Pixel Scroll 2/29/24 Scrollaris

(1) STOKER AWARD UPDATE SPARKS KERFUFFLE. [Item by Anne Marble.] The Horror Writers Association has realized that Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle was in the wrong category in the list of finalists — it is not a YA novel. So they moved it to the Adult category – increasing the finalists there from five to six (i.e, nobody was dropped). And because of this change, they added a YA novel by author Kalynn Bayron to the YA category.

But as a result, some people are yelling at Kalynn Bayron on social media — apparently because they think she “stole” the nomination from Chuck Tingle. And Brian Keene has stepped in and asked people to yell at Mr. Keene instead. Let’s see if the people who were so eager to yell at Kalynn Bayron (a young Black YA author) are just as eager to yell at Brian Keene. (Somehow, I doubt it.)

(2) STOKERCON GOH NEWS. Paula Guran will be unable to attend StokerCon 2024 the convention announced today in a newsletter. A reason was not given; the committee hopes she will be able to join them at a future event.

The remaining GoHs are Justina Ireland, Nisi Shawl, Jonathan Maberry and Paul Tremblay.

(3) ANNUAL YARDSTICK. Publishers Weekly reports “New Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey Finds Minor Changes” in the publishing industry.

The third edition of Lee & Low Books’ quadrennial “Diversity Baseline Survey” found that the publishing industry has made incremental gains in broadening its workforce since the survey was introduced in 2015.

The survey’s top-line findings show that white people made up 72.5% of this year’s 8,644 respondents, down from 76% in 2019 and 79% in 2015. Those identifying as biracial/multiracial were the second largest group, at 8.3%—a significant increase over the 3% in 2019 who identified as biracial/multiracial. The percentage of respondents who were Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander/South Asian/Southeast Indian rose slightly, to almost 8%, from 7% in 2019. Black respondents held even at about 5% of the publishing workforce, while those identifying as Hispanic/Latino/Mexican fell to 4.6%, from 6% in both 2019 and 2015….

(4) REACH OUT. Dream Foundry calls for donations to “Con or Bust”, which seeks to assist creators or fans of color with opportunities they can’t afford:

Con or Bust has received a slew of applications for extremely exciting opportunities that we are not currently able to fund or support. You can help us change that! Since late October, we’ve had to defer or decline 14 applications requesting over $25,000 in fiscal support. In most cases even a small portion of the request made as a grant would be a huge help to the applicant. Most fiscal grants we’ve made are $500, and that’s also the largest amount we’ve granted out of our unrestricted funds. …

…If you’ve ever been to an industry event that inspired, motivated, or nurtured you, then you know what these opportunities can mean. Help us bring that to more people!

(5) WRITERS AND ARTISTS, GET READY. Dream Foundry is also looking ahead to their annual Writing and Arts Contest which opens to submissions from April 1 through May 27, 2024.

(6) MACHINES IN TRAINING. Rivka Galchen is “Thinking About A.I. with Stanisław Lem” in The New Yorker.

…“Solaris” is mostly serious in tone, which makes it a misleading example of Lem’s work. More often and more distinctively, he is funny and madcap and especially playful on the level of language. A dictionary of his neologisms, published in Poland in 2006, has almost fifteen hundred entries; translated into English, his invented words include “imitology,” “fripple,” “scrooch,” “geekling,” “deceptorite,” and “marshmucker.” (I assume that translating Lem is the literary equivalent of differential algebra, or category theory.) A representative story, from 1965, is “The First Sally (A) or, Trurl’s Electronic Bard.” Appearing in a collection titled “The Cyberiad,” the story features Trurl, an engineer of sorts who constructs a machine that can write poetry. Does the Electronic Bard read as an uncanny premonition of ChatGPT? Sure. It can write in the style of any poet, but the resulting poems are “two hundred and twenty to three hundred and forty-seven times better.” (The machine can also write worse, if asked.)

It’s not Trurl’s first machine. In other stories, he builds one that can generate anything beginning with the letter “N” (including nothingness) and one that offers supremely good advice to a ruler; the ruler is not nice, though, so it’s good that Trurl put in a subcode that the machine will not destroy its maker. The Electronic Bard is not easy for Trurl to make. In thinking about how to program it, Trurl reads “twelve thousand tons of the finest poetry” but deems the research insufficient. As he sees it, the program found in the head of even an average poet “was written by the poet’s civilization, and that civilization was in turn programmed by the civilization that preceded it, and so on to the very Dawn of Time.” The complexity of the average poet-machine is daunting….

(7) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. It was the club’s first in-person meeting outside of a Loscon since the pandemic. See photos at “We’re Back Baby! LASFS 1st Meeting in Years” on the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Website.

(8) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 104 of the Octothorpe podcast is “Groundbreaking and Great”. And humble!

Octothorpe 104 is here! We know you’ve eagerly been awaiting our takes on the Hugo Awards, so here they all are, as we discuss our favourite SF of 2023!

Hang on, what do you mean? Something else happened with the Hugo Awards and you thought we were talking about that? Well, er…maybe next time!

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(9) FREE READ. Worlds of If #177 is available as a free download for a limited time at the Worlds of If Magazine website. And the print version and t-shirts are also available for order there.

(10) JAIME LEE MOYER HAS DIED. Author and poet Jaime Lee Moyer was found dead today after friends requested a wellness check. C.C. Finlay announced on Facebook:

Dear friends of Jaime Lee Moyer, we have some very sad news. No one had heard from Jaime in more than ten days, which was concerning because her latest book was scheduled for release this week.

This morning we contacted her rental company and the East Lansing Police Department and asked them to perform a wellness check. They found Jaime deceased in her bedroom, apparently from natural causes. They’ve contacted her family to make formal arrangements. We only just received the news, and we don’t know any other information at this time.

Jaime has friends in the writing community all over the world. We thought this would be the best way to reach you. If you are a friend of hers, a client, or are waiting to hear an answer from her on anything else, we wanted you to know as soon as possible.

With love and grief,

Charlie and Rae

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 29, 1952 Tim Powers, 72. Now Tim Powers is a writer that I really admire. He’s decently prolific as he has eleven most novels published. Now remember this essay is about what I like, so I may or may not mention what something that you, so please do t be too miffed by that. 

Where to start?  That’s easy as it has to be The Anubis Gates. Victorian London and Egypt. Ancient Egypt. Time travel. Anubis. Oh ymmm. It’s on my list of To Be Listened To list as I’ve already read it several times and the sample at Audible indicates Bronson Pinchot does a great job of narrating this. 

Tim Powers

Just as good in a very different manner is On Stranger Tides takes place during the so-called Golden Age of Piracy which was nothing of the kind, when an individual on his way from Britain to Haiti has a series of increasingly wild adventures. I know the novel was purchased to be part on the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. I’ve not seen the film, so I don’t know how much, if anything of his novel made it into the film, but I’m betting nothing except the name did.

Declare, a secret history of the Cold War, is extraordinary. I mean it really. When I was still actually reading novels as opposed to listening to them, as I’m doing now, I didn’t spend six to eight hours a day on one but I remember I did on Declare just to see where the story went. Stellar.

The Vickery and Castine series is just fun, and I mean that as a compliment. Set in contemporary LA, rogue federal agents Sebastian Vickery and Ingrid Castine can see ghosts and other things that are the secret reality of that city. It’s an ongoing series with four novels so far. Highly recommended. 

Then there’s Three Days to Never which I’m not convinced actually makes sense but is really fun to read with its wild mix of supernatural history of what actually happened, time travel and foreign agents. 

Ok, those are my picks as the Powers novels that I really like. So what’s your choices? 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) TWO COMPANIONS CUT A RUG. Radio Times makes sure we don’t miss out when “Karen Gillan and Jenna Coleman share cute Doctor Who reunion”.

Amy Pond and Clara Oswald may have never met on-screen, but the former Doctor Who companions certainly look like they get along behind the camera.

Karen Gillan (Amy) and Jenna Coleman (Clara) were spotted together at an event in London last night, with former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat also in attendance.

Gillan took to the opportunity to share a video of the trio on the dance floor on TikTok alongside the caption: “We might have had a few red wines… but look WHO it is!”…

@karengillan

We might have had a few red wines…but look WHO it is! #doctorwho

? original sound – Karen Gillan

(14) AGBABI Q&A. HAL interviews 2021 Clarke Award nominee Patience Agbabi, author of The Past Master, at Carbon-Based Bipeds.

HAL: Hello Patience, and congratulations to you on finishing your tetralogy. I’m curious, did you always know this would be a four-book cycle or did the project grow more organically?

PATIENCE: …In reality, a series made sense for lots of other reasons since I had too many ideas to fit into a single book: I wanted to explore the past as well as the future; to take different angles on ecological issues, becoming more covert as the series progressed; and also, I wanted to develop my hero, Elle, from a 3-leap girl to a 4-leap young woman. Elle is black, of Nigerian origin and autistic. It was a positive challenge to show the reader how she overcomes numerous obstacles to reach maturity. I originally submitted the manuscript as young YA but Canongate wanted to market it as middle-grade since my hero was 12 and children like to read up. But since my hero gets one year older with each instalment, I knew I’d be segueing into YA territory anyway, which demands a greater level of introspection.

(15) STRINGS ATTACHED. SOMETIMES. “Muppets, marionettes and magic: My life with puppets” – hear an interview with Basil Twist, who created puppets for the My Neighbour Totoro production by the Royal Shakespeare Company  at BBC Sounds.

Basil Twist’s fascination for puppets started as a child watching productions his mum put on as an amateur puppeteer. Basil built his own puppet characters of Star Wars as a kid and loved it, but became a ‘closeted puppeteer’ in his teens. It wasn’t cool anymore, and playing with dolls was seen as feminine. Basil pursued an education at college, but became unhappy and dropped out. Later moving to New York, Basil could finally embrace his puppetry passions. He scoured phone books and bashed phones to track down people involved in puppetry. His diligence took him around the world, winning awards and captivating crowds along the way. During the pandemic Basil found his biggest challenge to date – bringing the much-loved animated Japanese character Totoro to life for a live action stage show…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. The Onion reports “Litter-Robot Recalls Thousands Of Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes That Accidentally Transported Cats To Year 1300”. (Could they be using the same version of the software as my comments section, which unaccountably tells people they’re in random years?)

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Jessica Grose wonders “Could Swifties or Trekkies Decide the Election?” in a New York Times opinion piece. (Well, maybe I exaggerate. I don’t think it really worries her.)

…Social media is where many young voters live — about a third of adults under 30 regularly get news from TikTok, according to Pew Research. And turning out young voters who are otherwise not particularly politically engaged will be key to winning elections up and down the ballot in November. The left-leaning Working Families Party isn’t exactly a threat to take the White House in 2024, but it is on to a new way of reaching Gen Z voters at a time when the old ways are increasingly useless.

As Marcela Valdes explained this week for The New York Times Magazine, young voters tend to have low turnout rates. “No one is more ambivalent about participating in elections than young people,” she wrote. (It’s worth noting, though, that turnout among Americans ages 18 to 29 was historically high in 2018, 2020 and 2022, according to C.I.R.C.L.E., the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.)…

(18) TOMORROW’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT! Kathryn Schulz doubts we’re prepared for “What a Major Solar Storm Could Do to Our Planet” as she tells readers of The New Yorker.

…But “space-weather forecaster” is an optimistic misnomer; for the most part, he and his colleagues can’t predict what will happen in outer space. All they can do is try to figure out what’s happening there right now, preferably fast enough to limit the impact on our planet. Even that is difficult, because space weather is both an extremely challenging field—it is essentially applied astrophysics—and a relatively new one. As such, it is full of many lingering scientific questions and one looming practical question: What will happen here on Earth when the next huge space storm hits?

The first such storm to cause us trouble took place in 1859. In late August, the aurora borealis, which is normally visible only in polar latitudes, made a series of unusual appearances: in Havana, Panama, Rome, New York City. Then, in early September, the aurora returned with such brilliance that gold miners in the Rocky Mountains woke up at night and began making breakfast, and disoriented birds greeted the nonexistent morning.

This lovely if perplexing phenomenon had an unwelcome corollary: around the globe, telegraph systems went haywire. Many stopped working entirely, while others sent and received “fantastical and unreadable messages,” as the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin put it. At some telegraph stations, operators found that they could disconnect their batteries and send messages via the ambient current, as if the Earth itself had become an instant-messaging system.

Owing to a lucky coincidence, all these anomalies were soon linked to their likely cause. At around noon on September 1st, the British astronomer Richard Carrington was outside sketching a group of sunspots when he saw a burst of light on the surface of the sun: the first known observation of a solar flare. When accounts of the low-latitude auroras started rolling in, along with reports that magnetometers—devices that measure fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field—had surged so high they maxed out their recording capabilities, scientists began to suspect that the strange things happening on Earth were related to the strange thing Carrington had seen on the sun….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Jack Dann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/1/24 Scroll Pixel Like Fritos, Scroll Pixel Like Tab And Mountain Dew

(1) 2024 HUGO VOTING STALLED. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon paused Hugo nomination voting on January 28, announcing in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” Their January 30 update said, “We committed to update you on the temporary pause of Hugo Award nominations. Our UK software provider is still working on a solution. We will provide you with our next status update no later than the 6th February.” At this time they do not expect to extend the nomination voting deadline.

(2) NEW STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT. Margaret Atwood appears as a guest star on the CBC series Murdoch Mysteries this coming Monday, February 5. She plays Loren Quinnell, Amateur Ornithologist. “Her and her feathered friends help crack the case…”

(3) NEW CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIPS. The Salam Award and Clarion West Week One Instructor Usman T. Malik (CW ‘14) have offered two new scholarships for 2024 Students: “The Salam Award and the Malik Family Sponsor Scholarships for Pakistani and Palestinian Students”.

The Salam Award Scholarship: For the year 2024, The Salam Award has agreed to sponsor a student of Pakistani origin, whether a Pakistani resident of any ethnicity, or a Pakistani-origin student anywhere in the world up to USD $1,000. 

The Malik Sharif-Fehmida Anwar Scholarship: Usman T. Malik and his parents Malik Tanveer Ali and Shabnam Tanveer Malik have offered an annual travel scholarship to help fund travel up to USD $2,500 for a student of Palestinian-origin. The applicant should be Palestinian Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian from Gaza, West Bank, or Golan Heights, or may be Palestinian diaspora located anywhere in the world. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Clarion West provides a number of scholarships for writers every year. Approximately 60-90% of our Six-Week Workshop participants receive full and partial-tuition scholarships. You must indicate your need for financial aid when you apply to the six-week workshop. Your application is reviewed without regard to your financial aid request.

