Pixel Scroll 2/11/24 It’s The Big Bright Green Pixel Machine

(1) BOUCHERCON KERFUFFLE. Writers are showering letters of protest on the Bouchercon mystery convention committee about the selection of Otto Penzler to interview guest of honor Anthony Horowitz on stage. They are pointing to Penzler’s record of misogynistic comments about women writers, and insensitive statements about race.

Here is the text of Lee Goldberg’s letter to Bouchercon:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am shocked and disappointed that Otto Penzler has been selected to interview guest-of-honor Anthony Horowitz on the Bouchercon stage. It sends a horrible message to the crime fiction community.

For decades, Otto has publicly and repeatedly trashed women crime writers. Here are just some examples out of many:

He wrote: “Men take [writing] more seriously as art. Men labor over a book to make it literature. There are wonderful exceptions, of course—P.D. James, Ruth Rendell.”

In an interview with Book Standard, he said cozy novels by women shouldn’t win Edgars.

“The women who write [cozies] stop the action to go shopping, create a recipe, or take care of cats. Cozies are not serious literature. They don’t deserve to win…”

He’s also said:

“We all have our prejudices (yes, you too). I admit that if I were on the Best Novel committee, books with cutesy pun titles would be eliminated before I read the first page. They may be fun, they may have their charm, but they are not serious literature and don’t deserve an Edgar. Which is why someone had the bright idea to create Malice Domestic, a conference devoted to fiction so lightweight that an anvil on top of it is the only way to prevent it from floating off to the great library in the sky.”

This is what Otto Penzler had to say when the International Thriller Writers was formed:

“A new organization has just started up as a counterweight to the literarilynegligible works honored at Malice Domestic.”

The ITW wisely and immediately disavowed his statement at the time. Those “literarily negligible works” honored with Agathas at Malice include novels by Ann Cleeves, Rhys Bowen, Laurie King, Kellye Garrett, Elizabeth George, Catriona McPherson, Louise Penny and so many others.

That attitude alone should make him the absolute wrong choice to interview a man who writes in the tradition of the literarily negligible works by Agatha Christie.

Otto doesn’t just spew sexism, he practices it. In the 23 years that Otto edited the Best American Mystery anthology series, it had 6 women as guest editors and not a single writer of color. Not one. And when Steph Cha, a woman he called “stupefyingly ignorant” and racist because she called for Linda Fairstein’s grandmaster honor to be rescinded, replaced him as the editor of the anthology, he wrote:

“This means that stories will no longer be selected for excellence, the major criterion evidently now being the race, ethnicity, or sexual preference of the author.”

And let’s not forget this is the same man who started Scarlet, a women’s suspense imprint for Pegasus, and then hired men to write the books under women’s names. That is Otto Penzler in a nutshell right there. The outcry was loud, immediate, and humiliating for the publisher, who swiftly and quietly killed the imprint.

That’s only a tiny sampling of his offensive words and conduct towards women writers…and yet Bouchercon still venerates this man. Yes, he did some admirable things for the genre a long, long time ago…but today he’s a dinosaur in a world that has changed around him…a man who doesn’t reflect our community or its basic standards (as expressed in the Bouchercon bylaws). I understand that Mr. Horowitz may have asked for Otto to be his interviewer because they edited an anthology together…but Bouchercon should have had the sensitivity and the courage to say no to his choice…and to explain why.

I am not saying Otto should be silenced. He has a right to his views, whether I agree with them or not. But with free speech comes the consequences of your words and actions (for example, all of his bookstore employees publicly disavowed, in a statement of their own, the views he expressed in his letter to the MWA in the Linda Fairstein Grandmaster controversy, which you ought to read). Another consequence of his offensive views should be losing the support and attention of the community he’s no longer philosophically and culturally aligned with. Unless, of course, Bouchercon agrees with his views. If so, you should keep him on the guest-of-honor stage with Mr. Horowitz.

If not, you should take a firm stand against the opinions Otto’s espoused by replacing him with an interviewer who actually respects, celebrates and champions the sexual, cultural and racial diversity of the crime fiction community this conference is supposed to reflect.

Lee Goldberg

Deborah Levinson is one of those who are echoing the call:

The Bouchercon committee responded to the first wave of messages on February 7 with a statement:

(2) DEADPOOL 3 TEASER. Uncorked during today’s Super Bowl broadcast, Deadpool & Wolverine Teaser.

(3) WICKED TEASER. Also advertised during the game, Wicked – First Look”.

After two decades as one of the most beloved and enduring musicals on the stage, Wicked makes its long-awaited journey to the big screen as a spectacular, generation-defining cinematic event this holiday season. Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, stars Emmy, Grammy and Tony winning powerhouse Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, Broadway’s The Color Purple) as Elphaba, a young woman, misunderstood because of her unusual green skin, who has yet to discover her true power, and Grammy-winning, multi-platinum recording artist and global superstar Ariana Grande as Glinda, a popular young woman, gilded by privilege and ambition, who has yet to discover her true heart. The two meet as students at Shiz University in the fantastical Land of Oz and forge an unlikely but profound friendship. Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power, while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences on her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfill their destinies as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

(4) CAREER IN A NUTSHELL. Chinaza Okorie discusses “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: Crafting Narratives and Shaping Worlds” at The Board.

… The synergy between Ekpeki’s writing and editing is palpable. His understanding of the craft, honed through his own creative pursuits, enhances his ability to curate anthologies that transcend mere collections of stories. Whether through his pen or editorial decisions, Ekpeki strives to redefine and expand the boundaries of speculative fiction, making room for narratives that challenge preconceptions and celebrate the diverse richness of African storytelling….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble garlic naan with Jo Miles in Episode 218 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Miles

Jo Miles is the author of The Gifted of Brennex trilogy, which began with Warped State, continued in Dissonant State, which was released the week before our get-together, and finishes up in Ravenous State, which will be available February 20th. Jo’s short fiction has been published in magazines such as Fantasy & Science FictionStrange HorizonsLightspeed, and Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact, as well as in the anthologies Little Blue MarbleGame On!Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Defiance in Victory, and others. Their story “The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea Fish” in Strange Horizons was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award. Jo is a graduate of the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox writers’ workshops.

Oh, and by the way — the ebook of Warped State is currently on sale for $2.99 in celebration of the upcoming release of Ravenous State.

We discussed how what began as a short story blossomed into a trilogy, the way to juggle multiple points of view and keep them balanced, the science fictional precursors which helped them create their sentient ship, how to properly pace the arc of a burgeoning romance, the importance of making sure a redemption arc feels earned, the way their mandate for writing optimistic science fiction came to be, the differing ways we were each affected by the pandemic, how the Taos Toolbox workshop teaches writers to break down the beats of their stories (and why that terrifies me), plus much more.

(6) THEIR RETIREMENT PLAN. Congratulations to authors Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni whose new Vortex Books & Comics store opened today.

… The store will be open for business Sunday at 10am. All that’s left to do is for Mike to finish Hylinus’s ear, after which we can move the glass display case which will hold the ashes of Dave Thomas and J. F. Gonzalez into place, and then steam clean the tiled floor. We also need to get the rare books and comics into their showcases, finish pricing and shelving the items on the stock cart, and finish the shipping and receiving area (which was finished before, but — based on initial online preorders — is going to be a very busy area and will need space for two employees to work with more room, so I decided we needed to reorganize it). We’ll also need to play with the cash register until we’re all confident with it. (I hooked it up yesterday while Justin Lutz installed our window decals, and while I’m not a man who suffers from anxiety, trying to figure the register out caused me a great deal of it)….

(7) MATTHEW PAVLETICH (1965-2024). New Zealand fan Matthew David Pavletich died from Motor Neurone Disease on January 26. A past president of the Stella Nova Science Fiction Club and veteran of the CoNZealand in 2020 Worldcon bid, Pavletich won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Services to Fandom in 2023. Here is the award citation that tells why he was honored:

Matthew has been active in New Zealand and international fandom for over 30 years.

He has lost count of the number of committees he has been on for running conventions. As a member of the Stella Nova Science Fiction Club he has been involved in all their activities over three decades, including serving as President.

Matthew was a keen actor, published writer, con-organiser and has lectured on Science Fiction both here in schools and seminars and overseas; plus his lifelong interest in spaceflight has seen him appearing as a recurring guest expert on breakfast TV shows and radio.

Matthew was a co-organiser, as a ground trooper, of the CoNZealand bid, being heavily involved in organising the parties at the World Science Fiction Convention and manning the Bid Table around the world every year from 2014 to 2019, and despite being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2021, found the energy to help at the Thank You party in 2022. For many WorldCon attendees the parties and the Bid Table, at which he enthusiastically promoted NZ and CoNZealand, was the only physical experience of a New Zealand WorldCon that was possible, due to COVID making the 2020 WorldCon virtual.

Matthew epitomises what this award is about. He meets every criteria of service to fandom you can think of.

Matthew is survived by his wife, Maree.

Matthew Pavletich in TV appearance.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 85. And we come to one of my favorite writers who is on the chocolate gifting list, Jane Yolen. And no, that is not about how I ended getting name-checked as an ethnomusicologist in The One-Armed Queen asthat’s another story involving a successful hunt for a rare volume of fairytales.

Given that she written at least three hundred and sixty works at last count (and that may well be an undercount), the following is but a personal list of works that I like.

Jane Yolen. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Favorite Folktales From Around the World which garnered a well-deserved World Fantasy Award shows her editing side at its very best. She picked the folktales, some from authors whose names are forgotten, some who we still know such as Homer, Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde, and gave them much need explanatory notes. If you like folktales, I’d consider it essential and quite delightful reading.

The Transfigured Hart poses the delicate question of if unicorns are real and neatly merges that question with a coming of a story, something she handles oh so well. Originally published forty years ago, Tachyon Press, a publisher that should be always be praised for its work, republished it a few years back.

Briar Rose is a YA novel which is a retelling, more or less of the Sleeping Beauty tale. It was published as part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series. The novel won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Like everything else in that series, it’s most excellent. Or as I’ve said before, it’s just what Windling does. 

The Great Alta sequence consisting of Sister Light, Sister DarkWhite Jenna and The One-Armed Queen. Matriarchal warrior societies will rise and fall and rise again in this tale told with more than a bit of myth, poetry, and song.  Brilliantly told with characters that you’ll deeply care about and character you’ll hate. It’s a Meredith Moment at just $3.99. 

She also wrote the lyrics for the song “Robin’s Complaint”, recorded on the 1994 Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance recording on which her son Adam Stemple was the lead vocalist. 

Let’s finish off with The Wild Hunt. Myth as interpreted by her and merged with the evocative drawings of Francisco Mora which complement the text perfectly. Dark and dramatic, they bring the tale to life. It’s a work of pure magic which should be destined to become a classic in the world of children’s literature. Don’t buy the Scholastic paperback edition, just HMH hardcover edition. 

And yes, she’s getting chocolate for her Birthday. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy has a new variation on a technopest.
  • Sally Forth somehow merges myth with Monopoly. This is bizarre.
  • In the Bleachers’ mermaid joke might actually be even more bizarre.

(10) DON’T MISS THE LITERARY ALLUSIONS. Colleen Doran lends readers a hand by deciphering “The Secret Language of a Page of Chivalry”.

Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry is a sweet and simple story on the surface, but is full of allusions and literary references, and the symbolism in the art, as well as the art style, serves as meta-narrative. 

One of the pages readers ask about the most is this one, where Mrs. Whitaker in the Oxfam shop finds an old book entitled The Romance and Legend of Chivalry (1912).

Written by Scottish author A. R. Hope Moncrieff, this popular tome was published in multiple printings and editions in many languages. While most of his books were intended for young boys, they would be over the heads and/or not to the taste of many modern readers.

They are dense and wordy, but I love them. 

You can find good copies of the first edition with the gorgeous cover you see here at reasonable prices. If you can spare $20-$30, you shouldn’t have to settle for cheap, modern editions which are ugly and don’t have that pretty gold stamping.

It should be obvious why Mrs. Whitaker has focused on this book during the course of Chivalry.

What some didn’t understand is the reference there in the top corner written in red pen: “Ex Libris Fisher”.

This translates to “From the Library of Fisher” as in The Fisher King.

(11) HELLO DOWN THERE TRAILER. Another “Super Bowl commercial” except it’s already been out for four days: “Hello Down There (Extended)”.

What does a highly advanced civilization have to do to get noticed around here? Watch the extended cut of Hello Down There, a tale of intergalactic outreach, directed by Martin Scorsese.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Now, it saddens me when I am reminded yet again that I do have some SFnal misconceptions. Let me be clear, I had heard of A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay but I had foolishly, stupidly, idiotically assumed that it was a novel about a spacecraft voyage to a distant world and what was discovered there…  How wrong I was. Fortunately, Moid over at Media Death Cult has taken a quick 8-minute dive into this. (Filmed in England’s Shropshire. Note the managed woodland and the carboniferous limestone geology…)

This Forgotten Masterpiece Inspired Tolkien We voyaged the Shropshire countryside to bring you this video. A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay

You can see the 8-minute video here. It looks like this may be the first of a few vids Moid will do covering forgotton early 20th century SF former classics.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/26/24 La Scroll È Mobile

(1) SATURN AWARDS NEWS. Keanu Reeves will be the inaugural recipient of the Lance Reddick Legacy Award when the 51st Saturn Awards take place on February 4. reports Variety.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films has announced that Keanu Reeves will receive the inaugural Lance Reddick Legacy Award at the 51st Saturn Awards. The entire show will be dedicated to the memory of the late Reddick, who died at the age of 60 in March 2023.

