Pixel Scroll 4/10/24 Floppy Discworld

(1) GLASGOW 2024 TOWN HALL. Register at the link for Glasgow 2024’s “Town Hall Event: Hugo, Lodestar and Astounding Awards” happening Saturday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. BST.

This event will be a Town Hall with key members of the Hugo Admin and WSFS team from Glasgow 2024 who will be discussing the Glasgow 2024 awards process and timeline.

The event will be moderated taking questions in advance. If you wish to submit a question for consideration please do so below. There may not be enough time to cover all questions.

The registration for event is free and will be also be live streamed on our youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/@Glasgow2024

(2) IT’S OVER AT EVERMORE. [Item by Dave Doering.] KSL.com reports the final closing of our Disney-esque Evermore Park fantasy land in Utah. Sadly, Covid has claimed yet another victim. “Utah immersive fantasy park Evermore shutting down; property owner promises a ‘new attraction’”. I might hope that Brandon Sanderson would step up with another $35M campaign to create a Brand-a-land there…

Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove will not be forevermore.

Officials confirmed Tuesday the fantasy theme park is shutting down, citing challenges with its operating model and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for its closure.

Evermore Park was a year-round fantasy adventure experience where guests accomplished adventures or quests in a medieval and Victorian-inspired village.

Brandon Fugal, the property owner of the 12.75 acres Evermore Park is located on, said the tenants who run the “experiential-themed attraction” have closed the park’s doors permanently. Fugal owns Evermore Park Investments LLC, which owns the real estate and 27 “old-world” structures that comprise the park.

“That said, the real estate where Evermore Park was located is being repositioned to unveil a new attraction and project that is going to be announced,” Fugal said….

…”They have defaulted and have been evicted from the property,” Fugal said of the park’s operators. “In the wake of these challenges, I am confidentially working with a new enterprise that will be unveiling exciting new plans.”…

(3) JON SNOW BACK ON ICE. ScreenRant has learned from actor Kit Harington that the “Game Of Thrones Jon Snow Spinoff Series No Longer In Development At HBO”.

The Jon Snow spinoff of Game of Thrones is no longer in active development at HBO. Though the main series ended in 2019, the fantasy franchise is continuing with multiple prequel series based on the works of George R.R. Martin, including House of the Dragon and the upcoming A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight. It was first reported in 2022 that a Jon Snow spinoff series, which would act as a sequel to Game of Thrones following Kit Harington’s character, was in development.

Now, during an exclusive interview with Screen Rant promoting Blood for DustHarington confirmed that the Jon Snow spinoff series is no longer in development. The actor says the project was previously in the developmental stage, but “currently, it’s not” and “it’s off the table” because they “couldn’t find the right story to tell.” Though it’s no longer in active development, Harington hopes they can revisit the project sometime in the future.

(4) GARETH POWELL Q&A. CanvasRebel magazine invites readers to “Meet Gareth Powell”.

Gareth, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. If you could go back in time do you wish you had started your creative career sooner or later?

As far back as I can remember, I have wanted to be a storyteller. I studied creative writing at University and was fortunate to count Diana Wynne Jones and Helen Dunmore as early mentors. I always wrote, but real life and its accompanying financial pressures stopped me from pursuing writing as a career until the turn of the millennium, when I realised I was turning thirty and entering a whole new century. If I was ever going to give it a go, now was the time.

Once I’d made that decision, it took ten years until my first novel saw publication. Since then, I’ve written another eleven published novels, three short story collections, three novellas, and a non-fiction guide to life as an author.

Writing takes a lot of hard work and it helps if you’ve amassed a lot of experience that you can draw on to make your work authentic. I guess sometimes you have to put a few miles on the clock before you can write about the journey….

(5) SAMANTHA MILLS ONLINE EVENT. Space Cowboy Books will host an “Online Reading and Interview with Samantha Mills” on Tuesday, April 30 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Free registration at Eventbrite. Get your copy of the book here.

A loyal warrior in a crisis of faith must fight to regain her place and begin her life again while questioning the events of her past. This gripping science-fantasy novel from a Nebula and Locus Award-winning debut author is a complex, action-packed exploration of the costs of zealous faith, brutal war, and unquestioning loyalty.

Five gods lie mysteriously sleeping above the city of Radezhda. Five gods who once bestowed great technologies and wisdom, each inspiring the devotion of their own sect. When the gods turned away from humanity, their followers built towers to the heavens to find out why. But when no answer was given, the collective grief of the sects turned to desperation, and eventually to war.

Zenya was a teenager when she ran away from home to join the mechanically-modified warrior sect. She was determined to earn mechanized wings and protect the people and city she loved. Under the strict tutelage of a mercurial, charismatic leader, Zenya became Winged Zemolai.

But after twenty-six years of service, Zemolai is disillusioned with her role as an enforcer in an increasingly fascist state. After one tragic act of mercy, she is cast out, and loses everything she worked for. As Zemolai fights for her life, she begins to understand the true nature of her sect, her leader, and the gods themselves.

(6) PETER HIGGS (1929-2024). Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on the mass of subatomic particles, died April 8 at the age of 94. The Wikipedia explains the background of his prediction of the existence of a new particle which came to be called the Higgs boson, It was finally detected in 2012 at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The discovery of the Higgs boson prompted Stephen Hawking to note that he thought that Higgs should receive the Nobel Prize in Physics which he did, shared with François Englert in 2013.

And that’s the background to this gag, which Higgs played along with:

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 10, 1957 John M Ford. (Died 2006.) Paul Weimer wrote our Birthday this time. (Cat Eldridge says, “I bribed him with chocolate.”) 

John M Ford has, sadly after his passing, become one of my heart writers. Years ago I came across one of my favorite novels, period, The Dragon Waiting. Possibly one of the best alternate history novels ever written, and simultaneously introduced me to a new point of view on Richard III.

It was not until I started going to 4th Street Fantasy con, of which he is practically a patron saint, that I really have grasped just how wide and broad his work really is. Space Opera? Early Cyberpunk? Urban Fantasy? The writer who Ford reminds me of, today, is Walter Jon Williams: a ferocious and restless talent. Ford’s last and incomplete novel, Aspects, a steampunk-esque fantasy novel, only cements that sentiment.

Ford’s work is not for everyone. It is work that not only rewards close attention, it demands it in order to enjoy it. In that way think if we wanted to reconstruct Ford, in addition to Walter Jon Williams, we’d add a lot of Gene Wolfe as well.

Finally, Ford’s writing and style has more than a touch of the mythic and definitely the poetic. There is joy in reading his work line by line, be its setting or sharp dialogue. So to complete this reconstructIon, add a helping of Roger Zelazny as well.

Given my love of these three, now you see why Ford is one of my favorites. And taken from us all too soon.

John M. Ford portrait, January 2000. By David Dyer-Bennet. CC BY-SA 2.5

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has a Berlitzkrieg – a bilingual pun. You’ll all get it – and you won’t be allowed to give it back!
  • Bliss brings us the latest in alien pop culture.

(9) NEW BRUST. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lyorn — Steven Brust’s 17th Vlad Taltos novel — is out! (I’ve just placed a library reserve) Published by Macmillan.

As I recall, Brust’s series can be read in any order, the most common choices between chron-published, or book-chron. So if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading any or all of the prior 16, you can start here and then backfill based on availability. Or alphabetical order, or by word count, up to you.

(10) CASH OFFENDS NO ONE. Good news for Chinese fans of these games: “Blizzard and NetEase Settle Their Beef, Returning Warcraft to China” at the New York Times. The companies involved found the right price.

The Chinese company NetEase said on Wednesday that it had struck a deal to distribute titles from Microsoft’s Blizzard Entertainment, restoring access to popular video games like World of Warcraft for Chinese gamers.

More than a year ago, NetEase and Blizzard called an end to their long-running partnership when renewal talks turned testy, with both sides accusing each other of bad-faith negotiations. An uproar ensued among Chinese gamers, upset about losing access to a slew of popular titles from Blizzard’s parent company, the U.S. game developer Activision Blizzard. 

NetEase said on Wednesday that it had reached the new deal with Microsoft, which acquired Activision Blizzard in a $69 billion deal in October. The two companies said they had also agreed to distribute NetEase titles on Microsoft’s Xbox game device….

(11) FLAME ON. Variety admires the “’Borderlands’ Trailer at CinemaCon: Cate Blanchett With a Flamethrower”.

Even Eli Roth can’t believe that two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett was willing to learn to twirl guns and shoot baddies in “Borderlands,” the director’s gonzo adaptation of the popular video game.

Roth noted that since people loved seeing Blanchett wield a baton in “Tár,” where she portrayed a fictional world-famous conductor embroiled in controversy, the filmmaker said he might as well “put a flamethrower in her hand.”

In “Borderlands,” Blanchett sports a fiery red bob and is surrounded by the starry ensemble of Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jack Black and “Barbie” breakout Ariana Greenblatt. The story follows Blanchett as Lilith, an infamous outlaw with a mysterious past. She reluctantly returns to her home planet of Pandora and forms an unexpected alliance to find the missing daughter of Atlas….

This trailer is from a month ago – quite entertaining all the same.

(12) JOKER SEQUEL GOES GAGA. “Joker: Folie à Deux: trailer for Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga musical sequel released” – and the Guardian listens in.

The first trailer for Joker: Folie à Deux, the musical sequel to Joker starring Oscar winners Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga, has been revealed.

The sequel sees Phoenix return as Arthur Fleck, the titular aspiring standup comedian turned villain, and Lady Gaga as Dr Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist assigned to treat Fleck at Arkham Asylum, who falls in love with him and becomes his accomplice Harley Quinn.

The title is a reference to a psychiatric syndrome in which a delusional state is shared by two people.

Unlike Joker, Joker: Folie à Deux will be a musical and is expected to include 15 numbers, Variety reported, with most of them being covers of pre-existing songs, including That’s Entertainment from the 1953 musical The Band Wagon, which was also famously sung by Judy Garland. The trailer features the 1965 song What the World Needs Now Is Love….

(13) SNL DOES SFF. From last weekend’s Saturday Night Live with guest host Kirsetn Wiig. One skit is fantasy – isn’t it? The other is definitely horror!

(14) HOW WAS THE ECLIPSE FOR YOU? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Lots of media coverage this side of the Black Atlantic on the eclipse as seen across a vast swathe of the Cursed Earth. For example, the BBC’s photo gallery: “Solar eclipse: Stunning images as darkness descends on North America”. And the science research “Total solar eclipse: The 4-minute window into the Sun’s secrets”, also from the BBC.

Meanwhile PBS Space-Time has looked at how eclipses helped the ancients work out the basic astronomy of the Solar System.  They knew, from the mid-day shadow of an upright pole of known length measured at both ends of a north-south line many miles long, the curvature of the Earth, hence its size. They could then see from the Earth eclipsing the Moon the Earth’s shadow on the Moon and so work out the comparative size of the Earth to the Moon.  Knowing the Earth’s size it was then possible to calculate the Moon’s size.  Knowing the Moon’s size, and the size it appears to us, enabled them to work out the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  Then using Venus eclipsing, or rather transecting, the Sun from different places on the Earth, they could then work out the distance to Venus….

(Meanwhile, those who have attended my bio-astronomy talks over the years will recall that some corals not only have daily growth rings (due to daily temperature changes) but also monthly bunches of rings due to the reproductive cycle triggered by tides which are caused by the Moon, as well as yearly super bunches outside of the tropics due to cooler winters. By looking at fossil corals tens of millions of years ago it is possible to work out how many, months and days there were in the year back then.  And so it is possible to see  that the Moon was closer to the Earth and orbited faster back then. Plugging in the distance between the Earth and the Moon it is possible to see how fast the Moon is retreating from the Earth and also how the Earth’s day has been getting longer…  But I digress (if you want to know more you’ll have to ask me to give the talk at your con).  Back at the plot you can see the 16-minute PBS Space-Time video here…

(15) THE STARSHIP TROOPERS VOTING CONTROVESY SOLVED??? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Grammaticus Books takes a bit of a dive into Heinlein’s Starship Troopers to see how much of a right-wing military state it was.

A detailed look at all of the evidence and passages contained within Robert A. Heinlein’s seminal military-science-fiction novel, Starship Troopers, to determine once and for all who could vote in his Terran Federation. And who could not vote. Resolving the broad and widespread false beliefs so prevalent among the fandom and across the internet.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/9/24 Ebenezer Scroll! Tonight You Will Be Visited By Five Pixels (Three, My Lord!)

(1) IMAGINE THERE’S NO MUSIC. “59 Years Later, The Oldest Sci-Fi Show Ever Is Fixing A Very Big Beatles Problem”Inverse tries to guess how Russell T. Davis will do it in a Fab Four-themed Doctor Who episode — because he can’t afford the rights to the real thing.

…In the upcoming relaunched Doctor Who Season 1 (2024), the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) will travel to the 1960s in the forthcoming episode “The Devil’s Chord,” and, at some point, cross paths with the Beatles….

… As Russell T. Davies says in the new Empire interview: “‘How would you do a Beatles episode without Beatles music?” Previous movies about the Beatles have faced similar problems. The 1994 biopic Backbeat — which chronicles the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg — features no actual Beatles music. Meanwhile, the 1979 movie Birth of the Beatles (helmed by Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand!) used cover versions of most Beatles songs to avoid copyright issues of the time.

But, for Davies and Doctor Who, the copyright law problem became “the entire plot.” As Davies says, “I knew instantly you can never play Beatles songs on screen because the copyright is too expensive… That’s where the idea came from — copyright law!”

