Pixel Scroll 5/21/24 Cotton Candy Pixels, What Flavor Is Your Favorite?

(1) COUNTERFEIT CHARACTERS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all now know that A.I. threatens creativity… something we seemed to have missed in SF where A/I. was oft portrayed more as a physical threat. BBC Radio 4 (the BBC’s national news and magazine station that replaced the Home Service) is airing a half-hour programme on A.I. replacing actors…. “Counterfeit Characters”.

What do Artificial Intelligence and digital technology mean for actors and their relationship with audiences?

Leading acting coach Geoffrey Colman, who has spent his working life on the sets of Hollywood movies, in theatrical rehearsal spaces, and teaching in the UK’s most prestigious classrooms, wants to find out.

AI, he says, may represent the most profound change to the acting business since the move from silent films to talkies. But does it, and if so how are actors dealing with it? What does that mean for the connection between actors and audiences?

Geoffrey’s concern is rooted in acting process: the idea that the construction of a complex inner thinking architecture resonates with audiences in an authentic almost magical way. But if performance capture and AI just creates the outer facial or physical expression, what happens to the inner joy or pain of a character’s thinking? The implications for the actor’s technique are profound.

To get to the bottom of these questions Geoffrey visits some of those at the cutting edge of developing this new technology. On the storied Pinewood lot he visits Imaginarium Studios, and is shown around their ‘volume’, where actors’ every movement is captured. In East London he talks to the head of another studio about his new AI actor – made up from different actors’ body parts. And at a leading acting school he speaks to students and teachers about what this new digital era means for them. He discusses concerns about ethical questions, hears from an actor fresh from the set of a major new movie, quizzes a tech expert already using AI to create avatars of herself, and speaks to Star Wars fans about how this technology has allowed beloved characters to be rejuvenated, and even resuscitated.

You can access the programme at this link.

(2) VOICEJACKING. Meanwhile, back in the litigious real world… “Scarlett Johansson Said No, but OpenAI’s Virtual Assistant Sounds Just Like Her” says the New York Times.

Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant.

It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Ms. Johannson said in a statement on Monday, adding that the reply both times was no.

Despite those refusals, Ms. Johansson said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded “eerily similar to mine.” She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called “Sky.”

OpenAI suspended its release of “Sky” over the weekend. The company said in a blog post on Sunday that “AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.”

For Ms. Johansson, the episode has been a surreal case of life-imitating art. In 2013, she provided the voice for an A.I. system in the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” The film told the story of a lonely introvert seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, a tragic commentary on the potential pitfalls of technology as it becomes more realistic.

Last week, Mr. Altman appeared to nod to the similarity between OpenAI’s virtual assistant and the film in a post on X with the single word “her.”…

(3) WHISKY TASTING EVENT CONCURRENT WITH WORLDCON. [Item by Sandra Childress.] This is an invitation to those attending Worldcon this summer to venture outside of the convention space for a couple of hours and taste some local history and whisky at the Clydeside Distillery Tour & Tasting. This event is a venue takeover being hosted by Joel Phillips’ Friday Night Weekly Whisky Zoom that has been running nearly non-stop since April 2020. This group has hosted parties at Discon 3 and Chicon 8 — all in the name of friendship and whisky. 

The Clydeside Distillery

This time around, the group is doing something different. The Clydeside Distillery is across the parking lot from the convention center. Joel and the Zoom members knew this was not to be passed up. So, on August 9 (Friday) starting at 7:00 p.m. there will be a tour and tastings for up to 150 pre-paid attendees. The cost of $103USD includes the following:

  • 2 tickets for welcome drinks (1 of which can be used at the blind Scotch tasting station if you choose)
  • Welcome drinks are Prosecco, Beer or mixed whisky drink
  • 6 canapes per person
  • 4 wee drams of single malts (your choice) from Clydeside Distillery including a bourbon cask finish and sherry cask finish only available at the distillery and a third single malt yet to be determined.

Additionally, a cash bar will also be available and a station where you may buy a bottle for £68 and create your own personalized label.

Deadline to register and pay is Thursday July 25th or when the count hits 150. There will be no onsite registrations available. Please register via the Google Form (https://forms.gle/QnGmmhTN58Xe76un6) and follow the instructions there for payment. As of May 20, there are 62 registered…so there is still room for you and your friends to join the tour and tasting.

(4) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2024. The non-genre novel Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann, has been named the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The winner was announced by Eleanor Wachtel, Chair of the 2024 judges, at a ceremony sponsored by Maison Valentino and held at London’s Tate Modern today. 

The £50,000 prize is split equally between author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann, giving each equal recognition. 

Erpenbeck’s novel, which was originally written in German, follows a destructive affair between a young woman and an older man in 1980s East Berlin, with the two lovers seemingly embodying East Germany’s crushed idealism. A meditation on hope and disappointment, Kairos poses complex questions about freedom, loyalty, love and power. 

(5) SHE’S THE CAPTAIN. “’Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ Series Casts Holly Hunter in Main Role”Variety has details about the actor and the series. If you wondered, this Hunter is no relation to the Hunter who played Star Trek’s first Captain.

The “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy” series at Paramount+ has cast Holly Hunter in a lead role, Variety has learned.

Hunter’s character will serve as the captain and chancellor of the Academy, presiding over both the faculty and a new class of Starfleet cadets as they learn to navigate the galaxy in the 32nd century….

(6) DON’T PANIC. Not that you were anyway… “’3 Body Problem’ Creators Clarify Netflix’s Mysterious Renewal Plan” for The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the biggest 3 Body Problem mysteries since the show ended has been: What did Netflix‘s renewal announcement mean, exactly?

During the streamer’s upfront presentation last week, Netflix promised “additional episodes” of the acclaimed sci-fi drama to “finish the story.”

Of course, “additional episodes” could mean anything from two episodes to five seasons and, naturally, many fans worried that the ultimate answer would be too close to the former for comfort.

But showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo assure things are going to be just fine (for the show, at least, if not for their ensemble drama’s characters facing an alien invasion). While the trio didn’t reveal the exact number of episodes in their new deal, they emphasized it was for “seasons” — plural — and that the number of hours aligns with their original plan to adapt author Liu Cixin’s two remaining novels in his Hugo-winning trilogy.

“We knew going into this how many hours we need to tell the rest of the story because we’ve got a roadmap through to the end,” Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we have what we need to get to the end as intended from when we started.”

“By the time we finish with the show, it will be seven years we’ve devoted to it,” Benioff added. “We’re now at a place where we get to tell the rest of the story, and, yes, we have enough time to tell the rest of the story the way we want to and that’s immensely gratifying.”…

(7) LECKIE Q&A. The Mountain View (CA) Public Library hosted an online event with author Ann Leckie as part of Sci-Fi September last year.

Critically acclaimed science fiction author Ann Leckie joined us for an exclusive conversation about her new novel Translation State and answered questions from the audience.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. (Died 1993.) Surely you know Raymond Burr, the man whose Birthday it is today. So let’s get started.

I must of course start with his long running role as Perry Mason which is decidedly not genre. CBS paid Gardener for the rights to two hundred and seventy-two of his stories, a good idea given that Perry Mason would run nine seasons. Many early episodes were based off his stories and novels.  

The role of Perry Mason proved the hardest to cast. Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, and William Holden were considered. None at all suited the casting team. Burr initially read for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger, but he told them that he was more interested in the Perry Mason role. They had seen him being a lawyer, and said he could play the role provided he lose at least sixty pounds. He did and got the role.

Raymond Burr, right, Frank Iwanaga, left, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters

What a magnificent Perry Mason he made. Burr’s coolness, control and reserved sense of humor were such that he became so identified with the character that, for the television audience, that meant there was no other Mason but Burr. He was not the Mason that had existed, there were four before him, all on film, and the producers tried reviving the series after CBS cancelled it, but it utterly failed. And HBO has a new series that looks at early years of his life. 

In the late Eighties he reprised his Mason role in twenty-six tv movies. The first has the title of Perry Mason Returns.

Now for his genre work.  Mike joked with me when I said when I was doing him that he was the lawyer for Godzilla. Well, he was Steven Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! It is a re-edited for American audiences of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla which in its original wasn’t available outside Japan for fifty years. He would reprise this role in Godzilla 1985.

He was the Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet. Evil viziers! Dungeons! Magic carpets! Princesses! 

He’s Cy Mill, hulking villain in Gorilla at Large. Remember what was said about his weight in his Burr casting. Well, this film was done just previous to this series and he was quoted as saying there, “I was just a fat heavy.” Burr told journalist James Bawden, “I split the heavy parts with Bill Conrad. We were both in our twenties playing much older men. I never got the girl but I once got the gorilla in a 3-D picture called Gorilla at Large.”

He was Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil , the seventeenth film of the Tarzan film series that began with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, twenty years earlier.

Television wise, he appeared on Tales on Tomorrow in “The Masks of Medusa” and in the horror film Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, he’s Jonash Sebastian. I thought there’d be more but there aren’t. 

(9) ARMED SURVIVOR. In “Rocket Man No More”, Heritage Auctions introduces one of the headline lots from the May 31 Star Wars Signature Auction: “Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted”.

Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted AFA 60 (Kenner, 1979). The Rocket Firing Boba Fett has been called the “Crown Jewel of Unproduced Toys” It’s become legendary as an iconic Star Wars “Mandela Effect,” (far better termed “Rocket Fett Syndrome.”) The figure everyone thought they had, but didn’t. Offered as a mail-away premium, the Rocket Firing Boba Fett was highly promoted by Kenner, lodging it in everyone’s imaginations. For four proof-of-purchase seals cut from any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure card back it could be yours. It seemed a cruel trick, when the Boba Fett figures that shipped, arrived with their plastic missiles sonically welded in place. It was a clear letdown. Helping along this disappointment was a small polite letter explaining Kenner’s safety concerns over the toy necessitating the change. It offered in substitution any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure of choice if the consumer wasn’t satisfied with the redesign. Looking back, the removal of the rocket launching mechanism should have been no surprise. Almost immediately anything to do with it was being mysteriously obscured by stickers ignoring the feature. Kenner’s legal department already had concerns over the toy’s safety, but the company’s outgoing President Bernie Loomis was highly in favor of the project. As Kenner engineer’s struggled to make the toy safe, another ominous event was happening in the toy world. Rival toy company Mattel was experiencing their own problems with their popular Battlestar Galactica toy spaceships, which fired a similar sized projectile. If accidentally shot into the mouth, the choking potential for children was becoming clear. Already, there were several aspiration induced injuries, and one child’s death. The culmination of these two events ultimately doomed the Rocket Firing Boba Fett. Painfully most would agree Kenner made the right decision, erroring on the side of safety. It’s uncertain exactly how many Rocket Firing Boba Fetts were created before Kenner abandoned the concept for a safer non-firing figure. What survives today in the hobby generally comes from ex-Kenner employees who took examples home. All others are believed destroyed with none (despite urban legends) ever getting distributed to the public. Surviving populations featuring the original reverse “L-slot” latch configuration number about seventy. Mostly injection molded in blue-gray, these “first-shot” figures are generally unpainted and were created to test the mold cavity functions before general production. As such these unpainted “first-shots” lack all copyright and point of origin stamps to the back of the legs. Of the seventy examples believed in collector’s hands today, only five have been found hand painted – two in production paint scheme as this example, and three in unique alternate paint schemes. One of only two examples known to exist…

(10) DOCTOR MEWLITTLE. An SJW credential with credentials! “Meet Max, the cat receiving an (honorary) doctorate from Vermont State University this weekend”Vermont Public has the story.

As Vermont State University Castleton graduates receive their degrees this weekend, so too will a tabby cat. The cat, named Max, is getting an honorary degree as a “Doctor in Litter-ature.”

Once a feral kitten in the town of Fair Haven, Max has lived with his human mom, Ashley Dow, on Seminary Street in Castleton for the past five years. And for most of those years, he’s been venturing up to the university campus….

(11) ANOTHER SPACE CAT. Captain Kirk also picked up an honorary sheepskin on May 20. Forbes reports, “William Shatner Among Geniuses Honored At Liberty Science Center Gala, Underscoring Intrinsic Bond Of Art And Science”.

William Shatner beamed up into the Liberty Science Center (LSC) last night to accept the 2024 Icon Award at the sold-out 12th Annual Liberty Science Center Genius Gala.

“On October 13, 2021, William Shatner, age 90, boldly went where no one else had gone before: into space,” said LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman. “At 93, Will remains incredibly active.”

Shatner was filming in Los Angeles, so Hoffman interviewed him in his Studio City office.

“I saw a great deal that made me cry, and I didn’t know why I was crying, literally crying. I was weeping uncontrollably when I landed,” said Shatner. “I realized, oh my God, I’m in grief! For what I’ve seen of the world, you look at your telescopes, it’s fantastic, it’s magical. Space is magical. I’m looking at space from the spaceship and all it is is palpable blackness, it’s black death. I look back and I see blue, beige, and white. The planet is calling to us. You can’t believe how small this rock we’re living on is. You can’t believe how thin the fertile earth is. … That’s how precious our topsoil is. And then there’s the air. I’m a pilot. I know you can’t go above 3,500 feet for oxygen. Two miles of oxygen, a handful of dirt that we’re going to live on, and live on with increasing numbers. We now know everything is connected, interconnected. Everything is part of each other. All of nature is alive and vibrant with intelligence and life.”…

(12) SPACEPLANE MISSION TO ISS. “World’s first commercial spaceplane in final stages before debut ISS flight” reports New Atlas.

The world’s first winged commercial spaceplane has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final destination before its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

Following rigorous testing at Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, the Dream Chaser DC-100 spaceplane named Tenacity got the green light to commence final pre-launch preparations, such as finishing its thermal protection system and payload integration, before it hitches a ride on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket to deliver 7,800 pounds (3,540 kg) of food, water and science experiments to the ISS….

(13) MILKY WAY. [Item by Steven French.] A collection of absolutely stunning photographs: “Milky Way photographer of the year 2024 – in pictures” in the Guardian. Photo at the link —

The vanity of life | Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

Photographer Mihail Minkov: ‘The concept behind this shot is to highlight the stark contrast between the vastness of the cosmos and the minuscule nature of humanity. The composition intentionally draws the viewer’s focus to a small figure, underscoring our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, while the majestic Milky Way core dominates the background’

Photograph: Mihail Minkov/2024 Milky Way photographer of the year

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Heritage Auctions has an interview with Former Kenner Engineer Jacob Miles about the Boba Fett – Star Wars action figure pulled from production.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/24 The FTL And The Furriest

(1) TOR ACCUSED OF USING AI ART COVER, AGAIN. [Item by Anne Marble.] People strongly suspect that Tor used yet another AI cover for a release by its Bramble imprint. In this case, the book is their hardcover reprint of Gothikana, a dark academia romance by an anonymous author known as RuNyx– an indie book that is both loved and hated. (Both the writing and the “hero” have been criticized.) Tor published this new edition in hardback with sprayed edges and what looked like a gorgeous new cover. Even people who already had the book bought it for the cool presentation. This is an adult hardcover priced around $30. But now, many people are saying that this new cover is probably AI.

Gabino Iglesias has one of the best posts on this:

This is not a first for Tor. In December 2022, File 770 published the news when Tor was caught using AI elements on the cover of an SF novel by Christopher Paolini – “Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate” item #3.

You can see the Tor cover, the Solaris cover, and the indie covers of Gothikana on Goodreads.

Emma Skies devoted a TikTok video to analyzing the artwork: “I’m So Sick Of This”.

@emmaskies

I’M SO SICK OF THIS I really don’t understand why we keep having to have this conversation in *creative* spaces. Stop ???????? using ???????? AI ???????? art ???????? It doesn’t even look good! Frankly this is beyond embarrassing and I’m incredibly disappointed in Tor. This is lazy and it’s insulting to authors, consumers, and artists who should and historically would be getting hired for these jobs, and this is only going to keep getting worse as the publishing industry is obsessed with pumping out more and more work for less money utilizing fewer employees. We are not heading in a good direction. ???? #torbooks #torpublishinggroup #brambleromance #gothikana #runyx #bookcover #aiart #noaiart #romancebooks #darkromance #fantasyromance #booktok #emmaskiesreads #greenscreen

? original sound – emmaskies

BTW I can’t tell whether a cover is AI or not. But when you look at the mysterious gate closely… Ugh. And I persuaded myself to buy this book because of the cool cover and sprayed edges…

More recent posts on Gothikana include Ed Crocker’s thread on X, started to celebrate covers by humans — which is a great response!

By the way, you can see the Solaris cover, which is complete different, in this post:

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Kaja Foglio had emergency gall bladder surgery last weekend, and had to be readmitted to the hospital on Monday. Phil Foglio posted the news at Bluesky.

(3) UGANDA WORLDCON BID REPLIES TO SENSITIVE QUESTION. Steve Davidson reported on Facebook that Amazing Stories recently asked the Ugandan Worldcon Bid —

“Given the laws of Uganda regarding LGBTQ+ how are you planning on handling this for attendees?”

The “the official committee stand” responded and I wanted to share their response, the first line of which states:

“This law is in courts of law and we can’t comment about it for fear of prejudice.”

