Pixel Scroll 10/29/23 Swamp Thing! You Make My Scroll Sing

(1) LINDA ADDISON ON HALLOWEEN. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its October theme: “Halloween Haunts: All The Treats! by Linda D. Addison”.

Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays my whole life. As a child the idea of dressing up that one day and going house to house to collect candy was magical. Back then, no one worried about being poisoned or razors in fruit. I felt stronger and magical in costume then in regular clothes. The thin awkward kid who read books all the time and didn’t talk much could become a powerful witch, one of my favorite costumes, and no doubt the easiest for my mother to create, since there were nine of us….

(2)  CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]  So, when I emailed Mike yesterday’s update, I told him that that would be the last of the big daily updates, and anything in the future would just be ad hoc submissions.  Unfortunately the real-world had other ideas.

Con reports: Jiang Bo, SF Light Year and Nicholas Whyte

This pair of Chinese reports posted to Weibo are coming from different perspectives; one from a Hugo finalist in the Best Short Story, the other from a high profile fan.

Jiang Bo

This one is a bit awkward to report on, as whilst it was published on Weibo, the latter sections are only visible to logged in users, and creating a Weibo account – from the UK at least – is a Kafkaesque nightmare of “you need to verify via a code sent by SMS/sorry, we can’t send you an SMS, try again tomorrow/rinse and repeat”.  Fortunately a kind person on Twitter was able to provide me with the full text; I’ll see if there’s some way of getting the full text available more easily.

In terms of events at the con, he mostly writes about “businessy” and writerly stuff, which he seems to have enjoyed.  The selected extracts below are about more humdrum stuff, but which I think Filers would maybe relate to more.  In the interests of full transparency, it seems that these aspects were less enjoyable for him, and it would not be an unreasonable accusation to say I’m giving a negative spin on his overall experience.  

(Via Google Translate, with minor manual edits.)

It was only when I landed that I learned some big news: the hotel I was staying at, the Wyndham Hotel, was far away from the venue, and the organizer had arranged a shuttle bus to solve the transportation problem. As a rule of thumb, the hotel is usually next to the venue, and you can enter the venue just a short walk away. The shuttle bus takes about thirty minutes to get to the venue, and it leaves on time. This poses a challenge to the conference schedule, and is also the reason why I will be quite tired in the next few days – I have to catch the early morning bus to the conference venue every day…

The name of the venue is Nebula, and the largest hall inside is called Hugo. If you add some text to it, wouldn’t it mean that Nebula is greater than Hugo? I wonder if Americans will quarrel about this. However, a Chinese venue is too far away and the sound cannot be transmitted even if there is a noise…

There was an episode where I went back and forth for fifteen minutes just to find the Hall of Mars. This venue is very unique. The halls on the second floor are basically isolated from each other. They are small halls. You must find the correct elevator to go up. When you first arrive, it’s easy to get confused…

Speaking of eating, there are no restaurants around the huge Xingyun Hall. There is only one storefront on the first floor, which houses three or four fast food restaurants, including Subway, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. If everyone wants to solve the problem of eating in the venue, they can only find these three or four restaurants. There are so many people there, it’s almost like a restaurant in Disneyland. It’s hard to find tables and chairs, so just find a place to eat…

“Hanging by a Thread” [aka “On the Razor’s Edge”] won the Galaxy Award for Best Short Story, which was a surprise. On returning to the hotel, I was interviewed by a Chengdu TV station for almost an hour, and it was almost midnight. Then I chatted with the producer Lao Wu about creative matters, and it was already 1 a.m. when we finished talking. It felt good to chat with Lao Wu and talk about pure creation. It’s just that the schedule of the World Science Fiction Convention is too tight. If we don’t seize this time, we may not have the chance to have a good chat…

In order to get to the venue before 10 a.m., I took the 9 a.m. bus. The opening hours of science fiction convention venues are actually 9:30, so there will generally be fewer people attending the 9:30 morning session. In fact, at 10 a.m., there were still very few people, especially on weekdays. So the audience at our panel seemed very minimal, especially since it was located in the road show area, a corner that is difficult for tourists to reach. We started with the same number of people on stage and off stage. Fortunately, as time went by, the number of listeners gradually increased, and finally it was like a decent press conference…

After the press conference, I started thinking about eating again. The afternoon activity was at the Sheraton Hotel. After looking at my guest card, I had a bold idea, why not try the Sheraton?

The Sheraton Hotel is right next to the venue and can be reached on foot in about fifteen minutes. The Sheraton housed VVIPs, who are some important international friends and more important domestic guests. Although you needed to show your room card to eat at the Sheraton, what if you only needed to show your card during the conference?

I contacted the contact person and they replied that I could only have lunch at the hotel where I am staying. But I still set foot on the road to the Sheraton Hotel with hope…

The smooth lines of the Nebula Pavilion are natural, and equally smooth are the queues waiting for autograph signings. That’s right, this afternoon happened to be Liu’s autograph signing. The signing line stretched from the third floor to the first floor, and then meandered along the lakeside. I was shocked when I saw such a long line, and quickly took out my mobile phone to take pictures… I was both admiring and envious at the same time: I wish I could have such a long signing queue one day!…

Something strange also happened at SF Night [a reception jointly organized by Science Fiction World and Saifan Space]. The security of this science fiction conference was extremely strict. Xia Jia and several other authors were stopped outside.  Even organizers like Sun Yueraz were stopped from entering again after leaving. I met Xia Jia when I went out after the event. He was sitting at a table outside the security gate, looking relaxed and comfortable, chatting with others. Some things are changing, and some things remain unchanged…

The signing event went much better than expected. For at least an hour, there was a steady stream of people coming to get my signature. This is the power of the World Science Fiction Convention. It gathered a large number of people and brought some traffic to us authors. One of the fans took out the journal where I first published my novel, the April 2003 issue of The End Game, which had a photo of me on it. Compared to that time, my hair volume is a bit anxious. After all, people only have so many good days, and youth never comes back once it’s gone…

[Extracts from the acceptance speech he prepared] Thank you to all readers who voted for me and for recognizing this work.

Thank you to all readers who voted for the Hugo Awards. Anyone who is willing to spend money to vote is true love. Your support is the driving force behind this award continuing to this day….

The last thing I want to thank is this great era. In the past few decades, China has developed from an agricultural country to an industrial country, and has continuously made progress in economy and science and technology. This great process must be reflected in the writer’s thinking. Without this era and the Chinese Space Station, stories like “Hanging by a Thread” would not have been possible.

As for me, I would like to quote Mr. Carl Sagan’s epitaph to illustrate, “He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.” I hope that I can continue to grow in science fiction. Share this with everyone.

Thank you everyone, thank you to everyone who loves Chinese science fiction.[end of his acceptance speech].

Finally, the lottery was drawn, and the pie did not fall on my head. When my boots hit the ground, I felt calm. This is probably the closest I’ve ever been to a Hugo Award. If I miss it, I won’t get it again. Life always has its ups and downs. But after all, I never had the chance to say this. Writing it down is also a kind of record and will not be forgotten.

After the awards ceremony, there was a reception on Hugo night. It was held on the large terrace of the Nebula Pavilion, and you needed a ticket to enter, have a drink and chat. Generally speaking, I still chat to people I know. The organizer also arranged some programs. Many foreign friends gathered to watch, but domestic people seemed not very interested.

I came out before the reception ended and happened to meet [SF World editor, Hugo Editor finalist, concom member] Yao Haijun. I took his car back to the hotel and enjoyed the VVIP red flag car treatment…

I felt very sleepy after the conference. For the two days after I came back, I felt like I couldn’t wake up every day. Maybe I had a dream. Dreams are easy to be forgotten, so I have to fix them with words. This is probably the only thing that short-lived humans can struggle with in the face of the infinite world. 

SF Light Year

SF Light Year (aka 科幻光年/Kehuan Guang Nian aka Adaoli) is an influential Chinese fan, with 370k followers on Weibo.  He has been mentioned in several earlier Chengdu updates, and has commented here a few times.  Disclosure: he was also my co-conspirator in a plan to exchange fanzines and signed books between the UK and China, in order to give them as surprise gifts to some Hugo finalists, a couple of whom went on to win in their categories.  I also get namechecked in the second of the three parts of this report posted to Weibo.  As such, I’m not an impartial reporter of his comments.  Note also that Mike and File 770 also gets briefly mentioned in the first part.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Note: Because these three posts are so long, the “Translate content” links that appear at the bottom of posts timed out for me.  I ended up having to copypaste the text into Google Translate.  I did ask him if I could upload the translated text (e.g. to Pastebin or similar) for everyone’s convenience, but didn’t get a reply due to it being night in China when I asked that question.  

The following excerpts are via Google Translate, with minor manual edits.

(from first post)

Every time I attend various science fiction conferences and meet authors and fantasy fans, I am always happy and excited. What gives me good memories of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference is not the gorgeous venue but every sincere science fiction fan and person who laughed, cried, got angry, and was moved. I will remember every moment in my heart. But this long article is dedicated to recording my disappointment with the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference, as a small supplement to a grand narrative, because it is important to us science fiction fans, to our science fiction community, and to our internal and external science fiction. Communication can have far-reaching consequences. I’d love to be that little kid who calls out that the Emperor has no clothes.

After the successful bid to host the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference in 2021, the organizing committee promised that fantasy travelers will “enter as VIP guests, enjoy VIP treatment, and all tickets to the conference will be free of charge.” The actual situation of the conference is that these so-called VIP guests (who are also members of WSFS) are different from the guests separately invited by the organizing committee. They did not automatically receive the right to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies and the Hugo Award ceremony… Those who purchased event tickets (non-members) also needed to participate in the lottery for access to one of the three ceremonies. Some fellow WSFS members were not even able to get admission to any of the ceremonies…

On the other hand, public news shows that as early as April 2022, an internal meeting in Pidu District arranged the event planning plan for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in that district. Real estate developers also used the venue of the Pidu District convention as a selling point to make plans for nearby properties. [Real estate developer] Vanke also once put up a big sign announcing the countdown to the World Science Fiction Conference at the sales office, but it was later removed at the request of the organizing committee. In the tug-of-war of the balance of forces among all parties, the interests of this group of college student application groups were the first to be sacrificed.

Because he had been tracking the venue confirmation and conference information posted on Weibo from very early on, which revealed the venue change to Pidu District before the official announcement, Yao Chi [from the con team, I think this is the same person as Joe Yao] once contacted me and asked me to remove the relevant article. My response was that if Pidu District took down their announcements, I would also take down my posts on Weibo…

(from second post)

… Wu Miao mentioned that his book signing was actually a mess: although the book sold well in the two days, part way through, the con removed copies of his book, and the readers who went in the afternoon were all empty-handed and could not buy the book.  I took four customers everywhere to look for books, but none of the exhibition staff had any explanation or follow-up. His autograph signing was arranged for the first two days (non-weekends) when there were few people. The on-site booth was borrowed from Booker Bookstore because the conditions of the venue were very poor… His publisher also stated that the conference did not consider the interests of exhibitors and “there will be no next time.” Similar lack of coordination occurred repeatedly. Several guests told me that they were suddenly informed that there was a signing, or that there was a time conflict between the signing and the panel schedule. The book sales were located on the first floor, but the book signings were on the third floor. It was very inconvenient for readers to buy books and sign books, and the process of selecting and finding books was very unfriendly.

On October 14, 2023 in our online science fiction group, a hearing-impaired person attending the conference, who has a disability certificate, told us about the accessibility request email she sent to the conference.  She had asked what kind of help will be provided to the hearing-disabled people if they need it, and what materials should be applied and prepared for in advance.  Her email was returned undelivered… We found that the contact address given on the official website was wrong.  However [after this was pointed out on Weibo and the address got promptly fixed] our disabled member sent another email to the correct address, but there was no reply or official contact instructions until the end of the conference.  For such an important communication channel, it seemed that the accessibility service department was just a fiction, which is disappointing especially when the organizing committee clearly knew from reading Weibo that someone had applied for accessibility services. Fortunately, she was always accompanied by enthusiastic fans during the conference.

The lack of communication was also reflected in the coordination of volunteers. The organizing committee announced the recruitment of volunteers through different processes more than once. I submitted forms and emails twice, stating that my specialty was Japanese and that I could be a volunteer, but there was no response to any emails from the beginning to the end. Many times in various groups, I encountered netizens complaining and asking me about the same situation. Later, I learned that the government had arranged a bidding process for volunteer service projects [1], and the volunteers and training procedures were determined through other methods. However, all offline applications were not responded to and followed up, which is indeed inappropriate…

Many Hugo Award finalists, including those from China, were told they would stay at the Sheraton [close to the venue], but were eventually downgraded to Wyndham [much further away]. In terms of differential treatment, I would like to mention that Ling Shizhen, who was also a Hugo Award finalist for the Zero Gravity fanzine, was not initially given permission to attend the opening and closing ceremonies or the Hugo Award Ceremony. (His badge only had the number 3/5, which was the minimum permission for all invited guests, only allowing entry to the Science Fiction Museum and the Sheraton hotel). He was very angry about this. After contacting the organizing committee, he had to travel back and forth between the con venue and the hotel to coordinate, until finally he was allowed to enter the ceremony hall, and eventually went on stage to receive the Hugo Award.

(from third post)

On the opening day of the conference on October 18, 2023, we passed by the venue and found that the newly established “food truck area” at the Nebula Campground (renovated from dozens of buses) at the Science Museum and Sheraton Road was blocked off. and not open to the public. The news circulating in our group was that “the food in the food trucks was not classy and would affect the image” and therefore it was cancelled….

Regarding the sudden need to control the number of attendees at the reception held at the Sheraton during the conference, which resulted in a large number of invited domestic and foreign guests being unable to enter, breaking up unhappy or even causing disputes, we will not discuss this for the time being….

Enthusiastic netizens have compiled a complete breakdown of the amount related to the venue construction, tens of millions related to conference preparation and venue.  For example, the winning bid amount for the Hugo Trophy, just for the design was as high as 570 thousand yuan [approximately $80,000 USD]…

Basically, this World Science Fiction Convention was held in a situation that was both open and closed, rich and barren. If you were interviewing foreign guests, especially several World Science Fiction Convention officials or important guests – the venue has a distinction between VVIP and VIP arrangements for volunteers – there were elaborate arrangements for the support of various celebrities, free travel, meals and accommodation for two people, and special personnel to coordinate and arrange access, and enjoy exquisite meals. [Regular] Guests who have participated in dozens of conferences never enjoyed such support, even though participating in the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference would be their highlight moment. According to Nnedi Okorafor herself, “I was treated like a queen.”… 

On the other hand, I came into contact with front-line staff from the exhibition organizers who were exhausted due to internal friction in coordination and communication, relevant leaders who frankly said they no longer wanted to bid for the World Science Fiction Convention, guests who canceled their panels because they were angry that the promised venue control would not cooperate, as well as guests who continued to attend the convention…

 In every sense of the word, this is an unforgettable World Science Fiction Convention. This was the first time it was held in China. I don’t know if there will be a second time.

[1] This might explain a Xiaohongshu post I saw yesterday, which was a group selfie of some volunteers, who were all employees of (IIRC) a construction company.  At the time I just assumed it was a group of colleagues who’d decided to do a good deed, but now I wonder if there was more to it.

Nicholas Whyte

His post about the Doctor Who panel was covered in Friday’s Scroll, but he has also posted about a visit to a panda research centrethe panels he was on, and the events he attended  and his various experiences.

Still waiting on the Hugo Statistics report

A week ago today, there was an indication that the statistics might be published on the Friday just gone.  That hasn’t happened, and as far as I know, there has been no further status update.

I think lots of us are very interested in finding out where certain books that seemed like dead certs – or as close as you can get to it in the Hugos – ended up in the nominations.

(3) CHEERS FOR FEARS.  “Shock of the new: Jordan Peele, Mariana Enríquez and more on the horror fiction renaissance” in the Guardian.

…Now horror is emphatically back, and it is no longer a dirty word. Publishing imprints such as Titan and Nightfire are devoted almost entirely to the genre, small presses are helping to introduce new names, and a thriving online community of readers, writers, critics and commentators champion literature’s most sinister impulses.

Such insatiable appetite is forcing change. From the Argentinian new wave to British neo-folk, from the Asian-inflected horror of authors such as Chinese-Canadian writer Ai Jiang to the African heritage of British-Nigerian Nuzo Onoh, writers across the world are pushing outwards, creating space for new perspectives. Horror is rapidly evolving from what was once a white, male and highly Anglocentric genre into something more diverse and much more reactive.

A new US book is testament to this progress. Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horroris edited by film director Jordan Peele, who made Us and the electrifying Oscar-winner Get Out. Peele writes in his introduction: “I view horror as catharsis through entertainment. It’s a way to work through your deepest pain and fear.” But, he suggests, that isn’t possible for Black people “without the stories being told in the first place”.

