S. congresswomen, and where statues of Robert E. Lee outnumber those of Frederick Douglass, having more diverse monuments makes more sense….

… This week, without permission from the city’s bureaucrats, Kinfolk is placing four new statues around town. The installations were created in collaboration with the Black artists Hank Willis Thomas, Pamela Council, Derrick Adams, and Tourmaline. Thomas’s piece is a three-hundred-foot Afro pick in the East River, looming over the Brooklyn Bridge. Adams designed two huge statues representing Alma and Victor Hugo Green, who, in the nineteen-thirties, began publishing the “Green Book” travel guide, which identified businesses around the U.S. that welcomed Black customers. Tourmaline explained, of Kinfolk, “It’s kind of like Pokémon Go. You didn’t know it was there—until you did.”…

(15) DON’T LET THE SOUND OF YOUR OWN MEALS DRIVE YOU CRAZY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientist believe they have found a pattern of brain activity that helps explain misophonia—an abnormal reaction to sounds that may include anger, disgust, panic, and other strong emotions or physical reactions. Triggers may include eating sounds (chewing, slurping, smacking, etc.), repetitive clicking or tapping sounds (e.g., clock ticks), and more. “What is misophonia? Causes and why the sound of chewing angers some” at USA Today.

Misophonia is a complex disorder that causes decreased tolerance to specific sounds or stimuli associated with those sounds. It was named and described for the first time in the early 2000s, yet a survey conducted earlier this year found that just 11% of people knew about it.

Noises such as chewing, slurping, sniffing and heavy breathing are common triggers, as well as clicking, tapping and other repetitive noises that come from objects like clocks and fans….

…“People without misophonia struggle to understand it because they also don’t like certain sounds, in the same way that people don’t understand ADHD because they relate to having trouble concentrating,” said Jane Gregory, a clinical psychologist with the University of Oxford who studies the disorder. “It’s not that people with misophonia don’t like the sound — it’s that their body is reacting as if that sound is somehow dangerous or harmful.”…

(16) BUGS, MISTER RICO! “Mars Needs Insects” according to the New York Times.

At first it was just one flower, but Emmanuel Mendoza, an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University, had worked hard to help it bloom. When this five-petaled thing burst forth from his English pea plant collection in late October, and then more flowers and even pea pods followed, he could also see, a little better, the future it might foretell on another world millions of miles from Earth.

These weren’t just any pea plants. Some were grown in soil meant to mimic Mars’s inhospitable regolith, the mixture of grainy, eroded rocks and minerals that covers the planet’s surface. To that simulated regolith, Mr. Mendoza had added fertilizer called frass — the waste left after black soldier fly larvae are finished eating and digesting. Essentially, bug manure.

The goal for Mr. Mendoza and his collaborators was to investigate whether frass and the bugs that created it might someday help astronauts grow food and manage waste on Mars. Black soldier fly larvae could consume astronauts’ organic waste and process it into frass, which could be used as fertilizer to coax plants out of alien soil. Humans could eat the plants, and even food made from the larvae, producing more waste for the cycle to continue.

While that might not ultimately be the way astronauts grow food on Mars, they will have to grow food. “We can’t take everything with us,” said Lisa Carnell, director for NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division.

But gardening doesn’t just require a plot of land, a bit of water, a beam of sunlight. It also requires very animate ingredients: the insects, like black soldier flies, and microorganisms that keep these ecological systems in working order. A trip to Mars for a long-term stay, then, won’t just involve humans. It will also involve creeping, crawling carry-ons most people don’t think about when they envision brave explorers stepping foot on new worlds….

(17) WHAT’S TO EAT ON SESAME STREET? “Nom Nom Nom. What’s the Deal With Cookie Monster’s Cookies?” Of course you want to know what’s in those things. And the New York Times has the answer.

…The recipe, roughly: Pancake mix, puffed rice, Grape-Nuts and instant coffee, with water in the mixture. The chocolate chips are made using hot glue sticks — essentially colored gobs of glue.

The cookies do not have oils, fats or sugars. Those would stain Cookie Monster. They’re edible, but barely.

“Kind of like a dog treat,” MacLean said in an interview.

Before MacLean reinvented the recipe in the 2000s, the creative team behind “Sesame Street” used versions of rice crackers and foams to make the cookies. The challenge was that the rice crackers would make more of a mess and get stuck in Cookie’s fur. And the foams didn’t look like cookies once they broke apart.

For a given episode, depending on the script, MacLean will bake, on average, two dozen cookies. There’s no oven large enough at Sesame’s New York workplace, so MacLean does almost everything at home….