Reeves, who was friends with Reddick, starred alongside him in the “John Wick” action-thriller franchise. Reddick appeared in all four movies as Charon, the concierge at the Continental hotel, where his character interfaced with Reeves’ titular hitman.

Academy president Robert Holguin and Saturn producers Bradley and Kevin Marcus released a statement on Reeves’ forthcoming honor: “This award symbolizes and celebrates not only a performer’s talent, but their character; someone who’s a true goodwill ambassador in the industry. From science fiction (‘The Matrix Trilogy’), fantasy (‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’/’Constantine’and horror (Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’/’The Devil’sAdvocate’), Keanu has done it all — not to mention ‘Speed’ and ‘Point Break.’”…

(2) SNUBBED? [Item by Dann.] The Hollywood Reporter has a story about the backlash to the backlash that protested the lack of Oscar nominations for Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie.  Media outlets from the New York Times to Slate offered rebuttals suggesting that it’s OK for a successful property to not win every award. “The ‘Barbie’ Oscar Snubs Backlash-Backlash: ‘Everyone Lost Their Minds’”.

The penultimate paragraph includes a quote from a genre fan-favorite:

And finally there was The View‘s Whoopi Goldberg, proclaiming, “[Saying somebody was snubbed] assumes someone else shouldn’t be in there. There are no snubs. That’s what you have to keep in mind: Not everybody gets a prize, and it is subjective. Movies are subjective. The movies you love may not be loved by the people who are voting.”

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Munch MVP sandwiches with MVPs Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan” in Episode 217 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan

Gary K. Wolfe is a science fiction critic, editor, and biographer who’s had a monthly review column in Locus since December 1991. He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2006 for the book Soundings: Reviews 1992–1996, and again in 2011, for the book Bearings: Reviews 1997–2001. Over the years, he’s won the Eaton Award from the Eaton Conference on Science Fiction, the Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Science Fiction Research Association, the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and the British Science Fiction Association Award for nonfiction for the previously mentioned Soundings: Reviews 1992–1996. He’s also (among many other things) edited two wonderful volumes for the Library of America — American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953-1956 and American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956-1958.

Jonathan Strahan is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominated editor and publisher of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He’s won the Aurealis Award, the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism and Review, the Australian National Science Fiction Convention’s “Ditmar Award”, and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award. As a freelance editor, he’s edited or co-edited more than sixty original and reprint anthologies and seventeen single-author story collections and has been a consulting editor for Tordotcom Publishing and Tor.com since 2014, where he’s acquired and edited two novels, 36 novellas, and a selection of short fiction. Strahan won the World Fantasy Award (Special – Professional) in 2010 for his work as an editor, and his anthologies have won the Locus Award for Best Anthology four times (2008, 2010, 2013, 2021) and the Aurealis Award seven times. He has been Reviews Editor at Locus since 2002.

As the reason I’m with both of them is — together, they’ve been cohosts of The Coode Street Podcast since May 2010, which had 640 episodes live the last time I looked, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fancast ten times, winning once.

We discussed why The Coode Street Podcast is “the Cheers of podcasts,” the foolish statement made during their first episode which meant there had to be more, the identity of the guest who was most resistant to appearing on their show, the reason the podcast made Paul Cornell want to run, the different interviewing techniques necessary when having conversations with the voluble vs. the reticent, the white whales whom they could never snare, how to make sure we’re speaking to more than just our own generations, their advice for anyone who wants to launch a podcast, the way to avoid getting canned responses out of guests, how their conversational methods have changed over 13 years, whether critiquing books or rejecting stories has ever affected relationships with a guest, and much more.

(4) PRESSURE FOR REGULATION. “The Sleepy Copyright Office in the Middle of a High-Stakes Clash Over A.I.” – the New York Times has the story.

For decades, the Copyright Office has been a small and sleepy office within the Library of Congress. Each year, the agency’s 450 employees register roughly half a million copyrights, the ownership rights for creative works, based on a two-centuries-old law.

In recent months, however, the office has suddenly found itself in the spotlight. Lobbyists for Microsoft, Google, and the music and news industries have asked to meet with Shira Perlmutter, the register of copyrights, and her staff. Thousands of artists, musicians and tech executives have written to the agency, and hundreds have asked to speak at listening sessions hosted by the office.

The attention stems from a first-of-its-kind review of copyright law that the Copyright Office is conducting in the age of artificial intelligence. The technology — which feeds off creative content — has upended traditional norms around copyright, which gives owners of books, movies and music the exclusive ability to distribute and copy their works.

The agency plans to put out three reports this year revealing its position on copyright law in relation to A.I. The reports are set to be hugely consequential, weighing heavily in courts as well as with lawmakers and regulators.

“We are now finding ourselves the subject of a lot of attention from the broader general public, so it is a very exciting and challenging time,” Ms. Perlmutter said.

The Copyright Office’s review has thrust it into the middle of a high-stakes clash between the tech and media industries over the value of intellectual property to train new A.I. models that are likely to ingest copyrighted books, news articles, songs, art and essays to generate writing or images. Since the 1790s, copyright law has protected works so an author or artist “may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity,” the Copyright Office declares on its website.

That law is now a topic of hot debate. Authors, artists, media companies and others say the A.I. models are infringing on their copyrights. Tech companies say that they aren’t replicating the materials and that they consume data that is publicly available on the internet, practices that are fair use and within the bounds of the law. The fight has led to lawsuits, including one by The New York Times against the ChatGPT creator OpenAI and Microsoft. And copyright owners are pushing for officials to rein in the tech companies….

(5) RADIO SILENCE. Looking for comments from Kevin Standlee? We’re told he’s probably seeing the questions, but he’s been told he mustn’t say anything, so don’t be offended about getting no response to the Standlee Signal.

(6) ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL. “Pharrell Williams: Lego Animated Biopic Coming From Focus Features” at Variety.

The musician and superproducer announced that he is teaming with The Lego Group, director Morgan Neville and Focus Features to create “Piece by Piece,” an animated film about his life using the famous toy blocks.

Per the press release, “Uninterested in making a traditional film about his life, Pharrell set out to tell his story in a way that would set audience’s imaginations free. Developed from his singular vision, ‘Piece by Piece’ defies genres and expectations to transport audiences into a Lego world where anything is possible.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 44. A truly stellar writer.

His first work for us was “The Hundredth Question” story published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the February 1999 issue. May I note that magazine has published some of the finest short fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read?

After “The Hundredth Question”, I count just over a hundred short stories and intriguingly nearly thirty pieces of poetry which is a fair amount of genre work I’d say.

Yoon Ha Lee

Quite interesting is that the stories have several series running there — one that runs off with “The Cat Who Forgot to Fly” and runs five stories (I went to read these); then there’s series of stories about dragons, librarians, mermaids, phoenixes and queens. 

So let’s talk about his novels. His Machineries of Empire space opera novels, well space opera is a gross understatement to it mildly, consisting of Ninefox GambitRaven Stratagem and Revenant Gun are splendid works indeed. As a follower of Asian folklore, the fact that these nicely use Korean folklore is a bonus. 

Ninefox Gambit was nominated for a Hugo at Worldcon 75, Raven Stratagem at Worldcon 76 and Revenant Gun at Dublin 2019. None alas won a Hugo.

He likes fox spirits, he really does. (As do I.) So The Thousand World series is a space opera, and yes time that is an accurate term, about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. Oh there’s dragons and tigers, oh my here as well. 

I’ve not read his latest novel, Phoenix Extravagant, but magic fueled weaponized armored giants sounds potentially interesting. 

Remember all of those short stories? Well they have been collected,  well I thought most of them had in The Candlevine Gardener and Other Stories but it turned out that those are flash fiction, all sixty five of them as I just discovered, though available are free from his website here.

I just read “The Cat Who Forgot to Fly”. It read like a classic folklore story from well before the 1800s — charming, magical and everyone is fine at the end. All two pages. 

The longer stories can be found in Conservation of ShadowsThe Fox’s Tower and Other Tales and Hexarchate Stories.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SOMETHING ELSE YOU CAN’T SAY. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Can we please stop calling it AI? They’re not actually artificial intelligences, they’re collections of algorithms doing routines based off them. None could pass a Turing test. “George Carlin’s Estate Sues Creators Of AI Version Of Comedy Icon” at Deadline.

Over 50 years ago, the late and great George Carlin listed off the seven words you couldn’t say on television. Based on a lawsuit from the iconic comedian’s estate filed in federal court in California today, at least two of those words may apply to the creators of an AI generated special that uses Carlin’s style and voice to a 2024 effect.

AKA: “a bastardization of Carlin’s real work,”  the copyright infringement complaint says.

“Defendants’ AI-generated “George Carlin Special” is not a creative work,” it goes on to exclaim. “It is a piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation.”… 

(10) THE END. Another one from Sam Sykes that tickled me.

(11) VIDEO OF A YEAR AGO. [Item by Danny Sichel.] German band Electric Callboy just (for values of ‘just’ that include ‘over a year ago’) released a very genre-intense video for their song ‘Spaceman’.

Warning: Electric Callboy’s style is a mix of bouncy energetic rave pop and thrashing deathcore growls. They are an extremely non-serious band.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Wicked Witch on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1975)”.

David Newell (Mr. McFeely) recollects Margaret Hamilton’s visit to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood filmed at WQED in Pittsburgh. In the episode on scary images, Fred Rogers meets the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in 1938 movie “The Wizard of Oz”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/24 You’re Scrolling Into Another Dimension, The Signpost Up Ahead, The Pixel Scroll

(1) STOKERCON 2024 ADDS GOHS. The Horror Writers Association has announced two new Guests of Honor for StokerCon, Justina Ireland and Nisi Shawl. They join Paula Guran, Jonathan Maberry and Paul Tremblay, with a sixth guest soon to join them.

(2) SCHOLARSHIP FROM HELL. Applications are open for the Horror Writers Association’s annual Scholarship From Hell through March 1. Full details at the link.

This scholarship puts the recipient right into the intensive, hands-on workshop environment of Horror University.  Horror University takes place during HWA’s annual StokerCon. The winner of the Scholarship From Hell will receive domestic coach airfare (contiguous 48 states) to and from the StokerCon venue, $50 for luggage reimbursement, a 4 night stay at the convention,  free registration to StokerCon, and as many workshops as you’d like to attend!

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join Izzy Wasserstein for Kansas City BBQ in episode 216 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Izzy Wasserstein

The guest you and I will be breaking bread with this time around is Izzy Wasserstein, who’s published fiction in AnalogApexLightspeedFantasyFireside, and many other magazines, plus such anthologies as A Punk Rock FutureResist FascismFuture Fighting for the Future: Cyberpunk and Solarpunk TalesGlitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die, and more.

Many of those stories have been collected in her marvelous short story collection All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From, which was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her poetry collections include When Creation Falls and This Ecstasy They Call Damnation. Her forthcoming debut novella These Fragile Graces, This Fugitive Heart will be released by Tachyon in March, and you should preorder it right now.

We discussed the way Sarah Pinsker sparked her lightbulb moment, why it’s important for her to learn your chosen D&D character, which Star Trek: The Next Generation characters caused her to take her first stab at writing, the change she’d make in her life if she were independently wealthy, why we both miss those paper rejection slips from publishing’s pre-electronic days, the disconnect between the way we feel about certain stories of ours and how readers respond, the most important gift she was given by the Clarion writing workshop, our perverse love for second-person present-tense stories, how surprised she was when she sold a story to Analog, and much more.

(4) TBRCON PANEL. Gareth L. Powell alerted fans to an upcoming event. It’s free to watch.

As part of TBRCon, I will be participating in an online panel discussion with Ai Jiang, Max Gladstone, Sadir S, Samir, Nicholas W. Fuller, and Jendia Gammon.

The panel will stream LIVE on: the FanFiAddict YouTube channel, the TBRCon Twitter feed, the SFF Addicts Twitter feed, and the FanFiAddict Facebook page.

It takes place on Jan 25 at 11.00am CST / 12.00pm EST / 17.00pm GMT and is absolutely FREE to watch.

Additional information can be found here:
https://fanfiaddict.com/tbrcon2024/

(5) FANAC FANHISTORY ZOOM SERIES. Fanac.org kicks off a new year in its zoom programming next week when they interview Joe Green, fan, sff writer, and NASA spokesman.

Next Zoom Session: An Interview with Joe Green

Please Note: NEW TIME to better accommodate our attendees requests from around the world. Graphic poster attached.

January 20, 2024 – 3PM EST, Noon PST, 8PM London GMT and 7AM Jan 21 in Melbourne

Joe Green has traced an amazing arc through fandom, prodom and the space program. Joe was a fan in the 50s, is a professional science fiction writer with his first stories having appeared in the early 60s, and later became a NASA spokesman, specializing in educating the public about the space program. Host of many a legendary launch party, Joe has lived the dream of many a young science fiction fan.

