Pixel Scroll 1/6/24 10 Pixels To Scroll, Number 9 Will SHOCK You

(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.

And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”

This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…

Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.

The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.

(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.

…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.

Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.

Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….

The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.

“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:

Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.

They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.

I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.

I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.

It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.

I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”

I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”

What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”

(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.

One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.

…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.

The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.

“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)

The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….

(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)

(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.

Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.

Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.

To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.

Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.

(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.

We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.

Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…

(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.

Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.

The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.

All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.

(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years. 

Eric Frank Russell

Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in AstoundingUnknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.

At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo.  The Great Explosion novel garnered  a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best. 

The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.

And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it? 

He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess. 

(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)

Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows there are always lines.
  • Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”

(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…

(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.

‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
Sheena Patel

I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.

I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.

In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.

We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s KindredStanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta

(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.

Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.

Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.

(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.

Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.

City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.

“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…

…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….

(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.

To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.

The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….

It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.

(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.

New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former.  “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kevin Standlee, Kathy Sullivan, Danny Sichel, 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 Thomas the Red.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/23 To Say Nothing Of The Pixels

(1) THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MURDER. James Davis Nicoll assigned the “Young People Read Old SFF” panel a series of Hugo finalists to read. We’ve reached the end:

The final installment1 in Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists is Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1989The Mountains of Mourning. One of Bujold’s popular Miles Vorkosigan stories, Mountains is a murder mystery. Through Miles’ eyes, Bujold explores certain aspects of Barrayaran life generally kept off-stage thanks to the series’ focus on the aristocracy. 

Mountains won the Best Novella Hugo, beating The Father of Stones by Lucius Shepard, A Touch of Lavender by Megan Lindholm, Time Out by Connie Willis, and Tiny Tango by Judith Moffett. I’ve not read the other finalists so I cannot compare them to the winner. I can say that Mountains was the first Bujold I read. It is the reason I have a shelf full of Bujold novels.

Fans liked it. I liked it. But did the Young People like it?…

Nicoll says the next project, debuting in 2024, is Young People Read Old Nebula Finalists

(2) THEY LIVE! Galaxy is also being resurrected by the same company that has announced the relaunch of Worlds of IF. “Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951 (FIRST-EVER WEBZINE REISSUE + new bonus content!)” at Starship Sloane Publishing.

I am happy to announce that this magazine, like its sister publication, Worlds of IF, is also being revived and relaunched by Starship Sloane Publishing Company, Inc.

This might be a slow process, as we are wonderfully busy with the booming relaunch of Worlds of IF already, and I have no desire to make things overly frenetic. The idea is to methodically breathe new life into Galaxy. It seems only fitting that these two magazines should walk hand in hand once again. I will be keeping this celebrated magazine skinny, minimalist in style, and highly selective. The quality of work will speak for itself….

… I do this for the love of creativity and science fiction. But I also strive for simplicity. If something becomes a self-imposed, burdensome form of work, I reevaluate. I will not place stressful expectations on myself here. A strict publishing schedule? Very unlikely. But semiannually sounds about right, I suppose…. 

(3) GONE IN POINT SIX SECONDS. The MinnPost believes people should be concerned with “Protecting physical media in an age of streaming”.

It’s been repeated, echoed and understood ad nauseam that we live in the streaming era.

We get it. Something that streamers may not understand, however, is that nobody owns their digital media.

The $12.99 spent through Amazon Prime Video to purchase “Barbie” is not “your” copy of the film. A person only has access to it until Amazon decides it doesn’t want to support the licensing anymore. This concept is not new or nuanced, but it is lost. The constant shuffling of online media between major streaming conglomerates has resulted in physical media’s futility in the eyes of the general public. We indeed live in the streaming age, but it’s also an age where the cultural impact of art preservation is needed more than ever.

This sentiment is not a condemnation against people using services like Netflix and Spotify. The convenience factor of these platforms is undeniable. However, combing through records, DVDs and books at local businesses should become something other than ancient practice.

Art preservation is at the forefront of this streaming puzzle because of the cultural significance of owning physical media. Much like artifacts, art has been replaced, lost and not protected. Now, instead of encouraging ownership of your favorite titles, businesses that still champion the physical media medium are fighting an uphill battle.

With all the revenue that floods in through streaming platforms, physical media becomes a nuisance to the profit margins of online Fortune 500s.

So, when a seemingly neglected and inevitable problem like this presents itself, the starting point of where to spark the renaissance can get blurred. Viewers, listeners, patrons and readers should look to local shops that allow physical media literacy to return to the mainstream….

(4) REVIEWERS’ PROTEST. Courtney Tonokawa told review blog readers ”I’m Participating in the St. Martin’s Press Reviewer Boycott!” in November at Courtney Reads Romance.

This is a brief post throwing my support behind the ongoing St. Martin’s Press reviewer boycott, which started in late October (as far as I’m aware; if anyone has more conclusive timeline information, please let me know). It is in response to a few major issues, like the general favoritism of white reviewers for ARCs over reviewers of color and, more recently, the behavior of a marketing employee in response to recent escalation in violence between Israel and Palestine, with said employee spewing Islamophobic and queerphobic rhetoric on their socials. All receipts and a more thorough recap of events can be found at the “Readers for Accountability” website here, along with a list of the boycott demands, screenshots, graphics, and all other relevant information.

But until those demands are met, in short addressing the actions of their employee and their action plan for the future, I am joining my fellow reviewers in withholding reviews and any other promo for St. Martin’s Press, and invite anyone else interested to join. 

As Courtney’s post says, the allegations are documented at the “Readers for Accountability” website. Their overview of the complaints follows:

The boycott of St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, and other related imprints is a direct response to the publishers lack of accountability regarding one of their employees. This employee, who we will not name here, posted Islamophobic, Queerphobic, and anti-Palestinian content on their personal social media. This content was shared in Instagram stories and was brought to our attention by Palestinian activist and BookToker @vivafalastinleen. Leen noted that while she is on the St. Martin’s Press influencer list, she never seemed to receive any of the ARCs she requested. Additionally, Leen noticed that her white counterparts would receive ARCs regularly. She began to question if this was a symptom of the employee’s bigotry when she was sent screenshots of a marketing Islamophobic employee sharing racist, Islamophobic pink washing content to their stories.
Leen attempted to reach out to St. Martin’s Press when the employee’s posts came to light, but struggled to receive a response and was largely ignored. Other influencers and content creators reached out as well with similar results. However, Leen did eventually receive email from Brant Janeway. However, the response was dismissive and defensive with no action being taken to investigate.

The boycott was officially enacted after ten days of radio silence from St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday books. During those ten days, content creators were emailing, DMing, commenting, and making videos to demand that St. Martin’s Press make a statement to no avail. As such, Leen created a video that provided other creators with context for the boycott. This video also included a large amount of screenshots and context into why those screenshots are so dangerous. Twitter likes were also included so as to provide evidence of how deep the employee’s bigotry runs. Demands were issued for St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books in hopes and readers will continue to boycott the publishers and related imprints until those demands are met.

(5) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? Kim Ju-sŏng tells Guardian readers “’I repeatedly failed to win any awards’: my doomed career as a North Korean novelist”.

I believe the reason my writing received poor evaluations lay primarily in my choice of genre. All of my stories took place in Japan, or had zainichi as the main characters. In North Korea these were dismissed as “foreign works”, the catch-all term for anything about the wider world. Like anywhere, in North Korean literary circles there is a fair amount of specialisation, and each writer has his or her own style and character.

The most highly regarded genre, it goes without saying, is No 1 literature – that is, works about members of the ruling Kim family. This is not a genre that just anybody can write. In order of esteem, the genres of North Korean literature are:

1) No 1 works: stories about the achievements and personalities of the Kim family.

2) Anti-Japan partisan works AKA revolutionary works: stories set within the colonial-era independence movement.

3) War works: stories set during the Korean war.

4) Historical works: stories set during the Yi, Koguryo or Koryo dynasties.

5) Real-life works: stories about ordinary society from the postwar to the present.

6) South Korean works: stories set in South Korea.

7) Foreign works: stories set anywhere outside Korea.

I was involved with foreign works. Aside from No 1 works, writers had free choice of any genre, and we were also free to move around and experiment between genres. But only the most elite, accomplished writers were permitted to produce No 1 works….

(6) STRANGER THAN FICTION (BUT NOT FOR LONG). [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] People have seen me complain that I didn’t sign up to live in the cyberpunk dystopia we live in now, and thought I was exaggerating.

Nope.

Brian Krebs is probably the premier computer security journalist in the US. As I understand it, he had a column in the Washington Post, until the Post’s editors got freaked out by the number of what the police, and perhaps the FBI, considered “credible death threats”. My favorite story is from one of his investigations, the FBI followed the target, then suckered him to travel from eastern Europe to Guam, where he was arrested, extradited, and spent several years in US jails.

If you want to see the kind of thing he does… “Ten Years Later, New Clues in the Target Breach” at Krebs on Security.

Then tell me I’m exaggerating.

I’ve actually got a short story based on him that I’ve been trying to sell, but I guess it’s not “character-driven” enough (that I sincerely hope never happens, although he and his family have been swatted several times).

(7) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents episode 70 of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode:

“I Hope I Call You Back” by Tara Campbell – Music by Phog Masheeen – Read by Heather Morgan

“The Escape” by Jean-Paul L. Garnier – Music by Fall Precauxions – Read by the author

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 16, 1917 Arthur  C. Clarke. Sir Arthur C. Clarke is one of one of my of all time favorite writers, however, this will be not be an all-inclusive look at him, but what I like for his films and writings. So let’s me get started now…

As regards short works, Tales from the White Hart is without doubt the stories I like above all others. Like Niven’s Draco Tavern stories or those of Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers, I adore stories told in a bar setting, and these are quite splendid.

Those are hardly his only great short stories. NyCon II would give him Hugo Award for “The Star” story which is wonderful, “The Nine Billion Names of God” got a well-deserved Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4, and Loncon 3 likewise honored “How We Went to Mars”.  And I loved “A Meeting with Medusa” as well. 

Arthur C. Clarke receives Hugo Award from chairman Dave Kyle at the 1956 Worldcon, NyCon II.

Which collection you pick up is your choice — The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke currently being published legitimately in ebook format by Open Road Media has somewhere around ninety stories in it and is an excellent choice. It has “The Nine Billion Names of God” in it, another story of his I should note I love.

Novels? Well let’s start with The Fountains of Paradise if only because I got to actually got to see the setting in Sri Lanka that it’s based off of. Every bookshop there had copies of it. And it certainly deserved the Hugo it got at Noreascon Two.

I also have on my reading list the Hugo-nominated A Fall of Moondust, one of the better lunar colonization novels ever written; and likewise The Sands of Mars is a worthy look at using and that planet. 

Now we come to Rendezvous with Rama which won a Hugo at DisCon II. Damn that’s a fascinating novel. I re-read maybe a decade back and I’m please to say that the Suck Fairy broke her toe trying to tarnish its reputation. 

So films. Well it in my mind’s eye, there is but one film only and that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve seen it in cinema once, many times on a small screen. It’s wonderful. Yes, it got a Hugo at St. LouisCon.

That’s it for him. Have a good evening. 

Alice Turner and Arthur C. Clarke. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld remembers a school tradition.
  • And Gauld finds an ability to predict the future can have bittersweet results.

(10) TUTTLE ROUNDUP. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” for the Guardian includes The Reformatory by Tananarive Due; The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow; Him by Geoff Ryman; and Audition by Pip Adam

(11) CURATED HORROR. Gabino Iglesias picked “The Best Horror Books of 2023”  for the New York Times. The column begins:

There were a ton of amazing horror books published in 2023, and as a genre, horror delivered so much — from fresh takes on vampire stories to historical works that looked at racism and misogyny. That made selecting just 10 titles for this list a formidable task. So consider this a personal pantheon of favorites from 2023.

Some of the books on this list are easy reads and some will challenge you. Some are long and multilayered while others have a great sense of humor or unfurl at breakneck speed. Some adhere to a classic understanding of horror and others aim to redefine it. The important thing is that they are all outstanding.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is known for her ability to stylishly jump from genre to genre, and in SILVER NITRATE (Del Rey, 318 pp., $28), she goes full-blown horror. The book follows Montse, a sound editor navigating the macho culture of the film industry in Mexico City in the ’90s, and her best friend, Tristán, a soap opera star whose career is withering, as they help a horror director shoot a scene that’s really a ritual to break an awful curse. It’s a creepy, fast-paced tale filled with Nazis on the run and more. The novel is also Mexican to the core — it celebrates the country’s history, culture and films. This book pulls you in with its lovable, deeply flawed characters and gripping plot, and wows you with its eerie atmosphere and deft blend of historical fiction, horror and black magic….

(12) THE HOLE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science journal there is an interesting piece that may explain the dark matter conundrum. Could tiny, primordial black holes made during the Big Bang, hiding in stars account for the missing mass??? “Do tiny black holes from cosmic dawn hide within giant stars?”

“…Might itty-bitty black holes from the dawn of time be lurking in the hearts of giant stars? The idea is not so far-fetched “

This month, an enormous dark and cool spot, known as a coronal hole, opened up on the Sun’s surface—almost as if it were being swallowed by a black hole.

(13) CHRISTMAS SF BOOKS.  [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It’s that time of year again to remind folk seeking SF/F books for themselves or as Christmas presents for others that the SF2 Concatenation seasonal news page has forthcoming Science Fiction and forthcoming fantasy book listings from the major SF/F book imprints over here in Brit Cit. Back when last season’s news page was posted, these titles were all forthcoming but now, with the festive season fast approaching, most of these are now out. With just six shopping days to Christmas, there’s just time to order from your favourite genre bookshop. Happy Crimble…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/23 “My Bellona” — Theme Song from Dhalgren: The Musical

(1) R’LYEH AND PUPPIES. Francis Gooding’s review of The World We Make includes comments placing it in recent genre history: “Slimed It: On N.K. Jemisin” in The London Review of Books.

…The backstory to this battle with Cthulhu was widely covered when The City We Became first appeared. It stretches back to 2011, when the Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor won the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death. The prize came with a trophy – an ugly sculpture of Lovecraft’s head – and Okorafor wrote a thoughtful, measured blog post about her conflicted feelings on getting the award, having discovered just how racist Lovecraft was. A petition was drawn up to have the Lovecraft trophy replaced, and there was something of a furore in the sci-fi and fantasy community about what to do with Lovecraft now that, belatedly, his influence and reputation had to be squared with his racism.

The debate that followed had the disheartening outlines familiar from other culture war clashes of the time. A reactionary bitterness at progressive political gains came to the surface, a sure sign of festering prejudice. A few years later, that lurking ressentiment assumed a more active form: a concerted effort by two organised groups of authors and fans (known as the ‘Sad Puppies’ and ‘Rabid Puppies’), to skew the public nomination process for the prestigious Hugo Awards in sci-fi publishing. In response to a perceived bias in favour of the liberal left in all its manifestations – Black and brown people, women, novels with progressive themes (‘boring message fic’), gay writers and so on – the Puppies flooded the nominations with their own picks. Some of the people involved were connected to the then ascendent alt-right, and racist abuse was aimed at Jemisin herself. But though the campaign succeeded in souring the atmosphere, it didn’t achieve its desired result: in 2016, on a slate dominated by the Puppies’ astroturfed nominees, Jemisin won the Hugo for best novel with The Fifth Season, the first book in her Broken Earth trilogy. She was the first Black writer to win the award. Both the book’s sequels, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky, won the Hugo in subsequent years; a fourth Hugo followed in 2019 for the novella Emergency Skin.

The alt-right of the 2000s and early 2010s was preparing the ground for the subsequent radicalisation of the mainstream. The neofascist ideologies that once lurked in the subcultural margins have since become the basis of the ‘war on woke’, as an endless succession of manufactured outrages have bound small-c conservatives ever more tightly to what were once outré far-right positions. The eldritch bullshit that turbo-charged the Trump era wasn’t put back in its box. Jemisin evidently felt there was unfinished business. ‘The City Born Great’ was a knowing literary confrontation with the noisy and reactionary elements in the sci-fi community for whom Lovecraft remains talismanic.

In the novels, New York’s initial scrap with the Enemy expands to take in wider, ongoing struggles. Lovecraft, however, remains elemental. It eventually emerges that the Enemy is the personification of R’lyeh, the lost city from Lovecraft’s ‘The Call of Cthulhu’. Lovecraft’s stories often feature dead, inhuman cities from an unfathomably ancient past. Jemisin’s cities are the opposite, alive and defiantly human – real people, right now. And Jemisin makes sure to embody them in just the sort of people Lovecraft loathed. All the boroughs (bar Staten Island) are Black, Asian or Indigenous; and Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey – later an honorary sixth borough – are gay or queer…

(2) PERSONAL FAVORITE WHO MOMENTS. “’My favourite moment is me … not in a big-headed way!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who memories – part four” in the Guardian.

