Pixel Scroll 2/22/24 Home Is The Pixel, Home From The Scroll

(1) WE’RE BACK. “Odysseus becomes first US spacecraft to land on moon in over 50 years”CNN not only has the story, they enlisted Captain Kirk – William Shatner – to help tell it on the air.

The US-made Odysseus lunar lander has made a touchdown on the moon, surpassing its final key milestones — and the odds — to become the first commercial spacecraft to accomplish such a feat, but the condition of the lander remains in question.

Intuitive Machines, however, says the mission has been successful.

“I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface, and we are transmitting,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus just announced on the webcast. “Welcome to the moon.”

Odysseus is the first vehicle launched from the United States to land on the moon’s surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Mission controllers from Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based company that developed the robotic explorer, confirmed the lander reached the lunar surface Thursday evening….

…After some intense waiting, Intuitive Machines, the company behind the Odysseus lunar landing mission, has confirmed the spacecraft is “upright and starting to send data.”

That’s a major milestone…

William Shatner on CNN.

(2) 2023 BUSINESS MEETING MINUTES POSTED. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The 2023 WSFS Business Meeting minutes are now available at the WSFS rules page.

All documents are updated except the Resolutions of Rulings of Continuing Effect, which are still being reviewed by the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee. 

(3) HELP PAY TRIBUTE TO STEVE MILLER. Sharon Lee is asking people to send Locus their recollections about her husband, Steve Miller, who died on February 20. This link should work: [email protected].

(4) THE YEAR’S BEST AFRICAN SPECULATIVE FICTION VOLUME THREE: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction Volume Three anthology is now open to submissions through March 31, 2024. See full guidelines at the link.

This next volume of the series covers works originally published in 2023. It will be published with a release date of late 2024 under the Caezik SF & Fantasy imprint (Arc Manor).

​Editors for this volume are Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Chinaza Eziaghighala.

(5) LINK Q&A. “Interview: Kelly Link on Writing Her First Novel” at New York Magazine.

How did you intellectually and practically and physically and spiritually transition from writing short stories to writing a rather long novel?

Even if one is a short-story writer at heart, this is a world of novels. This is a world where readers love novels, which I get. I love them too. But if you’re a short-story writer, any time that you are talking with somebody, they will say, “Well, have you ever thought about writing a novel?”

My husband and I ran a small press for a couple of decades. I had the enormous privilege of working with a bunch of writers on novels. I also, in my writing life, have a group of friends that I meet with, sometimes on a daily basis, and they are all novelists. We spend a lot of our time talking about the possibilities that novels present to a writer. And I love their books. I get to read them when they’re working on them. And eventually, if you’re me, at least, you start to think, Well, what could I do at this length? My very good friend, one of the writers that I work with, Holly Black, said to me about nine years ago, “If you don’t intentionally write a novel, you will write one by accident. And so you might as well plan out how to do it intentionally.”

(6) MYMAN ON THE 2023 HUGOS. Francesca Myman, who attended the Chengdu Worldcon, has written several illuminating posts about the current Hugo Award crisis.

Here’s the first post from February 16:

…The thing that gets me is, if they truly believed they were taking care of people’s safety, and they couldn’t possibly think about it creatively and find other solutions because {reasons}, they were remarkably blasé about a lack of reasonable guidance.

And it does seem that the internal justification was safety. On June 7 Kat Jones says “I’m pointing out examples of both that I find for these fan writers out of an abundance of caution, because I’m assuming we’re talking about the safety of our Chinese con-running friends when we’re making these evaluations. Maybe any fan writer concerns can be mitigated by asking them to curate their voter packet materials with our Chinese friends’ safety in mind?” Of course, “I’m assuming” isn’t the same thing as “I’m asking” and no answers are given.

Then in the February 3 interview, when Chris Barkley asked if people were likely to be endangered on some sort of social or physical level, Dave’s response was some aggrandizing bluster about “the friends I would make and how much I love them and how much I would set myself on fire for them if I needed to,” which inappropriately puts the blame for everything underhanded and weaselly and inexcusable that he did into the laps of the very people he’s claiming to protect.

I’m not here to say Chinese censorship doesn’t exist, we ourselves had to comply with regulations and couldn’t sell magazines and books at Worldcon and it did cause me a considerable amount of stress (and to be fair it was incredibly difficult to obtain any information about exactly what we needed to do to be in compliance, things like whether or not we were allowed to sell digital subscriptions and the actual problem was physical materials sold on site, or whether no sales at all were permitted), but the active participation of Westerners in hand-selecting targets for censorship is stomach-churning….

The second post appeared on February 17:

Soooo while I do think you should read my last long-but-important post about the Hugos, literally the MOST important news about what happened to the Hugos is this: Vajra Chandrasekera on Bluesky linked to a Chinese language post by “zionius” explaining that the supposed “slate” of Chinese voters that was removed from the voting was actually the result of a recommended list from Chinese publication Science Fiction World, their most respected and popular magazine. To be clear, a close analogy is if people removed a batch of Hugo votes from the voting process because they were listed in the Locus Recommended Reading List and voters had too-similar patterns because of that. A recommended reading list is NOT a slate.

