Pixel Scroll 1/29/23 Have Spindizzy, Will Travel

(1) LOST HISTORY, LOST FUTURE. None of the participants in the recent Facebook kerfuffle are mentioned by name, however, have no doubt that is what’s on Brian Keene’s mind in his latest newsletter: “Letters From the Labyrinth 318”.

…I don’t like what social media is doing to us, as a community. I don’t like watching authors and editors in their seventies who once contributed so many important things to our industry now destroying their legacies because their valid fears of being forgotten by the genre’s historical memory have led to misplaced anger due to generational views and the toxic stew of false logic they got from sketchy Facebook posts and talk radio. I don’t like watching writers in their thirties who have inherited this industry dispensing mob justice at the click of a button without pausing to think how it might hurt others who are listening. Speaking truth to power is something that should always be done. But that truth gets muted when everyone is speaking at once, and it’s hard to hear or discern wisdom in the midst of collective braying. I don’t like promising writers in their teens and early twenties, brimming with talent, that the sky is still the limit and yes, if they keep writing and keep submitting, they, too, can have this career… because I no longer believe that is true. They are entering the field at a time when, thanks to social media and technology, every single person in the world is a published writer, and not only do they have to compete with the entire population, they’ll now have to compete with A.I. as well.

So many people seem to have lost their empathy. So many people seem unable to pause, or just walk away. Everyone has to get that last post or Tweet or shot in, and for someone sitting here in the middle of it all, it’s just so very exhausting….

(2) COMICS BC. [Item by Soon Lee.] Colleen Doran who adapted the lovely Neil Gaiman short story “Chivalry” to comics has written a wonderful article about the process of turning the prose story into a graphic novel. Doran shares shoutouts in the graphic novel to the predecessors of modern Western comics. “Sequential art predates Action Comics #1.” The Bayeux Tapestry being an example of this. “Neil Gaiman’s CHIVALRY: From Illuminated Manuscripts to Comics”.

Action Comics popularized sequential art book storytelling that had already appeared in other forms in fits and starts throughout history. Comic books didn’t take off as a popular medium for several reasons, not least of which was the necessary printing process hadn’t been invented yet and it’s hard to popularize – and commercialize – something most people can never see. 

You find sequential art in cave paintings and in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’ve read that comics (manga) were invented by the Japanese in 12th century scrolls….

(3) MILLIONS OF VOICES SUDDENLY CRIED OUT. “World of Warcraft to go offline in China, leaving millions of gamers bereft” reports the Guardian.

Millions of Chinese players of the roleplaying epic World of Warcraft (WoW) will bid a sad farewell to the land of Azeroth, with the game set to go offline after a dispute between the US developer Blizzard and its local partner NetEase.

Massively popular worldwide, particularly in the 2000s, WoW is an online multiplayer role-playing game set in a fantasy medieval world. It is known for being immersive and addictive, and players can rack up hundreds of hours of game time.

Blizzard’s games have been available in China since 2008 through collaboration with NetEase. Under local law, foreign developers are required to partner with Chinese firms to enter the market.

But after 14 years and millions of players in China, the two firms announced in November that talks over renewing their operating contract had failed to lead to an agreement. As a result, WoW’s Chinese servers will go offline at midnight local time on Tuesday.

Other popular titles by the Californian developer – one of the world’s biggest – will experience the same fate, including OverwatchDiablo III and Hearthstone.

“It’s the end,” wrote one Weibo user, accompanied by crying emojis.

“It was not just a game. It was also the memories of a whole generation” of young Chinese, another wrote.

“The two companies have taken players hostage,” said Wu, a 30-year-old doctoral student and a longtime fan….

(4) WANTS TO CUT THE FLOW OF $$$ TO ROWLING. InThem’s view “Hogwarts Legacy Continues to Make Enemies in the Gaming World”.

With two weeks still to go before the release of Hogwarts Legacy, the controversial video game is getting even more derision in gamer circles, both for making J.K. Rowling richer, and for looking like crap in the process.

On January 22, moderators on the gaming forum ResetEra announced that going forward, no discussion of Hogwarts Legacy would be permitted on the site. The forum previously barred “promotional” discussion of the game in 2021, but mods explained that they decided to implement a blanket ban after assessing the full situation.

“After continued internal discussion, we began to start outlining the issues put forth by Rowling and the game in question and each time, and as we discussed it all, we kept coming back to the simple fact that Rowling is not only a bigot but is actively pushing, in her position as a wealthy and famous individual, for legislation that will hurt trans people,” wrote site moderator B-Dubs in the announcement post. “Therefore, the mod team has decided to expand our prior ban on promotion for the Hogwarts game to include the game itself.”….

(5) WILL MEN BLOW A FUSE? “Toni Collette’s new Prime Video thriller series sounds electrifying” says TechRadar.

…Starring Toni Collette (Knives Out, Hereditary), Auli’i Cravalho (Moana), and Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso season 3), the forthcoming Prime Video thriller series will aim to shock audiences with a worldwide tale based around gender imbalance and a single superpower.

Based on Naomi Alderman’s best-selling novel of the same name, The Power takes place in a world not unlike our own. However, one fateful day, teenage girls across the globe suddenly develop the ability to electrocute people at will. This nature-based power is hereditary, there’s no ‘cure’ for it and, most important of all, wielders can awaken the same power in their older mothers, sisters, cousins, and grandmothers.