You can learn more about scholarships for the Six-Week Workshop here

(4) WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT. RedWombat took inspiration from the continuing Hugo controversy to pen these lyrics, shared in ha comment on File 770 today.

This only works if you pronounce it “Wisfuss,” but…

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

But!

It was Hugo nom day
(It was Hugo nom day)
We were running numbers
and there wasn’t much good to be found
Standlee stops by with a glint in his eye
(Trademark!)
You filking this thing or am I?
(Sorry, sorry, please go on)

Standlee says, “we can’t enforce…”
(Why did he say it?)
The lawyers are aghast, of course
(That’s not how you play it)
And MPC did not endorse
(Had to resign but nevermind…)

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

Hey, grew to live in fear of what the lawyers might find next
Feeling like the whole organization’s been hexed
I associate it with the sight of scathing posts
(Tsk tsk tsk)
It’s a heavy job sieving through this murk
Implicit contract no longer seems to work
Can’t rely on the Old SMOFs Network
Who’s gonna do the work?

M-P-C, taken aback
People still mad about the AO3 attack
How can you enforce this implicit contract?
Yeah, the lawyers scream and break into teams
(Hey)
We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

We never should have asked about WSFS, no no no
Why did we talk about WSFS?

(I put that song in my head for the next year doing this, so if you’re going to complain, believe me, I have already been punished.)

(5) WRITERS AT GEN CON. The 2024 Gen Con Writers’ Symposium guests will include Linda D. Addison, Mikki Kendall, and quite a few featured speakers who are sff authors. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.

(6) WHO ELSE HAD A STAKE IN DRACULA? Bobby Derie tells readers that H. P. Lovecraft claimed his friend Edith Miniter was offered the chance to revise Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What do we know about this claim? Find out! “Lovecraft, Miniter, Stoker: the Dracula Revision” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

In The Essential Dracula (1979), Bram Stoker scholars Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu revealed a letter (H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Dec 1932) that had been drawn to their attention by horror anthologist and scholar Les Daniels, where H. P. Lovecraft claimed that an old woman he knew had turned down the chance to revise Stoker’s Dracula. The letter had not been published before this. Although Lovecraft’s claim had been made in print as early as 1938, and a letter with the anecdote was published in the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters from Arkham House in 1965, this seems to be the first time the Stoker scholar community became generally aware of the claim. The authors were intrigued by the possibilities…

(7) LDV NEWS. J. Michael Straczynski shared that Blackstone Indie has unveiled a webpage for The Last Dangerous Visions. It does not take preorders yet.

In 1973, celebrated writer and editor Harlan Ellison announced the third and final volume of his unprecedented anthology series, which began with Dangerous Visions and continued with Again Dangerous Visions. But for reasons undisclosed, The Last Dangerous Visions was never completed.

Now, six years after Ellison’s passing, science fiction’s most famous unpublished book is here. And with it, the heartbreaking true story of the troubled genius behind it.

Provocative and controversial, socially conscious and politically charged, wildly imaginative yet deeply grounded, the thirty-two never-before published stories, essays, and poems in The Last Dangerous Visions stand as a testament to Ellison’s lifelong pursuit of art, representing voices both well-known and entirely new, including: David Brin, Max Brooks, James S. A. Corey, Dan Simmons, Cory Doctorow, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, among others.

With an introduction and exegesis by J. Michael Straczynski, and a story introduction by Ellison himself, The Last Dangerous Visions is an extraordinary addition to an incredible literary legacy.

(8) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR THE CAPTAIN’S LOG. The Visual Effects Society will honor Actor-Producer-Director William Shatner as the recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his valuable contributions to visual arts and filmed entertainment at its annual ceremony on February 21. “William Shatner Named as Recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence”.

(9) ST:TNG GETTING SATURN HONORS. “The Cast Of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ To Receive Special Lifetime Achievement Saturn Award” at TrekMovie.com.

…The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Saturn Awards, being held in Los Angeles this Sunday. For 2024 the Academy is doing something different for the TNG cast with this award. A statement from the Academy to TrekMovie explains:

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is usually presented to an individual for their contributions to genre entertainment. Top luminaries like Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, have received this top honor. It’s not new, but we extended this award to cover the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to its continued influence on the face of general television. It was originally doomed to failure since it was following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek, yet it carved its own identity, and its diverse cast was light years ahead of its time!”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 70. Bill Mumy is best remembered of course for being on Lost in Space for three seasons (“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) though he has a much more extensive performance resume.

At the rather tender age of seven, he makes his genre acting debut on The Twilight Zone as Billy Bayles in “Long Distance Call”.  He’d appear in two Twilight Zone episodes, “It’s A Good Life” as Anthony Fremont, a child with godlike powers and finally as the young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.

He’d show up much later on in Twilight Zone: The Movie in one of the segments, not unsurprisingly a remake of “It’s A Good Life” which here is listed as being from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Here he’s Tim. Whoever that is. 

He’d be on the reboot of the Twilight Zone in “It’s Still A Good Life” as the Adult Anthony Fremont.

Photo of Billy Mumy in 2013
Billy Mumy in 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He next had three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, none genre. His next genre outing would be playing two different characters on BewitchedI Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters followed.

Then of course was the eighty-three episode, three season run on Lost in Space. He’d be eleven years old when it started. I know I’ve seen all of it at least once. No idea how the Suck Fairy would treat it nearly this long on, but I really liked it when I saw it at the time. 

Remember the 1990 Captain America? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In this WW II version, he plays a young boy, Tom Kimball, who photographs Captain America over the Capital building kicking a missile off after batting Red Skull so crashes in Alaska, burying itself and Steve Rogers under the ice. 12%, repeat 12%, is the rating audience reviewers gave it on Rotten Tomatoes. 

He showed up once in the first iteration of a Flash series, and then has three appearances as Tommy Puck in the Nineties Superboy series. The first I saw and quite like, the latter not a single episode have I encountered. 

The next thing that is quite worthy of note is his stellar role on Babylon 5 as Mimbari warrior monk, I think that’s the proper term,  Lennier. Of one hundred and ten episodes, he was in all but two. That’s right, just two. Or at least credited as being so. What an amazing role that was. I’ve watch this series including the six films at least twice straight through. No Suck Fairy dares comes near it. 

The last thing of note, and I’m not seen the series, was him playing Dr. Zachary Smith on the reboot of the Lost in Space series that came out just a few years ago for two episodes. Please, please don’t ask who he’s playing as my continuous headache got even worse when I tried to figure out who he really was. Really I did. What they with that series was a crime. 

(11) PUTTING THE BITE ON TOURISTS. [Item by Steven French.] If you’re ever in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Atlas Obscura recommends a visit to “Vampa: Vampire & Paranormal Museum”.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE SAME building as an antiques store in a small Pensylvania town lies a shockingly large collection of antique vampire-killing sets.

Covering the walls are the standard tools of the vampire hunter: the stake, the crucifix, the holy water bottle. But the stakes are far more than pointy, wooden sticks. Believed to date back centuries, all the weapons have been beautifully decorated with a variety of religious and allegorical carvings. They are spectacular objets d’art from every corner of the world, including several personal collections from actors who played Dracula in films. One wooden “traveling vampire hunter kit,” from around 1870 was owned by actor Carlos Villarias, who portrayed the famous count in a Spanish language Dracula….

(12) EARTH FARTS? Space reports that the “Mystery of Siberia’s giant exploding craters may finally be solved”.

The craters are unique to Russia’s northern Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and are not known to exist elsewhere in the Arctic, suggesting the key to this puzzle lies in the landscape, according to a preprint paper published Jan. 12 to the EarthArXiv database.

Researchers have proposed several explanations for the gaping holes over the years, ranging from meteor impacts to natural-gas explosions. One theory suggests the craters formed in the place of historic lakes that once bubbled with natural gas rising from the permafrost below. These lakes may have dried up, exposing the ground beneath to freezing temperatures that sealed the vents through which gas escaped. The resulting buildup of gas in the permafrost may eventually have been released through explosions that created the giant craters.

… But the historic-lake model fails to account for the fact that these “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in a variety of geological settings across the peninsulas, not all of which were once covered by lakes, according to the new preprint, which has not been peer reviewed….

… Permafrost on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies widely in its thickness, ranging from a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet (500 m). The soil likely froze solid more than 40,000 years ago, imprisoning ancient marine sediments rich in methane that gradually transformed into vast natural gas reserves. These reserves produce heat that melts the permafrost from below, leaving pockets of gas at its base.

Permafrost in Russia and elsewhere is also thawing at the surface due to climate change. In places where it is already thin on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, melting from both ends and the pressure from the gas may eventually cause the remaining permafrost to collapse, triggering an explosion.

This “champagne effect” would explain the presence of smaller craters around the eight giant craters, as huge chunks of ice propelled out by the explosions may have severely dented the ground, according to the preprint….

(13) HUNT TO EXTINCTION. The stories you hear from Brian Keene.

(14) NEW HEADSHOT. Scott Lynch introduced his new photo with a wry comment.

(15) COMING ATTRACTIONS. The “Next on Netflix 2024: The Series & Films Preview” sizzle reel includes clips from Bridgerton, Squid Game, Umbrella Academy and Rebel Moon.

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty respond to a letter of comment from Tobes Valois in episode 102 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I fully comprehend the mysteries”.  

Octothorpe 102 is here! We discuss the Hugo Awards debacle in some depth and SOLVE ALL THE ISSUES (no, really) but we book-end it with letters of comment and picks for those who need a bit of respite. Artwork by Alison Scott. Listen here!  

Alt text: Scooby, Velma and Daphne unmask the panda from last week’s cover art, and the person wearing the panda suit looks a lot like Dave McCarty. They say “It was old Mister McCarty all along!” and he says “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling Hugo finalists!” He is tied up with rope. The words “Octothorpe! 102” appear at the top of the image.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/24 Mission Of Impossible Gravity

(1) LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR. C. E. Murphy shares her views about what kind of revision request letters work best: “Process Post: on edit letters” at The Essential Kit.

There was a discussion going on over on Bluesky about dealing with edit letters, and this truth came up: “Editors aren’t always right about the solutions, but they’re nearly always right about the problems.”

That thread went on to discuss how the person quoting it, who happens to be KJ Charles whose books I read all of last year and who is also an editor, approaches edit letters; her approach involves suggesting ideas to fix the problems, because it opens the writer’s mind to the possiblity that the book could have something different happen in that moment, and also it gives them something to reject/bounce off/spitefully correct. Which, like: that seems very valid.

That said, I have recently watched friends get SUPER LONG, to my mind, edit letters, 70%+ of which are ideas & suggestions as how to tackle problems, and I honestly think my brain would explode. My editors have VERY MUCH been of the “this is a problem, pls fix” approach, rather than the “let us brainstorm!” approach, and I think that works for me….

(2) NONSENSE OF TASTE. Camestros Felapton shared a couple of riotous sci-fi themed brew labels in “Thursday’s Sunday Beer”. I won’t steal his thunder – click the link to discover his selections — only thank him for introducing us to New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing Company where literally dozens more comical labels can be viewed, including tap badges like these:

(3) SEATTLE 2025 STATEMENT ABOUT REGISTRATION. Seattle 2025 Worldcon chair Kathy Bond today made the following statement about their registration software, and a delay in the ability to upgrade to attending membership for Seattle Worldcon bid supporters and site selection voters:

Due to a last-minute change in our registration software, our ability to process registrations and upgrades to attending memberships for site selection voters and bid supporters has been delayed past our originally projected date. We apologize for the delay. Please be assured we will honor our initial registration rates for at least two weeks after we are able to make our registration system go live. 

Thank you for your patience as we iron out the bugs.

(4) BRITISH LIBRARY CONVENES ONLINE PANEL ABOUT LE GUIN. On January 23, join Theo Downes Le Guin, Ursula’s son and literary executor; Julie Phillips, her biographer, and writer Nicola Griffiths (shortlisted for the 2023 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction) for an evening of appreciation and exploration: The British Library Cultural Events – “The Realms of Ursula K. Le Guin Tickets”.

  • Event: 7:00 pm UK/11:00 am Pacific
  • Tickets are £6.50, or £3.25 for Library members

This is an online event streamed on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

(5) THESE REBOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] This could be good, it could be decidedly not. “’The Avengers’ Reboot Coming; ‘Industry’ Writers Pen StudioCanal Pilot” at Deadline.

There were rumors that the project was in with HBO, but this was denied last year. It is not clear where The Avengers reboot will land. StudioCanal declined to comment as talks continue….

Macnee starred as Steed, who fought off diabolical plots against the state with his trademark bowler hat and umbrella. He had a succession of high-fashion assistants played by the likes of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. They broke ground for being Steed’s equal, holding their own in brawls and delivering playful quips….

Steed’s first partner wasn’t a woman at all but medical doctor David H Keel as the series  spun out of Police Surgeon where Keel played the same character who asked Steed to help on a case. It would feel like a uniquely different series than the later series as the tone, Steed’s personality and stories are markedly more grounded. 

Nightclub singer Venus Smith played by Julie Stevens was next, just six episodes in duration. Now we have Cathy Gale played by Honor Blackman, an anthropologist. Of course we finally got the extraordinary Emma Peel as played by Diana Rigg, described as a “talented amateur agent”.  

Linda Thorson ended the series as Tara King. An actual spy, enlisted at an early age in the Intelligence Service as a trainee, under the number 69. Would I kid about that? No, I would not. 

So how do you reboot a beloved classic of British television? Personally I don’t think you can. 

So before you ask, I prefer not to mention that film.

(6) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University has launched The Climate Action Almanac, a free collection of fiction, nonfiction, and art exploring positive climate futures, grounded in real science and in the complexities of diverse human and physical geographies. The book is presented in partnership with the MIT Press and supported by the ClimateWorks Foundation.

The Almanac features 8 individual works of science fiction, with four authors contributing two stories apiece: Vandana Singh, Gu Shi, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda. Overall, the collection features contributions from more than 25 writers representing 17 different countries around the globe, from Argentina, Norway, and China to Nigeria, Germany, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and more. On the science fiction front, there is also a dialogue between Kim Stanley Robinson and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(7) NOT OK IN OK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A certain Oklahoma state legislator might want to take advantage of any mental health benefits available in his medical plan. Representative Justin Humphrey apparently has a possibly-unhealthy obsession with Furries. Or, perhaps specifically, with the urban myth that Furries are being provided litter boxes by school systems. According to HuffPost, “An Oklahoma Republican Wants Animal Services To Remove Furries From Schools”.

A Republican legislator in Oklahoma who once said that transgender people have “a mental illness” introduced a bill this week that would allow animal services to remove students who identify as furries from school.

