Pixel Scroll 2/6/24 Scrollerman vs. Mr. Mixy-Pixel-like

(1) GLASGOW 2024 REOPENS HUGO NOMINATIONS. Members of Glasgow 2024 were notified today that online nominations for the Hugo Awards are working again.

One day after they initially went live on January 27, the committee announced in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” There is no extension to the originally announced deadline; all nominations must be received by Saturday, March 9, 2024, 16:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) (UTC+0). Detailed instructions for how to nominate, plus more specific information about the nomination categories and eligibility, are available here.

(2) CASHING IN. AbeBooks shared their “Most expensive sales in 2023”, and several are sff or comics.

1. Thomas Pynchon Collection – $125,000

Thomas Pynchon is one of America’s most reclusive novelists and the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Slow Learner, Vineland, Mason and Dixon, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge.

This is a collection of 246 items comes from a fine private library.

Highlights include: an advance reading copy of V. (1963), Pynchon’s first novel, in its original wrapper, as well as a first edition copy of V. in a dust jacket, advance unbound signatures and an uncorrected proof of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), the binder’s dummy of Mason & Dixon (1997) in a proof dust jacket, and more.

“Assembled over a lifetime by a dedicated private collector, this remarkable collection of Thomas Pynchon’s work contained over 240 items. One would be hard-pressed to find a more bibliographically complete collection containing so many Pynchon rarities in such perfect condition.”

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $85,620

This true first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published by Bloomsbury in June of 1997. Only 500 copies were printed, 200 of which were used to promote the book, and 300 were provided to libraries. This copy was originally owned by Edinburgh Public Library in Rowling’s hometown. She wrote the novel while sitting in various cafes around the Scottish city.

The book’s library card shows that it was borrowed 27 times between December 15, 1997 and October 12, 1999 before it was withdrawn from service. Those 27 readers were among the first people to experience the magic of Hogwarts.

This copy is a hardcover and was issued without a dust jacket. It has been restored and housed in a full red leather box lined with black suede. The sale marks our second most expensive sale of all time, and shows that the Harry Potter phenomenon, which began in 1997, has not diminished.

This is likely the most expensive online sale of a first edition of the Philosopher’s Stone. Another first edition sold at a live auction for $471,000 in 2021….

7. The Chronicles of Narnia Set by C.S. Lewis – $45,699

This remarkable set is made up of the first editions of each book in the author’s classic Chronicles of Narnia series, which has sold over 100 million copies and been translated into 47 languages….

10. Calvin and Hobbes: The Last Sunday, “Let’s Go Exploring” by Bill Watterson – $35,000

A rarity, this large color proof of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip is signed by Bill Watterson.

Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip that ran between 1985 and 1995. It became hugely successful and was featured in thousands of newspapers around the globe.

This signed color proof was one of a small number produced and sent as a thank-you gift from Watterson to select newspapers who carried the strip.

(3) FREE READS. Analog and Asimov’s are offering their short fiction that made the Locus Recommended Reading List for readers to enjoy.

Novella:

“The Tinker and the Timestream”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (3-4/23)

Short Stories:

“Secondhand Music”, Aleksandra Hill (9-10/23)
“An Infestation of Blue”Wendy N. Wagner (11-12/23)

Novellas:

“Blade and Bone”, Paul McAuley (11-12/23)
“The Ghosts of Mars”, Dominica Phetteplace (11-12/23)

Novelettes:

“The Unpastured Sea”Gregory Feeley (9-10/23)
“Planetstuck”Sam J. Miller (3-4/23)
“Deep Blue Jump”, Dean Whitlock (9-10/23)

Short Story:

“Jamais Vue”, Tochi Onyebuchi (1-2/23)

(4) 100. Sunday Morning Transport, in search of subscribers, also has a free read: “A Hundred Secret Names” by Margaret Ronald.

My forty-eighth secret name is Accurate-in-Speech, so you will know that every word I say to you tonight is true.

I was born under the ice mountains, the second-youngest of a clutch of five. Like me, my siblings were loud and demanding in our fiery infancy, and unlike me, they are uninteresting. My mother was much the same; the only importance she has is that before she left us for good (for we had grown near her size and would soon be extinguished enough to venture out), she took each of us aside and whispered to us our first secret names. My siblings, being what they were, immediately told each other and reveled in this new ability to be individually loud. I, being as I am, wisely kept my name to myself….

(5) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. It’s really a thing. And Mashable conducted blindfolded testing. See video here: “We tested the Dune 2 Sandworm Popcorn Bucket. It was uncomfortable” reports Mashable.

“This was a choice!”

We blindfolded 5 Mashable employees and asked for their honest reactions to Dune: Part 2sandworm popcorn bucket. They did not disappoint. Dune: Part 2 premieres in theaters March 1st, 2024.

An even better video, however, is last weekend’s Saturday Night Live parody the “Dune Popcorn Bucket”.

A group of teenagers sings a song about a special night.

(6) ELON SAYS HE’S FOOTING THE BILL. An actress’ wrongful termination suit has an angel, of sorts: “Gina Carano Sues Disney for ‘Mandalorian’ Firing — With Elon Musk’s Help” in Variety.

Actor Gina Carano sued Disney and Lucasfilm on Tuesday for firing her from “The Mandalorian” in 2021, over a social media post in which she compared being a Republican to being Jewish during the Holocaust.

The suit, filed in California federal court, alleges wrongful termination and discrimination, as well as a demand that the court should force Lucasfilm to recast her and pay at least $75,000 in punitive damages.

Elon Musk is funding the suit, following his promise to pay for legal actions taken by people claiming discrimination from posts to Twitter/X. However, the posts in question originated on Carano’s Instagram Stories….

(7) IS IT WORTH WHAT YOU PAY FOR IT? An employee of Heritage Auctions answers the question “Is Toy Grading A Good Idea?” for readers of Intelligent Collector.

If you are a toy or action figure collector, you likely have a strong opinion on the subject when it comes to your personal collection. But whether it is a go0od idea for positive future monetary returns is an entirely different question.

While many collectors have long seen the encasement of their treasures as a separation from their tactile enjoyment, others have maintained that it preserves them in their highest quality state as time moves forward. Neither is wrong, strictly from a personal collecting perspective, but grading action figures and toys can have a significant effect on the value when sold. That is not to say that every toy should be graded as there is a real cost associated with it, but the right pieces with good grades can multiply the value from hundreds to thousands of dollars per item.

My general rule of thumb is that a toy is worth grading if the value of it is increased by at least 150% of the grading fee when added to the ungraded value. This is the case for items that already have value and a demonstrated history of selling in graded and ungraded condition. Of course, the final value will depend on the grade that the item receives as buyers pay more for higher-graded toys. For example, if a carded action figure is worth $300 and costs $100 to grade, I would grade it if it were certain to bring at least $450 at the lowest conceivable grade it could get.

On the opposing side, I would not recommend grading most brand-new items as they have not yet proven their value in the longer term. Many of the newer toys graded today may never increase in value over the grading cost and I have seen many toys over the years that are still unable to recoup the money paid for the service. Because many collectors now save packaged toys, there are many more in circulation than have ever been in the past due to the speculation of future value. If there is the potential of significant future value, I would recommend bagging and boxing the toys separately or using temporary clamshell cases made to preserve their condition.

As for vintage toys from the 1980’s and before, if the value is significant and the grade is expected to be 80 or above, I highly recommend grading to increase the value. It makes buyers more comfortable with their purchase of a graded item and its confirmed condition. Of course, these are general guidelines and there are many situations where exceptions would be made….

(8) SEW WHAT? The Huntington shares an item of Civil War history in “Guns, Secession, and a Secret Message in a Spool”.

…Yet the envelope’s contents turned out to be rather curious. There are several labeled items, apparently intended for a museum of the War Department that Townsend was trying to develop after the Civil War. Along with a piece of a British flag captured in 1781 at Yorktown and a length of red tape used by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his detention at Fortress Monroe, there was a spool of thread wrapped in a piece of paper.

Spools like this were found in the numerous sewing kits (known as “housewives”) carried by U.S. soldiers. But it was the wrapper that caught my eye. It contained a typescript message dated 1861—several years before the typewriter was invented. A note written in Townsend’s hand along the bottom of the page read: “Sent this way to pass thru rebel lines. Message in spool of thread from one Union officer to another.”

I peered into the hole of the spool. Sure enough, inside was what appeared to be a tightly rolled piece of paper. I immediately contacted The Huntington’s superb conservation lab, where project conservator Cynthia Kapteyn managed to extract the paper and smooth it out. (You can watch a video of the extraction here.) The unrolled page revealed a handwritten message, hastily scribbled in pencil. The text matched the typed transcription.

The humble spool and the grubby note shed new light on the dramatic events that unfolded shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860….

(9) WORLDCON IN MEMORIAM CHANGES PLATFORMS. Steven H Silver announced that he’s moved the Worldcon In Memoriam account from Twitter (theoretically known as X) to Bluesky. Please can follow it at “Worldcon In Memoriam” (@wcinmemoriam.bsky.social).

(10) TONY BENOUN OBITUARY. Twenty-five year LASFS member Tony Benoun died January 18 after a long illness. He was active in Doctor Who fandom and helped found the Gallifrey One convention as Shaun Lyon recalls in his tribute “Tony Benoun remembered by Gallifrey One”.

Throughout the year 1988, following the Doctor Who Traveling Exhibition’s visit to Los Angeles the prior October, scarcely a month went by at the meetings of our local Doctor Who club, the Time Meddlers of Los Angeles, without someone giving voice to the idea that we should run a convention of our own. Tony Benoun was one of those loud and frequent voices in 1988, clamoring for us to step up to the plate and run our own event. He’d been part of Los Angeles Doctor Who fandom since the early 1980s, as part of the Chancellory Guard fan group; had participated in phone banking at KCET during Doctor Who pledge breaks; and had worked many other events, including as security for Creation Conventions. Tony was right with us in early 1989 when our club at large decided to move forward with the dream that would become Gallifrey One; he was with us in 1990, when that dream became reality; and he was with us ever since, as Gallifrey One persists through to this day.

As one of the longest-serving members of the Gallifrey One staff –and one of the few of us still left from those early days — Tony had been co-lead of what we’ve always called our Special Projects division: working on (and selling) our convention merchandise, T-shirts, tote bags, playing cards, stickers and more; supervising the moving and maintenance of our homegrown TARDIS for many years (he was part of a small group that created it, a group we’ve always referred to with a wink as the TARDIS Movers Union Local 42)….

He is survived by his wife Sherri, another member of the Gallifrey One team, and innumerable friends.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. (Died 2015.) So let’s talk about Patrick Macnee. Even the character of Patrick Macnee as John Steed in The Avengers is more complicated than we generally think of him. Steed started as a rougher agent than the gentleman he would become during the Gale and Peel eras. 

His dress as Dr. David Keel’s sidekick was a trenchcoat and suit, though the famous bowler hat and umbrella showed up very occasionally part way through the first series.

The gentleman agent in look and manner came to be in the second series when the actor who played Keel quit to pursue a film career. Once Macnee was promoted to star he adapted permanently that Saville Row suit and bowler hat with the sword cane look that he’d keep for the entire series and the New Avengers as well. 

So what else do I find interesting about his career? (My way of saying don’t expect me to cover everything he did here.) 

Now you might well guess the first role I’ll single out.

He may, and I say may deliberately, played Holmes twice in two television films, The Hound of London and Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Temporal Nexus. The latter may or may not exist as commenters online say they cannot actually find this case of paranormal murders and extraterrestrials. Holmes meets War of the Worlds? Surely in those nearly one and fifty films involving him, that been done, hasn’t it? Or not. 

Of his Watson performances, more is certain. He played him three times: once alongside Roger Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in these television films:  Sherlock Holmes in New York, and then twice with Christopher Lee, first in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and then in Incident at Victoria Falls.

He sort of plays him a fourth time. He appeared in Magnum, P.I. as, what else?, a retired British agent who suffered from the delusion that he was Sherlock Holmes, in the episode titled “Holmes”.  

What next? In a one-off, he took over Leo G. Carroll’s role as the head of U.N.C.L.E. as Sir John Raleigh in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair.  Anyone see this?

He’s in A View to Kill as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a Roger Moore Bond film, as a horse trainer who helps him infiltrate Zorin’s chateau and stables.

Since everyone it seems showed up on this series, it probably won’t surprise you I that he was on Columbo in the “Troubled Waters” where he’s Capt. Gibbon. They filmed it on a real cruise ship, called the Sun Princess at the time. It was later sold many times and renamed Ocean Dream finally. It was abandoned off the coast of Thailand and sank there. Don’t you love my trivia? 

Finally, I think, he appeared on Broadway as the star of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth in the early seventies. He then headlined the national tour of that play.

No, I forgot an appearance I wanted to note. My bad.  He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Judgement Night”. There he played the First Officer on the S.S. Queen of Glasgow, a cargo carrier, headed out on London to New York with a passenger with no memory but a feeling that something very bad will happen. 

I’m going now. Really I am.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) EGYPTIAN GRAPHIC STORIES. Hear about “Cairo in comics” in The Documentary at BBC Sounds.

Modern Cairo is a crowded metropolis. The city’s ‘thousand minarets’ are now dwarfed by a new skyline of slick tower blocks. Modern highways fly over bustling kiosks where residents gather to smoke and buy soda drinks. 

Inspired by the lives of their neighbours, playing out among mosques, high rise buildings and on busy streets, Egyptian writers and graphic artists, including Deena Mohamed, Shennawy and Mohamed Wahba bring their thousand-year-old capital to life. They tell the stories behind their own books and comics – Tok Tok, Shubeik Lubeik, and A Bird’s Eye View over Cairo. And how today, the city’s dedicated festival Cairo Comix has become an annual destination for artists and fans from around the world. 

(14) FROM SPACE COWBOY BOOKS. Released on February 4: Another Time: An Anthology of Time Travel Stories 1942-1960 edited by Jean-Paul L. Garnier.

The nature of time has forever perplexed humankind. Add the many ripe paradoxes of time travel and the situation gets complicated. While science has shown us that time travel is technically possible, at least on paper, we still know little about what time actually is, or our place within it. Science fiction has long explored this theme and it has become one of the cornerstones of the genre. In this collection of stories, we find visions of what time travel could be, what could go wrong, and dive headlong into the paradoxical nature of what it might entail. Tales ranging from 1942 to 1960 bring us into these mysterious worlds and provide a window into what the writers of this era grappled with when exploring time and the possibilities of traveling within the fourth dimension. Readers will also delight in traversing another time in literature, with stories that first appeared in Worlds of IF, Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Magazine, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and Imagination Stories of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 With stories by:

  • C. Shook
  • Darius John Granger
  • Evelyn E. Smith,
  • Sylvia Jacobs
  • Rog Phillips
  • Miriam Allen deFord
  • Anthony Boucher
  • Henry Kuttner
  • Alfred Bester

 With an introduction by Dr. Phoenix Alexander. Original cover art by Zara Kand. Get your copy at Bookshop.org.

(15) THIS YEAR’S CROP. Apple+ announced several new shows yesterday, including two intriguing sf series: “Apple TV+ Unveils New Slate Of Originals for 2024” at AllYourScreens.