Send a note to [email protected] with “Zoom” in the title to subscribe.

View past sessions on the FANAC Fan History YouTube channel.

(6) THE GREAT TIME WAR. “Doctor Who Season 15 Trailer Brings Back a Classic Companion for a New Time War Scene”Den of Geek tells what to look for.

 [The] announcement trailer for Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 15 …features a whole new scene starring former companion Leela. In the short “Leela vs. the Time War,” Leela, played again by Louise Jameson witnesses the final moments of the Great Time War on Gallifrey. As she watches the Daleks decimate the remains of the Time Lord capitol, a soldier arrives with a gift from the Doctor, forcing her to make a decision. Check out the full scene here:

(7) STAN MATTSON (1937-2024). J. Stanley Mattson, who founded the C.S. Lewis Foundation in 1986, died January 9. He is survived by his wife Jean.

A past member of the faculty of Gordon College and of the faculty and administration of the University of Redlands, Dr. Mattson also served as Headmaster of The Master’s School of West Simsbury, CT.

One of the C.S. Lewis’ Foundation’s first projects was the restoration of Lewis’ house, The Kilns, in Headington Quarry, Oxfordshire, England. It’s now a study center for visiting academics.

(8) DAVID J. SKAL (1952-2024). A Clarion graduate and sf novelist whose greatest fame came from his film scholarship, David J. Skal died January 1 in an auto accident in Los Angeles. According to his nephew, he was struck by a drunk driver. Steve Vertlieb calls Skal “brilliant beyond mere words, and an historian of immeasurable scope and substance. He towered above most film scholars, and was an inspiration to all those who write about motion picture history.”

Skal’s science fiction novels were Scavengers (1980), When We Were Good (1981) and Antibodies (1987). He wrote numerous nonfiction works about Dracula, vampires, and monsters: Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web Of Dracula From Novel To Stage To Screen (1990); The Monster Show: A Cultural History Of Horror (1993); V Is For Vampire (1995); Dark Carnival: The Secret World Of Tod Browning (1995,with Elias Savada); the Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1996, co-edited with Nina Auerbach); Screams Of Reason: Mad Science And Modern Culture(1997); and the monumental anthology Vampires: Encounters With The Undead (2001).

As a documentary filmmaker he wrote and co-produced segments for the A&E’s series Biography, and contributed scripts chronicling the lives and careers of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Angela Lansbury (with whom he had worked during his theatre career).

In 1999, he wrote, co-produced and co-directed a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters. The same year, he contributed to a Universal Studios Home Video series of twelve original DVD documentaries exploring the legacies of the studio’s classic horror and science fiction films. His DVD work has continued with Disney Home Video’s Jules Verne and Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination (2003) and the feature commentary for Warner Home Video’s special-edition release of Tod Browning’s Freaks (2004).

Other projects include Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice, Romancing The Vampire, and Citizen Clone: The Morphing Of America.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 43. So I’ve been listening to Kameron Hurley’s space opera The Stars are Legion as I write this Birthday essay. A most excellent story indeed. It was nominated first a Campbell Memorial Award.  

Her time travel novel which I listened to recently, The Light Brigade, is one the best works in that sub-genre I’ve encountered. It was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand. 

Her first novel which I need someday to listen to (if it’s in audiobook format) is the start of her matriarchal Islam culture Bel Dame Apocrypha biopunk trilogy. Her term, not mine. 

The Worldbreaker trilogywhich begins with The Mirror Empire I find delightful with its merging of hard SF underpinned by magic in a space opera setting. Now that shouldn’t work, should it? Really. But it magnificently does.

And let’s talk about her non-fiction. The Geek Feminist Revolution which garnered a BFA is a collection of previously published blog posts and none news essays written for here. One of the first, “We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” got a Hugo for Best Related Work at Loncon 3, and she also won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer.

Her exemplary short stories have been collected so far in Meet in The Future and Future Artifacts.  Meet in The Future was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 

Of course everything she’s written is available from the usual suspects. 

Mur Lafferty, Ursula Vernon, and Kameron Hurley at 2017 Hugo Award reception.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville has another detail on the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars.

(11) WOMEN WORKING IN ASTRONOMY. Atlas Obscura tells how researchers are “Uncovering the Forgotten Female Astronomers of Yerkes Observatory”. It all started with a group photo featuring Albert Einstein.

…Nearly a century later, a group of researchers at the University of Chicago evaluating the photograph (below) recognized that distinctive coif first: It was, unmistakably, Albert Einstein, on a whirlwind tour of the United States in the early days of his global fame. Some of those gathered around the physicist were also well-known to the researchers. The distracted-looking man with his tie askew was Edwin B. Frost, the then-director of the observatory. The white-haired man with the walrus mustache was Edward E. Barnard, an astronomer known for his photographs of the Milky Way. “And then someone in the room asked a deceptively simple question,” recalls Andrea Twiss-Brooks of the University of Chicago Library. “Who are all the women in the photograph?”

Of the 19 people documented alongside Einstein that day eight were women. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the men in this hallowed space of scientific exploration, an unusual sight in the 1920s. Even more surprisingly, while their presence at the observatory has been forgotten in the intervening decades, they were not overlooked in 1921. In the margin of another copy of the photograph in the University of Chicago archives, someone identified each person by last name. “Once we had names,” says Twiss-Brooks, “being a librarian, I knew what to do.”

Over the last three years, Twiss-Brooks and her team—including historian Kristine Palmieri and a group of undergraduate students—have rediscovered the lives of many of these women and the story of this unique place in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. In the first half of the 20th century, when men dominated the world of scientific research, Yerkes Observatory employed more than 100 women, some as secretaries; some as “computers,” solving mathematical equations; and many as astronomers. At Yerkes, women scientists could reach for the stars.

(12) WITCHER ADDS FISHBURNE. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers, “Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’ Season 4 Casts Laurence Fishburne as Regis”.

Netflix‘s The Witcher has cast acclaimed actor Laurence Fishburne in a major role.

Fishburne (the Matrix and John Wick franchises) has joined season four as Regis, a fan-favorite character from The Witcher books and games.

The character is in saga creator Andrzej Sapkowski’s novel Baptism of Fire as “a world-wise Barber-surgeon with a mysterious past” who will join Geralt (now played by Liam Hemsworth, taking over for Henry Cavill) on his adventures….

(13) HOT ON THE TRAIL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientists have spotted a “hot Jupiter” exoplanet with a tail longer than the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

WASP 69-b is in a close orbit that takes it around its home star in under 4 days. The heat from the primary is driving helium off in concentrations sufficient to be detected from our vantage point about 160 light years away. The helium forms a tail lagging behind the planet as it orbits. “Scientists find planet with a tail 150 times longer than the Mississippi” at Mashable.

There are some strange planets out in deep space.

Now, scientists have found a planet with a tail at least 350,000 miles (563,270 kilometers) long. That’s longer than the distance between Earth and the moon, and about 150 times longer than the Mississippi River. Helium gas is escaping from the Jupiter-sized planet WASP-69b, located 160 light-years away from Earth. With observations from the giant W. M. Keck Observatory atop Hawaii, researchers detected this planetary leak has created an expansive tail.

“Previous observations suggested that WASP-69b had a modest tail, or no tail at all,” Dakotah Tyler, an astrophysics doctoral candidate at UCLA and first author of the research, said in a statement. “However, we have been able to definitively show that this planet’s helium tail extends at least seven times the radius of the giant planet itself.”…

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

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

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

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

(2) URSULA VERNON’S GOOD NEWS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Died December 30.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/23 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on crab fried rice with Nina Kiriki Hoffman in Episode 214 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who aside from having sung the earworm “Feelings” with me more times than I can count, has either won or been a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the HOMer award from CompuServe, the Endeavour Award, the Mythopoeic Society Award, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

She won the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Trophy Wives,” and her novel The Thread That Binds the Bones won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to The Thread That Binds the Bones), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. Her novella ‘”Unmasking,” published in 1992 by Axolotl Press, was a finalist for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. Her novella “Haunted Humans” was a finalist for the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novella and on the same ballot as her novelette”The Skeleton Key,” shortlisted for Best Novelette.

We discussed the way a ghost story which left her wanting more led to her taking her writing more seriously, her early reactions to reading Robert A. Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin, how the Clarion workshop convinced her she could have a career as a writer, the way she wanted to grow up to be a combination of Ray Bradbury and Zenna Henderson, what she learned about characterization from Samuel R. Delany while at Clarion, the major difference she saw between the horror and science fiction communities during the early days of the Internet, how my perception of the arc her career was affected not by what she wrote but by what she sold, the lesson Ellen Datlow taught her which she passes on to her students, and much more.

(2) DEFENSE BUDGET DIVIDEND? SYFY Wire gets us ready for holiday conversations with these Seussian factoids: “5 Things to Know About How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

WWII training cartoons led the way for special to get made

During WWII, a lot of talented artists were enlisted to create materials that would help the war effort, or help train troops heading overseas. Two of those talents were animator Chuck Jones and [Theodore] Geisel, who met and worked together on the U.S. Military commissioned animated short films produced by Warner Bros. Studio. The Private Snafu series helped educate G.I.s on a range of subjects in an easy and entertaining way. 

Having worked well together, Jones approached Geisel about adapting the book into an animated holiday special in the same vein as the hit 1965 animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Unhappy with previous adaptations of his books, Geisel agreed to give Jones the rights because of their previous personal collaborations. 

(3) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the ClimateWorks Foundation will launch their new book, The Climate Action Almanac, with a free virtual event on January 16, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. The event will feature, among its speakers, the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Libia Brenda, and Vandana Singh. They’ll explore how to craft narratives about hopeful climate futures that catalyze real-world action and resonate with policy realities, especially in the wake of the recent COP28 UN climate summit.

When we think of climate, the stories we tell about the future are bad: megastorms, crop failures, and heat waves loom over us. These narratives are compelling, but can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and disillusioned.

To motivate broad-based change in the present, we need visions of positive climate futures grounded both in science and in local geographical and cultural particularities. We need stories that bridge the imperative for global coordination with values, resources, and community action, envisioning transformation that grows bottom-up and bottom-out, rather than top-down.

In the wake of the COP28 climate summit, join us for the launch of a collection of such stories: The Climate Action Almanac, presented by CSI and the ClimateWorks Foundation. We’ll hear from contributors from across the globe who have charted pathways toward a vibrant, decarbonized future.

The event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

This event will take place in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish. It is presented by CSI and Future Tense in collaboration with the ClimateWorks Foundation and ASU’s Convergence Lab.

(4) DRIVEN. “Famous Cars: The Most Memorable & Expensive Cars to Ever Grace Our Screens”Investing Magazine has a list. Many are from sff productions. Here’s one that wasn’t cheap to begin with, and now is worth a fortune:

9. The Original Batmobile

As Seen In: Batman the Movie
Year: 1966 
Estimated Value: $4.6 million*

Built by famous designer George Barris, the original Batmobile was based off a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura. This concept car was worth $250,000 at the time. But by the time it had become an iconic part of pop culture, the Batmobile was worth $4.6 million. 

(5) CURBING A HABIT. Charlie Jane Anders shares a technique for keeping doomscrolling from interfering with writing in “A Productivity Hack That’s Been Helping Me Lately” at Happy Dancing.

I used to be way better at staying focused on pouring words into a word processor, which would puree them gently into a delicious word slurry that I would send to my publisher. (At which point the publisher takes the word slurry, mixes it with gravel and limestone to turn it into decorative bricks for your garden, or so I’m assuming.) Anyway, in recent years it’s gotten harder to tear my gaze away from the sussurating horrors gathering in the desolate crevices of the collective unconscious.

Basically, the doomscrolling has gotten harder and harder to resist. It’s bad for my concentration — and, frankly, for my mental health.

(To be clear, I support staying informed about the state of the world! But not to the point where you’re just marinating in learned helplessness. And I really believe what I wrote in that book, that creativity is a worthwhile and valid way to deal with awful times. And as I keep saying, daydreaming is the opposite of doomscrolling — and daydreams are powerful.)

So I’ve come up with a productivity hack to keep myself from staring at news sites and social media all day. I recently told a friend about this method, and she seemed to find it useful too. So here it is.

Basically, my main problem is social media and news sites, plus emails to some extent. All of this stuff lives on my browser on my computer at home, and I experimented for a few years with installing browser extensions to block certain sites during daytime hours — but they usually wanted to invade my privacy, and they weren’t super reliable.

Then I discovered a way to just make my browser inaccessible during work hours, using my Mac’s settings. (I’m running the latest version, Sonoma 14.1.1.)…

(6) MAJOR SF+F EVENTS IN EUROPE IN 2024. [Item by Dave Lally.]  Now that Chengdu Worldcon 2023 is over… The year 2024 has a number of major SF+F events, in Europe, approaching (and all dates given herein are inclusive).  And this data is primarily for those from outside the area (to help).

Mid April 2024 sees another major SF+F event (herein numbered No 2 :  Eastercon/UK  (in late March-early April) being No 1):   

Luxcon (Luxembourg National SF+F Con): —

Fri 12 (unofficial for early arrivals), Sat 13-Sun 14 April

Venue: Forum Geesseknappchen, Hollerich, (western) Central Luxembourg City, L-1430, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 

Everyone in Luxembourg speaks English fluently (and many therein also speak many other languages).

