Pixel Scroll 5/5/24 Unscroll That Pixel And Do Us All A Favor, That File’s Lost Its Taste, And Try Another Flavor

(1) TROUBLED DENVER EVENT WON’T REPEAT IN 2025.  Anne Marble did a roundup about the complaints against Readers Take Denver in Pixel Scroll 4/22/24 item #5.

On May 3 USA Today did its own story about those complaints —“Rebecca Yarros disavows Denver expo amid horror stories, cancelation” – with the additional news that RTD 2025 has now been cancelled.

…All of the negative attention Readers Take Denver has received in the days, weeks following the event has prompted the cancellation of next year’s convention, which was previously scheduled for February 2025….

(2) TURNING THINGS TO GOLD. The original artwork for the cover of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone will be auctioned June 26 by Sotheby’s reports CNN. It’s expected to set a record.

…When the illustration was first up for auction at Sotheby’s in London in 2001, it sold for around four times its estimated sale price, for a record £85,750 (about $106,000), according to a Sotheby’s press release Thursday.

…The record for an item related to the book series is currently held by an unsigned first edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” which sold for $421,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, in 2021, according to Sotheby’s.

(3) SPOILER WARNING. There’s one in this item. Maybe two. “How Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling Told Alan Rickman About Snape” in Deadline.

JK Rowling has shared the conversation she had with actor Alan Rickman, when she revealed to him the true complications of his character in the Harry Potter movies.

Rowling has recorded an interview for her website, answering fans’ questions about her writing process, with a preview transcribed in today’s Times of London. She revealed:

He rang me up and said, ‘Look, I’m spinning plates here. I really need to understand what Snape’s up to? Am I a pure baddie?’ He was the only person I told: ‘You were in love with Harry’s mother.’

Continues at the link.

(4) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MEMORY HOLE IS IN SCOTLAND. “Scottish artist receives hundreds of copies of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in the post” – the Guardian tells why.

Copies of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four have been arriving at an artist’s studio in Edinburgh for months. Every shape and size, posted from Ukraine, Hong Kong, Peru, Germany, Cape Cod and Sarajevo.

Some are in mint condition, others are dog-eared, tea-stained, heavily annotated or turned into graffitied art works. One is a water-stained first edition; one is a secret love letter from a married woman to her first love; another, a graphic novel version, came from Orwell’s son Richard Blair.

Each has been donated to a unique installation in the community hall of Jura, the Hebridean island where Orwell, in dire poverty and desperately ill, wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four during the late 1940s, to mark its publication 75 years ago.

Hans K Clausen, a sculptor based in Edinburgh, is collecting 1,984 copies of the book to exhibit on Jura for three days in early June. It will be an interactive, “living” sculpture where visitors are invited to open and read every volume.

Many have arrived, often with overseas postmarks and customs stamps, addressed to “Winston Smith, care of Hans K Clausen”….

(5) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] I got around to watching the first episode of the new Jeopardy! Masters tournament. Each episode has two games. I didn’t notice any SFF content in the first game, but there was in the second. Here are details:

In the first round:

Spell it!, $1000: How about this dwarves race of “Ring Cycle” fame whose name begins & ends with the same letter

Yogesh Raut got it: “What is N-I-B-E-L-U-N-G-E-N?”.

Meet the Smiths, $400: Matt Smith’s TV roles include the Doctor on “Doctor Who” & this member of the royal family on seasons 1 & 2 of “The Crown”

Yogesh again: “Who is Prince Philip?”

In the second round:

Authors’ Fictional Places, $2000. A Daily Double on which Yogesh bet 9400 points: The town of Eastwick, Rhode Island

Yogesh said, “Who is John Updike?” (The novel here being The Witches of Eastwick.)

Authors’ Fiction Places, $1600: A world of dragons & dragonriders, Pern

Amy Schneider rang in, then hesitated, but got to “Who is McCaffrey?”

Authors’ Fictional Places, $1200. They displayed a picture of a bespectacled, bald man holding a cloth, sitting next to a model of a fantasy setting that Filers would recognize. The clue: Resting on the backs of four elephants atop a giant turtle, Discworld.

Yogesh knew it: “Who is Pratchett?”

Author’s Fictional Places, $400: Castle Rock, Maine.

Yogesh again: “Who is King?”

(Fictional Places $800 was William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, in case you were wondering.)

(6) 2024 CHINA SCIENCE FICTION INDUSTRY REPORT. South China Morning Post covers this year’s report on China’s sf business: “China wants sci-fi industry, led by megahit 3 Body Problem, to help tech make the jump to lightspeed”.

China’s US$15 billion sci-fi industry, which has gained global attention after the success of the Netflix show 3 Body Problem, offers a potential boost to the economy while aligning with Beijing’s aspirations to become a tech powerhouse, analysts said, underscoring the need for stronger government backing to fortify the sector.

The industry achieved 113.29 billion yuan (US$15.6 billion) in total revenue last year, representing a 29 per cent year on year increase according to the 2024 China Science Fiction Industry Report, released last week during the eighth China Science Fiction Convention in Beijing.

Science fiction could also help companies conceptualise and produce new ideas, such as the establishment of a human settlement on Mars or brain-computer interfaces, according to Wu Yan, who co-authored the report….

(7) COPPOLA’S SF? EPIC. Whether it’s sff has been debated in the media – now you can decide with your own eyes. “’Megalopolis’ Teaser: Adam Driver Leads Francis Ford Coppola’s Epic”Variety gives us a look.

Adam Driver is on the edge in the first official teaser for Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis.”

“Megalopolis,” which will premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, has been a project years in the making for the director, who first began work on the screenplay in the 1980s. The legendary filmmaker behind “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” has invested $120 million of his own money into the film…. 

…According to the official synopsis, “‘Megalopolis’ is a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America. The City of New Rome must change, causing conflict between Cesar Catilina (Adam Driver), a genius artist who seeks to leap into a utopian, idealistic future, and his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who remains committed to a regressive status quo, perpetuating greed, special interests, and partisan warfare. Torn between them is socialite Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the mayor’s daughter, whose love for Cesar has divided her loyalties, forcing her to discover what she truly believes humanity deserves.”…

(8) BERNARD HILL (1944-2024). Bernard Hill, who played Theoden in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, died May 5 reports Deadline. His best known film role was as the captain of the Titanic in James Cameron’s film. He played a number of secondary roles in about 20 genre/related productions, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), The Scorpion King (2002) and Gothika (2003).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Catherynne M. Valente in 2017.

Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne Valente, 45. By Paul Weimer: My strong impression of Cat Valente’s work came from the beginning of my reviewing life. Way back in the halcyon days of 2009, when I was first putting reviews out there, and getting review copies, I was offered a review copy of an author I had never heard before, named Cat Valente.  The novel was Palimpsest and well, the novel knocked me on my arse. Reader, I was not quite prepared for a novel that involved sex as a gateway to another realm of existence. It’s a sensuous, sensual and rich novel in immersive detail, and that immersion is something I would notice in future Cat Valente’s books.  I’ve not tried Palimpsest again, but I eagerly have read a number of her novellas and short stories. I particularly like “Six Gun Snow White” among these.

But, really, Space Opera is the one book I think of when I think of Cat Valente’s work.  Although I’ve never actually watched Eurovision, I know enough about it to understand the “Eurovision with Aliens in Space” high concept of Space Opera and I found the novel, like much of Valente’s work to be a sensory delight, queer, unapologetic, and with strongly defined and delineated characters. I think it is probably the one Valente book that if you are going to try Valente, that’s the one to try.  I know there have been discussions and thoughts about a sequel to the book ever since it came out, but part of the joy of Space Opera for me  is, like a lot of Valente’s other work, is that it is self-contained and complete within it’s pages. Sure, Valente has written other sequels and follow ups to other work, but this is a function I think of her exuberant and vivid writing, rather than any incompleteness in a work that needs sequels to resolve.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Fur Babies  has a variety of cartoonists’ styles of sound effects in honor of the day.  Can you identify them before you get to the explanation in the comments?
  • Carpe Diem cites a space traffic violation.
  • Bizarro asks what if Lord Greystoke had been raised by another species?
  • Frank and Ernest identify their dinosaur attacker.
  • Mannequin on the Moon depicts the royal Shakespearean eye exam.

(11) COLLECTIBLE GHOSTBUSTERS GEAR. Take this to the beach and scare the guys with the metal detectors. “Ghostbusters Plasma Series HasLab Two in the Box! Ghost Trap and P.K.E” at Hasbro Pulse.

P.K.E. METER

It’s no secret Egon Spengler was a very hands-on, DIY kinda scientist, often cobbling together his hardware from common, everyday items, and the P.K.E. Meter is no different. Egon used an old electric shoe polisher for the bulk of this handheld piece of tech, which trades in footwear for phantasms, determining specter location and quantification. The P.K.E. Meter acts like a divining rod when near a spectral being, with a pair of motorized arms extending outward from the sides, embedded lights flashing in sync with detectable spectral frequencies. 

Fans will be happy to know that not only have the HasLab Lab Lab Techs included classic P.K.E. Meter features, such as Ghost Detection Mode, but they’ve also included a very special upgrade. Yes, that’s right, the HasLab P.K.E. Meter 1:1-scale premium adult collectible features Egon Spengler’s personal upgrade from his time as the Dirt Farmer, in Summerville: Taser Mode! Taser Mode, if you’re unfamiliar, turns the P.K.E. Meter into a taser that forces an apparition to reveal itself… or explode in a burst of marshmallow goo, as we know from Podcast’s dealings with the mischievous Mini-Pufts in the Ecto-1.

GHOST TRAP

Needing something to contain and transport paranormal entities to a more permanent housing facility (namely the Ecto-Containment Unit), Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler designed the Ghost Trap. Consisting of a main chassis and a removable cartridge, the Ghost Trap has limited battery life and was never meant to accommodate ecto-plasmic beings for any extended period.

 This 1:1-scale premium adult collectible features everything fans love about this vital piece of ghost-bustin’ gear, including the removable cartridge, high-powered LEDs, premium metal finishes, functioning diecast metal wheels for smooth deployment, and more! This thing is so gorgeous that ghosts will be throwing themselves at you just for a chance to get trapped within this highly detailed, premium collectible!

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “How Long Will Your Blu-Ray Collection Last?” asks Gizmodo.

Physical media is very popular these days. Nostalgia, fandom, and streaming burnout have caused certain segments of American society to switch off their Amazon Prime accounts and fire up their Blu-ray players. One of the many advertised benefits of physical media is that it offers a more permanent, definitive form of media ownership than a streaming service. But just how permanent are your Blu-rays? And is physical media really built to last?…

… Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of open-source information about the longevity of commercially mass-produced Blu-rays, technically known as read-only discs, or BD-ROMs. The Blu-ray Disc Association, which developed and owns the technology behind the discs, ignored multiple emails I sent them, and the people that I did speak to on the subject couldn’t give me a very specific answer….

(13) DYKSTRAFLEX. “’Star Wars’ Motion Control Camera System Goes to Academy Museum”Variety explains its history.

A half-century ago when George Lucas decided to make “Star Wars,” a core visual effects team was handed a sizable challenge: Figure out a believable way to transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away. Essential to that goal was the development of a new type of motion control camera system: built in a Van Nuys warehouse where the production filmed space-set scenes such as the climatic trench run.

Now fans in Southern California can see the historic Dykstraflex camera system, newly restored and in working order, on display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures starting Saturday in recognition of May the 4th, aka Star Wars day. The system weighs 1,500 lbs. and will be demonstrated by VFX vets with a 14-foot track and studio scale replicas of the Millennium Falcon, which is five-feet long, and a 20-inch X-Wing fighter.

(14) THE BOYS. Prime Video dropped “The Boys – Season 4 Official Trailer” this week. The series arrives at Prime on June 13.

In Season Four, the world is on the brink. Victoria Neuman is closer than ever to the Oval Office and under the muscly thumb of Homelander, who is consolidating his power. Butcher, with only months to live, has lost Becca’s son and his job as The Boys’ leader. The rest of the team are fed up with his lies. With the stakes higher than ever, they have to find a way to work together and save the world before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us to “The Divergent Series: Insurgent Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Paul Weimer, David Goldfarb, Martin Easterbrook, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Teddy Harvia for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/26/24 A Pixel Lives Forever, But Not So Files And Scrolls

(1) NOBODY’S HOME. [Item by Steven French.] Extract from a new book in that old chestnut, where is everybody? Smithsonian Magazine asks “Where Is Everybody in Our Universe?”

…There is no doubt that the simplest answer to the questions “Why the Great Silence? Why don’t we hear any SETI signals?” is that we don’t hear signals because no one is sending them. There are a number of other explanations that have been put forward, and we can look at them briefly before taking William of Ockham seriously. Basically, the explanations can be divided into three categories:

1. They really are out there, but they’re not interested in us.

2. They really are out there, but they’re protecting us.

3. They really are out there, and we’re going to get it unless we mend our ways.

An example of the first category would be a race of extraterrestrials living in a Dyson sphere, happy as clams with their star’s energy and supremely uninterested in anyone else. Another possibility would be extraterrestrials on a rogue planet who can’t imagine a planet near a star being inhabitable. An example of the second item in the list is seen in the Star Trek series, where spacefarers obey the Prime Directive, which forbids them from interfering with the development of other life forms. The last category is portrayed in the classic 1950s film The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which an extraterrestrial visitor warns that Earth will be destroyed unless we control our use of atomic weapons:

Klaatu barrada nikto!” …

[Excerpt condensed for print from Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System © 2017 by Michaels Summers and James Trefil]

The authors’ conclusion makes for grim reading: there is no one out there and that’s because evolution produces warlike, aggressive species that use their newly developed scientific expertise to wipe themselves out, a fate that awaits us too.

(2) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books has posted episode 74 of the Simultaneous Times podcast with Eric Fomley & Tonya R. Moore. Stories featured in this episode:

  • “Control” by Eric Fomley; with music by Phog Masheeen
  • “Halfway House” by Tonya R. Moore; with music by Patrick Urn
    Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(3) SHORT OF PERFECTION. [Item by Steven French.] When you’re looking for a disappointing utopia … “The Illustrated Map of America’s Worst Utopias” at Atlas Obscura.

THERE ARE MANY WHO WANT to believe that a utopia—a perfect society, an ideal world—can exist. Even in America.

Yet, as quickly as leaders eagerly build utopias, they often crumble in a glorious heaping mess. Some fall to sex scandals, others toil in hunger, while many are struck with bad luck. From nudist colonies to bioterrorist cults, we map and explore six of the most disappointing and unfortunate utopias in the United States.

(4) CORA BUHLERT VISITS 1969. Here are links to Cora Buhlert’s recent contributions to Galactic Journey, the blog that keeps track of the latest in science fiction – 55 years ago.

She reviewed The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Cora says, “I lobbied for the Slaughterhouse Five review, considering I actually knew people who survived the bombing of Dresden”: “[March 14, 1969 ] (March 1969 Galactoscope)”.

Cora also wrote an article about the non-Conan Robert E. Howard works that came back into print in the late 1960s in the wake of the huge success of the Conan reprints: “[March 28, 1969] Life Beyond Conan: The Other Heroes of Robert E. Howard”.

(5) GEORGE LUCAS, REAL ESTATE TYCOON. “Chicago’s Most Expensive Condo Being Constructed By Director George Lucas” at Chicago YIMBY.

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas, have expanded his real estate portfolio with the purchase of a $11.2 million 66th-floor penthouse in Streeterville’s 800 N Michagan Avenue building from Citadel founder Ken Griffin. They plan to merge this penthouse with their existing 65th-floor condo, bought in 2015 for $18.75 million, to create a 16,000-square-foot duplex penthouse. The total cost for this project is estimated at $33.5 million, setting a new record for Chicago’s most expensive condo. Architect Scott Fortman of Gibbons, Fortman & Associates is overseeing the design, which includes adding two new interior staircases and upgrading electrical and mechanical systems as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

(6) JUBILEE CHO (1998-2024). SFWA today posted “In Memoriam – Jubilee Cho”, honoring the author of the upcoming middle grade fantasy novel Wishing Well, Wishing Well who died on March 6 at the age of 25.