Unsurprisingly, the emergence of this superpower leads to complete reversal of gender-based power balance in the world. Soon enough, the sparks of revolution are ignited, and men are quickly viewed as the lesser of humankind’s genders. The fallout that follows, then, will be as dramatic, suspense-filled, and electrifying as you can imagine….

(6) TRADITION DEFENDED. Ahrvid Engholm protests Chicon 8’s apology for their having initially called a panel “The Fannish Inquisition”. (Swedish, followed by English translation.) “The new heights of stupidity”.

…This “complaint” from only one (“the member who brought it to our attention”) reaches stratospheric heights in humorlessness and intolerance in claiming to be sensitive to the use of a simple word like “inquisition”. Have a look at HC Andersen’s story about The Princess and the Pea..  

If a tiny articulation of claimed uneasiness may decide what others can express, freedom of speech is in grave danger, and obviously once language is put  in a cage freedom of thought hangs loose.

We must stop this trend that anyone, who states feeling “uncomfortable” with what others say, have the right to silence them.

A well known historical institution, hundreds of years ago (are you going to tear out those pages in history books?), used as a cheerful gag would “understandably” (no, no one understands!) be “offensive” (no, it’s an innocent joke!)…

(7) WESCHING OBITUARY. Actress Annie Wersching has died of cancer at the age of 45 reports Collider.

Annie Wersching, the actress who brought to life a number of fan-favorite TV characters has sadly passed away today. Wersching most recently appeared as the villainous Borg Queen in Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, a role that saw her return to the Star Trek franchise in a much bigger capacity a decade after initially making her Star Trek debut in a guest role in Star Trek: Enterprise. Wersching also had roles in popular TV shows such as 24Bosch, and The Vampire Diaries. Away from TV, Wersching was a big part of the fast-rising The Last of Us franchise. She lent her voice and performed motion capture for the beloved role of non-player character Tess who was recently brought to live action on the HBO series by Anna Torv. Wersching was 45 years old at the time of her death.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2019 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a man who’s never named who returns to his hometown for a funeral and remembers events that began forty years earlier. The remembrance of those events triggers something in the present of a horrific nature, and I’ll say no more in case some Filers here haven’t read it. 

The illustrated edition of the work was published in 2019, featuring the artwork of Australian Elise Hurst, a fine artist and author, specialising in children’s books.

Dinner was wonderful. There was a joint of beef, with roast potatoes, golden-crisp on the outside and soft and white inside, buttered greens I did not recognize, although I think now that they might have been nettles, toasted carrots all blackened and sweet (I did not think that I liked cooked carrots, so I nearly did not eat one but I was brave, and I tried it, and I liked it, and was disappointed in boiled carrots for the rest of my childhood.) For dessert there was the pie, stuffed with apples and with swollen raisins and crushed nuts, all topped with a thick yellow custard, creamier and richer than anything I had ever tasted at school or at home.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1913 Victor Mature. He’s best remembered for his first leading role, as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C., and until he showed up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Sparks in the “Deadly Creatures Below!” episode, which I’m reasonably sure is his only genre role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore and might well be genre. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 83. Her first genre work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives, scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife”, and she did an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. 
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 78. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF.  He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago. And now in his thirteenth year as Commissioner Frank Reagan on the Blue Bloods series on Paramount+. 
  • Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 64. His first comic writing work was on the Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 in 1991 with Tim Sale. He’d go on to win three Eisners for his work for Batman/The Spirit #1, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. And he’s also a producer/writer on such genre series such as SmallvilleLostHeroes and Teen Wolf.
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 53. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks.
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 35. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio makes the scene with a frozen Gort.
  • Dick Tracy is starting another (or repeat?) Little Orphan Annie arc.
  • The Far Side has some genre career counseling.
  • Tom Gauld is keeping busy.

(11) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport shares “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds: Part Two” by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds, Part One,” our first story of January 2023, brought us news from the Other Lands and absolutely blew our socks off. Now, as January comes to a close, we hope you enjoy Part Two of “Tears Waiting to Be Diamonds,” with all the joys and surprises that entails. ~ Julian and Fran, January 29, 2023

(12) YEAR ENDS WITH A BANG. Joe Stech of Compelling Science Fiction shares his picks for the “Top science fiction short stories published in December”. At number one:

The top story for the month of December (and therefore our t-shirt winner!) is Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness by S.L. Huang. The story is a fun and insightful piece of fictitious journalism. It’s rare that I see near-future AI stories that really feel true-to-life and are also page-turners, Huang knocked this one out of the park.

(13) BRINGING IN THE NEW YEAR. The new episode of the Anime Explorations Podcast is up, where in honor of Lunar New Year, they discuss a Japanese/Taiwanese co-production with the first season and movie of Thunderbolt Fantasy. “Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 1 + The Blade of Life & Death”.

This month, David, Tora and Alexander Case are taking a look at the first season & film of Thunderbolt Fantasy for Lunar New Year.

Thunderbolt Fantasy is available on Crunchyroll: https://www.crunchyroll.com/series/GY75KE906/thunderbolt-fantasy

(14) REMEMBERING AN ICONIC GAME CONSOLE. Lego supplies 2,532 pieces that add up to a replica of the Atari 2600 and some of the paraphernalia.