The balance of their statement says:

“However, as a country so far, we have hosted and planning to host major global conventions like the Commonwealth Speakers of Parliament and Presiding Officers, NAM summit, the G77 + China in 2024 all have been completed without incidents consequential from this law and later AFCON in 2027 will be hosted here. We also have seen a successful football World cup in Qatar, the Worldcon has been successfully hosted in China in 2023 some of these parts of the world have more harsh laws against homosexuality. These precedents will help inform Kampcon in planning mitigation measures. The experiences of previous hosts with similar legal challenges will be instructive on how Kampcon approaches this issue in terms of its code of conduct to guide all the operations. In the meantime, we are also involving every stakeholder in the planning of this event right from bidding and we are receiving support of a number of forms from the national convention bureau (MICE Bureau) so we are doing all within means not to have any conflict legal or otherwise with the authorities of the land and the host community. The number one commitment for any host is safety first! This is not different for Kampcon. “

Davidson’s post includes quotes from media coverage about the enforcement of laws against homosexuality.

(4) FIVE BOOKS TO ENJOY. Lisa Tuttle’s new Guardian column reviews The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown; Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi; Red Side Story by Jasper Fforde; Past Crimes by Jason Pinter; and The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

(5) BRISTOW Q&A. A lot of sff mentioned in the Shelf Awareness interview with Su Bristow:

Favorite book when you were a child:

There were so many! But I guess the one I returned to over and over again would have to be The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. It’s the origin story of Narnia, and how evil was unintentionally brought in right at the start. It felt important to me, in a way that I couldn’t have articulated at the time.

Your top five authors:

Ursula K. Le Guin. Her Earthsea trilogy had a profound effect on me in my teens. The Taoist philosophy that underpins it, and the idea of equilibrium in nature–and of course in magic–struck me with the force of truth. It still does.

Barbara Kingsolver. Her versatility is extraordinary, and I’ve loved all her books, particularly The Lacuna and Demon Copperhead. I hope there are many more to come.

J.R.R. Tolkien. An obvious choice, maybe, but it’s not the writing so much as the depth and breadth of the world he created. He was aiming to set up a mythology for Britain, and he succeeded; his influence is everywhere.

Alan Garner. A master weaver of language, landscape, and legend. He creates songlines for his corner of the British Isles.

Terry Pratchett. The humanity, humour, and passion in his books is breathtaking, not to mention the immense wealth of detail and unforgettable characters….

(6) LIFE ON THE DEATH STAR? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Mimas is the moon of Saturn that famously looks like the Star Wars Death Star. But his week in Nature research reveals that it yet may be another place in our Solar System that might, just might, harbor life… (though personally I think we will just find some interesting pre-biotic chemistry…). “Mimas’s surprise ocean prompts an update of the rule book for moons”.

The shifting orbit of one of Saturn’s moons indicates that the satellite has a subsurface ocean, contradicting theories that its interior is entirely solid. The finding calls for a fresh take on what constitutes an ocean moon.

The detection of liquid water oceans under the icy surfaces of outer Solar System moons suggests that these moons could provide abodes for life under conditions that differ markedly from those on Earth. However, it can be a challenge to detect subsurface oceans directly, so inferences about candidate ocean moons are typically drawn from comparison to moons known to harbour oceans, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. These moons have many similarities in terms of both the conditions that sustain their oceans and the way that their surfaces indicate the existence of an internal ocean. If the criteria were set by these moons, the small Saturnian moon Mimas would easily be ruled out as an ocean moon. It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Mimas must have an internal ocean, according to results reported in this week’s Nature. Primary research paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-06975-9.pdf 

(7) BODYING THE COMPETITION. “’Three Body Problem’ Coming to Peacock Before Rival Netflix Version” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Now Netflix has a two Body problem.

An adaptation of Liu Cixin’s epic sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem is going to land on a major U.S. streaming service just weeks ahead of Netflix launching its own version.

Peacock announced Friday it has acquired Tencent’s Three-Body, the Chinese adaptation that was released internationally last year. The streamer will launch all 30 episodes Feb. 10.

While Tencent pegged the release date choice to the Lunar New Year, the launch is also clearly timed to get ahead of Netflix’s big-budget version, titled 3 Body Problem, coming March 21…

…The two adaptations are very different, however. The Tencent version is considered an ultra-faithful adaptation (to the point that some have criticized it as being a bit tedious) that, like the novels, remains squarely focused on characters from China who grapple with an alien invasion. Netflix’s version expands the story to an international cast and takes liberties to adapt the dense and physics-heavy novel for a mainstream audience. Also, while the Tencent version avoids the book’s brutal portrayal of the Chinese Cultural Revolution — a key sequence in the story — the Netflix version was able to be more faithful in that regard….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. (Died 2008.) I usually can’t remember the cover art for a novel I read nearly fifty years ago but I remember that for Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys. It was the Equinox / Avon edition of 1974 with the cover illustration by William Maughan. I picked up on some newsstand in those days when newsstands still existed and they had SF novels to purchase along with comics and zines as Amazing and If.  I’ll get nostalgic later…

It was the first work I read by him and I remember that it was quite good. I see it was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon, the year A Canticle for Leibowitz won.  It was by no means his first publication as that goes to “The High Purpose” which been printed in Astounding in 1952, the year he started as an editor and manager for such publishers as Gnome Press and Galaxy Science Fiction. 

Algis Budrys. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Between 1965 and 1961, he had two short stories, a novelette and two novels nominated for Hugos. None would win.

I’ve read three of his novels in total, the others being Some Will Not Die and Who?, none of the other novels are ones I recognize at all.  Both of these were well worth my reading time as well. I caution that I’ve not re-read any of these in thirty years so I don’t how well the Suck Fairy would react to them now. 

He was extremely prolific with his writing of short stories, penning well over a hundred. I’ve read enough of them to say he had a deft hand at this story length. So after the early sixties, he wrote far less fiction and worked in publishing, editing, and advertising to make a much better living. 

One was the Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine from 1993 to 2000. It was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian and the next year at Intersection. Alas he did not win.

He’s best known I think for his F&SF book columns that ran for almost forty years starting in 1975. I know that I looked forward to them immensely. They’re collected in Benchmarks Continued, Benchmarks Revisited and Benchmarks Concluded. There’s also Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf which collects his columns there. 

And let’s not overlook A Budrys Miscellany: Occasional Writing 1954-2000 which collects some of his fanzine writings. It’s available at the usual suspects.

(9) COMIC SECTION.

(10) REVIEW OF ‘MACHINE VENDETTA’ BY ALASTAIR REYNOLDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Machine Vendetta by Alastair Reynolds, his latest novel came out a couple of weeks ago and SF² Concatenation has an advance post review ahead of its summer season edition. It sees a return to ‘Revelation Space’ and a Prefect Tom Drefus Emergency. The full review is here.

A terrorist incident, resulting in a conflagration in a large orbiting habitat, was caused by racism species-ism between uplifted pigs (to human sentience levels) and humans. The habitat was one of thousands that formed the Glitter Band orbiting the planet Yellowstone. Humans had arrived at Yellowstone centuries earlier but the planet has an unbreathable atmosphere, so that while some humans established a colony on its surface, others remained in orbit, hence the hundreds of habitats. Each of the habitats was largely self-policed (usually by local constables) but overall, inter-habitat, peace-keeping and the maintenance of democracy (via strictly controlled computer voting) was undertaken by just a thousand prefects operating from Panapoly – an asteroid hollowed out to provide habitation, space docks etc.

Then a prefect – Ingvar Tench – visits Stadler-Kremeniev orbital habitat. Ingvar Tench thinks she has been ordered there for a routine inspection of its voting mechanisms, but back at the Panapoly, the senior prefects are puzzled as no orders had been given Ingvar: what could she be doing visiting a habitat on the prefects’ watch list? Further, they are perturbed that communications with her have been cut… 

Enter senior prefect Tom Drefus who is sent to Stadler-Kremeniev to find out what Ingvar Tench is doing. Alas, he arrives too late and, long story short, she is dead…. 

(11) READY, WILLING, AND ABLE. RadioTimes quotes“Louise Jameson on Doctor Who return: ‘I’d be back in a nanosecond’”.

Doctor Who legend Louise Jameson has insisted she’s game for a return appearance as classic character Leela.

Jameson recently reprised the role in live-action for Leela vs the Time War, a short film made to promote the Doctor Who – The Collection: Season 15 Blu-ray set.

Speaking at a BFI Southbank screening of 1977 story Horror of Fang Rock held to mark the release, Jameson suggested she wouldn’t hesitate if asked to return to the BBC sci-fi series.

“Let’s see… I’d absolutely love to do one,” she said. “I’d be back in a nanosecond.

“Can you just tell Russell [T Davies, Doctor Who showrunner]? Can somebody ask him to watch it [Leela vs the Time War]?”…

(12) THE DOORS OF HIS MOUTH, THE LAMPS OF HIS WHYS. [Item by Steven French.] Not really genre related but so bizarre I couldn’t resist! An Atlas Obscura post from 2017: “Encryption Lava Lamps – San Francisco, California”.

Why use lava lamps for encryption instead of computer-generated code? Since computer codes are created by machines with relatively predictable patterns, it is entirely possible for hackers to guess their algorithms, posing a security risk. Lava lamps, on the other hand, add to the equation the sheer randomness of the physical world, making it nearly impossible for hackers to break through.


While you might think that such an important place would be kept in secret and locked off from the public, it’s actually possible for visitors to witness these lava lamps in person. Simply enter the lobby of Cloudflare’s San Francisco headquarters and ask to see the lava lamp display. 

It may seem bizarre that Cloudflare would allow average people to affect the video footage, but that’s actually intentional. External disturbances like human movement, static, and changes in lighting from the adjacent windows all work together to make the random code even harder to predict. So, by standing in front of the lava lamp display, you add an additional variable to the code, making it even harder to hack. In a way, by visiting Cloudflare’s wall of lava lamps, you can play a role in making the internet more secure…

(13) IRON MAN COSTS PLENTY OF GOLD. Speculative Fiction Collectors will happily sell you the “Iron Man Mark 2 Life-Size Statue” for a mere $12,399 – stand by to torch your credit card!

Paying homage to Tony Stark’s iconic armor from Iron Man (2008), Queen Studios crafted this piece with the utmost precision. Capturing Iron Man’s signature silver suit, he embodies a powerful stance. At a remarkable height of 214cm tall, the statue boasts a detachable breastplate for a customizable display. Dotted with internal lighting located in various components, it includes: the eyes, arc reactor, and palm repulsors. With fitting illumination around the base, this statue is a stunning addition to any collection.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, David Goldfarb, Steve Davidson, 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 Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gladstone signal-boosted a mass letter which begins:

Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two new articles published by Southern Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

RiverFlow also posted some comments on Weibo about the piece.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Worldcon reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Attached images: chenmengyu[123].jpg)

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Shirley Jackson in 1940.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A long-distance glitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18/23 This Scroll Has Been Pixeled As A Tax Write Off

(1) LAST NIGHT’S DOCTOR WHO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Last night we had the annual BBC Children in Need which is an annual charity TV marathon (which to date has raised over £1 billion). And in the mix Doctor Who was there.  

(2) BBC RADIO DISCUSSES BUTLER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Exploding Library on BBC 4 looked at Octavia Butler with a lot of focus on the Parable of the Sower. It was superb. “The Exploding Library, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler”.

Comedian Desiree Burch unravels Octavia Butler’s visionary 1993 novel Parable of the Sower and its sequel Parable Of The Talents, an eerily-prescient dystopian portrait of society in collapse after being torn apart by climate change and corporate greed – with a populist demagogue US president who rides to power with the slogan “Make American Great Again”.

Oh, and the story – pure fantasy of course, imagined by Butler three decades ago in the early 1990s – is set initially in 2024.

Now this all seems to Desiree just a little bit too close to reality for comfort. But is there hope – even optimism – beneath the surface of this chillingly bleak vision?

(3) TUBI OR NOT TUBI. Should be an easy question to answer now: “Tubi is Adding Every Episode of BBC’s Classic Doctor Who for Free” according to Cord Cutters News.

The Tardis has landed on Tubi. Viewers in the U.S. and Canada can now watch every episode of Classic Doctor Who and Classic Doctor Who: The Animated Lost Stories on the free ad-supported service.

If you plan to watch Classic Doctor Who in its entirety, be prepared to put in a lot of time. Doctor Who is the longest running action-adventure series in the world. Classic Doctor Who aired from 1963 to 1989 and has over 600 episodes. Tubi created a “New to Who” collection to ease in new ‘Whovians’ — a term coined by the sci-fi show’s legion of fans….

(4) CANCELLATIONS LEAVE FANS IN UPROAR. “Backlash as Netflix cancels five shows at once including its ‘best series’”The Independent has the story.

…Now the Hollywood strikes are over, networks and streaming services are having to make decisions about their existing properties, with it being expected that many might fall foul of an untimely axing due to rising costs after production on all projects was stalled while the writers and actors protested for fairer compensation.

Days later, Netflix has gone ahead and culled five shows, one of which was a number one hit and had a fervent fanbase that campaigned for a season renewal: Shadow and Bone.

While the first season of the fantasy series, adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, did big business for Netflix – even spawning a video game spin-off – season two struggled to break through in a major way, which is believed to have led to the service’s decision considering the show’s large budget.

Other shows that will no longer return include animated shows Agent Elvis and Captain Fall as well as Kim Cattrall-starring series Glamorous and sci-fi comedy Farzar.

(5) THOSE WERE THE DAYS MY FRIEND. “Don’t let anybody diss L.A.’s reading habits. This was and is a bookstore boomtown” says a defensive LA Times.

It’s late 1937, and you’re F. Scott Fitzgerald, the once-celebrated writer, and you’re getting paid $1,000 a week, which, especially during the Depression, and even for the gilded coffers of MGM, isn’t toy money.

From your place at the Garden of Allah apartments on Sunset, in what is now West Hollywood, you might decide to amble the couple of miles to Hollywood Boulevard, to the Stanley Rose Book Shop, knuckled right up against Musso and Frank. There, you might find other scribblers, with names like Saroyan and Steinbeck, to share a convivial drink nearby; some of Hollywood Boulevard’s many bookshops are open almost as late as the bars.

Or you’re Ray Bradbury, and on a late April day in 1946 — April the 24th, if you must know — you head downtown, to Booksellers Row, centered on 6th Street between Hill and Figueroa. You’d get there by bus or Red Car, or on your bicycle, because you do not drive, not even one single block, not since you saw that gory accident about 10 years earlier.

You walk into Fowler Brothers bookstore, which opened in 1888 as a church supply shop, and by the time it would close its doors for good in 1994, it was the oldest surviving bookstore in the city. On that day, a brilliant and fetching book clerk named Maggie McClure caught his attention; Bradbury caught hers because she thought he was shoplifting books into his vast trench coat. They married not quite 18 months later…..

(6) CARTOON TRIVIA. Ranker harkens back to “Things We Learned About Nostalgic Cartoons In 2021”. (Which despite the title is a new 2023 post.)

From details about the voice actors, to insights into plot devices and influences – and even a few answers to enduring questions – here are a batch of facts we learned about nostalgic cartoons in 2021. Vote up the ones that are perfectly Smurfy!

Number One on the list:

Paul Winchell, The Voice Of Gargamel On ‘The Smurfs,’ Invented And Patented The First Artificial Heart

Actor and comedian Paul Winchell was a man of many talents; he was a ventriloquist and also an inventor, building and patenting a mechanical heart in 1963.

Winchell began voice acting for Hanna-Barbera during the late 1960s, notably appearing in Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes. As the voice of Tigger, Winchell won a Grammy for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too in 1974. When The Smurfs first aired in 1981, he provided the voice for the antagonist, Gargamel.

While Winchell navigated acting and performing, he simultaneously invented and patented dozens of devices. His artificial heart design, which he donated to the University of Utah, was fundamental in developing the model that was used in 1982 for the first artificial heart transplant. 

(7) KICKSTARTER FOR VARLEY ADAPTATION. John Varley encourages fans to support Jean-Paul Tetu’s Kickstarter: “Thémis – The Next Frontier”.

Jean-Paul Tetu… has a small CGI company and is a fan of my work. He had been tinkering with scenes from my novel Titan, and you can see the results here.

I think it’s pretty impressive. Since this is a crowdfunding site you probably can see where I’m going with this. If you are interested in seeing my most popular work turned into a 6-part TV series, you can contribute. 

As of this writing, $5,882 of the $65,502 goal has been pledged with 32 days remaining.

(8) WESTON OCHSE (1965-2023). Weston Ochse died November 18, his wife announced on X.com. A recent update to his Patreon suggests he was waiting for a new liver.

Ochse won the Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, Scarecrow Gods, in 2005 and subsequently received additional nominations, Redemption Roadshow (2009 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Long Fiction); The Crossing of Aldo Ray (2010 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction); Multiplex Fandango (2012 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Collection); and Righteous (2013 finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction). He also won four New-Mexico Arizona Book Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 84. Well, there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that’s garnering a lot of discussion now. (Not my my cup of Tea, Earl Grey, hot.) There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I’ve heard good things about The Penelopiad. What else do you like of hers? 
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 77. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. They’re on Audible so I may give the three a re-listen. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work beyond the most excellent Splinter of the Mind’s Eye which was the first Star Wars novel authorized by George Lucas. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 73. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. Between 1999 and 2003, he had nine stories nominated for the Hugo Award and won at Aussiecon 3, ConJosé, and Torcon 3. His short fiction is obviously superb and I see the usual suspects have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 62. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find here and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards, all for Doctor Who
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 70. His best book is Voice of the Fire which admittedly isn’t genre. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film which surprisingly has a forty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Have they no sense of good film making? I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing work that he did as well. And let’s not forget that The Watchmen won a well-deserved Hugo at Nolacon II. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld adds a touch of Bergman here.