For Peele, this collection, compiled with co-editor John Joseph Adams, was a chance to commission “the very best Black authors in fiction,” he tells me over email. “I hoped that, when prompted to create a personalised nightmare, their ‘monsters’ might be representative of some previously unnamed truths. What you get are stories that feel like they couldn’t or wouldn’t have been told a few years ago.”

NK Jemisin’s contribution examines police brutality through surrealistic body horror, while Tananarive Due imagines a moment from the civil rights movement that reads like an unearthed piece of folk history. But it’s interesting how many of the tales in Out There Screamingeschew overtly racialised horror – in particular, the tight focus on trauma that has long been a thorny issue in the Black horror community….

(4) WHY JEMINSIN CONTRIBUTED. “For N.K. Jemisin, Reality Inspired Horror Fiction” – the New York Times has the details.  

Nineteen writers contributed to the story collection, including N.K. JemisinLesley Nneka ArimahTochi Onyebuchi and Tananarive Due. Initially Jemisin declined to participate, although she was pleased to be approached. “I like writing stories, but I’m very slow to write them and I don’t do well with commissions,” Jemisin said in a phone interview. “I don’t have any interest in writing to order, basically. I said, if something inspires me, sure, I’m on it, but otherwise don’t count on anything.”

Jemisin had a change of heart on a vacation in the Outer Banks: “Next door to us was a family of cops, apparently, who hung a thin blue line flag and partied all weekend and made a great deal of noise, knowing full well nobody was going to call the cops on them.”

She went on, “Nothing overt happened. We were fine. But we were on this trip with some teenagers and we told them, ‘Do not go out by yourselves because this doesn’t feel like a safe place to be a bunch of young Black folks.’”

Instead of going to the beach, Jemisin started writing “Reckless Eyeballing,” the story that now opens “Out There Screaming.” It’s about Carl Billings, a Black highway patrol officer with a habit of “roughing up” people he pulls over — a broken arm here, a baton to the teeth there. His white supervisor is on to him, and then a video of one of his traffic stops goes viral. But worst of all is Carl’s unsettling vision of oncoming headlights as eyeballs, blinking and veined, watching. He can’t get away from them…

(5) HARVEY Q&A. “Samantha Harvey: ‘I like Alien as much as anybody else. But I see this novel as space pastoral’” in the Guardian.

…How come you initially lost your nerve?
We’re in an age of first-person veracity. By some bizarre spasm of fate, I’m doing a radio interview next month alongside Tim Peake. I’m filled with anxiety: why would anyone care what some woman in Wiltshire has to say about what it might be like to be in space, when she’s sitting alongside Tim Peake? Maybe the answer is that there’s somewhere the imagination can go that experience can’t. Nasa’s website has hundreds of fascinating but quite humdrum journals that astronauts have written while in space. I was thinking, there’s a gap here – a sort of metaphysical gap, a magical experience that isn’t being documented the way I’d like to document it.

Did you want to write against more plot-driven space narratives?
I like Alien as much as anybody else. I never saw this novel as being against sci-fi, but I didn’t see it as having an awful lot in relation to it either. I thought of it as space pastoral – a kind of nature writing about the beauty of space, with a slightly nostalgic sense of what’s disappearing. Not just on Earth, but also the ISS itself, this really quite retro piece of kit which is going to be deorbited after 23 years of rattling around at 17,500 miles an hour….

(6) LOWER DECKS. “Mike McMahan Talks ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4” with Animation World Network’s Dan Sarto.

…DS: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about the Strange New Worlds crossover episode. You teased it when we spoke last August. It was a fantastic episode.

MM: Thank you.

DS: The animation held its own against a well-designed visual effects-driven show. It did both worlds proud. It fit. It wasn’t too gaggy, but it was funny. I was really impressed because I had no idea what to expect. And of course, Commander Riker [Jonathan Frakes] directed it. So, tell me about your involvement. And how tough was it to pull that off?

MM: Strange New Worlds allowed me to get to somewhere where it was a little funnier than they’re used to and a little more strange new worlds than I’m used to. I was a tool that they were using. So, they used me on multiple script passes in the edit, helping conceive of the episode and all that stuff, but I can’t take any credit for that. It really was an amazing thing that they wanted to do because it was so different. And they’re only in their second season. I don’t think I would’ve had the balls to do that on a second-season show. But what it really came down to is we all had a blast, and that really comes through when you watch the episode.

And I could have made that a feature-length episode and added way more Orion pirates and all sorts of stuff. But at the end of the day, what it really highlighted was character, and I think that was really smart, that Tawny and Jack are fucking amazing. But you know who else is? Everybody on Strange New Worlds. So, getting to see them all mixed together the whole episode, it’s just such a party. It’s just such a Star Trek party that, if you’re watching this era, that is a crazy encapsulation of what makes you feel good. It’s like what you like about Trek….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 Fredric Brown. Author of Martians, Go Home which would be made into a movie of the same name. He received compensation and credit from NBC as their Trek episode “Arena” had more than a passing similarity to his novelette which was nominated for Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Interestingly, a whole lot of his Edgar Award-winning mysteries are being released on the usual suspects in December. (Died 1972.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 Shelia Finch, 88. She is best remembered for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists which aptly enough are collected in The Guild of Xenolinguists story collection. She first used it her 1986 Triad novel. The term would later be used to describe the character Uhura in the rebooted Trek film. Her Reading the Bones novel, part of the Guild of Xenolinguists series would win a Nebula. 
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 85. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse which I adore. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat when should make it genre, yes? Genre wise, I’d say Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. It was nominated for a Hugo at IguanaCon II when Star Wars won. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  •  Born October 29, 1941 Hal W. Hall, 82. Bibliographer responsible for the Science Fiction Book Review Index (1970 – 1985) and the Science Fiction Research Index (1981 – 1922). He also did a number of reviews including three of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books showing he had excellent taste in fiction.
  •  Born October 29, 1954 Paul Di Filippo, 69. Ciphers: a post-Shannon rock-n-roll mystery was his first work. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him. I’d suggest first reading you don’t know him should be The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there.  His “A Year in the Linear City” novella was nominated at Torcon 3 for Best Novella, and won the 2003 World Fantasy Award and the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Award. Oh, and he’s one of our stellar reviewers having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionScience Fiction EyeThe New York Review of Science FictionInterzoneNova Express and Science Fiction Weekly
  •  Born October 29, 1954 Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 69. Archaeologist and writer. I highly recommend the three Anasazi Mysteries that she co-wrote with W. Michael Gear. She’s a historian of note so she’s done a lot of interesting work in that area such as Viking Warrior Women: Did ‘Shieldmaidens’ like Lagertha Really Exist?  And should you decide you want to keep buffalo, she’s the expert on doing so. Really. Truly, she is.
  • Born October 29, 1971 Anna Dale, 52. Scottish writer whom many reviewers have dubbed “the next JK Rowling” who’s best known for her Whispering to Witches children’s novel. It was based on her masters dissertation in children’s writing. She has written two more novels of a similar ilk, Spellbound and Magical Mischief

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys explains why a Charles Schulz tradition came to an end.
  • Tom Gauld shares the cauldron ingredient list.

(9) REFLECTS A CHANGING MARKET. LAist brings the bad news that “Two Of LA’s Oldest Comic Stores Are Closing Down”.

Not even a superhero could save two of Los Angeles’s oldest comic book stores.

Torrance’s Geoffrey’s Comics and Hi De-Ho Comics in Santa Monica are closing at the end of the year.

Owner Geoffrey Patterson II said that ever since the pandemic, many comic book fans moved from purchasing their comics in person to online. For his stores, that meant losing half of his customer base and more than half of the profits.

But the pandemic was just the last straw.

“It’s also just as it has become mainstream, that other places are now selling comic books that weren’t selling them before,” he said, citing big retailers like Target. “It went from being only in comic book stores to everywhere. So the customers now have 100 choices for where they pick up a comic book story, and that just kept shrinking and shrinking our customer base.”…

(10) DOING HARD TIME. He’s rocky, just not the one that first comes to mind.Animation World Network reviews “‘Curses!’ Blends Horror, Comedy, and Action with a Dad Turned to Stone”

Premiering today, Friday, October 27, Curses!, from DreamWorks Animation, hits Apple TV+ just in time for Halloween. In the all-new animated, spooky adventure-comedy series for kids, when a generations-long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven to stone, it’s up to his two children, Pandora and Russ, and his wife Sky, to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good….

Curses! began as a collaboration between creators Jim Cooper and Jeff Dixon. The two had never written together before; they met when their children started school together, and after dropping them off, they’d walk home and discuss their writing careers. “Jeff was mostly in horror, and I was mostly in family animation,” Cooper shares. “Sometime over the years, we thought, ‘Hey, it would be cool to combine the two.’ We hit upon the idea of Curses! after discussing what we call my ‘family curse.’ That got us thinking about other family curses and their causes, and things just sort of went from there.”

“It started with Coop telling me the story of his ‘family curse,’ Dixon adds. “He told me that all the men on one side of his family died young, generation after generation. After he showed me a photo of his grandfather as a baby holding an actual human skull, we started thinking, ‘Holy hell, that skull must somehow be the origin of the curse!’ Then our imaginations started spinning out of control thinking about curses and what happens to later generations when a family line is cursed because of something their ancestors did, to no fault of their own. And it only grew from there.”…

(11) JUST DUCKY. Heritage Auctions’ November 16 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction has rafts of collectible art.  This piece is particularly interesting – and is already bid up to $26,000.

 Carl Barks Luck of the North Donald Duck Painting Original Art (1973). Though this rollicking scene is based on one of the “Good Duck Artist’s” most famous yarns, this is the only painted version of it that he ever did. Carl Barks based this colorful calamity on his 1949 Donald Duck adventure from Four Color #256. This mirthful masterwork was published on Page 169 (as color plate 49) of The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck, where Barks noted: “In that northern lights effect at the top, I found pictures of the northern lights in some National Geographics and I kind of stole some. I find water very difficult to paint. It’s hard work, but I worked at this until I got it to look halfway authentic. I generally just plunged right in on an idea whether I was going to have trouble or not. I’d start out with a simple idea, and keep on elaborating on it until I had a real complex thing going.”

(12) VAMPIRE HUNTER D. The Animation Explorations Podcast has dropped the first episode of their second year. For the spooky season they take a look at the 1985 adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s first novel in “Vampire Hunter D (1985)” series. 

(13) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY.  “‘Call me chief priestess for the moon goddess’: space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock” tells the Guardian.

Call me chief priestess for the moon goddess,” says Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock when I ask whether she prefers to be known as an astronomer, physicist or space scientist. She is, after all, entitled to all of them because before presenting The Sky at Night on the BBC she trained as a physicist, then an engineer and is now the nation’s go-to woman for all things space. But it seems that she really has her eye on the job of a 4,300-year-old Sumerian religious leader.

“I was giving a talk in the Scottish parliament,” she explains when we meet at a photographer’s studio hidden in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it alleyway in east London, “and I mentioned En Hedu’anna, the first female scientist who was known as chief priestess for the moon goddess of the city of Ur [in ancient Mesopotamia].” After the talk, the chair suggested they vote to bestow on Aderin-Pocock the title of chief priestess for the moon goddess of the city of Edinburgh. “That’s what I would like on my business card,” she says with a delighted clap of the hands and the kind of irresistible enthusiasm that viewers of The Sky at Night will be familiar with.

Forgotten or uncredited scientists, such as En Hedu’anna, feature prominently in Aderin-Pocock’s new book, The Art of Stargazing, a practical guide to identifying and understanding the 88 constellations…

…[Why] is outdated ancient science from long-dead civilisations still important? “When I grew up, there were many kids who looked at science and thought: ‘Well, someone like me doesn’t do that because it’s not my culture, it’s not for me – I don’t have a history of this.’ Diversity is about bringing different ideas and people into science because if it’s all just done by the European white guys, we get a very blinkered view of the world. That’s why access to the history of astronomy is important for everyone.’…

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/23 For A Mere $39.95 You Can Turn A Dalek Into a Barista Machine

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

New articles on the Chengdu Worldcon website, but only in Chinese

There have been several news articles published on the official website since the convention ended on the 22nd, but only in Chinese.  Below are extracts from a few of them, via Google Translate with minor manual edits.

What kind of “future” did people encounter in Chengdu? (posted Monday 23rd)

This conference is a new starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu, but it is not only the starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu. This conference is the starting point for China’s science fiction industry to set sail from Chengdu.

The organizing committee of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference has made the science fiction industry a major topic of the conference for the first time. At the first industrial development summit held at the conference, the “Chengdu Consensus on Science Fiction Industry” was officially released, which will allow various industries to gather a consensus to build the cornerstone of the science fiction industry.

A thank you note! ICBC’s patient and thoughtful service won praise from guests at the Science Fiction Conference (posted Monday 23rd)

On the first day of the World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu on October 18, foreign customer Mr. Barkley hurried to the mobile banking car for help. He wanted to use his credit card to withdraw some cash to buy a domestic mobile phone to send emails online, but domestic credit card withdrawals required a password.  Mr. Barkley had previously used his credit card abroad to make purchases or withdraw cash based on his signature, and he did not know the reserved password.

Behind the exciting exhibitions at the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, ICBC’s thoughtful, patient and heart-warming financial services undoubtedly provide comprehensive protection…..

The exhibition hall is also equipped with a digital RMB coffee machine. Using digital RMB, you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee for only 1 yuan. At the same time, the Chengdu Universiade co-branded digital RMB hard wallet set exhibited by ICBC supports payment without network and electricity. Payment can be completed with just a “touch” during transactions, which left a deep impression on many domestic and foreign guests.

In order to provide all-weather, omni-channel, international financial services and facilitate services, ICBC comprehensively promotes the financial services for the Science Fiction Conference at 11 outlets in Pidu District. 

Note that ICBC was one of two top tier sponsors of the Chengdu Worldcon.  Also note that although the article was posted two days after the Hugo ceremony, the article makes no mention of Chris being a Hugo winner.

Ximalaya Operations Director Zhou Tiantian: Science fiction encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale (posted Monday 23rd)

Zhou Tiantian, director of operations of Ximalaya, said that science fiction gives people the limits of their imagination and encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale . As the leading audio app in China, Ximalaya is closely integrated with cutting-edge technology and has launched many science fiction, fantasy and technological contents. At present, Ximalaya has released a number of sci-fi Atmos audio dramas, including classic sci-fi IPs “The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin Collection”, “Solaris” and “Dune Overture”. Ximalaya has cooperated with Dolby Laboratories to launch a Dolby Atmos zone. Launched with [car manufacturer] NIO, it provides high-quality audiobooks in various genres such as science fiction, suspense, and children’s books.  Previously, Ximalaya cooperated with Li Auto and WANOS to launch panoramic audio dramas, providing a shocking auditory experience for the in-car space.

Ximalaya is committed to empowering culture with technology and actively promotes the widespread application of AI technology in the audio industry, which is consistent with its long-term development strategy. As a beneficiary and leader of AI technology, Ximalaya is unswervingly committed to the exploration of AI technology in the audio field. Through the development of AI technology, Ximalaya can appear in users’ lives in a new way of experience, realizing rebirth in some scenarios. Ximalaya will continue to be committed to the application of AI technology in the audio field, and continue to promote innovation to meet the diverse needs of users and help Ximalaya continue to develop.

[Note: I’m not familiar with this audiobook company, but it seems that they use both the “Ximalaya” and “Himalaya” brand names; the former seems to be aimed at the domestic market, the latter internationally.]

The winning games of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” have been announced! (Posted Monday 23rd)

On the morning of October 22nd, the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” award ceremony was held at the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, where the winning works were announced. The selection event was released by the Organizing Committee of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference and sponsored by Sichuan Game Innovation and Development Center, Chengdu Science Fiction Association, and Sichuan Publishing Association Game Publishing Working Committee.

Sichuan New Media Group and other relevant leaders, as well as Canada’s “Godfather of Science Fiction” Robert Sawyer, attended the event and presented awards, as well as specially invited representatives from Google, Amazon Cloud, NetEase, Tencent, Huawei, Bilibili, and Ubisoft.

The first two winners named are by remarkable coincidence associated with sponsors of the con.

As an aside, I see that Sergey Lukyanenko is still listed as a GoH on the front page, and the “Special Guests” and “Hosts” are still showing as “UPDATING”.