(18) SPEED-READING CUNEIFORM. The Debrief tells readers “5000-Year-Old Tablets Can Now Be Decoded by Artificial Intelligence, New Research Reveals”.

… Using a novel AI process to decode ancient cuneiform tablets, they leveraged a sophisticated AI model based on the Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (R-CNN) architecture, a specialized system designed for object recognition. The study utilized a unique dataset consisting of 3D models of 1,977 cuneiform tablets, with detailed annotations of 21,000 cuneiform signs and 4,700 wedges. 

The AI’s methodology entailed a two-part pipeline: initially, a sign detector, built on a RepPoints model with a ResNet18 backbone, identified cuneiform characters on the tablets. In simple terms, the RepPoints model combs through the ResNet18 collection of images connected to the Mesopotamian languages and then combines the patterns to ‘see’ the text. This step was crucial for locating the signs accurately. Subsequently, the wedge detector, using Point R-CNN with advanced features like Feature Pyramid Network (FPN) and RoI Align, classified and predicted the wedges’ positions, which forms the basis of the cuneiform script’s fundamental elements, allowing the AI, in effect, to ‘read.’…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/23 File The Pixels You Scroll With Your Scrolls

(1) CURATOR TAKES SIDES, GETS CANCELLED. An Afrofuturism-themed exhibit “chapter” is the casualty when “German Museum Shutters Curator’s Contribution Over Pro-Palestine Instagram Activity, Igniting Censorship Outcry” reports ArtNews.

… On Monday, writer, professor, and curator Anaïs Duplan, who goes by the pronouns he/they, posted screenshots on Instagram of an email sent to them from Museum Folkwang director Peter Gorschlüter informing them that the institution had decided to “suspend” their “collaboration.”

The email reads: “We noticed that you shared and commented on a number of posts on your Instagram channel in the light of the current situation in Israel and Gaza. From our perspective some of these posts are unacceptable. These posts do not acknowledge the terroristic attack of [Hamas] and consider the Israeli military occupation in Gaza a genocide.”

Gorschlüter continued that Duplan’s engagement put the museum “in a situation that the museum might be considered to support antisemitic tendencies and voices that question the very right of existence of the state Israel.”

The show, titled “We is Future” and slated to open on November 24, invited artists and curators to propose “historic and current” ideas “for alternative forms of living together” in relation to various social catastrophes: climate change, the housing crisis, late-stage capitalism, among others. The “chapters” of the show listed on its webpage include architectural projects from Bruno Taut and Wenzel Hablik, eco-conscious drawings and paintings by Elisàr von Kupffer, and contemporary works by Eglė Budvytytė, Emma Talbot, and Timur Si-Qin.

Duplan’s chapter was centered on the intersectional potential of Afrofuturism and was set to feature, among others, Brooklyn-based artist Fields Harrington, whose multidisciplinary practice examines the inextricability of race from our social fabric. The description of Duplan’s chapter has since been deleted from the webpage…

…The [Museum Folkwang’s] statement continued: “This decision was made neither for artistic-curatorial reasons nor because of the exhibition’s theme, but solely because the curator personally takes sides with the BDS campaign, which questions Israel’s right to exist. The Museum Folkwang views the developments in Israel and Gaza and the suffering of the civilian population on both sides with great concern. The City of Essen and the Museum Folkwang stand for peace and dialogue between cultures.”…

.. Amid an outpouring of support from professional peers, Duplan wrote in an Instagram post Monday that their priorities were “to ensure that any artists in the future—especially BIPOC artists—who are considering working with [the museum] have full transparency regarding their politics, not just in relation to the war on Palestine, but also their very fraught labor practices.”

Duplan added in a separate post Tuesday: “It should go without saying that Afrofuturism and liberation struggles around the world go hand in hand, as do Afrofuturism and antisemitism, Afrofuturism and islamophobia, and Afrofuturism and all other struggles for collective wellbeing.”…

(2) KEEP THE LIGHTS ON AT THE DARK. Last month Sean Wallace told Facebook readers that “for The Dark the loss of Amazon Newsstand effectively resulted in ten thousand dollars of revenue going poof, for the entire year.” Yesterday he wrote about the budget he’s working with to keep the publication afloat. After you’ve read the screencap, here is the subscription page for The Dark Magazine.

(3) HAS YOUR TROPE LOST ITS FLAVOR ON THE BEDPOST OVERNIGHT? Four-time Stoker Award winner Tim Waggoner has written a fascinating discussion about “61 Horror Clichés and How to Make Them Fresh Again” at Writing in the Dark.

…I can choose one element of horror writing that I think will have the most immediate impact on your fiction to talk about – and that’s avoiding and reworking clichés.

