Pixel Scroll 5/2/24 Gather Ye Pixels While Ye May, Scrolled Time Is Still A-Filing

(1) HOLY CATS! “Greta Gerwig’s Narnia Confirmed: Production Status & Everything We Know” at ScreenRant.

Acclaimed director Greta Gerwig has been tapped to helm a new reboot of The Chronicles of Narnia, and the upcoming film series is already beginning to take shape. Based on the beloved series of young adult novels by English writer C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia is set within the fantastical realm of fantasy and magic and tells an epic tale of war and peace within the kingdom. The novels first began publishing in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that Lewis’ vision arrived on the big screen for the first time….

… Even though little news has come regarding casting or a potential release date, Netflix’s Chronicles of Narnia is officially confirmed. Gerwig was attached in mid-2023, but the Netflix and Narnia timeline stretches back to 2018 when the streamer acquired the rights (via Rolling Stone). In the intervening years, Netflix made little mention of their Narnia aspirations until they landed Barbie director Greta Gerwig. The streamer’s long-term goals are also not known, as Gerwig has only signed on to direct the first two movies, which leaves five potential films on the table, assuming Netflix tackles all seven novels….

(2) BBC RADIO 4’S “UNCANNY”. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We over here in Brit Cit do wonder about goings-on the other side of the Black Atlantic in the land of the Mega-Cities and the Cursed Earth. So it has been good that BBC Radio 4 has stepped up with a new series… The truth is out there, or some such…

From ghostly phantoms to UFOs, Danny Robins investigates real-life stories of paranormal encounters. So, are you Team Believer or Team Sceptic?

You can download the first programme here.

(3) BEST OF BRITISH. Ian Whates today posted the table of contents for Donna Scott’s The Best of British Science Fiction 2023.

  • Introduction – Donna Scott
  • Detonation Boulevard – Alastair Reynolds
  • Vermin Control – Tim Lees
  • Personal Satisfaction – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Scent of Green – Ana Sun
  • Gauguin’s Questions – Stephen Baxter
  • So Close to Home – Andrew Hook
  • Boojum – Angus McIntyre
  • The Station Master – Lavie Tidhar
  • Art App – Chris Beckett
  • The Blou Trein Suborbirail – L.P. Melling
  • Blue Shift Passing By – David Cleden
  • And if Venice is Sinking – Fiona Moore
  • Muse Automatique – Jaine Fenn
  • Little Sprout – E.B. Siu
  • A Change of Direction – Rhiannon Grist
  • Thus With a Kiss I Die – Robert Bagnall
  • Tough Love – Teika Marija Smits
  • The Brazen Head of Westinghouse – Tim Major
  • Skipping – Ian Watson
  • Pearl – Felix Rose Kawitzky

(4) DISNEY CARTOON ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions will run “The Heartbeat of a Cartoon II – The Art of Vintage Disney Animations Drawings” on May 11-12. Preview the lots at the link above. Here’s one example:

Mickey’s Fire Brigade Mickey Mouse, Long-Billed Donald Duck, Goofy, and Clarabelle Cow Animation Drawing (Walt Disney, 1935). Mickey and his fire brigade rush to save an oblivious Clarabelle Cow from a burning building in this 12 field 2-peghole animation drawing from the Ben Sharpsteen-directed short Mickey’s Fire Brigade. The animation premiered on 8/3/1935 and was the first short to feature this iconic trio in color. The three can be found later in the short at around the 6:31 mark as Mickey and Donald use Goofy as a battering ram to charge into Clarabelle’s bathroom. Things don’t go well for them, but they are able to finish their mission and rescue the distressed cow from the surrounding inferno. 

(5) BINDING AND LOOSING. May Haddad shows writers the ropes (literally) in “Tie Up the Loose Ends: A Writer’s Guide to Sailor’s Knots” at the SFWA Blog.

Knot tying (“nodology” in Latin, “kompology” in Greek) is a time-honored skill honed in seafaring for millennia. Its history intertwines with maritime exploration, naval warfare, and the development of trade routes all over the world. Even as synthetic ropes replaced natural fibers, knots used by sailors centuries ago remain in wide use today. Considering the popularity of “faring” in speculative fiction, whether by sea, sky, or space, featuring knot-tying in your writing is a must for authenticity.  Not only are you required to know your knots and how to tie them, but you also need to understand the lingo….

(6) PLAYING IN THE FUTURE. The Center for Science and Imagination has posted a new episode of “CSI Skill Tree: Mass Effect: Andromeda with Souvik Mukherjee and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay”. The series “examines how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds.”

In this episode, we discuss themes and dynamics of colonialism in video games, focusing on Mass Effect: Andromeda, a space opera roleplaying game from 2017.

Our guests are Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, principal investigator and lead for CoFUTURES, an international research group on global futures at the University of Oslo, and coeditor of the book Indian Genre Fiction: Pasts and Future Histories, and Souvik Mukherjee, assistant professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and author of Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back and Videogames in the Indian Subcontinent: Development, Culture(s) and Representations.

Here’s a YouTube playlist with all 15 Skill Tree episodes thus far.

(7) RICK LAI (1955-2024). [Item by Anne Marble.] On April 30, the Lovecraft Ezine reported that pulp historian Rick Lai passed away. He won the 2022 Munsey Award for his “erudite and insightful scholarship” in pulp fiction. “Our dear friend Rick Lai passed away in his sleep last night.”

The family obituary is here:

…Retired software engineer and well-recognized published author, noted for his insightful scholarship, brilliant storytelling, and encyclopedic knowledge in pulp and adventure fiction. While he enjoyed film, reading, and writing, his greatest love was his family. He cherished any time spent with friends and family and was a compassionate and doting father and grandfather….

Rick Lai was interviewed for the PulpFest website in 2021: “The Shadow of Rick Lai”.

Rick Lai:  I became interested in Doc Savage due to the Bantam paperbacks with their stunning artwork by James Bama. I bought my first Doc Savage novel — The Thousand-Headed Man — in October 1967. I was twelve years old. By the time I was fifteen, I was reading paperback editions of the works of such pulp authors as Burroughs, Howard, Lovecraft, Mundy, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and Clark Ashton Smith. I didn’t get interested in The  Shadow until I read Philip Joê Farmer’s The Adventure of the Peerless Peer in 1977. The pulp crimefighter meets Sherlock Holmes in that book…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. (Died 2022.) Anybody here who hasn’t seen John Neville in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen where he played the title role? Well the ConFiction nominees certainly saw it as it was indeed nominated for a Hugo that year. That was the year that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade won the Hugo.

John Neville as Baron Munchausen

And what a character he played. The film starts off with the Turkish army laying siege to a European city where a theater production about the extraordinary heroics of famed German aristocrat Baron Münchhausen is underway. A man steps forward to object that the performance is a lie, not what really happened, and that he is the real Baron. So the Baron as portrayed as Neville begins to tell a series of tales, each equally improbable. Really improbable. 

He was a marvelous storyteller telling his tale with a deft hand. But then I expected no less as he’d already been in A Study in Terror back in the Sixties where he made a most excellent Sherlock Holmes. For my viewpoint, this role as The Baron was definitely the best by far of his career.

Later genre roles were including the recurring role in the X-Files as The Well- Manicured Man. He was there for a total of eight episodes but I must confess that I’ve not seen all of the series, and yes it’s on my to be watched in its entirety list, so I’ve not seen this role. Or at least I don’t remember him. 

He had an appearance in the Trek universe on Next Generation as Isaac Newton in “Descent”.  Likewise if you saw The Fifth Element, and I’ve seen it at least four times, he’s General Staedert there. 

That’s I wanted to note although there’s a lot more that he did, so feel free to tell me what I should have noted. I know you want to. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEASED BUT NOT DECEASED. “Creators Getting Cease And Desists Over Conan And Red Sonja” reports Bleeding Cool.

Earlier this year comic creator of Bad Machinery and Giant DaysJohn Allison, posted to his website about a new webcomic strip. “A new story starts next week, in three parts – CONAN: THE BLOOD EGG. Welcome to my new Hyborian Age, an epoch that lasts 21 weeks, or 22 if I have to have a week off between chapters at some point. While this move into the thrilling, tempestuous, and most importantly, public domain world of Conan may seem jarring, perhaps there is something about this cover image that will hint at a certain familiarity to the cast.”

The cast of Bad Machinery there. But a little while afterwards, it was not to be. The strips were removed and Allison posted, “Following a cease and desist notice filed on behalf of Conan Properties International (CPI) LLC I have taken down my Conan & The Blood Egg comic. While to the best of my understanding, Conan The Barbarian is in the public domain in the UK (where I live and work), I do not have the time or the energy to contest this. I made this story for my own and your amusement and it has – I think understandably – ceased to be amusing. I apologise for the break in updates, and that you won’t get to see the remaining half of the story. I was ten pages (of 66) off finishing drawing it. In retrospect, my mistake was starting to draw it in the first place.”

Conan is in the public domain in the UK. However, posting it online means that it is also considered to be published wherever it is read, including the USA, where it is not public domain until 2028….

(11) USE THE FROSTING, LUKE. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Astro Donuts & Fried Chicken is will be selling Star Wars-themed donuts on May 4th.

(12) GOT PETAFLOPS? “Here’s your chance to own a decommissioned US government supercomputer”Ars Technica tells you how.

On Tuesday, the US General Services Administration began an auction for the decommissioned Cheyenne supercomputer, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 5.34-petaflop supercomputer ranked as the 20th most powerful in the world at the time of its installation in 2016. Bidding started at $2,500, but it’s price is currently $27,643 with the reserve not yet met.

The supercomputer, which officially operated between January 12, 2017, and December 31, 2023, at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, was a powerful (and once considered energy-efficient) system that significantly advanced atmospheric and Earth system sciences research….

(13) SHADE ON ORION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] An Inspector General’s report at NASA has cast doubt on the readiness of the Orion capsule to support crewed missions. “NASA moon capsule suffered extensive damage during 2022 test flight” in the Washington Post.

The heat shield of the Orion spacecraft intended one day to carry astronauts to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program suffered unexpected damage in more than 100 places as the spacecraft returned to Earth during an uncrewed test flight in 2022, according to a watchdog report released late Wednesday.

While the capsule withstood the fiery tumult of reentry, when temperatures reached 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it plunged through the atmosphere at nearly 25,000 mph, the damage the heat shield suffered was far greater than NASA engineers had expected and more severe than NASA had revealed previously. Photos of the heat shield in the report showed gouges that look like small potholes.

“Should the same issue occur on future Artemis missions, it could lead to the loss of the vehicle or crew,” the report, by NASA’s inspector general, concluded.

Earlier this year, NASA announced that the next flight in its Artemis moon program, which would send a crew of four around the moon in the Artemis II mission, would be delayed to no earlier than September 2025, largely because officials wanted to study the heat shield issue further and understand why it eroded as it did.

The IG report provides the most detailed description of the issue to date. It also highlighted other problems with the spacecraft that could create significant challenges for the space agency as it seeks to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years.

Portions of the heat shield “wore away differently than NASA engineers predicted, cracking and breaking off the spacecraft in fragments that created a trail of debris rather than melting away as designed,” according to the report. That, in turn, “could have caused enough structural damage to cause one of Orion’s parachutes to fail.”…

(14) WALLY MCWALLFACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If you were an astronaut on the Moon, would you want to run around something called the “wall of death“ in order to keep fit for your return to Earth? I’m betting even seasoned professionals would prefer it have a different name. And I bet we all know what it would be called if NASA left it open to a public vote. “Astronauts could run round ‘Wall of Death’ to keep fit on moon, say scientists” in the Guardian.

As humans prepare to return to the moon after an absence of more than half a century, researchers have hit on a radical approach to keeping astronauts fit as they potter around the ball of rock.

To prevent lunar explorers from becoming weak and feeble in the low gravity environment, scientists suggest astronauts go for a run. But, this being space, it’s not just any kind of run – researchers have advised astronauts run several times a day around a “lunar Wall of Death”.

Using a rented Wall of Death – a giant wooden cylinder used by motorcycle stunt performers in their gravity-defying fairground act – a 36m-high telescopic crane, and some bungee cords, researchers showed it was possible for a human to run fast enough in lunar gravity not only to remain on the wall, but to generate sufficient lateral force to combat bone and muscle wasting….

(15) SCREENTIME. JustWatch ranks the most-viewed streaming movies and TV in April 2024.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/24 Doctor Who And The Scrolls Of Pixeldon

(1) USPS TO ISSUE D&D STAMPS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “New DnD Stamps Celebrate Game’s 50th Anniversary | D&D News (dungeonsanddragonsfan.com) at Dungeons and Dragons Fanatics.

Over the years the Dungeons & Dragons brand has appeared in countless places, with everything from t-shirts and playing cards to video games and big screen Hollywood films. Now, the legendary RPG is coming to an envelope near you as a series of exclusive DnD stamps from the United States Postal Service (USPS) that are being released to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the legendary TTRPG.

So get ready to roll a saving throw versus shipping and handling, as we take a closer look at these unique collectibles.

The news also in also Item 1 of the USPS press release: “U.S. Postal Service Reveals Additional Stamps for 2024”.

Dern quips: “One of the USPS’s packaged sets will come with special dice that you can use when bringing D&D-stamped letters, packages, etc to a post office counter, for the opportunities including of free upgrade to a higher (faster) service delivery level; reduced total price (for packages, etc); even getting back 1 or 2x fresh stamps. (However, unlucky rolls can delay or fail delivery, damage your package, etc.)”

Additionally, when these stamps are used, the USPS is inserting phrases [1] to its (unofficial) [2] motto (which, I’m assuming, isn’t a guarantee):

…nor dragons, illithids, quicksand, vortexes, Balrogs, orcs, triffids, feral flat cats, time storms, falling space elevators, sandworms, Black Bolt sneezing, hamburglers, or dramatic readings by Harlan Ellison, [shall etc.]

[1] I’m not a D&Der, though continue to play NetHack, so I’m drawing from my more general sf/comics reading, etc.

[2] Which turns out to be older than I would have thought, per the USPS (“Postal Service Mission”, “About that motto”) and the Wikipedia.

(Editor’s note: File 770 reported about these stamps before, but Dern’s version is more fun.)

(2) NEXT ITEM ON THE AGENDA. “Dracula writer Bram Stoker revealed as a humble minute taker for actor charity” in the Guardian.

…The imagination of Bram Stoker gave life to one of literature’s most enduring terrors, Count Dracula. But the Irish-born writer’s mind was not only full of flapping cloaks, dripping fangs and creaking coffins. Stoker, it can now be confirmed, also had a strong vein, or shall we say streak, of bureaucratic efficiency running through his personality.

Researchers working for the Actors’ Benevolent Fund, the charity that supports actors and stage managers in need, have discovered that the minutes of its founding meeting, back in 1882, were taken by Stoker. It has now been confirmed that the handwriting matches documents held by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, with images of the notes released this weekend….

(3) OLD SPARKY. Author Gareth L. Powell looks at the damage solar activity could wreak on terrestrial infrastructure in “Sci-Fi Eye: The wrong kind of sunshine” at The Engineer.

… When the charged particles from a coronal mass ejection hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they cause a geomagnetic storm that can disrupt radio transmissions and damage power lines. The most famous recorded example of this is the Carrington Event of 1859, which disabled the US telegraph network, causing fires and electric shocks. More recently, in 1989, a geomagnetic storm disrupted power distribution in Quebec and caused aurorae as far south as Texas.

If another large coronal mass ejection hit the Earth today, our satellites would most obviously be at risk, and the intense radio emissions and magnetic effects could disrupt our satellite-based communication, weather, and GPS networks. At the same time, the energetic ultraviolet radiation would heat the Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to expand and increase the drag on those satellites, shortening their orbital lifetimes.

A severe event could also knock out power and disrupt electronic hardware, perhaps even causing errors and data loss as charged particles flip ones to zeroes and vice versa.

According to New Scientist, the most powerful solar storm ever to have hit us may have occurred 14,300 years ago, leaving a huge spike in radioactive carbon in tree rings from the time. So far, evidence has been discovered for nine more of these ‘Miyake’ events. Should one occur today, it could destroy all our satellites and potentially disable energy grids for months….

(4) QUITE A HANDFUL. Lisa Tuttle reviews these five books for the Guardian’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”: Three Eight One by Aliya Whiteley; The Glass Woman by Alice McIlroy; The Principle of Moments by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson; The Knowing by Emma Hinds; Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock by Maud Woolf.

(5) NOT JUST “A VAST WASTELAND”. The Guardian reminds everyone about the television programs with the greatest impact on the UK: “From the Post Office scandal to nuclear attack: 13 TV shows that shook Britain”. Terry Pratchett featured in one of them.

The War Game (BBC, 1966)

Unusually among the most influential TV shows, Peter Watkins’ simulation of a nuclear attack on the UK – made at the peak of the cold war – was not shown for 19 years. BBC bosses feared it would show viewers the futility of preparations for armageddon and its physical reality: evaporating eyeballs, rats outnumbering people in the streets. Counterintuitively, the show’s banning – supposed to reduce mass panic – led Britons to suspect that atomic war must be even worse than they had thought….

Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die (BBC Two, 2011)

A major debate of the next few years will surely be the right to elective death for the terminally ill. Celebrities recently joining this campaign – Esther Rantzen, Susan Hampshire – would acknowledge that they follow the brave trail of Terry Pratchett, the great fantasy novelist, who faced the harsh reality of death in an impeccable documentary in which he travelled to meet people intending to manage their exits and, with a terminal diagnosis of his own, examined the options. Because of Pratchett, this film will be seen as moving the dial on the question of self-determination….

(6) NASA NOT SCREWED AFTER ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After more than three months, NASA has finally managed to open the OSIRIS-Rex sample return cylinder from asteroid Bennu. They had to invent, and test, a new tool to safely remove a couple of screws as a workaround for the stuck top of the container. “NASA can finally touch the ‘rarest’ rocks on Earth” – and Mashable breathes a sigh of relief.  (Photos at the link.)

Two little screws almost ruined the ending of NASA‘s seven-year space journey to asteroid Bennu and back.

But after more than three months of trying to pry the lid off a can containing the bulk of rocks and dust from the asteroid, engineers have finally done it. To remove the stuck top, they made and tested new tools that could safely unscrew the fasteners without damaging the precious sample.

So far the science team has only seen grainy cell phone pictures of the sample, said Andrew Ryan, a co-investigator on the NASA mission, but better photos are expected next week….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 13, 1977 Orlando Bloom, 47. Speaking of The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, let’s talk about Orlando Bloom who I think magnificently played  Legolas here and in the other five Jackson Tolkien films.  Mind you this is one of the reasons I didn’t watch The Hobbit films as he wasn’t in the novel, was he? 