Apparently there were one to nine recommendations per SF World category including both Chinese and non-Chinese creators. I suppose the “one recommendation” category, whatever that was, could be tough — but nine recommendations? That’s quite normal for a recommended reading list. The readership of SF World is vast, way higher than Locus, let me tell you that (Chandrasekera claims it’s bigger than that of every western SF magazine put together which seems plausible to me), so they have a ton of influence, but that doesn’t make it illegal….

The third post came out on February 19:

…If McCarty DID receive an earlier heads-up — I’m envisioning something like “you must remove these things because their inclusion will harm us” — we have no way to be sure. And it’s possible I’m wrong here. We lack a WHOLE lot of papertrail, and it’s probably not the worst thing we don’t have it, in terms of all the aforementioned safety concerns.

About which I would like to add: I imagined that if I had been in the committee’s position I would have been most worried about someone saying something about “Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, negatives of China” onstage. But I don’t really have a basis to determine the impact of speeches, so. . .

. . .I asked an expat friend yesterday what the consequences would be if someone, for example, used the Worldcon stage to opine on the political situation in Taiwan, and got an “eek” face emoji.

Eek face emoji situation, I guess. Here’s what he said, which I found particularly illuminating:

“The entire community would face repercussions. Outright censoring, problems for the organizers, attracting Beijing’s ire. The government liaison who helped bring this thing to Chengdu would have severe career blowback and would either lose position or have to pivot and punish to save themselves. It would be a very selfish thing to do and would hurt the Chinese sci fi community significantly. Think of what happened when Bjork called out ‘Free Tibet!’ She said that one phrase on a stage in Beijing and for a decade + afterwards there was a massive crackdown on all artist performances and a massive impoverishment of live music in general. All the festivals struggled. Probably the most damaging thing done to China’s live music scene in the modern era. And Bjork did it because she didn’t know or care about consequences, she just wanted to say her piece. Because the West teaches Westerners that we are morally superior to everyone else and have a right or obligation to ‘speak truth to power’ especially in non white non European places.”

So based on this and other research I absolutely believe safety concerns were real. Which is why I keep coming back around to the point that the best way of handling that was just letting the rules play out and letting Chinese voters take the lead as they were meant to.

(7) ANOTHER ONE ON THE SHELF. “Stephen King Is Baffled by Decision To Keep New Salem’s Lot Movie on the Shelf” reports Comingsoon.net.

Salem’s Lot Still in Limbo

Back in November of 2023, King championed the adaptation of his celebrated vampire novel, saying it had a feeling of ”Old Hollywood” to it. The movie was originally due to be released in 2022, and then in the Spring of 2023, where it lost its spot on the calendar to Warner horror stablemate Evil Dead Rise.

Then came the SAG-AFTRA strike, which reportedly caused Warner Bros. to reconsider a theatrical release altogether, subsequently being eyed for a streaming debut on Max. However, a Warner spokesperson told Variety that ”No decision has been made about the film’s future distribution plans.”

Yet nothing else has been said about the film’s status since.

King isn’t feeling all that patient with Warner Bros. and has once again reiterated his praise for the film while failing to hide his bafflement at its continued release limbo.

”Between you and me, Twitter, I’ve seen the new SALEM’S LOT, and it’s quite good. Old-school horror filmmaking: slow build, big payoff. Not sure why WB is holding it back; not like it’s embarrassing, or anything. Who knows. I just write the fucking things.”…

(8) PRODUCTION ALMOST SHUTTERED, NOW OSCAR CONTENDER. The Hollywood Reporter found out “Why Megan Ellison Saved the Animated Film ‘Nimona’”.

In January of 2021, Megan Ellison got a call from Erik Lomis, the former head of distribution at her company, Annapurna Pictures, asking if she’d like to take a look at a movie whose filmmakers needed a lifeline. Disney was days away from announcing that it planned to shutter Blue Sky Studios, the 500-person, Greenwich, Connecticut-based animation studio it had inherited in the 2019 Fox acquisition, and with that closure, the Burbank media giant would be dropping Blue Sky’s most promising movie, Nimona.

“I wasn’t really engaging in new film projects at the time, but being curious, I said yes,” Ellison said, in an email.

Ellison watched the hand-drawn storyboard reels, which directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane had adapted from ND Stevenson’s 2015 graphic novel, and instantly connected with the title character, a shape-shifter voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz who appears most often as a young woman, but can change into animals or other people. “I had never seen a character like Nimona in a film, let alone an animated family movie,” Ellison said. “I needed this movie when I was a kid, and quite frankly, I needed it right then and there. It was the perfect story to come into my life at that moment.”

Nimona — which has LGBTQ themes that Disney executives wanted to downplay — seemed destined to become a tax write-off before Ellison scooped it up. Now the movie, which Netflix released last June, is nominated for an Oscar for animated feature…. 

(9) ANALOG SCORES GERROLD INTERVIEW. There’s a “Q&A With David Gerrold” at The Astounding Analog Companion.