Neve McIntosh (played Silurians, including Madame Vastra, 2010-2014)

The episode A Good Man Goes to War was so special because they’d killed me off twice before and I was amazed to be asked back, as a goodie not a baddie, with Catrin Stewart as my fabulous kick-ass wife and brand new friend and stunt potato Dan Starkey! The best bit was filming the dematerialisation. The director cries “freeze!”. We are still as statues, two guys from the art department run out and flat-pack the Tardis, then, “action!”, and we all react to the Doctor disappearing off to a new adventure! Of course Madame Vastra is blase about it all but inside I was bursting with delight!

(3) WORKING HER WAY BACK. Writer Kelly Barnhill tells “How a Traumatic Brain Injury Changed Me” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

[Ms. Barnhill is the author of “The Ogress and the Orphans.” She experienced a traumatic brain injury in 2021.]

I’ve been trying to write this essay for a very long time. Months, I think. Or maybe even longer, before I ever mentioned it to anyone, before I let anyone know that I was even capable of multiple sentences again. When all I could muster writing was a single sentence on a note card. My brain works differently now than it used to, and differently than I feel that it ought to. I told my speech therapist that I was frustrated that I haven’t been able to write fiction since experiencing a traumatic brain injury — which means that I am still, after nearly two years, unable to do my job.

He nodded with practiced care. “That must feel frustrating,” he said. “But maybe it’s important to focus on what you can do.”

Which is fair, I suppose. But I still wanted to clock him.

Healing from any injury is a process of rebuilding cells and tissues and structures — taking that which is broken and making it new again. Healing a brain injury is the process of rebuilding not only tissues and cells and the connections between those cells, but also memory, thoughts, imagination, the fundamentals of language and our very concept of ourselves.

I am rebuilding myself, you see. Right now. Sentence by sentence.

In December 2021, just a few months before the publication of two of my novels, “The Ogress and the Orphans” and “When Women Were Dragons,” I took a colossal spill down the stairs.

My husband heard me holler and found me in an unconscious heap. I remember none of this. It’s strange not remembering the moment that changed my life, that altered my work and vocation, that disrupted the me-ness of me. I think, though, that my body remembers it, even if I do not. A chaos of movement. A scramble through space. A short, sharp knock at the back of my head. And then a thunderous dark….

The piece discusses the many changes to her life and the challenges in recovery, and ends:

…But lately, I’ve had dreams of writing. I wake up in tears. What story was I writing? No idea. But each neuron shoots forth messages into the dark. A small candle. A lighthouse at the edge of a stormy ocean. I exist. I saw this. Felt this. Know this. Am this. Meanwhile, my sentences have grown. I’ve taken to using larger index cards. Sometimes I go as far as a steno pad. A full sheet of paper is too much — my eyes can’t track it very well. I get lost. I need something small and contained, where I can fit pretty words into a pretty sentence and allow them to become more than themselves.

Recently, I wrote a story. Only six sentences long, but a story nonetheless. With a character, a place and the passage of time. An opening, a turn, a conclusion. Such a small thing, a tiny accomplishment. And yet. I stared at the card for a long time, utterly astonished.

(4) DETAILS OF SERGEY LUKYANENKO’S DECEMBER BOOK TOUR IN CHINA. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Further to the File 770 post on November 12, Sergey Lukanenko’s visit to China in December has now been publicly announced on Chinese social media.  That Weixin/WeChat piece describes him as a GoH of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon (2023成都世界科幻大会荣誉主宾), despite his non-appearance then.

He will be making four appearances in Chengdu between December 1st and 4th, two in Beijing on the 7th and 8th, and a final one in Shanghai on the 10th.  Three organizations are listed as event co-hosts:

The announcement also indicates a number of people will be appearing alongside Lukyanenko at some of the events:

  • Yao Haijun – deputy editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World, Hugo finalist and member of the Chengdu concom
  • Jiang Zhenyu – member of the Chengdu concom
  • Baoshu – writer of a Three-Body Problem sequel, amongst other works

(5) ILYA SAYS, ‘OPEN CHANNEL BEEB…’ [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There has been a lot the past week on BBC Radio 4 or the Home Service as I like to call it, of likely interest to Filers (and indeed SF² Concateneers)… 

This month’s Open Book has a substantive section on book banning in the USA (“Bestselling novelist Michael Connelly talks about his response to the ongoing campaigns banning books in American school libraries.”) We do not have this problem to such a degree over here in Brit Cit but, from coverage in File770, it is clearly a substantive issue in the US mega-cities and especially the Cursed Earth. You can listen to the programme here

Doctor Who is 60 this year and some of us in Brit Cit remember its first episode, peering out from behind the sofa. Anyway, the BBC has a number of programmes to mark this special anniversary. One of these was Doctor Who: The Wilderness Years that looked at why the original series ended and what happened over the years when the show was not on our screens. 

In December 1989 – after 26 years on TV, 694 episodes and seven different Doctors – Doctor Who, the longest running series in the history of British television, was quietly exterminated by the BBC. It remained off air for 16 years until the series was revived in 2005, quite spectacularly under the auspices of Russell T Davies with Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord. But the period between 1989 and 2005 was a very special interregnum. Known as the Wilderness Years, they belonged to the true keepers of the flame, Doctor Who fans – and never had a wilderness proved so fertile. 

You can listen to the programme here

iPromise was a cyberpunk stand-alone radio play about a hacker hired by not nice people to break into a quantum computer so as to get at cryptocurrency…. 

A quantum cryptocurrency audio heist movie and psychological tech thriller exploring the illusory nature of money itself. Bit – real name Rebecca “Becky” Isobel Troughton, BIT, get it? – is in trouble. Big trouble. She’s only gone and hacked into US mainframes and brought the entire eastern seaboard to a standstill. And now she’s on everybody’s Most Wanted list. But Bit is no hacking ‘gun for hire’. She’s driven by principle and she’s the very best at what she does. So when shady government organisations come knocking in a bid to secure her services, she just sends them packing. Well, sort of. .

You can listen to the play here

Spores is a five-part SF series. Mysterious glowing fungi appear in a house. Father and son are exposed to its spores. The father becomes unresponsive and the mother takes it upon herself to get out with her son and go camping. But did they get away in time…? You can listen to episode one here; episode two here; episode three here; episode four here; episode five here.

(6) SF2C EXITS X. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I see that a load of folk are leaving Twitter or X or whatever it is these days. Actually, SF² Concatenation left Twitter a few months ago after the Musk takeover. We only used Twitter for site alerts and not chat, and found only a handful of folk signed up to our account. But I had kept it going for those few die-hard followers, sometimes treating them to some early releases before they were announced on our various indices pages. The thing is that that account, @SF2Concat, was set up ages ago using a now defunct e-mail address.

One of the first things Musk did was to insist on strengthening passwords blocking accounts – such as ours – that did not have a password that included a number, symbol and Klingon hieroglyph. To get our account back, I’d have to give Twitter an extant e-mail address. Those that know me are aware that I really hate to sign up to anything (so, for example, for the first time since 1979 I will not be on the science programme of next year’s British Worldcon – Less work for me, so that’s a plus.)

Anyway, seeing the writing on the wall what with Musk’s apparent support of Trump’s ramblings, I decided not to continue with Twitter. The account is still there for future digital archaeologists.

For those wanting alerts, the wonderful Caroline frequently posts something on the BSFA Facebook page (last season edition alert here) which I mention because the BSFA is a worthy page to follow for a plethora of other reasons. And if you are on FB I give a shout out to one of Brit Cit’s local SF group pages North Heath SF.

(7) LET’S FIX THAT RIGHT UP. Artnet analyzes how “A Prankster Used A.I. to ‘Improve’ Edward Hopper’s Classic ‘Nighthawks’”.

The rise of artificial intelligence has created reams of new artworks, many of them generated, controversially, on the backs of artist’s existing pieces. Now, one X (formerly Twitter) user has shown a way that A.I. can offer “improvements” to classic works of art, starting with Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and even one of the art world’s most beloved critics may have fallen for the gag.

“Using AI, I was able to take some old painting and make it better,” posted X user Sonch (@soncharm) last week, sharing a jpeg of Edward Hopper’s famous scene of urban ennui, Nighthawks from 1942, how housed in the Art Institute of Chicago. “Where even is this? Who are the people? Huh? You’re too far away to really see the setup. Whole left side blank. Nothing here to grab onto,” Sonch complained….

Click on tweets for larger images.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 75. Spider’s an American-born Canadian citizen who’s one of my favorite writers and individuals to boot. 

This is not a complete listing of what he’s written, just my experiences with him and what I think should be commented upon.

I wasn’t surprised to discover that his first sale, “The Guy with the Eyes”, published by Analog in February 1973, was one of his Callahan stories. Four years later, he released Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, a collection of Callahan short stories. These stories, and the later novels, make frequent reference to the works of mystery writer John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee stories.

I’m very fond of the Lady Slings The Booze and Booze and Callahan’s Key as these Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon novels allow him to develop the characters at length more than he dies in the short stories. 

It was at this time that he married Jeanne Robinson, with whom he later co-wrote the quite excellent Stardance trilogy. The first, “Stardance”, a novella, won a Hugo at IguanaCon II, and a Nebula as well. 

His first published novel, Telempath, was a reworking of the “By Any Other Name” novella. 

And there’s Variable Star which as you know was based on an outline by Heinlein. I think it was, errr, ok. Not great, not bad, just ok. 

Hugo wise, I mentioned the first “Stardance” novella garnered a Hugo as did his “By Any Other Name” novella at SunCon and “Melancholy Elephants” short story which also got a Hugo at ConStellation. He was an Astounding Award Best Writer as well. And he received a much deserved LASFS Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

He hasn’t published anything since 2008 though he’s been working on a novel, Orphan Stars, for the last decade and is said to be working on his autobiography as well.

He was Toastmaster at MagiCon and Torcon 3.

Spider and Jeanne Robinson at MagiCon. Photo by Lenny Provenzano.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WORKING FOR THE DOCTOR EVERY NIGHT AND DAY. “’It’s £2m ploughed into Cardiff’: how Doctor Who boosted the Welsh economy” in the Guardian.

…The original Doctor Who series ran from 1963 to 1989 before being mothballed. The report acknowledges that basing the series in Cardiff for its revival at the turn of the century felt like a risk.

But the show, originally starring Christopher Eccleston as the Time Lord and first broadcast in 2005, was an immediate success. Further series were commissioned and the BBC launched the spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.

As well as finding creative people ready to work on the series, the show used settings in and around Cardiff, from the beaches of South Glamorgan to the capital’s castle and museums, prompting a spike in Doctor Who tourism.

The report, by economists within the BBC public policy team using research from the consortium Media Cymru and Cardiff University’s centre for the creative economy, looks at the impact of the show between 2004 and 2021. It estimates that each of the 13 revamped series generated the equivalent of 50 FTE (full-time equivalent) jobs per series in Wales, and 95 within the UK overall. These jobs are in addition to posts for people who directly work on the show.

It describes Doctor Who’s return as a “pivotal moment”, a catalyst for the growth of the Welsh creative industries over the past 15 to 20 years, claiming it paved the way for big BBC-commissioned shows including Merlin, Atlantis and Sherlock. This year, six new dramas have come out of Wales including Steeltown Murders, the story of the serial killer Joseph Kappen, and the thriller Wolf, both of which have won plaudits…

(11) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 97 of Octothorpe, “The Future of Language”  is raring to go!

We fire up the LizBat signal and discuss the Chengdews (John’s new pun; he’s extremely proud of it) including WSFS discussion, before moving onto Glasgow 2024’s online plans and Novacon chat. Then we talk about books and games and stuff. In

(12) BRING ME THE HEAD OF E.T. “An otherworldly auction full of cinematic sci-fi props will land in Beverly Hills” promises NBC Los Angeles.

…[December is] an eye-catching and otherworldly month, in other words, but sci-fi splendor and the heart of the holiday season don’t intertwine all that often, or as often as someone who adores both might wish.

But here’s some good news: That’s changing about a week ahead of Christmas when the “Robots, Wizards, Heroes & Aliens: Hollywood Legends” auction phones home at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills.

Indeed, “phones homes” is a reference to a certain sweet space traveler, so you can bet you’ll spy E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, or rather an animatronic E.T. head, in the collection.

Other iconic additions to the line-up include a “Fantastic Voyage” ship, a Xenomorph head from “Aliens,” a “Back to the Future Part II” hoverboard, and the oh-so-cuddly Muffit II the daggit, a “Battlestar Galactica” favorite; Marvel and Harry Potter treasures will also be in the spotlight….

(13) THE ART IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Nature tells readers “How AI is expanding art history”. (Don’t worry, nothing in here about “Nighthawks”.)

From identifying disputed artworks to reconstructing lost masterpieces, artificial intelligence is enriching how we interpret our cultural heritage.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and computer vision are revolutionizing research — from medicine and biology to Earth and space sciences. Now, it’s art history’s turn.

For decades, conventionally trained art scholars have been slow to take up computational analysis, dismissing it as too limited and simplistic. But, as I describe in my book Pixels and Paintings, out this month, algorithms are advancing fast, and dozens of studies are now proving the power of AI to shed new light on fine-art paintings and drawings.

For example, by analysing brush strokes, colour and style, AI-driven tools are revealing how artists’ understanding of the science of optics has helped them to convey light and perspective. Programs are recovering the appearance of lost or hidden artworks and even computing the ‘meanings’ of some paintings, by identifying symbols, for example…

(14) FIRE-AND-FORGET MATING TECHNIQUE. Butts with a mind of their own. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen this in fandom. “Why these sea worms detach their butts to reproduce” at Popular Science.

Bye bye, butt

Some segmented sea worms like the syllid worm go through a reproductive process called stolonization. The stolon is the worm’s posterior organ and it is full of eggs or sperm depending on the worm’s sex. During stolonization, the stolon completely detaches from the rest of the worm’s body for reproduction. 

This detached butt swims around by itself and spawns when it meets another stolon of the opposite sex. This autonomous swimming is believed to protect the original body of the worm from dangers in the environment and help the eggs and sperm travel longer distances. 

In order to swim by themselves, the stolon have to develop their own eyes, antennae, and swimming bristles while still attached to their original body. How this happens has been a mystery. The formation of the stolon itself begins when the gonads near the worm’s butt mature. A head is then formed in the front of the developing stolon, with the eyes, antennae, and swimming bristles following close behind. It develops its nerves and the ability to sense and behave independently before the stolon detaches from the rest of the body….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. John King Tarpinian found this old Tonight Show clip on YouTube: “Paul Williams Arrives Straight From Filming ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’”.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/11/23 Thanks To His Repellatron Skyway, Tom Swift Always Takes The High Road

(1) BESTSELLING WRITERS WILL OPEN BOOKSTORE. [Item by Anne Marble.] Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni are opening an indie bookstore in the historic district of Columbia, Pennsylvania. They’re planning to open it in the spring of 2024. They were inspired by indie bookstores such as Mysterious Galaxy, Dark Delicacies, etc.

Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni

Here’s their announcement: “New Brick and Mortar Bookstore”.

At the respective ages of fifty-six and forty (mumbles incoherently), Mary and I are planning for our golden years. We have seen too many of our peers struggling to write in their later years, and dependent upon those advances and royalties from book sales. It’s a sobering and frightening prospect, and we’d like a different future, with a second revenue stream so that we can continue to write in our old age….

…We are opening an independent bookstore specializing in Horror, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Bizarro, and other speculative fiction genres.

Vortex Books & Comics will open Spring of 2024 in the historic district of beautiful Columbia, Pennsylvania — easily and quickly accessible from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York City, Washington D.C. and more. We’ll carry a full complement of books from the Big Five, as well as hundreds of books from many cool indie publishers and small presses, and titles in Espanol and other languages. We’ll host weekly signings, readings, workshops, and other events. We know this business, and are intimately familiar with its ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Our goal is to make the store a destination. As our record for the last 30 years shows, we believe that Horror fiction is for everyone, and Vortex will echo that. All are welcome, and all will have a place on our shelves….

And for everyone in the community who wants to help, there’s a GoFundMe: “Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni’s Bookstore”.

…If you would like to show your solidarity and support with a donation, it will be put toward further set-up costs such as fixtures, security, inventory, marketing and advertising, signage, etc. thus giving us a bit of breathing room and time to make the store profitable….

(2) AI IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by Cliff.] Very interesting take on ‘AI’ from a number of authors. Two of them reference Italo Calvino, who I guess was ahead of his time in dwelling on this subject.“’It is a beast that needs to be tamed’: leading novelists on how AI could rewrite the future” in the Guardian.

Bernardine Evaristo

… Imagine a future where those who are most adept at getting AI to write creatively will dominate, while we writers who spend a lifetime devoted to our craft are sidelined. OK, this is a worst‑case scenario, but we have to consider it, because ChatGPT and the other Large Language Models (LLMs) out there have been programmed to imagine a future that threatens many creative professions. ChatGPT is already responding to the questions I ask it in seconds, quite reliably. It is an impressive beast, but one that needs to be tamed. We cannot afford to ignore it…

(3) CUT! The Hugo Book Club Blog argues against ratification of two new Hugo categories which received first passage at the Chengdu Worldcon business meeting: “Hugo Book Club Blog: Indie Cinema And The Hugo Of Doom”.