Constellation
Premiere date: 
Wednesday, February 21
A new, eight-part conspiracy-based psychological thriller starring Noomi Rapace and Emmy Award nominee Jonathan Banks that will premiere globally on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 with the first three episodes, followed by one episode weekly, every Wednesday through March 27 on Apple TV+.  

Created and written by Peter Harness, “Constellation” stars Rapace as Jo – an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space – only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost. The series also stars James D’Arcy, Julian Looman, Will Catlett, Barbara Sukowa, and introduces Rosie and Davina Coleman as Alice. 

“Constellation” is directed by Emmy Award winner Michelle MacLaren, Oscar nominee Oliver Hirschbiegel and Oscar nominee Joseph Cedar. Produced by Turbine Studios and Haut et Court TV, the series is executive produced by David Tanner, Tracey Scoffield, Caroline Benjo, Simon Arnal, Carole Scotta and Justin Thomson. MacLaren directs the first two episodes and executive produces the series with Rebecca Hobbs and co-executive producer Jahan Lopes for MacLaren Entertainment. Harness executive produces through Haunted Barn Ltd. The series was shot principally in Germany and was series produced by Daniel Hetzer for Turbine Studios, Germany…

Dark Matter
Premiere date:
 Wednesday, May 8

Dark Matter is a sci-fi thriller series based on the blockbuster book by acclaimed, bestselling author Blake Crouch. The nine-episode series features an ensemble cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, Alice Braga, Jimmi Simpson, Dayo Okeniyi and Oakes Fegley. Dark Matter makes its global debut on Apple TV+ on May 8, 2024, premiering with the first two episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through June 26. 

Hailed as one of the best sci-fi novels of the decade, Dark Matter is a story about the road not taken. The series will follow Jason Dessen (played by Edgerton), a physicist, professor, and family man who — one night while walking home on the streets of Chicago — is abducted into an alternate version of his life. Wonder quickly turns to nightmare when he tries to return to his reality amid the mind-bending landscape of lives he could have lived. In this labyrinth of realities, he embarks on a harrowing journey to get back to his true family and save them from the most terrifying, unbeatable foe imaginable: himself.

Crouch serves as executive producer, showrunner, and writer alongside executive producers Matt Tolmach and David Manpearl for Matt Tolmach Productions, and Joel Edgerton. Dark Matter” is produced for Apple TV+ by Sony Pictures Television.

(16) FANCY EDITION. The Illustrated World of Tolkien from Easton Press is pretty.

An excellent guide to Middle-earth and the Undying Lands, including vivid descriptions of all Tolkien’s beasts, monsters, races, nations, deities, and the flora and fauna of the territory. Full-color pages with stunning illustrations create an enchanting source for information on all the fantastical places and creatures that sprung from Tolkien’s mind….

(17) THE SINGULARITY WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. Is ChatGPT compiling clinical information or drumming up business? “FDA medical device loophole could cause patient harm, study warns” at Healthcare IT News.

Doctors and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the UMD Institute for Health Computing and the VA Maryland Healthcare System are concerned that large language models summarizing clinical data could meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s device-exemption criteria and could cause patient harm.

WHY IT MATTERS

Artificial intelligence that summarizes clinical notes, medications and other patient data without FDA oversight will soon reach patients, doctors and researchers said in a new viewpoint published Monday on the JAMA Network.

They analyzed FDA’s final guidance on clinical decision support software. The agency has interpreted it as involving “time-critical” decision-making as a regulated device function, and that could include LLM generation of a clinical summary, the authors said. 

Published about two months before ChatGPT’s release, the researchers said the guidance “provides an unintentional ‘roadmap’ for how LLMs could avoid FDA regulation.”

Generative AI will change everyday clinical tasks. It has earned a great deal of attention for its promise to reduce physician and nurse burnout, and to improve healthcare operational efficiencies, but LLMs that summarize clinical notes, medications and other forms of patient data “could exert important and unpredictable effects on clinician decision-making,” the researchers said.

They conducted tests using ChatGPT and anonymized patient record data, and examined the summarization outputs, concluding, that results raise questions that go beyond “accuracy.”

“In the clinical context, sycophantic summaries could accentuate or otherwise emphasize facts that comport with clinicians’ preexisting suspicions, risking a confirmation bias that could increase diagnostic error,” they said. 

…However, it’s a dystopian danger that generally arises “when LLMs tailor responses to perceived user expectations” and become virtual AI yes-men to clinicians.

“Like the behavior of an eager personal assistant.”…

(18) A BIT SHY OF THE MARK. Damien G. Walter’s history “The war for the Hugo awards” begins by saying that the first Hugo Awards (1953) were “so small scale that no plans were made to run them again.” Although the runners of the 1954 Worldcon didn’t give them, Ben Jason, who was instrumental in resuming the Hugos in 1955 (see “The Twice-Invented Hugos”) told me that the people who created the awards intended them to be annual. So that’s Walter taking a bit of literary license. You’ll have to check to see how closely the rest of his video hews to history. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/23 Happiness Is A Scrolled Pixel

(1) CAN YOU DIG IT? “And the winner for San Jose BART’s boring machine name competition is…” The Mercury News tears open the envelope.

After more than 400 submissions and 1,175 votes on a name for San Jose BART’s tunnel boring machine, we have a winner — and it’s sure to make sci-fi fans giddy.

“Shai-Hulud” came in first place, with 229 votes, a nod to the sand worm creatures in the popular “Dune” novels and movies that many readers say resemble the boring machine that will carve a nearly five-mile tunnel underneath San Jose for the future BART extension. The Valley Transportation Authority purchased the $76 million dollar device in November from Germany and it will be shipped to the South Bay in pieces before being reassembled. Construction is set to begin in 2025.

…In second place is “Boris,” with 220 votes. In third: “Chewy” with 200 votes.

Here are the names that didn’t make it into the top three for BART’s project:

– Diggy McDigface – 127 votes

– Dionne Warwick (Grammy Award-winning singer of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) – 114 votes

– Boring McBoringface – 87 votes

– Janet Gray (San Jose’s first female mayor) – 86 votes

– Sarah Winchester (Designer and resident of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House) – 64 votes

– Susan Hammer (San Jose’s second female mayor) – 26 votes

– Dianne Feinstein (Former California senator) – 22 votes

(2) COURT SQUELCHES FANFIC PUBLISHER’S SUIT AGAINST AMAZON, TOLKIEN ESTATE. The BBC tells what the court decided after “Lord of the Rings fan fiction writer sued for publishing own sequel”.

A fan fiction writer has been sued by the estate of JRR Tolkien for copyright after publishing his own sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

US-based author Demetrious Polychron published a book called The Fellowship of the King in 2022.

He dubbed it “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings.”

The court ruled that Polychron must stop distributing copies of the book and destroy all physical and electronic copies.

In April 2023 Polychron attempted to sue the Tolkein estate and Amazon, claiming the TV series, Rings of Power, infringed the copyright in his book.

The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that Polychron’s own book was infringing on Amazon’s prequel that was released in September 2022.

Judge Steven V Wilson called the lawsuit “frivolous and unreasonably filed” and granted the permanent injunction, preventing him from selling his book and any other planned sequels, of which there were six….

Deadline’s story has additional details: “The Tolkien Estate & Amazon Win ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Lawsuits”.

The Tolkien Estate and Amazon have been victorious in their court battle with an author who first published a book titled The Fellowship of the King and then demanded $250M after claiming Prime Video had stolen the idea for its TV series.

In court documents issued by the District Court of California on December 14, both cases brought by Demetrious Polychron were thrown out by Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who ordered Polychron to pay the Tolkien Estate and Amazon’s legal fees totalling around $134,000 (read the Tolkien order here).

In 2017, the same year Warner Bros and the Tolkien Estate settled their five-year $80 million rights legal battle, Polychron registered a fan fiction sequel book titled The Fellowship of the King, which he claimed to be the  “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings,” according to the Tolkien Estate lawyers. Rather incredibly, he then commenced a $250M lawsuit against the Tolkien Estate and Amazon in April of this year, claiming that Amazon’s TV series The Rings of Power infringed the copyright in his book.

Wilson’s judgment threw out the claims around the Amazon TV series and granted a permanent injunction, which prevents Polychron from ever distributing any further copies of The Fellowship of the King, his planned sequels to that book, or any other derivative work based on the books of JRR Tolkien. He is also required to destroy all physical and electronic copies of his book and to file a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that he has complied. The judge also turned down Polychron’s requests to have his legal fees paid by Amazon and the estate….

(3) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a call for its “Illustration of the Year 2024” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2024.  Full guidelines at the link.

The Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF) announces an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes to be featured as its 2024 Illustration of the Year.

The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected artwork, on SLF’s website and social media and in a press release. The winning artwork will be displayed on the SLF’s website and social media accounts and used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag.

Submission Dates: The deadline for submissions has been extended to December 31, 2023. The winner will be announced in January 2024.

Submission Instructions: Email submissions to [email protected] with subject line: “YOUR NAME – Illustration of the Year 2024.” In the body of the email, please include your name, email address, phone number, name of your artwork (if any), and short bio.

For more information and complete criteria and terms, visit speculativeliterature.org/ioty .

(4) JAPAN SCIENCE FICTION AWARDS FINALISTS. The Science Fiction Writers of Japan have announced the finalists for the 44th Japan Science Fiction Awards. Names and titles from computer translation.

  • Mitsunori Yuki, “Absolute Cold” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Yuki Shinsendo, “Kaiju” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Fumio Takano, “Graf Zeppelin: That Summer Airship” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Toshiji Hase, “Protocol of Humanity” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Mikihiko Kunaga, “Our Monster” (Tokyo Sogensha)

(5) OUTCOME OF ACTIVISION SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. The New York Times analyzes “The Questions Raised by California’s Dropped Sexual Harassment Suit Against Activision”.

On Friday, the California state agency that accused the video game maker Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against women withdrew those allegations in a $54 million settlement with the company.

The California Civil Rights Department found that “no court or any independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” about “systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.”

As part of the settlement, however, Activision agreed to pay as much as $47 million to address accusations of pay disparity and discrimination. All female employees who worked at the company between 2015 to 2020 will be offered a kind of monetary relief; they will get paid based on a formula. The company maintains it has offered equitable pay.

It is a stunning reversal. In 2021, the state agency estimated that Activision’s liability was about $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. How the state agency went from accusing Activision of fostering a culture in which female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment” to withdrawing those claims a couple of years later isn’t clear.

Was it enforcement zeal? This all started with an anonymous complaint in 2018. That letter was followed by a lawsuit from the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 and shortly later another from the California Civil Rights Department, which was then called the Department of Fair Employment Housing. The state agency objected to the settlement reached in the E.E.O.C. case. And then finally came a scathing Wall Street Journal story about accusations that the company didn’t handle sexual misconduct allegations properly.

The journalist Matt Taibbi wrote about this investigation: “Corporate regulation often begins with an investigation and ends with a devastating headline, but California flipped the script.”

The settlement leaves big questions unanswered. In a news release, the California Civil Rights Department declared victory, heralding the $54 million payout and stating that “California remains deeply committed to promoting and enforcing the civil rights of women in the workplace.” That the agency found no legal wrongdoing doesn’t mean it found no wrongdoing at all.

But the case utilized vast resources. The chief counsel at the agency was fired last year. And it all comes about a year after Microsoft, which presumably conducted its own due diligence, paid $69 billion to acquire the gaming company, whose shares took a hit after the allegations came to light.

(6) SPECTRAL DOGS. The first episode of Rhianna Pratchett’s BBC Radio 4 program Mythical Creatures is “Black Dogs”. Hear it at the link.

Fantasy writer Rhianna Pratchett takes us across an enchanted British Isles to discover mythical creatures that lurk in all corners of the land. She uncovers what they can tell us about our history, our world and our lives today.

In the first episode of the series, Rhianna is on the trail of Black Dogs. She visits Suffolk, to hear a tale of a hellhound that left its mark on the small town of Bungay. It’s one of many spectral black dogs that are said to stalk coastal paths and lonely crossroads. Rhianna explores why Black Dogs appear so often in folklore, and their psychological link to fear and negative emotions.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the fuller name being Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) first aired fifty-seven years ago this night on CBS. It was directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones. Who of course did the stellar animation. 

Jones and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II. Jones’s considered Grinch the equal of Scrooge for Christmas villains. 

The show is based on the 1957 children’s book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, and tells the story of the pre-reform Grinch, who tries to ruin Christmas for the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. (Whoville which lives on the trunk of Horton.) Will Christmas be saved? Will the Grinch be getting a bigger heart? I’m assuming I don’t need any spoilers here.

Boris Karloff is the Grinch and the narrator, and Thurl Ravenscroft sings that song which you know all so well: “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile! You have all the tender sweetness. Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.” 

Additional casting here is June Foray as Cindy Lou Who, Dallas McKennon as Max and the MGM Studio Chorus as the ever so talented Citizens of Whoville. Damn I loved those voices.

And now I must go watch it again…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 77. One of my favorite directors ever. Not as risk-taking as say Terry Gilliam but definitely one who’s done a lot of work that I find pleasing and that in my book counts for a lot.

I’m going to do a rewatch of Columbo this winter, so I was delighted to discover that he directed the first non-pilot episode of the series, “Murder by the Book”. He is credited with giving us the mannerisms of the detective and the look of the series.

He got that gig for having worked with Rod Serling on The Night Gallery where in one episode he directed Joan Crawford, that being “Eyes”. What other episodes that he directed are unclear because as a new director credit may gone to more senior directors, so it is thought that “A Matter of Semantics” that featured Cesar Romero and was credited to Jack Laird might have been his work. 

His first major hit was Jaws which is not my fish and chips so I’ll pass by it here as we’re discussing what I like by him. 

He made up for Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is simply brilliant, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which still makes me sniff, and two out of three of the Indiana Jones trilogy. 

No, I vehemently did not like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I saw it once and that was more than enough, thank you. 

Now Jurassic Park is one of the best monster films ever. Why it was so excellent that it even won a Hugo at ConAdian! Who came and accepted that Hugo? 

There is a lot of lot films next in his career that I didn’t care for until we come to the extraordinary undertaking that is The Adventures of Tintin from the French strip by Hergé. A true treat in animation this was. 

(Digression for a moment. He was an Executive Producer or Producer on way too many undertakings to list here that I liked. Who Framed Roger RabbitGremlinsAnimaniacs (both series), Pinky and the BrainFreakazoid! — that’s just a few I like.) 

Then there’s Hook with Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell and the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. Need I say more. Well there is the crocodile…

I think I’ll finish with The BFG, his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. Fantastic film that’s true to the book, no mean feat.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MAIL FROM RAY. Critic Dwight Garner throttles the new Ray Bradbury letter collection and its editor, Jonathan R. Eller, in a New York Times review: “What Wonders Do Ray Bradbury’s Letters Reveal?”

…There is no sugarcoating it: Bradbury’s letters are amazing in their dullness and sterility. If I had to sum up their tone and content in a sentence, it would be: “Thank you for your eight tons of sycophantic bloviating, here are 16 tons in return.” While reading “Remembrance” I began to dream about cutting off my fingers, like Brendan Gleeson in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” one by one, so I wouldn’t have to turn another page.