Analog Editor: What is your history with Analog?
David Gerrold: I have a long personal history with Analog. My first year of high school was at Van Nuys High. The library was a good place to hang out at lunch time and they had a subscription to Astounding. I started working my way through every issue they had. Astounding represented (to me) the high point of science fiction magazines. It introduced me to so many great stories and writers, that it became a goal. It was decades before I sold a story to the magazine, but that was one of the high points of my career.
This story was a sequel to an earlier piece where Ganny knit a spaceship out of cables and plastic sheeting. I suspect that construction of habitats in space would probably use a lot more fabricated materials than metal. So that was the spark. But once I’d written about how to build the ship, I began to wonder about the interplanetary politics, the economics, and how it all might work where everything is light minutes away from everything else. I think that’s part of the effect that reading Astounding/Analog had on me—I want to know how things work, especially in science fiction.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 22, 1959 Kyle Maclachlan, 65. I of course came to know Kyle Maclachlan first for playing Paul Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Like Timothée Chalamet, who was twenty-six when he played Paul Atreides, Maclachlan also was too old at twenty-five for the teen aged character. Just noting that.

(Remember that I’m not going to not noting everything that he’s done, just what I find interesting,)

Kyle Maclachlan at Cannes in 2017.

It was his first film role which I didn’t know until now, so he was old for an actor getting his film career going.

Next up was Blue Velvet in which he was Jeffrey Beaumont. Definitely genre, as it is a thriller mystery blended with psychological horror. Also directed by David Lynch. Weird film, and even weirder role for film. 

He did an excellent job as Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, a great SF film. He was not in The Hidden II which was not a great film. 

Yes, the Twin Peaks franchise is genre given some of the things that happened here. His Dale Cooper character is played to perfection over to the thirty episodes of the original series and the eighteen episodes of Twin Peaks known as Twin Peaks: The Return and Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. He was also in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

Did you know that he voiced Superman? Well he did. In one of the better animated films, Justice League: The New Frontier, he was as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman. He voiced him very well. 

He showed up as Edward Wilde, a librarian in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, one of the films in The Librarian franchise. Just on the off chance that you’ve not seen it, I’ll say no more as it, but it like all The Librarian franchise, is great popcorn viewing. 

He was Cliff Vandercave in The Flintstones, the only Flintstones film worth watching. 

Lastly he was in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the dual role of Calvin Johnson / The Doctor. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MASTODON UNDER ATTACK. TechCrunch says “Discord took no action against server that coordinated costly Mastodon spam attacks”.

Over the weekend, hackers targeted federated social networks like Mastodon to carry out ongoing spam attacks that were organized on Discord, and conducted using Discord applications. But Discord has yet to remove the server where the attacks are facilitated, and Mastodon community leaders have been unable to reach anyone at the company.

“The attacks were coordinated through Discord, and the software was distributed through Discord,” said Emelia Smith, a software engineer who regularly works on trust and safety issues in the fediverse, a network of decentralized social platforms built on the ActivityPub protocol. “They were using bots that integrated directly with Discord, such that a user didn’t even need to set up any servers or anything like that, because they could just run this bot directly from Discord in order to carry out the attack.”

Smith attempted to contact Discord through official channels on February 17, but still has only received form responses. She told TechCrunch that while Discord has mechanisms for reporting individual users or messages, it lacks a clear way to report whole servers.

“We’ve seen this costing server admins of Mastodon, Misskey, and others hundreds or thousands of dollars in infrastructure costs, and overall denial of service,” Smith wrote to Discord Trust & Safety in an email viewed by TechCrunch. “The only common link seems to be this discord server.”…

(13) A TUNE, NOT TUNA. “Whale song mystery solved by scientists” reports BBC.

… Baleen whales are a group of 14 species, including the blue, humpback, right, minke and gray whale. Instead of teeth, the animals have plates of what is called baleen, through which they sieve huge mouthfuls of tiny creatures from the water.

Exactly how they produce complex, often haunting songs has been a mystery until now. Prof Elemans said it was “super-exciting” to have figured it out.

He and his colleagues carried out experiments using larynxes, or “voice boxes”, that had been carefully removed from three carcasses of stranded whales – a minke, a humpback and a sei whale. They then blew air through the massive structures to produce the sound.

In humans, our voices come from vibrations when air passes over structures called vocal folds in our throat. Baleen whales, instead, have a large U-shaped structure with a cushion of fat at the top of the larynx.

This vocal anatomy allows the animals to sing by recycling air, and it prevents water from being inhaled….

(14) DEAR SCHADENFREUDE. Between bites of popcorn Neolithic Sheep exacted a little payback.  

(15) YOU DON’T SAY. Vox Day also is not one to overlook an opportunity for payback: “SF Freaks Gonna Freak” [Internet Archive link.]

Dave McCarty, the head of the Hugo Awards, has been accused of sexual assault by several women in the literary ghetto formerly known as the science fiction community…. 

Even though Vox credited the news to something called Fandom Pulse, Jon Del Arroz’ project to replace Bounding Into Comics, he knows the actual source of the story was File 770, which came in for a little smack, too:

…I simply note that longtime Hugo-centric SF fandom site File 770 is named, by the owner’s own admission, after what was either an orgy of sorts, or even more tragically, just the first party that the sort of losers whose social lives revolve around an annual science fiction event ever attended.

[Quoting the Wikipedia] “File 770 is named for the party in Room 770 at the 1951 Worldcon that upstaged the convention….

As Jar Jar Binks famously said, “How wude!”

(16) MIDNIGHT PALS. But do you know who’s really spinning in his grave? Read this and Bitter Karella will tell you.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Laura, Joyce Scrivner, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Kevin Standlee, 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 OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/24 All These Pixels Are Someone Else’s Fault

(1) SOME PEOPLE SHINE. Let Looper introduce you to “Stephen King’s Harry Potter: The Fan-Made Concept That’s Too Weird To Be Real”. This is quite something.