So what else for genre work? Well there’s being Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. I’ve seen just the first but I immensely enjoyed it and thought he was quite good in it. 

Orlando Bloom in 2013.

Carnival Row which sounds like someone read Bill Willingham’s Fables and crossed it with a police procedural has him as Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate, an inspector of a Constabulary. It’s on Amazon, and I’d checking out.

He was the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers. Yes, I consider it genre. 

He was Tommy Hambleton was in Needle in a Timestack, script  by John Ridley from the Robert Silverberg story which first was published  in the June 1983 issue of Playboy.

He has a single mystery to his name, a Midsomer Murders, “Judgement Day” in which he plays Peter Drinkwater, a petty thief who gets murdered. I mention this because acting on that series is a coveted affair indeed in Britain. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pickles discusses what C.S. Lewis used to call “chronological snobbery.”
  • Rhymes with Orange has a timely warning. (Get it?)
  • Tom Gauld depicts a whole range of people who show up at the library assistance desk.

(9) DEMANDING OUR ATTENTION. AV Club scores the publicity of our two Star ___ franchises in “Star Trek races to announce it’s getting a new movie too, okay?”

Although there’s been a fair amount of ink spilled, over the last few years, about the ways Disney’s Star Wars movie franchise kind of fell off a cliff in the immediate aftermath of The Rise Of Skywalker, it’s worth remember that Star Trek has had it a hell of a lot worse. Although Trek’s television fortunes are doing pretty great at the moment—four series and counting, mostly well-received, right now—the series has been in retreat at the box office for fully eight years at this point, after the under-performance of 2016’s Star Trek: Beyond. (To the point that franchise star Chris Pine—a Major Movie Star!—has said more than once than he has absolutely no clue whether he still has that job, for all that the official line is that “Star Trek 4” is still in “active development.”)

But in the wake of Star Wars making noises this week indicating that it’s getting back into the movie-making tauntaun saddle with a film based on its beloved Mandalorian characters, we guess Star Trek needed to remind everybody that it’s still out there, potentially dominating the box office, too. Per Deadline, Paramount has let it be known that it’s started working with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot on a new Star Trek movie, even poaching some talent from the competition by hiring Andor’s Toby Haynes to direct. (Seth Grahme-Smith is writing, although details about the plot/concept/etc. are, unsurprisingly, zilcho at the moment.)…

(10) ALIEN GOES HOLLYWOOD. The Business podcast brings listeners “’Fargo’ creator Noah Hawley on season 5 and adapting ‘Alien’ for TV” at KCRW.com. Here are the topics covered in the 11-minute program.

Fargo creator Noah Hawley’s FX anthology series is just wrapping up its fifth critically acclaimed season. He still has more ideas for the show, and in spite of the ongoing upheaval in Hollywood, Hawley says he believes gifted creators will always be able to tell their stories. 

“Every generation has its masterpieces. You know, we had masterpieces before the golden age of television, and we’ll have masterpieces afterwards. It’s our responsibility to make them and to trick these corporations into paying for us to make them, right?” Hawley says. 

The Emmy-winning writer also talks to Eric Deggans about his upcoming television adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise, and explains why he thinks people are getting tired of densely plotted shows on TV — including season 4 of Fargo, which had 23 main characters. 

(11) WHAT HAPPENS TO A RABBIT IN PUBLIC DOMAIN. Animation World Network anticipates “Nostalgic Horror Flick ‘Oswald Down the Rabbit Hole’ to Begin Filming this Spring”.

Lilton Stewart III, award-winning American filmmaker and creator of November 11th Pictures, has teamed with producer Lucinda Bruce on Oswald Down the Rabbit Hole, a film that will capture the magic of iconic cartoon characters through the lens of horror. The feature, described as Who Framed Roger Rabbit meets Nightmare on Elm Street, is set to begin filming in Spring 2024, with an announcement teaser trailer releasing this month.

Oswald follows main character Art and some of his closest friends as they track down his long-lost family lineage. When they find his Great-Grandpa Oswald’s abandoned home, they are transported to a place lost in time, shrouded by dark Hollywood Magic. The group finds that they are not alone when the cartoon Rabbit, a dark entity, comes to life. Art and his friends must work together to escape their magical prison before the Rabbit gets to them first….

“Much like Pooh, Tigger, and Mickey Mouse, the Oswald character entered the public domain on January 1, 2023. Originally owned by Disney, control of the cartoon rabbit shifted to Universal in 1928, leading to the creation of Mickey Mouse to compensate for the loss. Nothing says ‘copyright expiration’ like a horror reimagining!”

(12) LOST CITIES ARE A SORT OF MINOR FANTASY AND SF TROPE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  The front cover of this week’s Science journal has “Two thousand years of garden urbanism in the Upper Amazon”.

The urban core of the Sangay archaeological site shows artificial earthen platforms and dug streets distributed along the edge of the cliffs flanking the Upano River. Recent investigation revealed a dense system of pre-Hispanic urban centers in the Upano Valley of Amazonian Ecuador, in the eastern foothills of the Andes. This discovery changes the perception of the Amazon’s ancient human past.

The primary research is here:

When intact, the Amazonian forest is dense and difficult to penetrate, both on foot and with scanning technologies. Over the past several years, however, improved light detection and ranging scans have begun to penetrate the forest canopy, revealing previously unknown evidence of past Amazonian cultures. Rostain et al.describe evidence of such an agrarian Amazonian culture that began more than 2000 years ago. They describe more than 6,000 earthen platforms distributed in a geometic pattern connected by roads and intertwined with agricultural landscapes and river drainages in the Upano Valley. Previous efforts have described mounds and large monuments in Amazonia, but the complexity and extent of this development far surpasses these previous sites.

(13) A ROCKET WITH THE MUNCHIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Watch this rocket ‘eat’ its own body for fuel” at Popular Science. (“Ouroboros-3 Hybrid Autophage Rocket Engine Test (Composite)”.)

…Collaborators from the University of Glasgow say they have debuted the first successful, unsupported autophage (Latin for “self-eating”) rocket engine prototype. Revealed earlier this week during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum, the Ouroboros-3—named after the ancient Egyptian symbol of a snake eating its own tail—utilizes its own body as an additional fuel source. In a video of the tests, the Ouroboros-3 can be seen shrinking in length as its body is burned away during a simulated launch….

(14) FIND OUT WHAT YOU MISSED IN 2023. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Northern hemisphere’s academic year’s, spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up.


New , SF2 Concatenation has its spring* season edition. It includes the season’s full news page, with its Film News;  Television News;  Publishing News;  General Science News  and  Forthcoming SF Books from major British Isles SF imprints for the season, among much else.  Separately SF2 Concatenation has a couple of stand-alone articles and convention reports. Plus there is the usual tranche of stand-alone book reviews.  Something for every SF enthusiast and/or science bod.
* ‘Spring’ season here being the northern hemisphere, academic year spring.

In the news page mix SF2 Concatenation has its annual bit of fun with our selection of ‘Best SF’ books and films of the previous year, 2023.  This is also on SF2 Concatenation’s Best SF Books and Films archive, so you can see whether any of their previous years’ choices went on to win major SF awards. (Of course it is too early to see how our latest – 2023 – selection fares.)

Time to sit down at the PC, open the lap top or pad and explore the news page and its links to trailers and videos as well as science papers.

For details of / links to the new content, scroll down to beneath ‘Most recently added‘ below.

FORTHCOMING

Mid-March will see the first of the zine’s four ‘Best of Nature ‘Futures’ short, short SF stories of the year.  If you want to check out past stories in this series the Best of Nature ‘Futures’ archive is here.

Most recently added

v34(1) 2024.1.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn 2024

v34(1) 2024.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v34(1) 2023.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A forgotten classic: “ Snoopy’s Christmas vs. The Red Baron”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/7/24 Pixels Scrolling Off Into The Sky, The Sound Of Filers Echoing Down From The Heaven

(1) THESE GUYS ARE SHAMELESS. Disney tried to shut down a YouTuber’s remix of Steamboat Willie even though it was in public domain: “Disney pulls ‘Steamboat Willie’ YouTube copyright claim amid Mickey Mouse entry into public domain”.

Mashable reported that YouTuber and voice actor Brock Baker had uploaded a video to his channel with over 1 million subscribers which was almost immediately hit with a copyright claim from Disney.

Baker’s video featured the entirety of the 1928 Disney animated short Steamboat Willie. He had remixed the film, which stars Mickey Mouse, with his own comedic audio track playing over the nearly 8-minute cartoon, and released it under the title “Steamboat Willie (Brock’s Dub).”

After being hit with the claim, Baker’s upload became demonetized, meaning the YouTuber could not make any money off of it. The claim also blocked the ability to embed the video on third-party websites. In addition, the YouTube video was given limited visibility, including being blocked from view entirely in certain countries. 

Baker disputed the copyright claim shortly after receiving it. His case appeared strong, as Steamboat Willie entered the public domain on January 1, 2024, allowing a broad range of creative usage of the film and its contents without Disney’s permission — including for profit.

He was successful.

“Disney released their claim and it’s now embeddable and shareable worldwide,” Baker told Mashable on Friday along with a screenshot of the email alert he received from YouTube letting him know the copyright claim was released.

“Good news! After reviewing your dispute, Disney has decided to release their copyright claim on your YouTube video,” reads the YouTube email message….

Watch “Steamboat Willie (Brock’s Dub)” at the link.

(2) THE SUBSTACK DILEMMA. Cass Morris and Brian Keene recently shared their takes on “Substack’s Nazi Problem”.

“So… Substack…” by Cass Morris.

A few weeks ago, I co-signed an open letter to Substack’s founders asking them to not platform Nazis. Their response was… not great. The Paradox of Tolerance in action, really. And I could go into a big thing about the dangers of free speech absolutism and how it’s really just permission for terrible people to be more terrible more openly, but, y’know, that’s all been said a billion times. “Don’t welcome Nazis” really should not be a controversial viewpoint, yet here we are.

As a result of the founders’ statement, a fair number of both creators and supporters are leaving Substack. Even more, I think, are trying to decide whether to do so. A.R. Moxon and Catherynne Valente have said, more eloquently and thoroughly, the things I’m thinking and wrangling with, but I did want my readers to hear from me directly on this….

…Moving somewhere else is also no guarantee that a new platform won’t also face the same problems someday, forcing yet another move. I’m a child of the LiveJournal age; I remember how it started, and I remember what happened when it got sold. Very few sites seem to have long-term viability without corporate backing, and the increased corporatization of the internet is most of the reason I think the internet peaked in 2007. Every site is potentially in danger. Just because Buttondown or other platforms are promising good behavior now doesn’t mean anything if leadership or ownership changes (citation: Twitter). As Moxon and Valente both pointed out in their essays, abandoning every site that fails a virtue test means giving all our playgrounds over to the Nazis, and I’m not sure I’m okay with continuing to do that….

“Letters From the Labyrinth 364” by Brian Keene.

…These days I am so far removed from the drama and the backbiting and the petty squabbles that encompass our industry that I no longer know who is mad at who, or who’s been cancelled and for what, or which publisher isn’t paying, or what this person did. For example, I only found out recently that Substack has an apparent Nazi problem — something I was blissfully unaware of until several newsletters I subscribe to migrated away from the platform. And I respect folks decisions to do that. I’m going to stick it out because I’m tired of leaving platforms when the Nazis show up. We did that with Facebook and Twitter and Reddit. If we keep doing that, soon every bar will be a Nazi bar. Sooner or later, you’ve got to plant your feet and fight. So here is where I’ll make my stand — a counter-voice to their voices. If you can dig that, cool. If not, I don’t care….

(3) THE AMERICAN MULE? Ross Douthat’s New York Times opinion piece “Is Trump an Agent or an Accident of History?” kicks off with a big reference to Asimov.

In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, a “psychohistorian” in a far-flung galactic empire figures out a way to predict the future so exactly that he can anticipate both the empire’s fall and the way that civilization can be painstakingly rebuilt. This enables him to plan a project — the “foundation” of the title — that will long outlast his death, complete with periodic messages to his heirs that always show foreknowledge of their challenges and crises.

Until one day the foreknowledge fails, because an inherently unpredictable figure has come upon the scene — the Mule, a Napoleon of galactic politics, whose advent was hard for even a psychohistorian to see coming because he’s literally a mutant, graced by some genetic twist with the power of telepathy.

Donald Trump is not a mutant telepath. (Or so I assume — fact checkers are still at work.) But the debates about how to deal with his challenge to the American political system turn, in part, on how much you think that he resembles Asimov’s Mule.

Was there a more normal, conventional, stable-seeming timeline for 21st century American politics that Trump, with his unique blend of tabloid celebrity, reality-TV charisma, personal shamelessness and demagogic intuition, somehow wrenched us off?

Or is Trump just an American expression of the trends that have revived nationalism all over the world, precisely the sort of figure a “psychohistory” of our era would have anticipated? In which case, are attempts to find some elite removal mechanism likely to just heighten the contradictions that yielded Trumpism in the first place, widening the gyre and bringing the rough beast slouching in much faster?…

(4) DOUG BERRY: THE GUY IN THE GIANTS HAT. [Item by Chris Garcia.] Last October, the world lost a wonderful human being — Douglas Berry. A Bay Area fan who was one of the original denizens of the 2000s Fanzine Lounges, Doug was also a phenomenal writer, best-known for his game writing in the Traveler game system universe, he was also a regularly blogger and Facebooker, and contributed to Journey Planet and The Drink Tank, co-editing two issues of the latter. 

Doug’s widow Kirsten, Chuck Serface, and Chris Garcia gathered some of Doug’s best writing from 2023, along with a few pieces from the last few years. The resulting collection, The Guy in the Giants Hat, can be downloaded from the link.

(5) PARAMOUNT+ SHEDS ORIGINAL STAR TREK MOVIES. Rachel Leishman gloats “Now That Only the Kelvin-Verse ‘Star Trek’ Movies Are Available on Paramount+, Maybe You’ll See Things My Way” at The Mary Sue.

Finally my time has come. You will all be forced to appreciate the Kelvin-verse. My plan is working, and you will all soon love my favorite Star Trek movies. That’s what you get for being mean. 

To be fair, you can still stream the original Star Trek movies. They’re just no longer on Paramount+, the home of the franchise. Hilarious to think about it like that, but it is weird that the home of Trek does not have the original Star Trek movies on its platform. What it does have are the movies starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban. Yes, you can still watch the magic that is Star Trek Beyond to your heart’s content. 

The Kelvin-verse movies (aptly named because they exist in an alternate timeline) started with the 2009 Star Trek from director J.J. Abrams and gave us a new crew of the Enterprise. They are beautiful and getting to see their adventures is extremely necessary in the world of Trek. Also, who doesn’t want to see more of Leonard Nimoy as Spock? Point is: These movies rule and we have been stuck in limbo about whether this franchise will continue for years. 

(6) SCHRÖDINGER’S TV SERIES. Meanwhile, The Orville’s fate has not been sealed: “Seth MacFarlane Says The Orville Isn’t Canceled Yet” in The Wrap.

Seth MacFarlane, the creator, writer and star of “The Orville,” has offered a cryptic update on the sci-fi series’ fate.

“All I can tell you is that there is no official death certificate for ‘The Orville’,” MacFarlane told TheWrap in an interview when asked about an update on a possible Season 4. “It is still with us. I can’t go any further than that at the moment. There are too many factors.”

MacFarlane’s co-star Scott Grimes added that conversations about “The Orville” Season 4 began before the SAG-AFTRA and Writers’ Guild of America strikes.

“I do know that we are still talking about it. It’s not dead in any sort of way whatsoever. It’s just about when, where and how and building the stuff again,” Grimes told TheWrap. “I’m excited because it’s one of the greatest things to work on. So I just have my fingers crossed. And I know Seth wants to do it and that usually holds a lot of power. And I hope he gets to because it’s one of his babies that he just loves and it’s a blast to work on.”…

(7) FREE SFF READ. The Sunday Morning Transport offers “Agni” by Nibedita Sen as a free read to encourage people to subscribe.

Nibedita Sen brings us a brilliant, dangerous world, complex power dynamics, and characters we can’t stop thinking about…

(8) DR. EMANUEL LOTTEM (1944-2024.) Israeli translator and editor Dr. Emanuel Lotem has died. The Israeli Science Fiction and Fantasy Association mourned his loss on Facebook. (Note: Translations of his name are spelled several different ways; I have followed the spelling used by his Zion’s Fiction co-editor Sheldon Teitelbaum.)

Emanuel was one of the founding fathers of the Israeli community. As one of the association’s founders and chairman, he saw the approach of science fiction and fantasy as a supreme goal. The founders of the community and the association concentrated around him, and in light of his vision, conferences, and lectures began in them. Even after retiring from his official position, Emanuel was always present to give a listening ear, a push in the right direction or a prickly and precise word, always out of love for the content world and the community created around him. Emanuel made sure to lecture at conferences, meet the young and old fans that always surrounded him, and always returned the love that the community allowed him.

Emanuel was the translator of the science fiction and fantasy types into Hebrew, his translations brought to the Israeli audience the greatness of writers and books in Israel for more than 45 years. For many his translations were the first encounter with science fiction. His translations to “Dune” and “Lord of the Rings” well illustrated that Emanuel saw in the role of a translator a purpose, and a way to enrich the literary world through careful dialogue with the work. His vast breadth of knowledge and proficiency in every possible subject made his translations into art, and not just technical art. Emanuel pushed for the translation and publication of science fiction at a time when its translation was an insidious act, and was a significant factor in the field’s bloom.

Many people owe him their entry into this world, and many more will miss him.

Lottem recalled his start as an sff translator in an interview, “Dr. Emanuel Lottem, Intrigue and Conspiracies”, by the ISFFA.

…I fell in love with the English language and it helped me a lot to develop my third career as a translator from English to Hebrew. I started it basically as a gig. In my first career, as a university lecturer, salaries there weren’t anything, I needed a gig, I said, I can translate, why not, that’s how I came to Am Oved Publishing House, I had personal connections there, and I translated several books for them in my professional field, which is international economics. Then the White Series was born. And I was turned on. I said I want to translate. Tell me what a serious person is, what you have with this nonsense, science fiction. What are you, floating in the clouds? Translate serious things. I insisted, and then one day I called, it was already in my second career in the Foreign Ministry, the editorial secretary of Am Oved, called me, said I have a book called Dune, want to translate it? Luckily I was sitting on a good chair, so I didn’t fall out of it… And that’s how it started. That’s how my journey as a science fiction translator began. If the question was how my love for science fiction began, it was years before….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. (Died 1988.) Ahhh Charles Addams. No doubt you’re now thinking of the Addams Family and you’ve certainly reason to do so, but let’s first note some other artistic endeavors of his. 

