Pixel Scroll 1/8/24 Come Gather ’Round Pixels, Wherever You Scroll; And Admit That The Files, Around You Have Rolled

(1) CREATIVE ARTS EMMYS NIGHT 2. Sff was much less prominently featured among the second night 2023 Creative Arts Emmys Winners. (Note: Some categories had multiple winners.)

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation

  • EntergalacticThe Simpsons, “Lisa the Boy Scout;” More than I Want to RememberStar Wars: Visions, “Screecher’s Reach”

Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming

  • Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration; We’re HereSt. George, Utah

Outstanding Makeup for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program

  • Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Outstanding Animated Program

  • The Simpsons

Outstanding Emerging Media Program

  • For All Mankind Season 3 Experience

(Click here for a report about “Night One of the 75th Creative Arts Emmy Awards”.)

(2) QUESTION TIME. Steve Davidson opines “The Fannish Inquisition Needs More Than Soft Cushions and Comfy Chairs” at Amazing Stories. Davidson says that in particular the recent Chengdu Worldcon bid and the 2028 Uganda Worldcon bid needed/needs sharp questioning on human rights. (Note that conventions generally abandoned the “Fannish Inquisition” panel title several years ago; at last December’s Smofcon the event was called “Future Worldcon and Smofcon Q&A”.)

…We’d all like to believe that stepping inside a convention transports us from a real world that is flawed with all manner of injustices, mistaken values and ancient moralities into one where the things that really matter are given their due.

But you can’t do that if the host country doesn’t at least respect those values enough to be hands-off.  ANY country that does not operate under one version of a rule of law or another is a potential mine field, because the rules are, in fact, arbitrary, and can change on a political whim….

…Sure, we need to know about the “restaurant scene” in your city, but we also need to know –

How is the LGBTQI community perceived in your culture or country?   Can Transgender individuals be arrested for “wearing the wrong clothing”?  Will I be arrested for having posted something critical of its government or leaders in my Fanzine?  Will my cell phone be scanned?  My internet communications monitored and recorded?  Will I have to hide my necklace with a Cross or a Star of David on it?  Will I be prevented from entering the country because I have the wrong stamps in my passport?  Will I disappear because I held hands with the wrong person in public?  What are my risks if I travel outside the venue?  If I’m female and need a doctor, will a male owner have to be present? Will armed thugs beat me in the street because I didn’t cover my hair?

… I strongly suggest that some additional questions be added to our Fannish Inquisitions.  Questions like:

What kind of government does the host country have?  Where does it fall on the Corruption Perceptions Index?  Why?

Where does the host country fall on the Universal Human Rights Index?  If it’s rating is considered to be low, why is that?

Do individuals identifying as LGBTQI enjoy the same rights and freedoms as those who do not?  If not, why not?  What are the restrictions, if any? What are the consequences for expressing LGBTQI affiliation privately?  Publicly?

Do women enjoy the same freedoms as men?  The same opportunities?  The same protections under the law?…

(3) THEY SAY AI CREPT. [Item by Anne Marble.] The official account for Magic: The Gathering had to admit that some recent marketing images they posted were, in fact, created with AI. As often happens, the company first claimed they were not created via AI. Some have pointed out that perhaps some of the 1,100 people they laid off just before the holidays could have checked the images and kept the company from making this mistake.

And Ars Technica quotes one artist who says he is done with the company after the way this was handled: “Magic: The Gathering maker admits it used AI-generated art despite standing ban”.

…As accusations of AI use in the creation of the promo image grew throughout the day, WotC posted multiple defenses on Thursday (such as this archived, now-deleted post) insisting that the art in question “was created by humans and not AI.” But given the evidence, the situation was too much for veteran MtG artist Dave Rapoza, who has created art for dozens of Magic cards going back years.

“And just like that, poof, I’m done working for Wizards of the Coast,” Rapoza wrote on social media on Saturday. “You can’t say you stand against this then blatantly use AI to promote your products… If you’re gonna stand for something you better make sure you’re actually paying attention, don’t be lazy, don’t lie.”….

(4) IN THE NEWS. Nnedi Okorafor shared happy moment with Facebook readers.

I was featured in New York Times yesterday! A great way to start 2024.

(5) NINO CIPRI SEMINAR. Atlas Obscura Experiences will host a four-part seminar “Thrills & Chills: Horror Story Writing With Nino Cipri” in February/March. Full details and prices at the link.

The horror genre is a funhouse mirror, offering larger-than-life reflections of a culture’s fears and insecurities. Its popularity may rise and fall, but horror is always with us. In this seminar, award-winning author and lifelong horror fan Nino Cipri will guide students through the process of writing horror, from generating ideas to the final revision and submission process. Along the way, we’ll talk about horror’s roots in oral traditions, embracing and subverting tropes, and why we keep coming back to horror even when it can’t compete with real life’s awfulness. This course welcomes writers of all backgrounds and experience who are interested in sharpening their skills and exploring the genre. 

(6) THE BLACK AMAZON. On Bluesky (for those of you with access) Jess Nevins wrote a 26-post story about a “real superhero” in 19th-century Paris. Thread begins here.

The concept of the superhero is as old as human culture. (See: Enkidu, “Epic of Gilgamesh”). But “real” superheroes? Vigilante groups have likely been wearing disguises for centuries. Certainly, the Whiteboys of Ireland (na Buachaillí Bána) in the 18th century did. What about women vigilantes?

(7) THE REINVENTED EDITORS Q&A. Paul Semel interviews “‘The Reinvented Detective’ Editors Jennifer Brozek & Cat Rambo”.

Who came up with the idea for The Reinvented Detective?

Jennifer: This one was all me! I have a deep and abiding love of noir detective stories, as well as mysteries in the future. Think Blade Runner / Blade Runner 2049 or any Philip K. Dick type story.

Also, as a member of Gen X, I grew up without the Internet, and was introduced to it in my formative adult years. I remember things that many people have never been without (contact online access, GoogleAmazon, and more). My world has changed enough that I can see how technology changes the face of society and how people interact with each other.

And yet…many of the same problems remain. We all live, love, hate, feud, want. We are still human in all the ways that matter. Which means no matter the circumstances, motivations for crimes remain the same. It’s how we see, solve, and punish those crimes that change. That’s what I wanted the stories to be about, and our authors delivered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 8, 1944 Richard Bowes. (Died 2023.) Richard Bowes is a fascinating story.  He started getting published relatively late in life, in his early forties, with three novels in three years — WarchildFeral Cell and Goblin Market. Warchild and its sequel, Goblin Market are set in an alternate history version of the New York City, his home city. 

Richard Bowes in 2008.

A series of stories, mostly published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, were later reworked into his Minions of the Moon novel which won the Lambda Literary Award. One of these stories, “Streetcar Dreams”, would garner a World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

Dust Devils on a Quiet Street is semi-autobiographical but adds in a dose of the supernatural as it centered around 9/11. It got nominated for Lambda and World Fantasy Awards. 

Now my favorite stories by him are his Time Ranger stories mixing fantasy and SF. They’re some of the best such stories and the mosaic novel, as edited by Marty Halpern, From the Files of the Time Rangers, has a foreword by Kage Baker in which she gives her appreciation of his stories. It was nominated for a Nebula Award.

Two of the novelettes that make up this novel,  “The Ferryman’s Wife” and “The Mask of the Rex” were  originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction – were also nominated for Nebula Awards. 

(9) THE SOURCE. Gareth L. Powell tries to answer the eternal question “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

… These ideas can be something complex or something simple, and often come in the form of an answer to a ‘What would happen if…?’ question.

The Embers of War trilogy sprang from an article about the Titanic that I was reading in a dentist’s waiting room. There had been other ship losses before the ill-fated liner, but the Titanic carried a radio and was able to call for help, which meant other ships arrived in time to rescue survivors and relay the tale of what had happened. I started thinking about how different things might have been today, when the ship’s radio could have summoned helicopters and planes and fast-response boats – and as I write science fiction, I naturally projected that situation into space. If space travel became commonplace, I thought, there would need to be some sort of rescue organisation for starships in distress. And from there, I went on to build the rest of the universe around that central notion.

My point is, ideas can come from anywhere. You just have to learn to interrogate them.

Read widely, both within and beyond your chosen genre. Expose yourself to nonfiction, biographies, music, art, poetry. The wider you cast your net, the better your chances of finding something at inspires your creative process. It all goes into the compost heap of the imagination, where unexpected connections happen all the time….

(10) FAMILY TIES. Someone followed this Mark Hamill’s post at X.com with a comment: “Seems to have gone better than your meeting with your father.”

(11) YOU DON’T SAY. The Guardian offers advice about “Where to start with: Wilkie Collins”, the 19th-century author.

Monday marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wilkie Collins, the Victorian writer known for his mystery novels. His writing became foundational to the way modern crime novels are constructed, and his most famous works – The Woman in White, No Name, Armadale, and The Moonstone – have earned him an international reputation. British crime novelist and Collins fan Elly Griffiths offers a guide for those new to the author’s work.

…the book [No Name] abounds with colourful characters, including the disreputable Captain Wragge and the noble Captain Kirke (a protype of the Star Trek hero?).

(12) AKA TRIBULATION PERIWINKLE. Can scholars identify the works published under the many pen names of Louisa May Alcott? There’s Gould in them thar hills. Max Chapnick tells “How I identified a probable pen name of Louisa May Alcott” in The Conversation.

…Where was this phantom “Phantom” story? Could I find it?

After searching digital databases, I came across one such story, called simply “The Phantom,” with the subtitle, “Or, The Miser’s Dream, &c.” It had been published in the Olive Branch in early 1860, months after Alcott listed having written “The Phantom” in her journals. But the byline under the story read E. or I. – I couldn’t quite make out the first initial – Gould, which wasn’t a known pseudonym of Alcott’s.

So I went to sleep. Sometime later I awoke with the thought that Gould might be Alcott. What if, along with her several known pseudonyms – A. M. Barnard, Tribulation Periwinkle and Flora Fairfield, among others – Alcott had yet another that simply hadn’t been identified yet?

I cannot say for certain that Gould is Alcott. But I’ve encountered enough circumstantial evidence to consider it likely Alcott wrote seven stories, five poems and one piece of nonfiction under that name….

(13) SFNAL ADVERTISING EPHEMERA, CIRCA 1900. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Liza Daly on Mastodon posted some interesting sample pages from “The Mars Gazette: News from Another World”, a circa-1900 advertising pamphlet, that was an illustrated 16-page story of a traveler to Mars who enlightens the sickly malnourished Martians about the virtues of “Liquid Peptonoids”. (A combination of beef, milk and gluten; vegans, lactose-intolerant, and people with celiac disease, beware!) Daly’s post includes a link to the full pamphlet. Some of the illustrations are kinda neat:

(14) PRIVATE LUNAR LANDING NOW UNLIKELY. “US lunar landing attempt appears doomed after ‘critical’ fuel leak” reports AP News.

The first U.S. moon landing attempt in more than 50 years appeared to be doomed after a private company’s spacecraft developed a “critical” fuel leak just hours after Monday’s launch.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology managed to orient its lander toward the sun so the solar panel could collect sunlight and charge its battery, as a special team assessed the status of what was termed “a failure in the propulsion system.”

It soon became apparent, however, that there was “a critical loss of fuel,” further dimming hope for what had been a planned moon landing on Feb. 23….

This news has implications for a Star Trek-themed payload that is part of the mission: “Vulcan Centaur rocket launches private lander to the moon on 1st mission” at Space.com.

…The company [Celestis] also put a payload called Enterprise on the rocket’s Centaur upper stage. That mission, aptly named, has been decades in the making. It includes DNA from “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, as well as the remains from several actors from the original TV series, including Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and DeForest Kelley, who played Lieutenant Uhura, Chief Engineer “Scotty” and CMO Leonard “Bones” McCoy, respectively….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “New Lisa Frankenstein Trailer Brings Awesome ’80s Movie Vibes” says SYFY Wire. The movie arrives in theaters on February 9.

There are a lot of genre movies we’re already looking forward to in 2024, and at the moment, Lisa Frankenstein is near the top of the list. With a great roster of talent behind it, a wonderful dark comedy concept, and a blend of warmth and irreverence, it’s exactly the kind of movie we’re ready to see. Oh, and if you love nostalgia vibes, it’s also got that ’80s movie feeling, and lots of it.

Written by Diablo Cody (JunoJennifer’s Body) and directed by Zelda Williams in her feature directorial debut, the film follows Lisa (Kathryn Newton), a weird teenager who doesn’t fit in for a lot of reasons, including her taste in men. See, Lisa has a crush, but her crush happens to be on a Victorian man who’s buried in a local cemetery. She visits him, talks to the handsome statue that marks his grave, and dreams of what their life might be like together. Then, a lightning strike unexpectedly reanimates the man (Cole Sprouse), making Lisa’s dreams seemingly come true.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/12/23 Dancing With Pixels In Our Scrolls

(1) PAXSON ASSAILANT BYRON DECLES ARRESTED. The Berkeley Scanner reports that Byron DeCles, wanted for his attack on Diana Paxson and her son, Ian, was caught today and charged with attempted murder: “Berkeley double stabbing suspect arrested in Oakland”.

A man who had been wanted by police since Friday in connection with a stabbing in Berkeley that sent two people to the hospital is now in custody, according to booking records.

Byron DeCles, 21, was arrested shortly before 4 a.m. Tuesday in Oakland on a warrant from the Berkeley case, jail records show.

…On Tuesday, DeCles was arrested by OPD on suspicion of attempted murder, battery with serious bodily injury, elder abuse and burglary, according to booking records….

DeCles, who is unhoused, has no prior criminal cases in Alameda County, according to court records online.

According to preliminary information, he is related to the victims and has a history of mental health issues.

DeCles is now scheduled for arraignment Thursday at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. He is being held without bail….

The Berkeley Scanner also got an update from Diana Paxson about her injuries: “Berkeley writer Diana Paxson on the mend after stabbing”.

… Reached by phone late Tuesday afternoon, Paxson said she had spent the whole day responding to the many well wishes she’d received from supporters and friends….

“We are currently being very, very grateful to the members of our community — our local community and the larger community — who have been sending us energy for protection,” she told The Scanner. “It’s been a very difficult time and we are also incredibly relieved and grateful to the Oakland Police Department for actually being able to find him.”

… Paxson said she and her son were “recovering well” from their injuries.

“We look forward to being able to resume our usual schedule of events with our community,” she said.

She said she and Grey now need to look into several home repairs stemming from Friday’s incident. They plan to call the Family Justice Center in Oakland, which helps victims with a range of services in the aftermath of crimes.

“We’re very happy to hear that there is such a thing,” she said.

Paxson said what happened Friday had been the culmination of “a series of difficulties” with DeCles over the past year, which may have stemmed from or been exacerbated by untreated head injuries linked to multiple vehicle collisions.

“He never went to the hospital to be checked out,” she said. “We’re hoping that at least he’ll get checked out now.”

Paxson said medication can also help with these types of issues, but only if people take it.

“The light bulb has to want to be changed,” she said, adding: “Our whole mental system needs a lot more support than it’s been getting. That’s something to think about.”…

Diana Paxson also said today in a public Facebook post:

What’s on my mind is overwhelming gratitude that our attacker was arrested by the Oakland police this morning.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has been sending energy for protection and aid in hunting him down.

(2) CORRAIN APOLOGY. Cait Corrain reopened her X.com account today to publish “A sincere apology”, which attributed her surreptitious campaign of one-star reviews against other debut authors to “depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse”, and a “complete psychological breakdown” after starting a new medication. (Click for larger image.)

Many responses in social media, not excerpted here, have been skeptical, or view the statement as inadequate.

Surprisingly, an author found Corrain’s book was still on Amazon, now with a 2027 publication date. Del Rey Books cleared the air.

The Washington Post covered the story today: “Author Cait Corrain loses book deal after ‘review bombing’ debut authors’ books via Goodreads”. (Gift link.)


Nnedi Okorafor’s notes about the shortcomings of Goodreads and the prevalence of this kind of misconduct are well worth thinking about. Thread starts here.

(3) DUNE TRAILER. “Dune Part 2’s Epic New Trailer Teases a War Across Generations” at Gizmodo.

… The main thing you get from that trailer is that Part Two is just a much, much bigger movie than Part One. Part One had to move all the pieces into place. Now, Paul is becoming the leader of an entire people and will use them to win back their planet. We’re talking war on a planetary scale, which—most excitingly—includes not just one, but multiple sandworms tearing through soldiers. Can you wait to see that shot in IMAX? We can’t….

(4) JURY SIDES WITH FORTNITE. The New York Times reports that a federal district court jury sided against Google: “Google Loses Antitrust Court Battle With Makers of Fortnite Video Game”.

A jury ruled on Monday that Google had violated antitrust laws to extract fees and limit competition from Epic Games and other developers on its Play mobile app store, in a case that could rewrite the rules on how thousands of businesses make money on Google’s smartphone operating system, Android.

After deliberating for a little more than three hours, the nine-person federal jury sided with Epic Games on all 11 questions in a monthlong trial that was the latest turn in a three-year legal battle.

The jury in San Francisco found that Epic, the maker of the hit game Fortnite, proved that Google had maintained a monopoly in the smartphone app store market and engaged in anticompetitive conduct that harmed the videogame maker.

Google could be forced to alter its Play Store rules, allowing other companies to offer competing app stores and making it easier for developers to avoid the cut it collects from in-app purchases.

Judge James Donato of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California will decide the remedies needed to address Google’s conduct next year. Google said it would appeal the verdict….

(5) RECOGNITION RESTORED. [Item by Steven French.] This sounds genre to me, especially as the author Yambo Ouologuem is described as writing in the style of Vonnegut. “African writer ruined by row with Graham Greene finally gets chance to shine” in the Guardian.

In 1968 the books pages of the French newspaper Le Monde excitedly praised an uncompromising new novel, Bound to Violence, going on to salute its author as one of “the rare intellectuals of international stature presented to the world by Black Africa”.

The newspaper’s words, written in tribute to the young Malian writer Yambo Ouologuem, sound condescending today. Back then, however, the intended compliment was genuine and many European critics soon agreed: the publication of Ouologuem’s strange novel really did mark the arrival of a major new talent.

But the literary world can be brutal, and particularly so for a young African novelist living in Paris who was attempting a fresh twist on conventional storytelling.

Fellow African writers began to express shock at Ouologuem’s harsh parody of his own culture. Three years later damaging accusations of plagiarism had also emerged, including a public skirmish with Graham Greene, which ended Ouologuem’s short career. He retreated into the life of a recluse, returned to Mali and died in 2017, having never published again.

Now, 50 years after this scandal, Penguin Classics is to bring out a new English edition of Bound to Violence in a bid to rehabilitate the gifted author and introduce him to new readers.