Take a trip back to the 1980s with this LEGO Atari 2600 (10306) building set for adults. Enjoy a rewarding project creating all the details of this replica console, replica game ‘cartridges’ and joystick. Gaming fans will love the 3 mini builds depicting themes from 3 popular Atari games. There’s even a hidden 1980s scene to build for total nostalgia overload. Rediscover 3 of the most popular Atari games: Asteroids, Adventure and Centipede. There’s a replica ‘cartridge’ for each, plus 3 scenes to build capturing the story of each game. The games slot into the vintage-style console and can be stored in the cartridge holder. Check out the artwork, inspired by the original Atari designs plus a touch of LEGO spirit. This collectible building set makes an immersive project for you or a top gift idea for gamers.

(15) TERMINATOR GENESIS? CNN has video of the earliest ancestor of the T-1000 “Liquid Metal” bot. At the link: “Video: This tiny shape-shifting robot can melt its way out of a cage”.

Researchers took gallium, a metal with a low melting point, and embedded it with magnetic particles to create a robot that can melt and move. Their inspiration? A sea cucumber.

(16) COMPATIBLE QUARTERS FOR NOVELISTS. A Penguin blogger evaluates “The best places to write your novel according to authors: tried and tested”. For some, a hotel is perfect.

…Agatha Christie ostensibly wrote Murder on the Orient Express at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, while Maya Angelou used to write on hotel beds for months at a time. Ashdown Park Hotel is set right on the edge of the forest where Winnie the Pooh himself was born, and there are some cute nods to the Bear of Very Little Brain outside the hotel’s restaurant. Pooh and Angelou: I was in good company…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Season 3 official trailer forStar Trek: Picard dropped today.

The stakes have never been higher as Star Trek: Picard boldly goes into its third and final season. Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, and Michael Dorn of Star Trek: The Next Generation join series star Patrick Stewart for an epic adventure.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/20/22 When I Scroll Alone, I Prefer To Be By Myself

(1) CON CELEBRITY GUEST CHARGED. Yahoo! reports “Gary Busey Charged for Two Counts of Criminal Sexual Contact in New Jersey”. Last weekend the actor was a celebrity guest at the Monster-Mania Convention in Cherry Hill.  

Gary Busey is facing four charges, including two counts of criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, by the police department of Cherry Hill, N.J. The actor was visiting the town during the weekend of Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 to attend the Monster-Mania Convention at the Doubletree Hotel.

During the time of the convention, Cherry Hill police responded to a report of a sex offense at the Doubletree Hotel. After investigating the incident, detectives charged the 78-year-old actor on four offenses: two counts of criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, one count of attempting criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree and one disorderly conduct count of harassment. The Cherry Hill Police Department has declined to provide further details regarding the incident at this time.

The Monster Mania committee wrote on Facebook today:

Monster-Mania is assisting authorities in their investigation into an alleged incident involving attendees and a celebrity guest at its convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey last weekend. Immediately upon receiving a complaint from the attendees, the celebrity guest was removed from the convention and instructed not to return. Monster-Mania also encouraged the attendees to contact the police to file a report.

The safety and well-being of all our attendees is of the utmost importance to Monster-Mania, and the company will not tolerate any behavior that could compromise those values. Monster-Mania will continue to assist the authorities in any and every way possible.

(2) MILFORD, CLARION, AND OTHERS. S. L. Huang dives into sff history to find “The Ghost of Workshops Past: How Communism, Conservatism, and the Cold War Still Mold Our Paths Into SFF Writing” at Tor.com. Huang is especially interested in questions such as why “Milford would fail more often for writers of color or other minority students in the workshop.”

…Part 4. From Iowa to Bread Loaf to Milford to Clarion   

I traced this method of workshopping from Iowa to the early years of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and from Bread Loaf to Milford, which was the first writing conference dedicated to SFF. The Milford Writers’ Conference was founded by Damon Knight, Judith Merril, and James Blish in 1956, smack in the middle of Engle’s red-hot zeitgeist. There’s no indication the founders knew any of the politics attached to the expansion of those workshop methods—it’s likely they sourced the format from a colleague and figured this was the way workshopping was done.

Thanks to Engle, it was how workshopping was done. By the 1950s, almost nothing else would have existed to provide another model.

Milford was founded as a conference between peers, not as a program to teach newer writers. A decade later, in 1967, Robin Scott Wilson (who, in what appears to be an unrelated coincidence, used to work for the CIA), came and asked for assistance in starting a more beginner SFF workshop for the college campus on which he taught. He recruited much-needed help from Damon Knight and from Knight’s fellow author and by-then wife Kate Wilhelm.

None of the three had any prior knowledge about how to teach writing, other than by trying to adapt what they had been using at Milford. In Wilhelm’s Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, in which she details the very beginnings of Clarion, she confesses, “Neither Damon nor I had had teaching experience, and we were learning by trial and error what was effective and what was not.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Wilson, the only one of them who was an active professor at the time: “[A] condition of my employment was that I organize a writers’ workshop. I did not know how to do this. I did not know anybody who knew how to do this…”

… Oh, but Clarion’s methods work, an objector might point out, citing the rave reviews or the substantial number of people who credit a workshop on their ramp toward publication.