Cho grew up near Disneyland, enamored with stories of fantastical princesses. Yearning to see herself included in such tales, she wrote her own to help give new generations of children something she’d needed to create for herself. Cho planned a long writing career and wanted to use her platform to foster awareness about disability and mental health, and to share the beauty of trans joy with the world.

Author Kwame Mbalia who had reached out as a mentor says, “In the briefest of moments that I was able to interact with Jubilee, her desire to not only write, but to write for young readers about drawing upon their own identity and sharing that with others, was an inspiration. She is an inspiration, and her light is gone too soon, though its glow will live on in the hearts of those who knew her.”

Author E.D.E. Bell said, “Jubilee was a princess who wanted everyone to know that they too can be included in stories, in joy, in femininity, in Pride, in gathering, in any magic they desired. I hope children will find their own spirit in her lovely, hopeful story, and let it lift them to soar.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 79.

Paul Weimer wrote this Birthday.

M John Harrison taught me about the joy of inconsistent and contradictory worldbuilding.

For most writers of fantasy, for most works of fantasy, I am always looking for the consistency and the power of the worldbuilding. Inconsistent, and worse, lazy and weak worldbuilding, can catapult me right out of a story or a novel, permanently. This has happened for me as a reader just this month with a brand-new novel. 

M. John Harrison

M John Harrison is the exception to that for me. My reading of his work is almost exclusively Viriconium. But it is precisely in Viriconium, Harrison’s carved out territory in the Dying Earth subgenre, that I learned that worldbuilding is not the be all and end all of fantasy writing. The contradictions, the inconsistencies, the lack of cohesion is part of the point of the dying world of Viriconium. Not being able to rely on previous stories and novels in the sequence to understand what is happening in a particular work is something that Harrison relies on, and it is something that I learned to accept, and even expect in the Viriconium stories. 

Really, Viriconium’s world building is beside the point, and that is why Harrison writes it in a way that you can’t rely on it. Instead, to use modern parlance, Viriconium is much more all about the “vibes”, and what vibes!  Vance and Wolfe may have perfected Dying Earth as a subgenre, but Harrison gives it a feel that few authors have managed to hit ever since. There are few authors I’ve read that have managed to embody the vibe of the subgenre they are writing in as well as M John Harrison has. And with such language and writing. On a sentence by sentence level, Harrison is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read, of any genre. 

A singular talent.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range has a guest who’s forgotten it’s a talk show.
  • Close To Home has an ethical use of a time machine.
  • Off the Mark shows that patience is not unlimited.
  • Bizarro launches an alternate astronaut/
  • Macanudo might be a Zelazny reference. Or if not, then certainly Bradbury.
  • Rhymes with Orange discovers something about homemade phones.

(9) WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MY NEIGHBOR? Eh, maybe not: “How Scientists Are Preparing for Apophis’s Unnervingly Close Brush With Earth” at Gizmodo.

In about five years’ time, a potentially hazardous asteroid will swing by Earth at an eerily close distance of less than 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers). During this rare encounter, Apophis will be ten times closer to Earth than the Moon and scientists want to take full advantage of its visit….

…Private space companies like Blue Origin and startup Exploration Labs, or ExLabs, have come up with proposals for missions to rendezvous with Apophis before its anticipated flyby, SpaceNews reported. During a recent workshop at a European Space Agency center in The Netherlands, the companies pitched their mission concepts in an effort to learn more about the asteroid and other space rocks that could pose a potential risk to Earth….

…NASA’s OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft, formerly known as OSIRIS-REx, is already on its way to study Apophis and observe changes the asteroid may endure from its close encounter with Earth. After dropping off samples from the Bennu asteroid in the Utah desert, the spacecraft was repurposed for a new errand, having to carry out close passes to the Sun, as well as three Earth gravity assists, to reach Apophis in five years….

(10) NASA BRINGS HOME THE HARDWARE. “NASA Wins 6 Webby Awards, 8 Webby People’s Voice Awards”.

NASA was recognized [April 25] by the 28th Annual Webby Awards with six Webby Awards and eight Webby People’s Voice Awards, the latter of which are awarded by the voting public. The Webbys honors excellence in nine major media types: websites and mobile sites, video, advertising, media and public relations, apps and software, social media, podcasts, games, the metaverse, and virtual and artificial intelligence (AI).

Full List of NASA’s 28th Annual Webby Award Wins

NASA.gov
Webby Winner, People’s Voice Winner
Websites and Mobile Sites-General Desktop & Mobile Sites | Government & Associations
This is the fifth Webby Award and the 12th People’s Voice Award for the agency’s website

NASA’s Curious Universe: Suiting Up for Space
Webby Winner, People’s Voice Winner
Best Podcasts-Individual Episodes | Science & Education

NASA’s Immersive Earth
Webby Winner, People’s Voice Winner
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Metaverse & Virtual-General Virtual Experiences | Science & Education

NASA: Message in a Bottle
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Webby Winner, People’s Voice Winner
Advertising, Media & PR-PR Campaigns | Best Community Engagement

OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return (Official 4K NASA Live Stream)
People’s Voice Winner
Video-General Video | Events & Live Streams

NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Return Mission
Webby Winner, People’s Voice Winner
Social-Social Campaigns | Education & Science

NASA+ Streaming Service
Webby Winner
Websites and Mobile Sites-General Desktop & Mobile Sites | Television, Film & Streaming

Annular Solar Eclipse
People’s Voice Winner
Social-Social Campaigns | Events & Live Streams

Hubble’s Inside the Image
NASA, Origin Films
People’s Voice Winner
Video-Video Series & Channels | Science & Education

(11) CLIPPING SERVICE. Here’s a Heinlein photo from the San Pedro CA News Pilot, dated August 14, 1948.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George shares footage of “The Focus Group That Gave Us The Internet”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/19/24 Pixel And Her Friends

(1) GET READY FOR SELF-PUBLISHED FANTASY BLOG-OFF 10. The ninth contest is about to wrap up, and sponsor Mark Lawrence warns there will be a quick turnaround to start SPFBO 10:

SPFBO 10 (SPFBOX) will open to entries on Friday the 10th of May 2024 at 1pm GMT. The link will be posted here.

The SPFBO 10 contest will start on the 1st of June 2024.

Since SPFBO 9 filled its 300 slots in ~40 minutes, a different system will be used this year so that people in some time zones don’t have to get up in the middle of the night. The entry form will stay open for 24 hours. After it’s closed 300, manuscripts will be randomly selected from the pool of those who have signed up….

(2) 2024 STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction will hold the third annual Sturgeon Symposium from October 24-25, 2024. Samuel R. Delany will be there.

We are delighted that Samuel R. Delany has accepted our invitation to speak at the symposium. As an innovative author, Delany has redefined the boundaries of SFF as well as literary criticism through his explorations of language, society, sexuality, and narrative form. This year’s symposium acknowledges his lasting impact on science fiction, speculative fiction, and literary criticism.

Delany will speak on the subject “Samuel R. Delany and Theodore Sturgeon: Exclusion, Loneliness and Difference”.

See the Call for Papers here.

(3) DORAN ILLUSTRATED GOOD OMENS DELAYED. Artist Colleen Doran announced “Good Omens Rescheduled” — to accommodate her recovery from cancer treatment.

A couple of weeks ago, Neil Gaiman gave me a call to let me know he was not worried about me flaming out on Good Omens despite my truly awful 2023, and if I needed more time or some help to please take it. Shortly before that, the folks at Dunmanifestin, the publishing arm of the Terry Pratchett Estate, dropped me a line to say the same.

I was very much hoping I’d spring back to normal life after my cancer treatment was finished, but no. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My mental and physical energy comes and goes. I told Neil I need to be working ten hour days but have trouble managing six.

Anyway, I nervously requested the dreaded deadline extension and got it. Frankly should have asked for a big(ger) one months ago, but having never had this kind of health issue before, I didn’t know what to expect re: recovery. Some people spring back quickly, and some don’t. I figure I’m fair to middlin’.

So, the Good Omens release date is set for spring next year…

Gaiman and Wilkins say:

As a team, we collectively support Colleen and the time and space needed to finish the graphic novel after the past year she has been powering on through, and have a quick note from both Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins, the manager of the Terry Pratchett Estate:

Neil: “I’ve been amazed and impressed by how much Colleen has done so far, despite dealing with health issues. We are proud of her and her dedication to adapting Good Omens with such care, and look forward to holding the finished books in our hands.”

Rob: “Colleen is doing a fantastic job bringing the graphic novel to life. We’re absolutely delighted with each and every page and it is essential she can work comfortably whilst giving the book the time it deserves. She has our full support and we can’t wait for you to see the results.”

(4) BALTICON SF FILM FESTIVAL. Balticon 58, taking place May 24-27, 2024 will feature the Balticon Sunday Short Science Fiction Film Festival. The festival will include “Night of The Cooters” (2022) produced by George RR Martin from a story by Howard Waldrop, directed by Vincent D’Onofrio.

On the program will be 19 Selections from 10 Countries. The showings run 4.5 hours with two intermissions.  Day rates are available for Sunday. 

(5) SCRAPER, NO SCRAPING! “Amazon is filled with garbage ebooks. Here’s how they get made.” according to Vox.

…Here is almost certainly what was going on: “Kara Swisher book” started trending on the Kindle storefront as buzz built up for Swisher’s book. Keyword scrapers that exist for the sole purpose of finding such search terms delivered the phrase “Kara Swisher book” to the so-called biographer, who used a combination of AI and crimes-against-humanity-level cheap ghostwriters to generate a series of books they could plausibly title and sell using her name.

The biographer in question was just one in a vast, hidden ecosystem centered on the production and distribution of very cheap, low-quality ebooks about increasingly esoteric subjects. Many of them gleefully share misinformation or repackage basic facts from WikiHow behind a title that’s been search-engine-optimized to hell and back again. Some of them even steal the names of well-established existing authors and masquerade as new releases from those writers. According to the Authors Guild, it would be impossible for anyone but Amazon to quantify these books — and that’s not information Amazon is sharing….

… It’s so difficult for most authors to make a living from their writing that we sometimes lose track of how much money there is to be made from books, if only we could save costs on the laborious, time-consuming process of writing them.

The internet, though, has always been a safe harbor for those with plans to innovate that pesky writing part out of the actual book publishing. On the internet, it’s possible to copy text from one platform and paste it into another seamlessly, to share text files, to build vast databases of stolen books. If you wanted to design a place specifically to pirate and sleazily monetize books, it would be hard to do better than the internet as it has long existed…

(6) JOHN G. TRIMBLE (1936-2024). Longtime LASFSian John Trimble, husband of Bjo Trimble, died April 19.  Lora Boehm, his daughter, made the announcement on Facebook. The Fancyclopedia notes that he co-chaired Westercon 18 and chaired Westercon 23, He worked on several Equicons, chairing one.

John Trimble in 2004.

He was a co-founder of the LASFS club newzine, De Profundis, for a time helped edit its genzine Shangri-L’Affaires. He also edited To the Stars, a short-lived newzine backed by Authors Services.

John and Bjo Trimble married in 1960 – having met under Forry Ackerman’s piano during a party at his house. Bruce Pelz published A Fanzine for Bjohn in their honor when they wed. (And paging through a copy at their 40th anniversary party I found it’s a highly entertaining read!)

Bjo and John Trimble at Star Trek: Discovery premiere in 2017.

They were early members of the Society for Creative Anachronism and served on its Board of Directors. Together they were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé, the 2002 Worldcon.

Lora’s obituary adds:

…Their 3 children, Kathryn, Lora and Jenn have been a constant joy and the addition of husband to Lora, Jason and Jenn’s husband Chris have completed the family.

In 1966 they found a group of people interested in mediaeval combat and arts. They joined the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) . John served 2 terms as a member of it’s board of directors, was a landed Baron of the first Barony. His arms were the very first to be registered with the college of Heralds and both John and Bjo have been members ever since. Later that year he said to his wife, “Gee it’s a shame a good science fiction show like Star Trek is going to be canceled. We should do something about that!” And the same Star Trek campaign was born. For over 58 years John and Bjo Trimble have been ambassadors for science fiction, the space program and the SCA. Meeting and hosting people from all walks of life, all over the world.

John has touched thousands of lives in a way that positive and full of joy. He will be greatly missed.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 78. Let me note upfront that this is very much not an overview of everything that he’s done but my picks of what I like most. 

So let’s start off with him as Cardinal Richelieu, the corrupt Cardinal who in charge of the Red Guards in The Three Musketeerswhich came out forty-one years ago from Disney. He magnificently costumed as you can see here and had the most devilish beard as well. It’s a wonderfully over the top role that works even that I think he only has than a handful of scenes. It won’t surprise anyone here for me to say he comes to a dramatic and wonderfully flamboyant demise.

Next up must be his role in that film. Need I say which one? I think not. He rose to prominence as Dr. Frank-N-Furter reprising the role he had originated in the 1973 London and 1974 Los Angeles musical stage productions. Good, that output, and that singing. What an amazing performance it was. I’ve seen it a number of times including yes in a theater at midnight. Seattle if memory serves me right. 

Tim Curry in Rocky Horror.

Would you like to know what my absolutely favorite Tim Curry performance is? That would be him in Clue. When I wrote it up here three years back, I noted that “It had a stellar cast of Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull. Lesley Ann Warren and Eileen Brennan. Tim Curry played The Butler.”  

Tim Curry in Clue

Such a role it was. Hyperkinetic, full of Bugs Bunny worthy action on his part and some of the best bouncing off all walls possible dialogue ever said by a Butler.

Siskel and Ebert hated the three alternative endings as different theatres originally got one of three though eventually all theatres got all of them. It still bombed. 

My final is him as Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion. Not perhaps the first person that you’d think of for the role given John Astin originated the role and Raul Julia had played him twice to that date, each being sharp-dressed gentleman, but he turned out to a rather splendid choice first the third outing as the director Tony Payne wanted this version of the character to be weird and Curry does weird oh very well.  

Tim Curry as Gomez Addams.

So there’s my choices. So what’s your favorite role by him? 

(8) MORE FALLOUT. Variety tells us “’Fallout’ Renewed for Season 2 at Amazon”.

“Fallout” has been renewed for Season 2 at Amazon Prime Video.

The announcement comes after Variety reported that a second season was set to receive $25 million in tax credits by relocating shooting to the state of California.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, the series is set two hundred years after the apocalypse. The official description states it follows “the gentle denizens of luxury fallout shelters that are forced to return to the irradiated hellscape their ancestors left behind—and are shocked to discover an incredibly complex, gleefully weird, and highly violent universe waiting for them.”

(9) AVENGERS AND OTHERS ASSEMBLE. Here’s an amusing video – we’ll call it ”Superheroes stop for a traffic light”.

(10) A REASON TO MAKE A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. “NASA’s downed Ingenuity helicopter has a ‘last gift’ for humanity — but we’ll have to go to Mars to get it” says Live Science.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has beamed back its final message to Earth, which included a heart-warming goodbye to mission scientists. The record-breaking robot will now spend the rest of its days collecting data that could be used in future Mars missions — but only if future robots or astronauts go all the way to the Red Planet to get it.

The pigeon-size helicopter, or rotorcraft, first landed on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, alongside the Perseverance rover, and it successfully completed the first-ever powered flight on an alien world on April 19 of the same year. The Ingenuity mission’s initial goal was to fly five missions across 30 days. But the tiny chopper ended up flying 72 times on Mars, spending more than two hours in the air and traveling 14 times farther than initially planned, according to a statement by NASA.

According to NASA:

…If a critical electrical component on Ingenuity were to fail in the future, causing data collection to stop, or if the helicopter eventually loses power because of dust accumulation on its solar panel, whatever information Ingenuity has collected will remain stored on board. The team has calculated Ingenuity’s memory could potentially hold about 20 years’ worth of daily data….