Could this mean the Doctor and Ruby will inspire alternate Beatles songs? Could the Beatles be getting by with a little help from their time-traveler friends? We don’t know the exact plot of “The Devil’s Chord,” but there’s a good bet that the Doctor will almost certainly inspire a classic Beatles song. We’ll just have to read between the lines to figure out which one.

(2) CAROL SHIELDS PRIZE FINALISTS. The Carol Shields Prize shortlist has been revealed. The award recognizes “creativity and excellence in fiction by women and non-binary writers in Canada and the United States”.

One of the finalists is a work of genre interest.

  • Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

In this eco-thriller, a guerilla gardening collective named ‘Birnam Wood’ (after Macbeth) meets an American billionaire. In his review for WHYY’s Fresh Air, John Powers writes, “this New Zealand-set book is a witty literary thriller about the collision between eco-idealism and staggering wealth.”

The other shortlisted books are:

  • Daughter by Claudia Dey
  • Coleman Hill by Kim Coleman Foote
  • A History of Burning by Janika Oza
  • Brotherless Night by V. V. Ganeshananthan

The winner gets $150,000 and a residency with Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada. Each of the four runner-ups will get $12,500. The prize-winner will be announced May 13.

(3) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLIST. Based on the descriptions of the works at the website, there are no books of genre interest among the 6 that made the International Booker Prize 2024 shortlist today.

(4) 2023’S MOST-CHALLENGED BOOKS. From the American Library Association: “ALA Releases Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2023”. Publishers Weekly has the list. Based on the descriptions, none are sff works.

The Most Challenged Books of 2023

  1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, for LGBTQIA+, and sexually explicit content.
  2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, for LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content.
  3. This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, for LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content.
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, for LGBTQIA+, and sexually explicit content, rape, drugs, profanity.
  5. Flamer by Mike Curato, for LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content.
  6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, for rape, incest, sexually explicit and EDI (equity, diversity, inclusion) content.
  7. (Tie) Tricks by Ellen Hopkins, for LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content.
  8. (Tie) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, for sexually explicit content, profanity.
  9. Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, for LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content.
  10. Sold by Patricia McCormick, for sexually explicit content, rape.

(5) IN-BODY EXPERIENCES. Logan Dreher discusses “Octavia Butler, Audre Lorde, and the Power of Pleasure” at Reactor.

…I’ve been especially interested in revisiting three of her strangest works—her vampire novel Fledging; “Bloodchild,”a short story about a colony of humans living alongside an insectoid race of aliens; and the Xenogenesis trilogy, which explores human’s post-apocalypse relationship with a bioengineering race of extraterrestrials called the Oankali. Across these stories, I see a recurring fascination with the reality of our bodies, our needs and frailties, and the way our bodily desires inextricably link us to each other.

In each of these stories, humans are less powerful than their nonhuman counterparts, whether that’s the tentacled, pheromone-exuding Oankali in Xenogenesis or the three-meter long, centipede-like Tlic in “Bloodchild.” But for all of their physical superiority, the nonhuman characters are desperately reliant on their relationships with humans. In Xenogenesis, the Oankali can exude chemicals that drug humans with a thought and heal with a touch. They manipulate their own genetic makeup and easily heal their own bullet wounds. Yet they depend on their human relationships in order to live. Oankali adolescents go into metamorphosis where they are comatose—profoundly helpless—and rely on their human partners to care for them. In Imago, the final book in the trilogy, a young Oankali begins to physically dissolve, unable to survive because it does not have human companions to ground it in a stable form. As the narrator notes, “We called our need for contact with others and our need for mates hunger. One who could hunger could starve.”….

(6) AFROANIMATION AWARDS NEWS. “AfroAnimation Summit Honors Kemp Powers, Camille Eden, Bruce Smith & Jermaine Turner”Animation Magazine introduces these icons and other awards finalists.

AfroAnimation, the largest annual event featuring diverse and BIPOC animators and creators, announced today the honorees for the first AfroAnimation Summit Icon Awards

…Icon Award honoree Kemp Powers, director of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, will headline the summit’s kick-off panel April 10, ‘Developing Original Stories and the Art of Diverse Storytelling.’ Pioneer Award honoree Camille Eden, Vice President of Recruitment, Talent Development & Outreach at Nickelodeon, will speak on the April 11 panel, ‘Unveiling the Untold Narratives of Women in Entertainment: Triumphs, Challenges, & Journeys.’

In addition, Bruce Smith, creator and executive producer of Disney+’s The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, and Jermaine Turner, Director of Adult Genre Animation for Netflix, will be honored as industry pioneers at the AfroAnimation Icon Awards….

FRWD Awards Semifinalists. (Celebrates the art of diverse storytelling in the film, new media, and streaming platform industries.)

  • Best Series: Castevania, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Young Love, Scavengers Reign
  • Best Animation FeatureSpider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Elemental, The Boy and the Heron, Craig Before the Creek
  • Best International SeriesKizazi Moto: Generation Fire, IwájúKiya & the Kimoja HeroesSupa Team 4
  • Best Animation Director: Kemp Powers (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse)

(7) M. JOHN HARRISON MEMOIR. Saga Press will publish author M. John Harrison’s anti-memoir Wish I Was Here on September 3, 2024. 

What is an “anti-memoir”? M. John Harrison has produced one of the greatest bodies of fiction of any living British author, encompassing space opera, speculative fiction, fantasy, and magical and literary realism.  Yet in WISH I WAS HERE, he asks, ‘Is there even an M. John Harrison and if so, where do we find him?’ This is the question the author asks in this memoir-as-mystery, turning for clues to forty years of notebooking: ‘A note or it never happened. A note or you never looked.’

Are these notebooks records of failed presence? How do they shine a light on a childhood in the industrial Midlands, a portrait of a young artist in counterculture London, on an adulthood of restless escape into hill and moorland landscapes? And do they tell us anything about the writing of books, each one so different from the last that it might have been written by another version of the author?

With aphoristic daring and laconic wit, this anti-memoir will fascinate and delight. It confirms M. John Harrison still further in his status as the most original British writer of his generation.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft. (Died 2023.)

H.R.Pufnstuf.
Who’s your friend when things get rough?
H.R. Pufnstuf.
Can’t do a little, ‘cause he can’t do enough

Who here didn’t grow up watching some of the shows created by the Krofft brothers? Well, this is the day that Marty Krofft was born, so I get to talk about their work. So let’s get started.

Their very first work was designing the puppets and sets for Banana Splits, a rock band composed of four animal characters for Hanna-Barbera.  To get a look at them, here’s the open and closing theme from the show.

After working for Hanna-Barbera, they went independent with the beloved H. R. Pufnstuf, their first live-action, life sized puppet series. It ran a lot shorter than I thought lasting only from September to December of ‘69. Like everything of theirs, it ended up in heavy, endless syndication.

Next was The Bugaloos. This was a musical group, very much in keeping with the tone with Banana Splits. It was four British teenagers wearing insect outfits, constantly beset by the evil machinations of the Benita Bizarre. Here’s the opening song, “Gna Gna Gna Gna Gna” courtesy of Krofft Pictures.

Lidsville, their next show lasted but seventeen episodes, and I’ve no idea if the short longevity of their series, all of them, was planned or due to poor ratings. This show had two types of characters: conventional actors in makeup taped alongside performers in full mascot costumes. It was mostly stop motion in its filming. 

Opening credits are here. The opening was produced at Six Flags Over Texas. The show was itself shot at Paramount Pictures film studio in Los Angeles.

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters lasted two seasons though it was aired over three years, the second delayed because a fire at the beginning of season two which destroyed everything. It’s about two brothers who discover a friendly young sea monster named Sigmund who refuses to frighten people. Poor Sigmund. This time you get a full episode as that is all Krofft Pictures had up, “Frankenstein Drops In”.

There’s two more series I want to note. 

The first is Land of the Lost which was created though uncredited in the series by David Gerrold. So anyone know why that was? It was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft who co-developed the series with Allan Foshko. Lots of genre tropes here. A family lost in a land with dinosaurs and reptile men? It was popular enough that it lasted three seasons. And here’s the opening and closing credits for season three.

The very last pick by me is Electra Woman and Dyna Girl which lasted but sixteen episodes of twelve minutes. Despite the ElectraEnemies, their foes here being way over the top, this is SF though admittedly on the pulp end of things. 

So they stayed active including doing rebooted versions of new versions of Electra Woman and Dyna GirlH.R. PufnstufLand of the Lost and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

Marty Krofft passed on from kidney failure on November 25, 2023, at the age of eighty six. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE EXPENSIVE. Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis might be sff – which might matter more if the film can make it into theaters. Variety says it will premiere at Cannes. However, The Hollywood Reporter learned studios are not lining up to accept the film’s high-dollar marketing risk: “’Megalopolis’: Francis Ford Coppola’s Challenges in Distribution”.

…The project, which Coppola first began writing in 1983, cost a reported $120 million to make — funded in part by the sale of a significant portion of his wine empire (the 2021 deal was reportedly worth over $500 million). Clocking in at two hours and 15 minutes, the film follows the rebuilding of a metropolis after its accidental destruction, with two competing visions — one from an idealist architect (Adam Driver), the other from its pragmatist mayor (Giancarlo Esposito) — clashing in the process. References to ancient Rome — including Caesar haircuts on the men — abound…

… One source tells THR that Coppola assumed he would make a deal very quickly, and that a studio would happily commit to a massive P&A (prints and advertising, including all marketing) spend in the vicinity of $40 million domestically, and $80 million to $100 million globally.

That kind of big-stakes rollout would make Megalopolis a better fit for a studio-backed specialty label like the Disney-owned Searchlight or the Universal-owned Focus. But Universal and Focus have already tapped out of the bidding, sources tell THR…. 

(11) THANKS FOR YOUR GIZZARD. James Davis Nicoll comments on “Five Science Fiction Stories About Involuntary Organ Donation” at Reactor.

… Why should some teenager enjoy perfect skin, a pain-free back, and functional joints when persons of my age could make much better use of these body parts? Yet such are the politically correct times in which we live that simply proposing, never mind implementing, mandatory organ1 donations is considered somehow controversial.

Science fiction can see past the squeamishness of short-term social fashions to the glorious world we might have if we were willing to apply technology in a socially responsible—which is to say, one that benefits the people in charge—manner. Consider these five classic tales….

One of the selections is –

The Reefs of Space by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson (1964)

Reefs features an intriguing deep space ecology in no way inhibited by plausible science. The use of political prisoners as involuntary organ donors is much more plausible….

(12) SPACE COWBOYS READINGS. Space Cowboy Books will host an online Flash Science Fiction Night on April 23 with Howard V. Hendrix, Ai Jiang, and Hailey Piper. These short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) are great way to learn about new authors from around the world. Starts at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Lasts around half an hour. Register for free at Eventbrite.

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “They Came From Outer Space. Now, They’re Going Into Hiding.” So says the New York Times.

If you’re looking for meteorites, here’s a tip: Go south. All the way south. And do it soon.

In some parts of Antarctica, there’s a good chance that what looks like a regular old rock could actually be a chunk of an asteroid, the moon, or even Mars. Roughly 60 percent of all known meteorites have been collected there.

But scientific sleuthing for such extraterrestrial material, which can shed light on how the solar system formed billions of years ago, will probably get more difficult in Antarctica in the coming decades. That’s because, as temperatures rise, thousands of meteorites will sink into the continent’s ice and disappear from sight every year, according to a new study published on Monday.

Antarctica’s meteorite largess isn’t because more extraterrestrial stuff is falling there, Cari Corrigan, a geologist at the Smithsonian Institution and a curator of the National Museum of Natural History’s meteorite collection, said.

Rather, meteorites simply tend to be more visible on the Antarctic ice sheet than they would be, say, in your backyard. “Your eye can pick out a dark rock on a white surface super easily,” said Dr. Corrigan, who was not involved in the new research….

(14) ON THE JOB. Here’s the trailer for “Monsters at Work: Season 2” with Ben Feldman, Billy Crystal, and John Goodman. The season premiered April 5 on Disney Channel, and on May 5 comes to Disney+.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] For the small Venn overlap who know both references: “Leslie Nielsen in Star Wars”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/24 What Can You Scroll About Chocolate Covered Stepping Disks?

(1) WALDROP TO THE SCREEN. George R.R. Martin tells us, “The Chickens Are Coming” at Not A Blog.

Howard Waldrop is gone, but his work will live on.

…And here’s the latest one, an adaptation of Howard’s most famous story, THE UGLY CHICKENS.  Winner of the Nebula.   Winner of the World Fantasy Award.   Nominee for the Hugo, but, alas, not a winner.   A pity, that.  Howard never won a Hugo, but in some more Waldropian  world he has ten of them lined up on his mantle.

Felicia Day (SUPERNATURAL, THE GUILD, DR. HORRIBLE’S SING ALONG BLOG) stars in our film of “that dodo story.”   Mark Raso (COPENHAGEN, KODACHRONE) directed.   Michael Cassutt (TWILIGHT ZONE, MAX HEADROOM, TV101, EERIE INDIANA, and many more) did the screenplay.

Howard saw a rough cut of the film before he died.   He liked it, which pleases me no end.   I only wish we had been able to screen the final cut for him.

(2) HIGH CALIBER CANON. The Atlantic’s list of“The Great American Novels” includes Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick and a number of other works of genre interest.

(3) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. Based on the descriptions of the works at the website, there are no books of genre interest among the 13 that made the International Booker Prize 2024 longlist.