A genre has a collective group of character types (both protagonist and antagonist), setting types, story types, etc. These elements are called tropes, and they’re the shared tools genre writers use in their work. In Horror, an abandoned graveyard is a setting trope. A curious, naïve, and ultimately doomed scholar is a character trope. You get the idea. Tropes are effective when they’re first created/used in a story, but the 3000th time? Not so much. (This is one of the reasons readers can get sick of a genre. When they first start reading in it, all the tropes are new to them, and thus interesting and exciting. But after they read a number of books in the genre, they start to realize that the same old tropes are used all the time, and they get bored.) There’s a word for an overused trope that has lost its power and impact.

Cliché.

This is the reason that old pros like me advise new writers to read widely in their chosen genre and seek out the best, most original work via reviews and word of mouth. (This is one of the most useful functions social media serves – it makes you aware of some really cool shit to check out.)…

Here are two of his many ideas.

…Once you’ve identified overused tropes, you can avoid including them in your work. Better yet, you can transform them into something new and powerful. Allow me to elucidate.

Choose a New Signifier

One of the most common tropes in horror is darkness/shadows as a signifier of evil or a threat. It makes sense, since not being able to use one of our strongest senses puts us at a huge disadvantage in a dangerous situation. But darkness has been used so often in horror that it doesn’t have much power anymore. Maybe you could choose a different sense to indicate evil in your story. How about cicada song? Or a slight stickiness on surfaces in a place tainted by evil? (A stickiness that gets worse the closer you get to the source of the evil.) Corvids are used as harbingers or servants of evil in horror. What if you used hummingbirds instead?

Reverse a Trope

Haunted houses are often portrayed as old and abandoned. Let’s reverse this trope. Older houses are safe from hauntings/demonic infestations because they gain psychic shielding from the long-term presence of living beings inside them. So only new structures are susceptible to hauntings/demonic infestations. In Frankenstein, a living being is fashioned from parts of the dead. Reverse this: an immortal being who can instantly heal any injury seeks death by trying to find a way to permanently disassemble their body….

(4) HELP DECIDE THE DIAGRAM PRIZE. The shortlist for the Bookseller Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year 2023 is now open for a public vote on The Bookseller website here. The closes December 1, with the winner revealed on the 8th. Here is this year’s Diagram Prize shortlist:

The 12 Days of Christmas: The Outlaw Carol that Wouldn’t Die by Harry Rand (McFarland & Co)

The author of Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret: What Women Didn’t Tell the Grimms looks at how a raucous drinking song became a festive favourite.

Backvalley Ferrets: A Rewilding of the Colorado Plateau by Lawrence Lenhart (University of Georgia Press)

The “beguiling weasel” at the centre of this book is “more than a charismatic minifauna; it is the covert ambassador of a critical ecosystem,” says the author.

Danger Sound Klaxon! The Horn That Changed History by Matthew F Jordan (University of Virginia Press)

Charts the device’s lifespan from “metallic shriek that first shocked pedestrians” to its use in the trenches in the First World War.

Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating, and Hooking Up Without the Booze by Tawny Lara (Quirk Books)

The only non-academic contender is a “judgement-free” handbook from a podcaster and self-described “sober sexpert”.

I Fart in your General Direction: Flatulence in Popular Culture by Don H Corrigan (McFarland & Co)

“Covers every aspect of abdominal gas” in movies, music and TV, combined with “philosophical positions on colonic expression”.

The Queerness of Water: Troubled Ecologies in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Chow (University of Virginia Press)

An interdisciplinary look at classic canonical works and how “sea, rivers, pools, streams and glaciers all participate in a violent decolonialism”.

(5) HWA-THEMED GAME IS ON THE WAY. An officially-licensed party game called “Sudden Acts of Horror”  – coming in 2024 – aims to celebrate the Horror Writers Association, the oldest and most respected professional nonprofit organization in the horror genre. The game asks teams of players to act out made-up horror novel titles to score the highest points and ultimately win a mini–Bram Stoker Award® for their efforts.

“Sudden Acts of Horror” is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2024 and will be available for purchase at www.stopthekiller.com

(6) SAVE THE COYOTE. This ain’t over ’til Porky Pig sings… “’Coyote vs. Acme’: Congressman Calls for Federal Probe on Warner Bros Discovery”Deadline has the story.

…“The @WBD tactic of scrapping fully made films for tax breaks is predatory and anti-competitive,” wrote Castro, who has protested WBD before on antitrust issues.

“As the Justice Department and @FTC revise their antitrust guidelines they should review this conduct,” he continued.

“As someone remarked, it’s like burning down a building for the insurance money,” he added.