(11) WHAT’S THE RECIPE FOR THESE PLANETS? “Uranus and Neptune aren’t made of what we thought, new study hints” reports Live Science. Whatever you expected to find on Uranus, look again…

Astronomers have long believed that the ice giants Uranus and Neptune are rich in frozen water. However, a new study suggests they may also have tons of methane ice.

The findings could help solve a puzzle about how these icy worlds formed.Much about Uranus and Neptune remains unknown. These ice giant worlds have had just a single spacecraft visitor, Voyager 2, which flew past them in the 1980s. As a result, scientists have only a hazy idea of the ice giants’ compositions — for example, that they contain significant amounts of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.

… Of the various models they built, the astronomers found that those with methane fit their criteria, with the methane — either in solid chunks or, given the pressure, in a mushy state — forming a thick layer between the hydrogen-helium envelope and the water layer. In some models, methane accounted for 10% of the planet’s mass….

(12) TWO^H^H^H ONE NEW PITCH MEETINGS^H. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Lance Oszko, 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 Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/24 What Do You Get When You Cross A Velociraptor With An Interociter

(1) JMS’ OFFERINGS AT THE TEMPLE. “Harlan Ellison’s Last Words: Sci-Fi Writer Makes Posthumous Comeback” in Los Angeles Magazine.

The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars has stood atop the hills of Sherman Oaks for decades, with a façade lovingly fashioned like the ruins of an ancient alien civilization. Carved into its faded orange exterior is an imagined history of flying ships and extraterrestrials, of tangled tendrils and tentacles, of creatures serpentlike and humanoid. This was the home of author Harlan Ellison, a sanctuary he also called Ellison Wonderland, where he wrote his popular scripts and short stories and kept its rooms filled with a museum-grade collection of science fiction and pop culture.

The house is largely as he left it in 2018, when he died there at age 84. For much of his life, Ellison was a leading writer of science fiction (he preferred the less restrictive label “speculative fiction”), a close friend to colleagues including Isaac Asimov and Neil Gaiman, but also notorious among his many enemies and comrades in Hollywood and the once-insular science fiction world.

Upstairs at the house, where Ellison’s manual typewriters, tobacco pipes and a row of rocket-shaped Hugo Awards remain, it is familiar and sacred ground to his old friend, the writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski….

…For Straczynski, 69, Ellison was not just a friend but a father figure of lasting impact. His real father, he says, “was complete shit.” Another executor would have simply liquidated Ellison’s assets, donated them to a favorite charity and moved on. But Straczynski has taken on a bigger mission — to return Ellison’s name to prominence.

“I would not be where I am right now if not for Harlan,” explains Straczynski, who was a 12-year-old in Newark, New Jersey, when he discovered the writer, and sought out his books for years. As his own career evolved from journalism to writing for animated TV, then a latter-day version of The Twilight Zone, show-running Babylon 5 and writing screenplays for Clint Eastwood (2008’s Changeling) and others, Ellison’s feisty example remained central. “His words kept me going. He was the only writer that I came across who made the notion of courage essential to the writing process, and being willing to fight for it.”…

(2) WANDERING EARTH II HUGO PROMO IMAGE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The official Weibo account of The Wandering Earth posted an image to celebrate becoming a Hugo finalist.  This in turn was reposted by director Frant Gwo.  This acknowledgement might be a hopeful indicator of whether there might be some representation at Glasgow?

(3) MOVIE MAGIC. The Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles is hosting “Larry Albright: A Great Magic Truth; March 29, 2024 through September 8, 2024”.

The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) is pleased to present Larry Albright: A Great Magic Truth, an exhibition celebrating the legacy of artist, inventor, and pop-culture force, Larry Albright. The exhibition contains plasma sculptures, consumer electronics, miniature neon set pieces, and film clips from Albright’s work in movies such as Close Encounters of the Third KindStar WarsStar TrekBlade Runner, The Goonies and more. Albright’s distinctive artistic style bridged the gap between the Light and Space Movement, assemblage, and pop culture in the 1970’s through 2000’s. A Great Magic Truth exemplifies the interconnectedness of art and science, and celebrates how humans can manipulate matter in a way that transcends time and space to create new realities. The exhibition will be on display March 29, 2024 through September 8, 2024.

(4) MONSTER RASSLIN. Matt Goldberg assures us “The World Is Big Enough for Two Godzillas” at Commentary Track.

Last year’s Godzilla Minus One took the character back to his roots with a human-driven story with the monster standing in for trauma and pain. Far from a heroic savior, the Godzilla of Godzilla Minus One was a return for the horrifying entity that our heroes would risk everything to defeat. It’s a great movie, but that’s not all Godzilla can be. Even if you want to argue it’s an American/Japanese divide (as this Polygon article does, although I think it kind of breezes past large chunks of Godzilla’s history), the fact remains that Godzilla is not just one kind of character, and hasn’t been for some time. That’s why I have no problem riding with his heroic iteration in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

If you’re familiar with the Showa Era Godzilla, you’ll see that’s where director Adam Wingard puts his allegiance—big, monster wrestling fights with lots of destruction and little concern towards plot details or character development. It’s been a strange journey for this “MonsterVerse” that Legendary (the series’ production company) put together where Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla feints at trying to the bridge the gap between a serious Godzilla and a monster-fighting Godzilla, but by the time you’ve reached this sequel, they’re fully in their monsters-rasslin’ mode. It’s nice to feature acclaimed actors like Rebecca HallDan Stevens, and Oscar-nominee Brian Tyree Henry, but they’re simply here to class up the joint (and doing a solid job of it). The characters with the two clearest arcs are Kong and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the deaf girl from Godzilla vs. Kong who can communicate with Kong via sign language. They’re both looking for a place to belong, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s even deeper in The Hollow Earth (Hollower Earth?)….

(5) SMILE, YOU’RE ON ROBOT CAMERA. Science reports on research where a “Robot face mirrors human expressions.”

Humanoid robots are capable of mimicking human expressions by perceiving human emotions and responding after the human has finished their expression. However, a delayed smile can feel artificial and disingenuous compared with a smile occur-ring simultaneously with that of a companion. Hu et al. trained an anthropomorphic facial robot named Emo to display an anticipatory expression to match its human companion. Emo is equipped with 26 motors and a flexible silicone skin to provide precise control over its facial expressions. The robot was trained with a video dataset of humans making expressions. By observing subtle changes in a human face, the robot could predict an approaching smile 839 milliseconds before the human smiled and adjust its face to smile simultaneously.

Primary research here: “Human-robot facial coexpression”.

(6) ALICE IN MOVIELAND. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Alice through the projector lens” at Den of Geek. For serious Alice/Carroll video (movie, TV, etc) fans, this list (the article’s nearly 15 years old, but I’m seeing many I was unaware of and want to find, e.g. “A Song Of Alice,” along with some I might have seen but would cheerfully rewatch). And others I’m familiar with, happily.

There’s some well-known/fabulous actors among the casts, including WC Fields, Clark Gable, Ringo Starr, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, and Gene Wilder. I’m curious to see Mr. T as the Jabberwock!

(Did Robin Williams ever do any Alice? Can somebody do one starring Kate McKinnon?)

This isn’t a complete list; e.g. it appears to omit the phenomenal 1988 (but not for young kids) Czech stop-motion animation (plus one live actor, playing Alice), Alice (Original title: Neco z Alenky).

(7) RING TOUR. Tech Wizards is selling a line of ten Lord of the Rings Posters done travel ad-style. Two examples below. (Click for larger images.)

Experience the beauty and adventure of Middle-earth through a beautifully illustrated scene that captures the essence of Tolkien’s legendary universe.

(8) CHANCE PERDOMO (1996-2024). Actor Chance Perdomo, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Gen V star, died following a motorcycle accident says The Hollywood Reporter obituary notice. Perdomo was relatively young, his career was just beginning to take off, and he had already done quite a bit of genre work.

Perdomo played Ambrose Spellman and appeared in all episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-2020) based on the Archie comics about Sabrina, the teenage witch.

Gen V (2023- ) is a spin-off of The Boys. He appeared in all 10 episodes of season 1. It has been renewed for a season 2, tentatively expected next calendar year. His character Andre Anderson was part of the cliffhanger at the end of S1, so his disappearance may take some explaining in S2, unless they recast the part.

Moominvalley (2019- ) is an English/Finnish production appearing originally on TV in the UK and Finland. Dubs for several other languages followed. It’s based on the Moomin series of books and comics. Perdomo‘s character Snork appeared in 4 episodes of the 3rd and currently final season. A 4th season is expected. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 29, 1930 John Astin. Now let’s talk about one of my favorite performers, John Astin. I know him best as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family series which was on the air shorter than I thought, lasting just two seasons and a little over sixty episodes. He played him again in Halloween with the New Addams Family (which I’ve not seen) and voiced him thirty years later in The Addams Family, a two-season animated series. I’ll admit I’m not interested in animated series based off live series. Any live series.

John Astin and Carolyn Jones in The Addams Family (1964).

Oh did you know he was in West Side Story? He played Glad Hand, well-meaning but ineffective social worker. No, you won’t find him in the credits as he wasn’t credited then but retroactively he got credited for it which was good as he was a lead dancer. Brilliant film and I’ve no intention of watching the new version, ever.

(Yes I’ve long since abandoned the idea that these Birthdays are solely about genre.)

I’d talk about him being in Teen Wolf Too but let’s take the advice of Rotten Tomatoes reviewers and steer way clear of it. Like in a different universe. Same for the two Killer Tomatoes films. I see he’s in Gremlins 2: The New Batch as janitor but I can’t say I remember him.

So series work… I was going to list all of his work but there’s way too much to do that so I’ll be very selective. So he’s The Riddler in two episodes of Batman and a most excellent Riddler he was. 

But that was nothing when compared to his role on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. as Prof. Albert Wickwire. He’s a charming, if somewhat absent minded inventor who assists Brisco with diving suits, motorcycles, and even grander creations such as rockets and airships. Dare I say that this was an element of steampunk in the series? It was a great role for him. 

Finally he has a recurring role as Mr. Radford (the real one) as opposed to Mr. Radford (the imposter) on Eerie, Indiana. A decidedly weird series that was cancelled before it completed.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville tries to find a bright side to look on.
  • Macanudo knows the benefits of reading.
  • Rhymes with Orange reveals an unexpected complication of raising a child.
  • War and Peas asks “You Dare Call That… Thing– HUMAN?!?” – and is mostly about xenosex.

(11) CAN’T TELL GOGGINS WITHOUT A SCORECARD. “’I was freaking out’: Walton Goggins on fear, The White Lotus and being a 200-year-old mutant in Fallout” in the Guardian.

…Goggins is almost unrecognisable as the Ghoul, in part due to the full-face prosthetic work that essentially turns him into a bright red, noseless skull. Which, as you may imagine, was not a lot of fun to wear.

“I didn’t know how I would hold up, to be quite honest with you,” he says. “The very first day we were working, it was 106F [41C]. And all of a sudden, the sweat started building up. I couldn’t stop it. Jonathan Nolan asked me: ‘Are you crying?’ I said: ‘No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he touched my eye and water came pouring out of the piece, because there was a buildup of sweat inside. I’m not one to complain, but I sat down on a log and literally said to myself: ‘Man, you’re getting too old for this shit. I don’t know how I’m going to do nine months of this.’ I was freaking out.’…

(12) VERONICA CARLSON INTERVIEW. Steve Vertlieb invites you to look back at this 2013 YouTube video celebrating the life and career of beloved Hammer Films actress Veronica Carlson.

In an exclusive one-on-one sit-down recorded for the documentary, THE MAN WHO “SAVED” THE MOVIES, iconic Hammer Studios actress (and 60s era Mod “It Girl”) Veronica Carlson candidly discusses her days with Hammer, her near familial relationships with the legendary Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee, her close friendship with cinema journalist / archivist Steve Vertlieb, and what caused her to leave the film industry just as her star was rising.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Divergent Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/7/24 Files Scroll In Where Pixels Fear To Thread

(1) WILL THE DOCTOR APPROVE WHEN BBC MARKETING DEPARTMENT USES AI TO PROMOTE DOCTOR WHO? [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The BBC media centre published an article by the “Head of Media Inventory: Digital” earlier today, about their plans to use AI to promote Doctor Who.  It leads:

Experimentation is at the heart of how we approach marketing at the BBC. Testing and learning on how we let audiences know what BBC content is most relevant to them and we know they might love underpins our digital marketing strategy. However, experimentation in marketing typically requires more time spent on the creative work to make extra assets. Generative AI offers a great opportunity to speed up making the extra assets to get more experiments live for more content that we are trying to promote.

We’re going to take it one step a time, starting simple and learning as we go. We have chosen to start with Doctor Who, as it is a joint content priority for both BBC Public Service UK and BBC Studios marketing teams. There’s a rich variety of content in the Whoniverse collection on iPlayer to test and learn with, and Doctor Who thematically lends itself to AI which is a bonus.

We will be creating human-written marketing copy for a Doctor Who push notification, email subject line and in the promotional rail on BBC Search – then we will be using generative AI to suggest copy variations which are then reviewed and approved by our marketing team before being shown to the audience. Their success will be measured by click- rates, open-rates, and post-impression conversion-rates across each channel.

The article also provides details about how the BBC proposes to have human oversight and review of this process.

One fan pointed out that the 1979 story “City of Death” had already depicted the Doctor’s attitude towards computer-generated content.

(2) CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHORS SIGN OPEN LETTER ABOUT GAZA. Publishers Weekly reports on an open letter to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators signed by children’s book creators in “SCBWI Addresses the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”.

… Hundreds of children’s and YA creators including Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, Brendan Kiely, Sabaa Tahir, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall added their names to the petition, which features an illustration—“We Feel Your Silence”—by Egyptian-born picture book artist Hatem Aly….

The full text of the open letter is at the link. The letter begins:

Dear Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,

Our community of kids’ book creators and readers is calling out for solidarity and transparency.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is the deadliest for children in modern history. UNICEF, among other leading human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, recognized that “there is no safe place for children in Gaza” and that this is a war against children.

As the preeminent global community for children’s book creators whose mission is to, in part, “establish a more imaginative and inclusive world through the power of children’s literature,” many active, past, and prospective members of the community are struggling to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging when SCBWI remains silent.

Currently, over a million children are being actively starved while the Israeli government refuses to permit aid into the Gaza strip. Children are being carpet bombed and sniper-attacked in the Israeli government designated safe zone, Rafah, with nowhere to escape. Thousands of children have been orphaned, wounded, undergone surgeries and amputations without anesthesia, and disabled. Palestinian libraries, schools, universities, and publishing houses have been decimated….

Some signers from the sff community whose names jumped out at me are: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Alex Brown, Alyssa Wong, B. Sharise Moore, Daniel José Older, Jacqueline Woodson, Natalie C. Parker, Olivia A. Cole, Raina Telgemeier, and Tochi Onyebuchi.

SCBWI’s Executive Director has responded with a message on Instagram:

According to Publishers Weekly —

…Responses were mixed, and executive director Sarah Baker engaged with several commenters directly. Various community members thanked SCBWI “for supporting the voices of all authors and illustrators… while acknowledging this horrendous war and humanitarian crisis.” Others called the letter “performative” and “disappointing,” some said they would not renew subscriptions, and one called the approach “genocidal apologism.” SCBWI has more than 22,000 members around the world….

(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS DITCH MUSIC CATEGORY. The Ursa Major Awards for anthropomorphic literature and arts announced March 6 they have dropped the Music Category.

No further explanation was given. Commenters seem to believe the decision was in response to a specific instance of ballot stuffing, or a finalist’s use of AI to create art.

(4) JACK WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP. David Sweeten has circulated the schedule for the 47th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, being held at Eastern New Mexico University from April 11-13 in Portales, NM. The guest of honor is Martha Wells, with emcee Connie Willis.

Below is a brief rundown of the events as they stand, but some items are still in development. Generally, the main events of the Lectureship will take place on Friday, but please let me know if you can make the dinner on Thursday. Also, Connie’s workshop on Saturday is always a delight.