His first published book work in the early Forties was the cover for But Who Wakes The Bugler by Peter DeVries, a silly slice of life novel.  He previously sold some sketches to the New Yorker

Random House soon thereafter contracted him for anthologies of drawings, Drawn and Quartered and Addams and Evil. (Lest you ask, the term “anthology” is from his website.)  Four more anthologies, now on Simon & Schuster will follow. 

And there was The Chas Addams Mother Goose, really there was. Here’s his cover for it.

Based on his the characters that had appeared in his New Yorker cartoons, 1964 saw The Addams Family television series premiere on ABC. It would star, and I’m just singling them out, John Astin as Gomez and Carolyn Jones as Morticia. 

It lasted just two seasons of thirty-minute episodes. Mind you there were sixty-four episodes. Yes, I loved every minute of it. I have watched it at least three times, as recently as several years ago and it as great now as was when I first watched it decades ago.

Halloween with the New Addams Family is a follow-up film with the primary cast back. No idea why the New is in there.  We also had The Addams Family, an animated with a voice cast with some of the original performers, yet another Addams Family series (each with these largely had just Sean Astin from the original series).

Think we’re done? Of course there is The Addams Family with Raúl Julia as a most macabre Gomez and Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams with Carol Struycken playing Lurch for the first of several times.  I really, really adore this film. 

It was followed by the Addams Family Values which for some reason that I can’t quite figure out I just don’t adore.

Are we finished? No. The New Addams Family which aired for one nearly a quarter of a century after the original series went off the air after but a single season but lasted an extraordinary sixty-five episodes. I need to see at least the pilot for this. 

And then there’s the Addams Family Reunion which had the distinction of Tim Curry as Gomez. I’ve not seen it, so who has? It sounds like an intriguing role for him…

There will be two animated films as well, The Addams Family and The Addams Family 2, neither of which I’ve seen.

Finally let’s talk about licensing. After his death, his wife, Tee Addams, was responsible for getting his works licensed. To quote the website, “The Addams Family, both its individual characters and the Family in its entirety, have a long history of selling products, in print ad campaigns and television commercials alike – from typewriters to Japanese scotch, from designer showcases to perfume, from paper towels to chocolate candies, and all that lies in between.” 

So I went looking for use of the characters. I think the best one I found is the claymation one for M&Ms Dark Chocolate which you can see here. (And please don’t ask me about the Wizard of Oz M&Ms commercial. That one is still giving me nightmares.though the FedEx Wizard of Oz commercial is just silly. I mean dropping a FedEx truck on that witch…)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy plays “match the snowman”. How many do you recognize?
  • The Far Side shows the dogs’ take on nuclear war.
  • Peanuts from March 28, 1955 is the start of five more Martian jokes.
  • Sally Forth has a complaint about that other Jetpack…

(11) I’LL BE BACK. [Item by Steven French.] Physics World picks “The 10 quirkiest stories from the world of physics in 2023”. This one is kinda scary:

Shape-shifting robot

In the classic 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin, the T-800, comes up against the T-1000 Advanced Prototype, which is made from a liquid metal called “mimetic polyalloy” that can reform into any shape it touches. Researchers in China and the US this year came close to recreating in the lab some of the T-1000’s special abilities. They did this by designing miniature robots that can rapidly and reversibly shift between liquid and solid. First, they embedded magnetic particles in gallium, a soft metal with a low melting point. Then they applied an alternating magnetic field, which not only heats the magnetic particles, making the body become a liquid, but also allows it to become mobile. In one video released by the team, a 10mm-tall LEGO-like minifigure liquifies to ooze before passing through bars in a mocked-up cell. It then cools inside a mould before the figure reforms back into its original shape.”

(12) CLIENTS PROPPING THEM UP. CBS Los Angeles reports how the “Entertainment industry bands together to save struggling Hollywood prop house”.

From the outside, Faux Library Studio Props may seem like an unassuming warehouse nestled in North Hollywood. Inside, however, are a whole host of set pieces that tell the recent history of the entertainment industry. 

Unfortunately, like many businesses trying to bounce back in the past couple of years, all of the priceless mementos may be lost unless the owner can come up with $100,000 by February.

Marc Meyer started Faux Library Studio Props over two decades ago in 2000. 

“When I retired from decorating I said I got to keep buying and enjoying myself. So, this was my business,” Meyer said. 

His retirement project turned into the home for vintage furniture and décor worth millions of dollars, including a desk from “Top Gun Maverick” and a boardroom table in “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

However, Meyer is famous for the prop books he holds, all 16,000 of them, including the ones from “Angels and Demons.”

While the covers are real, the insides are not. 

“That’s the wallpaper on the inside, just to make it look like pages,” Meyer said. “The actor really has to act to show the weight.”…

(13) STAR HOOEY. “Fox News Host Unexpectedly Wins for Most Baffling ‘Star Trek’ vs. ‘Star Wars’ Take” according to The Mary Sue.

….On Thursday’s episode of the Fox News roundtable show Outnumbered, the hosts discussed a new Star Wars announcement. These high-profile, successful women on Fox News were outraged that a woman, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, will direct the next Star Wars film. Like much of the right-wing media, they found it upsetting that Obaid-Chinoy said it was about time a woman directed a Star Wars movie.

The show also highlighted a statement Obaid-Chinoy made years ago, unrelated to Star Wars, about enjoying making men uncomfortable with her movies. After showing the Obaid-Chinoy quote, Fox News host Emily Compagno said, “Pretty great attitude for a director of a franchise that is geared towards men!”

Kayleigh McEnany, another host on the show, predicted Obaid-Chinoy’s film would “flop.” McEnany tried to bolster her argument by reading a list of recent conservative “successes” in pop culture. These included the terrible song “Try That in a Small Town” and the Bud Light boycott. McEnany made an argument that “woke” things failed in 2023. (I guess she missed how Barbie dominated the box office, among other successful feminist works in the past year.) She wrapped up her rant by sarcastically wishing Obaid-Chinoy the “best of luck” with her Star Wars movie.

That’s when Compagno flashed a backward Vulcan salute and said, “And that’s why I’m a Trekkie and not Star Wars!”…

And then The Mary Sue pointed out many examples of when Star Trek was attacked as too “woke”.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes you inside the “Rebel Moon: Part One Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/24 Yippie-i-ay (Yippie-i-ay), Yippie-i-oh (Yippie-i-oh), Ghost Pixels In The Sky

(1) EMSH REVIVAL FOR AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about the work he’s doing to get the second Ellison anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, ready for publication. It involves the interior art and graphics.

Now that Harlan’s first Dangerous Visions is locked for print, we’re now moving to getting a proper galley for Again, Dangerous Visions. The main problem, in my eyes, with that process is that many of the later editions used the same Ed Emshwiller graphics/stats made for the original book (second generation images), or worse still, simply copied/reproduced the graphics from the printed pages themselves (third generation images).

This needs to be the most pristine version of the book done since the original print run, so after an exhaustive search, Ed’s original stats/graphics were discovered, and despite being sick as a dog (long story) I’ve spent every night for the past several days, going until dawn in most cases, carefully scanning every one of those eighty-plus images at high res, using air-blowers to remove dust, and gloves to avoid getting finger oil on anything.

I’ve just finished the last of the scans, and these images are just gorgeous, in astonishing detail and clarity. Honestly, so many of them could have been book covers all by themselves. Thinking that assembling these along the lines we see in the book, joined by ECG like pulses, might make a really cool promotional poster (but that’s just a thought for the moment, haven’t discussed it with anyone yet).

(2) ON THE NOSE. Philip Athans describes the use of an evocative fiction technique in “Smells Like Vivid Description” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…I was surprised to hear in this video that, “Smell is apparently the strongest inducer of memories—of early memories. And the beauty is, even people suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia, never lose their olfactory memory.”

If you look back to last week’s post about How to Tell, it’s all about triggering memories. So a particular smell can help introduce some further detail about either or both of the world and the character. For instance, I find the smell of old books particularly delightful. This is my childhood love of the old books in the library coming to the forefront, and helping to propel my own love of collecting vintage books decades and decades later. If I were a character in a novel the smell of an old book could trigger a two-paragraph mini info dump about my childhood spent primarily in books, which turned into an adulthood spent primarily in books….

… Smells can also poke certain emotional triggers in your POV character, and go a long way to establishing the atmosphere of a scene….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB speculative fiction reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present P. Djéli Clark and Eric Schaller on Wednesday, January 10. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

P. DJÉLI CLARK

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novels Abeni’s Song and A Master of Djinn, and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com and in print anthologies including, Hidden Youth and Black Boy Joy. His upcoming novella, The Dead Cat Tail Assassins, will be out in 2024.

ERIC SCHALLER

Eric Schaller’s latest collection of dark fiction, Voice of the Stranger contains stories selected for Fantasy: Best of the Year, Best of the Rest, and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. His fiction can also be found in his collection Meet Me in the Middle of the Air and in many anthologies and magazines. His stories are influenced in part by his studies in the biological sciences and the uneasy relationship humans have with each other and the world around them.

(4) WHAT TECH FORESEES IN 2024. Tech.co’s post “Experts’ Predictions for the Future of Tech in 2024” begins with a survey of sff:

2024 is about to dawn on the world. But in one of the most precient novels of the science fiction genre, it already has: Octavia Butler’s decades-old novel Parable of the Sower opens in Los Angeles in 2024.

Butler’s fictional world dealt with many of the social and environmental pressures that we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of in the real 2024. Climate change has boosted sea levels and increased droughts, increased privatization from greedy corporations is threatening schools, police forces are militarized, and a Presidential candidate is literally saying he’ll “make American great again.”

It’s hard to beat Butler’s entry when it comes to predicting what’s coming down the pike in the new year, and no one has really come close. Honorable mention goes to a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featuring a time-travelling social-commentary jaunt to 2024 San Francisco that deals with revolutionaries and homelessness encampments. A distant finalist is a grim tale by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog, which features a dystopian 2024 set among post-nuclear war mutated cannibals.

Things aren’t looking quite as bad for the real 2024, however. None of the dozens of industry experts and tech leaders that we’ve looked to for opinions about the future predicted a single incident of cannibalism….

(5) NOMINATE FOR THE REH AWARDS. “The 2024 Robert E. Howard Awards Are Open for Nominations!” announces the Robert E. Howard Foundation. You do not need to be a Foundation member to nominate.

…Under the new rules, nominations are due in to the Awards committee by February 15, 2024, with the Awards committee selecting the top nominees in each category for the final ballot by March 1, 2024….

(6) CRITTERS READERS’ POLL. Meanwhile, the “26th Annual Critters Readers’ Poll” is open through January 14. The Readers’ Poll honors print & electronic publications published during 2023. Its newest categories are Magical Realism, and Positive Future Fiction (novel & short story).

(7) MAYOR SERLING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Slashfilm reminds us of the time that Jack Benny took a detour through the Twilight Zone. No, not any of The Twilight Zone TV series nor the theatrical nor TV films. Not even the radio dramas. It all happened inside Jack Benny‘s own eponymous TV show. “Rod Serling Played The Mayor Of The Twilight Zone On The Jack Benny Program”.

…Serling’s episode aired on January 15, 1963, and, as was the show’s custom, he also played himself. In the fictionalized universe of the series, Benny hires Serling to help his struggling writers smarten up their material. Though Serling acknowledges he has little experience with comedy (before “The Twilight Zone,” he was probably best known as the Emmy-winning writer of “Requiem for a Heavyweight”), he’s excited to collaborate with Benny’s two-man staff.

This does not go well.

After repeated clashes with Benny’s writers, Serling gives up, citing his desire to tell stories with deeply considered characterizations and thought-provoking themes. Benny takes issue with Serling’s dismissive opinion of his style of comedy and fires back that “The Twilight Zone” can’t possibly tell stories of significance because the Twilight Zone does not actually exist. And you can probably guess what happens next.

After quarreling with Serling, Benny decides to take a leisurely walk home. On the way there, he gets lost in a thick fog and finds himself in an area of town he doesn’t recognize. Eventually, he encounters a road sign which tells him exactly where he is. It reads: “Welcome to Twilight Zone, Population: Unlimited.” Below this is an arrow pointing left to “Subconscious 27 Mi,” and one pointing right to “Reality 35 Mi.”

This is when matters take a distressingly surreal turn….

(8) JUST SEWN THAT WAY. Camestros Felapton gives the film a thorough critique in “Review: Poor Things”. Beware spoilers.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2023 film starring Emma Stone is a dark comedy fantasy set in an unreal, stylised world suggestive of the late 19th century. Based on the novel by Alisdair Gray (which I haven’t read) but stripped of its Scottish setting and metatextual elements, the film follows the strange life of Bella Baxter.

Dr. Godwin Baxter is a surgeon and a mad-scientist like figure who resembles Victor Frankenstein in his obsession to reanimate corpses surgically but who also resembles Frankenstein’s monster physically due to experiments conducted on him by his own father…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1990 — Isaac Asimov’s “The Fourth Homonym” story is the source of our Beginning this time. His Black Widowers stories of which this is one I think are some of the cleverest bar style stories ever done even if they weren’t set in a bar like Clarke’s White Hart tales.  

These stories which were based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders.  The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

This story was first published thirty-four years ago in The Asimov Chronicles: Fifty Years of Isaac Asimov. It may be the only Black Widower story not collected in the volumes that collect the other stories. 

There were sixty-six stories over the six volumes that were released. So far only one volume, Banquets of the Black Widowers, has been released as an ePub. And yes, I’ve got a copy on my iPad as they are well worth re-reading.

And now for one of the best Beginnings done I think in the Black Widowers stories…

“Homonyms!” said Nicholas Brant. He was Thomas Trumbull’s guest at the monthly banquet of the Black Widowers. He was rather tall, and had surprisingly prominent bags under his eyes, despite the comparative youthfulness of his appearance otherwise. His face was thin and smooth-shaven, and his brown hair showed, as yet, no signs of gray. “Homonyms,” he said.

“What?” said Mario Gonzalo blankly.

“The words you call ‘sound-alikes.’ The proper name for them is ‘homonyms.’ “

“That so?” said Gonzalo. “How do you spell it?”

Brant spelled it.

Emmanuel Rubin looked at Brant owlishly through the thick lenses of his glasses. He said, “You’ll have to excuse Mario, Mr. Brant. He is a stranger to our language.”

Gonzalo brushed some specks of dust from his jacket sleeve and said, “Manny is corroded with envy because I’ve invented a word game. He knows the words but he lacks any spark of inventiveness, and that kills him.”

“Surely Mr. Rubin does not lack inventiveness,” said Brant, soothingly. “I’ve read some of his books.”

“I rest my case,” said Gonzalo. “Anyway, I’m willing to call my game ‘homonyms’ instead of ‘sound-alikes.’ The thing is to make up some short situation which can be described by two words that are sound-alikes – that are homonyms. I’ll give you an example: If the sky is perfectly clear, it is easy to decide to go on a picnic in the open. If it is raining cats and dogs, it is easy to decide not to go on a picnic. But what if it is cloudy, and the forecast is for possible showers, but there seem to be patches of blue here and there, so you can’t make up your mind about the picnic. What would you call that?”

“A stupid story,” said Trumbull tartly, passing his hand over his crisply waved white hair.

“Come on,” said Gonzalo, “play the game. The answer is two words that sound alike.”

There was a general silence and Gonzalo said, “The answer is ‘whether weather.’ It’s the kind of weather where you wonder whether to go on a picnic or not. ‘Whether weather,’ don’t you get it?”

James Drake stubbed out his cigarette and said, “We get it. The question is, how do we get rid of it?”

Roger Halsted said, in his soft voice, “Pay no attention, Mario. It’s a reasonable parlor game, except that there don’t seem to be many combinations you can use.”

Geoffrey Avalon looked down austerely from his seventy-four-inch height and said, “More than you might think. Suppose you owned a castrated ram that was frisky on clear days and miserable on rainy days. If it were merely cloudy, however, you might wonder whether that ram would be frisky or miserable. That would be ‘whether wether weather.’ “

There came a chorus of outraged What!’s.

Avalon said, ponderously. “The first word is w-h-e-t-h-e-r, meaning if. The last word is w-e-a-t-h-e-r, which refers to atmospheric conditions. The middle word is w-e-t-h-e-r, meaning a castrated ram. Look it up if you don’t believe me.”

“Don’t bother,” said Rubin. “He’s right.”

“I repeat,” growled Trumbull, “this is a stupid game.”

“It doesn’t have to be a game,” said Brant. “Lawyers are but too aware of the ambiguities built into the language, and homonyms can cause trouble.”

The gentle voice of Henry, that waiter for all seasons, made itself heard over the hubbub by some alchemy that worked only for him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “I regret the necessity of interrupting a warm discussion, but dinner is being served.”

(10) TEA FOR 2(ND). Before reading Cat’s birthday, pour yourself a cup of “Second Breakfast – Chapters Tea”.

Small batch hand blended English breakfast tea with Marigold petals. Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, and afternoon tea. Enter our fan drawn rendition of a realm where friendship, nature, and the simple pleasures of life come first. Inspired by, but not affiliated with, our favorite series with a ring.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. (Died 1973.) Obligatory preface — this is my personal encounters with Tolkien, so if I’ve not been up close with something say The Silmarillion than it isn’t here. And I haven’t with that work. Some works I haven’t read get included anyways as they passed through Green Man and have a Story attached to them. 

Tolkien in 1972.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the individuals who I always picture in the photo of him that must be of in his seventies with his pipe with that twinkle in his eye. He looks like he could be akin to a hobbit himself about to set down to elevenses. 

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again which was published by George Allen & Unwin  eighty-six years ago written for his children but obviously we adults enjoy as much, and so it is my favorite work by him.  Dragons, hobbits, epic quests, wizards, dwarves — oh my!  

I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve read over the years, and the recent time, just several back as a listening experience showed the Suck Fairy enjoys it as much as I do.

I hadn’t realized until putting together this Birthday that all three volumes of the Lord of The Rings were published at the same time. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in 1954, The Return of The King the following year. I’m so used to trilogies being spread out over a longer period of time. 