(11) TEXT COVERAGE OF SPACEX’S “SUCCESS“. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “SpaceX launch attempt ends in loss of most powerful rocket ever built” at CNN.

… after months of rebuilding following an explosive initial launch in April, SpaceX made a second attempt at launching its deep-space rocket system Starship, but not all went according to plan.

The uncrewed Starship spacecraft launched aboard the most powerful rocket ever built on Saturday morning, but both were lost shortly after liftoff.

The Super Heavy rocket booster ignited its 33 massive engines and Starship experienced a safe liftoff. SpaceX tried “hot staging” for the first time, essentially a step in which the spacecraft separated from the rocket booster by blunt force trauma.

After hot staging, the rocket booster exploded in a fireball over the Gulf of Mexico. Starship initially continued on just fine before SpaceX lost the spacecraft’s signal and triggered the system’s software to terminate the flight so it didn’t veer off course.

Starship was intended to fly nearly a lap around the planet before returning to Earth, but data from this second test flight will be used to determine SpaceX’s next steps in making humanity “multiplanetary.”

The New York Times was also very kind: “SpaceX Starship Launch Highlights From the 2nd Flight of Elon Musk’s Moon and Mars Rocket”.

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s spaceflight company, launched its Starship rocket from the coast of South Texas on Saturday, a mammoth vehicle that could alter the future of space transportation and help NASA return astronauts to the moon.

Saturday’s flight of Starship, a powerful vehicle designed to carry NASA astronauts to the moon, was not a complete success. SpaceX did not achieve the test launch’s ultimate objective — a partial trip around the world ending in a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

But the test flight, the vehicle’s second, did show that the company had fixed key issues that arose during the earlier test operation in April. All 33 engines in the vehicle’s lower booster stage fired, and the rocket made it through stage separation — when the booster falls away and the six engines of the upper stage light up to carry the vehicle to space….

… According to SpaceX’s “fail fast, learn faster” approach toward rocket design, successfully avoiding a repeat of past failures counts as major progress.

However, the second flight revealed new challenges that Mr. Musk’s engineers must overcome.

Soon after stage separation, the booster exploded — a “rapid unscheduled disassembly,” in the jargon of rocket engineers. The upper-stage Starship spacecraft continued heading toward orbit for several more minutes, reaching an altitude of more than 90 miles, but then SpaceX lost contact with it after the flight termination system detonated….

(12) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] A post on Mastodon from Shannon Coffey linked to an Eye article reviewing Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970-1990 written by Kevin Foakes, about the tech and artists behind the light shows popular at music events back in the day. Besides being a pretty cool subject all on its own, the article also mentions one artist who created some of the color wheels through which projections were made was David Hardy, who I recognize much more readily for his many examples of space art. “The fantastic light trip” at Eye Magazine.

Kevin Foakes’ Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970-1990 is book nine in Four Corners’ Irregulars series, intended to present ‘a visual history of modern British culture’, writes John L. Walters. The arcane tale begins in the 1960s, when artists and designers such as Mark Boyle (Boyle Family), Keith Albarn, Five Acre Lights and Barney Bubbles made shows that would accompany performances in venues such as UFO and Middle Earth in London.

As underground music became more visible (and profitable) a small number of entrepreneurs started supplying the demand for light shows at gigs and discos. The companies they started – Optikinetics, Pluto, Orion, Light Fantastic – and their visual archives are at the core of this book, drawing heavily on the collection and recollections of Optikinetics’ Neil Rice.

(13) ONE-WAY TRIP TO THE HEAVENS. “Their Final Wish? A Burial in Space.” The New York Times interviews seven people to ask why.

There are two ways to contemplate the question Where do we go when we die? One is philosophical, ultimately unanswerable; the other is logistical. Humans, being human, have tended to see them as being intertwined: The many traditions we’ve devised for handling our remains are meant to honor the selves that left those bodies behind.

The seven people pictured here have chosen to send their ashes, or in some cases a sample of their DNA, into outer space. They have contracted with Celestis, one of a handful of companies offering such services. Celestis has launched 17 of these so-called memorial spaceflights since 1994. Some will rocket straight up and descend, some will orbit Earth, some will be sent to the surface of the moon and some will simply hurtle into space and keep on going. (Celestis sends its cargo on spacecraft undertaking unrelated scientific and commercial missions. Packages start at around $2,500.)…

(14) SURVEILLANCE CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “Campus surveillance: students and professors decry sensors in buildings” in Nature. “Privacy campaigners fear that the devices could be used for disciplinary purposes, and some universities have deactivated them after protests.”

Lengthy debates are talking place on many university campuses in many countries. A number of universities are installing ‘sensors’ (‘cameras’) in university labs and offices. A number of these were originally installed in 2020/1 to ensure CoVID regs were being adhered to.  Now, it seems that the reason is to ensure that university facilities are being used efficiently.  However some feel that the reason is more sinister and that evidence could be gathered for disciplinary purposes.  Others still say that some offices are empty for many days/weeks in a year because staff are out in the field, often in other countries, getting samples and data, so using the cameras for university space efficiency can be misleading.

The end of the article says…

Cory Doctorow, a digital-privacy campaigner who advises the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues that you do not need be a COVID-19 conspiracy theorist to be concerned about surveillance creeping into the workplace. “During lockdown, we saw this fantastic acceleration of disciplinary technologies across all sorts of domains from employment to leisure. I am vaccinated, I have a QR code showing this on my phone and I believe in contact tracing, but I also think that it’s completely reasonable to worry about all this,” he says.

(15) BOOK LOVERS. “Is Reading the Hottest Thing You Can Do as a Single Person?” The New York Times went to meet some people who might answer yes.

One of the first questions men ask Angela Liu on dating apps is “What are you reading?” The question is a softball for Ms. Liu, a self-proclaimed lover of literature. “I really care about the human condition and emotions and stuff,” she said.

What she has noticed, however, is that many men aren’t into those kinds of books, and a question that may have been intended to screen her often ends up backfiring.

“I can’t stand dudes who just read self-help books or things specifically related to the job that they’re doing and that’s all they read,” Ms. Liu, 27, said on Friday at a book club for singles in Manhattan.

There’s something flirty and magnetic about a physical book that tablets and smartphones can’t really capture — the idea of meeting someone in a library, in the aisle of a bookstore or while reading on the subway, for instance, remains stubbornly high on the list of many people’s romantic fantasies. Although there might be more romantic activities a single person could do on a Friday night in New York City, very few beat potentially stumbling into your next bibliophile boo while surrounded by shelf after shelf of sweet prose.

“I love when people have bookshelves, because I just go there immediately and stare at what they have,” Ms. Liu said.

At a meeting of McNally Jackson’s new After Hours Book Club (tag line: “Read, flirt, sip”), single attendees including Ms. Liu gathered at the bookseller’s location in South Street Seaport, a former maritime hub turned shopping district in Lower Manhattan, for an evening of wine, beer and discussion about “Dogs of Summer,” a novel by Andrea Abreu….

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

Pixel Scroll 11/11/23 Thanks To His Repellatron Skyway, Tom Swift Always Takes The High Road

(1) BESTSELLING WRITERS WILL OPEN BOOKSTORE. [Item by Anne Marble.] Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni are opening an indie bookstore in the historic district of Columbia, Pennsylvania. They’re planning to open it in the spring of 2024. They were inspired by indie bookstores such as Mysterious Galaxy, Dark Delicacies, etc.

Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni

Here’s their announcement: “New Brick and Mortar Bookstore”.

At the respective ages of fifty-six and forty (mumbles incoherently), Mary and I are planning for our golden years. We have seen too many of our peers struggling to write in their later years, and dependent upon those advances and royalties from book sales. It’s a sobering and frightening prospect, and we’d like a different future, with a second revenue stream so that we can continue to write in our old age….

…We are opening an independent bookstore specializing in Horror, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Bizarro, and other speculative fiction genres.

Vortex Books & Comics will open Spring of 2024 in the historic district of beautiful Columbia, Pennsylvania — easily and quickly accessible from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York City, Washington D.C. and more. We’ll carry a full complement of books from the Big Five, as well as hundreds of books from many cool indie publishers and small presses, and titles in Espanol and other languages. We’ll host weekly signings, readings, workshops, and other events. We know this business, and are intimately familiar with its ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Our goal is to make the store a destination. As our record for the last 30 years shows, we believe that Horror fiction is for everyone, and Vortex will echo that. All are welcome, and all will have a place on our shelves….

And for everyone in the community who wants to help, there’s a GoFundMe: “Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni’s Bookstore”.

…If you would like to show your solidarity and support with a donation, it will be put toward further set-up costs such as fixtures, security, inventory, marketing and advertising, signage, etc. thus giving us a bit of breathing room and time to make the store profitable….

(2) AI IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by Cliff.] Very interesting take on ‘AI’ from a number of authors. Two of them reference Italo Calvino, who I guess was ahead of his time in dwelling on this subject.“’It is a beast that needs to be tamed’: leading novelists on how AI could rewrite the future” in the Guardian.

Bernardine Evaristo

… Imagine a future where those who are most adept at getting AI to write creatively will dominate, while we writers who spend a lifetime devoted to our craft are sidelined. OK, this is a worst‑case scenario, but we have to consider it, because ChatGPT and the other Large Language Models (LLMs) out there have been programmed to imagine a future that threatens many creative professions. ChatGPT is already responding to the questions I ask it in seconds, quite reliably. It is an impressive beast, but one that needs to be tamed. We cannot afford to ignore it…

(3) CUT! The Hugo Book Club Blog argues against ratification of two new Hugo categories which received first passage at the Chengdu Worldcon business meeting: “Hugo Book Club Blog: Indie Cinema And The Hugo Of Doom”.

At the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting, a constitutional amendment was passed that would (if ratified at the 2024 Business Meeting) add two new categories to the already long list of Hugo Awards: Best Independent Short Film and Best Independent Feature Film.

The beauty and diversity of global cinema and of independent film is something that should be more celebrated at the Hugo Awards. But despite our love of independent SFF cinema, we are firmly opposed to the creation of a secondary award for a specific type of movie.

… In recent years, sub-par corporate works such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Avengers Endgame have received Hugo nods ahead of significantly better independent and foreign movies such as Robot & Frank and Prospect. That does point to problems with the category. But the solution is advocacy. People who care about independent cinema should be working to encourage Hugo voters to check out a wider variety of films, and then giving them the time to watch those movies by WSFS extension of eligibility under rule 3.4.3.

Over the past four years, we have filed extension of eligibility motions (allowing a longer time for Hugo voters to consider nominating) on lower-budget SFF movies like After YangStrawberry MansionNeptune FrostMad GodNine DaysBeyond The Infinite Two MinutesPsycho GoremanThe Color Out Of Space, and Prospect. We are passionate about celebrating and promoting independent SFF movies. However, we do not think that the best way to recognize that is with the creation of new Hugo Award categories, seemingly based on how much money a film makes.

There are a number of problems with the idea of a Hugo Award for independent cinema. The first and most significant to us is that creating these categories positions independent cinema as something other than “real” movies…

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

Southern Weekly article

This is a long piece – which can also be found in truncated form here, and partially behind a login barrier here – covering a number of aspects of the convention.  There are some factual errors – for example, stating that the first Worldcon took place in Chicago – but overall it is the most thorough coverage of the con that I’ve seen from a media outlet.

Following are several extracts, via Google Translate with manual edits to the text for style and grammar.  I have reordered and grouped chunks of the text, in order to put related material together.  Note: 南方周末 literally translates as “Southern Weekend”, but images on that page show that they use the English name “Southern Weekly”, so I’ve tried to update all references from the former to the latter.

On the location and date of the con:

The Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, the main venue of the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, is located in the center of a two-kilometer radius area called “Science Fiction Avenue”. When Chengdu’s bid to host the event was successful two years ago, it was still a wilderness. This plot of land in Pidu District, Chengdu, which was originally planned as a “Science and Technology Museum”, was quickly upgraded to become a “Science Fiction Museum”…

It’s already chilly in Chengdu in late October, and the summer vacation period for students is long past. When Chengdu applied to host the World Science Fiction Convention in 2021, many student science fiction fans spent money – around 600 yuan [$80 USD] – to register as members of DisCon III, in order to vote for Chengdu [in site selection], with the expectation that they would attend the science fiction event during their summer vacation…

Co-chair Chen Shi comments:

[Note: He also uses the English name Raistlin Chen – as seen on the video wall at the ceremonies – but most English language material, such as the staff page on the con’s site, uses Chen Shi, so I’ve kept with that.

Pretty much all coverage of the con describes him – and the other members of the concom – as members of the “Chengdu Science Fiction Society” (examples: 12), but an archived copy of the original “Worldcon in China” website shows that he is/was a marketing director at the Chengdu Business Daily news organization, and that several other members of the bid/con team are/were also employees of that company.  Whether people will feel that this context is relevant, YMMV…]

“Its charm is that it is a spirit based on a community of creators. Everyone is both a participant and a creator. This is something given to it by cultural tradition and cannot be replaced or copied casually,” convention co-chair Chen Shi told Southern Weekly reporters…

Chen Shi had also applied for a panel at Chi-Con 8. “I just filled in a form, and the organizing committee told me when and where it would take place. You can just do it yourself, and they won’t bother you,” Chen Shi said.  “Given China’s cultural background, this may not be suitable.”

“The foreign World Science Fiction Convention is very attractive to the fantasy fandom, but within the fandom, their core membership is around 20,000 people. The number of people who come every year does not change much, and it has formed its own community culture. There is a cultural threshold you have to pass in order to enter that community. If we were to completely copy that, it might be very miserable…” When Chen Shi first thought about what kind of World Science Fiction Convention he would hold, he had already decided to take a different path.

[Question: when Chen Shi and/or the Chengdu team were doing presentations at other events, was there any indication that “he had already decided to take a different path”, or what that path might be?]

On the exhibition areas and panels:

The two large halls on the first floor are the divided into the commercial exhibitors, and the science fiction fan tables. Most of the dozens of booths in the corporate exhibition hall are Chinese companies. Some sell science fiction cultural creations, some make projections, and more are engaged in science fiction publishing. The sound and light effects of their booths are eye-catching, which clearly differs from the adjacent fan exhibition area. The corporate exhibition hall is something that has never been seen in previous Worldcons. The support of the government, the participation of enterprises, and the brand promotion of a large number of sponsors have given the event more forms and commercial value.

Compared with the coolness of the corporate exhibition area, the science fiction fan exhibition area looks much simpler.  A table, a flag, an introduction card or a QR code. They come from university clubs, foreign science fiction organizations, and unknown amateur authors… It’s a bit like a recruitment fair for university clubs. On the table of the Tibetan science fiction club, there are Tibetan science fiction works that have been published over the years. A young Tibetan man patiently introduces the history of Tibetan science fiction to curious onlookers. This kind of atmosphere is more like the previous World Science Fiction Conventions. Science fiction literature research scholar Arthur Liu attended the 2019 Dublin Worldcon, and recalls that the atmosphere there was “free and easy”…

There were more than 400 panels registered for the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, and more than 230 panels were eventually held…  This time, the Chengdu Organizing Committee invited a total of more than 600 guests, including more than 180 overseas guests – of whom more than 150 people were present at the con – who formed the bulk of the panellists.

On the WSFS Business Meeting:

But old science fiction fans all know that “only by attending business meetings can you have a deep understanding of the organization and participation methods of the World Science Fiction Association and the World Science Fiction Convention, and you will feel some interesting things,” Chen Shi said.

If you have personally experienced the process and debate of the business meeting, it is not difficult to understand why the fandom circle calls this meeting the “Constitutional Amendment Conference.” The business meetings of the Chengdu Worldcon are held in the Meteor Hall of the Science Fiction Hall, which is a small hall independent of the main building. People with [a WSFS] membership can enter to listen, express opinions and vote at any time. …

Comment: regarding “a small hall independent of the main building”, comments I have seen from a couple of different people indicated that it had inaccessibility issues not that far from “Beware of the Leopard” levels.  Certainly, I could never find any reference to the “Meteor Hall” on any of the several interior and exterior maps of the con that came into my possession.  (Anyone who did attend the Business Meetings, please correct me if my impression is incorrect.)

On organizational hassles for smaller entities:

It is not easy for publishers participating in the exhibition to sign and sell their books at this venue.

Xixi (pseudonym) is an editor at a publishing house. This time he brought an author’s science fiction novel to Chengdu and planned a panel. He hoped that science fiction fans could have a good chat with the author themselves, and hold a book signing.  Xixi initially communicated the entire process to the organizing committee, but a few days before the opening, he received a notice that the panel could not be placed together with the signing session. “In normal book fairs, there are book signings after the interaction between authors and readers, but here the two events must be separated in both time and location,” Xixi said. This means that readers who are interested in the author would have to make two trips to get a signed copy.

On the corporate/commercial aspects of the con:

There are various panels, forums, and summits at the World Science Fiction Convention, but in addition to the opening and closing ceremonies and the Hugo Award presentation night, there was also an “Industrial Development Summit”. Almost all the major guests were invited to attend this summit, and the lineup was comparable to the Hugo Awards night.

This was the first time an industry development-related conference has been held at the World Science Fiction Convention. At the meeting, a number of plans related to the development of the science fiction industry were announced, including the “Chengdu Consensus on the Science Fiction Industry”, the Tianwen Program, the “2023 China Chengdu Science Fiction Industry Report”, and there was even a centralized signing ceremony for science fiction industry projects. According to reports, there were 21 signed projects, with a total investment of 8 billion yuan [approx $1 billion USD].