When it comes to accomplished fiction writers, you don’t get much more prodigious than Stephen King. So iconic is his work that the YouTube channel Yellow Medusa created an artificial intelligence-driven video that hypothesizes how the “Harry Potter” films would look like if King — and not J.K. Rowling — created the franchise. This is one of several videos where the channel reimagines the “Harry Potter” movies if they were directed or written by other famous creators….

(2) SFPA MEMBERS NOMINATE FOR AWARDS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association reminded members today of the deadlines to submit nominees for three annual awards.

RHYSLING AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Rhysling Chairs are Brian U. Garrison & David C. Kopaska-Merkel. Nominations are open until February 15 for the Rhysling Awards for the best poems published in 2023. Only SFPA members may nominate one short poem and/or one long poem for the award. Poets may not nominate their own work. All genres of speculative poetry are eligible. Short poems must be 11–49 lines (101–499 words for prose poems); Long poems are 50–1,199 lines, not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2023; include publication and issue, or press if from a book or anthology. Online nomination form: bit.ly/2024RhyslingNom. Or nominate by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA.

DWARF STARS AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Dwarf Stars Chair is Brittany Hause. Nominations due by May 1, but poems may be suggested year-round. Enter title, author, and publisher of speculative micro poems published in 2023 at https://bit.ly/ dwarfstars or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Anyone may suggest poems, their own or others’; there is no limit.

ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Elgin Chair is Felicia Martínez. Nominations due by June 15; more info will come by MailChimp. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2022 or 2023 to [email protected] or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to nominations, but you may not nominate your own work. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Steven French.] “Fiction to look out for in 2024” in the Guardian includes an SF novel tipped for the Booker:

…in September, there’s my early pick for this year’s Booker: Creation Lake (Jonathan Cape) by Rachel Kushner. It’s a wild and brilliantly plotted piece of science fiction. This is the story of a secret agent, the redoubtable Sadie Smith, sent to infiltrate and disrupt a group of “anti-civvers” – eco-terrorists – in a France of the near future where industrial agriculture and sinister corporations dominate the landscape. Think Kill Bill written by John le Carré: smart, funny and compulsively readable….

(4) NO MCU? REALLY? Rolling Stone calls these “The 150 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time”.

…So when it came time to rank the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, we couldn’t stop at 100. Instead, we went bigger and bulked it up with an extra 50 entries, all the better to pay lip service to more of the pulpy, the poppy and the perverse entries — not to mention some of our personal favorites — that don’t normally get shout-outs in these kinds of lists. There were more than a few arguments when it came to the picks. (It was also decided early on that superhero movies as a whole usually fall out the parameters of science fiction, so you won’t the MCU, et al., canon on this list — with one very notable exception.) Here are our picks for the best the genre has to offer. Live long and prosper. May the force be with you….

At the bottom:

150 ‘Tank Girl’ (1995)

What would the post-apocalyptic world look like if the hero was a riot grrrl and the soundtrack was curated by Courtney Love? Behold the adventures of Tank Girl (Lorri Petty), as our hero roams through the decimated Outback, years after a comet hit earth and an evil corporation seized control. It’s got some of the hallmarks of a traditional sci-fi adventure — a jet-flying sidekick played by Naomi Watts; an army of half-kangaroo, half-man beings, including one played by Ice-T — but Rachel Talalay’s adaptaion of the cult British comic diverges from the typical dystopia formula by layering everything over a very 1990s alt aesthetic, all bright colors and snappy, sexualized wisecracks. “No celebrities, no cable TV, no water — it hasn’t rained in 11 years,” Tank Girl explains early on in the film. “Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub — so it ain’t all bad.” —Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Rated number one:

1 ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

It begins at the Dawn of Man and ends with the rebirth of humanity, with Homo sapiens having finally been granted one last evolutionary level-up. In between those two poles of the human experience — one in our prehistoric past, the other light years into our future (hope springs eternal) — Stanley Kubrick give us what still feels like the benchmark for science fiction cinema that engages you in mind, body, and soul. It’s not just that his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” has become part of our collective consciousness, enough that Barbie could kick off with an extended riff on one of its most famous scenes and everyone got the joke. Or that 2001 contains what may be the single best example of film editing as a communicative art form unto itself. Or that the closest the film has to an antagonist, the self-aware HAL 9000 supercomputer who discovers that machines are no more immune from neurosis and malice than its flesh-and-blood programmers are, is the character we end up feeling the most sympathy towards. “Daissss-yyyy… daisssss-yyyyy…”….

…The wisecrack was always that 2001: A Space Odyssey was exactly like the big, black monolith that connected its eon-spanning chapters: gorgeous, meticulously constructed, inhuman in its perfection and inscrutable in terms of concrete meaning. Conventional wisdom is that it’s actually closer to the Star Child — something that takes the entirety of the universe in and stares at it in awe, reflecting back how far we have come and how far we still have to go. —DF

(5) LAWYERS ASSEMBLE! We know this, but it’s a new year so let’s pretend it’s news: “Mickey Mouse Hits Public Domain With Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’” at Deadline.