Though I’ve not read the trilogy nearly as much I’ve read The Hobbit, and that shouldn’t surprise you, I do enjoy it though I will confess that The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the three novels here. 

It was nominated at Tricon for a Best All-Time Series Hugo. Asimov’s Foundation series won that year. It did garner an International Fantasy Award first Best Series and the same for a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. I’m more than a bit surprised that it didn’t get nominated for a Retro Hugo.

Now unto a work that I like just as much as the sister of Kate Baker, Kathleen Bartholomew, does. That being Farmer Giles of Ham. Kathleen, who now has Harry, Kage’s Space Pirate of a parrot, says “Farmer Giles is a clever, solid, shrewd fellow, clearly cut from the same cloth as the most resourceful hobbits elsewhere in Tolkien’s most famous universe.” It’s a wonderful story indeed.

We got in a custom bag from the United Kingdom that the USPS made me sign for so that HarperCollins UK could sure that all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-Earth got here. No, I didn’t read it, but I did skim it. Liz reviewed it for Green Man and here’s that review thisaway. A hobbit sitting down and having elevenses is shorter than it is. 

A much, much shorter work is The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle and much more first published in 1967. It’s a book of sheet music and as an audio recording. It is largely based off poems in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien approved of the songs here. 

Why it’s important is that side one of this record consisted of has him reading six poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, than the first track on side two has him reading part of the Elvish prayer of “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” from The Lord of the Rings

I love Letters from Father Christmas which were originally written for his children. I see Allen and Unwin gave what I think was the better title of The Father Christmas Letters when they first published then collectively in 1976 which was more declarative. A local theatre group dud a reading of them some twenty years back — it was a wonderful experience as it was snowing gently outside the bookstore windows where they were doing it as we had hot chocolate and cookies.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something by him that I like but I think that I’ve prattled on long enough this time… 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nonsequitur has a nice variation on the old Hans Christian Andersen tale.
  • Carpe Diem is a vision of the future.
  • Dog Eat Doug shows when the bark(er) is as fierce as the bite.

(13) BEGUILE THE DIAL. [Item by Steven French.] A call for more weirdness on U.K. TV: “Britain is plagued by bland, box-ticking television. Bring back weird TV” in the Guardian.

…Schedules from the 60s and 70s – the height of Britain’s TV weirdness –contained nuclear attacks, ghosts, war stories, brutal public safety films and intellectually demanding folk horror dramas such as Robin Redbreast, Penda’s Fen and Artemis 81….

(14) WOULD YOU BELIEVE…IRISH REUNIFICATION? Gizmodo reminds fans that “2024 Is a Hell of a Year in Star Trek History” with a slideshow that starts at the link.

A lot—a lot—happens historically in Star Trek’s 2024, crucially important events that go on to not just shape Earth as it is in the early 21st century, but form foundational pillars for the contemporary Star Trek timeline. It’s a year we’ve heard about, and visited, multiple times across several Trek shows. So what’s exactly wild about it? Well, let us take a look through Trek’s past to find out… and perhaps, our future?

(15) AI IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. “’Proceed with caution:’ AI poses issues of discrimination, surveillance” at WBUR.

There are many uses for AI as the technology becomes more accessible and normalized, but not everyone is excited about that premise. AI scholar and activist Joy Buolamwini is one of those critics. She’s the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and author of the book “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines.”

She started her journey as a scholar enamored by the promise of AI. But her views changed when she tried face-tracking software and it didn’t work well on her dark skin. However, the software registered her when she put on a white mask.

Buolamwini questioned whether her problem was unique or would happen to others with dark skin. And she found that the data was skewed.

“The data sets we often found were largely male and largely pale individuals,” Buolamwini says.

This poses problems especially when AI is used by law enforcement agencies to identify suspects, assess whether a defendant will commit another crime, and assign bond limits or flight risk status. Buolamwini uses Porcha Woodruff’s story as an example. Woodruff was 8 months pregnant when she was mistakenly arrested for carjacking after being misidentified by Detroit police’s facial recognition software.

“We’re creating tools for mass surveillance,” Buolamwini says, “that in the hands of an authoritarian state can be used in very devastating ways.”

Buolamwini stresses that even if data set bias was addressed, accurate artificial intelligence could still pose problems and be abused….

(16) UNFORGETTABLE IMAGES. This Yardbarker slideshow might just live up to its title: “The 20 most epic moments in sci-fi movies”. At least, there’s a bunch of my favorites here.

Science fiction excels at pushing the boundaries of the possible, both in terms of the stories it tells and the methods by which it brings those stories to life. People often go to sci-fi films to see the world brought to life in ways new, strange, and sometimes terrifying, precisely because the genre is so adept at taking things in the present and exploring what they might look like in the future. Some of the best scenes in sci-fi films take the viewer out of themselves, allowing them to encounter something akin to the sublime.

In sixteenth place:

The assembling of the Avengers during the battle against Thanos in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Throughout much of the 2010s, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the franchise that couldn’t be beaten, and it had its fair share of epic moments. The pinnacle, however, was during the climactic battle against the genocidal Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, when at last, the Avengers and all of those who have been restored appear to strike back against the Titan. It evokes the moment in the first Avengers film where the beloved characters first united, and it is also a climactic moment for those devastated when so many were killed with the Snap. In the world of comic book movies, no one ever remains truly dead.

(17) ‘TIL THEN HE’S COPYRIGHT KRYPTONITE. Someday you may ask “When Do Superman & Batman Enter the Public Domain?” Yahoo! has anticipated your interest. First on the list:

When does Superman enter the public domain?

As per US law, 2034 is the year when Superman would be joining the public domain.

In 2034, fans of Man of Steel and a few other DC characters will be able to use Superman in their content up to a certain extent without being afraid of copyright, trademark, or patent laws as that’s when Superman will be joining the public domain (PD).

According to US law, a property introduced before 1978 makes its way into the public domain if 95 years have passed after its first publication. So, because Superman made his debut on April 18, 1938, in Action Comics #1, he will be joining the public domain in 2034.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/24 It Was A Dark And Scrolly Night, Suddenly A Pixel Rang Out

(1) THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. Rachel Craft tells “How Writing Challenges Made Me a Better Writer” at the SFWA Blog. One of the ways is: they make her “Let go of perfection”.

…For me, one of the hardest parts of writing is deciding when a piece is finished and ready to submit. No matter how many rounds of revision I’ve been through, the perfectionist in me can always find something else to tweak. Sometimes I suspect it’s less about perfectionism and more about fear of rejection. As long as I never quite finish a story, it can never be rejected, right?

Writing challenges forced me to let go of perfectionism, fear of failure, and all the other things that usually keep me from saying “It’s done.” They also reframed this last step of the process. Submitting used to be a big, daunting task that loomed like a specter over the rest of my writing process—but in a writing challenge, submitting is actually a triumph. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that comes from hitting “submit” as the clock ticks down after 24 hours of frenzied creativity. And even if your story doesn’t win or place in the challenge, you can go on to submit it elsewhere….

(2) MIDNIGHT ACQUISITIONS. Colin O’Sullivan tells his CrimeReads audience not to sleep through great raw material for their writing: “How to Corral Your Nightmares for Use in Your Next Novel” at CrimeReads.

Will robots dream of us in the same way that we dream about them? They say that AI can “hallucinate”, right? Hadn’t Philip K. Dick warned us about all this many years ago? Maybe we weren’t paying enough attention then. Maybe we aren’t paying enough attention now. What a strange world we are being thrust into… and are we ready?

Sunny, the titular robot character of my novel, was conceived in a dream. Several years ago, I tossed and turned in bed, unnerving visions unfurling in my head. In this nightmare I was being chased by a robot that I myself had programmed. The domestic robot had turned on me – and I had been under the illusion that it was merely a household appliance, there to help with the laundry, dust a shelf, or vacuum the floor. I was trying to access its “dark settings” in order to switch the damn thing off, but I wasn’t having much luck: I couldn’t find the manual that would provide me with the right set of instructions, and the machine was definitely out to get me. It was one of the nastiest nightmares I’ve ever had, so vivid, so real. I woke in the proverbial sweat, and was instantly relieved to realize we hadn’t yet reached that stage where the machines were taking over. Not yet, at least, not yet….

(3) IOWA BOOK BAN LAW REBUKED BY FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT. “Judge Blocks Key Provisions of Iowa Book Banning Law” reports Publishers Weekly.

In yet another legal victory for freedom to read advocates, a federal judge has blocked two key portions of SF 496, a recently passed Iowa state law that sought to ban books with sexual content from Iowa schools and to bar classroom discussion of gender identity and sexuality for students below the seventh grade.

In a 49-page opinion and order, judge Stephen Locher criticized the law as “incredibly broad” and acknowledged that it has already resulted in the removal of “of hundreds of books from school libraries, including, among others, nonfiction history books, classic works of fiction, Pulitzer Prize–winning contemporary novels, books that regularly appear on Advanced Placement exams, and even books designed to help students avoid being victimized by sexual assault.”

Specifically, Locher preliminarily enjoined two provisions challenged in two separate but parallel lawsuits. Regarding the law’s ban on books with any depictions of sex acts, Locher found that the law’s “sweeping restrictions” are “unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny.” In a rebuke, Locher said he was “unable to locate a single case upholding the constitutionality of a school library restriction even remotely similar to Senate File 496.”

Locher said that the law’s “underlying message” is that there is “no redeeming value to any such book even if it is a work of history, self-help guide, award-winning novel, or other piece of serious literature,” adding that with the law state lawmakers had sought to impose “a puritanical ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over school libraries.”

Furthermore, Locher suggested that the law was a solution in search of a problem. “The State Defendants have presented no evidence that student access to books depicting sex acts was creating any significant problems in the school setting, much less to the degree that would give rise to a ‘substantial and reasonable governmental interest’ justifying across-the-board removal,” he wrote….

(4) FROM ZERO COURANT TO AU COURANT. In “Scalzi on Film: When Fun Becomes Homework” at Uncanny Magazine, John Scalzi puts on his film critic’s hat and runs down the ridiculously large number of film and streaming series a person must have previously seen in order to fully appreciate the latest in certain Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars properties. This is a lot like a job!

…We are nerds, and more than slightly obsessive—all the minutiae of created universes are our jam. But there’s a difference between salting in easter eggs to reward the faithful, and requiring hours of prep work—or at least the willingness to locate a wiki and dive in. And even the nerds have limits. I am a nerd by inclination and by profession—but I’m also a 54-year-old human who lives in the world and who requires at least some of my time and brain slots remain open for other things, like family and work and sleep and domain knowledge in other areas relevant to my life….

(5) FUTURES HISTORY. Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Chair of Glasgow 2024, a Worldcon for Our Futures, posted a message on New Year’s Day: “Looking Ahead to 2024—Reflections from the Chair”.

…When I look up from writing this, I see original art on my wall by Iain Clarke, and an empty bottle of our gin, full of lights and on display in my bookcase. I see a mug that one of my team gave to me and a comic book that a Division Head sent this week to cheer me up. My phone is buzzing, because it always is, despite the fact that I said ‘This is the last week we have before the new year, you HAVE to all take breaks’. (Reader, my team absolutely has not let me do this, because there’s always one thing that needs addressing and, as a result, several of them have been forcibly told to take that break, because we really won’t get it from now on in.) I can see the official gavel of the convention, which is on my mantlepiece until next August. The gavel has been around the world multiple times, but for me, it will be next used to open Glasgow 2024, and five days later, it will be used to declare it closed. Another Chair told me once that closing their Worldcon with that gavel broke their heart a little bit. All of the Chairs cry in the Closing Ceremony. Because it’s five days to attend, but it’s years and years to build…. 

Any Chair that wants to cry should go right ahead. Do all Chairs? No.

(6) I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, so US House of Representatives members may claim after they leave this briefing: “Scoop: House members to receive classified UFO briefing” says Axios.

Members of the House Oversight Committee will receive a classified briefing on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), better known as UFOs, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Congressional interest in the issue has grown in recent years, with a small but vocal group of lawmakers in both parties pushing for greater transparency from the government on the issue.

Driving the news: The members-only briefing will be held in the Office of House Security, according to a notice obtained by Axios.

The briefing is being provided by the Office of Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the notice said….

(7) HURT IN NYC. A stuntwoman whose resume includes major MCU films was critically hurt by a hit-and-run driver on New Year’s Day: “Carrie Bernans Injured: Stuntwoman & Actress Hurt In NYC Hit & Run”Deadline tells how it happened.

Actress and stuntwoman Carrie Bernans was critically injured during an alleged hit and run in New York City at 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Bernans, whose work includes 2023’s The Color Purple as well as Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, was hurt along with eight others. Per her publicist, she was struck by a driver who crashed into an outdoor dining shed at Chirp, a Peruvian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. That driver then backed up and rammed into another car before officers swarmed.

Bernans recently gave birth to a son, and luckily the newborn wasn’t with her but rather in a hotel with her family. Bernans was in stable condition and is undergoing surgery. Her mom posted details on the traumatic incident on Instagram and said Bernans is in rough shape….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. (Died 1992.) I’m looking at Isaac Asimov this Scroll, one of the Big Three of SF, proclaimed so at the time along with Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Now let me note these selections are my personal picks, not a look at his entire career as that’s simply not possible given how prolific he was. One source says that he wrote five hundred books and I certainly wouldn’t say that’s impossible to believe!

Without a single doubt, I can state that the Foundation Trilogy which won a well deserved Hugo at NyCon 3 for All Time Best Series is my favorite work by him, and it is certainly the work by him that I’ve read the most down the years. Like everything by him, I’ve not watched any film adaptations that have been done. 

I am familiar with, and fond of, of his first two novels, Pebble in The Sky and The Stars, Like Dust.  It’s been decades since I’ve read either so I’ve no idea how they’ve fared with age. 

The Caves of Steel and the other Robot series novels I think are on the whole excellent. Now of course speaking of robots, I, Robot with Susan Calvin is simply awesome. Almost all of the Robot stories, all 32 of 37, can be found in the 1982 The Complete Robot collection. There also are six novels.

The Gods Themselves is an amazing and it stands up well when re-read. It would win a Hugo at Torcon II. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

That’s it for SF by him, but there’s one more tasty creation by him that being The Black Widowers stories which were based on a literary dining club Asimov belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. 

The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

There were sixty-six stories over the six volumes that were released. So far only one volume, Banquets of the Black Widowers, has been released as an ePub. And yes, I’ve got a copy on my iPad as they are well worth re-reading. 

Someone needs to get them collected in one ePub collection. Pretty please. 

So that’s what I like by him. What do you like? 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side asks, if a tree falls on an exoplanet, does it make a sound?
  • Peanuts (published March 22, 1955) has one more Martian joke.
  • Moderately Confused lives up to its name – does the sign refer to the store or the books?
  • Oh my gosh – Tom Gauld revealed a secret message!

(10) YOUR LACK OF FAITH ETC. ETC. It’s not a very good omen that Entertainment Weekly’s “The 40 best alien movies of all time” can’t make up its mind about the very first film on the list.

1 of 40 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978)

If you favor the later renditions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we don’t blame you. And it may be cheating to double up on our list’s first entry, but the 1978 version (featuring Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, and Veronica Cartwright) is one of the rare examples of a remake living up to the legacy of its predecessor, which is all the more impressive when you consider the magnitude of industry legend Robert Wise‘s original. As an EW staffer previously wrote, the 1956 film is meant to be “a timely Cold War parable of takeover from within.” It ultimately “hit upon even deeper mass-marketing-age fears,” which helped it stand the test of time. Meanwhile, the follow-up flick harnesses that same dread and translates it to a new age without losing any punch.

At the center of these effective alien features is our fear of the Other. Most people don’t worry about little green men taking over their cities and suburbs, but most of us have watched some of our friends and family become bizarre shadows of their former selves practically overnight — which is exactly what transpires in Body Snatchers as the citizens of Earth are infiltrated by alien doppelgängers. In an age where paranoia and misinformation reign supreme, this tale of science failing to explain the chaos around us seems more timely (and more frightening) than ever before.

(11) SCREAMBOAT WILLIE. “Mickey Mouse horror film unveiled as copyright ends” and BBC is quick to point it out.

…A trailer for a slasher film, featuring a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse, was released on 1 January, the day that Disney’s copyright on the earliest versions of the cartoon character expired in the US.

“We wanted the polar opposite of what exists,” the movie’s producer said….

…Creatives have been quick to take advantage of the new rules, with a trailer (contains violent scenes) for a Mickey horror film dropping on the same day.

In the horror comedy thriller, called Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a young woman is thrown a surprise birthday party in an amusement arcade – but things quickly take a turn for the worse when she and her friends encounter a knife-wielding murderer in a Mickey costume….

(12) WIPER NO SWIPING! Meanwhile Disney’s lawyers are staying in shape by working over the owner of a Chilean car wash. Forbes analyzes the case in “Lucasfilm Sues ‘Star Wash’—A Car Wash In Chile—Claiming Plagiarism”.

Lucasfilm, the billion-dollar Disney-owned film and production company behind the “Star Wars” franchise, is suing a Chilean car wash known as “Star Wash,” arguing the small business is plagiarizing the wildly popular franchise with its branding, according to Reuters.

The law firm representing Matias Jara, the owner of “Star Wash,” told Reuters that Jara was in the process of registering his brand with Chile’s patent authority when he received a lawsuit from Lucasfilm seeking to block the registration of his business’s name.

Lucasfilm is claiming the business brand could confuse consumers into believing it’s affiliated with the studio, though it hasn’t taken issue with car attendants who can be seen on the “Star Wash” Instagram account dressed as characters like Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Boba Fett….

Once I looked at this Instagram ad for the business, though, I thought Disney had a point.

(13) MUSICAL ITEMS. [By Daniel Dern.] By the way, a third theremin video (not here) said that playing the trombone was the best preparation/way for learning to play the theremin.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/1/24 All These Pixels Are Someone Else’s Fault

(1) SOME PEOPLE SHINE. Let Looper introduce you to “Stephen King’s Harry Potter: The Fan-Made Concept That’s Too Weird To Be Real”. This is quite something.

When it comes to accomplished fiction writers, you don’t get much more prodigious than Stephen King. So iconic is his work that the YouTube channel Yellow Medusa created an artificial intelligence-driven video that hypothesizes how the “Harry Potter” films would look like if King — and not J.K. Rowling — created the franchise. This is one of several videos where the channel reimagines the “Harry Potter” movies if they were directed or written by other famous creators….

(2) SFPA MEMBERS NOMINATE FOR AWARDS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association reminded members today of the deadlines to submit nominees for three annual awards.