I don’t think that’s wrong. Clarion’s methods work…for the people they work for. I don’t want us not to have those methods. I want there to be more. More choice, more diversity, to nurture all types of voices and minds and pens.

My intent is not to criticize Wilson and Knight and Wilhelm for experimenting, but to emphasize the opposite—we should experiment more, in our own generation! Fifty years after Clarion’s founders built something new, it’s on us keep moving forward….

(3) WHAT WAS REVEALED DURING THE DOJ / PRH TRIAL. “A Trial Put Publishing’s Inner Workings on Display. What Did We Learn?” in the New York Times.

Lawyers for the Department of Justice and for Penguin Random House delivered their closing argument on Friday in a case that will determine whether the publisher, the country’s largest, can buy one of its rivals, Simon & Schuster.

The case, which will be decided in the fall by Judge Florence Y. Pan, focused on the effects of consolidation on publishing, an industry that has already been dramatically reshaped by mergers in recent years.

The government sued to stop the deal on antitrust grounds, saying it would diminish competition among the biggest houses and push down advances for some authors. Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, argued the deal would bring its supply chain and distribution muscle to a longer list of authors, to their benefit, and that the industry is large and varied, made up of many important players beyond the biggest firms. Judge Pan expressed skepticism over several of Penguin Random House’s main arguments.

Beyond the legal debate, the three-week trial offered an unusual glimpse into the world of publishing, offering observers a parade of high-profile publishing executives, agents and authors speaking frankly and on the record about how books are made.

Here is some of what we learned….

What books drive the industry’s profits?

By most measures, publishing is thriving. In any given year, hundreds of publishers in the United States release around 60,000 books. From 2012 to 2019, print book sales grew by more than 20 percent, from nine billion to 11 billion, Mr. Dohle testified. And book sales were strong during the pandemic, rising by another 20 percent from 2019 to 2021, he said.

But the trial highlighted a surprising fact: A minuscule percentage of books generate the vast majority of profits.

During their testimony, Penguin Random House executives said that just 35 percent of books the company publishes are profitable. Among the titles that make money, a very small sliver — just 4 percent — account for 60 percent of those profits.

“That’s how risky our business is,” Mr. Dohle said. “It’s the books that you don’t pay a lot for and become runaway best sellers.”

The trial offered examples of books that publishers paid a relatively small amount for, and that turned out to be a great hit. Sally Kim, the publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Putnam, said they acquired “Where the Crawdads Sing” for “mid-six figures.” That book has gone on to sell around 15 million copies worldwide.

The issue is industrywide, and has been exacerbated by the rise of online retail, which tends to reinforce the visibility of best sellers. In 2021, fewer than one percent of the 3.2 million titles that BookScan tracked sold more than 5,000 copies.

(4) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1883 [By Cat Eldridge.] So today is the birthday of Austin Tappan Wright who was born in 1883. He died at the young age of forty-eight as a result of an automobile accident near Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 18, 1931. During his lifetime, he published just one work of fiction, the “1915?” short story in the Atlantic Monthly for April 1915. In 1981 in the Elsewhere anthology, Mark Arnold and Terri Windling published An Islandian Tale: The Story of Alwina.

Islandian kinds of love are noted by Ursula K. Le Guin in her Always Coming Home novel, though she only mentions three of the four kinds which are ania (desire for marriage and commitment), apia (sexual attraction) and alia (love of place and family land and lineage). The fourth is amia which is love of friends. 

Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his forty years long working obsession, err hobby, project that resulted in her twenty-eight hundred page long, well, what we would know as the Islandia novel if it had been published but it wasn’t, and following her own death in 1937, their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut that text drastically. The resulting draft, only a thousand pages long, shorn of Wright’s extensive appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material

Is there a full, unedited version? Yes, there is. The complete and never-published version of Islandia can be found in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. A scan of the original typed manuscript and a detailed map of Islandia are available on the Harvard Library website.

It details an extensive Utopian fantasy about an imaginary country he called Islandia located near Antarctica (if I remember correctly) with a complex history, culture and geography, said to be in scope to Tolkien’s writings of Middle-earth. I personally do not think that is valid comparison, but it is certainly a most interesting read though nowhere near as interesting as what Tolkien created. 

Now that might have been the end of the fiction based on Wright’s extensive notes and such but along came three authorized sequels by Mark Saxton who most people know for being responsible editing the papers of Austin Wright Tappan into Islandia. With the permission of the daughter, he set his last three novels in that fictional Utopian realm. It is for these that he is now remembered. 

The first, The Islar was published in 1969 as a modern-day sequel to the original novel. The two others, The Two Kingdoms and Havoc in Islandia, one published a decade later and one three years after, both take place much earlier in the kingdom’s history. All three were written off of Wright’s extensive background notes. 

He planned on more, but the daughter died and the Estate revoked him writing more. He’s since died and no one else has showed interest in writing novels based off these writings. 

