Pixel Scroll 12/30/23 Always Cool To See A Reference To Big Pixel And The Scrolling Company

(1) THUMB OUT, THUMBS DOWN.  The 1979 Best Dramatic Hugo race is analyzed by the Hugo Book Club Blog in “Death From Above (Hugo cinema 1979)”. In spite of everything going for it, this finalist did not win:

…Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy is rightly regarded as a classic of science fiction comedy. Those in our cinema club who love it, do so unreservedly … but it was not to everyone’s taste. Understated and ironic, some consider it a masterpiece of timing and laconic charm, despite the dialogue feeling loose and unstructured. Following an everyday Englishman who survives the destruction of planet Earth, the series meanders between various science fiction tropes before the protagonist uncovers the galactic conspiracy behind his planet’s demolition. There’s a reason this radio show spawned four sequels, was adapted into a television series, a movie, a video game, and a novelization that sold more than 14 million copies….


(3) SMALL WONDERS. Issue 7 of Small Wonders, the magazine for science fiction and fantasy flash fiction and poetry, is now available on virtual newsstands here. Co-editors Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade bring a mix of flash fiction and poetry from authors and poets who are familiar to SFF readers as well as those publishing their first-ever piece with us.

The Issue 7 Table of Contents and release dates on the Small Wonders website:

  • Cover Art: “Entrance” by Sarah Morrison
  • “Hikari” (fiction) by Morgan Welch (8 Jan)
  • “The Mummy Gets Adopted” (poem) by Amy Johnson (10 Jan)
  • “Quantum Eurydice” (fiction) by Avi Burton (12 Jan)
  • “Whispers of Ascension” (fiction) by Wendy Nikel (15 Jan)
  • “Lekythos” (poem) by Casey Lucas (17 Jan)
  • “The Sternum Ties it All Together” (fiction) by Janna Miller (19 Jan)
  • “Constellations of Flesh, Bone, and Memory” (fiction) by Timothy Hickson (22 Jan)
  • “Another Cemetery Wedding ” (poem) by Belicia Rhea (24 Jan)
  • “All the Dead Girls, Singing” (fiction) by Avra Margariti (26 Jan)

Subscriptions are available at the magazine’s store and on Patreon.

(4) MEDICAL UPDATE. Rusty Burke experienced a serious fall on December 16, resulting in severe head injuries and two subdural hematomas. Since then, he has been under intensive care, including intubation and sedation. There’s an extensive medical update at “The World of Robert E. Howard” on Facebook.

Rusty Burke is President of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, has edited several editions of Howard’s work, and has published countless articles on Howard for the academic and fan press. He founded The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listens to join Pat Murphy for lunch at “the single best restaurant in the world” in Episode 215 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Pat Murphy

My guest this time around is Pat Murphy, who won the Nebula Award for her 1986 novel The Falling Woman, plus a second Nebula the same year for her novelette, “Rachel in Love.” She also won the Philip K. Dick Award for her 1990 short story collection Points of Departure, and the World Fantasy Award for her 1990 novella, Bones. For more than 20 years, she  and Paul Doherty cowrote the recurring Science column in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She also co-founded the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 1991. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve known Pat for a loooong time, and I can tell you exactly how long — we met on September 4, 1980, more than 43 years prior to the conversation you’re about to hear. If you want to learn exactly how and why I can pinpoint that date, well, the episode will reveal all.

We discussed the part of Robert A. Heinlein’s famed rules of writing with which she disagrees, why she felt the need to attend the Clarion writing workshop even after having made several sales to major pro markets, the occasional difficulties in decoding what an editor is truly trying to tell you, the importance of never giving up your day jobs, why she can’t read Dylan Thomas when she’s working on a novel, the differences between the infighting we’ve seen in the science fiction vs. literary fields, what we perceive as our personal writing flaws, a Clarion critiquing mystery I’ve been attempting to solve since 1979, the science fiction connection which launched her career at the Exploratorium, and much more.

(6) ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has been revealing aspects of her life and writing to BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life. Download program at the link.

Margaret Atwood talks to John Wilson about the formative influences and experiences that shaped her writing. One of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed authors, Atwood has published over 60 books including novels, short stories, children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She’s known for stories of human struggle against oppression and brutality, most famously her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian vision of America in which women are enslaved. She has twice won the Booker Prize For Fiction, in 2000 for The Blind Assassin and again in 2019 for her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments.