At this “Industrial Development Summit”, Liu Cixin no longer talked about literature, but talked about industrial development: “Chengdu has long planned the layout of the science fiction industry, and related industrial plans, industrial policies, talent policies, etc. have been implemented.”

“Science fiction full industry chain ecosystem”, “IP creation” and “strengthening the image of the science fiction city”: faced with these various new words, Canadian science fiction writer Robert Sawyer said, “I am very shocked to see you turning science fiction into an industry.”  He said that in North America those who do these things may be publishers, and that science fiction is a career that is random, aimless, and without long-term planning. These industry figures were generally not invited to previous World Science Fiction Conventions, and most of the people who came were writers and editors.

The area where the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum is located will also be turned into the science fiction hub of Chengdu.  According to a person close to the local government, we were told that a science fiction industrial park may be built here in the future. “That street is a science fiction themed block, and science fiction companies may move in in the future. This area is said to be a science fiction education base; there will be training camps for science fiction writers, and summer camps for students every year, and the science fiction museum itself is a large-scale consumer and public welfare space. This area will be built into a science fiction themed tourist destination.” …

On how the more traditional aspects of Worldcons fared:

Previous conventions would set up a memorial area, which is a place for middle-aged and elderly science fiction fans to reminisce and reminisce about the past.  In 2017, the British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss [who had previously visited Chengdu, and has several works published in China] passed away. There was a small space at the World Science Fiction Convention that year, displaying his works, and photos from his life, as well as some of his treasure possessions, and a black and white TV playing back interviews with him. In 2023, Aldiss’ daughter Wendy had also come to Chengdu. She told our reporters that the Chengdu Worldcon was originally going to hold an exhibition for those photos, but it was not possible “because of a lack of space.” …

[Double Hugo finalist, CEO of the publisher 8 Light Minutes, and member of the Chengdu concom] Yang Feng originally planned to stage a commemorative exhibition at the convention, in honour of Mike Resnick, the former editor-in-chief of the American science fiction magazine “Galaxy’s Edge”.  After Resnick’s death in 2020, his collection and books were put up for online auction, and 8 Light Minutes bought a large number of items. “Look, this is full of his things,” said Yang Feng, pointing to a glass cabinet.  Initially, the organizers promised an exhibition area of 70 square meters. Worried about missing out, “thousands of yuan [was spent] on freight shipping” the collected items.  However, the exhibition area ended up being occupied by several technology companies, and Yang Feng was only given a glass cabinet.

Fans and authors talk about the changes and clashes in culture at this Worldcon:

In the midst of this sea of noise, a man was dozing on a chair. He had white hair, a cowboy hat on the table, and his eyes were lowered, as if he had entered another world. His name was James Joseph [Styles], and he had come from Australia. He is in his seventies and has been a science fiction fan for nearly fifty years. In 1975, the World Science Fiction Convention was held in Oceania for the first time. He was moved by the atmosphere of science fiction and has attended Worldcons 15 times to date.

James told us that this convention is the most special one he has ever been to. He had never seen so many enthusiastic and young science fiction fans [when he attended cons] in Europe or the United States before…

… Wang Jinkang, another science fiction writer who has stopped writing, also recalled the low ebb of Chinese science fiction in the 1990s. “At that time, Chinese science fiction was wild, and received little attention from society. However, there were also many science fiction fans. When we went to universities to participate in activities, they all I used chalk to write ‘Welcome Mr. Wang Jinkang’ on the blackboard, and that’s how we started to communicate. The simplicity back then had its charm, and I still miss it very much. It is indeed different now.”

“You can vaguely feel a conflict between [different] science fiction cultures in the convention venue,” Zero Gravity News co-editor Ling Shizhen told Southern Weekly reporters, “but I don’t think this is really a conflict. Whether things are harmful or meaningless, this is a necessary process.  If you want to embrace a truly diverse world, this step cannot be escaped.”

Outside of the above extracts, a number of people familiar to Filers, such as Ben Yalow, Kevin Standlee, Donald Eastlake, and Nicholas Whyte are namechecked or interviewed.

(5) HUNGARIAN POLITICAL EFFORTS TO LIMIT LGBTQ BOOKS AND MEDIA. The New York Times tells how “Restrictions on L.G.B.T.Q. Depictions Rattle Hungary’s Cultural World”.

When a far-right member of Hungary’s Parliament invited the media three years ago to watch her shred a book of fairy tales that included a gay Cinderella, only one reporter showed up.

But what began as lonely, crank campaign against “homosexual propaganda” by a fringe nationalist legislator, Dora Duro, has snowballed into a national movement led by the government to restrict depictions of gay and transgender people in Hungary.

The campaign has unsettled booksellers, who have been ordered to shrink-wrap works that “popularize homosexuality” to prevent young readers from browsing, and also rattled one of Hungary’s premier cultural institutions.

The director of the Hungarian National Museum was fired this past week for hosting an exhibition of news photographs, a few of which featured men in women’s clothing, and for suggesting that his staff had no legal right to check whether visitors were at least 18 years old.

The exhibition displayed scores of photos awarded prizes by the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam and had been running for weeks before Ms. Duro went to take a look with a friend and noticed a handful of images showing older gay men in the Philippines that were shot on assignment for The New York Times.

Also upset by explanatory texts that she believed were “indoctrinating” young visitors, she wrote a letter to Hungary’s culture minister, Janos Csak, complaining that photos of men wearing high heels and lipstick violated a Hungarian law that bans the display to minors of content deemed to promote homosexuality or gender fluidity.

The minister ordered the museum to bar anyone under 18 from attending the exhibition.

Tamas Revesz, a Hungarian photographer who has organized the annual show for more than 30 years, said he was aghast to arrive at the museum to find signs at the entrance restricting entry to adults “as if this place were a porn shop.”…

… Hannah Reyes Morales, who took the photographs at the center of the museum furor while on assignment for The New York Times and won a World Press Photo award, said her pictures of a Manila community called Golden Gays “are not dangerous or harmful” but portrayed “warm, kind and loving human beings.”

She said she was “saddened that their story is being kept in a shadow, echoing much of the oppression that the Golden Gays have had to live through over the years.”…

(6) DON’T SAY GAY-LICK. [Item by Anne Marble.] Have you seen this article about the use and abuse of Scottish Gaelic in Fourth Wing? (The article also mentions Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.) It’s an interesting point — language is more political than people realize. At the same time, with all those Gaelic fantasies out there, I also wonder how many other authors got it wrong and weren’t called out in it. Hmm… “Reader Frustrated Over ‘Fourth Wing’s Gaelic” at The Mary Sue.

Over the summer, Scottish BookToker Muireann went viral on Tiktok for sharing the Scottish Gaelic pronunciation of words from the bestselling adult fantasy novel Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. While she offered mild criticism of the book’s grammatical errors, Muireann spoke out again following a viral interview of Yarros at New York Comic-Con….

…Story-wise, Muireann expressed praise and excitement to see where the series goes. However, regarding the use of Scottish Gaelic, she had mixed feelings. Without spoiling anything, Muireann gave translations and best guesses on non-Gaelic words that looked to be fused with Gaelic ones. It was here she found missing accent marks and misspellings. Also, she found words in the book that, in Gaelic, would be two or three words instead of one. Many commenters appreciated the information and pointed to how different the audiobook was from actual Gaelic.

Muireann said it was cool for the language to be represented in such a popular book. She feels that other Celtic languages like Irish/Gaeilge (what Scots call Irish Gaelic) are more common in contemporary fantasy. Still, she put the onus on the publisher for not hiring a language consultant. That grace dropped off when Muireann heard Yarros speaking about the book.

“It is genuinely laughable to me that American fantasy authors can get away with this. They can use minority languages in such a disrespectful way. They’re just pronouncing them like English speakers. She’s just sprinkling Gaelic words in there to add a bit of spice to her fancy book.”

Veronica Valencia interviewed Rebecca Yarros for Popverse at NYCC 2023, where she asked Yarros to “set the record straight” on pronouncing words. After Popverse shared a video of this to TikTok, Muireann stitched it frustrated. She began by pointing out that Yarros said Gaelic by pronouncing it “gay-lick” which is a different language than the Scottish Gaelic (“gal-lick”). Muireann said most Gaelic words used were mispronounced in the interview. These were small mistakes that showed a genuine lack of care when bringing other cultures into the book…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con. He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius. And I’ve enjoyed his short fiction as well. He’s available at the usual suspects including The Case of the Little Green Men for very reasonable prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1946 Ian Miller, 77. Let’s have one illustrator and an editor this time.  He did the backgrounds for Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards film. Genre wise, he did the cover art and interior illustrations for David Day’s The Tolkien Bestiary, and what I think is one of the weirder covers for Something Wicked This Way Comes. Oh and I did say editor, didn’t I? Well he was. Between 1983 and 1985, he co-edited Interzone along with John Clute, Alan Dorey, Malcolm Edwards, Colin Greenland, Roz Kaveney, Simon Ounsley and David Pringle. 
  • Born November 11, 1947 Victoria Schochet, 76. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. She worked editorially at Analog as their managing editor and additionally at Harper, Putnam, and as a senior editor at the Berkley Publishing Group, where she co-edited with Silbersack all five volumes of The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born November 11, 1974 Felix Gilman, 49. Two series. The first, Arjun series, started off with the Thunderer novel and has one more novel so far, Gears of the City, earned him a nomination for Astounding Award in both 2009 and 2010. The other series, Half-Made World, is fantasy with a generous dollop of steampunk served warm.

(8) THE OTHER THREE-BODY ADAPTATION. “’3 Body Problem’ Premiere Date, New Trailer From Netflix”The Hollywood Reporter shares them all.

The new sci-fi drama from the creators of Game of Thrones now has a premiere date: 3 Body Problem will launch on Netflix on March 21, 2024. The streamer also released a video with some new footage from the series, which is adapted from Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning trilogy….

…There’s also a new, more specific description of the anticipated show: “A young woman’s fateful decision in 1960s China reverberates across space and time into the present day. When the laws of nature inexplicably unravel before their eyes, a close-knit group of brilliant scientists join forces with an unflinching detective to confront the greatest threat in humanity’s history.”

3 Body Problem is from Emmy-winning Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss along with Emmy-nominated True Blood writer-producer Alexander Woo.

Netflix also released some teaser art to promote the premiere date, which rather cleverly incorporates an element from the story that the novel’s fans will recognize…

(9) NO ONE WAS LEFT HOLDING THE BAG. “Astronauts dropped a tool bag during a spacewalk, and you can see it” says Space.com.

Joining stars, planets, nebulas, and galaxies as a target for skywatchers is now a surprisingly bright tool bag floating through the space around Earth. The bag of tools gave NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara the slip on Nov. 2, 2023, as they were conducting a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station (ISS). 

The tool bag is now orbiting our planet just ahead of the ISS with a visual magnitude of around 6, according to EarthSky. That means it is slightly less bright than the ice giant Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. As a result, the bag  —  officially known as a crew lock bag  —  is slightly too dim to be visible to the unaided eye, but skywatchers should be able to pick it up with binoculars.

To see it for yourself, first find out when you can find spot the space station over the next few months (NASA even has a new app to help you). The bag should be floating two to four minutes ahead of the station. As it descends rapidly, the bag is likely to disintegrate when it reaches an altitude of around 70 miles (113 kilometers) over Earth….

(10) GET A HEAD START ON SF2 CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has published an advance post of an article ahead of its next seasonal edition as it is time sensitive. It is a longer version of the new British Library exhibition on Fantasy that File770 ran the other week. “British Library Fantasy Exhibition 2023”.

Also up is a short 1-page best of Nature ‘Futures’ short story: “’Aleph’ by Lavie Tidhar”. This story came out in 2022 before this year’s (2023) explosion in artificial intelligence (AI). But AI is not ‘General AI’. What would that first conversation be like?

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Anne Marble, Brian Keene, Cliff, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/23 I’ll Scroll What She’s Scrolling

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUND GRANT DEADLINE OCTOBER 1. During SFWA’s recent annual business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Erin M. Hartshorn gave an update on the current amounts in each of the organization’s benevolent funds: $388,000 for the Emergency Medical Fund, $66,000 for the Legal Fund, and $103,000 for the Givers Fund, which will give away $30,000 worth of grants this fall. Applications for grants from the Givers Fund are due October 1. 

(2) RUSHDIE TO SPEAK. On October 21, Salman Rushdie will make one of his first in-person appearances since being severely injured in a stabbing attack last August, at Frankfurter Buchmesse: “Salman Rushdie Appears at Frankfurt’s Saturday Gala” reports Publishing Perspectives.

…This program, supported by ARD, ZDF, and 3sat, precedes the October 22 presentation to Rushdie of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as Publishing Perspectives readers know. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$26,389).

In a statement today, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos  has said, “I was very moved that Salman Rushdie is not missing the opportunity to meet the audience in Frankfurt in person, in addition to attending the award ceremony for the Peace Prize….

…As you’ll remember, the stabbing attack on Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York occurred on August 12, 2022. Dealing with severe injuries and the preparation of his new book, Rushdie has made very few public appearances since then, one of them in May in a videotaped message from New York for the British Book Awards….

(3) HOW NETFLIX DVD WORKED. [Item by Dan Bloch.] Tomorrow is, of course, Netflix DVDs last day, and there are of course lots of articles about this, all saying more or less the same thing (“Netflix DVD, we’ll miss you, even though we canceled our subscription a long time ago”). This one is different: “Netflix’s DVD service shuts down: here’s the complex tech behind it” at The Verge. It’s a longish but very interesting article about how the technology in their shipping hubs works.

… Bronway custom-designed a massive disc robot called the “automated rental return machine,” or ARRM 3660. The ARRM, as Netflix employees simply called it, was an assembly-line-sized machine consisting of 6,500 parts total. At its center were two carousels, housed behind glass doors, that were loaded up with incoming mail and then used pneumatic arms to perform all of the things people had done before: slice open returned envelopes, unpack discs, inspect them, clean them, add them to a facility’s inventory system, and get them ready to go out of the door again — basically, every job short of sorting discs and stuffing envelopes for the next customer. 

The robotics company sold 180 of these machines to Netflix in 2010, and they were deployed in stages across all of its hubs. The labor savings alone were enormous. “The hubs were a spectacular number of people,” recalled Johnson. “You could replace about five humans opening the discs with one machine.”

Once a hub was fully automated, it really only required a handful of people to operate. Warehouse workers would arrive at 2AM each day to flip on the machines and process tens of thousands of DVDs in time to deliver them to the Postal Service later that morning. “It was just one person per machine,” Gallion said. “You’d have one person running the stuffer, one person running the sorter, one person running the rental return machine.”

But automation wasn’t just about labor costs alone. Machines were also a lot better at their job, which led to less frustration for Netflix subscribers. Customers who borrowed entire seasons of a TV show would frequently mix up discs — they might put season 7 disc one of The Simpsons in the sleeve for season 7 disc two.

Netflix hub employees were supposed to catch those mix-ups and make sure that the next customer didn’t accidentally receive the wrong disc. “But humans aren’t very good at that,” Johnson said. Machines, on the other hand, aren’t fooled by similar-looking titles. “If barcode A doesn’t match barcode B, then clearly, you’ve got a mismatch,” he said…

(4) PLUMBING THE ABSTRUSE. Timothy B. Lee and Sean Trott promise: “Large language models, explained with a minimum of math and jargon” at Understanding AI.

… If you know anything about this subject, you’ve probably heard that LLMs are trained to “predict the next word,” and that they require huge amounts of text to do this. But that tends to be where the explanation stops. The details of how they predict the next word is often treated as a deep mystery.

One reason for this is the unusual way these systems were developed. Conventional software is created by human programmers who give computers explicit, step-by-step instructions. In contrast, ChatGPT is built on a neural network that was trained using billions of words of ordinary language.

As a result, no one on Earth fully understands the inner workings of LLMs. Researchers are working to gain a better understanding, but this is a slow process that will take years—perhaps decades—to complete.

Still, there’s a lot that experts do understand about how these systems work. The goal of this article is to make a lot of this knowledge accessible to a broad audience. We’ll aim to explain what’s known about the inner workings of these models without resorting to technical jargon or advanced math….

(5) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

  • Day tickets still not available

After the closure of regular ticket sales – on the con site, and on the damai.cn vendor site – the day tickets that were promised exactly a week ago — https://en.chengduworldcon.com/news3_35_95_32_66_76_50/151.html — have not yet materialized.  Here’s a (Chinese language) Weibo post from File 770 commenter Adaoli summarizing the situation:  https://weibo.com/5726230680/Nllv9A08q

I’m not sure if this is a new announcement, but I don’t recall seeing any mention of it prior to today.  Douban – which can be compared to both IMDB and Goodreads – has a listing for “Stellar Concerto”, which features stories from the three Worldcon GoHs.  The listing indicates there are new stories in this anthology, although I assume that means they are new in translation, but have been previously published in their original language.  The publisher is the Chengdu-based 8 Light Minutes Culture, which has a few staff on the Chengdu concom.

The October issue’s cover feature is about SF, although it doesn’t seem to have an explicit Worldcon connection, on the cover at least.  There are photos of some of the interior content, which seems to involve at least a couple of people on the concom, at this Weibo post: https://weibo.com/1662229842/NlnnPvnGo

The HelloChengdu Weibo account linked to a Sichuan Daily post from a couple of days ago with a 2-minute Worldcon-related video that has CG renderings of the venue that I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Although given that the con is ~20 days away, I’d have thought the time for CG renders over real-world footage should have long passed.