(4) BECOMING THE LIFE ON MARS. Space.com interviews Robert Zubrin about his new book: “’The New World on Mars’ offers a Red Planet settlement guide”.

To say that Dr. Robert Zubrin, the esteemed Colorado-based aerospace engineer, author, lecturer and founding president of the Mars Society, has the Red Planet on his mind is a colossal understatement.   

This pioneering educational voice and influential space authority has written many books on the timely topic of Mars and Mars settlement over the years as interest in humankind’s role in its ultimate development has risen exponentially. Now Zubrin adds to his impressive catalog of visionary volumes about our mysterious planetary neighbor with the recent release of “The New World on Mars” (Diversion Books, 2024), a fascinating and infinitely readable peek into Mars’ inestimably rosy future….

Space.com: One of the most interesting chapters deals with the psychological aspects of leaving Earth and establishing an identifiable Martian culture with its own customs, rites and rituals and the importance of that process. Can you elaborate on that subject more?

Zubrin: The Mars Society over the past couple years held two contests asking people to design a 1,000-person Mars colony and a one-million-person Mars city-state. And by design we meant not just the technology or the economy, but the social system, political system, what kind of sports are likely to be played, as well as the aesthetics. 

Between the two contests, there were something like 300 entries. The ideas proposed spanned a huge range of political systems from socialist, to democratic and libertarian. Rather than attempt to choose my favorite system for a Martian utopia, I took the point of view that there will be many Martian cities founded by different people with very different ideas on what the ideal state should be, and it’s going to be sorted out by natural selection.  

Some of the answers I came up with I like a lot, like human liberty. But this is in contradiction to many visions of science fiction colonies that are totally controlled because no one would immigrate to one. The ones that will outgrow the others will clearly be the ones that are most attractive to immigrants. Freedom is a great attractor. North Korea does not have an illegal immigrant problem. Martian colonies will have to be highly inventive and invention only thrives under freedom. I believe a Mars colony will also require a great deal of social solidarity, so it will not be multi-cultural and will need to have a strong sense of community and common identity….

(5) DOCTOR WHO STARTING TIME.  From Variety we learn “’Doctor Who’ Starring Ncuti Gatwa Reveals May Premiere Date”.

…The new season of “Doctor Who,” starring “Sex Education” breakout Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor, will premiere on May 10.

The new installment will be the first-ever to launch on Disney+ and release simultaneously worldwide. The premiere will start on May 10 at 7 p.m. ET in the U.S. and internationally (excluding the U.K.) with Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road” airing before two brand-new episodes. In the U.K., the season will premiere at midnight GMT on May 11 on BBC iPlayer.

…A new trailer for the season will debut on March 22.

(6) SHATNER WON’T BE ECLIPSED – FOR LONG, ANYWAY. The Los Angeles Times interviewed “William Shatner on his long career, horses and watch design”. Behind a paywall, unfortunately. Here’s the first paragraph:

A documentary on his life, “You Can Call Me Bill,” directed by Alexandre O. Philippe (“Lynch/Oz”), is scheduled to roll out in theaters March 22 to coincide with his 93rd birthday. He continues to host and narrate the puzzling-phenomena History series “The UnXplained With William Shatner.” A 2022 performance at the Kennedy Center, backed by Ben Folds and the National Symphony Orchestra, is about to be released both as an album, “So Fragile, So Blue,” and a concert film. The title song, says Shatner, “encompasses a lot of my thinking about how we’re savaging the world, and [I’d hope] it’d be a song that people would listen to and perhaps be inspired to do something about global warming.”

And on April 8, for 15 minutes before the shadow of an eclipse falls over Bloomington, Ind., Shatner will address “55, 60,000 people” in the Indiana University football stadium. “So what do you say, what do you write, what do you do? I’m going to have to solve those problems.”…

(7) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY. Space Cowboy Books presents a special six-year anniversary episode of Simultaneous Times in collaboration with Worlds of IF Magazine bringing you works from the pages of Worlds of If Magazine #177. Listen to the podcast at the link. Story and poetry featured in this episode:

  • “Contact” by Akua Lezli Hope; with music by Fall Precauxions. Read by the author
  • “The Pain Peddlers” by Robert Silverberg; with music by Phog Masheeen. Read by Jean-Paul Garnier
  • “Time Junkies” by Pedro Iniguez; with music by Fall Precauxions. Read by the author

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(8) RELICS OF WONKY PROMOTION TRANSMUTED TO CHARITY GOLD. “Props from botched Willy Wonka event raise more than £2,000 for Palestinian aid charity” reports the Guardian. The charity is Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Props from a botched Willy Wonka event in Glasgow that went viral after frustrated attenders called the police have raised more than £2,000 at auction for a Palestinian aid charity.

Fabric backdrops from the “immersive experience”, which was cancelled midway, were found in a bin outside the warehouse where it took place.

Monorail Music, a record shop in the city, auctioned the remains on eBay after they were passed on by the finder. The listing said: “Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to own a piece of history.”

The Wonka event gained online notoriety after images of the sparsely decorated warehouse in Glasgow, staffed by actors dressed as Oompa Loompas and other characters, spread worldwide. On Thursday, the listing had a total of 57 bids and the items were sold for £2,250. Michael Kasparis, online manager of Monorail, described the outcome as “amazing”….

(9) RED FLAGS RAISED ABOUT TCG-CON. Outside the Asylum urges “Don’t Go to TCG-Con”. Here’s the synopsis of a long post with many receipts:

Summary: TCG-con frequently does not pay out its advertised prizes and staff compensation. They currently owe upwards of $50,000 to players, cosplayers, judges, and other staff members for previous conventions, and appear to be in the process of collapsing entirely. I would strongly recommend not purchasing a ticket to their future events, trying to get a refund if you already have, and warning anyone you know away from them as well. If you’re owed money yourself, see the end of this page for information on next steps.

(10) GRANT PAGE (1939-2024). Deadline pays tribute in “Grant Page Dead: Australian Stuntman In ‘Mad Max’ Films & 100-Plus Others Was 85”.

Grant Page, the Australian stunt icon who performed in and coordinating stunts for the original Mad Max,sequel Beyond Thunderdome,the upcoming prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Sagaand more than 100 other films and TV series, died Thursday in a car crash. He was 85.

A legend of Aussie cinema, Page worked … on the 1979 action classic Mad Max,which introduced the world to Mel Gibson. He performed and served as stunt coordinator on …  its 1985 second sequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome… He also worked on … prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which is on the radar to premiere at Cannes in May, and on his 2022 pic Three Thousand Years of Longing.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

The New Yorker cartoon for the Ides of March gives us Dr. Seuss’ interpretation instead of Shakespeare’s.

(12) I BECAME WHAT I BEHELD. “Grant Morrison Responds to Zack Snyder’s Take on Batman Killing, ‘If Batman Killed His Enemies, He’d Be the Joker’” (comicbook.com) – in a quote at Comicbook.com.

Filmmaker Zack Snyder recently stirred up some controversy when he defended his aggressive version of Batman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice who killed, a choice that for many comic book fans runs counter to basic tenets of the character. Now, comic book writer Grant Morrison is weighing in and they don’t agree with Snyder. According to Morrison, “if Batman killed his enemies, he’d be the Joker.”

In their newsletter Xanaduum (via ScreenRant), Morrison — whose own work has been among some of the more definitive takes on Batman — dug into not only the practical aspect of why Batman doesn’t kill (because he’d end up arrested by Commissioner Gordon, in theory) but also the psychological aspect of the character and how Batman’s “no-kill” rule is something locked into him from the time he was a small child and is a part of his mental state having never fully developed, in some respect, out of the child who saw his parents murdered in Crime Alley.

“That Batman puts himself in danger every night but steadfastly refuses to murder is an essential element of the character’s magnificent, horrendous, childlike psychosis,” Morrison wrote.

There’s also the matter of the line between what Batman does and what the villains do. Villains kill; Batman does not. It makes all the difference, at least to Bruce Wayne who, should he ever cross the line, would then become no better than those who killed his parents….

(13) SNOWPIERCER RESCUED. It won’t be frozen out by streaming services after all says Deadline: “’Snowpiercer’: AMC Picks Up Season 4 After TNT Scrapped Sci-Fi Drama”.

The final season of Snowpiercer has finally found a home.

The fourth season of the sci-fi drama will air on AMC after the company acquired the rights to the Tomorrow Studios-produced series. It comes after TNT scrapped the show last year as part of a wider Warner Bros. Discovery content write-down strategy.

Deadline revealed in January 2023 that the fourth season wouldn’t air on its original home, as part of a slew of content cuts that also included the axing of Batgirl, Abrams’ HBO drama Demimonde, and TBS series such as The Big D, Chad and Kill The Orange Bear….

(14) A YELLOWSTONE UNSTUCK IN TIME. Gizmodo assures us “Josh Brolin’s Sci-Fi Hole Show Will Get Even Sci-Fi-er, Holier in Season 2”.

…The central mysteries of Outer Range surround that giant hole, which materializes on property owned by Brolin’s Wyoming rancher character and is eventually established to be a time portal. Along the way, various characters go missing, are revealed to have been born in different centuries, notice odd happenings that seem anachronistic, or are unmasked as characters we’ve already met who happen to be several years older than they should be. In season two, we’ll all take a time leap; the action begins in 1984 with a younger version of Brolin’s character, and Vanity Fair describes the narrative structure as “gamely hopping between different decades (and centuries) with newfound propulsion.”

An astrophysicist called in to help the time-travel stuff make sense—but according to new showrunner Murray, “The biggest part of what time travel meant to me and the writers was: How can this help us expose something that a character’s going through?” We’re very intrigued to see where this wild trail heads next….

(15) DISHING IT UP. A reporter tells BBC that “’Journalists are feeding the AI hype machine’”.

When Melissa Heikkilä looks back on her past four years writing about artificial intelligence (AI), two key things jump out to her, one good, one bad.

“It’s the best beat… AI is a story about power, and there are so many ways to cover it,” says the senior reporter for magazine MIT Technology Review. “And there are so many interesting, and eccentric people to write about.”

That’s the positive. The negative, she says, is that much of the wider media’s coverage of AI can leave a lot to be desired.

“There is more hype and obfuscation about what the technology can and cannot actually do,” says Ms Heikkilä. “This can lead to embarrassing mistakes, and for journalists to feed into the hype machine, by, for example, anthropomorphizing AI technologies, and mythologizing tech companies.”…

(16) RIGHT TURN, CLYDE. And while we’re on the subject of dud reportage – “Seismic signal that pointed to alien technology was actually a passing truck” says Physics World.

In January 2014 a meteor streaked across the sky above the Western Pacific Ocean. The event was initially linked to a seismic signal that was detected on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. This information was used by Harvard University’s Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb to determine where the object likely fell into the ocean. Loeb then led an expedition that recovered spherical objects called spherules from the ocean bottom, which the team claimed to be from the meteor.

Because of the spherule’s unusual elemental composition, the team has suggested that the objects may have come from outside the solar system. What is more, they hinted that the spherules may have an “extraterrestrial technological origin” – that they may have been created by an alien civilization.

Now, however, a study led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University has cast doubt on the connection between the spherules and the 2014 meteor event. They have proposed a very different source for the seismic signal that led Loeb and colleagues to the spherules.

“The signal changed directions over time, exactly matching a road that runs past the seismometer,” says Benjamin Fernando, a planetary seismologist at Johns Hopkins who led this latest research.

“It’s really difficult to take a signal and confirm it is not from something,” explains Fernando. “But what we can do is show that there are lots of signals like this, and show they have all the characteristics we’d expect from a truck and none of the characteristics we’d expect from a meteor.”

That’s right, it was a truck driving past the seismometer, not a meteor….

(17) WAR OF THE WORLD. “Air defense for $13 a shot? How lasers could revolutionize the way militaries counter enemy missiles and drones” at Yahoo!

Britain this week showed off a new laser weapon that its military says could deliver lethal missile or aircraft defense at around $13 a shot, potentially saving tens of millions of dollars over the cost of missile interceptors that do the job now.

Newly released video of a test of what the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry calls the DragonFire, a laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system, captured what the ministry says was the successful use of the laser against an aerial target during a January demonstration in Scotland.

“It’s a potential game changer for air defense,” the video says as a bright laser beam pierces the night sky over a firing range in the remote Hebrides archipelago, creating a ball of light as it hits its target.

The Defense Ministry says the DragonFire can precisely hit a target as small as a coin “over long ranges,” but it did not offer specifics. The exact range of the weapon is classified, it said.

The laser beam can cut through metal “leading to structural failure or more impactful results if the warhead is targeted,” a UK Defense Ministry statement said….

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

Pixel Scroll 3/11/24 Fast Pixels At Ridgemont Scroll

(1) GLASGOW 2024 COMMUNITY FUND NEWS. The first deadline for Glasgow 2024 Community Fund applications is March 15. Details at the link.

In order to make Glasgow 2024 more affordable for those who need it most, we are running a community fund to help with the costs of attending. With the first deadline for applications coming up on the 15th of March, we encourage you to apply for funds if you need them in order to attend; or else to donate funds to help others attend, if you are able to do so. We are so grateful to all of you who have already done so!

(2) VILLAINOUS OSCAR PRESENTERS. Variety took notes on these Batman jokes at Oscars 2024.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito had a “Twins” reunion at the Oscars as they joined forces to present best visual effects to “Godzilla Minus One” and best film editing to “Oppenheimer.” But it was their jokes about Batman that stole the show and had the Oscars audience uproariously laughing.