RHYSLING AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Rhysling Chairs are Brian U. Garrison & David C. Kopaska-Merkel. Nominations are open until February 15 for the Rhysling Awards for the best poems published in 2023. Only SFPA members may nominate one short poem and/or one long poem for the award. Poets may not nominate their own work. All genres of speculative poetry are eligible. Short poems must be 11–49 lines (101–499 words for prose poems); Long poems are 50–1,199 lines, not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2023; include publication and issue, or press if from a book or anthology. Online nomination form: bit.ly/2024RhyslingNom. Or nominate by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA.

DWARF STARS AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Dwarf Stars Chair is Brittany Hause. Nominations due by May 1, but poems may be suggested year-round. Enter title, author, and publisher of speculative micro poems published in 2023 at https://bit.ly/ dwarfstars or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Anyone may suggest poems, their own or others’; there is no limit.

ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Elgin Chair is Felicia Martínez. Nominations due by June 15; more info will come by MailChimp. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2022 or 2023 to [email protected] or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to nominations, but you may not nominate your own work. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Steven French.] “Fiction to look out for in 2024” in the Guardian includes an SF novel tipped for the Booker:

…in September, there’s my early pick for this year’s Booker: Creation Lake (Jonathan Cape) by Rachel Kushner. It’s a wild and brilliantly plotted piece of science fiction. This is the story of a secret agent, the redoubtable Sadie Smith, sent to infiltrate and disrupt a group of “anti-civvers” – eco-terrorists – in a France of the near future where industrial agriculture and sinister corporations dominate the landscape. Think Kill Bill written by John le Carré: smart, funny and compulsively readable….

(4) NO MCU? REALLY? Rolling Stone calls these “The 150 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time”.

…So when it came time to rank the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, we couldn’t stop at 100. Instead, we went bigger and bulked it up with an extra 50 entries, all the better to pay lip service to more of the pulpy, the poppy and the perverse entries — not to mention some of our personal favorites — that don’t normally get shout-outs in these kinds of lists. There were more than a few arguments when it came to the picks. (It was also decided early on that superhero movies as a whole usually fall out the parameters of science fiction, so you won’t the MCU, et al., canon on this list — with one very notable exception.) Here are our picks for the best the genre has to offer. Live long and prosper. May the force be with you….

At the bottom:

150 ‘Tank Girl’ (1995)

What would the post-apocalyptic world look like if the hero was a riot grrrl and the soundtrack was curated by Courtney Love? Behold the adventures of Tank Girl (Lorri Petty), as our hero roams through the decimated Outback, years after a comet hit earth and an evil corporation seized control. It’s got some of the hallmarks of a traditional sci-fi adventure — a jet-flying sidekick played by Naomi Watts; an army of half-kangaroo, half-man beings, including one played by Ice-T — but Rachel Talalay’s adaptaion of the cult British comic diverges from the typical dystopia formula by layering everything over a very 1990s alt aesthetic, all bright colors and snappy, sexualized wisecracks. “No celebrities, no cable TV, no water — it hasn’t rained in 11 years,” Tank Girl explains early on in the film. “Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub — so it ain’t all bad.” —Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Rated number one:

1 ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

It begins at the Dawn of Man and ends with the rebirth of humanity, with Homo sapiens having finally been granted one last evolutionary level-up. In between those two poles of the human experience — one in our prehistoric past, the other light years into our future (hope springs eternal) — Stanley Kubrick give us what still feels like the benchmark for science fiction cinema that engages you in mind, body, and soul. It’s not just that his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” has become part of our collective consciousness, enough that Barbie could kick off with an extended riff on one of its most famous scenes and everyone got the joke. Or that 2001 contains what may be the single best example of film editing as a communicative art form unto itself. Or that the closest the film has to an antagonist, the self-aware HAL 9000 supercomputer who discovers that machines are no more immune from neurosis and malice than its flesh-and-blood programmers are, is the character we end up feeling the most sympathy towards. “Daissss-yyyy… daisssss-yyyyy…”….

…The wisecrack was always that 2001: A Space Odyssey was exactly like the big, black monolith that connected its eon-spanning chapters: gorgeous, meticulously constructed, inhuman in its perfection and inscrutable in terms of concrete meaning. Conventional wisdom is that it’s actually closer to the Star Child — something that takes the entirety of the universe in and stares at it in awe, reflecting back how far we have come and how far we still have to go. —DF

(5) LAWYERS ASSEMBLE! We know this, but it’s a new year so let’s pretend it’s news: “Mickey Mouse Hits Public Domain With Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’” at Deadline.

As of today, the traditionally protective Walt Disney Co will have to deal with an onslaught of Mickey Mouse parodies, mockeries and likely rather explicit variations as the iconic character slips into the public domain.

Sorta.

In the sober light of 2024, Steamboat Willie, the 1928 short that effectively launched the empire that Walt built, can now be used by anyone and everyone. The legal status of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy, from earlier that same year, has been long fought over and probably not something to which Disney was looking forward. Yet, in a new year that also sees Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking Orlando, Peter Pan, Charlie Chaplin’s The CircusBuster Keaton‘s The Cameraman and Tigger from AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner now in the public domain, if you are anticipating a Steamboat Willie free-for-all, think again.

Besides Disney being notoriously litigious, the color version of Mickey that came into being in 1935’s The Band Concert, is a lot different in 2024 than the non-speaking Mickey of Steamboat Willie in 1928. Evolving over the decades, the brand icon that is today’s Mickey has a lot more meat on his bones, is full of many more smiles, has that chirpy voice and a far less rough disposition, wears white gloves, and clearly looks a lot less a rat than the Steamboat Willie Mickey – and, to paraphrase MC Hammer: you can’t touch that.

“More modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise,” a Disney spokesperson said of the dos and don’ts of the sound-synched film entering the public domain today….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 70. This first novel by Midori Snyder that I read was The Flight of Michael McBride, a three decades old work by her set in the old American West blending aspects of  First Folk, Irish-American and Mexican folklore. A most excellent read. 

Like Pamela Dean with her Tam Lin novel, she’s delved in Scottish myth as her first novel, Soulstring, was inspired by the Scottish legend of Tam Lin

Midori Snyder

It was however not her first published work as that was “Demon” in the Bordertown anthology, the second of the Bordertown series.  She would later do two more Bordertown stories, “Alison Gross” that’d be in Life on the Border, and “Dragon Child” in The Essential Bordertown.

Now don’t go looking for any of these as ePubs as, like the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series which I noted in Ellen Datlow’s Birthday a few days ago, ePub rights weren’t written into the publication contracts. 

The newest Bordertown anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, is available as an ePub.

Next up is a trilogy of books that remind me of Jane Yolen’s The Great Altar Saga in tone  — New MoonSadar’s Keep, and Beldan’s Fire. They were published as adult fantasy by Tor Books starting thirty four years ago where they were The Queens’ Quarter Series. Interestingly they would be reprinted as young adult fantasy by Firebird Books just eighteen years ago as The Oran Trilogy. I see that Firebird is no longer the domain of Sharyn November which it was explicitly related for.

Now I positively adore The Innamorati which draws off the the Commedia dell’Arte theatre and the Roman legends as well. This stellar novel gained her Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It is without doubt her best novel – great characters, fascinating setting and a wonderful story.

Hannah’s Garden was supposed to be one of the novels inspired by a painting by Brian Froud. (I remember de Lint’s The Wild Wood and Windling’s The Wood Wife are two of the others but I forget the fourth. I know they got their novels with his art but I don’t if she or the fourth writer did.) It’s a more personal novel, more scary in tone I think than her other work is. 

Except the Queen was written by her and Yolen. It’s a contemporary fantasy featuring two fey who are banished here in the guise of old women. I’ll not spoil what happened next. That was her last novel and it was published thirteen years ago. 

She wrote the title short story for Windling The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors anthology anthology about child abuse survivors. Grim reading but recommended. It was nominated for an Otherwise Award.

It’s one of a not deep number of short stories she’s written, none collected so far. 

She did the text to the “Barbara Allen” graphic story Charles Vess illustrated and first published in his Ballads chapbook in 1997 which I’ve got here somewhere. Let me go see… yes, it’s also in the autographed copy of The Book of Ballads that he sent me. That came out on Tor seventeen years ago. God, time goes by fast! 

Though not about her fiction writing, she would win a World Fantasy Award for her editorial work on Windling’s Endincott Studio website. It is a fascinating site covering what Terri, Midori and others think is interesting in fairy tales, myth, folklore, and the oral storytelling tradition. It is here now.

(7) EASING A BARRIER TO CHINA TOURISM. For the next wave of fans who may be thinking about the trip: “China to simplify visa applications for US tourists as both countries seek to improve relations” at the South China Morning Post.

China will simplify the visa application process for tourists from the United States as part of its efforts to step up interactions between people from the two countries.

Beijing has also been seeking to woo more international visitors as part of its wider efforts to boost its sluggish economic recovery.

Starting from January 1, those applying for tourist visas within the US will no longer need to submit proof they have a round-trip air ticket and hotel reservation, as well as their itinerary or a letter of invitation, according to a notice published on the website of the Chinese embassy in Washington on Friday.

The measure aims to “further facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States”, it said.

It added that “since visa applications are processed on a case-by-case basis”, applicants should still refer to the Chinese embassy and consulates-general for specifics….

The move follows a cut in visa fees for US applicants of around 25 per cent until December 31, 2024 announced earlier this month, and a previous decision to allow walk-in visa applications.

(8) WHAT, ME WARP? Currently open for bids at the Heritage Auctions site is “Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art”. It was up to $1,950 when I last checked.

Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art (EC, 1976). Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) join Vulcan officer Alfred E. Neuman (who will likely soon meet a terrible fate, hinted at by his red shirt) tap dance their way across the cover of the parody magazine to promote the “Star Trek” Musical buried within its pages. Spock looks surprised to see Neuman sporting a pair of pointy Vulcan ears, with the adage “Keep on Trekin'” printed on his uniform. A fun poke at the beloved sci-fi TV series painted in gouache on illustration board with an image area of 16″ x 16.75″, matted and Plexiglas-front framed to 27″ x 28.5″. Light frame wear. Signed by Rickard in the lower right corner and in Excellent condition.

(9) TROLLING WITH A MAGNET. “He Has Fished Out Grenades, Bikes and Guns. Can Fame Be Far Behind?” He couldn’t make a living streaming himself playing video games – but people want to see what his powerful magnet retrieves from the waters around New York.  

… The grenade was not without precedent. Two months before, Mr. Kane managed to pull a gun out of a lake near where he lives. It might have been used in a murder, he suggested, and he was told there was a chance he might be subpoenaed. He was eager to avoid that entanglement.

On that unseasonably warm November afternoon, Mr. Kane, who is 39 and looks a bit like the actor Seth Rogen playing a deckhand, just yanked the thing right off his magnet. It took quite a bit of effort, given that the magnet (from Kratos Magnetics, for $140) was advertised as having a “pull force” of 3,800 pounds. The gunpowder had been emptied out of the bottom, so he figured the corroded explosive was something that would put him on the map, rather than blow him off it. Still, he put it on the ground and covered it with a plastic bucket — just in case.

As he dialed 911, he paused to wonder: Would the operator remember him? Was he something of a known quantity by now? Just the week before, he’d found a top-loading Smith & Wesson in Prospect Park Lake. And he’d also found a completely different grenade about a month ago, which he said led the police to evacuate a restaurant near the United Nations. But to his disappointment, that day’s dispatcher didn’t react.

“You’re gonna know Let’s Get Magnetic,” Mr. Kane told the operator, referencing the name of his YouTube channel. “I’m getting famous.”

His partner, Barbie Agostini, continued filming as the police arrived. Two beat cops who showed up took some pictures of the grenade on their phones. Meanwhile, a woman pushed a baby carriage inches away from it. More cops eventually came to cordon off the area, but the content creation did not stop there. Another officer squatted on the ground to take more close-ups. Wanting a wider-angle view of the ruckus he’d wrought, Mr. Kane moved slightly down the sidewalk and kept fishing.

It wasn’t long before a well-put-together young woman in a pinned-on hat stopped and stared as Mr. Kane pulled a hunk of junk out of the water with his magnet.

“What are you guys fishing for?” she asked.

“Anything metal,” he told her. “This is a bed frame from the 1900s.”

The woman looked astounded at this dubious bit of history.

“God bless you,” she said….

…After lunch, Mr. Kane, Ms. Agostini and Jose returned to their duplex. Mr. Kane pulled out a Styrofoam chest full of his favorite finds. They included the magazines from four guns, the barrel of a sniper rifle and two tiny cannonballs that might predate the city itself, which he plans on giving to the American Museum of Natural History.

Evidence of a collector’s lifestyle exists throughout the apartment — unopened retro video games and hand-painted Japanese anime figurines covered nearly every spare inch of wall space. Mr. Kane pulled out some tiny pieces of metal from the cooler, one in the shape of a bow and arrow, and another that looked like a ball-peen hammer.

“This is black magic,” he said. “One hundred percent.” Then came a key fob for an Audi that still lit up when he pressed a button. “This unlocks a car,” he said. “We just don’t know where the car is.” Then came his collection of iPhones, which he proudly displayed on his purple couch. All of them worked. Well, all but one. “It smokes if you turn it on,” he said. “But that’s the only problem.”…

(10) BUT IF HE TELLS – THEN WE’LL KNOW! No, content moderation is not supposed to be a big secret. “Elon Musk’s X Loses Bid To Change California Content Moderation Law” reports Deadline.

Elon Musk‘s X on Thursday has lost its bid to change a California law on content moderation disclosure by social media companies.

X sued California in September to undo the state’s content moderation law, saying it violated free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and California’s state constitution.

Today, U.S. District Judge William Shubb dismissed the social media company’s request in an eight-page decision .

The law requires large social media companies to issue semiannual reports that describe their content moderation practices. They must also provide data on the number of objectionable posts and how they were addressed.

“While the reporting requirement does appear to place a substantial compliance burden on social medial companies, it does not appear that the requirement is unjustified or unduly burdensome within the context of First Amendment law,” Shubb wrote.

X did not immediately respond. The company’s content moderation policies have long been contentious, dating to before Musk bought the company.

(11) ANOTHER INKLING NAMED LEWIS. This postcard ad for The Major and the Missionary edited by Diana Pavlac Glyer caught my eye and reminded me to kick off the new year by mentioning this collection of letters of interest to Inklings fans.

After the death of his brother, Warren Lewis lived at The Kilns in Oxford, spent time with friends, edited his famous brother’s letters, and did a little writing of his own. Then, out of the blue, he got a letter from a stranger on the far side of the world. Over the years that followed, he and Blanche Biggs, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, shared a vibrant correspondence. These conversations encompassed their views on faith, their politics, their humor, the legacy of C. S. Lewis, and their own trials and longings.

Taken as a whole, these collected letters paint a colorful portrait that illuminates not only the particulars of distant times and places but the intimate contours of a rare friendship.

Edited and introduced by Bandersnatch author Diana Pavlac Glyer.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Mark Roth-Whitworth, 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 Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/26/23 Warning – Spindizzy Recall! Your City May Auto-Return Abruptly!

(1) TO THE NASFIC AND BEYOND. A chapter of Sandra Bond’s Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip saga appears in the new issue of Geri Sullivan’s fanzine Idea 13. Says S&ra, “It contains my report on Pemmi-Con with detailed thoughts on What Went Wrong With It And Why.”

Day thirteen of TAFF, unlucky for some. Sandra Bond – already befuddled by her travels and overwhelmed by the generosity of North American fans – has left Minneapolis and has hitched a lift with Minnesota fans Curt Gibson and Alice Ableman in Curt’s mom’s SUV, riding north for NASFiC. No, you haven’t missed any previous instalments; they will be published elsewhere, in due course, and eventually a complete version will follow. I’m starting with this chapter, partly because Geri is publishing it and chapter 1 will largely be about her as my first host, and partly in order to air some issues arising from Pemmi-Con while the iron, so to speak, is hot….

Here’s a taste of those hot iron issues. Think of it as what the 2023 Worldcon experience would have looked like if Chengdu had not wrested it away from Winnipeg.

… (The programme as a whole showed every sign of having been thrown together by robots with no human eyes; for instance, the registration field had a space for you to enter your “organization.” I had put “TAFF”, which was fine, but Tanya Huff had foolishly essayed a little joke by putting “I am not at all organized” in that field, and was rewarded by having that phrase appended to her name on every single programme item featuring her. Others were flagged as variations on “n/a” or “–”, or found themselves billed as representing the organisation of “Myself” (Rich Horton) or “Julie E. Czerneda” (go on, guess). And Nisi Shawl – a fucking guest of honor, and consequently on many programme items – was accompanied on every occasion by the tag “I believe you already have my bio and photo.” Apparently they didn’t, since her “photo” was the generic one used for people who hadn’t supplied any.)…

(2) WHEN NEEDS MUST. The BBC interviewed a fan who remembers “When Tom Baker popped in to watch Doctor Who”. The experience wasn’t quite like when Dustin Hoffman needed to see “Wapner” in Rain Man, but was not entirely unlike it, either.

The time is November 1976, and the space is the Nuneaton branch of Radio Rentals, the old TV stockist that was once a familiar high street fixture. Pauline Bennett remembers being on shift there when a “very smart chap” walks in with a strange request.

“He came in about five o’clock and said he and Tom Baker needed to watch the Doctor Who episode that was going to be on shortly,” she said.

Titular star Baker had been travelling back from the show’s exhibition in Blackpool with BBC manager Terry Sampson when the pair were delayed by fog.

They had turned off the motorway heading for the town, hoping to persuade someone to let them watch the show, the first to feature filming at an outside location, she explained….

(3) FREE AT LAST. Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, tells us what we can look forward to on “Public Domain Day 2024” at the Duke University School of Law blog.

On January 1, 2024, thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. This year’s highlights include Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, and a trove of sound recordings from 1923. And, of course, 2024 marks the long-awaited arrival of Steamboat Willie – featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse – into the public domain. That story is so fascinating, so rich in irony, so rife with misinformation about what you will be able to do with Mickey and Minnie now that they are in the public domain that it deserved its own article, “Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle.” Why is it a love triangle? What rights does Disney still have? How is trademark law involved? Read all about it here. …

(4) NO WAITING FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN HERE. In “’Gale: Stay Away From Oz’ Offers a Horror Take on ‘The Wizard of Oz’”, The Mary Sue reminds everyone this 30-minute short already was released in September.