This one is way beyond my negligible language skills – and I think it might be a repost of something previously released – but I believe it goes over the Puppies stuff (29:43 and later), Marko Kloos declining his Hugo nomination (from 36:26) and the resulting elevation of The Three-Body Problem to be a finalist.,  Other people/things shown or namechecked include: VD and LC (30:02, VD numerous times after that), Zoe Quinn (from 32:39), GRRM’s Puppygate blog post (37:33), N. K. Jemisin (40:30), Robert Silverberg (45:24), the “GRRM Can Fuck Off Into the Sun” blog post (48:00).

This isn’t something that most File 770 readers are going to need or want to watch, but I think it’s a good illustration that Chinese fans aren’t ignorant of stuff that happens in the Anglosphere.

(6) SOMETHING MISSING. Abigail Nussbaum voices the opinion that Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins” has a lot of deficiencies as a biography at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…The core problem of A Life With Footnotes is one that felt easy to predict before even turning the first page. Terry Pratchett, to be perfectly blunt, did not live a particularly interesting life. He was the precocious son of working class parents in post-war England, who fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in his teens, fooled around with writing them with only moderate success, did some creative-adjacent salaried work (journalism, then PR), and then hit on a concept that ballooned into a world-class success with remarkable speed, after which he was very rich and very successful for the rest of his life. In other words, the life story of quite a few midcentury authors (give or take the stratospheric success). What set Pratchett apart, like most writers, was what was going on in his head….

But then, one of the most startling choices in A Life With Footnotes is how little it has to say about Pratchett the author….

Wilkins’s focus seems, instead, to be on the business side of things….

While I agree with Nussbaum’s description of what is and isn’t there, Pratchett was unable to complete his autobiography before he died so my own focus is on the book we have thanks to Rob Wilkins’ efforts, not the book we wanted.

(7) FROM PIXELS TO BRICK AND MORTAR. The New York Times says “Instagram’s Favorite Bookseller Is Ready to Go Offline”.

For Idea, a rare-book dealer and publisher in London, the dwindling of print has never been much of an issue. If anything, it has been a boon for the understated business that David Owen and Angela Hill have built, largely on the back of Instagram’s early infrastructure.

But now, Idea is navigating yet another swerve — the death of the Instagram timeline. In 2021 the social media platform moved from a chronological feed to a more opaque algorithm, which boosted videos. That meant less exposure for posts of, for example, vintage fashion books, which in turn made book selling on Instagram something of a slog.

And even though Idea has some 500,000 followers — W magazine called it an “Instagram phenomenon” in 2015 — the company is ready to experiment with a fairly antiquated idea that some may consider riskier than print itself: a physical bookstore.

In late September, Idea will open a store spread over three floors of a brick building on Wardour Street, in the London neighborhood of Soho. (The location is also Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill’s current home — they rent in the building — in a district crowded with David Bowie walking tours and lines for a Supreme store nearby.)

“What it really feels like is the perfect answer to all the frustration we’ve had with Instagram for the last couple of years, compared to the absolute joy and wonder we’ve had with it the eight previous to that,” Mr. Owen said.

When Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill started their Instagram account in 2010, it quickly became a popular feed. Glossy scans of their collection — which included issues of Six, a magazine by Commes des Garçons ($3,050); “Pentax Calendar” by Guy Bourdin ($500); and “Fiorucci: The Book” by Eve Babitz ($365) — popped out against a sea of heavily filtered selfies….

(8) MOTE GETS SHOPPED BY UNTITLED.TV. The Chaos Manor Facebook page announced an interest in making series from two Niven/Pournelle books has been expressed by Untitled.

A shopping agreement for a streaming series based on The Mote in Gods Eye and The Gripping Hand has been secured by Untitled.

With the end of the WGA strike, real work has begun to craft and pitch an expected 24+ episode, 3 year story arc.

Questions abounded on how to both streamline and lengthen the proposed series for streaming audiences. Let’s see how Untitled proceeds, now that the clock has started.

When asked Why 3 Arms? Larry Niven explained yesterday that his approach to the initial alien design was inspired by the dual question of why tool makers would need symmetry in their biology if there was limited-to-no gravity. He also posed: Do we need a spine? What if the spine was an evolutionary mistake?

(9) WHAT SIR PAT READS. The New York Times asks the actor about his reading habits in “The Most Novelistic Part That Patrick Stewart Ever Played”. But first – the hook!

“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”…

…Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Immediately on waking up I make a cup of Yorkshire Gold with a chocolate digestive and read in bed for half an hour, or more. Always a book. Never a script or emails. This not only wakes me up, it puts me back in the world we are living in and who we are today. Unless there is an urgent reason I do not look at newspaper headlines, or listen to the news until halfway through the morning.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

You know, I haven’t heard of it either….

(10) MICHAEL GAMBON (1940-2023). Actor Michael Gambon died September 27. Variety profiles his career in its obituary: “Michael Gambon Dies: Harry Potter’s Dumbledore Was 82”.

Michael Gambon, the Irish-English actor best known for his role as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the “Harry Potter” movies, has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 82.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon,” his family said in a statement. “Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

While it is easier for a character actor, often working in supporting roles, to rack up a large number of credits than it is for lead actors, Gambon was enormously prolific, with over 150 TV or film credits in an era when half that number would be impressive and unusual — and this for a man whose body of stage work was also prodigious.

He played two real kings of England: King Edward VII in “The Lost Prince” (2003) and his son, King George V, in “The King’s Speech” (2010); Winston Churchill in his later years in the 2015 ITV/PBS “Masterpiece” telepic “Churchill’s Secret”; U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in John Frankenheimer’s 2002 HBO telepic “Path to War,” for which he was Emmy-nominated; and a fictional British prime minister in “Ali G Indahouse,” also in 2002. And as Hogwarts headmaster in the “Harry Potter” movies, he presided over the proceedings therein. In 2016, he served as the narrator for the Coen brothers’ paean to golden-age Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar.”…

And you can see a photo of Michael Gambon, circa 1970, from when he was invited by producer Cubby Broccoli to test for James Bond at the Tim Burton Wiki.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Nom de plume of the writer of The Cadfael Chronicles,which I’ll admit I broke my rule of never watching a video adaption of a print series that I like. Derek Jacobi as Cadfael was damn perfect. She is here because she was the writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire, under her real name of Edith Pargeter. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1932 Michael G. Coney. British-born writer who spent the last half of his life in Canada. He’s best remembered for his Hello Summer, Goodbye novelI’m very fond of The Celestial Steam Locomotive and Gods of the Greataway which might be set on what could be Vancouver Island. His only Award was from the BSFA for Brontomek!, one of his Amorphs Universe works, although he was a 1996 Nebula nominee for his “Tea and Hamsters” novelette, and a five-time finalist for the Aurora Award. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 28, 1938 Ron Ellik. Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 73. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; and he wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 60. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 41. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story.
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 37. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288.

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something that might be a case for an insurance company. But is it an act of God? 

(13) FIFTY CALIBER. Congratulations to Michaele Jordan on her appearance in 50 Give or Take!

(14) CHOPPED. “Now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, it’s a free-for-all.” NPR tells how “Winnie-the-Pooh is now being used to raise awareness about deforestation”. [Click for larger image.]

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Deforested Edition is a reimagining of the A.A. Milne classic created by the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap.

There is just one, stark difference: There are no trees.

The Hundred Acre Wood? Gone.

Piglet’s “house in the middle of a beech-tree” is no longer “grand.”

Six Pine Trees is six pine stumps.

Yes, this is imaginative PR (a free eBook is available on the Who Gives A Crap website; a hardcover was available for purchase but is now sold out). But the company’s co-founder, Danny Alexander, said the goal is to raise awareness about deforestation. Who Gives A Crap prides itself on “creating toilet paper from 100% recycled paper or bamboo,” he said….

… Alexander said Who Gives A Crap has tried to spread the word that “over a million trees are cut down every single day just to make traditional toilet paper,” according to a study the company commissioned….

(15) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 93 of the Octothorpe podcast “The Good Thing About the Hugos” is now up.

John Coxon is husky, Alison Scott is a dingo, and Liz Batty is a ridgeback.

We discuss Chengdu, our impact on Chinese fandom, Glasgow, its impact on Glaswegian fandom, and then all the Hugo categories bar one (foreshadowing). Or four, depending on how you count.

(16) PROTON ART. “Painting with protons: treatment beams recreate works of art” at Physics World.

Intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) is an advanced cancer treatment technique that uses narrow pencil-like beams of protons – painted spot-by-spot and layer-by-layer within the patient – to deliver radiation in highly complex dose patterns. Combined with sophisticated treatment planning techniques, IMPT can shape the proton dose to match the targeted tumour with unprecedented accuracy, maximizing the destruction of cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Looking to showcase the impressive power of IMPT to create intricate dose distributions, medical physicist Lee Xu from the New York Proton Center came up with an unusual approach – he used proton pencil beams to recreate a series of well-known paintings as treatment plans, effectively using the protons as a paintbrush….

(17) DISKWORLDS. In this week’s Nature: “How worlds are born: JWST reveals exotic chemistry of planetary nurseries”, “The telescope is delivering a cascade of insights about the ‘protoplanetary’ disks where planets take shape.”

 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is aweing scientists and the public alike with its spectacular images of distant galaxies and its discoveries of dozens of new black holes. Yet JWST is also rewriting scientists’ understanding of objects on a slightly smaller, more relatable scale: how planets form from swirls of gas and dust around young stars. Such ‘protoplanetary’ disks are what the environs of the Sun would have been like 4.6 billion years ago, with planets coalescing from the whirling material around an infant star.

JWST is revealing how water is delivered to rocky planets taking shape in such disks. It’s providing clues to the exotic chemistry in these planetary nurseries. And it has even found fresh evidence for a cosmic hit-and-run in one of the most famous debris disks, encircling the star Beta Pictoris…

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/23 There’s No Business Like Scroll Business

(1) CHENGDU’S OFFER TO HUGO FINALISTS. Joe Yao, a WSFS Division department head for Chengdu, provides more information about the assistance being offered to 2023 Hugo finalists to attend the Worldcon:

As it is the first time a Worldcon held in China, along with the first time for the Hugo Awards presented in China, we really like to have more finalists coming in person, and they can also participate in program and other activities if they want. But as we all know, it is a long and expensive trip for most of the finalists and they might not afford such a trip by themselves, thus we tried our best to help them, even though we have limited budget as well.

Hope there will be more finalists coming in October.

It appears the offer of help is being offered to 2023 Hugo finalists generally (or to one representative of finalists involving teams of multiple editors/creators). A few more people who have confirmed to File 770 that they received the offer include Gideon Marcus, Alison Scott, and Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk (the latter got theirs today; they didn’t have it yet when they responded yesterday.)

(2) WRITER BEWARE. “Contract, Payment Delays at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” at Writer Beware.

F&SF takes First North American Serial Rights and pays on acceptance (which in practice means on receipt of a contract). Acceptance emails indicate that writers will receive a contract and a check within two to four weeks. However, Writer Beware has recently received multiple reports from writers whose work has been officially accepted but, months later, are still waiting for contracts and checks.

…Writers also report a variety of other delays: waiting for notification of official acceptance well beyond the stated acquisition timeline of 6 weeks to 6 months; receiving copy edits and proofs for accepted stories without having received a contract or payment; receiving contract and payment only weeks before the publication date, after months of waiting; completing requested revisions and then hearing nothing more. Many of the writers who contacted me say that they’ve sent repeated emails asking about the delays, and haven’t received a response….

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss contacted F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder and heard what he is doing to resolve the issues. See his responses at the link.

(3) SDCC AMID THE STRIKES. Rob Kutner says the lack of big movie presentations had its advantages in “Comic-Con In the Time of Strikes” at Book and Film Globe.

…As I’ve written here, Comic-Con offers many uses for the working (on non-struck things) professional. I came this year in part to network for gigs, and in part to sign my new kids’ graphic novel at my publisher’s table. Neither of those directly tied to the big panel/preview scene, so for me it was mostly business as usual. Nor, at first glance, could I necessarily spot a difference, other than some occasionally empty patches in the crowds, which would normally be wall-to-wall nerd.

However, after two days, some patterns began to emerge, and friends and colleagues that I spoke to confirmed this. As Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s Director of Fan Relations for the first two Star Wars movies, described it, the effect on strike-year Comic-Con was “both profound and minimal. Hall H, the big, 6,000-person room”—where they often announce the latest Marvel or Star War for the first time — “is empty. There are no lines of people waiting hours to get into that room. But they’re still here at the convention.”

As a result, Miller spent the Con at a table, selling his memoir Star Wars Memories, and sold every last copy. Granted, any SDCC might have brought him scads of customers who liked both Star Wars and books, but it’s also a highly competitive environment, with literally hundreds of vendors and publishers vying for those same dollars.

This time, however, the diversion of crowds, who might otherwise be in Lineworld, onto the main convention floor created a flood of foot traffic for vendors that lifted even the smallest boats. Rantz Hoseley, VP of Editorial for Z2 Comics, confirms, “sales and signings at our booth were the biggest we’ve had at any convention, with a number of deluxe editions selling out by Thursday evening [the first of Comic-Con’s four days].”…

(4) BACK TO 1955. In “Buckle Your (DeLorean) Seatbelt: ‘Back to the Future’ Lands on Broadway”, the New York Times talks to franchise co-creator Bob Gale.

…And now on Broadway: “Back to the Future: The Musical,” which opens Aug. 3 at the Winter Garden Theater, follows a story that will be familiar to fans of the film. Using a time machine devised by Doc Brown, Marty McFly travels to 1955, meets his parents Lorraine and George as teenagers and must help them fall in love after he disrupts the events that led to their romantic coupling.

On its yearslong path to Broadway, “Back to the Future” has faced some challenges that are common to musical adaptations and others unique to this property.

While the show’s creators sought actors to play the roles indelibly associated with the stars of the film and decided which of the movie’s famous scenes merited musical numbers, they were also trying to figure out how the stage could accommodate the fundamental elements of “Back to the Future” — like, say, a plutonium-powered sports car that can traverse the space-time continuum.

Now this “Back to the Future” arrives on Broadway with some steep expectations: After a tryout in Manchester, England, its production at the Adelphi Theater in London’s West End won the 2022 Olivier Award for best new musical. The show also carries a heavy price tag — it is being capitalized for $23.5 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Throughout its development process, the people behind it — including several veterans of the “Back to the Future” series — tried to remain true to the spirit of the films and keep intact a story that has held up for nearly 40 years.

Bob Gale, who wrote the original movie with Robert Zemeckis, said of the stage adaptation: “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We just want to make the wheel smooth.”

But, he added, “It cannot be a slavish adaptation of the movie. Because if that’s what people want to see, they should stay home and watch the movie. Let’s use the theater for what theater can do.”…

(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] LearnedLeague is currently in its “off-season” when it features player-created content, including 12-question specialized quizzes that last for one day. Monday there was one about the Stargate movie and TV franchise. As I write this it’s still live, but by the time tonight’s Pixel Scroll goes out, it will be graded and so available for the public to view. Here’s a link: Stargate 1DS

(6) CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERIES. James Davis Nicoll encourages readers to “Take a Minute to Celebrate the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

Time is nobody’s friend. Authors in particular can fall afoul of time—all it takes is a few years out of the limelight. Publishers will let their books fall out of print; readers will forget about them. Replace “years” with “decades” and authors can become very obscure indeed.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was founded in 2001 to draw attention to unjustly forgotten SF authors…. Since it’s been five years (and there have been four new recipients) since we last discussed the award in 2018, I’ve updated the discussion to include the newest honorees—including the most recent winner, announced this past weekend at Readercon.

I wish the award were more widely known, that it had, perhaps, its own anthology. If it did, it might look a bit like this. Who are the winners? Why should you care about them? I am so happy I pretended you asked….

(7) FANAC.ORG NEWS. The fanhistory website Fanac.org has been adding scanned fanzines at an colossal rate. Among their accomplishments, they’ve finished scanning a run of Imagination, by LASFS members during the Fighting Forties…

We’ve added more than 1,000 publications since the last newsflash in March, and about 2,000 since the last full newsletter in December 2022. We’ve added some great zines by Arnie Katz, and many APAzines from Jeanne Gomoll. Here are some highlights.

 We completed our run of LASFS’s first important fanzine, Imagination including the Rejected issue. Imagination is filled with contributions from notables in the field, fan and pro, among them Yerke and Bok, Kuttner and Bloch, Bradbury and Lowndes, Hornig and Wollheim, and of course 4sj….

(8) WILL WIKI MATE WITH CHATGPT? Jon Gartner calls it h “Wikipedia’s Moment of Truth”. “Can the online encyclopedia help teach A.I. chatbots to get their facts right — without destroying itself in the process?”

In late June, I began to experiment with a plug-in the Wikimedia Foundation had built for ChatGPT. At the time, this software tool was being tested by several dozen Wikipedia editors and foundation staff members, but it became available in mid-July on the OpenAI website for subscribers who want augmented answers to their ChatGPT queries. The effect is similar to the “retrieval” process that Jesse Dodge surmises might be required to produce accurate answers. GPT-4’s knowledge base is currently limited to data it ingested by the end of its training period, in September 2021. A Wikipedia plug-in helps the bot access information about events up to the present day. At least in theory, the tool — lines of code that direct a search for Wikipedia articles that answer a chatbot query — gives users an improved, combinatory experience: the fluency and linguistic capabilities of an A.I. chatbot, merged with the factuality and currency of Wikipedia.