As of today, the traditionally protective Walt Disney Co will have to deal with an onslaught of Mickey Mouse parodies, mockeries and likely rather explicit variations as the iconic character slips into the public domain.

Sorta.

In the sober light of 2024, Steamboat Willie, the 1928 short that effectively launched the empire that Walt built, can now be used by anyone and everyone. The legal status of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy, from earlier that same year, has been long fought over and probably not something to which Disney was looking forward. Yet, in a new year that also sees Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking Orlando, Peter Pan, Charlie Chaplin’s The CircusBuster Keaton‘s The Cameraman and Tigger from AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner now in the public domain, if you are anticipating a Steamboat Willie free-for-all, think again.

Besides Disney being notoriously litigious, the color version of Mickey that came into being in 1935’s The Band Concert, is a lot different in 2024 than the non-speaking Mickey of Steamboat Willie in 1928. Evolving over the decades, the brand icon that is today’s Mickey has a lot more meat on his bones, is full of many more smiles, has that chirpy voice and a far less rough disposition, wears white gloves, and clearly looks a lot less a rat than the Steamboat Willie Mickey – and, to paraphrase MC Hammer: you can’t touch that.

“More modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise,” a Disney spokesperson said of the dos and don’ts of the sound-synched film entering the public domain today….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 70. This first novel by Midori Snyder that I read was The Flight of Michael McBride, a three decades old work by her set in the old American West blending aspects of  First Folk, Irish-American and Mexican folklore. A most excellent read. 

Like Pamela Dean with her Tam Lin novel, she’s delved in Scottish myth as her first novel, Soulstring, was inspired by the Scottish legend of Tam Lin

Midori Snyder

It was however not her first published work as that was “Demon” in the Bordertown anthology, the second of the Bordertown series.  She would later do two more Bordertown stories, “Alison Gross” that’d be in Life on the Border, and “Dragon Child” in The Essential Bordertown.

Now don’t go looking for any of these as ePubs as, like the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series which I noted in Ellen Datlow’s Birthday a few days ago, ePub rights weren’t written into the publication contracts. 

The newest Bordertown anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, is available as an ePub.

Next up is a trilogy of books that remind me of Jane Yolen’s The Great Altar Saga in tone  — New MoonSadar’s Keep, and Beldan’s Fire. They were published as adult fantasy by Tor Books starting thirty four years ago where they were The Queens’ Quarter Series. Interestingly they would be reprinted as young adult fantasy by Firebird Books just eighteen years ago as The Oran Trilogy. I see that Firebird is no longer the domain of Sharyn November which it was explicitly related for.

Now I positively adore The Innamorati which draws off the the Commedia dell’Arte theatre and the Roman legends as well. This stellar novel gained her Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It is without doubt her best novel – great characters, fascinating setting and a wonderful story.

Hannah’s Garden was supposed to be one of the novels inspired by a painting by Brian Froud. (I remember de Lint’s The Wild Wood and Windling’s The Wood Wife are two of the others but I forget the fourth. I know they got their novels with his art but I don’t if she or the fourth writer did.) It’s a more personal novel, more scary in tone I think than her other work is. 

Except the Queen was written by her and Yolen. It’s a contemporary fantasy featuring two fey who are banished here in the guise of old women. I’ll not spoil what happened next. That was her last novel and it was published thirteen years ago. 

She wrote the title short story for Windling The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors anthology anthology about child abuse survivors. Grim reading but recommended. It was nominated for an Otherwise Award.

It’s one of a not deep number of short stories she’s written, none collected so far. 

She did the text to the “Barbara Allen” graphic story Charles Vess illustrated and first published in his Ballads chapbook in 1997 which I’ve got here somewhere. Let me go see… yes, it’s also in the autographed copy of The Book of Ballads that he sent me. That came out on Tor seventeen years ago. God, time goes by fast! 

Though not about her fiction writing, she would win a World Fantasy Award for her editorial work on Windling’s Endincott Studio website. It is a fascinating site covering what Terri, Midori and others think is interesting in fairy tales, myth, folklore, and the oral storytelling tradition. It is here now.

(7) EASING A BARRIER TO CHINA TOURISM. For the next wave of fans who may be thinking about the trip: “China to simplify visa applications for US tourists as both countries seek to improve relations” at the South China Morning Post.

China will simplify the visa application process for tourists from the United States as part of its efforts to step up interactions between people from the two countries.

Beijing has also been seeking to woo more international visitors as part of its wider efforts to boost its sluggish economic recovery.

Starting from January 1, those applying for tourist visas within the US will no longer need to submit proof they have a round-trip air ticket and hotel reservation, as well as their itinerary or a letter of invitation, according to a notice published on the website of the Chinese embassy in Washington on Friday.

The measure aims to “further facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States”, it said.

It added that “since visa applications are processed on a case-by-case basis”, applicants should still refer to the Chinese embassy and consulates-general for specifics….

The move follows a cut in visa fees for US applicants of around 25 per cent until December 31, 2024 announced earlier this month, and a previous decision to allow walk-in visa applications.

(8) WHAT, ME WARP? Currently open for bids at the Heritage Auctions site is “Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art”. It was up to $1,950 when I last checked.

Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art (EC, 1976). Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) join Vulcan officer Alfred E. Neuman (who will likely soon meet a terrible fate, hinted at by his red shirt) tap dance their way across the cover of the parody magazine to promote the “Star Trek” Musical buried within its pages. Spock looks surprised to see Neuman sporting a pair of pointy Vulcan ears, with the adage “Keep on Trekin'” printed on his uniform. A fun poke at the beloved sci-fi TV series painted in gouache on illustration board with an image area of 16″ x 16.75″, matted and Plexiglas-front framed to 27″ x 28.5″. Light frame wear. Signed by Rickard in the lower right corner and in Excellent condition.

(9) TROLLING WITH A MAGNET. “He Has Fished Out Grenades, Bikes and Guns. Can Fame Be Far Behind?” He couldn’t make a living streaming himself playing video games – but people want to see what his powerful magnet retrieves from the waters around New York.  

… The grenade was not without precedent. Two months before, Mr. Kane managed to pull a gun out of a lake near where he lives. It might have been used in a murder, he suggested, and he was told there was a chance he might be subpoenaed. He was eager to avoid that entanglement.

On that unseasonably warm November afternoon, Mr. Kane, who is 39 and looks a bit like the actor Seth Rogen playing a deckhand, just yanked the thing right off his magnet. It took quite a bit of effort, given that the magnet (from Kratos Magnetics, for $140) was advertised as having a “pull force” of 3,800 pounds. The gunpowder had been emptied out of the bottom, so he figured the corroded explosive was something that would put him on the map, rather than blow him off it. Still, he put it on the ground and covered it with a plastic bucket — just in case.

As he dialed 911, he paused to wonder: Would the operator remember him? Was he something of a known quantity by now? Just the week before, he’d found a top-loading Smith & Wesson in Prospect Park Lake. And he’d also found a completely different grenade about a month ago, which he said led the police to evacuate a restaurant near the United Nations. But to his disappointment, that day’s dispatcher didn’t react.

“You’re gonna know Let’s Get Magnetic,” Mr. Kane told the operator, referencing the name of his YouTube channel. “I’m getting famous.”

His partner, Barbie Agostini, continued filming as the police arrived. Two beat cops who showed up took some pictures of the grenade on their phones. Meanwhile, a woman pushed a baby carriage inches away from it. More cops eventually came to cordon off the area, but the content creation did not stop there. Another officer squatted on the ground to take more close-ups. Wanting a wider-angle view of the ruckus he’d wrought, Mr. Kane moved slightly down the sidewalk and kept fishing.

It wasn’t long before a well-put-together young woman in a pinned-on hat stopped and stared as Mr. Kane pulled a hunk of junk out of the water with his magnet.

“What are you guys fishing for?” she asked.

“Anything metal,” he told her. “This is a bed frame from the 1900s.”

The woman looked astounded at this dubious bit of history.

“God bless you,” she said….

…After lunch, Mr. Kane, Ms. Agostini and Jose returned to their duplex. Mr. Kane pulled out a Styrofoam chest full of his favorite finds. They included the magazines from four guns, the barrel of a sniper rifle and two tiny cannonballs that might predate the city itself, which he plans on giving to the American Museum of Natural History.

Evidence of a collector’s lifestyle exists throughout the apartment — unopened retro video games and hand-painted Japanese anime figurines covered nearly every spare inch of wall space. Mr. Kane pulled out some tiny pieces of metal from the cooler, one in the shape of a bow and arrow, and another that looked like a ball-peen hammer.

“This is black magic,” he said. “One hundred percent.” Then came a key fob for an Audi that still lit up when he pressed a button. “This unlocks a car,” he said. “We just don’t know where the car is.” Then came his collection of iPhones, which he proudly displayed on his purple couch. All of them worked. Well, all but one. “It smokes if you turn it on,” he said. “But that’s the only problem.”…

(10) BUT IF HE TELLS – THEN WE’LL KNOW! No, content moderation is not supposed to be a big secret. “Elon Musk’s X Loses Bid To Change California Content Moderation Law” reports Deadline.

Elon Musk‘s X on Thursday has lost its bid to change a California law on content moderation disclosure by social media companies.

X sued California in September to undo the state’s content moderation law, saying it violated free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and California’s state constitution.

Today, U.S. District Judge William Shubb dismissed the social media company’s request in an eight-page decision .

The law requires large social media companies to issue semiannual reports that describe their content moderation practices. They must also provide data on the number of objectionable posts and how they were addressed.

“While the reporting requirement does appear to place a substantial compliance burden on social medial companies, it does not appear that the requirement is unjustified or unduly burdensome within the context of First Amendment law,” Shubb wrote.

X did not immediately respond. The company’s content moderation policies have long been contentious, dating to before Musk bought the company.

(11) ANOTHER INKLING NAMED LEWIS. This postcard ad for The Major and the Missionary edited by Diana Pavlac Glyer caught my eye and reminded me to kick off the new year by mentioning this collection of letters of interest to Inklings fans.

After the death of his brother, Warren Lewis lived at The Kilns in Oxford, spent time with friends, edited his famous brother’s letters, and did a little writing of his own. Then, out of the blue, he got a letter from a stranger on the far side of the world. Over the years that followed, he and Blanche Biggs, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, shared a vibrant correspondence. These conversations encompassed their views on faith, their politics, their humor, the legacy of C. S. Lewis, and their own trials and longings.