  • Thursday, April 11th: 
    • 3 pm: a forensic talk from Cordelia Willis.
    • 5-7 pm: Opening event in the Greyhound Lounge (CUB basement) with activities run by ENMU student organizations (including the History Guild doing a presentation on Jack Williamson, the Clayhounds [ENMU ceramics club] bringing scifi themed pottery and paint-and-takes, and more)
    • 7-9 pm: Lectureship participant dinner for authors, the committee, and academic presenters (please email me if attending so I can update the catering)
  • Friday, April 12th: 
    • 8:30 am: Academic Panel (CUB, Zia room)
    • 10 am: Guest of Honor Reading from Martha Wells (CUB, Zia room)
    • 12 pm: Keynote lunch with remarks from Connie Willis, keynote address from Martha Wells, and scifi/fantasy trivia 
    • 1:30 pm: Tour of Special Collections, including Jack’s Office and the Science Fiction Special Collection (GSSC, Special Collections)
    • 1:30 pm: Board Game Session (GSSC, Presentation Area)
    • 3-6:30 pm: Author Panels (JWLA)
    • 7 pm: Dinner at Asplunds’ house, Potluck
  • Saturday, April 13th: 
    • 8:30 am: Academic Panel (JWLA)
    • 10 am: Connie’s Writing Workshop (JWLA)

(5) TERRY CARR ON THE DILLONS. In January we reported the sale of Leo and Diane Dillon’s original art for the cover of The Left Hand of Darkness (see Pixel Scroll 1/27/24 item #2). Le Guin’s book was part of the Ace Specials series edited by Terry Carr.

Yesterday I happened upon an article Carr wrote for the fanzine Focal Point in 1971 (see page 6) right after he had to “fire” them because he was told their covers weren’t helping to sell the books. Though he reassured everyone:

…Don’t weep for Leo and Diane. They’re among the most sought-after artists in the book field, and they make a lot more money from the work they do for Time-Life Books or Fawcett Premier than we could ever pay them at Ace. When you visit them and look in on their studio you find incredibly beautiful sketches and partially finished paintings there. ’’That one was due last Tuesday,” says Diane, ’’and we were supposed to have twenty-five double-page spreads done for a history of Hawaii last month.” For the Dillons, the SF Specials were an extra job every month that they didn’t need and which they did for less money than they could get anywhere else. They did them out of friendship and love for the freedom to paint what they wanted….

Carr’s Focal Point column continues with several pages of detailed commentary on the covers they painted for the Ace series.

Ironically, just two issues later, Focal Point reported that Terry Carr himself had been let go by Ace.  However, they said Carr would continue editing the Ace Specials, working from home. The last Ace Special in the first series was released in August 1971. Carr would go on to enjoy a highly honored career as a freelance editor. And, in fact, in the Eighties he came back to Ace and edited a second series of Ace Specials.

(6) HOLY CATS, BATMAN! “Lego unveils 4,200-piece set celebrating 85 years of Batman: See the $300 creation” at Yahoo!

Fans of Lego and “Batman: The Animated Series” will have a chance to own a piece of history as Warner Bros. Discovery and DC celebrate 85 years of the Caped Crusader with a new brick set.

Lego Group on Thursday unveiled the Batman Gotham City Skyline set, an “amazing recreation of Gotham City as it appears in ‘Batman: The Animated Series.'”

The Lego press release adds:

…The 4,210 piece set is a Batman fan’s dream as every tower and building meticulously recreates iconic locations from Warner Bros. Animation’s “Batman: The Animated Series” including the Gotham City Court, Arkham Asylum, the classic Batwing and Bat Signal. The set is also full of Easter eggs and beloved characters including Catwoman, The Joker, Harley Quinn and Batman himself. In addition, parts of the set open up to reveal more intricacies inside.

The perfect set for DC fans, the Gotham City Skyline set is a stunning display piece which can be wall-mounted or placed on a shelf….

(7) GOTHAM AFTER DARK. Get an R-rated look at Gotham when The Gotham Follies of 1939: A Dark Night Parody come to Los Angeles on June 1. Tickets go on sale March 13; waitlist at the link.

Experience the allure of Prohibition-era Gotham City in The Gotham Follies of 1939—a captivating parody blending vaudeville, burlesque, cabaret, and contemporary entertainment from the creator of The Empire Strips Back. Step into a world where the Dark Night’s universe comes alive on stage, promising an unforgettable night of laughter, danger, and pure escapism at The Montalbán this summer.

Read the FAQS, ma’am.

(8) NOTES ON A CAREER. In this video from Variety, “Star Wars & Harry Potter Composer John Williams Reveals How He Came Up With Cinemas Biggest Scores”.

Musical genius, John Williams, takes us through his incredible career and shares how the soundtracks for some of the biggest movie franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Jurassic Park were brought to life.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 80. This Scroll I come to speak of an editor that I really like, Stanley Schmidt. Starting in 1978, his longest tenure as an editor was at Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine for an extraordinary thirty-four years. I’m reasonably sure that he was nominated a record twenty-nine times before winning a Best Editor, Short Form at LoneStarCon. That Award came just before his retirement from Analog, nice timing indeed.

But let’s go back in time now. 

Stanley Schmidt accepts the Solstice Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

He started out as a writer with his first short story being “A Flash of Darkness” being published in Analog in September of 1968.  Likewise his first novel, The Sins of the Fathers, serialized in Analog from November 1973 to January 1974. So one could, well I will, say that his editing of Analog was well rooted in his own history with it. 

Now where was I? Oh there. The Sins of The Fathers is an amazing work and would’ve made a stellar series but Schmidt was not, shall I say a prolific writer with just three novels and I count thirty-two short stories, so that didn’t happen. However the Lifeboat Earth collection of nine stories does continue what was started here, so do get it and read them if you enjoyed this novel.

He edited a lot, and I do mean a lot, of Analog anthologies taken from the material he edited in those years he was there. I can’t say which you should read as they’re all likely to have excellent reading in them, aren’t they?  

He only edited four other anthologies of which I’ve only read one, having a decided jones for alternate history of all sorts: Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History, co-edited with Gardner Dozois. Turtledove, Silverberg and Resnick, to name but a few, have stories here… Great stories all of course.

Before I take your leave, I should note that he had the honor of winning the Robert A. Heinlein Award which is given for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.

(10) THE FEDERATION RETURNS. Camestros Felapton declares “I finally watched Star Trek Discovery Season 4” and delivers a season overview.

…Yes, it is nice that this crew gets to have a season in which they are actually part of a Star Fleet that is not trying to kill them (or is barely functioning) and eventually story elements fall into place that pull things together both thematically and as a genuinely interesting science-fiction story….

(11) FREE GAME. “Indie developer says Warner Bros is “retiring” his game from official platforms, so he’s giving it away for free instead” reports GameRadar+. Download it for free at Fire Face – Games.

Owen Deery, an indie developer behind the puzzle game Small Radios Big Televisions, has stated that Warner Bros. will soon be “retiring” the game from digital storefronts. In response, Deery is giving away the PC version for free to everyone. 

Small Radios Big Televisions released back in 2016 on Steam and PS4, published by the Warner Bros. subsidiary Adult Swim Games. The puzzler has you collect cassette tapes found in abandoned factories and explore the virtual worlds within them. However, Deery says it will soon be unable to buy, and that it will be removed from storefronts “within the next few weeks.”…

(12) MEET THE EMPEROR. Vanity Fair learns why at age 80 “Christopher Walken Still Rules: On ‘Dune: Part Two,’ ‘Star Wars’ and True Power”.

Truly intimidating power, Walken says, doesn’t have to announce itself. That’s his explanation for why the long-ruling emperor doesn’t feel obliged to dazzle with his appearance. “There is something about getting older that you’re sort of not inclined to get out of your pajamas,” he tells Vanity Fair. “He maybe doesn’t take a shower as often as he should. There’s a little bit of ‘the hell with it’ at a certain point.”…

…None of that will help a humble earthling get into the mindset of a galactic overlord. “I can tell you that it’s probably better not to think about it,” Walken says. “When I was young, I had to play a king in something. I was in a Shakespeare play. It was Henry II. And an older actor said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘If the director sets it up so that people treat you like the king, you don’t have to do much.’ And I sort of trusted that to happen.”

The show of power and wealth is all around Shaddam IV, so Villeneuve and Walken believed it didn’t have to be piled on top of him as well. “The emperor’s got the trappings, he’s got the court, he’s got the costume, he’s got the bodyguards. And so I figured I’d just let them call me the emperor,” Walken says.

This withholding approach to the intimidating power broker is actually foreshadowed in another iconic Walken performance, in which he delivered an intimidating speech about a lion who reigns as “king of the jungle,” but tolerates the other animals nipping at him, taking food from his domain, and encroaching on his territory—“until one day…that lion gets up and tears the shit out of everybody.”…

(13) ARMORER GUILTY IN RUST VERDICT. AP News reports in Santa Fe, NM, “’Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed convicted of involuntary manslaughter”.

A jury convicted a movie weapons supervisor of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal on the set of the Western movie “Rust.”

The verdict against movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed assigned new blame in the October 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after an assistant director last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm.

Gutierrez-Reed also had faced a second charge of tampering with evidence, stemming from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection. She was found not guilty on that count.

Immediately after the verdict was read in court, the judge ordered the 26-year-old armorer placed into the custody of deputies. Lead attorney Jason Bowles said afterward that Gutierrez-Reed will appeal the conviction, which carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

(14) USE THE CHURCH KEY, LUKE. Stephen Colbert rounded up some more examples of old Cristal beer product placements inserted in Star Wars films for the opening minutes of his Late Show monologue.

(15) PITCH MEETING. It’s an old movie but apparently a new Pitch Meeting – “Ghostbusters (1984)”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The hate monologue” from the I have no mouth and I must scream animation.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, N., Ersatz Culture, Dann, Danny Sichel, Chris Barkley, 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 Jayn, with an assist from Braxis.]

Pixel Scroll 3/1/24 Does Your Pixel Scroll Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight?

(1) ‘MURDERBOT’S’ MENSAH CAST. “Noma Dumezweni Joins Alexander Skarsgård In Apple’s ‘Murderbot’”Deadline has details.

Noma Dumezwani (The Little Mermaid) is set as a lead opposite Alexander Skarsgård, in Apple TV+’s sci-fi drama series Murderbot, from Chris and Paul Weitz (About a Boy) and Paramount Television Studios.

Based on Martha Wells’ bestselling Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book series The Murderbot DiariesMurderbot centers on a self-hacking security android who is horrified by human emotion yet drawn to its vulnerable “clients.” Murderbot must hide its free will and complete a dangerous assignment when all it really wants is to be left alone to watch futuristic soap operas and figure out its place in the universe.

Dumezwani will play Mensah….

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Today Nancy Collins told her GoFundMe donors the latest development (“What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”).

Today I had my first outpatient follow-up at Georgia Cancer Specialists.
The hematologist I saw informed me that since my blood clot was “unprovoked”–ie I didn’t fall down, never smoked cigarettes, or utilize estrogen replacement therapy–I will probably have to remain on blood thinners for the rest of my life. They then proceeded to take 12 vials of blood and had me sign a waiver for genetic tests to check for cancer or other hereditary blood disorders (not impossible, as my grandmother was anemic). I go back in 3 weeks to find out what the testing says. I will also find out if my insurance agreed to pay for the genetic testing when I go back, which is $2400.

(3) IMPRESS NEIL GAIMAN AND THE OTHER JUDGES. Neil Gaiman will be one of the judges for The Folio Book Illustration Award, which will be taking entries through April 3 of artwork based on one of his short stories. Full guidelines at the link.

The Folio Book Illustration Award offers the opportunity for aspiring and established illustrators to provide one piece of artwork in response to Neil Gaiman’s short story ‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’.

The judges – Folio Art Directors, Sheri Gee and Raquel Leis Allion, Folio Publishing Director, Tom Walker, FBIA 2023 winner, Cristina Bencina, and Neil Gaiman – will be looking for strong characterisation and atmosphere in the entries, along with a demonstrated ability to read and reflect the text. The final piece should illustrate a character-based scene from the story, not solely a portrait of a character.

To make the competition accessible to as many artists as possible, there is no entry fee. An initial longlist selection of 20 entries will be announced in June, with the judging panel announcing the winning artist and five runners-up in July.

The winner will receive a prize of £2,000 cash, plus £500 worth of Folio vouchers, and their artwork will appear in the upcoming Folio collection of Neil Gaiman’s short stories. Each of the five runners-up will receive £500 worth of Folio vouchers. The winning artist and runners-up will also receive a portfolio review by the Folio art directors….

(4) CON REPORT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has an advance-post now up ahead of its next seasonal edition with a review of Britain’s 2023 Fantasycon by Ian Hunter… See the full review at the link: “The 2023 Fantasycon”.

And here we are again, back in Birmingham, the home of many of my favourite Fantasycons from way back, and I do mean waaaay back, and from just two years ago when the city hosted Fantasycon 2021. Then, I certainly felt uneasy coming down from Scotland where facemasks were still being worn, down to Broad Street with all its hotels and pubs and clubs and lots of young people milling about who weren’t wearing face masks. No such worries this time, even the 2021 convention hotel changing names from the Jurys Inn to the Leonardo Royal Hotel couldn’t phase me….

(5) VINTAGE FILK SESSION. Fanac.org has posted video of a segment from a 1989 convention filksing: “Tropicon 8 (1989)–Part 3 of 3 — Filk with Julia Ecklar, Orion’s Belt & Linda Melnick”.

Title: Tropicon 8 (1989)-Part 3 of 3 – Filk with Julia Ecklar, Orion’s Belt and Linda Melnick
Description: Julia Ecklar was the special filk guest at Tropicon 8, held in Dania, Florida, in 1989. This recording captures the third part of an open filk at the convention, and includes 8 songs (of which Julia sings four, with one incomplete) and one poem. The performers on this recording in order of appearance: Julia Ecklar, Chuck Phillips, Dina Pearlman, Francine Mullen, Doug Wu, and Linda Melnick. The video includes much of the conversation between songs, the laughter and the occasional disagreement of a 1980s convention filk session. This video includes several songs by Orion’s Belt, which consisted of Dina Pearlman, Francine Mullen and Doug Wu.

Tropicon was a small convention, and you will see some of the author guests in the filk. That’s Tropicon 8 GoH Lynn Abbey sitting next to C.J. Cherryh for example, and Joe Green sitting back against the wall. Note that the last song is incomplete – the recording chops off in the middle. Many thanks to Eli Goldberg for sound editing on this recording and for the details in the song listing.

(6) GIVE A BONE A BAD NAME. “200 Years Of Naming Dinosaurs: Scientists Call for Better Rules”Nature has the story. The people doing the study say about 3% of species names are colonialist, have other issues, or reflect that some paleontologists like to name their discoveries after themselves.

It’s been 200 years since researchers named the first dinosaur: Megalosaurus. In the centuries since, hundreds of other dinosaur species have been discovered and catalogued — their names inspired by everything from their physical characteristics to the scientists who first described them. Now, some researchers are calling for the introduction of a more robust system, which they say would ensure species names are more inclusive and representative of where and how fossils are discovered. Megalosaurus was named by William Buckland, a geologist who discovered the enormous reptile’s fossilized remains in a field in Stonesfield, UK, in 1824. Buckland chose the name Megalosaurus on account of the immense size of the bones he and others had excavated. “It was a sensation — the first gigantic extinct land reptile ever discovered,” says Paul Barrett, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. “Such an animal had never been conceived of before.” The word dinosaur — from the Greek meaning ‘fearfully great lizard’ — was introduced in 1841

Unlike in other scientific disciplines — such as chemistry, in which strict rules govern a molecule’s name — zoologists have relatively free rein over the naming of new species. Usually, the scientist or group that first publishes work about an organism gets to pick its name, with few restrictions. There is a set of guidelines for species naming overseen by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). These include the requirements that the name is unique, that it is announced in a publication and that, for dinosaurs, it is linked to a single specimen….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 1, 1950 David Pringle, 73. Happy Birthday, David Pringle! He helped found the Interzone semiprozine, which he co-edited with a number of individuals through the beginning of this millennium. 