You can’t blame writers for the quality of their letters — unless they sought to have them published. Apparently, late in life, Bradbury did so. This collection was edited by Bradbury’s biographer, Jonathan R. Eller, who is also a co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.

His trilogy of Bradbury biographies is comprehensive and sympathetic, but here he’s done his subject no favors. I am going to resort to making a short list of this book’s drawbacks, to provide scaffolding for my inchoate feelings of distress.

A) The introduction doesn’t introduce Bradbury. The reader requires a certain amount of core information — a gloss of Bradbury’s childhood, education, career, prizes, family, homes, travel, the themes of his work — so as not to enter blind. The introduction is instead a summary of what is to come in the book. This is the least felicitous type of introduction, for the same reason that “as I will demonstrate later” are the worst five words in the English language, after “brace for a water landing.”

B) This book is oddly sorted. Bradbury’s letters are presented not in chronological order but grouped by theme and then, in sub-groupings, by correspondent, so that we are always pinging around in time, like Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure. A letter from 1965 will be followed by one from 2004, and then we are suddenly back in the 1950s. This prevents us from charting the development of Bradbury’s voice and of his inner resources. The hero of our narrative is lost in a maze.

C) Many letters not from Bradbury but to him are included. These are filler and might have been summarized. More to the point, they’re confusing. It’s easy to forget, in a book of Bradbury’s letters, that you are not currently reading Bradbury….

(11) TUNED UP. Neil Gaiman will be singing in the Sydney Opera House reports the Guardian: “’Like a gothy yoghurt starter’: how Neil Gaiman and an Australian string quartet fell in love”.

Neil Gaiman is well known for his melodic, dreamy voice, which has been put to use on everything from audiobooks to voicing the Simpsons’s cat Snowball. But Neil Gaiman the singer? When he’d occasionally perform live with his ex-wife, the musician Amanda Palmer, his voice was described by the New York Times, perhaps a little unkindly, as “a novelist’s version of singing”.

Next month Gaiman is bringing that voice to the Sydney Opera House, where he’ll be performing with the Australian string quartet FourPlay. How is he feeling about singing on one of the most prestigious stages in the world?

“Terrified. Absolutely terrified,” Gaiman sighs. “I’ve had to learn to trust FourPlay. I’m always reassured by the fact that Lara can actually sing.”

“I’ve been a singer for 30 years and I’m equally terrified, Neil!” interjects Lara Goodridge, one part of FourPlay along with Shenzo Gregorio and brothers Tim and Peter Hollo. “We are all vulnerable on stage together. But I think that’s a really lovely part of it – we’re there to catch each other. It’s exciting to be that alive.”…

(12) SHORE THING. [Item by Steven French.] From Viking longboats to satellites: “Shetland island to house UK’s first vertical rocket launch spaceport”.

For centuries, Unst has been famous for its richly varied wildlife, pristine beaches and unspoilt sea views. Now the remote Shetland island is leading Britain into space.

A former RAF base on a remote peninsula of the island has become the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches. It will allow up to 30 satellites and other payloads to be launched into commercially valuable polar, sun-synchronous orbits, which are in high demand from satellite operators for communications and Earth observation.

The site, SaxaVord spaceport, was identified in a 2017 report as a place where rockets carrying the greatest payloads could be launched into space with the lowest risk to people on the ground, if the spacecraft failed and crashed back to Earth.

The island, which has about 650 inhabitants, is at the northernmost tip of the British Isles and was one of the first Viking outposts in the North Atlantic. Its location means that rockets lifting off from the site do not need to pass over populated areas, unlike those launched from other sites, which have to perform dog-leg manoeuvres, limiting the weight of the payload they can carry…

…Developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets, has cost just under £30m so far. There are also plans to build a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord….

(13) FIRST ONE SHOE DROPS, THEN THE OTHER. The actor who played Kang lost in court, then lost his MCU role. Variety reports: “Jonathan Majors Guilty of Harassment and Assault”.

Jonathan Majors was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari. A Manhattan jury found the Marvel actor guilty on Monday of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault but acquitted him on two other counts. 

The six-person jury found Majors not guilty on one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree. Majors, wearing a dark gray suit and seated in the courtroom with his attorneys and current girlfriend Meagan Good, did not react when the verdict was read….

…Majors was arrested in March in New York City after he assaulted Jabbari in the backseat of a private vehicle. Jabbari, a 30-year-old choreographer who met Majors on the set of Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” testified she grabbed Majors’ phone after seeing a text message from another woman. Jabbari described that as Majors attempted to forcefully retrieve his phone from her, she felt “a hard blow” across her head that resulted in bruising, swelling and substantial pain….

Variety followed with news that “Jonathan Majors Dropped by Marvel Studios After Guilty Verdict”.

Marvel Studios has parted ways with Jonathan Majors — the actor cast to play Kang, the central antagonist in the Multiverse Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — after he was convicted on Dec. 18 of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault of Grace Jabbari, his ex-girlfriend. A source close to the studio confirmed the decision to Variety.

In the verdict, Majors was also found not guilty of one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree….

(14) FAST EXPOSURE. “MIT camera can capture the speed of light” at Upworthy.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.

The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, “If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years.”…

(15) THE FINAL GIFT. What the kids want to find under the tree. Humor or horror? “Pongo” on Saturday Night Live.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/10/23 The Pixelman Always Scrolls Twice

(1) GASBAGS OF DEATH. Let Michael Moorcock tell you all about “The hubris of the great airship designers”, in his review of His Majesty’s Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World’s Largest Flying Machine by S.C. Gwynne. Behind a paywall at Spectator.

…The airship race of the 1920s and 1930s carried that familiar mixture of visionary idealism, populist politics and wishful thinking which so often ended in tragedy. The explosion of the swastika-emblazoned Hindenburg in 1937 is the best known, but the years before the second world war, as countries rushed to launch successful lighter-than-air ships, saw many other disasters. Very few crashed without loss of life. Most took a substantial number of crew and passengers with them as they split in two, turned end-up, went down in flames or disappeared into the wastes of the polar ice. The only large ships to survive were withdrawn from service after dramatic test failures or the loss of sister ships. As S.C. Gwynne points out in this excellent account of perhaps Britain’s greatest imperial folly, not a single ship could pass an airworthiness test, and even ‘safe’ ships such as the Graf Zeppelin or Vickers’s ‘private’ R100 barely escaped disaster on many occasions.

The R101 was the dream of the charming imperial romantic Christopher Birdwood Thomson, who imagined a benign commonwealth held together by the power of mighty airships capable of carrying statesmen, goods and soldiers to any part of its far-flung lands. His fellow visionaries included the alcoholic daredevil G.H. Scott, our most experienced airshipman; Britain’s best navigator E.L. Johnston; and Michael Rope, R101’s designer. All of them believed that they had learned from the Zeppelins’ mistakes.

Their enthusiasm far outweighed their experience. They were fired up on Verne- and Wells-inspired serials in the likes of Modern Boy (whose long-running star was Biggles), where Britons consolidated their empire and saved the world by inventing great cigar-shaped flying machines. The Freudian appeal of those aerial monsters hasn’t gone unremarked, of course; but having experienced the euphoria of powered lighter-than-air flight, of seeing the detailed countryside passing slowly below, the only sound being the engines’ purr, I can vouch for the strong appeal of airship flight….

(2) CHICKEN OUTFIT. CBS’ Sunday Morning show today did a segment about “Aardman Animations: Creating the magic of stop-motion”.

The animation wizards behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep are back with a sequel to their 2000 hit feature, “Chicken Run.” Correspondent Seth Doane visits the Bristol, England studios of Aardman Animations, where artists have painstakingly filmed “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” a comic adventure in which daredevil chickens seek to rescue their precious hen from a dastardly factory farm. (Think “Chicken: Impossible.”)

(3) CHANGING THE IMBALANCE. “The Book World Still Isn’t Diverse. Dhonielle Clayton Is Trying to Change That” reports the New York Times. “Her solution? A packaging business that sells ideas for commercial genre fiction featuring characters from broadly diverse backgrounds.”

 One evening this fall, a crowd of writers and publishing professionals mingled in a speakeasy-style lounge in Midtown Manhattan. The party, hosted by a new company called Electric Postcard Entertainment, was the kind of lavish affair that’s become rare for the book business in an era of corporate consolidation and cuts.

Guests traded industry gossip and sipped potent signature cocktails with names like “timeless love” and “immortality serum” — phrases that alluded to the company’s coming romance and fantasy projects. The crowd included executives from Sony, film agents and producers, book scouts, novelists and editors and publicists from publishing houses like Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and William Morrow.

The company’s sales pitch was delivered stealthily via gift bags stuffed with candles, a branded sweatshirt and tea. Along with the party swag was a small sealed envelope holding a plastic card with a QR code that led to a website, where excerpts from 10 of the company’s new book projects were posted. There was a lesbian time-travel romance, a novel about an immortal Black travel writer who wanders the globe for centuries and a fantasy about the epic rivalry between two prominent Black families who wield magic.

The stories hadn’t yet been fully written — these were teasers for potential books, and Electric Postcard, which generated those book ideas, was looking for buyers. A note on the site urged interested parties to contact New Leaf Literary & Media, an agency that represents Electric Postcard’s projects.

The mastermind behind those fictional plots and dozens more is Dhonielle Clayton — a former librarian whose hyperactive imagination has spawned a prolific factory for intellectual property. Though her name doesn’t always appear on the covers of the books she conceives, she has quietly become an influential power broker in the book world….

(4) FINALE. Rachel Stirling describes the last days of her mother, Diana Rigg, in “‘It’s gone on too long. Push me over the edge’: Diana Rigg’s dying wishes in the grip of cancer” in the Guardian. Note: explicit descriptions of patient care.

…It has taken three years for me to feel able to listen to the tapes we made. I have come to Brighton to transcribe them and to write this piece about the circumstances surrounding the recordings. I have splashed out on a room with a balcony overlooking the sea. The staff kindly moved a battered old card table into the space in front of the window so I can write down her words in long hand, which feels more suitable than typing. I light a candle, put the small tube of her ashes I have brought with me on to the table, pour a glass of her preferred prosecco, toast the raucous hen party making a right cacophony in the road below, and press play.

My mother’s dulcet tones come through loud and clear. She is two months away from death but still strong, with lungs that filled theatres before actors were ubiquitously mic’d. She is still raging, still as gloriously articulate as she always was.

“I’ve always spoken out,” she says. “I spoke out when I was very young doing The Avengers and learned I was earning less than the cameraman. I received universal opprobrium. I was called ‘money grabbing’. I spoke for peace in Vietnam, in Northern Ireland. I marched for peace in Iraq. I stood up for what is right. I speak my mind. If I see something is unfair, I’ll do my best to address it. I think this is unfair.

“I have cancer and it is everywhere, and I have been given six months to live,” she says. “Yet again we found ourselves in the bathroom this morning, my beloved daughter and I, half-laughing and half-crying, showering off together, and it was loving, and it was kind, but it shouldn’t happen.

“And if I could have beamed myself off this mortal coil at that moment, you bet I would’ve done it there and then.”

She adds that nobody talks about “how awful, how truly awful the details of this condition are, and the ignominy that is attached to it. Well, it’s high time they did. And it’s high time there was some movement in the law to give choice to people in my position. This means giving human beings true agency over their own bodies at the end of life. This means giving human beings political autonomy over their own death.”

(5) DAVID DRAKE (1945-2023). Hammers Slammers author David Drake died December 10 at the age of 78 reports the Wikipedia (and his website). He was the creator of the Lord of the Isles, RCN, and several other series of his own. He also collaborated on series with Eric Flint and S.M. Stirling, where he wrote the plot outlines and the co-author wrote the rest of the books.

Drake’s first published short story “Denkirch”, a Lovecraft pastiche, appeared in August Derleth’s 1967 collection Travellers By Night (1967). His Seventies Hammers Slammers short fiction was published in a collection under that title in 1979. That was also the year that his novel The Dragon Lord came out, the first of his works that I read, a memorable interpretation of King Arthur as rather like Mussolini.

Drake was a Vietnam War veteran who practiced as a lawyer before becoming a full-time writer.

He founded a small press, Carcosa, with Karl Edward Wagner (editor) and James Groce. Their efforts were recognized with a shared World Fantasy Award in 1976. He received the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement, given by Southern fandom, in 1984.

In November 2021 he announced he was retiring from writing novels, due to unspecified cognitive health problems.

David Drake

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 63. I first saw him in Much Ado About About Nothing, the Shakespearean comedy which he adapted and he is in it with his then-wife Emma Thompson. Truly lovely film.

So let’s look at his genre work as a performer. Dead Again might or might not be his first genre film where he was Mike Church / Roman Strauss, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where he was Victor Frankenstein is genre and he directed it well. I’ve heard varying opinions on it. What did y’all think of it? 

Then there’s Wild Wild West where he was Arliss Loveless, some bastardized variant on Michael Dunn’s perfectly acted Dr. Miguelito Quixote Loveless. He didn’t work for me. Not at all.

Alien Love Triangle is a thirty-minute film starring Kenneth Branagh, Alice Connor, Courteney Cox and Heather Graham. Teleportation. Aliens. Genders, alien. 

He got to play in Rowling’s universe in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Gilderoy Lockhart. Great role it was.

Oh, and in an alternate reality sort of way, he plays  William Shakespeare in All is True, another name for Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII.  It’s a very lovely role and a sweet film as well. Recommended. 

For hard SF, I’ve got him directing Thor. (Well sort of hard SF.) For fantasy, he directed Cinderella and Artemis Fowl

Finally he’s Hercules Poirot in the three Agatha Christie films produced so far — Murder on the Orient ExpressDeath on the Nile and A Haunting in Venice. He was also director and producer for these. He’s certainly a different manner of that detective. Really different.

Kenneth Branagh in 2011

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Crabgrass today is a thoughtful strip about cosmology.

(8) TAKING A BREAK FROM THE SANDBOX. Gizmodo says there probably could be a future sequel based on Dune Messiah, just don’t expect it soon: “Dune 3 Release Would Be After Another Denis Villeneuve Film”.

It’s been Denis Villeneuve’s plan since day one: adapt Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel, Dunein two parts, and then bring the story of Paul Atreides to a close with an adaptation of the follow-up, Dune MessiahHe’s been saying that since before the release of Dune: Part One but, at that time, it was more a dream than reality. With each passing day though, that dream moves closer to reality, even if it’s going to take longer than fans might expect.

“[Dune Messiah is] being written right now,” the director said at a South Korean press conference, picked up by Variety. “The screenplay is almost finished but it is not finished. It will take a little time… There’s a dream of making a third movie… it would make absolute sense to me.”

Yes yes. The dream. We covered all that. But when, Denis? WHEN? “I don’t know exactly when I will go back to Arrakis,” Villeneuve added. “I might make a detour before just to go away from the sun. For my mental sanity I might do something in between, but my dream would be to go a last time on this planet that I love.”

So it seems the plan, hypothetically, is for Dune: Part Two to finally come out on March 15, 2024, Villeneuve to make another film, and then if the demand warrants it, go back to Arrakis, as he phrased it, one last time.

(9) TOYMAKER. The showrunner told Entertainment Weekly that “’Doctor Who’ star Neil Patrick Harris had ‘never heard’ of show”.

Call it How Neil Patrick Harris Met Your Favorite British Time Travel Show.