Taken as a whole, these collected letters paint a colorful portrait that illuminates not only the particulars of distant times and places but the intimate contours of a rare friendship.

Edited and introduced by Bandersnatch author Diana Pavlac Glyer.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Mark Roth-Whitworth, 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 Peer.]

AudioFile’s 2023 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks

Left: Daniel Henning. Photo by Stephen Mosher. Right: Emily Woo Zeller. Photo by William Callan

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Audiobooks of 2023. They are listed below with links to AudioFile’s reviews.

AudioFile’s 2023 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks are packed with not-to-be-missed performances and unforgettable stories. Their selections will have you traversing far-off solar systems and fantasy realms and will give a new window into old classics. 

AudioFile also will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators across all the categories of Best Audiobooks 2023 on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine. Follow the podcast here. Daniel Henning’s interview will be airing on December 7.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY & HORROR AUDIOBOOKS FOR 2023

GODKILLER by Hannah Kaner | Read by Kit Griffiths (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Harper Audio | 12.75 hrs.]

This fantasy with captivating world-building and characters requires an expert emotional performance—and Kit Griffiths delivers. Their narration is at once endearing and powerful, truly embodying characters of different ages, races, and genders. It’s a master class in inclusive narration within a highly engaging story.  

HOLLY: Holly Gibney, Book 3 by Stephen King | Read by Justine Lupe, Stephen King (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Simon & Schuster Audio | 15.5 hrs.]

Justine Lupe brings a beloved Stephen King character, Holly Gibney, vividly to life with her narration. Listeners will feel like they are part of a true-crime podcast as Lupe transports them into a relentless nightmare.

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS by TJ Klune | Read by Daniel Henning (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Macmillan Audio | 15.5 hrs.]

Narrator Daniel Henning demonstrates perfect comedic timing and impressive vocal versatility in this queer/sci-fi retelling of “Pinocchio.” This laugh-out-loud, emotional audiobook asks listeners to question what it means to be human.

SILVER NITRATE by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Read by Gisela Chípe (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Random House Audio | 13 hrs.]

Gisela Chípe’s skilled narration captivates in this immersive novel about childhood best friends, set in ‘90s Mexico City. Chípe’s excellent pacing and dynamic voice keep the tension high as events turn deadly.  

TRANSLATION STATE by Ann Leckie | Read by Adjoa Andoh (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Hachette Audio | 12 hrs.]

Adjoa Andoh narrates a complex story about identity and belonging set in the Imperial Radch universe. She expertly navigates the emotional depths of the three main characters; her performance resonates in profound ways.

THE WATER OUTLAWS by S.L. Huang | Read by Emily Woo Zeller (AudioFile Earphones Award) [Dreamscape | 19.75 hrs.]

Emily Woo Zeller’s fierce narration perfectly suits Huang’s sweeping fantasy retelling of the Chinese classic “Water Margin.” Zeller voices glorious action-packed fight scenes with carefully intensifying pacing, and her kaleidoscopic voice enhances a large, dynamic cast of characters.


For the full list of 2023 Best Audiobooks, visit AudioFile’s website.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 10/31/23 It’s Almost The Midnight Hour And All Good Pixels Are Wrapped Up Warmly In Their Scrolls

(1) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. …Or will if Amazon’s suit is successful. Publishers Weekly reports “Amazon Sues Scammers Targeting Authors”.

Amazon this week announced that it has filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against some 20 individuals scamming authors by falsely claiming an affiliation with Amazon Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing. According to the suit, the scammers run fake Amazon knockoff websites designed to lure would-be authors into paying a fee to publish, and then deliver either substandard or no service at all….

The suit includes details of unnamed authors who were taken in by the scams, including one who visited one of the defendant sites thinking she was accessing Amazon’s legitimate self-publishing services. The authors “corresponded with Defendants or their agents, who not only claimed to be Amazon representatives, but sent documents making further uses of the Amazon Marks,” the complaint states. “Believing she was working with Amazon, [the author] paid Defendants $4,000.00 for purported editorial and publication services.” The woman learned she was scammed after the service failed to materialize….

(2) ROBERT BLOCH WEBSITE HALLOWEEN OFFERING. The Robert Bloch Official Website is celebrating the holiday by posting Bloch’s Halloween-themed tale, “Pumpkin”. Original Twilight Zone Magazine story art by George Chastain.

(3) PAYING HIS RESPECTS ON HALLOWEEN. John King Tarpinian visited Ray Bradbury’s grave today, and says “I left Frank to keep him company.”

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

Arthur Liu’s con report – part 3

This was supposed to be a series of four posts, but he told me it’s looking like it’s going to be five, as this third part only gets as far as the morning of Thursday 19th, leaving another three days still to be written up.  Disclosure yet again: I’m mentioned in this report.  I have asked Arthur if he knows of any other reports that other fans might have published, which could be featured here on File 770, to give a more varied impression of what the con was like.

As before, these extracts are via Google Translate with minor cleanup edits.