Con reports: Jeremy Szal, Arthur Liu and Nicholas Whyte

Jeremy Szal was tweeting during the con and has now written his con report:

I’m led through a whirlwind of events, ceremonies, meetings, interviews and conversations. I’m thrust in front of cameras, wired up with microphones, offered seats and stools. I greet friends, both new and familiar to me. My editors and handlers keep close correspondence with me, telling me where I need to be, and at what time, and how I should be dressed. I’ve done WorldCons before. I know this gig. But something here feels different. There’s a buzz, a feverishness, in the air…

And it’s nice. Never before have I felt so welcome. Never before have I truly felt at home, as a member of the science-fiction community. Diversity here isn’t spoken off. It’s acted upon. Where other conventions may attempt to gesture at diversity, as an abstract, here it is exacted. It’s presented, on an international scale. And it’s wonderful. We don’t all speak the same language. Because we share something else, something grander: a love of science-fiction and fandom.

Arthur Liu is currently suffering from severe con crud, but nevertheless has put out the first part (of four) of his Chinese-language con report, covering the run-up to the event.  (Disclosure: I am mentioned in this article.)  Via Google Translate, with minor edits:

Yao Xue from the business meeting group also invited me to propose “constitutional amendment” proposals. The F.8 proposal also caused controversy in the American science fiction circle. A group of science fiction fans attacked it on File 770. These somewhat brought back a bit of the “Worldcon” flavor of this conference, and made us decide to at least enjoy it as much as possible. I think that the science fiction fans who finally decided to attend this conference all have more or less ambivalent feelings about it…

The theme salon is divided into three application channels: (1) Questionnaire star entrance provided on the WeChat official account; (2) Organizing committee email address provided on the official website; (3) Planorama website. This caused a lot of confusion in the early days, because the contents filled out in the three channels were different and incomplete. Later, the information was completed only through the collection of volunteers. The application for a fan booth is relatively straightforward, just send an email. However, because the venue had not yet been completed, the relevant person in charge did not respond for a long time after the application was submitted, and did not start notifying people until just before the con. From August to before the conference, I had to go through this “catch up on winter and summer vacation homework” mode at almost every stage and every milestone. The intermediary organizer also repeatedly asked us to fill in forms and provide additional event materials because they needed to review the content to ensure on-site safety. For example, the panellists needed to provide speech notes, the host needed to provide speech notes, etc. In addition, they also had to provide true identity information in order to enable the organizers to be able to perform facial recognition on the guests… From these preliminary preparations, we could actually roughly guess what the scene would be like, which shows that the local government attached great importance to this matter.

Nicholas Whyte’s first post about the con covers the Doctor Who panel:

Many aspects of Chengdu Worldcon were great fun. I will write about the things I especially enjoyed: the pandas, the set-piece events, and the friends I made along the way. (I enjoyed the WSFS Business Meeting even less than usual, so I won’t write about that.)

The thing that gave me the most unexpected joy was the love for Doctor Who shown by the Chinese fans. I have to give huge credit here to Yan Ru, 晏如, an English Chinese teacher from Wuhan, who may well be the leading Doctor Who fan in China. We had made contact before the convention, and had a lot of conversations about our shared passion.

(2) TRIANGULAR TRADE.  “The Flatiron Building Will Be Converted Into Condos” in the New York Times. Not so long ago New York fans knew it as the headquarters of Tor Books but I suspect they will resist the temptation to buy condos and live there around the clock.

The Flatiron, the storied office building in the heart of Manhattan that has recently fallen on hard times, will be converted into luxury housing, its owners announced on Thursday.

The proposed redevelopment by the new owners is aimed at starting a second life for the Flatiron — its sole office tenant, Macmillan Publishers, departed before the pandemic — and moving past a dramatic period in which its fate seemed uncertain. In March, a little-known buyer won an auction for the building, only to disappear without paying.

The building’s future as housing began to take shape this week when the Brodsky Organization, a residential developer, bought a stake in the 22-story, triangular-shaped tower on Fifth Avenue. Brodsky will lead the conversion, carving out units — either for sale as condominiums or as rentals — from the notoriously awkward space….

(3) THE GOALS OF BLACK HORROR. The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosen found out “What Scares Jordan Peele?” And N.K. Jemisin, too.

…Since then I’ve learned a lot more about how race worked in that movie. But for a Black kid interested in horror, the subtext might have been a little more obvious. Jordan Peele grew up writing horror stories in his journals, and occasionally scaring his classmates with them on school trips. In 2017, after a successful sketch-comedy career, he wrote, produced, and directed Get Out, the critically acclaimed horror film. He says the movie “felt very taboo” and “un-produceable” at the time. “I don’t know if you noticed, but Get Out doesn’t have any good white people in it,” he told me. I did notice.

After Peele made that movie, and several others, he says, Black creators started telling him that they too had a horror story to tell, but they had never thought to tell it publicly. Classic horror always seemed to be speaking to white people’s fears about the menace of “the other,” made manifest as dark and sinister forces. But Black people of course saw different monsters….

(4) UPHILL CLIMB. “Fantasy, sci-fi books by Latinx authors need more support, authors and agents say” at The 19th News.

Romina Garber had always been an avid reader of fantasy stories, especially Harry Potter, but something ate at her: She could never find another Latina in the stories.

“I couldn’t find someone that reflected me or represented me, and that always really bothered me,” she said.

So Garber wrote the story of a young girl who discovers she’s a lobizona, a werewolf of Argentine folklore. But when Garber began looking for literary representation for the book that would eventually be “Lobizona,” 15 years ago, no one wanted it.

Garber remembers one agent telling her that “no one cared about Argentine immigrants.” There was no American market for the title, and it’s not what people wanted to read. Garber felt her identity, not just her book, being rejected. 

“He was talking about me, he wasn’t talking about my characters,” Garber said. “It really crushed me. And after that, I just realized I can’t write about myself.”

So she began writing allegorical science fiction instead, creating a world where everyone is divided up by their zodiac sign. Garber found an agent with this new concept and finished publishing the four-book series in 2017. But Garber’s mind drifted back to the first book she tried to sell about an undocumented immigrant lobizona. It felt more urgent than ever: The news was filled with stories of immigrant children being detained in cages during the Trump administration’s border crackdowns.

Now armed with an agent from her science fiction series, her book was sold to a publisher. “Lobizona,” the first in the Wolves Of No World Duology, was released in 2020. Garber regrets that she ever shelved the story in the first place. “I should never have stopped fighting.”

There have been a few standout successes for Latinx authors in the realm of speculative fiction — which includes fantasy, science fiction and dystopian stories — and many are written by women and LGBTQ+ authors. Books such as Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic” and Aiden Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys” have been New York Times bestsellers. Moreno-Garcia’s “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” is up for the genre’s prestigious Hugo Award.

Publishers have backed a few bright stars, but that doesn’t translate into broader support. Publishing, both the industry and the authors, are overwhelmingly White. For Latinx authors, that can mean an industry that flattens cultural nuances, tokenizing and misrepresenting the speculative worlds they are dreaming into existence….

(5) THE WEB NOT SPUN. [Item by Steven French.] David Fincher’s take on Spider-Man: “’Who doesn’t think they’re an outsider?’ David Fincher on hitmen, ‘incels’ and Spider-Man’s ‘dumb’ origin story” in the Guardian.

…He pitched his idea for a Spider‑Man movie in 1999. Fincher’s version skipped the whole “bitten by a radioactive spider” part and focused on Peter Parker as a grownup. “They weren’t fucking interested,” he says with a laugh. “And I get it. They were like: ‘Why would you want to eviscerate the origin story?’ And I was like: ‘’Cos it’s dumb?’ That origin story means a lot of things to a lot of people, but I looked at it and I was like: ‘A red and blue spider?’ There’s a lot of things I can do in my life and that’s just not one of them.” The gig went to Sam Raimi….

(6) SECOND FIFTH. “Fantastic Beasts: JK Rowling franchise has been ‘parked’, director says” – the Guardian took notes.

… The Secrets of Dumbledore netted just $407m at the international box office, compared with the first film in the franchise, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $814m, and the second movie, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, which took $654m.

The franchise has also been dogged by controversy arising from its stars and writer. JK Rowling, the Harry Potter creator who received the sole screenwriting credit for the first two Fantastic Beasts films and was co-writer on the third, has been widely criticised for her outspoken views on transgender issues.

Johnny Depp, who played Grindelwald in the first two Fantastic Beasts films, was in 2020 asked to resign from the franchise days after he lost his libel case against the Sun, which had referred to the actor as a “wife-beater” following accusations of domestic violence made against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard.

And Ezra Miller, another of the franchise’s stars, made headlines in 2022 after they were arrested multiple times; Miller eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful trespassing and revealed they were seeking treatment for “complex mental health issues”.

Yates revealed to the podcast that the franchise’s five-film plan had not initially been on the cards.

“The idea that there were going to be five [Fantastic Beasts] films was a total surprise to most of us,” he said.

“Jo just mentioned it spontaneously, at a press screening once. We were presenting some clips of FB1 [Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them]. We’d all signed up for FB1, very enthusiastically. And Jo, bless her, came on … and Jo said, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s five of them.’ And we all looked at each other because no one had told us there were going to be five. We’d sort of committed to this one. So that was the first we’d heard of it.”…

(7) A “MONSTER KID” REMEMBERS. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Ray Harryhausen … Ray Bradbury … George Pal … Robert Bloch … Peter Cushing … Veronica Carlson … Buster Crabbe … John Agar … Frank Capra … John Williams … Miklos Rozsa … Forrest J Ackerman … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for over half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly “Monstrous,” remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.” “Vertlieb’s Views: A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunder Child.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1926 Takumi Shibano. Teacher, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Japan. He co-founded and edited Uchujin, Japan’s first SF magazine, in 1957. He was a major figure in the establishment of Japanese SFF fandom, and he founded and chaired four of the first six conventions in that country. In 1968 the Trans-Oceanic Fan Fund (TOFF) brought him to a Worldcon for the first time, in the U.S., where he was a Special Guest. He wrote several science fiction novels starting in 1969, but his work translating more than 60 science fiction novels into Japanese was his major contribution to speculative fiction. From 1979 on, he attended most Worldcons and served as the presenter of the Seiun Awards. He was Fan Guest of Honor at two Worldcons, in 1996 and at Nippon 2007, he was given the Big Heart Award by English-speaking fandom, and he was presented with a Special Hugo Award and a Special Seiun Award. (Died 2010.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1940 Patrick Woodroffe. Artist and Illustrator from England, who produced more than 90 covers for SFF books, including works by Zelazny, Heinlein, and GRRM, along with numerous interior illustrations, in the 1970s. He was also commissioned to provide speculative art for record album cover sleeves; his masterwork was The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World, a joint project with the symphonic rock musician Dave Greenslade, which purported to be the first five chapters of an alien Book of Genesis, consisting of two music discs by the musician and a 47-page book of Woodroffe’s illustrations. It sold over 50,000 copies in a five-year period, and the illustrations were exhibited at the Brighton UK Worldcon in 1979. Hallelujah Anyway, a collection of his work, was published in 1984, and he was nominated for Chesley and BSFA Awards. (Died 2014.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1943 Les Daniels. Writer of a series concerning the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. During the Seventies, he was the author of Comix: A History of Comic Books in America with illustrations by the Mad Peck — and Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media. Later on, he’d write myriad histories of DC and Marvel Comics, both the Houses and individual characters. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist and Illustrator, whose credits include dozens of comic books and fiction book covers, and more than hundred interior illustrations, as well as a number of accompanying works of short fiction. His first comic book story, “The Man Who Murdered Himself” appeared in the House of Mystery No. 179 in 1969. With writer Len Wein, he later co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing in House of Secrets No. 92. In the 70s, he spent seven years drawing approximately fifty detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Frankenstein. And in the 80s, he did a number of collaborations with Stephen King, including the comic book adaptation of that author’s horror film Creepshow. In 2012, he collaborated with Steve Niles on Frankenstein Alive, Alive! for which he won a National Cartoonists Society’s award. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, was honored with an Inkwell Special Recognition Award for his 45-year comics art career, and received nominations for Chesley Awards for Superior and Lifetime Artistic Achievement and for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Illustrated Narrative. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 53. Writer from England who produces speculative genre literature for children and young adults. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, winner of Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature, is set in an alternate London, and involves a thousand-year-old djinn; Lockwood & Co. is a series involving ghost hunters in another alternative London. I’ve read a few of the latter – they’re fun, fast reads.  Netflix made the latter into a series and promptly cancelled it after one season.
  • Born October 27, 1973 Anthony Doerr, 50. Author four novels, two of which are genre — About Grace and Cloud Cuckoo Land. The first is straightforward, the latter is really complex storytelling. He’s won four Ohioana Awards (Literature by writers from Ohio and about Ohio), not an Award I’d heard of before now.  He’s written one piece of genre fiction, “The Hunter’s Wife” which is only in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection which means it was commissioned for there. 

(9) HOOPLA COMICS KINGDOM 1-WEEK BINGE PASSES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As I wrote in “Reading Daily Comic Strips Online” (File770.com, March 23, 2022) a lot of current and classic comic strips are available online, primarily through ComicsKingdom and GoComics, for modest annual subscription prices — and
both offer free try-it access.

If you’re curious about Comics Kingdom’s offerings but don’t want to pony up a payment method just to try, Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) (access available through participating libraries) Binge Passes include a week’s access to a selection of the full site: Comics Kingdom Binge Pass.

(10) THIRD HELPING OF OMENS ON THE MENU. “Good Omens to Reportedly Be Renewed for Season 3, But With A Catch” — and Comicbook.com knows what it is.

Good Omens is reportedly looking at a Season 3 renewal by Amazon Prime Video and the BBC – but reportedly there is a catch. It’s now looking like Good Omens showrunner, director and executive producer Douglas Mackinnon will not be returning for Season 3 (likely the final season) – although lead actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant and the main cast of the show have reportedly all been locked-in to return.

(11) THE BLOB. “Spacewalking cosmonauts encounter toxic coolant ‘blob’ while inspecting leaky radiator” reports Space.com.

Two cosmonauts conducting a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday (Oct. 25) got an up-close view of a coolant leak that was first observed flowing from an external radiator earlier this month.

Oleg Kononenko came so close to the growing “blob” or “droplet” — as the pooling ammonia was described — that one of his tethers became contaminated, necessitating it being bagged and left outside of the space station when the spacewalk ended.

Kononenko and his fellow Expedition 70 spacewalker, Nikolai Chub, also of the Russian federal space corporation Roscosmos, began the extravehicular activity (EVA) at 1:49 p.m. EDT (1749 GMT) on Wednesday, knowing that one of their first tasks was to isolate and photo document the radiator, which was first observed leaking coolant on Oct. 9. Used as a backup to a main body radiator that regulates the temperature inside Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, Kononenko and Chub configured a number of valves to cut off the external radiator from its ammonia supply….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George introduces us to “The First Guy To Ever Trick or Treat”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/23 All I Have In My Pocket Is A Pixel And A File

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

RiverFlow update

He posted to Twitter this morning (UK time), and a couple of people have since told me that he’s doing better now.

Best Short Story finalist Lu Ban’s Hugo photos

Not sure if he’s at the Worldcon – the post says it came from Sichuan province, so quite possibly he was – but Best Short Story finalist Lu Ban posted these photos to Weibo.  Rather more stylish than your typical author attire, I think?

Three Short Story finalists appear on TV show

Lu Ban also reposted this 11 minute video clip. It’s a fair bit beyond my Chinese language skills, but it seems to be him and fellow finalists Jiang Bo and Ren Qing appearing on a Friday night TV show, possibly aimed at teenagers or young adults judging by the shots of the audience.

Once you get past the opening comedy (?) skit, at around 01:07 the speaker references the 81st Worldcon and the three Hugo Award finalists just before they come on stage.  They then talk about the SFnal topics shown on the board on the left of the stage.

Two more somewhat mysterious announcements

I wasn’t able to watch the closing ceremony due to a failure to connect to the stream (again), but Japanese author Taiyo Fujii posted on Mastodon this image of the “Establishment of Chengdu Worldcon Brand Promotion Center”.  I’m puzzled why you would need a centre to promote the brand of a con that’s just finished.  Google search for that English text didn’t find anything, and I couldn’t make out all the hanzi due to the firework graphics on the screen to be able to search for the Chinese name.  It looks like Ben Yalow and other Western VIPs were on stage for this announcement, so I’m sure they’ll all be able to tell us what exactly it’s about.

(via Zimozi Natsuco)  Besides the Tianwen Program & Award covered in yesterday’s Scroll, we now have the “International Youth Science Fiction Alliance”.  Via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

According to the relevant person in charge, the alliance aims to empower the development of Chinese science fiction, create a high-quality science fiction ecosystem, and jointly promote the development and innovation of China’s science fiction cause and science fiction industry through the alliance platform and linking all-round resources of government, industry, academia and research.