…In 2023, The Wizard of Oz books by L. Frank Baum entered the public domain. That means anyone can take those characters or the world of Oz and reimagine them in brand-new stories. The independent short horror film Gale: Stay Away From Oz does just that. According to IMDBGale‘s official summary is “Long gone are the days of emerald cities and yellow brick roads. In this dark re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale is now an elderly woman, broken by years of paranormal entanglement with a mystical realm.” Emily Gale, the granddaughter of Dorothy, reconnects with her grandmother and the mystical realm that haunts her.

Unlike Winnie the Pooh, which also got the horror treatment, the original stories of Dorothy already lend themselves to the horror genre. Who hasn’t watched Return to Oz and felt terrified? With Gale: Stay Away From Oz, it seems like the curse of Oz haunts any of Dorothy’s descendants, which makes for an even creepier connection. So when is Gale: Stay Away From Oz coming out and where can you watch it?…

(5) AT THE NIMOY. “Mr. Spock’s Widow Puts on a Show” – and The New Yorker profiles her.

The other day, Susan Bay Nimoy—actress, writer, director, philanthropist, and widow of Leonard—stood at the entrance of a historic Art Deco theatre in Westwood, which she had helped to restore and convert to a live-performance space. On the marquee, lit bulbs spelled out the theatre’s new name: the Nimoy.

“There’s a lot of history,” Bay Nimoy, an exuberant eighty-year-old, said. “I called Jane Fonda and asked if she would come to the press opening, because her mother, Frances, funded the theatre.” More history: during the Second World War, newsreels played at the theatre; “Dr. Strangelove” had its first L.A. screening there, in 1964. Two decades later, when Disney managed the theatre, “Three Men and a Baby” was the opening film. Leonard was the director; Bay Nimoy accompanied him to the première. “It was certainly in the eighties, because I wore a black suit with big shoulder pads, with a lot of jewelled things on them,” she said….

… “Leonard and I came from very poor backgrounds. His father was a barber. My dad was an accountant,” Bay Nimoy said. The couple invested their Hollywood earnings in California real estate and contemporary art. “Leonard was not a fancy person,” she went on. When they met, she said, “I was driving a Honda.” Their goal was to give their children—he had two, she had one—a buffer, and no more. “They will not be gabillionaires, but they have a leg up,” she said. “And the rest we’re giving away.” They built a Jewish day school (their rabbi asked them to), a new theatre at Griffith Observatory (Leonard loved outer space), and a theatre for Symphony Space, in New York (where Leonard used to perform short stories)….

(6) NOTHING YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT OF YOURSELF. Maris Kreizman tells New York Times Readers “Let’s Rescue Book Lovers From This Online Hellscape”.  

… In an ideal world — one in which it wasn’t owned by Amazon — Goodreads would have the functionality of a site like Letterboxd, the social network for movie fans. Letterboxd has called itself “Goodreads for movies” but it has far surpassed that initial tag line, having figured out how to create a smooth and intuitive user experience, provide a pleasant and inviting community and earn revenue from both optional paid memberships and advertisers, including studios that produce the films being discussed. Meanwhile, publishers still rely on Goodreads to find potential readers, but targeted advertising has grown both less affordable and less effective.

So how to fix it? It starts with people: Goodreads desperately needs more human moderation to monitor the goings-on. Obviously, part of any healthy discussion is the ability to express displeasure — those one-star reviews, ideally accompanied by well-argued rationales, are sacrosanct — but Goodreads has enabled the weaponization of displeasure.

It’s not just fledgling authors being pummeled. Earlier this year, Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” decided to withdraw a forthcoming novel, “The Snow Forest,” after Goodreads users bombarded its page with one-star reviews objecting primarily to the fact that the novel (which no one had yet read) was set in Russia and would be published at a time when Russia and Ukraine were at war. There is most likely no way to eliminate personal attacks entirely from the site — or from the internet, for that matter — but having more human beings on hand to mitigate the damage would certainly improve the experience.

Fortifying the guard rails wouldn’t be that difficult. Currently Goodreads uses volunteer librarians who add new books to the site’s database in their free time. Hiring these people (and scores more like them) and paying them a living wage would empower Goodreads’s representatives to communicate with publishers, large and small, to facilitate posting books to the site when, and only when, a book has actually been written and edited and is ready to be shared with the world….

(7) CURING YOUR WHO HANGOVER. In the unlikely event that you need somebody to explain the Doctor Who Christmas Special to you, The Hollywood Reporter has volunteered. “’Doctor Who’ Christmas Special “The Church on Ruby Road,” Explained”. For everyone else, beware spoilers. The following excerpt is a little spoilery though not prohibitively so, I thought.

…Initially, Mrs. Flood would appear to be just a normal neighbor. Nothing unusual about her, until we see her sitting down to enjoy the TARDIS dematerializing. Something that most humans would balk at.

However, not for Mrs. Flood. In fact, at the end of the episode, she says to her understandably shocked neighbor (who also witnessed The Doctor’s ship disappearing), “Never seen a TARDIS before?”

And, if this wasn’t enough, she looks directly down the camera and winks. Mrs. Flood is clearly someone to be reckoned with, and undoubtedly will make a return. But is she a familiar character in the Whoniverse? (Time Lords change their appearance quite regularly.) Or, is this a new friend/foe for The Doctor? Names have often hinted at deeper connections and meanings in Doctor Who (see Melody Pond and River Song, for example) — is there a clue here?

Mrs. Flood is played by Anita Dobson, who will be known to many in the U.K. as she made a name for herself as alcoholic landlady Angie Watts in the BBC’s long-running soap, Eastenders. An accomplished stage actress, Dobson is also married to Brian May, guitarist for rock outfit Queen (who’ve had a number of songs feature memorably in Doctor Who, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”)….

(8) IT ONLY GETS WORSE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Did you get new clothes for Christmas? Then beware Jólakötturinn, the gigantic Yule Cat, which will chase you down and eat you if you don’t wear those clothes! “Meet the Yule Cat, an Icelandic folklore beast who eats children” on NPR.

… That’s right. A child’s worst nightmare — new clothes under the tree — could only be outdone by a somehow worse nightmare, being devoured by a ferocious feline that hunts down children caught not wearing their new clothes.

The tale of Jólakötturinn, which translates to Yule Cat, is an Icelandic Christmas classic dating back to at least 1932, according to the Icelandic Folklore website, a research project managed by the University of Iceland….

(9) THE COMPUTER SAYS ‘CHEESE!’ “A.I. Is the Future of Photography. Does That Mean Photography Is Dead?” wonders Gideon Jacobs in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

John Szarkowski, the legendary curator at the MoMA, once described photography as “the act of pointing.” And for the nearly 200 years since its inception, photography has consisted of capturing a visual perspective from the physical world using light — first with light-sensitive plates, then film, then digital sensors. When digital cameras became widely available, many photographers lamented the move away from analog technology but basically Szarkowski’s definition still held: Photography consists of pointing, as a reaction to something that exists in the world.

With advent of A.I. image generators, however, this definition feels obsolete.

Generative A.I. tools can produce photorealistic images, typically in response to written prompts. These images are available for purchase from major stock photography agencies, alongside traditional photos. They routinely go viral before being debunked. They even occasionally win prestigious photography prizes. All if which has reignited a two-centuries-old debate: What exactly qualifies as a photograph?

… Artists, writers and theorists have long remarked on our very human tendency to project slippery ideas about truth onto two dimensional surfaces. In 1921, Franz Kafka was told about a miraculous machine that could automatically take one’s portrait, a “mechanical Know-Thyself.” He offered up his own name for the apparatus: “The Mistake-Thyself.” Kafka was ahead of his time — in Susan Sontag’s 1977 essay “In Plato’s Cave,” she wrote, “Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.” Each photograph, she argued, is inevitably the product of countless decisions informed, consciously or not, by the photographer’s predilections and biases, as well as the limits and parameters of the technology.

So when I hear some people calling the arrival of A.I. an extinction-level event for photography, I often think of the French painter Paul Delaroche who, legend has it, declared painting “dead” after seeing a daguerreotype, one of the first photographic inventions. Painting did not die; it just evolved into a different kind of artistry, freed from the obligations of verisimilitude….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 26, Elisha Cook, Jr. (Died 1995.) His first major role was the psychopathic killer Wilmer Cook in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. Yeah there are two versions, I’ve never seen the earlier version. Anyone here seen it? 

Now as for genre roles, his first was a Boris Korloff film, Voodoo Island, in which he was Martin Schuyler. Adam West is here in his first film role, uncredited.

His next horror film with Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill, in which he was Watson Pritchard, is interesting because exterior shots of the house were filmed at the historic Ennis House in Los Feliz, California, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924.

Here’s a curious one for you. The Haunted Palace is a horror film starring Vincent Price Lon Chaney Jr. in which he’s Micah Smith / Peter Smith. The film was marketed as based on a Poe title but only the title is from him – the plot is from Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” novella.

I saw Rosemary’s Baby once in which he played Mr. Nicklas. That was more than enough, thank you.  Hey, he’s in the original The Night Stalker movie as Mickey Crawford. Neat. And next up is being Gordon “Weasel” Phillips in Salem’s Lot, a scary film indeed.

Most memorable series appearance? As Samuel T. Cogley, Esq in Star Trek’s “Court Martial” episode of course. He also made a Wild, Wild West appearance as Gideon McCoy in “The Night of the Bars of Hell”, the new Twilight Zone in “Welcome to Winfield” as Weldon, The Bionic Woman in “Once a Thief” as Inky and in ALF in “We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert” as Uncle Albert.  Oh, and his first television appearance was on the Adventures of Superman in “Semi-Private Eye” as Homer Garrity.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) EJECT! Arturo Serrano declares “Rebel Moon is the most Snyder that Snyder has ever been” at Nerds of a Feather. And that’s not a good thing.

One could summarize Rebel Moon as “the Zack Snyder of Star Wars,” which would sound mean-spirited if it weren’t its literal description. Conceived originally as Snyder’s pitch for Lucasfilm and eventually rescued by Netflix, Rebel Moon files off the Star Wars serial numbers just enough to prevent lawsuits from the Mouse. As you would expect, it tells the story of a loosely assembled team of impromptu freedom fighters who rise up against a brutal interstellar empire. A tale as old as time, and one that Lucasfilm has kept profitable for nine movies and I forget how many TV shows. But Snyder’s version of this formula, stripped of its identifiable markers for legal reasons, becomes a nameless, featureless collection of plot beats and cool poses. If there was ever a time when the infamous itch for canceling everything at Netflix could be used for good, it’s now. There’s no need for a Rebel Moon Part 2, or for all the multimedia spinoffs Snyder is reportedly preparing. This is not the galaxy you’re looking for….

(13) TO HELL AND MAYBE BACK. Disney+ has started airing the new series based on Rick Riordan’s YA fictionalization of Greek myth: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Quest Begins in New Clip” from Comicbook.com.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is gearing up to kick off its quest. The serialized adaptation of Rick Riordan‘s best-selling novels made its surprise debut on December 19th, dropping its first two episodes six hours ahead of schedule in the Tuesday primetime slot. This came with the announcement that all future episodes of Percy Jackson would get the primetime treatment, as the rest of Season 1 will premiere at 9 PM ET. The last fans saw, Percy (Walker Scobell) was officially claimed by his father, Poseidon, and given the news that he must lead a cross-country quest to retrieve Zeus’s (Lance Reddick) stolen master bolt. The belief is that Hades (Jay Duplass) stole it out of jealousy and is keeping it in the Underworld….

(14) STRANGE NEW WORLDS. We hear from the Guardian “How the James Webb telescope is ‘set to find strange and bizarre worlds’”.

There is a distant world where quartz crystals float above a searing hot, puffy atmosphere. Vaporised sand grains, not water droplets, form the clouds that fill the sky on Wasp-107b, a planet 1,300 light years from Earth.

Then there is GJ1214, the sauna planet. With a mass eight times that of Earth, it orbits its parent star at a distance that is one-seventieth of the gap between Earth and the sun and seems to be coated in a thick dense atmosphere containing vast amounts of steam.

Or there are the giant, Jupiter-sized planets of the Orion Nebula which have been discovered free-floating in space, rogue worlds that appear to be unconnected to any parent star – to the bafflement of astronomers….

(15) A YEAR’S WORTH OF SCREEN TIME. Gizmodo picks out the “40 Most Memorable Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Moments of 2023”. Here’s one example:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Jarnathan Arrives

This is the moment you knew Honor Among Thieves absolutely got Dungeons & Dragons. It’s an incredible set-up to a gag that builds over the opening scenes, establishing the roguish humor of our heroes, throwing a loving curveball to an esoteric D&D race, and of course giving us the most perfect ass-pull of a character name that feels like a Dungeon Master made it up for an NPC on the spot mid-improv. Oh Jarnathan, indeed.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Our Pros bring Wednesday Addams to the Strictly Ballroom” from the BBC.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/23 Professor, I Observed Your Encounter With The Pixel Scroll. Today It Is You Who Learned The Power Of The File. Tomorrow It Will Be The Whole World!

(1) GRRM ON STRIKE. George R.R. Martin has written two persuasive and informative posts about the WGA strike for Not A Blog which are excerpted here.

In the waning hours of May 1, the Writers Guild of America declared a strike.   The action began on May 2.   There are pickets in front of every studio lot and sound stage in LA, and many in other cities as well.   Get used to them.  I expect they will be there for a long time.

I am not in LA, so I cannot walk a picket line as I did in 1988, but I want to go on the record with my full and complete and unequivocal support of my Guild….

(Many of you will be wondering, rightfully, about the impact of the strike on my own shows.   The second season of DARK WINDS wrapped several months ago.   Post production has been completed on five of the six episodes, and will soon be done on the last.   The show will likely air sometime this summer on AMC.   No decision on the third season will be made until after the strike.   Peacock has passed on WILD CARDS, alas.   A pity.   We will try to place it elsewhere, but not until the strike is over.   The writer’s room on A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: THE HEDGE KNIGHT has closed for the duration.   Ira Parker and his incredible staff of young talents are on the picket lines.   Across the ocean, the second season of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON started filming April 11 and will continue in London and Wales.   The scripts for the eight s2 episodes were all finished months ago, long before the strike began,  Every episode has gone through four or five drafts and numerous rounds of revisions, to address HBO notes, my notes, budget concerns, etc.   There will be no further revisions.   The writers have done their jobs; the rest is in the hands of the directors, cast and crew… and of course the dragons)….

I want to say a few words about what I think is THE most important issue in the current writers’ strike: the so-called “mini rooms” that the Guild is hoping to abolish, and the terrible impact they are having on writers at the start of their careers.

A look at my own career may be instructive.   For the first fourteen years of my career, I wrote only prose; a few novels, and lots of stories for ANALOG, ASIMOV’S, and various other SF magazines and anthologies.   Much as I enjoyed television, I never dreamt of writing for it until 1985, when CBS decided to launch a new version of THE TWLIGHT ZONE, and executive producer Phil DeGuere invited me to write an episode for them.   A freelance script; that was how you began back then.   I decided to give it a shot… and Phil and his team liked what I did.   So much so that within days of delivery, I got an offer to come on staff.   Before I quite knew what had happened, I was on my way to LA with a six-week deal as a Staff Writer, at the Guild minimum salary, scripts against.   (In the 80s, Staff Writer was the lowest rung on the ladder.   You could tell, because it was the only job with “writer” in the title).

…There is no film school in the world that could have taught me as much about television production as I learned on TWILIGHT ZONE during that season and a half.  When TZ was renewed for a second season, I was promoted from Staff Writer to Story Editor.  (More money, and now scripts were plus and not against).   Started sitting in on freelance pitches… and now I was allowed to talk and give notes.   Sadly, the show was cancelled halfway through the second season, but by that time I had learned so much that I was able to go on to further work in television.   I did a couple stories for MAX HEADROOM, but my next staff job was BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.   They brought me on as Executive Story Editor, one bump up from my TZ rank.   Over the next three years, I climbed the ladder, rung by rung:  Co-Producer, Producer, Co-Supervising Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer.   When B&B finished its run, I started writing features and pitching pilots, landed an overall deal at Columbia, created and scripted STARPORT and THE SURVIVORS and FADEOUT… and DOORWAYS, which we filmed for ABC.   I was Showrunner (along with Jim Crocker) and Executive Producer on that one.

That was my first  ten years in television;  1985-1995, more or less, long before HBO and GAME OF THRONES.

NONE OF IT would have been possible, if not for the things I learned on TWILIGHT ZONE as a Staff Writer and Story Editor.   I was the most junior of junior writers, maybe a hot(ish) young writer in the world of SF, but in TV I was so green that I would have been invisible against a green screen.   And that, in my opinion, is the most important of the things that the Guild is fighting for.  The right to have that kind of career path.   To enable new writers, young writers, and yes, prose writers, to climb the same ladder.

Right now, they can’t.   Streamers and shortened seasons have blown the ladder to splinters….  

(2) PULITZER PRIZE. The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. Nothing I recognized as being of genre interest. The complete list is at Publishers Weekly: “’Demon Copperhead,’ ‘Trust,’ ‘His Name Is George Floyd’ Among 2023 Pulitzer Prize Winners”. (In case you wonder, Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead borrows its narrative structure from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, and the blurb doesn’t indicate there is anything supernatural in the story.)

(3) THINKING IS NOT HIS STRENGTH. “Kevin Sorbo’s Bonkers Take On Assault Weapons Gets Instant Fact-Check On Twitter” at HuffPost Entertainment. “The star of the 1990s‘Hercules’TV series hears it from his critics.”

Actor Kevin Sorbo tried a new approach in defending assault weapons amid a wave of mass shootings: They don’t exist.

The star of TV’s “Hercules” in the 1990s but who now focuses on Christian films and right-wing conspiracy theories wrote on Twitter:

Sorbo’s tweet came one day after a gunman killed eight people and wounded seven others at an outlet mall in Texas, and as a recent wave of mass shootings is leading to renewed calls for increased gun control….

(4) HOME ON THE MARTIAN RANGE. “To Live on Mars, Human Architecture Has to Combine Science and Sci-Fi” and Inverse presents a gallery of ideas for doing so.

…In the late 1990s, American architect Constance Adams worked with NASA to design TransHab, a large-scale inflatable spacecraft that would have increased the crew’s living space. While there are many advantages to using lightweight inflatable habitats, Adams once noted that before her creation, the biggest challenges facing space inflatable tech were strength, safety, and their need for a firm structure to maintain the form. With a soft inflatable shell, hard inner structural core, and three roomy levels, TransHab was the first hybrid structure that could be used for a pre-deployable Mars habitat. Although NASA did create a prototype, the project never received the funding it needed to get off the ground….