The bill, which was pre-filed ahead of Oklahoma’s legislative session, would bar students who “purport to be an imaginary animal or animal species, or who engage in anthropomorphic behavior commonly referred to as furries,” from school activities.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, may seem farcical. But the idea that schools accommodate students who identify as animals has its roots in a long-standing — and repeatedly debunked — conservative myth.

Republican legislators and candidates have for years claimed that schools are putting litter boxes in classrooms for students who identify as cats or furries. At least 20 GOP politicians peddled these claims in 2022, and used them as a way to sound the alarm over protections and accommodations for LGBTQ+ students, NBC News reported.

“What’s most provocative about this hoax is how it turns to two key wedge issues for conservatives: educational accommodations and gender nonconformity,” Joan Donovan, a researcher on media and politics at Harvard University, told the outlet at the time…

(8) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Rich Horton sadly reports that “Bad Things Come in Threes: Terry Bisson (February 12, 1942 – January 10, 2024), Howard Waldrop (September 15, 1946 – January 14, 2024), Tom Purdom (April 19, 1936 – January 14, 2024): A Tripartite Obituary” in an obituary notice for Black Gate.

On the heels of Terry Bisson’s death I heard news that Howard Waldrop had died. And this morning I woke up to learn that Tom Purdom had also died. A profound 1-2 punch to the SF community, followed by a knockout. Bisson and Waldrop were two of the most original, indeed weirdest, SF writers; and if Purdom wasn’t as downright weird as those two he was as intriguing in his slightly more traditional fashion. All three writers wrote novels, but it’s fair to say they are all best known for their short fiction….

(9) PURDOM TRIBUTE. Michael Swanwick also salutes the late author in “Tom Purdom, Heart of Philadelphia” at Flogging Babel.

This is very hard for me to write. So please excuse its infelicities. I knew this man for a full fifty years.

Tom Purdom is dead. Not enough people will know what a loss this is. While he was as vivid and eccentric an individual as any of the rest of us, he absolutely refused to promote himself. I think he believed it was ungentlemanly. But those who knew him, cherished him.

Tom was the very heart of Philadelphia science fiction long before I came to town in 1974. He and his socially elegant wife Sara Purdom had monthly open houses where all the SF community was welcome–even rowdies like Gardner Dozois and myself. They two served as role models for Marianne and me. 

His gatherings were as glittery events as our crew ever saw. I recall Milton Rothman discussing the physics of nuclear-powered aircraft, and I most vividly remember Jack McKnight (who machined the first Hugo trophies in  his garage) pretending to steal our then-infant son Sean at one of these soirees….

(10) PETER SCHICKELE (1935-2024). The composer also known as “P.D.Q. Bach”, Peter Schickele, died January 16 at the age of 88.

Schickele won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album four years in a row from 1990-1994. He also won in 2000 for Best Classical Crossover album. Once, he included in a concert program book an airsickness bag, labeled “For Use In Case of Cultural Discomfort.”

His catalogue of more than 100 works includes the score for Silent Running (1972).

He hosted the radio show “Schickele Mix” for Public Radio International. In 168 episodes, produced between 1992 and 1999, he explored the elements, concepts and techniques that make music work, illustrated with classical, jazz and rock recordings, proclaiming in his introductions that “all musics are created equal.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 71. So we come this Scroll to Pamela Dean, one of the writers I consider without equivocation to be one of the best fantasy writers ever. 

She’s a member of two writing groups, of which the first was the Scribblies, with Nate Bucklin, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey,Will Shetterly and Patricia Wrede.

Then there was Pre-Joycean Fellowship. Love that name!  It was a shared belief that was more or lesser seriously adopted by several writers to indicate that they value 19th-century values of storytelling. Steven Brust wrote that “it is in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.” 

Pamela Dean

Writers who are members include Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman, Will Shetterly, Adam Stemple and Jane Yolen. No idea when the Pre-Joycean Fellowship meet up for tea and biscuits, but they must, right? 

Warning: this is my list of favorites, not a comprehensive overview though it comes close. 

Tam Lin, based of course on that Child ballad, and set in the early Seventies at the fictional Blackstock College in Minnesota is just brilliant. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It’s certainly my favorite book by her. 

Another Child Ballad, “Riddles Wisely Expounded”, is the root text of her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I relish a story with a house that shouldn’t exist and a character who speaks in riddles. Quite delicious indeed.

And for my reading pleasure, the final set of works by her is The Secret Country trilogy consisting of The Secret CountryThe Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon. A Royal family in considerable turmoil, witches, unicorns — what’s not to like? Really it’s superb storytelling at its best. 

She’s written but thirteen short stories and a poem, six of which and the poem were published in the Laivek tales that were edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterley who created that franchise. Yes, I’ve read the Laivek tales and they are really great fantasy. Hers are among the best here. (The one here was co-written with Patricia C. Wrede.)

All of the novels I like are now available from the usual suspects. Oh and what I thought but now know having just checked the usual sources was a single Laivek story with Wrede is actually multiple stories as it’s available here as Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, all three hundred sixty-four pages of it! 

I’m very glad to see these nine Laivek stories getting published like this, and I’m hoping more Laivek writers do the same. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WATCH ON THE RHINE. The Governator ran afoul of German customs inspectors says the Guardian: “Arnold Schwarzenegger held at Munich airport over luxury watch”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was briefly held by customs officers at Munich airport on Wednesday after allegedly failing to declare a €26,000 (£22,000) Audemars Piguet watch the Terminator star was planning to sell at an auction in aid of his climate crisis charity.

The Austrian-born actor and former governor of California, 76, was stopped at the airport for about three hours upon arrival from Los Angeles, according to the German tabloid Bild, which quoted customs officials.

Schwarzenegger was taken aside by officers who searched his luggage and found the watch, which the actor had allegedly not declared on his arrivals customs form….

A spokesperson for the main customs office in Munich said: “We have initiated criminal tax proceedings. The watch should have been registered because it is an import.”

(14) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 101 of the Octothorpe podcast “John Has Developed Precognitive Abilities”.

Alison Scott, John Coxon and Liz Batty get the year started off correctly. We give listeners a round-up of forthcoming conventions (mostly in the UK), give Keanu Reeves a frank talking-to, and discuss some hot new SF.

(15) UP AGAINST THE PRIZE WALL. This project is not being marketed as horror for some inexplicable reason: “Chuck E. Cheese Television Series Based on Restaurant Chain Now in Development” at Yahoo!

Chuck E. Cheese reality television series is now in development.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Magical Elves, a production company that’s worked on shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway, is now developing a reality television series based on the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.

The description of the series reads, “The format will feature stand-alone comedic physical challenges where duos of ‘big kids’ (a.k.a. adults) will compete over supersized arcade games — including pinball, air hockey, alley roller, and the human claw.  The top ticket-earning duo will get the chance to exchange their tickets for prizes off the massive version of the iconic Chuck E. Cheese prize wall.”…

(16) IT’S A GAS! Futurism reports “Astronomers Puzzled by Galaxy With No Stars”.

Astronomers have accidentally found an entire galaxy that appears to have plenty of gas — but no visible stars to speak of.

Their findings, which were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society, may seem paradoxical on their face, but the discovery could provide a rare, possibly never-before-seen insight that challenges our understanding of how stars and galaxies are formed….

… The eerily empty object, called J0613+52, is located 270 million light years away, according to a Big Think writeup on the discovery, and at the very least appears to be a low-surface brightness galaxy (LSB).

As the name suggests, an LSB is significantly less bright than other glimmering objects that populate the night sky because the gasses it contains are so spread out that few stars are formed.

Still, this classification holds that such a galaxy would at least have some stars, and J0613+52, with seemingly none at all, could be something even more rare and elusive: a dark, primordial galaxy.

“This could be our first discovery of a nearby galaxy made up of primordial gas,” Karen O’Neil, a senior scientist of the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement about the research….

(17) BARBIE’S DREAM HOUSE. Neil DeGrasse Tyson geo-locates Barbieland using visual details in the movie in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as adapted by @EnigmaWorldOfficial.

(18) YOU’RE LOCKED INSIDE WITH ME. Isn’t that what Rorschach said was the inmates’ problem? There’s good reason to call this “The Creeptastic ‘Abigail’ Trailer”. The film arrives in theaters on April 19.

Children can be such monsters!. You just can’t ‘dance’ around the subject. If you need convincing, check out Radio Silence’s first trailer for the horror film ‘Abigail,’ featuring a very, very creepy kid. After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, as they discover that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/24 It’s 2024, Are Those Godstalks Distimmed Yet?

(1) THE MUSIC OF HEAVY METAL. Maya St. Clair remembers “When Heavy Metal Magazine Made Playlists” at News from the Orb.

When I worked at Heavy Metal magazine, people in my life inevitably assumed it was a publication about heavy metal music. My usual response was “not really,” and I’d describe how Heavy Metal was a comics magazine focused on experimental, adult-rated sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve since realized that a better response would have been “fuck it, probably” — since Heavy Metal, like cosmic background radiation, seemed to presuppose and pervade everything, including music. Name a thing, and Heavy Metal had it: yellow, cyan, black, magenta, rectangles, circles, pterodactyls, Homer, Shakespeare, love, death, superheroes, hamburgers, Jane Fonda, H. P. Lovecraft, boobs, dicks, God, jazz, rockabilly, and (inevitably) heavy metal music, lower case….

St. Clair has compiled playlists at Spotify that emulate some Heavy Metal writers’ Eighties recommendation lists. Including two by my old friend Lou Stathis! Here’s the first —

In 1980, as it reached the height of its influence and circulation, Heavy Metal introduced music criticism by SFF editor/music nerd Lou Stathis and others, in the “Dossier” section. The contrarian Stathis was a fearless advocate for the experimental over the conventional (he hated the fucking Eagles, man, and Bruce Springsteen’s normie-ism was a running joke). Alternative icons like Brian Eno, Genesis, the Cure, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream got their recognition in Heavy Metal, plus uncountable niche bands.

Anyway, the HM squad would occasionally throw together a DJ set, album recs, or mixtape. I’ve consolidated them into playlists on Spotify, linked below….

The Metal Box: Lou Stathis’ 1983 Singles Picks

Stathis sometimes compiled lists of his “heavy rotation” singles and albums. In April 1984, he listed his top picks for the previous year. Some, like Michael Jackson and Eurythmics, are recognizable. Others are supremely obscure.

The Metal Box 1983 on Spotify

(2) ON A TANGENT. Dave Truesdale introduces the “Tangent Online 2023 Recommended Reading List”, once again targeting SFWA as the reason “real world politics” have intruded on the science fiction field. Not because Truesdale is unaware of the history of sf, but because he argues that somehow the Thirties political activism of young sff writers and editors didn’t really count.

For the most part, the literary aspect of the science fiction field proceeded as usual in 2023; the general machinery operated well enough to keep the magazines and books appearing on reasonable schedules, and SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, formerly for decades since its 1965 inception the Science Fiction Writers of America) the field’s one and only member-funded 501(c)(3) tax exempt administrative organization, was still alive and kicking, though to my mind and due to external “real world” politics, took a wrong turn that gave the outside world an entirely misleading picture of the organization as a literary organization, but instead revealed its political advocacy (or lack thereof) on any given issue.…. 

…Politics has entered the SF field directly but sporadically over the past 97 years, since its official birth as a genre began with the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories. Early readers became fans when they corresponded with others through letter columns, and small SF fan clubs began to sprout all over the country. The first SF worldcon was held July 1-4, 1939 in New York City, to coincide with the World’s Fair in the same city. Attendance was in the dozens and many of the members were in their teens. Sam Moskowitz (later to become SF’s premiere historian) chaired, with a few of his friends, this first worldcon at the ripe old age of 19. A group of SF fans known by their club name of the Futurians, led by Donald A. Wollheim (later founder of DAW Books), Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Doc Lowndes, and a few others were at odds with Moskowitz’s group and wanted to attend the worldcon. Many of these young SF fans were fashionably members of the local socialist or communist branches; it was the cool thing to do at the time. Without getting into the details (there were many different accounts given from both sides) the Moskowitz faction turned the Wollheim, Pohl, faction (the Futurians) away and were thus excluded from the convention. This became known in fandom and the early fan press as “The Great Exclusion Act.” Wollheim and Pohl, among others were either in their teens (C.M. Kornbluth 14 or 15, Pohl 19) or early twenties (Wollheim 24, Doc Lowndes 22) and full of headstrong piss and vinegar. That the feud between fan groups and the turning away of some from the worldcon was primarily because of politics was downplayed by Pohl when he wrote in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, “We pretty nearly had it coming,” and then, “What we Futurians made very clear to the rest of New York fandom was that we thought we were better than they were. For some reason that annoyed them.”

So in essence what amounted to an early fan feud between SF fan clubs whose members were still in their teens or early twenties and had little to do with politics, has somehow become the one size fits all go-to argument that supposedly proves politics has always been a part of SF and SF fandom and is thus nothing new….

(3) STAY OR GO? Catherynne M. Valente’s post “On Recent Developments at Substack” at Welcome to Garbagetown analyzes the dilemma of persisting in using that platform.

Many people have reached out to me to discuss Substack’s not-always-stellar history of managing a diverse breadth of opinions and/or policies on monetization.

Let me make it clear: This was always an issue, and I have always been aware of it. It’s gotten worse of late. And now I just feel like Marc Maron trying to figure out what to do with his friends who voted for Trump….

…Yes, Substack has and does allow dipshit fascist transphobic and otherwise morally-cancerous fuckgiblets to post freely and make money from their platform. They also allow a lot of marginalized creators to flourish and make a livelihood here. Like every other site I’ve ever known, all of whom have been incredibly reluctant to crack down on extreme right-wing content despite that very policy allowing it to proliferate wildly and bring us to a very bad historical place. Do I want them to kick out anyone making money on hate? Yep. Do I understand the slippery slope argument about free speech? That it’s much easier to take no stance and allow everything, trusting the users to sort it out, than to take the step of defining what opinions can be allowed to be heard? Yep.

I do not know if I’m going to stay here. I just don’t know. I came to Substack because of the Twitter diaspora. I managed to build a small audience, built mostly on hating fascism and idiocy. I like the community I and all of you have built here and I’m reluctant to migrate and lose people. But I don’t want to support the Badness by being here. And yet, if I go, does that not just abandon another space because bad people are also here, handing them control of yet another hugely-recognized platform, control they could never achieve on their own just on numbers and popularity, while the people who have any moral compass whatsoever have to continually start over from scratch?…

(4) AWARD-WORTHY APPAREL. The “Costume Designers Guild Awards 2024 Nominations” include two sff-specific categories. (See the full list of finalists at the link.)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

  • Barbie – Jacqueline Durran
  • Haunted Mansion – Jeffrey Kurland
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – Trish Summerville
  • The Little Mermaid – Colleen Atwood & Christine Cantella
  • Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire – Stephanie Porter

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

  • Ahsoka: Part Eight: The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord – Shawna Trpcic
  • Loki: 1893 – Christine Wada
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire – Shawna Trpcic
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Pride Parade – Laura Montgomery
  • The Witcher: The Art of the Illusion – Lucinda Wright

(5) OCCIDENTAL OCCULT. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton will teach a three-part online course “Confronting the Spectral: A History of Ghosts in the Western World With Lisa Morton” beginning January 22 through Atlas Obscura Experiences. Full details including schedule and prices at the link.