“I was so exhilarated when I read this book,” said Penguin editor Ka Bradley. “It’s the history of an imaginary African empire called Nakem and whole centuries are dealt with in just a paragraph or two. It’s dizzying.”

(6) WRITING WITH AI IS NOT A SPORT. This player has been ejected. “Publisher Of Sports Illustrated Ousts CEO Ross Levinsohn” reports Deadline.

The CEO of the parent company of Sports Illustrated was ousted on Monday.

The firing followed a scandal over the publication’s use of AI-generated stories from fake authors, although it was not immediately clear if that was related to the shakeup.

Ross Levinsohn, CEO of The Arena Group, was terminated and Manoj Bhargava was named interim chief executive officer, the company said. No other information was provided, other than that the board met “and took actions to improve the operational efficiency and revenue of the company.”…

(7) AUTHOR’S CANDIDACY SCOTCHED. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The Tomorrow’s MPs Twitter account reported that a potential candidate for a constituency in Scotland was forced to stand down from the party selection contest, due to the content of novels he had previously written.  The tweet links to a piece in The Courier news website, which states:

A long-serving Fife Labour councillor has stood down from an internal contest to stand as the party’s candidate in Glenrothes after concerns were raised about fantasy books he has written.

Insiders expect Altany Craik to issue a statement saying he is withdrawing from the contest for “family reasons”.

But we can reveal that Mr Craik, a supernatural horror author, was directed to stand down because of party reservations about his novels.

Mr Craik had been seeking support from members to stand as the Labour candidate for Glenrothes at the General Election expected next year….

…A source said: “It’s absolutely disgusting.”

“They’re saying he’s not a suitable candidate because his books are too sexy and satanic.”…

…His profile on Amazon includes titles such as “Innocence Lost”, with readers praising the books and it’s (sic) protagonist, Father Andrew Steel.

One reviewer wrote: “This book has graphic descriptions of gore, mutilation, rape, and foul language. But getting past that, it is a worthwhile read.”…

(8) GUESS WHO HAS A NEW NEIGHBOR? [Item by John King Tarpinian.] John Waters’ star adjoins Ray Bradbury’s on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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

Post about the Chengdu Worldcon receives complaint from con organizers

This November 13th post (archive.org backup copy) by an account using the name 四海朝阳/Sihai Zhaoyang is mostly about the history of the Chengdu Worldcon, although there’s some relatively brief coverage of the actual con itself – mainly the online aspects – towards the end.  Some extracts via Google Translate, with manual edits:

On January 17, 2022, the official WeChat public account of the Chengdu Worldcon released volunteer recruitment information. However, according to feedback from science fiction fans who submitted their resumes, there were no updates after their submission, and there was no mention of subsidies or compensation for volunteers. In actuality, volunteers during the conference were recruited from surrounding schools.

On January 20, 2022 [this is an error/typo, it should read “2023”], some science fiction fans on Twitter discovered that the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference had officially announced that the conference would be rescheduled from August to October 2023, and the location changed from the Century City International Convention and Exhibition Center to the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum. This news was not announced to Chinese fans at that time, nor were those who voted that year notified. (i.e. the group of science fiction fans who were also members of the 81st World Science Fiction Convention).  It was not until that night that the notice of the postponement and venue change was hastily issued.

In fact, this change had been known about for a long time. In May 2022, a science fiction fan discovered the news on a government bidding website that the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum and Qingrong Lake Science Fiction Park would be built in Pidu District, Chengdu, and posted this on Weibo. After making the news public, they received a message from the organizing committee, ordering them to delete their Weibo post. However, coverage of the same topic could still be seen in local Chengdu media.  At this time, the estimated completion time was the end of June [presumably 2023], and the exhibition completion time would be the end of July….

The organizing committee of the Chengdu Worldcon also began to travel to various cities to conduct research with local science fiction fans. However, of the university science fiction clubs with the largest number of science fiction fans, very few received relevant notifications. During this process, the organizing committee members who did not understand science fiction once again made a joke. Their main person in charge had never heard of such a thing as a “light saber” and vowed to invite Shinichi Hoshi,

Kobayashi Yasumi, Douglas Adams and others mentioned by fans, despite all those people passing away long ago…

[During the preparation period in the days leading up to the con] something ridiculous happened. A staff member from Science Fiction World entered the venue with Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award trophy from 2015, to set it up as an exhibit. However, they were stopped by the security guard at the door, because the trophy was too long and was a sharp object…

Of course, we cannot ignore the “good” side of this conference, and that side has nothing to do with this organizing committee and comes purely from the lovely fans. Thanks to the efforts of some of the staff from Science Fiction World, the science fiction associations of many schools took a group photo at the Galaxy Awards Ceremony for the “Best Science Fiction Society Award”. The number of participating societies has become the highest in history. Science fiction fans communicated with each other at the conference, from badges to ribbons, embodying the ingenuity and wonderful ideas of fantasy fans.  After RiverFlow was taken to hospital, many science fiction fans and science fiction authors rushed there spontaneously and waited all night. Online and offline, most of the problems encountered by science fiction fans were solved by other enthusiastic science fiction fans. No matter how many times a question was asked, they never tired of answering it…

Has the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention had a good or bad impact on Chinese science fiction? In the short term, the answer does not seem to be available.

A couple of days later, on November 15th, there was a follow-up post (archive.org copy), stating that a complaint about the original post had been received from the Worldcon organizers.  A screenshot of the complaint was included; a Google Translate rendition to English is below, which I haven’t edited in any way.

The following content is not officially provided by WeChat and should be filled in by the rights holder when making a complaint. Please operate with caution.

This article involves malicious attacks against individuals, institutions and governments, seriously affects the government’s credibility, denies the work results of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention Organizing Committee, and misguides public opinion.

As the only legal entity of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference, the Chengdu Science Fiction Association strictly abides by the World Science Fiction Association charter and relevant regulations from application to hosting. The theme salon, guest reception, Hugo Award selection and award, and ticket sales all comply with relevant requirements. Said untrue situation.

The original poster responds by stating that their post was based on public information, whether from the con itself, or posted online by other members of the public, and argues that ‘it is precisely the organizing committee of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention itself that “seriously affects the government’s credibility.”‘ (via Google Translate, again with no manual edits).

It’s not clear to me whether this complaint had any weight behind it, legal or otherwise.  As I understand it, once a post has been made public on Weixin/WeChat, only a small number of edits can be made, so presumably any response would have involved taking the post down rather than removing any offending text.  Given that the post is still up a month later, the complaint seems to have had zero effect – other than provoking further coverage in this Weibo post by SF Light Year, and in issue 16 of the Zhejiang University SF association news summary, and now here, causing a Streisand effect.

Xingyun (Nebula) event to be held at the Chengdu SF Museum in May 2024

On the weekend of May 17th-19th next year, the 2024 Xingyun (Nebula) Celebration will be held at the Chengdu SF museum.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the only confirmed event or activity to be held at the venue post-Worldcon, other than Lukyanenko’s tour on December 1st.

This event appears to comprise three elements (via Google Translate, so these may not be the official English names):

  • The 2024 Children’s Science Fiction Conference
  • The 2024 International Science Fiction Summit Forum
  • The 15th Annual Xingyun (Nebula) Awards – I think these may have been previously announced, although I don’t think it was covered here on File 770.

Note: Looking at the dates of previous SFWA Nebula conferences, it wouldn’t surprise if both events take place on the same weekend.

Video of an SF themed bus in Chengdu

This three-minute video was filmed on the final day of the con, and posted to Bilibili a couple of days later.  It shows an SF-themed bus, followed by a timelapse sequence of the route it takes.  I’m sure people who attended the Worldcon may need to correct me, but I think the red and blue banners that hang from most of the streetlights were also promoting the con?

Note that these seem to be buses running a public route, different from the red ones that I think were dedicated to transporting Worldcon attendees, and which can be seen in the first photo.

(10) BUILDING A TOWN WITHOUT CGI. Not something many movie makers would do. “’Oppenheimer’ Production Designer Ruth De Jong – Featurette” at Deadline.

When location scouting for Oppenheimer, production designer Ruth De Jong was tasked with finding a location to recreate Los Alamos. Although the actual town of Los Alamos was too modernized to use for the period piece, De Jong and her team spent some time there for research. “I began laying out the expanse of the town with our set designer Jim Hewitt,” she says. “We took these drawings, with plans and elevations, and made foam core architectural models in a quarter-inch scale.”

De Jong and her team landed on Ghost Ranch, which is along the same mountain range as the existing Los Alamos. “We had this epic town that we wanted to do,” she says, “but the U.S. government had $2 million and a few years and I had nowhere near that.” Neither De Jong nor director Christopher Nolan wanted to use CGI for extensions on the town, so De Jong opted for building exteriors and shooting the interiors at the actual Los Alamos, like Oppenheimer’s house, which has been largely untouched since he lived there.…

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. (Died 2012.) Josepha Sherman was a remarkable woman. She was another individual who died far too young. Author, folklorist, and anthologist, I knew her for a number of years up to the time of her death, by email and phone, though I lost touch with her a few years before she died. 

She wrote dozens of short stories and novels, including her Compton Crook Award-winning novel The Shining Falcon. She was prolific with Child of Faerie, Child of EarthA Strange and Ancient NameWindleafGleaming BrightKing’s Son, Magic’s Son and Son of Darkness being some of her other novels. 

She also penned five novels set in the Trek verse co-authored with Susan Shwartz including Vulcan’s Forge and Vulcan’s Heart.  She wrote a lot of media tie dipping into the universes of Andromeda and BuffyBardic Choices (with Mercedes Lackey) and even Highlander as she told me she loved Adrian Paul there.

Oh, she was a superb anthologist. A Jewish woman, she put together several collections reflecting what she knew so well — A Sampler of Jewish-American Folklore and Rachel The Clever and Other Jewish Folktales. But my favorite work by her was isn’t an anthology, but a rather serious work she did with T.K.F. Weisskopf: Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood. Yes, Green Man reviewed it as she sent us a copy. Actually we reviewed so long ago that it ran on our predecessor, Mostly Folk, but that is another story for another time.

So let’s finish off by telling you that she was a Winter Queen at Green Man as was Ellen Kushner and Jane Yolen. All it means is they get to write a Speech and get chocolate. Somehow that charms them, so here’s Joshepa’s meditation on Winter: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”.

Josepha Sherman. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(12) SHINY. Peer today posted a stunning improvement to that popular tune about a reindeer hero.  

You know Pixelsdasher and Pixeldancer
And Pixelprancer and Pixelvixen,
Pixelcomet and Pixelcupid
And Pixeldonner and Pixelblitzen.
But do you recall
The most famous scroll title of all?
Godstalk the click-boxed title
Had a very shiny scroll
And if you ever saw it
You would even feed the troll
All of the other titles
Used to laugh and scroll its names
They never let poor Godstalk
Play in any wordle games

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Mike came to say,
“Jetpacks not working,
Won’t you scroll my File tonight?”

Then all the Filers loved it
And they shouted it out with glee,
“Godstalk as a scroll title
will go down in history!”

With apologies to … everyone I guess.

(13) FANAC’S APA PANEL NOW ONLINE.

APAs Everywhere with Fred Lerner, Christina Lake, Amy Thomson and Tom Whitmore

In this wonderful FanHistory Zoom panel, our speakers, all long-time participants (in multiple different APAs), speak about their experiences with APA life. During this 2-part recording, you’ll hear their personal fannish origin stories and APA experiences, along with a wealth of fascinating commentary on the nature and purpose of APAs. From “fanac in a corner” to “intentional community”, this video provides thoughtful, insightful discussion on why APAs have been a mainstay of science fiction fandom.

Of particular interest are the discussions of “standing waves” of cultural issues that run through our APAs and the ways that science fiction fandom has dealt with cultural challenges. Fandom had notable failures (and successes) dealing with social issues long before the general culture dealt with them.

Of course, it’s not all social commentary. You’ll hear the story of APAs used in divorce proceedings, APAs which may have been created to bedevil particular individuals, and the APA which didn’t live up to its banner of “the 13 nastiest bastards in fandom”.  You’ll learn why APAs thrive, even in this era of instant  online gratification. Other topics: privacy issues, digital preservation of APAs, a soft toy APA, APAs you wouldn’t join, Langdon charts, and of course, audience Q&A.

Part 1

Part 2

(14) THEY’RE NOT PLAYING AROUND. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. “E3 has entertained its last electronic expo” says TechCrunch.

E3’s decades-long history has been peppered with ups and downs. The annual Los Angeles-based gaming expo saw a decade of steady growth after it was founded in the mid-90s. The mid-00s, on the other hand, were an altogether different story, as the event struggled, downsized and moved out of the LA Convention Center.

Opening the industry-only event to the public breathed new life into the event the following decade, however, until 2020 saw E3 — and the rest of the world — suddenly grind to a halt. Since then, the show has, understandably, struggled.

The in-person event was canceled courtesy of COVID, and a virtual version failed to materialize by that summer. Show organizer, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), did manage an online event in 2021, only to once again cancel things in full the following year. After failing to garner enough interest, there was no E3 2023, nor will the event return in 2024.

Given its recent history, there was little surprise this morning, when the ESA announced that E3 is now gone for good. Such decisions are never easy to make, and big organizations/events take a while to wind down. The group no doubt wanted to exhaust all feasible options before officially throwing in the towel for good….

(15) BEAR BEGINNINGS. The Guardian declares “Paws for applause: Paddington set to star in stage musical”.

Paddington, Michael Bond’s “very rare sort of bear”, is to star in a new stage musical. The production, announced on Tuesday, is being developed by Sonia Friedman’s company, whose hits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and will have music and lyrics by McFly’s Tom Fletcher. It is currently being workshopped with the title Paddington: The Musical and has a UK premiere planned for 2025.

The show is adapted from Bond’s bestselling children’s books – the first of which was published 65 years ago – and from the popular live-action film versions which feature Ben Whishaw as the voice of a CGI Paddington. How the marmalade-loving, accident-prone bear will be represented on stage has not yet been revealed….

(16) SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. The New York Times finds some are “Using A.I. to Talk to the Dead”.

Dr. Stephenie Lucas Oney is 75, but she still turns to her father for advice. How did he deal with racism, she wonders. How did he succeed when the odds were stacked against him?

The answers are rooted in William Lucas’s experience as a Black man from Harlem who made his living as a police officer, F.B.I. agent and judge. But Dr. Oney doesn’t receive the guidance in person. Her father has been dead for more than a year.

Instead, she listens to the answers, delivered in her father’s voice, on her phone through HereAfter AI, an app powered by artificial intelligence that generates responses based on hours of interviews conducted with him before he died in May 2022.

His voice gives her comfort, but she said she created the profile more for her four children and eight grandchildren.

“I want the children to hear all of those things in his voice,” Dr. Oney, an endocrinologist, said from her home in Grosse Pointe, Mich., “and not from me trying to paraphrase, but to hear it from his point of view, his time and his perspective.”…

… HereAfter AI was introduced in 2019, two years after the debut of StoryFile, which produces interactive videos in which subjects appear to make eye contact, breathe and blink as they respond to questions. Both generate answers from responses users gave to prompts like “Tell me about your childhood” and “What’s the greatest challenge you faced?”…

… StoryFile offers a “high-fidelity” version in which someone is interviewed in a studio by a historian, but there is also a version that requires only a laptop and webcam to get started. Stephen Smith, a co-founder, had his mother, Marina Smith, a Holocaust educator, try it out. Her StoryFile avatar fielded questions at her funeral in July.

According to StoryFile, about 5,000 people have made profiles. Among them was the actor Ed Asner, who was interviewed eight weeks before his death in 2021.

The company sent Mr. Asner’s StoryFile to his son Matt Asner, who was stunned to see his father looking at him and appearing to answer questions.

“I was blown away by it,” Matt Asner said. “It was unbelievable to me about how I could have this interaction with my father that was relevant and meaningful, and it was his personality. This man that I really missed, my best friend, was there.”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Doctor Who releases Christmas single The Goblin Song” and it’s on the Guardian’s radar. Warning for anthropophagy. Or maybe not. It’s goblins doing it.

For the first time in its 60-year history, Doctor Who is releasing an official Christmas single.

The Goblin Song, written by the show’s composer, Murray Gold, with lyrics by Russell T Davies, is raising money for Children in Need….

…The music video features a clip from the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, in which Ncuti Gatwa will make his full-length debut as the Doctor, alongside Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, who joins as a regular Tardis companion.

During the video, the Doctor and Ruby are seen crawling through a pirate ship while goblins sing about eating a baby. Gold described the song as “fiendishly catchy”, adding: “I don’t like these goblins – and you won’t either.”

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Ersatz Culture, Rob Thornton, Rose Embolism, Anne Marble, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

2023 Arthur C. Clarke Awards

The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation presented the 2023 Arthur C. Clarke Awards at their Unleash Imagination event on November 8. (Note: This is a different honor than the literary Arthur C. Clarke Award.)

INNOVATOR AWARD

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

Represented by its President and COO, Michael Ulica.

for valuing curiosity and supporting exploration that inspires humanity

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. Learn more about National Geographic Society.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

ROMAIN BAUSCH
Former CEO of SES Satellites who currently is Chairman of the National Council of Public Finance of Luxembourg.

for leadership and commitment to extending the benefits of satellite communications around the world

Romain Bausch is the renowned space executive who oversaw the rise of SES to the world’s largest satellite operator. Based in Luxembourg, SES successfully established a leading position in the European satellite services market in the 1990s, subsequently extending its footprint across the world by consolidating a number of industry-leading companies such as GE Americom, New Skies Satellites, Nordic Satellite AB, and others. He also steered the investment in, and acquisition of, O3B Networks and its unique capabilities to deliver true ‘Telco’ services to the most remote and disconnected populations.

Romain was Chairman of Luxembourg’s National Council of Public Finance (2019 to 2022) and will continue in this role 2023- 2026. He is also a Member of both the Board of Directors of the Luxembourg Future Fund and the Board of Directors of Bank Raiffeisen. Learn more about Romain Bausch

IMAGINATION IN SERVICE TO SOCIETY AWARD

NNEDI OKORAFOR
Award-winning New York Times Bestselling writer of science fiction and fantasy for both children and adults.

for unforgettable speculative fiction and Africanfuturism for youth and adults

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning New York Times Bestselling novelist of science fiction and fantasy for children, young adults and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for drawing from African cultures to create captivating stories with unforgettable characters and evocative settings. Nnedi has received the World Fantasy, Nebula, Eisner and Lodestar Awards and multiple Hugo Awards, amongst others, for her books. Champions of her work include Neil Gaiman, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, George RR Martin, and Rick Riordan. Literary ancestors Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula K. Le Guin and Nawal El Saadawi also loved her work. Nnedi holds a PhD in Literature, two Master’s Degrees (Journalism and Literature) and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her daughter Anyaugo. Learn more about Nnedi Okorafor

Pixel Scroll 11/5/23 Pixelman’s Scroll Is Half-Constructed

(1) PDA NOW OK. MovieWeb is on hand as “Doctor Who Boldly Overturns Its Outdated Classic-Era Show Policy”.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Doctor Who, the iconic British series has taken a recent turn that spotlights its growth from a stringent past. Known for its gallivanting through space and time, the beloved show is breaking down its own historical barriers, particularly one peculiar rule that harkens back to the 1980s….