Need I say that Interzone has been one of my favorite genre zines for a very long time and even though it’s now digital only remains so? I say that because some print subscribers have abandoned since it went all digital last year.

David Pringle in 2019.

Intersection gave Pringle and Lee Montgomerie a Hugo for editing Interzone in 1995, and the SF Award Database credits him with an additional 19 Hugo nominations in connection with the magazine. And the 2005 Worldcon presented him with a Special Committee Award.

There’s six anthologies under the Interzone name out there as well. He’s also done a number of general anthologies, though the only one I remember reading is his Route 666 one which at this point in time I only remember because of the memorable title.

He is a noted scholar of J.G. Ballard having written books, monographs and newsletters on him.

Now  we come to what I consider two of the most indispensable guides to genre fiction in existence — Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels and Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. Yes, you’ll argue with his choices, but that’s the fun of them, isn’t it? 

They are definitely Meredith Moments at the usual suspects, a nice bonus I’d say. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) PUNCHING THE CLOCK. Colleen Doran answers the question “How Long Does it Take to Draw a Comic Book Page?” at Colleen Doran’s Funny Business.

… Items marked in red indicate the complete time cost of a single page from start to finish. Time costs are for penciled AND inked pages entire, not for just a page of pencils. So, the time cost for Wonder Woman page 5 is 7 hours 48 minutes pencils and inks completed.

On some of those pages you might be thinking, “Wow! Only 5 hours 9 minutes to draw an entire comic book page!”

However, keep in mind that this is self reporting. While my computer tracks whatever I do while I’m using a program, I have to enter all my offline work manually. I tend to under report. These are the hours I recorded. And that was a farily simple page.

If it had been a page of the Amazons going to war, you can double or triple that time cost.

Time cost would also not include writing the script, researching the material, or doing the thumbnails for each page….

(10) STEVE VERTLIEB INTERVIEWED ABOUT HIS LIFE AND CAREER BY “INTERFLEET BROADCASTING”. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Yesterday’s “Steve Vertlieb Interview” starts 45 minutes into the video.

“Join us for an interview with actor writer and Film Journalist Steve Vertlieb. He has spent most of his life around film makers!. John 1 hosts with the Tipsy Toaster since NY Pete is exploring and trying to find his way. Tiny Bean is also on Deck that is if those pesky internet people fix the lines after an Arcta class storm.”

I was both honored and humbled last evening to do a ninety minute interview with the folks at Interfleet Broadcasting that I hope you’ll find interesting. We discuss Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Films and Literature, as well as Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and the history of Music for the Movies, and such composers as Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, and John Williams.

I’d like to thank the hosts of the program for their most gracious kindness toward me. You’ll find the interview some forty five minutes into the broadcast.

(11) FLYING IN FORMATION? [Item by Daniel Dern.] “’Shocked and delighted’: Astronomers find six planets orbiting in resonance” reports Astronomy. (As opposed to, say, a Klemperer Rosette (Puppetteer’s ‘Fleet of Worlds), or LaGrange points (in numerous space operas, can’t think of one specifically) The discovery was published in Nature.

A newly discovered system of six planets circling a nearby Sun-like star may be the key to unlocking how planetary systems form. All between the size of Earth and Neptune, the worlds are orbiting in a so-called resonant chain — a configuration that it’s relatively rare to observe in nature, making the system a valuable find that offers a window into a uniquely “gentle” history….  

(12) HE WAS WHACKED. Nature is where you’ll find out “The Life and Death of a Bog Man Revealed After 5,000 Years”. “Vittrup Man, who died in his thirties, was a Scandinavian wanderer who settled down between 3300 and 3100 BC.”

Before he was bludgeoned to death and left in a Danish bog, an ancient individual now known as Vittrup Man was an emblem of past and future ways of living.

He was born more than 5,000 years ago into a community of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who probably lived in northern Scandinavia as their ancestors had for millennia. But Vittrup Man spent his adult life across the sea in Denmark among farming communities, whose ancestors came from the Middle East.

It’s impossible to know the lives that Vittrup Man touched during his lifetime, but it was his death that caught people’s imagination thousands of years later. His remains — ankle and shin bones, a jawbone and a skull fractured by at least eight heavy blows — were discovered in the early twentieth century in a peat bog near a town called Vittrup in northern Denmark, alongside a wooden club that was probably the murder weapon.

His “unusually violent” death distinguished Vittrup Man from other similarly aged remains found in bogs, says Karl-Göran Sjögren, an archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who co-led a team that charted Vittrup Man’s life in a study published last week.

(13) REACHES MOON ON ITS LAST LEGS. “U.S. spacecraft on the moon finally sends home the money shot” at Mashable. See the photo at the link.

A new snapshot from the first private moon landing shows the moment the spacecraft touched down in what looks like a foggy mist — with a broken leg.

The image depicts Intuitive Machines’ lander Odysseus with its engines still firing. On the left side, pictured above, landing gear pieces are visibly broken off from one of the robotic craft’s six struts, said the company’s CEO Steve Altemus….

(14) TIME TO CHECK OUT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Dr Becky Smethurst of Oxford University this week’s looks at the latest pics from James Webb and contemplates a time when our sun dies… “JWST discovers exoplanets orbiting DEAD STARS”.

When stars like the Sun die do their planets survive? In 5 billion years the Sun will swell into a red giant star, swallowing up the Earth, and maybe even Mars. But what about Jupiter and the rest of the gas giant planets? This month new research has been published, claiming to have found two exoplanets in orbit around two dead white dwarf stars with JWST. These planets are similar in mass to Jupiter, and orbit their stars at a distance similar to Saturn and Neptune in the Solar System.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I’m not sure why he decided we needed a Pitch Meeting for a 2016 film, but here it is. “Gods of Egypt Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/24 I’ve Been Yeeted, Been Mistreated, When Will I Be Faunched

(1) UNCLE HUGO’S WILL CELEBRATE 50TH ANNIVERSARY. Don Blyly’s How’s Business newsletter invites everyone to mark your calendar — Uncle Hugo’s turns 50 this weekend.

Don Blyly readies the new Uncle Hugo’s for business. Photo (c) by Paul Weimer.

Uncle Hugo’s opened for business on March 2, 1974, which makes this coming Saturday our 50th anniversary.  Uncle Hugo’s 50th Anniversary Sale is Friday, March 1, 2024 through Sunday, March 10, 2024, with an extra 10% off everything at Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s. If you have an Uncle Hugo’s discount card, you get 20% off everything. With a $200.00 purchase, we’ll throw in a free 50th anniversary mug (while supply lasts). The sale only applies to in-store purchases, not to mail orders.

But there continue to be a few bumps on the road to that celebration. Blyly says this happened to him recently:

A customer that I had never done business with before ordered a $30.00 book through AbeBooks, and I sent it off to him.  About a week later he sent me an e-mail saying that the book had a small ding on the top edge of the page block that was not mentioned in the description, and he enclosed a photo of the ding.  He wanted me to refund part of the price for the ding or else he would return the book for a refund.  I checked on what other people were charging for the same book and saw that even with the ding he was getting a good price, but I agreed to refund him $5.00 for the ding.    He wrote back that I would have to refund at least $15 or he would return the book.  I told him to return the book.  The next day he started the AbeBooks process for returning the book.  But the day after that he told AbeBooks that he had never received the book and that they should refund his full purchase price without having to return the book he had never received–the book that he had already sent me a photo of to try to get me to cut the price in half.

(2) SPIRIT AWARDS. Two items of genre interest were winners of 2024 Independent Spirit Awards. (The complete list is at the link.)

BEST BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

  • Keivonn Montreal Woodard, The Last of Us

BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE IN A NEW SCRIPTED SERIES

  • Nick Offerman, The Last of Us

Deadline reported quotes from the actor’s acceptance remarks — “Nick Offerman Slams ‘Homophobic Hate’ Aimed At His Episode Of ‘The Last Of Us’ In Indie Spirit Awards Speech”.

At Sunday’s Independent Spirit Awards, actor Nick Offerman addressed “homophobic hate” aimed over the past year at “Long, Long Time,” the stand-alone episode of HBO‘s post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us that he starred in with Murray Bartlett and that earned Offerman a win today for Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series.

“Thank you so much, Film Independent. I’m astonished to be in this category, which is bananas,” Offerman began while onstage to accept the prize. “Thanks to HBO for having the guts to participate in this storytelling tradition that is truly independent. Stories with guts that when homophobic hate comes my way and says, ‘Why did you have to make it a gay story?’ We say, ‘Because you ask questions like that.’”

Added an impassioned Offerman: “It’s not a gay story, it’s a love story, you a**hole.”…

(3) BEST CANADIAN. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Year’s Best Canadian Fantasy and Science Fiction, Volume One at Amazing Stories. After discussing a great many of the works individually, he gives this overall endorsement:

… I must say editor Stephen Kotowych has excellent taste and judgement. What I reviewed is a real powerhouse of quality fiction sparkling with originality, brilliant perception and sophisticated subtlety; the kind of reading session which leaves me feeling inspired and excited.

I frankly assume the rest of the works in this anthology are just as good….

…In my opinion this volume of The Year’s Best Canadian Fantasy and Science fiction belongs on every Canadian reader’s bookshelf. The second volume is underway. I’d like to see it become an annual tradition. As many readers of my reviews are aware, there is a lot of excellent genre fiction being written in Canada. May this series become the definitive annual sample. If all are good as this one, I can see them becoming textbooks for high schools and universities. Makes sense to me. You owe it to yourself to purchase it for your bookshelf.

(4) DIGITAL LOSS COMPENSATION. The Verge opines that “Funimation’s solution for wiping out digital libraries could be good, if it works”.

The president of Crunchyroll, Rahul Purini, announced that the company is working to compensate customers who will lose their digital libraries in the upcoming Funimation / Crunchyroll merger on April 2nd. 

“[We] are working really hard directly with each [customer] to ensure that they have an appropriate value for what they got in the digital copy initially,” Purini tells Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel during this week’s Decoder podcast. “As people reach out to us through customer service, we are responding and handling each of those requests as they prefer.”

When asked what “appropriate value” meant, Purini said, “So it could be that they get access to a digital copy on any of the existing other services where they might be able to access it. It could be a discount access to our subscription service so they can get access to the same shows through our subscription service.”

These options haven’t been formally announced or detailed, and Purini went on to say that it was something Crunchyroll customers are currently taking advantage of. My attempts to secure the “appropriate value” for some digital copies have, so far, been unsuccessful….

(5) YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK. Deadline reports “’Star Wars’ Pic ‘The Mandalorian & Grogu’ Lands California’s Largest Tax Credit Ever”.

The Star Wars franchise is coming to shoot a film entirely in California for the first time with The Mandalorian & Grogu movie, and the Golden State is paying out its weight in tax incentive gold to have the bounty hunter saga made within state lines.

To be specific, that is a total tonnage of $21,755,000 in conditional tax credits for the Jon Favreau directed film. With a new Fantastic FourGladiator 2 and a new season of The Last of Us on his dance card, it is unclear right now if SAG Award winner Pedro Pascal will be resuming his role of Din Djarin and teaming back up with the charming Baby Yoda for the Mandalorian movie.

What is known is that $21,755,000 in tax credits is one of the biggest allocations in the California Film Commission run program’s history.

Put another way, Mandalorian & Grogu won’t be getting the $22.4 million that Transformers spinoff Bumblebee scored back in 2017, but it tops the more than $20.8 million that Captain Marvel was awarded seven years ago, and the $20.2 million that Quentin Tarantino’s supposed last film #10 received last September.

Estimated to be hiring 500 crew members, 54 cast members, and 3500 background players for 92 filming days in California this year, The Mandalorian & Grogu is expected to generate a record-breaking $166,438,000 in qualified expenditures and below-the-line wages….

(6) A FAIRY TALE TAKEOFF. Atlas Obscura Experiences’ “Transforming Fairy Tales With Anca Szilágyi” is a four-session course that starts March 4. Details at the link.

This class invites beginners and experienced writers alike to use concepts from fairy tales as a launch pad for new writing. Drawing from Max Lüthi’s The Fairy Tale as Art Form and Portrait of Man, we’ll play with archetypes and motifs (and explore how motifs play with us), consider how far a fairy tale can be stretched into something new while still retaining some glimmer of recognition, and contemplate how the trope of the tiny flaw can serve as a source of tension in a story. We’ll look at work by authors such as Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, Sofia Satmar [sic, Samatar], and more. In our final class, students will exchange drafts for peer and instructor feedback in a supportive environment.

While this class is designed for folks of all experience levels who are interested in fairy tale writing, it can also serve as an appropriate complementary course for students who have previously taken courses with Anca.

(7) APEX ANNOUNCES LH MOORE COLLECTION. Apex Book Company has acquired first North America English rights to LH Moore’s short story collection Breath of Life.

Breath of Life is a collection of the works of author and poet LH Moore, whose history- and Afrofuturism-inspired speculative short fiction, poetry, and essays move between and blur the genres from horror to science fiction to fantasy. With themes of family and identity, rooted solidly in history and imagining the unknown—both here on Earth and beyond—Breath of Life is an exploration of the unexpected.

Writer, poet and historian LH Moore’s Afrofuturism- and history-inspired speculative fiction and poetry have been in numerous publications and anthologies, such as all three groundbreaking Dark Dreams anthologies of Black horror writers; Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters; Black Magic Women; Chiral Mad 4 and 5, SLAY, Conjuring Worlds, StokerCon 2019, Humans Are the Problem anthologies; and Fireside, Apex, and FIYAH magazines.

(8) HANDHELD WILL CLOSE. Fantasy Hive announces the coming demise of “Handheld Press (2017-2024)”.

Handheld Press will be publishing their last books in July 2024, and cease trading in June 2025. Handheld Press was founded by Kate Macdonald in 2017, specifically with the aim of bringing brilliant but overlooked works by women writers back into print. With their striking cover art and gorgeous design, Handheld Press titles were immediately recognizable on sight. And the reader could rest assured that the contents would match the packaging – Handheld had a knack for choosing exciting and surprising novels and collections and matching them with introductory essays by experts and comprehensive notes on the text….

…One only had to look at the sections of descriptors on Handheld’s website to get a firm idea of their priorities – Women’s Lives, LGBT+ and Disability rub shoulders with Fantasy and Science Fiction, Crime/Thriller and Biography. Macdonald’s mission, which she has pursued with vigour and enthusiasm over the past eight years, has been to recover lost voices from the past, perspectives that are in danger of being forgotten by the largely white, straight and male traditional writers of literary history…. 

(9) BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION RULES ON DISNEY CLASSIC. “’Mary Poppins’ Age Rating Raised In UK Over ‘Discriminatory Language’”Deadline has the story.

Mary Poppins has been deemed potentially unsuitable for children.

That’s the verdict of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which last week increased the age rating on the Julie Andrews classic because it contains “discriminatory language.”…

…It did not specify the language in question, but the Daily Mail newspaper reported that the warning refers to the movie’s use of the word Hottentots.

Now regarded as racially insensitive, the word was used by Europeans to refer to the Khoekhoe, a group of nomadic herders in South Africa.

Reginald Owen’s Admiral Boom utters the slur twice in Mary Poppins, including using it to describe chimney sweeps, whose faces are blackened with soot.

The BBFC has been contacted for comment. It told the Mail that a lack of condemnation for the admiral’s language was considered to be a reason for raising the age limit.

The organization said: “We understand from our racism and discrimination research… that a key concern for… parents is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. (Died 1985.) This is not a comprehensive look at Theodore Sturgeon. This is my look at what I truly like.

It is an understatement to say he was a prolific writer. There would be eleven novels, more than one hundred and twenty short stories, and those scripts for Star Trek. And he wrote some four hundred reviews. Keep in mind that he that he only lived to be sixty-seven years old.

Theodore Sturgeon. Photo by Carol DePriest.

I think I’ll start with his Trek scripts as even before I knew that he was the scriptwriter for them, I liked those episodes, “Amok Time” and “Shore Leave”, the latter which is easily in my top ten episodes of this series. I’m not sure how much of his script survived the rewriting first by Coon and then obsessively by Roddenberry. Is his original script published anywhere?