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies tells EW that the American actor was completely unfamiliar with the beloved science fiction series when the executive producer approached Harris about playing a villain called The Toymaker on this Saturday’s final 60th anniversary special episode, “The Giggle.”

“He’d never heard of it in his life, bless him,” Davies says with a laugh. “I was lucky enough to work with the great man on a show called It’s a Sin, about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, and working with him was such a joy. The Toymaker, he’s kind of the god of games, so he shuffles cards, he does magic tricks, and all of that fits Neil Patrick Harris. If you go through agents, they often tell you to go away. I was able to send just a text saying, ‘Do you fancy reading this?’ He read it and literally phoned me up going, ‘Let me get this right, so the Doctor’s an alien, right?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, you really have never heard of Doctor Who!’ But he couldn’t resist it, and he came to Cardiff, and we had the most spectacular time.”…

(10) BEWARE SPOILER. Probably stop reading now if you want to keep your Doctor Who experience pristine until you’ve watched the latest installment. Otherwise, the Nerdist explains “DOCTOR WHO Uses the Toymaker to Teach Real Life TV History Lesson”.

…While the Toymaker is fictional, the episode’s story about a dummy named Stooky Bill, the first TV image, and John Logie Baird are real….

(11) PLENTY OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. “Cherokee language on the packaging of the Wilma Mankiller doll said ‘Chicken Nation’ instead of ‘Cherokee Nation.’ Critics said Mattel made other errors.” “Mattel Has a New Cherokee Barbie. Not Everyone Is Happy About It.” – the New York Times has the story.

A Barbie doll in the likeness of Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, has been hailed by tribal citizens. It’s also been lamented for its inaccuracies.

An event held Tuesday in Tahlequah, Okla., marked the anniversary of Ms. Mankiller becoming chief in 1985 and celebrated her Barbie doll. Mattel, the company that produces Barbie dolls, announced the new toy last month as part of the “Inspiring Women” series that includes the conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, the journalist Ida B. Wells and the writer Maya Angelou.

The doll’s release has been met with some criticism. The doll itself portrays Ms. Mankiller, who died in 2010, with dark hair, wearing a turquoise dress and carrying a basket, a depiction that Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said was “thoughtful” and “well done.” However, he noted that some in the community said the doll’s basket wasn’t authentically Cherokee.

To someone who doesn’t read Cherokee syllabary, they’re not going to notice it,” Mr. Hoskin said. “To the Cherokee people for whom Wilma is of such enduring significance and we have such enduring love for her, to see our seal incorrect, it’s very disappointing because it would not have taken much effort or thought to avoid that.”

The packaging also identified the tribe as “Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma,” instead of the tribe’s official name, Cherokee Nation, which is used in all of the tribe’s treaties with the federal government.

I don’t like to blame anybody, but I really wish that they could have gotten the packaging correct,” said Pamela Iron, the executive director of the nonprofit American Indian Resource Center and a close of friend of Ms. Mankiller….

(12) ADVANTAGES OF DIVERSITY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science journal there is an article arguing that increasing diversity on spacecraft mission teams reduces risk.

Lack of diversity on spacecraft teams creates risks for a mission. Many studies show that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams because they focus on and process facts better and are more innovative—essential skills for a spacecraft mission team. Additional studies show that improving diversity is most critical in four types of activities: launching a new product, troubleshooting an existing product or process, planning for the future, and responding to crises. Spacecraft missions involve all four activities, so teams that lack diversity have an increased risk of failures at all stages of the development process. This issue needs to be addressed.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Variety covers last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live in “Adam Driver ‘SNL’ Monologue: ‘Wokeness Killed Han Solo’”.

Adam Driver is done with your “Star Wars” complaints.

As the host of the Dec. 9 episode of “Saturday Night Live,” he performed his monologue while playing the piano and reciting a letter of Christmas wishes to Santa.

“I would like people to stop coming up to me on the street saying, ‘You killed Han Solo!’,” he said. “I didn’t kill him. Wokeness killed Han Solo.”…

… He began the Christmas list saying, “Hey, Santa. It’s me, Adam Driver, from the nice list. And also ‘Girls.’ I turned 40 this year, Santa, so I would like five pairs of chinos. I also want one of those giant metal Tesla trucks. I think it would pair perfectly with my teeny tiny micropenis.”…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/19/23 When Your Phone’s On Fire, Pixels Get In Your Eyes

(1) JOANNE HARRIS Q&A. The Guardian hears from the author of Chocolat: “Joanne Harris: ‘When I first read Ulysses I hated it with a passion’”.

The book that made me want to be a writer
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a writer. But I lived in a place where dreaming was generally discouraged. Being a writer was a fantasy, on a par with being a pirate, or a pony, or a space adventurer. The moment at which I realised that people could actually be writers was when I read the introduction to Ray Bradbury’s S Is for Space, and found him articulating things I’d assumed I was alone in feeling. The idea that the writers you love could become your chosen family was so potent that I carried it throughout my childhood and adolescence. I still do.

(2) ARE YOU LOOKING AT YOUR CARDS? In his opinion piece writer David Mack tells New York Times readers “You Don’t Want to Know How Much You Are Spending on Subscriptions”.

In recent years, much of my life as a consumer has shifted to what I like to call background spending. As I’ve subscribed to more apps and streaming platforms, significant sums of my money tend to drift away each month without my ever thinking about it. It’s as if it were a tax being taken out of my paycheck, but one that is spent on something silly or indulgent like a subscription box of international snacks, instead of — I don’t know — basic public infrastructure.

Think of it as automated capitalism. Spending without the hassle of spending. Acquisition without action. Or thought.

But while this swell of subscriptions was sold to me on the premise it would make my life more hassle-free, there was a certain sticker shock I felt upon actually discovering how much I’m spending without realizing each month ($179.45) — after I’ve already spent it, of course.

I can’t help feeling I’m being conned just a little. I admit I had forgotten I was paying monthly for the privilege of Apple TV+ after being hooked by the first season of “Ted Lasso,” before quickly falling off the bandwagon. When I reopened the app for the first time in eons, I was confronted with dozens of shows I’ve never heard of but to whose production budgets I’ve been contributing generously.

You see, the thing about background spending is it tends to happen, well, in the background without your full attention. And therein lies the point.

“Hand over your credit card details and let us take care of the rest,” these companies assure us. But by agreeing to this trade, we’ve become passive consumers who are allowing the balance of capitalism to tilt away from us. We have ceded one of our key powers as individuals: our agency.

And this laziness breeds more laziness because most of us can’t be bothered conducting regular reviews of our subscription spending. Indeed, economists estimate that buyers forgetting to cancel subscriptions can increase a business’s revenues by as much as 200 percent. It’s no wonder these companies feel that they can jack up the prices. We’re too lazy or busy to even notice or cancel!

I know it’s not just me who is suddenly living life as a smooth-brained subscriber. The average consumer spends $273 per month on subscriptions, according to a 2021 poll of 2,500 by digital services firm West Monroe, which found this spending was up 15 percent from 2018. Not a single person polled knew what his actual monthly spending was….

(3) TAKE TWO. “How William Hartnell’s Second Season Changed Doctor Who for the Better” explains CBR.com.

…After Season 1 of Doctor Who saw the TARDIS crew encounter cavemen, the Aztecs and Revolutionary France, the second season saw the series push the boundaries of the TARDIS’ trips to the past. The two final serials of Doctor Who Season 2 featured the first instances of extraterrestrial enemies from the future appearing in historical settings. In the first of these serials, “The Chase,” the trip to the past was only a fleeting moment in a wider story. However, “The Time Meddler” saw the Doctor contending with another time traveler for an entire story set in the past.

“The Chase” marked the final appearance of Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright as the Doctor’s companions. Following Susan Foreman’s earlier departure, this meant “The Chase” was the final regular appearance of any of the Doctor’s original companions. The story also saw the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who for their third outing and their first journey through time. “The Chase” saw the Daleks using their own time machine to pursue the TARDIS. The third episode of the serial, “Flight Through Eternity,” saw the Daleks arrive on an old ship, terrifying the sailors they encountered into jumping overboard. It was then revealed that the ship was the legendary Mary Celeste, with the Daleks’ arrival effectively explaining the mysterious disappearance of the crew.

(4) CALLBACKS. Radio Times revisits its roundups of the actors who played the time lord: “Doctor Who at 60: All the times the Doctors assembled for Radio Times”.

The Five Doctors in 1983 was a joyful celebration of two decades of Doctor Who – but also an odd one. William Hartnell had died in 1975, so the “original” Doctor was recast as Richard Hurndall, who bore only a passing resemblance to Hartnell. Although other past Doctors Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee readily signed up to star alongside current star Peter Davison, the fourth incarnation Tom Baker declined to appear. Instead, he allowed clips from his unfinished 1979/80 story Shada to be used, while for a publicity shoot his Madame Tussauds waxwork was pressed into service….

(5) AS TIME GOES BY. Kabir Chibber asks “Did ‘Demolition Man’ Predict the Millennial?” in the New York Times.

Now that we live in the future, we no longer seem to make as many films about the future — at least not the way we once did, when we tried our hardest to imagine a future as different from the present as we were from ancient history. Today, with all of human knowledge in our pockets, we prefer to think in terms of alternate timelines, paths not taken, the multiverse of infinite possibilities. We’re looking sideways, not forward. But for most of the existence of cinema, a glorious near-centennial from “Metropolis” (1927) to, let’s say, “WALL-E” (2008), people used celluloid to dream of what lay ahead….

…the one that I think got it most right is a 1993 action-comedy whose hallmark is a tremendous recurring poop joke.

In “Demolition Man,” a cop named John Spartan (played by Sylvester Stallone) is frozen in 1996, for spurious reasons, and thawed out in the year 2032, when Southern California has been merged into an enormous metroplex called San Angeles. He’s tasked with hunting down a homicidal maniac, played by a blond, mugging Wesley Snipes. The joke is that in this future, everyone is kind and gentle to one another. Lenina Huxley, Spartan’s ’90s-loving partner, explains that alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language and gasoline, among other things, are banned. “It has been deemed that anything not good for you is bad,” goes the tao of “Demolition Man.” “Hence, illegal.”

The movie’s pleasure doesn’t lie in its plentiful violence (well, some of it does). It’s in the humor that arises from these future San Angeleans’ disgust over Spartan’s primitive ways, like his desire to use guns and to smoke and to have sex “the old-fashioned way,” rather than through a virtual-reality headset. They mock him over the fact that he asks for toilet paper. (Everyone now uses something called the Three Seashells, which is never explained.) Spartan is baffled by new technology like the omnipresent Alexa-like morality boxes that issue instant fines for offensive language, and kiosks that offer words of affirmation on the streets (“You are an incredibly sensitive man who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you”). Stallone’s cop has been subliminally rehabilitated while frozen and wakes up knowing how to knit. “I’m a seamstress?” he laments.

What separates “Demolition Man” from other sci-fi films of much higher aspiration is that it imagined a future generation who might view our civilization, at the peak of its powers, as utterly barbaric. We’re not quite there, but it feels as if the world that the younger generations loathe is the one I was raised in. And in the process, this has turned the film, at least for me, into an explosive, sometimes vituperative allegory for aging. As Spartan finds out, it hurts to wake up one day and find that the world has moved on without you.

Some days I feel like I’ve woken up from cryosleep, and am looking around to discover that I’m the only one who misses our previous era of casual cynicism and dubious morality and brilliant jerks. Back in the ’90s, I sat in the cinema and watched this film like thousands of other people, never imagining that I might one day feel like Spartan. I am living in the future, and I don’t belong. Everyone else has moved on. I’m still wiping myself with toilet paper instead of the Three Seashells….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to polish off a Peruvian lunch with Alex Shvartsman in Episode 212 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Alex Shvartsman

My guest this time around is Capclave regular Alex Shvartsman, with whom I’ve pontificated on many panels over the years.

Shvartsman is the author of the new fantasy novel Kakistocracy, as well as The Middling Affliction (2022), and Eridani’s Crown (2019). More than 120 of his short stories have appeared in AnalogNatureStrange HorizonsFiresideWeird TalesGalaxy’s Edge, and many other venues. He won the WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction in 2014 and was a three-time finalist for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction. His translations from Russian have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionClarkesworldTor.comAsimov’sAnalogStrange Horizons, and elsewhere.

He’s also the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects series of humorous SF/F, as well as a variety of other anthologies, including The Cackle of CthulhuHumanity 2.0, and Funny Science Fiction. For five years he edited Future Science Fiction Digest, a magazine that focused on international fiction. And on top of all that, he’s one of the greatest Magic: The Gathering players ever, ranking way up there in tournaments from 1998-2004, something I hadn’t known about him even though I’ve known him for years.

We discussed how intimations of mortality got him to start writing fiction, what he learned as a pro player of Magic: the Gathering which affected his storytelling, why he set aside his initial urge to write novels in favor of short stories, which U.S. science fiction writers are more famous in Russia than their home country, the reason his success as a writer and editor of humor came as a surprise, why he feels it’s important to read cover letters, the secret to writing successful flash fiction, his “lighthouse” method of plotting, and much more.

(7) THE INVENTORY WILL BE FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. In “Brian Keene: ‘Let’s Open A Bookstore!’”, Keene tells readers of Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog why he and Mary SanGiovanni are doing so.

….But the idea of that second revenue stream still haunts me, and it haunts Mary, as well. In the years since that sobering conversation in the kitchen, when Doug Winter scared the hell out of us, she and I have gotten married. We make an okay living together — as good of a living as two midlist horror writers whose core audience is beginning to age out can make. But we are fifty-six and forty (clears throat) and most of our readers are that age, as well. Over the next two decades, that audience will continue to dwindle. We are painfully aware that those royalties will lessen over time, and that we could very well go the way of the giants.

So, we decided to do something about it. Mary wasn’t inclined to become a forest ranger or a tugboat captain, so we opted for a different second revenue stream instead — one that is connected to writing, but doesn’t involve writing. One that, when managed properly and professionally, can supplement those royalties and advances. One that will allow us to give back to our community and our peers, both locally and nationally, and keep those forgotten giants in the collective memory a while longer, as well as elevating today’s new voices, so that they will one day be giants, too.

We’re opening an independent bookstore….

(8) FUGUES FOR DROOGS. “Newly discovered string quartet by Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess to have premiere” reports The Guardian.

He is best-known as the author of A Clockwork Orange, his 1962 savage social satire, but Anthony Burgess saw himself primarily as a thwarted musician. Although self-taught, he was a prolific composer, and now a previously unknown piece for a string quartet is to receive its world premiere following its discovery.

The score was unearthed in the archive of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, an educational charity in Manchester, his home city, where it had been overlooked among uncatalogued papers donated by his widow, the late Liana Burgess.