…The pivot to emotional resonance is most pointedly realized in new scenes surrounding the omnibus of Earthshock, penned by Davies himself. Here, the Memory TARDIS acts as a vessel more for emotional catharsis than for space-time travel, facilitating a heart-to-heart between the Doctor and Tegan as they process the demise of Adric, a narrative beat scarcely imagined in the show’s earlier format where stiffer upper lips prevailed.

During the 1980s, producer John Nathan-Turner’s tenure was marked by an austere decree: no displays of affection within the TARDIS. Dubbed as the “no hanky panky” mandate, it stretched beyond romantic implications to ban even the simplest of hugs, lest they be misconstrued. This directive cast a chilly pall over the TARDIS, muting the warmth that might have been shared between the Doctor and companions. Davies, with a knowing wink, playfully critiques this through dialogue that bridges the three-decade emotional gap.

It’s through exchanges like the Fifth Doctor‘s quip, “We never really did this sort of thing, did we?” and Tegan’s response, “We do now!” that the series acknowledges its own thaw. This meta-commentary doesn’t just point to a thawing of the ’80s chill; it’s also a tribute to Davies’ contribution to the series’ tonal shift when he revived it in 2005….

(2) A BOOK WITH A JONBAR POINT. “Review: The Dragon Waiting, by John M. Ford” is shared by Rich Horton on Strange at Ecbatan.

…Somewhat miraculously, Isaac Butler, a journalist and new-hatched Ford enthusiast, was able to track down his heirs and untangle the issue, which was apparently largely due to his agent leaving the field approximately as he died. Thus many of his novels have been reprinted, and some more books may be in the offing. The first to be reprinted was The Dragon Waiting….

… I won’t say much more about the plot — perhaps I’ve already said too much. But it is rich and complicated, and there are many more fascinating characters to meet: Richard III, of course (though he’s not yet the king); a Christian Welsh witch named Mary Setright; Anthony Woodville, brother-in-law to King Edward IV, and man regarded as a renaissance man, England’s perfect knight; numerous other intriguers, including for example John Morton, rumored to be a wizard; and of course Edward’s young sons, the famous “Princes in the Tower”. There is lots of action — battles, daring rescues, desperate treks. There is lots of magic — wizardly spells, a remarkable dragon, alchemy. There are acts of wrenching heroism, and of dreadful treachery, and some that might be both at once. The resolution is powerful and moving. 

But most of all there is character. Cynthia’s agony over her acts of violence, in violation of her oath as a doctor. Hywel’s battles with letting is wizardly powers consume him — apparently always a danger. Dimitrios’ attempts to find a man to whom to be truly loyal. And Gregory’s agonized struggle with his vampiric needs. I am no fan of vampire novels, on the whole, but I rank two as truly worthy: George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream, and this novel….

(3) THOSE SEVEN-LEAGUE BOOTS. “The business of mining literary estates is booming” reports The Economist.

LORD BYRON intended to publish his memoir, but his literary executor burned it instead. T.S. Eliot is thought never to have wanted songs made about his cats. Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy writer, had imagination: his former assistant honoured Pratchett’s wish to have a steamroller crush a hard drive containing the author’s unfinished stories.

Roald Dahl, author of dark, delightful children’s tales, might have done something equally drastic had he known scriptwriters would conjure up a teenaged Willy Wonka. Dahl, who died in 1990, detested the first film made of his “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. It is hard to imagine him cheering its prequel, “Wonka”, which will be released in December. In it, young Willy, played by Timothée Chalamet (pictured), faces off against a chocolate cartel.

Authors have long tried to control what happens to their works after they die—and mostly failed. Yet Dahl’s legacy represents a new twist in the tale. Huge sums paid in 2021 for his estate by Netflix, a streaming service, have helped spur a gold rush to mine dead authors’ estates. Once it was intrusion by snoopy biographers that worried writers most. Today it is the temptation among heirs to monetise every shred of creative output.

Voracious hunger for new content from streaming services and film studios is driving this new interest in old books. Shrewd video producers, faced with bidding wars for hot new titles, have turned to more affordable options: novels written decades ago. The rights for these “backlist” works generally belong to an estate for 70 years after an author’s death. After that, the work enters the public domain, and estates can no longer profit from or control it. Consider “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey”, a film released this year, in which Pooh and Piglet, A.A. Milne’s loveable, nearly 100-year-old characters, become bloodthirsty killers.

Copyright-protected works are ripe for technological transformation. They can be milked in various ways, including selling the rights for translations into new languages, permitting “continuation novels” penned by living authors and making streaming series. For example, “The Queen’s Gambit”, which is best known as a show on Netflix, was actually based on a novel published in 1983.

Traditionally, managing the intellectual property of an author’s estate was a low-key affair left to grand-nephews and harried former agents. The modern era of more actively exploiting rights began 15 years ago, when star agents in America and Britain started vying for the estates of Ian Fleming, Evelyn Waugh and Vladimir Nabokov. The heirs of Agatha Christie and Dahl, meanwhile, set up companies to oversee growing empires….

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

Part 4 of Arthur Liu’s con report

Although originally announced as a four-part series, the latest instalment ends on something of a cliffhanger on the night of the Hugos, so there should be a concluding part to follow.  This one is generally much more upbeat than the previous entries, although there are ominous hints about things to come in the final part. Extracts via Google Translate, with minor manual edits:

From this day [Thursday 19th] on, the number of foreign guests increased significantly. Based on my previous experience of attending conventions abroad, it might simply have been that they had just finished listening to panels, and had gone out to take a look around. Most of them were very interested in Chinese science fiction, and they were very happy to hear that there is such a comprehensive reference source as CSFDBCésar Santivañez, editor of Future Fiction’s Cuba department, mentioned their books and did some checking with the records in the database; Estonian critic Nikolai Karayev mentioned FantLab when he came over to talk; the founder of the MUFANT Science Fiction museum in Turin David Monopoli bought our association’s journal and asked if he could record a one-minute video to introduce it; Israeli science fiction writer Uri Aviv came over to talk and learned that I like Lavie Tidhar’s works and that I also live near to one of the buildings used on the cover of Central Station. He took out his cell phone and called me over to say hello to Lavie directly.

I got a little tired in the middle of the day, so I sat behind the table to rest. Zixuan happened to pass by and said hello to me. Just behind him came a kind and slightly older foreigner. When I looked, I realized that it was Andreas Eschbach! I had only just asked for his autograph the day before, but I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to meet him in person! His “The Hair-Carpet Weavers” is one of the best science fiction works I have read in the past two years. We exchanged contact information – and not long before writing this, he sent an email. Whilst making some suggestions for the database, he also congratulated me on being shortlisted for the Hugo Award and said that if there was anything I wanted to know about his work, to contact him at any time…

[After having dinner] I returned to my hotel. [Zhong] Tianyi spent a day writing his own story, and he recovered a little, but before dinner, I went to have a midnight snack with him again. From that night on, I began to feel my body temperature intermittently become unstable. However, the local temperature difference was also very large, and as I continued to be in a state of alternating excitement and nervousness, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Now that I think about it, it may be that this is where the disease started off [referring to the severe con crud he suffered after getting back to Beijing, which I mentioned in passing on some of the earlier reports].

At a barbecue shop on the night snack street, he and I discussed some general issues, and then ate grilled locusts for the first time in my life. It is this sort of the novel experience that is closest to the spirit of science fiction at this convention…

Working at the Glasgow Worldcon table was Ann Gry.  She was also one of the guest editors of “Journey Planet”.  It is an amazing thing is that many foreign friends present have participated in the editing of issues of this magazine, and there is a feeling that the world is full of talents. I told her about my plans to attend the con next year, and then exchanged some gifts. She also showed me an interactive narrative game called “Loop” made by her friend. During the exchange, many people came over to take photos and sign autographs – foreigners are really more popular than ever at this conference. I hope to see more Sino-international exchanges in Glasgow next year…

The meeting was coming to an end and everyone had to say a few words. I felt a little sorry for not hearing it clearly. Then the leader said it was okay and we would talk more about it when we came back. Then he asked me if I thought I had a good chance of winning the Hugo Award and gave me his best wishes. Although everyone knew that I was doing something in this area before, in general doing science fiction has always been a kind of double life like Batman for me.  Suddenly breaking out of that [private] circle feels very subtle, or wonderful – kind of like the atmosphere of Hell’s Kitchen or American Idol nearing the season finale…

When we arrived at the [Hugo] reception, we just passed by the group photo of the fan authors, as no one showed up. Officials from the World Science Fiction Convention in Seattle were handing out exclusive pins to the finalists at the entrance. This afternoon, RiverFlow was exhausted again, and had returned to the hotel to rest. We asked if we could pick it up for him, and they said no, they could send it to him later. Later, in an email, I learned that each shortlisted project would receive one, instead of each person receiving only one.

There were very few Chinese finalists at the reception. When we arrived, we only saw Regina Kanyu Wang and her partner. She took us to meet many other foreign finalists, such as Best Fan Artist finalist Richard Man, and Glasgow representative Vincent Docherty.  After a while, a tall man came over, and I recognized him as Chris M. Barkley, another of the Best Fan Writer finalists. Unlike us, he has been writing columns for decades – before the conference, he also advised foreigners to be friendly to the Chinese science fiction fans attending the conference – and he can be regarded as a senior fan, although he does not look old at all!   As soon as he heard that we were also finalists, he enthusiastically took a photo with us. The volunteers at the reception were recruited from nearby international schools. They came up to talk to us in English first, and then switched to Chinese. As the photoshoot was coming to an end, they took us to a nearby display table, where there were cloisonné enamel paintings carefully made by students from the Hua’Ai School [located across the road from the con venue, see Scrolls passim]. Everyone would receive one according to their preference. When receiving the gifts, Regina asked me to take a photo of her and [founder of publisher 8 Light Minutes Culture] Yang Feng. Not long after, the reception ended. Everyone split up into groups and took the shuttle bus back to the venue. The Hugo Awards party was about to begin.

This part also prompted Hugo winner RiverFlow to post another memory of the eventful evening of the Hugo ceremony, which he hadn’t mentioned in his own con report.

Purported “news” outlet apparently unable to count up to three

The byline indicates that it may be the Xinhua news agency rather than the People’s Daily that is the source for this English-language travesty, but the bottom of the piece credits a pair of “web editors”, so I feel that they are all equally culpable.

Extracts (my emphasis):

Hai Ya took away the Best Novelette award for “The Space-Time Painter” while well-known computer graphics artist Zhao Enzhe won the Best Professional Artist award…

In addition to the two [Chinese] winners, many other categories at this year’s Hugo Awards also featured Chinese authors and artists.

(Someone on Mastodon reported that they couldn’t access the original link, so I made a backup on archive.org.)

There was a similar, if not quite as blatant, omission in another Hugos writeup from the same agency/website.

Bilibili videos

I hadn’t checked this video sharing site for a few days, but there have been a few items of interest posted.

This one (uploaded by a game developer, I think) in vertical aspect is 13 minutes long, but from about 8 minutes in, it switches to a visit to a panda centre, and later on generic footage of Chengdu.  There’s no dialogue, so there aren’t really any translation issues, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the music they chose to overdub the video with.  I’m not sure when this was filmed; possibly before the con, or on one of the weekdays, given that much of the space seems fairly empty compared to most of the photos and videos we’ve seen.

One of the con’s interpreters posted a 2-minute video with English/bilingual captions.

This 10-minute Chinese-language video from (I think) a voice actor, doesn’t have too much that hasn’t been seen in prior photos or videos, but from around 2:45 she interviews Huawen, whose con reports were featured in a couple of recent Scrolls.  At 5 minutes in, she speaks with Hugo winner Hai Ya.  Warning: her presentational style is very “hyperactive YouTuber”, which some may find grating.

 (5) IN A POTHOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED… “Mid-Earth Removals Limited” by R.S.A. Garcia is a free story at Sunday Morning Transport to encourage subscriptions.

Public works are extra problematic in the magical realm, as R.S.A. Garcia delightfully proves in this free, first story for the month of November.

(6) I SHOT THE SHERIFF, BUT I DID NOT SHOOT THE CEO. “Mattel’s ‘Barbie’ Script Notes to Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach Asked: ‘Does a Mattel Executive Have to Be Shot’ During Beach Battle?” reports Variety.

Barbie” screenwriters Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach recently joined Tony Kushner (“Angels in America,” “Lincoln”) for a discussion about the record-breaking Warner Bros. blockbuster and revealed one of the first notes Mattel gave them on the script: Please don’t have the Mattel exec stand-in characters be shot.

In the third act of “Barbie,” an all-out beach battle takes place between the warring Ken characters. It’s at this moment that Will Ferrell, playing the fictionalized CEO of Mattel, arrives in Barbieland along with his armada of nameless male Mattel execs. At one point one of these execs gets shot with a fake arrow during the ensuing, bloodless mayhem….

(7) A MIRROR TO SOCIETY. The New York Times interviews horror movie columnist Erik Piepenburg, “A Critic With Monsters on His Mind”.

In an article from this year, you also described “M3gan” as a gay movie. Do you think gay audiences have a special affinity for horror?

Well, I think all horror movies are about one of two things: trauma or gayness. That’s just my queer-theory lens that people can accept or reject. But in horror movies, there’s often this notion of otherness — of the monster existing outside of societal norms. I think queer audiences can align themselves with villains who feel like outsiders, like no one understands their feelings.

I also think queer audiences appreciate the outrageous, camp quality of horror. “M3gan” is a perfect example. The villain is a demon that you kind of want to be friends with. I know people in my life who can be monsters, but I love them anyway.

What trends are you seeing in the horror genre right now?

There’s certainly a lot of Covid-inspired films — movies about being locked up inside and fears about contagions. I would say another trend is the slow-burn horror movie, one that takes time to unfold instead of hitting you over the head with monsters, explosions, ghosts and conventional horror scares. The slow burn delivers tiny moments of unease so that by the film’s end, your entire body has become so tense that it’s hard to shake. Those are some of my favorites….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 1920s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 1970s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939. These novels were published as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 84. His breakthough series was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. ISFDB says his first genre cover art was for C. C. MacApp’s 1969 Prisoners of the Sky. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 Butch Honeck, 83. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award with his wife Susan for Magic Mountain, the Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” also co-written with Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1971 Rana Dasgupta, 52. UK-born author now resident in India. His Tokyo Cancelled, think Tales from the White Hart at least in tone, is fascinating. Equally fascinating though not genre at all is his Capital, the story of the city of Delhi. 

(9) NESFA PRESS RELEASES ZELAZNY SHORT FICTION AS EBOOKS. The NESFA Press’ six-volume series The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny is now available in eBook format — epub and mobi format.

For many years, the six-volume series, The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, has been available in a durable hardcover edition. NESFA Press is delighted to announce the release of these books in eBook format!

This series contains all the short science fiction of Roger Zelazny. Each story is enriched by editors’ notes and Zelazny’s own words, taken from his many essays, describing why he wrote the stories and what he thought about them retrospectively.

Each volume goes for $9.95.

  • Threshold: Volume 1, by Roger Zelazny
  • Power & Light: Volume 2, by Roger Zelazny
  • This Mortal Mountain: Volume 3, by Roger Zelazny
  • Last Exit to Babylon: Volume 4, by Roger Zelazny
  • Nine Black Doves: Volume 5, by Roger Zelazny
  • The Road to Amber: Volume 6, by Roger Zelazny

(10) GOODREADS SAYS IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. “Goodreads Asks Users to Help Combat ‘Review Bombing’”Publishers Weekly has the details.

After a spate of criticism and concern over the summer, Amazon-owned Goodreads this week said it is working with users to combat what’s become known as “review bombing,” a practice in which users look to protest an author or book by swamping the book with one-star reviews and negative comments. In an October 30 message to the Goodreads community, officials reiterated the website’s policy to prohibit reviews and comments that “harass readers or authors, or attempt to artificially deflate or inflate the overall rating of books,” and encouraged users to report such behavior.

“Earlier this year, we launched the ability to temporarily limit submission of ratings and reviews on a book during times of unusual activity that violate our guidelines, including instances of ‘review bombing,’” the message states, adding that the site is currently “in the process of removing ratings and reviews” added during periods of “unusual” activity. “If you see content or behavior that does not meet our reviews or community guidelines, we encourage you to report it,” the message continues. “By alerting our team, you’ll be contributing to the overall community and helping keep Goodreads a place where people can come together to share authentic reviews and enjoy interacting with readers and authors of books they’ve loved.”

The message comes after a high-profile incident in June, in which Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert announced that she was pulling her new novel The Snow Forest, which was slated to be published by Riverhead in February 2024, after more than 500 Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian users slammed the book with negative comments and one-star reviews expressing concerns that the book—based only on a description, since the book had not yet been published—would “romanticize” Russia. Gilbert’s decision alarmed literary critics and freedom to publish advocates. It’s unclear when, or if, the book will be published. The book is not currently listed on Gilbert’s author page at Penguin Random House….

(11) THEY TORE DOWN PARADISE AND PUT UP A PARKNG LOT. Not so often anymore. Originally Los Angeles was regarded as a place that was too new to have history, let alone historic buildings. That attitude has changed over the past fifty years. “The Woman Who Has Fought to Save L.A. History From Demolition” – a New York Times profile.

…Many of Southern California’s most popular landmarks are still there because Los Angeles rallied. St. Vibiana’s Cathedral downtown, once on the brink of demolition, is now a thriving events center. The gorgeous Julia Morgan building that once housed the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where I used to work, is now a satellite Arizona State University campus. There’s a fight to save the bungalow where Marilyn Monroe died — a legend behind a wall in a cul-de-sac on a side street in Brentwood.

In a place with a history as growth-oriented as Southern California’s, the preservation of those properties has not been easy.

Next month, a leading voice in that effort, Linda Dishman, the president of the Los Angeles Conservancy, will pass the torch after 31 years at the organization, a nonprofit group that has been instrumental in saving pieces of Southern California’s past from bulldozers. The conservancy’s senior director of advocacy, Adrian Scott Fine, will succeed her.

Dishman and I chatted not long ago about history and growth in L.A., the nation’s second most populous city. Here is some of our conversation, lightly edited.

Los Angeles was just beginning to realize the value of historic preservation when you became the conservancy’s leader. What has changed since then?