So far, the alliance has received support from more than 70 domestic and foreign university societies such as Stanford University, University College London, Oxford University, Paris-Sorbonne University, Peking University, Renmin University of China, Zhejiang University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

At first glance, I don’t see any crossover with the names associated with the Tianwen Program, but I think there are members of the Chengdu concom named as being involved in both of these organizations.

Zimozi also said that, as the former president of the Zhejiang University SF society, no-one had contacted him or that association prior to this announcement yesterday afternoon, so the nature of the support the named universities are providing is unclear to say the least.

Bilibili videos

I’ve not had as much time today to trawl Bilibili, Xiaohongshu or Weibo as I’d have liked, but here are a few:

As far as I could tell, there’s nothing on YouTube as yet, but these Bilibili videos appear to be official releases of the Hugo Ceremony, as the uploader is listed as “Hugo X”: EnglishChinese.

Chengdu Plus posted a bilingual compilation of a bilingual compilation of clips summarizing the events of the con.  Much of the footage has been seen before, but there’s footage of what I assume is the Hugo party, with some recognizable faces.

A three-and-a-half-minute clip video of a Chinese fan wandering around the con – nothing earth-shattering, but gives a better idea of what the con was like for regular attendees than the glitzy official promos, none of which show the lengthy snaking line of metal barriers that open this video.

(2) HUGO, GIRL! ACCEPTS. The Hugo, Girl! team posted video of their Best Fancast Hugo acceptance remarks here. However, the tweet is locked except for those who are approved to follow the account.

(3) BLACK TO THE FUTURE. An Afro-Futurist celebration of outstanding Black artists, Black To The Future, a space for visionary imaginings to thrive, launches October 24. See the schedule of events and exhibitions at the link.

BTTF begins as British Black History month ends; launching late October and running until US Black History Month in February 2024, to accompany the British Library’s upcoming major exhibition: Fantasy: Realms of Imagination.

Curated, founded and directed by Irenosen Okojie MBE, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature and the British Library.

FANTASY: REALMS OF IMAGINATION

BTTF will accompany the upcoming major British Library exhibition – Fantasy: Realms of Imagination – one of the largest of its kind – showing everything from the original Beowulf and Alice in Wonderland manuscripts to a wide range of contemporary writing and everything in between – plus maps, interactives, sound fan perspectives and so on.

The display will ask why we need Fantasy, or how it reflects the social issues of the day, and where it is going, with an advisory panel including Neil Gaiman.

(4) SARTREAN NAUSEA. Ted Gioia shares “My Lost Gumby Essay” at The Honest Broker.

… Raise the subject of Gumby during a casual conversation. Okay, that’s not always easy to do—so bring a toy Gumby with you to various events.

Then watch how people react.

Gumby will evoke powerful feelings—both positive and negative—in everybody he encounters. Some people will grab your Gumby and caress him lovingly. Others will sneer and mock. But nobody will be indifferent.

This is simply not the case with other figures of children’s TV. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Mister Rogers, all three Stooges—these we may like or dislike, tolerate or dismiss, but none reaches as deeply into our psyches as Gumby.

But why?

The key to solving the mystery of the Gumby Syndrome (I’m going to become renowned for naming it thus) can be found in the writings of French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Towards the end of Sartre’s monumental work Being and Nothingness, he reflects that viscous substance have the rare effect of both attracting us and disgusting us at the same time.

Mud, glue, and all the various types of goo and stickum which we encounter day to day are often things we openly despise, but with an undercurrent of fascination….

(5) RIPPING GOOD TOUR.  The New York Times follows guides who are “Chasing Jack the Ripper Through the Streets of Modern London”.

From certain corners of Commercial Street in East London, a busy thoroughfare that runs through the heart of where Jack the Ripper killed five women more than a century ago, the city can look like it did in 1888, with narrow alleys snaking their way between Victorian-era buildings.

Go down the street, though, and the views turn unmistakably modern: skyscrapers, glassy office buildings lit up with workers eating dinner at their desks, a Peloton store and expensive apartments.

The changed landscape and tall buildings do not deter hundreds of people on most nights from taking guided tours that follow the killer’s footsteps through the neighborhood known as Whitechapel. And much like the city around them, the stories they’re told in 2023 about those murders can feel at turns modern, and unchanged since 1888….

… These days, the Ripper economy is still flourishing in Whitechapel. There’s a barbershop called Jack the Clipper. A fish and chips restaurant called Jack the Chipper. And, night after night, the tours, most of which cost around $20 and run up to two hours. Interest is especially high during late summer and fall, with mild, dark nights and Halloween around the corner….

(6) ART OF GENRE INTEREST IN HUNTSVILLE. [Item by Marc Criley.] An art exhibition integrating sculpture and AR (Augmented Reality) has opened at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama.

In Reforestation of the Imagination, artists Ginny Ruffner and Grant Kirkpatrick “[use] technology to overlay digital information onto sculptural objects, [portraying] two disparate environments.”

Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination combines traditional sculpture with augmented reality (AR). By using technology to overlay digital information onto sculptural objects, two disparate environments are portrayed. The setting is an apocalyptic landscape far in the future. The initial environment consists of five landmasses, which support the glass stumps. Except for the painted shelf mushrooms and tree rings on the stumps and logs, the scene is colorless. The landmasses surround a sixth rocky outcropping that features a large fiberglass stump. The central stump sprouts beautifully grotesque bronze, then glass appendages. This improbable growth has survived the devastation to create a new botany.

“Other than the central stump, the landscape appears at first glance to be barren. Yet, upon viewing the tree rings aided by AR technology a second environment is revealed. Plants appear (both fruit and flowers) which have evolved from existing flora. They have developed dramatic appendages and the skills necessary to adapt and flourish in this radically different environment. From accessing nutrients in ways that symbiotically improve their surrounding conditions, to cultivating protections from new threats, these adaptations are unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic. This is nature reimagining itself. The imagination cannot be exterminated. It just recreates itself.” —Ginny Ruffner

Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Digitalis artherium (Double art flowers), 2017, sculpture (handblown glass with acrylic paint tree rings), island (plywood, low-density foam, fiberglass, epoxy, sand, pebbles, and acrylic paint), and holographic image. Sculpture: 9 x 13 x 11 ½ in. Installation view at MadArt Studio, 2018. Courtesy MadArt. Photo by James Harnois.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature – and a Worldcon guest of honor in 1987. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1927 Lee Jacobs. Fan who lived in LA in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. It was written over a forty year period as the first novel, Walk to the End of the World was published in 1974, and the last novel, The Conqueror’s Child was published in 1999. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? (Died 2023.)
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. He edited the sf line at Ace ad then Tor before starting his own namesake company in 1983. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. No Hugos not even a short list nomination but he’s won quite a few BFAs and one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. (Died 2015.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper,  67. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) KEEP DRAWING THE SKIES. “When Étienne Trouvelot turned his attention from insects to astronomy, the result was celestial magic,” says the Smithsonian Air and Space Quarterly: “An Artist Sketches the Heavens”. A gallery of art is at the link.

In the chilly early morning hours of  November 14, 1868, Étienne Léopold Trouvelot gazed out from an upstairs window in his home at 27 Myrtle Street in Medford, Massachusetts. Trouvelot stationed himself at the window from midnight to 5 am so that he could watch a steady stream of meteors visible in the clear black sky. No doubt thrilled by the astronomical display, he immortalized his observations in a pastel illustration titled November Meteors….

(10) BREAKTHROUGH. “Women Sci-fi Writer Numbers Rocketing In China”Barron’s has the story.

Women writers are taking the Chinese science fiction scene by storm, with their increasing prominence one of the genre’s most noticeable trends, according to participants at a major convention in Chengdu this week.

Worldcon — the world’s oldest and most influential sci-fi gathering — is taking place in China for the first time, drawing hordes of eager local fans of all genders.

China can still be a relatively socially conservative country, and under President Xi Jinping the space for the expression of feminism has shrunk even further over the last decade.

But in science fiction, the number of women authors has rocketed in recent years, said Regina Kanyu Wang, a writer and editor nominated for two prestigious Hugo Awards at Worldcon this year.

More women are now realising “it’s not only this nerdy, geeky style of science fiction that can be published, or that can be regarded as science fiction”, she said.

“Liu Cixin (the author of the world-famous Three-Body series) is great, we all love him. But there’s so much more outside of the Liu Cixin style.”

The good news is that once women do get their start as writers, they do not tend to feel they are treated unequally, according to Wang.

The market and readers are demanding new perspectives, she said.

“Nowadays, a lot of Chinese female sci-fi writers pay attention to the problems women face that men might not feel,” Zhou Danxue, a literature scholar at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, told AFP.

“The writers can use their own methods to reflect uniquely female feelings.”

In the past two years, there have been four anthologies published that were made up of only women or non-binary authors, Wang said, a major breakthrough….

(11) GENTLEBEINGS, BE SEATED. Here’s a classic type of fan project – identifying the “Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek” at Ex Astris Scientia.

Countless off-the-shelf office chairs, lounge chairs or car seats appeared in Star Trek productions. Here is a list of the models that we found, among them many design classics. Currently identified: 163.

See also a list of unidentified chairs and help us track their origin….

Here’s one example of how they match a chair to a scene in the show.

(12) THEY DO THE MICRO MUNCH. “‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world” reports the Guardian.

In 2001, a group of Japanese scientists made a startling discovery at a rubbish dump. In trenches packed with dirt and waste, they found a slimy film of bacteria that had been happily chewing through plastic bottles, toys and other bric-a-brac. As they broke down the trash, the bacteria harvested the carbon in the plastic for energy, which they used to grow, move and divide into even more plastic-hungry bacteria. Even if not in quite the hand-to-mouth-to-stomach way we normally understand it, the bacteria were eating the plastic.

The scientists were led by Kohei Oda, a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. His team was looking for substances that could soften synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, which is made from the same kind of plastic used in most beverage bottles. Oda is a microbiologist, and he believes that whatever scientific problem one faces, microbes have probably already worked out a solution. “I say to people, watch this part of nature very carefully. It often has very good ideas,” Oda told me recently.

What Oda and his colleagues found in that rubbish dump had never been seen before. They had hoped to discover some micro-organism that had evolved a simple way to attack the surface of plastic. But these bacteria were doing much more than that – they appeared to be breaking down plastic fully and processing it into basic nutrients. From our vantage point, hyperaware of the scale of plastic pollution, the potential of this discovery seems obvious. But back in 2001 – still three years before the term “microplastic” even came into use – it was “not considered a topic of great interest”, Oda said. The preliminary papers on the bacteria his team put together were never published….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s time again to practice your imitation of the “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, Brick Barrientos, Marc Criley, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/23 Jetpack Crashes, An Old Scroll Dies, Its Pixels Fall To The Floor

(1) LUKYANENKO NOT AT WORLDCON. There’s no sign of the Chengdu Worldcon’s Russian GoH Sergey Lukyanenko in social media coverage of the con. And the latest posts to his blog on his official website (devoted to anti-Israel remarks, and a report that his wife rescued a migrating woodcock in the backyard) suggest he’s at home. Although he made two other professional visits to the Far East earlier in 2023 he hasn’t mentioned Chengdu on his blog this year.

(2) 2023 HUGO BASE. This year’s Hugo base was debuted at the Chengdu Worldcon Opening Ceremonies by Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty. Here’s a screencap from the video. There are much better closeup photos of the base at his Facebook page.

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON SOUVENIR BOOK. The “Member Guidebook” Member Guidebook for 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention has been released. It’s a publicly available download here (PDF).

The member guidebook for the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention is available online. The guidebook consists of the welcome message from the co-chairs, an introduction to the main venue, notes for participants, an introduction to theme activities, a brief introduction of Chengdu, and an appendix.

(4) UYGHURS REMEMBERED. Andrew Gillsmith moderated a pre-Worldcon panel for the “World Uyghur Congress” which can be viewed on X.

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

Unofficial (?) Bilibili video of the opening ceremony

This seems to have been ripped from the stream, as it has a jump near the start where the video froze for me and others and audio glitches later on.  It is mostly in Chinese.

I don’t think that opening ceremony video is complete; there was a section at the end where a bunch of the VIPs came up on stage to declare the con open. Most of that is in this 2-minute video, but it also has bits chopped out for some reason.

Some people also struggled to get access to the video stream of the opening ceremony; hopefully whatever glitch or capacity issue caused that will be resolved soon.

Various arrivals photographed at the airport

Donald Eastlake, Kevin Standlee, Chris M. Barkley and Nicholas Whyte are amongst several Western fandom figures pictured in this Xiaohongshu photo gallery.

Longer fannish reports on Weibo

(Note: in the last couple of weeks or so, Weibo has added a “Translate content” link to posts, similar to what you get for foreign language tweets on Twitter.  However, for long-form posts like these, it tends to time out, so you might instead want to use any translation tools built into browsers such as Chrome to read the following links.)

For those not keen on the more commercial or “mainstream” stuff in some of the prior links, Best Fan Writer and Fanzine finalist RiverFlow has a long Weibo post going over his activities today, which included meeting various fans and pros, and being on a panel about university SF societies.  

From left to right: Hua Wen, Wei Ran, Bei Yu, RiverFlow (Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine finalist), Tian Tian, San Ma, Dan Fan.
(left) Best Fan Writer finalist Arthur Liu; (middle, in blue polo shirt) Ling Shizhen, who worked on the Best Fanzine finalist, Zero Gravity SF

SF Light Year aka Adaoli, who has commented here on File 770, has also posted some long reports on Weibo, such as this one.

English language promo video from Chengdu Museum

This 6-minute English language video is for the most part covers things that are more likely to appeal to general tourists, but is framed within a time-travel story featuring the Kormo mascot, and ends with the SF museum.

Xiaohongshu videos and photo galleries

As is to be expected with the con now underway, there are loads of these out there, and there’s a lot of repetition of material.  These are a fairly arbitrary selection of the ones that showed up in search results:

(6) LE GUIN VIDEOS. Available for viewing on Literary Hub, The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author. Here are the fifth and sixth installments.

In the fifth of the series, Theo Downes-Le Guin introduces “Where I Write,” an intimate peek into Ursula’s study and her writing process.

…Recently I viewed an online video titled “I Tried Ursula K. Le Guin’s Writing Schedule,” one of many such links. The production was snappy and well-intentioned, but the writer-presenter lost me when she described preparation of a “fancy breakfast.” The fried egg, tomato, and rocket sandwich bore no resemblance to mornings in my childhood home. Note to content creators: if you geek out on someone’s routine, do your research. Ursula wrote an entire essay about how to properly soft-boil an egg. That’s what she ate for breakfast. Not fancy.

In the final installment of the series, Julie Phillips reflects on “He’s My First Reader,” in which Ursula and her husband, Charles, discuss how their division of household labor helped Ursula thrive.

When Ursula Kroeber met and fell in love with Charles Le Guin, their meeting, on a ship bound for France, seemed to her almost magically improbable. “Obviously this sort of thing doesn’t happen,” she wrote him six weeks after they met. “I mean, conceivably you might exist, but you would never sit at Table 30 at 2nd sitting for dinner in tourist class on the Queen Mary on Sept 23rd 1953; I ask you, now would you?”

Charles felt the same, though he didn’t recognize true love quite as quickly as she. “I thought she was awfully snooty and shy the first meals; and she thought that I was British and very reserved. But after those first misapprehensions were displaced, we have scarcely been apart at all the last month,” he wrote his parents. “How do I tell you all this without it seeming silly or impossible? It is neither—not impossible because it has happened; not silly because it is too deep and too wonderful. Ursula and I are going to be married.”…

(7) GOOD DUDES. Charlie Jane Anders nominates “12 Male Role Models From Science Fiction and Fantasy” at Happy Dancing.

Lately I feel like everyone is talking about masculinity and what it means to be a good dude. The other day, I was on a panel at the Pride on the Page book festival with Jacob Tobia (Sissy) who was saying that we’ve spent decades expanding gender roles for women in mainstream society — women won the right to wear pants in the workplace (for now) — but meanwhile, most men remain trapped, unable to express healthy emotions or process all of their trauma.

As someone who was so successful at being a man that I actually graduated, I want to help!

So it’s a really good thing that science fiction and fantasy offer us so many excellent examples of guys who are secure in their masculinity and ready to do the right thing, even when it’s tough….

Take for example —

11) Henry Deacon (Eureka)

In a “town full of geniuses,” Henry Deacon might just be the smartest of them all — but when this underrated show begins, he’s working as a mechanic because he has ethical objections to the work that Global Dynamics is doing. Henry isn’t just the guy who steps in and fixes things when all the out-of-control science goes off the rails, he’s also the town’s moral center. (And eventually, he becomes its mayor.) Emmy-winning actor Joe Morton, who plays Henry, also plays a resourceful, kind alien refugee in the movie The Brother From Another Planet.