I also found by Richard N. Farmer, Islandia Revisited: A Sequel By Other Hands which he claims to be a sequel to Islandia. No, it’s not authorized, and I cannot figure why it’s still in existence.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that he enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 79. The Seventh Doctor (my second favorite of the classic Who Doctors after Baker) and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 71. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II (1984) in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 61. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Aussiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance again attending Worldcons? And He’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 60. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. born 1962, aged sixty years.
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 59. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal Species, Conan and Highlander: The Series

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dinosaur Comics finds the connection between Anne of Green Gables and Back to the Future.

(7) YOU BE THE JUDGE. The Onion’s satirical review of “the seven-volume Chronicles Of Buckeye” says “Underwhelming Fantasy Novel Starts With Map Of Ohio” – a map which includes John Scalzi’s hometown. The review seems to have nothing else to do with him. But do you believe in coincidences?

(8) HOLEY SHEET. CrimeReads’ Keth Roysdon talks about “ghost shows,” a now-forgotten horror-tinged vaudeville entertainment of the 1940s. “The Lost History of America’s Traveling ‘Ghost Shows’”.

…True ghost shows were an evening’s worth of entertainment. Usually starting not long before midnight, these shows were staged in a movie theater and combined a magic act (with an emphasis on horror-tinged magic like swords through comely assistants) and a live-action horror skit (Frankenstein’s monster lurching around the stage) and a blackout period (in which phosphorescent-painted “ghosts” were flown on wires over the heads of the audience) and, usually starting at midnight, a screening of a classic or not-so-classic old black-and-white horror film….

(9) BALLET NEWS. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Laura Chapelle reviews a new production of Léo Delibes’s Coppélia (which, remember, is about a doll that comes to life) by the Scottish Ballet (scottishballet.org.uk) in a version by Morgann Runacre-Temple and Jessica Wright “also known as Jess and Morgs.”

Dr Coppelius, once a lonely doll maker, is recast here as a babyfaced tech guru in a turtleneck, founder and chief executive of a company called NuLife.  He gets a visit from journalist Swanhlda, who questions him about his ethical negligence.  Their conversations happen in voiceover while the dancers attempt, and don’t quite manage, to act them out credibly.  Soon enough, Swanhilda finds herself wandering the halls of NuLife, encountering the company’s many lab creatures and, at one point, turning into one.  (How?  Don’t ask.)…

….It’s lo-fi dramaturgy that trips up this Coppélia.  In the 19th-century libretto, Swannhilda had a fiance, Franz, who became obsessed with a doll.  Jess and Morgs have contrived an improbable storyline to keep him around:  the 21st-century Franz shows up with his journalist girlfriend to her work event, holding her hand throughout.  The two open and close the ballet, but their relationship has no context or substance.

(10) CROWLEY’S ADVICE ABOUT READING THIS BOOK. In the Boston Review, John Crowley reviews an sf novel from Denmark — The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century, by Olga Ravn, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken – “Science Fiction as Poetry”.

…Its premises are familiar Science Fiction ones: it centers a great spaceship, called The Six Thousand Ship, built to reach far planets around other suns, discover new beings, and return to Earth with treasure. The wondrous new planet of this book is called New Discovery. The planet’s Earth-like geography—of forests, warm valleys, regular nights and days—belies the fact that it is home to some very unearthly beings—the so-called “objects” that the crew collect to bring home to Earth. But The Employees contains nothing like a conventional narrative, and the reader must piece together most of this on their own. Instead, the focus of the book—and its unusual form—are made clear by Ravn’s subtitle: “A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century.”…

(11) MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER. “TWO Asteroids May Have Killed Off the Dinosaurs, Scientists Say”. Mike Kennedy notes this story is behind a Popular Mechanics firewall except via the Apple News app.

A newly-discovered crater 250 miles off the coast of West Africa could have been formed by a large asteroid strike. 

The probable timing of this potential asteroid strike could make it a “sibling” of the dinosaur-killing Chicxulub asteroid hit. 

Researchers hope to investigate the crater to gain more precise clues into the timing of the likely impact. 

Scientists have long believed the Chicxulub asteroid smacked Earth near the Gulf of Mexico, causing about a 100-million-megaton blast devastating enough to erase the dinosaurs from Earth. That burst created a short-lived thermal pulse in excess of 10,000 degrees, which is certainly lethal enough to have destroyed nearby life. But the massive asteroid may have had some help from a second “sibling” asteroid, scientists say. 

More than five miles in diameter beneath the North Atlantic Ocean, the newly-discovered Nadir Crater lies about 250 miles off the coast of West Africa—and researchers believe that the asteroid that may have caused it about 66 million years ago could have been that dino-killing helper. There are two prevailing theories about this second asteroid, according to a new study, published August 17 in Science Advances: that the asteroid may have been a broken-off piece of the Chicxulub asteroid, or that it was a wholly separate asteroid from an impact cluster…. 

(12) DATLOW Q&A. Terrifying Tomes of Terror presents “Episode XIIII: Publishing Anthologies with Ellen Datlow (Special Guest Co-Host Laurel Hightower)”.

I am joined by former Guest, Laurel Hightower, as my Guest Co-Host talking to the indomitable Ellen Datlow, Award-Winning Editor of over 100 Anthologies! Ellen takes us through her career in one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/23/21 The White Witch Has Made It Always Pixelter But Never Scrollmas

(1) S.L. HUANG ON MOVIE GUN SAFETY. [Item by rcade.] S.L. Huang, who won a 2020 Hugo Award for the short story “As the Last I May Know,” has worked in movies as a stuntwoman, gun trainer and gun safety expert (a job with the title of “film armorer”).