One afternoon, Chris Albon, who’s in charge of machine learning at the Wikimedia Foundation, took me through a quick training session. Albon asked ChatGPT about the Titan submersible, operated by the company OceanGate, whose whereabouts during an attempt to visit the Titanic’s wreckage were still unknown. “Normally you get some response that’s like, ‘My information cutoff is from 2021,’” Albon told me. But in this case ChatGPT, recognizing that it couldn’t answer Albon’s question — What happened with OceanGate’s submersible? — directed the plug-in to search Wikipedia (and only Wikipedia) for text relating to the question. After the plug-in found the relevant Wikipedia articles, it sent them to the bot, which in turn read and summarized them, then spit out its answer. As the responses came back, hindered by only a slight delay, it was clear that using the plug-in always forced ChatGPT to append a note, with links to Wikipedia entries, saying that its information was derived from Wikipedia, which was “made by volunteers.” And this: “As a large language model, I may not have summarized Wikipedia accurately.”

But the summary about the submersible struck me as readable, well supported and current — a big improvement from a ChatGPT response that either mangled the facts or lacked real-time access to the internet. Albon told me, “It’s a way for us to sort of experiment with the idea of ‘What does it look like for Wikipedia to exist outside of the realm of the website,’ so you could actually engage in Wikipedia without actually being on Wikipedia.com.” Going forward, he said, his sense was that the plug-in would continue to be available, as it is now, to users who want to activate it but that “eventually, there’s a certain set of plug-ins that are just always on.”…

(9) MITCH THORNHILL (IRA) OBITUARY. Mitch Thornhill (Ira) died July 25 after many months of serious medical problems. He lived in Mississippi. However, he first became known as a fan in the Seventies while living in New Orleans and Minneapolis. He sometimes went by the name Ira M. Thornhill.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one, and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightenment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories about a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on The Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 75. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. 
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 52. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets, a sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 — Mur Lafferty, 50. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Valerie Valdes. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. She has two nominations at Chicon 8, first for Best Semi Prozine as part of the Escape Pod team, second for Best Editor, Short Form with S.B. Divya. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NO THERE THERE. GameRant warns that this “steelbook” collectible doesn’t include a copy of the series: “WandaVision Steelbook Release Is Missing An Actual Blu-Ray Copy”.

WandaVision is the first Disney Plus series to have a physical release, but the upcoming steelbook doesn’t actually include any discs or a download code.

The steelbook set includes a case, full slip, folder, envelope, character cards, and stickers, but the lack of actual physical media may turn fans off.

The decision to release a steelbook without including the series itself seems odd and could be seen as a disappointment, especially considering Disney’s recent removal of other series from its streaming platform…

(13) NASFIC COVERAGE. “Winnipeg hosts first Canadian version of international science fiction convention” at CTV News Winnipeg

…Unlike other “comic-cons,” Pemmi-Con makes a point of bringing in scientists as well as science fiction content creators. Canadian paleontologist Phillip John Currie is speaking about Jurassic Park-inspired fiction and dinosaur art and will be participating on a panel about recent scientific discoveries.

Other guests include biologist and author Julie E. Czerneda, Captain Canuck comic creator George Freeman, and Indigenous author Waubgeshig Rice.

“One of the things we’re trying to do this year is…emphasize Indigenous contributions to Canadian science fiction and fantasy,” Smith said.

The convention takes a different name every year relating to its location. Pemmi-Con is an homage to pemmican, a popular Metis dish in Manitoba. Smith said NASFiC attracts a worldwide audience….

(14) TECHNOLOGY NEVER DIES. Especially when somebody is devoted to keeping it around like the people who host the Mimeograph Revival website.

Mimeograph Revival is dedicated to preserving the printing technologies of an earlier era – with a particular emphasis on the stencil duplicator, the hectograph, and (maybe, as this is still a work in progress) the spirit duplicator. These are the techniques, machines, and processes that have fallen by the wayside, been relegated to “obsolete” status, and nearly forgotten.

Once ubiquitous, these machines ushered in an era in which it became possible for individuals and organizations, including clubs, fraternal organizations, churches, and schools, to quickly, easily, and cheaply reproduce printed matter. 

There’s not too much fannish content, however, the “Personal Narratives” section has a wonderful anecdote by Jeff Schalles.

Jeff Schalles, fanzine creator, printer, and founder of the facebook Mimeograph Users Group left the following story here at M. R. one day. A little historical documentation personal-narrative-style:

A while ago I was contacted by a researcher working for National Geographic Magazine. She was looking for material for an article on mimeo and ditto printing of the Greenwich Village Beat poets and writers scene and poetry chapbook creaters of the 1950’s.

I responded by suggesting she contact the late Lee Hoffman concerning the gatherings in her Greenwich Village apartment, where musicians like Dave Van Ronk and the poets, writers, musicians, and other local Beats, would jam all night. Lee had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and taped many of the parties.

Lee also had a mimeograph and produced Science Fiction fanzines, including the long-running “Science Fiction Five Yearly” published every five years until Lee died sometime in the early 21st Century. The print runs were short and there are few copies of SF Five Yearly around. Geri Sullivan and I edited and mimeo’d two of the later issues for Lee. Harlan Ellison had a long-running serial in every issue and never missed a deadline until Lee’s death finally ended the run of Science Fiction Five Yearly.

The Geographic researcher was only interested in “The Mimeograph Revolution” and its beginnings. Her response to my suggestion that she contact Lee, who was by then living in Florida, was that there was… absolutely, positively, no connection between the Beats and Science Fiction Fandom. She was very rude to me, and obviously had no interest and little knowledge of SF Fandom. I just sighed and stopped corresponding with her. I blame Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of National Geographic for hiring an idiot like her.

I’m of the opinion that SF fan mimeographers like Ted White, who had a small basement mimeograph print shop in the Village, had something to do with teaching the Beats how to use the technology. The Geographic researcher insisted that was impossible, and that SF Fandom was just a bunch of teenage amateurs amounting to nothing.

I’ve asked around to see if any of Lee’s party tapes survived, but no one ever got back to me, so I suspect they were tossed in a dumpster.

(15) NETFLIX PASSWORD CRACKDOWN: HOW HAS PERFORMANCE CHANGED? With the recent news about Netflix changes and its growth, JustWatch has put together a graphic about the global market shares of streaming services and how Netflix performed over the last 2 years.

In brief, global streaming giant Netflix found a way to restore its former glory after losing -3% market share in 2022. Launching a “Basic with Ads” brought back some interest, however the key move was introducing password sharing crackdown, as they gained nearly 6 million subscribers in the last three months.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ahsoka, a Star Wars Original series, begins streaming August 23 on Disney+.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/14/22 The Sky Was Full Of Scrolls

(1) DANGER MAN. Max Gladstone holds forth about “The Wolfeman” at The Third Place.

Gene Wolfe is a tricky writer to discuss.

For a certain type of reader (generally but not exclusively a reader of science fiction), he is The Author. He is axiomatically intelligent and referential. His texts are not merely without flaw—they are without accident, each element load-bearing. If any piece of text (or elision) in a Gene Wolfe novel could be read to suggest vast churning implications invisible to the casual reader, it has definitely been read that way by someone on the internet. The terrifying thing is that many of these readings are not wrong. They’re not even generous. They are sometimes, even often, the readings that most account for the facts of the text.

And this is why talking about his books and stories feels dangerous. To discuss, say, Wolfe’s PEACE, which I recently finished re-reading, one must put forth some theories about what PEACE is, what’s happening both in the book and between the lines of this book. This raises two risks.

First, one risks short-circuiting another reader’s tremendous and eerie process of discovery. (Even as I write this very general description, I worry: am I doing the literary equivalent of recommending a movie by saying it “has a great twist”? But PEACE isn’t about twists. It’s about the experience of realizing how much attention one should pay. More on this in a bit.)

Second, when one puts forth a theory, one risks being wrong….

(2) CAN*CON LEADERSHIP CHANGE. Derek Künsken is stepping down after nearly 11 years as Co-Chair of Can*Con, Ottawa’s literary scifi and fantasy conference. The conference has won Canadian national awards and is the major con in Eastern Canada. Marie Bilodeau, currently co-chair, will assume the chair role solo. “A Message from Derek Künsken, Programming Co-Chair: Don’t worry, I left Marie the Keys, or Hayden was right again”.

… Marie will lead the conference to its next successes and glories. She’s got a great team, great ideas and she’s a community leader I would follow anywhere. I’ll remain a member of the board of directors, and I’ll suggest panel ideas from time to time and I’ll apply to be on programming and see if they take me…

(3) MASKED AND UNMASKED IN ABUNDANCE. “Fans Come Roaring Back to New York Comic Con 2022”Publishers Weekly gives its assessment.

New York Comic Con returned to the Javits Center October 6-9 at full strength for 2022. The event drew 200,000 attendees, according to a spokesperson for ReedPop, the show organizer.

The show floor was crammed with enthusiastic fans of media and with cosplayers, who enjoyed elaborate displays from mostly manga and toy companies. However, the show floor was not crammed with mask-wearing attendees. Despite a mandate from ReedPop that masks would be required—and volunteers handing them out at the door—enforcement was lax, with less than 50% of the crowd wearing one at many times. Compliance was similarly mixed among booth workers and creators who set up displays. Although some booth workers were vocal on social media and in-person about their alarm over the lack of Covid masking protocols, many workers behind tables were unmasked most of the time as well.

Whether NYCC will be another super spreader event, like some recent pop culture events, remains to be seen, but it was clear that the general public anxiety over Covid is receding in this new and more complacent era….

(4) A LEARNEDLEAGUE THROWBACK. Courtesy of David Goldfarb.

Question 2 of match day 18 of LearnedLeague season 87, in December of 2020 asked us:

Kindred, the Parable/Earthseed series, and Bloodchild and Other Stories are well-known works of what Hugo and Nebula Award-winning American author, a “godmother of Afrofuturism” who became in 1995 the first science fiction author to be granted a MacArthur fellowship?

The answer of course is Octavia E. Butler. 32% of players got this right league-wide, with the most common wrong answer being Ursula K. LeGuin (perhaps some people confused “Earthseed” with “Earthsea”).

(5) GET IT ON THE CALENDAR. The winner of the 2022 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction will be named on October 21 in a virtual event hosted by actor and author Anthony Rapp. There will be readings from the authors of the nine shortlisted books before they reveal the inaugural prize winner.

(6) GENRE SHOPPING. Netflix merch can be bought here: “Vecna comes to the Grove as Netflix debuts pop-up store” in the Los Angeles Times.

A life-sized version of Vecna from the popular sci-fi series “Stranger Things ” and Queen Charlotte’s throne from drama “Bridgerton” are coming to the Grove.

The photo opportunities are part of Netflix’s new store opening Thursday at the L.A. shopping center.

Inside the 10,000-square-foot space, fans will be able to buy merchandise related to popular Netflix shows including the dollhouse from “Gabby’s Dollhouse,” Funko collectible figures from “Squid Game” and “Stranger Things”-related clothing, such as a Hellfire Club raglan shirt or Palace Arcade hoodie.

The store will be open from Thursday until Jan. 6….

(7) TAKE THE CASH AND LET THE CREDIT GO. AbeBooks shared the 15 “Most expensive sales from July to September 2022”. There are many sf and fantasy works among them.

#4 — The Dark Tower by Stephen King – $24,000

No introductions are necessary for Mr King, who released a new novel called Fairy Tale in September. These are the nine volumes of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series published by Donald M. Grant, and they have all been signed by the author and their respective illustrator. The nine volumes are Dark Tower: Gunslinger (published in 1982), The Drawing of the Three (1987), The Wastelands (1991), Wizard and Glass (1997), Wolves of the Calla (2003), Song of Susannah (2004), The Dark Tower (2004), The Little Sisters of Eluria (2008), and The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012). All copies are first editions.

#6 — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick – $21,275

This is the 1968 US first edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep published by Doubleday. First editions of this influential science fiction book, which inspired the Blade Runner movies, are scarce.

This book was sold with an original letter to Venom Magazine typed and signed by Philip K Dick. In the letter, which was also published in The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick 1980-1982, Dick asks if he can review his own work. The third part of this sale is Dick’s typed humorous review of his own book, The Divine Invasion.

#7 — A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne – $20,000

An 1874 first American edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, published by Scribner Armstrong and Co, with a laid-in author signature. Verne’s novel imagines an underground world inhabited by prehistoric creatures where travel is possible via volcanic tubes.

#9 — Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne – $17,500

An 1873 first edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas published by James R. Osgood. This underwater adventure story first appeared in serial form in a French periodical in 1871. Verne’s depiction of the Nautilus correctly foresaw the impact that submarines would have on the maritime world, starting in World War I when both Germany and Britain used submarines to sink naval and merchant shipping.

#11 — Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $12,500

A 1997 Bloomsbury first edition fourth printing of the first Harry Potter book, signed by J.K. Rowling on the front free endpaper with its original dust jacket. This copy includes a rare Harry Potter postcard signed by the author.

#13 — A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – $12,000

An 1843 first edition first printing published by Chapman & Hall bound in half maroon morocco letter. A Christmas Carol was published on December 19 in 1843 and became an instant bestseller. A novella, this book helped craft the modern version of Christmas with its focus on family, food, and giving. Scrooge has entered the lexicon for anyone who is tight-fisted. AbeBooks sold another first edition of this book, accompanied by a Dickens letter, earlier in 2022 for $20,000.

(8) ROBBIE COLTRANE (1950-2022). The Scots actor Robbie Coltrane, famed as Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, who also starred in the British crime drama Cracker, died October 14 at the age of 72. The cause of death was not disclosed. The Hollywood Reporter’s profile includes more genre roles.

…Coltrane’s early TV credits include Flash Gordon, Blackadder and Keep It in the Family. His other comedy credits included series like A Kick Up the Eighties, The Comic Strip and Alfresco as he became a mainstay on British TV screens.

Coltrane’s breakout role was playing Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, an anti-social criminal psychologist with a gift for solving crimes, in Jimmy McGovern’s Cracker series, which ran over 25 episodes between 1993 and 2006.

That BAFTA-winning performance led Coltrane to roles in two James Bond films as he played Valentin Zukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough…. 

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Something Wicked This Way Comes film (1983)

Look, it’s Autumn, isn’t it? Therefore shouldn’t we talk about one of the Autumnal fantasy films that got done? So let’s converse about Something Wicked This Way Comes which came out thirty-nine years ago though I admit not at this time of year as inexplicably the Mouse released it in April.

It was based as you know upon the Ray Bradbury novel that Simon & Schuster published twenty-one years previously with a cover by Gray Fox.  To my utter amazement, it won absolutely no Awards. Pity that. It has however been continuously in print ever since. Yes, I think it’s a spectacular piece of writing perfectly suited to the season. 

Usually I find films based on works I loved somewhat of letdown but not here as Bradbury wrote the script and a decent amount of his script survived the Mouse mangling it. Yes Bradbury and Mouse became the Kilkenny Cats rather quickly. 

It was directed by Jack Clayton whose only previous film I recognize is The Great Gatsby which was a phenomenal movie. He was a British film director and producer who specialized in bringing literary works to the screen such as The Innocents, so Something Wicked This Way Comes wasn’t really in his wheelhouse. 

It had an amazing cast of these adults: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd and Pam Grier, plus Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson as the most important characters here, the boys.  

If you haven’t read or seen it, a deep boo on you as I’m not discussing the story. Let’s just say Bradbury did a wonderful job of moving it from text to video even if the Mouse messed with it which they did. Bad Mouse.. 

Bradbury explains in Zen in the Art of Writing that it started as ‘The Black Ferris’ a 3,000-word story, published in Weird Tales (1948), about two youngsters who suspect there is something peculiar about the carnival that comes to town. The story became a seventy-page screen treatment, Dark Carnival (1958), a project for Gene Kelly to direct. Unproduced, the treatment became a novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962); the novel, a screenplay (1971), then a second screenplay (1976), and… at last, a film.

Bradbury wanted either Peter O’Toole and Christopher Lee to play Mr. Dark. Lee I can see, but O’Toole? However, the Mouse went as cheap as possible and cast someone who wasn’t well known, so hence Jonathan Pryce. This was five years before he shows up in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

It bombed at the box office earning just eight million against a twenty million budget. Ouch. 

The film was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II where Return of the Jedi won. 

Oddly enough it is not streaming on Disney +. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, an amazing one hundred eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau!  He even got to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York. He wasn’t a bad Sherlock either. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 76. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared in that role with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born October 14, 1949 Crispin Burnham, 73. And then there are those who just disappear.  He was the founder, writer and publisher of Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995 as the publisher Yith Press. He was also a prolific essayist from 1973 to 1995, his final essay being a reflection on the life and career of Robert Bloch. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his “People of The Monolith” was published in Cthulhu Cultus #13. Then he vanishes without a trace. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Richard Christian Matheson, 69. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing StoriesMasters of HorrorThe Powers of Matthew StarSplatterTales from the CryptKnight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk. Wiki claims he wrote for Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber but IMDB shows no such series or show. The usual suspects have a goodly number of story collections available for him.
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 69. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. 
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 59. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced quite well Livewire in the DCU animated shows.
  • Born October 14, 1968 Robert C. Cooper, 54. He was an executive producer of all the Stargate series. He also co-created both Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe with Brad Wright. Cooper has written and produced many episodes of Stargate series as well as directed a number of episodes. I’m really impressed. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Drabble has an unexpected definition of a horror movie.
  • Heart of the City shows friends arguing which date in October deserves to be celebrated.