Growing up in remote Canadian woodland with her scientist parents, she traces her career as a story-teller back to sagas that she invented with her older brother as a child, and her first ‘novel’ written when she was seven. She recalls an opera about fabrics that she wrote and performed at high school for a home economics project, and how she staged puppet shows for children’s parties. Margaret Atwood also discusses the huge impact that reading George Orwell had on her, and how his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four especially influenced The Handmaid’s Tale. She reveals how that novel – written whilst she was living in Berlin in 1985 – was initially conceived after the 1980 election of President Ronald Reagan and the resurgence of evangelical right-wing politics in America.

(7) ECSTASY OF HORROR. The BBC ruminates on “The Wicker Man: The disturbing cult British classic that can’t be defined”.

…At different times and from different perspectives, it can feel as though you’re watching a crime thriller, a fantasy, a celebration of alternate lifestyles or nature-centred folklore – or brilliantly conceived arthouse cinema. In the 2008 book Fifty Key British Films, Justin Smith considered The Wicker Man “a curious mixture of detective story and folk musical”.

The Wicker Man can also be watched as a challenge to orthodox religion – not least when Lord Summerisle defends his pagan ethos by wryly questioning Howie’s Christian worship of “the son of a virgin impregnated by a ghost”. Or perhaps it’s the first mockumentary in British cinema history, given an opening credit offering thanks to Summerisle residents “for this privileged insight into their religious practices and for their generous cooperation in the making of this film”….

(8) AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS AND GRAHAM GREENE. [Item by James Bacon.] Irish science fiction fan Pádraig Ó Méalóid investigates the circumstances under which one of the leading novelists of the twentieth century, Graham Greene, came to write a blurb for the back cover of the first edition of Flann O’Brien’s debut novel At Swim-Two-Birds, published by Longmans, Green & Co. in 1939. “The Mexican Pas de Trois of Flann O’Brien, Graham Greene, and Shirley Temple: The Background to At Swim-Two-Birds’s Back Cover Blurb” at The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O’Brien Studies.

…Greene had worked as a publisher’s reader for Eyre & Spottiswoode in his younger days,13 but by the time At Swim-Two-Birds was published in 1939 he had already had eight novels published, including England Made Me (1935) and Brighton Rock (1938), so was probably both too busy and too successful to be working for anyone as a first reader for incoming manuscripts from first-time writers. At Swim-Two-Birds came to Longmans recommended by A.M. Heath, which might have meant that it would have started its journey on a higher rung than a book straight off the slush pile…

(9) ROGER HILL (1948-2023). “Roger Hill, Early Comics Fan, Historian and Scholar, Dies at 75”The Comics Journal paid tribute. Here’s a brief excerpt:

… During the early 1990s, Roger worked with [Jerry] Weist as comic art advisor to the Sotheby’s Comic Book and Comic Art auctions in New York City.

Beginning in 2004, he edited and published his own fanzine called the EC Fan-Addict Fanzine. The fifth issue was published by Fantagraphics in November 2023, and a sixth, posthumous issue is due out in June 2024 (also from Fantagraphics). He was the art editor for Bhob Stewart’s 2003 book Against the Grain: MAD Artist Wallace Wood, writing several chapters as well. In 2010, Roger contributed an essay called “The Early Years” for the Éditions Déesse edition of the WOODWORK: Wallace Wood 1927-1981 catalog done for the Wally Wood exhibition presented by the Casal Solleric in Palma City, Spain. After Jerry Weist’s passing, in 2012 Roger and Glynn Crain finished assembling his book Frank R. Paul: The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration for IDW Publishing.

Roger’s first book, Wally Wood: Galaxy Art and Beyond, was published by IDW in 2016. His other books include Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics (2017), Mac Raboy: Master of the Comics (2019), and The Chillingly Weird Art of Matt Fox (2023), all for TwoMorrows Publishing….

(10) TOM WILKINSON (1948-2023). [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Definitely one of ours — Shakespeare in Love as Hugh Fennyman, the fantasy film Black Knight in the role of Sir Knolte of Marlborough,  in the sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, next is Batman Begins as Mafia boss Carmine Falcone, The Exorcism of Emily Rose has him playing Father Moore, he’s  a taxi driver in the romantic fantasy If Only and finally he’s James Reid in The Green Hornet.  

Late in his career, he had two animated genre voicing credits. First as The Fox in The Gruffalo’s Child based off  the picture book of the same name written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It looks adorable. 