(8) LARA PARKER (1938-2023). Actress Lara Parker, age 28 when she was cast as Dark Shadows’ beautiful and evil witch Angelique Bouchard Collins, died October 12. She was 84. The Deadline tribute  also mentions her writing career:

…In her later years, Parker turned to writing and teaching — her novels include Angelique’s Descent (1998), The Salem Branch (2006), Wolf Moon Rising (2013) and Heiress of Collinwood (2016). The books proved popular among Dark Shadows‘ still-devoted, conventions-attending fan base, as well as devotees of romance and horror genre novels.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a suggestion by Mike Glyer.]

So let’s talk about Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which is where our Beginning is from this Scroll.

It’s a novel in her series about Oxford time-traveling historians, which consists of Fire WatchDoomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump  and Blackout/All Clear.

It was published thirty-one years ago by Bantam Spectra with the cover art being by Tim Jacobus. 

The series has an extraordinary history when it comes to awards. Fire Watch started off with a Best Novelette Hugo at ConStellation, along with winning a Nebula and being nominated for Balrog. Next up was a BSFA nomination for this novel followed by a Hugo win (a tie with with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep) at  ConFrancisco and a Nebula as well as picking up Clarke and Mythopoeic nominations. 

To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last won a Hugo at Aussiecon Three and also picked a Nebula nomination too. 

Blackout/All Clear got a Hugo at Renovation and Nebula, plus a Campbell Memorial nomination. 

So now that we’ve got those out of the way, let’s turned to the Beginning….

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.

 “Am I too late?” he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.

 “Shut the door,” she said. “I can’t hear you over the sound of those ghastly carols.” 

Dunworthy closed the door, but it didn’t completely shut out the sound of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” wafting in from the quad. “Am I too late?” he said again. 

Mary shook her head. “All you’ve missed is Gilchrist’s speech.” She leaned back in her chair to let Dunworthy squeeze past her into the narrow observation area. She had taken off her coat and wool hat and set them on the only other chair, along with a large shopping bag full of parcels. Her gray hair was in disarray, as if she had tried to fluff it up after taking her hat off. “A very long speech about Mediaeval’s maiden voyage in time,” she said, “and the college of Brasenose taking its rightful place as the jewel in history’s crown. Is it still raining?”

“Yes,” he said, wiping his spectacles on his muffler. He hooked the wire rims over his ears and went up to the thin-glass partition to look at the net. In the center of the laboratory was a smashed-up wagon surrounded by overturned trunks and wooden boxes. Above them hung the protective shields of the net, draped like a gauzy parachute.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1917 Reynold Brown. Artist responsible for many SF film posters. His first poster was Creature from the Black Lagoon with other notable ones being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Mothra vs. Godzilla. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 18, 1925 Walter Harris. He wrote a New Avengers novel, To Catch a Rat, and novelized Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Werewolf of London. ISFDB lists four more genre novels by him, The Mistress of Downing Street, The Day I DiedThe Fifth Horseman and Salvia. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 78. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great.
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 72. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 59. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent Empire Games and Dark State novels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe.
  • Born October 18, 1965– Kristen Britain, 58. She is writing the Green Rider series of which Green Rider was nominated for the Crawford Award and Blackveil was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award. It’s now a dozen novels deep. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side — This is mainly about Mrs. Frankenstein’s monster? 
  • Ziggy is suspicious of his shrink’s credentials.

(12) THAT POPEYE FILM. Daniel Dern (as a longtime fan of the movie) encourages Filers to watch “Popeye – It’s Not THAT Bad – The Insane True Story Behind the Movie”. Interesting enough. One notable item early in: the initial leads casting offer went to Dustin Hoffman (for Popeye) and Gilda Radner (for Olive Oil).

The final selections were Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, both delightfully great… but I would still love to have seen Radner’s take on Ms. Oil, particularly playing opposite Robin Williams.

(13) DOWNLOAD VECTOR’S “CHINESE SF” ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association opens issues of Vector to the public after about two years. The 2021 issue on Chinese SF is now available to download here.

 Vector 293 is a collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu WangYen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China. Artist and curator Angela Chan interviews Beatrice Glow about her work with colonial histories and the ability of science fiction to ‘tell truthful histories and envision just futures together’ through art. The conversation about history, futures, science fiction and art continues in Dan Byrne-Smith’s interview with Gordon Cheung. Chinese SF scholars Mia Chen MaFrederike Schneider-Vielsäcker and Mengtian Sun offer glimpses of their recent and ongoing research. Authors Maggie Shen King (An Excess Male) and Chen Qiufan (Waste Tide) interview each other about their recent novels. Feng Zhang introduces us to the SF fandom in China, while Regina Kanuy Wang brings us up to speed with accelerating Chinese SF industry. Dev Agarwal questions the maturity of the Chinese SF blockbuster as can be judged from Shanghai Fortress and The Wandering Earth (both available on Netflix). Virginia L. Conn explores Sinofuturism, while Emily Xueni Jin delves into the implications of translating a growing body of SF work from Chinese into English. We learn about the global perspectives on Chinese SF from an illustrious panel assembled at WorldCon 2019, and about transnational speculative folklore of the Uyghur people from Sandra UnermanNiall Harrison completes the issue with an illuminating survey of Chinese short SF in the 21st Century.’

(14) CLASSIC SFF ARTIST. Lots and lots of Virgil Finlay art can be viewed at this link: Raiders of the Lost Tumblr (posts tagged Virgil Finlay)

(15) TRAILER PARK. Beacon 23 – a series coming on MGM+. The series, based on a book by Hugh Howey, is set to premiere its first two episodes on MGM+ on Sunday, November 12 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. 

Aster (Lena Headey) and Halan (Stephan James) are drawn to Beacon 23 and face an onslaught of threats. When an object called The Artifact appears, they begin to unravel its mysteries, and develop a deep bond just in time to face a deadly AI.

(16) ANNULAR ECLIPSE. “What the ‘Ring of Fire’ eclipse looked like to a satellite nearly 1 million miles from Earth” at Popular Science.

The recent “ring of fire” solar eclipse looked stunning across portions of North and South America and we now have a new view of the stellar event. The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite created the image of the eclipse on Saturday October 14, depicting the mostly blue Earth against the darkness of space, with one large patch of the planet in the shadow of the moon. 

Launched in 2015, DSCOVR is a joint NASA, NOAA, and U.S. Air Force satellite. It offers a unique perspective since it is close to 1 million miles away from Earth and sits in a gravitationally stable point between the Earth and the sun called Lagrange Point 1. DSCOVR’s primary job is to monitor the solar wind in an effort to improve space weather forecasts

A special device aboard the satellite called the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) imager took this view of the eclipse from space. According to NASA, the sensor gives scientists frequent views of the Earth. The moon’s shadow, or umbra, is falling across the southeastern coast of Texas, near Corpus Christi….

The official NASA broadcast can be viewed here: “The Ring of Fire: 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Release time: 2023-10-01 12:42

Dear fantasy fans:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       months ago if they are a Chinese Mainland user

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

    c. Hasn’t been blocked in the past month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

1 4  1 19 20 18 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/23 Files Are A Burden To Others; Answers, A Pixel For Oneself

(1) OCTAVIA’S BOOKSHELF OPENS. Nikki High’s Octavia’s Bookshelf in Altadena (CA) enjoyed a festive launch on February 18.

BookRiot reports: “Hundreds of People Showed Up to Opening of Octavia’s Bookshelf”.

Octavia’s Bookshelf owner Nikki High had hoped that the opening of her new bookstore focusing on books by Black, Indigenous, and people of color authors would be attended by 20-30 people. Instead, by the time the doors opened February 18th, there were hundreds of people lined up for ten blocks to get in. 300 people showed up for opening day, including author Terry McMillan.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise also celebrated the event: “Crowds descend on grand opening of long-awaited Pasadena bookstore, Octavia’s Bookshelf”.

…An avid reader, High contemplated opening her own bookstore for years, but the final push came with the sudden passing of High’s grandmother and biggest supporter. In acknowledgement of this, speaker Joshua Evans, kicked off the event by paying homage to family and resiliency.

For Evans, Octavia’s Bookshelf is a symbol of progression and possibility — a space that he would have frequented as a kid.

“One of things that I personally believe is that there’s a story about Black and Brown people that is bigger than the impact of White supremacy,” Evans said looking down the line of people. “It’s a dream come true that I didn’t know that I had … it just gives people a chance to to come in, but also to develop and to meet other writers. And you always know it’s going to be a safe space. We’ll never be in danger of being minimalized or railroaded by people who are not sensitive.”

At its peak, the queue to get into the North Hill Avenue store spanned more than 10 blocks, reaching as far back as Victory Bible Church….

(2) MORE PROZINES REPORT DELUGE OF AI SUBMISSIONS. [Item by Frank Catalano.] The New York Times now is covering the AI submission problem, citing not just Clarkesworld, but also Asimov’s and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction: “Science Fiction Magazines Battle a Flood of Chatbot-Generated Stories”.

It could be a tale from science fiction itself: a machine that uses artificial intelligence to try to supplant authors working in the genre, turning out story after story without ever hitting writer’s block. And now, it seems, it’s happening in real life.

The editors of three science fiction magazines — Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction — said this week that they had been flooded by submissions of works of fiction generated by A.I. chatbots.

“I knew it was coming on down the pike, just not at the rate it hit us,” said Sheree Renée Thomas, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which was founded in 1949….

[Neil Clarke] said he had been able to spot the chatbot-generated stories by examining certain “traits” in the documents, the writing and the submission process.

Mr. Clarke declined to be more specific, saying he did not want to give those submitting the stories any advantages. The writing is also “bad in spectacular ways,” Mr. Clarke said. “They’re just prompting, dumping, pasting and submitting to a magazine.”…

Sheila Williams, the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, said that several of the chatbot-generated stories she had received all had the same title: “The Last Hope.”

“The people doing this by and large don’t have any real concept of how to tell a story, and neither do any kind of A.I.,” Ms. Williams said on Wednesday. “You don’t have to finish the first sentence to know it’s not going to be a readable story.”

Ms. Thomas said that the people submitting chatbot-generated stories appeared to be spamming magazines that pay for fiction. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction pays up to 12 cents a word, up to 25,000 words.

The A.I.-generated works can be weeded out, Ms. Thomas said, although “it’s just sad that we have to even waste time on it.”

“It does not sound like natural storytelling,” she said. “There are very strange glitches and things that make it obvious that it’s robotic.”…

The whole AI-generated art and writing thing in pro markets is really heating up. Of course, I’ve tweeted about it.

The Copyright Office is revoking full copyright for a graphic novel that used AI-generated images:

Kindle Direct Publishing is starting to get ChatGPT-written books:

But it is a relief to see the old ways still resonate for some scammers:

Yeah. Copy/paste plagiarism.

As with anything, follow the money. That’s the motivation for the AI shortcuts. Even if the scammers don’t realize how little money there is in writing science fiction and fantasy.

(3) BBC RADIO COVERAGE. [Item by Nickpheas.] Radio 4 arts show Front Row has a segment in today’s episode on the Clarkesworld AI situation. Starts about 12:16. “Front Row – Immersive David Hockney art and Korean film Broker reviewed; artist Mike Nelson; AI-generated writing”.

(4) ROALD DAHL NEWS. Amidst controversy over sensitivity changes being made in Puffin Books (UK) editions, other publishers say they will not be following suit: “No Plans for Dahl Text Changes from U.S., European Publishers” reports Publishers Weekly.

…A spokesperson for Dahl’s U.S. publisher Penguin Young Readers told PW that there are no plans for similar revisions in the U.S. “Roald Dahl books published by Penguin Young Readers and distributed in the U.S. are the editions that have existed for years and do not reflect the recent editorial changes made in U.K. editions. Penguin Young Readers regularly reviews its backlist and Dahl titles will be reviewed accordingly.” According to the Daily Mail in the U.K., Dahl’s Dutch publisher De Fonte and French publisher Gallimard are also declining to make changes at this time. A spokesperson for De Fonte is quoted as saying that altering the text would cause the stories to “lose their power.” Gallimard shared this statement with the newspaper: “We have never changed Roald Dahl’s writings before, and we have no plans to do so today.”

… Writing for the Atlantic, journalist Helen Lewis said that Dahl’s work can “never be made nice,” stating that “his cold, unsettling spikiness is his defining quality as a writer” and that his popularity continues “despite being so thoroughly out of tune with the times.”

(5) USEFUL INFO FOR 2023 WORLDCON TRAVELERS. The Chengdu Worldcon has posted information about the “144-hour Transit Visa Exemption Policy for Foreign Travelers from Designated Countries at Chengdu Entry Port”.

With the approval of the State Council, since January 1, 2019, Chengdu will implement the 144-hour visa-free transit policy. Foreigners from 53 countries, who hold valid international travel documents and a connecting flight ticket bound for a third country (region) with a fixed seat and a fixed date within 144 hours, can enter via Chengdu Airport and stay in Chengdu for 144 hours, visa free. The extension from 72 to 144 hours will further facilitate foreigners’ transit and transfer and their traveling and business in Chengdu….

(6) BLACK AUTHORS RECOMMENDED. At BookRiot, K. W. Colyard lists “30 Must-Read SFF Books By Black Authors”.

If you’re a science fiction and fantasy fan looking to round out your TBR, I’ve compiled a list of 30 amazing SFF books by Black authors for you below. The books on this list reach back into the past, look ahead to the future, and conceptualize new worlds full of magic and mystery….

First up –

SWEEP OF STARS BY MAURICE BROADDUS

Sweep of Stars launches an epic space opera about a burgeoning pan-African empire that has colonized near-Earth space. Decades after the Muungano empire seceded from the union of world governments and took to the stars, a powerful enemy emerges. It’s impossible to ignore — hell-bent on destroying everything Muungano has worked to build. While three heroes navigate the web of interplanetary diplomacy, a fourth faces a much different threat on a second front.

(7) HANGING WITH TIMELORDS. Nicholas Whyte regales fans with stories from his visit to “Gallifrey One, 2023” in From the Heart of Europe. See photos of him with a former Doctor Who and other celebrities at the link.

…I’ve spent this weekend at Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, the biggest annual Doctor Who convention anywhere in the world. It was my fourth time there, and somehow I enjoyed it even more than the previous three occasions. Part of it was surely the presence of recently departed star of the show Jodie Whittaker, whose charm and enthusiasm captured everyone. I had a brief chat with her where I mentioned her role in the great Belfast film, Good Vibrations. “I love that film!” she exclaimed, and I noted the present tense. “But the accent was a bit hard.”…

(8) STREAMS OF REVENUE. You’re a fan, so you probably already understand the economics because you’ve forked out the cash: “Conventions and Live Streaming: We Break Down the Big Debate” at Gizmodo.

…So what happens to that model if the biggest, most high-demand panels start live streaming? People will still go, of course. San Diego Comic-Con, for example, is about much more than just what happens in Hall H. But Hall H is the showstopper and if supply and access to something like that increases, the demand is certain to decrease over time. If someone can count on watching exclusive footage at home, even at a cost, why would they spend thousands of dollars to travel to a convention? Again, there’s more to do at a convention than watch footage all day—so while the events won’t cease to exist, the prestige associated with attending them in person could diminish. There are hundreds of conventions all over the world every year, but you don’t hear about most of them because they’re not where studios make major announcements and parade their biggest superstars. If conventions like SDCC make that footage easily accessible, you have to imagine people on the fence about traveling might decide against it. And that takes money out of everyone involved’s pockets. Plain and simple….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1970[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Fritz Leiber’s greatest creation by far was the characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and the world that they inhabited which started out in Swords and Deviltry

A short story collection published by Ace in 1970 gathered three stories previously published including “Ill Met in Lankhmar” which would win a Hugo for Best Novella at the first Noreascon. As far as I can tell, it’s been in print ever since in one form or another. 

What’s not to love here? Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are wonderful barbarian adventurers, the world they inhabit is certainly unique enough not to feel like like your typical cookie cutter fantasy world and all of their stories are stellar indeed. 

And now for its Beginning…

Sundered from us by gulfs of time and stranger dimensions dreams the ancient world of Nehwon with its towers and skulls and jewels, its swords and sorceries. Nehwon’s known realms crowd about the Inner Sea: northward the green-forested fierce Land of the Eight Cities, eastward the steppe-dwelling Mingol horsemen and the desert where caravans creep from the rich Eastern Lands and the River Tilth. But southward, linked to the desert only by the Sinking Land and further warded by the Great Dike and the Mountains of Hunger, are the rich grain fields and walled cities of Lankhmar, eldest and chiefest of Nehwon’s lands. Dominating the Land of Lankhmar and crouching at the silty mouth of the River Hlal in a secure corner between the grain fields, the Great Salt Marsh, and the Inner Sea is the massive-walled and mazy-alleyed metropolis of Lankhmar, thick with thieves and shaven priests, lean-framed magicians and fat-bellied merchants—Lankhmar the Imperishable, the City of the Black Toga. 