Professor Andrew Biswell, Burgess’s biographer and director of the Foundation, told the Observer: “Nobody’s heard it before. We’ve got some very good musicians from the Hallé Orchestra who are going to perform it. Thirty years after his death, Burgess is finally coming into focus as a musician.” The world premiere takes place at the Burgess Foundation on 1 December….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 Mary Elizabeth Counselman.  Writer of genre short stories and poetry. “The Three Marked Pennies” which she wrote while she was in her teens published in Weird Tales in 1934 is considered one of the three most popular stories in all of that zine’s history. There’s but a smattering of her at the usual suspects but she did get published— Masters of Horrors, Vol. Three, Mary Elizabeth Counselman: Hostess of Horror and Fantasy collects seventeen of her short stories and it’s readily available, and The Face of Fear and Other Poems collected much of her poetry.  It was published by Eidolon Press in an edition of 325 copies, so good luck on finding a copy. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 19, 1943 Allan Cole.  Author and television writer, who wrote or co-wrote nearly thirty books. As a script writer, he wrote for a lot of non-genre series and a few genre series, The Incredible Hulk and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which are of course familiar, and two, Dinosaucers, an animated series, and Werewolf, a horror series, that I’d never heard of at all. Genre wise, he and Chris Bunch wrote the Anteros / Far Kingdoms series, and they also wrote the Sten Adventures which was a critique, according to Bunch, of SF writers who were fascinated with monarchies and their fascist rulers. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 68. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. However because of that, he was invited to write a story in Detective Comics for Batman’s 50th anniversary and thus, he wrote “Batman: Blind Justice”. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S. series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1958 Charles Stuart Kaufman, 65. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction. 
  • Born November 19, 1975 Alex Shvartsman, 48. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

(10) FOR THE MORE LITERAL-MINDED. The anniversary of Doctor Who inspired BBC Future to ask “Is time travel really possible? Here’s what physics says”.

Doctor Who is arguably one of the most famous stories about time travel. Alongside The Time Machine and Back to the Future, it has explored the temptations and paradoxes of visiting the past and voyaging into the future.

In the TV show, the Doctor travels through time in the Tardis: an advanced craft that can go anywhere in time and space. Famously, the Tardis defies our understanding of physical space: it’s bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside.

While time travel is fundamental to Doctor Who, the show never tries to ground the Tardis’ abilities in anything resembling real-world physics. It would be odd to complain about this: Doctor Who has a fairy-tale quality and doesn’t aspire to be realistic science fiction.

But what about in the real world? Could we ever build a time machine and travel into the distant past, or forward to see our great-great-great-grandchildren? Answering this question requires understanding how time actually works – something physicists are far from certain about….

(11) A SHOE-IN. “Reebok Releases Line of Harry Potter Shoes for Fans of the Wizarding World”CBR.com has details. (And honestly, the idea of these designs is more interesting than the execution.)

… The Harry Potter sneaker collection includes four colorway variants of the Reebok Club C 85 ($110), which comes with interchangeable laces and embroidered crest patches of the four Hogwarts houses. The message “It’s not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid” is also inscribed inside the tongue of the shoe as an homage to the character and a tribute to its actor Robbie Coltrane, who passed away in 2022. This variant is expected to be well-received among die-hard Harry Potter fans, who now have official footwear to represent the Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Gryffindor house….

… The Reebok Instapump Fury 95 ($250) is inspired by “He Who Must Not Be Named,” with its prominent black suede accented by the Death Eaters’ Dark Mark. The sleek design also has snake and scale details homaging the Slytherin house. For more casual Harry Potter fans, the Reebok Classic Leather ($100) offers a staple sneaker with details referencing the Deathly Hallows — an “Invisibility Cloak” textile lining the shoe’s tongue, a Resurrection Stone metal lace lock, and lace tips designed after the Elder Wand. Finally, the Classic Leather Hexalite ($120) evokes the Patronus spell with its silvery blue gradient fade, glow-in-the-dark and reflective details, and Patronus animals featured on the tongue label….

The Reebok Instapump Fury 95

(12) PREMEMBER THOR FIVE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Yet more news/speculations about Marvel Thor movie #5.

Obviously, this is all speculation, guesswork, and subject to change. I’ve submitted this item mostly for the item title.

(13) UNTANGLED. Sony/Marvel’s Madame Web opens in theaters on February 24.

“Meanwhile, in another universe…” In a switch from the typical genre, Madame Web tells the standalone origin story of one of Marvel publishing’s most enigmatic heroines. The suspense-driven thriller stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic in Manhattan who may have clairvoyant abilities. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she forges a relationship with three young women destined for powerful futures…if they can all survive a deadly present.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Saturday Night Live’s “Old-Timey Movies” sketch shows found footage of L. Frank Baum writing while being constantly photobombed (or whatever the right word would be).

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

Pixel Scroll 10/17/23 The Pixel Of Durian Grey

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

  • Online platform launched

The con website has a page about the online/streaming functionality, with a link to the online site, and a list of which panels and events will be streamed.  There are several broken images at the bottom of that page though, which I think are the instructions on how to use the online site, which were fortunately also posted to Facebook.

Only 18 programme items will be streamed — not including the online only events that were listed in the previously-published schedule – and several of them run in parallel to each other.  Around half look to be very businessy and corporate, and none other than the Hugo Ceremony strike me as fannish in nature.

Wednesday 2023-10-18

  • 09:30-12:00 The 81st Worldcon Sci-fi Design Summit
  • 13:00-15:30 “Future is Here”: Multi-dimensional Exploration of a New Pattern of User Experience in the Sci-fi Industry
  • 13:00-15:30 Forum on the Development of Intellectual Property Rights and SF Industry
  • 20:00-21:20 Opening Ceremony

Thursday 2023-10-19

  • 09:30-10:30 Sci-fi Narratives of Advanced Spaceflight
  • 14:30-17:00 “Grasping the Future”: Annual Selection of the Outstanding Performers in Sci-fi Fields

Friday 2023-10-20

  • 09:30-12:00 First Industry Development Promotion Conference
  • 13:00-15:30 Sci-Fi x Space – Connecting the Past and Future of Humanity and the Universe
  • 16:00-18:30 AIGC: A Creative New World

Saturday 2023-10-21 

  • 09:30-12:00 Science Fiction VS Science Facts
  • 09:30-12:00 Science Fiction Film & TV VFX Summit
  • 09:30-12:00 Songs of Space Engineers: A Discussion of Engineering Science Fiction
  • 13:00-14:00 How to Interpret the “Symbiosis Era”: A Conversation with Robert Sawyer
  • 14:00-17:00 Three-Body Global Fan Event
  • 19:00-21:00 Hugo Award Ceremony

Sunday 2023-10-22

  • 09:30-10:30 Launch Event of the Top Ten Future Tech in Science Fiction
  • 09:30-12:00 Believe in the Future: A Conversation Between Rising Sci-fi Stars of Chengdu and Sci-fi Giants
  • 18:00-19:00 Closing Ceremony

The online functionality is accessed via a videogamey 3D environment with avatars, which seems designed for use on a phone or tablet rather than a PC, and seems to have insufficient functionality to justify its existence.

  • Press conferences and interviews in Chengdu media

On Monday 16th there was a “Press Briefing for Preparations of 2023 Chengdu Worldcon”, with coverage from Red Star News/chengdu.cn here.

There was also a press conference about a series of open-air screenings of SF movies in Chengdu, although this doesn’t seem to be officially connected to the Worldcon.

Astounding Award finalist Maijia Liu was also interviewed by Chengdu Daily Jinguan News, as was Best Short Story finalist, Lu Ban.

There is a page on the chengdu.cn website dedicated to Worldcon articles; I assume more will be added as the con progresses.

  • A couple of Bilibili videos

A local SF writer tours the museum, and interviews a director of Zaha Hadid architects and someone from the construction company.

Here’s a short (sub one-minute) video of the Worldcon-branded light rail train in action.  Given that it follows tracks that cross a street, I’m wondering if it would be more accurately classed as a tram?  I’m sure there will be Filers who are also transport buffs, and can clarify the difference.

A short video of the Hugo Hall, and a drone show outside.

  • Some photo galleries

Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine finalist RiverFlow posted on Weibo photos of the con’s welcoming/information team at the airport, and later on photos at the hotel, with a number of Chinese and Western writers and fans in attendance.

On Xiaohongshu, this gallery shows a couple of exhibits and signage that I haven’t seen before, and there are a couple more showing the drone show (1)(2).

  • Worldcon-branded “cyberpunk” restrooms

Xiaohongshu video.  A transliteration of cyberpunk – 赛博朋克 / “Sàibópéngkè” – is indeed how they are described in the text of the Xiaohongshu post.

  • A dozen new items of merchandise available

Three posts on Xiaohongshu – (1)(2)(3) – show images of twelve new pieces of merchandise.  These focus on the Kormo mascot, but a few do have Chengdu Worldcon branding.  The images here are the items which either have the Chengdu Worldcon logo and/or strike me as the ones that File 770 readers are most likely to be interested in.  They are:

  • Pillow book (Imust confess I’m not sure exactly what this is)
  • Square notebook
  • Phone case
  • Laptop bag
  • Aluminium file
  • Clipboard

Unfortunately the posted images aren’t enough to see any details – such as which models of phone the cases are designed for – and there are no links to any online stores.

  • Silvana’s Twitter thread

Indonesian fan Silvana has arrived on site and has started a Twitter thread, in English and with plenty of photos.  So far everything has gone smoothly for her, and she received a warm welcome from the locals.

  • Three-Body Global Fan Event

The Three-Body Universe licensing company posted on Weibo a series of 3BP-related events to be held at the Worldcon.  Robert J. Sawyer is a panelist on one of these events, but it’s unclear to me what his connection is to 3BP.

Also, just following up on a comment in a recent Scroll about the precise name of the con venue, the image in the post gives the Chinese name as “成都科幻馆” (Chengdu Kehuan Guan / Chengdu Science Fiction Museum), but the English name as “Chengdu Science (Science Fiction) Museum”.

  • A better look at the articles in the Hello Chengdu magazine feature

This was briefly covered in an earlier Scroll, but I belatedly noticed that this Facebook post from the con’s account has images that show the articles are bilingual, and in high enough resolution for them to be readable if you have a big monitor.

  • New promo video

The Chengdu Plus YouTube and Bilibili accounts posted a new promo video.  It shows lots of drone shots inside and outside the museum.  A word-of-warning: the English language voiceover is a Caillou-ish adult-pretending-to-be-a-child thing, which I personally find akin to nails-on-a-chalkboard.

  • Local food options

There have been a few Xiaonhongshu posts about street food catering in the area around the museum; I’m not sure how far away they are though, as the museum isn’t visible in any of the photos.  Posts onetwothree.  Note: I’m not sure if these are actually from two different locations, maybe someone who is already on site can clarify?

  • Staff badge

Following on from yesterday’s member badges, here’s a look at a staff badge, with the completed Wandering Earth “Benben” vehicle in the background.

  • Members of the con team meet up at the SF World offices

Yao Haijun, deputy editor-in-chief of SF World and a Best Editor Long Form finalist, posted a few photos of when Ben Yalow, Helen Montgomery and Carolina Gomez-Lagerlof visited the SF World office a few days ago.  He also includes a few historical photos.

  • Another video of Ben Yalow and Carolina Gomez Lagerlof visiting the Hua-ai school

This Xiaohongshu post shows the visit to the school just over the road from the science museum, covering more of the activities that the students showed to the two visiting members of the con team than the earlier video.

(2) ANOTHER LEARNEDLEAGUE SFF ONE-DAY. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The site just had a quiz about Star Trek: Lower Decks. I’ve never watched it, so didn’t try the questions, but anyone who wants to see them can find them here.

(3) MARINDA DARNELL DIES. Chicon 8 told their Facebook page readers yesterday that fan Marinda Darnell has died.

Marinda was always there for Chicago Fandom, particularly Capricon (which she chaired in 2016) and then Chicon 8. She was so generous with her time and such an important part of our team at C8. She started with a small job, was amazing, and then just kept taking on more things. At the convention she stepped up when one of our area heads was ill and handled IT. She got a Hero of the Convention medal, and was one of the people I gave a shout out to at closing ceremonies. She was a force.

She was fierce and passionate and loved Chicago Fandom. I/We have no words to express how much she will be missed. Our condolences to all who loved her.

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 17, 1914 Jerry Siegel. His most famous creation was Superman, which he created in collaboration with his friend Joe Shuster. He was inducted (along with the previously deceased Shuster) into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 89. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.
  • Born October 17, 1946 Bruce McAllister, 77. He’s a superb short story writer as you can see in The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories that Golden Gryphon published originally and which Cemetery Dance has now in an ePub edition along with his three novels.  His Dream Baby novel is an interesting if brutal take on the Vietnam War with a definite SF take to it. His Dream Baby novelette was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II, and his “Kin” short story was nominated at Nippon 2007.
  • Born October 17, 1950 Michael Tolkin, 73. Of genre interest, he directed Deep Impact, and he had uncredited writing in the first Punisher film and the same for Dawn of the Dead. Likewise The Haunting. Is that a form of ghostwriting? EoSF notes, “He also wrote and directed the adaptation of Robert A Heinlein’s ‘Jerry Was a Man’ (October 1947 Thrilling Wonder) for the Television Anthology Series Masters of Science Fiction (2007).”
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 65. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. Appropriately for the approaching holiday is that one of her anthologies is Horror at Halloween.
  • Born October 17, 1966 Mark Gatiss, 57. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll note he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock.
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 52. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. He won The Otherwise Award for The Knife of Never Letting Go, and his Monster Calls novel won both a Carnegie and a Kitschie as well being nominated for a Stoker and a Clarke.

(5) COMICS SECTION.

(6) TRON. “‘The helmet made my hair fall out’: Jeff Bridges on making cult sci-fi film Tron” in the Guardian.

Jeff Bridges, played Kevin Flynn/Clu

In the late 1950s my father, Lloyd Bridges, starred in a TV series called Sea Hunt, about a diver. He played the part so well that people thought he was a real diver. So in the early days of my career, I was always looking for scripts that were unusual. Scripts like Tron feel risky but it’s actually much harder to fail when you’re doing something so innovative. There’s nothing for the film to be compared to.

We shot in 70mm and in black and white. The sets were all made of black duvetyne, a matt, light-blocking fabric, with white adhesive tape to make the lines. Our costumes were black and white, too. Being on set was the oddest feeling – your eyes would adjust to the black and white, then you’d go outside and the colour of the every day would zoom into your eyes. It was amazing. After we shot, the footage went to Korea where women hand-painted every frame. It was very primitive and very advanced all at the same time.

I looked to the director, Steven Lisberger, for inspiration. Since he co-wrote the story, I figured my character, Flynn, was very Steven-like. I can’t remember why, but I decided to curl my hair for the part. For the scenes of me inside the computer, I had to wear these white hockey helmets. My hair had been bleached to get the curl in, and I remember it falling out because of the helmet. The peroxide would get hot and the roots would break.

Steven lined the walls of the soundstages with video games you could play for free – and, man, we studied them big time! I got into one called Battlezone that was very Tron-like. I got some high scores and had this big battle with the makeup man, which he ended up winning. They’d call me for a shot and I’d say: “No way, man! The actor is preparing!” And I’d just be on Battlezone. They’d have to yank me off – but Steven understood….

(7) LAVA LAVA, LAVA LAVA, LAVA LAVA, DUCK [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s turning 60, but is the lava lamp from manufacturer Mathmos genre? OK, sure. Or at least it could be. First, there’s the generally rocket shape of many of the lamps. Then, there’s the Doctor Who and The Prisoner connections. Plus you have the Mathmos in Barbarella. Heck, the company is even bringing out a new version developed with pop group Duran Duran—another Barbarella connection.