The second is yet another of the seemingly endless credits for Watership Down, this time for the character Threarah. 

Died December 30.


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. (Died 1936.) Yes, Rudyard Kipling. I’ve not ever dealt with him at length so let’s do so now.

I think the works I like best by him are The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, the 1894 and 1895 collections of stories. Most of the characters are animals such as Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear, though a main character is a boy Mowgli. As with most of his work, it reflects strongly his Anglo-Indian heritage and upbringing. 

Up next for us is the Just So Stories for Little Children written eight years later. This collection of origin stories such as how the elephant got his trunk is considered a classic of children’s literature, and deservedly so.

Puck of Pook’s Hill borrows that character, and you know which character I mean, and drops him in 1906 Britain for a series of comical adventures with two children. Really, really fun stories.

He’s written at least two ghost stories, “The Phantom ‘Rickshaw” and “My Own True Ghost Story” published in his 1888 The Phantom ‘Rickshaw & other Eerie Tales collection.

Lastly he did write some SF. To wit, “With the Night Mail” a 1905 story and As Easy As A.B.C., a 1912 publication. (Both were set in the 21st century in Kipling’s Aerial Board of Control universe.)  The first was published in McClure’s Magazine in November 1905, and then in The Windsor Magazine in December 1905. In 1909 it was issued as a popular book, slightly revised and with additional poetry and faux advertisements and notices from the future. Both have anthologized repeatedly in the last one hundred and twenty-five years.


  • Bizarro has that name for good reason, as this arrest for a peculiar game-related crime will show.
  • Nancy sounds like someone who went to the same school as Writer X.
  • Tom Gauld presents:

(13) SPARKLING DEBUT. This is who was named TVLine’s “Performer of the Week”: “Ncuti Gatwa’s Performance as the Fifteenth in ‘Doctor Who’ Special”.

…On top of it all, Gatwa also plays the more serious moments so well, mining them not just for the inherent drama (Ruby has mysteriously vanished from the timeline!) but also the emotionWatch him watch the woman who left newborn Ruby at the church doorstep walk away, and you feel the conflict. The heartbreak. Perhaps a hint of recognition…? And then, Fifteen’s eventual resolve to stick to his plan.

Gatwa has stepped into this role with such elan and ease, while also infusing it with specific and fresh nuances, well, it’s almost as if he’s been playing it for 900 years.

(14) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN ALIEN. Atlas Obscura takes readers to “1890s Alien Gravesite – Aurora, Texas”.

According to a story run in the April 19, 1897, edition of the Dallas Morning News a “mystery airship,” as UFOs were known in those days, came sailing out of the sky, smashing through a windmill belonging to Judge J.S. Proctor, before finally crashing into the ground. The debris also destroyed the good judge’s flower garden. Unfortunately the pilot was also killed in the collision, but locals were able to drag what was described as a “petite” and “Martian” body from the wreckage. The body was supposedly buried under a tree branch in the Aurora cemetery, observing good Christian rites….

…Today, the alien’s headstone has been stolen but all traces of the Wild West alien spot are not lost. The Texas state historical marker that commemorates the cemetery still mentions the Martian burial among the other honored (and real) dead buried at the site….

(15) HE’S GOT TO HAVE IT. “’I’d sell a kidney for a Jarvis Cocker Spitting Image puppet!’ The collectors who’ll do anything for a TV treasure” in the Guardian.

…Is there any piece of television treasure [TV writer Tom Neenan is] still holding out for? “There is a Spitting Image puppet of Jarvis Cocker from the 90s that’s really spindly and awesome. If that came up I’d consider selling a kidney or something to buy it,” says Neenan. “Oh and I’m building a Dalek at the minute. It’s based on the plans for the new series and it’s all built by me but I’m very jealous of people who have a screen-used Dalek.”

Ah yes, Daleks. Holy mackerel, there is a wealth of Doctor Who collectors, hunters and enthusiasts out there, meeting up in conference centres, museums and online message boards to compare their wares. It is on one such website that I first came across Chris Balcombe, a man who owned and restored an original 1960s Dalek….

(16) FRIGHTENINGLY NUTRITIOUS. This 1945 Cream of Wheat ad was illustrated by Charles Addams. (Click for larger image.)