What We’ll Do

In this three-part lecture series, explore how people have thought about ghosts through time in the Western world.

Course Description

In this course, we’ll trace the history of ghostly encounters reported across the Western world, both friendly and nefarious. We’ll begin with ghosts from the classical world who haunted heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus, and look at the Biblical story of Saul and the Witch of Endor. We’ll meet medieval necromancers, Victorian spiritualists, and finally, the modern ghost-hunter. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a deep understanding of how cultures have conceived of the most common supernatural entity throughout history, but also ideas and suggestions for engaging in your own supernatural investigations.…

(6) SEA DEVILS SPINOFF? “Doctor Who Spinoff Series Seemingly Confirmed, Will Feature Classic Villains” says CBR.com.

A production listing on the Film and Television Industry Alliance website confirmed pre-production has begun on a spinoff series of the massively popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is scheduled to begin filming in March. The listing also provides a brief summary of the project, describing it as a fantasy-action adventure featuring the Sea Devils, an old villain from the classic Doctor Who series.

The listing does not provide any further details about the show’s plot, but it does reveal some of the crew members involved in the project, such as Doctor Who showrunner Russel T Davies set to return as the series’ writer. Other names include producers Phill Collinson, Vicki Delow, Julie Gardner and Lord of the Rings TV series producer Jane Tranter….

…As for when the spinoff series may see a premiere, the listing does not provide any concrete information, though it does confirm the projected filming date of March 4, 2024. …

(7) NEEDS WORK. The Mary Sue’s Charlotte Simmons would like to be a Zack Snyder fan if only the auteur would make that a little easier: “’Rebel Moon’ Proves That Zack Snyder Needs To Grow Up, and I Say That With Love”.

…Sure, it would have given the infamously obnoxious Snyder cult some more ammunition, but more good movies is a win for everybody. Sadly, whatever remotely interesting set dressing Zack Snyder cooked up here was woefully undermined by incoherent storytelling at its most relentless and suffocating character development—nay, the bare essentials of characterization—behind a mountain of formulaic sci-fi battles and dialogue that not even an amateur could be proud of.

Indeed, Rebel Moon is proof in the pudding that Snyder has some serious work to do, and that’s a damn shame, because the nature of his raw creative pursuits is stupendously important in the genres he occupies, which perhaps makes his failures all the more depressing….

(8) OCTOTHORPE CENTURY. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Lis Batty receive a telegram in episode 100 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I Don’t Have Show Notes or Alcohol”.

We celebrate with a bevy of special segments, including ”letters of comment”, “talking about the Glasgow Worldcon”, and “aftershow involving games”. PRETTY ADVANCED STUFF. 

(9) GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024). Actress Glynis Johns, best known to fans as Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) and as a forest maiden who assists Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1955), died January 4 at the age of 100. She also appeared in several episodes of Sixties TV’s Batman as Lady Penelope Peasoup.

…Johns won a Tony for her role as Desiree Armfeldt in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” introducing the song “Send in the Clowns” — written for her by Sondheim. In addition she was Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in 1960’s “The Sundowners.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 66. I encountered Matt Frewer the same way that I suspect most of you did when he was unrecognizable as Max Headroom almost forty years ago. That character debuted in April 1985 in the Channel 4 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It’s virtually identical to the premiere of the American television series, though there might be a bit of foul language if I remember correctly. Or not. 

Two days after it was broadcast, Max hosted on the same channel The Max Headroom Show, a program where he introduced music videos, made pointed comments on various topics, and conducted rather off the wall interviews with guests before a live studio audience. These would eventually be aired in the States on Cinemax.

Max would become a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on way too many TV commercials with the catchphrase “Catch the wave!”.  You can see one of those commercials here

Now we come to the Max Headroom series which on ABC from just March 31, 1987, to May 5, 1988 with just a total of fifteen episodes. Damn it seemed like it lasted longer than that. He, like everyone on the series, was spot on in creating a believable future. I consider it one of the best SF series ever done.

He’s got way too many genre roles to list them all here so let me focus on a few of my favorite ones.

He was Dr. Jim Taggart on Eureka. On screen for a total of eighteen episodes, his Aussie character was the Eureka’s veterinarian and “biological containment specialist”, which means he catches whatever needs to be caught. If it moved and it did something weird, he was after it.

And then he was Dr. Aldous Leekie, the primary Big Bad on the first season of Orphan Black. He was in charge of the handling the clones as if anyone should trust him.

Though I find it hard to believe, the Hallmark Channel produced the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes films. And he was Sherlock Holmes in four of these films — The Sign of FourThe Hound of BaskervillesThe Royal Scandal and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.

My final role for him a silly one indeed, it’s in In Search of Dr. Seuss where he is the Cat in The Hat. This thirty-nine-year-old film is a delightful romp  — Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Hunch, Patrick Stewart is Sgt. Mulvaney, and the list goes on far too long to give in full here. 

And yes, he’s been in a lot of genre films, go ahead and tell me your favorite. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHO IS YOUR HOST. All you Tennant fans pay attention: “David Tennant To Host 2024 BAFTA Film Awards” reports Deadline.

Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant has been set as the host of the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, which take place February 18 at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London….

…Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA, added: “We are over the moon that David Tennant will be our host for the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards. He is deservedly beloved by British and international audiences, alike. His warmth, charm, and mischievous wit will make it a must-watch show next month for our guests at the Royal Festival Hall and the millions of people watching at home….

(13) SEMI-MANDATORY VIEWING. Dylan sang “Everyone Must Get Stoned” but never mind that, CBR.com insists you see these 10 “Must-Watch Sci-Fi Movies For Fans of The Genre”. Or heck, maybe you already have! In the middle of the list comes the film that gave us Ripley.

5. Alien Combined Science and Horror Perfectly

Alien (1979)

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission….

Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s biomechanical designs for the alien artifacts and creatures helped turn a great movie into an incredible one. With a story that starts out similarly to Forbidden Planet, in which a space crew investigates a distress signal, the film is transformed into an intense thriller with a horrifying Alien Xenophorph stalking and killing the crew. With stunning visuals and a premise too good for just one movie, Alien spawned a multi-media franchise that has entertained for more than four decades.

(14) MORE PICKUP. And it’s arguably appropriate to follow a mention of the Alien series (“Get away from her you bitch!”) with Giant Freakin Robot’s news item “Exoskeletons Take Huge Step Toward Becoming Common”.

Science fiction would appear to be becoming nonfiction in Europe. Indeed, in Italy, a groundbreaking pilot project involving real-life exoskeletons achieved exciting results. The Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea and the Livorno Port Company reported marked advantages using the exoskeletal tech, developed by IUVO and Comau (a subsidiary of Stellantis)….

…The workers regularly undertook strenuous tasks: loading and unloading goods, relocating heavy loads, and securing containers onto ships. Without the sci-fi-reminiscent exoskeletons, these activities are notoriously exhausting. They also pose genuine risks of introducing musculoskeletal disorders.

The initial evaluations conducted by IUVO and Comau involved measuring muscle activity and gathering feedback through questionnaires–all to assess the perceived drop in fatigue. The findings were overwhelmingly positive. Laborers reportedly adjusted well to the novel technology, additionally recognizing the exoskeleton’s significant impact on their efficiency and physical well-being. 

Based on the data, utilizing MATE XT and MATE XB technologies can potentially lessen the effort required by workers.

By how much? As much as thirty percent….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended crew knows “How Batman Should Have Ended” – meaning the version where Michael Keaton is Batman and Jack Nicholson is The Joker.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/21/23 Scrollabye Of Cordwainer Birdland

(1) BRAND NEW AUDIO FEATURE. Daniel Dern sent a music video playlist to accompany his Pixel Scroll title today.

“Lullabye of Broadway” (from 42nd Street)

“Birdland”

Optional play(list)

(2) NEW VOICE CHIMES IN. There’s a slight changing of the guard at the “Worldbuilding for Masochists” podcast. Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris will now be joined by Natania Barron, who’s taking over from Rowenna Miller.

Cass Morris made the announcement on her Scribendi newsletter.

There’s been some change and excitement on the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast! Rowenna Miller, who’s been a co-host since the beginning, is stepping back for reasons of Life And Everything. She’s not disappearing forever; she’s still working on the anthology with us, and we’ll certainly pull her in to be a guest in the future. Marshall and I will miss her, but we’re also very excited to welcome Natania Barron as our new co-host!

Natania is a fantastic person who I first met through, if I’m remembering it correctly, yelling about corsets on Twitter-that-was. She had the popular #ThreadTalk feature there, showcasing her expertise as a fashion historian. She’s also a medievalist and Arthuriana-ist! I got to hang out with her at ConCarolinas a couple of years ago, and she’s as delightful in real life as she is online. Listeners can get to know her a bit in this week’s episode, Passing the Torch.

(3) THE RUNAWAY BRIDE IS RUNAWAY WINNER. When Radio Times finishes counting the votes, “David Tennant bests Matt Smith in Doctor Who Christmas episode poll”. And Cat Eldridge says, “Why we should be in the least bit surprised that David Tennant bested Matt Smith in this particular poll?” He’s been the best loved Doctor of the modern era in almost every poll taken, if not all of the them.

… The first round, in which they were split by Doctor (with the Tenth Doctor getting two separate polls due to the vast number of his specials) saw The Runaway Bride, The End of Time Part 2, A Christmas Carol, The Husbands of River Song and Eve of the Daleks all sail through.

Meanwhile, in the second round, it was just The Runaway Bride and A Christmas Carol which made it through, with the former going on to take the crown, with 53.4 per cent of the final vote, against the latter’s 46.6 per cent….

(4) MAIL FROM THE NORTH POLE. [Item by Steven French.] This is well known but it’s still lovely to see his drawings: “J.R.R. Tolkien Is Our Favorite Father Christmas” at Atlas Obscura.

On December 24, 1920, J.R.R. Tolkien sat down in his study and wrote a letter to his three-year-old son, John, who had recently asked about Father Christmas. In spidery handwriting, in red ink, Tolkien replied as Father Christmas (the English folkloric figure now widely equated with Santa Claus), addressed from “Christmas House, North Pole.”

The accompanying picture that he drew is charmingly Tolkien-esque. A red-coated figure with a long white beard and a rosy red nose walks through the snow. His dome-shaped house glows from a wintery hillside, at the end of a staircase lit with lanterns.

For the next 23 years, every Christmas Eve, Tolkien wrote a letter to his four children from Father Christmas. What began as short, informative letters—“I am just now off to Oxford with a bundle of toys”—evolved into longer tales about life at the North Pole. The 1932 letter begins, “Dear Children, There is alot to tell you. First of all a Merry Christmas! But there have been lots of adventures you will want to hear about. It all began with the funny noises underground … ”

(5) A MOVING TRIBUTE. “Lord Of The Rings Lego Rivendell Set Comes to Life in Epic Stop-Motion Video” at Nerdist.

Earlier in the year, Nerdist went on its own epic journey and built LEGO’s Rivendell set. As expected, the results were astounding. The build features all the hallmarks of The Lord of the Rings movies’ elven sanctuary, including the bridge and gazebo where Arwen and Aragorn share a moonlit moment and the Council Ring where our favorite fellowship forms. Not to mention, it comes with 15 Minifigures. In short, it gives you everything you need to recreate sequences from the beloved franchise in LEGO form. And in a gorgeous stop motion video, shared by Warner Bros. itself, DigitalWizardsStudios did exactly that. Watch as LEGO’s The Lord of the Rings Rivendell set transforms into a stop-motion animation masterpiece that reimagines all our favorite cinematic scenes….

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 99 of Octothorpe is “Keep Sending Ops Until They Fix It”.

Merry Christmas! The three of us are scattered to the four winds this week, so we’ve recorded something to tide everyone over until 2024. We play “If I Ran the Zoo…Con”, a game which models conrunning. Will we succeed in running a great convention? Or will our decisions have dire consequences? Listen here, and we’ll see you next year! 

(7) HARLAN’S 4-HOUR CAREER AT DISNEY. Part of Lifehacker’s article “Is Disney Actually Woke, or Is It All a Conspiracy Theory?” detours to pull in this story:

Truth: Harlan Ellison was fired from Disney for imitating Disney characters having sex

Irascible science fiction writer Harlan Ellison once worked for Disney, and according to an autobiographical essay in his 1982 book Stalking the Nightmare, Ellison’s tenure ended after one day at lunch with his co-workers when he jokingly suggested Disney should make a porn movie starring his well-known creations. He then acted out the noises various Disney characters might make in said porn movie. What Ellison didn’t realize was that Roy Disney was at the next table and overheard the whole routine. Roy apparently didn’t find it amusing, and Ellison was terminated. 

Yes, it’s true. And Harlan tells the story in full, complete with dialogue and sound effects, in “The 3 Most Important Things in Life” at the Internet Archive.

(8) IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] There’s only a few interesting (to me) bits in “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Flash Gordon (1980)” but watching this is enough to add a re-re-watch to my mental list (particularly now that I’m somewhat more attuned to the sound of Queen). Two particular Things to report:

  • George Lucas originally wanted to make the movie, but that didn’t happen. So instead, he went on to create his own space opera. (The one with the Force and lightsabers etc.)
  • Music almost done by Pink Floyd rather than Queen. That would have been very different!

Also, there’s several cast overlaps between this movie and Bond movies.

(9) DR. JAMES HOSEK (1964-2023). The SFWA Blog paid tribute to Jim Hosek, who died December 3. “In Memoriam: Jim Hosek”.

Dr. James Hosek (13 October 1964 – 03 December 2023) known to many in the community as Jim, was a writer of veterinary mystery and philosophical humor. Especially proud of his role as Nebula Award Commissioner, his own story “Total Loss” was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. He wrote the Dr. At stories about a house call veterinarian who lands in the middle of mysteries, and the novel, A Really Good Day, a lighthearted and humorous story about an underdog golfer whose story of an incredible single day on the course finds an unexpectedly happy ending….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 86. I know that I saw Barbarella, her seventeenth film, on a large screen  but it would been years after it came out so this was one of the arts cinemas, and I’m guessing it was in Seattle. It’s a very impressive looking film though I’m not sure I can say much for the script. 