…. Several sources have told us that in a cost-cutting, debt-laden environment as Warner Bros Discovery that it’s not CEO David Zaslav to blame here for the axing of the film. Warner Bros. Motion Picture bosses Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy and new animation head Bill Damaschke are the ones who made the decision, this despite the fact that it’s not a production chief’s bandwidth to worry about tax writedowns on a movie. That’s for accounting and finance to sweat over.

The new WBD administration doesn’t want the problem of the previous admin’s greenlights and at $70M, that’s a cost too high for a movie to simply skip theatrical and head to streaming service Max.

While it’s not in production bosses’ nature to worry about tax writeoffs, they realize that there’s a lot of stress over at WBD to win in the wake of having the highest-grossing movie in the studio’s history and YTD with Barbie at $1.4 billion worldwide. A severe financial savings mentality exudes at Warners, and if a film looks too risky to spend marketing on, execs there don’t want to stick their necks out and have a lackluster result and be blamed for a greenlight that wasn’t there….

(7) STARSHIP LAUNCH APPROVED. [Item by Bill.] The FAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service have completed their reviews of SpaceX’s launch plans, issued their final reports, and given approval for the next launch of Starship. The FAA has issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) closing airspace around Boca Chica for Friday November 17. SpaceX appears to be planning for a Friday launch.  Gizmodo has further coverage: “SpaceX Granted FAA Permission for Second Starship Test Flight”.

…The FAA’s entire report can be seen here, but in summary, the water deluge system was deemed to be no more threatening to the environment than a summer rain storm:

“…an average summertime thunderstorm at Boca Chica would deposit more water over the landscape than any single or all combined activations of the deluge system. Since the amount of water that is anticipated to reach the mud flats from a maximum operation of the deluge system is expected to be less than an average summer rainfall event, this amount of water would be unlikely to alter water quality.”

With the launch license secured, SpaceX is ready to go. The second launch of Starship is scheduled for Friday, November 17 at 8:00 a.m. ET, with the launch window ending two hours later. Two FAA space TFRs (temporary flight restrictions) are in effect for Brownsville, Texas, one for Friday and a second TFR going into effect at 8:00 a.m. ET on November 18 and ending one hour later….

(8) ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS SHORTLIST. The American Library Association has unveiled the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction shortlist. None of the items are genre works. The winners will be announced on January 20.

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2024 Shortlist

  • “The Berry Pickers,” by Amanda Peters. Catapult. In 1962, an Indigenous Mi’kmaq family is in Maine to pick summer blueberries when their youngest child, four-year-old Ruthie, disappears. Her six-year-old brother, Joe, saw her last. Told in alternating, first-person chapters from Joe and a narrator called Norma, this braided novel fascinates. While little is easy for Peters’ characters, in the end, for all of them, there is hope.
  • “Denison Avenue,” by Christina Wong and Daniel Innes. ECW Press.
    In a mixed-media narrative saturated with a sense of poignancy and grief, Wong Cho Sum navigates the sudden death of her husband by a hit-and-run driver. As an “invisible” elderly observer, she compares the old Chinatown she remembers with this new, slowly gentrifying one. Innes’ detailed and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations are eye-catching complements to Wong’s writing.
  • “Let Us Descend,” by Jesmyn Ward. Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
    Sold away from her mother, teenage Annis, daughter of a Black mother and the white man who enslaved them, must endure a grueling march to the slave markets of New Orleans with only her wits and her mother’s ivory awl to help her survive. Ward’s vivid imagery and emotionally resonant prose convey the horrors of chattel slavery in stark, unforgettable detail.

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction 2024 Shortlist

  • “The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration,” by Jake Bittle. Simon & Schuster.
    This multifaceted examination considers numerous communities that have been wiped out by changing weather patterns and foretells a future filled with additional displacements. Environmental journalist Bittle uses a combination of science reporting and individuals’ stories to explain the fates of towns deemed uninhabitable and ends with a plea for comprehensive environmental policy change and urgent action.
  • “The Talk,” by Darrin Bell. Henry Holt and Company.
    In 2019, Bell became the first Black editorial cartoonist to win a Pulitzer Prize. In this brilliant graphic memoir, Bell’s growth from a trusting child afraid of dogs to an esteemed, nationally syndicated cartoonist is a marvel to witness through his spectacular panels and pages. A must-read manifesto against racist brutality.
  • “We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America,” by Roxanna Asgarian. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
    Investigative reporter Asgarian’s years of work getting to know the birth families of six children killed by their adoptive parents in 2018 uncovered a devastating web of intergenerational poverty, violence, and wrenching separations. She exposes the tragedy of what happened and the ongoing, insupportable failings of the foster system.

Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000. 

(9) MORE FOR MOUNT TBR. TIME Magazine’s list of “The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023” includes several works of genre interest that I recognize, and doubtless others I didn’t which you can name in the comments:

  • The Future by Naomi Alderman
  • Lone Women by Victor LaValle
  • Victory City by Salman Rushdie
  • Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

(10) MORE ON MICHAEL BISHOP. The family’s Michael Bishop Obituary has been published. It includes details on Bishop’s life and writing career, and funeral plans.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1950  — [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

We mentioned Mack Reynolds’ The Case of the Little Green Men in a Scroll recently and there it was noted that it was set at a Con, and that’s all it’ll say about it as there might be someone here who hasn’t read it yet. Now I will ask the question, well two questions actually. Was it the first genre novel set at a Con? And what’s your favorite Con set novel? Or more.

So now let’s talk about The Case of the Little Green Men.  It was the first novel by him, published seventy-three years ago by the Phoenix Press who ISFDB lists only one other work being published, Will Garth’s Dr. Cyclops. The cover illustration is by Carl W. Bertsch. 

Is the novel fun? Oh yes. Is it really a mystery? Well, that depends on how much you want to stretch your idea of what a mystery is. And I’m surprised it hasn’t been nominated for a Retro Hugo. Really surprised. 

To my utter surprise, the publication notes for The Case of the Little Green Men at ISFDB, says it was out of print for sixty-one years until Prologue Books did a new edition. It is available from usual suspects on, and no I’m not pulling your tentacles, Richard A. Lupoff’s Surinam Turtle Press. The website for that is here.

And now for our shortest Beginning ever…

The detective isn’t tough and he isn’t even smart and he doesn’t prove the case against the killer. And boy doesn’t get girl, either. Otherwise, this story is just about like a good many others you’ve read. At least it starts the same way.… 

We can’t help it if it dissolves into men from Mars, people who believe in spaceships and flying saucers, murders without motive, and heat rays fired by little green men (or were they?).

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best-known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderlandand The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein and the rather excellent Flicker which is well worth reading. Flicker and The Devil and Daniel Silverman is available at the usual suspects, and his only other available fiction is his Japanese folktales. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1941 Daniel Pinkwater, 82. His absolutely best work must be without doubt Lizard Music, an sf novel in which a young boy begins seeing musical lizards all around. Lizards opposing an alien invasion. Oh so perfect a novel. 
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 81. She’s a writer of mostly speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening”, and in 2016 for “Time Travel Vocabulary Problems”.  She was the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written the fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. In 1973, she was a finalist for the first Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She brings out the Dunkiton Press genre zine annually — over 30 issues and still going strong. She was nominated for Best Fan Writer Hugo at Baycon (1968).
  • Born November 15, 1955 N Lee Wood 68. She was once married to Norman Spinrad.  The Mahdi written in 1996 is an interesting take on the situation in the Middle East with AIs thrown into the mix. I’m more fond of her Inspector Keen Dunliffe series of detective novels which are definitely not genre. There’s at least twenty-three to date, and they’ve been adapted for television under the series title of DCI Banks. It’s a most excellent series.
  • Born November 15, 1982 Jessica McHugh, 41. Very prolific horror writer who’s also a playwright. IDFDB says she has written eight genre novels and some forty pieces of shorty fiction to date, the latter gathered in three collections. She won an Imadjinn Award for The Train Derails in Boston novel given by the Con of the same name held in Kentucky every year. Her poetry which apparently is on the dark side of things, of which she’s even written more than she has short fiction, has earned two Stoker nominations. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio’s local library has some strange books. Of course it does.

(14) GONZO AND GAIMAN TOMORROW. Nick Gonzo says, “If you are in Leeds on Thursday and are looking for something cool to do, I am hosting a workshop with Leeds Library about the history of Scifi and Zines. This is obviously a career high point as I’m sharing an event programme with Neil Gaiman.” Program description and ticket information is in the screencaps below.

(15) LIBRARIANS LAUNCH GAME AWARD. The Games & Gaming Round Table (GameRT) of the American Library Association is seeking nominations for the new Platinum Play Awards as part of its celebration of International Gaming Month. The new award will recognize the best games for use in library collections and library programming. “GameRT seeks nominations of amazing games for its new Platinum Play Awards list!”

Through this award, GameRT will highlight and honor the best games for library collections and programming. The Platinum Play Awards — affectionately called The Platys after the platypus mascot on the new award seal — are planned as an annual award and will recognize up to twenty games each year. GameRT will collect nominations from library workers and patrons each year. Once all nominations are in, GameRT members will be able to vote for their top picks, and games that receive at least two votes will move on to the final assessment round, where they will be evaluated by GameRT’s Platinum Play Award Committee. The final award list will be announced each year, starting with a special Platinum Play Classics Hall of Fame in January 2024 that will celebrate classic games like Chess and Go.