The Grand Duchy (in the EU) has one of the highest standards of living in Europe.   Currency: Euro.

Luxcon held a very successful Eurocon –with that year’s Luxcon– in 2022.

Their website: Official Luxcon. Also double check other media re updates.

Nearest Airport : Luxembourg [ IATA :  LUX ] – fast connecting express bus from the airport to the Luxembourg City Central Rail Station. Thence and FREE (*) local buses (no 10, and no 20) from there to the Con venue.

[* Nota Bene within Luxembourg and at all times, all local public transport (standard class) — incl the Luxembourg City tram (LuxTram), local buses and local CFL (rail) trains– are Free.  Hugo Gernsback (yes him, originally from here) has a street named after him in eastern Luxembourg City.] 

 Luxembourg City Rail Station is served by: 

  1. SNCB (Belgian Rail) trains from Brussels Midi (via Arlon and usually one per hour) tho the cost from Arlon (Luxembourg border) to the Luxembourg Rail Station portion (see * above) is free. And sometimes there is a train change at Arlon. Note this train usually has NO catering thereon (so stock up on food/drink before travelling).  Brussels Midi is of course served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras International Rail Station and from many other places, elsewhere in Europe;
  2. SNCF (French Rail) – TGV (High Speed) trains (with catering) from Paris Gare de L’Est (via Metz, tho there may be a change of train on that route). Paris-Gare de L’Est is right next door to Paris-Gare Du Nord (which itself is well served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras -as above).  

 [No doubt local Luxembourg fen, reading this,  will be able to update/augment this data. ]

And as usual fen from anywhere overseas are very welcome at any SF+F Cons here in Europe, including Luxcon.

(More events to follow.)

(7) MEOWMEOW. The New York Times ran an obituary for “Neil Drossman, Adman Who Sold With a Smile, Is Dead at 83”. Not a genre figure; he just made a big imprint on popular culture with his memorable ads.

Neil Drossman, who brought a cheeky wit and a tireless work ethic to the award-winning print advertisements and television commercials he wrote for clients like Meow Mix cat food, Teacher’s Scotch whisky and 1-800-Flowers, died on Nov. 25 in the Bronx. He was 83….

From the late 1960s until this year, Mr. Drossman was a copywriter and an executive at several agencies, some run by the advertising guru Jerry Della Femina and some he helped run himself….

…One of the most enduring lines Mr. Drossman wrote was for Meow Mix: “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” That came at the end of commercials in which cats appeared to sing (“Meow meow meow meow/Meow meow meow meow”) for their chicken and seafood…

…In 1973 and 1974, Mr. Drossman ghostwrote full-page testimonials for Teacher’s Scotch in the voices of celebrities like Groucho Marx, George Burns and Mel Brooks. The Brooks ad was written as an interview with Mr. Brooks’s character the 2,000 Year Old Man.

“Sir, when was Scotch discovered?”

“It was during the Ice Age. We had so many tons of ice, we didn’t know what to do. So we made drinks, all kinds of drinks.”….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. (Died 2018.) Our community is blessed with many amazing writers of which David Bischoff was one. So let’s talk about him.  

His first writings were in the Thrust fanzine where he did a mix of commentary and criticism. (Thrust got one Hugo nomination as a fanzine and four as semi-prozine.)  Editor Doug Fratz would later convert it into a prozine for which Bischoff along with John Shirley and Michael Bishop were regular contributors. 

David Bischoff

His first novel, The Seeker, which was co-written with Christopher Lampton was published by Laser Books forty-seven years ago. He was extremely prolific. No, I don’t mean sort of prolific, I mean extremely prolific. He wrote some seventy-five original novels which is to say not within of any of the many media franchises that he wrote within plus another thirty-five or so novels falling within those media franchises.

What franchises? Oh how about these for a start and this is not a full listing by any means — AliensAlien Versus PredatorFarscapeGremlins 2: The New BatchJonny QuestSeaQuest DSV,  Space Precinct and War Games.. And no, I never knew there were Jonny Quest novels. 

Oh, and I must single out that he wrote two Bill, the Galactic Hero novels, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Tasteless Pleasure and Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars which is either a great idea or maybe not. Not having read them I have no idea. 

And he wrote for the Trek universe, two most excellent episodes at that. He co-wrote the ”Tin Man” episode from Next Generation, a Nebula nominee, with Dennis Putman Bailey, and the “First Contact” episode from the same series written with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller. 

Almost none of his extensive fiction has been collected save that which is in Tripping the Dark Fantastic from a quarter of a century ago which collects a few novelettes and some short stories. 

Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects, almost none of it his original works. And Tripping the Dark Fantastic is not available. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows a new kind of “Love, American Style.”
  • Free Range found the answer to a super trivia question.

(10) NO LONGER THE ANSWER. Deadline says “Mayim Bialik Out At ‘Jeopardy!’”.

Mayim Bialik will no longer be part of the Jeopardy! hosting team.

The actor posted the news on Instagram on Friday.

The move comes as Ken Jennings has been hosting Season 40 of the syndicated show by himself.

Deadline revealed in May that The Big Bang Theory and Call Me Kat star walked away from hosting the final week of season 39 of the gameshow as a result of the strike.

Mayim Bialik’s Instagram says:

“As the holiday break begins in Hollywood, I have some Jeopardy! news. Sony has informed me that I will no longer be hosting the syndicated version of Jeopardy! I am incredibly honored to have been nominated for a primetime Emmy for hosting this year and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Jeopardy! family. For all of you who have supported me through this incredible journey and to the fans, contestants, writers, staff and crew of America’s Favorite Quiz Show, thank you.”

(11) HARI HARI SELDON SELDON. “Elon Musk to open a STEM-focused K-12 school, university in Austin” according to the New York Post.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to launch a STEM-focused primary and secondary school in Texas before debuting a glittering university “dedicated to education at the highest levels,” according to a tax filing.

Musk, who moved from California to the Lone Star State during the pandemic, will build the schools in Austin with a $100 million donation from the billionaire’s charity called The Foundation, according to tax filings first reported by Bloomberg.

The charity’s name appears to be a nod to the science fiction series written by famed author Isaac Asimov that details the collapse of a ruling empire to make way for the birth of an alternate society — fitting considering Musk’s public criticism of the current education system….

… The Foundation’s application to open the schools was initially filed in October 2022 and approved in March, according to Bloomberg, though it’s unclear when the K-12 school will break ground…

(12) DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A GALLIFREYAN ARMY KNIFE. “Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa Shows Off the Fifteenth Doctor’s New Sonic Screwdriver”CBR.com has the story. Somebody might think this is a spoiler, so no image here. Just a link to the video: “Ncuti Gatwa’s New Sonic Screwdriver”.

… In the official video posted to YouTube on the Doctor Who channel, Gatwa talks about the design elements of the newly remodeled sonic screwdriver, which comes with its own unique bells and whistles. As Gatwa demonstrates, the sonic is much larger than most previous iterations and contains several new gadgets, including a connector allowing it to link to other devices like a “USB port,” as the actor describes it….

(13) MARTIAN DOG YEARS. “The Biggest Sci-Fi Show of the Year Challenges Its Star In One Revolutionary Way” –that’s how Inverse describes For All Mankind and its lead, actor Joel Kinnaman.

Since 2019, Kinnaman has played the show’s lead, Ed Baldwin, who begins his journey as an Apollo astronaut in 1969 in Season 1. By Season 4, it’s 2003, and Ed is pushing 80, but still living on the Mars colony Happy Valley. At 44 in real life, Kinnaman is convincingly playing nearly double his age but, as he tells Inverse, this is the moment he has been waiting for since getting cast in the first place.

“The idea of doing this is what initially really appealed to me with this character,” Kinnaman reveals. “But of course, it’s rare that you have to wait five years to do the thing that you really were looking forward to doing with a character.”

As Ed Baldwin leads Helios workers on Mars to a labor strike in the episode “Leningrad,” Inverse caught up with Kinnaman to get a sense of how he took Ed this far, and whether or not he can play the character again in Season 5.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Dave Lally, Kathy Sullivan, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/23 Mount You-Could-Look-It-Up

(1) SMOFCON COMING TO SEATTLE. [Via Petréa Mitchell.] Last night Seattle won the right to host next year’s Smofcon, the international travelling con for people who run cons. It’ll be December 6-8 at the SeaTac Doubletree.

Attending memberships are $60 through sometime Tuesday. See more at the Smofcon 41 website.

(2) INDIE INK AWARDS. [Item by Dann.] The new Indie Ink Awards are trying to get off the ground.  

Traditionally published books do not corner the market on great works. Amazing works are produced by small press and self-published authors, and they often go unrecognized because their budgets for marketing are often smaller. So WriteHive, Inked in Gray Press, and Indie Story Geek joined together to celebrate great works of fiction published by small press and self-published authors, giving them the recognition they deserve.

There are 24 award categories with half being devoted to identitarian interests.  The remaining categories are for various facets of a book, but none are dedicated to just “best novel”.

M.V. Prindle was notified that his book, Bob the Wizard, was nominated in a handful of categories.

(3) LUKYANENKO IN CHENGDU UPDATES. [By Ersatz Culture.] As of Sunday 3rd, he has appeared at two more events.  The Saturday one is covered in this Weibo post.  I think that’s SF World editor and member of the Chengdu concom Yao Haijun sitting on the left of the panel.

The Sunday event also has a couple of Weibo posts, here and here.  He seems to be wearing a badge with the Worldcon panda logo on, although it’s not one I recall seeing from the event itself, so perhaps it’s unrelated?

Tomorrow (Monday 4th) he will be appearing at a university; this post lists an email address where people can send a question to him.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on spanakopita with Neil Clarke in Episode 213 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’re invited to dinner with Neil Clarke, who’s best known as the editor and publisher of the Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning Clarkesworld magazine, launched in October 2006. Clarkesworld has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine four times (winning three times), the World Fantasy Award four times (winning once), and the British Fantasy Award once (winning once).

Neil Clarke

Neil himself is also an eleven-time finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Editor-Short Form (winning twice), three-time winner of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director, and recipient of the 2019 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award from SFWA. In the seventeen years since Clarkesworld Magazine launched, stories that he’s edited have been nominated for or won the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, Shirley Jackson, WSFA Small Press, Stoker, and various other awards.

He also edits Forever — a digital-only, reprint science fiction magazine launched in 2015. His anthologies include: UpgradedGalactic EmpiresTouchable UnrealityMore Human than HumanThe Final FrontierNot One of UsThe Eagle has Landed, and the Best Science Fiction of the Year series. His latest anthology, New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction (co-edited with Xia Jia — who was a guest of this podcast way back in Episode 50 — and Regina Kanyu Wang), was published in July.

We discussed how Clarkesworld was born (and what he wishes he’d known back when the magazine launched), the motivation behind his unrivaled response times, the irresponsible impact of AI on science fiction and what he’s doing to help ameliorate it, how he proactively analyzes submission data to make sure he receives stories from diverse voices, the differing effect of the pandemic lockdown on first time vs. established authors, why it’s hard for people to sell him a time travel story, his problems with Star Trek‘s transporter, the true meaning of rejections, why reading science fiction in translation is so important, Lester del Rey’s prophetic warning about the provincialism of U.S. fandom, and much more.

(5) PLAGIARISM. [Item by Andrew Porter.] First several minutes of the video concern Harlan Ellison and Ben Bova, and case they won: “Plagiarism and You(Tube)”. Via Sandra Bond.

What is plagiarism? Where did plagiarism come from? Who made plagiarism? Where am I, plagiarism? Can you help me?

(6) MARK SHEPPARD SURVIVES HEALTH EMERGENCY. [Item by Cat Eldridge.]He also was in Warehouse 13 as Regent Benedict Valda, in  Doctor Who’s  “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” playing  Canton Everett Delaware III. “’Supernatural’ Star Mark Sheppard Survives Massive Heart Attacks” in Deadline.

Mark Sheppard, best known as “Crowley” on Supernatural, revealed on Instagram Saturday that he somehow survived six heart attacks.

“You’re not going to believe this! Was on my way to an appointment yesterday when I collapsed in my kitchen,” Sheppard began. The 59-year-old actor wrote that he had “six massive heart attacks” and was “brought back from [the] dead 4 times,” before learning that he “had a 100% blockage in my LAD” (left anterior descending artery.)”

Sheppard called the event “The Widowmaker,” and expressed his thanksto his medics….

(7) THINKING ABOUT ROME. “’The Boys’ Season 4 Trailer Is a Bloody Good Time” according to The Mary Sue.

The Boys teaser trailer gives us a glimpse of the chaos ahead. Two new female supes, Sister Sage and Firecracker, join the Seven to replace Starlight and Queen Maeve. It looks like much of the focus will be on the battle between Starlight and Homelander. Sister Sage tells Homelander to let the masses tear themselves apart over the supe war, then he can swoop in and save them. Since Homelander is probably one of those guys always thinking about Rome, he says he can be “just like Caesar.” Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes his first appearance in a suit while talking to Billy Butcher. There will be so much to unpack in the new season. Our most burning question: will The Deep find love with a new octopus?…

(8) FAN FAVORITE ENDS RUN. Radio Times tells us “Doctor Who’s Wild Blue Yonder marked Bernard Cribbins’ final appearance”. I don’t know if the following is a spoiler of any kind, so let’s be safe and post a spoiler warning anyway.