Roger Vadim, the director had attempted to cast other actresses to wit Brigitte Bardot, Virna Lisi and Sophia Loren for this role before choosing Fonda, his wife. I wonder what he’d have done if she turned him down?

So what else for genre roles? Well she’s Countess Frédérique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” story of the three stories in Histoires extraordinaires directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini. It was dubbed in English as Spirits of The Dead.

Next up is Klute which I know as a “neo-noir psychological thriller” isn’t even an associational mystery but I think her role in it is fascinating so I’m including it here. 

The Blue Bird in which she played Night being a children’s fantasy is most definitely in our wheelhouse. It was the fifth screen adaptation of the play, following two silent films, the studio’s 1940 version starring Shirley Temple, and a 1970 animated feature. 

This was Twentieth Century Fox’s attempt forty-seven years ago at recapturing the magic of the highly successful Temple version. It was a disaster.  Interesting note: Elizabeth Taylor who had a lead role here approached David Bowie to star in the film but he turned it down.

In Elena and the Secret of Avalor, she has her first animated voicing gig as Shurkiki. Next in Luck, she’s voicing Babe, a female dragon who is the really cheerful Good Luck CEO. Finally, she voices Grandmamah, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas in the Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken film. 

(11) I’VE GOT A SECRET. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Critic Peter C. Baker says “Joanne McNeil’s ‘Wrong Way’ Takes the Shine Off the Self-Driving Car” in The New Yorker.

For sci-fi writers, driverless cars have long been a supremely efficient shorthand for dramatic change, an effective way of immediately grounding a story in the future, where things are different. The Czech American physician and author Miles J. Breuer’s 1930 novel, “Paradise and Iron,” is set largely on an island where most technology works without human input.  The narrator gets a “queer feeling at the complete absence of wheel and gear-shift levers,” or any person operating them. Sci-fi storytellers have been leveraging that queer feeling ever since, often-in the case of movies-with help from carmakers. Audi helped design the autonomous cars in “I, Robot” (2004) and “Ender’s Game” (2013), which concretize the films’ visions of the future.. But what happens when a long-standing symbol of the future arrives in reality? How do you write about it?

Joanne McNeil’s début novel, “Wrong Way,” is a useful literary bellwether of this shift: a novel about the self-driving-car business that feels less like a vision of the future than a dispatch from the present. The story is told from the perspective of Teresa, a forty-eight-year-old Massachusetts woman who responds to a vague “Drivers Wanted” Craigslist ad posted by a recruiter on behalf of a Google-ish tech conglomerate called AllOver. At her orientation, she’s shown a video advertising an AllOver driverless electric taxi called the CR. But each CR, it turns out, has a human backup operator stashed inside, hidden from passengers, watching the road on a video screen. Teresa is a safety driver, of sorts, but a secret one: her passengers, she’s told, won’t know she’s there….

(12) TARNATION. At The Mary Sue, Jack Doyle sure has a funny way of celebrating that “’La Brea’ Is Returning To Wreak Prehistoric Havoc on Los Angeles”.

….What I want is to go out into my backyard on Christmas morning, where I have left the figgy pudding from the night before to congeal in a kiddie pool. I will then strip naked in the cool December air, and submerge myself entirely in the figgy pudding. And I will lie there in wait, for thousands—perhaps millions—of years. At least until a concerned relative comes out to check on me. Then I will leap out from the figgy pudding, roaring like a saurian of old, and pounce upon my in-laws who made the foolish decision of attempting to look out on the backyard Christmas lights in my domain. Dinosaurs are not merciful, and neither am I.

That is why—more than anything in the world—I want La Brea season 3 to arrive as soon as possible. I wish to learn the hunting skills of the dinosaurs of old. I will wait. I am many things, but above all else … I am patient….

(13) WARHAMMER COMING TO PRIME. T3 reports “Amazon Prime Video is new home to the most exciting sci-fi TV and movie franchise out there” – streaming content based on the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop games by Games Workshop.

…Games Workshop has confirmed that the contract has been signed and Warhammer 40K movies and TV shows are planned for Amazon Prime Video….

…There’s certainly a wealth of stories that can be told within such a massively detailed franchise. Warhammer 40,000 was first created as a tabletop wargame offshoot of the fantasy equivalent Warhammer in 1987. Since then, it has been expanded upon greatly, with hundreds of novels, video games, and rulebook revisions now available.

What made it unique at the time is that it combined the fantasy theme of Warhammer including orcs, goblins, and necromancy, with the high tech, spacefaring tropes of sci-fi. Oh and guns… many, many guns….

…It will certainly make for a visual feast when it finally does make it onto our screens via Amazon. However, don’t expect it anytime soon – Games Workshop warns that it could take years yet: “TV and Film production is a mammoth undertaking. It’s not unusual for projects to take two to three years from this point before something arrives on screen,” it said….

(14) BURIED ALIVE. NPR’s “The Indicator from Planet Money” feature tells “What Coyote vs. Acme reveals about Hollywood economics”. Audio – no transcript.

The movie Coyote vs. Acme was set to release this summer featuring characters from the iconic Looney Tunes cartoons. The studio behind the film, Warner Bros. Pictures, had some other ideas. Instead of releasing the completed film, the studio canceled Coyote vs. Acme, with no intention of ever releasing it.

Today on the show, we explain the Hollywood economics behind why Warner Bros. Discovery might not want to release movies that its own studio spent years putting together.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/23 Warm Smell Of Scrollitas Rising Up Through The Air

(1) OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Two days ago Xiran Jay Zhao cast a spotlight on reports that a debut author was on Goodreads dropping one-star reviews. Initially, they did not plan to name the person. Original thread starts here.

The person’s forthcoming book was reportedly getting good buzz of its own, and they have “a major social media following”.

Xiran Jay Zhao subsequently decided to share documentation supporting the identification of Cait Corrain as the author behind the one-star reviews. Thread starts here. Here are the “Review Bomb Receipts” they made available at Google Docs. Among the questions raised in the Receipts: “Why a Goodreads account confirmed to be theirs upvoted their book on the same ~37 obscure lists the fake accounts did”.

There has been an attempt to lay off these reviews on a different bad actor, saying it’s not Cait Corrain but a fan from her ReyLo fanfic.

Twitter user Natalie Lief did a roundup from the various social media involved. Thread starts here.

An immediate consequence to Cait Corrain is that K.B. Wagers withdrew a blurb provided for Corrain’s upcoming book. Thread starts here.

Meanwhile, @CaitCorrain has taken their Twitter and Instagram account private.

(2) AFI PICKS. The American Film Institute named its top 10 films and television shows of 2023: “AFI Top 10 Awards”.

AFI Top 10 Motion Pictures of the Year

  • American Fiction (MGM)
  • Barbie (Warner Bros.)
  • The Holdovers (Focus Features)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)
  • Maestro (Netflix)
  • May December (Netflix)
  • Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures)
  • Past Lives (A24)
  • Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)

AFI Top 10 Television Programs of the Year

  • Abbott Elementary (ABC)
  • The Bear (FX)
  • Beef (Netflix)
  • Jury Duty (Amazon Freevee)
  • The Last of Us (Max)
  • The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
  • Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • Poker Face (Peacock)
  • Reservation Dogs (FX)
  • Succession (Max)

(3) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 98 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Finally, Manitoba”, has “a stunt Liz in the form of Sandra Bond and a stunt lizard adorning Alison’s cover art. We discuss the fan funds, we discuss NASFiC, and we have an excerpt from Sandra’s TAFF report which is most excellent.”

Sandra Bond explains more clearly: “As I foretold, the first piece of my TAFF report is now available, dealing with Canadian adventures immediately after Pemmi-Con. Notably, this marks the first time ever (I’m pretty sure) that such a chapter has made its debut in a podcast rather than a paper fanzine — namely episode #98 of Hugo-nominee Octothorpe. The episode contains much discussion of fan funds, their nature, and their place in modern fandom, too.” Bond says the full chapter will also appear in a fanzine in due course.

(4) HOW DO THEY KNOW? Karen Myers has some interesting ideas about “Spreading the news offstage” in a post at Mad Genius Club.

All sorts of interesting things are happening to your primary characters. But what’s going on with the rest of the cast? How do they hear about the broad events in the lives of the main players? Do they pick it up from gossip? Do they read it in the news and discuss it among themselves?

If you want a bit player to show up on stage to sympathize with your hero in his travails, how does he even know about them? What about the cute shopgirl who’s just realized the hero’s available? Even the villains have to monitor their targets to track the progress of their plots.

Accounting for this offstage knowledge in the story without tedium is an art in its own right. Something as simple as “I heard about it from X” can illuminate the information trail, assuming that the speaker knows X and X has a plausible news source, too. That’s often the method used for groups of bit players, like servants in a household where gossip is presumed to spread….

(5) WHAT ARE SCHOOL LIBRARIES FOR? “Florida AG Says School Libraries Are for “Government Speech,” Not Free Expression”Them/Us analyzes the AG’s amicus brief.

Florida’s attorney general is claiming that the state’s public school libraries are “a forum for government speech” and “not a forum for free expression,” in a chilling argument that appears to be gaining steam on the right.

In May, free speech and literary nonprofit PEN America filed a lawsuit against Florida’s Escambia School District. The additional plaintiffs in the case are Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, writers of And Tango Makes Three, a picture book depicting real-life gay penguins and one of the country’s most banned books over the past two decades. The plaintiffs allege that when Escambia schools removed Richardson and Parnell’s book from shelves this year, administrators were “depriving students of access to a wide range of viewpoints” and engaging in “viewpoint discrimination,” violating the First Amendment.

But Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican who took office alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, filed an amicus brief in August arguing the opposite. Though the state itself is not a named party in the case, Moody filed the brief on the grounds of “preserving the government’s authority to decide for itself what materials to curate” in school libraries.

“Florida’s public-school libraries are a forum for government, not private, speech,” Moody argues in the brief, comparing the removal of LGBTQ+ books like Tango to school policies against Nazi propaganda. Although Moody admits in the brief that appeals courts have “not yet addressed” the legal argument she makes, she cites semi-related precedents — such as whether a state can refuse to display a religious monument — to conclude that “the compilation of library materials is government speech.” For that reason, she continues, removing any library materials cannot constitute viewpoint discrimination….

(6) DATA CENTERS ARE LOOKING UP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’m curious what the job requirements list for (on-site) support for potential hires would include. (Also whether this is a Bond or other thriller movie waiting to happen…) “Project Cuts Emissions By Putting Data Centers Inside Wind Turbines” – via Slashdot.

CNN reports on a new German-based project called WindCORES that operates data centers inside existing wind turbines, making them almost completely carbon neutral.

Its solution was to bypass the ‘middleman’ (the grid) altogether, and instead, power IT servers from directly inside the large concrete wind turbine towers. Each tower is 13 meters wide and could potentially hold server racks up to 150 meters high.

(7) SIGMUND AND CLIVE. “’Freud’s Last Session’ Screenplay: Read Script Pairing Freud & C.S. Lewis”. Deadline provides comments as well as a direct link to the script: FLSNOV26.

…Both the play and movie are set on September 3, 1939, when the atheist Freud (Hopkins) and devoutly religious Lewis (Matthew Goode), two of the century’s greatest minds, meet and debate the future of mankind and the existence of God. It comes as Freud and his daughter have recently escaped the Nazi regime, and as he is nearing death with cancer.

The imaginary in-person encounter is peppered in the film with dream sequences, flashbacks and notable characters turning up including Freud’s daughter Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) and Lewis pal J.R.R. Tolkein (Stephen Campbell Moore). Jodi Balfour also stars.

“It’s a balance of the psychology of these two men and this thing that I think is within all of us: We’re all struggling with this human experience,” Brown told Deadline at the recent Contenders Film: Los Angeles….

(8) EXPANDED UNIVERSE. Radio Times agrees “Doctor Who’s queer representation is just what the Doctor ordered”.

… And, as we all know, the Doctor is capable of changing sex, having returned to being played by David Tennant from Jodie Whittaker. This becomes the central question of The Star Beast: how does the Doctor’s gender presentation impact his (her? their?) character and behaviour?

When the Fourteenth Doctor introduces himself to Donna’s husband, Shaun Temple, his psychic paper reads “Grand Mistress of the Knowledge” rather than “Grand Master”. “Oh, catch up!” he exclaims, hitting the paper on the wing mirror. It is an acknowledgement of how the Doctor’s gender is no longer presumed to be fixed, but instead something wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey itself….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. (Died 1978.) I find tonight’s Birthday to be one that’s a real treat as I like both the person, Leigh Brackett, and the work that she did down the years. One of those individuals taken from the Universe far too soon, we can start with her writing the screenplays of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Keeping in that vein, she worked on an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, crucial aspects of which are incorporated in the movie; she never saw it as she died before it went into production. The film won a Hugo at Denvention Two.

The Vampire’s Ghost is her first screenplay.  It was written with John K. Butler. The 1945 film is a true horror film as there really is a vampire to be staked and killed in it. It actually gets rated on Rotten Tomatoes with a thirty-three percent rating by audience reviewers.

Brackett was first published as a genre writer at the age of twenty-five when “Martian Quest” appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The Forties were definitely were her best period for short fiction, with nearly half of her roughly forty stories being written then. Her short fiction I think is quite excellent with it appearing in AstoundingThrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, as well as Planet Stories

Some of it available from the usual suspects such as the Wildside Press collection of Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps, and Baen Books claims to have published two ebooks of short stories but who know what happened to them as I can’t find them anywhere.

As you might know, her first novel was a mystery, No Good from a Corpse. The 1999 Dennis McMillan Publications reprint of this mystery also collected all of her crime shorts from the pulps in one volume, and included an intro by Bradbury, a young writer she befriended in the early Forties. This edition was limited to two hundred copies, so currently copies are costing over a hundred if you can find one. 

(That publisher also did a limited edition of Frederic Brown’s Sex Life on Planet Mars. Really don’t ask what the price of a copy is currently.)

Speaking of Bradbury, when Brackett married Edmond Hamilton in 1946, he served as the best man. 

Now moving on to her as a novel writer. The Long Tomorrow, her 1956 novel, saw her a finalist on the committee-created shortlist for the Best Novel Hugo Award, the first women who that got that distinction, and deservedly as she was a fine novel writer indeed. She wrote a lot of novels and all of the ones I’ve read were excellent. Shadow Over Mars published in 1944 won a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Do tell me which novels you really liked. 

Eric John Stark, did you think I could forget him? Of course not. Brackett created Stark as a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ best selling John Carter of Mars and Tarzan characters but gave him a dark skin appearance instead of the light skinned appearance they had.  Not that the illustrators paid attention to that as the heroes of these stories were always blond haired white males of course. 