(12) BACKSTORY IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] More than 3-1/2 decades after the release of Aliens, one badass Latinx is getting their backstory told. “Pvt. Vasquez from ‘Aliens’ gets her own story in new novel” at Axios.

Pvt. Vasquez, the fictional Latina member of the U.S. Colonial Marine Corps in the 1986 hit sci-fi movie “Aliens,” is getting a backstory in a new novel.

The big picture: The November U.S. release of “Aliens: Vasquez” by Violet Castro comes as writers and artists of color increasingly reimagine minor characters of color from popular sci-fi films.

Background: Castro, a Mexican American writer from San Antonio, Texas, who now lives in London, told Axios she pitched the idea for the book a few months ago after thinking about the big influence the character had in such a small role.

  • “It was one of the few depictions that kind of broke the mold of a domestic worker, farm worker, or gangbanger,” Castro said.
  • “I saw her and I was like, wow, look at this brown woman. She has this bandana and she’s unapologetic about who she is.”…

The intrigue: Castro said that, for her book, she reimagined Vasquez as someone linked to the soldaderas — the women who took up arms during the Mexican Revolution….

(13) STRANGE CHOW. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is now selling Stranger Things-themed doughnuts. They have locations in Washington, D.C. and Falls Church, VA.

(14) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!, the Final Jeopardy category was “Authors.”

Answer: Featuring a statue of a man escaping his grave, his tomb in Amiens contrasts with the title of his 1864 adventure novel.

Wrong questions: Who is Dumas (two contestants) and Who is Lovecraft?

Correct question: Who is Jules Verne?

Andrew Porter, who sent this item, says he remembers the image from a 1920s issue of Amazing Stories.

(15) TRAIL BLAZER. In Science, “Fireball is traced to far edge of Solar System”. “Rocky meteor suggests distant cloud of comets also contains asteroids.”

….Even if the Oort Cloud is just 1% rocky, explaining how these objects got there from the asteroid belt will challenge theorists, says Alan Jackson, a planetary astronomer at Arizona State University, Tempe. He says the finding could lend support to one hypothesis called the Grand Tack, which suggests that just 3 million years after the Solar System’s birth, Jupiter swooped inward toward the Sun, nearly to Earth’s orbit, before moving back out to near to its current position…

(16) THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOLMES. Netflix dropped this new trailer for Enola Holmes 2.

Fresh off the triumph of solving her first case, Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) follows in the footsteps of her famous brother, Sherlock (Henry Cavill), and opens her own agency — only to find that life as a female detective-for-hire isn’t as easy as it seems. Resigned to accepting the cold realities of adulthood, she is about to close shop when a penniless matchstick girl offers Enola her first official job: to find her missing sister. But this case proves to be far more puzzling than expected, as Enola is thrown into a dangerous new world — from London’s sinister factories and colorful music halls, to the highest echelons of society and 221B Baker Street itself. As the sparks of a deadly conspiracy ignite, Enola must call upon the help of friends — and Sherlock himself — to unravel her mystery. The game, it seems, has found its feet again!

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer thinks they can split the second Deathly Hallows Movie in Half, and split it again, but the producer convinces him that is a very bad idea.  Once again, the writer says, “when the story demands it, Harry Potter gets visions” that move the story forward. And when Harry Potter gets another narrow escape, the producer says, “these are kind of weird movies, aren’t they?”

 [Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Derek Künsken, David Goldfarb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/5/22 Welcome To The Scrolltel California. You Can Pixel Out Anytime But You Can Never Leave

(1) HWA ELECTIONS UPCOMING. The Horror Writers Association will be holding elections for President, Secretary, and three Trustee positions in September.

John Edward Lawson is running unopposed for President, and Becky Spratford is the lone candidate for Secretary.

The candidates for the three Trustee positions are Marc L. Abbott, Linda Addison, James Chambers, Ellen Datlow, Anthony Gambol, Sèphera Girón, Douglas Gwilym, Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito, Eugene Johnson, Stephen Mark Rainey, David Rose, Lindy Ryan, and John F.D. Taff.

The candidates’ statements are here. The elected officers will hold their respective offices for terms of two years, beginning on November 1 and ending on October 31.

(2) KEENE HEALTH UPDATE. Horror writer Brian Keene is positive for Covid-19 – and has symptoms — so he alerted Facebook readers who might have come in contact with him at last weekend’s Scares That Care Charity Weekend VIII.  

For those who had me sign their books or take a selfie with them this past weekend: I have just tested positive for Covid-19. As you saw, I was pretty militant about keeping my mask on, so I hopefully didn’t spread it. But you deserve a heads up, regardless. My symptoms are more than mild but less than severe. Will be quarantining at home.

(3) LITERARY CONTACT TRACING. David Agranoff, host of the DickHeads Podcast, says the evidence suggests Philip K. Dick based a Ubik character in part on Robert Lichtman. Thread starts here.

(4) WRITERS GETTING PAID. Deadline reports “WGA Wins $42 Million ‘Self-Dealing’ Arbitration Against Netflix”.

The WGA said today that it has prevailed in a huge “self-dealing” arbitration against Netflix that it says will result in hundreds of writers on more than 100 Netflix theatrical films receiving an additional $42 million in unpaid residuals. The WGA West and the WGA East say they now are pursuing about $13.5 million in interest that Netflix reportedly owes writers for late payment of these residuals.

In a notification to their members, the guilds said that their victory stems from “an important arbitration over Netflix’s underpayment of the writer’s residuals for the theatrical motion picture Bird Box. Netflix argued the WGA should accept a substandard formula the company negotiated with DGA and SAG-AFTRA. After a hearing, however, an arbitrator determined differently — that the license fee should have been greater than the gross budget of the film. He ordered Netflix to pay the writer a total of $850,000 in residuals along with full interest of $350,000.”

“As a direct result of this ruling,” the WGA added, “216 writers on 139 other Netflix theatrical films are receiving an additional $42 million in unpaid residuals. The guild is now pursuing approximately $13.5 million in interest Netflix also owes writers for late payment of these residuals.”

The meaning of self-dealing and its consequences were explained by the guilds in their message to members:

“When a theatrical is licensed or released in any other market – like streaming or television or home video – residuals must be paid on revenues earned in those markets. The typical residual for the credited writer is 1.2% of the license fee paid to the producer for the right to exhibit that film.

“If the license is between related parties – for example, when Netflix is both the producer and the distributor of the film — the MBA requires that the company impute a license fee based on arm’s length transactions between unrelated parties of comparable pictures — for example, a Sony film licensed to Netflix. This critical definition, negotiated as part of the resolution of our strike in 2008, protects against the undervaluation of license fees through self-dealing.

“Rather than follow the established MBA definition for related party transactions (which exists in the DGA and SAG-AFTRA agreements with the AMPTP as well), Netflix negotiated new deals with the DGA and SAG-AFTRA that allow Netflix to pay residuals on significantly less than the cost of the film. Netflix then tried to force the WGA to take this ‘pattern’ deal. Since it was clear the new formula negotiated by the other Guilds undervalued these ‘imputed’ license fees, the Guild instead took the dispute to arbitration.

“During the arbitration, the Guild showed that when Netflix licensed comparable theatrical films from third party producers it almost always paid a license fee that exceeded the budget. The industry refers to this model as ‘cost-plus.’ The Guild argued that Netflix must apply this cost-plus model to its own films and impute license fees in excess of the budget for the purpose of paying residuals. The arbitrator agreed and ruled that the license fee should be 111% of the gross budget of the film.”

(5) A “FAN FICTION” CAUSE CÉLÈBRE. Meanwhile, Netflix lawyers are busy spreading joy in another direction, suing the Grammy-winning team behind an unofficial Bridgerton musical: “Netflix Sues ‘Bridgerton The Musical’ Creators For Infringement, Seeks to Halt Live Stagings”Deadline has the details. From the complaint: “Barlow & Bear’s conduct began on social media, but stretches ‘fan fiction’ well past its breaking point.” (Read the full complaint here.)

 …Songwriting duo Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear were the minds behind the popular adaptation of the hit television series. They staged a live concert of “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical Album Live in Concert” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC earlier this week, selling out the venue.

Netflix originally hailed the concept when it debuted as a free online homage. But when that expanded into a profitable business, things became sticky.

“Defendants Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear and their companies (“Barlow & Bear”) have taken valuable intellectual property from the Netflix original series Bridgerton to build an international brand for themselves,” the lawsuit stated. “Bridgerton reflects the creative work and hard- earned success of hundreds of artists and Netflix employees. Netflix owns the exclusive right to create Bridgerton songs, musicals, or any other derivative works based on Bridgerton. Barlow & Bear cannot take that right—made valuable by others’ hard work—for themselves, without permission. Yet that is exactly what they have done.”…

(6) SOA AWARDS TAKING SUBMISSIONS. The Society of Authors 2023 Awards are open, including new prize to encourage disability representation in literature, called the ADCI (Authors with Disabilities & Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize. Entries are being taken through October 31.

Launched in 2022, the ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize seeks to encourage greater positive representation of disability in literature.

Founded by author Penny Batchelor and publisher Clare Christian together with the Society of Authors, the prize is generously sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, the Hawthornden Literary Retreat, and the Professional Writing Academy. 

Open to authors with a disability and/or chronic illness, the prize will call for entries of novels which include a disabled or chronically ill character or characters. The winner will receive £1,000 and two runners-up £500 each.

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to catch up with Sam J. Miller over khachapuri in episode 177 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sam J. Miller

It’s time to settle in for another lunch during the Washington, D.C. pop culture festival Awesome Con. Last episode, you eavesdropped on my meal with Patrick O’Leary, and this time around you get to take a seat at the table with Sam J. Miller.

You first heard me chat and chew with Sam 5-1/2 years ago in Episode 24, and when I noted he’d be at the con to promote his debut short story collection Boys, Beasts & Men, I knew it was time for us to catch up.

So much has changed since I last shared him with you in late 2016! His first novel, The Art of Starving, was published the following year and was a finalist for the 2018 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and won the 2018 Andre Norton Award. Blackfish City, published in 2018, won the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and was named a best book of the year by Vulture, the Washington Post, and Barnes & Noble, as well as a must-read for Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine. His second young adult novel, Destroy All Monsters, was published by HarperTeen in 2019, and his second adult novel, The Blade Between, was published by Ecco Press in 2020.

We discussed the 1,500 short story submissions he made between 2002 and 2012 (as well as the one story which was rejected 99 times), the peculiar importance of the missing comma from the title of his new collection Boys, Beasts & Men, his technique for reading collections written by others, why the Clarion Writing Workshop was transformative, how Samuel R. Delany gave him permission, the way his novels and short stories exist in a shared universe, the impossibility of predicting posthumous fame, the superpower he developed via decades of obscurity, the differing ideas of what writers block means, and much more.

(8) A DATE IN THE SF CALENDAR. From Ray Bradbury‘s “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.  Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.  Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam: “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…”  

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. is the Amicus film that premiered fifty-six years ago this evening. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng as written by Milton Subotsky, based off Terry Nation’s The Dalek Invasion of Earth for the TV show. It was the second such film done, the first being Dr. Who and the Daleks which was was based off Terry Nation’s The Daleks. It was not canon, nor has it been retroactively declared canon by the BBC.

Peter Cushing as Dr. Who and Roberta Tovey was Susan, his granddaughter. Bernard Cribbins appeared here as Tom Campbell. He appeared four times in the actual series. Despite this, the BBC explicitly note that that these films were not related to the series, nor any events here should reflect upon the series. Odd given that there was a Doctor Who there and his granddaughter, there was a TARDIS, there was Daleks and so forth.

Nation was paid five hundred pounds for three scripts with third being called The Chase but the second film drew so poorly that The Chase never got produced. 

And if you watched this one, you’ll have noticed the curious matter of the Doctor not being on-screen much of time. Cushing was seriously ill during shooting so they had to rewrite the script to remove much of his lines. 

Part of the funding came from a cereal company. The breakfast cereal Sugar Puffs to be precise and, their signs and products can be seen at various points in the film. Sugar Puffs ran a competition on its cereal packets to for its fans win a Dalek film prop, was allowed to feature the Daleks in its TV advertisements.  

The overall critical response at the time was that both films suffered greatly in comparison to the series itself. A typical comment was this one from The Times: “[T]he cast, headed by the long-suffering, much ill-used Peter Cushing, seem able, unsurprisingly, to drum up no conviction whatever in anything they are called to do.” It’s worth noting that was really made on the cheap by the BBC costing only three hundred thousand pounds. 

Tom Baker later criticized both films saying “There have been two Doctor Who films in the past, both rather poor… There are many dangers in transporting a television series onto the big screen… a lot of things that you could get away with on the small screen wouldn’t wash in the cinema.” 

It holds a poor rating of fifty-four percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

I have not seen either film. I’m curious to hear from those of you who have seen them as to what you think of them. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which certainly is one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best remembered for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien in one episode and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 5, 1948 Larry Elmore, 74. His list of work includes illustrations for Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, and his own comic strip series SnarfQuest. He is author of the book Reflections of Myth. He was nominated for Best Professional Artist at MidAmericCon II, has the Phoenix Award and has five Chesley Award nominations.
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 56. Director, producer and screenwriter whose first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. I am far fonder of the Guardians of The Galaxy films than I am of the Avengers films. 
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 49. I remember the book group I was part of some years ago having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl (which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 in a tie with China Miéville’s The City & The City and a Nebula as well) over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways but ideas.  The Tangled Lands, a collection of his short works, won a World Fantasy Award. His novelette, “The People of Sand and Slag” got nominated at Interaction; “The Calorie Man” novelette at L.A. Con IV; “Yellow Card Man” novellette at Nippon 2007; and “The Gambler” novellette at Anticipation.
  • Born August 5, 1975 Iddo Goldberg, 47. Israel-born actor. Freddie Thorne in the Peaky Blinders series , Isaac Walton in supernatural Salem series and Bennett Knox in Snowpiercer series. He also had a recurring role on Westworld as Sebastian.  And under a lot of costuming, he played the Red Tornado in an episode, “Red Faced” of Supergirl.
  • Born August 5, 1980 JoSelle Vanderhooft, 42. Former Green Man reviewer with a single novel so far, Ebenezer, and several collections, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories which the former were nominated for a Lambda Award. She also co-edited with Steve Berman, Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

(11) IT’S IN THE CARDS. Gizmodo leads fans to “Relive X-Men Trading Card Nostalgia With This New Gallery”.

Jim Lee’s designs for the X-Men are burned into the minds of X-Fans like the Phoenix Force itself—whether you devoured comics, fell in love with the animated series, or, perhaps, just collected some of the iconic trading cards of the era. If you’re the latter, then we’ve got some very good news.

io9 has your exclusive look inside The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards: The Complete Series, Abrams ComicArts’ 30th anniversary celebration of Jim Lee’s iconic 105 Uncanny X-Men trading card set. Featuring an introduction by Bob Budiansky and a foreword by Ed Piskor, the book collects the backs and fronts of every card in the classic series, as well as insight from Marvel creators in interviews conducted by Budiansky, the original writer and editor on the trading card series…..

(12) KIPPLE IS UNDEFEATED. Robin Abcarian, the syndicated opinion writer, discovered a new word – but you probably know it already: “Why none of us can win against kipple”.

It’s coming up on two years since my father died at age 91. I miss him terribly, of course, but his death left me with a personal struggle I had not anticipated.

While you might understandably think his death left a void in my life, it did quite the opposite.

His death left me with so … much … stuff. He’d lived in the same house for more than 30 years, and even though he’d engaged in some half-hearted Swedish death cleaning — a decluttering aimed at easing burdens on one’s survivors – what he did, mostly, was just put things in boxes. Boxes I had to open to figure out what they contained after he died….

… I want to keep all of it, but I also want to pile it up and torch it.

Last week, I was bemoaning this dilemma when Anton, my future son-in-law, said, “Yeah, all the kipple.”

Kipple?

I thought it might be a Yiddish or German word, but Anton told me it was coined by the great science fiction writer Philip K. Dick in his 1968 dystopian novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” For those who need a plot refresher – or have not seen the 1982 movie “Blade Runner,” which was based on the novel – the story takes place in the future, after Earth has been mostly destroyed by a nuclear global conflict, World War Terminus. Most animal life has been extinguished. The population has emigrated to “off-world colonies.”

The word is used by the book’s protagonist, Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter assigned to kill some uncannily human-like robots who have escaped involuntary servitude on Mars and returned to Earth.

“Kipple,” Deckard explains in the book, “is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homepage. [Dick’s incredibly prescient vision of a digital newspaper.] When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it.”….

(13) UNFORCED ERROR. “Scientist admits ‘space telescope image’ was actually a slice of chorizo” says CNN.

A French scientist has apologized after tweeting a photo of a slice of chorizo, claiming it was an image of a distant star taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.

Étienne Klein, a celebrated physicist and director at France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared the image of the spicy Spanish sausage on Twitter last week, praising the “level of detail” it provided.

…Klein admitted later in a series of follow-up tweets that the image was, in fact, a close-up of a slice of chorizo taken against a black background.

“Well, when it’s cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy… Beware of it. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth”

After facing a backlash from members of the online community for the prank, he wrote: “In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke. Let’s learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.”…

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Ms. Marvel Pitch Meeting,” the writer explains that Kamala Khan begins as a big fan of Captain Marvel and has all of our stuff. “I like it when we can sell fictional merch,” the producer explains.  He also likes a scene where Ms. Marvel suddenly has time travel and goes back to 1942 to save her grandmother’s life, because I think it’s a good idea for a character to be born.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bill, John A Arkansawyer, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 7/1/22 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel?