Doctor Who fans were delighted to see the late Bernard Cribbins reprise his role as Wilfred Mott, beloved grandfather of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), in the episode Wild Blue Yonder.

Having escaped a terrifying adventure in space, the Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna shared an emotional reunion with Wilf, who then warned them of a new menace threatening the Earth.

Speaking on companion show Doctor Who Unleashed, showrunner Russell T Davies confirmed that Cribbins’ scene in the special would mark his final appearance as Wilf.

(9) KEEP HOPE FROM ESCAPING. [Item by Steven French.] Kim Stanley Robinson gets a shout out in a Guardian editorial in utopian fiction (!): “The Guardian view on utopias: news from nowhere can help us here and now”.

… But it would be nice to think that, at some point, dystopia’s sunnier other half – the cultural tradition that gave us Thomas More’s UtopiaNews from Nowhere by William Morris and the early feminist visions of Charlotte Perkins Gilman – might make a comeback…

…So, in our own time, does the climate fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson, which speculatively explores the social and economic transformations that could help humanity to cope with the consequences of the climate emergency.

The intimidating scale of contemporary crises, interrelated and ranging from the economic to the environmental, is today accompanied by a widespread conviction that prevailing orthodoxies are inadequate to the task of meeting them. A sense of the ominous defines the zeitgeist, running through the pages of books such as Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. Lynch’s portrayal of political darkness enveloping one unfortunate family mines the same seam, giving eloquent expression to what he describes as a “tragic perspective”. But at a time when societies could desperately do with some imaginative headroom, it would be uplifting to see a new generation of authors following in the footsteps of Morris and Robinson as well….

(10) SPEAK, MEMORY. Adweek says “Apple’s Film is a Hopeful Fable About Speech Accessibility”.

…The tech brand released “The Lost Voice,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi and coinciding with International Day of Persons With Disabilities Dec. 3. The film unfolds as a narrated children’s story, with magical creatures and a journey through beautiful landscapes. 

The tale begins when a young girl meets a rabbit-like creature with white and pink fur. Curiously, she asks him, “Why are you so quiet?” and offers to help the animal find his voice. 

… At the end, it is revealed that the narrator is a dad with speech loss who is reading a bedtime story to his child using Apple’s latest accessibility feature, Personal Voice. 

The brand introduced Personal Voice on iOS 17 earlier this year. The feature uses secure on-device machine learning to sample and re-create people’s voices, helping those who lose their ability to speak due to conditions such as muscular dystrophy or motor neurone disease….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 65. I first encountered her writing through reading The Wood Wife, a truly extraordinary fantasy that deserved the Mythopoeic Award that it won. (The Hole in the Wall bar in it would be borrowed by Charles de Lint with her permission for a scene in his Medicine Road novel.) I like American edition with Susan Sedona Boulet art much better than I do the British edition with the Brian Froud art.

I would be very remiss not mention about her stellar work as the founding editor along with Ellen Datlow of what would be called The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror after the first volume which was simply The Year’s Best Fantasy, that being noted for those of you who would doubt correct me for not footnoting it. It won three World Fantasy Awards and a Stoker as well.

They also splendidly edited a series of Snow White, Blood Red anthologies which were stories based on traditional folk tales. Lots of good stuff there. All available at the usual suspects now at very affordable prices. Like the Mythic Fiction series is excellent reading and available at usual suspects. 

Oh, and I want to single out The Armless Maiden which took on the difficult subject of child abuse. It garnered a much warranted Otherwise nomination.

Now let’s have a beer at the Dancing Ferret as I note her creation of the Bordertown series. I haven’t read all of it but I’ve quite a bit of it and one of the three novels written in it, Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel: of The Borderlands, is one of my comfort works, so she gets credit for that. 

So now let’s move to an art credit for her. Some of you have seen the cover art for Another Way to Travel by Cats Laughing? That’s a hearse with the band posed in front of it. I’ve the original pen and ink art that she did here. 

Which brings me to the Old Oak Wood series which is penned by her and illustrated by Wendy Froud. Now Wikipedia and most of the reading world thinks that it consists of three lovely works — A Midsummer Night’s Faery TaleThe Winter Child and The Faeries of Spring Cottage

But there’s a story that Terri wrote that never got published anywhere but on Green Man. It’s an Excerpt from The Old Oak Chronicles: Interviews with Famous Personages by Professor Arnel Rootmuster. It’s a charming story, so go ahead and read it.

Terri Windling

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DOGGONE IT. Marvel Mutts #1 launched December 1 on Marvel Unlimited in the exclusive Infinity Comic format.

Join Marvel’s Mightiest Mutts in their very own Infinity Comic! When Ms. Marvel and Kraven the Hunter crash through the Best Buds animal shelter, Kamala discovers an adorable ally and new best friend. 

This six-part series from creators Mackenzie CadenheadTakeshi Miyazawa, and Raúl Angulo is the latest drop from Infinity Comics’ “Friday Funnies,” the line of humor titles designed for fans of all ages. And in MARVEL MUTTS it all goes to the dogs: The pooches of the super-powered are now the stars of their own Marvel Unlimited-exclusive series, and they’ll get in all kinds of cute, cuddly, and (sometimes) mischievous adventures while they show newbie, Mittens, what it’s like to roll with a pack.

(14) STEELY MAN. “’Fallout’ series first-look images reveal Power Armor and Ghoul” and Entertainment Weekly has a photo.

Fallout stars Ella Purnell (Yellowjackets) as Lucy, an optimistic Vault Dweller with an all-American can-do spirit, whose idealistic nature is tested when people harm her loved ones. Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) plays Hank, the Overseer of Vault 33 and Lucy’s father, who is eager to change the world for the better. Aaron Moten plays Maximus, a young soldier hiding his tragic past as he serves in a militaristic faction called Brotherhood of Steel. He believes in the nobility of the Brotherhood’s mission to bring law and order to the Wasteland and will do anything to further their goals. Walton Goggins (The Righteous GemstonesJustified) stars as the Ghoul, a pragmatic and ruthless survivor who trawls the Wasteland as a bounty hunter. Irradiated Ghouls are one of the most recognizable elements of the Fallout franchise, and here, Goggins combines their iconic look with a Westworld-esque cowboy outfit….

(15) A COINCIDENCE. On the day that the Hugo final round voting statistics came out, Chris Barkley was delighted to see what was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered this afternoon: “Ranked choice voting is being touted as a cure-all for U.S. deep partisan divides”. Audio at the link; no text transcript.

(16) THE MULTIVERSE IS REAL! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A bride-to-be went shopping for wedding dresses and had their photo taken with an iPhone. Each photo with modern phones is made using computational photography. Among other things, that means the device takes multiple exposures each time the shutter is pressed and tries to stitch together the best image using portions that are least blurry, etc.

The bride appears three times in the photo; once in “real life“ from the rear, and twice in front and side views in separate mirrors. Not knowing that those are the same person, the phone used different versions for each of them when performing the computation. The bride was moving their arms when the photo was snapped, so they appear to be in three different poses simultaneously.

Either that, or the Multiverse is real. “A bride discovers a reality bending mistake in her iPhone camera” at Apple Insider.

…A U.K. woman was photographed standing in a mirror where her reflections didn’t match, but not because of a glitch in the Matrix. Instead, it’s a simple iPhone computational photography mistake.

Thanks to technological advancements, photography has come a long way from flash bulbs and film. Every time the iPhone shutter button is clicked, billions of operations occur in an instant that results in a photo….

(17) RIGHT OF WAY. “Largest iceberg in the world, 40 miles wide, is now heading into the open ocean” reports NPR.

Ships plying the frigid waters near the Antarctic Peninsula, south of South America, will need to keep an eye on their radar for a floating island of ice: “The largest iceberg in the world, A-23a, is on the move into open ocean!” as the British Antarctic Survey recently announced.

“It’s a trillion tons of ice. So it’s hard to comprehend just how big a patch of ice this is,” Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, told NPR.

Iceberg A23a measures 40 by 32 nautical miles, according to the U.S. National Ice Center. For comparison, Hawaii’s island of Oahu is 44 miles long and 30 miles across. And New York City’s Manhattan Island is about 13.4 miles long and spans around 2.3 miles at its widest point….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Via Geri Sullivan, “A Holiday to Remember”. Admittedly, it’s a 5-minute Chevy commercial. Say what you like, I’m finished crying anyway.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/21/23 I Spent A Year Pixeled For Scroll Purposes

(1) WHO HISTORY REMEMBERED. “’Matt Smith and I twiddle knobs. I am 12 again!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part two” in the Guardian.

Daniel Nettheim (director of episodes featuring the Twelfth Doctor, 2015-17)

The Doctor’s anti-war speech, from 2015’s Zygon two-parter, was a cry from the heart for compassion amid a searing indictment of the futility of war. It has never felt more relevant than it does today. The 10-minute sequence was delivered with considerable emotional heft by Peter Capaldi. It still brings a tear to my eye. When Radio Times readers voted for that year’s greatest TV moment, that came second, beaten only by Poldark scything a field with his shirt off.

Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator, 1993 onwards)

I first worked as a Dalek in 1993. Three decades later, I’m still working as a Dalek – promotion is slow on the planet Skaro! My favourite moment was on a night shoot in Penarth in March 2008 for The Stolen Earth. It was my task to stop a Nissan Figaro in the street and threaten its occupant with extermination. It was Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, my childhood hero. Here she was, still defending the universe from the Daleks. That’s the magic of Doctor Who. Faces come and go, but the adventure goes on for ever….

(2) EVEN ODDS. [Item by Chris Barkley.] Who will win the 2023 Booker Prize? I looked through the descriptions of the nominated books and two (or three) of them might be genre or adjacent. But, THREE guys named Paul in the ballot? What are the odds of that happening?????

Literary Hub’s Emily Temple says “Here are the bookies’ odds for the 2023 Booker Prize”.

We’re just shy of one week out from the announcement of the UK’s biggest book prize: the Booker. So it’s time to place your bets on who will win the £50,000, a massive spike in book sales, and lifelong bragging rights. (A different question, no doubt, than who should win.) If you need a tip, follow the money, and ask the bookies (they were at least close last year).

For the record: all things being equal, there is a baseline 50% chance of the Booker going to somebody named Paul on Sunday, but given the below odds, in which each Paul is more probable than the next, that number rises to . . . something I cannot calculate because I am an editor at a literary website who put all of my eggs in one basket long ago. But, higher. I think…

(3) IN THIS WORLD, ELWOOD, YOU CAN BE OH SO SMART, OR OH SO UNPLEASANT. Camestros Felapton tries to decide “Does outrage marketing work?”.

…Authors now write in a more crowded market in which even moderately successful writers struggle to make a living. Standing out from the crowd is difficult and name recognition matters….

So some authors may see a possible way forward: pick controversial/trolling-like positions, promote those positions to provoke a backlash, get free publicity and hence (maybe) more sales.

That’s the theory. I think credibly it is a process that works for Larry Correia but I can’t claim that there is any way to check in terms of sales. Correia has the advantage that his controversial stances match the author persona he projects on social media and that persona also fits the style and genre of the books he writes AND those stances (particularly on guns) fit with the audience for his books. If I just consider notable Puppies, the approach has worked less well for Brad Torgersen and notably there are mismatches across the board for Brad, he’s just not as good at projecting a tough guy persona online, and his actual novels are less well-targeted to a specific demographic and there’s not a thematic connection between his culture war topics and his science fiction other than it being vaguely backwards looking….

(4) WHO OWNS CHAOS? Facebook sent a surprising notice about a group I follow now formerly named “Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor”.

And I found this posted to the group:

(5) EX X-USER. Scott Edelman reveals in a public Patreon post “What Twitter (and the leaving of it) means to me”.

…But the first week of September, it all became too much for me, and I shared the status update you see above. In the 11 weeks since then, I’ve returned every 3-4 weeks only to remind visitors I wouldn’t be posting any more and giving links to my other social media presences, in part to prevent my account from going dormant, which might allow another to squat on my name.

What was the affect of this decision on Eating the Fantastic?

Downloads have dropped by a third.

I know correlation isn’t causation, yet I can’t help but believe the loss of serendipitous discovery which would occur on Twitter is the reason.

The subscriber base remains unchanged. I’ve shed none of those regular listeners. But most of my traffic has always come from non-subscribers, and that has dropped.

When I would tweet about an upcoming guest or a new episode or any podcast news at all to my nearly 5,500 followers on Twitter, that would be retweeted many times, and I’d see a corresponding jump in downloads. Part of that, I know, was due to the fact not all listeners were interested in every conversation. Some only wanted the science fiction guests but not the horror guests, or the comic book guests but not the science fiction ones, and so rather than subscribing, they’d wait to see who was appearing and make the decision to download then. And I believe that with no tweet reminding them to check out the content of the latest episode … they’re not.

Then there were the new listeners who, upon seeing one of their friends share about an episode new or old and learning about Eating the Fantastic, would swoop in and download every prior episode. That would happen frequently in the show’s pre-Twitter days, but since September 5th, I don’t believe it’s happened even once.