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Olav Rokne, Rich Horton, Scott Edelman, James Bacon, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Rich Lynch: Report from Spiral-Con II

By Rich Lynch: I’ve been to a lot of conventions in my personal five decades of fandom, but very few of them as small as Spiral-Con II.  It was a free one-day event, sponsored by Spiral Tower Press and held Saturday, July 15, 2023 on the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.  I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I don’t remember ever hearing about the first Spiral-Con, which had been held last August, even though (as I discovered belatedly) it had been a news item in File770.com.  And I wouldn’t have heard about this year’s convention either if I hadn’t been contacted by someone who was scheduled to be a program participant.

That would be my friend Rusty Burke, the current President of the Robert E. Howard Foundation which was started in 2006 as a means of expanding the knowledge base about the author and his fiction.  Rusty had emailed me at the beginning of July, asking if Nicki and I would like to appear on a fanzine-related panel during the convention.  He was very well aware of our fanzine background – besides his status as a world-class Howard historian he is, or at least used to be, a pretty good fan artist.  Way back when we all lived in eastern Tennessee he was a frequent contributor to our 1970s clubzine Chat.  Turns out that two of the organizers of the convention are also Howard Foundation members, so the connection pathway from them to us was an easy one.

But enough about that.  The convention drew a total of 17 people including participants but I guess that was probably about what was expected, given that the University was in the middle of summer break.  Those of us who did attend witnessed an interesting single-track program that included five panels and a short awards presentation ceremony.  The Trigon Awards, which according to the Spiral Tower Press website “celebrate the past, present, and future of science fiction, fantasy, and horror”, were the first thing on the schedule: the award for Scholarly Achievement went to Rusty for the breadth of his many activities within the Howard Foundation; the award for Literary Achievement went to Old Moon Quarterly, a relatively new online magazine devoted to dark fantasy and sword-and-sorcery fiction; and a Special Achievement award went to Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books who over the years has been “an unparalleled steward and champion of the pulp genres of sword and sorcery, military science fiction, and epic fantasy”.

The Robert E. Howard panel:
(l-r) Jason Ray Carney and Rusty Burke

The five panels were an eclectic mix.  For the first one, the topic was the literary legacy of Robert E. Howard, which started out to be an interview of Rusty by Dr. Jason Ray Carney of CNU’s English Department.  But at about the halfway point the focus expanded and after that it became more about the Howard Foundation than the author.  In particular, there was a lot of description about Howard Days, an annual event held in Howard’s home town of Cross Plains, Texas.  Some of the convention’s program is held indoors, but other parts are held in an open air pavilion.  And there are no hotels or motels in Cross Plains (the nearest ones are the better part of an hour’s drive away) so the 200-or-so people who attend are firmly committed to preserving the history and learning more about the author, and are willing to persevere through the heat of hot Texas summers to do so.  Now that’s dedication!

The Women and Modern Fantasy panel: (l-r) Shannon O’Keefe and Nicole Emmelhainz

The second panel was a change of pace – a literary analysis titled “Women and Modern Fantasy: History, Theory, and Analysis”.  The presenter was CNU English Department student Shannon O’Keefe, who was introduced by her advisor, Dr. Nicole Emmelhainz.  By all appearances it seemed to be a preview of a thesis on the topic, and the presentation skillfully walked us attendees through the history of feminism and its literary movement, focusing on how the feminist movement eventually resulted in many women authors writing genre fiction, including science fiction & fantasy. The reasons for this, we were informed, is that genre fiction can be used as a means to comment on societal issues and can be used to create worlds, situations, and characters for making such social commentary.  More to the point, genre fiction allows female authors a good way to examine and explore the ‘what ifs’ of feminist political and social movements, including things like cultural expectations for women.  There were several writers cited as examples, and the latter part of the panel turned out to be an in-depth analysis of a major work by one of them: R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War.  It’s ostensibly a dark fantasy with military overtones, but it’s also a journey of discovery and awakening for its main character, Rin.  I haven’t read it yet, but after this I think I’m intrigued enough that I’ll want to.