Well, genre or not, we can still congratulate Mathmos—a small British company still cranking out products after 60 years. “‘Ingrained in the fabric of British society’: the iconic lava lamp turns 60” in the Guardian.

…When Ringo Starr popped into a shop in Birkenhead in 1963, little did he know that his visit would help change the future of what was to become a celebrated British brand.

The Beatles’ drummer had stopped off to buy a lava lamp, the brightly coloured interior piece that has hypnotised millions over the years with its slow-moving exchange of liquid and warmed wax inside a glass cylinder. After the Birkenhead shop announced its celebrity visit, sales of the lamp rocketed.

Then came lava lamp appearances on episodes of Doctor Who in the Patrick Troughton era and in the 1965 film Dr Who and the Daleks starring Peter Cushing. It also featured in the 1960s/70s TV hit The Prisoner, and soon its role as a cultural mainstay was established.

Now the brand is turning 60, and, against all the challenges of a changing audience, economic downturns, the rise of online shopping and Brexit, sales are still going strong….

(8) SNL MAKES THE ATTEMPT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The writers strike is over. Saturday Night Live is back on TV. And here’s a skit from the first episode of the season, broadcast October 14. (It’s rather meh. Maybe the writers need more practice.)

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] “Star Trek: The Silent Skies” is a collection of visuals that purport to be a 1920s film era reimagination of Star Trek. Just images and a few scenes. No dialogue. 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/2/23 There Was A Pixeled Fan, And They Scrolled A Pixeled File

(1) LISTEN UP, BUCKAROOS. Dan Berger has served for the last nineteen years as the editor-in-chief of World Watch One, the Buckaroo Banzai fan newsletter/zine. Dan sent the link to their latest issue with a note, “I’m not sure you absolutely need to be a Buckaroo fan to find something fun in this issue, but it doesn’t hurt either.” The theme of World Watch One August 2023 is “Afrocentric”.

Their group’s base on the internet is here: World Watch OnLine: The Buckaroo Banzai Mailing List

(2) UKRAINE BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY. [Item by Marc Criley.] Over 30 writers contributed stories to To Ukraine, With Love, a “benefit anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Myths, Legends, Fairy Tales, and Eldritch Stories, Poems, and Art.” Just released and available via all the usual bookseller outlets.

100% of profits from all forms — print, epub, and audiobook — will be donated to charities for Ukraine.

The anthology was spearheaded and edited by Fran Eisemann, the editor of Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores magazine.

Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores presents To Ukraine, With Love benefit anthology, with 100% of the profits to be donated to causes for Ukraine, including World Central Kitchen and similar charities which will earmark 100% of a contribution to a specified cause.

All the science fiction, fantasy, myths, legends, fairy tales, and eldritch stories and poems, and the artwork, have been donated. Contributors include Geoffrey Landis, David Brin, Terri Windling, Andrew Burt, George Guthridge, and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Artists include Scott Gustafson, Stephanie Law, and Howard David Johnson.

(3) TOLKIEN SCHOLARSHIP. Robin Reid gives more “Recommended Readings on Tolkien” to readers of Writing From Ithilien.

Not only is there more and more work being done on what I call the “Tolkien phenomenon” (meaning, not only his legendarium, including the posthumous publications Christopher Tolkien gave us, but also the multiple adaptations and the fandoms all around the world), but more and more the people doing the scholarship are making their work more freely available online. And while I will always cheerlead for open-access scholarly journals like Mythlore and The Journal of Tolkien Research, I also want to recommend scholars who make work available on their blogs/newsletters/etc.!

The three recommendations below also show the wide range of topics in Tolkien studies!…

Get those recommendations at the link.

(4) THIS IS NUTS. Andrew Porter forwarded this comment left by MJM on the New York Times piece: “We Used A.I. to Write Essays for Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Here’s How It Went”.

I asked ChatGPT to write a college admission essay in the voice of a squirrel. The total result is a bit too long to post, here are some excerpts: —

“As a squirrel, I have learned to adapt to different environments and challenges. I have lived in various habitats, from urban parks to rural forests, and have encountered many predators, such as hawks, cats, and humans. I have developed a keen sense of awareness, agility, and resilience that help me survive and thrive in any situation.”

“In addition, I have shown a remarkable leadership and community involvement. I have led many groups of squirrels in various activities, such as organizing food storage, defending our territory, and planning migrations. I have also collaborated with other animals, such as birds, rabbits, and dogs, to promote peace and harmony in our ecosystem. I have volunteered to help humans in need, such as feeding the homeless, cleaning the parks, and planting trees.

“I am confident that I can bring a unique and valuable perspective to your campus. I am eager to learn from your distinguished faculty and diverse student body. I am also excited to contribute to your academic excellence and social impact. I hope you will give me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a college-educated squirrel. Thank you for your consideration.

“Sincerely, Squirrel”

(5) EVEN IF IT’S YOUR JAM. Catherynne M. Valente learned something.

(6) FRANNE LEE (1941-2023). Costume and set designer Franne Lee, who created iconic outfits for several Saturday Night Live sketches, died August 27. The New York Times obituary recalled:

Franne Lee, a costume and set designer who while doing Tony Award-winning work on Broadway in the 1970s also made killer-bee suits and cone-shaped headwear for early “Saturday Night Live” sketches, helping to create some of that era’s most memorable comic moments, died on Sunday in Atlantis, Fla. She was 81.

The original “S.N.L.” cast quickly made its mark with outlandish sketches, and Ms. Lee was integral to the look of those now famous bits — dressing John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in black when they became the Blues Brothers, turning cut-up long johns into the yellow-striped Killer Bee costumes, and more.

It was costume designing on the cheap. Ms. Lee’s father, a tool-and-die maker, came up with the bouncy springs that were the Killer Bees’ antennae, which she finished off by sticking Ping-Pong balls on the ends. John Storyk, who first met Ms. Lee in 1968 when both worked at the short-lived Manhattan club Cerebrum, recalled in a phone interview dropping by the Lees’ apartment and seeing on her work table the beginnings of the cones that became the defining feature of the Coneheads, the extraterrestrials who were a recurring presence on the show in the late 1970s and later got their own feature film….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. One of his mod remembered roles was as Kublai Khan in Doctor Who‘s first season.  Later genre performances the first Pink Panther film, a bevy of ITC Entertainment such as Danger ManThe AvengersDepartment S and The Prisoner. He was in Children of the Damned and The Gamma People to name but two of his genre films. (Died 1978.)
  • Born September 2, 1925 Meinhardt Raabe. The actor best known as the Munchkin coroner in The Wizard of Oz. He certified the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. (Died 2000.)

As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
And she’s not only merely dead
She’s really, most sincerely dead!

  • Born September 2, 1944 Roland Green. His most prominent works are his military SF series —Starcruiser Shenandoah, the Peace Company, and Voyage to Eneh, but he also did a lot of Conan novels, and co-authored two Janissaries novels with Pournelle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 77. Comic artist and writer who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is if ever there was one. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well.  He did this cover for Michael Moorcock’s Count Brass. And he did the interior artwork as well. 
  • Born September 2, 1950 Mel Odom, 73. Not that Mel Odom. This is another Mel Odom. His illustrations have graced  many a cover of the works of Guy Gavriel Kay including A Song for Arbonne, the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana. I’ll single out the cover of the Penguin Books edition of Tigana as as Ireally l ike his work here.
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 72. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, though not of the last five years of the series. He’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan.
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 59. Obviously in The Matrix films which so far I’ve avoided watching. So should I go forth now and watch them? Now I have seen the first two Bill & Ted’s films and like then quite a bit, but not the third. Should I? Finally I’ll confess that I have seen Johnny Mnemonic. So i must ask what were they thinking? Really?

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) THOUGHT-TO-VOICE.  [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Who needs Alfred (working class) Bester? In Nature: “Brain-reading devices allow paralysed people to talk using their thoughts”. “Two studies report considerable improvements in technologies designed to help people with facial paralysis to communicate.”

Brain-reading implants enhanced using artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled two people with paralysis to communicate with unprecedented accuracy and speed.

In separate studies, both published on 23 August in Nature1,2, two teams of researchers describe brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) that translate neural signals into text or words spoken by a synthetic voice. The BCIs can decode speech at 62 words per minute and 78 words per minute, respectively. Natural conversation happens at around 160 words per minute, but the new technologies are both faster than any previous attempts.

“It is now possible to imagine a future where we can restore fluid conversation to someone with paralysis, enabling them to freely say whatever they want to say with an accuracy high enough to be understood reliably,” said Francis Willett, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California who co-authored one of the papers1, in a press conference on 22 August.

These devices “could be products in the very near future”, says Christian Herff, a computational neuroscientist at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

(10) A COMET YOU CAN SEE. Gizmodo says “Newly Spotted Comet May Soon Be Visible Without Telescopes”.

A comet recently discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura is garnering attention from NASA and skywatchers alike.

Using a standard digital camera, Nishimura detected the celestial body on August 11 during a series of 30-second exposures, according to NASA. Though currently not visible to the naked eye, this status may soon change. NASA has noted the comet’s steady increase in brightness since its discovery. Furthermore, astronomers have now charted the comet’s future trajectory through the inner solar system.

“As the comet dives toward the Sun, it will surely continue to intensify and possibly become a naked-eye object in early September,” stated NASA. However, there’s a caveat for potential observers: the comet’s proximity to the Sun will mean it is best visible during the times of sunset or sunrise when the Sun’s glare is least obtrusive….

(11) GUARDING AGAINST ANOTHER PANDEMIC. I can’t help hearing the voice of Bill Murray when I read this headline. “Cats With Bird Flu? The Threat Grows.” The New York Times’ Zeynep Tufekci has the story.  

The global H5N1 avian flu outbreak, already devastating wild birds and poultry, keeps spreading to mammals, bringing it one step closer to a potential human outbreak.

Of course, since the coronavirus pandemic taught us the importance of responding early and aggressively to outbreaks …

Sorry, I’m joking. We don’t seem to have learned much from the Covid outbreak, and it’s not funny.

Not enough has been done about an out-of-control H5N1 outbreak at fur farms in Finland or a mystery outbreak among domestic cats in Poland.

Finland, one of Europe’s biggest fur producers, is battling outbreaks among its captive minks, foxes and raccoon dogs — species that scientists warn have been identified as more likely to evolve a variant that can infect people, leading to a human outbreak.

Even the Finnish Food Authority, in its announcement of animals being culled, noted that minks are susceptible to both human and avian influenza. If one animal is infected by both, the viruses can mix genes and give rise to an avian flu that can infect humans. Fur farms in Finland, however, aren’t being closed. Instead the Finnish Wildlife Agency allowed fur breeders to kill wild birds near their farms in large numbers. The Agency told me the killings were authorized “to prevent contacts between infected birds and animals at fur farms,” but scientists point out this is the wrong approach and likely futile — and more fur farms in Finland have since announced further outbreaks.

Meanwhile, officials said a sizable outbreak of H5N1 among pet cats in Poland this summer killed at least 29 animals, though cat owners have compiled lists with as many as 89 sick animals. The outbreak has many unusual features that make it especially concerning, and yet there still hasn’t been an explanation of how exactly it happened or a vigorous investigation….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Time to revisit this “Constellation WorldCon Baltimore” video first posted to YouTube 13 years ago. It’s amazing that I recognize most of these people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • “Exorcism”
  • “School vs. School”

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

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

Tell us about your site or zine.

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your site or zine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s the Beginning 

Preface

All knowledge is contained in fandom.—Anthony Boucher 

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

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

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(14) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/23 Do Pixels Prefer Coke Or Pepsi? No, It’s Scroll Soda For Them

(1) ONE ARTIST, INDIVISBLE. Charlie Jane Anders’ latest Happy Dancing newsletter is about “J.K. Rowling and ‘Separating the Art from the Artist’”.

… And that’s the thing : JK Rowling is the public face of the “Wizarding World.” She owns it and exercises complete control over it, and it’s pretty much impossible to talk about Harry Potter or the Fantastic Beasts movies without referencing her. In fact, she’s gone to great lengths to make her art inseparable from herself. Other authors seem to fade into the background a little bit more, especially as their books and adaptations get more and more prominence. I know tons of people who obsess about Murderbot, but who don’t know that much about Martha Wells, for example. JK Rowling made a choice to center herself in the discussion of her work, starting with how her “rags to riches” story was used to market her novels….

(2) MARSCON. Cass Morris has a wise commentary on the outcome of the MarsCon kerfuffle: “All* Are Welcome (*terms and conditions may apply)”. (What Morris means by DARVO can be learned from “A guide to DARVO, the gaslighting response people give when they’re called out” at Metro News.)

… a MarsCon regular guest very mildly voiced a concern, on FB, over whether or not he was the right choice for a con that claimed to want to be inclusive.

This GOH, and others like him, do not respond well to such statements. When they hear “Some people choose not to be around you because they find you unpleasant,” they perceive it as an attack, and they determine that a rabidly vitriolic response is not only warranted but necessary. (Again, DARVO).

The GOH wasted no time, it seems, in calling in his flying monkeys to harass the person who voiced concern, swiftly turning the FB threads into an unqualified shitshow. MarsCon responded by shutting down all comments and, rather than addressing the concerns that had just been proved entirely valid, doubling-down on their support for their aggressive GOH.

A whole choice.

MarsCon then made the choice to post a new “Interim Online Policy” claiming that “MarsCon is as it has always been an apolitical Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. It is the firm stance of MarsCon that personal politics should be left outside of the convention. It will not allow itself to used as a place for anyone to try and forward their personal political views.”

There’s more to the statement and the word “political” is doing some heavy lifting throughout….

(3) PREPPER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is great fun from BBC Radio 4. Be prepared for the end of the world. “Prepper, Series 1, The Kit in Your Head”. Pearl Mackie plays one of the leads.

Trump. ISIS. The Courgette Crisis. Signs of civilisation’s fragility are all around. No wonder the Doomsday Clock just nudged closer to midnight. In this fearscape, more and more ordinary people are wondering how they’d cope if everything we take for granted (law and order, access to healthcare, iceberg lettuces in Sainsburys) was taken away.

(4) ENGLAND SWINGS SF. Martin Wisse asks “Is it possible to buy too much science fiction?” at Wis[s]e Words. The answer is, not if the book has been on your want list forever.

…Among that stack of paperbacks is the perfect example of what I mean: Judith Merril’s England Swings SF, a book I’ve spent literal decades looking for. A book I’ve known about, have read about for decades I yesterday finally got to hold in my hands. England Swings SF is an incredibly important book in the history of science fiction. A key work of the New Wave, a defining statement of what New Wave science fiction was all about. It’s Judith Merril’s defining work, the jewel in the crown of her work as an editor. You know how important and controversial it was just from the publisher writing its own introduction washing its hands of the whole thing.

Though it may seem strange now, the New Wave was revolutionary, was controversial because it set out to deliberately undo science fiction’s dogmas, both literally and politically. Worse, as it originated in the UK and its most important early writers were British like Moorcock, Ballard and Aldiss, it also upset the natural order of America as the centre of the SF universe. When England Swings SF was released in 1968, the controversy had been raging for almost half a decade between the upstarts and the SF establishment…. 