In an effort to help libraries find newer games, only games published between two and ten years prior to the awarding year are eligible. Games will be evaluated based on their ability to provide an enjoyable gaming experience in one hour of play. Eligibility for the award is open for games designed for any age range and any number of players. Games that require a system for play will be considered based on the number of platforms available that libraries can access.  

…Nominations for the 2024 Awards — for games published between published between 2013 and 2021 — are open now and can be submitted online until March 31, 2024. Library staff, teachers, and gamers of all types should submit their favorite games using the online nomination form. Game publishers and creators that seek to have their games considered should email GameRT Staff Liaison Tina Coleman at [email protected].

(16) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. The LA Times learns why “Composer John Williams can’t let Indy go to someone else”.

What does an old adventurer have to offer a modern world that seems to have moved on?

That’s the existential question posed to Indiana Jones, the beloved archaeologist immortalized by Harrison Ford across four decades, in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” Indy is creaky, retiring and alone when the fifth and latest chapter opens in 1969 — a man out of time.

It was also a question for John Williams, the venerable composer who gave Indy his infectious march beginning with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981. Williams was no less than Indy’s galloping tempo and his comic, whip-cracking action, his romantic stirrings and his heroic quest for every previous search for some ancient relic.

Now in his 10th decade, Williams had nothing left to prove and no obligation to score a new “Indiana Jones” film. For the first time, his forever-collaborator Steven Spielberg wasn’t even directing. So why get back in the saddle?

“Very frankly,” Williams says, “I thought to myself: Well, I really don’t want somebody else to do that. It was like when I was doing ‘Star Wars,’ you know. I thought: If I can possibly do it, I should try to do it.”

In other words: Just like Harrison Ford, no one else should wear that hat….

(17) THIS PLANET BITES. Camestros Felapton watched “Scavengers Reign (HBO)” and wrote a review that will make you nervous whenever you hear easy-listening music from now on.

…You could probably make a nice edit of the more relaxed landscape scenes that would be quite relaxing. Indeed, musically from the soft opening titles to much of the incidental music the tone is one that emphasizes the sense of wonder in this alien world.

This sense of wonder is coupled with terror though. The beauty of the world comes with plenty of creatures eager to eviscerate the humans (if they are lucky) or infest them (if they are more unlucky) or turn them into monstrous puppets (if they are even more unlucky). Spores, tentacles, stingers, strangling vines and psychic powers are all out to consume the hapless survivors….

(18) ANOTHER BIZARRE PRODUCT. Archie McPhee has done it again with “Bigfoot Basecamp”.

Some say Bigfoot is an interdimensional traveler who disappears when he wants to, but maybe there are no good pictures of Bigfoot because he’s so tiny. The Bigfoot Basecamp has all the things you need to create the scene of a surprised camper trying to snap a picture as Bigfoot approaches. You can take the itty bitty soft vinyl figures, between 1/2″ and 1-3/8″ tall, out of the box and play with them or leave them inside as a desktop display. Comes with eight pieces, everything you need from trees to Bigfoot to a campfire! Figures may come loose during transit but snap easily back into place. 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Hampus Eckerman, Nickpheas, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/21/23 Seven Pixels You Can’t Scroll On Television

(1) URSULA VERNON’S HUGO ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon’s pen name) won the Best Novel Hugo today. Arley Sorg delivered her acceptance remarks and by popular demand she has published them in a free Patreon post titled “The Light At The End Of The Frog”.

… There are a lot of serious and heavy things I could say right now, and probably I should. But other people have said them better and more movingly than I ever will. So instead I want to share something wonderful and disgusting and maybe a little inspiring with you.

There is a species of water beetle that regularly gets swallowed whole by frogs. And while there’s a lot of things you can do to keep from being eaten, once you’re inside a frog, your options are severely limited….

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. RiverFlow, co-editor of this year’s Hugo-winning fanzine Zero Gravity Newspaper, was hospitalized today reports Zimozi Natsuco in a File 770 comment here. More details at the link.  

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON PHOTO GALLERIES ACCESS. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Adaoli/SF Light Year sent me a clean version of the QR codes for the official photo galleries.