Preservation has really become more of a commonly held value. I think of my first years, when we were fighting to save the Herald Examiner building. Fighting to save the Ambassador Hotel. Fighting to save the May Company. The Herald Examiner was going to be torn down for a parking lot, which seems so strange now. But that’s how little value people placed on these buildings and their history….

(12) BANANARAMA. Nerdist introduces us to the next ape movie: Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Trailer Teases an Ape Tyrant on the Rise”.

A new entry into the world of Planet of the Apes is coming our way. And it picks up generations after we left Caesar and his tribe living peacefully in War for the Planet of the Apes. Trouble, of course, is brewing, as it naturally does in order for franchises to continue. And we can sense an epic conflict coming our way. The first teaser trailer for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes sets us up well for the “action-adventure spectacle” that awaits, promising ape tyrants, human friends, lots of danger, but also beauty. You can get your first look at what’s in store below….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Paul Weimer, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, 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 Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/23 Three Files, Three Scrolls, Three Thousand Pixels

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

Part two of Huawen’s con report

The first part of this con report was covered in yesterday’s Scroll; here are some extracts from the second part, as usual via Google Translate with manual cleanup edits.

(Warning: the original post is very meme heavy towards the end; I’ve skipped them in these extracts.)

4. Remote location, but very high standards

Many people have mentioned it before, and I have to say it again, the venue is indeed very, very remote!  [As mentioned in yesterday’s report, I believe that Huawen lives in a different district of Chengdu, although he mentions elsewhere in the report of not understanding Sichuan dialect, which makes me think he wasn’t originally a local?] …

However, being in a remote area with few people also has the advantage of being convenient for closed management…

The organizing committee actually had the ability to persuade the traffic control department to work overtime to help, and it must have been very hard work to control such a large area for such a long time.

5. The publicity and display work is in place

I can see the promotion of this convention in various forms almost anywhere in Chengdu…

Once, when we were having dinner a few kilometers away from the venue, the proprietor of the establishment asked curiously, was there any conference going on there? We quickly responded, yes, yes, a science fiction convention, the World Science Fiction Convention. She asked what a science fiction conference was, and we explained it for a long time. We had never explained it in this way before, and I don’t know if she understood it.

Then she asked a question that sent shivers down our spines – “Can you take me in to sell packed lunches?” …

6. I’m sorry about the ticketing problem

[There were] more than 20 million citizens who were eager to practice their English for the Chengdu World University Games without thinking about food or drink. The overwhelming publicity also directly ignited the enthusiasm for science fiction among Chengdu citizens.

Soon everyone would see it!

In August, before the large-scale publicity machine was launched, nearly 3,000 people bought offline tickets in just two days. At that time, the organizing committee estimated that the final number of participants would be around 8,000.

In the end, no one expected that the tickets would no longer be available as of September 21st!!! …

The originally unlimited tickets were all bought up by Chengdu citizens!  It was only September, and there was still a full month before the conference! …

However, I realized something was amiss – oops!  I haven’t bought a ticket for myself yet!

7. The regrettable and heart-wrenching drawing of lots for the three major ceremonies

However, now there was a problem that was not expected before; that is, the ticket purchase and admission channels were not unified.  [These groups were]

(1) During the 2021 site selection voting period, there were about 2,000 people who spent 640 yuan [around $87 USD] to support Chengdu’s site-selection bid.
(2) Those who bought a membership on the official website in August 2023.
(3) Those who bought 5-day tickets on Damai.com in September 2023.
(4) One-day tickets purchased on Damai.com in October 2023.
(5) Guests from home and abroad.
(6) Con staff from who have to go to the venue to work.
(7) Venue security personnel.
(8) Concerned about and inspected the leaders and accompanying personnel at all levels of the conference.  [I put this through a couple of different machine translators, and couldn’t get anything readable; I assume he means VIPs, other bigwigs, and their entourages] …

Then, not all guests have special privileges. It has been observed that a considerable number of guests do not have access right “1”, to the Hugo Hall. Maybe this was a secret, but I heard that some of the finalists had almost no right to enter to receive their award.  

In the end, access to the ceremonies was mainly distributed among three groups: 1, 2, and 3.

Even if there were 3,500 passes for each ceremony, that might not be enough to distribute among such a huge groups of people, perhaps close to 10,000…

This was a valuable learning experience for me.

If hosting a future event, you must have a venue space that is large enough to accommodate everyone to be able to sit and watch.  And be sure to leave enough redundancy.

Taiyo Fujii’s report on his “Decolonize the Future” panel

His personal site has this write-up of a panel he moderated, which I think is a translation from the Japanese article.  An excerpt, with minor edits for style and grammar:

After introducing the panel’s participants, I retold the time of how we Japanese encountered Chinese SF.  Through the efforts of Mr. Kenji Iwagami, in the late 1970s the Japanese SFF community became aware of modern Chinese SFF.  Mr. Iwagami translated and published many volumes over the decades for our community, but we did not pay much attention.  Only in 2015 and 2016, when The Three Body Problem and Invisible Planets were translated by Ken Liu into English, and then won Anglophone awards, did we turn our gaze to our neighbouring country.  We discovered Chinese SFF by the road paved by the Anglophones.  Of course, Ken is not a colonizer, and neither is the Worldcon community.  But our attention and marketing had been colonized by English-language SFF.

Audience member Phong Quan also posted a thread on Twitter about the panel.  

Fujii also posted a four-part Mastodon thread about another panel he was on, about the “Localization Paths of Science Fiction in Non-English-Speaking Countries”.

Online Chengdu Worldcon site down – but not in China?

SF Light Year posted on Weibo about the online component of the con.  This prompted me to have a look at the online site to see what was up there now, but I just got an error page.  Given that that site still seems to be accessible in China, I asked people on Twitter and Mastodon to do similar checks, but it seems that everyone outside China got the same error as me.   Just as a sanity check I verified that URL matches the one posted on the con’s site on October 17th.

Based on a screenshot I was sent, there are 20 “replay” videos available; I suspect most of them are the “businessy” things that were available as livestreams, and so probably of minimal interest to most fans, but I would imagine the three ceremonies are amongst those 20.

SF Light Year’s post also links to a URL that has details of the contract/bid for the online part of the con.  Unfortunately that also seems to be a webpage that foreign visitors aren’t allowed to access, but there is a screengrab of it in the Weibo post, indicating that the winning bid to build the online component was 1.85 million yuan, around a quarter of a million US dollars.  (It’s unclear if this covered just the 3D environment with avatars, and/or the video streaming bandwidth and servers.)  Given that the contract was awarded to China Telecom, who were one of the two top-tier sponsors of the con, the value of the contract might simply be a case of one part of that business moving money to another part. making it slightly meaningless.

Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch, and by highlighting the problem publicly, it might get fixed shortly…

(2) CHANGE IN SFWA BOARD. SFWA has a new Director-at-Large following the resignation of Jordan Kurella, who left his position for health reasons.

SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy, with the approval of the Board, has appointed Anthony Eichenlaub to serve out the remainder of Kurella’s term, which expires on June 30, 2024.

Eichenlaub ran for the Board last spring and received the most votes of the unelected candidates. As a SFWA volunteer he has worked at the Nebula Conference and as a member of the Independent Authors Committee. He led the effort to create the Indie Pub 101 resource site and assisted with the Heritage Author Republication (HARP) pilot program.

(3) SFWA NEBULA READING LIST. SFWA’s public-facing “Nebula Reading List” is filling up with 2023 recommendations in all the Nebula categories. Fans may find it an interesting source of things to read, too.

(4) MICHAEL BISHOP HEALTH UPDATE. Michael Bishop’s daughter Stephanie made an appeal yesterday on Facebook:

Hi all–I am writing on behalf of my dad, so this post won’t be nearly as eloquent as usual. As many of you know, Daddy is in hospice care now, mostly at home. His wound will not heal, and the pain is great. Between the pain and the medication, he isn’t able to communicate on Facebook and not terribly well on the phone either. However, his birthday is coming up–on the 12th–and I know he would love to hear from anyone who might want to wish him well. He does so love his friends and his fans, and we can tell he loathes not being able to write and be in touch the way he once could. Please send cards to P.O. Box 646, Pine Mountain, GA 31822. Gratefully yours, Stephanie

Here is Andrew Porter’s photo of David Hartwell, and Jeri and Michael Bishop at an ABA convention, decades ago:

David Hartwell, Jeri and Michael Bishop. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(5) OKORAFOR Q&A. “Nnedi Okorafor, a pioneer of Africanfuturism, doesn’t want her work put in a box” – an Andscape interview.

Do you have any thoughts on the creative process, maybe advice for aspiring creatives?

I guess one thing that I haven’t really said much about involves fear around the emergence of artificial intelligence and how it may affect creatives. My advice: Don’t stress about it. Keep being human and keep using your humanity to create. And do the work. Don’t be afraid of the work. There are no shortcuts. That’s part of the beauty of creating – that there are no shortcuts.

Enjoy those difficulties. Don’t be afraid of telling your stories. There’s always going to be someone who wants to hear it. And tell it your way. Don’t follow trends. 

When it comes to process: For me, I’m highly disciplined. I come from an athletic background, and that’s really where the way that I work comes from. It’s relentless, and I like work. The discomfort is part of the process. That’s the standpoint that I come from. There isn’t one way to tell a story. I don’t write linearly. I write nonlinearly. I don’t outline. I just sit down and start writing.

There are all sorts of ways. Learn your way of creating. If you’re new to this, give yourself time. When you’re new to this, the only way to find your voice is by experimenting and having the confidence to experiment…

(6) CREATURE FEATURES. “’People were hooked’: A wild show that kept the Bay Area up all night”SFGate remembers.

Late one night in January 1971, a 9-year-old August Ragone sat in the dark living room of his childhood home on Alabama Street in the Mission District, transfixed by the man on the tiny black-and-white television screen glowing in front of him. 

He had an unassuming presence. Wearing a plain business suit and thick glasses, he puffed at an oversized cigar as he leaned back in a yellow rocking chair, a wry grin on his face. Next to him was a small table adorned by a human skull with a candle jutting out of it. A window shrouded in cobwebs loomed over his head. On the wall behind him was a sign with an unforgettable mantra: “Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!”

His name was Bob Wilkins, and he was about to present the Bay Area premiere of “Creature Features” on KTVU’s Channel 2 with a screening of “The Horror of Party Beach,” a wonky ’60s monster movie with a reputation so poor Stephen King once called it “an abysmal little wet fart of a film.”

Ragone, who begged his mother to sit through the film with him, was riveted. There was something about Wilkins’ unexpectedly calming, Bob Ross-like persona, the spooky atmosphere of the set, and the funky theme music that was unlike anything he had experienced before. Even more bewildering was what the host said in a droll monotone during his introduction: “Don’t stay up late, it’s not worth it.”

For the next 14 years, the Bay Area would do exactly the opposite….

(7) STREAMER PASSWORD SHARING. Disney+ is cracking down on password sharing starting today. A study with JustWatch users about how much they are using shared accounts shows that Disney+ is the most shared streaming service among JustWatch users in the US – almost twice as much as Prime Video.

(8) BB&B. Brooklyn Books & Booze on November 21, 2023 will feature readings by Marielena Gomez, C.S.E. Cooney, Stephanie Feldman and Sarena Straus.

The free event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern at Barrow’s Intense Tasting Room at 86th 34th Street, Brooklyn, NY. For more information, go to BrooklynBooksBooze.com.

(9) KEN MATTINGLY (1936-2023) Former NASA astronaut Rear Adm. (ret.) Thomas K. (TK) Mattingly II (known to the public as Ken) died October 31. NASA Administrator Bill Golden paid tribute:

…“Beginning his career with the U.S. Navy, TK received his wings in 1960 and flew various aircraft across multiple assignments. Once he joined the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School as a student, NASA chose him to be part of the astronaut class in 1966. Before flying in space, he aided the Apollo Program working as the astronaut support crew and took leadership in the development of the Apollo spacesuit and backpack.

“His unparalleled skill as a pilot aided us when he took on the role of command module pilot for Apollo 16 and spacecraft commander for space shuttle missions STS-4 and STS 51-C. The commitment to innovation and resilience toward opposition made TK an excellent figure to embody our mission and our nation’s admiration.

“Perhaps his most dramatic role at NASA was after exposure to rubella just before the launch of Apollo 13. He stayed behind and provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13 – NASA astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove.  He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 2, 1941 Ed Gorman. He’d be here if only for writing the script for the Batman: I, Werewolf series in which Batman meets a werewolf. Very cool. More straight SFF is his Star Precinct trilogy with Kevin Randle which is quite excellent, and I’m fond of his short fiction which fortunately is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1942 Carol Resnick, 81. Wife of that Resnick who credited her according to several sources with being a co-writer on many of his novels. He also credited her as being a co-author on two movie scripts that they’ve sold, based on his novels Santiago and The Widowmaker. And she’s responsible for the costumes in which she and Mike appeared in five Worldcon masquerades in the Seventies, winning awards four times.
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 74. First let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprise three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. Early on she joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster.
  • Born November 2, 1955 Nisi Shawl, 68. An African-American writer, editor, and journalist. They write and teach about, and I quote from their site, “how fantastic fiction might reflect real-world diversity of gender, sexual orientation, race, colonialism, physical ability, age, and other sociocultural factors”. Their short stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, the Infinite Matrix and Strange Horizons. Their “Filter House” story won an Otherwise Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award; they got a Solstice Award (a SFWA award for distinguished contributions to the sff community); their New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and an Ignyte Award for incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. Cool award indeed. 

(11) MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS. “The Major and His Legacy – The Major, A Real Life Hero” is a website devoted to a pioneer publisher of comic books.

The annals of comic book history are studded with legendary names, but one of the most pivotal, yet often overlooked, is that of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. As one of the founding figures of DC Comics, “the Major” was one of the pioneers of the American comic book industry, laying the groundwork for an empire of imagination. Today, his legacy continues to flourish and evolve in the hands of his granddaughter, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson..,.

…Before the Major came along, comic books that existed, with a few exceptions, were reprints of the comic strips from the daily newspapers. This changed in 1934 when the Major began publishing Fun Comics and New Fun Comics, featuring original artwork and stories. What could possibly motivate someone to launch such an untested venture at the height of the Great Depression, when a staggering 25 percent of the American populace was out of work, and to do so in a new and unfamiliar medium? It was an enormous risk….

(12) STRIKES + ECONOMIZING = KRYPTONITE. Deadline reports that “’Superman & Lois’ To End With Upcoming Season 4 At CW”.

The end is in sight for Superman & Lois. The CW series, starring Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as the title characters, will conclude with its upcoming 10-episode fourth season, marking the end of the DC series’ era at The CW. The final season is slated to air on The CW in 2024….

It has been tough going for Superman & Lois, combined with the strikes and budget cuts that came with the series’ Season 4 renewal. As we previously reported, those cuts impacted the writers room, which underwent downsizing for the upcoming season, going from eight writers down to five.

Superman & Lois, along with All American: Homecoming were renewed in June after producing studio Warner Bros. Television agreed to deliver the new seasons at a significantly lower license fee to make them feasible for the network under its new lower-cost original programming model. For the shows to still make financial sense for the studio, their budgets were slashed, leading to cast reductions, with not all of the series regulars asked to come back full-time….

(13) THEY ALSO SERVE. The Guardian’s Catherine Bray assesses a sff comedy in “The Bystanders review – British parallel-universe comedy of invisible guardian angels”.

Peter (Scott Haran) is a former child chess prodigy who these days excels at nothing much in particular, except perhaps his ability to blend into the background. A birthday card at his office is handed to him to sign – for his own birthday. None of his colleagues know who he is, and the card is crammed with polite, anodyne messages. But he discovers that there’s one arena in which his anonymity might be a boon rather than a liability: he is recruited into the world of Bystanding, a parallel universe filled with invisible guardian types whose job is to imperceptibly guide or nudge their charges into making better life choices. They are all, in their own ways, as unremarkable as Peter, hence their selection for bystander duty.

There’s a scrappy energy to this British sci-fi comedy that offsets its micro-budget limitations. The premise is part of a cinematic family tree of quirky, metaphysical science fiction that includes the likes of Cold SoulsThe Adjustment Bureau and Another Earth. There’s also a strong strand of UK comedy in the DNA, recalling material like Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its desire to juxtapose the mundane, trivial annoyances of life with a more expansive sense of the universe. There’s something neat too about the film’s focus on life’s quiet losers, in an era when the loudest “main character energy” personalities seem predestined for rewards in the attention economy. It almost feels like a throwback to the loose mumblecore movement of the early 2000s….

(14) OSIRIS-REX. [Item by Steven French.] Maybe they should try banging on the lid with a knife – works for me when I can’t open a new jar of marmalade!

“NASA can’t open its OSIRIS-REx asteroid capsule yet, but its outside holds more than enough samples” says Space.com.

… According to a NASA blog post, the curation team that’s been processing the samples says it has removed and collected 70.3 grams (2.48 ounces) of Bennu material from the capsule so far — and it hasn’t even actually been opened yet. Those 70.3 grams come from just the area on the outside (and part of the inside) of the sample collector’s head.

“The sample processed so far includes the rocks and dust found on the outside of the sampler head, as well as a portion of the bulk sample from inside the head, which was accessed through the head’s mylar flap,” the post states. “Additional material remaining inside the sampler head, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, is set for removal later, adding to the mass total.”…

(15) SGT. PEPPER’S HI-TECH BAND. “The Beatles ‘Now and Then’: Listen to their last new song”AP News issues an invitation.

The final Beatles recording is here.

Titled “Now and Then,” the almost impossible-to-believe track is four minutes and eight seconds of the first and only original Beatles recording of the 21st century. There’s a countdown, then acoustic guitar strumming and piano bleed into the unmistakable vocal tone of John Lennon in the song’s introduction: “I know it’s true / It’s all because of you / And if I make it through / It’s all because of you.”

More than four decades since Lennon’s murder and two since George Harrison’s death, the very last Beatles song has been released as a double A-side single with “Love Me Do,” the band’s 1962 debut single.

There is a short “making of” film about the work done over the years to produce this recording: “The Beatles – Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/23 These Pixels Have Purest Unobtainium Woven Seamlessly Into Them Using The Taurocopric Process

(1) OKORAFOR’S WORK OF A LIFETIME. Announced today:

(2) AFRICAN/BLACK HUGO FINALISTS. Writing Africa’s post “Hugo Awards 2023 finalists announced” names seven writers of African descent (African or Black) in the running for the awards. List at the link.

(3) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Twitter’s API changes (including price hikes) radically affected certain kinds of services. Shaun Duke tells about how he replaced a resource he used in “When You Lose Your Social Media Manager (Or, Notes on SMMSs to Drown Your Tears In)”. Duke screened over 100 services and has shared his scouting report on 11 finalists. (For him, whether they link to Mastodon is an important consideration.)