At the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting, a constitutional amendment was passed that would (if ratified at the 2024 Business Meeting) add two new categories to the already long list of Hugo Awards: Best Independent Short Film and Best Independent Feature Film.

The beauty and diversity of global cinema and of independent film is something that should be more celebrated at the Hugo Awards. But despite our love of independent SFF cinema, we are firmly opposed to the creation of a secondary award for a specific type of movie.

… In recent years, sub-par corporate works such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Avengers Endgame have received Hugo nods ahead of significantly better independent and foreign movies such as Robot & Frank and Prospect. That does point to problems with the category. But the solution is advocacy. People who care about independent cinema should be working to encourage Hugo voters to check out a wider variety of films, and then giving them the time to watch those movies by WSFS extension of eligibility under rule 3.4.3.

Over the past four years, we have filed extension of eligibility motions (allowing a longer time for Hugo voters to consider nominating) on lower-budget SFF movies like After YangStrawberry MansionNeptune FrostMad GodNine DaysBeyond The Infinite Two MinutesPsycho GoremanThe Color Out Of Space, and Prospect. We are passionate about celebrating and promoting independent SFF movies. However, we do not think that the best way to recognize that is with the creation of new Hugo Award categories, seemingly based on how much money a film makes.

There are a number of problems with the idea of a Hugo Award for independent cinema. The first and most significant to us is that creating these categories positions independent cinema as something other than “real” movies…

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

Southern Weekly article

This is a long piece – which can also be found in truncated form here, and partially behind a login barrier here – covering a number of aspects of the convention.  There are some factual errors – for example, stating that the first Worldcon took place in Chicago – but overall it is the most thorough coverage of the con that I’ve seen from a media outlet.

Following are several extracts, via Google Translate with manual edits to the text for style and grammar.  I have reordered and grouped chunks of the text, in order to put related material together.  Note: 南方周末 literally translates as “Southern Weekend”, but images on that page show that they use the English name “Southern Weekly”, so I’ve tried to update all references from the former to the latter.

On the location and date of the con:

The Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, the main venue of the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, is located in the center of a two-kilometer radius area called “Science Fiction Avenue”. When Chengdu’s bid to host the event was successful two years ago, it was still a wilderness. This plot of land in Pidu District, Chengdu, which was originally planned as a “Science and Technology Museum”, was quickly upgraded to become a “Science Fiction Museum”…

It’s already chilly in Chengdu in late October, and the summer vacation period for students is long past. When Chengdu applied to host the World Science Fiction Convention in 2021, many student science fiction fans spent money – around 600 yuan [$80 USD] – to register as members of DisCon III, in order to vote for Chengdu [in site selection], with the expectation that they would attend the science fiction event during their summer vacation…

Co-chair Chen Shi comments:

[Note: He also uses the English name Raistlin Chen – as seen on the video wall at the ceremonies – but most English language material, such as the staff page on the con’s site, uses Chen Shi, so I’ve kept with that.

Pretty much all coverage of the con describes him – and the other members of the concom – as members of the “Chengdu Science Fiction Society” (examples: 12), but an archived copy of the original “Worldcon in China” website shows that he is/was a marketing director at the Chengdu Business Daily news organization, and that several other members of the bid/con team are/were also employees of that company.  Whether people will feel that this context is relevant, YMMV…]

“Its charm is that it is a spirit based on a community of creators. Everyone is both a participant and a creator. This is something given to it by cultural tradition and cannot be replaced or copied casually,” convention co-chair Chen Shi told Southern Weekly reporters…

Chen Shi had also applied for a panel at Chi-Con 8. “I just filled in a form, and the organizing committee told me when and where it would take place. You can just do it yourself, and they won’t bother you,” Chen Shi said.  “Given China’s cultural background, this may not be suitable.”

“The foreign World Science Fiction Convention is very attractive to the fantasy fandom, but within the fandom, their core membership is around 20,000 people. The number of people who come every year does not change much, and it has formed its own community culture. There is a cultural threshold you have to pass in order to enter that community. If we were to completely copy that, it might be very miserable…” When Chen Shi first thought about what kind of World Science Fiction Convention he would hold, he had already decided to take a different path.

[Question: when Chen Shi and/or the Chengdu team were doing presentations at other events, was there any indication that “he had already decided to take a different path”, or what that path might be?]

On the exhibition areas and panels:

The two large halls on the first floor are the divided into the commercial exhibitors, and the science fiction fan tables. Most of the dozens of booths in the corporate exhibition hall are Chinese companies. Some sell science fiction cultural creations, some make projections, and more are engaged in science fiction publishing. The sound and light effects of their booths are eye-catching, which clearly differs from the adjacent fan exhibition area. The corporate exhibition hall is something that has never been seen in previous Worldcons. The support of the government, the participation of enterprises, and the brand promotion of a large number of sponsors have given the event more forms and commercial value.

Compared with the coolness of the corporate exhibition area, the science fiction fan exhibition area looks much simpler.  A table, a flag, an introduction card or a QR code. They come from university clubs, foreign science fiction organizations, and unknown amateur authors… It’s a bit like a recruitment fair for university clubs. On the table of the Tibetan science fiction club, there are Tibetan science fiction works that have been published over the years. A young Tibetan man patiently introduces the history of Tibetan science fiction to curious onlookers. This kind of atmosphere is more like the previous World Science Fiction Conventions. Science fiction literature research scholar Arthur Liu attended the 2019 Dublin Worldcon, and recalls that the atmosphere there was “free and easy”…

There were more than 400 panels registered for the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, and more than 230 panels were eventually held…  This time, the Chengdu Organizing Committee invited a total of more than 600 guests, including more than 180 overseas guests – of whom more than 150 people were present at the con – who formed the bulk of the panellists.

On the WSFS Business Meeting:

But old science fiction fans all know that “only by attending business meetings can you have a deep understanding of the organization and participation methods of the World Science Fiction Association and the World Science Fiction Convention, and you will feel some interesting things,” Chen Shi said.

If you have personally experienced the process and debate of the business meeting, it is not difficult to understand why the fandom circle calls this meeting the “Constitutional Amendment Conference.” The business meetings of the Chengdu Worldcon are held in the Meteor Hall of the Science Fiction Hall, which is a small hall independent of the main building. People with [a WSFS] membership can enter to listen, express opinions and vote at any time. …

Comment: regarding “a small hall independent of the main building”, comments I have seen from a couple of different people indicated that it had inaccessibility issues not that far from “Beware of the Leopard” levels.  Certainly, I could never find any reference to the “Meteor Hall” on any of the several interior and exterior maps of the con that came into my possession.  (Anyone who did attend the Business Meetings, please correct me if my impression is incorrect.)

On organizational hassles for smaller entities:

It is not easy for publishers participating in the exhibition to sign and sell their books at this venue.

Xixi (pseudonym) is an editor at a publishing house. This time he brought an author’s science fiction novel to Chengdu and planned a panel. He hoped that science fiction fans could have a good chat with the author themselves, and hold a book signing.  Xixi initially communicated the entire process to the organizing committee, but a few days before the opening, he received a notice that the panel could not be placed together with the signing session. “In normal book fairs, there are book signings after the interaction between authors and readers, but here the two events must be separated in both time and location,” Xixi said. This means that readers who are interested in the author would have to make two trips to get a signed copy.

On the corporate/commercial aspects of the con:

There are various panels, forums, and summits at the World Science Fiction Convention, but in addition to the opening and closing ceremonies and the Hugo Award presentation night, there was also an “Industrial Development Summit”. Almost all the major guests were invited to attend this summit, and the lineup was comparable to the Hugo Awards night.

This was the first time an industry development-related conference has been held at the World Science Fiction Convention. At the meeting, a number of plans related to the development of the science fiction industry were announced, including the “Chengdu Consensus on the Science Fiction Industry”, the Tianwen Program, the “2023 China Chengdu Science Fiction Industry Report”, and there was even a centralized signing ceremony for science fiction industry projects. According to reports, there were 21 signed projects, with a total investment of 8 billion yuan [approx $1 billion USD].

At this “Industrial Development Summit”, Liu Cixin no longer talked about literature, but talked about industrial development: “Chengdu has long planned the layout of the science fiction industry, and related industrial plans, industrial policies, talent policies, etc. have been implemented.”

“Science fiction full industry chain ecosystem”, “IP creation” and “strengthening the image of the science fiction city”: faced with these various new words, Canadian science fiction writer Robert Sawyer said, “I am very shocked to see you turning science fiction into an industry.”  He said that in North America those who do these things may be publishers, and that science fiction is a career that is random, aimless, and without long-term planning. These industry figures were generally not invited to previous World Science Fiction Conventions, and most of the people who came were writers and editors.

The area where the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum is located will also be turned into the science fiction hub of Chengdu.  According to a person close to the local government, we were told that a science fiction industrial park may be built here in the future. “That street is a science fiction themed block, and science fiction companies may move in in the future. This area is said to be a science fiction education base; there will be training camps for science fiction writers, and summer camps for students every year, and the science fiction museum itself is a large-scale consumer and public welfare space. This area will be built into a science fiction themed tourist destination.” …

On how the more traditional aspects of Worldcons fared:

Previous conventions would set up a memorial area, which is a place for middle-aged and elderly science fiction fans to reminisce and reminisce about the past.  In 2017, the British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss [who had previously visited Chengdu, and has several works published in China] passed away. There was a small space at the World Science Fiction Convention that year, displaying his works, and photos from his life, as well as some of his treasure possessions, and a black and white TV playing back interviews with him. In 2023, Aldiss’ daughter Wendy had also come to Chengdu. She told our reporters that the Chengdu Worldcon was originally going to hold an exhibition for those photos, but it was not possible “because of a lack of space.” …

[Double Hugo finalist, CEO of the publisher 8 Light Minutes, and member of the Chengdu concom] Yang Feng originally planned to stage a commemorative exhibition at the convention, in honour of Mike Resnick, the former editor-in-chief of the American science fiction magazine “Galaxy’s Edge”.  After Resnick’s death in 2020, his collection and books were put up for online auction, and 8 Light Minutes bought a large number of items. “Look, this is full of his things,” said Yang Feng, pointing to a glass cabinet.  Initially, the organizers promised an exhibition area of 70 square meters. Worried about missing out, “thousands of yuan [was spent] on freight shipping” the collected items.  However, the exhibition area ended up being occupied by several technology companies, and Yang Feng was only given a glass cabinet.

Fans and authors talk about the changes and clashes in culture at this Worldcon:

In the midst of this sea of noise, a man was dozing on a chair. He had white hair, a cowboy hat on the table, and his eyes were lowered, as if he had entered another world. His name was James Joseph [Styles], and he had come from Australia. He is in his seventies and has been a science fiction fan for nearly fifty years. In 1975, the World Science Fiction Convention was held in Oceania for the first time. He was moved by the atmosphere of science fiction and has attended Worldcons 15 times to date.

James told us that this convention is the most special one he has ever been to. He had never seen so many enthusiastic and young science fiction fans [when he attended cons] in Europe or the United States before…

… Wang Jinkang, another science fiction writer who has stopped writing, also recalled the low ebb of Chinese science fiction in the 1990s. “At that time, Chinese science fiction was wild, and received little attention from society. However, there were also many science fiction fans. When we went to universities to participate in activities, they all I used chalk to write ‘Welcome Mr. Wang Jinkang’ on the blackboard, and that’s how we started to communicate. The simplicity back then had its charm, and I still miss it very much. It is indeed different now.”

“You can vaguely feel a conflict between [different] science fiction cultures in the convention venue,” Zero Gravity News co-editor Ling Shizhen told Southern Weekly reporters, “but I don’t think this is really a conflict. Whether things are harmful or meaningless, this is a necessary process.  If you want to embrace a truly diverse world, this step cannot be escaped.”

Outside of the above extracts, a number of people familiar to Filers, such as Ben Yalow, Kevin Standlee, Donald Eastlake, and Nicholas Whyte are namechecked or interviewed.

(5) HUNGARIAN POLITICAL EFFORTS TO LIMIT LGBTQ BOOKS AND MEDIA. The New York Times tells how “Restrictions on L.G.B.T.Q. Depictions Rattle Hungary’s Cultural World”.

When a far-right member of Hungary’s Parliament invited the media three years ago to watch her shred a book of fairy tales that included a gay Cinderella, only one reporter showed up.

But what began as lonely, crank campaign against “homosexual propaganda” by a fringe nationalist legislator, Dora Duro, has snowballed into a national movement led by the government to restrict depictions of gay and transgender people in Hungary.

The campaign has unsettled booksellers, who have been ordered to shrink-wrap works that “popularize homosexuality” to prevent young readers from browsing, and also rattled one of Hungary’s premier cultural institutions.

The director of the Hungarian National Museum was fired this past week for hosting an exhibition of news photographs, a few of which featured men in women’s clothing, and for suggesting that his staff had no legal right to check whether visitors were at least 18 years old.

The exhibition displayed scores of photos awarded prizes by the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam and had been running for weeks before Ms. Duro went to take a look with a friend and noticed a handful of images showing older gay men in the Philippines that were shot on assignment for The New York Times.

Also upset by explanatory texts that she believed were “indoctrinating” young visitors, she wrote a letter to Hungary’s culture minister, Janos Csak, complaining that photos of men wearing high heels and lipstick violated a Hungarian law that bans the display to minors of content deemed to promote homosexuality or gender fluidity.

The minister ordered the museum to bar anyone under 18 from attending the exhibition.

Tamas Revesz, a Hungarian photographer who has organized the annual show for more than 30 years, said he was aghast to arrive at the museum to find signs at the entrance restricting entry to adults “as if this place were a porn shop.”…

… Hannah Reyes Morales, who took the photographs at the center of the museum furor while on assignment for The New York Times and won a World Press Photo award, said her pictures of a Manila community called Golden Gays “are not dangerous or harmful” but portrayed “warm, kind and loving human beings.”

She said she was “saddened that their story is being kept in a shadow, echoing much of the oppression that the Golden Gays have had to live through over the years.”…

(6) DON’T SAY GAY-LICK. [Item by Anne Marble.] Have you seen this article about the use and abuse of Scottish Gaelic in Fourth Wing? (The article also mentions Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas.) It’s an interesting point — language is more political than people realize. At the same time, with all those Gaelic fantasies out there, I also wonder how many other authors got it wrong and weren’t called out in it. Hmm… “Reader Frustrated Over ‘Fourth Wing’s Gaelic” at The Mary Sue.

Over the summer, Scottish BookToker Muireann went viral on Tiktok for sharing the Scottish Gaelic pronunciation of words from the bestselling adult fantasy novel Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. While she offered mild criticism of the book’s grammatical errors, Muireann spoke out again following a viral interview of Yarros at New York Comic-Con….

…Story-wise, Muireann expressed praise and excitement to see where the series goes. However, regarding the use of Scottish Gaelic, she had mixed feelings. Without spoiling anything, Muireann gave translations and best guesses on non-Gaelic words that looked to be fused with Gaelic ones. It was here she found missing accent marks and misspellings. Also, she found words in the book that, in Gaelic, would be two or three words instead of one. Many commenters appreciated the information and pointed to how different the audiobook was from actual Gaelic.

Muireann said it was cool for the language to be represented in such a popular book. She feels that other Celtic languages like Irish/Gaeilge (what Scots call Irish Gaelic) are more common in contemporary fantasy. Still, she put the onus on the publisher for not hiring a language consultant. That grace dropped off when Muireann heard Yarros speaking about the book.

“It is genuinely laughable to me that American fantasy authors can get away with this. They can use minority languages in such a disrespectful way. They’re just pronouncing them like English speakers. She’s just sprinkling Gaelic words in there to add a bit of spice to her fancy book.”

Veronica Valencia interviewed Rebecca Yarros for Popverse at NYCC 2023, where she asked Yarros to “set the record straight” on pronouncing words. After Popverse shared a video of this to TikTok, Muireann stitched it frustrated. She began by pointing out that Yarros said Gaelic by pronouncing it “gay-lick” which is a different language than the Scottish Gaelic (“gal-lick”). Muireann said most Gaelic words used were mispronounced in the interview. These were small mistakes that showed a genuine lack of care when bringing other cultures into the book…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con. He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius. And I’ve enjoyed his short fiction as well. He’s available at the usual suspects including The Case of the Little Green Men for very reasonable prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1946 Ian Miller, 77. Let’s have one illustrator and an editor this time.  He did the backgrounds for Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards film. Genre wise, he did the cover art and interior illustrations for David Day’s The Tolkien Bestiary, and what I think is one of the weirder covers for Something Wicked This Way Comes. Oh and I did say editor, didn’t I? Well he was. Between 1983 and 1985, he co-edited Interzone along with John Clute, Alan Dorey, Malcolm Edwards, Colin Greenland, Roz Kaveney, Simon Ounsley and David Pringle. 
  • Born November 11, 1947 Victoria Schochet, 76. Wife of Eric Van Lustbader. She co-edited with John Silbersack and Mellisa Singer the most excellent The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy that came out in the Eighties. She worked editorially at Analog as their managing editor and additionally at Harper, Putnam, and as a senior editor at the Berkley Publishing Group, where she co-edited with Silbersack all five volumes of The Berkley Showcase: New Writings in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born November 11, 1974 Felix Gilman, 49. Two series. The first, Arjun series, started off with the Thunderer novel and has one more novel so far, Gears of the City, earned him a nomination for Astounding Award in both 2009 and 2010. The other series, Half-Made World, is fantasy with a generous dollop of steampunk served warm.