“Arnold and I are presenting tonight together for a very obvious reason,” DeVito said.

“We’ve both tried to kill Batman!” Schwarzenegger revealed to applause….

…“Oh. He threw me out a window!” DeVito said about his Penguin death. “There he is. He’s right here. He’s right there. Look!”

The camera then cut to Micheal Keaton in the audience. Keaton was a presenter at the Oscars earlier in the night, taking the stage alongside his “Beetlejuice” co-star Catherine O’Hara.

“You have a lot of nerve to show your face around here,” Schwarzenegger quipped to Keaton.

DeVito then yelled: “We’ll see you after the Governor’s Ball, pal!”

(3) TRACKING THE ELUSIVE KAIJU. Variety analyzes “How ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Surprised With the VFX Oscar”.

…In late 2023, many still didn’t have the Kaiju movie, released by Japan’s Toho Studios, on their awards radar. But it was incredibly well received when it opened Dec. 1 in the United States, and in the weeks that followed, a VFX branch committee included the movie in the category shortlist.

Then came the Jan. 13 VFX category “bake off,” an event held at the Academy Museum during which the potential nominees representing the 10 shortlisted movies presented clips and spoke about their work before branch members entered their ballots for the final five. The “Godzilla Minus One” team made a charming  presentation, talking about their creative problem solving and challenges. The movie was made for under $15 million and the VFX were pulled off by a team of just 35 people.

The well-received presentation seemed to have secured the team a trip to the Dolby Theatre and when the nominations were officially announced on Jan. 23, a video of the thrilled team in Tokyo went viral. From there, they spoke at screenings and appeared at events including the nominees luncheon, building momentum along the way. In early February, as part of Variety’s Screening Series, the team also participated in a Q&A following a screening at Harmony Gold in Hollywood. The film played to a packed room, with guild members and Academy voters staying long after credits had rolled to meet the filmmakers….

(4) FEBRUARY THE FIRST IS TOO LATE. Peculiarly, if you want to see this Oscar-winner, you’re out of luck. “’Godzilla Minus One’ Isn’t Streaming or in Theaters: Here’s Why”. IndieWire knows the answer.

If you want to catch up with Oscar Visual Effects nominee “Godzilla Minus One” before the awards Sunday night, you’ve got exactly one option: Find an Academy member who will invite you to view it on the voters’ portal. For everyone else in the world, you’re out of luck.

Why? Although never confirmed by Toho, it relates to an apparent contractual agreement between Toho, the Japanese studio that created (and still owns rights to) “Godzilla,” and Legendary Entertainment, which licensed the monster character for a series of films released by Warner Bros. Legendary’s latest with Warners, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” fifth in the MonsterVerse franchise, opens wide in the U.S./Canada March 29.

Toho retains the ability to make its own “Godzilla” movies, but with the reported limitation of not releasing them in the same year as a Legendary productionUnder that arrangement, “Godzilla Minus One” opened in Japan last November, and then domestically (as well as multiple European countries) in December.

“Godzilla Minus One” turned out to be a sleeper success in the U.S, grossing $56 million stateside. That’s stunning for a subtitled film and even more so for one that was anticipated as pre-holiday filler. A black-and-white version was added in January.

However, Toho notified theaters that all dates for “Godzilla Minus One” had to end by February 1 — even though “Godzilla Minus One” still ranked #8 in the final weekend of its run, after January 26, with a $2.7 million gross. It’s highly unusual to force a film to leave theaters while it’s still making money, but that’s consistent with reports of limits imposed on its looming competition with “Godzilla x Kong.”…

(5) SHARON LEE UPDATE. In “And when the stars threw down their spears”, author Sharon Lee tells how she’s been keeping up with life since the loss of her husband and collaborator Steve Miller.

It’s a funny thing, how life goes on.  Until it doesn’t, of course, but we’re very good as a species about ignoring that.

So — life.  Much changed, but still moving, still demanding attention, response, thought, and action.

My short-term goal is to find all of Steve’s papers — which is not as easy as you might think — and get them into boxes to send to the archive at Northern Illinois University.  My brother-in-law and nephew are coming up from mid-Coast in a few days to help me, literally, with the heavy lifting, and a Dumpster has been engaged to receive such things as no longer have utility.

My longer-term goals are to finish the sequel to Ribbon Dance — the deadline having been moved from September to November — and start work on the book after that…

(6) KAPLAN ONLINE READING. Space Cowboys Books will host an “Online Reading and Interview with Carter Kaplan” on Tuesday, March 26 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free tickets at the link.

Carter Kaplan is the author of The Invisible Tower Trilogy: EchoesWe Reign Secure, and The Sky-Shaped Sarcophagus. His first novel is Tally-Ho, Cornelius! Diogenes is an Aristophanic comedy. Editor of Emanations; IA edition of The Scarlet Letter with Afterword, “A” is for Antinomian: Theology and Politics in The Scarlet Letter; the anthology Fantasy Worlds. Co-translator and editor of Creation of the World by Torquato Tasso. Book on Wittgenstein and literary theory: Critical Synoptics. Articles on “Karel Čapek,” “Menippean Satire” and “Dystopian Literature” in The Encyclopedia of Literature and Politics. Articles on “Herman Melville” and “Michael Butterworth” in A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes (which has an article about him). A chapter on William Blake and Michael Moorcock appears in New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction. Teaching includes Literature, Philosophy, and post-graduate Medical Research Writing in universities ranging across Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York City, and Scotland.

(7) FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM.  This is the last FANAC Fan History Zoom for this season and it will stream on March 16. To attend, send a note to [email protected]

We have less than a week until the next FANAC Fan History Zoom program. We have some very knowledgeable fans on this program and it promises to be an enlightening subject in an often overlooked area of our field. Join us!

 Please get the word out to all your friends.

The Women Fen Don’t See

Claire Brialey, Kate Heffner, and Leah Zeldes Smith

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Time: 3PM EDT, 2PM CDT, Noon PDT, 7PM London (GMT), and Mar 17 at 6AM AEDT in Melbourne

(8) SECRET NO MORE. In “Move Over, Alan Turing; Meet the Teenage Girls Who Rocked Bletchley Park”, New York Times reviewer Sarah Lyall discusses THE ENIGMA GIRLS: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets and Helped Win World War II, by Candace Fleming.

As war raged in Europe in 1941, Sarah Norton, the 18-year-old daughter of an English lord, received a letter in a plain brown envelope with no return address. “You are to report to Station X at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire in four days’ time,” said the letter, signed by a mysterious “Commander Travis.” “That is all you need to know.”

Little did Sarah realize she was being recruited for Britain’s top-secret wartime code-breaking operation. Arriving at Bletchley Park with a suitcase full of “what she considered the bare essentials — five daytime outfits, an evening gown with matching shoes, lipstick and, most importantly, her teddy bear” — she would work alongside hundreds of similar recruits to help intercept and decipher the Nazis’ secret communications.

“This is the story of a handful of young women — teenagers really — who left their childhoods behind and walked into the unknown,” Candace Fleming writes in “The Enigma Girls,” her beguiling new account of their contributions. “For most of their lives, they never breathed a word about their war experiences.”

We learn about 10 of these real-life conscripts. In addition to Sarah, there was Mavis Lever, also 18, who was assigned to work with Dilly Knox, a Greek scholar who had “spent years successfully deciphering ancient papyri fragments at the British Museum.” There was Patricia Owtram, another 18-year-old, whose job was to monitor radio frequencies for enemy communications while simultaneously converting the Morse code messages into plain text. And there was Diana Payne, just 17, who helped operate the massive “Bombe” machines, which sped up the process of breaking the enemy’s ever-shifting codes….

(9) LISA MORTON Q&A.  Alpha’s Court scored an interview with “Lisa Morton: Author, Editor, and Screenwriter”. Her new release, Placerita, comes out in June.

Q: Where do you draw inspiration from in your work?

A: Everywhere! One of my favorite places is my own backyard, which is both full of amazing plants and which draws all kinds of wildlife at night. As a horror writer, there’s certainly no shortage of fodder in the daily news and, of course, reading other writers’ work is always inspiring.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. (Died 2001.) Was there ever a better work of epic humorous, and yes I deliberately used the British spelling there, SF  in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that Douglas Adams delightfully created? 

I first encountered it as the BBC television adaptation on public television in the Eighties. It was quite good. Really it was very, very silly. 

Douglas Adams in 2000.

I next listened to the most excellent radio series which originally broadcast in by BBC Radio 4, and then on the National Public Radio where I heard it. I think it one of the best full cast SF dramas I’ve heard and I’ve listened to it at least three or four times that I can remember. 

Now the books. Oh they’re most excellent as well. All five of them that he wrote before his very untimely death as there were more later, one of which I’ve read. The US edition of the fifth book was originally released with the note of “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy” on the cover. 

I’m trying to remember at what point the novels finally weren’t based on off the radio series but I know that it finally happened. 

I have not read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency novels which were described by him as “a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics”. I did see some of the BBC series, oddly enough filmed in Vancouver, and it’s silly and fun.

Adams was the script editor for the seventeenth season of Doctor Who, and he wrote three scripts starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor — “The Pirate Planet” City of Death” and “Shada”. 

The latter was only partially filmed but never not televised due to industry disputes which even unclear to this day. It was later completed using animation for the unfinished scenes and broadcast as Doctor Who: The Lost Episode on BBC America seven years ago. 

The last thing I want you to mention is Last Chance to See, BBC radio documentary series and a book, written and presented by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. Adams and Carwardine travel to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s quite extraordinary.

(11) WRITER BEWARE. Victoria Strauss gives Writer Beware readers a detailed rundown about “Author Complaints at City Owl Press”. This is just a taste.

…Several authors announced their split from COP on social media, without providing details as to why, causing questions and concerns from observers. This is also the point at which COP authors started contacting Writer Beware. Then, in late January, Erin Fulmer published her detailed series of blog posts about her departure from COP. Authors are often very, very reluctant to go public with publisher complaints, whether because they don’t want to single themselves out, fear retaliation and blowback from the publisher and/or fellow authors, or are simply too exhausted and demoralized–but a flood of other accounts followed Erin’s: Megan Van DykeSL ChoiElisse HayJen KarnerLisa EdmondsLily Riley, and more have all chosen to speak out about their experiences.

This unusually public discussion has had an impact. On February 22, COP posted a public apology to authors and readers, with a pledge to implement “systematic and operational changes”. (This is the overshare mentioned in the first paragraph; it was later reformulated in response to criticism)….

(12) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD. [Item by Steven French.] Early Antarctic explorers would while away the weeks of darkness by writing stories, some silly, some fantastical – the first book printed on the frozen continent included a science-fiction story (complete with drawings) about exploring an undiscovered tropical region of Antarctica: “Antarctica Publications Tried to Hide Danger in Fiction and Strange Stories” at Atlas Obscura.

…It imagines the Nimrod’s party making their way into the strange land of Bathybia, 22,000 feet below sea level. They used rafts made of giant, man-sized mushrooms to travel down rivers into a red jungle, encountering giant ticks, alcoholic algae, and huge carnivorous versions of microscopic Antarctic rotifers….

(13) IT’S NOT KANSAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON, TOTO. But drink enough and you will see flying monkeys. “The Wizard of Oz Tornado Etched Wine” from Mano’s Wine.

Embark on a mesmerizing journey with our Wizard of Oz wine bottles. Expertly deep-etched and lovingly hand-painted, these enchanting collectibles capture the essence of the beloved film. Sip from the elixir of nostalgia and let the magic unfold with every pour. Raise your glass to the Emerald City and indulge in a taste of cinematic splendor.

(14) WORM HYPE. [Item by Steven French.] Nature invites you to “Meet the real-life versions of Dune’s epic sandworms”. “‘Dune’s sandworms can grow to at least 450 metres long, about 15 times the size of the longest blue whale. How big do real-life worms get?”

…There are annelid worms that get up to several metres in length called eunicid worms, a type of bristle worm. They’re pretty gnarly — they have big jaws, they look a bit like Graboids from the 1990 film Tremors. Some of them are ambush predators. They eat octopuses, squid, vertebrates….

There are some earthworms that get really big, as well. Megascolides reaches up to 2 metres. The biggest ones are from Australia.

(Of course they are!)

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dan Monroe wants to find out “Whatever Happened to LOGAN’S RUN?” (See, I didn’t know anything had happened to Logan’s Run!)

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

Pixel Scroll 3/8/24 The Pixels Are All Tucked In Their Scrolls For The Night

(1) THERE WILL BE NO 2023 HUGO LONGLIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen says, “With all of the complications of this year’s nomination list, Diabolical Plots has decided not to produce a new volume of the Long List Anthology this year.”

Instead, Hal Y. Zhang, with assistance from Chelle Parker and David Steffen, have produced a set of reading recommendations, “The 2023 Hugo Award Nomination List (With Links!)”.

We do still want to help boost readership for the amazing authors involved, however, so in lieu of the anthology, we have done our best to compile the most comprehensive list of links to the works from this year’s Short Story and Novelette categories that we could.

(2) MORE MURDERBOT ACTORS. “’Murderbot’ Casts Sabrina Wu, Tattiawna Jones, Akshay Khanna & Tamara Podemski”Deadline has the story.

The Apple TV+ series Murderbot is rounding out its leading cast with Sabrina Wu (Joy Ride), Tattiawna Jones (Orphan Black: Echoes), Akshay Khanna (Polite Society) and Tamara Podemski (Outer Range). The quad will star opposite Alexander Skarsgård, who also executive produces.