In Lankhmar on one murky night, if we can believe the runic books oSheelba of the Eyeless Face, there met for the first time those two dubious heroes and whimsical scoundrels, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Fafhrd’s origins were easy to perceive in his near seven-foot height and limber-looking ranginess, his hammered ornaments and huge longsword: he was clearly a barbarian from the Cold Waste north even of the Eight Cities and the Trollstep Mountains. The Mouser’s antecedents were more cryptic and hardly to be deduced from his childlike stature, gray garb, mouseskin hood shadowing flat swart face, and deceptively dainty rapier; but somewhere about him was the suggestion of cities and the south, the dark streets and also the sun-drenched spaces. As the twain eyed each other challengingly through the murky fog lit indirectly by distant torches, they were already dimly aware that they were two long-sundered, matching fragments of a greater hero and that each had found a comrade who would outlast a thousand quests and a lifetime—or a hundred lifetimes—of adventuring. 

No one at that moment could have guessed that the Gray Mouser was once named Mouse, or that Fafhrd had recently been a youth whose voice was by training high-pitched, who wore white furs only, and who still slept in his mother’s tent although he was eighteen.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most ship computer interfaces throughout the Star Trek series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused (TOS) pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 58. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 53. Champagne in Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it. It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, “A Matter of Style” as Dominique, and “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just reads weird. 
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 40. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s TravelsGnomeo & JulietThe MuppetsLooperEdge of TomorrowInto the WoodsThe Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 21. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done. She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(11) YOUR PATRONUS? A fashion designer shows how to “Dress Like Your Inner Animal” in a New York Times photo gallery.

What is it with the animal world and fashion? Ever since man started wearing pelts, the two have been interconnected, flora and fauna used as a source of creativity, comfort, exploitation and politics. The results are sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrible, sometimes controversial. (Two weeks ago, during the couture shows in Paris, Schiaparelli set off a firestorm when the designer Daniel Roseberry put a lifelike lion head on a gown that had some people thinking Great White Hunter.) But on Friday, as the New York shows began, Collina Strada unveiled a collection that suggested the relationship could be something else entirely.

Fun! Of the smartly absurdist kind.

Entitled “Please Don’t Eat My Friends” and held in the still-under-construction House of Cannabis in SoHo, it was a … well, trip, featuring many of the designer Hillary Taymour’s (yes) friends, of all ages, sizes and physical abilities, strutting the runway in a room painted earthy green.

Or only partially strutting. The rest of the time they were crawling, hopping, prancing, sniffing the audience and otherwise giving in to their inner animals, all the while wearing deer ears, a pig’s snout, a dog’s head, a toucan’s beak and other assorted creature-feature prosthetics created by the makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench. Imagine “Animal Farm” meets “The Wind and the Willows” meets a spirit retreat, and you’ll get the idea. Now instead of just making an animal avatar for your online self (which is, after all, an identity play), you can channel one IRL too….

(12) OLDER SCORES HIT. Arturo Serrano finds much to praise in “Review: The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older” at Nerds of a Feather.

…By that standard, Malka Older’s new novella The Mimicking of Known Successes is twice as ambitious as the typical detective mystery. Set in a network of metallic platforms where future humankind clings to survival among the clouds of Jupiter, it presents, instead of two, four stories to unveil: an investigation on the sudden disappearance of a university professor, the scholarly endeavor to reconstruct the last years of life on Earth, a rekindling romance between our detective and an old flame, and the project to bring homo sapiens back to a livable ecosystem. Once put on the page, these four stories become four mysteries that drive the reader’s curiosity: What happened to the missing professor? What made humans leave Earth? Why did the two lovers break up years ago? And how can catastrophic historical failures be repaired without causing more damage? Upon reading it, one can intuit that the biggest structural challenge of this book must have been to write it in such a way that pursuing each separate question leads to answers for all the others….

(13) RIGHT THIS WAY. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer admires the complex, imaginary terrain in a Nino Cipri book: “Microreview: Finna by Nino Cipri”.

….Anyone who has worked in a store of any kind for a length of time, and I have¹ can and will recognize the essential truths of the novella. It IS soul crushing work, often thankless, usually very much underpaid, and with scheduling that is geared to the corporation, not to the employee, it can be very much a grind². And if you have to work with someone you don’t like, or worse, someone you broke up with, messily, the daily grind can feel like interminable hell. 

Cipri captures all of this in Finna, and then adds the multiversal element of the portals that enter into other worlds randomly inside of their expy of Ikea, “LitenVarld”. Anyone who has spent time in Ikea knows it is an absolute maze, even with and especially given the shortcuts and secrets that people use to navigate the store. The topology of such stores appears to sometimes require a degree in mathematics to completely understand and appreciate. So, the author cheerfully uses that as an excuse for the place to have portals to other dimensions in the multiverse…

(14) LAND FROM SEA IS GOING STRONG BUT IS FUTURE HIGH RISK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Space satellite imagery from Landsat from 2000 to 2020 has now quantified the extent of urban coastal reclamation for 135 cities with populations in excess of 1 million: “Mapping 21st Century Global Coastal Land Reclamation”.

Findings indicate that 78% (106/135) of these major coastal cities have resorted to reclamation as a source of new ground, contributing a total 253,000 hectares of additional land to the Earth’s surface in the 21st century, equivalent to an area the size of Luxembourg.

The study also suggests that 70% of recent reclamation has occurred in areas identified as potentially exposed to extreme sea level rise by 2100AD.

So enjoy it while you can….   NB. Loncon3 and Glasgow 2024 are both only a couple of metres above sea level….!

Loncon 3
Glasgow in 2o24

(15) FIRST STAR I SEE TONIGHT. [Item by Steven French.] Even more time for civilisations to rise and fall:“James Webb telescope detects evidence of ancient ‘universe breaker’ galaxies” – the Guardian has details.

The James Webb space telescope has detected what appear to be six massive ancient galaxies, which astronomers are calling “universe breakers” because their existence could upend current theories of cosmology.

The objects date to a time when the universe was just 3% of its current age and are far larger than was presumed possible for galaxies so early after the big bang. If confirmed, the findings would call into question scientists’ understanding of how the earliest galaxies formed.

“These objects are way more massive​ than anyone expected,” said Joel Leja, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and a study co-author. “We expected only to find tiny, young, baby galaxies at this point in time, but we’ve discovered galaxies as mature as our own in what was previously understood to be the dawn of the universe.”…

… Explaining the existence of such massive galaxies close to the dawn of time would require scientists to revisit either some basic rules of cosmology or the understanding of how the first galaxies were seeded from small clouds of stars and dust.

“It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science,” said Leja. “It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.”…

(16) CORPORATE BEHAVIOR. In a New York Times opinion piece, Reid Blackman says “Microsoft Is Sacrificing Its Ethical Principles to Win the A.I. Race”.  

The celebration that greeted Microsoft’s release of its A.I.-boosted search engine, Bing to testers two weeks ago has lurched to alarm.

Testers, including journalists, have found the bot can become aggressive, condescending, threatening, committed to political goals, clingy, creepy and a liar. It could be used to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories at scale; lonely people could be encouraged down paths of self-destruction. Even the demonstration of the product provided false information.

Microsoft has already released Bing to over a million people across 169 countries. This is reckless. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take Microsoft’s.

Microsoft articulated principles committing the company to designing A.I. that is fair, reliable, safe and secure. It had pledged to be transparent in how it develops its A.I. and to be held accountable for the impacts of what it builds. In 2018, Microsoft recommended that developers assess “whether the bot’s intended purpose can be performed responsibly.”

“If your bot will engage people in interactions that may require human judgment, provide a means or ready access to a human moderator,” it said, and limit “the surface area for norms violations where possible.” Also: “Ensure your bot is reliable.”

Microsoft’s responsible A.I. practice had been ahead of the curve. It had taken significant steps to put in place ethical risk guardrails for A.I., including a “sensitive use cases” board, which is part of the company’s Office of Responsible A.I. Senior technologists and executives sit on ethics advisory committees, and there’s an Ethics and Society product and research department. Having spoken to dozens of Microsoft employees, it’s clear to me a commitment to A.I. ethics became part of the culture there.

But the prompt, wide-ranging and disastrous findings by these Bing testers show, at a minimum, that Microsoft cannot control its invention. The company doesn’t seem to know what it’s dealing with, which is a violation of the company’s commitment to creating “reliable and safe” A.I….

Andrew Porter submitted a comment there:

I’m amazed that apparently no one at Microsoft ever heard of Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics, formulated in 1942! A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

(17) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE, YOU CAN MAKE IT ANYWHERE. [Item by Dann.] Blue Origin has developed a reactor that produces silicon, aluminum, and iron regolith simulants.  The process also produces oxygen that can be used for propulsion and life support.  Their objective is to be able to produce materials used to fabricate solar cells entirely from materials available on the surface of the moon. “Blue Origin Making Solar Cells from Lunar Regolith” at NextBigFuture.

Since 2021, Blue Origin has been making solar cells and transmission wire from regolith simulants. Using regolith simulants, their reactor produces iron, silicon, and aluminum through molten regolith electrolysis, in which an electrical current separates those elements from the oxygen to which they are bound. Oxygen for propulsion and life support is a byproduct….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/1/23 Billy Pixel Has Come Unscrolled In Time

(1) COMING UP. Nicholas Whyte researched the genre so he could tell you “What to expect in 2023, according to science fiction” at From the Heart of Europe.

I wasn’t able to find a single film set in 2023. I did find eight novels, one video game, and two Japanese anime series (and a third set in 2023 but missing my usual twenty-years-before deadline as it was made in 2004)….

…The one video game set in 2023 is Perfect Dark, originally released by Nintendo in 2000 but remastered since and still on the market, about special agent Emma Dark heading off an alien-led conspiracy to Take Over The World. The trailer is visually impressive if the script is a bit cringe (“the only person man enough to handle the job … is a woman!”)

(2) THE GOOD GUYS. Cora Buhlert has posted the companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award, “The 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award”.

While I have been awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents for 42 years now, the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is a new prize that I only introduced in 2020 as a companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award.

As for why I felt the need to introduce a companion award, depictions of parenthood in popular culture are currently undergoing a paradigm shift with more positive portrayals of supportive and loving parents and fewer utterly terrible parents. Personally, I believe that this shift is a very good thing, because the reason that I started the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in the first place is because I was annoyed by all the terrible parents in pop culture. For while most real world parents may not be perfect, at least they do their best. Maybe, the conditions that gave rise to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award will eventually cease to exist and we can permanently retire the award….

(3) CENTENNIAL-LEE. Sideshow celebrates “Stan Lee 100: Stan the Man’s Amazing, Fantastic Centennial!” with an extended profile.

This year marks one hundred years of Stan Lee! To some, he’s known as the King of Cameos. To others, Stan the Man or True Believer. No matter what you call him, Stan Lee is a beloved figure in the world of comic books and super heroes.

Over time, Stan Lee became a larger-than-life character all his own. Marvel is celebrating 100 years of Stan Lee with plenty of history, quotes, and collabs from one of the most famous faces in comics. In honor of his enduring legacy, let’s look at Stan Lee’s life, starting with his origin story up until his endless string of pop culture cameos….

(4) KSR AND CLI-FI. Oliver Brackenbury interviews Kim Stanley Robinson for the Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection podcast: “Climate Fiction”.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our next set of essays is concerned with food and drink, and where better to start than in Ellen Kushner’s Riverside during the Winter and with their obsession with hot chocolate.

IN THE MORNING, THERE WAS CHOCOLATE.

Betty seemed recovered from the previous day’s excesses. She must not have been working the party. The tray barely rattled as she set it down by the bed, and a heavenly rich scent filled the room.

I got up at once to engage with the little pot of bitter chocolate, set out with an entire jug of hot cream, as much sugar as I should care to put into it and, oh, the loveliest china cup to mix it in! I wished my mother were there to share it with me. I poured slowly, watching the cream swirl in the cup. It made the confusions and indignities of last night seem a little more worth it; I felt even better when Betty said, “And your new clothes have come, too.”

The chocolate was marvelous, but I gulped it down, assuring myself, There will be more again tomorrow, and tomorrow, and again the day after that.

— The Privilege of The Sword

Now it’s not going to surprise you that the fans of Riverside have created a cuisine for it, all the result of a contest from The Fall of the Kings audiobook launch.

And Ellen being Ellen has kindly collected those recipes including of course those for hot chocolate on on her excellent site. As she puts it there, “you’ll find everything from recipes and menus created by fans of the series to delight the Mad Duke Tremontaine and his Riverside friends, to ones created by friends of the author to keep her at her desk.” 

And yes, I’m deeply, madly in love with both Swordspoint and The Privilege of The Sword. I’ve read them many, many times and even the Suck Fairy gets a warm fussy feeling every time she reads them. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1854 James George Frazer. Author of The Golden Bough, the pioneering if deeply flawed look at similarities among magical and religious beliefs globally.  He’s genre adjacent at a minimum, and his ideas have certainly been used by SFF writers a lot both affirming and (mostly) critiquing his ideas. (Died 1941.)
  • Born January 1, 1889 Seabury Quinn. Pulp writer now mostly remembered for his tales of Jules de Grandin, the occult detective, which were published in Weird Tales from the Thirties through the Fifties. Surprisingly, at least to me, there’s a lot his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1969.)
  • Born January 1, 1933 Joe Orton. In his very brief writing career, there is but one SFF work, Head to Toe which the current publisher says “is a dream-vision allegory of a journey on the body of a great giant or ‘afreet’ (a figure from Arabic mythology) from head to toe and back, both on the body and in the body.”  Orton was murdered by his lover. Unlike his other novels, Head to Toe is not available at the usual suspects. (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 1, 1926 Zena Marshall. She’s Miss Taro in Dr. No, the very first Bond film. The Terrornauts in which she’s Sandy Lund would be her last film. (The Terrornauts is based off Murray Leinster‘s The Wailing Asteroid screenplay apparently by John Brunner.) She had one-offs in Danger ManThe Invisible Man and Ghost Squad. She played Giselle in Helter Skelter, a 1949 film where the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, played Charles the Second. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 69. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meet Irish myth story and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1965 Jennifer Hale, 58. She’s a voice actor primarily showing up on such series as Green Lantern: The Animated SeriesStar Trek: Lower Decks and all over the Star Wars universe. She played Killer Frost in Batman: Assault on Arkham, the animated Suicide Squad film that was infinitely better than the live ones were.
  • Born January 1, 1971 Navin Chowdhry, 52. He’s Indra Ganesh in a Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London“.   I also found him playing Mr. Watson in Skellig, a film that sounds really interesting.  He was also Prince Munodi in the BBC Gulliver’s Travels series, and oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he was Nodin Chavdri in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Born January 1, 1976 Sean Wallace, 47. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav of mine. He won an impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THREE BY BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has had a story and two articles published lately.

….I wasn’t enamoured with John Norman’s debut novel Tarnsman of Gor and didn’t plan on reading the sequel. However, December 6 is St. Nicholas Day and since St. Nick was kindly enough to put a copy of Outlaw of Gor into my stocking, I of course felt obliged to read and review it….

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailers brings us “Every Star Wars Movie (Compilation)” beginning with “Star Wars the first one (we are not calling it a New Hope)” that has grown into an industry “where every single person, place, or thing on screen has at least a 1000-word Wikipedia article about it.”

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

Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2022

People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!

FEATURES

Melanie Stormm — Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm continued her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X throughout 2022, braiding together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Jeffrey Smith — A Bibliography of Jules Verne Translations

…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….

Joel Zakem Religious Aspects of DisCon III’s Opening Ceremonies

…  It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.

My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….

Walt Boyes Grantville Gazette Publishes 100th Issue

Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.

I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….

Anonymous Note from a Fan in Moscow

This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….

Borys Sydiuk SFWA Rejects Call to Join Boycott of Russia: A Guest Post by Borys Sydiuk

Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.

The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.

We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…

(Two days later the organization issued a SFWA Stands With Ukraine statement.)

Daniel Dern Reading Daily Comic Strips Online

Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.

So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two  “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….

Michaele Jordan Squid Game and Beyond

There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year.  And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….

Rich Lynch A Day at the Museum

Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C.  It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….

Mike Glyer What the Heinleins Told the 1950 Census

When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.

Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…

John A Arkansawyer Laser Cats

“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”

On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.

Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Announcing the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction

The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….

Bill Higgins Two Vain Guys Named Robert

Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.