The History of Pulp Magazines panel: (l-r) Jason Ray Carney, Nathan Vernon, and Josh LeHuray

There was another change in direction after that – the third panel was about the history of pulp magazines.  Dr. Carney was again the moderator and the panelists were two experts with encyclopedic knowledge on the topic: historians Nathan Vernon and Josh LeHuray.  Vernon is also a board member of The Pulp Magazine Project, which according to its website is “an open-access archive and digital research initiative for the study and preservation of one of the twentieth century’s most influential print culture forms: the all-fiction pulpwood magazine.”  Similar to the Howard panel earlier in the day, this one started out by walking us through the history of the pulp magazine era (which dates all the way back to 1896 when Frank A. Munsey published the first issue of Argosy) but eventually broadened to include discussion and description of PulpFest, the annual convention which celebrates the history of that type of publication. Overall it was an opportunity to broaden my knowledge – I hadn’t known, for example, that during the pre-WWII years newsstands rented out space to the pulp publishers rather than entering into consignment or outright purchase agreements for the magazines.  There were many well-known authors who wrote for pulp-era magazines including now-famous science fiction and fantasy writers such as Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Murray Leinster, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edmund Hamilton, C.L. Moore, and, yes, Robert E. Howard (to name just a few).  Ray Bradbury also was published in pulp-era magazines, which segues nicely into the description of the next panel.

The History of Zine Culture panel: (l-r) Luke Dodd, Rusty Burke, Rich Lynch, and Nicki Lynch. Photo by Shelley Wischeusen.

The fourth panel was the one Nicki and I had come to Spiral-Con for.  It was titled “A Brief History of Zine Culture and its influence on Genre Fiction”, but for the purpose of this panel the focus was limited to science fiction fanzines.  The moderator, Dr. Luke Dodd from Eastern Kentucky University (another Howard Foundation member), had informed me prior to the convention that a visual aid or two for the panel would be helpful so I’d created a PowerPoint which provided a few prominent examples of science fiction writers who had edited and published fanzines.  One of them was Bradbury who in 1939-40 had published four issues of Futuria Fantasia, which was an eclectic mix of essays, fiction and poetry.  The second issue contained a short story by Bradbury that probably became the basis for his first professional sale as a writer. 

What I had attempted to show was that zine culture of the 1930s through the end of the 1960s was a prime conduit for science fiction fans to become science fiction authors.  But after that, there was pretty much a paradigm shift – new writers in the field had found other routes (such as writers workshops) to become professionals.  There didn’t seem to be many people in attendance who were very knowledgeable about science fiction fanzines, so Nicki, Rusty, and I described in general some of the different types (genzine, perzine, apas, etc.).  And after that there were questions from audience members which indicated a genuine interest in learning more about fanzines and fanzine fandom.  I hope they will follow up on it by visiting the two online sites where fanzines are archived – there’s much for them to discover.

The Military Science Fiction panel: (l-r) Sean Korsgaard, Chase Folmar, and John Balderi

The final panel of the convention had been mislabeled in the program handout – it had been described as “The Literary Legacy of Space Opera: Literature, Film, and Gaming” but the actual focus was on military science fiction.  The moderator was Baen Books assistant editor Sean Korsgaard (who earlier had accepted Toni Weisskopf’s Trigon Award), and the two panelists were Chase Folmar and Dr. John Balderi. Korsgaard and Balderi are retired U.S. military, and they all had strong opinions about the topic. The panel was actually fairly wide-ranging, including call-outs to some of the more prominent military SF writers such as David Drake and David Weber, but what made it interesting to me was the back-and-forth with audience members which attempted to define just what qualified as military science fiction and what didn’t.  The Expanse, for example, has a lot of military SF overtones but the overall plot of the series is much more about discovery and survival on a grandiose scale – in other words, it’s space opera.  And there are some series which are, in fact, military science fiction even though the plots are not really pro-war – John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is a good example of that.  And there are other stories which have a militaristic basis or foundation but are not, strictly speaking, military science fiction – Keith Laumer’s original ‘Bolo’ story, “Night of the Trolls”, is a prime example of that.  There were a lot of questions from the audience, and it made for one of the more interesting panels I’ve attended lately.

I’m glad I attended Spiral-Con.  The day was filled with good panels that showcased many of the diverse interest areas of science fiction and fantasy – it had made the traffic jam-filled drive down from Maryland and expenditure of Marriott points worthwhile.  But I think the organizers need to figure out what they want the future of the convention to be – there’d been just enough publicity (via the Spiral Tower Press blog) to bring 17 people to the event, which seems barely enough to make it sustainable.  But the meeting site at CNU probably couldn’t handle very many more than that – if the convention had been held when classes were in session there would have been way too many attendees for the meeting room to handle.  I’ll be interested to see what direction they go with this.  And I’ll also be more on the lookout, next year, for information about the convention!

Update 07/21/2023: Revised after the original posting based on information provided by commenters.