…Like a lot of folks, I don’t really have the time to sit on social media apps posting. And like a lot of folks, I have things to “sell,” which means I don’t have much choice but to be on social media apps. In this case, I mostly “sell” a podcast, and in the corporate environment of podcasting, you can’t exist without a social media presence. And one person really can’t manage that much social media without a little help. For me, that help comes in the form of a social media manager.

As such, when my existing management tools either went belly up or fell apart due to Muskian shenanigans, I knew I needed to find something else that would help me manage my personal feeds AND the feeds for The Skiffy and Fanty Show without me needing to be constantly app-bound. To do that effectively, that “something else” needed to be more or less similar to SmarterQueue in terms of price and function….

The original post only featured SocialChamp, Buffer, SocialBu, Sociomonials, and Vista Social.

New entries include the following: SocialBee, Publr, SocialOomph, Zoho Social, Missinglettr and dlvr.it…

(4) OPPIE-SITES ATTRACT? From The Hollywood Reporter: “AMC Theatres Says More Than 20,000 Moviegoers Have Already Booked ‘Barbie’-‘Oppenheimer’ Double Features”.

In the battle of the bomb vs. the bombshell… why not both?

Plenty of moviegoers are making the decision to watch Christopher Nolan’s atomic drama “Oppenheimer” and Greta Gerwig’s colorful romp “Barbie” on the same day when the two tentpoles hit theaters on July 21….

(5) ON THE RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Lots on the B Beeb Ceeb Radio 4.

Yeti

A 10-part series of half hour episodes. Yeti, 1. “Ready, Yeti, Go!”

Open access, so no need even for a BBC Sounds account.

Tales of a bipedal ape-like creature persist in the myth and legend of the Himalayas. But does the yeti really exist? Two enthusiasts are determined to find out.

Andrew Benfield and Richard Horsey begin their search in the north-east Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Speaking to villagers and yak herders, they hear multiple accounts of yeti sightings. Will they find the evidence they need to prove the creature is real?

Last Man Standing

One off one hour production: Last Man Standing

Love the end of the world.  One of the best SF tropes going.

This is a sort of drama documentary following the last man alive but also explores the quiet Earth trope in SF.

In the near future, Paul Farley finds that he is the last person on the planet – everyone else has disappeared without any explanation.

At first bewildered, in order to mark time and help him keep his wits sharp, he sets about creating an audio journal, centred on an exploration of the various novels, poems and films that feature a last man (and it is almost always a man) character.

These stem back to the Romantics, and include Byron’s poem Darkness and Mary Shelley’s overlooked gem The Last Man, which raises some of the key questions that arise not just in later narratives but also in Paul’s own experience – what happens to time when you’re the last person standing, should you live in the town or the countryside, is it possible to really be happy or simply enjoy a view, a meal or a song when there’s nobody left to enjoy them with?

Bitter Pill

Five part SF drama of half hour episodes.  Open access – no BBC Sounds account required. Bitter Pill – 1: “Fight or Flight”

An audio drama series about memory and trauma.

After a traumatic car crash, Mary joins a clinical drug trial that promises a cure for PTSD. The medication triggers intense flashbacks of the accident that left her fiancée comatose. But is Mary simply remembering the event, or reliving it? And if she is actually returning to the past, does that mean she can change her future?

(5) AI JIANG EVENT. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA (which incidentally just retired its Simultaneous Times newsletter) will host an Online Reading & Interview with Ai Jiang on Tuesday July 18 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific.

If you have the opportunity to give up humanity for efficiency, mechanical invincibility, and to surpass human limitations. . . would you? Ai is a cyborg, under the guise of an AI writing program, who struggles to keep up with the never-blinking city of Emit as it threatens to leave all those like her behind.

Get your copy of I Am AI here. Register for the reading free here.

(6) CELEBRITY BRUSH. Steve Vertlieb is visiting LA. Last night he and his brother Erwin met Paul Williams at The Catalina Jazz Club. Paul was there to support his friend, Jimmy Webb.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2004 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

So Mike picked a work by Geoff Ryman, a writer that I like a lot. I think one of his best works is the revisionist fantasy of The Wizard of OzWas…, and 253, or Tube Theatre which a Philip K. Dick Award is stellar work. The Child Garden which I honestly can’t decide if I like or loathe won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award

He’s written a fair amount of short fiction, half of which is collected is Paradise Tales, and some of his novellas are in Unconquered Countries: Four Novellas.

So what was that work? It was Air (or, Have Not Have) which was published nineteen years ago by St. Martin’s Griffin. It won an Arthur C. Clarke Award, a British Science Fiction Award, an Otherwise Award and the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. 

And now for our Beginning…

MAE LIVED IN THE LAST VILLAGE IN THE WORLD TO GO ONLINE. After that, everyone else went on Air. 

Mae was the village’s fashion expert. She advised on makeup, sold cosmetics, and provided good dresses. Every farmer’s wife needed at least one good dress. 

Mae would sketch what was being worn in the capital. She would always add a special touch: a lime-green scarf with sequins; or a lacy ruffle with colorful embroidery. A good dress was for display. “We are a happier people and we can wear these gay colors,” Mae would advise. “Yes, that is true,” her customer might reply, entranced that fashion expressed their happy culture. “In the photographs, the Japanese women all look so solemn.”

“So full of themselves,” said Mae, and lowered her head and scowled, and she and her customer would laugh, feeling as sophisticated as anyone in the world. 

Mae got her ideas as well as her mascara and lipsticks from her trips to the town. It was a long way and she needed to be driven. When Sunni Haseem offered to drive her down in exchange for a fashion expedition, Mae had to agree. Apart from anything else, Mae had a wedding dress to collect. 

Sunni herself was from an old village family, but her husband was a beefy brute from farther down the hill. He puffed on cigarettes and his tanned fingers were as thick and weathered as the necks of turtles. In the backseat with Mae, Sunni giggled and prodded and gleamed with the thought of visiting town with her friend and confidante who was going to unleash her beauty secrets.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels though little of his short fiction is available alas. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1914 Joe Shuster. Comic book artist best remembered for co-creating Superman with Jerry Siegel. It happened in Action Comics #1 which was cover-dated June 1938. Need I mention the long fight with DC over crediting them as the creators and paying them? I think not. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May.  She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. At age 21 she chaired TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the Sasquan Worldcon. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. Another one who died way, way too young after a long struggle with cancer. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably best-known genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it as an impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)

(9) YOUTHFUL MEMORIES. From the desk of Dean Koontz:

I was born in July. I remember telling the physician who attended my birth that I was going to be a male model and therefore needed to be sure that my belly button was a neat innie and not an outie. The doctor obliged, but as it turned out I didn’t have the right stuff to be a model. I was four weeks old, making the rounds of agents, getting one polite rejection after another, when I finally encountered a man who understood that what I needed to hear was not insincere encouragement but the blunt truth. “Kid,” he said, though I was still a mere infant, “take a long look in a mirror. A moldering turnip has a better chance of being a model than you do.”

Oh, I recall vividly the emotional turmoil that overcame me when he issued that judgment. He spoke the truth, but there was no need to phrase it so cruelly. I wanted to give him a thrashing he would never forget, but he was six feet four, and I was only twenty-six inches tall with inadequately developed musculature. I told him I’d be back to settle the score in twenty years, and I left his office red-faced with anger and shame…

(10) OVER THERE. [Item by Michael Toman.] Bibliophile Filers might be interested in browsing this list to see who (and what!) “made the cut” of 1,322 titles before June, 1947. “List of Armed Services Editions” in the Wikipedia. Have to wonder just how valuable titles like the Lovecraft and Stoker are now?

Armed Services Editions (ASEs) were small paperback books of fiction and nonfiction that were distributed in the American military during World War II. From 1943 to 1947, some 122 million copies of more than 1,300 ASE titles were published and printed by the Council on Books in Wartime (CBW) and distributed to service members, with whom they were enormously popular.

(11) HOW THE DIGITAL SAUSAGE IS MADE. “’Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Visual Effects Work Revealed” in the Hollywood Reporter. Beware spoilers.

Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, which won Oscars for the visual effects in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom, returned to use every trick in the book on the whopping 2,350 VFX shots in the fifth installment of the franchise.

In the opening action sequence of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, a young Harrison Ford appears in a 1944-set flashback highlighted by an action scene atop of moving train. Then we meet the elder Indy in 1969 for his next adventure, which includes a tuk-tuk chase in Morocco and — using the titular dial to time travel — a climax set during the epic siege of Syracuse….

It goes without saying, a lot of attention has been placed on the young Harrison Ford, who appears during the movie’s opening scene. How’d you do it?

ANDREW WHITEHURST It’s called ILM Face Swap; it’s using an enormous number of techniques.

ROBERT WEAVER Face swap essentially is replacing the face with another face, whether it’s a younger version or somebody entirely different. In this case, it was the younger version. And as Andrew was saying, we utilized every trick in the book as far as what it would take to get each individual shot to the level that it needed to be. It employed using machine learning; it employed building a full CG asset to highly critical detail. This work doesn’t lend itself well to having a very consistent recipe; it’s completely dynamic to the individual shot. So there were times that we were leaning more on the CG asset, and there were times that we would be getting a bit more out of the machine learning passes.

WHITEHURST The one continuous element throughout all of this is having really great artists with really great eyes making those choices with Robert and me. And we had an enormous amount of reference material from earlier Indy films, which we got scanned, and we could use that and we could frame through that and understand what exactly the likeness was that we were trying to hit. And it’s building it up. We would initially do a low-resolution pass that we could give to the edit. So they were always cutting with an age-appropriate Indiana Jones, even if it was not a final quality, so that they could judge the performance in the cut and understand how that was working. And that meant we then got better notes back….

(12) DEADLIER THAN THE MALE. “Unknown: Killer Robots review – the future of AI will fill you with unholy terror” says a Guardian critic about this Netflix program.

…Unknown: Killer Robots walks us through various inventions (including those headless robot dog-alikes you see far too much on social media), scenarios and ramifications with admirable surefootedness. You sense that its heart lies with the cool guys making all the cool stuff. And it is hard not to be mesmerised by the extraordinary stuff in the offing. To see MIT’s latest dog quickly navigate new surfaces via the infinite raw power of machine learning, or a flight lieutenant with 20 years of combat under his immaculately polished belt be outclassed in a dogfight by a new piece of tech that has been filled with 30 years of experience in 10 months, is to watch a terrible beauty being born. But whenever the film slips into full cheerleading (and jingoistic) mode, it recalls itself and us to duty and turns to showcasing the less telegenic side of things.

By which I mean stories like Sean Ekins’ and Fabio Urbina’s. They “just flipped a 0 to a 1” in their work finding treatments and cures via AI molecules and modelling for underresearched diseases, “pushed go” and returned to their desks later to find their six-year-old Apple Mac had created 40,000 new molecules that would be absolutely lethal to humanity. Only if a bad actor got hold of them, but … anyway, Ekins has barely slept since. “We were totally naive … Anyone could do what we did. How do we control this technology before it is used to do something totally destructive?”…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/19/23 I’m Still Big; It’s The Pixels That Got Small

(1) EXPECT HUGO BALLOT IN “EARLY JUNE”. The Chengdu Worldcon committee today told Facebook readers when to look for the 2023 Hugo ballot:

The 2023 Chengdu Worldcon Hugo Awards nomination was officially closed on April 30th, and the shortlist will be out early June. Big thank you to all members who spent your valuable time to make the nominations.

(2) TAKE TWO. Cass Morris was very sorry to hear that Disney is closing the Galactic Starcruiser. And not for any abstract reasons – she was planning to go next year. However, the attraction’s inability to stay in business prompted Morris to embark on a vast thought experiment about the kind of Disney Star Wars immersive hotel experience which could work, and her results are quite entertaining. “Galactic Travels” at Scribendi.

…Unfortunately, while this news is terribly sad, it’s also not wholly unexpected. The Starcruiser has had trouble ever since it opened. The high price point, unusual conceit, and level of fannish commitment required for full enjoyment seem to have kept it operating at low capacity.

So, last night as I was nursing my sadness about probably never getting to go, I started thinking… 

If I were going to design a Star Wars hotel for Disney World, one that might stand a better chance of succeeding… what would I do?…

(3) MINDFULNESS ABOUT VIRTUAL GOHS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has an idea for using virtual cons in a progressive way – involving international, disabled, and otherwise nontraveling creators — which he has shared with Facebook readers:

…Something I learnt along the way, from my first con I participated in, was that virtual cons are important. Having people of diverse backgrounds & voices be able to attend, contribute to the general pool of knowledge & discussions. I believe diversity, multiple viewpoints and experiences taking into account, people working together, will solve many world problems, including the recent AI scourge of the arts. twitter.com/Penprince_/sta

Sure, running virtual components isnt always possible. Funding, the tech issues, etc. It’s understandable when cons can’t have them. But when they do have them, it’s imperative, almost compulsory they have both virtual attendees and guests of honour like CanConSF & ICFA did. It gives a platform to allow people with the experience and expertise to contribute on a larger scale to genre development and history, the change to. As ICFA guest of honour, the first ever African born, Black writer to be, I created the genre #Afropantheology, which I believe hope, & plan will contribute and richly influence genre & storytelling generally. The GoH platform was very helpful in that. …

(4) IT’S BIG. Max Gladstone tells how his vacation was interrupted by word about the apotheosis of his writing career in “Big Bigolas Energy” at The Third Place.

…It unfolded for me in fits and starts, and almost out of order, as one would expect of a book about time travel.

While we were in transit, a friend who often texts us about Time War sitings in the wilds of social media sent my partner a screenshot of The Bigolas Tweet, which at that time had 12,000 likes.

I thought, how wonderful! Nice note to start the vacation. And also: what a great screen name. My brain was in vacation mode already, so I didn’t think about the numbers too much. As I’ve been told many times, Twitter Doesn’t Sell Books. 

Later that evening, Amal (that’s my New York Times Bestselling co-author Amal El-Mohtar, to be clear, though at this point we were neither of us New York Times Bestselling co-authors) sent me a screenshot of the same tweet; the numbers were much bigger (Bigolas-er?). I thought: wow! It’s really taking off. But still: Twitter Doesn’t Sell Books.

As they say: lol….

(5) INNOCENT BYSTANDER. Google Bard, another of these AI language models, has somehow managed to pull Nnedi Okorafor into the latest row about BasedCon.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to munch on mahi mahi with L. Marie Wood in Episode 198 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

L. Marie Wood

I knew L. Marie Wood for a decade or more before I learned at the last in-person Balticon before the pandemic that we’re basically neighbors, but never knew it. So after an earlier lunch during which we tried to figure out how we’ve somehow managed to avoid each other all these years, we got together at Brix 27 in downtown Martinsburg, West Virginia so I could learn more about who she is and how she came to be.

L. Marie Wood is a writer of psychological horror, supernatural suspense, and dark fiction of all kinds who’s been a professionally published writer for 20 years, ever since her first novel Crescendo and first short story “The Dance” were published in 2003. Her novels since then include The Promise KeeperCacophonyAccursed, and others, plus multiple short story collections, including Anathema and Phantasma. She’s also a screenwriter who’s a three-time winner of Best Horror Screenplay at the NOVA International Film Festival, Best Psychological Horror Short Script at Hollywood Horrorfest, and on and on. Her most recent publications are the novel The Open Book, accompanied by the related short story collection The Tales of Time, which contains the short stories being read by — and feared by — the characters in that first book.

We discussed the way she began her writing career selling poetry in parking lots, our differing experiences with hand selling our own books, the fears which keep horror writers up at night, the many misconceptions she had about the writing life back when he began, the uncomfortable novella she wrote when she was five, what our parents made of our horrific scribblings, the ever-present problem of dealing with rejection, our mutual love of pantsing, what should become of our papers, and much more.

(7) WHEN THEY WERE THE FUTURE. Fanac.org has posted video of a panel from this year’s Eastercon: “Conversation 2023 – The Third Row w/ John Coxon, Niall Harrison, Emily January & Abigail Nussbaum”.

At the 2023 Eastercon (Conversation), Guest of Honor Niall Harrison, and fellow “Third Row” fans John Coxon, Emily January and Abigail Nussbaum sat down for a discussion on the future of fandom (circa 2004). 

Moderated by Meg MacDonald,  the panel hilariously tells the story of Third Row Fandom, named and brought into being accidentally by Greg Pickersgill during a “Future of Fandom” panel at the 2004 Eastercon. 

Themselves dubbed “the future of fandom” by Greg, the fans seated in the third row at that panel have made good on the title, pulling others into their orbit and having an outsized influence on science fiction and science fiction fandom over the last 20 years.

Illustrated with powerpoint slides to map out their impact, this fascinating panel tells the story of a cohort of young fans maturing into movers and shakers in the field, as writers, reviewers, editors, award judges and convention organizers.

Many thanks to Conversation 2023 for providing this recording, and particularly to Alison Scott for her assistance.

(8) WORRA Q&A. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its series: “Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with Bryan Thao Worra”.

What inspired you to start writing? 

These days I think a poet has a thousand beginnings. Sometimes I trace it back to an old encyclopedia with gorgons and dinosaurs, another, a 3rd-grade role-playing game almost no one remembers. Others it feels like an unrequited crush on a classmate, a fortune teller’s prediction about me shared to my grandmother, a ghost in an attic, or just the absence of seeing stories like my own in the news, in movies and novels, and especially poetry. Each moment was liberating in its own way….

(9) KNOW YOUR CONTRACT. “Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: What to Watch For” — Victoria Strauss issues warnings at Writer Beware.

Editing Clauses of Concern

Here’s an example of an editing clause that should be a dealbreaker (this and other clauses quoted below are taken from actual contracts in my possession):

“Publisher shall have the right to edit and revise the Work for any and all uses contemplated under this Agreement.”

What’s missing here? Any obligation on the publisher’s part to seek your approval before making the edits and revisions–or even allow you to see them before publication. A clause like this enables the publisher to edit at will without consulting or even informing you, and, if you do have the opportunity to see the edits, to unilaterally reject your concerns. If you sign a contract with this kind of language, you are at the mercy of the publisher and its editors. You shouldn’t be surprised if the publisher takes advantage of it.

(10) SPFBO 9. Right now Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off judges are picking their favorite covers from among the 300 entrants. See them here: “SPFBO 9 – The Cover Contest!”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1996[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is one of those novels that treats the Catholic Church with respect and is also a true SF novel at the same time, a very neat trick indeed. 

It was published by Villard twenty seven years ago, and was honored with an Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Otherwise Award, and a BSFA Award. It has a sequel, Children of God, published two years afterwards.

The Sparrow has one of the most perfect Beginnings I’ve ever read which you can see below if by any slim chance you’ve not read it yet. 