(8) THE OTHER THREE-BODY ADAPTATION. “’3 Body Problem’ Premiere Date, New Trailer From Netflix”The Hollywood Reporter shares them all.

The new sci-fi drama from the creators of Game of Thrones now has a premiere date: 3 Body Problem will launch on Netflix on March 21, 2024. The streamer also released a video with some new footage from the series, which is adapted from Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning trilogy….

…There’s also a new, more specific description of the anticipated show: “A young woman’s fateful decision in 1960s China reverberates across space and time into the present day. When the laws of nature inexplicably unravel before their eyes, a close-knit group of brilliant scientists join forces with an unflinching detective to confront the greatest threat in humanity’s history.”

3 Body Problem is from Emmy-winning Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss along with Emmy-nominated True Blood writer-producer Alexander Woo.

Netflix also released some teaser art to promote the premiere date, which rather cleverly incorporates an element from the story that the novel’s fans will recognize…

(9) NO ONE WAS LEFT HOLDING THE BAG. “Astronauts dropped a tool bag during a spacewalk, and you can see it” says Space.com.

Joining stars, planets, nebulas, and galaxies as a target for skywatchers is now a surprisingly bright tool bag floating through the space around Earth. The bag of tools gave NASA astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara the slip on Nov. 2, 2023, as they were conducting a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station (ISS). 

The tool bag is now orbiting our planet just ahead of the ISS with a visual magnitude of around 6, according to EarthSky. That means it is slightly less bright than the ice giant Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun. As a result, the bag  —  officially known as a crew lock bag  —  is slightly too dim to be visible to the unaided eye, but skywatchers should be able to pick it up with binoculars.

To see it for yourself, first find out when you can find spot the space station over the next few months (NASA even has a new app to help you). The bag should be floating two to four minutes ahead of the station. As it descends rapidly, the bag is likely to disintegrate when it reaches an altitude of around 70 miles (113 kilometers) over Earth….

(10) GET A HEAD START ON SF2 CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has published an advance post of an article ahead of its next seasonal edition as it is time sensitive. It is a longer version of the new British Library exhibition on Fantasy that File770 ran the other week. “British Library Fantasy Exhibition 2023”.

Also up is a short 1-page best of Nature ‘Futures’ short story: “’Aleph’ by Lavie Tidhar”. This story came out in 2022 before this year’s (2023) explosion in artificial intelligence (AI). But AI is not ‘General AI’. What would that first conversation be like?

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Anne Marble, Brian Keene, Cliff, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, 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 9/14/23 There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy; For Everything Else, There’s Pixel Scroll

(1) TOP PEOPLE. Writer Ted Chiang, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski, manga creator Rootport, and artist Kelly McKernan are some of the recognizable names who are not CEOs or scientists on TIME’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in AI 2023”.

(2) COLLATERAL DAMAGE OF LISTS. “Here we go again. Another badly skewed list of fantasy books recommended for newcomers” – Juliet E. McKenna tees off. Which list? I don’t know, but they keep coming along.

Must be a day with a Y in it. Yes, well-informed readers are pushing back against this particular dated, limited and male-dominated list, and no, I’m not going to link to it and argue the toss over every title. There’s a wider point to be made.

Women SF&F writers don’t take these best-of lists, these recommended-for-award-nominations and shortlists, these articles and review columns that erase us ‘personally’. We object because they damage us professionally. The same is true for every under-represented group excluded from these lists. And yes, the male authors writing the progressive, informed and thought-provoking SF&F which is being ignored have a right to feel aggrieved as well.

When newcomers to fantasy fiction see the most easily-found review coverage and online discussion is all about grimdark books from big publishers, with stories about blokes in cloaks, written by authors like Macho McHackenslay, that’s what they will buy. Or they will be completely put off and go elsewhere in search of fiction where they see themselves and their concerns represented. They will never know what they’re looking for can be found in SF&F.

Either way, six months down the line, the big publisher’s accountants at head office look at the sales figures and see Macho McHackenslay is one of their bestsellers. The order goes out to ask literary agents for more of the same. Because big publishing is a numbers game, and it skews towards repeating successes rather than promoting innovation.

Meantime, an editor will be arguing the case to give another contract to P.D.Kickassgrrl. He insists the body count and hardcore ethics of P.D.Kickassgrrl’s excellent work will surely appeal to Macho McHackenslay fans, as well as whole lot of other readers. Unfortunately her sales aren’t nearly as good, because her books get far fewer reviews and other mentions. Genre magazines and blogs can have a similar skew towards established successes, arguing they have to review the books people are actually buying, because those are the writers readers are clearly interested in. The self-referential and self-reinforcing circle is complete….

(3) NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLISTS ROLLING OUT. The 2023 National Book Award Longlist for Translated Literature includes one work of genre interest – Bora Chung’s collection Cursed Bunny.

Translated Literature

  • Devil of the Provinces by Juan Cárdenas and translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis (Coffee House)
  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung and translated from the Korean by Anton Hur (Algonquin)
  • Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (FSG)
  • Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck and translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (New Directions)
  • The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel and translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato (New Vessel)
  • No One Prayed Over Their Graves by Khaled Khalifa and translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (FSG)
  • This Is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor and translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (New Directions)
  • Abyss by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (World Editions)
  • On a Woman’s Madness by Astrid Roemer and tanslated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott (Two Lines)
  • The Most Secret Memory of Men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr and translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Other Press)

(4) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The full schedule for the 2nd Annual Sturgeon Symposium has been posted at the link. Shows the in-person and several virtual program items. Optional registration available.

(5) HWA’S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. Maxwell I. Gold has been installed as Executive Director of the Horror Writers Association, replacing Brad Hodson who served the HWA for ten years as Administrator.

…The HWA Hiring Committee saw a robust pool of twenty applicants and conducted six interviews in the organization’s first executive search. As HWA President and member of the hiring committee, John Lawson  noted:

“This Executive Director search was a first for the HWA, and while I expected interest in the job opening, I had no idea we’d garner the attention of such strong applicants, including those outside the HWA community. Having worked closely with Maxwell, both as Treasurer and as Interim Executive Director, I’ve witnessed firsthand his creative problem-solving and know our membership—and volunteers—will benefit from his efforts. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome of this process and am proud to serve alongside Maxwell.”

Gold has served on the Board of Trustees for two years as Treasurer and will remain a non-voting member of the Board in his new role as Executive Director. Effective immediately, Michael Knost, currently running unopposed, will assume the role and responsibility of the Office of Treasurer for the Horror Writers Association….

(6) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA PICKET LINE. You’re invited to drop by on September 21.

(7) THAT SINKING FEELING. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Mickey Ralph, the lead designer for Good Omens, posted to Twitter about some logistical problems that resulted from there being a second season. Thread starts here.

(8) FOR ALL MANKIND SEASON 4. Collider unpacks “’For All Mankind’ Season 4 Teaser”. The show returns November 10 on Apple TV+.

In previous seasons, For All Mankind explored space exploration’s impact on political and cultural landscapes in different eras, from the 1970s Moon mission to the 1980s Cold War competition for lunar resources. Season 3 saw a race to conquer Mars, leading to a climactic finale.

Launching into the new millennium, Happy Valley has made remarkable strides over the past eight years since Season 3. It has rapidly expanded its presence on Mars, transforming former adversaries into valuable partners. Fast forward to 2003, and the primary focus of this space program has shifted towards capturing and mining extraordinarily precious, mineral-rich asteroids that have the potential to reshape the destinies of both Earth and Mars. However, underlying tensions among the inhabitants of the sprawling international base now jeopardize everything they have worked so diligently to achieve.

Here’s a clip of the show’s “Helios Recruitment” commercial.

Rocketing into the new millennium in the eight years since Season 3, Happy Valley has rapidly expanded its footprint on Mars by turning former foes into partners. Now 2003, the focus of the space program has turned to the capture and mining of extremely valuable, mineral-rich asteroids that could change the future of both Earth and Mars. But simmering tensions between the residents of the now-sprawling international base threaten to undo everything they are working towards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1919 Claire P. Beck. He was a reclusive fan known as the Hermit of Lakeport, California was active in the 1930s. Editor of the Science Fiction Critic fanzine which published in four issues the first work of criticism devoted to American SF: “Hammer and Tongs,” written by his brother, Clyde F. Beck. Their publishing house was Futile Press. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 14, 1927 Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. Marooned was nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 but TV coverage of Apollo XI won that year. The Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known for her genre art, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. She also did the three covers you see here for the Recorded Books edition of The Lord of The Rings. OGH’s obituary for her is here. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1950 Michael Reaves. A scriptwriter and story editor to a number of Eighties and Nineties animated television series, including Batman: The Animated SeriesDisney’s Gargoyles He-Man and the Masters of the UniverseSmurfs Space Sentinels, Star Wars: Droids and The Transformers. Live action wise, he worked on Next GenerationSlidersSwamp Thing, original Flash and Young Hercules.  He also worked on two of my favorite animated Batman films, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. (Died 2023.)
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 62. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. And he has other series going as well! Another nineteen novels written, and then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  He writes mainly Doctor Who novels with thirteen, so from the Eighth through the Thirteenth Doctor so far, and Creative Consultant for the BBC Books range of Doctor Who novels. He’s written novels with Professor Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist as well. And written more SF that aren’t Whovian than I could possibly list here. One such series is, as EoSF notes, “the Invisible Detective sequence, beginning with The Paranormal Puppet Show (2003; vt Double Life 2004), consists in each case of two stories: one set in the 1930s, where the four young protagonists solve sf and fantasy mysteries; the other set in the contemporary world, where a parallel tale is told.”
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 51. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wrong Hands mashes up kids’ programming with a famous horror story.
  • Wrong Hands also shows the varieties in the “film school of fish”.

(11) EMBROIDERED WORLDS KICKSTARTER PURSUES STRETCH GOALS. The Kickstarter for the “Embroidered Worlds” English translation of Ukrainian SFF is now funded as far as all stories are concerned, but now they’re working on stretch goals for illustrations and other features. Donors who support this for as little as $1 which will receive a copy of the ebook. There are just over two weeks left in the Kickstarter that will benefit not only Ukrainian writers but, it is hoped, Ukrainian illustrators.

There are several guest blogs for the Kickstarter, including this one by Michael Burianyk on “Why do we need Ukrainian stories?”.

… Because the origins of Ukraine’s cultural and political capital Kyiv are lost in the shades of unrecorded time, they are fought over by competing storytellers. To this day, historians speculate and argue and create their own legends about who and when and why. And Kyiv was for a large part of its story a post-apocalyptic city: It lay in ruins, its spectacular architecture burnt and rotting, its population ravaged and scattered — a perfect breeding ground for ghosts and angst.

Ukraine was a place of conflict, in many ways still unresolved, between the Pagan and the Christian. Priests of the new god ensured that the old, some might say more interesting, beliefs were not written down. Prince Volodymyr, the Red Sun of legend, had the wooden idol of Perun flogged and dragged into the Dnipro to drown, and one imagines that his ghost still wanders the hills of the city along with his divine siblings, Dazhbog, Stribog, and Simargl, who still haunt the wooded ravines and forests of the country — as do many other fantastic and terrible beings.

The country saw, through the centuries, hordes and armies and emperors and commissars — not so different and no more understandable than demons and invading space invaders. Ukraine saw fire and sword wielded by abominable aliens; destruction visited over terrified generations and without warning. The Ukrainian people created their own interesting champions through these times. Stories of its protectors: Volodymyr of legend again and other bogatyry, were told for consolation. Legends of the Kozaks were examples of the spirit of independence of the people and their need for liberty that permeates their souls to this day….

(12) WHERE TO SEE THE CHINESE SERIES THREE-BODY PROBLEM. Seattle PBS station KCTS 9 is going to be running the Chinese-language version of the Three-Body Problem TV series (with English subtitles). Members can stream the first episode now, and the full series starting September 23. Will it be shown on any other PBS stations? My search on the main PBS website didn’t find it, nor another search on LA PBS station KCET. Let me know if it shows up anywhere else. But you could always become a member of the Seattle station and get access to it.  

(13) MISSED THE WINDOW. “Stan Lee’s Estate Loses Yearslong Elder Abuse Lawsuit Against Former Attorney on a Technicality”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

A messy legal battle initiated by Stan Lee’s estate involving accusations of exploitation and elder abuse by the comic book legend’s inner circle has concluded, with an arbitrator siding with Lee’s former attorney that the lawsuit against him was brought too late.

The five-year legal saga was sparked by The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation into Lee’s estate, which chronicled allegations that people introduced into his life by his daughter, J.C., stole millions of dollars from him. This included Jerardo Olivarez, Lee’s ex-business manager who was given power of attorney. Olivarez allegedly insisted that Lee retain Uri Litvak as his attorney for business dealings, but he didn’t disclose a conflict of interest stemming from Litvak representing him in personal matters. A year after Olivarez was sued, Lee also named Litvak in the lawsuit calling the pair “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” seeking to take advantage of him following the death of his wife.

A procedural defect in the lawsuit, however, led to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein on Tuesday entering judgment in favor of Litvak after an arbitrator found in February that the statute of limitations to sue him had expired. Lee had a one-year window starting on April 12, 2018, when the complaint against Olivarez was filed, to also name Litvak in the lawsuit. Litvak was sued on April 18, 2018, five days passed the maximum allowable time to initiate legal proceedings….

(14) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow shared her photos from the September 13 Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings with Josh Rountree and Benjamin Percy.

(15) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. It was supposed to be a tautology until it wasn’t.

(16) SF2 CONCATENATION RELEASES AUTUMN ISSUE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The N. hemisphere’s academic, autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up. Its contents are:

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn 2023

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

Forthcoming: In November SF2 Concatenation will have the third of its four ‘Best of Nature “Futures” short stories‘ of the year, and in December a pre-Christmas final one. If you are new to the site, these are short, one-page, SF stories. They’re rather fun and well worth sitting down with a mug of tea/coffee for a few minutes read. (The Best of Nature “Futures” short stories link is to the SF2 Concatenation archive of past ‘Best of’ stories, so feel free to have a browse. Enjoy.)

(17) FUTURAMA TEASER. Animation World Network shares “Exclusive Clip: ‘Futurama: The Prince and The Product’”.

… Hulu has shared with AWN an exclusive clip from Futurama: The Prince and The Product, streaming Monday, September 18 – one of three mini-episodes slated this season that reimagine the series in a different style…. 

…In the new episode “The Prince and The Product,” the crew members, reborn as toys, find themselves in life-and-death situations and, in our exclusive sneak peek clip, “Zoidberg Gets Left Behind” a plan is made to go to Saturn and the group decides to… you guessed it! Leave Zoidberg behind….

(18) REVISION QUEST. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Rebecca Watson’s video “The Long History Behind the Latest TikTok ‘No Glasses’ Scam” is about a recent Tik-Tok quack who is reviving the old Bates method – a bogus method to improve eyesight that turns up in Heinlein, Van Vogt and Pohl (and perhaps others).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew (not Werdna), Bruce D. Arthurs, Linda Deneroff, Michael Burianyk, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/23 Scrolling To Filezantium

(1) FANTASY MAGAZINE R.I.P. Fantasy Magazine editors Christie Yant and Arley Sorg announced today their October 2023 issue will be the last.

This is the editorial we’ve been dreading having to write. We’ve been trying not to think about it too much, but we can’t put it off any longer.

We relaunched Fantasy Magazine in November of 2020–what a weird thing to do at an exceptionally weird time!–and we did it with high hopes, but realistic expectations based on our many years of experience in this field.

It is with real sadness that we have to announce that October 2023 will be our last issue. People will want to know why, of course, and the answer is the expected one: Unfortunately Fantasy never reached a point of paying for itself, and with the Kindle Periodicals mess it’s just not sustainable. We’ve actually carried on a little longer than we originally anticipated, because ending on our third anniversary made sense….

(2) VINTAGE COVERS RECREATED. Boing Boing shows us how “Author Michael Chabon recreates the Science Fiction section from the bookstore of his youth”

Acclaimed bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon spent his Covid quarantine lovingly and meticulously creating a digital tribute to / replica of the Science Fiction and Fantasy section in the bookstore of his youth. And it is glorious.