(4) GET SEATTLE 2025 PR 0. Seattle 2025 is now officially seated after yesterday’s site selection vote. Their Guests of Honor will be Martha Wells, Donato Giancola, Bridget Landry, and Alexander James Adams with Hosts K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl. Download Seattle Worldcon 2025 Progress Report 0 at the link. The chair told followers in a message:

My name is Kathy Bond, Chair of this Worldcon, and I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Seattle will have the honor of hosting you all for the 83rd World Science Fiction Convention. I love Seattle, especially when it rains, and I cannot wait to share with you all of the rich, vibrant, creative life in the people and places of this city. I hope that you will be able to join us in person or virtually if a trip to Seattle is not in the cards.

Worldcon cannot take place without every member of this community. All of the plans and dreams that have led us here to this moment would not have been possible without the volunteers who helped sit at tables, who talked to each other and you about Seattle, and without the financial support of buying pre-support memberships. Every tiny act of volunteerism built this bid and helped us win. And, we still need those acts of volunteerism. Come join our community of makers, doers, and shapers for a few hours during the convention or throughout this planning process.

My vision for this Worldcon is to bring our Pacific Northwest community and our Worldcon community together to learn from each other, to create with each other, and to build with each other the type of inclusive community that our best genre fiction inspires us to build. Building Yesterday’s Future For Everyone is an acknowledgement that we have not successfully built the future we have aspired to but that we can still be inspired by the optimism of the past to keep building. We remember our yesterdays; we work for our better futures….

The convention’s website is here: Seattle Worldcon 2025 – Building Yesterday’s Future–For Everyone.

(5) BULGACON 2023. [Item by Valentin D. Ivanov.] Bulgacon is the annual national Bulgarian SFF convention. The 2023 edition took place in Plovdiv from September 22-24 with help from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. The event gathered some international participation including Alex Schvartsman, Andreas Eschbach, Francesco Verso, Nina Horvath, Peter Watts and Wole Talabi, among others.

A bilingual Bulgarian/English booklet with the program and the list of panelists can be seen in PDF format here at the convention website.

(6) SUSAN C. PETREY FUND CLOSING. The Clarion Foundation has issued its own farewell on the heels of the October 18 announcement by Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross.

The Clarion Foundation wishes to honor the impact of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund as it winds down after 43 years of support. Thanks to Paul Wrigley and Debbie Cross, and their tireless fundraising efforts through the Oregon Science Fiction Conventions Inc, the Petrey scholarship stands as the oldest ongoing scholarship supporting Clarion students, and has demonstrated the critical importance of scholarship support in making the Workshop possible. Over the years it has awarded 71 scholarships to Clarion and Clarion West students. 

The fund was created in honor of Susan C. Petrey, an American fantasy writer of short fiction who was early in her career when she passed. Her work would later go on to be posthumously nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and a Hugo Award. Thanks to Paul and Debbie, her legacy and community spirit have endured.

The Petrey Scholarship is particularly appreciated for its demonstration of the ways that communities built around a special person or a targeted cause — in this case, both — can have philanthropic impact beyond what the original donors might have imagined. Along with Paul and Debbie, we sincerely thank all of the fund supporters, and look forward to building more such communities in the coming years and decades. 

“On behalf of the Clarion Foundation board and all the many recipients of this important scholarship over the years, we want to express our deepest appreciation to Debbie, Paul, and the OFSCI,” said Clarion Foundation President Karen J. Fowler. “Your generosity over so many years has been simply extraordinary.  I don’t know how we can begin to thank you.  I feel all the end-of-an-era sadness, but a sadness overwhelmed with gratitude.” 

Former recipients of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund are welcome to share the importance of their scholarship to their Clarion experience and we will pass them along.

(7) BEST OMENS. “Neil Gaiman: ‘In your 60s, any sex is good sex. It’s like: Oh my gosh, I can still do this thing’” – so he told an interviewer from the Guardian. Here are some other things he had to say.

Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
I’ve never read Proust.

What was the last lie you told?
I don’t tell lies any more, because my memory is going.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Really fancy sushi.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he worked for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula K. Le Guin. Writer, Artist, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second woman to be named SFWA Grand Master; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work. Her last Hugo was at Dublin 2019 for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which was illustrated by Charles Vess. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1971 Hal Duncan, 52. Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1974 Chris Garcia, 49. He’s editor of The Drink Tank and several other fanzines. He won a Hugo Award at Renovation with co-editor James Bacon for The Drink Tank after being nominated from 2010 to 2013. He was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo three years straight starting in 2010. His acceptance speech for the Hugo at Renovation was itself nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Chicon 7. I can’t begin to list all his feats and honors here. 

(9) FLASH GORDON COMING BACK. Michael Cavna reveals that the “’Flash Gordon’ comic strip is returning after a 20-year break’ in the Washington Post.