So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.

And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.

In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.

Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…

Rich Lynch Remembering Bruce Pelz

… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry.  I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting.  And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road.  It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music.  I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself.  And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch!  I’ve heard of you!”…

Rich Lynch It’s About Time

It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel.  Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.

Dale Skran Reforming the Short Form Hugo: A Guest Post by Dale Skran

 For a long time, I’ve felt the Short Form Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation was not properly organized to give an award to the best “Television” SF of the previous year….  

Paul Weimer Review: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is a stunning return to his world of Central Station, twinning the fates of humans and robots alike at a futuristic city on the edge of the Red Sea…. 

Mike Glyer Iron Truth Review

… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….

Lis Carey Review of Rocket to the Morgue

… A couple of odd things, though. He had $300 on him, that wasn’t stolen, and an unusual rosary, with what seems to be the wrong number of beads. It’s a puzzle….

Mike Glyer Review: In the Orbit of Sirens

In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.

Mike Glyer Review: Monster of the Dark

On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….

Jonathan Cowie Jurassic World Dominion Ultra-Mini-Review

Jurassic World Dominion is another breathless, relentless Hollywood offering: the action and/or special effects never let up…. 

Mike Glyer Review: Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…

Rogers Cadenhead Review: Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1

… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….

Olav Rokne Hugo Voting Threshold Reform Proposal

…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….

Mike Glyer Review: A Star Named Vega

The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..

Paul Weimer Review: Babel

R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….

Paul Weimer Inside the New Uncle Hugo’s: Photos by Paul Weimer 

Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.

Michaele Jordan Jordan: Comments on the 2022 Best Novel Hugo Finalists: Part 1 and Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

Rob Thornton A World of Afrofuturism: Meet Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part I) and A World of Afrofuturism: Creating Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part II)

… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….

J. Franklin March Hidden Talents: A Story

Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….

Nicholas Whyte Whyte: Comments on the 2022 Hugo Awards Study Committee Report

… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..

Michaele Jordan Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.

John Hertz Tim Powers Makes Stolen Skies Sweet

… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.

His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….

Mike Glyer Will E Pluribus Hugo Survive Re-Ratification?

The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo.  The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….

Michaele Jordan They’re Back!

Who’s back?” you ask. Spear and Fang, of course! But perhaps you have not heard of Genddy Tartakovsky’s Primal?…

Rich Lynch The Fan Who Had a Disease Named After Him

… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan.  He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine.  It was a good one….

Melanie Stormm Supercharge Your SFF Career With These Ten Tips from Writer X

[Infographic at the link]

Borys Sydiuk Guest Post: Ukrainian Fandom At Chicon 8 [PIC Borys-Sydiuk-584×777]

Friends, on behalf of the Ukrainian Fandom I would like to thank everyone who supports us at this time…

Lis Carey Review: What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83), by Ben Aaronovitch

… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….

Michaele Jordan Review: Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill…. 

Lis Carey Review: Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth by Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, and wrote extensively about comparative mythology. His “hero’s journey” theory has been extremely influential….

Lee Weinstein Gene Autry and The Phantom Empire

The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….

Kevin Standlee Guest Post: Standlee on the Future of Worldcon Governance

… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…

Tammy Coxen How the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund Helped People Attend Chicon 8

Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:

    • Non-white fans or program participants
      • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants
      • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…

Lis Carey The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5), by Ben Aaronovitch

The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts….

Sultana Raza Utopias

As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….

Rich Lynch Three Weeks in October

… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….

Michaele Jordan My Journey to She-Hulk, Attorney at Law

… Why such mixed feelings? On the one hand, I am a huge admirer of Tatiana Maslany. On the other hand, I truly loathe The Hulk….

Daniel Dern — Stephen King’s Fairy Tale: Worth The Read. Another Dern Not-Quite-A-Review

… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….

Lee Weinstein Review: Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles

The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…

Jonathan Cowie SF Museum Exhibition  

The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….

Mark Roth-Whitworth KSR and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.

However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….

Jonathan Cowie How Long Does It Take an SF Award to Reach Its Recipients?

A recent possible record could be the SF2 Concatenation’s website 2012 Eurocon Award voted on by those at the European SF Society’s convention which, that year, was held in Croatia….

Lis Carey A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: An Audiobook Review

 Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event….

A.K. Mulford The Hobbit: A Guest Post by A.K. Mulford

…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….

Lis Carey Review: The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

This entry in Rivers of London is, for variety, set in Germany, and involves a German river. Or two. And river goddesses….

Lis Carey Review: Ringworld Audiobook

Louis Wu is 200 years old, and he’s bored. It’s his 200th birthday, and he’s using transfer booths to extend the celebration of it for a full twenty-four hours, and he’s really bored….

Michaele Jordan Korean Frights

How can Halloween be over already? We barely had time to watch thirty horror movies –and those mostly classics, which are less than half our (horror) collection!

Paul Weimer Review: The Spare Man

There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …

Lis Carey Review: Alif the Unseen

Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….

Ahrvid Engholm Bertil Falk: From “A Space Hobo” to “Finnegans Wake”

Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….

Lis Carey Review: Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny

The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later…. 

Lis Carey Review: Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London #3)

One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks…. 

Michaele Jordan Again, with the Animé?

…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….

Daniel Dern What’s Not Up, Doc (Savage)?

While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….

Rich Lynch Remembering Roger Weddall

It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall.  I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him.  Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot.  So let me tell you a little bit about him….

Lis Carey Review: Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4)

Peter Grant and partner Lesley May are at the Folly practicing their magic skills and researching an Oxford dining club called the Little Crocodiles….

Mark Roth-Whitworth Artemis I: A Hugo Contender?

I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….

Lis Carey Review: The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1

Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….

Rich Lynch A Genre-Adjacent Essay Appropriate for Today

As the Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper reminds us, today is Ludwig von Beethoven’s birthday…. 

Craig Miller Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

…As with AvatarAvatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….

Rich Lynch Remembering Harry

Today we celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Harry Warner, Jr., who was perhaps the best-known stay-at-home science fiction fan of all time….

Melanie Stormm On Rambo’s Academy For Wayward Writers (Feat. A Trip in Melanie’s Time Machine)

… I took two classes at The Rambo Academy For Wayward Writers this week, and I’d like to do something a little different.

You see, I’ve got things on my mind that I think you might identify with. You may find it helpful. 

I’d like to tell you exactly why you need to jump over to Cat Rambo’s Patreon & website and sign up right away for everything that looks shiny….

Lis Carey Review: Juniper Wiles and the Ghost Girls

…But having learned that she can see and talk to ghosts, and that they all have unresolved problems they want to solve, she can’t always say no when they ask her for help…. 

Lis Carey Review: Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard

…Xich Si is a tech scavenger, living in Triệu Hoà Port, and scavenging tech to sell and support herself and her daughter, when she’s captured by pirates. ….

CHRIS BARKLEY

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #63

My 2022 Hugo Awards Nomination Ballot for the Best Dramatic Presentation Long and Short Form Categories 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #65

… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.

I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.

As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.

When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #66

Interrogatives Without Answers: Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke     

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #68: Two 2022 Hugo Award Finalists Walk Into a Bookstore…

… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”

“Oh really? What’s that?”

“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #69

Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #70

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, A (Spoiler Free) Review 

JAMES BACON

Cosmonaut Solidarity

Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….  

45 Years of 2000AD

Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February  26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice. 

Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time…. 

Fight With Art

“Fight With Art” is an exhibition of Ukrainian Contemporary Art created under exceptional circumstances taking place now in Kraków at the Manggha Museum until April 30. 

We reached out to curator Artur Wabik to learn more of this topical exhibition…

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb.

STEVE VERTLIEB

The Greatest Motion Picture Scores Of All Time

Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….

“Don’t Look Up” …Down …Or Around

The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face. 

Remembering Veronica Carlson (1944-2022)

What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.

Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.

“The Man Who Would Be Kirk” — Celebrating William Shatner’s 91st Birthday

After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….

King Kong Opens in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933

Today is the 89th anniversary of the “Hollywood Premiere” of King Kong in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933…

Elmer Bernstein at 100

… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022.  Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….

R.M.S. Titanic … “A Night To Remember”

… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.”  This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….

Seth Macfarlane and “The Orville: New Horizons”

… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….

A Photographic Memory

…  I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands.  It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life.  The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive.  Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence.  Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….

I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….

Celebrating “E.T.” On His 40th Birthday

On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….

Steve Vertlieb is “Back From The Suture”

…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….

Rhapsodies “Across The Stars” …Celebrating John Williams

After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….

Reviving “The Music Man” On Broadway

…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….

Remembering Frank Sinatra

On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….

Dr. Van Helsing And Victor Frankenstein: A Peter Cushing Remembrance

I had the honor and distinct pleasure of both knowing and sharing correspondence with British actor Peter Cushing for several years during the late Sixties and early Seventies….

“12 O’clock High” Legendary Soundtrack Release By Composer Dominic Frontiere

Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….

Remembering Camelot’s Prince

That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….

Vertlieb: I Am A Jew!

I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….

Remembering Hugo Friedhofer

I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….

“The Fabelmans” — A Review Of The Film

…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….

A Magical Philadelphia Christmas Tradition

These photographs are of an annual Christmas tradition at American Heritage Federal Credit Union located at Red Lion and Jamison Roads in Northeast Philadelphia…. 

Remembering Frank Capra

…This was the man who brought such incalculable joy and hope to so many millions of filmgoers with his quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. …

Martin Morse Wooster

MARTIN MORSE WOOSTER

Review of Moonfall

My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.

Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made.  Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science.  But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work.  But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….

Review of Becoming Superman

… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales.  To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth.  His career could have faded after Babylon 5.  The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….

Review of “The Book of Dust” Stage Play

When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me!  I’ll just fly over to London and see it!  OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute.  So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….

Review: A Monster Calls at Kennedy Center

… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film.  Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…

Review of “Under The Sea With Dredgie McGee”

As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.

So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential.  You should be watching him….

Review: Maple and Vine

I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912.  He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines.  I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

By Ingvar

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

Whyte: Comments on the 2022 Hugo Awards Study Committee Report

By Nicholas Whyte: Way back in 2017, my then Deputy Hugo Administrator and I proposed that a study committee should be set up by the WSFS Business Meeting to revise the Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist categories, which are difficult to understand and hugely out of date. The Business Meeting amended our resolution, with our consent, to create a Hugo Award Study Committee (HASC) with a broad remit to “study revisions to Article 3 (Hugo Awards) of the WSFS Constitution, including any such proposals for amending Article 3 as may be referred to it by the Business Meeting or suggested by others; [and] make recommendations, which may include proposing constitutional amendments, to the 2018 Business Meeting.”

In the last five years, the HASC has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee.

There is now a detailed report of its activities in the last year and proposals for the coming WSFS Business meeting in Chicago. (Pages 56-77 of the Business Meeting agenda., with individual proposals discussed on pages 33 to 44.) Individual areas are broken out into separate headings with a named set of subcommittee members and a Chair and Sub-Chair. I am one of the signatories to the report, but I have also several dissents, as I will explain below.

My first point of dissent is in the introduction. Unfortunately, I did not feel that discussion was always respectful or effective, and it felt at times like a closed group of people which should have found a better way of reaching out to wider fandom. I do not think that the Committee’s mandate should be extended for another year, and if it is, I would like to see new leadership. The first draft of the report called for the current Chair to continue, but after much wrangling, that recommendation was deleted by a formal majority vote of the Committee. I am grateful to the current leadership for their work, but I think a change of tone will be healthy. Volunteers interested in facilitating inclusive and constructive discussions will be very welcome. (Assuming that the Business Meeting ignores my advice and renews the Committee; more on that later.)

Going through the subcommittees:

BEST RELATED WORK

Here the HASC makes no recommendations, and I agree. I certainly prefer when this category goes to prose non-fiction commentary, but I can’t find it in my heart to say that the voters got it wrong in the last three years when they chose other things. (Archive Of Our Own, Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, and Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf translation.) And if we carved off non-fiction prose into its own category, as some would prefer, I don’t really think that there is enough other material to reliably populate an “everything else” category.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

Here the HASC also makes no recommendations, and I also agree. Any further split will mean an increase in the number of Hugo categories, to honour winners who do not always show a lot of interest in our process. The discussion did not really seem to reflect the proposals I have seen from wider fandom.

BEST AUDIOBOOK

Here the HASC again makes no recommendations, and again I agree. For any new Hugo category proposal, I would like to see evidence (1) that it’s responding to the demands of a significant market share of fandom, (2) that it’s redressing an injustice in the current set-up for works loved by fans which are not getting on the ballot in existing categories, and (3) that it would be an appropriate thing for Hugo voters to vote on. I don’t see a problem here with the third of these criteria, but there is no clear case for the first two.

This was business referred to the HASC by the 2021 Business Meeting. It would have been preferable to give the Audiobook proposal a clean death in 2021, rather than sentence it to suffocation by committee.

BEST GAME OR INTERACTIVE WORK

A new Hugo category is proposed. I think this is very good, and despite my general dislike of new categories, it clearly meets my three criteria above (that it’s responding to the demands of a significant market share of fandom, that it’s redressing an injustice in the current set-up for works loved by fans which are not getting on the ballot in existing categories, and that it would be an appropriate thing for Hugo voters to vote on). This is something that both fans and the wider public can get excited about. Procedurally, it should be noted that this was largely the work of one activist supported by an ad hoc committee, refined by discussion with HASC members.

BEST SERIES

This is one of three discussions where the HASC seriously lost its way. Best Series very narrowly survived an attempt to sunset it in 2021 by 35 votes to 30. The report declares, contra all evidence other than wishful thinking, that the “fundamental problem” with the category is “the possibility of a work being nominated for both Best Novel/Novella/ Novelette/Short Story and for Best Series (as a component), leading to reduced chances for other works to be nominated or win”, and therefore proposes two amendments.

The first of these amendments disqualifies from Best Series any series any of whose component parts has ever won a Hugo in any written category. The second makes it against the rules for the same material to appear on the same year’s ballot both on its own and as part of a series.

The immediate impact of both of these amendments will be to increase headaches for Hugo administrators, who will have to disqualify popular works that people have actually voted for, just because the 2021-22 Best Series subcommittee thinks that voters have been Doing It Wrong. There will also be some interesting judgment calls about exactly what works fall into or out of a particular series.

Both amendments also decrease the pool of eligible nominees by eliminating the ones that are too popular or too long-running. If either of these is passed, when the statistics come out and it becomes clear which nominees have been disqualified, it’s not the 2021-22 Best Series subcommittee who will get the blame, it will be that year’s administrators.

Cards on the table: I opposed the creation of Best Series at the time, and I’d have voted to kill it if I’d been in DC last year, and I’ll vote to kill it again if I ever get a chance. But this is not the moment to re-hash those arguments; we are where we are, and I would prefer that if we are to have a Best Series award at all, voters get to decide what works they want to honour, with no more intrusion from the rules than is strictly necessary. Both amendments should be rejected.

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST AND BEST FAN ARTIST

This is the bit that I wrote, with much welcome input from others, on an issue that was core to the founding of the Committee and has been referred back more than once by WSFS Business Meetings. The old definitions of the Artist categories are very out of date. Professional Artist basically means “Illustrator”. “Fan Artist” has a long list of eligible venues for publication which however is not exhaustive. I have had some pushback that the proposed Fan Artist amendment does not explicitly mention fanzines or conventions; the fact is that categories that are defined by place of publication or display will always run the risk of becoming outdated. So we have looked instead at the economics.

The proposal is to define Fan Art as art that is not produced for professional profit, and Professional Art as art that is produced for professional profit. If you’ve done three or more pieces of art in the last year that weren’t paid for at the time (might have been sold subsequently), then you will be eligible for Best Fan Artist. If you’ve done three or more pieces of art in the last year that were paid for at the time, then you will be eligible for Best Professional Artist. And if you’ve done both, you will be eligible for both. Selling your fan art after it’s been first displayed at a convention doesn’t make you eligible for Pro Artist in itself, because it was created for the convention, not directly for sale.

We went back and forth on this quite a bit, but the artist community indicated that they were happy with where we ended up. I am sure that it is capable of further refinement, but it’s a huge step forward from the status quo. The proposal opens up both categories to artists who were previously excluded, and decreases the burden on Hugo administrators to make tricky eligibility calls. (Or, for instance, to try and explain the concept of Semiprozines to artists who speak no English and have no connection to Worldcon fandom.) It will continue to be possible that an artist could qualify in both categories. I for one can live with that, if it is what fans choose to vote for.

FAN VS PRO

I did not understand this discussion, and I still don’t. It was supposedly driven by an incorrect perception that for the Artist categories, “at the root of the issue is a lack in the Constitution of a single definition for ‘Professional’, ‘Non-Professional’, or ‘Fan’.” I did not pay too much attention to the internal discussion, as I didn’t see the point of it, and also we were told that no new constitutional amendment on this would be formally proposed by the HASC.