She has posted a Twitter thread on the shooting accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins this week. Thread starts here. Here are a few excerpts:

(2) UNRAVELED RAPIDLY. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Earlier this week, a group of six popular YA writers announced that they were co-launching a shared world project which would be called “Realm of Ruin”, and which would involve NFTs and reader submissions and quite a lot of details which hadn’t been properly thought out.

By Friday, the project had been canceled.

@BadWritingTakes tracked the details in a thread that begins here.

(3) RUH-ROH! New episodes of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? started streaming on HBOMax October 1, and they’ve really upgraded the roster of guest stars — Cher, Sean Astin, Jessica Biel, Terry Bradshaw, Lucy Liu, Jason Sudeikis, and Run DMC.

(4) SID KROFFT, INSTAGRAM STAR? “How Sid Krofft, at 92, became an Instagram Live star and why celebs ask to be on his show” at Yahoo! Either he’s worked with them, or they loved his work when they were kids. He did his 75th show October 3.

…[Sid] Krofft is best known through his collaborations with his brother Marty on TV shows like “Land of the Lost,” “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” and “H.R. Pufnstuf,” whose 17 episodes from 1969 were a syndication staple through the 1970s and again in the ’90s…. 

Killian says he was 90 at the time, and though they bicker like an old married couple, he reluctantly tried it out. What he found was that his penchant for storytelling helped him connect online like he had with audiences through his puppetry or through TV, and that many people remembered and revered him not only for his work but how it influenced them.

“You just don’t know, after all these years, that the fans still hang out and they know all the songs and everything that you’ve done,” says Krofft.

Those fans include many who are now stars in their own right. Just the other day, according to Krofft, Seth Rogen came to visit him. Why? Because he admired his work.

He says he didn’t know most of the stars he’s interacted with. “They searched me out! A few days ago, Anderson Cooper contacted me. I don’t know Anderson. And Katie Couric. People are reaching out to me that I never knew. I wanted to, but I never met them. Half of the people that I have had on, they reached out to me. I’m floored over that.”…

(5) TRIBUTE TO SF ARTIST POWERS. Scott Robinson’s Higher Powers: a Richard M. Powers Centennial Concert will be staged Saturday, October 30 in Brooklyn, NY.

It is no exaggeration to state that surrealist painter Richard M. Powers (1921-1996) was one of the most startlingly imaginative and prolific artists of the twentieth century. The otherworldly landscapes, perplexing quasi-machines, and extra-dimensional biomorphic forms he produced for countless science fiction book covers of the 1950s and 60s were a powerful early inspiration for composer/multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, who brings his “aRT” trio with Pheeroan akLaff and Julian Thayer to Roulette for this centennial multimedia concert event.

The evening will begin with a pre-concert discussion with the artist’s son, writer Richard Gid Powers, and longtime broadcaster David Garland. Robinson’s short award-winning video, “Powers100,” will also be shown. Following an intermission, the aRT trio will then take the stage for the World Premiere of Higher Powers, an improvisational multimedia piece in which live video feed of the performers will be interactively intermixed in real time with Powers imagery chosen from among his vast output…some of it unpublished, never before seen by the public. The use of monitors for the performers, along with computer technology to blend and meld images on the large screen above, is a method that aRT developed in collaboration with sculptor Rob Fisher in 1991 which allows for full, 360° interactivity. The performers literally enter the work, and become it… and vice versa. Extremely rare instruments from Robinson’s arsenal will be seen and heard, including a sub-contrabass sarrusophone, a Model 201 theremin which was Robert Moog’s very first creation (one of only 20 he made), and one of the world’s largest saxophones. Rare footage of the artist at work will also be shown, and there will be a reception following the performance.

(6) TROPE REJECTED. Slate’s Tyler Austin Harper  says Invasion gets one thing right — “Apple TV+’s Invasion, Tomorrow War, Watchmen: Stop with the fantasy that aliens will fix racism”.

…Yet, despite signaling aspirations to tackle big-picture issues from a global perspective, Invasion’s diversity is largely ornamental, a toothless, paint-by-number multiculturalism of the sort you see on college brochures. It’s as though the show’s creators assumed that simply writing in an immigrant or a person with a disability would magically create compelling television in and of itself—no need for intrigue or conflict or any of the flesh-and-blood details that make an audience care about whether or not a character gets sent off to the alien glue factory.

Yet, for all that, Invasion remains an interesting cultural document because it is doing something different from the great bulk of science fiction out there about what happens when creatures from another galaxy show up on our doorsteps. Namely, it presents a world in which the arrival of space invaders does not magically fix race or class divides by uniting the human race against a common enemy, a trope that has now been a staple of science fiction for more than a century….

(7) PAIZO UNION RECOGNIZED BY MANAGEMENT. Bleeding Cool says the recently-announced union has had a breakthrough: “Paizo Announces Recognition Of United Paizo Workers” reports Bleeding Cool.

Last night, Paizo formally announced that they have officially recognized a union of their own staff which has been named the United Paizo Workers. The company issued the statement and quote from their president below, which revealed they had voluntarily recognized the United Paizo Workers union, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). This is a pretty major step for the company considering their staff announced they were unionizing just a week ago.