(5) SPEED READING. The New York Times says “A Faster Delivery for Fans of Manga” is on the horizon.

VIZ Media, a publisher devoted to manga and anime, on Tuesday will begin offering translated chapters of popular manga to audiences in North America on the same day they are released in Japan.

The simultaneous publication of titles through the company’s VIZ Manga app is part of an effort to get manga more quickly into the hands of fans at a time of booming readership, the company said. And it may also help fight pervasive piracy.

“In the last few years, manga became so much bigger,” said Ken Sasaki, the chief executive of VIZ Media, which is based in San Francisco and is a subsidiary of the Japanese publisher Hitotsubashi Group. “I think readers are finally aware that there are so many other genres.”

Manga sales hit $550 million in 2021, said Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICv2, an ​​online pop culture trade publication, last year at New York Comic Con. Sales jumped 9 percent in 2022, ICv2 reported in March….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1991[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So Mike is picking our Beginnings (for the most part) and I get the great delight of doing the research and writing them up. (Yes, they are written from my viewpoint. How else would I write them up?) His Beginning this Scroll is Nancy Kress’ “Beggars in Spain” novella. (Not the novel of the same name.)

It was published by Axolotl Press thirty-two years ago with a cover illustration by George Barr. 

It won a Hugo at MagiCon as well as Asimov’s Readers, Nebula and SF Chronicle Awards while being nominated for HOMer and Locus awards. The expanded novel that came out under the same title won no Awards.

And now our Beginning…

They sat stiffly on his antique Eames chairs, two people who didn’t want to be here, or one person who didn’t want to and one who resented the other’s reluctance. Dr. Ong had seen this before. Within two minutes he was sure: the woman was the silently furious resister. She would lose. The man would pay for it later, in little ways, for a long time.

“I presume you’ve performed the necessary credit checks already,” Roger Camden said pleasantly, “so let’s get right on to details, shall we, Doctor?”

“Certainly,” Ong said. “Why don’t we start by your telling me all the genetic modifications you’re interested in for the baby.”

The woman shifted suddenly on her chair. She was in her late twenties—clearly a second wife—but already had a faded look, as if keeping up with Roger Camden was wearing her out. Ong could easily believe that. Mrs. Camden’s hair was brown, her eyes were brown, her skin had a brown tinge that might have been pretty if her cheeks had had any color. She wore a brown coat, neither fashionable nor cheap, and shoes that looked vaguely orthopedic. Ong glanced at his records for her name: Elizabeth. He would bet people forgot it often. 

Next to her, Roger Camden radiated nervous vitality, a man in late middle age whose bullet-shaped head did not match his careful haircut and Italian-silk business suit. Ong did not need to consult his file to recall anything about Camden. A caricature of the bullet-shaped head had been the leading graphic for yesterday’s online edition of the Wall Street Journal: Camden had led a major coup in cross-border data-atoll investment. Ong was not sure what cross-border data-atoll investment was. “A girl,” Elizabeth Camden said. Ong hadn’t expected her to speak first. Her voice was another surprise: upper-class British. “Blonde. Green eyes. Tall. Slender.”

“A girl,” Elizabeth Camden said. Ong hadn’t expected her to speak first. Her voice was another surprise: upper-class British. “Blonde. Green eyes. Tall. Slender.” 

Ong smiled. “Appearance factors are the easiest to achieve, as I’m sure you already know. But all we can do about slenderness is give her a genetic disposition in that direction. How you feed the child will naturally—”

 “Yes, yes,” Roger Camden said, “that’s obvious. Now: intelligence. High intelligence. And a sense of daring.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore (bad script) and Melinda Gebbie (even worse art). If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. If you really must know more about it, here is the Green Man review. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo nominee and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles which I’ve read and must say is rather excellent. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that “From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.” That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited by Barry N. Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H. Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas widely available at the usual suspects. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1929 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 72. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song is set during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. And let’s not overlook that The Child Garden which bears the variant title of The Child Garden or A Low Comedy would win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best SF Novel. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows Count Dracula was scarred by childhood.
  • Get Fuzzy’s absurd pet humor cannot easily be explained, but I laughed anyway.
  • Lio’s elementary school is named for a good friend of Ray Bradbury’s.

(9) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] After a little bit of a drought, today’s episode had a number of SFF-related clues.

In the single Jeopardy round:

Yeet! for $600: In “2001” this computer yeets Frank Poole off into space but still has Dave to contend with

Returning champion Hannah Wilson knew HAL 9000.

Yeet! for $1000: In Greek myth, after he was born lame, his mom yeeted him out of heaven, but he returned & made Hermes’ winged helmet

Juveria Zaheer tried, “What is Vulcan?” but this Roman equivalent was not accepted. Sami Casanova got the money with “Who is Hephaestus?”.

Children’s Lit for $1000: Though he comes from another world, not from France, this diminutive guy appeared on the 50-franc note for many years

This was a Daily Double for Sami and she correctly responded with “The Little Prince”.

In the double Jeopardy round:

Futility for $2000: Harry Potter might have a better chance of turning metals to gold using this medieval substance from alchemy, also called the tincture

A triple stumper: they were looking for the Philosopher’s Stone. Perhaps people in England might have had a better chance with this one.

What Kind of TV Place Do You Live In? for $2000: Commander Sheridan & the gang on “Babylon 5” (an inaccurate question! Sheridan had the rank of captain. It was season 1’s Sinclair who was a commander.)

Hannah tried: “What is a spaceship?”. Mayim Bialik prompted on that, “More specific?”, which surprised me — I would have just called that wrong. After the prompt, Hannah went to “What is a space station?” and was counted right.

Futility for $400: Always armed with the catchphrase no one in the “Star Trek” world wanted to hear, the Borg let it be known that this “is futile”

Juveria responded, “What is resistance?”

(11) DON’T LOOK UP? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A New Jersey homeowner, and his family, returned to find something had broken into the house. Yep, something, not someone. An apparent meteorite had crashed through the roof, broken through an upper floor bedroom ceiling, banged off the floor, and hit the ceiling again before coming to a stop. “Possible meteorite strikes New Jersey home, officials say” at CNN.

What could be a meteorite struck a home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, authorities said Monday. The metallic object crashed through the roof of a house and ricocheted around a bedroom. No one was in the bedroom at the time of the incident, and no injuries were reported.

Police are still working to determine the precise nature of the object, though officials suspect it is related to the current meteor shower, called the Eta Aquariids, according to statement from the Hopewell Township Police Department in New Jersey.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is an annual phenomenon in which debris from the famous Halley’s Comet rains down into Earth’s atmosphere. The celestial event was expected to peak this past Saturday, according to American Meteor Society predictions, though it will last through May 27.

“I did touch the thing because I just thought it was a random rock,” Suzy Kop, a local resident who said the rock fell through the roof of her father’s bedroom, told CNN affiliate KYW-TV in Philadelphia. “And it was warm.”

“I just thank God that my father was not here. No one was here,” she added. “You know, we weren’t hurt or anything.”…

(12) RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. At Open Culture, “Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read”. This is a 2011 post, however, it’s not like these books will have been superseded since then – the most recent title is Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

A Reddit.com user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”

Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science….

(13) CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I found out what all the commotion was about [why the library was closed] — it was Charles (the artist formerly known as Prince) being coronated the next day. Sadly my invite to the abbey appeared to have got lost in the post.  That’s the Royal Mail for you….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Honest Trailers seeks the truth about “The Mandalorian Season 3”. But it’s not easy to find!

…After parting ways with baby Yoda in season two Disney took one look at the toy sales and said, um, no. No. It may not be super clear why they’re still together. Make up your mind whether he’s an actual baby or just a baby they’re forcing to be a Child!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/23 The Rule Is, Unobtainium To-Morrow And Unobtainium Yesterday — But Never Unobtainium To-Day

(1) 2022 HUGO WINNER GETS UNEXPECTED VAT BILL. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] My Hugo trophy saga continues, because I got an invoice today charging me import duties and VAT for my trophy. I’m kicking up a bit of a stink about this and tweeted at the German department of trade, because a Hugo trophy is not trade good and I have no idea why they charge me VAT (i.e. sales tax) for something that was not purchased. It’s not so much about the money — Chicon will reimburse me for the costs, but an all-volunteer non-profit organization shouldn’t have to pay import duties and German VAT either. Also, I strongly suspect that e.g. a German Oscar winner would not be charged for their trophy.

Anyway, here is my tweet (in German) to the department of trade. Any boosts would be appreciated.

(2) ARISTOTLE! Jason Ray Carney gives a TED Talk about pulp fiction, sword and sorcery, Robert E. Howard and the value of escapist literature: “The Value of Reading Fiction to Make the Present Less Real”.

(3) IT’S WEDNESDAY ON SATURDAY NIGHT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Saturday Night Live featured Jenna Ortega (Wednesday) as the host. So, you know they had to slip in a couple of genre/related bits.

  • “Exorcism”
  • “School vs. School”

(4) LIMELIGHT FOR FANZINES. Cora Buhlert has posted two more “Fanzine Spotlights.”

First: “Fanzine Spotlight: SMOF News, Petréa Mitchell’s convention-oriented newsletter.

Tell us about your site or zine.

SMOF News is a weekly newsletter about geek-oriented fan conventions, published every Wednesday evening (Pacific time). A typical issue is divided into four parts:

1) The big news of the week, or, if there isn’t any, informational articles about various aspects of cons.
2) News in brief, for minor news and routine items like Convention Adds Guest, Fan Fund Opens Voting, or (sadly) Convention Goes on Indefinite Hiatus.
3) Worldwide convention listings for the next five weekends.
4) One interesting link which does not necessarily have anything to do with conventions.

The overall tone it aims for is “industry newsletter”.

The second is: “Fanzine Spotlight: Remembrance of Things Past and Future, written and edited by Brian Collins. 

Tell us about your site or zine.

Remembrance of Things Past and Future is devoted to science fiction, fantasy, and horror as published in the magazines. The history of SF especially is tied to the long history of magazine publishing; some of the old classics of the genre spent years stuck inside brittle magazine pages before getting turned to books. It’s a rather niche criterion for what can be reviewed (a story must have been originally published or reprinted in a zine), but it’s at the same time wide-spanning. I could review a Robert E. Howard serial from 90 years ago and also Elizabeth Bear’s latest (and no doubt good) outing without crossing the streams, so to speak…

(5) NESFA SHORT STORY CONTEST, 2022-23. The 2022-2023 NESFA Short Story Contest winners were announced at Boskone 60 in February. Contest administrator Steve Lee says, “Getting recognition is the best reward for authors.” From the website of past winners:

  • Winner: Amy Johnson of Somerville, MA for the story “Excuse Me, This is My Apocalypse”
  • First runner-up: Dianne Lee of Chicago, IL for the story “The Gambler”
  • Finalist: Chloe Oriotis of Toronto, Canada for the story “Mara’s Moon”
  • Finalist: Gideon P. Smith of Winchester, MA for the story “To Look Upon the Face of God”
  • Finalist: Lauren Zarama of Hopkinton, MA for the story “The Surrogate”

Lee says, “The winner’s story was accepted for publication online in Escape Pod a few months after submission.”

(6) IT IS YOUR DESTINY. OR MAYBE NOT. David M. de León discusses why multiverses are having a moment right now at The Yale Review“All at Once, the Multiverse Is…”

…As sci-fi writer Ted Chiang has written, the rise of the multiverse represents a seismic change in narrative fiction. “For much of human history, stories reinforced the idea of fate,” Chiang argues. “They told us that events unfolded the way they did because of destiny or the will of God.” But the multiverse is not about destiny. Instead of showing how things must be, it imagines a place where all options are possible and equal, none better or more probable than the other, none more destined or fated….

(7) TODAY’S 10,000. I learned today from the LA Times, “Oscars: Real ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ laundromat” that the film was shot in a real laundromat about a mile from where I grew up. Though I’ve never been inside, I have been a customer at the family’s liquor store next door.

Majers Coin Laundry in San Fernando could be any Los Angeles-area laundromat.

It’s tucked between an auto repair shop and a mobile home park, its tall glass windows revealing vending machines stocked with M&M’s and bleach. Rows of metal carts line the front, where the wind occasionally blows them into the asphalt parking lot.

But there’s one detail that sets Majers apart from the competition: For six days in March 2020, this laundromat was home to Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s production of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” now the front-runner for best picture and a host of other prizes at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony after sweeping top honors at the Directors, Producers, Writers and Screen Actors guild awards….

(8) HIDDEN AMPAS FIGURES. Variety explains the voting mechanism that determines “How Oscars Best Picture Winners Are Chosen”. Lots weirder than Hugo voting! (The article has today’s date, but discusses the computation that determines the finalists.) Here’s the first stage.

… Depending on how many voters participate this year, a mathematical formula determines what is needed to be a best picture nominee. For the sake of understanding, unless you’re John Nash (played by Russell Crowe in the Oscar-winner “A Beautiful Mind”), we’ll label this the “Best Picture Number,” or “BPN.” PwC oversees the entire process. After all the votes are cast, the BPN is determined by dividing the total number of ballots by 11, which is the number of available nominations plus one. Any film that receives an amount of No. 1 votes that surpasses the BPN is automatically a nominee. Believe it or not, based on how many films are released each year, there aren’t always many movies….

(9) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash fiction story out as part of Wyngraf Magazine’s “cozy flash” fiction series. It’s called “Homecoming Gift”.

Prince Colwyn smiled as he stepped onto the pier in the harbour of Calfiris. It was good to be home.

The arrival of his ship the Sea Squall, now a lot more battered than when she had left three long years ago, had not gone unnoticed, and so a squad of guardsmen hastened down the pier to meet him….

(10) IT’S A HORROR. Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw goes full-on KTF in Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey review – cack-handed out-of-copyright horror”.

On the chill stroke of midnight, 31 December 2021, AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh went out of copyright and, like a demon from an open grave, a worryingly bad idea flew out into the world: a horror version of AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Well, here it is, promising to do for Brit horror what Sex Lives of the Potato Men did for Brit comedy, with a terrifying combination of not-scary and not-funny, and a cast of Love Island types on Xanax apparently reading the dialogue off an optician’s chart held up behind the camera….

(11) ON THE FRONT. [Item by Patrick McGuire.] The Princeton alumni magazine has a rather sfnal cover relating to AI, including a picture of Asimov.  It looks to me rather like something F&SF might have run as a cover, maybe in the 1950s.  Of course, now that we’re here in The Future, one can argue that it’s no longer sfnal. Princeton Alumni Weekly, March 8, 2023.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2019[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Marvin Lachman’s The Heirs of Anthony Boucher: A History of Mystery Fandom.

Our Beginning this Scroll is that of Marvin Lachman’s The Heirs of Anthony Boucher: A History of Mystery Fandom. Boucher’s Sunday mystery review column for the New York Times Book Review was the first such column for fans of that genre. 

Boucher’s column inspired the first fan magazine, The Armchair Detective, and Boucher then enthusiastically encouraged it and reviewed it. Many say that the column itself led to the creation of mystery fandom. 

It’s an amazing book (available at the usual suspects) that collects all of the columns that he wrote. As they’re not spoilers, I’ll give the full text of one such entry sans the wonderful photo of Len and June Moffatt that was with it.

JDM Bibliophile (1965–2004) A more hard-boiled writer than Patricia Wentworth became the subject of a fan magazine in March 1965 when Len and June Moffatt of Downey, California, first published the JDM Bibliophile (JDMB), devoted to the work of John D. MacDonald. 

MacDonald starting writing for pulp magazines in 1946 during their waning days. He then switched to JDMB, a mimeographed magazine at the time, was described in its initial issue as a “non-profit amateur journal devoted to the readers of John D. MacDonald and related matters.” A goal was to obtain complete bibliographic information on all of MacDonald’s writings, and this was partly achieved with The JDM Master Checklist, published in 1969 by the Moffatts. They had help from many people, including MacDonald himself. Though he kept good records, he, like most authors, didn’t have complete publishing data on his own work. Especially helpful to the Moffatts were William J. Clark and another couple, Walter and Jean Shine of Florida. The Shines published an updated version of the Checklist in 1980, adding illustrations, a biographical sketch, and a listing of articles and reviews of MacDonald. JDMB offered news and reviews of MacDonald’s writings and their adaptation to various media. There were also contributions from MacDonald, including reminiscences and commentary. The Moffatts contributed a column (“& Everything”), as did the Shines (“The Shine Section”). Other JDM fans sent articles, letters, and parodies. One issue, #25 in 1979, included the Shines’ “Confidential Report, a Private Investigators’ File on Travis McGee,” describing information gleaned from the McGee canon about his past, interests, cases, and associates. MacDonald once said of Walter Shine, “He knows more about Travis than I do.” 

After the Moffatts had published twenty-two issues of JDMB, it was transferred in 1979 to the University of South Florida in Tampa, with Professor Edgar Hirshberg as editor. It continued until 1999. One final issue, #65, was published as a memorial to Hirshberg who had died in June 2002. It was edited by Valerie Lawson. On February 21, 1987, about a hundred McGee fans gathered at his “address,” Slip F-18 at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where McGee kept his houseboat The Busted Flush. The mayor of Fort Lauderdale unveiled a plaque honoring McGee.

Now here’s the Beginning 

Preface

All knowledge is contained in fandom.—Anthony Boucher 

This history of mystery fandom is called The Heirs of Anthony Boucher because it was to Boucher that fans turned before “The Fan Revolution” was launched in 1967. There were fans before 1967, and I shall discuss them. However, it was in 1967 that the mystery developed a fandom that was not limited to specific authors or characters such as Sherlock Holmes. 

Boucher was an excellent mystery writer, but he gave up writing novels—though he continued to write the occasional short story—to review mysteries for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1942. In 1951 he became the mystery critic for the New York Times Book Review. In addition, he reviewed for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He was considered the outstanding reviewer of crime fiction in America and on three occasions received Edgars from Mystery Writers of America for his writing.