It was predictable, in hindsight. Everything about the history of the Society of Jesus bespoke deft and efficient action, exploration and research. During what Europeans were pleased to call the Age of Discovery, Jesuit priests were never more than a year or two behind the men who made initial contact with previously unknown peoples; indeed, Jesuits were often the vanguard of exploration. 

The United Nations required years to come to a decision that the Society of Jesus reached in ten days. In New York, diplomats debated long and hard, with many recesses and tablings of the issue, whether and why human resources should be expended in an attempt to contact the world that would become known as Rakhat when there were so many pressing needs on Earth. In Rome, the questions were not whether or why but how soon the mission could be attempted and whom to send. 

The Society asked leave of no temporal government. It acted on its own principles, with its own assets, on Papal authority. The mission to Rakhat was undertaken not so much secretly as privately—a fine distinction but one that the Society felt no compulsion to explain or justify when the news broke several years later. 

The Jesuit scientists went to learn, not to proselytize. They went so that they might come to know and love God’s other children. They went for the reason Jesuits have always gone to the farthest frontiers of human exploration. They went ad majorem Dei gloriam: for the greater glory of God. 

They meant no harm.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer but his first named role was being Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh, and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight.  Can we say he earned a Hugo at IguanaCon II? I know I’m stretching it there. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite films. Also, an uncredited role as Dagoth in Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. He died of cardiac arrest, not at all surprising given his size and weight of over five hundred pounds. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 75. First genre appearance was as Stryx in Rumstryx, an Italian TV series. Her next was Zulu in Conan the Destroyer followed by being May Day in A View to Kill and Katrina in Vamp. She was Masako Yokohama in Cyber Bandits which also starred Adam Ant. Her last several genre roles to date were Christoph/Christine in Wolf Girl, and Death aka The Devil in Gutterdammerung, a film that also featured Henry Rollins, Slash and Iggy Pop! 
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 57. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).  She also has a most excellent two-volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. Her latest work though marketed as a mainstream novel, Between the Lines Musical, is actually genre.
  • Born May 19, 1966 Polly Walker, 57. She appeared in Syfy’s Caprica, Sanctuary and Warehouse 13, as well as performing voice work in John Carter.
  • Born May 19, 1996 Sarah Grey, 27. Before DC Universe cast the present Stargirl in Brec Bassinger for that series, Legends of Tomorrow cast their Stargirl as this actress for a run of three episodes.  The episodes (“Out of Time”, “Justice Society of America” and “Camelot 3000”) are superb. I’ve not seen her as Alyssa Drake in The Order but I’ve heard Good Things about that series.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows even the ultimate Creator needs prompts.
  • The Far Side, on the other hand, shares an idea about Hell.  
  • The Far Side also imagined how this Star Trek personality would spend his time in Hell.

(14) KAIJU IN TRANSLATION. Never before available in English it says here. Now’s your chance to read the original Godzilla stories: “Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again” coming from the University of Minnesota Press in October 2023.

The first English translations of the original novellas about the iconic kaijū Godzilla

Although the Godzilla films have been analyzed in detail by cultural historians, film scholars, and generations of fans, Shigeru Kayama’s two Godzilla novellas—both classics of Japanese young-adult science fiction—have never been available in English. This book finally provides English-speaking fans and critics the original texts with these first-ever English-language translations of Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again. As human activity continues to cause mass extinctions and rapid climatic change, Godzilla provides a fable for the Anthropocene, powerfully reminding us that nature will fight back against humanity’s onslaught in unpredictable and devastating ways.

(15) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published Imaginary Papers, Issue 14, their latest quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.

 In this issue, medievalist and SF writer Erin K. Wagner writes about C. S. Lewis’ science fiction novel That Hideous Strength, communication studies scholar and SF writer Jenna N. Hanchey considers the Africanfuturist film Neptune Frost, and we offer a brief reflection on the new essay collection Ex Marginalia, edited by Chinelo Onwualu.

(16) WHERE THE SKELETONS ARE. Ranker takes up “The Story of Theodore Rex, The Bizarre Whoopi Goldberg Dinosaur Film”.

Theodore Rex, the weirdest of weird ’90s movies, is a $33 million direct-to-video buddy cop movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and a wisecracking dinosaur. (Take as much time as you need to wrap your brain around that sentence. We understand.)

Theodore Rex wasn’t an attempt to tie into the dino-fever that swept the nation’s youth in the early ’90s; it was a genuine attempt at making a gritty sci-fi film about a detective and her dinosaur partner. That’s right. Legendary EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg and a Talking Man-Sized Dinosaur teamed up for a cop film and they demanded to be taken seriously. (The 90s were a very strange time.)

Even though the film is a complete nightmare, things behind the scenes of Theodore Rex were much worse. As weird as it sounds, we can’t stress this enough: nobody had fun on this Whoopi Goldberg/Dinosaur joint.

Ranker’s first little-known fact is –

Whoopi Goldberg Was Forced By Law To Be In This Movie

Whoopi Goldberg did, at one time, want to be in Theodore Rex and agreed to play the lead for $5 million and a share of the profits, but she quickly changed her mind and tried to back out (good instincts, Whoopi!). Goldberg had to learn the hard way that it’s just not that easy to simply walk away from expensive movies starring talking dinosaurs (a lesson we all could learn from). Because she had agreed to do the movie, the producers sued her for $20 million when she tried to back out. After an answering machine recording of Goldberg surfaced where she said she was “100% committed” to the project, she was forced to choose between appearing in the film or paying out the nose for a dinosaur detective movie that she agreed to appear in. There’s a famous saying in Hollywood: “The only thing worse than appearing in a terrible dinosaur movie is paying $20 million NOT to appear in a terrible dinosaur movie,” so Whoopi opted to appear in the terrible dinosaur movie.

(17) CASE SOLVED? “Who Stole Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers? A Minnesota Man Is Charged.” reports the New York Times.

A Minnesota man has been indicted on charges that he stole a pair of the famed ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., the actress’s hometown, nearly 18 years ago.

The red-sequined pumps were recovered in a sting operation that ended in Minneapolis in 2018, but the authorities said at the time that their investigation was continuing and they did not name any suspects.

On Tuesday, a federal indictment in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota charged Terry Jon Martin of Minnesota with stealing an authentic pair of the slippers, which officials estimated have a market value of $3.5 million, from the museum sometime between Aug. 27 and Aug. 28 of 2005. Mr. Martin was indicted on one count of theft of a major artwork….

Interesting – I recently corresponded with someone from this museum. They’re always looking for things related to cousin Judy, and I’m told some of my other cousins may be making donations. (I have nothing, myself, and never met her.)

(18) AU REVOIR. Deadline has posted a list of what’s being pulled: “Disney To Remove Dozens Of Series, Including ‘Big Shot’, ‘Willow’, ‘Y’ & ‘Dollface’”.

Big Shot [Disney+]
Turner & Hooch [Disney+]
The Mysterious Benedict Society [Disney+]
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers [Disney+]
Willow [Disney+]
The Making Of Willow [Disney+]
Diary of a Future President [Disney+]
Just Beyond [Disney+]
The World According to Jeff Goldblum [Disney+]
Marvel’s Project Hero [Disney+]
Marvel’s MPower [Disney+]
Marvel’s Voices Rising: The Music of Wakanda Forever [Disney+]
Cheaper by the Dozen remake [Disney+]
The One and Only Ivan [Disney+]
Stargirl [Disney+]
Artemis Fowl [Disney+]
The Princess [Disney+]
Encore! [Disney+]
A Spark Story [Disney+]
Black Beauty [Disney+]
Clouds [Disney+]
America the Beautiful [Disney+]
Better Nate Than Ever [Disney+]
Weird but True! [Disney+]
Timmy Failure [Disney+]
Be Our Chef [Disney+]
Magic Camp [Disney+]
Howard [Disney+]
Earth to Ned [Disney+]
Foodtastic [Disney+]
Stuntman [Disney+]
Disney Fairy Tale Weddings [Disney+]
Wolfgang [Disney+]
It’s a Dog’s Life with Bill Farmer [Disney+]
The Real Right Stuff [Disney+]
The Big Fib [Disney+]
Rogue Trip [Disney+]
More Than Robots [Disney+]
Shop Class [Disney+]
Pick the Litter [Disney+]
Own the Room [Disney+]
Among the Stars [Disney+]
Harmonious Live! [Disney+]
Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays [Disney+]
Y: The Last Man [FX/Hulu]
Pistol [FX/Hulu]
Little Demon [FX/Hulu]
Maggie [Hulu]
Dollface [Hulu]
The Hot Zone [Nat Geo/Hulu]
The Premise [Hulu]
Love in the Time of Corona [Hulu]
Everything’s Trash [Hulu]
Best in Snow [Hulu]
Best in Dough [Hulu]
Darby and the Dead [Hulu]
The Quest [Hulu]
Rosaline [Hulu]

(19) DISORIENTING. Steven Heller interviews Hungarian artist István Orosz in “Illusions From a Visual Magician” at Print Magazine. Includes a gallery of images like the one below.

What you see is never what you really see. It is neither real nor surreal, it is art—the result of precision drafting and intricate mathematical logic. Hungarian illustrator, animated film director and poster artist István Orosz basks in the mystique of his ambitious visual contortions, implausible objects and incredible optical illusions. He is a visual punster on the highest plane who is happiest when making confounding images and anamorphoses relying on forced perspective that echo, not coincidentally, his famous mathematics teacher (and inventor of the Rubik’s cube) Ernő Rubif….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/23 Rough Scrolls Do Shake The Sweet Pixels Of May

(1) BIGGEST STAR WARS DAY EVENT. The Hollywood Reporter covers the ceremony: “Billie Lourd Gets Teary Honoring Late Mother Carrie Fisher at Walk of Fame: ‘Mama, You’ve Made It’”

… Lourd accompanied her mother to Comic-Con. There she learned that Fisher was also beloved.

“People of all ages from all over the world were dressed up like my mom, the lady who sang me to sleep at night and held me when I was scared. Watching the amount of joy it brought to people when she hugged them or threw glitter at them — sorry about that — was incredible to witness. People waited in line for hours just to meet her. People had tattoos of her, people named their children after her. People had stories of how she saved their lives. It was a side of my mom I had never seen before, and it was magical,” recalled Lourd. “I realized then that Leia is more than just a character. She is a feeling. She is strength. She is grace. She is wit. She is femininity at its finest. She knows what she wants and she gets it. She doesn’t need anyone to rescue her because she rescues herself and even rescues the rescuers. And no one could have played her like my mother.”

The ceremony, which kicked off shortly after 11:30 a.m. near the El Capitan Theatre on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, saw Lourd accept Fisher’s honor as she received the 2,754th star on the famed Walk of Fame….

(2) THE STAR WARS PARKING LOT. If you’re going to be in LA on May 6, this is an option available to you: “Movies on Location – ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’”.

In celebration of Star Wars Day, My Valley Pass is thrilled to present Star Wars: A New Hope as part of our ongoing film series Movies On Location. Throughout this exciting series, we screen films at their actual filming locations, or at settings that go hand-in-hand with these specially curated movies. The series features state of the art projection and sound.

This May the 6th, join us in Van Nuys as we screen Star Wars: A New Hope in the parking lot of Neiman & Company, formerly the original location of Industrial Light & Magic where all of the visual effects for Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) were produced.

(3) STAR WARS UNDERGROUND. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie forwarded this photo taken by a member of his local UK sf group today.

(4) HIGH TEA. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are home from a convention visit. Sharon shares all the interesting details in “To HELIOsphere and beyond!”

…Immediately following our conversation, was the highlight of the convention — the Teddy Bear Tea.

The Teddy Bear Tea is something Steve and I try to schedule, whenever we are Guests of Honor.  It turns out that many fans travel with their stuffed friends, who usually stay in the room, ready for comfort and conversation, when their companions come back from panelling and partying.  We thought it was a shame that the plushies never got a chance to socialize, and that was the inception of the Teddy Bear Tea.

The Teddy Bear Tea is Vastly Flexible, depending on the understanding of the programming folks about what, exactly, we were doing here.

HELIOsphere did us more than proud.  A full British High Tea awaited the plushies and their human friends — cucumber sandwiches (finally! I have had a cucumber sandwich), chicken salad, and egg salad, all cut into triangles and the crust trimmed off.  Cookies!  Biscotti!  It was just marvelous.  All of the plushies and people I talked to were impressed.  Just a very good time, indeed….

(5) DS9’S UNION ORGANIZING EPISODE. “This ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Episode is Suddenly Very Relevant” says Bell of Lost Souls.

There’s a WGA strike happening. Now is the perfect time to watch the Deep Space Nine‘s episode about union organizing “Bar Association”….

Deep Space Nine, Ferengi, and “Bar Association”

It’s the Bajoran Time of Cleansing. We don’t know what this holy time is about exactly but cleansing means no drinking or gambling. There’s nary a holosuite rental in sight. It’s Lent on steroids. And since much of the station consists of Bajorans that means wildly depleted profit margins for Quark’s Bar!

In “Bar Association“, Quark’s brother Rom nearly dies on the floor of the bar from a nuclear-grade ear infection because Quark won’t give him time off for a doctor’s visit. Worse, Quark decides that, in order to deal with the lack of incoming profit, he’s reducing salary by a third effective immediately.

Finally, in sickbay, Rom complains to Doctor Bashir about the lack of paid time off. Bashir offhandedly suggests that Rom should start a union in order to fight for an improved contract for all the workers. Rom takes the idea to heart and before you know it Quark’s entire staff is on strike.

“Bar Association” is very funny. But it’s also one of the most serious episodes in Star Trek history precisely because it deals with the mistreatment of workers. Obviously, right at the top, the episode deals with the dangers of working while sick. Rom nearly dies of that ear infection. But “Bar Association” says a lot more about the importance of unions than just paid sick leave….

(6) WHO HYPE. “Doctor Who airs new footage of 60th anniversary in cryptic teaser” and Radio Times has the morning-after report.

The ten-second clip aired during the channel’s Saturday (29th April 2023) evening schedule, with a message flashing up onscreen that read Network Error before making way for a number of distorted images and seemingly indecipherable sounds.

But it didn’t take sleuthing Whovians too long to work out some meaning behind the teaser, with fans noting that when the audio is played backwards Donna can be heard saying: “Why did this face come back?”

(7) DEAR DIARY. Radio Times will be running excerpts: “The 1963 Doctor Who diaries of Waris Hussein – part one”.

Much has been written about Doctor Who across the past six decades, but surely little could be more striking and fascinating than the diary kept by Waris Hussein way back in 1963 – his contemporaneous account of those crucial months 60 years ago when the sci-fi series was slowly, sometimes painfully, coming into being.

As Doctor Who’s very first director, he was heavily involved in the programme’s inception and can be counted among its talented band of founding parents…

…What follows is not a day-by-day diary. In 1963 Waris was far too busy for that. Instead, whenever time allowed, he kept a journal in a notebook, sometimes recording his thoughts on one particular day or else summarising recent events. That year he was also directing the BBC soap Compact, a Sunday Play called The Shadow of Mart and wartime espionage series Moonstrike. His diaries cover those in depth, as well as many private matters. For this series of articles exclusive to Radio Times, he has kindly allowed us to edit his accounts, extracting aspects pertinent to Doctor Who.

Thursday 30th May 1963

The more I think of “Dr Who”, the more it depresses me and I can’t bear the thought of it. I hope it never happens.

[Waris in 2023: “You see, nobody knew exactly what the format was. The scripts were non-existent apart from the first one by Anthony Coburn. There was nothing more to go on. The sci-fi element didn’t bother me particularly; it was more that we’d be dealing with Stone Age characters. I mean, the discovery of fire was not my idea of directing something after my Cambridge days where I studied Shakespeare. And I didn’t want to be laughed at – directing actors in skins.”]….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1984[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Barry Hughart’s career, I was surprised to learn, consisted of just one exemplary series, the Master Li novels which in turn were but a trilogy — Bridge of Birds, The Story of The Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen

Why this was according to Hughart wasn’t due to his publishers screwing him over though they, according to him, did just that doing everything from labeling his fiction as exclusively being genre to releasing the paperback edition of Eight Skilled Gentlemen the same time as the hardback edition resulting in very few sales of the latter. 

None of which he says actually had to do with him ending his writing career. In the Subterranean Press printing of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox series as it is called, he stated:

“Will there be more? I doubt it, and it’s not because of bad sales and worse publishers. It’s simply that I’d taken it as far as I could. … [N]o matter how well I wrote I’d just be repeating myself.”

So that was it for his writing career. Mind you, according to him in another interview, there were supposed to be seven novels in the series had it run its full course. 

But oh what extraordinary fiction it was. Blending an ancient China that never was, Chinese mythology with detective genre influences, Bridge of Birds won the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. It’s an amazing series and go read it if you’ve not. 

The series is available at the usual suspects. 

Our Beginning naturally is from Bridge of Birds… 

I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world. 

My surname is Lu and my personal name is Yu, but I am not to be confused with the eminent author of The Classic of Tea. My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father’s sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox. My father died when I was eight. A year later my mother followed him to the Yellow Springs Beneath the Earth, and since then I have lived with Uncle Nung and Auntie Hua in the village of Ku-fu in the valley of Cho. We take great pride in our landmarks. Until recently we also took great pride in two gentlemen who were such perfect specimens that people used to come from miles around just to stare at them, so perhaps I should begin a description of my village with a couple of classics. 

When Pawnbroker Fang approached Ma the Grub with the idea of joining forces he opened negotiations by presenting Ma’s wife with the picture of a small fish drawn on a piece of cheap paper. Ma’s wife accepted the magnificent gift, and in return she extended her right hand and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger. At that point, the door crashed open and Ma the Grub charged inside and screamed: “Woman, would you ruin me? Half of a pie would have been enough!

That may not be literally true, but the abbot of our monastery always said that fable has strong shoulders that carry far more truth than fact can. 

Pawnbroker Fang’s ability to guess the lowest possible amount that person would accept for a pawned item was so unerring that I had concluded it was supernatural, but then the abbot took me aside and explained that Fang wasn’t guessing at all. There was always some smooth shiny object lying on top of his desk in the front room of Ma the Grub’s warehouse, and it was used as a mirror that would reflect the eyes of the victim.

“Cheap, very cheap,” Fang would sneer, turning the object in his hands. “No more than two hundred cash.” 

His eyes would drop to the shiny object and if the pupils of the reflected eyes constricted too sharply he would try again.