Jeff Alvarez, President of Paizo [said:]

“The next steps will involve the United Paizo Workers (UPW) union electing their bargaining representatives and then meeting with Paizo management to negotiate terms for a collective bargaining agreement. We expect this process to take some time, but we are committed to the effort and hope to settle a contract in due course. Until an agreement is reached, the Paizo staff continues to focus on creating amazing Pathfinder and Starfinder products.” 

(8) SAND DOLLARS. Dune set a studio opening day record reports Deadline.

Dune posted the best opening day for a Warner Bros. theatrical/HBO Max day and date title with $17.5M. While Warners is calling the weekend currently at $33M, rivals believes it’s higher, in the high $30Ms range, which would also indicate a record weekend for a Warner/HBO Max title and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve as well.

The industry estimate for Saturday’s drop is around -30%. Hopefully, the HBO Max of it all doesn’t drag the movie further down, as US folks with HBO subscriptions discover they can watch Dune at home for free. Between Thursday and Friday, there was a significant amount of moviegoers who decided to see Dune at the last minute, with 67% of the crowd either buying their tickets the day of, or the day before.

Dune‘s Friday is bigger than that of Villeneuve’s previous sci-fi reboot, Blade Runner 2049, which saw a Friday of $12.6M, and also that of Legendary and Warner Bros. previous reteaming, Godzilla vs. Kong, which saw a Friday of $11.8M, that being the first of the studio’s tentpoles on HBO Max at Easter….

(9) WINDYCON DEAL. Chicago’s annual Windycon is on the brink, financially, and is offering incentives to make its room block:

Windycon is giving away convention memberships with hotel room bookings, if you book a room for two nights by October 25.

Want to see Carlos Hernandez or Seanan McGuire in person? Come to suburban Chicago November 12-14! Help save a venerable fan-run SF convention that, I promise, is taking Covid precautions VERY seriously!

Per the press release:

We all know the last few years have been rough. We had to go virtual with Breezycon last year, and this year we are struggling to provide a safe environment for us to gather. In order to help keep Windycon going, we need to make our room block. We’ve extended our room block deadline to Monday, October 25 but we are still low.

Because of this shortfall we are offering free registration for the hotel reservations that meet these qualifications

If you don’t have a room yet and book 2 nights, or more, you will receive a free registration for Windycon 2022. Book 4 or more and get 2 free registrations for Windycon 2022

If you already have a reservation but extend it for a 3rd night, or more, you will receive a free registration for Windycon 2022. Extend it for 4 and get 2 free registrations for Windycon 2022

If you have booked your room and it’s for 2 nights we will put your name in a drawing for 10 registrations. Plus, as a reward for already booking early, you will qualify for a $10 reduction of your Windycon registration fee next year.

(10) ANOTHER CALL FOR ASSISTANCE. “StarShipSofa Is In Desperate Need of Funds” says Tony C. Smith. Obviously, it has evolved to have a very different model than when it won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 2010.

There’s no getting away from it… StarShipSofa needs a little help in funding. We have been going 16 years now (wow) and I have had this silent goal to take SSS to 20 years, say goodbye one last time then bow out and walk away… or better still – drift into the deep universe and beyond.

Truth is… we won’t get there if our funding keeps reclining. We have lost nearly 200 Patreon supporters since we started and now are stuck financially, scraping together enough funds each month to put out only two shows.

This is such a shame.

Please support via Patreon. Monthly donations are the perfect cure to help me achieve my goal. Let me get to 20 years of StarShipSofa – after that who knows.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1959 – “Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.”

Sixty two years ago, Twilight Zone’s “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” first aired on CBS. It starred Ida Lupino who was the only individual to have worked as both actress and though she was uncredited at the time as a director in the same episode of The Twilight Zone.  She will be credited with directing of “The Masks” which she appeared in. She was thereby the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 23, 1880 Una O’Connor. Actress who appeared in the 1930s The Invisible Man as Jenny Hall. She had a bit part in Bride of Frankenstein, and a supporting role in the genre-adjacent The Adventures of Robin Hood. Though not even genre adjacent, she was Mrs. Peters in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s Stamboul. Great novel, I’ll need to see if I can find this film.She’s in The Canterville Ghost, and shows up twice in TV’s Tales of Tomorrow anthology series. And that’s it. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 23, 1935 Bruce Mars, 86. He was on Trek three times, one uncredited, with his best remembered being in the most excellent Shore Leave episode as Finnegan, the man Kirk fights with. He also had one-offs in The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, and Mission: Impossible.  He is now Brother Paramananda with the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles which he joined shortly after ending his acting career in 1969. 
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 68. Best remembered for his work on the Trek franchise, particularly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, on which he served as showrunner and executive producer. As writer and or producer, he has been in involved in Beyond RealityDark AngelThe Twilight ZoneThe 4400Alphas, and Outlander
  • Born October 23, 1955 Graeme Reavlle, 66. New Zealand composer responsible for such genre soundtracks as  The CrowFrom Dusk Till DawnThe Saint (the 1997 version), Titan A.E.Lara Croft: Tomb RaiderDaredevil and Sin City.
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 62. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy. 
  • Born October 23, 1969 Trudy Canavan, 52. Australian writer who’s won two Ditmars for her Thief’s Magic and A Room for Improvement novels and two Aurealis Awards as well, one for her “Whispers of the Mist Children” short story, and one for The Magician’s Apprentice novel.  It’s worth noting that she’s picked up two Ditmar nominations for her artwork as well. 
  • Born October 23, 1986 Emilia Clarke, 35. She’ll be most remembered as Daenerys Targaryen on the Game of Thrones. Her genre film roles include Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys and Kira in Solo: A Star Wars Story. She was also Verena in Voice from the Stone, a horror film. Not to mention Savannah Roundtree in Triassic Attack, a network film clearly ripping off Jurrasic Park.
  • Born October 23, 2007 Lilly Aspell, 14. She’s a Scottish-born performer best known so far for portraying the young Diana in Wonder Woman and its sequel. She voiced the role on DC Super Hero Girls. She was Newschild in Holmes & Watson, and Megan in the alien invasion flick Extinction