All of that discoverability is gone, like tears in rain, and seemingly not replaced by the attention I’m getting from my (currently) 788 followers on Bluesky or 561 followers on Mastodon….

(6) KEYS TO SUCCESS. “The True Story of ‘The World’s Greatest Typewriter Collection’” at Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector blog.

Like so many collections, it began with a single purchase made on a whim – in this case, the typewriter used by a Pulitzer-winning sportswriter. The man who bought the machine, Steve Soboroff, was a fan of the man who used it, revered Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, whose words Soboroff devoured each morning, especially after nights when Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax hurled fastballs using The Left Hand of God. Soboroff wanted the 1940 Remington Model J so desperately that he outdueled two others competing for it at auction in 2005: the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a hell of a score.

Not long after, Soboroff put another typewriter on the shelf beside Murray’s – a 1926 Underwood Standard that belonged to Ernest Hemingway and was used during the author’s legendary sojourns to Cuba. More machines followed in short order, each a typewriter that once belonged to someone who had appeared on the cover of Time. Novelists and playwrights, among them Jack London, Tennessee Williams, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Philip Roth. Actors, including Greta Garbo, Shirley Temple, Mae West, Julie Andrews and a typewriter collector named Tom Hanks. Musicians, from crooner Bing Crosby to tenor Andrea Bocelli. Visionaries. Journalists. The famous. The infamous. Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb. And Ted Kaczynski, the man called Unabomber….

(7) RECORD VIEWERSHIP. “When Hollywood Put World War III on Television” – a memory-stirring article, behind a paywall in The Atlantic.

We live in an anxious time. Some days, it can feel like the wheels are coming off and the planet is careening out of control. But at least it’s not 1983, the year that the Cold War seemed to be in its final trajectory toward disaster.

Forty years ago today, it was the morning after The Day After, the ABC TV movie about a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. Roughly 100 million people tuned in on Sunday night, November 20, 1983, and The Day After holds the record as the most-watched made-for-television movie in history.

I remember the movie, and the year, vividly. I was 22 and in graduate school at Columbia University, studying the Soviet Union. It’s hard to explain to people who worry about, say, climate change—a perfectly legitimate concern—what it was like to live with the fear not that many people could die over the course of 20 or 50 or 100 years but that the decision to end life on most of the planet in flames and agony could happen in less time than it would take you to finish reading this article….

(8) WINDOW CAT. Steve Green predicts that this shop in Berkeley, California has a decent stock of sf.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR. His father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. And he won two Mythopoetic Awards for doing so, and was nominated for a Balrog for publishing his father’s work. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 82. Introduced many fans to their favorites as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award, an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Renovation. 
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 78. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965 with an example being this November 1969 cover. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at MagiCon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 77. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign” which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 73. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,302. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon. (JJ)
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 70. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work at her most excellent blog.

(10) COMIXOLOGY APP GOES AWAY 12/4. ZDNET’s Lance Whitney scorns the way “Amazon is killing off its Comixology app in true supervillain fashion”.

Like Thanos, Kang, and Dr. Doom, Amazon seems to be on a mission to destroy superheroes, at least when it comes to providing a user-friendly platform for buying and accessing digital comics. In a new message posted online and in the app, the retail giant announced that as of December 4, its Comixology app will no longer be available and will instead be merged with its Kindle app for iOS, Android, and Fire OS.

After the deadline, you’ll still be able to access and read your existing Comixology comics, graphic novels, and manga titles, but only in the Kindle app. And before the deadline hits, you’ll have to download any Comixology books you were reading into the Kindle app. You may also need to head to your Amazon Digital Content page and send individual comic books to your preferred ebook reader.

On the plus side, any books you’re reading in the Comixology app will sync their progress in the Kindle app, so you can continue where you left off. You’ll be able to read your Comixology books in the Comics section of the Kindle website. And you can continue to buy digital comics from the Comixology area on Amazon’s website.

(11) SORT OF LIKE A MEREDITH MOMENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] There’s an available MAX (HBO) deal: $2.99/month (with ads) for six months (normally $9.99/month) — https://auth.max.com/product. (Offer ends Monday Nov 27)

(12) TWO SHORT CLIPS FROM DOOM PATROL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] DPers imagine themselves in TV trailers.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) imagines himself teaming up with Vic Stone (Cyborg) for Steele & Stone, a Seventies-style cop show.

Rita Farr (“Elasti-Girl” imagines herself teaming up with Cyborg: in Beekeeper & Borg, like Steed and Mrs. Peel. Watch the Beekeeper & Borg trailer on YouTube.

(And a Reddit user edited the second trailer to match timing with the source material! — “I edited ‘Beekeeper & Borg’ to match the ‘The Avengers’ intro”.

(13) STEAMPUNK ART. Atlas Obscura Experiences is offering a four-part lecture series “Exploring Steampunk Art With Bruce Rosenbaum” for $75 a ticket. The promo says “Bruce Rosenbaum has been dubbed the Steampunk Guru by the Wall Street Journal and Steampunk Evangelist by Wired Magazine.”

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting two hours on four Mondays beginning November 27.

Session 1 (Monday, 11/27, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Intro to Steampunk: Defining steampunk and identifying its origins. 

Session 2 (Monday, 12/4, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Designing a Steampunk Life: Exploring the philosophy and concepts of steampunk art, from creative problem solving and collaboration to adaptive reuse.

Session 3 (Monday, 12/11, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Past/Future Art: Taking a closer look at the process of making different kinds of steampunk art and design.

Session 4 (Monday, 12/18, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| The Business of Steampunk: Looking into how to transform your steampunk art practice into a business (with examples from Modvic)

(14) REVISITING THE BROTHERS HILDEBRANDT. In 1994, Marvel Comics’ greatest characters were brought to life by two of science fiction and fantasy’s most renowned illustrators in Greg and Tim Hildebrandt’s unforgettable Marvel Masterpieces III trading card set. To celebrate the 30th anniversary next year, Marvel Comics will proudly showcase the Brothers Hildebrandt’s gorgeous Marvel Masterpieces III artwork in a new collection of variant covers.

Also available as virgin variant covers, the new covers will begin in January and continue all year long. Fans have already seen previews of the January pieces and now can see what’s coming in February, including spotlights on Cable and Night Thrasher for their upcoming new solo series.

Across more than 150 beautifully painted illustrations, comic fans saw the Brothers Hildebrandt’s masterful approach to the Marvel Universe with these timeless depictions of heroes and villains that have stayed with in the hearts and minds of fans ever since. Now, be captivated once more when they adorn the covers of select Marvel titles next year! For more information, visit Marvel.com.

(15) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A SAVINGS. Heritage Auctions next Space Exploration Signature Auction on December 14-15 is offering a “Full-Scale McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Manufactured Friendship 7 Mercury Spacecraft Exhibition Model”. All you need is about $50,000 and a place to keep it around the house.

…Painted on the exterior are the Friendship 7 logo, “United States,” and an American flag very similar to what was painted on John Glenn’s capsule, the first mission on which an American orbited the Earth. A 27.5″‘ x 33″ removable hatch can be detached to allow closer inspection of the outstanding interior cabin assembled of a composite of wood and metal that features two fluorescent lights that beautifully illuminate the mannequin and instrument panel when plugged in via a standard plug at the bottom of the capsule. The attention to detail in the cabin is extraordinary. The instrument panel display is similar to the “B” configuration that was used on the Friendship 7 mission. The silver spacesuit has not been removed for inspection. However, the model was donated to the BSA in 1966; therefore, the suit is of the period….

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

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 11/17/23 Walking My Sloth Named Thoth

(1) A TAFF GUIDE TO BEER. [Item by Geri Sullivan.] A TAFF Guide to Beer is now available in print on Amazon in the US and UK!

Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer published A TAFF Guide to Beer during the 2019 Eastbound TAFF race. It celebrates the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund and the ways in which in brings together and fosters connections between science fiction fans from across Europe and North America, seen through the lens of beer. It features contributions from over 3 dozen TAFF delegates as well as the 4 candidates in the 2019 race. We printed copies then, and it’s been available on Dave Langford’s splendid TAFF ebook page pretty much ever since.

When I started working on Idea #13 (being published shortly, a mere 23 years since Idea #12), Pat Virzi advised me to publish another, small project on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) since the first book you publish with them often takes a long time for them to process. 

Claire and Mark gave the go-ahead. I faffed around for longer than I like to admit, but finally figured out how to make room for the bar code on the back cover, and sent off for a proof copy. It arrived Tuesday. After I clicked the “publish” button, the fanzine spent a few days in KDP’s review process, but it’s now available for $10 or £8. TAFF will receive just over $1/£1 for each copy sold.

Note: KDP says it takes up to 3 days Amazon.com to show it in stock and up to 5 days in other marketplaces. These links are working for me tonight; you’re welcome to share them with fans who might be interested: 

And several other countries, too. 

(2) BOOKS FOR CREDENTIALS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Harvard Book Store was expecting a shipment of books. A pallet of boxes marked ‘haddock filets’ arrived instead — Warehouse workers panicked, but it was only a red herring.

The Boston Globe story is paywalled, so here’s an excerpt:

…Sitting before [the bookstore’s warehouse manager] were dozens of green-and-white cardboard packages that read, “FROZEN FISH” and “HADDOCK” in big block letters…but it turns out that the store’s regular distributor…simply had extra boxes lying around… [that] happened to be for a Florida-based seafood wholesaler called Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

The bookstore did an Instagram caption contest; entries included “Available in hardcover, paperback, and filet.”

(3) THIEVES LIKE US. “Lost Doctor Who episodes found – but owner is reluctant to hand them to BBC” reports the Guardian.

For Doctor Who-lovers they are the missing crown jewels: lost episodes of the first series of the TV sci-fi drama, shown in the 1960s. But now film recordings of not just one, but two of the early BBC adventures, both featuring the first doctor, William Hartnell, has been found in Britain by amateur sleuths.

The episodes, one featuring the Daleks, would offer viewers a chance to travel back in time without the use of a Tardis. But the Observer has learned that the owners of the rare, rediscovered footage are not prepared to hand it over to the BBC, even as the clock ticks down to the 60th anniversary of the show’s launch this month.

Veteran film collector John Franklin believes the answer is for the BBC to announce an immediate general amnesty on missing film footage.

This would reassure British amateur collectors that their private archives will not be confiscated if they come forward and that they will be safe from prosecution for having stored stolen BBC property, something several fear….

(4) EARLY JOANNA RUSS. “’It’s Not Shrill, It’s Ultrasonic’: Queer SF Pioneer Joanna Russ’s Feminist Awakening” at Library of America.

…“We started with the assumption that the woman’s problem is not a woman’s problem; it is a social problem,” [Sheila] Tobias wrote. “There is something wrong with a society that cannot find ways to make it possible for married women, single women, intelligent women, educated or uneducated, or welfare women, to achieve their full measure of reward.” Some two thousand people attended discussions on abortion, contraception, childcare, race, and sexuality. It was one of the first conferences in the United States to address sexism in an academic setting….

(5) HAND Q&A. “Elizabeth Hand on Playwriting, Haunted Houses, and Shirley Jackson” at CrimeReads.

[ELIZABETH HAND]: I just love haunted house stories. And The Haunting of Hill House is kind of the haunted house story, certainly for Americans. For me, it was just a matter of really following the template that [Jackson] created. Laurence sent me scans of the drawings that she had made, like the house plans for Hill House, some of which I think are reprinted in the Franklin bio. But I had them in like a bigger format. And so that was really cool—to see how she envisioned that space. And I had read the book multiple times over the years, and I reread it more than once when preparing to write this book [A Haunting on the Hill]. And during one of those three readings, I just went through with a highlighter to highlight all the references to doors and windows of the halls and just… spaces within it, because I thought, if I get anything wrong, people are going to call me on it! If I have the red room at the wrong end of the hallway, you know, no one’s going to let me get away with it!

(6) INVEST WISELY. Cat Rambo advises writers about “Making the Most of Your Con Budget” at the SFWA Blog.

…Decide who you want to connect with by a) looking at the guest or membership list, which is usually available online, b) joining/following the convention’s social media accounts to see who’s posting there, and c) asking among your friends, including online groups you belong to.

If the convention is non-genre-specific, find out what kind of presence your genre will have. What teachers or mentors are attending that you would like to meet? What agents are appearing and what genres do they represent? (You may need to go to their agencies’ websites to find this out.)

Look over the convention’s website and promotional materials to determine what the event’s strengths are—what does it offer that isn’t always available, such as a chance to pitch to multiple agents, or the Nebula Conference Mentorship Program that pairs newer conference attendees with experienced Nebula-goers?

Using all of the above, set your goals for the event….

(7) UNMANNERLY VISITORS. Recommended: “’The Earthlings’ by Matthew Olzmann” at Academy of American Poets.

(8) SHADES OF TRALFAMADORE. Sophie Kemp assures us “Kurt Vonnegut’s House Is Not Haunted” in The Paris Review.

… And as for me, I do not remember when I first registered that Kurt Vonnegut lived in Alplaus, a small hamlet in Schenectady County, named after the Dutch expression aal plaats, which means “a place of eels.” (There were no eels that I am aware of.) I think it was in high school. I think my hair was cut short. I think it was when I was a virgin. I think it was when I got a job as a bookseller at the Open Door on Jay. I think I was probably sixteen….