(3) CLARION WEST GETS BIG DONATION. Author David D. Levine, a Clarion West ’00 grad, has made a $10,000 donation toward 2024 Workshop housing.

…Clarion West hopes to be in person in 2024 and has a tentative hold on accessible housing on the beautiful University of Washington campus! More information will be forthcoming as the organization works toward ensuring the workshop continues to be affordable and can sustain the higher costs of the in-person workshop.

“This support will help us focus on securing the new location for 2024,” says Marnee Chua, Clarion West Executive Director. “As the board focuses on meeting our budget goals for this year and raising the funds necessary to support the 2024 workshop, donations like this one help meet our goals for an in-person workshop!”

We extend our deepest gratitude to David for his contribution, which will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the workshop’s presence in Seattle.

To learn more about our search for housing and the challenges ahead, visit our November blog post on the topic, Clarion West Needs a New Home.

(4) THE END GAME. Publishers Weekly reports that the “Judgment Phase of Internet Archive Copyright Case Appears Imminent”. The Internet Archive lost the case; now comes a decision about damages and other relief.

…In their last request for an extension the parties reported they were “very close” to “finalizing the terms of a consent judgment, subject to appeal” and said they expected to be able to submit the proposal “in a week or so.”

In his emphatic March 24 opinion, Koeltl found the Internet Archive infringed the copyrights of four plaintiff publishers by scanning and lending their books under a legally contested practice known as CDL (controlled digital lending). “At bottom, IA’s fair use defense rests on the notion that lawfully acquiring a copyrighted print book entitles the recipient to make an unauthorized copy and distribute it in place of the print book, so long as it does not simultaneously lend the print book,” Koeltl held in his decision. “But no case or legal principle supports that notion. Every authority points the other direction.”

In court filings, the publishers have asked for damages and injunctive relief, including the destruction of potentially infringing scans. Lawyers for the Internet Archive have argued that statutory damages should be remitted per section 504 of the Copyright Act, which offers some relief where the infringer is a “nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives,” and the infringers “believed and had reasonable grounds for believing” that its use of the work was fair use….

(5) “RIGHTING” RUSSIAN HISTORY WITH TIME TRAVEL. The new episode of BBC’s The Documentary is “Invading the past: Russia and science fiction”.

Science fiction flourished from the earliest days of the Soviet Union. A rare space to explore other realms and utopian dreams of progress. But with the Soviet Union’s collapse different narratives bubbled up. 

Many of them reactionary, imperial, violent with one sub genre flourishing above all – Popadantsy: accidental time travel where protagonists return to World War Two or the Imperial past to set the path of Russian history on the ‘right’ course, perhaps with the aid of Stalin or even Hitler. The enemies are frequently the US, Britain and the West. 

Historian Catherine Merridale explores how the once visionary world of Russian science fiction shifted in the time of Vladimir Putin to become a reactionary playground. Did the real invasion of Ukraine actually began amid the pages of such dark fictions? 

(6) TOODLES, TWITTER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just ceased using Twitter alerts for new content.

Their Twitter followers amounted to less than 1% of the site’s typical monthly unique visitors (which are invariably in five figures). What prompted this was Twitter insisting they strengthen their password (presumably with the addition on upper and lower cases, an irrational number and a Klingon hieroglyph). This by itself would not be a problem but the e-mail address associated with the Twitter account is their old, deprecated one from over a decade ago, and they feel that there is no reason for Elon Musk to have their current address on his X server.

There is, though, an RSS Feed for those that like them, but SF² Concatenation’s seasonal posting times remain regular.

(7) JULEEN A. BRANTINGHAM (1942-2023). Author Juleen A. Brantingam died on July 22. She started as a writer of children’s stories and finished her career writing science fiction, appearing in Amazing Stories, Asimov’s, and Omni with a career spanning from 1979-99. The family obituary is here.

Her story “The Ventriloquist’s Daughter”, originally published in Whispers 19–20 (1983), was selected by editor Karl Edward Wagner for The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XII (1984).

(8) BETTY ANN BRUNO (1931-2023) One of the few surviving actors who played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Betty Ann Bruno died July 30 at the age of 91 reports Deadline.

Betty Ann Bruno, who as a child played a munchkin in the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz and went on to become a TV producer and longtime reporter in the San Francisco Bay area, died Sunday in Sonoma, CA, her family said. She was 91. No cause of death was given.

Born Betty Ann Ka’ihilani on October 1, 1931, in Wahiawa, Hawai’i, Bruno grew up in Hollywood and had an uncredited bit role in John Ford’s 1937 film The Hurricane. She was 7 when she was cast with about a dozen other children of average height as Munchkins opposite the 100-plus adult little people who played the denizens of Munchkinland. Victor Fleming’s beloved film starring Judy Garland was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and won for Best Song (“Over the Rainbow”) and Best Score.

Among only a handful of surviving Munchkin actors, Bruno in 2020 published a book called The Munchkin Diary: My Personal Yellow Brick Road, which was written during the Covid lockdown….

… Bruno graduated from Stanford University and had a long and successful career in local television, first as a political talk show producer, then as an on-air host and later a reporter for KTVU in the Bay Area. Starting in 1971, she spent more than 20 years with the station, becoming a familiar face to its viewers. Among the major stories she covered was the horrible 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,200 homes — including hers….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. Or so I though until I checked online. The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James, over seven hundred pages, is available from the usual suspects for a mere buck ninety-nine! (Died 1936.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects. Member, First Fandom Hall of Fame. He was nominated five times for a Retro Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form, and once as Best Professional Editor, Short Form. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1923 Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 1, 1945 Yvonne Rousseau. Australian author, editor and critic. She edited the Australian Science Fiction Review in the late Eighties. She wrote one work of non-fiction, Minmers Marooned and Planet of the Marsupials: The Science Fiction Novels of Cherry Wilder, and has a handful of stories to her name. She got nominated for three Ditmar Awards for her fan writing. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 1, 1948 David Gemmell. Best remembered for his first novel, Legend, the first book in his long-running Drenai series. He would go on to write some thirty novels. The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented from 2009 to 2018, with a stated goal to “restore fantasy to its proper place in the literary pantheon”. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 69. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us, which is that he writes genre reviews — collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein‘s “By His Bootstraps”.
  • Born August 1, 1993 Tomi Adeyemi, 30. Nigerian born author. She won a Lodestar Award at Dublin 2019 for her Children of Blood and Bone novel which also won her an Andre Norton Award. That novel was nominated for a BFA, a Kitchie and a Nommo.  Her latest in that series is Children of Virtue and Vengeance

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HPL FILM FEST. The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival is returning once more to Providence, R.I. from August 18-20 at the Columbus Theater.

(12) MOON WILL RECEIVE ART DEPOSIT. “Lunar Codex: digitised works of 30,000 artists to be archived on moon” – the Guardian has the story.

A portrait assembled from Lego bricks, woodcuts printed in Ukrainian soil and a collection of poetry from every continent are among thousands of works to be archived on the moon as a lasting record of human creativity.

The collection, known as the Lunar Codex, is being digitised and stored on memory cards or laser-etched on NanoFiche – a 21st-century update on film-based microfiche – in preparation for the missions that will ferry the material to the lunar surface.

Samuel Peralta, a semi-retired physicist and art collector from Canada who is leading the effort, describes the off-world archive as a message in a bottle to future generations to remind them that war, pandemics and economic crises did not stop people creating works of beauty.

Gathered from 30,000 artists, writers, film-makers and musicians from 157 countries, the images, objects, magazines, books, podcasts, movies and music are being divided into four capsules….

(13) WRITTEN ON THE INTERNET WALL. Cat Eldridge offers this valedictory with “apologies to Simon & Garfunkel”.

Hello Filers, my old friends
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a Scroll softly came to be
With the work of Our Gracious Host

(14) STAY TUNED. “NASA loses contact with Voyager 2 spacecraft, operating almost 12.4 billion miles from Earth” according to CBS News.

NASA lost contact with its Voyager 2 spacecraft and it’s possible that communications won’t resume until mid-October, the space agency said Friday. 

Voyager 2, located nearly 12.4 billion miles from Earth, is currently unable to send data back to Earth or receive commands. Contact was disrupted when a series of planned commands on July 21 accidentally caused the antenna to point 2 degrees away from Earth. 

A scheduled orientation reset is programmed for Oct. 15. NASA said it believes the orientation reset, which is designed to keep Voyager 2’s antenna pointed at Earth, should allow communication to resume. NASA believes the spacecraft will stay on its planned trajectory from now until Oct. 15. 

Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 were launched in 1977. Voyager 1, which continues to operate normally, is located almost 15 billion miles from Earth. The spacecraft were designed to find and study the edge of our solar system….

(15) SETTLEMENT REACHED. “Family of Henrietta Lacks settles lawsuit against Thermo Fisher, a biotech company that used her cells without consent” reports the AP.

More than 70 years after doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took Henrietta Lacks’ cervical cells without her knowledge, a lawyer for her descendants said they have reached a settlement with a biotechnology company that they accused of reaping billions of dollars from a racist medical system.

Tissue taken from the Black woman’s tumor before she died of cervical cancer became the first human cells to continuously grow and reproduce in lab dishes. HeLa cells went on to become a cornerstone of modern medicine, enabling countless scientific and medical innovations, including the development of the polio vaccine, genetic mapping and even COVID-19 vaccines.

Despite that incalculable impact, the Lacks family had never been compensated….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From It’s History, “Weekly Tales of American Urban Decay as presented by your host Ryan Socash” – “Chicago’s Forgotten Moving Sidewalk over Lake Michigan”. Daniel Dern wonders, “Did this (help) inspire Heinlein’s ‘The Roads Must Roll’?”

Today we delve into the fascinating history of Chicago’s Lost Moving Walkway from the World’s Fair. Join us as we uncover the remnants of this forgotten marvel of engineering that once mesmerized visitors during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Discover the incredible technological advancements of the time and the grandeur of this forgotten transportation system

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Eric Franklin, Steven H Silver, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/23 Pixels Travelling Through Time And Space In The Blue Scroll

(1) BUILDING BETTER WORLDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In an essay for Bombay Lit Mag, Gautam Bhatia discusses the (sometimes-maligned) art of worldbuilding. It’s a thoughtful and nuanced piece that delves into the value of the worlds that SFF authors imagine, and how that works to elevate stories. It’s kind of a great article. “Weaving the Rainbow: Worldbuilding and Speculative Fiction”.

Stephen King recently tweeted “World-building is a phrase I really wish would be retired. Not only is it sloppy and lazy, it has become trite.” King’s slinging of the guns at the term “world-building” triggered a chorus of responses: smug nodding of the proverbial heads, passionate agreement, earnest disagreement, derision, mimicry, the works. One striking feature, though, was that some of his interlocutors seemed unable to agree about what one of the oldest tools in speculative fiction’s toolbox really was.

In a sense, this is unsurprising: the kernel of truth in King’s somewhat reductive tweet is that “world-building” has come to mean many things to many people. Of course, all fiction involves world-building: if nothing else, a character’s interior landscape – a staple feature of most fiction – is a world unto itself. Nonetheless, world-building in speculative fiction is special….

(2) A CREATOR WITH HEALTH ISSUES NEEDS SUPPORT. Kathleen David has written a new update to the Peter David GoFundMe, where donors so far have contributed $111,855 toward the $175,000 goal. Following a report about Peter’s medical challenges, which can be read at the link, Kathleen explains the compelling need for more help.

(3) RIGHTS. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss brings clarity in “Rights vs. Copyright: Untangling the Confusion”.

…But confusion about the difference between rights and copyright is common–not just among authors (one especially frequent misplaced fear is that granting rights to a publisher means you lose them forever), but among inexperienced publishers. If I had a dollar for every small press contract I’ve seen that hopelessly conflates rights and copyright (for instance, taking possession of copyright but reserving a variety of subsidiary rights to the author), my husband and I could treat ourselves to a very fancy dinner.

Some suggestions on how to untangle the confusion and protect yourself:

– First and foremost, understand copyright and the rights it gives you….

(4) SCHOLASTIC CONTROVERSY. “Amplification or Suppression? Author Maggie Tokuda-Hall Calls Out Edits Proposed by Scholastic” at Publishers Weekly.

Concerns about censorship at Scholastic’s Rising Voices Library, a diversity-focused provider of educational materials, arose on Wednesday after writer Maggie Tokuda-Hall was asked to revise an author’s note in her book about Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Tokuda-Hall spoke out against Scholastic’s request that she cut the words “virulent racism” from a sentence about the trauma caused by anti-Japanese American policies and that she eliminate a paragraph about racism’s broader legacy in America.

Scholastic’s actions sparked an immediate backlash on social media and an apology from the company.

,,, Tokuda-Hall’s uncompromising language was on Scholastic’s radar too. In a message to Tokuda-Hall, provided to PW by Scholastic, Rising Voices Library’s lead editor wrote, “We love this book! And we want everyone in the schools we serve to read it. However, our audience is comprised of elementary school-aged children and there are some details in the Author’s Note that, although eloquently stated, are too strongly worded for what most teachers would expect to share with their students. This could lead to teachers declining to use the book, which would be a shame. To that end we are requesting make an adjustment to the Authors Note. Our suggested change is attached.”

…On April 11, Tokuda-Hall blogged about the situation in a piece called Scholastic, and a Faustian Bargain illustrated with a screen-capture of the proposed edits. In her blog post, Tokuda-Hall expressed her complex emotional response to Rising Voices Library’s desire for inclusion and the contradictory request to delete the paragraph. She felt “put in a position where I had to choose between my career and my ethics” and expressed her fear that a principled stance “could scare off an editor who sees this and thinks I’m too difficult to work with—I have a book out on submission right now.”…

…As word of the controversy spread, Thursday afternoon Scholastic CEO Peter Warwick sent a message to all company employees acknowledging that Scholastic was mistaken in asking Tokuda-Hall to make edits. “This approach was wrong and not in keeping with Scholastic’s values. We don’t want to diminish or in any way minimize the racism that tragically persists against Asian-Americans,” the letter read.

Warwick added that Scholastic has contacted Candlewick to apologize to Tokuda-Hall and that the publisher hopes to continue on with the project. “It is our sincere hope that we can start this conversation over and still be able to share this important story about Ms. Tokuda-Hall’s grandparents, who met in a WWII Incarceration camp, with the author’s note unchanged,” Warwick wrote.

Meanwhile, an online petition protesting Scholastic’s action has garnered some 100 signatures from authors. The petition calls for Scholastic to publish Love in the Library as written and to publicly apologize to the author and illustrator.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

2005[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Kit Reed was one of our most prolific writers of SFF, fantasy and even horror on occasion. She wrote Little Sisters of the Apocalypse, certainly one of the coolest titles ever for a novel. 

Though nominated often including at Detention for Best New Author, she won no Awards alas.  

Remember I said Kit was prolific? There were fifteen novels, ten collections and way more short fiction that I can count up. She edited one sort of anthology, Fat: A Big Book about a Broad Subject, and wrote a writers guide.

I’ve chosen the Beginning of the “Grand Opening” short story as it is a great example of her writing.  It appeared first in her Dogs of Truth: New and Uncollected Stories collection, published eighteen years ago.  It’s also in The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, a collection of some thirty stories of hers that Wesleyan University Press did eight years later. Both are available from the usual suspects. 

So here’s that Beginning…

It’s brilliant. The Bruneians have bought Yankee Stadium. The team went bust last year—it was the boredom. There’s nothing at issue in baseball, face it. Where’s the suspense? It’s only a game. Today we expect more from our entertainment: love and death, fire and blood. Lives at stake. Who wouldn’t get tired of going out to see people in the same old outfits going through the moves? Fans did, even the most committed ones. The times demand narrative. We do! If the Yankees can’t supply it, someone better will. The team failed and with it, commerce in the city: restaurants and hotels went under and with them all those providers who brought you baseball caps and Yankees mugs and diamonds and furs, filthy pictures and china Statues of Liberty and high end leather jackets that rich foreigners paid too much for because it’s important to travel but even more important to take something home. Like dominoes falling in a Japanese stadium, businesses went under, threatening the infrastructure, and the Sultan’s advisors saw the opportunity and pounced. Face it. Without the revenue from Brunei your metropolis would be a tent city in a parking lot. All praise to the Sultan. 

Unlike the national imagination that stopped short at baseball, the Sultan had a dream. A vision that would beggar Kubla Khan. It’s enough to point to the models the Bruneians sent ahead to prepare us for the offer, and the projections they sent when we refused and they tripled it. Magnificent, even in the miniature it took the imperial architects weeks to complete. Imagine it now. Before the deal was even struck, advance teams took down the stands and leveled two miles surrounding for the armature and the diorama, as well as excavating for parking. While New Yorkers made a desperate last-minute pitch for all-American backers, crews moved in to complete UNIVERSE, the Bruneian Mall of the World, which opens tonight at the outskirts of the bankrupt city.