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD HELL. Randee Dawn continues the “Halloween Haunts” series at the Horror Writers Association Blog with “Suburbia is Hell” – just as Pohl and Kornbluth foretold.

Suburbs are hell.

This said by someone who grew up on cul-de-sacs, down streets named after Ivy League universities, on parcels of farmland carved up into intentionally bland, vaguely descriptive development names, on land that was almost certainly stolen from the original inhabitants, then re-distributed and tamed. Or attempted to be tamed….

(15) MAKING MAGIC. The CBS Saturday Morning show a few weeks ago featured “Zach King on how his magic tricks reach millions”. Watch the video at the link.

At 31 years old Zach King has already amassed an extensive catalog of accomplishments and compiled a massive catalog of accomplishments. His magic trick videos have reached millions and millions on several different social media platforms. King opens up to Dana Jacobson about how the fun isn’t just making the magic, it can also be found when revealing the illusion.

(16) COUNTING THE DAYS. There’s more than one reason not to let this collectible come in contact with water. “Gremlins Countdown Calendar review” at OAFE.

One of the oddest trends in 2020 was the rise of the geeky advent calendar. You may recall we reviewed the one from Boss Fight Studio, but it was far from the only one available – many were even in normal stores, like Walmart or Target. They began showing up on shelves in late October, which in at least one case was a problem.

This set is based on a horror movie. And it’s got 31 days, not 24 – so obviously this was not meant to be a Christmas calendar, but a Halloween calendar. Not much use on October 20th. But hey, there’s nothing saying it’s only good for a specific year, right? So buy one on post-holiday clearance, and store it away for next October!

(17) ZOOM WITH GRADY HENDRIX ABOUT HAUNTING. Northern Illinois University’s “Future Telling” webinar series features “The Haunted Mind,” a free virtual presentation with Grady Hendrix, author (Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) and Konrad Stump, Local History Associate, Springfield-Green County Library, on Wednesday, October 27, at 6:00 p.m. Central. Register here.

Why do some people believe they have experienced a haunting? Understand the science behind environmental and neurological conditions that shape people’s belief in ghosts or their tendency to experience delusions. Join host Gillian King-Cargile as she talks with author Grady Hendrix (The Final Girl Support Group, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Horrorstör), librarian Konrad Stump, a local history expert and co-chair of Horror Writers Association Library Committee, and other experts in psychology and neurology. Don’t miss this spirited discussion on spooky science.

The goal of the “Future Telling” webinar series is to “introduce writers to bleeding-edge concepts, to invigorate STEM experts with mind-bending views of the future, and to celebrate the connections between STEM and storytelling.”

(18) CINEMATIC INSPIRATION. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Bugboss did this piece based on the 1973 movie Fantastic Planet

(19) NETFLIX ALL-TIME MOST-WATCHED SHOWS. [Item by David Doering.] More evidence we won the Culture War: Netflix announced last week their All-Time most watched shows. Their #2 and #3 shows globally were SF/F. “’Bridgerton’ tops Netflix’s list of most watched TV shows ever, while ‘Extraction’ leads among movies”.

“Bridgerton,” a period piece about 19th century British royalty produced by Shonda Rhimes, premiered in December. French series “Lupin: Part 1? and season one of “The Witcher,” a fantasy series starring Henry Cavill, tied for second on the list, with 76 million accounts.

Naturally, as an anime fan I consider “Lupin” part of our genre. Some could even argue that Bridgerton has an element of “fantasy” to it as well.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Diablo II Resurrected,” Fandom Games says this game is a barely revised version of Diablo, but Blizzard Games didn’t want to face “the righteous anger of one billion nerds” by offering something gamers wouldn’t already be used to.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, rcade, Cassy B., Rob Thornton, Rich Lynch, Chris Barkley, Nancy Sauer, Ben Bird Person, David Doering, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Cats Sleep on SFF: Critical Point

Karen Babich shares a snapshot of a cat using a genre book for a pillow:

I live with some cats who are very fine creatures. One of them, Finn, recently rested on my library copy of the newest Cas Russell novel by SL Huang.

Since the cat had his back to the camera in that photo, I’m also including my favorite recent photo of the Finn, in which he happens to look skeptical. (As one does.)


Photos of your felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, N., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes ti File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John A Arkansawyer, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cassie B.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]