Theresa Peschel notes that he wrote that the screenplay for Studio One’s 1952 adaptation of They Came to Baghdad, a novel that Agatha Christie had written the previous year. She notes “Yet it’s not listed anywhere, including on the semi-comprehensive website devoted to him whose name I can’t remember.”

Now let’s consider his Ellery Queen mystery which was The Player on The Other Side. I’ve read it and it’s quite excellent. It was written from a forty-two page outline by Frederic Dannay, half along with Manfred Bennington of the original Ellery Queen writing alias. I didn’t know if this was the standard practice for these ghostwritten novels but it certainly would make sense if it was so. 

It is said that his “Yesterday Was Monday” story was the inspiration for the rebooted Twilight Zone’s “A Matter of Minutes” episode but given that Harlan Ellison and Rockne O’Bannon wrote the script I doubt much of his original story made it to the screen.  My opinion of course only. 

A second, “A Saucer of Loneliness”, was broadcast in 1986 and was dedicated to his memory. This was directly off a story by him, which first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction in the February 1953 issue.

The Dreaming Jewels which was nominated for a Retro Hugo at The Millennium Philcon for best novella is uneven but worth reading novel none-the-less. I think More Than Human is a much better with more interesting character and a story that actually makes sense all that way through. And other novels I like, well that it’s. I have read others but those are the only ones I liked. 

I’ve read more than enough of his short fiction to say that he’s a wonderful writer at it. Noel Sturgeon and Paul Williams have published The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, all thirteen volumes.

So tell what you like from his fiction.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NEW HINTS ABOUT DISNEYLAND EXPANSION. “DisneylandForward – New Details on $2.5 Billion Disneyland Expansion Master Plan” at Mickey Visit.

…Disneyland hopes to make land changes:

  • Establish a new parking structure off the East Side Harbor Blvd entrance to the theme parks
  • Build a new entertainment/shopping facility on the current site of the Toy Story Parking Lot across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center a block down Harbor Blvd – the plans also list this as the potential for theme park use
  • Expand Downtown Disney, Disneyland, and Disney California Adventure into the current grounds of the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and surrounding parking lots – this is the area that would be the most newsworthy and change the offerings of the resort!

On January 23, 2024 Disney announced a new set of details around the proposed investment that would be aligned with the DisneylandForward zoning approvals. While discussing the proposed investment Disney again teased the recently opened World of Frozen and Zootopia lands as potential inspirations for expansion at Disneyland. They also mentioned potential expansions based on Marvel’s Black Panther, Coco, Tangled, Peter Pan, Toy Story, and Tron according to the OC Register.

As part of the new investment proposal, Disney will invest a minimum of $1.9 billion in the resort over the next ten years. The amount could reach $2.5 billion and beyond. If the investment does not reach $2.5 billion within 10 years Disney pays an additional $5 million in street and transportation improvements. 

(13) IT COULD HAVE BEEN SMOOTH. [Item by Steven French.] One for the hovertrain enthusiasts: “Forgotten Grumman TLRV – Pueblo, Colorado” at Atlas Obscura.

IN DOWNTOWN PUEBLO, COLORADO, TWO futuristic hovertrains sit idly next the road, looking absurdly out of place next to any cars that happen to drive by, like a forgotten piece of rail travel’s ambitious past.

One is a Grumman Tracked Levitation Research Vehicle (TLRV), an air-cushion transportation prototype that was built to reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour. The hovertrain was intended to glide along the track without wheels on what was essentially a cushion of compressed air, which was squeezed through tubes along the train’s body then pushed downward. It was meant to be a revolutionary form of rail travel….

(14) KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER? “A college is removing its vending machines after a student discovered they were using facial-recognition technology” says Business Insider. The article includes statements from the companies that own and service these machines denying that they collect the information, or that the information violates GDPR regulations. Take your pick.

A university in Canada is expected to remove a series of vending machines from campus after a student discovered an indication they used facial-recognition technology.

The smart vending machines at the University of Waterloo first gained attention this month when the Reddit user SquidKid47 shared a photo. The photo purportedly showed an M&M-brand vending machine with an error code reading, “Invenda.Vending. FacialRecognition.App.exe — Application error.”

The post drew speculation from some users and caught the attention of a University of Waterloo student whom the tech-news website Ars Technica identified as River Stanley, a writer for the local student publication MathNews. Stanley investigated the smart vending machines, discovering that they’re provided by Adaria Vending Services and manufactured by Invenda Group. The Canadian publication CTV News reported that Mars, the owner of M&M’s, owned the vending machines.

(15) I’LL BE DAMMED. Nothing to do with sff, still, quite interesting: “I Knew Something Big Was Happening: A Guest Post from Leila Philip” at B&N Reads.

…I discovered beavers by accident. I was heading back from a walk through the woods with my dog, Coda, when I heard a loud bang. I literally jumped, thinking a gun had gone off, then I looked out and saw that the dry marshy area I was walking by was now brimming silver – curiously it was filled with water!  Then came another bang and I saw a small brown head moving fast. A beaver had built a dam there and was swimming back and forth, slamming her tail to try to scare us away.  I was transfixed. Over the next few weeks, I watched the shallow woodland valley become a pond. Soon I was seeing and hearing the rustling and movements of so many birds and animals. Mornings, the whole area rang with a complexity of bird song I’d never heard before. I knew something big was happening I just didn’t know yet what it was. Thinking back now I would describe my encounter with the beaver that day as a moment of awe, an experience when I was shifted out of my self and connected to something much larger that I hadn’t been in touch with just moments before. That was the book’s start….

(16) GOOD NEWS FROM THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The chances were slim and none. Slim was the winning bet! Is this the real SLIM Shady?

The Japanese Moon lander that fell over on touchdown last month (as opposed to the American Moon lander that fell over on touchdown this month) is back online. JAXA was very pessimistic about SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) surviving the super cold Lunar night. However, it did, and the solar cells have provided enough juice to charge the battery and reestablish communication.

Which is not to say SLIM is 100% OK. In fact, the heat of the sun has so far made it inadvisable to restart any of the scientific instruments. Things are expected to cool off in a few days as the sun angle lowers, hopefully allowing more observations to be made before night once again falls. “Japan Moon lander survives lunar night” at the BBC.

Japan’s Moon lander has survived the harsh lunar night, the sunless and freezing equivalent to two Earth weeks.

“Last night, a command was sent to #SLIM and a response received,” national space agency Jaxa said on X.

The craft was put into sleep mode after an awkward landing in January left its solar panels facing the wrong way and unable to generate power.

A change in sunlight direction later allowed it to send pictures back but it shut down again as lunar night fell.

Jaxa said at the time that Slim (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) was not designed for the harsh lunar nights.

(17) POTTERO SOUTHERNALIUS FIO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You might have to be Southern to get some of the references, or at least to know why they’re so funny. “If Harry Potter Was Southern” with Matt Mitchell.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Madame Web Pitch Meeting” Beware spoilers.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Don Blyly, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/24 If I Could Talk Through The Ansibles

(1) VENITA BLACKBURN Q&A. “How Venita Blackburn Wrote a Sci-Fi Novel About Sex, Grief, and Debt Collection” at Interview Magazine.

RITA BULLWINKEL: Black Jesus and Other Superheroes and How to Wrestle a Girl are two of my favorite books I’ve ever read. And Dead in Long Beach, California, I just gobbled it whole in one sitting. I really feel like it is a book of science fiction. How do you feel about that genre camp? 

BLACKBURN: I don’t think about genre like that, so I don’t approach any kind of work with one tone or angle as the goal. I have to have the voice that matters to me. But for this one, I did have this intention of doing this sort of high fantasy sci-fi, speculative kind of world that was tethered to our current modern world in a way. And as I kept going, I figured out, “Oh, the thing that’s nagging me, the thing that’s most hard to write is actually the part that’s closer to reality, and that’s the part I need to start investing more of my energy in.” That was a turning point during the early drafting stages, where I had to readjust the proportions and the vision and the scope. But I always knew it was going to be a little bit out of this world. Of course, the original title was “Lesbian Assassins at the End of the World,” so I was definitely going to reach far beyond what we know in this tangible universe. So that was fun to write, especially during the pandemic, when I was very disconnected from humanity. I wanted to be someplace safer, someplace where I understood everything, where I knew what was going to happen. So I started to get invested in that process and, apparently, that is a pretty cross-genre kind of way of looking at a story. 

(2) LIVE FROM 1965. James Davis Nicoll fed the Young People Read Old SFF panel James Schmitz’ “Balanced Ecology” from a 1965 issue of Analog, and one of the nominees for the first Nebula Awards (1966). What did they think? Well, they didn’t hate it.

(3) NESFA NEWS. The 2023-2024 winners of the NESFA Short Story Contest were announced at Boskone 61 last weekend:

  • Winners (tie): Dragana Matovic of Serbia for the story “Outside the Rain Was Relentlessly Falling” and Dr. Jennifer Grimes of Milford, MA for the story “The Simulation: Subject Ashe Klinn”.
  • Runner-up: Michael Barron of Parkville, MD for the story “The Last Time My Twin Destroyed the World”.
  • Honorable Mention: Jessica Li of Fremont, CA for the story “Wed the Sea Angels”.
  • Honorable Mention: Tyler Robinson of Dexter, MO for the story “Acid Memory Reflux”.

(4) STANDING BY. Hazel’s Picture Gallery, the massive archive of fanhistorical photos hosted by Chaz Boston Baden, isn’t around right now, for reasons he shared on Facebook last month.

It turns out my unlimited hosting account was not as unlimited as I’d thought. In particular, it’s “not intended to be used for data backup or archiving purposes.” And 20-plus years and a quarter-terabyte of photos is clearly an archive of my own.

So I’m learning how I can rebuild the Gallery within my hosting service’s rules. It’s going to be a process, but we’ll get there.

(5) DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO OSCARLAND? “Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Jimmy Kimmel Spoof Barbie in Oscars Promo” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Jimmy Kimmel is ripping the Barbie parody band-aid a full month before the Oscars.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host dropped a five-minute short on Monday night, directed by JKL‘s Will Burke, hyping his March 10 gig emceeing the Academy Awards — re-creating many Barbie sets and reuniting four of its castmembers in a spoof that finds a hapless Kimmel trying to make his way to the Dolby Theatre. “Since the dawn of time, men have been getting lost,” says a voice-of-God Helen Mirren, spoofing her own narration of the Margot Robbie feature. “This is the story of one such dum-dum.”…

(6) THE MARVELS MINI-REVIEW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Marvels is now on Disney+ (as in, available to subscribers – we just watched it), and, I see, also on DVD/BluRay in libraries (having just checked my local library/network).

I liked this a lot. It was (IMHO) a fun, well-done ride throughout, with some unexpected scenes and bits.

Some brief possibly-helpful non-spoiler notes:

  • If you haven’t already watched the Ms. Marvel series (via Disney), it would help, I’m sure, so you know who (within the Marvel video universe) Ms Marvel is (there’s some powers differences vs the comics). And it’s a good show, well worth watching.
  • Captain Monica Rambeau’s story starts in WandaVision. I’m not sure watching WV for this is essential (they do one-line-summarize, which feels sufficient vis-a-vis the movie). IFTM (It Feels To Me)(and it’s implied/flashbacked) that some other of Rambeau’s character/backstory takes place in the Captain Marvel movie.

(One wonders what this movie might have been like if Rachel Brosnahan had been given that Cap M. role instead of Brie Larsen, yielding The Mazel-ous Ms Marvel 🙂 )

(7) NY FILM/TV TAX CREDIT CRITICIZED. “State-funded report says NY’s $700 million film tax credit is a bust” says Gothamist.

New York’s $700 million-a-year tax break for film and TV productions isn’t providing taxpayers with a good return on investment, according to a new analysis commissioned by the state itself….

…The state’s biggest industry-specific tax break belongs to the film industry, which gets $700 million a year to film or do post-production work in the Empire State. Hochul and legislative leaders are big supporters of the program, which has helped lure hundreds of productions over the years.

The tax break can be considerable. It covers up to 30% of a film’s qualified production costs, with another 10% available if productions are filmed in certain counties north of New York City. The credit is also refundable, meaning the state pays out the excess money if it exceeds a film production’s tax bill.

Last year, TV shows “Saturday Night Live,” “Blue Bloods,” “New Amsterdam” and “God Friended Me” all claimed the tax credit, totaling more than $20 million each, according to state records.

Beyond the lackluster return on investment, PFM’s report surmised that much of the filming that occurred in New York would have happened regardless of the tax credit….

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. Nancy Collins shared news with followers of her GoFundMe about her recovery from a blood clot in one of her lungs: “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”. Donors have given $6,708 of the $10,000 goal as of today.

February 7th, 2024 by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I had to adjust my goal upward because I just found out how much my Eliquis prescription is costing me even *with* insurance. Holy cow. As it is, I’m having trouble getting it filled. The doctor sent my prescription to the Walgreens I use Monday evening. It’s Wednesday morning and it’s still not in stock. Apparently the “Starter Pack” isn’t kept in stock at any of the Walgreens–or most pharmacies, for that matter. My PCP is trying to get me samples to tide me over. Luckily, I feel okay and have enough energy to go buy compression socks.

I am deeply touched by the response so far. Y’all are good peoples.

Today by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I saw my PCP today, and she said my lungs sound good and warned me from taking NSAIDS until I’m off the blood thinners. She also set up an outpatient appointment with a Cancer Care Center for next month, to check that my clotting issues have been resolved. Also, this is the last day I take 4 Eliquis–tomorrow I step down to 2 a day for the next 3 weeks. And it’s also Mardi Gras!
Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez to all of you who have helped by donating or passing along the link!

(9) GARY SWATY OBITUARY. Arizona fan Gary Swaty has died. The CoCoCon announcement on Facebook covered his lifetime of fanac.  

He’s been attending science fiction conventions for half a century.

The first con he worked was IguanaCon II, the 1978 Worldcon, here in Phoenix.

He chaired HexaCon 16 and CopperCon 28 and has worked most committee positions at a host of others, especially LepreCons and CopperCons, but also multiple Westercons, World Horror, World Fantasy, Anizona, MythosCon and RandomCon. Most recently he sponsored filk GoHs at CoKoCon.

Gary loved to read poetry on panels at various conventions. He was also a gaming fan and could be found at most of the local gaming conventions.

He was the editor’s assistant for years on ConNotations.

He’s served on the boards of LepreCon, Inc., CASFS and WesternSFA and still held positions on all three when he passed.

He was honoured at LepreCon 42, who made him their Fan GoH.

Perhaps most of all, he’s known for his association with filk, especially through the Phoenix Filk Circle, which he ran for many years.

Bruce D. Arthurs adds, “Hilde and I have known Gary for years, and always tried to catch up with each other at local conventions. One more face that will be missed.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 13, 1929 Carol Serling, (Died 2020.) I try here to write Birthdays that I’ve not done before which is how I come to be celebrating Carol Serling, wife of Rod Serling.

She was, as all her family and friends will tell you, the faithful defender and steward of his work. She was born Carolyn Louise Kramer and she married him in 1948; they were married just twenty-seven years until his heart simply didn’t survive open heart surgery at age fifty. 

Upon his death, she became rather active in preserving his legacy. She would become editor and television producer for many of The Twilight Zone-related enterprises including the third iteration of The Twilight Zone series in which she was an executive producer for the first twenty episodes.

She has but one acting credit, in Twilight Zone: The Movie’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment, as a passenger. She was a key consultant for this film. 

She was the executive producer on Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics, a two-story film.  Ms. Serling found these two unproduced stories by her husband in a trunk at her home. 

She donated many of his television scripts and movie screenplays to Ithaca College where her husband had taught courses in creative writing and film and television criticism. The gifts helped the college establish its Rod Serling Archives.

Now we come to her print publications. 

She edited five Twilight Zone anthologies (Journeys to the Twilight ZoneReturn to the Twilight ZoneAdventures in the Twilight ZoneTwilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary and More Stories from the Twilight Zone), plus the Rod Serling’s Night Gallery Reader with Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. 