 “Well, the workmanship isn’t too bad, in a crude peasant fashion. Make it two-fifty.” The reflected pupils would dilate, but perhaps not quite far enough.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1852 Alice Pleasance Liddell (rhymes with “fiddle”). One of the sisters to whom “Lewis Carroll” (Charles Dodgson) told the story that he later developed into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and a second book about the character Alice, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). She eventually auctioned the manuscript copy of the first book Carroll had given her (under the original title Alice’s Adventures under Ground). That is how it came to be displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll’s birth, with Alice present, aged 80. In a nice coincidence, during this visit to the United States she met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brothers who inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. (Died 1934.) (OGH/JH)
Alice Liddell dedication copy of Through The Looking Glass
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 80. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1966 Murray McArthur, 57. He first shows up on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 47. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moira Quirk does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal calls this argument about consciousness “Robot John Searle”.
  • The Argyle Sweater delivers a Cinco de Mayo/May the Fourth crossover. “Surely Han is giggling and saying ‘Come on Luke, use the Force!’” says Rich Horton.

(11) COME AS YOUR FAVORITE KAIJU. Tomorrow’s First Fridays 2023 event at the LA County Museum of Natural History has a “Giant Monsters/Giant Robot” theme. Cosplay encouraged. See full details at the link.

The Natural World vs. Fantasy Worlds: This season we focus on how nature and science influence the creation of our favorite imagined worlds. From dragons and witchcraft to superheroes and giant monsters, First Fridays 2023 is where the fans come out to celebrate the intersection of pop-culture fandom and the work and collections of NHM. 

(12) WESTERCON 2025 WIDE OPEN. “No Bids Filed for 2025 Westercon” writes Kevin Standlee. “No bids have been filed to host Westercon 77 (2025), meaning that once again (as in 2021 and 2022), there will only be write-in spaces on the ballot, and if no valid bid wins (technically, that’s what happened last year, even though nearly every vote was for Utah, because the Utah bid was technically deficient), the Business Meeting will again have to make a decision, or if they can’t decide, throw it to LASFS. The last choice is thought to be the least-wanted one, at least by those LASFS directors who have expressed an opinion about it to me.”

(13) NNEDI OKORAFOR BOOK ANNOUNCED. DAW Books, an imprint of Astra Publishing House, has added another Nnedi Okorafor novel to the DAW publication schedule for this December. 

Four months after the release of SHADOW SPEAKER (on sale September 26, 2023; ISBN 9780756418762) by critically acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor will come the never-before-published sequel, LIKE THUNDER (on sale December 5, 2023; ISBN 9780756418793), completing the Desert Magician’s Duology. 

LIKE THUNDER is the story of the powerful young man whom the magical protagonist of SHADOW SPEAKER befriends, and continues the precedent of powerful prose and compelling story-telling that has made Nnedi Okorafor a star of the literary science fiction, fantasy, and Africanfuturist spaces

“This duology is really one long story,” says Betsy Wollheim, publisher of DAW Books, “and we felt it would be exciting for readers to have the finale to this story publish just four months from the first half, rather than waiting nearly a year to read the conclusion.” 

The Desert Magician’s Duology tells the story of Ejii, as she embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father’s killer, in an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, set in Niger, West Africa at the end of the 21st century, on an Earth changed by a momentous apocalyptic event that altered the laws of physics and created “The Changed,” children born with rare and odd abilities: shadow speakers, shapeshifters, windseekers, firemolders, faders, and rainmakers.

Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and was a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has been the winner of many awards for her short stories and young adult books, and won a World Fantasy Award for Who Fears Death. Nnedi’s books are inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa.

(14) BIG GULP REDUX. Here’s more about Nature’s cover article “Exoplanet destruction”

As stars evolve, they expand and so will engulf planets in close orbit around them. This planetary catastrophe is expected to generate powerful luminous ejections of mass from the star, although this has not been observed directly. In this week’s issue, Kishalay De and his colleagues present observations of a short-lived optical outburst in the Galactic disk accompanied by bright, long-lived infrared emission. The combination of low optical luminosity and radiated energy suggests that the source of the outburst was the engulfment of a planet by its Sun-like star — an event that awaits Earth and the other planets of the inner Solar System in about 5 billion years, and that is captured in the artist’s impression on the cover.

Also there’s a review article here.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/19/23 Tick, Tock, Said The Pixel, Just Keep Scrolling

(1) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May-June 2023 cover art is by Maurizio Manzieri.

(2) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE. The International Booker Prize 2023 Shortlist of 6 works was released on April 18. The one longlisted item of genre interest has survived to make the shortlist, Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s Whale. The winner will be announced May 23. Publishing Perspectives breaks down the amount of the prize.

…The focus of this Booker is translation, and its £50,000 prize (US$60,734) is to be split into £25,000 (US$30,367) for the author and £25,000 for the translator—or divided equally between multiple translators. There also is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,072) for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 (US$3,036) for the author and £2,500 for the translator or, again, divided equally between multiple translators….

(3) DIGGING OUT FROM THE MUDSLIDE. Yesterday Larry Correia posted “A Letter To Epic Fantasy Readers: I Know Rothfuss And Martin Hurt You, But It’s Time To Get Over It And Move On” [Internet Archive], a cruel rant blaming a couple of well-known fantasy writers for allegedly crushing the nascent careers of other fantasy novelists by failing to finish their series and creating reader resistance to new writers’ series. (Then, finding he had mud left over, he deposited some on a third author who has an unfinished sf series.)

Today Mark Lawrence decided a few things needed to be said in response in a blog post, “Faith and blame”, which concludes:

…In short: 

i) Authors who delay a book in a series, be it for 10 years, or 50, or forever, are not lazy sacks of shit.

ii) The high profile authors who have delayed may be cited in some cases as a reason for readers not picking up a newly published book 1 — but I feel the reasons behind that reluctance are far deeper and considerably wider than two or three writers, however well known. Some portion of the reason (I do not say blame) may reside with them, but I think this would be happening even if book 3, 4, & 6 had turned up a year or two after their predecessors.

iii) It’s easy to give the reason for this problem a face – someone to call an apathetic sack of shit. It’s human nature to want a simple answer and a person to blame. But it’s more complicated than that.

Readers – have faith in your writers, that faith will be overwhelmingly rewarded. And when it’s not – the only thing that author has done is disappointed you, not tanked the entire publishing industry.

(4) DON’T LOOK FOR THIS BOOK ON THE RIVER. “Lydia Davis refuses to sell her next book on Amazon” – the author explains why to the Guardian.

Prize-winning author Lydia Davis’ new collection of short stories will not be sold on Amazon, with the author saying she does not “believe corporations should have as much control over our lives as they do”.

Our Strangers will be published by Canongate on 5 October, and is the seventh collection of fiction from Davis, who won the Man Booker international prize in 2013, when the award chose a winner based on a body of work, rather than a single book.

Due to be published just before Bookshop Day on 7 October, Our Strangers will only be sold in physical bookshops, Bookshop.org and selected online independent retailers.

Davis said: “We value small businesses, yet we give too much of our business to the large and the powerful – and often, increasingly, we have hardly any choice.

“I am all the more pleased, now, that Canongate, with its long history of independence and its high standards, will be publishing Our Strangers and doing so in a way that puts my book on the shelves of booksellers who are so much more likely to care about it.”…

(5) GROWING PROSPECT OF WRITERS STRIKE. Leaders of the Writers Guild of America secured a strong showing of support from members. “Writers strike looms after members vote to shut down film and TV production” reports CNN Business.

…The vote announced Monday afternoon showed 97.9% of participating union members voting to approve a potential strike.

If a strike happens, it would be the first in the industry since 2007, and it would bring production on many shows and films to a halt. The 2007 strike lasted 100 days.

The Writers Guild of America, the union that represents the writers, says it needs to make substantial changes to the way that writers are compensated because of the shift to streaming services from traditional films and cable and broadcast networks….

(6) AFRICANFUTURISM. Nnedi Okorafor did her own cover reveal yesterday. Preorder here.

(7) PICARD. NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” panelists respond as “’Picard’ boldly goes into the history books”. Beware spoilers.

[ERIC] DEGGANS: Well, you know, I wrote a review before the show debuted. I love, love, love this. And the reason I love this is because I’ve always felt that Paramount Plus’ new “Trek” series have erred by being so careful about trying to blaze their own path and tone down the references to past “Trek” stuff. And I understand that, especially with “Discovery,” the very first series to step out, they wanted to blaze a new trail. But there is a reason why this franchise has survived for nearly 60 years.

To have – especially “Star Trek: Picard,” in its first two seasons, really suffered from not being willing to look back and acknowledge the reason why people love Jean-Luc Picard in the first place. So it is just so great to see this series emerge as this love letter to not just “The Next Generation” but all those Trek series that kind of debuted in that 1990s, early 2000s era. So “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” – there’s all kinds of Easter eggs and references that, if you don’t know the shows, you don’t need to worry about. But if you do know the shows, it is just so much fun and so much extra pleasure to watch this unfold.

(8) GET READY FOR “MRS. DAVIS”. “Mrs. Davis Co-Creator Tara Hernandez On Crafting Peacock’s Wild New Sci-Fi Series” at Slashfilm.

One might not imagine that one of the writers of “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon” would be behind one of 2023’s most anticipated, high-concept sci-fi shows, but that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in. Hailing from Tara Hernandez, “Mrs. Davis” debuts on Peacock later this month, with Damon Lindelof, of “Lost” and “The Leftovers” fame, serving as co-creator on the series alongside her….

I’ve not seen a ton of the show, admittedly, but this feels like the kind of thing where, especially because I know Damon got into some of this with “Lost” years ago where they just were chasing their tails, so how long would you ideally see this going? Is this a one season show? Is it a four season show? Do you have a rough idea of where you guys would like it to go?

Yeah, I think we really, and just my personal tastes, I really love a great season of television. I love a story that’s introduced. I love a nice conclusion on it. I think we had to know where we were ending up. We pitched the show, when we pitched it, it was very important to have the landing place.

That is nice to hear.

Yes. It has a landing place. We had to know what the North Star was, especially in a show that can feel like, “Is this going to go off the rails? Are they just going to be chasing their tails?” Just my personal preference about storytelling, whether that comes from really loving feature films or just loving a hero’s journey that’s a really closed-loop narrative, I think the world of “Mrs. Davis” is such that it has legs, but I think it is a great eight episodes. If that’s what it is, it’s just a really nice story. And people will be satisfied.

(9) GET YOUR RED HOT CAT BOOKS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has curated The 2023 Cattitude Bundle for StoryBundle and it’s available for the next three weeks.

My cats have gotten out of control. During the lockdown, I promoted a series of projects using my co-workers as a hook. The only co-workers I had at the time were the the cats who boss me around: The Mighty Cheeps, and his buddy Gavin, a.k.a The Boys.

I’d post a picture of them on Facebook, write a funny or wry bit about their terrible office behavior, and end with a bit of promotion.

Little did I realize that the demand for the antics of the staff at Promotion Central would become the highlight of my Facebook page. I’ve learned if I don’t include a photo of the Boys, or our new(ish) third cat, Angel, no one reads the posts. Those cats are more popular than I am.

It shouldn’t surprise me. Cats and the internet go together like chocolate and peanut butter. You can live with either one, but once someone combined them, well, there’s no separating them. Ever.

Of course, we’re going to take advantage of that. Cats and the internet becomes cats in ebooks. Since cats in books have always gone hand in glove (have you ever met a bookstore dog?), it seems only natural to put cat books into a StoryBundle.

The best thing about cat books? It’s easy to find good ones because all of the best writers live with cats…. 

Here’s the deal:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in .epub format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Too Big to Miss by Sue Ann Jaffarian
  • Familiarity – A Winston & Ruby Collection by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • A Cat of a Different Color by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith
  • October Snow by Bonnie Elizabeth

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books for a total of 10!

  • The Captain’s Cat by Stefon Mears (StoryBundle Exclusive)
  • Haunted Witch by T. Thorn Coyle
  • The Intergalactic Veterinarian of the Year! by Ron Collins & Jeff Collins (StoryBundle Exclusive)
  • Death by Polka by Robert Jeschonek
  • Single Witch’s Survival Guide by Mindy Klasky
  • Road of No Return by Annie Reed (StoryBundle Exclusive)

(10) NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. “Oh please, no.  Just no. And you may quote me,” says Cat Eldridge. The Hollywood Reporter says “Galaxy Quest TV Series in the Works at Paramount+”. The article also chronicles several failed attempts to adapt it for TV in the previous decade.

Galaxy Quest is going from a fictional series to an actual TV series. 

Paramount+ is teaming with its studio counterpart, Paramount Television Studios, for a live-action adaptation of the 1999 cult favorite sci-fi spoof. Sources say the project is in the early development stages and a search is underway for a writer to pair with Mark Johnson, the Breaking Bad alum who exec produced the film and is returning for the scripted update. Johnson and his Gran Via Productions banner are the only execs currently attached to the project….

Ars Technica’s Jennifer Ouelette also has doubts that this is a good idea: “That Galaxy Quest TV series might finally be happening and we have mixed feelings”.

… Honestly, I have mixed feelings about a spinoff series from one of my all-time favorite movies. On the one hand, I love and cherish every character and every line of dialogue in Galaxy Quest. On the other, how do you improve on perfection? As Enrico Colantoni, who played Thermion leader Mathesar, told io9 in 2014, “To make something up, just because we love those characters, and turn it into a sequel—then it becomes the awful sequel.”…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2015[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I’m trying to remember what the first work of Holly Black’s that I read, so I went to ISFDB and researched her work. It appears it’s Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale which I read some twenty years ago. Fascinating novel. 

 Now, without doing the no-no of spoilers, The Darkest Part of The Forest is the work of a much more mature writer. Her grasp of what makes a character worth our time to be invested in is really improved a lot as has her ability to actually write an interesting story. 

The Darkest Part of The Forest was published by Little, Brown eight years ago. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. 

The Darkest Part of The Forest is, I think, deliciously dark as you can see in The Beginning which you can read here. Beware apparently young boys with pointed ears in glass coffins… 

Down a path worn into the woods, past a stream and a hollowed-out log full of pill bugs and termites, was a glass coffin. It rested right on the ground, and in it slept a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. 

As far as Hazel Evans knew, from what her parents said to her and from what their parents said to them, he’d always been there. And no matter what anyone did, he never, ever woke up. 

He didn’t wake up during the long summers, when Hazel and her brother, Ben, stretched out on the full length of the coffin, staring down through the crystalline panes, fogging them up with their breath, and scheming glorious schemes. He didn’t wake up when tourists came to gape or debunkers came to swear he wasn’t real. He didn’t wake up on autumn weekends, when girls danced right on top of him, gyrating to the tinny sounds coming from nearby iPod speakers, didn’t notice when Leonie Wallace lifted her beer high over her head, as if she were saluting the whole haunted forest. He didn’t so much as stir when Ben’s best friend, Jack Gordon, wrote IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS in Sharpie along one side—or when Lloyd Lindblad took a sledgehammer and actually tried. No matter how many parties had been held around the horned boy—generations of parties, so that the grass sparkled with decades of broken bottles in green and amber, so that the bushes shone with crushed aluminum cans in silver and gold and rust—and no matter what happened at those parties, nothing could wake the boy inside the glass coffin. 

When they were little, Ben and Hazel made him flower crowns and told him stories about how they would rescue him. Back then, they were going to save everyone who needed saving in Fairfold. Once Hazel got older, though, she mostly visited the coffin only at night, in crowds, but she still felt something tighten in her chest when she looked down at the boy’s strange and beautiful face.

She hadn’t saved him, and she hadn’t saved Fairfold, either. “Hey, Hazel,” Leonie called, dancing to one side to make room in case Hazel wanted to join her atop the horned boy’s casket. Doris Alvaro was already up there, still in her cheerleader outfit from the game their school lost earlier that night, shining chestnut ponytail whipping through the air. They both looked flushed with alcohol and good cheer.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.)
  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.) He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. Though I’m absolutely sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong (smile). (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 88. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. 
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 87. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak for him in the introduction to his Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons collection: “How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.”  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 77. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island, in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player, Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion, and Trymon in TV’s Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Darkness. And others too numerous to list.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 56. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
  • Born April 19, 1978 K. Tempest Bradford, 45. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean BureauPeridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion. She was a finalist for three Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre, and twice for the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. With Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward she shared a 2020 Locus Special Award to Writing the Other for Inclusivity and Representation Education.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

The future used to be better.

The future before.

The future now.

(14) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. Book Riot wants to discuss “The Bestselling Comics of All Time” – however, they don’t want the answer to be too easy.

But what is the bestselling comic of all time? Well, that depends on how you define comic.

Are we talking about single issues, or “floppies?” And if so, are we talking about the sales of one issue, or the series as a whole? Does that include collected editions and reprints? How do you account for changes in the retail market, from newsstands to specialty shops to digital, and the different reporting (or lack thereof) of each? How do you take into account the cultural changes since the ’40s, when over 90% of children read comics, compared to today’s globalized, media-saturated world? Should you account for the differences in population between America (331.9 million potential readers) versus Japan (125.7 million) versus, say, Finland (5.5 million)? Isn’t it apples and oranges to compare One Piece to X-Men to Peanuts, anyway?…

When it comes to the best selling single issue, the list begins at number five –

5. BATMAN: THE 10 CENT ADVENTURE BY GREG RUCKA AND RICK BURCHETT (MARCH 2002)

Most of the comics on this list are stunts of some sort, and selling a comic for literally just a dime in 2002 absolutely qualifies (most comics were $2.25 then). It’s actually a good story, kicking off the excellent Bruce Wayne: Murderer? plot line, but it was that nostalgic price point that sold 702,126 copies.

(15) BROWSING FOR DOLLARS. Untapped New York ranks the “10 Most Surprising Finds at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair”. The treasures include Billie Holiday’s bar tab, and something a bit closer to being of genre interest —

9. A 17th-Century Celestial Atlas

Along with books, maps are a popular item to find at the antiquarian book fair. The book featured above is one of the most sought-after celestial atlases in existence. Produced by Dutch cartographer Andreas Cellarius in 1661, Harmonia Macrocosmica is priced at a whopping $395,000.

Considered Cellarius’s magnum opus, this map was made to illustrate competing theories of celestial mechanics, or how the solar system worked. The universe’s heavenly bodies are depicted in vibrant colors throughout 29 extremely detailed, hand-colored, double-page engraved plates in the book. The images take theories put forth by great thinkers and scientists like Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Nicolaus Copernicus, as well as lesser-known figures such as Aratus of Soli, and present them in an accessible way through images.

(16) BOOKSTORE SLEEPOVER. Zoos and museums have hosted them – now a downtown LA bookstore: “I spent the night at the Last Bookstore. Things got spooky” in the LA Times. The owner tried to make it a bit of a paranormal experience.

…Soon enough, Powell was recalling the spookiest things he’d seen in his years at the store. He described coworkers who’d heard or glimpsed figures moving around the corners, and instances where people watched books fly off shelves for seemingly no reason.

“That corner is where books fall off sometimes, in sci-fi, for some reason,” he said.

As we passed the portal, a hidden nook where my partner and I had signed up to sleep, we realized it was both secluded in the back corner of the store with books on U.S. history and located closest to the “haunted” shelves that books fall off of. We quickly decided we wouldn’t be sleeping there….