For months, UNIVERSION has telecast the preparations to a rapt audience of billions. We all watched the story unfold. Would UNIVERSE be done in time to save our bacon? Would we be among the first to see it? The suspense is unbearable and remember, we live for suspense. 

We have been waiting for months for this day. 

We don’t know it yet, but Ahmed Shah has been waiting all his life. Ah, but when the time is right we’ll see it on TV We have been watching from our homes and the luckiest of us are watching on the monitors lining the way in from the parking lots where we have been waiting for so long. When we first catch sight of Ahmed, it will be on TV. And the rest? Soon. We will see everything soon. The grand opening is almost upon us. It’s today.

We don’t know it yet, but Ahmed Shah has been waiting all his life.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 James Branch Cabell. Writer of what SFE called “mannered, witty and in later life sometimes rather enervated fantasies set in a Land of Fable Europe”. Cabell’s best-remembered novel, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, pissed off the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice so much they attempted to get him charged with felony vice charges. They failed. Like all too pious Catholics, it a joke about the Pope that offended them. (Died 1968.)
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and, when needs be, voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet-based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 88. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 74. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen, and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” which has been adapted to television twice, first into a same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”. He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 68. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 41. Writer, editor, poet and podcaster. She was the founding editor of the superb PodCastle podcast and served as the editor for several years. As a writer, she’s a master of the shorter form of writing, be it a novella, a short story or a poem. Indeed her novella “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” won a Nebula Award. Her short story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” won another Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Both also were nominated for the Hugo. All of her work has been in shorter fiction, all of it superb, and it’s mostly collected in two works, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future. She’s the editor of People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy

(7) CAN LEX BE SAVED? Maybe not. “DC Kills Superman’s Biggest Foe in Mark Waid’s New Mature Readers Series” reports CBR.com.

…The publisher teased of the series, “Superman learns Lex Luthor is dying—and wants the Man of Steel to help him find the cure for whatever is causing his rapid decline. While the world wants to say good riddance to Luthor, Superman will go to the ends of the universe, through different dimensions, and across time to save his foe. But just why does he want to save the person who’s spent his life trying to destroy him? And will he even be able to find the solution?”…

(8) A SPACE BOOK WITH EXTRAS. At Dreams of Space, “The Solar System Pop-up Book (1978?)” may be all Greek to you, but the graphics are a lot of fun to look at.

My first Greek space book. This is a fun pop-up book I found recently. It is pretty basic but I really like space pop-up books for their design and impact

(9) ARE THERE NO WORKHOUSES? Steven Heller tells about “Dickensian Cool” and where to find it at PRINT Magazine.

Growing up reading Charles Dickens’ novels, I acquired a distaste for gruel (“Please, sir, I want some more”), a distrust of street urchins and a disgust for public beheadings. I did, however, learn to love the cadence of Dickens’ prose and exacting dialog, and a passion for Christmas past, present and future (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). I also was enthralled by the line engravings used to illustrate many Dickensian novels and stories. As an art director, when illustrators emulated the style, I was sympathetic and threw a few job crumbs their way. I’ve been called old fashioned for my preference of cross-hatched line drawings to vector-based minimalist flat color art, but Dickensian art continues to have relevance in its to-the-point style.

Dr. Michael John Goodman is also a fan, and he has put his website where his fandom is. He just launched the Charles Dickens Illustrated Gallery. It contains all the original illustrations from Charles Dickens’ novels, and is free to use for everyone to download, share, create, remix, research, teach or do whatever they like with. (If you find it useful, you may also like his previous project, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive.) The Dickens gallery is a great resource… Ultimately, we’ve run through revivals of so many 20th-century methods and manners, it’s possible Victorian Punk is right around the corner….

(10) THESE SAMPLES AREN’T FREE. “Mars rocks await a ride to Earth — can NASA deliver?” asks Nature. “The stakes are high as the agency contemplates the technological and financial hurdles ahead for its sample-return mission.”

For decades, scientists who study Mars have watched in envy as spacecraft brought pieces of the Moon, chunks of asteroids and even samples of the solar wind to Earth to be studied. Now some of those researchers might finally be on track to receive rocks from the red planet — but only if NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) can pull off a complex and daring mission….

(11) IT’S SUMMERTIME AT SF2 CONCATENATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just posted its summer edition.

v33(3) 2023.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2023

v33(3) 2023.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v33(3) 2023.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. FirstShowing.net introduces “’The Last Boy on Earth’ First Look Trailer”.

…Black Mandala has revealed a first look trailer for an indie sci-fi creation called The Last Boy on Earth, an anthology film with around eight segments in total to enjoy. There’s no final premiere date set yet, but it will be released sometime later in 2023. …

In a distant future, an enigmatic boy becomes the central figure in the search for a new hope. Who is this kid? Why is everyone looking for it? Sometimes it is better not to know certain answers…

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/23 Starship Tribbles! Ad Astra Per Felix Flattus!

(1) UKRANIAN BRADBURY TRANSLATOR MOURNED. [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] It’s being reported that Ukrainian researcher/editor/translator/”culturologist” Yevhen Gulevich (Gulevych), who, among other things, was the translator of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, was killed fighting at Bakhmut in Ukraine. 

His death is covered in Daily Kos’ news roundup “Ukraine Update: If the leaked documents are real, then they’re a good sign for Ukraine”. More detail:

Gulevich was a critical figure in detailing the history of Ukrainian art, explaining the origins of Ukrainian culture, and in mapping that history onto modern Ukraine. He was the editor of a Ukrainian magazine and frequently in demand for his skill at translating books written in other languages into Ukrainian while preserving the emotion and beauty of language. Among others, he translated Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” so that it can be read by generations of Ukrainians the way it has been read and enjoyed by generations of Americans. Gulevich died on Bakhmut. He probably died all the way back at the end of December, but his body could not be found, and his fellow soldiers maintained some level of hope that he was still out there until he was finally declared dead last month. “

The image at the top of that article is from his funeral (”A guard of honor for Yevhen Gulevich at Garrison Church, Lviv, Ukraine. April 10, 2023”) and you’ll see another picture from it if you scroll down to the quote.

(2) TOLKIEN AND WHITE SUPREMACY. Robin A. Reid has posted “Why White Supremacy No Longer Provides Cover for White Academia”, which she presented at the Roundtable on Racisms and Tolkien, Tolkien Studies Area, PCA/ACA 2023.

 …As I discussed yesterday in the roundtable on adaptations of Tolkien, the backlash against Amazon’s Rings of Powers series is part of the ongoing “culture war” effort by contemporary fascists, many who love Tolkien’s work. They are creating “a new front . . . in a decades’-long, international, far-right, culture war. The people waging it aren’t just fighting to keep Tolkien’s imaginary world white and manly and straight. They’re fighting to restore that white-supremacist system in the real world, too” (Craig Franson, personal communication). Yesterday I focused on the question of what fandom, or more specifically, what progressive fans might do. Today, I focus on the question of what white academics can do….

…Too many of the articles on race and Tolkien dismiss racist readers as atypical, as ignorant, as reading the Legendarium badly, and, by extension, dismiss the question of structural/systemic racisms in Tolkien’s legendarium as unimportant to the field of Tolkien scholarship….

(3) JEREMY RENNER ON JIMMY KIMMEL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The “Live!“ in the name of Jimmy Kimmel’s show may never have been more relevant than it was Monday night. Jeremy Renner made his first talkshow appearance following his January 1st accident that saw him basically crushed by a multi-ton snowplow.

Renner was there nominally to promote his new Disney+ show “Rennervations,” but it’s certain that his fans were cheered by his ability to walk to the interview chair using nothing more than a cane.

(4) SEE PICARD FINALE IN THEATERS. “’Star Trek: Picard’ Season 3 Finale Gets Special IMAX Screenings” reports Collider. Requests for free tickets open April 12 at 1:00 Eastern.

It’s time to boldly go back to the big screen! The final two episodes of Star Trek: Picard Season 3 are getting a one-night-only theatrical release in select IMAX theaters on April 19 followed by a pre-taped Q&A with the cast of the hit series. Participating cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. What’s even better is that tickets for the event are free, and they’ll be available on Wednesday, April 12 at 1 PM ET.

(5) GUGGENHEIM. The 2023 Guggenheim Fellows were announced April 5, 171 fellows from 48 fields. Jacqueline Woodson, who has done much genre work, was one of the people named as fellows in the Fiction category.

Fiction 

Lucy Corin, Writer, Berkeley, California; Professor of English, University of California, Davis 

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Writer, Arvada, Colorado; Endowed Chair in Creative Writing, Texas State University 

James Hannaham, Writer, Brooklyn, New York; Professor, Writing Department, Pratt Institute 

Jac JemcWriter, San Diego, California; Associate Teaching Professor, University of California, San Diego 

Don Lee, Writer, Baltimore, Maryland; Professor, Director of MFA Program in Creative Writing, Temple University 

Rebecca Lee, Writer, Wilmington, North Carolina; Associate Professor, Department of Creative Writing, University of North Carolina Wilmington 

Héctor Tobar, Writer, Los Angeles, California; Professor, University of California, Irvine 

Jacqueline Woodson, Writer, Brooklyn, New York 

(6) RONDO VOTING. Steve Vertlieb reminds us that April 23 is the last day for the public to vote for the Rondo Awards, “fandom’s only classic horror awards”, and he’d be thrilled if you voted for the nominee who interviewed him for the magazine We Belong Dead.

Cinema Retro is looking for votes, too: “Cinema Retro And Mark Mawston Nominated For This Year’s Rondo Awards”.

…Also, Cinema Retro contributor Mark Mawston, who recently brought CR readers a rare, exclusive interview with actor John Leyton, has been singled out for a nomination in the category of Best Interview. This time, the subject of his work is the life and career of noted writer, film, and film music historian, Steve Vertlieb, who reflects on his interactions with a “Who’s Who” of film legends from over the decades. The superb 12-page interview appeared in issue #31 of the popular British horror magazine “We Belong Dead”. Mark is known professionally as “The Rock and Roll Photographer To The Stars” (having photographed such music luminaries at Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, and Brian Wilson)….

Click here for the ballot and instructions on how to send in your vote.

(7) BOOK REVIEW. I am the Law: How Judge Dredd Predicted Our Future launched a few weeks ago. Jonathan Cowie has a review in the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2 Concatenation and tweeted an advance post.

Even if you do not know of Judge Dredd but have an interest in policing and legality, then this is a fascinating introduction into twentieth and early twenty-first century trends, that, if they continue, lead to a worrying future…

For SF fans, this book is an exemplar of science fiction’s value to society and how the genre can, on occasion, seem to predict the future. In this case the seeming predictions – note the plural, for there are many – are unnervingly spot on and so if Judge Dredd is some sort of quasi-reflection of our future, then it is an unsettling one, and one at which we should rail against

Judge Dredd should come with a health warning when given to kids.

If perchance you have never heard of Judge Dredd (is there anyone in the western world under the age of 50 who hasn’t?), then he is a comic-strip character from the British weekly 2000AD as well as, now, the titular character of the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine. He is a 22nd century law enforcer of Mega-City 1: Mega-City 1 being effectively the amalgamation of former 20th century cities along the US’s eastern seaboard. Life in Mega-City-1, though futuristic, is harsh. Only a few Mega-Cities survived the early 21st century nuclear war and much of the middle of America (less protected by anti-missile shields) became a wasteland called the ‘Cursed Earth’. Meanwhile, the ocean off the city is now the polluted Black Atlantic.

Life in Mega-City 1 is also harsh for its citizens because the high automated future and advanced robotics have made many redundant and the majority are simply unemployed living on ‘welf’ (welfare benefits). Crime is rife as is the discontent and those who regret the loss of democracy. And then there are the threats from the technology used itself as well as external ones from other Mega-Cities both from within the former continental N. America and beyond.

So, to keep law and order, policemen are now both police, jury and judge who enforce the law and decide on guilt and punishment. These enforcers are the Judges.

This book is jam-packed with so many instances of where the strip has seemingly predicted the future that this review can but give you the barest of tasters….

The full review is here.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1961[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

A work of Keith Laumer’s that I think doesn’t get as much appreciation as it deserves is where the Beginning comes from for the tonight’s Scroll. 

Worlds of The Imperium is the novel in question. It first appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination in the February, March and April 1961 issues. The following year it was published by Ace Books as an Ace Double with Seven from the Stars by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Five years later, Dennis Dobson publishers would give it a handsome hardcover edition. 

I don’t consider it giving to be give y’all spoilers to note that Laumer wrote three sequels to this novel —The Other Side of TimeAssignment in Nowhere and Zone Yellow.

I consider it one of the better cross-time novels that I’ve read and I’ve read a lot of them in over the last fifty years. The antagonist is interesting, the worlds thought out to be more than the cookie cutter alternative ones we so often get and the story here moves along at a rather admirable  pace. With ale too. 

So here’s our Beginning… 

I STOPPED in front of a shop with a small wooden sign which hung from a wrought-iron spear projecting from the weathered stone wall. On it the word Antikvariat was lettered in spidery gold against dull black, and it creaked as it swung in the night wind. Below it a metal grating covered a dusty window with a display of yellowed etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs, and a faded mezzotint. Some of the buildings in the pictures looked familiar, but here they stood in open fields, or perched on hills overlooking a harbor crowded with sails. The ladies in the pictures wore great bell-like skirts and bonnets with ribbons, and carried tiny parasols, while dainty-footed horses pranced before carriages in the background.

It wasn’t the prints that interested me though, or even the heavy gilt 

frame embracing a tarnished mirror at one side; it was the man whose reflection I studied in the yellowed glass, a dark man wearing a tightly-belted grey trench-coat that was six inches too long. He stood with his hands thrust deep in his pockets and stared into a darkened window fifty feet from me. 

He had been following me all day. 

At first I thought it was coincidence when I noticed the man on the bus from Bromma, then studying theatre announcements in the hotel lobby while I registered, and half an hour later sitting three tables away sipping coffee while I ate a hearty dinner.

I had discarded that theory a long time ago. Five hours had passed and he was still with me as I walked through the Old Town, medieval Stockholm still preserved on an island in the middle of the city. I had walked past shabby windows crammed with copper pots, ornate silver, dueling pistols, and worn cavalry sabres; very quaint in the afternoon sun, but grim reminders of a ruder day of violence after midnight. Over the echo of my footsteps in the silent narrow streets the other steps came quietly behind, hurrying when I hurried, stopping when I stopped. Now the man stared into the dark window and waited, the next move was up to me. I was lost. Twenty years is a long time to remember the tortuous turnings of the streets of the Old Town. I took my guide book from my pocket and turned to the map in the back. My fingers were clumsy. 

I craned my neck up at the stone tablet set in the corner of the building; it was barely legible: Master-Samuelsgatan. I found the name on the folding map and saw that it ran for three short blocks, ending at Gamla Storgatan; a dead end. In the dim light it was difficult to see the fine detail on the map; I twisted the book around and got a clearer view; there appeared to be another tiny street, marked with crosslines, and labeled Guldsmedstrappan. I tried to remember my Swedish; trappan meant stair. The Goldsmith’s Stairs, running from Master Samuelsgatan to Hundgatan, another tiny street. It seemed to lead to the lighted area near the palace; it looked like my only route out. I dropped the book back into my pocket and moved off casually toward the stairs of the Goldsmith. I hoped there was no gate across the entrance.

My shadow waited a moment, then followed. Slowly as I was ambling, I gained a little on him. He seemed in no hurry at all. I passed more tiny shops, with ironbound doors and worn stone sills, and then saw that the next doorway was an open arch with littered granite steps ascending abruptly. I paused idly, then turned in. Once past the portal, I bounded up the steps at top speed. Six leaps, eight, and I was at the top and darting to the left toward a deep doorway. There was just a chance I’d cleared the top of the stair before the dark man had reached the bottom. I stood and listened. I heard the scrape of shoes, then heavy breathing from the direction of the stairs a few feet away. I waited, breathing with my mouth wide open, trying not to pant audibly. After a moment the steps moved away. The proper move for my silent companion would be to cast about quickly for my hiding place, on the assumption that I had concealed myself close by. He would be back this way soon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute at EoSF says he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 — William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise of which EoSF says that her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero”.  He also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did cover art for genre books published by Bantam and Ballantine during the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him a 1972 Locus Award.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make a recommendation, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie Czerneda, 68. She won the Prix Aurora Award for her Company of Others novel. She’d also receive one for Short Form in English for her “Left Foot on A Blind Man” Story, both of these early in her career.  She has a long running series, The Clan Chronicles which is as sprawling as anything Martin conceived.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 60. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media tie-in fiction including Pacific RimStar WarsPlanet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows a notoriously fannish circle of hell.
  • The Far Side shows the cow’s real motivation for jumping the moon.
  • The Far Side wonders, “What did people use for fuel before the dinosaurs died?”