Based on Martha Wells’ bestselling Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book series The Murderbot Diaries, the 10-episode series Murderbot centers on a self-hacking security android who is horrified by human emotion yet drawn to its vulnerable “clients.” Murderbot must hide its free will and complete a dangerous assignment when all it really wants is to be left alone to watch futuristic soap operas and figure out its place in the universe….

(3) SANDERSON SETS BACKERKIT RECORD. Publishers Weekly is there as “Brandon Sanderson Raises $16 Million, Breaking Records Again”.

Brandon Sanderson, the bestselling author known for his epic fantasy novels, has already raised more than $16 million on crowdfunding platform BackerKit since launching it earlier this week.

The campaign is to fund a leatherbound edition of Words of Radiance, the second book in Sanderson’s fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive. The leatherbound edition will feature premium materials and illustrations, as well as a new “secret project,” Sanderson has teased. Add-ons include an audiobook, which Sanderson says will also be available on Audible, suggesting he has come to an agreement with the audiobook giant . (Sanderson had been in negotiation with the company for better terms for authors).

Sanderson’s BackerKit campaign, which has 55,000 backers and runs through March 30, is the most successful fundraising effort on the platform thus far. This follows Sanderson’s previous record-breaking Kickstarter campaign in March 2022, which raised $41.7 million from 185,341 backers, setting a new record for the most funded Kickstarter in the platform’s history. That campaign supported the release of four books.

(4) CHANGE AT KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel have updated the readers for their March 13 event. Christopher Rowe has suffered a death in the family. Therefore, Richard Butner will take his place, joining Moses Ose Utomi.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nosh pastrami with Glenn Hauman in Episode 220 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

When I realized Glenn Hauman, with whom I’ve been crossing paths for decades on the con circuit, was going to be a guest at Farpoint, I thought it was about time I captured some of his wit and wisdom for you. Here’s just a small taste of what Glenn’s been up to over the years —

Glenn Hauman.

He’s an electronic publishing pioneer who founded BiblioBytes in 1993, which resulted in him being dubbed a “young Turk of publishing” in The New York Observer. He was an editorial consultant to Simon & Schuster Interactive for many years, during which time he contributed to many Star Trek CD-ROMs, such as the Star Trek Encyclopedia, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, plus additional projects for many other properties. He’s published fiction in the Star TrekX-Men, and Farscape franchises.

The particular piece of fiction which has probably brought him the most fame is Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers: Creative Couplings, co-authored with Aaron Rosenberg, which featured the first Klingon/Jewish wedding ceremony, and ended up getting him mass media coverage from outlets such as NPR and the Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward. In 2011, Glen teamed up with Peter David, previous guest of the podcast Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg to launch an electronic publishing endeavor called Crazy 8 Press. He’s also a columnist over at ComicMix.

We discussed how he shook things up during the earliest days of electronic publishing, the embarrassing high school newspaper writings of Ted Chiang, the way the assembly-line nature of comics keeps many creatives from seeing the big picture, why he’s nobody’s first choice for anything but everybody’s second choice for everything, his pre-teen encounters with another pre-teen fan who became a Marvel Comics Executive Editor, the philosophical question he asked actor Michael O’Hare just before Babylon 5 began to air, the lunch that led to his first published short story being about the X-Men, what visiting Don Heck’s house at age 12 taught him about artists and taking an art class from John Buscema at age 13 taught him about himself, the plot of the Warren Worthington novel he never got a chance to write, the free speech lawsuit which had him going head to head with the Dr. Seuss estate, plus much more.

(6) GIBSON READING. Space Cowboy Books will host an “Online Reading and Interview with Adrian M. Gibson” on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at 6:00 p.m. Register for free with Eventbrite at the link.

BLADE RUNNER, TRUE DETECTIVE and HANNIBAL meld with the weird worlds of JEFF VANDERMEER in Adrian M. Gibson’s fungalpunk noir debut novel.

TWO YEARS AFTER a devastating defeat in the decade-long Spore War, the island nation of Hōppon and its capital city of Neo Kinoko are occupied by invading Coprinian forces. Its Fungal citizens are in dire straits, wracked by food shortages, poverty and an influx of war refugees. Even worse, the corrupt occupiers exploit their power, pushing the native populace toward the brink of civil unrest.

As a winter storm looms over the metropolis, NKPD Detective Henrietta Hofmann begrudgingly partners up with mushroom-headed patrol officer Koji Nameko to investigate the mysterious murders of Fungal and half-breed children. Their investigation drags them deep into the seedy underbelly of a war-torn city, one brimming with colonizers, criminal gangs, racial division and moral decay.

In order to solve the case and unravel the truth, Hofmann must challenge her past and embrace Fungal ways. What she and Nameko uncover in the midst of this frigid wasteland will chill them to the core, but will they make it through the storm alive?

(7) THOMAS SADLER (1946-2023). Alexiad editor Joseph T. Major shared recently-learned news of the death last year of Thomas Sadler, longtime editor of the fanzine The Reluctant Famulus.

Thomas “Tom” David Sadler, age 76, of Owenton, KY, passed away on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, at his home. Tom was born on March 3, 1946, in Piedmont, AL, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Tanner) Sadler. On October 8, 1966, he married Ruth Underhill, and she survives. He had been employed with the City of Adrian before moving to Kentucky. Tom was a published author, and enjoyed reading, writing, and gardening.

Sadler is survived by his wife, Ruth, their children, and grandchildren.

(8) AKIRA TORIYAMA (1955-2024). Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama died March 1. The New York Times tribute says a statement by his manga and design production company, Bird Studio, and Capsule Corporation Tokyo, attributed his death to acute subdural hematoma, when blood collects between the skull and brain. It did not specify where he died.

The Dragon Ball comic series debuted in 1984. It follows a boy named Son Goku in his quest to collect magical dragon balls to defend Earth against alien humanoids called Saiyans.

 … Mr. Toriyama’s absurd concepts and sense of caricature “sparked a real joyful hysteria” in Japan, Matthieu Pinon and Laurent Lefebvre wrote in their 2023 book, “A History of Modern Manga.”

In 1982, Mr. Toriyama married a former manga artist who published under the pen name Nachi Mikami, Mainichi Shimbun reported. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, according to the local news media.

When “Dragon Ball” was first published in 1984, it was an immediate hit, becoming one of the best-selling manga series of all time. The adventure story sold more than 260 million copies worldwide, according to the studio that produced the anime adaptation, Toei Animation.

The manga was serialized in the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump until 1995. In the year after the series ended, the magazine lost about one million of its six million readers, according to “A History of Modern Manga.” The story lived on through anime, such as “Dragon Ball Z,” and video games, including the “Dragon Quest” series for which Mr. Toriyama designed the characters….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. (Died 1990.) Let’s talk about Alan Hale Jr. — son of Alan Hale Sr. who played Little John in the Robin Hood a century ago with Douglas Fairbanks and Wallace Beery, reprised the role in The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, then played him once more in The Rogues of Sherwood Forest. We agreed that Robin Hood is genre, didn’t we? 

Alan Hale Jr.

Now we come to Alan Hale Jr.’s Captain Jonas Grumby as he was referred to only in the Gilligan’s Island pilot, better known as The Skipper, which we’ve also agreed is genre. He’s owner and captain of the S.S. Minnow which ends up in the genre based lost island setting with its passengers and sole crew member.

Counting the pilot, it ran for ninety-nine episodes over three seasons sixty years ago. There would later be three television sequels in the late Seventies and early Eighties in color. I don’t remember any of them, do any of you remember them? 

There are two Filmation-produced animated sequel series which I’ve mercifully never seen. They were The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan’s Planet, both short lived. Yes, he voiced his character.

Other genre appearances included Fantasy IslandMy Favorite MartinThe Wild Wild West and ALF for television series, whereas films were The Giant Spider Invasion,  The Fifth Musketeer, and well, and I didn’t see anything else but if I missed anything I’m sure I’ll hear about it. 

(10) RINGO AWARDS 2024 NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN. The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards return for their sixth year on Saturday, September 21, 2024 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con. Access the Ringo Awards 2024 Nominations ballot at the link.

Unlike other professional industry awards, the Ringo Awards include fan participation in the nomination process along with an esteemed jury of comics professionals. 

More than 20 categories will be celebrated with top honors being given at the awards ceremony in September.

Fan and pro-jury voting are tallied independently, and the combined nomination ballot is compiled by the Ringo Awards Committee. The top two fan choices become nominees, and the jury’s selections fill the remaining three slots for five total nominees per category. Ties may result in more than five nominees in a single category. Nominees will be listed on the ballot alphabetically. Nomination ballot voting is open to the public (fans and pros) between March 8, 2024 and May 23, 2024.

New in 2024, we have changed two categories based on juror, publisher, and voter submissions: The “Best Inker” category has been combined with the “Best Artist or Penciller” category to form a combined “Best Artist or Penciller/Inker Team” category. This update reflects the changing way comics are being created, with more artists working digitally and going directly to inks. When a nominated Penciller/Inker Team wins the final ballot, both individuals will receive separate awards.

Final Ballot Voting

After processing by the Ringo Awards Committee and Jury, the Final Ballots are targeted to be available to comic creative professionals for voting on July 24, 2024 and will be due by August 21, 2024 for final tallying. Presentation of the winners will occur at the Baltimore Comic-Con on the evening of Saturday, September 21, 2024.

(11) STRANGER IN NEW YORK. “’Stranger Things’ Play: Broadway Opening Eyed With New York Casting”Variety has the story.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow,” the prequel play to the popular Netflix series, looks to be headed to the Great White Way after debuting in London.

Broadway World was the first to report that equity casting notices were posted on Thursday seeking New York City-based actors and stage managers for the show with a 2025 start date. There is no venue specified yet for the show. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stephen Daldry is listed as the director of the New York City production.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow” was written by Kate Trefry, from an original story by the Duffer Brothers, Jack Thorne and Trefry. The play debuted at the Phoenix Theatre on the West End on Nov. 17, 2023 in previews, with an official opening date of Dec. 14, 2023. Daldry also directed the West End version….

(12) MOST-WATCHED OSCAR WINNING FILMS. JustWatch has published a new report covering the most popular Best Picture winners. JustWatch wanted to see if tastes have shifted to more modern titles, or if the classics have had a lasting impact on audiences. They ranked all of the Best Picture winners since the first Oscars ceremony in 1929. 

Key Insights: Modern titles like “Everything Everywhere all at Once” and “Parasite” ranked highest in our study. Meanwhile, classic titles like “Titanic” and “Forrest Gump” managed to break into the top 10. The genres of the top 10 varied between thrillers, dramas, and even one romance.  

We created this report by comparing the Best Picture Oscars winners from 1929-2023. JustWatch Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity, including: clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as ‘seen’. This data is collected from >40 million movie & TV show fans per month. It is updated daily for 140 countries and 4,500 streaming services.

(13) SUCCESSFUL NETFLIX SFF LAUNCHES? JustWatch has also assessed how well three of Netflix’ anime live action remakes did right out of the gate.

Netflix has seen a lot of success with this format, and as their latest production, Avatar: The Last Airbender, is probably their most anticipated release to date, we wanted to see how it stacked up against previous attempts. 

Developments relevant to this report include Netflix’s release of Avatar: The Last Airbender and One Piece’s second season announcement in September 2023.

Key Insights:

  • Death Note topped the charts in almost 3x more countries than One Piece, and 10x more than Avatar: The Last Airbender 
  • Avatar has an above average rating, but by far the least ‘successful’ launch
  • One Piece had a lower popularity score, but the highest rating out of all three titles

(14) FLOOD WARNING US. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] My reportage of the coastal flood risk to US homes yesterday was a bit dry as I jumped straight to the research paper. This is what comes of speed scanning the electronic version of the journal.  When I got home and saw the paper edition, I found its cover story was that very research and it came with a far more readable descriptor…

The cover shows homes under threat from rising sea levels in Summer Haven, Florida. In this week’s issue, Leonard Ohenhen and colleagues suggest that a considerable amount of land in 32 US coastal cities could be at risk of flooding by 2050. Combining models of changes in land elevation with projected rises in sea levels, the researchers estimated the flooding risk in the cites, including Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco. They note that a combination of coastal subsidence and rising sea levels could put an additional 1,006–1,389 km2 of land at risk of flooding by 2050, which could affect up to 171,000 properties. As a result, they call for improvements to flood defences and subsidence control to bolster current coastal protection.

The original research is here.

(15) TWO, COUNT ‘EM, TWO! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “TWO Earth-like planets found in the HABITABLE ZONE (just 6% bigger than Earth!)”. This news has been covered elsewhere, but Dr Becky (Smethurst)   — the Oxford U. based astrophysicist — is rather good. Her YouTube channel has just shy of three-quarter of a million subscribers and — thanks to YouTube income has just moved house…

The holy grail of exoplanets research is to find an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around its star (where it’s not too hot and not too cold for life to exist) and then study its atmosphere with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to determine if life is present there. But to do that, we have to find these planets first. This is where the TESS mission comes in; this month a research paper was published claiming to have found TWO possible Earth-like planets in the habitable zone. The hope is that we can use JWST to study at least one of them.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From the Late Show, “Is ‘Dune’ A Perfect Movie? Neil deGrasse Tyson And Stephen Colbert Agree To Disagree”. The Hollywood Reporter tells some of the things they disagree about in “Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Colbert on Dune 2 Sandworms Accuracy”. Because Neil is like your fannish friend who knows why the movie you love is impossible!