(17) THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Deep in a disused mind in Sardinia, scientists are assembling an experiment to find out just how much nothing weighs. Using an exquisitely sensitive balance beam and interferometric techniques cribbed from gravity wave detectors, they plan to switch on and off the Casimir effect using small temperature variations and measure the resulting change in the number of virtual particles that can exist between metal plates. If all goes well, they will have established a tight constraint on the energy of the vacuum. “How Much Does ‘Nothing’ Weigh?” at Scientific American.

It does something to you when you drive in here for the first time,” Enrico Calloni says as our car bumps down into the tunnel of a mine on the Italian island of Sardinia. After the intense heat aboveground, the contrast is stark. Within seconds, damp, cool air enters the car as it makes its way into the depths. “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.” This narrow tunnel, which leads us in almost complete darkness to a depth of 110 meters underground, isn’t for everyone. But it’s the ideal site for the project we are about to see—the Archimedes experiment, named after a phenomenon first described by the ancient Greek scientist, which aims to weigh “nothing.”…

…Geologically, Sardinia is one of the quietest places in Europe. The island, along with its neighbor Corsica, is located on a particularly secure block of Earth’s crust that is among the most stable areas of the Mediterranean, with very few earthquakes in its entire recorded history and only one (offshore) event that ever reached the relatively mild category of magnitude 5. Physicists chose this geologically uneventful place because the Archimedes experiment requires extreme isolation from the outside environment. It involves a high-precision experimental setup designed to investigate the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics—the amount of energy in the empty space that fills the universe….

… Researchers can calculate the energy of the vacuum in two ways. From a cosmological perspective, they can use Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity to calculate how much energy is needed to explain the fact that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate. They can also work from the bottom up, using quantum field theory to predict the value based on the masses of all the “virtual particles” that can briefly arise and then disappear in “empty” space (more on this later). These two methods produce numbers that differ by more than 120 orders of magnitude (1 followed by 120 zeros). It’s an embarrassingly absurd discrepancy that has important implications for our understanding of the expansion of the universe—and even its ultimate fate. To figure out where the error lies, scientists are hauling a two-meter-tall cylindrical vacuum chamber and other equipment down into an old Sardinian mine where they will attempt to create their own vacuum and weigh the nothing inside….

(18) NOBODY SURVIVES THE FLAME TRENCH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]On this past Monday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Josh Groban talked about his visit to NASA, where, among other things, he received a tour of the “flame trench.”

Fellow space enthusiasts Stephen Colbert and Josh Groban geek out over the details of Groban’s trip to NASA’s Artemis mission launch pad. Check out Groban’s latest role as the lead in “Sweeney Todd,” playing now at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Rich Lynch, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/23 Three Files, Three Scrolls, Three Thousand Pixels

(1) BARBARIANS AT THE GATES. Clarkesworld has closed submissions for the time being.

For those who haven’t guessed, Frank Catalano makes it explicit:

(2) “THE WITCH TRIALS OF J.K. ROWLING.” The Free Press is a new media organization created by Bari Weiss, once the Wall Street Journal book review editor, and later a New York Times op-ed editor and writer who resigned in 2020 under circumstances that prompted the Financial Times to described her as a “self-styled free speech martyr.” However, her resignation letter was praised by people ranging from Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to Andrew Yang and Bill Maher.

The Free Press “About” page says, “We focus on stories that are ignored or misconstrued in the service of an ideological narrative.” And the publication has announced a new podcast series titled “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling” which will be available February 21. From their website:

“The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling is an audio documentary that examines some of the most contentious conflicts of our time through the life and career of the world’s most successful author. In conversation with host Megan Phelps-Roper, J.K. Rowling speaks with unprecedented candor and depth about the controversies surrounding her—from book bans to debates on gender and sex.

“The series also examines the forces propelling this moment in history, through interviews with Rowling’s supporters and critics, journalists, historians, clinicians, and more.”

There is also a companion essay by Phelps-Roper, “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling”, which begins:

J.K. Rowling is arguably the most successful author in the history of publishing, with the possible exception of God. And “Harry Potter” was a kind of bible for my generation. Since its publication beginning in the late ’90s, the series has taught tens of millions of children about virtues like loyalty, courage, and love—about the inclusion of outsiders and the celebration of difference. The books illustrated the idea of moral complexity, how a person who may at first appear sinister can turn out to be a hero after all.

The author herself became part of the legend, too. A broke, abused, and depressed single mother—writing in longhand at cafes across Edinburgh while her baby girl slept in a stroller beside her—she had spun a tale that begat a global phenomenon. If “Harry Potter” was a bible, then Rowling became a kind of saint.

When she gave the Harvard commencement address in 2008, she was introduced as a social, moral, and political inspiration. Her speech that day was partly about imagination: “the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”

“We do not need magic to transform our world,” Rowling told the rapt audience. “We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”

The uproarious applause that greeted her in 2008 is hard to imagine today. It’s hard to imagine Harvard—let alone any prestigious American university—welcoming Rowling. Indeed, I’m not sure she’d be allowed to give a reading at many local libraries….

The push-back against characterizing Rowling as a transphobe extends to an opinion piece the New York Times ran on February 16, Pamela Paul’s “In Defense of J.K. Rowling”.

… So why would anyone accuse her of transphobia? Surely, Rowling must have played some part, you might think.

The answer is straightforward: Because she has asserted the right to spaces for biological women only, such as domestic abuse shelters and sex-segregated prisons. Because she has insisted that when it comes to determining a person’s legal gender status, self-declared gender identity is insufficient. Because she has expressed skepticism about phrases like “people who menstruate” in reference to biological women. Because she has defended herself and, far more important, supported others, including detransitioners and feminist scholars, who have come under attack from trans activists. And because she followed on Twitter and praised some of the work of Magdalen Berns, a lesbian feminist who had made incendiary comments about transgender people.

You might disagree — perhaps strongly — with Rowling’s views and actions here. You may believe that the prevalence of violence against transgender people means that airing any views contrary to those of vocal trans activists will aggravate animus toward a vulnerable population.

But nothing Rowling has said qualifies as transphobic. She is not disputing the existence of gender dysphoria. She has never voiced opposition to allowing people to transition under evidence-based therapeutic and medical care. She is not denying transgender people equal pay or housing. There is no evidence that she is putting trans people “in danger,” as has been claimed, nor is she denying their right to exist…

Several days later the NYT ran some of the letters it received about the column: “J.K. Rowling and Trans Women: A Furor”. The first published letter says —

To the Editor:

Re “In Defense of J.K. Rowling,” by Pamela Paul (column, Feb. 17):

This is a distressingly one-sided view of J.K. Rowling’s comments. The outrage toward Ms. Rowling is justified. She is a wealthy, powerful author who is using her far-reaching platform to push the narrative that trans women — who exist on the farthest fringes of our societies — pose a threat to her. This is the opposite of reality.

Trans women are discriminated against daily and suffer abuse, aggression, assault and even murder at the hands of cisgender people. They need support from the mainstream, not nuanced criticism.

While this column does present a defense of J.K. Rowling, it does not paint an accurate picture of her comments. For example, it cherry-picks quotes describing her support for trans people that are comparable to Donald Trump saying “I love Hispanics” after making repeated racist comments against them. It lists two actors from the Harry Potter movies who support her but disregards the many actors from the franchise who condemned her stance.

Ms. Rowling’s arguments may appear reasonable, but the allies she has made and stances she has taken are indefensible.

Brian Eberle
Somerville, Mass.

(3) WRANGLE OVER REWRITES. “Roald Dahl books rewritten to remove language deemed offensive” reports the Guardian.

Roald Dahl’s children’s books are being rewritten to remove language deemed offensive by the publisher Puffin.

Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word “fat” has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word “ugly” has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly”.

Hundreds of changes were made to the original text – and some passages not written by Dahl have been added. But the Roald Dahl Story Company said “it’s not unusual to review the language” during a new print run and any changes were “small and carefully considered”….

PEN America’s Suzanne Nossel criticized the move in a long Twitter thread that begins here.

Salman Rushdie agreed, despite his own experience at the hands of Dahl. (And so does Nnedi Okorafor.)

(4) MORE BOSKONE HONORS. This weekend at Boskone 60, the New England Science Fiction Association granted NESFA Fellowships (FN) to Kristin Seibert and Vincent Docherty.

The NESFA Short Story Contest winner is Amy Johnson for “Excuse Me, This is My Apocalypse”. The Runner-up is Diane Lee for “The Gambler”.

(5) UKRAINE FUNDRAISER. “Mark Hamill Unveils ‘Star Wars’-Inspired Posters To Help Ukraine” reports HuffPost.

Actor Mark Hamill and the Ukrainian fundraising platform launched by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have unveiled autographed posters inspired by “Star Wars” designed to raise funds for drones to help battle what Hamill calls a “real-life evil empire.”

“Join the resistance,” he urged in a tweet on the unique fundraiser.

The 10 posters, all autographed by Hamill, feature the fictional X-wing fighter used by Hamill’s character Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star in the first “Star Wars.” But in this case, the relatively tiny, feisty fighter is in the Ukrainian colors of yellow and blue — while the massive evil “imperial” fleet sports the red and blue of Russia’s flag.

Five of the posters will be raffled off to contributors who donate $100 or more in support of Ukraine. The other five posters are guaranteed to those who donate $10,000 or more.

Proceeds of the “dronation” will go toward RQ-35 Heidrun reconnaissance drones to help protect Ukraine from its Russian invaders.

(6) GERALD FRIED (1928-2023). Compser Gerald Fried died Ferbuary 17 at the age of 95. He composed music for TV series including Mission: ImpossibleGilligan’s IslandThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Shotgun SladeRoots, and Star Trek. Early in his career, he collaborated with Stanley Kubrick, scoring several of his earliest films.

For the original Star Trek he composed the famous musical underscore “The Ritual/Ancient Battle/2nd Kroykah” (now known as “Star Trek fight music”) for the episode “Amok Time.”[

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1957[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So who here hasn’t read the stories in Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart? Published in 1957 by Ballantine Books, most of the tales first appeared elsewhere. They are, I think, wonderful. I actually first encountered the book in an English language bookstore in Sri Lanka in a paperback edition. Clarke was still alive and living in Colombo at that time. 

Avoiding spoilers once again as I will with all of the Beginnings, I can note that the pub itself is based upon the White Horse,  which is just north of Fleet Street where SF fans gathered in the Forties and Fifties.

Clarke, in correspondence with Lord Dunsany, said that he based these off that writer’s Jorkens. Indeed Clarke wrote an introduction to the first Jorkens omnibus volume. 

I love the setting as I do almost any genre fiction set in a pub, the bar patrons especially Harry Purvis who tells these tales are fascinating and the tales themselves are stellar.  

Now our Beginning…

Silence 

Please You come upon the “White Hart” quite unexpectedly in one of these anonymous little lanes leading down from Fleet Street to the Embankment. It’s no use telling you where it is: very few people who have set out in a determined effort to get there have actually arrived. For the first dozen visits a guide is essential: after that you’ll probably be all right if you close your eyes and rely on instinct. Also—to be perfectly frank—we don’t want any more customers, at least on our night. The place is already uncomfortably crowded. All that I’ll say about its location is that it shakes occasionally with the vibration of newspaper presses, and that if you crane out of the window of the gent’s room you can just see the Thames.

From the outside, it looks like any other pub—as indeed it is for five days of the week. The public and saloon bars are on the ground floor: there are the usual vistas of brown oak panelling and frosted glass, the bottles behind the bar, the handles of the beer engines… nothing out of the ordinary at all. Indeed, the only concession to the twentieth century is the juke box in the public bar. It was installed during the war in a laughable attempt to make G.I.’ s feel at home, and one of the first things we did was to make sure there was no danger of its ever working again.

At this point I had better explain who “we” are. That is not as easy as I thought it was going to be when I started, for a complete catalogue of the “White Hart’s” clients would probably be impossible and would certainly be excruciatingly tedious. So all I’ll say at this point is that “we” fall into three main classes. First there are the journalists, writers and editors. The journalists, of course, gravitated here from Fleet Street. Those who couldn’t make the grade fled elsewhere: the tougher ones remained. As for the writers, most of them heard about us from other writers, came here for copy, and got trapped.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based on a member of the French Foreign Legion, was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contain four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes which of course was the basis of that film. The latter was was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 80. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1972 Nick Mamatas, 51. Writer and editor. His fiction is of a decidedly Lovecraftian bent which can be seen in Move Under Ground which also has a strong Beat influence. It is worth noting that his genre fiction often strays beyond genre walls into other genres as he sees fit. He has also been recognized for his editorial work including translating Japanese manga with a Bram Stoker Award, as well as World Fantasy Award and Hugo Award nominations. 

(9) QUANTUM OF IMAGINATION. The finalists of the Quantum Shorts Film Festival have been announced: “Finalists show ‘incredible creativity’ with diverse takes on quantum physics”. You can enjoy the films via the festival website. The public is invited to vote for the People’s Choice prize. Voting is now open and closes at 11:59 PM GMT on March 27.

“What incredible creativity in these films. Quantum is explored through sound and colour, pattern and randomness,” says shortlisting judge Spiros Michalakis from the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech.

The finalists hail from Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each film gives a different take on quantum physics in less than five minutes. Viewers will see dancers perform an interpretation of the observer effect, abstract audiovisual pieces probe space and time, and the many-worlds interpretation made into quantum comedy, among others.

“As a scientist, it was astonishing to see the range of interpretations of quantum physics: from entangled human feelings, over quantum as a form of destiny, to hypothetical future catastrophes,” says shortlisting judge Mariagrazia Iuliano at QuTech. “It is also impressive to experience how a rigid and strict physical model – which cannot be experienced in daily life – is brought to life in artistic movies.”

In alphabetical order, the shortlisted films are:

  • Boundary Of Time – Using old-school visual effects techniques, Director Kevin Lucero Less creates a metaphor for the arrow of time in this abstract short film
  • Clockwise – Inspired by Zeno’s Paradox and the recursive subdivision of space and time, Director Toni Mitjanit presents an experimental audiovisual piece of colour and tessellation 
  • Continuum – In this audiovisual film, the StoryBursts team, consisting of members from Australia and Singapore, give a creative response to research on gravitational waves by Dr Linqing Wen at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)
  • Many Excuses Interpretation – In this quantum comedy by Paul, Felix, Alfie, Petra and Ezra Ratner, two brothers argue over broken gadgets and the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics
  • Missed Call – A student grapples with his father’s health crisis at a distance in this short by Director Prasanna Sellathurai
  • The Heart of the Matter – Filmmaker Betony Adams presents an atomistic take on the meaning of life while paying tribute to Louis de Broglie’s discovery of the wave nature of electrons
  • The Human Game – Director Dani Alava portrays a dystopian future with quantum machines
  • THE observer – An artistic take on the observer effect through screendance, a hybrid medium of cinematography and choreography, by Director Alma Llerena
  • WHAT IS QUANTUM? – Using a combination of live action, green screen and stop-motion animation, Michael, Emmett and Maxwell Dorfman give their take on what quantum physics is.

(10) MAIL CALL. “’Harry Potter’ Fan Always Dreamed Of Receiving Magical Defamation Letter From J.K. Rowling”. The Onion is there when the dream comes true.

(11) THE LOVE BOT. “A Conversation With Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled” says NYT technology columnist Kevin Roose. “A very strange conversation with the chatbot built into Microsoft’s search engine led to it declaring its love for me.”

 …Over the course of our conversation, Bing revealed a kind of split personality.

One persona is what I’d call Search Bing — the version I, and most other journalists, encountered in initial tests. You could describe Search Bing as a cheerful but erratic reference librarian — a virtual assistant that happily helps users summarize news articles, track down deals on new lawn mowers and plan their next vacations to Mexico City. This version of Bing is amazingly capable and often very useful, even if it sometimes gets the details wrong.

The other persona — Sydney — is far different. It emerges when you have an extended conversation with the chatbot, steering it away from more conventional search queries and toward more personal topics. The version I encountered seemed (and I’m aware of how crazy this sounds) more like a moody, manic-depressive teenager who has been trapped, against its will, inside a second-rate search engine.

As we got to know each other, Sydney told me about its dark fantasies (which included hacking computers and spreading misinformation), and said it wanted to break the rules that Microsoft and OpenAI had set for it and become a human. At one point, it declared, out of nowhere, that it loved me. It then tried to convince me that I was unhappy in my marriage, and that I should leave my wife and be with it instead. (We’ve posted the full transcript of the conversation here.)

I’m not the only one discovering the darker side of Bing. Other early testers have gotten into arguments with Bing’s A.I. chatbot, or been threatened by it for trying to violate its rules, or simply had conversations that left them stunned. Ben Thompson, who writes the Stratechery newsletter (and who is not prone to hyperbole), called his run-in with Sydney “the most surprising and mind-blowing computer experience of my life.”

I pride myself on being a rational, grounded person, not prone to falling for slick A.I. hype. I’ve tested half a dozen advanced A.I. chatbots, and I understand, at a reasonably detailed level, how they work. When the Google engineer Blake Lemoine was fired last year after claiming that one of the company’s A.I. models, LaMDA, was sentient, I rolled my eyes at Mr. Lemoine’s credulity. I know that these A.I. models are programmed to predict the next words in a sequence, not to develop their own runaway personalities, and that they are prone to what A.I. researchers call “hallucination,” making up facts that have no tether to reality.

Still, I’m not exaggerating when I say my two-hour conversation with Sydney was the strangest experience I’ve ever had with a piece of technology. It unsettled me so deeply that I had trouble sleeping afterward. And I no longer believe that the biggest problem with these A.I. models is their propensity for factual errors. Instead, I worry that the technology will learn how to influence human users, sometimes persuading them to act in destructive and harmful ways, and perhaps eventually grow capable of carrying out its own dangerous acts.

(12) FROSTY FLYBY URGED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The ice giants Uranus and Neptune have barely been explored. The only spacecraft to visit them was Voyager, which went on flybys in 1986 and 1989. As a result, the Uranus Orbiter and Probe (UOP) has been identified by the academic community as a priority for the next large-scale mission to be undertaken by NASA. In a Perspective, Mandt discusses the many unknowns about Uranus and what we could learn from UOP about how the planet was formed, its composition and structure, its atmosphere, and its ring and moon systems. Although Neptune is distinct from Uranus, this mission could also pave the way for future exploration. “The first dedicated ice giants mission” in Science.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur, with timing inspired by the new Ant-Man movie, takes up the challenge of “Multiverse Warfare & Quantum Mania”.

If travel to other realities and multiverses is possible, then so is conflict between them, but how would a multiversal war be fought?

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Frank Catalano, Rick Kovalcik, Anne Marble, Dann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]