… They asked if we wanted to see inside. The thing about the house, they told us, is that it was not haunted, because ghosts are not real, but also a copy of Player Piano, sitting face out on a bookshelf, kept falling on the head of one of their kids and as a result the family had this inside joke about it being Kurt’s ghost. Obviously, I wanted to see the haunted bookshelf so they showed me the haunted bookshelf. It looked pretty normal. Also facing out was a stuffed animal gnome holding a coffee cup that said “Best Mom,” and a book about raising chickens. I cannot stress enough that the house of Kurt Vonnegut is now just a completely normal house where people live and is full of completely normal things that appear in completely normal houses. Which to me makes a lot of sense. Vonnegut in my opinion is a charming and scrappy weirdo. He is not the kind of person you think of as living on some kind of grand estate…. 

(9) THE FIRE THIS TIME. [Item by Dann.] Author and lecturer, Virginia Postrel, found herself aghast at a repeated misrepresentation of the myth of Prometheus.  The tale of Prometheus was presented as a cautionary tale about the risks of innovation and technology.  She responds by pointing out that Prometheus was a defender who loved humanity in “The Myth of Prometheus Is Not a Cautionary Tale”

…No. No. No. No.

Prometheus is punished for loving humankind. He stole fire to thwart Zeus’ plans to eliminate humanity and create a new subordinate species. He is a benefactor who sacrifices himself for our good. His punishment is an indicator not of the dangers of fire but of the tyranny of Zeus.

…The Greeks honored Prometheus. They celebrated technē. They appreciated the gifts of civilization.

The ancient myth of Prometheus is not a cautionary tale. It is a reminder that technē raises human beings above brutes. It is a myth founded in gratitude.

She points out that a similar anti-technology reading of Frankenstein is also flawed.

(10) ABANDON TWITTER ALL YE WHO EXIT HERE. Not at all trying to be a completist, but here are a few more authors who are leaving X.

Scott Edelman also wants Filers to know that he bailed from Twitter – except he did it two months ago.

Several advertisers are also applying the brakes. “Disney, Apple, Lionsgate Suspend X/Twitter Ads; White House Condemns Musk Post” according to Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is the latest company to suspend its advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of owner Elon Musk‘s amplification of an anti-semitic post two days ago. Read more below.

…More companies are suspending advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of reports that the site has let spots run next to pro-Nazi content.

Apple has decided to pause advertising on the platform, according to a report from Axios, citing sources at the company. An Apple spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Lionsgate also confirmed a Bloomberg report that it, too, was suspending advertising on the platform.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 Raymond F. Jones. Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1932 Dennis McHaney. Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 87. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs to list here, some of which I’d loved to have read such as “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”,  a fanzine done in support of the Save Star Trek campaign which was edited by him and Bojo. You can read one of their late Fifties fanzines, which I choose because of its title, “Some Important Information Concerning Unicorn Productions”, here.
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 57. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevilCatwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 40. He is the author of the most excellent Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. Several years ago, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out sometime ago but I’ve not seen it. His SF Fractulverse series, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and Fractal Noise, is quite well crafted.

(12) WHO FAN FROM THE BEGINNING. “Russell T Davies on secrets, sex and falling for Doctor Who: ‘Something clicked in my head: I love you’” in the Guardian.

…The turning point came at the age of 11 – a huge change for me and for the show. I went to comprehensive school; the Doctor became Tom Baker. I have a crucial memory of TV Comic’s weekly Doctor Who strip printing a gorgeous piece of artwork (drawn, I now know, by Gerry Haylock) showing Tom Baker in full hat, scarf and toothy grin. And something clicked in my head. Something clicked and has stayed clicked ever since. A simple thought which said: I love you.

It’s easy to draw a link between gayness and fandom. So easy, maybe it’s true. Because as those teenage years advanced, two things synced up. I was gay and went silent, watching all the parties and fancying boys at a remove instead of getting drunk on cider, scared of giving myself away. At exactly the same time, I watched TV fiercely. Both things became closeted. Doctor Who became the other love that dares not speak its name.

It lasts, the closet. Many years later, in my late 20s, when I’d moved to Manchester and worked in TV and went to Canal Street every weekend, I copped off with a nice lad who saw a book about Doctor Who on my shelf and said: “I was in that! I was a soldier in The Caves of Androzani.” And I lied, I lied to a man I’d just had sex with, I said: “No, that book’s from work, it’s someone else’s, I don’t really know what it is.” Sorry, soldier.

I wonder now why I fell in love so hard. Though can anyone ever answer that? Some of the secret exists in what the Doctor is not. He/she/they have never had a job or a boss or even parents, they never pay tax, never do homework. They never have to go home at night. Maybe you fall in love with the show when you’re a kid because the Doctor’s a big kid, too. I could never love Star Trek in the same way because they’re the navy; when I survive to the year 2266, they won’t allow me on board. I’ll be scrubbing the floor below decks, at best. But Doctor Who’s greatest idea is that the Tardis can land anywhere. I’d walk home from school wishing I could turn the corner and see that blue box and run inside to escape everything. I don’t think that wish has quite gone….

(13) WELL, HARDLY EVER. Black Nerd Problems’ Mikkel Snyder says, “To Watch ‘Pantheon,’ I Wouldn’t Ever Promote Piracy…”

… The central point of all of this is that studios are much more concerned with not paying residuals, and you know what, in the capitalist hellscape that we exist in, I can pretend that I can understand. However, as someone who loves media in all of its forms and is a proponent of media preservation, it’s exceedingly frustrating that works of art that I could see as seminal are subject to the whims of razor thin profit margins. And I’m willing to pay to get access to this media. I immediately purchased all four seasons of Infinity Train in a desperate bid to get access to one of my favorite animated series of 2020 and 2021. Even now, I’m aware that if Prime wanted to they could wipe my entire library, and I would have next to no recourse.

But let’s flash forward to early October when thanks to a friend, I caught wind that for some reason, the second season of Pantheon was in fact airing exclusively on Prime Australia and New Zealand and had no discernable release in the States.

Now, I wouldn’t ever promote piracy. Piracy hurts hard working creatives. It denies them of any direct revenue that is generated from purchases or views, and the only thing potentially worse is completely removing any evidence that it ever existed and preventing any legitimate means of acquisition…or you know, something like that.

And it would be a real shame if the second season of a phenomenal science fiction series that may or may not conclude its story as there is no way in hell a third season is ever going to exist. And it would be completely wild if access to the episodes would be entirely dependent on the random whims of a random Prime ANZ executive. But at least *someone* would get to watch it. And at least it would be online….

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter enjoyed this wrong reply on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: Literary Characters

Answer: In his first appearance in 1902, he was described as “betwixt-and-between” a boy & a bird.

Wrong question: Who is Batman?

Right question: Who is Peter Pan?

(15) UPDATE TO THE ROBERT BLOCH OFFICIAL WEBSITE. Two updates to the Psycho page at the Robert Bloch Official Website.

  • A link to a video showing Psycho (film) locations and how they look today.
  • A nice behind-the-scenes shot with Hitchcock in front of the Bates home.

(16) KEEP CALM, ZACK FANS. “Both of Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon films will get their own R-rated director’s cut” says Entertainment Weekly.

For years after Zack Snyder departed Justice League in the midst of production, the filmmaker’s most passionate fans repeatedly pleaded their case: #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Eventually, they succeeded. In 2021, Warner Bros. brought the director back to their DC superhero roster one last time to complete Zack Snyder’s Justice League

That experience taught Snyder and his wife/producing partner Deborah that there is a significant subset of people who will always be interested in seeing his pure, uncut artistic vision. They took that lesson with them as they set out building their own new cinematic universe in the form of the two-part sci-fi epic Rebel Moon (which you can read all about in EW’s new cover story). 

Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire hits Netflix on Dec. 22, but that won’t be the only version of the film. At some undisclosed point in the future, a longer R-rated version will be added to the streaming platform, and the same will be true for next year’s Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver. But unlike the messy years-long experience with DC, these “director’s cuts” were planned from the beginning. During an hourlong Zoom interview with EW on Halloween about the making of the new films, Snyder said that Netflix producers brought up the idea very early on in the process….

(17) HISTORY FROM ANOTHER PLANET. StarWars.com reminds everyone about “The Origins of Life Day”.

Before you and your family gather your glowing orbs, don your ankle-length red smocks, and gather at the sacred tree to recite hallowed Shyriiwook verses in celebration of Life Day, let’s look back at the holiday’s origins. Not from within the Star Wars setting, mind you; rather, let’s examine its real-world history and evolution from an obscure TV source to an annual fan tradition.

The root of Life Day is found in The Star Wars Holiday Speciala star-studded 1978 prime time broadcast that aired on CBS once on November 17, 1978. After that broadcast, it was never to be (officially) seen again in the US and instead was relegated to bizarre cultural curiosity in the years that followed. The intent of the Holiday Special was to keep Star Wars in the public eye during the long three-year stretch between movies with new entertainment, using a tried-and-true television format of the 1970s: the variety special….

(18) STARSHIP HELD FOR QUICK FIX. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX has announced it will delay the planned second launch of its “Starship“ rocket until Saturday to replace a failed or questionable grid fin actuator. The rocket has been unstacked at the launchpad to provide access for replacing the part. The four grid fins provide guidance/attitude control when returning the super heavy booster to a controlled landing. (In this case, a “land”ing in the ocean.) “SpaceX delays launch of its giant Starship rocket to swap out a part” at Ars Technica.

The launch of SpaceX’s second full-size Starship rocket from South Texas is now scheduled for Saturday, a day later than previously planned, according to company founder Elon Musk.

This 24-hour delay will allow time for SpaceX technicians at the company’s launch facility, known as Starbase, to replace a component on the rocket’s stainless steel Super Heavy booster. There is a 20-minute launch window on Saturday, opening at 7 am CST (13:00 UTC), shortly after sunrise in South Texas.

A delay at this point is unsurprising. Starship is a complex launch vehicle with a sum of 39 methane-burning engines, each producing roughly a half-million pounds of thrust, powering its booster stage and upper stage. And this is only the second test flight of SpaceX’s new full-scale, nearly 400-foot-tall (121-meter) rocket, the largest launch vehicle ever built…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/3/23 Scrolled Things Are aFiled At The Pixel K

(1) GAHAN WILSON TV. Episode One of Gahan Wilson’s Tales of Horror TV series debuted on Halloween at GahanWilson.net where it is streaming exclusively.  They will be premiering one or two new episodes each month for the next two years. Episode One is “Phyllis” starring Bourke Floyd and Rachel Alig.

CHATGPT LOVES MY BOOK. [Item by Francis Hamit.]

STARMEN, A blended genre story merging Apache myths, witchcraft, science fiction, fantasy, history, detective, espionage, politics, and romance in a captivating narrative.

Had a conversation with ChatGPT that resulted in that promotional blurb.:  Now I know a bit about AI from covering it during my trade magazine journalism career and my experiments with Artspace.ai.  Any conversation with ChatGPT trains it to serve your needs but the “captivating narrative” bit at the end threw me for a bit.  It seems almost human, doesn’t it, as if it has read the book.

So was that just a lucky accident or could the ChatGPT program have done this? Could it have reached into my computer and read my novel and then compared it to the thousands of other novels and their reviews that have been uploaded to its massive database?  And now makes a value judgement like that?

It could do so in a nanosecond. There is an excerpt on Amazing Stories and other reviews of my other work online and several other books of mine in the Cloud at AWS..  

Will ChatGPT become a literary arbiter because it will always know more than humans do.  (And whose fault is that?  We trained it.)  I suspect that a ChatGPT review may become a default item for book promotion. I’m certainly going to use this just to see if it has any influence.

Two things; ChatGPT is also trained to be very polite so negative reviews are unlikely and a new book is now expected to get dozens of reviews from a variety of  sources; publications, book bloggers, Book Tok influencers, etc. So it will not displace any human reviewer but be just another data point.

(3) MIKE ALLEN Q&A. West Virginia Public Broadcasting interviews writer, editor and publisher Mike Allen about “Sci-fi, Horror And Ghosts In Western Virginia”.

Adams: I’m curious as to what you see when you look at Appalachia. What’s it look like from your perspective in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror world?

Allen: So here’s an interesting thing for me: Roanoke is unique. Some of it, I think, actually goes back to Nelson Bond having been based here, who was extremely active in the 1930s and ‘40s and ‘50s in the magazine scene that existed at that time. Writers like Sharyn McCrumb were making Roanoke, or at least the Roanoke region, their home base. Roanoke has this very robust culture for celebrating its writers, regardless of what they write. Those of us who are based here like myself, like Rod Belcher, who writes under the name R.S. Belcher, or Amanda McGee, who’s an up-and-coming writer whose work is definitely Appalachian and has a bit of witchery involved, we’ve experienced the benefit of that.