(1) NETFLIX GOES UPSIDE DOWN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apparently, fans of Stranger Things are night owls. When the final two episodes of ST Season 4 were released—at about 03:00 Eastern today—the Netflix streaming site was hammered hard enough to experience scattered but significant outages. “Netflix Down: Streaming Service Outage After Stranger Things 4 Release” reports Variety.

Netflix’s streaming service was unavailable for a brief period early Friday after the highly anticipated release of the final two episodes of “Stranger Things 4.”

According to global uptime-monitoring site Downdetector.com, user reports of problems with Netflix spiked around 3 a.m. ET — when “Stranger Things 4” Volume 2 went live. Complaints about errors with Netflix peaked at nearly 13,000 at the top of the hour, before the situation seemed to be resolved within a half hour.

“Stranger Things 4” already has set the record as the No. 1 English-language series on the service in its first four weeks of release, as reported by Netflix based on total hours watched. The two episodes in Season 4 Volume 2 clock in at nearly four hours of runtime total: Episode 8 is 85 minutes and Episode 9 is 150 minutes.

(2) BOB MADLE DOING FINE AT 102. [Item by Curt Phillips.] I just got off the phone with Bob Madle and thought I’d give you an update. He sounds great, and his daughter Jane told me that Bob’s health is excellent. Neither of them ever caught Covid, and Bob spends a lot of time enjoying beer and baseball. He is, as you might guess, an Oakland A’s fan. He’s been following that team since the 1930’s when they were the Philadelphia Athletics. We spent 45 min or so discussing sf magazines, and Bob’s memory is as solid as a rock. He recalled pulp trivia from 90 years ago as if it happened yesterday. So, 102 years old and going strong. A fannish immortal in every way!

(3) STEPHENSON PROFILE.  In the Washington Post, Theo Zenou interviews Neal Stephenson on the 30th anniversary of Snow Crash.  The interview focuses on Stephenson’s role in tech projects, including founding (with Bitcoin Foundation co-chair Peter Vessenes), Lamina1, “a start-up that will use blockchain technology to build an ‘open metaverse.’” Zenou explains that Stephenson has been involved part-time with tech his entire life, and became employee #1 of Blue Origin after he and Jeff Bezos went to a screening of October Sky in 1999. “Neal Stephenson’s ‘Snow Crash’ predicted metaverse and hyperinflation”.

…Stephenson’s vision for Lamina1 (meaning “layer one” in Latin) is to empower the creators of these experiences. He explained, “We want to create a structure of smart contracts and other utilities that will make it easier for people who want to build Metaverse applications to do that in the first place, and then to get compensated if it turns out that people like and want to pay for the experiences they’re creating.”…

(4) FIGURING OUT THE ENDING. If you didn’t see Cora Buhlert’s story when we linked to the tweets in May, you can now read “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘The Rescue’” as a post on her blog.

“You had one job, Corporal, one job. Protect Prince Adam, with your life, if necessary. And you failed. I swear, if something happens to Adam, you will be scrubbing toilets for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Don’t be so hard on the Corporal, Teela. It wasn’t his fault.”

“I know. I should have gone with Adam. Oh Father, what if something happens to him?”

“We’ll find Adam and save him. I promise.”

Meanwhile, in the dungeons of Snake Mountain…

(5) HAVE AN IDEA FOR A SPACE FORCE STORY? C. Stuart Hardwick is editing an anthology for Baen, Real Stories of the US Space Force, and has put out a Call For Submissions. See full details at the link.

The US Space Force has a PR problem. Several, in fact. It was not Donald Trump’s idea. It did not steal its iconography from Star Trek. It is not just a lunatic scheme to expand the military-industrial complex by sending battleships into space. Yet judging from social media, many think all these things and more.

Space has become critical not only to the military but to the economy and all aspects of daily life, and as we stand at the dawn of a new age of space commerce, that’s only going to intensify, and several nations have already developed capabilities  to deny, degrade, and disrupt access to and utilization of space–based assets, whether to degrade US Military capability or as a direct economic attack.

Like it or not, the militarization of space started long ago, threats are already up there, and wherever people and their interests go next, so too will go conflict, intrigue, heroes and villains, everything that comprises good stories….

WHAT WE WANT

Stories that grab us from the start and stay with us for days. Scientifically plausible drama about people facing interesting challenges related to the US Space Force or more generally, the policing and defense of near-Earth space and related issues, now or in the foreseeable future (the next century or so).

Stories don’t have to take place in space, involve the actual US Space Force, or be hard sci-fi, but they should help illustrate in some way how space technology shapes modern civilization in critical, often overlooked ways, how it is now or soon may come under threat, and how it might be defended now and into the future. See this page for ideas and background.

(6) A SEVENTIES LOOK AT FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has added “Minicon 10 (1975)-History of the MFS-Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker” to its YouTube channel.

Minicon 10 (1975) – History of the MFS – Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Clifford Simak, Bob Tucker & more: 

Minicon 10 was held April 18-20, 1975 in Minneapolis. This panel discussion, orchestrated by Gordy Dickson, majors in history and anecdotes of the 1940s Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS).  Particpants: Kenny Gray, Poul Anderson, Oliver Saari, Gordon Dickson, Grace Riger, Bob Tucker, and Clifford Simak. A high percentage of the MFS members went on to sell professionally to the magazines.

The panel begins with the flowering of MFS after Clifford Simak moved to town, to anecdotes about late night hero-saving plot sessions to the true identity of Squanchfoot (hint: Simak’s City was dedicated to him). 

You’ll hear about the softball games in which many Saaris participated, the origin of Twonk’s disease, how Poul became an MFS member and more. 

There’s silly story writing, an imitation Red Boggs, and a mass induction into the MFS.  For those that live(d) in Minneapolis, and for those that didn’t, this recording provides an affectionate look at the early MFS…Many thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording. 

(7) WHERE DID THE TIME GO. Lincoln Michel tackles the question “Why Does It Take So Long to Publish a Book?” in his Counter Craft newsletter.

… For this post, I’m just talking about the last part: how long it takes to publish a book once you sell it to a traditional publisher. Often, unpublished and self-published authors are baffled at turn around time for books. This discourse was most recently kicked off by a tweet asking authors how they would feel if a publisher offered to publish their book yet it would take 2 years and they’d have to cut 10,000 words. The replies were filled with a lot of unpublished authors saying “that’s way too long!” and/or “that’s way too many words to cut!” and then a lot of published authors saying “uh, this is completely standard in publishing?”

…To be very clear, getting published by a good publisher in no way guarantees you’ll get much attention or sell many copies. Yet if you want any chance of getting those things, your publisher needs a lot of time to pitch your book to distributors and bookstores and to do all of the publicity and marketing.

This—the general publicity, marketing, and distribution—is where much of the publishing time disappears. And it’s the kind of stuff you might not realize if you aren’t a traditionally published author. Things like major bookstore orders (including Amazon) are set long before a book is published. Anticipated book lists and “buzz” begins well in advance, sometimes before books are even finished being written. Review copies get sent to reviewers months before books are published, so that reviews can appear when the book does. And so on and so forth.

In addition to the distribution, marketing, and publicity there are other important steps if you want a professional book, especially editing (big scale stuff), copyediting (line level stuff), proofreading (typos). There are many other steps here too such as getting blurbs and getting cover art but thankfully many of these can be done concurrently with the other steps timewise….

(8) SWIFT DEPARTURE. Deadline reports “‘Tom Swift’ Canceled By CW After One Season”.

Tom Swift has swiftly gotten the boot at CW.

The low-rated, Nancy Drew spinoff only launched on May 31 and has aired six episodes to date. The series, which features a predominantly Black cast, started off as an unconventional backdoor pilot, with only Tian Richards (as Tom) getting an introduction on Nancy Drew last season. The rest of the characters were cast after the project was picked up to series in August.

We hear CBS Studios, which is behind Tom Swift, is trying to extend the options on the cast, which expire today, and plans to shop the series elsewhere.

The CW brass have said that they like the show creatively. The cancellation is said to be performance-based as Tom Swift is among the CW’s least watched series on linear, with 535K viewers in Live+7, as well as on streaming….

(9) THERE IS CRYING IN TV. A show you may not have even known was in the works has also stumbled before making it out of the cornfield:  “‘Field of Dreams’ TV Series Dropped at Peacock”.

A series adaptation of Field of Dreams has struck out at PeacockThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Mike Schur-created drama based on the 1989 Kevin Costner-starring baseball-focused film was picked up straight to series in August 2021 but will not stream on the platform, according to a source with knowledge.

Universal Television, where Schur’s Fremulon shingle holds an overall deal, is in the process of talking to interested buyers.

Schur is the creator of NBC’s The Good Place, along with serving as the co-creator of Parks and RecreationBrooklyn Nine-Nine and Rutherford Falls. Among other credits, he is an executive producer on HBO Max’s Emmy-winning Hacks and Freevee’s upcoming Primo….

 (10) 124C41+. Holden Karnosky’s article “The Track Record of Futurists Seems … Fine” at Cold Takes tries to find another way of testing whether it would be a waste of time to put artificial intelligence to work as futurists. One idea was to look at the futures posited by some famous sf writers.

…The idea is something like: “Even if we can’t identify a particular weakness in arguments about key future events, perhaps we should be skeptical of our own ability to say anything meaningful at all about the long-run future. Hence, perhaps we should forget about theories of the future and focus on reducing suffering today, generally increasing humanity’s capabilities, etc.”

But are people generally bad at predicting future events? Including thoughtful people who are trying reasonably hard to be right? If we look back at prominent futurists’ predictions, what’s the actual track record? How bad is the situation?

…Recently, I worked with Gavin Leech and Misha Yagudin at Arb Research to take another crack at this. I tried to keep things simpler than with past attempts – to look at a few past futurists who (a) had predicted things “kind of like” advances in AI (rather than e.g. predicting trends in world population); (b) probably were reasonably thoughtful about it; but (c) are very clearly not “just selected on those who are famous because they got things right.” So, I asked Arb to look at predictions made by the “Big Three” science fiction writers of the mid-20th century: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein.

These are people who thought a lot about science and the future, and made lots of predictions about future technologies – but they’re famous for how entertaining their fiction was at the time, not how good their nonfiction predictions look in hindsight. I selected them by vaguely remembering that “the Big Three of science fiction” is a thing people say sometimes, googling it, and going with who came up – no hunting around for lots of sci-fi authors and picking the best or worst.2

Alan Baumler kept score while reading the article:

  • One (Asimov) who looks quite impressive – plenty of misses, but a 50% hit rate on such nonobvious predictions seems pretty great.
  • One (Heinlein) who looks pretty unserious and inaccurate.
  • One (Clarke) who’s a bit hard to judge but seems pretty solid overall (around half of his predictions look to be right, and they tend to be pretty nonobvious).

(11) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Yes, I know I wrote up Bewitched earlier this year. Or at least I think II did. I do lose track after a while. At any rate, tonight we’ve come to eulogize its ending fifty years ago on this evening. The show aired from September 17, 1964 to July 1, 1972 on ABC for two hundred and fifty-four episodes — seventy-four in black-and-white for the first two years, 1964 to 1966) and one hundred eighty in color for the final three years, 1966 to 1972.

I cannot say that I’ve watched all of the series, but I’ve watched a fair amount of it and it will unashamedly admit that I really do like it. It’s not a complicated series, nor a particularly deep series, but it’s both fun and charming, and it is inoffensive. 

So why did Bewitched come to an end? Was it the ratings? That certainly was part of that problem as by by the end of the next-to-last season the ratings for it had noticeably dropped and the show did not even rank in the list of the top thirty programs. But that wasn’t the actual reason it got cancelled.

That was down to Elizabeth Montgomery who had grown tired of the series and wanted to move on to new roles. Well, they didn’t happen. The only thing she was on Password, a game show where she was a celebrity contestant for nearly ninety episodes. 

She died at aged sixty-two of an untimely diagnosed cancer. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1934 — Jean Marsh, 88. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Whovian affairs. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly StrangerDark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 — David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been  a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he then played the role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few years later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 — Genevieve Bujold, 80. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1952 — Dan Aykroyd, 70. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis though he himself came up with the Ghostbusters concept), Ackroyd actually showed up in his first genre role a year earlier in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprised his role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. And he was the narrator of the Hotel Paranormal series that just ended.
  • Born July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot, aged, well, 67. Yes, this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet, which debuted a year later. Over the years he would also be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was in a 2006 commercial for AT&T. Well very, very briefly. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 58. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best known work. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction where many of his stories have since been published.  Editor for six years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction until February of last year. At the World Fantasy Awards in 2021 he received the Special Award – Professional for editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
  • Born July 1, 1981 — Genevieve Valentine, 41. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows what would happen if Hollywood added “improvements” to Noah’s Ark. (Which, of course, they’ve already done, but play along with the joke.)

(14) AMAZON PRIME TEASER TRAILER FOR PAPER GIRLS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The comic book Paper Girls — which involves time travel among other tropes, so it’s inarguably science fiction — which I may have stumbled on either browsing my library’s “new graphic novels” or during the year-ish I subscribed to ComiXology’s monthly streaming digital comics service, or a mix, is about to be an Amazon Prime series, per this trailer I just saw:

It looks promising, to say the least.

Want to read ’em first? If your public library (or interlibrary loan) doesn’t have them, you can e-borrow/read issues 1-30 free through HooplaDigital.com — either as Volumes 1-6, or in 3 borrows (remember, Hoopla allows a set # borrows/month) by going for the Deluxe Edition Books (10 issues each), as this search shows.

(I’ve read ’em; recommended!)

(15) USHERING IN THE ATOMIC AGE. Now on the block at Heritage Auctions is Capt. Robert Lewis’ ‘Enola Gay’ logbook documenting the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Bidding was up to $400,000 when last checked.

Captain Robert A. Lewis, the co-pilot of the B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay, wrote those immortal words shortly after 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, moments after he and his crewmates dropped the atomic bomb on the citizens of Hiroshima. The course of history changed at that precise moment: A beautiful day exploded into a blinding bright light, a nuclear fireball leveled a city, at least 100,000 died, and a world war neared its end.

And there, high above it all yet so much a part of the devastation below, was Robert Lewis to chronicle every spectacular and awful moment. He was among the dozen Enola Gay crewmen who delivered the 15-kiloton bomb codenamed “Little Boy” to Japan and the only person aboard who kept a detailed account of the top-secret mission that changed the world.

Lewis’ 11-page chronicle of those few minutes is among the most important documents of the 20th century, a harrowing and oft-heartbreaking account of those very moments between the pre-atomic and post-atomic world – before Hiroshima was struck by the noiseless flash, consumed by fire and swallowed by a mushroom cloud. The public has not seen it since it sold in 2002 during a famous auction of publisher Malcolm Forbes’ American historical documents.

(16) COULD WE DECODE ALIEN PHYSICS? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time asks “Could We Decode Alien Physics?”

How hard can it really be to decode alien physics and engineering? It’s gotta map to our own physics – I mean, we live in the same universe. We start by noticing that the alien technology seems to use good ol’ fashioned electronics, even if it is insanely complex. We know this because the particle carried by the alien circuitry looks like the electron. We decide this through a process of elimination.

(17) FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch tracked themoviedb.org data to measure “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in June.”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceObi-Wan Kenobi
2Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomFor All Mankind
3Jurassic WorldSeverance
4Spider-Man: No Way HomeTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
5Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessWestworld
6MorbiusStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
7Jurassic ParkDoctor Who
8Ghostbusters: AfterlifeNight Sky
9Crimes of the FutureThe Man Who Fell to Earth
10MoonfallThe Twilight Zone

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

(18) THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTED. Gizmodo takes stock of its accomplishments as “LightSail 2 Mission Poised to Burn Up in Earth’s Atmosphere”.

For the past three years, a tiny loaf-of-bread-sized spacecraft with gigantic wings has been sailing on sunbeams in low Earth orbit. LightSail 2 has far exceeded its life expectancy and proven that solar sails can indeed be used to fly spacecraft. But its journey around our planet is sadly coming to an end, as Earth’s atmosphere drags the spacecraft downward where it will eventually burn up in atmospheric flames.

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 launched in June 2019 and unfurled its 344-square-foot (32-square-meter) solar sail a month later. Just two weeks after spreading its wings, LightSail 2 gained 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of altitude, making this experiment a success….

(19) NIMOY THEATER UPDATE. A new era for the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA is underway as they continue to develop the UCLA Nimoy Theater. “The Nimoy sets new horizon for the arts community”. You can see an overview of the project here.

Located near the UCLA campus on Westwood Boulevard, The Nimoy is a reimagining of the historic Crest Theater as a flexible, state-of-the-art performance space.

Opening in late March 2023, the intimately-scaled venue is named for artist, actor, director and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy. Shawmut Construction has been working steadily to renovate the venue, which will be equipped with new and green technologies to support the creation and presentation of innovative work. 

The Nimoy will be a home for artists representing a broad diversity of voices, viewpoints, ideas and creative expressions in music, dance, theater, literary arts, digital media arts and collaborative disciplines. The inaugural season will feature a large slate of amazing shows, including new work by the legendary Kronos Quartet, “live documentarian” filmmaker Sam Green, and a collaboration between two essential musical voices of Los Angeles, Quetzal and Perla Batalla. 

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Alasdair Beckett-King asks, “What if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson got email from spammers claiming to be “sexy women from Moldova?” “Hot Detectives in Your Area”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Curt Phillips, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie. Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]