With David Brode, she wrote Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone: The 50th Anniversary Tribute

I know that she was responsible for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine by licensing the name to Montcalm Publishing. She would be the associate publisher and consulting editor there. 

Carol told her daughters that she would like this poem to be read at the time of her death…

Mary Elizabeth Frye’s “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s strategy to save libraries.

(12) PYTHON KERFUFFLE. “John Cleese Responds To Eric Idle: ‘We Always Loathed Each Other’”Deadline recaps the brawl from X.com:

John Cleese is making it clear that he – and a few other Pythons – are in complete disagreement with long-ago co-star Eric Idle, who last weekend slammed manager (and daughter of Python co-founder Terry Gilliam) Holly Gilliam for what Idle suggested were the troupe’s dwindling finances.

“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” Idle posted on X/Twitter Saturday. “But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

Cleese left no doubt where he stands on the matter.

“I have worked with Holly for the last ten years,” the Fawlty Towers creator tweeted today, “and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with.”

Cleese continued, “Michael Palin has asked me to to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

Apparently there’s no love lost between Cleese and Idle, with the latter responding, when asked by an X follower if the two remain close, “I haven’t seen Cleese for seven years.” When another follower replied saying that made him sad, Idle responded, “Why. It makes me happy.”

Today, Cleese responded with an assessment so blunt some followers wondered if it was all a gag: “We always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.”

(13) PRIME CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. “Amazon Prime Video Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit Over Introduction of Ads” reports Cord Cutters News.

Some Amazon Prime customer were angry enough at Prime Video’s introduction of ads that decided to take legal action.

The retail giant is facing a proposed class action lawsuit filed on Friday that alleges it breached its terms of service and misled customers by introducing ads into Prime Video service and then requiring users to pay $2.99 to get rid of them. The Hollywood Reporter first spotted the lawsuit, and posted a copy of the lawsuit on its site.

Amazon turned on the ads to its Prime Video service after telegraphing the move a few months earlier. Executives said the ads would allow Amazon to continue investing in content without having to raise the price of the service. Unlike other subscription streaming services, Prime Video is a feature tied to the online retail company’s Prime service, so raising prices could’ve meant charging people who don’t even use the service a higher rate.

But beyond the introduction of ads, the new standard service also dials back sound and picture quality….

(14) DON’T POOH IN YOUR PANTS, BUT HE’S BACK… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] …and he brought along a new friend. “Tigger arrives in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ trailer” reports Entertainment Weekly.

A couple of years back, British filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield learned that the 1926 book Winnie-the-Pooh — which introduced the characters Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Christopher Robin — was about to fall into the public domain and decided to direct a horror film featuring the quartet. The low-budget result, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honeybecame a viral sensation after stills from the film hit the internet in May 2022.

At the time he was making the film, Frake-Waterfield was unable to feature the character of Tigger, who first appeared in 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner and had not yet bounced into the public domain. Pooh’s tiger buddy does, however, feature in the director’s sequel, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2, as you can see in the frightening first-look images of the horror franchise’s version of Tigger.

In the film, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl, and Tigger find their woodland home and their lives endangered after Christopher Robin reveals their existence. Not wanting to live in the shadows any longer, the group decides to take the fight to the town of Ashdown, leaving a bloody trail of death and mayhem in their wake….

(15) READER, I CLICKED. “Dinosaur Evergreens Thought Extinct for 2Mil Years Discovered by Park Ranger–the Grove is the ‘Find of the Century’” at the GoodNewsNetwork.

From Australia comes a story too cool to believe. Like a vegetable version of Jurassic Park or King Kong, a copse of pine trees from a species that evolved in the Cretaceous Era were found high in the mountains.

These living fossils, to use the classic phrase, survived both the comet impact and subsequent global firestorm that killed the dinosaurs, as well as two intervening ice ages to make it to our time, and Australian botanists are treating the specimens as a top-secret national treasure.

The Wollemi pine evolved 91 million years ago and went extinct according to the fossil record 2 million years ago, but in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, a stand of 90 specimens were found high in the more remote peaks in 1994.

For the past three decades, and in extreme secrecy, a team of specialists from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of Australia has been gradually planting small clumps of the Wollemi pine in other locations to help ensure it has every chance to see another 91 million years.

It helps the story that the Wollemi doesn’t look much like any pine tree you’ve seen in the woods by your house. Sporting Granny Smith apple-green foliage that grows in a pattern similar to a fern, it has a covering of bark reminiscent of Coco-puffs….

(16) GORT REPORT. Dan Monroe at Media Master Design tracks down “What Happened to GORT from The Day The Earth Stood Still?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the Argylle Pitch Meeting”.

Matthew Vaughn really made a name for himself with the ultra-stylized action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2014. Now he’s bringing us Argylle, with an absolutely stacked cast of actors who are sometimes in it! Argyle definitely raises some questions. Like why was Henry Cavill presented as the star of this movie when he’s in it for just a few minutes? How many twists is too many twists? What does The Division even do? Why did they let her publicly share their secrets for half a decade? What’s that cat doing here?

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Steven Lee, Rich Lynch, Bruce D. Arthurs, 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 2/2/24 Scroll Pixel Very Simple Man, With Big Warm Filey Secret Heart

(1) UNLOAD THE CANON. Rev. Tom Emanuel calls on scholars and students to “Decanonize Tolkien” at Queer and Back Again.

In the fifty years since Tolkien’s death, his work and legacy have irrevocably shaped our understanding of what fantasy even is. This Oxford don, whose seemingly anachronistic, unclassifiable, wildly popular stories of Elves, Hobbits, and magic rings were once dismissed by the self-appointed guardians of Western literature, has now become one of its canonical figures.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends very much on whom you ask. Speaking as a lifelong Tolkien fanatic, my answer is: a bit of both. Either way, we might as well throw in the towel on biblical scholarship as on Tolkien scholarship. Just as the Bible is an inescapable, bone-deep influence on Western culture even for those who do not accord it status as Scripture, Tolkien is an inescapable influence on modern fantasy and, by extension, the study of the fantastic. His canonical status is why we cannot yet write him off; he means too much to too many people, has exerted too great a gravitational pull upon our field of inquiry. Yet that same canonical status is also why Tolkien scholarship must explore new horizons of reception and applicability and grapple responsibly with Tolkien’s complicated legacies both literary as well as cultural, historical as well as contemporary – another feature his work shares with the Bible. In fairness to my colleagues, many exceptional scholars, both established and emerging, are actively breaking new ground in Tolkien studies. More is needed, however, and an active reconsideration of approaches which have held sway in our field for too long….

…Those of us who study the man will always find it edifying (possibly) and entertaining (most certainly) to “interpret every single note Tolkien once wrote on a napkin and subject this analysis to multiple peer review,” to quote from this forum’s prompt. If we seek to continue in a genuinely Tolkienian spirit, however, we would do well to consider more deeply and carefully the effects of Tolkien’s fiction upon his readers and the wider culture in which they are implicated.

Key to this endeavor will be loosening the grip of so-called “authorial intent” over large swaths of Tolkien fandom and scholarship….

(2) HUGO AWARDS MESS REACHES ESQUIRE. [Item by PhilRM.] A not-terrible article that just showed up in Esquire about Chengdu touches, briefly and not terribly accurately, on the Puppies, and is almost entirely about the exclusions rather than the complete lack of believability of the numbers (although Heather Rose Jones’ work gets a link), but at least it delivers a well-deserved drubbing to Dave McCarty. “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

…In 2021, the voting process to select the host city for the 2023 convention became a lightning rod for conspiracy theories. Each year, anyone who purchases a membership in the World Science Fiction Society can vote on where WorldCon will be held two years later. In 2021, voters could choose between Chengdu and Winnipeg, Canada for the 2023 convention. “There were concerns that a couple thousand people from China purchased memberships [in the World Science Fiction Society] that year to vote for Chengdu,” says Jason Sanford, a three-time Hugo finalist. “It was unusual, but it was done under the rules.”

While Sanford welcomed the participation of new Chinese fans, other people were alarmed that many of the Chinese votes for Chengdu were written in the same handwriting and posted from the same mailing address. The chair of the convention that year, Mary Robinette Kowal, says some members of the awards committee wanted to mark those votes as invalid. “But if you’re filling out a ballot in English and you don’t speak English, you hand it to a friend who does,” she says. “And the translation we’d put in could be read as ‘where are you from,’ not ‘what is your address.’”

Eventually, a few votes were invalidated by the committee, but most were allowed to stand. “China has the largest science fiction reading audience on the planet by several magnitudes, and they are extremely passionate,” Kowal says….

…When McCarty finally shared last year’s nominating statistics on his Facebook page, authors, fans, and finalists were shocked. In the history of the awards, no works had ever been deemed ineligible like this. Many people who had expected Kuang to win for Babel were now stunned to see she very well could have, and McCarty’s refusal to explain what happened made everything worse. (McCarty did not respond to interview requests for this story.)

“Fandom doesn’t like people fucking with their awards, no matter who does it or why,” says John Scalzi, a three-time Hugo Award winner who was a finalist last year in the Best Novel category: the very same category in which R.F. Kuang should have been nominated for Babel, according to the nomination count on page 20 of McCarty’s document. “The reason people are outraged right now is because they care about the award, in one fashion or another, and this lack of transparency feels like a slap,” Scalzi says….

The article ends:

At the end of my Zoom call with Sanford, I see some emotion in his face around the eyes. “When I was young, science fiction and fantasy books literally saved my life,” he says. “I looked for books that were Hugo finalists or winners, and they showed me a way forward. They showed me there are other people out there who think like me.”

Whatever happens to the Hugos moving forward, one thing is clear: No one should have the power to erase books from the reading lists of future Jason Sanfords.

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

Yes, I read the Esquire article I was interviewed for about the Hugo Awards controversy. A good article overall. I liked how the transparency of the Hugos is compared to lack of the same with most literary awards. Then I read the closing paragraph. Oh gods. SMDH. Be nice & know I didn’t write that.

Editor’s Note: The article also says of McCarty, “Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the ‘Hugo Pope’ for serving on so many awards committees over the years.” It’s a nickname I haven’t heard before. And Ersatz Culture reminds me that the October 26 Scroll carried a photo of a signature book showing McCarty refers to himself as ‘Hugo Boss’.

(3) WE DON’T TALK ABOUT HUGOS. Artist Lar deSouza has done a cartoon inspired by the controversy. See it on Bluesky: “We don’t talk about Hugos….”.

(4) IN THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON, A HEADLINE. “Dungeons & Dragons Publisher Denies Selling Game To Chinese Firm: Here’s What To Know” reports Forbes.

Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division behind tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, is denying rumors sparked by a Chinese news report that a struggling Hasbro could be selling its Dungeons & Dragons franchise to Chinese video game company Tencent….

…But in a Thursday statement to multiple outlets, including Forbes, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division that publishes Dungeons & Dragons and games including Magic: the Gathering, denied the rumors, claiming while the company has multiple partnerships with Tencent, “we are not looking to sell our D&D [intellectual property],” and the company would not comment any further on “speculation or rumors about potential M&A or licensing deals.”…

(5) FIGHT GOES INTO THE SECOND ROUND. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] “Disney To Appeal Ron DeSantis Legal Loss As The Empire Strikes Back” reports Deadline. Of course they are. It’s The Mouse. They have far more lawyers than there are pirates in The Pirates of The Caribbean Ride at Walt Disney World. And those lawyers know more about fighting dirty than those pirates ever did. Hmmm…. Mickey with an eye patch and cutlass…

The lines at Disney World may be long, but the Mouse House isn’t standing around to let Ron DeSantis savor his win yesterday in the company’s First Amendment lawsuit against the failed presidential candidate.

Less than 24 hours after a federal judge agreed with the Florida Governor and deep-sixed Disney’s nearly year long legal action, the Bob Iger-run entertainment giant and Sunshine State mega-employer gave official notice they plan to challenge Wednesday’s dismissal.

“Notice is given that Plaintiff Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (“Disney”) hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit from the Order Granting Motions to Dismiss and the final judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on January 31, 2024,” said outside Disney counsel Daniel Petrocelli and a small legion of lawyers in a filing this morning.

No word yet when the actual appeal will be filed, but it could be within the next week or so, I hear.

In a Florida knife fight that started with Disney’s slow but eventual opposition to the state’s parental rights bill, known by detractors AKA the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and then turned to DeSantis’ throwing overboard the long standing governance the company had over the region around Orlando’s Disney World and appointing his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board. As the dust-up escalated, Disney filed its suit in April, as past and now present CEO Iger and the so-called “woke” battling DeSantis, who was eyeing what became a face plant of a primary campaign, hurled missives at each other in public…

(6) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards, Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Award, are open and will continue until February 17.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)
Best Anthropomorphic Music

(7) CALL FOR ‘WEIRD HOLLYWOOD’ SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia, Chuck Serface, and Alissa Wales are planning an issue of The Drink Tank about Weird Hollywood. “Weird,” however you define that term, can apply to Hollywood as the city itself or as the entertainment industry. The editors are interested in fiction, art, history, poetry, photography, or anything printable you want to contribute. Send submissions to Chris at [email protected] or to Chuck at [email protected]. The deadline is March 1, 2024.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 2, 1990 Sarah Gailey, 33. Sarah Gailey comes to our attention with their Best Related Work Hugo at Worldcon 75 with their Women of Harry Potter posts. Fascinating look at some other commenters mostly. Here is the “Women of Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley Is Not Impressed” post at Reactor.

Their alternate history “River of Teeth” novella, the first work in that series, was nominated for  a Hugo Award for Best Novella at Worldcon 76 and a Nebula. It’s also the first work in their American Hippo duology, the other being the novella “Taste of Marrow”. 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle

Upright Women Wanted is set in the a fantasy of a Wild West of a twenty minutes into the future dystopian hyper heterosexual America which is all I can say about giving away spoilers about it. Major trigger warnings for any conservative readers here. 

Their Magic for Liars, is quite excellent I would say. It’s a murder mystery set in school for young wizards but it’s nothing like those books.  They discuss their book here in a YouTube video.

The Echo Wife is a thriller with some very adult questions about the nature of what being human actually means. To say anymore would be spoiling it. It’s damn good. I’d say that it’s their best work to date. 

Their latest novel, Just Like Home, is not one I’ve read. Let’s just say that I don’t do serial killers and leave it at that. 

They also scripted The Vampire Slayer series on Boom! Comics from the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

They have done a double, double handful of short fiction, almost so far collected though the American Hippo collects the “River of Teeth” novella and the “Taste of Marrow” novella, and two short stories, “Worth Her Weight in Gold” and “Nine and a Half”, all part of the River of Teeth storytelling. 

Finally they have a magical, in the best way magic is, newsletter called Stone Soup. “It’s about the things we cook, the things we read, the things we write. It’s about the things we care about, together and separately; it’s about everything we add to the pot, in little bits and pieces, to make something great. It’s about community.” You can sign up for the free level, or the paid which I do and is well worth the cup of coffee a month it’ll cost you. (My Patreon fees collectively are larger than any of my streaming services by far.) Mike has from to time included material from it here. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

(10) ARE WRITERS GETTING PAID? The Society of Authors is skeptical. According to the Guardian, “Spotify claims to have paid audiobook publishers ‘tens of millions’ in royalties”.

Spotify has said that it has paid audiobook publishers “tens of millions” since allowing users 15 hours of audiobook listening in its Premium subscription package last autumn.

The company said that the figure, reported by trade magazine the Bookseller, is “100% royalties” and that it expects to “continue growing” royalty payouts in future. It would not give a more precise amount for payouts made so far, but said that the “tens of millions” figure applies in both pounds and dollars.

However, the Society of Authors (SoA) said they “remain concerned at the lack of clarity about the deals”. The industry body said it is “still waiting to see the effect on author incomes and whether these are real additional sales or simply take market share from Amazon”….

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by Andrew Porter.] A Tolkien category featured on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! Some contestants stumbled.