He might be nearing 90, but one relentlessly athletic adventurer is poised for a pop-culture reappreciation.

Flash Gordon, the intergalactic space warrior who predates Superman and Batman as an iconic American action-comic hero sprung from Depression-era pages — as well as a Hollywood screen star who inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars — is returning to newspapers.

King Features Syndicate, whichintroduced the character in 1934, will relaunch the comic strip “Flash Gordon” beginning Sunday after a two-decade absence — featuring a new look and a new artist. (The Sunday and daily strips will be available online and in print.)…

…Guiding the new enterprise will be Dan Schkade, an Eisner-nominated cartoonist in his early 30s best known for his work on such comics as “Will Eisner’s The Spirit Returns,” “Lavender Jack” and “Saint John.”

Schkade won a competitivetryout earlier this year to script and draw the strip, shortly before King announced a licensing deal with Mad Cave Studios, which will begin publishing other original “Flash Gordon” narratives, graphic novels and comic reprints beginning next year.

(10) TED CHIANG ON AI. “Writers respond to techno-optimism about AI: ‘It’s mostly nonsense’” at GeekWire.

How will “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s paean to economic growth and artificial intelligence, play to a wider audience? The reviews are in from two award-winning writers who are familiar with the impact of generative AI on creative professions.

“I think it’s mostly nonsense,” science-fiction writer Ted Chiang said Thursday at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle.

Chiang, a longtime Seattle-area resident, is best-known as the author of “Story of Your Life,” the novella that was adapted for the Oscar-nominated 2016 movie “Arrival.” But he’s also won acclaim as a commentator on AI’s effects for The New Yorker and other publications. Last month, Time magazine included Chiang among the 100 most influential people in AI.

The other writer on the SIFF Cinema stage was Eric Heisserer, the screenwriter who turned Chiang’s story into the script for “Arrival.” Heisserer witnessed the debate over generative AI and the future of work up close as a member of the negotiating committee for the Writers Guild of America during its recent strike against Hollywood studios.

Both Chiang and Heisserer say AI is too often unjustly portrayed as a high-tech panacea. That claim came through loud and clear in Andreessen’s manifesto, which called AI a “universal problem solver.”

“Technology can solve certain problems, but I think the biggest problems that we face are not problems that have technological solutions,” Chiang said in response. “Climate change probably does not have a technological solution. Wealth inequality does not have a technological solution. Most of these are problems of political will. … And so Marc Andreessen’s manifesto is a prime example of ignoring all of these other realities.”

Chiang took issue with Andreessen’s view that growth is always good. “Growth is untenable on a finite planet, so at some point, we are going to have to think about some alternative to a growth economy, some kind of stable state, because the laws of physics are going to put a stop to growth at some point,” he said.

He also called attention to Andreessen’s track record as a tech commentator. “He was all in on crypto,” Chiang said. “He is all in on the metaverse. Anyone who was so enthusiastic about those things … I think we need to keep that in mind when gauging their credibility about anything they recommend now.”…

(11) RED PILL REVIEW. [Item by Steven French.] For those who happen to be in or near Manchester, U.K.: “Free Your Mind review – Danny Boyle’s Matrix reboot is a thrilling shock to the system” in the Guardian.

…The show is a 2023 take on the 1999 film The Matrix, which fits with the current 90s nostalgia (those skintight PVC trousers will take you right back) but is also alarmingly prescient in its story of humans being usurped by intelligent machines as we enable the march of AI, ever more in thrall to the algorithm….

… Are the Matrix’s hero, Neo (Corey Owens), and his journey a bit lost among all this? Well, yes. With 50 dancers on stage, Free Your Mind is built from large-scale set pieces. Choreographer Kenrick “H2O” Sandy is a master at orchestrating tightly drilled ranks of battle-ready glitching bodies and short, sharp shocks of metrical movement. Although when Sandy himself appears as Morpheus, he reminds us one dancer is sometimes enough. A magisterial performer, he is molten and he is rock….

(12) BLAST FROM THE PAST. “Mysterious fast radio burst traveled 8 billion years to reach Earth” reports CNN.

Astronomers have detected a mysterious blast of radio waves that have taken 8 billion years to reach Earth. The fast radio burst is one of the most distant and energetic ever observed.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are intense, millisecond-long bursts of radio waves with unknown origins. The first FRB was discovered in 2007, and since then, hundreds of these quick, cosmic flashes have been detected coming from distant points across the universe.

The burst, named FRB 20220610A, lasted less than a millisecond, but in that fraction of a moment, it released the equivalent of our sun’s energetic emissions over the course of 30 years, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Valentin D. Ivanov, Nathan Hillstrom, Frank Catalano, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]