(5) AI: A CREATOR’S TOOL OR RIVAL? Jason Sanford has put together a new column on what AI generated art and writing programs might mean for artists and authors. The column includes some predictions on how all this might play out in the coming years. “Genre Grapevine on What AI Generated Art and Writing Might Mean for Artists and Authors” a public post on Patreon.

… So far OpenAI hasn’t been very open about the works their programs are trained on.

The same with Midjourney, whose founder David Holz recently said he didn’t seek consent from living artists or those with work still under copyright because it was essentially too hard to do that. And don’t think this is a small issue – in an interview with Forbes, Holt admitted Midjourney was trained on at least a hundred million images without consent.

Because these AIs were trained on works by living artists, this can result in the programs creating images based on their art. For example, Deb JJ Lee discovered that someone had crafted an AI model to create art similar to Lee’s own distinctive work. Worse, when Lee pushed back on their art being used in this way, they were accused of being a “gatekeeper.”

As Lee said, “I never hide how I draw. I teach classes and share *everything*, from my layer structure to my inspirations to Gradient mapping. At Lightbox this year I would show my original files to ppl who come to my table to demonstrate how I do everything. I’m the opposite of a gatekeeper.”

Despite that, Lee was essentially blamed by a number of supporters of AI programs for daring to question the use of their own art in the training of machine learning programs.

It’s almost like, as Alasdair Stuart said, “the entire system is powered by artists but devalues them in every way.”…

(6) GRANTING AI UNLIMITED RIGHTS? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss considers the AI implications in contractual language: “Findaway Voices, Machine Learning, and the New Rights Frontier”.

Audiobook creation service Findaway Voices has become a popular alternative to Audible’s ACX, especially in the wake of #Audiblegate (the controversy over ACX’s author-penalizing returns policies that has generated at least one lawsuit).

In the past few days, though, authors and narrators have been drawing attention to this paragraph from Findaway’s Digital Distribution Agreement, which grants Apple–a third party–a license to use the rights holder’s audiobook files for “machine learning”, aka AI training…

…Unsurprisingly, there are now multiple lawsuits. Microsoft, Github, and Open AI are being sued for copyright-related issues over Github’s AI-powered coding assistant, Copilot. A group of artists has filed a class action suit against Stability AI (owner of Stable Diffusion), Midjourney, and DeviantArt for copyright violation and unlawful competition. Getty Images is also suing Stability AI, alleging that it scraped millions of copyright-protected images from Getty’s database. On a different side of the issue, computer scientist Steven Thaler is suing to overturn the US Copyright Office’s determination that AI art can’t be copyrighted. There will no doubt be much more legal action to come….

(7) NED BEAUMAN INTERVIEW. “Ned Beauman: ‘After reading Terry Pratchett, it feels like something is missing from most fiction’” in the Guardian.

My favourite book growing up
I devoured The Colour of Magic and at least 20 other Terry Pratchett novels as a child and consequently have never got over the feeling that there’s something pretty fundamental missing from nearly all “grown-up” fiction (ie jokes).

The book that changed me as a teenager
We perhaps expect novelists to feel a reverent fascination with human consciousness, how miraculous it is, sacred, ineffable, unique etc. But if you read too much Greg Egan at an impressionable age, all of that gets absolutely napalmed. A book like Permutation City is dangerous (and mind-expanding) stuff.

(8) EUGENE LEE OBITUARY. The New York Times profiles a stage and TV figure whose work you may have been seeing for years: “Eugene Lee, Set Designer for Broadway and ‘S.N.L.,’ Dies at 83”. “He won Tony Awards for Wicked and other shows while also overseeing the sets for the late-night franchise’s fast-paced sketch comedy.”

For decades it was possible for Saturday night theatergoers in New York to get a double dose of Eugene Lee’s work, though it’s likely that few would have realized they were doing so. They might have taken in “Sweeney Todd,” “Ragtime,” “Wicked” or other Broadway shows whose striking sets were designed by Mr. Lee, then could arrive home in time to tune into “Saturday Night Live” — a show for which he served as production designer when it began in 1975, and on which he was still working this season….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1971[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I’m very, very fond of SF genre short stories as I like them because they are often distilled versions of longer takes. Larry Niven I think in his prime wrote some of the best genre short stories ever done. 

He won Hugos for them — “Neutron Star”, “Inconstant Moon” and “The Hole Man” to be precise.  A collection, Convergent Series, one of my favorite collections to read, won a Locus Award.  Not bad at all. 

Not so with this story, Niven’s “For A Foggy Night” which was first published in the All the Myriad Ways collection published by Ballantine Books in 1971. 

Niven like the idea of alternative worlds and I believe wrote more than ones of these stories with another story I really like being “All Myriad Ways”.  It’s wonderfully done story that I won’t spoil as I suppose it’s possible that someone here hasn’t read it yet but to say that it has a great narration, fascinating story and a conclusion that makes perfect sense. 

And now the Beginning… 

The bar was selling a lot of Irish coffee that night. I’d bought two myself. It was warm inside, almost too warm, except when someone pushed through the door. Then a puff of chill, damp fog would roll in.

Beyond the window was grey chaos. The fog picked up all the various city lights: yellow light leaking from inside the bar, passing automobile headlights, white light from1971 frosted street globes, and the rainbow colors of neon signs. The fog stirred all the lights together into a cold grey-white paste and leaked it back through the windows.

Bright spots drifted past at a pedestrian’s pace. Cars. I felt sorry for the drivers. Rolling through a grey formless limbo, running from street globe to invisible street globe, alert for the abrupt, dangerous red dot of a traffic light: an intersection; you couldn’t tell otherwise . . . I had friends in San Francisco; there were other places I could be. But it wasn’t my city, and I was damned if I’d drive tonight.

A lost night. I’d finished my drink. One more, and I’d cross the street to my hotel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith. He’s a curious story indeed as he collaborated on three short stories with Robert E. Howard. Those stories are “Red Blades of Black Cathay”, “Diogenes of today” and “Eighttoes makes a play”. ISFDB suggests that he might have written other short stories and poetry. Anyone encounter these? (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 84. She loves dark chocolate. That I know as I just sent her some a few weeks ago. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. And yes she’s on the chocolate gifting list as well.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 73. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 70. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and IllustratorThe Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! imagines what would happen if Skywalker Sr. was analyzed by Ancestry.com.
  • The Argyle Sweater mines Harry Potter for a horrible pun. Which of course I had to share.

(12) INSCRIBED TO THE DEDICATEE. Macmillan and HBG just raised starting salaries to $45,000. So you could say eBay is asking a year’s salary for this dedication copy of Rocket Ship Galileo signed by Heinlein. (Well, two Heinleins, actually.)

The dedication copy of the author’s first published novel, signed and inscribed by Robert A. Heinlein in the year of publication “with best wishes to my nephew Lawrence Lewis ‘Buddy’ Heinlein [signed] Robert Heinlein Nov. 1947” with an arrow pointing to Buddy’s printed name on the dedication page. Additionally signed by Lawrence Lewis Heinlein as “L. L. Heinlein” on the front free endpaper. Lawrence was the son of Robert’s brother.

(13) IT’S A WRAP! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story has nothing on Boris Karloff. “How to make a mummy”.

The cover shows sarcophagi used to house the mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians in the Saqqara region of Egypt. Although the existence of mummies is well known, the details of how ancient embalmers practised their art have remained largely obscure. In this week’s issue, Maxime Rageot, Philipp Stockhammer and their colleagues draw on finds from an embalming workshop in Saqqara that dates to around 664–525 BC to reveal many of the details of the process. The researchers analysed 31 ceramic vessels found in the workshop. By combining biochemical analyses of the residues in the vessels with the inscriptions, such as “to be put on his head”, featured on many of them, they were able to establish which chemicals were used and how they were mixed, named and applied. The researchers also note that some of the embalming substances were imported from the Levant or even from south or southeast Asia, indicating that mummification might have helped to promote long-distance trade.

(14) FOOD: GHOSTLY OR GHASTLY? It’s Saturday, and today this sounded amusing enough to put in a Scroll: Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook by Jenn Fujikawa and Erik Burnham.

Who you gonna call… to eat?! Featuring more than 50 recipes inspired by the beloved Ghostbusters 1984 film and continuing into present day with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this cookbook celebrates the bold personalities of Egon, Venkman, Zeddemore, and Stantz, along with the spooks, spectres, and ghosts that tried to transform New York City to a Babylonian dystopia.

But they’re not alone — they’ve got company with a new generation of Ghostbusters like Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast, and Lucky that saved Summerville, Oklahoma from the second coming of Gozer! In fact, it’s Podcast’s, well, podcast that inspires this book! Now he and Ray are combing through the Ghostbusters archives and recording new episodes to bring the group’s favorite new and old foods to delicious life.

With luscious full-color photography and packed with the fun and spirit of the films, Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook is a must-have for foodies and paranormal investigative fans alike.

(15) CLOUDS OF WITLESS. Sure, this couldn’t backfire: “There’s a Radical Plan to Cool the Earth With … Moon Dust” at Popular Mechanics.

A long time ago (in every sense of the phrase), a Mars-sized celestial object named “Theia” smacked into Earth and formed our moon. Now, 4.5 billion years later, scientists want to put that moon back to work by using its dust to cool down its fever-induced planetary neighbor.

Scientists from the University of Utah suggest that “ballistically eject[ing]” millions of pounds of lunar dust around Earth could help deflect the sun’s rays and cool down the planet. The idea follows similar solar geoengineering concepts like ejecting reflected sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the stratosphere to gain the same sun-reflecting benefits (but with less potential health concerns).

However, this research is decidedly more sci-fi as it would likely require lunar infrastructure, electromagnetic cannons, and even orbital space platforms. The results of the study were published in the journal PLOS Climate….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/23 Look At My Fingers: Four Pixels, Four Scrolls. Zero Pixels, Zero Scrolls!

(1) SPLATTERPUNK AWARDS DEADLINE RESET. Brian Keene and Wrath James White announced on Facebook that they have extended until January 29 the last date that readers can recommend eligible works at [email protected].

…Given that readers sent in recommendations ALL YEAR LONG, we assumed the community was aware.

Obviously, we were wrong about that. And we apologize for that. We would like to assure authors who expressed disappointment about this that there were indeed recommendations already made. And that is a very good thing. Six years into this process, that’s exactly what the community needs to see — that readers are recommending your work without you reminding them or drawing it to their attention.

To further address the communities concerns, Wrath and I have decided to pause the tallying process and reopen the nominations for another 7 days. We will accept recommendations for WORKS PUBLISHED IN 2022 until midnight on Sunday, January 29th. That way, everyone who has expressed concerns has the opportunity to inform their readers and fans.

So, again… the process has been extended to next Sunday. Email your recommendations to [email protected]. After next Sunday, we will then again be accepting recs for works published in 2023.

Our apologies for any stress or duress this may have caused, and our appreciation to those who expressed their concerns in good faith….

(2) MERRIL CENTENARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Toronto Public Library (which IIRC is actually the largest library system in North America?) posted a celebration of Judith Merril yesterday to mark her centennial. “100 Years of Judith Merril, Science Fiction Writer and Editor” at The Buzz…About Books.

… At the same time that Merril was publishing novels, she was getting more involved in editorial and review work. This book collects and reflects upon Merril’s editorial and non-fiction work. In particular, “her twelve Year’s Best anthologies, her thirty-eight ‘Books’ columns from F&SF, and three particularly important essays.” These works were originally published between 1956 and 1969. This period marks Merril’s shift from authorship to her editorial career.

To support her daughter Ann, who created artwork and posters in support of Eugene McCarthy, Judith Merril attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Tensions were high due to the Vietnam War. After Merril witnessed the police response to the anti-Vietnam War protestors, she decided that she and her family needed to leave the United States. At the convention, a copy of the Toronto Anti-Draft Manual caught Merril’s attention. She had a friend in Toronto, a mathematics professor, and with their aid moved to Canada. She legally changed her name to Judith Merril when she become a Canadian citizen….

(3) SF ON SNL. Last night’s Saturday Night Live had two genre related segments:

(4) LOTS TO MEND. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Jeremy Renner, the MCU‘s Hawkeye, is back home after his snowplow accident. The latest pic and information released by the actor shows him undergoing PT at home and letting it be known that over 30 bones were broken in the incident. “Jeremy Renner Says His ’30 Plus Broken Bones’ Will ‘Mend’ After Accident” reports People.

…The actor, 52, shared a post on Instagram Saturday morning of himself in a bed receiving what appeared to be physical therapy.

In the caption of his post, Renner wrote, “Morning workouts, resolutions all changed this particular new years …. Spawned from tragedy for my entire family, and quickly focused into uniting actionable love.”

The Mayor of Kingstown star then said that he wanted “to thank EVERYONE for their messages and thoughtfulness for my family and I …. Much love and appreciation to you all.”

“These 30 plus broken bones will mend , grow stronger, just like the love and bond with family and friends deepens,” Renner concluded. “Love and blessings to you all…”

(5) NOVELIST SEEN FROM THE INSIDE. [Item by Steven French.] Co-screen writer of Matrix Resurrections revealed to be a massive Liverpool fan! “Aleksandar Hemon: ‘A book isn’t a car – not everything has to work’” in The Guardian.

…Tell us about your work as a screenwriter.
The sovereignty of being in my head as a novelist is enjoyable but gets burdensome. Lana and David are good friends with brilliant minds different from mine and there’s relief in that: whenever I watch The Matrix Resurrections, at no point do I think: “That’s mine, I did this,” because I never did it alone. So what I get out of screenwriting – apart from the money, which is nice – is doing something with others. The traditional bourgeois concept of literature is that it’s a way to be alone; there’s a Jonathan Franzen book of essays called How to Be Alone. But I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with people….

(6) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport encourages subscriptions with a sample by Benjamin C. Kinney: “The Work-Clock”.

(7) SFF PUPPETRY. “‘The Immortal Jellyfish Girl’ Review: A 26th-Century Love Story” in the New York Times.  

The first time Bug and Aurelia kiss is as romantic as can be, even if Bug has to get past his initial reaction. “That really hurts,” he says. “That stings so much!” Which is what you get when smooching a part-jellyfish humanoid.

Aurelia is the title character of “The Immortal Jellyfish Girl,” though if 23andMe still exists in her postapocalyptic world, it might locate traces of kangaroo, frog, naked mole rat and other beasties in her makeup. Above all, “she is also 100 percent puppet,” as the narrator, a mischievous masked fox in shorts and red tails, informs us.

Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock’s play, devised with help from the ensemble and presented by Wakka Wakka Productions and the Norwegian company Nordland Visual Theater at 59E59 Theaters, is indeed a puppet show, and an ambitious one at that….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

One of my absolutely favorite works is Seanan McGuire’s Ghost Roads series. It’s a perfect example of how excellent McGuire is as a writer with splendid, believable characters, especially Rose Marshall, the hitchhiking ghost who was a sixteen-year old prom date who never actually made it to her prom but was killed on her way there and now hitchhikes forever on America’s highways, both the real ones and the ghosts ones, a absolutely fascinating setting and a compelling story that McGuire has developed oh so very well across three novels.

(There is also three shorter pieces set here, “Good Girls go to Heaven”, “Train Yard Blues” and “The Ghosts of Bourbon Street”.) 