(11) GRAPHIC NOVELS MARKET ANALYZED. [Item by Dann.] In “Tilting at Windmills #295: Looking at NPD BookScan 2022” at ComicsBeat, Brian Hibbs does an annual assessment of graphic novels sold via bookstores.  His data does not include direct market sales nor does it include digital sales; only physical books sold via a bookstore (including Amazon).  The quick takes from his 2022 report that I found:

  • Scholastic is the king of physical book sales via bookstores with 40% of sales by western* publishers. (* Publishers from western nations – not publishers of western-themed graphic novels, natch)
  • The largest bookstore market is middle school/junior high-aged kids.  Dav Pilkey rules the roost with 8 of the top 20 titles.
  • Manga is the next largest sub-market with Viz Media being the most significant publisher at 60% of all manga sales.
  • Of the traditional “superhero” publishers, DC does a good job at #6 among western publishers with 20 titles in the top 750 and Marvel is struggling with only one title in the top 750.  DC’s success seems to be largely driven by what is being adapted for TV plus their youth-oriented titles.  Scholastic’s licenses of Marvel properties beat all of the Marvel-published titles.  Together, Marvel and DC comprise 10% of the market sold via bookstores.

Though Hibbs says, “But this seems paltry when you see that at least four other publishers licensed to publish Marvel characters … beat every single comic Marvel itself published, except for one: ‘Moon Knight by Lemire & Smallwood’, with 17k.”

The data is based on NPD BookScan and does not include sales via/to libraries, schools, specialty stores (like comic book stores), book clubs, and fairs.  There are other data issues arising from how publishers apply BISAC codes to their products.  For example, the novel Bloody Crown of Conan appeared on the list for many years while Dork Diaries comes and goes.  Brian has to get the data for The Complete Persepolis and Maus manually pulled for inclusion in his dataset.  He makes it clear that there are known unknowns with respect to his dataset.

The Daily Cartoonist has done its own overview of Hibbs’ work in “2022 Book Scan Graphic Books Report”.

(12) CELEBRATING ADDITIONS TO THE COLLECTION. For sff scholars at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY, “Pandemic Donations Moving Day” arrived at the end of February. The Science Fiction at City Tech blog has the story.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, Professor and Collections Management Librarian Wanett Clyde and English Department Professor Jason Ellis moved donated materials acquired during the first phase of the pandemic into the City Tech Science Fiction Collection’s space in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.

During the pandemic, we received a lot of new material for the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, including magazines, novels, collections, academic journals, and monographs. These materials were donated by Charlie Seelig (~20 boxes of EVERYTHING), Analog Science Fiction and Fact (~4 boxes of magazines from their old office space), City Tech Professor Lucas Bernard (2 boxes of material that belonged to his father Kenneth Bernard, the experimental playwright and English professor), and Emeritus Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association David Mead (1 box of Jack Vance materials), The Special Collections and Archives in the City Tech Library unfortunately were unable to open enough shelf space for these materials, so Wanett and Jason stored everything in their offices–with most of it being in Jason’s office (see below)…..

(13) FINISHED PROJECT. EV Grieve, in “This is the way”, has a photo of the completed Mandalorian-themed art on a building in New York’s East Village. See it at the link.

Here’s a follow-up to last week’s post and a look at the final “Mandalorian“-related mural by local artist-illustrator Rich Miller on the NE corner of Seventh Street and Avenue C. 

(14) THE MARVELS TRAILER. Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau return in Marvel Studios’ The Marvels, only in theaters November 10.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SpaceX has released a “Starship Mission to Mars” video.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Susan de Guardiola, Steve Vertlieb, Lise Andreasen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/23 Mind The Pixels, And The Scrolls Will File Themselves

(1) HAPPY MOOMIN EASTER!

(2) AI AND RELIGION. The Guardian poses a question to a rabbi, a Muslim scholar, and a digital religions professor: “Are chatbots changing the face of religion? Three faith leaders on grappling with AI”.

….HadithGPT, for instance, uses hadiths or the narrations of the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad to answer questions about Islam. Its responses come with a disclaimer: the answers are AI-generated and may not be accurate, it says. “Islam is passed down from heart to heart and it is important to learn and consult real Islamic scholars for more accurate information.”

Even with this disclaimer, an average person may not have access to an actual scholar they can consult, making it easier to rely exclusively on Sheikh Google or services like HadithGPT, Turk says. The source material is also missing a lot of context typically considered when answering Islamic questions, he added. That includes the human layer of analysis of the hadiths and consideration of other texts such as the Qur’an, as well as scholarly opinions and Islamic jurisprudence. Different schools of thought also give weight to different customs and traditions, he said.

“The hadith are silent on a lot of questions that are more contemporary in nature, Turk said. “It’s much more complicated than just what do the hadiths say in a black and white fashion.”

In other faiths like Buddhism, many practitioners are less text and more practice-centric, making the religion “uniquely situated to shrug” the proliferation of chatbots off, according to the Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Roshi a Zen Buddhist priest in California.

“There’s a practice centricity that takes all of the text and sets them aside and says, it doesn’t matter how much you read, doesn’t matter what you get out of a chatbot,” Williams said. “That’s not the answer. The answer is in your life: do you feel the truth of those words that you speak? And if you don’t, that’s really the only measure.”…

(3) WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL. Some well-known genre figures will be part of The PEN America World Voices Festival, to be held May 10-13. The event will be led by festival chair Ayad Akhtar and guest chairs Marlon James and Ottessa Moshfegh. Ta-Nehisi Coates will deliver the Arthur Miller lecture which will be livestreamed. Speakers include John Irving, Roxane Gay, Reza Aslan, Min Jin Lee, Sarah Polley, Amor Towles, Padma Lakshmi, Masha Gessen, Jelani Cobb, Ben Okri, Han Kang, Imani Perry and so many more. The festival takes place on May 10-13 both in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles with selected events available online.

(4) A MODEST PROPOSAL. SF2 Concatenation tweeted a link to an advance post of its forthcoming seasonal edition’s news page editorial, and they’d love for you to click through and read the whole thing. Here’s the teaser:

With the Worldcon coming to Britain for the first time in roughly a decade, the mainly British-based SF2 Concatenation has a possible suggestion for the committee’s choice of special Hugo Award category.

What special Hugo Award category for the 2024 Glasgow Worldcon? In addition to the set Hugo Award categories, such as Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, Best Short Story, Best Novel etc., each year that year’s committee organising the Worldcon gets the right to choose a category of their own.  Past such Hugo categories have included things like Best Game or Best Art Book.  Not all committee-proposed special categories in the past garnered sufficient nomination interest for them to appear on the Hugo Short-List ballot.  So really the trick is to come up with a special category that will engage with Hugo Award voters (Worldcon Attending registrants).
Here we have an idea…

(5) IT CAUGHT ON IN A FLASH. Space Cowboy Books will host a “Flash Science Fiction Night Online Event” on Tuesday April 25 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

Online Flash Science Fiction Reading. Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) with authors Susan Rukeyser, Todd Sullivan, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Night’s run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(6) WHERE’S MY FAINTING CLOTH? Literary Hub names “13 Adaptations Better Than the Books They’re Based On”. Station Eleven and American Gods are on the list! Is this blasphemy? (Are they right?)

Most of the time, when a beloved book is adapted into a film, or even into a television show, a form with a little more elbow room, shall we say, the magic doesn’t quite translate. Which isn’t to say the adaptations aren’t themselves good—it’s just that the books are usually better. Even very very good adaptations, like The Talented Mr. Ripley, can often only manage to be second fiddle to their source material.

But not always. Sometimes the movie really is better than the book. Below, the Lit Hub staff will argue the case for 13 adaptations which (in our humble/expert/individual opinions) manage to eclipse the books they’re based on. Add your own—or tell us why we’re wrong—in the comments….

(7) SPOIL SPORTS. Meanwhile, CBR.com harps on these “Facts Sci-Fi Movies Always Get Wrong”.

Sci-fi movies take scientific ideas and theories and make them fun, and in some cases even drive innovation. However, many sci-fi concepts are also flawed from the start. Indeed, many of the genre’s favorite tropes simply don’t comport with what scientists know about the universe….

5. Explosions in Space

Many science fiction movies feature battles between ultra-fast starfighters and enormous starships, with the requisite explosions fans have come to expect. Star Wars was the first franchise to prominently feature deep-space explosions, introducing the trope to its millions of fans.

However, this kind of fiery explosion is impossible outside of an oxygen-rich atmosphere (via Science ABC). It’s satisfying when an evil space station explodes, signaling a dramatic victory for the heroes, and spaceships should carry a substantial amount of oxygen for their air-breathing crew. However, most of the exploding starships fans have learned to accept over the years look nothing like actual explosions in a vacuum. If an exploding ship was moving at high speed, the explosion itself would continue to move at the same speed, and without gravity or friction, it would be much larger than the contained blasts viewers associate with violent deep space justice.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2006[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Now let’s talk about two volumes of stories that are among the best ones ever done. Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden, and that is where this Beginning is from, and The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice are some of most delightfully female centered tales that pass the Bechdel test continuously. 

Bantam Spectra published The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden seventeen years ago as lavishly illustrated by Michael Kaluta who of course would illustrate In the Cities of Coin and Spice too.  It would win both an Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award as well as being nominated for a World Fantasy Award. 

Observing Valente riffing off the much older A Thousand and One Nights with Scheherazade is a sheer delight. Not saying anything explicit about them, they are connected but they are such that they stand on their own rather well too. 

Though they are available as digital publications, I recommend purchasing the two trade paper editions.  They make most excellent reading. Really they do. 

Oh and you can hear SJ Tucker’s take on the girl in the garden in this song which is up on Green Man.

And now we meet the girl in the garden. 

PRELUDE

ONCE THERE WAS A CHILD WHOSE FACE WAS LIKE THE NEW MOON SHINING on cypress trees and the feathers of waterbirds. She was a strange child, full of secrets. She would sit alone in the great Palace Garden on winter nights, pressing her hands into the snow and watching it melt under her heat. She wore a crown of garlic greens and wisteria; she drank from the silver fountains studded with lapis; she ate cold pears under a canopy of pines on rainy afternoons.

Now this child had a strange and wonderful birthmark, in that her eyelids and the flesh around her eyes were stained a deep indigo-black, like ink pooled in china pots. It gave her the mysterious, taciturn look of an owl on ivory rafters, or a raccoon drinking from the swift-flowing river. It colored her eyes such that when she was grown she would never have to smoke her eyelashes with kohl. 

For this mark she was feared, and from her earliest days, the girl was abandoned to wander the Garden around the many-towered Palace. Her parents regarded her with trepidation and terror, wondering if her deformity reflected poorly on their virtue. The other nobles firmly believed she was a demon, sent to destroy the glittering court. Their children, who often roamed the Garden like a flock of wild geese, kept away from her, lest she curse them with her terrible powers. The Sultan could not decide—after all, if she were a demon, it would not do to offend her infernal kin by doing away with her like so much cut grass. In the end, all preferred that she simply remain silent and far away, so that none would have to confront the dilemma.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder StoriesGalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic to name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. (Died 1975.)
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 86. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • Born April 9, 1949 Stephen Hickman, born 1949, aged seventy four years. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 68. I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role (but as always I stand by to be cheerfully corrected if I’m wrong) was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 51. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She’s Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, who together form an private investigator team. Big Finish gave them their own line of audio adventures which I really should listen to soon. 
  • Born April 9, 1990 Kristen Stewart, 33. She first shows up in our area of interest in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas as a Ring Toss Girl (ok, it wasn’t that bad a film). Zathura: A Space Adventure based off the Chris Van Allsburg book has her playing Lisa Budwing. Jumper based off the Stephen Gould novel of the same name had her in a minor role as Sophie. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend Snow White and the Huntsman which has her in the title role of Snow White. It’s a really great popcorn film. Finally she’s got a gig in The Twilight Saga franchise as Bella Cullen. 

(10) FRANK ARNOLD REMEMBERED. Rob Hansen made a discovery that prompted him to remind readers that the first free ebook he put together for the TAFF site was The Frank Arnold Papers in 2017.

I edited this together from Frank’s papers, which had been passed to me after being saved from consignment to a dumpster 30 years earlier and had been gathering dust in my cellar ever since. Though Frank was a minor writer this was reasonably well received and I even had several requests from chums for the apocrypha, the material I hadn’t included in that volume. Needless to say, THE FRANK ARNOLD PAPERS is as close to an autobiography as we’re ever going to see. 

Hansen says he’s now discovered there’s also a biography, a long article by Dave Rowe in Outworlds #65 beginning on page 13. It includes details of Frank’s life that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.

He was the last regular link with the original London Circle. He was the keeper of the visitors’ book. He was a methuselahic Peter Pan, a pint-sized Mister Micawber. Practically everyone who had passed through The Globe’s and The One Tun’s portals on each months first Thursday night had known him and his radiantly pert smile, yet to quote Arthur 0. Clarke he was also “the most invisible person I ever met!” and Ted (E.C.) Tubb recalled “he was a very lonely person who was unable to allow people into his private world. In other words a typical fan of his time—as are many of his generation.” The number who knew him ‘at home’ could be counted on the fingers of two hands. To visit him there was like stepping into a living time-capsule. Time had ended in the fifties…

(11) BACK ON THE SHELF. “Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 2 Is Officially… Probably Not Happening” reports Yahoo!

… Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy shared some disappointing news regarding the future of Obi-Wan Kenobi at Saturday’s Star Wars Celebration in London.

Season 2 of the Disney+ series starring Ewan McGregor “is not an active development,” Kennedy told our sister site Variety, before adding, “But I never say never, because there’s always the possibility. That show was so well-received and [director] Deborah Chow did such a spectacular job. Ewan McGregor really wants to do another….

(12) STORMY WEATHER. “NASA Reveals What Made an Entire Starlink Satellite Fleet Go Down” at Inverse.

On March 23, sky observers marveled at a gorgeous display of northern and southern lights. It was a reminder that when our Sun gets active, it can spark a phenomenon called “space weather.” Aurorae are among the most benign effects of this phenomenon.

At the other end of the space weather spectrum are solar storms that can knock out satellites. The folks at Starlink found that out the hard way in February 2022. On January 29 that year, the Sun belched out a class M 1.1 flare and related coronal mass ejection. Material from the Sun traveled out on the solar wind and arrived at Earth a few days later. On February 3, Starlink launched a group of 49 satellites to an altitude only 130 miles above Earth’s surface. They didn’t last long, and now solar physicists know why….

(13) OOPS. “Magnets wipe memories from meteorites” in Science. “Researchers sound alarm over damage caused by popular meteorite-hunting technique.”

In 2011, nomads roaming the western Sahara encountered precious time capsules from Mars: coal-black chunks of a meteorite, strewn across the dunes. “Black Beauty,” as the parent body came to be known, captivated scientists and collectors because it contained crystals that formed on Mars more than 4.4 billion years ago, making it older than any native rock on Earth. Jérôme Gattacceca, a paleo-magnetist at the European Centre for Research and Teaching in Environmental Geo-sciences, hoped it might harbor a secret message, imprinted by the now-defunct martian magnetic field—which is thought to have helped the planet sustain an atmosphere, water, and possibly even life. But when Gattacceca obtained a piece of Black Beauty and tried to decode its magnetic inscription, he found its memory had been wiped—Men in Black style—and replaced by a stronger signal. He instantly knew the culprit. Somewhere along its journey from Moroccan desert to street dealers to laboratory, the rock had been touched by strong hand magnets, a widely used technique for identifying meteorites.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/4/23 There’s A Bad Scroll Happening Tonight And Not Even A Pixel Can Stop It

(1) SANDERSON ADDRESSES WIRED INTERVIEW. [Item by Dann.] Brandon Sanderson yesterday posted a piece on his blog in response to part of the recent story about him published by Jason Kehe in WIRED Magazine: “Outside”. While Sanderson’s other reactions have been notably muted, he found one aspect of Kehe’s story to be worthy of response.

Sanderson had shared his personal condition of not experiencing emotions in the same way that most other people do. The conversation about emotions seemed off and he asked Kehe to exclude that from his piece.

…My neurodivergence came up in a recent interview I did. The interviewer latched onto the fact that I don’t feel pain like others do. (More accurately, some mild pains don’t cause in me the same response they do others.) I asked the interviewer not to mention it in his article, as I felt the tone to our discussion was wrong. I worry about my oddity changing the way people think of me, as I don’t want to be seen as an emotionless zombie. So I try to speak of it with nuance….

Sadly, Kehe did not honor that request.

Having had an aspect of himself laid bare, Sanderson opted to do what many writers do when feeling a need to work through something.  He wrote about himself.  What makes him the type of writer that he is.  What makes him the type of person that he is.

…This is why I write. To understand. To make people feel seen. I type away, hoping some lonely reader out there, left on a curb, will pick up one of my books. And in so doing learn that even if there is no place for them elsewhere, I will make one for them between these pages….

And this is why I read.  When I’m not standing outside, looking up at the falling snow.