…Tyson explained that the film takes place in the sand dunes on the planet of Arrakis. The dunes are home to massive, very hungry sandworms that will appear wherever a thumper — a device that sends repeated vibrations through the sand — is placed.

“Somebody didn’t do the research on that,” he stated. When Colbert asked if that’s because that’s not how sandworms — which are fictional creatures — actually behave, Tyson said, “I’m saying you can’t thump sand.”

He noted that if someone hits sand repeatedly, it’s not audible because it’s sand. “You can’t hear it, but a sandworm can. They hear things differently than we do, Neil Tyson,” Colbert retorted, jokingly. “If you wanted to insulate yourself acoustically from your surroundings, fill the volume with sand,” the astrophysicist responded. “No one will hear you. I’ve got to let it go because there’s no movie without it.”…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Robin Anne Reid, Ryan H., Joseph T. Major, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Space Cowboy Books Presents: Flash Science Fiction Nights Season 4

Space Cowboys Books’ online reading series of stories under 1000 words, Flash Science Fiction Nights, run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world. Register for the events for free at Space Cowboys Books. Seating is limited.

4/23/24 – Howard V. Hendrix, Ai Jiang, and Hailey Piper

5/21/24 – KC Grifant, Laura Blackwell, and Denise Dumars

6/11/24 – Eliane Boey, Jendia Gammon, and Jonathan Nevair

7/09/24 – From the pages of Radon Journal: Katherine Karch, H.A. Eugene, and Vivian Chou

8/20/24 – Brent A. Harris, Pedro Iniguez, and FJ Bergmann

9/09/24 – Jenna Hanchey, Eric Fomley, and Marie Vibbert

[Based on a press release.] 

Pixel Scroll 2/8/24 It’s The Great Singularity, Charlie Brown

(1) SEE ICONIC ARTWORK IN BAY AREA THIS WEEKEND. Leo and Diane Dillon’s original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness, recently in the news as one of the items sold from the Carr-Lichtman estate by Mark Funke, will be on display at the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco, February 9–11 reports KQED in “The Painting That Became an Ursula K. Le Guin Book Cover”.

…“When I talk to other LGBTQIA+ science fiction writers and people who are immersed in science fiction, they always point to The Left Hand of Darkness as a book that kind of showed them how expansive, how rich and how multilayered speculative fiction could be in its approach to gender and sexuality,” says Charlie Jane Anders, a San Francisco-based transgender science fiction writer, who wrote the afterword for the 50th anniversary edition of the novel….

How the cover was acquired by Terry Carr for the Ace paperback edition, and the artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon, is discussed at length in the KQED article.

…Diane Dillon says science fiction writers inspired some of their best work. Leo introduced her to the genre when they met as students at Parsons in the ’50s. They were drawn to sci-fi’s imaginative worlds and the promise of what could be possible.

“Science fiction, fantasy and myth gave us the freedom to invent and challenge our imagination,” Diane wrote via email.

In a 2000 interview, Leo said he and Diane wanted their illustrations to “take science fiction out of that spaceship-and-craters-on-the-planet look.” (Leo died in 2012.)

In the case of The Left Hand of Darkness, the Dillons drew inspiration from Gustav Klimt. The original 24-by-19-inch acrylic painting evokes an uncanny world. Two figures with blurry features melt into a muted luster — an allusion to the icy planet of Gethen that provides the setting for the novel.

“That’s a sprawling piece, and it says volumes in just that one image,” says Paul Gulla, manager of R. Michelson Galleries, which represents the Dillons, in Northampton, Massachusetts.The Dillons’ work was recognizable, but the duo enjoyed experimentation. They used various techniques and materials — including stained glass, woodcarving and clay — throughout their decades-long career, which spanned book covers, album covers, kids’ picture books and advertisements.

The Dillons even forged a new artistic identity. They described their collaboration as a “third artist,” drawing on the combined powers of their own individual styles….

Leo and Diane Dillon’s painting for the cover of Harlan Ellison’s ‘No Doors No Windows.’ (Courtesy R. Michelson Galleries)

The article also has this photo of another item – an album of fan photos, some dating back to the Fifties.

(2) ON THE FRONT. Austin Conrad has more advice for SFWA Blog readers in “Sourcing Art on a Budget (Part 2)”

High-quality art plays an important role in creating the well-presented products expected by most consumers of tabletop games, but commissioning bespoke art can be expensive. Like a novel’s cover, an RPG’s interior graphics evoke the game’s aesthetic and market the game to the audience. Many tabletop writers—especially new creators—don’t have the resources to commission the expected quantity of art. What, then, are a tabletop writer’s ethical alternatives?…

(3) 2024 FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM SERIES: AUSTRALIA. [Item by Joe Siclari.] In 2022, we had a very interesting Fan History Zoom Session on Australian history with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. We didn’t even get to the first Australian Worldcon so we are going to continue.

Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track, Part 2 with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. Saturday, February 17, 2024. Time: 7PM EST, 4 PM PST and 11AM Feb. 18, Melbourne AEDT

To attend, send a note to [email protected]

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE WINNERS Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host four Writers of the Future winners in an online event late this month. Register for free HERE.

Online Reading & Interview with Writers of the Future Winners

Tuesday Feb. 27th 4:30pm PT

Reading and Interview with Writers of the Future Winners: David Hankins, Elaine Midcoh, Jason Palmatier, & TJ Knight.

Be amazed. Be amused. Be transported … by stories that take you by surprise and take you further and deeper into new worlds and new ideas than you’ve ever gone before…. Twelve captivating tales from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy accompanied by three from masters of the genre.

Get your copy of the book at Bookshop.org.

(5) VERSE IS BETTER. Holly Henderson recommends “Using Poetry to Enhance Your Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

Poetry can be one of the shortest forms of fiction, but it has the ability to make an outsized impact on the reader. This is especially true when poetry is combined with fantasy and science fiction—both forms aspire to express common concepts in uncommon ways.

From classics like The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to recent Hugo Award winner A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, poetry has been used throughout the history of speculative fiction to jumpstart brainstorming, enhance worldbuilding, and reinforce themes so they resonate far beyond the last page….

Effective Poetry Is Its Own Skill Set

Study poetry as you would any other aspect of your craft. Read collections with a wide variety, such as Chris Riddell’s Poems to… series. Pick apart your favorites to figure out why they work. Explore different forms to expand your horizons beyond the ABAB rhyme scheme.

That being said, you don’t need an MFA in Poetry to incorporate it into your novel. Just like with prose, there’s a lot to be said for writing poetry you like to read. Don’t get caught in the trap of it having to be a certain way to be “right.” One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that it encourages you to break the rules….

(6) SWANWICK’S TRIBUTE TO WALDROP. “Howard Waldrop, Implausibly, Is No More” mourns Michael Swanwick at Flogging Babel.

Howard Waldrop is dead. This seems impossible–almost as impossible as that he could have existed in the first place. He was unlike anybody else. I once labeled him in print as “the weird mind of his generation,” and it was true. He simply didn’t think the way other people did.

You could see it in the best of his stories. People would come back from conventions where he’d read a new story (he incubated them in his mind for a long time and didn’t write anything down until the story was letter-perfect; fans learned that you could squeeze a new one out of him by making him the guest of honor at a con and requesting that he read something new at it; the night before the reading, he’d sit down and write out… something amazing) and say something like, “Howard wrote a story about dodo birds surviving in the American South,” or “Howard wrote a story about Dwight D. Eisenhower becoming a jazz musician,” and I’d think: Damn. I wish I’d had that idea! One day somebody said, “Howard wrote a story about Izaak Walton and John Bunyan going fishing in the Slough of Despond.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 55. Author, puppeteer, voice actor. Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing individual indeed.

As I always find out who is narrating the audio works I’m listening to, I first encountered her when she was voicing some of the works that I like best, such as Seanan McGuire’s Indexing novels which are so wonderfully narrated by Kowal. 

Mary Robinette Kowal

She has an ability to give life to each character in a novel so that the listener can tell each of them apart by the way that she voices them. Her narration of her novel is Ghost Talkers is both properly spooky and horrifying in equal measure. 

While doing this essay I got curious about the idea of her as a puppeteer. She has been one for over thirty years and her production company is the Other Hand Productions. So she worked for Jim Henson Pictures in the Elmo in Grouchland film, she assisted Martin P. Robinson who was Sesame Street’s Telly Monster in “Jackstraws” piece, and her design work has been recognized with UNIMA-USA citations of excellence for Mark Levenson’s Between Two Worlds and Other Hand Productions’ Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom. The Citation of Excellence was founded by Jim Henson and is the highest award possible for an American puppeteer. Cool, eh? 

Now for the third part of her quite impressive career. I asked one of our Filers, Paul, to talk about that as I figured he’d read more deeply of her than I have. (I personally loved The Spare Man, Ghost Talkers and the Glamourist series. Her narration of The Spare Man is an  amazing experience speaking as one who only gets his long form fiction now in that way.)

So here’s Paul: “I was immediately enchanted with her first Glamourist history novel, Shades of Milk and Honey. I enjoyed the characters, the magic system and saw her homage to Regency romances, and liked it. I also particularly think that the last book in that series, Of Noble Family, engaging with some difficult subjects of class and race, is a strong entry that shows Kowal’s willingness to work with such material and face the issues therein.  Her recent The Spare Man encapsulates a lot of what she does, on a luxury liner, in SPAAACE.  And while many will point at her Lady Astronaut series as her current pinnacle of work (and I did borrow Elma York’s mental trick of composing fibonacci numbers in my head while hiking in Nepal), I think her alternate WWI fantasy novel Ghost Talkers is very unjustly overlooked as a compelling novel of a woman caught by her duty and needs in a terrible, dangerous wartime.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest has an encounter with a librarian about Robin Hood. But they’re not arguing whether it’s sff….
  • F Minus says there’s a downside to owning a superpet.

(9) PATRICK S. TOMLINSON. The Independent invites readers to “Meet the most ‘swatted’ man in America”.

Mr Tomlinson told The Independent he had woken in the middle of the night to find officers banging on his door, been handcuffed, and had guns shoved in his face during the yearslong ordeal. He was once swatted four times in one day.

Mr Filion has not been charged in relation to the swats on Mr Tomlinson’s home, and investigators believe there are at least two individuals behind the Torswats account.

The FBI, Milwaukee Police Department and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida where the teenager is facing four felony counts declined to provide further information, beyond an extensive account of Mr Filion’s activities in a probable cause charging document.

After Mr Filion was arrested on 18 January at his home in Lancaster, Los Angeles County, Mr Tomlinson said he and his wife Niki Robinson had their first decent night of sleep in years.

Their relief was short-lived. Within a day of Mr Filion’s arrest, a Telegram channel named “Torswats Return” was created by someone claiming that their “partner has been arrested”, according to posts viewed by The Independent.

The channel stated that it would continue offering “swats” for as little as $40, and offered returning customers a discounted rate. It also posted derogatory photographs and text about Mr Tomlinson — noting that there would be no charge for requested swats against him.

“And of course swats to Patrick… are free,” read the Telegram message.

… The science fiction author has endured relentless harassment from an anonymous online army of what he describes as “cyber terrorists”. He says they have stalked and impersonated him, defaced his home, and continue to send a daily avalanche of abusive phone calls, voicemail messages and emails.

“I wont stop until one of them die (sic),” a message posted to the channel, referring to Mr Tomlinson, on 6 January stated.

As swatting incidents have spiked in recent months, victims and cybersecurity experts say law enforcement are failing to deal with the threat.

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley revealed she was targeted by swatting hoaxes twice in two days, and has requested Secret Service protection amid the rising threats to her safety. She is among the dozens of lawmakers, judges in Trump trials and public figures who have experienced tactical response teams turn up at their homes in response to the false callouts.

Swatting, defined by the Anti Defamation League (ADL) as a “malicious act of reporting a false crime or emergency to evoke an aggressive response”, emerged from online gaming communities in the early 2000s, where rivals would call 911 on each other and watch the armed response on livestream.

The ADL estimates there were over 1,000 swatting incidents in 2019, but the true figure is unclear as there is no federal statute against swatting that would enable convictions to be recorded….

(10) IF COVER REVEAL. Worlds of IF magazine has shared Bob Eggleton’s cover art and the table of contents for the relaunch’s inaugural issue. Issue #177 will be released later this month as both a digest-sized print version and digital download. The PDF version will be free for a limited time at this link. Subscribe to the mailing list for updates.

Featuring stories, poetry, and art by:

  • Renan Bernardo
  • David Brin
  • Michael Butterworth
  • Tara Campbell
  • Kwame Cavil
  • J. Dalton
  • Tatiana Daubek
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Zdravka Evtimova
  • Richard Grieco
  • Akua Lezli Hope
  • Pedro Iniguez
  • Ai Jiang
  • Leslie Kean
  • Rodney Matthews
  • Bruce Pennington
  • Charles Platt
  • Daniel Pomarède
  • Paulo Sayeg
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Andrew Stewart
  • Nigel Suckling
  • Dave Vescio 

(11) CLASSIC FILM MAGAZINE BACK IN PRINT. L’Incroyable Cinema: The Film Magazine of Fantasy and Imagination is available once more. The five issues published in the Sixties and Seventies have been reproduced in paperback editions for sale at Amazon.uk.

For example, issue #4 with Hitchcock on the cover includes the writing of Harry Nadler, Steve Vertlieb, Allan Asherman, and Charles Partington and their coverage of  Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and “Hitchcock – Master of the Eloquent Absurdity”.