Category: Talking About Tolkien

Answer: Humphrey Carpenter’s bio of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis & like-minded friends has this title, like their literary circle.

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

Answer: To his family and close friends, Tolkien was known by this name, the first “R” in his initials.

Wrong questions: What is Rael? and What is Robert?

Right question: What is Ronald?

(12) CSI SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree is “Game Localization with Siyang Gao and Emily Xueni Jin”. The series examines how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds. In this episode, the participants discuss the process of video game localization, which encompasses both translation and deeper work, even up to adapting a game’s mechanics, cultural references and allusions, and more to better resonate with players who encounter the game outside of its initial linguistic and cultural context.

Siyang Gao is a writer, translator, and video game localizer who specializes in narrative-heavy games, and Emily Xueni Jin is an essayist, researcher, and fantastic translator of science fiction who translates both from Chinese to English and the other way around. Also, here’s a YouTube playlist with all 14 of the Skill Tree episodes thus far.

(13) K5 WAS NO K9; RETIRED. The New York Times says “Goodbye for Now to the Robot That (Sort Of) Patrolled New York’s Subway”.

The New York Police Department robot sat motionless like a sad Wall-E on Friday morning, gathering dust inside an empty storefront within New York City’s busiest subway station.

No longer were its cameras scanning straphangers traversing Times Square. No longer were subway riders pressing its help button, if ever they had.

New York City has retired the robot, known as the Knightscope K5, from service inside the Times Square station. The Police Department had been forced to assign officers to chaperone the robot, which is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 400 pounds. It could not use the stairs. Some straphangers wanted to abuse it.

“The K5 Knightscope has completed its pilot in the NYC subway system,” a spokesman for the department said in an email.

On Friday, the white contraption in N.Y.P.D. livery sat amid a mountain of cardboard boxes, separated from the commuting masses by a plate-glass window. People streaming by said they had often been mystified by the robot.

“I thought it was a toy,” said Derek Dennis, 56, a signal engineer.

It was an ignominious end for an experiment that Mayor Eric Adams, a self-described tech geek, hoped would help bring safety and order to the subways, at a time when crime remained a pressing concern for many New Yorkers….

(14) TUNES INSPIRED BY LOVECRAFT STORY. Another musical discovery that might be of interest: “The Music of Erich Zann” from Half Deaf Clatch via Speak Up Recordings at Bandcamp.

‘The Music of Erich Zann’ is one of my favourite short stories by H.P Lovecraft, and I’ve been wanting to do a musical adaptation for a long while now. This EP started out as a few short atmospheric instrumentals, but very quickly turned into a full blown musical work with lots of lyrics!

The words are an abridged version of the story and detail the salient points, rather than providing a blow by blow account, if you haven’t read the actual story I highly recommend it.

I kept the instrumentation relatively simple, just an acoustic guitar, electric cello, pipe organ, percussion and atmospheric soundscapes. The majority of the sounds are made by acoustic or electro-acoustic instruments, the electric cello was played through an Orange ‘Crush’ acoustic amp and EHX Soul Food pedal, any ‘otherworldly’ effects were created with instruments put through octavers and auto filters.

In the original story Lovecraft says that Eric Zann plays a ‘viol’, it is widely accepted that he meant a viol da gamba, a Baroque era instrument which closely resembles the cello, but has five to seven strings, and frets. Since these are rare and very expensive, I obviously decided to use my electric cello for this EP, as buying a viol da gamba seemed an unnecessary extravagance.

(15) OUT OF THE JUG. The Guardian visits with “The man who owes Nintendo $14m: Gary Bowser and gaming’s most infamous piracy case”.

In April 2023, a 54-year-old programmer named Gary Bowser was released from prison having served 14 months of a 40-month sentence. Good behaviour reduced his time behind bars, but now his options are limited. For a while he was crashing on a friend’s couch in Toronto. The weekly physical therapy sessions, which he needs to ease chronic pain, were costing hundreds of dollars every week, and he didn’t have a job. And soon, he would need to start sending cheques to Nintendo. Bowser owes the makers of Super Mario $14.5m (£11.5m), and he’s probably going to spend the rest of his life paying it back….

…In the late 00s he made contact with Team Xecuter, a group that produces dongles used to bypass anti-piracy measures on Nintendo Switch and other consoles, letting them illegally download, modify and play games. While he says he was only paid a few hundred dollars a month to update their websites, Bowser says the people he worked with weren’t very social and he helped “testers” troubleshoot devices.

“I started becoming a middleman in between the people doing the development work, and the people actually owning the mod chips, playing the games,” he says. “I would get feedback from the testers, and then I would send it to the developers … I can handle people, and that’s why I ended up getting more involved.”

In September 2020, he was arrested in a sting so unusual that the US Department of Justice released a press release boasting about the indictment, in which acting assistant attorney general Brian C Rabbitt called Bowser and his co-defendants “leaders of a notorious international criminal group that reaped illegal profits for years by pirating video game technology of US companies”.

“The day that it happened, I was sleeping in my bed, it was four in the morning, I’d been drinking all night,” Bowser says. “And suddenly I wake up and see three people surrounding my bed with rifles aimed at my head … they dragged me out of the place, put me in the back of a pickup truck and drove me to the Interpol office.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s “Echo Pitch Meeting” invites everyone to step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Echo! Beware what you step in, though, because there are spoiler warnings.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Kathy Sullivan, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Jason Sanford, Robin Anne Reid, Ersatz Culture, Chuck Serface, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/24/23 I’ve Got 99 Pixels But The Scroll Ain’t Fifth

(1) WHAT HAPPENS IN TRISOLARIS — STAYS IN VEGAS. “Netflix to Stage ‘3 Body Problem’ Immersive Experience at CES 2024”. Variety tells what visitors at the Las Vegas event will encounter.

Next month, Netflix will have a booth on the main CES show floor for the first time — where it will stage an “immersive experience” for the “3 Body Problem,” the sci-fi drama series from “Game of Thrones” duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo.

The streamer’s exhibit space at CES 2024 will be located at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall, Booth #17048. Per Netflix’s description of the activation: “An otherworldly headset will transport CES attendees into the mysterious world of ‘3 Body Problem’ in a fun and experiential way, showcasing the series’ genre-bending high stakes.” The experience keys off a key narrative element in the “3 Body Problem” universe, in which a gaming headset is used by characters to transport into an unknown world.

In the wearable-display experience, CES attendees will be able to watch the series trailer for the very first time. And as they watch, Netflix says, “they are transported into an immersive, real-world extension of the series, revealing clues about the nature of the core threat in the ‘3 Body Problem.’”…

(2) BAD BUZZ ABOUT GOODREADS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The saga of Cait Corrain, et al., takes the lede in the Guardian story, “’It’s totally unhinged’: is the book world turning against Goodreads?”

For Bethany Baptiste, Molly X Chang, KM Enright, Thea Guanzon, Danielle L Jensen, Akure Phénix, RM Virtues and Frances White, it must have been brutal reading. All received scathing reviews on Goodreads, an online platform that reputedly has the power to make or break new authors.

But the verdicts were not delivered by an esteemed literary critic. They were the work of Cait Corrain, a debut author who used fake accounts to “review bomb” her perceived rivals. The literary scandal led to Corrain posting an apology, being dropped by her agent and having her book deal cancelled.

It also uncovered deeper questions about Goodreads, arguably the most popular site on which readers post book reviews, and its outsized impact on the publishing industry. Its members had produced 26m book reviews and 300m ratings over the past year, the site reported in October. But for some authors, it has become a toxic work environment that can sink a book before it is even published.

“It has a lot of influence because there are so many people now who are not in the New York ecosystem of publishing,” says Bethanne Patrick, a critic, author and podcaster. “Publishers and agents and authors and readers go to Goodreads to see what is everybody else looking at, what’s everyone else interested in? It has a tremendous amount of influence in the United States book world and reading world and probably more than some people wish it had.

Goodreads allows users to review unpublished titles. Publishers frequently send advance copies to readers in exchange for online reviews that they hope will generate buzz. But in October, Goodreads acknowledged a need to protect the “authenticity” of ratings and reviews, encouraging users to report content or behaviour that breaches its guidelines.

Goodreads said: “Earlier this year, we launched the ability to temporarily limit submission of ratings and reviews on a book during times of unusual activity that violate our guidelines, including instances of ‘review bombing’. This kind of activity is not tolerated on Goodreads and it diminishes the community’s trust in people who participate.”…

(3) THE HAUNTENING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has had a short comedy, thriller. When he gets a gift from his girlfriend, he does not realize that it is a deep fake powered by an artificial intelligence.  But the AI does not take well to criticism and things soon become personal… You can listen to it here. “The Hauntening”.

Travel through the bad gateway in this modern ghost story as writer and performer Tom Neenan discovers what horrors lurk in our apps and gadgets. In this episode, a celebrity birthday message from Joanna Lumley turns into a terrifying gift for Tom

Modern technology is terrifying. The average smartphone carries out three-point-three-six billion instructions per second. The average person can only carry out one instruction in that time. Stop and think about that for a second. Sorry, that’s two instructions – you won’t be able to do that.

But what if modern technology was… literally terrifying? What if there really was a ghost in the machine?

(4) POSTERIZED. Think of it as a start on next year’s shopping. Or simply a well-deserved gift for yourself.  “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Millennium Records, 1977)” at Heritage Auctions. Bidding is only up to $16 at last look.

Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Millennium Records, 1977). Very Fine on Linen. All English Language Japanese Record Store Poster (20.25″ X 29.25″) Robert Rodriquez Artwork.

Even though its films take place in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars franchise has connected with audiences since the original film’s release in 1977. 20th Century Fox had no idea that the film would resonate so much with fans, so when George Lucas agreed to pass up a $500,000 directing bonus to attain merchandising rights, it seemed safe for the studio to do. However, Lucas, who had seen the merchandising blitz that came with his good friend Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, knew well the power that films had on consumers. George Lucas’ imagination led to a licensing goldmine of action figures, play sets, posters, board games, books, trading cards, costumes, and more. It’s been 45 years since Star Wars hit the screen, and the franchise has raked in over $29 billion in merchandise sales alone. Much more than the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey set in a space opera, the retail and promotional items made in conjunction with this multi-faceted property have brought tremendous joy to fans worldwide and remain coveted among collectors. The characters, the settings, and the galaxy continue to be beloved by Force believers, and here we present an extensive treasure trove of rare items dating from 1977 to today. May the Force be with you!

Offered in this lot is a rare all-English language Japanese record store poster for Meco’s best-selling album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, which reworked the Star Wars score into a disco and jazz fusion medley. A restored poster with bright color and a clean overall appearance. Minor touchup and color touchup is applied to several creases. Grades on all restored items are pre-restoration grades.

(5) VISION QUESTS. Deadline studies the rapid advancement in animation effects in “’Across The Spider-Verse’, ‘Nimona’ & ‘TMNT: Mutant Mayhem’ VFX”.

… Since the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was awarded in 2002 to DreamWorks’ Shrek, the animation industry has made incredible strides. This awards season, such films are pushing the boundaries of what animation can be, and VFX plays a huge part in infusing new artistic styles into every frame….

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse pushed the animated comic book style of the 2018 film even further with six new, distinct worlds and a visually complex villain. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse amazed everyone in 2018 with an interpretation of animated comics, and set a bar for what animation could look like. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse exceeded expectations with the introduction of six new worlds, each with a new style of animation. While these were all challenging in their own way, VFX supervisor Mike Lasker says the most challenging aspect of the film was the new villain, the Spot. 

“This was the culmination of every tool in our toolbox we had created over the course of production,” he says. “We had a lot of great reference paintings of him, and there were all these different, dark and evil sorts of purples and ink splattering off of him as he moved his limbs.” Using 2D tools integrated into the 3D animation software, Lasker’s team was able to add hand-drawn ink lines, paint strokes, distortion, and more to create the final look. “We ended up using the stroke system, ink splatter coming off the layers, heavy compositing, lighting, paint strokes—every area of the pipeline was involved.”

Lasker says look supervisor Craig Feifarek was an essential part of creating the final look of the Spot. “Craig actually lit and composited all of these shots,” he says. “He did a great job, but also the animation department did an amazing job prototyping how the Spot acts in the last shots of the film. They were able to create all these crazy flash frames… I look at this now and I’m still in awe of what they’ve done.”

(6) HERE’S MY NUMBER AND A DIME. Slashfilm says “A Chance Run-In With Ray Bradbury Helped Bring Blade Runner To The Big Screen”.

…Paul M. Sammon’s “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner” provides an in-depth look at the genesis of “Blade Runner” and details Fancher’s attempts to seek out [Philip K. Dick] the man behind “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Unfortunately, the search was proving fruitless at first, with Fancher claiming “it was just about impossible to learn anything about him.” The writer, eager to get going on a script, took a trip to New York in search of the mysterious author’s agents, who turned out to be unhelpful.

What happened next was complete luck, according to Fancher, who ended up “accidentally” running into an author not dissimilar to Dick: the legendary author Ray Bradbury. The man responsible for sci-fi classics such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” handed Fancher a lifeline during their chance encounter. Flipping through his address book, he found Philip K. Dick’s home phone number and promptly handed it over to Fancher.

As the future co-writer of the “Blade Runner” script recalled: “the next day, in fact, I called Phil about the book and we set up an appointment to meet in his apartment.” The two spoke at Dick’s Santa Ana home where they are said to have gotten along well despite Fancher sensing some “manic” and “self-reverential” tendencies in the author, who seemed initially wary of any Hollywood treatment of his novels….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 24, 1910 Fritz Leiber. (Died 1992.) Now in Birthdays we come to the matter of Fritz Leiber.

Fritz Leiber. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Warning: this is my list of favorite works by him, not a definitive look at him. 

I’ll  start with The Big Time as it has long been my favorite work by him, and I must say that it has magnificently held up over the years. No Suck Fairy has dared approach it lest she turn to dust on the winds of the Change Wars. 

First published sixty-two years ago as a novel by Ace Books, The Big Time started out as a two part-serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s in the March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. 

It was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but he noted it was more of a play than an actual novel. One set, a small number of actors — perfect to be staged.

There were also the Change War stories, collected in Snakes & Spiders: The Definitive Change War Collection, published by Creative Minority Productions which I can’t say I’ve ever heard of. It is available from the usual suspects. And yes, I just got a copy as I can still read short stories fine even if novels are long beyond me. 

Next up without question are that barbarian and thief duo, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Leiber wrote it as a counterpoint he says in part to such characters as Conan the Barbarian, and I for one like them very much better. I think I’ve read all them, and they’re certainly his most entertaining writing by far.

I really like Conjure Wife which was awarded the Retro Hugo Award at Dublin 2019. A most delicious take on the premise that all women are witches, and told all so well. 

Yes, I like his short stories by I can’t remember which are my favorite ones other than the Change 

That’s my list of favorite Leiber works, what’s yours?

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld sends help to those hunting for last-minute gifts.

(9) AFTER THE CALAMITY. [Item by Steven French.] Read Jeff Vander Meer “On Sven Holm’s Novella of Nuclear Disaster” in The Paris Review. The post-apocalyptic story Termush,  originally published in 1967, was reissued earlier this year with a foreword by Vander Meer:

…In its treatment of the aftermath of nuclear war, Termush distinguishes itself from the so-called disaster cozies of the fifties, like the novels of John Wyndham, to occupy more urgent territory. In this genre, the dangers of some calamitous situation become entwined with an almost cheery disaster-tourism tone; more importantly, civilization always wins in the end, even if in an altered form. The militias may hold sway for a while, or the plague lay waste to whole towns, but by the novel’s close, equilibrium and balance, logic and order, always return to human endeavors. Not so much in Termush, which also eludes, through its particular focus and narrative velocity, echoes of Cold War conflict that otherwise might have dated the novella. Instead of a pervading sense of “the other” about to storm the gates, Holm delves into the psychology of the holed-up survivors and the hazards of societal breakdown….

… The right excerpt from Termush could easily have appeared in New Worlds, the seminal sixties magazine for the New Wave…

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the Wish Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]