(2) START TWANGING. Stephen Haffner’s latest Newsletter announces that The Complete John The Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman is at the printer and they expect to begin shipping the initial preorders on May 15.

The two-volume set, amounting to 1152 pages, includes all 19 short stories, all 5 novels, and Wellman’s synopsis for the unwritten 6th novel: The Valley So Low.

(3) IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY SHIFTED YOUR PARADIGM. “Women now dominate the book business. Why there and not other creative industries?” NPR’s “Planet Money” program looked into the question.

…One of the first projects the Copyright Office had Waldfogel work on was a data analysis of the evolution of women in copyright authorship. Looking at the numbers, Waldfogel’s eyes opened wide when he realized that women have seen incredible progress in book authorship but continue to lag in other creative realms.

For example, while they have made inroads in recent years, women still accounted for less than 20 percent of movie directors and less than 10 percent of cinematographers in the top 250 films made in 2022. Likewise, when looking at the data on patents for new inventions, women make up only between 10 to 15 percent of inventors in the US in a typical year.

For a long time, the book market saw a similar disparity between men and women. Sure, some rockstar female authors come to mind from back in the day: Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson, Agatha Christie, Zora Neale Hurston — to name just a few prominent ones. But, Waldfogel says, between roughly 1800 and 1900, the share of female authors hovered around only 10 percent each year.

In the 20th century, female authorship began to slowly pick up. By the late 1960s, the annual percentage of female authors had grown to almost 20 percent.

Then, around 1970, female authorship really began to explode. “There was a sea change after 1970,” Waldfogel says.

By 2020, Waldfogel finds, women were writing the majority of all new books, fiction and nonfiction, each year in the United States. And women weren’t just becoming more prolific than men by this point: they were also becoming more successful. Waldfogel analyzes data from a whole range of sources to come to this conclusion, including the Library of Congress, the U.S. Copyright Office, Amazon, and Goodreads. Waldfogel finds that the average female-authored book now sees greater sales, readership, and other metrics of engagement than the average book penned by a male author….

(4) BEST SF THEN AND NOW. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Which SF books do SF fans consider the best? And which SF books did SF fans consider the best? SF2 Concatenation has tweeted an advance post ahead of its next seasonal edition, “Best Science Fiction Novels”, an article comparing SF fans’ choices both today (2022) and back in 1987.

One survey was taken at the UK Eastercon back in 1987 by SF2 Concatenation.The other is a survey of over a thousand followers of the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel taken last year (2022).

Are the choices then and now different or the same? Do some of the same titles appear in both….?

… Before we go any further, it should be pointed out that the two surveys did not poll exactly the same question.  The 1987 SF² Concatenation survey was a desert asteroid poll with participants asked which SF novels would they wish to be castaway with on a desert asteroid.  This is not a point pedantry.  Some may view classics such as – and here I invent wildly – as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine as being so well read by fans and perhaps dated that they would not select it as one of their ten to be marooned with for goodness knows how long. So, a classic, best SF novel might not be one of a few that you would be marooned with for life.

As for the results, you need to be aware of arguably wild cards.  The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed Pavane coming in at number 16 on the 1987 SF² Concatenation survey results.  Could this be that its author’s status that Easter, Keith Roberts, being a Guest of Honour at the 1987 BECCON Eastercon, influenced matters?

On the Media Death Cult front, you need to be aware that a number of the titles had been mentioned a few times on the YouTube channel the previous years. For example, Leviathan Wakes is part of the ‘Expanse’ series of novels and the first few of these had been reviewed on the Channel and the Expanse television show has been mentioned in a number of the Cult’s TV-related videos.  Was this an influence? Nobody knows, but it is worth being aware that such potential biases exist….

(5) REVISIONISM. “As Classic Novels Get Revised for Today’s Readers, a Debate About Where to Draw the Line” – and the New York Times takes notes.

…While some changes have been made to books published in decades past, often with little fanfare, many of the current attempts to remove offensive language are systematic and have drawn intense public scrutiny. The effort has left publishers and literary estates grappling with how to preserve an author’s original intent while ensuring that their work continues to resonate — and sell.

Finding the right balance is a delicate act: part business decision, part artful conjuring of the worldview of an author from another era in order to adapt it to the present.

“My great-grandmother would not have wanted to offend anyone,” said James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson, and the chairman and chief executive of Agatha Christie Ltd. “I don’t believe we need to leave what I would term offensive language in our books, because frankly all I care about is that people can enjoy Agatha Christie stories forever.”

The financial and cultural stakes of the exercise are enormous. Authors like Dahl, Christie and Fleming have, together, sold billions of copies of books, and their novels have spawned lucrative film franchises. In 2021, Netflix bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, including rights for classics such as “The BFG,” for a reported $1 billion. Leaving the works unchanged, with offensive and sometimes blatantly racist phrases throughout, could alienate new audiences and damage an author’s reputation and legacy.

But altering a text carries its own risks. Critics say editing books posthumously is an affront to authors’ creative autonomy and can amount to censorship, and that even a well intentioned effort to weed out bigotry can open the door to more pervasive changes.

“You want to think about the precedent that you’re setting, and what would happen if someone of a different predisposition or ideology were to pick up the pen and start crossing things out,” said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America.

Changes could also remake the literary and historical record by deleting evidence of an author’s racial and cultural prejudices, and eroding literature’s ability to reflect the place and time in which it was created. “Sometimes the historical value is intimately intertwined with why something is offensive,” Nossel said.

Then there’s the chance that readers who cherish the original works will revolt….

(6) TIME TO SET YOUR COURSE. The Horror Writers Association has posted the lineup for 2023 Horror University Online at Teachable.com. Single courses are $65 for non-HWA members.

Horror University Online, the HWA’s program of interactive workshops and presentations provides opportunities for writers to learn from some of the strongest voices in horror.

(7) JUST ASKING. “How bad is the idea of a Harry Potter TV series?” asks Camestros Felapton. In a nutshell:

The answer is “very bad” and very bad on multiple axes. 

And Camestros grinds several of those axes in his latest post.

(8) GHOST CARGO. I’m sure your O-Gauge Halloween rail setup will not be complete until it’s haunted by this item of rolling stock: O-“Gondola Car w/Flickering Lighted Ghosts #1984 – Ghost Trap”.

On its customer Web site, the Union Pacific Railroad characterizes a gondola as an “extremely sturdy open design” for carrying “rugged unfinished commodities”; its “large flat interior design with side walls” is described as “more flexible than a flat car.” These qualities make the modern gondola particularly popular with the steel industry, for transportation of loose materials like scrap metal, waste, coke, and slag as well as finished products like iron or steel plate, pipe, structural steel, and rails for railroad track. Other commodities commonly shipped in these versatile cars include mineral ores, granite slabs, gravel, logs, lumber, railroad ties, and even prefabricated railroad track, also known as “panel track.”

These unique versions of the ubiquitous gondola are the perfect addition to your annual Halloween train. Each of the five ghosts is individually lighted and features a flickering glowing effect that is sure to bring your spooky Halloween train to life.

(9) STARTING A NEW CHAPTER. But Chapter 11 can be the next-to-last chapter unless things turn around. “Virgin Orbit: Richard Branson’s rocket firm files for bankruptcy” and BBC News has the story.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson’s rocket company Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US after failing to secure new investment.

The satellite launch company halted operations weeks ago but it hopes to find a buyer for the business.

The company, based in California, announced last week that it would cut 85% of its 750-strong workforce.

Earlier this year, a Virgin Orbit rocket failed to complete its first-ever satellite launch from UK soil….

… On Tuesday, the company said Virgin Investments, part of Virgin Group, would provide $31.6m in new money to help Virgin Orbit through the process of finding a buyer.

It has filed for what is known as Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. This allows a business to keep operating and address its financial issues while providing protection against creditors who are owed money.

Former president of Virgin Galactic Will Whitehorn said the failed launch in Cornwall and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank at the time it was trying to raise new funding contributed to its downfall.

But Mr Whitehorn said the business deserved a second chance because there was “a lot of demand” in the industry.

“What you have got to remember is they have got nearly 50 satellites into space already, so I think there’s a chance they’ll be back,” he said….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1928[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

For this Beginning , we have Robert E. Howard’s very first Solomon Kane story, “Red Shadows”.  It was first published in Weird Tales in the August 1928 issue. Most of Howard’s tales about Kane were in Weird Tales. The last time it had a hardcover printing was in The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Del Rey twenty years ago. It is now available from the usual suspects. 

SPOILER WARNING. 

Look we are dealing with a nearly century old character, so it’s hard to believe anyone here hasn’t heard of its history.

Other authors will take Kane and adapt him, e.g. Paul Di Filippo’s Observable Things and he is namechecked in Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life

Also Tales of the Shadowmen,  an anthology series which is co-edited by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier. All of the characters there from French and international genre fiction exist in the same multiverse.

END OF SPOILERS IF INDEED THERE WERE ANY

And now our Beginning of Solomon Kane…

The moonlight shimmered hazily, making silvery mists of illusion among the shadowy trees. A faint breeze whispered down the valley, bearing a shadow that was not of the moon-mist. A faint scent of smoke was apparent. 

The man whose long, swinging strides, unhurried yet unswerving, had carried him for many a mile since sunrise, stopped suddenly. A movement in the trees had caught his attention, and he moved silently toward the shadows, a hand resting lightly on the hilt of his long, slim rapier. 

Warily he advanced, his eyes striving to pierce the darkness that brooded under the trees. This was a wild and menacing country; death might be lurking under those trees. Then his hand fell away from the hilt and he leaned forward. Death indeed was there, but not in such shape as might cause him fear

“The fires of Hades!” he murmured. “A girl! What has harmed you, child? Be not afraid of me.” 

The girl looked up at him, her face like a dim white rose in the dark.

“You—who are—you?” her words came in gasps.

“Naught but a wanderer, a landless man, but a friend to all in need.” The gentle voice sounded somehow incongruous, coming from the man. 

The girl sought to prop herself up on her elbow, and instantly he knelt and raised her to a sitting position, her head resting against his shoulder. His hand touched her breast and came away red and wet.”

“Tell me.” His voice was soft, soothing, as one speaks to a babe.

“Le Loup,” she gasped, her voice swiftly growing weaker. “He and his men—descended upon our village—a mile up the valley. They robbed—slew—burned—”

 “That, then, was the smoke I scented,” muttered the man. “Go on, child.”

“I ran. He, the Wolf, pursued me—and—caught me—” The words died away in a shuddering silence. “I understand, child. 

Then—?””

“Then—he—he—stabbed me—with his dagger—oh, blessed saints!—mercy—” 

Suddenly the slim form went limp. The man eased her to the earth, and touched her brow lightly. 

“Dead!” he muttered. 

Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.

“Men shall die for this,” he said coldly.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 4, 1902 Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year-and-a-half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. (Died 1935.)
  • Born April 4, 1948 Dan Simmons, 75. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. Hyperion won a Hugo Award at ConFiction (1990), and The Fall of Hyperion was nominated the following year at ChiCon V (1991). Both are, if my memory serves me right, excellent. If you like horror, Song of Kali which won a World Fantasy Award is quite tasty indeed. In 2013 he became a World Horror Convention Grand Master.  Beware his social media, which include remarks about environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
  • Born April 4, 1949 David C. Sutherland III. An early Dungeons & Dragons artist. His work heavily influenced the development of D&D. He was also one of their writers on such modules as the Queen of the Demonweb Pits that Gary Gygax edited. He also drew the maps for Castle Ravenloft. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 4, 1952 Cherie Lunghi, 71. Her fame arose from her role as Guinevere in Excalibur. (I saw Excalibur in a 1920s-built theater on a warm summer night with hardly anyone there.) She was also Baroness Frankenstien (Victor’s Mother) in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She was also in The Lady’s Not for Burning as Jennet Jourdemayne. That I’ve not seen.
  • Born April 4, 1959 Phil Morris, 64. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. And yes played Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role. 
  • Born April 4, 1967 Xenia Seeberg, 56. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev Bellringer in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I’ve also see she played Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela in the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070
  • Born April 4, 1965 Robert Downey Jr., 58. Iron Man in the Marvel Universe film franchise. (I loved the first Iron Man film, thought they could’ve stopped there.) Also a rather brilliant Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Also voicing James Barris in an animated adaption of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly which picked up a nomination at Nippon 2007. Yes, he’s plays the title role in Dolittle which despite having scathing critical reviews has a rather superb seventy-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born April 4, 1968 Gemma Files, 55. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer and four of them have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series. 

(12) PUT ANOTHER TRAILER ON THE BARBIE. [Item by N.] “After being expelled from ‘Barbie Land’ for being a less-than-perfect doll, Barbie sets off for the human world to find true happiness.”

To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.

(13) JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb tuned into the April 3 episode of Jeopardy! and noted this sff reference:

In the Double Jeopardy round, “Their lesser-known books” for $400:

This author went to Venus instead of Narnia in his space novel “Perelandra”

Eventual game-winner Crystal Zhao responded to this correctly.

(14) JEOPARDY! REDUX. And tonight Andrew Porter found that Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to “The World of Middle-Earth” – the contestants could have been better prepared….

Answer: This peak is where the Ring was forged & the only place it can be destroyed.

Wrong questions: What is Mordor? and What is Sauron?

Right question: What is Mount Doom?

Answer: This creepy guy calls the Ring of Power his “precious”

Wrong question: Who is uh, er, I lost it.

Right question: Who is Smeagol?

Answer: Sting is the name Bilbo gives to this possession.

No one could ask, What is his sword?

(15) HOW PALE IS URANUS?  “A pair of images, taken eight years apart, show changes to the ice giant planet as spring arrives in the northern hemisphere,” says the New York Times. “A Paler Uranus Emerges in the Latest Hubble Telescope Image”.

…Studying Uranus’s seasons takes a while. One year on the distant, bluish gas giant — the time it takes Uranus to go once around the sun — is 84 Earth years.

“This is so long that no one human can hope to study it directly,” said Heidi B. Hammel, vice president for science at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

Dr. Hammel notes that although Uranus was discovered 242 years ago, sophisticated instruments did not exist then, and even electronic detectors capable of accurately measuring the brightness of the planet did not exist until the 1950s.

Long-term brightness measurements since then suggest the northern hemisphere of Uranus, now emerging into sunlight, is brighter than the southern hemisphere, which Voyager 2 observed when it flew by in 1986….

(16) REACH FOR THE SKY. The New York Times calls it “One of the Luckiest Lightning Strikes Ever Recorded”.

Benjamin Franklin invented lightning rods in the 18th century, and the devices have been protecting buildings and people from the destructive forces of lightning ever since. But the details of how lightning rods function are still the subject of scientific research.

Although modern lightning protection systems involve extra equipment that makes them more efficient, the lightning rod itself is quite simple: a copper or aluminum rod set above the highest point of a building, with wires connected to the ground. When lightning strikes a building it will preferably pass through the rod — the path of least resistance — and then through the wires into the ground, protecting the building and its contents from the extremely high currents and voltages produced by lightning.

But a rod doesn’t wait for the lightning to strike. Less than one millisecond before the lightning touches it, the rod, provoked by the presence of the negative discharge of the lightning, sends a positive discharge up to connect to it.

Brazilian researchers recently got lucky, photographing this event with high-speed video cameras at very high resolution. They captured the electric action in São José dos Campos, a city northeast of São Paulo.

The scientists were in the right place, at the right time, and with the right equipment to capture 31 of these upward discharges as they happened. With their location, about 150 yards away from the lightning strikes, and their camera, a device that records 40,000 images a second, they were able to take clear photographs and a slow-motion video of what happens in that instant before the charge from the rod meets the charge from the lightning bolt. The scientists’ study and photos were published in Geophysical Research Letters in December….

This photo comes from the paper: “Close View of the Lightning Attachment Process Unveils the Streamer Zone Fine Structure”.

(17) JUSTWATCH. Here is the sff that JustWatch found people had on their screens in March.

(18) TALKIN’ ‘BOUT MY REGENERATION. From the Radio Times: “David Tennant stars as Fourteenth Doctor in Comic Relief sketch”.

Doctor Who fans were treated to another visit by the Fourteenth Doctor during yesterday’s Red Nose Day telethon, with David Tennant re-enacting his regeneration scene with Sir Lenny Henry to start the show.

This marked Tennant’s second appearance as The Doctor since he returned to Doctor Who for Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, taking viewers by surprise when the Thirteenth Doctor regenerated.

In the opening sketch, Henry prepared to open the show, saying in the mirror, “Comic Relief, Salford, make some noise!” before doubling over in pain. “I’ve got to stop having them all you can eat hotel breakfasts.”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Trailer: Miles Morales Is Back” says Variety.

…In the animated sequel, Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) work to save every Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Spider-Person in the multiverse. Together with a new crew, Miles must stop a mysterious new villain, who happens to be planning a disaster that could disrupt each universe. In the trailer, he is told, “Being a Spider-Man is a sacrifice.”…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Dann, David Goldfarb, Rich Lynch, N., Dan Bloch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]