Stark first appeared in a group of novellas published in Planet Stories which expanded were into the short novels of The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman. Space operas and so much more at their finest, I enjoy them immensely. All of them are available at the usual suspects though figuring out exactly which are available is a bit difficult as far too many publishers, some legal and far too many not, are selling epubs of them now. Haffner Press is the one authorized by the estate of Leigh Brackett. 

A final story, Stark and the Star Kings places Stark into the world of Edmond Hamilton’s Star Kings series, making it a collaboration between the two.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Existential Comics’ Corey Mohler has a lot of pretty strips featuring philosophers. Here are three more:

(11) SKILL TREE. From The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University comes the latest episode of CSI Skill Tree, a series examining how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds. This episode discusses Hypnospace Outlaw (2019), a game that plunges you into an alternate-history version of the 1990s internet. 

The guests are Katherine Buse, assistant professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, and Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal, the Ruth and Paul Idzik Collegiate Chair in Digital Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. Buse and Dhaliwal are also co-designers of Foldit: First Contact, a narrative campaign mode for the renowned citizen science game Foldit.

Hypnospace is a compelling piece of alt-history SF, with themes around cyberspace, wearing technology (and its dangers), hacking and subversion.

(12) YEAR’S TOP YA. The Guardian’s picks for “Five of the best young adult books of 2023” include some genre novels. One of them is –

Island of Whispers
Frances Hardinge, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots)
On Merlank Island, the Dead are dangerous; if they aren’t carried away by the Ferryman, their ghosts may linger, blighting the land and killing the living. Milo has never made the journey himself, but when his father, the Ferryman, dies suddenly, he must take his first cargo of souls to the Island of the Broken Tower, all the while pursued by the angry parent of a dead girl. Heightened by Gravett’s blue-white expanses and stark black bricks and timbers, Hardinge’s spare coming-of-age parable is laced with her trademark wisdom and subtlety. A grownup gothic fairytale, somewhere between short story and novella, this is ideal for 11+ readers who enjoy highly illustrated storytelling.

(13) RIPOFF ARTISTS. “The dilemma of terrible people” is Camestros Felapton’s analysis of Hbomberguy’s video about plagiarism linked here a few days ago. Here are a couple of his many interesting points:

  • Firstly, that most of the various creators (“creators” being a bit of a generous term) identified will probably still carry on stealing stuff. Some may lay low for a bit, some may rebrand but the underlying reasons why people do this will continue.
  • Secondly, there’s going to people out there who will watch this video and take it as a “how to” guide.

(14) AUSSIES IN SPACE. TechRepublic asks“Is Australia’s Deep Tech Future in Space?” (Cordwainer Smith would have said yes!)

As far as deep tech goes, Australia’s greatest potential might be to look to the stars. Compared to some nations, Australia’s space industry is comparatively small. However, it is not insignificant, and the government anticipates that it will end up employing around 30,000 people by 2030. In 2021, with about half that number, the sector generated $4.5 billion across more than 600 companies. In 2030, it’s expected to deliver $12 billion to the local economy, and that’s not accounting for all of the innovations that tend to spin off from deep tech innovation.

For example, as one academic working in space education noted, the innovations developed by the space industry will be able to assist Australia in managing bushfires, droughts and agriculture; protect endangered species; and develop climate mitigation strategies. It’s a field of STEM expertise that is going to have a larger impact on the country than many might be aware of….

(15) PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER. “A 27,000-year-old pyramid? Controversy hits an extraordinary archaeological claim”. Nature says “The massive buried structures at Gunung Padang in Indonesia would be much older than Egypt’s great pyramids — if they’re even human constructions at all.”

…Gunung Padang comprises five stepped stone terraces, with retaining walls and connecting staircases, that sit atop an extinct volcano. Between 2011 and 2014, Natawidjaja and colleagues investigated the site using several ground-penetrating techniques to determine what lies beneath the terraces.

They identified four layers, which they conclude represent separate phases of construction. The innermost layer is a hardened lava core, which has been “meticulously sculpted”, according to the paper.

Subsequent layers of rocks “arranged like bricks” were built over the top of the oldest layer. The layers were carbon-dated, using soil lodged between rocks obtained from a core drilled out of the hill. The first stage of construction, according to the paper, occurred between 27,000 and 16,000 years ago. Further additions were made between 8,000 and 7,500 years ago, and the final layer, which includes the visible stepped terraces, was put in place between 4,000 and 3,100 years ago.

[Flint Dibble, an archaeologist at Cardiff University, UK] says there is no clear evidence that the buried layers were built by humans and were not the result of natural weathering and the movement of rocks over time. “Material rolling down a hill is going to, on average, orient itself,” he says….

The original research paper is causing much debate… “Geo‐archaeological prospecting of Gunung Padang buried prehistoric pyramid in West Java, Indonesia”.

(16) MEANINGLESS DIFFERENCES.  Also in Nature: “Is AI leading to a reproducibility crisis in science?” “Scientists worry that ill-informed use of artificial intelligence is driving a deluge of unreliable or useless research.”

During the CoVID-19 pandemic in late 2020, testing kits for the viral infection were scant in some countries. So the idea of diagnosing infection with a medical technique that was already widespread — chest X-rays — sounded appealing. Although the human eye can’t reliably discern differences between infected and non-infected individuals, a team in India reported that artificial intelligence (AI) could do it, using machine learning to analyse a set of X-ray images.

The paper — one of dozens of studies on the idea — has been cited more than 900 times. But the following September, computer scientists Sanchari Dhar and Lior Shamir at Kansas State University in Manhattan took a closer look. They trained a machine-learning algorithm on the same images, but used only blank background sections that showed no body parts at all. Yet their AI could still pick out COVID-19 cases at well above chance level.

The problem seemed to be that there were consistent differences in the backgrounds of the medical images in the data set. An AI system could pick up on those artefacts to succeed in the diagnostic task, without learning any clinically relevant features — making it medically useless.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Steven French, Daniel Dern, Dann, Joey Eschrich, John King Tarpinian, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/9/23 If You Tape Bacon To A Pixel Scroll Does It Always Fall Bacon Side Down?

(1) WHEN GRAVITY FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Chuck Jones’ rules for Coyote cartoons said it works best when gravity is what defeats him. Instead, the change in management at Warner Bros seems to be what has claimed his long-awaited film. The mixed live/animated Coyote Vs. Acme is rumored to have been consigned to the dustbin, despite being a finished product. There it will join Bat Girl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!, both already brought to an ignominious end by the Bros. “‘Coyote Vs. Acme’: Finished Live/Action Animated Pic Shelved Completely By Warner Bros As Studio Takes $30M Tax Write-off”Deadline has the astonishing story.

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the live-action/animated hybrid Coyote vs. Acme with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

This reps the third time that Zaslav’s Warner Bros has pulled the plug on a movie greenlit by the previous Warner Media administration; the other two being the Max destined Bat Girl and the animated Scoob Holiday Haunt!.

The difference here is that Coyote vs. Acme is a completed movie with very good test scores, 14 points above the family norm. We’re told that the cash-strapped Warners finds that it’s not worth the cost to release theatrically, or to sell to other buyers (and there are parties who are interested for their own streaming services; we hear Amazon kicked the tires). After reporting a mixed third quarter, the best means for Warners money is a tax write-off. At one point, Coyote vs. Acme was dated on July 21, 2023 for theatrical release before getting pulled; that date placed by the ultimate $1.4 billion grossing Warner Bros biggest hit of all-time, Barbie….

(2) LEAVING THE EXPANSE BEHIND. Gizmodo is on hand as “The Expanse’s James S.A. Corey Announces a New Sci-Fi Trilogy”.

… Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—who write together as James S.A. Corey—have nixed any return to the world of The Expanse, [but] they’re still working on sci-fi projects together, as today’s big announcement attests.

Fans can look forward to the arrival of The Mercy of Gods, a space opera trilogy “that sees humanity fighting for its survival in a war as old as the universe itself,” according to a press release from publisher Orbit. This book will kick off the Captive’s War trilogy, and it will be released August 6, 2024….

(3) SOMETHING’S MISSING. Victoria Struass posts a “Contest Caution: Lichfield Institute Writing Contest” at Writer Beware.

Just about every temptation for a hungry writer is here. Big bucks for the winners. Feedback on every submission from distinguished judges–at least, one assumes they’re distinguished, since they’re finalists for important literary awards. Monthly stipends! Consideration by literary agencies! What more could a contest offer, even if it does charge a $15 submission fee?

Well…

You’ll probably already have noticed some…oddities…both in the screenshot above and on the contest page. The mis-spelling of Hemingway, to start (plus, it’s PEN–it’s an acronym–not Pen). The curious absence of judges’ names. Guidelines that fail to state when winners will be announced and how they will be notified. An entry form with a copy-and-paste box for submitting your entry (have fun reading, no-name judges)….

(4) IN A MIRROR, VERY DARKLY. “Murky reflections: why sci-fi needs to stop imitating Black Mirror” argues Adrian Horton in the Guardian.

…Black Mirror knock-offs are a scourge of the streaming era, which unfortunately incentivizes dressed-up spins on previous successes over truly cerebral or ambitious imaginations of the future….

(5) JEOPARDY! Last night’s episode of Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to science fictional worlds. Andrew Porter found these responses noteworthy.

Category: At a Loss for Worlds

Answer: Survivors escape to Bronson Beta in the 1933 Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer novel “When” this happens

Wrong question: What is “When Tomorrow Comes”?

No one could ask, “When Worlds Collide”

Same category: It’s the real name of the planet referred to in the title of a 1965 Frank Herbert novel.

He bet it all, got it wrong: “What is Dune?”

Correct question: What is Arrakis?

Same category: At the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” this world is destroyed.

No one could ask, “What is the Earth?”

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 96 of Octothorpe, “A Less QR-Code-Using Society”, is ready for listeners.

John Coxon didn’t, Alison Scott would’ve done, and Liz Batty tried. We round up the rest of the news we didn’t talk about in Episode 95, featuring a discussion of how the Chengdu Worldcon went, and the much-anticipated reappearance of THE LIZ BAT. Listen here! 

(7) FEED ME. “John Lewis Christmas Ad Stars a Playful Venus Flytrap” explains Adweek.

In the U.K., watching retailer John Lewis’ Christmas ad is as much of a festive ritual as decorating the tree or exchanging gifts. This year, with a different agency and marketing strategy, the brand is hoping to cement its role in both old and new holiday traditions. 

The new ad, titled “Snapper,” follows the unusual tale of a Venus flytrap. While at a flea market with his family, a boy discovers a seed packet promising to grow into the “perfect Christmas tree.” 

Instead, a carnivorous plant emerges from the soil. Though the boy loves Snapper, the mischievous plant causes disruption and is eventually banished outside after it grows too big for the house. 

On Christmas morning, the boy leaves his family’s normal tree to bring a gift to the Venus flytrap. Snapper spits out confetti and gifts in return, inspiring the family to embrace an unconventional addition to the festivities. … 

(8) FRANK BORMAN (1928-2023). “Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the first Apollo mission to the moon, has died at age 95” reports Yahoo!

Astronaut Frank Borman, who commanded Apollo 8’s historic Christmas 1968 flight that circled the moon 10 times and paved the way for the lunar landing the next year, has died. He was 95.

Borman died Tuesday in Billings, Montana, according to NASA.

Borman also led troubled Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and early ’80s after leaving the astronaut corps….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he was writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited NebulaInfinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His Axe fanzine (co-edited with his wife Noreen) was nominated at Chicon III for a Hugo. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 69. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 35. Iranian-American whose Furthermore, a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither, I highly recommended it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series.
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E. Harrow, 34. Winner at Dublin 2019 of the Best Short Story Hugo for “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” which also was nominated for a BSFA and Nebula Award. Other Hugo-nominated work: The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nomination at CoNZealand; “A Spindle Splintered” novella and “Mr. death” short story at Chicon 8; and “A Mirror Mended” novella this year. She has three excellent novels to date, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Once and Future Witches which was nominated for a WFA and the just released Starling House.  She has a double handful of short stories not yet collected anywhere.  More’s the pity. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxes in Love features a Dune crossover.

(11) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. “Star Wars C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels is selling film memorabilia” reports BBC News.

The actor who played C-3PO in Star Wars said “it feels like it is time” to sell the costumes, props and scripts he kept from the iconic films.

Anthony Daniels, 77, is parting company with items from his personal collection via Hertfordshire-based auctioneer Propstore from Thursday.

The famous gold helmet he wore for his character in the first film from 1977 is estimated to sell for up to £1m.

Daniels said he was excited for his collection to “find a good home”.

“I realised I had these items and they’re not unloved but they are unlooked at – we don’t have them crowding the sitting room,” he said, explaining why he has chosen to sell the items now.

“Will I feel sad to part with them? No. I will enjoy the fact people will cherish and display them.”…

Propstore marked the Screen-matched Light-up C-3PO Head as sold, however, the press has not yet revealed the amount of the winning bid.

(12) FANHISTORY ART ZOOM ON YOUTUBE. Fanac.org’s two-part Zoom with a panel of fanartists now can be viewed on YouTube.

Part 1

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 1 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 1 of this 2-part session, you’ll hear their “origin stories”, their influences, how they found science fiction fandom, and what they perceive as the unique benefits of fandom to young artists. You’ll find out why artists should avoid hecto, and torturous tales of justifying margins by hand. There are intriguing insights into adjusting one’s art to the reproduction medium, and how fandom helped people along, especially towards professional careers. Larger than life figures make their appearance, including several stories of Bill Rotsler.

There’s plenty more, including their views on Carl Barks, why Dan started “Lizard Inn”, Jim’s take on the slippery slope to having a fanzine too big to staple without an industrial stapler, Tim on his deep desire to tell stories, and Grant’s opinion of “Starling”.  The fun continues in Part 2.

Part 2

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 2 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 2 of this 2-part session, the fan art discussion continues, with more on professional careers as well. The conversation ranges from Tolkien’s house to Harlan Ellison’s house, from “The Last Dangerous Visions” to Bill Gibson, from Harlan Ellison stories to BNFs that had an impact. There are more Rotsler stories too. You’ll hear about silent jam sessions, “Esoteric Fan Art Tales”, and the impact that conventions had on artists who worked in isolation.  A real treat is the slideshow of samples of our panelists’ art, with their live comments on what each piece represents.  

Q&A starts about 45 minutes into the video, with comments as well as questions, including Ted White’s discussion of the impact of Mondrian’s work on modern magazine design. Lest you believe that fanzines are a thing of the past, the video wraps up with a plug for an upcoming paper fanzine by faned Geri Sullivan. 