Boucher mentioned fan activities in his column, but there were few except for those involving Sherlock Holmes. Boucher reviewed what was perhaps the earliest general fan scholarship, A Preliminary Check List of the Detective Novel and Its Variants (1966), an annotated list of recommendations by Charles Shibuk. In 1966 Boucher also wrote of a bibliography of the works of John Dickson Carr, compiled by Rick Sneary of California.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. Though he’s best known for his work with Disney, for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not the least for Fantasia, and The Little Mermaid be it thirty years after his death, I’d be remiss not to note his early work illustrating such works as East of the Sun and West of the MoonHansel and Gretel and Andersen’s Fairy TalesEast of the Sun and West of the Moon is my favorite work by him. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period starting in the Fifties: The Great BeastThe Magic of Aleister CrowleyThe King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say, the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that was his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best-known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Another who obviously died far too young, of cancer. Though best-known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were only on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 90. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series, who reprised her character in the TV movie Get Smart Again! (1989), and in a short-lived series in 1995 later also called Get Smart. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She didn’t have that much of an acting career though she was in the pilot of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. It amazing how many performers guested on that show. 
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs. (Died 2008.)
  • Born March 12, 1955 Jim Mann, 68. Living in the Pittsburgh area, a con-running fan who has worked on quite a few Boskones, chairing Boskone 25 and Boskone 47 as well being involved in Confluences and Worldcons.  He’s edited quite a few books NESFSA, I’ll just single out Robert Bloch’s Out of My Head,  Anthony Boucher’s The Compleat Boucher (which I highly recommended) and Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man.
  • Born March 12, 1960 Courtney B. Vance, 63. I know him best from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, in which he played A.D.A. Ron Carver, but he has some interesting genre roles including being Sanford Wedeck, the Los Angeles bureau chief of the FBI in the pilot of FlashForward, Miles Dyson: Cyberdyne Systems’ CEO who funds the Genisys project in Terminator Genisys, and The Narrator in Isle of Dogs. He had a recurring role in Lovecraft Country as George Freeman. He earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series nomination for that role.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) GAMERS BEWARE. A message from the Ukranian company GSC Game World Team warns about a Russian hacking incident against their work product S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl.

(16) THE HIP BONE’S CONNECTED TO THE THIGH BONE. Galactic Journey’s installment “[March 12, 1968] Be Seeing You (The Prisoner)” begins with an overview by Kris Vyas-Myall, and concludes with this reaction by Fiona Moore:

…Lots of people who tuned in to The Prisoner and watched to the end are, apparently, disappointed. Those people are missing the point. The Prisoner isn’t a spy series, or an sf series, or a metaphor… and yet, it is all of those things. The Village is a real place… and yet it’s also a state of mind, a cloying conformity that, as the series itself demonstrates, could be found in London or the Wild West as much as in Portmeirion, where the series was actually filmed. The point many critics are missing is, The Prisoner is first and foremost a Rorshach test…..

(17) THE LAST SOVIET. In a twist, the podcast will be voiced by former *NSYNC member, Lance Bass, who trained as a cosmonaut himself. (Though he never made his trip due to funding falling through.) “A cosmonaut was stranded in space. Now a pop star tells the story.” at Mashable.

When a Russian spaceship docked as a lifeboat for three stranded men at the International Space Station in February, one may have wondered if Sergei Krikalev, heading the rescue mission, felt any deja vu.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also sometimes known as “the last Soviet” for his more than 311 days spent in space as the Soviet Union collapsed 250 miles beneath him in 1991. He was only meant to be at the Mir station for five months. Instead, he remained for close to a year, never abandoning the outpost.

Today, Krikalev, the former cosmonaut, is the executive director of human spaceflight for the Russian space agency. That means it’s on his watch to make sure NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin get back home safely after their ship sprang a leak at the station in December 2022. The three marooned crew members were supposed to return this month. But their mission will now stretch for a year, until a new crew arrives to relieve them on a separate spacecraft in six months.

Krikalev’s story of being stranded in space is now getting a perhaps overdue spotlight with a new podcast series called “The Last Soviet.” And it’s being told by another cosmonaut, Lance Bass.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also sometimes known as the other blond heartthrob in NSYNC. That’s right: the Lance Bass, who sang “Tearin’ up my heart” with JT, who had a cameo in Zoolander, a satire on the very serious ambitions of beautiful people….

(18) PUCKER UP AND… This is old news (September 2022), but if you haven’t seen it already, the video is interesting. This was an over-inflation-to-destruction test for a inflatable space habitat, so in this case “blow up” has a double meaning. “Why NASA blew up a space habitat in Texas” at Mashable.

When a future house for astronauts explodes, a celebration might seem inappropriate, but engineers at a commercial space company couldn’t be prouder of their shredded outer space house.

Sierra Space, working on one of three NASA contracts to develop commercial space stations, just completed something called the “Ultimate Burst Pressure” test on a mockup of its low-Earth orbit space dwelling. The LIFE habitat(Opens in a new tab), short for Large Inflatable Flexible Environment, could one day serve as rooms on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space station, Orbital Reef(Opens in a new tab). If all goes well, the companies hope to start building the station in 2026.

But first NASA has to run the structure through a gauntlet to ensure it’s safe for humans….

(19) AN AFFECTIONATE AUTOPSY. “’A Disturbance in the Force’ Review: Inside Star Wars Holiday Special” in Variety.

There are times when you look back at pop culture phenomena and can’t resist the urge to ask: Can you believe this actually happened? Tackling a notorious fiasco in one of the galaxy’s most popular franchises, Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak’s amusing and exhaustive documentary ”A Disturbance in the Force” unpacks 1978’s “Star Wars Holiday Special.”

You don’t have to be an obsessive “Star Wars” fan to enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at how the special — which premiered Nov. 17, 1978 on CBS, and has never been re-run on any broadcast or cable outlet — came to exist. To be sure, the fans will appreciate it a lot more than casual viewers. But it’s also an irresistible hoot for anyone with fond memories of star-studded 1970s musical/variety TV specials — a specific type of highly popular general audience entertainment that, truth to tell, very often showcased more campy excess than anything in the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”…  

Speaking of penny-pinching: You know that scene in which Bea Arthur flirts with what appears to be a large rat? The rodent’s head was recycled from a low-budget 1976 sci-fi melodrama, Bert I. Gordon’s “Food of the Gods.” No, really. Then as now, the show must go on.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A trailer dropped for Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 last month, but I think we haven’t linked to it yet. Written and directed by James Gunn. Only in theaters May 5.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/23 A Song Of Fur And Mice

(1) BRINGS THE MESSAGE. During last night’s Golden Globes ceremony CNN reports “Michelle Yeoh would not be played off during Golden Globes acceptance speech”.

Michelle Yeoh won best performance by an actress in a musical or comedy motion picture for her role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Golden Globes on Tuesday night, a career first for the veteran actress.

Though she had to stop her acceptance speech momentarily to threaten violence to the Golden Globes powers-that-be for trying to play her off (joking, “Shut up, please; I can beat you up”), her remarks centered on her journey in Hollywood.

“I remember when I first came to Hollywood, it was a dream come true until I came here … Someone said to me: ‘You speak English?’ And then I said: ‘Yeah, the flight here was about 13 hours long, so I learned,” she said….

… “We all know that it’s so hard,” she added on Tuesday night. “I think any immigrant that comes here will tell you how difficult it is and of sometimes failing and not being able to find it.”

(2) SOME WINDOWS OPEN, OTHERS DON’T. Public Domain Review’s post “Happy Public Domain Day 2023!” begins with a caution about what’s not entering public domain this year.

…Each January 1st is Public Domain Day, where a new crop of works have their copyrights expire and become free to enjoy, share, and reuse for any purpose. Due to differing copyright laws around the world, there is no one single public domain, but there are three definitions which cover most cases. For these three systems, newly entering the public domain today are:

  • works by people who died in 1952, for countries with a copyright term of “life plus 70 years” (e.g. UK, Russia, most of EU and South America);
  • works by people who died in 1972, for countries with a term of “life plus 50 years” (e.g. New Zealand, and most of Africa and Asia);
  • films and books (incl. artworks featured) published in 1927 for the United States.

We normally have Canada listed in the second system above, but in a disappointing development, there’ll be no new published works entering the public domain in Canada next year (nor for the next 20 years) after they retroactively extended copyrights on published works from life of the author plus 50 years years to plus 70 years.

There will also be no new sound recordings entering the US public domain this year. Last year we saw a mammoth release of historical sound recordings become copyright-free, but it won’t be until 2024 that those from 1923 will join them.

Some of you may have been following our advent-style countdown calendar which revealed day-by-day through December our highlights for these new public domain entrants. The last window was opened yesterday, and while such a format was fun for the slow reveal, for the sake of a good gorgeable list we’ve exploded the calendar out into a digestible array below….

(3) THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, AND THE NOT-SO-QUICK. “A romance author was believed to be dead. When she appeared to return, the story got more complicated”CNN tries to sort it out.

In September 2020, fans and friends of Susan Meachen received devastating news. The romance writer’s Facebook account posted a message saying she had died. A later post claimed she had taken her own life and suggested her actions were the results of online bullying by others in her thriving, close-knit online writing group.

Over the next two years, her fellow writers and loyal followers helped keep her memory alive through her published works. However, her Facebook account made a shocking claim this month: Meachen was still alive, and she wanted to return to writing.

“Let the fun begin,” the post concluded.

The bizarre post plunged Meachen’s fans and fellow writers into confusion and rage. Did the woman they had considered a friend, a colleague and a mentor stage a devastating, years-long ruse? Those who spoke to CNN say the scandal has threatened to upend the trust and collaboration that keeps their independent publishing community going. More than that, their search for answers after years of mourning has only turned up more questions….

Camestros Felapton also looked at the coverage given to these developments by Michael Gallagher and Declan Finn, who tried to inject their Upstream Reviews blog into the story, in “Twists…”.

…So getting more mainstream promotion by accounts oblivious to the nature of the site was a bit of a coup for them, all fuelled by the possible-zombie Susan Meachen replying to their direct message. However…it is now unclear if Susan Meachen did reply to them at all. After publishing the responses, claims have been made that the Twitter account they DM’d is fake.

Upstream Reviews has since retracted the responses from Susan Meachen…

(4) A LITTLE LIST. Eric Adelson has assembled “An unofficial list of the most influential science fiction works ever” for the Washington Post.

On a Monday evening last September, a NASA spacecraft intentionally blasted into an asteroid in deep space. The goal was planetary defense — protecting our planet from the kind of wayward rock that could end civilization as we know it. The unprecedented moment seemed surreal, with a camera from the craft sending footage back to Earth of a large asteroid getting bigger and bigger until — pow! — impact. It was both incredible and credible — equal parts jaw-dropping and successful in its proof of concept.

Who could have imagined such a thing?

Well, science fiction writers did.

“Crashing big things into celestial objects goes all the way back to the 1930s stories of Edmond ‘World Wrecker’ Hamilton,” Lisa Yaszek, regents professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, wrote in a text message. “In ‘Thundering Worlds,’ we throw Mercury at an invading alien army to save the rest of the solar system.”…

(5) COLLECTORMANIA. Heritage Auctions sent out an email promoting its top 2022 sales. Among them was the “Margaret Hamilton ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ Hourglass from The Wizard of Oz” that went for $495,000, and the “Dracula (Universal, 1931). Fine/Very Fine on Paper. Insert” that fetched $228,000. And there were many more comics and game items at the top of the list.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Metheglin from Charles de Lint’s Forest of the Heart

Metheglin figures into Charles de Lint’s Forest of the Heart because the theme here is based heavily upon the pre-British Greenman imagery and the myth that comes out of it, and one the characters here is Welsh. 

There’s also a very great scene of a Celtic music session in this novel.

You can read the first chapter, courtesy of Charles, here.

She took a sip, bracing herself, but the liquid went down smooth as silk, with the full-body of a fine brandy. Not until it had settled in her stomach did she realize the kick it had. She gasped and her eyes began to tear. But a fluttering warmth spread through her and the sour taste was finally gone. The liqueur held a faint bouquet of honey and herbs, of a field of wildflowers. It was like drinking a piece of summer and for a moment she almost thought she could hear the buzz of bees, feel the heat of a hot summer’s day.

‘Wow,’ she said and peered into the mouth of the flask. She caught a glimpse of a light, yellowish-amber liquid. ‘What is this stuff?’

‘Metheglin,’ the man told her. ‘A kind of Welsh whiskey made from hops and honey. Have some more,’ he added when she started to hand the flask back.

Ellie did, this time rolling the liquid around in her mouth before finally swallowing it. She looked down at the flask, noting the fine filigree worked into the metal before her eyes teared up again. She drew in a sharp breath, savoring the bite of the cold as it hit the roof of her mouth.

‘So where would you find it in a liquor store?’ she asked. ‘Under whiskeys or…you said it was made from hops. That’s like beer, right?’

Except she’d never tasted either a whiskey or a beer that was this good.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. It would have made a Hell of a movie with the right script and such. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to the novel. There are three different publishers selling it on the usual suspects, all three legit. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: the Hugo nominated “Mirror, Mirror”, and “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”.  With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the Hugo nominated Fantastic Voyage series, and Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First genre role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with SF film World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time Machine (which I suspect you’ve heard of), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 11, 1952 Diana Gabaldon, 71. I have friends who read her and enjoy immensely her Outlander series. They also avidly look forward to every new episode of the Outlander television series. Any of y’all fans of either? 
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 62. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I’ve not, though I may be wrong, read his Shades of Grey books and I know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 60. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly (including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of). He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos” story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor by far). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 51. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at least genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(8) CAP’S NEXT ADVENTURE. Tensions erupt between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson as Captain America: Cold War begins. The upcoming crossover between Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty and Captain America: Symbol Of Truth, kicks off in April. More information here from Marvel. 

It’s all been leading to this! Last year, a new era of Captain America began as both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson picked up the shield and embarked on separate journeys in the pages of Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, and Carmen Carnero’s Captain America: Sentinel Of Liberty and Tochi Onyebuchi and R.B. Silva’s Captain America: Symbol Of Truth. This April, the two Captains will reunite for Captain America: Cold War, an explosive crossover event that will make them question everything they believe in…and each other….

(9) DR. ARTIE MATIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] What could be more helpful than having your mental and emotional health evaluated by something that doesn’t have a brain or emotions? How about doing so without your knowledge or permission? Ars Technica reports “Controversy erupts over non-consensual AI mental health experiment”.

On Friday, Koko co-founder Rob Morris announced on Twitter that his company ran an experiment to provide AI-written mental health counseling for 4,000 people without informing them first, The Verge reports. Critics have called the experiment deeply unethical because Koko did not obtain informed consent from people seeking counseling.

Koko is a nonprofit mental health platform that connects teens and adults who need mental health help to volunteers through messaging apps like Telegram and Discord.

On Discord, users sign into the Koko Cares server and send direct messages to a Koko bot that asks several multiple-choice questions (e.g., “What’s the darkest thought you have about this?”). It then shares a person’s concerns—written as a few sentences of text—anonymously with someone else on the server who can reply anonymously with a short message of their own….

(10) GO AND CHANGE YOUR ARMOR. The Daily Record remembers “The abandoned Scottish mine that starred as a Monty Python filming location”.

Nestled away in Perth and Kinross is an abandoned mine that may look unimpressive to most, but will be instantly recognisable to any Monty Python fan.

Tomnadashan Mine was constructed in the 19th century by John Campbell, 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane, in an attempt to mine copper, gold, and sulphur. This venture proved unsuccessful and the mine was deserted after his death.

It wasn’t until over 100 years later that the mine would gain a second life as the backdrop for one of the most iconic scenes in comedy history. Those who have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail will no doubt be familiar with the Rabbit of Caerbannog….

(11) STILL A VIRGIN. “Attempt at First Satellite Launch From Britain Fails” reports the New York Times.

Britain’s attempt to get into the space launch business on Monday night came up short when a 70-foot rocket stuffed with satellites failed to reach orbit, Virgin Orbit, the company providing the launch service, said.

An hour after takeoff from an airstrip in Cornwall, in southwest England, a modified Boeing 747 released the rocket, which fired away as planned. It was supposed to take nine satellites up into low orbital positions 300 or more miles above the Earth. But Virgin Orbit said in a statement on Tuesday that the system had experienced an “anomaly” while the rocket’s second-stage engine was being fired. It had been traveling at more than 11,000 miles per hour when the mission ended prematurely.

Dan Hart, the chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in the statement that “the first-time nature” of the mission had added layers of complexities, and that a “technical failure” appeared to have occurred. “We will work tirelessly to understand the nature of the failure, make corrective actions and return to orbit as soon as we have completed a full investigation and mission assurance process,” he said.

People in Britain’s space industry said the goal — launching satellites from British soil for the first time — would have huge importance even though Virgin Orbit, which was founded by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson, is a California company….

(12) PREHISTORIC COSTUME COMPETITION. [Item by Michael Toman.] “Humans First Started Wearing Clothes At Least 300,000 Years Ago, New Research Finds” at Open Culture.

Artist’s conception….

That people wore clothes back in the Stone Age will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who grew up watching The Flintstones. That show, never wholly reliant on established archaeological fact, didn’t get too specific about its time period. But it turns out, based on recently published discoveries by a team of researchers from the University of Tübingen, the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, and Leiden University, that Stone Agers were dressing themselves as early as 300,000 years ago — over one hundred millennia earlier than previously thought.

“This is suggested by cut marks on the metatarsal and phalanx of a cave bear discovered at the Lower Paleolithic site of Schöningen in Lower Saxony, Germany,” says the University of Tübingen’s site. The location of such marks indicate that the bear was not simply butchered but carefully skinned….

(13) SPIN DOCTORS. Inertia by Mark Everglade (Rockhill Publishing) features a young geophysicist, Ash, and her father who must solve the ecological crisis of a planet spinning out of control, using the latest cybernetics while evading an oppressive regime profiting off the destruction. 

Gliese 581g is the last remaining colony of the human race, located twenty light years from Earth. The planet was once tidal locked to its sun, with one side draped in darkness and the other half always bright. This changed after a radical group called O.A.K. increased the planet’s rotation to bring daylight cycles to all in the name of equality. All was not well, however, as decades passed, and new generations dealt with continual floods as the newfound sunlight melted the icecaps. Entire neighborhoods went aquatic from rising sea levels. Soon, the planet was spinning out of control, with sunrises occurring every few hours.

Ash and her father discover a research lab where Severum uncovers a connection between Geosturm and the Old Guard, a scion of the now defunct Government of Evig Natt led by Eduardo Culptos. The Old Guard seek to restore their power over the hemisphere by accelerating the planet’s rotation at breakneck speed, exacerbating the negative ecological effects, as they convince the public that the planet was better off in darkness. They’re motivated by the wealth they obtained back when light was scarce and commodified, and seek a restoration of their influence.

The book is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Author Mark Everglade has spent his life studying social conflict. He runs the website www.markeverglade.com where he reviews cyberpunk media and interviews the greats.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Screen Junkies’ “Honest Trailers: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” begins with a spoiler warning. So we’ll not blab further in this introduction.

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