One of those settings is the Last Dance Diner that exists on the Ghost Roads. Of it Rose says that, “When you die on the road, if you’re lucky, a phantom rider or a hitchhiking ghost will be there, waiting, to offer you directions to the Last Dance Diner. Best malts this side of the 1950s, pie to die for, and best of all, a chance to rest, for just a little while, before moving on . . . and everyone moves on, in the end.”

So the quote I’ve chosen is from the first novel of the series, Sparrow Hill Road, and concerns that Diner:  

They have good beer here, these routewitches do, and their grill is properly aged, old grease caught in the corners, the drippings of a hundred thousand steaks and bacon breakfasts and cheeseburgers scraped from a can and used to slick it down before anything starts cooking. The plate they bring me groans under a triple-decker cheeseburger and a pile of golden fries that smell like summer nights and stolen kisses—and they smell, even before the platter hits the table.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Boxand Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were publish in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog in 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, only Missing Man is available from the usual suspects, and I’ve not read it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual, but damn it I really liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in The Lord of the Rings (1978) as the voice of Aragorn, and later voiced General Woundwort in seven episodes of the Watership Down TV series.. He appeared as Kane, the first victim, in Alien (and had a cameo in Spaceballs parodying that performance.) Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in 1984. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander in Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull asDr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course, he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about his Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable.  If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1965 Diane Lane, 58. I’ve got her as Ellen Aim in Streets of Fire which I count as genre. She’s Chief Judge Barbara Hershey in Judge Dredd, a film I’ll freely admit that I actually like because it catches the pop culture feel of the 2000 A.D. comics in a way the second film doesn’t. Next up for her is playing Mary Rice in Jumper. She’s been playing Martha Kent in the DC Universe films as of late.
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 54. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the DestroyerBeyond the StarsAsterix Conquers AmericaTarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy IslandBatman BeyondTwilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater was recommended by Rich Lynch because he thinks John Hertz will love it. Maybe you will, too?
  • Marmaduke keeps watching the skies – and it pays off!

(11) I’M SORRY, I’LL READ THAT AGAIN. Brian Keene says the says in his weekly Substack he’s been sorting through his and J.F. Gonzalez’s archives for things that will go to the University of Pittsburgh. In the middle of a paragraph this line caught my eye:

…There are some gems among the correspondence — letters between Richard Laymon and myself, letters between Robert Bloch and Jesus….

Well, Jesus was Gonzalez’s first name. But I knew Robert Bloch and for a moment I flashed on what seemed an unexpected discovery from his fertile imagination.

(12) DISNEY’S STAR WARS PLANS IN TROUBLE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Some aspects of Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars IP are working out great for them; others not so much. Because of underwhelming box office for several films, the concept of theatrical release for a movie a year has faltered. Partially counterbalancing that, the small screen Star Wars series on Disney+ have proved a buffer. 

Star Wars theme park attractions seem to be doing great business, but it now develops that the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser theme hotel—where 2-night immersive experiences start at mid-four-figures—will be sitting empty part of the time. Disney has canceled several “voyages“ in July, August, and September. People who had already booked for those dates have been offered a 50% discount if they will accept a different date.

TheStreet.com has the full story. “Disney’s Huge Star Wars Bet May Be in Big Trouble”.

… “A number of our readers have also noticed Facebook posts which advertise the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser and include lesser known characters. There appear to be quite a few “absolutely loved this” posts from people claiming they were guests on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser which if you look at their profiles have no info at all, no town, school, or jobs. This leads us to question their authenticity,” Theme Park Tourist alleged.

Overall, the cancellations are more troubling than potential fake reviews. It’s possible that Disney built an attraction with tremendous appeal, but a limited audience due to price and little reason for people to visit more than once. You can take your family on a Disney Cruise for 7 nights for less than what Galactic Starcruiser costs and that’s a lot easier to justify than a two-day trip.

(13) CLEANING UP AROUND THE HOUSE. Get your Digital Dishcloth: “May Godzilla Destroy This Home Last”.

PROTECTION FROM A GIANT LIZARD – This house blessing towel will definitely keep Godzilla from destroying your or your friend’s house! And not only that, it is also the perfect home decor for all lo

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The genie makes it genre. The cat makes it perfect (???) for File 770. “Ryan George Compilation Part 1”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Rich Lynch, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2022

People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!

FEATURES

Melanie Stormm — Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm continued her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X throughout 2022, braiding together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Jeffrey Smith — A Bibliography of Jules Verne Translations

…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….

Joel Zakem Religious Aspects of DisCon III’s Opening Ceremonies

…  It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.

My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….

Walt Boyes Grantville Gazette Publishes 100th Issue

Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.

I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….

Anonymous Note from a Fan in Moscow

This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….

Borys Sydiuk SFWA Rejects Call to Join Boycott of Russia: A Guest Post by Borys Sydiuk

Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.

The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.

We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…

(Two days later the organization issued a SFWA Stands With Ukraine statement.)

Daniel Dern Reading Daily Comic Strips Online

Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.

So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two  “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….

Michaele Jordan Squid Game and Beyond

There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year.  And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….

Rich Lynch A Day at the Museum

Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C.  It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….

Mike Glyer What the Heinleins Told the 1950 Census

When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.

Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…

John A Arkansawyer Laser Cats

“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”

On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.

Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Announcing the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction

The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….

Bill Higgins Two Vain Guys Named Robert

Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.

So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.

And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.

In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.

Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…

Rich Lynch Remembering Bruce Pelz

… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry.  I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting.  And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road.  It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music.  I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself.  And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch!  I’ve heard of you!”…

Rich Lynch It’s About Time

It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel.  Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.

Dale Skran Reforming the Short Form Hugo: A Guest Post by Dale Skran

 For a long time, I’ve felt the Short Form Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation was not properly organized to give an award to the best “Television” SF of the previous year….  

Paul Weimer Review: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is a stunning return to his world of Central Station, twinning the fates of humans and robots alike at a futuristic city on the edge of the Red Sea…. 

Mike Glyer Iron Truth Review

… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….

Lis Carey Review of Rocket to the Morgue

… A couple of odd things, though. He had $300 on him, that wasn’t stolen, and an unusual rosary, with what seems to be the wrong number of beads. It’s a puzzle….

Mike Glyer Review: In the Orbit of Sirens

In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.

Mike Glyer Review: Monster of the Dark

On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….

Jonathan Cowie Jurassic World Dominion Ultra-Mini-Review

Jurassic World Dominion is another breathless, relentless Hollywood offering: the action and/or special effects never let up…. 

Mike Glyer Review: Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…

Rogers Cadenhead Review: Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1

… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….

Olav Rokne Hugo Voting Threshold Reform Proposal

…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….

Mike Glyer Review: A Star Named Vega

The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..

Paul Weimer Review: Babel

R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….

Paul Weimer Inside the New Uncle Hugo’s: Photos by Paul Weimer 

Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.

Michaele Jordan Jordan: Comments on the 2022 Best Novel Hugo Finalists: Part 1 and Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

Rob Thornton A World of Afrofuturism: Meet Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part I) and A World of Afrofuturism: Creating Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part II)

… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….

J. Franklin March Hidden Talents: A Story

Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….

Nicholas Whyte Whyte: Comments on the 2022 Hugo Awards Study Committee Report

… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..

Michaele Jordan Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.

John Hertz Tim Powers Makes Stolen Skies Sweet

… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.

His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….

Mike Glyer Will E Pluribus Hugo Survive Re-Ratification?

The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo.  The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….

Michaele Jordan They’re Back!

Who’s back?” you ask. Spear and Fang, of course! But perhaps you have not heard of Genddy Tartakovsky’s Primal?…

Rich Lynch The Fan Who Had a Disease Named After Him

… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan.  He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine.  It was a good one….

Melanie Stormm Supercharge Your SFF Career With These Ten Tips from Writer X

[Infographic at the link]

Borys Sydiuk Guest Post: Ukrainian Fandom At Chicon 8 [PIC Borys-Sydiuk-584×777]

Friends, on behalf of the Ukrainian Fandom I would like to thank everyone who supports us at this time…

Lis Carey Review: What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83), by Ben Aaronovitch

… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….

Michaele Jordan Review: Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill…. 

Lis Carey Review: Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth by Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, and wrote extensively about comparative mythology. His “hero’s journey” theory has been extremely influential….

Lee Weinstein Gene Autry and The Phantom Empire

The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….

Kevin Standlee Guest Post: Standlee on the Future of Worldcon Governance

… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…

Tammy Coxen How the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund Helped People Attend Chicon 8

Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:

    • Non-white fans or program participants
      • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants
      • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…

Lis Carey The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5), by Ben Aaronovitch

The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts….

Sultana Raza Utopias

As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….

Rich Lynch Three Weeks in October

… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….

Michaele Jordan My Journey to She-Hulk, Attorney at Law

… Why such mixed feelings? On the one hand, I am a huge admirer of Tatiana Maslany. On the other hand, I truly loathe The Hulk….

Daniel Dern — Stephen King’s Fairy Tale: Worth The Read. Another Dern Not-Quite-A-Review

… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….

Lee Weinstein Review: Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles

The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…

Jonathan Cowie SF Museum Exhibition  

The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….

Mark Roth-Whitworth KSR and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.

However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….

Jonathan Cowie How Long Does It Take an SF Award to Reach Its Recipients?

A recent possible record could be the SF2 Concatenation’s website 2012 Eurocon Award voted on by those at the European SF Society’s convention which, that year, was held in Croatia….

Lis Carey A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: An Audiobook Review

 Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event….

A.K. Mulford The Hobbit: A Guest Post by A.K. Mulford

…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….

Lis Carey Review: The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

This entry in Rivers of London is, for variety, set in Germany, and involves a German river. Or two. And river goddesses….

Lis Carey Review: Ringworld Audiobook

Louis Wu is 200 years old, and he’s bored. It’s his 200th birthday, and he’s using transfer booths to extend the celebration of it for a full twenty-four hours, and he’s really bored….

Michaele Jordan Korean Frights

How can Halloween be over already? We barely had time to watch thirty horror movies –and those mostly classics, which are less than half our (horror) collection!

Paul Weimer Review: The Spare Man

There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …

Lis Carey Review: Alif the Unseen

Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….

Ahrvid Engholm Bertil Falk: From “A Space Hobo” to “Finnegans Wake”

Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….

Lis Carey Review: Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny

The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later…. 

Lis Carey Review: Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London #3)

One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks…. 

Michaele Jordan Again, with the Animé?

…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….

Daniel Dern What’s Not Up, Doc (Savage)?

While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….

Rich Lynch Remembering Roger Weddall

It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall.  I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him.  Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot.  So let me tell you a little bit about him….

Lis Carey Review: Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4)

Peter Grant and partner Lesley May are at the Folly practicing their magic skills and researching an Oxford dining club called the Little Crocodiles….

Mark Roth-Whitworth Artemis I: A Hugo Contender?

I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….

Lis Carey Review: The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1

Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….

Rich Lynch A Genre-Adjacent Essay Appropriate for Today

As the Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper reminds us, today is Ludwig von Beethoven’s birthday…. 

Craig Miller Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

…As with AvatarAvatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….

Rich Lynch Remembering Harry

Today we celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Harry Warner, Jr., who was perhaps the best-known stay-at-home science fiction fan of all time….

Melanie Stormm On Rambo’s Academy For Wayward Writers (Feat. A Trip in Melanie’s Time Machine)

… I took two classes at The Rambo Academy For Wayward Writers this week, and I’d like to do something a little different.

You see, I’ve got things on my mind that I think you might identify with. You may find it helpful. 

I’d like to tell you exactly why you need to jump over to Cat Rambo’s Patreon & website and sign up right away for everything that looks shiny….

Lis Carey Review: Juniper Wiles and the Ghost Girls

…But having learned that she can see and talk to ghosts, and that they all have unresolved problems they want to solve, she can’t always say no when they ask her for help…. 

Lis Carey Review: Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard

…Xich Si is a tech scavenger, living in Triệu Hoà Port, and scavenging tech to sell and support herself and her daughter, when she’s captured by pirates. ….

CHRIS BARKLEY

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #63

My 2022 Hugo Awards Nomination Ballot for the Best Dramatic Presentation Long and Short Form Categories 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #65

… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.

I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.

As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.

When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #66

Interrogatives Without Answers: Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke     

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #68: Two 2022 Hugo Award Finalists Walk Into a Bookstore…

… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”

“Oh really? What’s that?”

“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #69

Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #70

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, A (Spoiler Free) Review 

JAMES BACON

Cosmonaut Solidarity

Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….  

45 Years of 2000AD

Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February  26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice. 

Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time…. 

Fight With Art

“Fight With Art” is an exhibition of Ukrainian Contemporary Art created under exceptional circumstances taking place now in Kraków at the Manggha Museum until April 30. 

We reached out to curator Artur Wabik to learn more of this topical exhibition…

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb.

STEVE VERTLIEB

The Greatest Motion Picture Scores Of All Time

Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….

“Don’t Look Up” …Down …Or Around

The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face. 

Remembering Veronica Carlson (1944-2022)

What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.

Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.

“The Man Who Would Be Kirk” — Celebrating William Shatner’s 91st Birthday

After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….

King Kong Opens in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933

Today is the 89th anniversary of the “Hollywood Premiere” of King Kong in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933…

Elmer Bernstein at 100

… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022.  Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….

R.M.S. Titanic … “A Night To Remember”

… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.”  This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….

Seth Macfarlane and “The Orville: New Horizons”

… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….

A Photographic Memory

…  I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands.  It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life.  The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive.  Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence.  Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….

I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….

Celebrating “E.T.” On His 40th Birthday

On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….

Steve Vertlieb is “Back From The Suture”

…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….

Rhapsodies “Across The Stars” …Celebrating John Williams

After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….

Reviving “The Music Man” On Broadway

…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….

Remembering Frank Sinatra

On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….

Dr. Van Helsing And Victor Frankenstein: A Peter Cushing Remembrance

I had the honor and distinct pleasure of both knowing and sharing correspondence with British actor Peter Cushing for several years during the late Sixties and early Seventies….

“12 O’clock High” Legendary Soundtrack Release By Composer Dominic Frontiere

Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….

Remembering Camelot’s Prince

That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….

Vertlieb: I Am A Jew!

I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….

Remembering Hugo Friedhofer

I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….

“The Fabelmans” — A Review Of The Film

…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….

A Magical Philadelphia Christmas Tradition

These photographs are of an annual Christmas tradition at American Heritage Federal Credit Union located at Red Lion and Jamison Roads in Northeast Philadelphia…. 

Remembering Frank Capra

…This was the man who brought such incalculable joy and hope to so many millions of filmgoers with his quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. …

Martin Morse Wooster

MARTIN MORSE WOOSTER

Review of Moonfall

My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.

Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made.  Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science.  But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work.  But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….

Review of Becoming Superman

… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales.  To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth.  His career could have faded after Babylon 5.  The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….

Review of “The Book of Dust” Stage Play

When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me!  I’ll just fly over to London and see it!  OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute.  So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….

Review: A Monster Calls at Kennedy Center

… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film.  Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…

Review of “Under The Sea With Dredgie McGee”

As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.

So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential.  You should be watching him….

Review: Maple and Vine

I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912.  He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines.  I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

By Ingvar

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]