(13) A COSMIC EVENT. FirstShowing introduces “US Trailer for French ‘Cosmic Event’ Sci-Fi Thriller Film ‘The Gravity’”.

“After the alignment, the world will change forever. Everything will start over.”  Dark Star Pictures has released an official US trailer for an indie sci-fi action thriller film from France titled The Gravity, made by filmmaker Cédric Ido. This intially premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival last year and it already opened in France earlier this year. Finally set for a US release on VOD starting in November. A mysterious cosmic event upsets the Earth’s gravity and sets the sky ablaze in a red hue, creating chaos in a futuristic Parisian suburb. This French “genre-busting” thriller is more of a story about street culture in the suburbs, following a local band of teenagers and their feud with other residents in the area….

(14) SPACE COMMAND. Marc Scott Zicree has dropped “Why Science Fiction Matters! Unreleased Space Command Full Scene”.

Meantime there five days remain in the Kickstarter to raise funds for “Space Command Forgiveness: Post-Production”. At this time fans have pledged almost $52,000 of the $60,000 goal.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/23 It Was An Early Evening Pixel And The Scroll Had Just Opened Up

(1) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Charlie Jane Anders asks “Why Is It So Hard For Hollywood To Create Brand New Heroes?” at Happy Dancing.

…I actually have no idea why Hollywood’s heaviest hitters keep coming back to the same characters. To find out more, I asked Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of The Middleman (which I praised in last week’s newsletter.) Javi recently pitched a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV show that wouldn’t include Arthur Dent, so I was curious to find out what he thought about this topic. Here’s what he told me.

Star Wars has arguably had a hard time moving away from the Skywalkers — every Star Wars TV show or movie up to now features characters who are at most two Kevin Bacons away from Luke. The Wizarding World has stumbled when it tries to move too far away from Harry Potter — the Fantastic Beasts movies very quickly pivoted to being about Harry’s mentor Dumbledore. The only Hunger Games spinoff is a prequel that focuses on a guy who spent a lot of time with Katniss. Why is it so hard to move away from characters we already know, or the familiar version of the saga?

Having worked on one or two franchise projects, I would add the caveat that it’s easy to armchair quarterback some of these decisions when one is not aware of the parameters under which they were made. That said, the biggest issue is always money. Every single project you mentioned above is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars that has to be recuperated — not to mention that these projects also have to buttress entire empires of merchandising, theme park attractions, and publishing across all media. It’s not a business model that rewards risk.

There’s also what I call “The Fog of War,” by which I mean the often desperate need to make things work for no reason other than being committed to a something like the availability of a piece of talent, or setting a release date before having a robust concept, or a weird contractual obligation (like Sony needing to produce a Spider-Man movie every six years on pain of losing the rights to the characters), or having too many powerful producers who disagree about everything, and needing something — anything — to put before the camera. Those sorts of artificial constraints lead directly to the lowest-hanging fruit, and often to decisions that make little sense when examined with the benefit of a greater perspective….

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

113 recommended short SF stories

I’m not sure what – if any – connection this list of stories has to the Worldcon – possibly it’s related to the reaction to Hai Ya’s Hugo win, as covered in yesterday’s Scroll?  It seems to have been crowd-sourced, and is a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese works.  Hopefully most of the Western authors and works are still recognizable after the “Translate content” link does its work; whilst it doesn’t always successfully reverse-engineer the correct original titles from their translated titles, it should be close enough for them to be identified.

“Celebrity” and other photos from Xiaohongshu

I was mildly amused when the algorithm behind the Xiaohongshu app started categorizing some photos of people who will be recognizable to Filers – or who are actually Filers – as “celebrities”.  Most if not all of the following links contain a variety of photos, but I’ve highlighted the names of people who appear in some of those photos.

A couple of other photos and videos:

A couple more con reports from Chinese fans

(via Zimozi Natsuco on Twitter).  A slight word of warning: I think this pair of con reports don’t fare as well with machine translation (well, Google Translate at least) as does a lot of non-fiction material.  Part of this is that Google Translate doesn’t seem to have been trained on fannish materials.  For example “二次元” becomes “second dimension” or”two-dimensional”, which is correct in a literal sense, but would be more understandable as “anime”, “anime-styled” or “animation”.

The first is from an anime fan, and probably covers the overall Chinese speculative fiction and media scene more than the con itself.  A couple of extracts via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

Compared with the dazzling array of two-dimensional products, looking at Chinese science fiction, what products have been developed over the years that are well-known to the public?

“The Three-Body Problem”!  Anything else?

“The Wandering Earth”!  Anything else?

Um, “Sun of China“?  Are there any works other than those of Liu Cixin?

…Umm, “Shanghai Fortress“?

When science fiction was introduced to China by Lu Xun, Liang Qichao and others in the early 20th century, it was included in a utilitarian direction as soon as it was involved. Of course, this was also due to the ambiguity of the meaning of “science fiction” proposed by Hugo Gernsback. Most people now equate “speculative fiction” with “fiction about science”, and the “fantasy” aspect of speculative fiction is ignored. lThis makes more sense in Chinese: “科幻” is translated as “science fiction”, but it is actually an abbreviation of “科学幻想”, which are the words “科学” science and “幻想” fantasy.)]

This definition deeply influenced Chinese science fiction literature in the 1970s and 1980s. Even now, many people still believe that science fiction should be scientific, and the fantasy part is excluded. This situation was particularly serious when “The Three-Body Problem” first became popular. At that time, the Internet was full of comments such as “hard science fiction is science fiction, soft science fiction is not as good”

Our old friend Game Grape also published an article on the last day of the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference called “The second dimension is getting colder. Is science fiction the next trend in the gaming industry?” In the article, a game company boss revealed to Putao that “the next trend may be science fiction.”

Nowadays, more and more two-dimensional mobile games are beginning to put on the skin of science fiction. In the second trailer for Honkai Impact 3 released in September, it is not difficult to see the dominance of science fiction: the stage is placed in the universe.

The second is by Zimozi himself.  Again, via Google Translate with minor edits

But the conference was a real success. Please read the news reports: We have received the highest attendance in the decades-long history of the World Science Fiction Convention. The foreign guests present are sincerely praising the venue and services. Chinese writers have gained a lot from the Hugo Awards and even [appeared on the TV news], Bai Yansong enthusiastically discusses with the audience, “Where is China’s science fiction going?”…

So, do I have a problem?

….

Science fiction is also an industry. The industry is not child’s play, nor is it a few science fiction fans who want to start a science fiction fanzine…  There are carefully arranged corporate exhibitions, grand and enthusiastic talent introduction, and the intensive construction of talent housing — opposite the venue are several new talent apartments and new real estate projects that are in full swing, attracting science fiction talents from all over the world to settle down in Chengdu. In industry summits one after another, we have seen one after another novel support plans and science fiction awards, as well as countless new institutions integrating industry, academia and research. 

(3) HUGO WINNERS ON TV. Chris Barkley sent a link to video of “the press conference Neil Clarke and I were a part of after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.” — here.

(4) SIXTIES PARANORMAL SERIES. Todd Allen made a discovery – “Martin Landau’s Lost Occult Detective TV Show”. It will probably be news to you, too.

…I stumbled into Martin Landau’s lost occult detective TV show a couple weeks ago.

His what?!? Yes, that was my reaction, too. I later asked a few people I’d expect to have heard of such a thing and none of them had, so now I’ll tell you about it.

I’d been watching The Brides of Dracula on Prime and was flipping through the list of films people who watched that also watched, I came across what appeared to be an old Martin Landau horror movie called The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre. I hadn’t heard of this or associated Landau with horror, so I looked it up and proceeded to be shocked.

It seems that back in 1964, James Aubrey (the president of CBS) commissioned Joseph Stefano to produce a pilot called “The Haunted.” Does the name “Stefano” sound familiar? He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and was one of the writer/producers on the first season of The Outer Limits.

The Haunted would have starred Martin Landau – two years before Mission: Impossible – as Nelson Orion, an architect who moonlights as a paranormal investigator….

(5) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 95 of the Octothorpe podcast – “Hugo, Girl!”John Coxon is playing a game, Alison Scott is in New Zealand, and Liz Batty’s head is on fire.

We discuss the Hugo Award winners, Anna Karenina, what the word “semiprofessional” means, and what continent/timezone/day of the week Alison is in. Art by the very talented España Sheriff.

(6) APPLE+$. “Apple TV+ Price Increase: Apple Raises Monthly Fee to $10” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Apple is hiking the price of Apple TV+ significantly, raising the monthly subscription fee to $9.99 per month from its current $6.99 per month price point. The cost of an annual plan is going from $69 to $99.

(7) OTHER SERVICES TOO. Reuters adds to its Apple+ coverage this info about Disney+ and Netflix.

Netflix increased subscription prices for some streaming plans in the United States, Britain and France when it reported results last week. Disney said in August it would raise by 27% the price of the ad-free tier of the Disney+ service to $13.99 and hike by 20% the no-ad version of Hulu. 

(8) DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS. “Doctor Who confirms air dates for 3 specials with David Tennant”Radio Times has the schedule – and the publicity posters.

The BBC has announced that David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor will officially be bursting back onto our screens on Saturday 25th November, with the second and third specials following on Saturday 2nd December and Saturday 9th December respectively.

(9) HUNGARIAN SFF AUTHOR TRANSLATED. [Item by Bence Pintér.] One of the best contemporary Hungarian sci-fi writers, Botond Markovics (AKA Brandon Hackett) had his Zsoldos Award-winning book Disposable Bodies translated into English. He also set up an English-language Facebook page on which he wrote about this.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1934 Dan McCarthy. The grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and color graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice. (Died 2013.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 78. Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”. She’s garnered four Mythopoetic Award nominations but no wins to date.
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson,69. Writer of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 51. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 60. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 52. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. [Item by Steven French.] With Halloween almost upon us, Leeds Central Library has a nice blog piece about its 3rd edition copy of Mary Shelley’s classic which includes the first illustration of the monster, looking quite different from the movie version! “Mary Shelley – The First Science Fiction Author” at Secret Library.

…Leeds Central Library has a third edition copy of this novel, published in 1831 by Richard Bentley and Henry Colburn and the first illustration of Frankenstein’s monster can be found on the first page. This stunning and slightly disturbing drawing was drawn by Theodor von Holst, a student of Henry Fuseli. The image is a visualisation of an extract from the text that is written at the bottom of the page. The quote reads;

‘By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull, yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive agitation seized its limbs…I rushed out of the room.’

At the right side of the illustration, you can see Victor Frankenstein fleeing the room, the look of pure fear on his features. However, the main focus of the image is the ‘monster’ who is on the floor with an agonised look on his face as he takes his first breaths. The Gothic meets romantic style of the image as well as the symbols of both death and science perfectly capture the themes that Shelley conveyed in this novel.

This edition was edited from the original version that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. This version contains an introduction from Shelly in which she answers the question “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea”….

(12) THE “TRANSPORTER” BEFORE THE TRANSPORTER. “Read Gene Roddenberry’s First Sci-Fi TV Show Pitch in Its Original Doc” at IndieWire.

…In 1955, Roddenberry had begun writing for Ziv TV, a production company for TV shows in syndication, specifically for the titles “Mr. District Attorney” and “Highway Patrol.” He had gotten into television writing by acting as a liaison for the LAPD, when he worked as a police officer in the early 1950s, to the show “Dragnet.” In that capacity he helped condense actual case files into story treatments that the show’s writers could turn into teleplays.

“Science Fiction Theatre” was a Ziv TV production as well. Hence why at the top of this document you see the company listed, before Roddenberry crossed that out in favor of the name of a production executive he’d be pitching. Here’s the document, and give it a closer look in PDF format here….

…The description of his pitch for the episode reads:

The proposed story is of the invention of the “Transporter” — a device which is television, smellovision, soundovision, all rolled into one. A device which creates an artificial world for the user, capable of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, adventure–all beyond the reach of the ordinary person living the ordinary life. With it you can voyage to far-off lands, argue with Socrates, earn and spend a million dollars, or lay Marilyn Monroe. Take your choice.

And this is the story of the inventor who, after achieving this miracle, suddenly realizes that a commercial, greedy, sometimes inhuman world would take over his miracle. And it might be used as they have used the miracle of radio, television, the motion pictures–with much more devastating results. It could become the most powerful totalitarian enslaving device; it could become the most powerful opiate; it could create wants and desires for which the world would destroy itself–a dying race sitting at their “transporters.”

(13) TAIKONAUTS. “China’s youngest-ever crew of astronauts heads to space station”Reuters has the story.

The youngest-ever crew of Chinese astronauts departed for China’s space station on Thursday, paving the way for a new generation of “taikonauts” to advance the country’s space ambitions in the future.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-17, or “Divine Vessel”, and its three passengers lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

Leading the six-month mission was former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 48, who was on the first crewed mission to the space station in 2021.

His return to the orbiting outpost Tiangong, or “Celestial Palace” in Chinese, also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by taikonauts – coined from the Chinese word for space – suggesting a faster rotation of taikonauts in coming years.

Tang, from China’s second batch of astronauts in 2010, had to wait more than a decade before he was picked for his inaugural spaceflight in 2021.

By contrast, his fellow Shenzhou-17 crew members Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35, both travelling to space for the first time, joined China’s third batch of astronauts in September 2020….

(14) POISONING PIXELS IN THE PARK. [Item by Jim Janney.] There’s an article in MIT Technology Review about a tool that lets artists “poison” their images in ways that mess with generative AI: “This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI”. It seems to work by manipulating pixels in ways that the human eye doesn’t notice, so wouldn’t be directly applicable to large language models.

…The tool, called Nightshade, is intended as a way to fight back against AI companies that use artists’ work to train their models without the creator’s permission. Using it to “poison” this training data could damage future iterations of image-generating AI models, such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, by rendering some of their outputs useless—dogs become cats, cars become cows, and so forth. MIT Technology Review got an exclusive preview of the research, which has been submitted for peer review at computer security conference Usenix.   

AI companies such as OpenAI, Meta, Google, and Stability AI are facing a slew of lawsuits from artists who claim that their copyrighted material and personal information was scraped without consent or compensation. Ben Zhao, a professor at the University of Chicago, who led the team that created Nightshade, says the hope is that it will help tip the power balance back from AI companies towards artists, by creating a powerful deterrent against disrespecting artists’ copyright and intellectual property. Meta, Google, Stability AI, and OpenAI did not respond to MIT Technology Review’s request for comment on how they might respond. 

Zhao’s team also developed Glaze, a tool that allows artists to “mask” their own personal style to prevent it from being scraped by AI companies. It works in a similar way to Nightshade: by changing the pixels of images in subtle ways that are invisible to the human eye but manipulate machine-learning models to interpret the image as something different from what it actually shows…. 