There’s no way for me to kind of sweepingly talk about everybody with an Appalachian connection. But there are some I do want to mention. Nathan Ballingrud, who lives in Asheville, is a horror writer who’s had some really high profile things happen lately. His first short story collection, “North American Lake Monsters,” was adapted into the Hulu series, “Monsterland.” The title story in that book, he considers to be an Appalachian story. I mentioned Rod Belcher whose novels have events in West Virginia and the Carolinas. Manly Wade Wellman might be the classic Golden Age writer who’s most associated with the Appalachians. He has a series of stories about John the Balladeer, or Silver John, who is a gentleman who has a guitar strung with silver strings. He wanders through this magical realist version of the Appalachian Mountains and has encounters that are very much based on Appalachian folklore….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Today’s updates are briefer than planned, as I’ve been working on some other stuff, which might make it into tomorrow’s update.

Photos and video from the Iain M. Banks panel

This Weibo post has some photos from, and a brief write-up of, the Iain M. Banks panel.  (A translated edition of Look to Windward has just been released in China.)

The same person also posted a subtitled video of a 7-minute clip from a Sky documentary, which seems like it was maybe shown during the panel.

YouTube report from the con

I’ve only briefly skimmed this subtitled 19-minute video about the con, so I don’t know how worth watching it is.  The source seems to be a reporter who normally covers Silicon Valley and the tech industry, so there’s a fair bit of stuff about the “businessy” panels as well as things more likely to be of interest to Filers.  There’s a bit of footage from the panel/presentation Nnedi Okorafor was on.

Group photos from the con

It’s not clear to me if the person who posted this image gallery to Xiaohongshu was a volunteer or some other member of the con team, but some of the faces seen in the photos will be recognizable to Filers.

(5) SFWA RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT CALL FOR COMMENTS ON AI. SFWA has posted the text of a letter the organization sent to the US Copyright Office about artificial intelligence – “SFWA Comments on AI to US Copyright Office” at the SFWA Blog.

On October 30, the SFWA Board and the SFWA Legal Affairs Committee sent the following letter to the US Copyright Office in response to their August 2023 Notice of Inquiry regarding copyright law and policy issues in artificial intelligence, which is part of their AI Initiative….

Quoting from the letter:

… it is with much regret that we cannot yet speak in favor of using AI technology in the business of creating art.

The current crop of artificial intelligence systems owes a great debt to the work of creative human beings. Vast amounts of copyrighted creative work, collected and processed without regard to the moral and legal rights of its creators, have been copied into and used by these systems that appear to produce new creative work. These systems would not exist without the work of creative people, and certainly would not be capable of some of their more startling successes. However, the researchers who have developed them have not paid due attention to this debt. Everyone else involved in the creation of these systems has been compensated for their contributions—the manufacturers of the hardware on which it runs, the utility companies that generate their electrical power, the owners of their data centers and offices, and of course the researchers themselves. Even where free and open source software is used, it is used according to the licenses under which the software is distributed as a reflection of the legal rights of the programmers. Creative workers alone are expected to provide the fruits of their labor for free, without even the courtesy of being asked for permission. Our rights are treated as a mere externality.

Perhaps, then, creative workers uniquely benefit from the existence of these artificial intelligence systems? Unfortunately, to date the opposite has been the case: SFWA has thus far seen mainly harm to the business of writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy as a result of the release of AI systems.

For example, short fiction in our genres has long been recognized as a wellspring of the ideas that drive our work as well as inspiring works in film, games, and television. Writers in our genres rely on a thriving and accessible landscape, which includes online and paper magazines. Part of the success of these publications depends on an open submission process, in which writers may submit their stories without a prior business relationship. This has frequently served as a critical opportunity for new and marginalized authors to have their voices heard.

Over the last year, these venues, particularly the ones that pay higher rates for stories, have been inundated with AI-written stories. The editors uniformly report that these submissions are poorly conceived and written, far from being publishable, but the sheer volume materially interferes with the running of these magazines. Once submission systems are flooded with such content, it takes longer to read and reject a submission than it took someone to have an AI produce it in the first place. Every submitted work must be opened and considered to verify that the writers for whom the system was originally designed are not missed or forgotten….

(6) JOANNA RUSS. LitHub provides readers with “Everything You Need to Know About Groundbreaking Queer Feminist Science Fiction Writer Joanna Russ”.

…Eventually Russ would find a way to channel that disjunction into a remarkable body of literature, including the revolutionary novel The Female Man (1975).

That novel and a selection of other novels and stories by Russ have now been collected and reissued by the Library of America. Not long ago, I sat down with the volume’s editor, Nicole Rudick, to talk about Russ’s life, work, and her reputation as one of the fiercest critics ever to write about science fiction.

JM: Let’s talk about Russ’s development as a writer. She grew up in New York, went to Cornell. She studied with Nabokov, correct?

NR: True, though I think it’s a little overstated. She studied with him in her last year at Cornell and dedicated “Picnic on Paradise” to him and to S.J. Perelman, but I think she came to feel a little silly about that. She named them both as stylistic influences, and she and Nabokov certainly share a metafictional approach, but she talked a lot more throughout her life about George Bernard Shaw.

She grew up loving science, and was a top 10 finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in 1953. She graduated high school early, and then went to Cornell and switched over to literature. She said that she came out to herself as a lesbian privately when she was a kid and went right back in because she had no models. She didn’t feel that it was real, that it could be done. And that continued at Cornell, where things were pretty traditional in terms of gender roles. And then she went to Yale and studied playwriting but found that she was not very good at it. When she returned to New York, she worked odd jobs, did some theater work, and made some adaptations for radio at WBAI. She was also writing stories and publishing them in little journals and SF magazines.

In the late 60s, she started writing stories about Alyx. She said it was the hardest thing she ever did in her life, to conceive of a tough, independent female protagonist and get it on the page. Feminism was not widespread in the United States at that moment and Russ wasn’t involved in consciousness-raising groups or anything like that, so it was a solitary time to be writing these sorts of things. But they did well. Picnic in Paradise, her novella about Alyx, won a Nebula Award. And then in ‘67, she was back at Cornell, as a teacher, and in ‘69, there was a colloquium on women in the United States organized by the university in the intercession period—Betty Friedan and Kate Millett and a bunch of other panelists talking about sexuality, race, and why women see each other the way that they do. They approached these issues as social problems, not individual problems. Russ was there, and her description of it is so funny—“Marriages broke up; people screamed at each other who had been friends for years…. The skies flew open.” A wave of feminism washed over Cornell, and she sat down and wrote “When it Changed” in the weeks afterwards. Six months later, she saw a novel in the story and wrote The Female Man. But she couldn’t find a publisher. She wanted it published by a trade press and they all rejected it. The excuses were like, “There’s more feminism than science fiction”—that from Viking Press. A lot of women editors were baffled by it and turned it down. It finally got bought by Frederik Pohl [at Bantam Books] in 1975….

(7) CUTTING EDGE. The UK’s Crime Writers Association is expanding their Dagger Awards with two new categories: “Dagger awards adds categories for ‘cosy crime’ and psychological thrillers” in the Guardian.

The growing popularity of two crime fiction subgenres has prompted the creation of two new categories in the annual Crime Writers’ Association awards, including one for “cosy crime” – the subgenre of comforting mysteries that originated with Agatha Christie and is now most associated with Richard Osman.

The Daggers, as the CWA awards are known, recognise authors across 11 categories including historical crime, translated crime and lifetime contribution to crime writing. Next year, the two new awards will be the Twisted Dagger, for psychological thrillers, and the Whodunnit Dagger, for cosy crime….

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to binge BBQ with the legendary Mike Gold in Episode 211 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mike Gold

I’m extremely pleased I was able to convince the legendary Mike Gold to head out for dinner the night before the con began.

Gold entered the comic industry as DC’s first public relations manager. But as I was astounded to discover, he did some PR earlier than that — as the media coordinator for the defense at the Chicago Conspiracy trial, acting as the intermediary between the press and the likes of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, when he was only a teen.

After DC, in 1983, he launched First Comics, where he edited Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg, Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar, Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance, and many other classic series. Then after his move back to DC in 1986, he edited such titles as LegendsThe ShadowThe QuestionAction Comics WeeklyGreen Arrow: The Longbow HuntersBlackhawk, and others.

In 2006, he co-founded ComicMix, and in 2011, he received the first Humanitarian Award from the Hero Initiative. And — since he’s five years older than I am — meaning I would have read Fantastic Four #1 at age six, and Mike at eleven, five years counting for a lot back then — I enjoyed digging into our differing perspectives about the early days of comics.

We discussed the way his hiring at DC Comics was all Neal Adams’ fault, how the guerrilla marketing he learned from Abbie Hoffman helped him quadruple direct market sales, the Steve Ditko Creeper cover which sent a not-so-secret message to publisher Carmine Infantino, why editor Murray Boltinoff compared Marvel Comics to the Beatles (and not in a good way), which staffer was “the most disgusting human being I’d ever met in my life,” how First Comics was born, his secret weapon for getting creators to deliver their work on time, our differing contemporaneous exposure to Fantastic Four #1 (and how his related to Merrick Garland), the way an off-hand comment led to a classic John Byrne comic, how the comic book field is like a donut shop, and much more.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1929 Neal Barrett, Jr. Heavily nominated for many awards including a number of Hugos but he never won. He was Toastmaster at LoneStarCon 2.  He was prolific writing over two dozen novels and some fifty pieces of short fiction including a novelization of the first Dredd film. As good much of his genre work was, I think his finest, best over the top work was the Wiley Moss series which led off with Pink Vodka Blues. He’s generously available at usual digital suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1942 Martin Cruz Smith, 81. Best remembered for Gorky Park, the Russian political thriller, but he’s also done a number of genre novels in The Indians Won (alternate history), Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy (PI with psychic powers) and two wonderful pulpish novels, The Inca Death Squad and Code Name: Werewolf
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 71. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well!
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 70. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 60.  Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done?  Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.
  • Born November 3, 1977 David Edison, 46. His Waking Engine series, beginning with the rather excellent Waking Engine novel, an urban fantasy set in the afterlife, would’ve been great. His only other novel, Sandymancer, merges fantasy and hard SF. 

(10) IN THE SAME SPIRIT. “We Almost Got a Superhero Movie from The Exorcist Director William Friedkin” says Literary Hub.

In 1975, four years after the release of The French Connection, William Friedkin revealed to a reporter the inspiration for the film’s celebrated car chase scene.

It was the cover of a comic book: a man runs terrified on elevated tracks, just a few steps ahead of a train. He is handsome and athletic. Save for a domino mask, he is dressed like a classic Hollywood detective, in a blue suit and loose tie; he bears no resemblance to Gene Hackman’s slovenly everyman “Popeye” Doyle. The cover was from The Spirit, a comic that ran as a seven-page newspaper insert throughout the 40s and early 50s. The series, created by Will Eisner, was admired for its black humor, innovative compositions, shocking violence, and its setting in a precisely realized urbanscape. “Look at the dramatic use of montage, of light and sound,” Friedkin told the reporter. “See the dynamic framing that Eisner employs, and the deep, vibrant colors.”

Friedkin may not have been telling the truth. The comic he showed the reporter was a reprint that had been published after the release of The French Connection. The stories were three decades old, but the covers were new. Still, it was good publicity for the project he was then planning, a feature-length pilot for an NBC series that would feature the Spirit, aka Denny Colt, a detective who has risen from the dead, lives in a cemetery, and fights crime with his wits, his fists, and a willingness to withstand pain that borders on masochism….

(11) ITALIAN POLITICAL BRANDING USING LOTR. Jamie Mackay asks “How did The Lord of the Rings become a secret weapon in Italy’s culture wars?” in a Guardian opinion piece.

As a longtime fan of JRR Tolkien, I’ve long felt put out by Giorgia Meloni’s bizarre obsession with The Lord of the Rings. Over the years, Italy’s ultra-conservative prime minister has quoted passages in interviews, shared photos of herself reading the novel and even posed with a statue of the wizard Gandalf as part of a campaign. In her autobiography-slash-manifesto, she dedicates several pages to her “favourite book”, which she refers to at one point as being a “sacred” text. When I read the news this week that Italy’s culture ministry is spending €250,000 to organise a Tolkien show at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, and that Meloni will attend the opening, I couldn’t help wondering: why? What is this government trying to achieve by stamping its mark so aggressively on one of the world’s most loved fantasy sagas?

My Italian friends don’t get the fuss. This is everyday politics, they say, a simple branding exercise to soften Meloni’s image. Perhaps. But there’s a deeper, and frankly stranger, side to this story. When The Lord of the Rings first hit Italian shelves in the 1970s, the academic Elémire Zolla wrote a short introduction in which he interpreted the book as an allegory about “pure” ethnic groups defending themselves against contamination from foreign invaders. Fascist sympathisers in the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) quickly jumped on the provocation. Inspired by Zolla’s words, they saw in Tolkien’s world a space where they could explore their ideology in socially acceptable terms, free from the taboos of the past. Meloni, an MSI youth wing member, developed her political consciousness in that environment. As a teenager she even attended a “Hobbit Camp”, a summer retreat organised by the MSI in which participants dressed up in cosplay outfits, sang along to folk ballads and discussed how Tolkienian mythologies could help the post-fascist right find credibility in a new era….

(12) STREAMING TOP 10. JustWatch has released the top 10 streaming movies and TV shows for October 2023.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Marvel Studios’ Echo” official trailer dropped today. The series begins streaming January 10 on @DisneyPlus and @Hulu.

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