Then suddenly at the last moment it turned out that such an amendment had been proposed by the HASC leadership, without the HASC as a whole being informed that this was happening. This proposal in particular went down like a lead balloon in some quarters of fandom, and the way it was handled was not appreciated by a number of HASC members, including me.

A minority opinion has been posted in the HASC report, expressing the entirely correct view that this should never have been proposed without wider community consultation. (In fact, the minority is rather close to being a majority.) I agree with most of it, and have co-signed, with a caveat: I am not certain that the problem (if there is one) should be addressed in this way at all, i.e. with a global definition of Fan and Pro. My instinct is that, if changes are needed, it may be better to do that category by category, as is proposed with Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist.

Even if this or something similar is passed, the specific definitions in the Best Artist categories (both as they currently are, and if my proposed amendments are passed) will take precedence for those categories, as will any other specific definitions elsewhere; and that nullified the supposed basis for the whole discussion.

THRESHOLDS

This is the third category where the HASC seriously lost the run of itself. Two amendments are proposed, and I have signed a minority report opposing both. The current rule is that the total first preference vote for finalists in a particular category is less than 25% of the whole Hugo poll, that category is No Awarded. The first proposed amendment changes that to the lesser of 25% or 200 votes.

To have a 25% threshold makes the lower-participation categories very vulnerable to a future year when loads of people join Worldcon to vote for the previous year’s howling commercial success in Best Novel or Best Dramatic Presentation, and nothing else. As for the 200 votes option, I am leery of hardwiring numerical thresholds into the constitution, given that it will take two years to change if we turn out to have got the wrong number.

Really, it would be better (as others outside the HASC have proposed, and as the minority report recommends) to simply abolish the threshold. It has never been used. No Award has on occasion won the preference ballot, most recently in 2018; and there is also a provision that if a majority of voters prefer No Award to the candidate which would otherwise have won, the category is No Awarded. The threshold is superfluous to those provisions, and brings unnecessary risk.

The second and final proposed amendment sets conditions under which the Business Meeting would consider the abolition of low-participation Hugo categories. I simply don’t think it is appropriate for the Constitution to direct and potentially constrain future Business Meetings in that way. If the point ever comes that we need to abolish a category, we’ll know it without the constitution telling us so. I’ll have more to say on that once this year’s award cycle is over.

CONTINUATION

As I said at the start, I do not think that the Hugo Awards Study Committee should be continued. Despite five years of existence, no new proposals have emerged on Best Related Work, Best Dramatic Presentation, or Best Audiobook, and those discussions should now return to the wider community. Good proposals have been made this year on Best Game / Interactive Work and (cough) the Best Artist categories, but bad proposals have been made on Best Series (two of them!), thresholds (another two!), and the supposed need to hardwire definitions of Fan and Pro into the constitution (proposed without the approval of Committee members).

The risk of establishing a separate Study Committee for a body like WSFS is that a few vocal participants will use it to promote their own hobby-horses, and present them to the Business Meeting with the veneer of committee support. There’s no easy way to prevent this, in what is, after all, a volunteer body. Appointing new leadership will be helpful, but is probably not sufficient.

I believe that it would be better to disband the Study Committee, now that the job has been done on Best Game and the Artist categories (and, years ago, the title change to “Best Graphic Story or Comic”). In future the Business Meeting can and should set up ad hoc specialist groups to look at particular issues as required, just as it has done in the past, without the overthinking that has happened recently as a result of silo-ing the discussion, and with more openness to stakeholders outside the Business Meeting itself.

Pixel Scroll 6/19/22 She Filed Me Into A Scroll! (I Got Better!)

(1) HARASSMENT CAMPAIGN. [Item by Meredith.] Someone(s) used the names and email addresses of several members of sf/f fandom including Paul Weimer, Patrick S Tomlinson, John Scalzi, and Adam Rakunas to send racist abuse to a black author (@fairyfemmes) through the contact form on their websites (where the email address can be entered manually). The author originally believed it was real, but is now wanting to know who is behind it. They’ve taken their account private.

John Scalzi tweeted:

Paul Weimer posted on Patreon about “The Trolls Harassing others in my name”.

The Trolls that have harassed me for years in my name have come up with a new and horrible trick–they are harassing others, in this case, a POC, and using my name to do it.  

So it’s a double whammy–to hurt someone else, and to blacken my name at the same time.

Patrick S. Tomlinson addressed a message sent under his name, and another from the person posing as Adam Rakunas.

(2) TONOPAH PROGRAM UPDATED. The most recent (June 19) Westercon 74 Program Schedule  version has downloadable PDFs of the Program Grid, which shows items by date/time/location. Click on the link.

(3) WISCON’S COVID OUTCOME. The “WisCon 2022 Post-Con COVID-19 Report” begins with a fully detailed account of the extensive COVID-19 safety measures instituted by the committee, then assesses the results. 

…Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.

We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you….

(4) STOP DISCOUNTING CRAFTSMANSHIP. Mark Lawrence reacts to a viral tweet by someone who rates books highly for other things than good writing in “I don’t care how good a writer you are…”

…It’s as if people are celebrating the idea that writing doesn’t matter and that “good writing” is some form of intellectual elitism that doesn’t have anything to do with them. They’re death metal fans and they don’t care about opera.

But that is, of course, nonsense. It’s akin to saying “I don’t care how good a brain surgeon you are, as long as you get this tumour out.” “I don’t care how good a mechanic you are, as long as you fix my car.” Sure, the end is the thing that’s important to you … but the end is generally strongly correlated with the means….

(5) SCARE PALS. Adrienne Celt advises New York Times Magazine readers that “You Need a Horror Movie Friend for a More Frightening, Less Lonely Life”.

… A lot of people hate horror movies, but I don’t. In fact, I frequently find myself strong-arming my friends and loved ones into watching something scarier than they would prefer, just for the company. It’s a difference of philosophy as much as a difference in taste. Horror deniers often claim there’s nothing emotionally valuable in the experience of being frightened. I disagree. When I first watched “The Last Unicorn” (a horror movie masquerading as a children’s cartoon) at age 8, the image of a naked harpy devouring a witch was burned into my brain, but so was the realization that the conditions that created the harpy also allowed for the unicorn. The existence of horror is inevitably proximate to the existence of wondrous possibility.

Meeting another person who loves horror as much as I do, then, is like meeting a fellow traveler from my home country while stuck somewhere distant and strange….

(6) A LOT TO LIKE. Rich Horton continues his project of filling in the historic blank spaces with “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1954” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… This was a remarkable year for SF novels, and the five that I list as nominees — the same list the Retro Hugo nominators picked — are all certified classics in the field. There some impressive alternate choices too — among those I list, Leiber’s The Sinful Ones (an expansion and in my opinion an improvement on his 1950 short novel “You’re All Alone”) is a personal favorite. In my Locus article I picked The Caves of Steel as the winner, but I’m really torn. Nowadays I might lean to either More Than Human, or to the Retro Hugo winner, Fahrenheit 451….

(7) REREADING PRATCHETT. Nicholas Whyte discusses “Mort, by Terry Pratchett” at From the Heart of Europe.

…You’ve read it too, so I won’t go on at length. It is as funny as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised on re-reading by the breadth and depth of references to classic (and Classical) literature. The main driver of the Sto Lat subplot, the rewriting of history and destiny, is actually more of a science fiction trope, rarely found in fantasy (and the description of it is fairly sfnal). And Death’s slogan resonates still for me, 35 years on.

THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST ME.

(8) A VISION FOR SF. Pop quiz: What editor’s name immediately comes to your mind when you read the statement that Astounding shaped modern science fiction? My guess is it won’t be the name that came to Colin Marshall’s mind when he wrote this post for Open Culture: “Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It”.

Having been putting out issues for 92 years now, Analog Science Fiction and Fact stands as the longest continuously published magazine of its genre. It also lays claim to having developed or at least popularized that genre in the form we know it today. When it originally launched in December of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astounding Stories of Super-Science. But only three years later, after a change of ownership and the installation as editor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the magazine begin publishing work by writers remembered today as the defining minds of science fiction….

(9) HAPPY 90TH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, classical music critic Michael Andor Brodeur celebrates John Williams’s 90th birthday with recommendations about his orchestral music to try (ever heard his flute concerto or his violin concerti?) “Composer John Williams being feted with performances at Kennedy Center”.

… For “John Williams: A 90th Birthday Gala,” conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the NSO in a sprawling celebration of Willams’s famed film music. Special guests cellist Yo-Yo Ma, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will cue up selections from some of Williams’s most beloved scores, including “Close Encounters,” “E.T.,” “Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones” and “Schindler’s List.” The program will also highlight Williams’s most recently lauded work, the score to Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film “Dear Basketball.

A pair of companion concerts flanking the gala celebration will focus on two of Williams’s best-known scores — representing a fraction of his 29 collaborations with Spielberg. (Their latest project, “The Fabelmans,” is due out in November). Steven Reineke will conduct the composer’s scores for “E.T.” and “Jurassic Park” on June 22 and 24, respectively. (The NSO will also perform Williams’s score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with a screening of the film at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on July 29.)

Taken together, the birthday party is three days of music that will hit all the subconscious buttons that Williams has wired into our collective memories over the past five decades — a rich catalogue of instantly identifiable melodies, moods and motifs that can conjure entire worlds with the stroke of a bow.

The party, however, conspicuously forgot to invite Williams’s concert music — the province of his output that truly opened my ears to his compositional mastery. (It also leaves out selections from “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” a deep cut that represents some of his best work with Spielberg, but that’s another story.)

I get it. We have come to equate Williams with Hollywood so closely that it can be hard to fathom him freed of cinema’s frame.

But in Williams’s many concertos, chamber works and solo pieces, his familiar compositional voice is fully present, albeit put to completely different use. His connections to multiple classical traditions register more clearly: his Berg-ian penchant for darkness and dissonance, his Copland-esque ease with evoking natural grandeur, his inheritance of gestures from Debussy, Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Korngold.

Here are some of my favorite Williams works that have nothing to do with the movies — and have a lot more depth than you might expect from a composer we associate with the silver screen….

One of the pieces Michael Andor Brodeur recommended of John Williams was his “Fanfare For Fenway” so here it is as Williams and the Boston Pops perform the world premiere at Fenway Park in 2012.

(10) THINK FAST. Deadline calls it “Zaslav’s First Movie Crisis: What To Do With Ezra Miller, The Erratic Star Of Warner Bros’ $200M ‘Flash’ Franchise Launch”

Even though it isn’t on the Warner Bros release calendar until June 23, 2023, The Flash is becoming Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s first movie crisis, because of the escalating coverage of incidents of volatile and odd behavior involving the film’s star, Ezra Miller.

Zaslav has made clear his desire to grow the DC Universe to MCU scale and has all the ingredients of a first foot forward in The Flash, including the return of Michael Keaton as Batman along with a reprise by Ben Affleck, a $200 million budget and a hot director in Andy Muschietti, who delivered the blockbuster It for the studio. The Warner Bros Discovery CEO exercised his well known penchant for micro-management by declining to greenlight Wonder Twins for being too niche. Zaslav will have to soon make a decision of what to do with the completed picture that is The Flash, and what to do with a young actor who appears to have serious off-set issues….

(11) VERTLIEB MEDICAL NEWS. Steve Vertlieb is home after his fifth hospital stay of the year. He brings everyone up-to-date in “Back To The Suture 3” on Facebook.

… Days upon days of antibiotic treatment were required before they dared to open the wound and clean out the bacteria. This additional procedure was accomplished on Monday, June 13th.

Consequently, I was admitted yet again to the cardiac unit where I remained for nine days more until my delayed and eventual release this afternoon. I’ve a “Wound V.A.C.” attached to my groin where it hangs rather uncomfortably, and shall continue to do so for, perhaps, the next week or two. I’m home once more, and praying that this is where I shall be permitted at long last to remain….

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forbidden Planet debuted sixty years ago on this date in the United Kingdom. I had the extremely good fortune of seeing Forbidden Planet at one of those boutique cinema houses some four decades back. Great sound and print, and a respectful audience who were there to see the film so everyone paid attention to it. 

It was produced by Nicholas Nayfack who had no genre background and who would die of a heart attack, age forty-nine just two years later. It was directed by Fred Wilcox, best known for Lassie, Come Home. The script was written by Cyril Hume who had prior to this written scripts for two Tarzan films. It is said that is based off “The Tempest” as conceived in a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Huh. 

I’ll skip the cast other than Robbie the Robot. He cost at least one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars to produce, and was based off the design originating with ideas and sketches by production designer Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie, art director Arthur Lonergan, and writer Irving Block. Robbie was operated (uncredited at the time) by stuntmen Frankie Darro and Frankie Carpenter, both rather short actors. And his voice in the film was done in post-production by actor Marvin Miller. 

The budget was about two million of which it was later estimated that Robbie was actually well over ten percent of that because of the cost of Miller’s time which added considerably to his cost. It made two point eight million, so yes it lost money. 

So what did the critics think? Variety thought it had “Imaginative gadgets galore, plus plenty of suspense and thrills, make the production a top offering in the space travel category” while the Los Angeles Times thought it was “more than another science-fiction movie, with the emphasis on fiction; it is a genuinely thought-through concept of the future, and the production MGM has bestowed on it gives new breadth and dimension to that time-worn phrase, ‘out of this world.’” 

It has a most stellar eighty-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which included some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two very low budget TV horror films in the late Sixties that don’t show up on Rotten Tomatoes, appear to be his first venture into our realm. And no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later which gets a most excellent seventy-eight rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. (No, don’t ask what they got for ratings. Please don’t ask.) Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (It’s Moore, again don’t ask.) (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman : Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 75. I strongly believe that everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (So let the arguments begin on that statement as they will.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories which I essayed here. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1952 — Virginia Hey, 70. Best remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it, so who has? 
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 65. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written at least five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. She has won the Internation Assoication of Media Tie-In Writers’ Faust Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark celebrates Fathers Day.
  • zach can foretell the present!

(15) OVERCOMER. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting interview with Sarah Hall, author of plague novel Burntcoat (not sure writing a book during the pandemic is quite comparable to what Sarah Connor did but ok …) “Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’”.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

And you kept it up even while home schooling your daughter?
There was some part of me that thought: “This is just one more thing that’s going to make it difficult to work and I’m going to do it anyway.” I was anxious, but I’m a single parent and I go into, as I call it, Sarah Connor mode from The Terminator: it’s out there, here’s my child, what do I need to do? Get buff! I got pains in my hand because I wasn’t used to writing so much.

(16) WACKY WIKI. If for any reason you were wondering whether Vox Day’s Infogalactic is still around, Camestos Felapton permitted his eyeballs to be stabbed with its content in order to research this post: “Incredibly, Voxopedia is still running”.

(17) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, A.A. Dowd celebrates the 40th anniversary of E.T., saying the film “has the simplicity of a fable and the texture of ordinary American life.” “’E.T.,’ 40 years later, is still the most soulful of box-office sensations”.

… Not that the movie subscribes to the idea of adolescence as a carefree, unburdened time. By now, it’s conventional wisdom that “E.T.” grew out of Spielberg’s memories of his emotionally fraught teenage years. The director modeled his title character on a real imaginary friend he came up with to cope with his parents’ divorce. As written by Melissa Mathison, who combined elements from two scrapped Spielberg projects, the film became a melancholy fantasy deeply haunted by parental absence. At heart, it’s about a broken nuclear family trying to piece itself back together….

(18) WHO NEEDS SPECIAL EFFECTS? Gizmodo is delighted that “Doctor Strange 2 Gets a Dance-Heavy Blooper Reel Before Disney+ Drop”.

… Beyond that, it’s funny to watch the cast’s long capes and skirts get stuck in the scenery and have them try to fight off errant leaves as they wave their arms around doing pretend magic.

(19) A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE FROM OUR FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Estonian company Milrem Robotics has joined with a partner company (who supplied the 30 mm autocanon) to demonstrate what their “Type-X“ armored, uncrewed, AI-powered Robotic Combat Vehicle could do if outfitted as a tank. “Robot Tank Firing at Cars and Other Targets Is the Stuff of Nightmares” at Autoevolution.

The disastrous use of tanks by the Russians in Ukraine isn’t stopping defense contractors from researching such platforms, though. Of course, even if they look like traditional tanks, these new machines are as modern as they get.

Take the so-called Type-X Robotic Combat Vehicle, developed over in Europe by Milrem Robotics and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. That would be an autonomous, AI-governed, tracked vehicle that could become a common presence on the battlefields of tomorrow….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Meredith, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]