Please note: This is a REPRODUCTION scanned from an original printed copy – whilst every care has been taken to make this as accurate as possible to the original some flaws etc will be evident. The only changes made to the layout have been to comply with Amazon printing guidelines. They have been reproduced with the permission of Tony Edwards who printed the originals way back when. Brought to you by Steve Kirkham and Tree Frog Publications.

Issues #2-#5 had color cover artwork by Eddie Jones, featuring Boris Karloff, Star Trek’s Spock and Kirk, Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen. All issues had extensive picture coverage of sf and horror films.

(12) HOW TO READ A CHARCOAL SCROLL. “First complete passages from ancient Herculaneum scroll decoded” at CNN.

After using artificial intelligence to uncover the first word to be read from an unopened Herculaneum scroll, a team of researchers has revealed several nearly complete passages from the ancient text, giving insight into philosophy from almost 2,000 years ago.

The Herculaneum scrolls are hundreds of papyri that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. In their charred state, the ancient documents would crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them, and any writing on surviving pieces would be nearly illegible to the human eye.

By using computer technology and advanced artificial intelligence, researchers can now analyze the Herculaneum scrolls without unrolling and risking damage to the extremely fragile documents. More than 2,000 characters — the first full passages — have been deciphered from a scroll, according to an announcement Monday by computer scientists who launched the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition designed to accelerate the discoveries made on the scrolls….

… The recently decoded passages were pulled from the end of a scroll and reveal words written by the philosopher Philodemus, who was believed to be the philosopher-in-residence working at the library in which the scrolls were found, the announcement said.

…In the deciphered text, Philodemus writes on “pleasure,” and whether the abundance of goods available can affect the amount of pleasure they give. “As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant,” the first sentence reads….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. TheHow It Should Have Ended crew say that when it comes to Dune what they really need to fix is “How It Should Have Started”.

An animated Dune cartoon. When House Atreides dares to pass on the spice, who will take on the job? Only a Lethal Company will do.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Thomas Pynchon Collection – $125,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Novella:

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

Short Stories:

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

Novellas:

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

Novelettes:

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

Short Story:

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

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

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

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

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

“This was a choice!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m going now. Really I am.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

 With stories by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Matter
Premiere date:
 Wednesday, May 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY IT MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/24 To Boldly Scroll Where No Fan Has Scrolled Before

(1) MCCARTY Q&A. Chris Barkley’s audio interview with Dave McCarty was published here overnight: “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81”. The audio recording is at Soundcloud. A transcript is here.

(2) SPARE CHANGE? The New Zealand Mint has a line of The Lord Of The Rings™ Collectible coins.

Set in the mythical world of Middle-earth, The Lord of The Rings fantasy saga follows hobbit Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and a fellowship of characters as they embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring. Considered one of the greatest works of the 21st century, its popularity has spawned numerous adaptions.

Return to Middle-earth with our limited-edition THE LORD OF THE RINGS™ coins. Made from pure gold or silver, they feature characters and landscapes from the epic fantasy adventure films. Crafted in fine detail with themed packaging, they make the perfect memento for any fan!

Famed Middle-Earth locations feature in these gold coins.

And the silver series includes one with Gollum. Heads he wins, tails you lose!

(3) LEST GRIMDARKNESS FALL. [Item by Anne Marble.] Sebastian Milbank, in an article for the British magazine The Critic (called a “contrarian conservative magazine”) refers to “grimdark” as “Grimdull” — and seems to think they are both “liberal” and “leftist.” (Umm, those are not the same thing.) The article also flings darts at Michael Moorcock and Phillip Pullman. And it calls Breaking Bad grimdark?! Boy, does this article ever make a lot of assumptions about the writers (and readers) of grimdark! And it uses a lot of words in which to do so.

For those unblessed (or uncursed) with an interest in contemporary fantasy, the phrase “Grimdark” may suggest the name of some 2000s era Goth club. It’s a recent coinage for an ongoing craze in “gritty” and dark fantasy settings, epitomised and popularised by George RR Martin, becoming the default tone for a whole range of feted fantasy offerings from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it — to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it.

It’s a genre with a number of consistent features. It’s generally in a mediaeval fantasy setting, but shorn of any romance. Characters are overwhelmingly cynical, and those few who exhibit nobility are treated as foolish or naive. Generally a chaotic war is happening, or about to happen. Religion features, but largely as a tool of social control, often portrayed (usually with some real effort given the baseline awfulness) as even more cruel and cynical than the secular world around it. Dark observations about human nature substitute for any moral drama, with characters seeking to outwit, manipulate or overpower one another in a kind of Darwinian struggle for dominance.

It’s a script born of vaguely liberal, vaguely radical, vaguely anarchic sentiments common to most contemporary creative “industries”. But fantasy, with its over escapism and heroic aristocratic setting, presents something of a problem. This is the inner tension of left wing fantasy — how can a genre defined by apparent escapism not end up serving reactionary ends?…

Grimdark author Joe Abercrombie has a very concise takedown:

(4) ALERT FOR CONVENTION EMAIL RUNNERS. Andrew Trembley shared this alert on Facebook.

For y’all running conventions and running convention email, if you haven’t set up SPF, DKIM and DMARC, you need to do it yesterday. If you’re reading this on Monday, February 5, literally yesterday, because today is the day Google and Yahoo started refusing mail from many email services that have failed to implement SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

(ETA long version, did not include in the share)

I’m seeing people saying “Google is starting to block more non-Gmail senders.” Now they’re right from the perspective they’re looking at this from, but they’re not seeing the whole picture.

It’s not non-Gmail senders. It’s also not just Gmail.

So what is happening? Bear with me, this is long…

(5) MARY SOON LEE Q&A. Space Cowboy Books hosts an “Online Reading and Interview with Mary Soon Lee” on Tuesday, February 6 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free HERE.

How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as How to Surprise Saturn, How to Blush Like Betelgeuse, and How to Survive a Black Hole.

“Unraveling meaning from partial glimpses of the universe has preoccupied astronomers for thousands of years. Mary Soon Lee’s remarkable collection of poetry traces this journey, capturing the wonder of the celestial bodies that comprise our universe, the elegance of the rules that guide its evolution and the humanity of those who search to better our understanding.” -Andy Connolly, Professor of Astronomy, University of Washington

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award. Her work has appeared in Science, American Scholar, Spillway, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time. Born and raised in London, she now lives in Pittsburgh.

(6) FAN FALLOUT. The Seattle 2025 Worldcon committee answered a query on Facebook by saying that neither Dave McCarty nor anyone else from the Chengdu Worldcon team will be involved with their Hugo Awards.

(7) SALAM AWARD OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, reminds Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at this link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.

(8) DANISH COMPLETIST. “Modstand og håb” at Superkultur is written in Danish, however, Lise Andreasen has provided an English translation in the first comment.

Niels Dalgaard is a patient man – not only in his persistent attempt to collect all the science fiction that has been published in odd corners of the Danish publishing world, but more specifically in this case in his project: to read through the approximately 250 novels that has been published in Danish, which can be placed in the category “youth dystopias”….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. I have come this Scroll to talk of not cabbages and kings but a man who as a mystery writer showed up regularly playing poker as himself in the Castle series with Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle — Stephen J. Cannell. James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Dennis Lehane were the other such writers here. I’ll talk about his work as a novelist later. 

Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Richard Castle, playing poker with real-life authors Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Stephen J Cannell.

The Zorro rip-off, scripted in its one season by him, The Night Rider, described by IMDB this way, “A refined New Orleans gentleman becomes a masked crimefighter by night, both to uphold law and order and to find the men who murdered his family in order to get their silver mine” is genre the same The Shadow or Doc Savage is in that it’s pulp.

Between that series and what I’m about to note next, scripting shows, the good, the bad and the truly awful made him very wealthy. So he got to produce a series that he said was one he’d to do a very long time ago — The Greatest American Hero.  You know the story of it so I want go into deep detail here, but suffice it to say that he was very happy with its success.

Veering way out of genre, I’m going to note he created Baa Baa Black Sheep (which was renamed Black Sheep Squadron for the second season for reasons unknown by the Powers That Be), a series I really liked.

I’ll note next 21 Jump Street which he created with Patrick Hasburgh which was about the cases of an undercover police unit composed of really great looking young officers specializing in youth crime. Definitely not genre, so why mention it? Because that featured Johnny Depp who would later do so many genre performances. And yes, he’d done one before this series as Greg Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

He loved making low budget horror films such as The Demon HunterThe Fairy and Left in Darkness. All shot on all cheap budgets (and this is after he became very wealthy), shot on locations you wouldn’t go without security in armor and shot fast enough you’d suspect use of interesting drugs to keep everyone alert, there’s more than makes sense of these in his IMDB listings. Stephen, you devil. Possibly literally.

Now about that poker game on Castle. All four of those players are there because they are mystery writers. Cannell wrote a series of novels about Shane Scully who was a detective in the LAPD force. I don’t know if they actually played poker in those scenes but I suspect they did. 

(10) SATISFIED FAN. Cora Buhlert heaps praise on a He-Man adaptation: “The Revolution Will Be Televised: Some Thoughts on Masters of the Universe Revolution”.

…So I watched Revelation and it turned out to be not just some nostalgic fun, but so much more. Here was the He-Man story I always wanted to see, a series which took the characters seriously in all their beautiful absurdity and found new depths in them and even managed to make me cry (something western animation in general very rarely does – crying is for anime), while also harkening back to the early 20th SFF which had inspired Masters of the Universe in the first place. Plus, the animation was gorgeous and finally looked as good as the Filmation cartoon looked in my memory, but never in reality, and the voice cast was stellar….

(11) GROUNDHOG DAY CAST REUNION. “Bill Murray celebrates ‘Harold Ramis Day’ Groundhog Day” at CBS Chicago.

This Groundhog Day, Woodstock Willie did not see his shadow — and thus said we should expect an early spring this year.

But at a ceremony in Chicago on Friday, a groundhog named Chicago Harry did not agree.

But first off, why is there a groundhog prognosticating on the trajectory of winter in Woodstock, Illinois? The answer, of course, is that in the 1993 film “Groundhog Day,” Woodstock stood in for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — home of Groundhog Day celebrations since the 1880s.

Ever since the movie came out 31 years ago, Woodstock Willie has been up there with Punxsutawney Phil in the real Punxsutawney among large-rodent long-range winter forecasters.

Members of the cast of the iconic film reunited for the first time at Navy Pier Friday, marking 31 years since the film was released. But Friday was also about honoring Harold Ramis and commemorating 10 years since his death….

…”I think it’s great that we’re here and, I don’t want to be too Irish, but it’s very nice of Harold to make it a very nice, mild day for today,” Murray said. “He’s up there stirring the clouds around, making that low pressure move out to Indiana and just drenching, ruining those people’s lives over there in Indiana.”

Ramis’ wife, Erica, was in attendance, beaming with pride as many spoke wonders about her husband. She even read a letter from former President Barack Obama encouraging people to enjoy the day as Ramis would. 

The ceremony included re-enactments of Punxsutawney festival emcee Buster Green (Brian Doyle-Murray) knocking at the tree stump with his cane, where a groundhog named Chicago Harry made his prediction.

Ken Hudson Campbell (“man in hallway”), Robin Duke (Doris the waitress), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Richard Henzel (the DJ), Don Rio McNichols (drum player), David Pasquesi (the psychiatrist), and Peggy Roeder (the piano teacher) were also in attendance.

And unlike Woodstock Willie, and Punxsutawney Phil, Chicago Harry saw his shadow — and predicted six more weeks of winter after all.

(12) GOING ROGUE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Just learned that the 2000AD strip Rogue Trooper film is at last moving forward. Director Duncan (Moon, Source Code) Jones teased about this back in 2018 and it now looks like a cast is being pulled together. “Duncan Jones’ Rogue Trooper Movie Cast Announced, Including Hayley Atwell, Sean Bean, and Matt Berry” at IGN.

The cast for Rogue Trooper, the upcoming movie from Moon and Warcraft director Duncan Jones, has been announced. The animated adaptation of the classic 2000 AD comic will be headlined by Aneurin Barnard, Hayley Atwell, and Jack Lowden, and will also feature a number of other well-known British stars such as Sean Bean.

Aneurin Barnard, who previously starred in The Goldfinch and Dunkirk, plays the titular Rogue Trooper, a blue-skinned, genetically-engineered soldier fighting on the toxic battlefields of a seemingly never-ending war. The sole survivor of a massacre that killed his squadmates, he’s on the hunt for the traitor that arranged their deaths. He does this with the aid of three of his killed-in-action squadmates, whose digital personalities still remain conscious after death and are uploaded into Rogue’s gun, helmet, and backpack….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science Futurism with Isaac Arthur this week took a look at Death Worlds. These are planets on which, once you land, they set out to kill you.  Unlike most of Isaac Arthur’s episodes (other than his monthly ‘Sci-Fi Sundays’) which have a (highly speculative) science take, this one has as much a science fictional approach, starting as it does with the legendary Harry Harrison’s DeathWorld series of the 1960s. Along the way, he gives us a number of SFnal examples… So, pour a mug of builders and sit back for a half-hour episode (it won’t kill you)…

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/24 The Hypoteneuse of the Squares Of The City Is Equal To The Fifths Of The Other Two Scrolls

(1) BRINGING UP THE REAR. Cora Buhlert’s latest Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre story is “In Exile”.