(15) SMALLER ON THE INSIDE. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] Nature reports“Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside”. “Fresh investigations find that the red planet’s liquid-metal core is smaller than scientists thought.”

A meteorite that slammed into Mars in September 2021 has rewritten what scientists know about the planet’s interior.

By analysing the seismic energy that vibrated through the planet after the impact, researchers have discovered a layer of molten rock that envelops Mars’s liquid-metal core. The finding, reported today in two papers in Nature1,2, means that the Martian core is smaller than previously thought. It also resolves some lingering questions about how the red planet formed and evolved over billions of years.

The discovery comes from NASA’s InSight mission, which landed a craft with a seismometer on Mars’s surface. Between 2018 and 2022, that instrument detected hundreds of ‘marsquakes’ shaking the planet. Seismic waves produced by quakes or impacts can slow down or speed up depending on what types of material they are travelling through, so seismologists can measure the waves’ passage to deduce what the interior of a planet looks like….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Jim Janney, Bence Pintér, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 10/12/23 My Pixel Threw Out All My Old Scrolls And All That’s Left Is This Godstalk

(1) HELL OF A STORY. Jennifer McMahon discusses nine books where “The Devil Made Me Do It” at CrimeReads.

…I was a child of the late seventies. I grew up watching The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby. Movies that taught me the nature of true evil and terror. While movies were the gateway to this terrifying genre, books go to deeper and darker places still. So light a candle, get out your crucifix, cast a ring of salt around your favorite reading chair and settle in….

One of McMahon’s selections is:

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a multi-layered literary horror novel that pays homage to the exorcism story genre and explores big questions about possession, mental illness and reality TV. The story follows Merry, at 23, sharing her recollections about her childhood with an author. When she was 8 and her sister Marjorie was 14, Marjorie… changed.  Their parents were split on whether this was a mental health crisis, or the work of the devil. A local priest became involved, and soon, their family became the center of a reality show called The Possession. Was Marjorie actually possessed? Get sucked into this spellbinding story and see what you believe.

(2) THIS MAKES ME THINK OF SNL’S DAVID L. PUMPKINS SKETCH. “Madame Tussauds and the InterContinental New York Times Square host spooky overnight stays in NYC”TimeOut says it will cost a mere $4K!

This might be the scariest Halloween-themed experience out there at the moment: Madame Tussauds and the InterContinetal in Times Square are offerings folks with a flair for the spooky the chance to stay in a room reminiscent of some of the most petrifying movies in history on the nights of Friday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 31.

The chilling experience for two will cost around $4,000 plus taxes—a hefty price for what will likely be a sleepless night but, alas, some of us just can’t enough of the whole sinister vibe. 

Guests will start off enjoying a three-course dinner and drinks menu delivered by the hotel’s room service staff and inspired by four popular movies: The ExorcistThe Nun, Annabelle and IT. …

…The room you’ll actually sleep in will be an eerie one, decorated like a subway station, yet complete with a fully stocked mini bar (clearly, you’ll need to drink to get through this all)….

(3) SURVIVORS. “’Scavengers Reign’ Official Trailer Released”GlobalGrind is on top of the story.

This week (October 11), Max released the official trailer for its new adult animated series Scavengers Reign. Click inside to check it out!

In Scavengers Reign, the brainchild of visionary creators Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner, the remaining crew of a damaged interstellar freighter ship find themselves stranded on a beautiful yet unforgiving alien planet – where they must survive long enough to escape or be rescued. But as the survivors struggle to locate their downed ship and missing crew mates, their new home reveals a hostile world allowed to thrive without human interference. Featuring lush, visually stunning animation, Scavengers Reign presents a wholly unique view of the consequences of unchecked hubris and humanity’s eternal desire to conquer the unknown….

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

Students from nearby school post English language video about the event

This is a nice two minute video where some students from the Hua’ai school just across the lake from the Science Museum talk in English about the event, and some of the related activities they are taking part in.

(I’ve attached 4 PNG screengrabs, filenames prefixed school)

8 Light Minutes Culture: book launches, ribbons, Aldiss and Lukyanenko stamps, and more

An incomplete summary of this mp.weixin.com post:

  • CG render of their booth
  • Launch of volumes 2 and 3 of Chinese SF: An Oral History
  • Limited edition of the Sawyer/Lukyanenko/Liu anthology
  • “The Songs of Space Engineers” hard SF anthology edited by Cixin Liu
  • Pick up a luminous bracelet from their booth
  • Get your books stamped by Brian Aldiss and Sergey Lukyanenko stamps
  • 18-different ribbons; different ones to be available each day from (I think) two different booths.  NB: 8LM has the Chinese licence for Doctor Who books, so the DW ribbons are presumably official merch

Video of official “Kormo” figure

I think this toy was covered along with other merchandise in a previous Scroll; there’s now an unboxing video of what looks like the finished item.

Kaiju Preservation Society, Ray Bradbury and The Culture ribbons and merchandise

Xinxing Publishing House are launching three limited edition sets of merchandise at the con, this Xiaohongshu post says that information about buying them online will come later, although whether that includes international purchases remains to be seen.

  • Kaiju Preservation Society canvas bags
  • Culture “Gravitas” bags  (Google Translate calls these “laser bags”; they seem to have some sort of foil/metallic effect?)
  • There are also ribbons for KPS, The Culture and Ray Bradbury

Secondary market tickets being advertised

I’ve no idea how widespread or successful these are, but here’s a Xiaohongshu user posting a screengrab from some other app/site showing a Chengdu resident advertising a single day “youth” (age 13-25) ticket for Saturday  21st for 500 yuan.  For reference: the sale price for the 5-day youth tickets was 200 yuan, and the individual youth day tickets that were sold more recently were 78 yuan.

Per Google Translate (with minor manual edits) the original ad states:

Youth tickets for the Chengdu Science Fiction Convention on the 21st are available at a premium price.  If you are interested in tickets click [the button] and chat with me privately.

The footer text notes:

There are risks in concert products, please follow the transaction process and do not trade outside the site.

(5) OCTOTHORPE PODCAST. Octothorpe 94 “Satisfying Meat” is now up. Listen here.

John Coxon is eating cinnamon rolls, Alison Scott doesn’t think it’s funny, and Liz Batty has two lists. We discuss the Best Novel finalists for the Hugo Awards. Art by the very lovely Sue Mason.  

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(6) ROYAL ARTIST. The New York Times tells “How the Queen of Denmark Shaped the Look of Netflix’s ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’”.

…Around the time the princess turned 30 — and after she had earned a diploma in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and had studied at Aarhus University in Denmark, the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics — she read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It inspired her to start drawing again.

Not long after, upon her father’s death in 1972, the princess was crowned as queen: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, to be specific.

Margrethe, now 83, celebrated 50 years on the throne in 2022. But in assuming the role of queen, she did not abandon her artistic passions. As a monarch she has taken lessons in certain media, has taught herself others and has been asked to bring her eye to projects produced by the Royal Danish Ballet and Tivoli, the world’s oldest amusement park, in Copenhagen.

Her paintings have been shown at museums, including in a recent exhibition at the Musée Henri-Martin in Cahors, France. And her illustrations have been adapted into artwork for a Danish translation of “The Lord of the Rings.” (They were published under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, and the book’s publisher approached her about using them after she sent copies to Tolkien as fan mail in 1970.)

Margrethe recently notched another creative accomplishment: serving as the costume and production designer for “Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction,” a feature film that debuted on Netflix in September and has wardrobes and sets based on her drawings and other artworks.

The film is an adaptation of the fairy tale “Ehrengard” by Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness who published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Set in a fictional kingdom, the story is loosely about a woman named Ehrengard who becomes a lady-in-waiting and foils a royal court painter’s plot to woo her.

(7) IT’S ALL GREEK TO THEM. “Of Snakes and Men: ‘Krapopolis’ Monstrous Transformations”: Animation World Network takes a look (and doesn’t turn to stone.)

While most people find solace in reading fiction novels, Pete Michels gets his kicks from history and archeology books. So, when Dan Harmon, who Michels had worked with previously on Rick and Morty, reached out with a proposal for a parody series on Greek mythology, Michels jumped at the opportunity… 

…In the series, Ayoade voices Tyrannis, the mortal son of a goddess and benevolent King of Krapopolis, who tries to make do in a city that lives up to its name. Waddingham plays Deliria, Tyrannis’ mother, goddess of self-destruction and questionable choices. Deliria is as petty as she is powerful, and only seems interested in defending civilization if it means she’ll get more worshipers out of it than her frenemies up on Mt. Olympus. Berry is Shlub, Tyrannis’ father, a mantitaur (half centaur [horse + human], half manticore [lion + human + scorpion]). He’s the self-described “life of the orgy,” and a true pleasure seeker. Murphy voices Stupendous, Tyrannis’ half-sister, daughter of Deliria and a cyclops. Trussell plays Hippocampus, Tyrannis’ half-brother, offspring of Shlub and a mermaid, and a hot mess, biologically speaking….

(8) PULPFEST. “2023 PulpFest Convention Report, by Martin Walker” at Mystery File.

…This year, though, Walker [Martin] did attend but managed to catch Covid while there, and while he’s doing much better now, it took him a while to recover, and he never did manage to write up a report. As you may have surmised, “Martin Walker,” whose report follows, is a pseudonym, but I can guarantee the facts he relates are 100% accurate. Bill Lampkin, whose photos I used is real, however, and I thank both him and our anonymous reporter for this year’s annual PulpFest report, at last!

Here’s a snippet from the report:

…There was more buying and selling on Friday, August 4. Competing for attendees’ attention were a couple of afternoon presentations. Chris Carey and Win Scott Eckert discussed “Doc Savage — The Man and Myth of Bronze.” Part of PulpFest’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of “The Man of Bronze,” it was also this year’s FarmerCon presentation. Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer….

(9) AUDIO ALARM. “Spotify’s new audiobook streaming could have ‘devastating effect’, says Society of Authors” – the Guardian has the story.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has said it is “deeply concerned” about Spotify’s new audiobook provision. The industry body cited “the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists’ incomes”, and expressed its fear that authors may suffer in a similar way.

“The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times,” a statement from the SoA read.

At the beginning of October, the Bookseller reported that “all of the major book publishers” had agreed limited streaming deals with Spotify. Since 4 October, Spotify Premium subscribers in the UK and Australia have been able to access to up to 15 hours of audiobook content per month, from a catalogue of more than 150,000 titles.

“As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms,” the SoA said. “Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.”…

(10) KEITH GIFFEN (1952-2023). Keith Giffen, whose 47 years in the comics business were heavily SF-themed, died  October 9 at the age of 70. The veteran writer and artist’s work included DC’s Lobo and the Jamie Reyes version of the Blue Beetle and Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon. The full details of his career are in his Wikipedia entry.

(11) PHYLLIS COATES (1927-2023) Phyllis Coates, known as TV’s first Lois Lane, died October 11 reports Deadline.

Phyllis Coates, who became television’s first Lois Lane when she was cast in the classic Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves, died yesterday of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 96.

In 1951, Coates was invited to audition for the role of Lois Lane in the low-budget feature film Superman and the Mole Men. Starring Reeves as Superman, the film was a de facto TV pilot, and by the end of the year both Reeves and Coates were asked to join the upcoming TV series.

Coates stayed with the series for only one season – 1952-53… Until her death, Coates was the last surviving regular cast member of the classic superhero series.

Though best remembered for Superman, Coates would build an extensive roster of TV and film credits in a career that lasted well into the 1990s. She appeared in the now-classic monster movie I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and … later, one 1994 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which she played the mother of Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Mystic. Charlatan possibly. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he later turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 58. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 57. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. 

(13) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos of last night’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with David D. Levin and Matthew Kressel.

(14) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine on oxtail stew with Lauren Beukes in Episode 209 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lauren Beukes

At this year’s Readercon, my first guest of the weekend was Lauren Beukes, who I first met at the very start of her novel publishing career — at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, where Angry Robot Books held a launch party which included Moxyland. That party also debuted the first novel of previous guest of the podcast Kaaron Warren, who was launching her own book Slights.

In addition to Moxyland, Beukes is also the author of the novels Zoo City (winner of the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award), The Shining GirlsBroken MonstersAfterland, and her newest novel, BridgeThe Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer and the survivor who turns the hunt around is currently an Apple TV+ series with Elisabeth Moss. She’s also the author of the short story collection, Slipping, plus a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

Beukes has worked also in worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC. Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, and the New York Times best-selling Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom, a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as “The Trouble With Cats,” a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack.

We discussed why the genre community is like a giant amoeba, how her choice of D&D character is in perfect sync with the way she writes, the reason she only recently realized she has ADHD (and why her new novel Bridge is definitely an ADHD book), why AI can never replace writers, the ways in which the protagonist of her new novel is different from all her other protagonists, the importance of authenticity readers, why acquiring editors at publishing companies are like restaurant critics, the importance of art in helping us find our way through the darkness, the reason you shouldn’t be so hard on your younger self, how she uses the Tarot to get unstuck, and much, much more.

(15) PLANT EXTINCTION RISK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 45% of all flowering species of plant are at risk of extinction, is just one of the sobering statistics in the Royal Botanic Gardens latest State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023 reportThe fifth edition of State of the World’s Plants and Fungi, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), focuses on the latest knowledge on the diversity and geographical distribution of plants and fungi.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used models to predict the extinction risk of every flowering plant species and identify the uncertainty level of each prediction. The report looks back at all the plant species known to us and there threat of extinction classification. Further, it looked at when each species was discovered and its extinction threat. The researchers found that the earlier a species had been discovered, the lower its extinction threat: recently discovered species were more at risk. Extrapolating this into yet-to-be-discovered species, the conclusion is that these would be even more prone to extinction. The report says that there are 77% undescribed plant species are likely threatened with extinction. And there are many species yet to be discovered. Taking flowering plants alone, the report estimates that potentially tens of thousands of flowering plant species have yet to be scientifically named.

Since 2015, a project to have all tree species assessed for the IUCN (the UN’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List, has so far found that 31% of tree species are at risk of extinction. And this does not include tree species yet to be discovered for whom the extinction risk is higher.

But there are notable black holes in the data. Given the history of fungal species discovery, it is estimated that 92% and 95% of fungi have yet to be scientifically described. Since the beginning of 2020, more than 10,200 fungal species have been described as new to science.  (See Antonelli, A. et al (2023) State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, Middlesex, Great Britain.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Orphan Black: Echoes Teaser Trailer”.

#OrphanBlackEchoes, starring Krysten Ritter and Keeley Hawes, premieres in 2024 on AMC, BBC America, and AMC+.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge Scott Edelman, John Coxon, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, 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 Jon Meltzer.]