… “And then I said, ‘With all due respect, Your Majesty – not that I think you’re due any – you can kiss my…”

“Malcolm, please tell me you didn’t tell the King to kiss your arse?”

“Oh, I was very polite. I said butt.”

“Sigh. Malcolm, you’re unbelievable.”…

(2) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents episode 71 of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode:

“Cynscout” by KC Grifant with music by Phog Masheeen

“The Almost-Activation of Ruby Valentine’s Catastrophe Machine” by Jenna Hanchey with music by Fall Precauxions

(3) A NEIGHBORHOOD OF DOCTORS. [Item by Steven French.] An interview with the 12th Doctor: “’The government has been too terrible to make fun of’: Peter Capaldi on satire, politics and privilege” in the Guardian.

…Capaldi became famous as the permanently angry spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in the BBC comedy The Thick of It, which ran from 2005 to 2012 and, after that, between 2013 and 2017, he played the sternest, least imp-ish Doctor Who in decades. In his new Apple TV show, a police procedural called Criminal Record, which Capaldi co-produced with his wife, Elaine Collins, he stars as an ageing detective: another scowler. Now, coffee in hand, he smiles affectionately. So, did he bump into any other Doctor Whos this morning? “David [Tennant, 10th Doctor] used to live in Crouch End, near me. Matt [Smith, 11th Doctor] lives around here. Jodie [Whittaker, 13th Doctor] is nearby, Christopher [Eccleston, 9th Doctor] too, I think.” But no, no encounters with his fellow alumni this morning, Capaldi says….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [By Ersatz Culture.] A few recent-ish Chengdu-related items ahead of the release of the Hugo nomination statistics.  NB: with a couple of exceptions, all of the links below are to Chinese language pages.

Chengdu con reports posted by Zero Gravity

A couple of days ago, RiverFlow posted updates to Twitter about the next issues of the Hugo winning fanzine, Zero Gravity.

https://twitter.com/heliu79457845/status/1745951117052453156

Several of the reports which (presumably) will appear in the upcoming issues have already been posted online.  Whilst I don’t think there are any previously-unheard revelations, they do provide further insight into the varying experiences that domestic attendees had.  In the order that they’ve been published online:

The last item isn’t really a con report as such; it’s more of an article about Brian Aldiss’ relationship with China.  It has an interesting tidbit that in 1979 Aldiss was part of a British delegation that had an audience with future-leader Deng Xiaoping.  This meeting was apparently captured on video, and the author ponders whether the recording might still be lurking in a vault somewhere.

WSJ China features science fiction in their review of the year

In December, the Chinese edition of The Wall Street Journal published the first of a series of articles about notable events in 2023, entitled “Recording the ‘Year of Science Fiction’: Is this year really a new starting point for Chinese science fiction?”  It opens (via Google Translate, with minor manual edits):

In years to come, when people look back on 2023, they will surely notice the weight of science fiction in it.

Since the beginning of the year, there has been the popularity of the movie “The Wandering Earth 2” and the [Chinese, not Netflix] TV adaptation of “The Three-Body Problem”.  “Journey to the West” with only a 2 million yuan [around $300k USD] budget unexpectedly earned over 60 million yuan [around $8.4m USD] at the box office. Phenomenal movies, topics such as the universe, the metaverse, and artificial intelligence continue to gain popularity. Science fiction themes in literary creation are experiencing a “big explosion” in China. People are increasingly talking about the impact of the Internet on everyday life.  Consider the changes that the rapid development of science and technology has had on people…

This year, following Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang respectively winning the Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 2015, and Best Novelette in 2016, there was once again a Chinese winner, Hai Ya, who won this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Winning [a Hugo] is highest honor for international science fiction writing.

People can’t help but wonder, did the golden age of European and American science fiction end in the last century? Has the secret to its resurrection been found in China today?

The core focus of the piece is the Chengdu Worldcon, and there’s a fair bit about the Chinese Hugo winners – although Enzhe Zhao is seemingly ignored – but the absence of any details or photos from the event makes me think that the author of the article was not in attendance.  There’s also a fair amount about the wider Chinese SF publishing industry.

New Year’s Day run in the vicinity of the con venue

January 1st saw a “welcome run” take place in the grounds of the SF Museum that was the venue for the Worldcon, as reported on Weibo by the Sports Chengdu account.  To the best of my knowledge, there have been no activities in the actual museum itself since the con – other than the Lukyanenko visit covered in a couple of earlier Scrolls – and no future events have been announced, other than the Chinese Nebula/Xingyun conference, previously covered in the December 12th Scroll.

(5) HOWARD WALDROP (1946-2024). Writer Howard Waldrop, creator of many brilliant short sff stories, died of a stroke on January 14 at the age of 77. Howard Waldrop’s classic “The Ugly Chickens” (1980) won a Nebula and World Fantasy Award. Waldrop was also recognized with a World Fantasy lifetime achievement award.

He was a wildly popular program participant at cons. His presentation “Howard Waldrop’s Condensed Cream of 1950s Science Fiction Movies” involved acting out key scenes from a lot of the movies. For 3-D movies, he hid under the table and threw wadded-up paper at the audience. He also was an unsurpassed live reader of his own stories.

Lawrence Person’s Waldrop obituary is especially recommended. However, there is no better introduction to Howard than the one he wrote himself for the now-shuttered SFF Net.

Are they science fiction? Are they fantasy? Are they alternate history? Are they from Mars or from Venus?

In the 1970s and 1980s, Howard Waldrop’s disorientingly strange/familiar stories made him a famous unknown writer.

They racked up best-of-the-year inclusions and award nominations, sometimes several stories a year in different categories. “Custer’s Last Jump” and “Mary Margaret Roadgrader” were nominated for the Nebula in 1977. In 1980, “The Ugly Chickens” captured both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award, and narrowly evaded the Hugo. In 1983, “Ike at the Mike” was up for the Hugo. In 1986, two Waldrop stories, “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” and “Heirs of the Perisphere,” were nominated for the same Nebula award, placing hardcore Waldrop fans in a schizophrenia-inducing double-bind.

Amid such celebrity, Waldrop himself continued to live below poverty level, volunteering for a top-secret study that helped determine the nutritional limits of using integrity as hamburger helper. As part of this historic experiment, he once pulled a story that had already sold to a big-bucks market in order to place it elsewhere for half the price.

Occasionally stories slipped through to higher-paying markets — PlayboyOmni, and the like. Howard compensated for these lapses of vigilance by selling his books only to very-high-quality small presses or to publishers who could be counted on not to distribute them.

Award nominations kept racking up: 1987, “The Lions are Asleep This Night,” for the Nebula. 1988, “Night of the Cooters” for the Hugo. 1989, “Do Ya, Do Ya Wanna Dance” for the Nebula, and 1990, “A Dozen Tough Jobs,” for the same.

And now, SFF.NET, bless its heart, has brought Howard Waldrop to the World Wide Web. So thanks to the wonders of cyberspace, to Howard’s uniquely contrarian marketing savvy, and to his inability to keep his stories off the awards short-lists, Howard Waldrop is now a legendary unknown writer.

Nor should it be forgotten that Waldrop wrote what became the Wild Cards universe’s origin story, “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (which I think of as “Jetboy’s Last Adventure”). Bradley Denton got Howard to tell how that happened in “Fifty Minutes Over Manchaca (now Menchaca) Road!”

…HW:  You’ll recall in “The Annotated Jetboy,” where I talk about Danny Deck writing the biography of Jetboy?  Danny Deck is the hero of Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.  And of course he writes Godot Is My Co-Pilot: A Life of Jetboy.

…Anyway, I was gonna do the Jetboy story about the A-bomb for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and either Lew or Bud (sf authors Lewis Shiner and Walton “Bud” Simons, both Austin-based at the time, like Howard), I can’t remember which, said, “You should talk to George.  George and that bunch in New Mexico have been playing a superhero role-playing game, and they’ve spent so much time and money on it that they’re trying to find a way to turn it into a book.  You oughta tell him about this Jetboy thing, because it sounds like something that would fit in there.”  If it was Lew I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Bud, and if it was Bud I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Lew.  One or the other of ‘em knew more about it than the other one did, right?

See, I didn’t even know about this.  George hadn’t mentioned it to me in a letter or anything.  So I wrote to George, and I said, “I’ve got a story that might fit with whatever goddamn thing you’re doing.  You should tell me about it.”

So he sent me the prototype Cut and Shuffle, which was all about what was going on in the Wild Cards world before anyone else even knew what it was.  And I said, “Yeah, that sounds about right, I can work with that.  But your timeline is all wrong.”  See, they were gonna start it in the 1980s, with the world having gone on for thirty years.

BD:  Oh, so they weren’t initially going to do an origin story?  They were going to jump into the world of Wild Cards three decades on?

HW:  Right, exactly.  I said, “That’s all wrong!  You gotta tell how all this came about!”  So I got them to tell me all the stuff about Dr. Tachyon, and the virus, and the whole thing, y’know.  And I stuck it sideways into the Jetboy/A-bomb story, and sent it to George.

And of course George says, “When we send you stuff, you should read it!  You got all this stuff wrong!”  I said, “Ah, that’s your job!  You can fix that!”

And he did!

Howard Waldrop

(6) TOM PURDOM (1936-2024). Tom Purdom died January 14. He was 85.

His first published short story, “Grieve for a Man”, appeared in the August, 1957 Fantastic Universe. His first novel was I Want the Stars (1964). His other novels include Five Against Arlane, and The Barons of Behavior. His literary memoir, When I Was Writing, appeared in installments in The New York Review of Science Fiction.

From 1990 to 2023 he had almost three dozen short stories published in Asimov’s.

He served as a Vice President of SFWA in its early years.

His wife, Sara, predeceased him in 2006. He is survived by his son, Christopher.

Filer Mark Roth-Whitworth knew him, and shared these memories on Facebook:

I’ve known the Purdoms since the late Sixties. He was a constant in Philly fandom. In the late seventies, he and his late wife Sara had house parties, as did Winona and her ex, Tom Smith and Viv, and later, when my ex (Morgan’s mother) and I bought a house in the area, we all rotated – was it every Friday but second (the PSFS meeting) having an open house. Michael Swanwick would show sometimes, and then there was the late David Sherman. Not sure when, but Tom built a small harpsichord from a kit.

And he was always there, his loud baritone… and now he’s gone.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 15, 1974 Shaun Tan, 50. Australian-born and resident Shaun Tan’s one of my favorite artist and writers. Not just for his work which is extraordinarily wonderful, but for being a really nice individual. Tan was an easy choice for the Birthday for this Scroll.

His fiction is all YA. It’s all illustrations with words. Or not, sometimes. Think school libraries as where you’ll find it in Australia. Children love him. School librarians adore him just as much.  

So now some selected works by him that I’ve enjoyed.

The Haunted Playground also known as The Playground would do Stephen King proud if King wrote children’s literature (I don’t think he’s written any, has he?) with one male encountering a larger group of males on a playground that are not what they seem to be. Truly chilling. 

The Arrival has a man coming from a city that might or might not be in Eastern Europe to what might or might not be New York City. The city is awesomely depicted as steampunk. Did I mention that it has no spoken narrative?

The Lost Thing is set in the near future, a dystopian Melbourne. It’s  is a story about Shaun, a kid who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere. And he found something that doesn’t fit in either. (SPOILER ALERT. GO AWAY FOR A AWHILE.) There’s a secret utopia out there. Really there. (YOU CAN COME BACK BACK NOW.) 

It was adapted into a fifteen-minute animated short film which was directed him and Andrew Ruhemann and narrated by Tim Minchin. It won the Oscar for Best Animated Short.

One he didn’t do himself as creator is The Stray Cat, a tale of the supernatural horror by writer Steve Paulsen with rather macabre illustrations by him. The cat, a black cat of course, is scarily drawn.

Librarians have constantly praised Tan for understanding children and being willing to give generously of his time to meet with them. 

Those illustrated works are an excellent representation of his works. Now let’s talk about his Awards. Usually I mention Hugos first but I want to note the Awards that the folks who in children’s books gave him.

No, I forgot an Award, what was it! Ahhhh that one. He won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from the Swedish Arts Council, considered by everyone in children’s literature to be the major Award in the field.

In our community, he got the Hugo for Best Professional Artist at Aussiecon 4 (nice to win at home, isn’t it?), again at Renovation, nominated for two more at Anticipation and Denvention 3.  

There were three World Fantasy Awards first Best Artist and another nomination. I can’t count the number of Ditmar Awards and nominations that he received. Seriously it’s that many.

Shaun Tan accepts Astrid Lindgren Award.

(8) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. “Peregrine moon lander and its cargo will likely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere” reports Engadget.

It looks like the Peregrine lunar lander’s final resting place will be back at home where it started. The doomed spacecraft, which experienced an anomaly shortly after launch and has been leaking propellant ever since, is expected to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, Astrobotic wrote in an update on X this weekend. The company plans to host a press conference with NASA on Thursday January 18 at 12PM ET to discuss the lander’s fate.

And when that happens, all the SFnal cremains aboard will burn up on re-entry. LiveScience lists the notables whose DNA is aboard: “Peregrine moon lander carrying human remains doomed after ‘critical loss’ of propellant”.

Controversially, the spacecraft is also carrying human remains, including those of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett; and Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and DeForest Kelley, who played Nyota Uhura, Montgomery Scott and Dr. Leonard McCoy, respectively, on the classic sci-fi show. Stored alongside these remains are samples of DNA of the U.S. presidents George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

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