On the morning of October 18, at 8:40, [con liaison] L said that the required documentation was now available, and at 9:36, the surrounding map and traffic control map were updated, as well as the updated transportation shuttle plan. Just before 11am, we collected all the materials – excluding the participant manual, which was still not finished at this time – and set off to the con site. After getting off the bus, I took out my guest pass. It said “”天爵” in Chinese and “TIAN Jue” in English. I only have two pen names, one is Yang Feng [for fiction] and the other is HeavenDuke [for online and non-fiction].  Some of my friends think the latter is a bit difficult to pronounce, so I let them call me by the Chinese translation “Tianjue”, but my English name is always Arthur Liu. I asked L what was going on, and L said, “This was provided by the organizers,” and “[The badges for] All Chinese guests have names printed using Chinese characters and their Pinyin transliteration (into Latin letters), while foreign guests have English names. The registration process has now closed. ” In other words, it could not be changed.  I thought back to the controversy caused by George R.R. Martin’s mispronunciation of names at the Hugo Awards ceremony in CoNZealand in 2020, and couldn’t help but sigh…

After a while, Jiafeng arrived as promised (he had previously promised to help look after the table on the 18th). Surprisingly, [co-Hugo finalist for Zero Gravity SF fanzine] Ling Shizhen also came.  When I started the [Chinese website] “Science Fiction Encyclopedia” in 2017, he had helped with reviews, and provided a lot of reference information, but I’d never met him in person… Thankfully, when Ling heard that the

CSFDB table was short of manpower, because of the problems of the preceding two days, he immediately said that he would try his best to help over the next few days.  He even cancelled many of his scheduled activities for this reason, which was really touching. The exhibition on the 18th was held in such an atmosphere.

After a while, RiverFlow also came over – it was also our first time meeting offline – together with Zi Xuan. When everyone was greeting each other, two foreigners came over, one of whom was Helen Montgomery. She was working the site selection table at this convention, and before that she was, like me, an editor of the Hugo Award-winning fanzine Journey Planet. I introduced her to the work of the [CSFDB] database, showed her the physical version of the bilingual special issue “Chinese Science Fiction and Space” of “Journey Planet”, and introduced her to the several Hugo Award finalists present. She showed us her Hugo Award trophy, and while taking photos with us, she pulled us into a circle and said to us, “When the award ceremony comes, please use all your senses and thoughts to remember that moment. Because regardless of whether you win or not, it will become an unforgettable moment in your lives” 

Despite this, when holding a conference in China, there are always some unexpected developments: not long after the booth was set up, a copy of the “Zero Gravity Newspaper” disappeared… Some people will stare at you like a ninja, casually flip through the materials on the booth, then put them in their pockets and take them away. Other people will rudely interrupt your introduction and directly ask for ribbons and stickers. Can other materials be obtained for free? Considering that all the items at our table are basically distributed free of charge, and the main focus is to exchange materials for social interaction, it doesn’t feel good to encounter such people.

Even more embarrassing are the people who come up and ask, “What is your business model?  How does your product make a profit?”  Sometimes they would ask this of “Zero Gravity News”; sometimes asking CSFDB.  In China, science fiction enthusiasts and the science fiction industry have almost no possibility of dialogue on this issue, which highlights its inability to keep up with the airwaves [I think this is an idiom, but I couldn’t get information about it; I guess it reinforces the idea of an inability to communicate]. Whenever we try to explain that this is a voluntary charity project, they end up shaking their heads and walking away. There was also an old gentleman who, as soon as he arrived at the stall, said, “Let me test you.” He opened the database and searched for “Tong Enzheng”, in an attempt to find out the shortcomings of the database. I don’t know what it’s like at overseas science fiction conventions, but judging from my past experience of exhibiting at APSFcon and the 2019 Chinese Science Fiction Convention at the Beijing Garden Expo Park, this situation and the cultural generation gap behind it will continue to exist for a long time.

In this atmosphere, at 5:30pm on Wednesday 18th, the CSFDB table ended its first day of exhibition. Before closing the table, [con liaison] L, who was in charge of the tables, came over and said that before the opening ceremony at 7:30pm, local leaders would come to inspect the exhibition area. There would be many people visiting and we were asked if we could continue running the table. The answer was of course no. At this time, everyone’s physical strength was basically exhausted – RiverFlow had even come to the booth to take a photo at around 2pm, and then returned to the hotel to rest, due to breathing difficulties. Fortunately, the shuttle bus that day finally stopped at the right place and on time…

[On the morning of Thursday 19th] RiverFlow and I hadn’t yet had breakfast, so I went down to eat with him again. He ate very quietly and slowly, lowering his head and choking whilst eating. But even so, he still tried his best to make friends with every guest present, and gave his “Zero Gravity News” to them, which was admirable.

I don’t know how many moments there were in this conference that were worthy of being “remembered with all the senses and thoughts”, but if there were, that moment was definitely one of them. On the 18th, a reporter had asked me how I felt about being shortlisted [for Best Fan Writer] and whether I thought that had a high chance of winning. I said at the time that I wanted River to win.

(Note: As mentioned in an earlier Scroll, the unedited machine translation always renders 河流 (Heliu) – i.e. RiverFlow, editor of the winning Best Fanzine – as “Hehe”.)

(5) KING’S COMMENT ON THE MAINE SHOOTINGS. “Stephen King on Mass Shootings: We’re Out of Things to Say” – an opinion piece by the author in the New York Times. (King resides in Maine.)

There is no solution to the gun problem and little more to write, because Americans are addicted to firearms.

Representative Jared Golden, from Maine’s Second Congressional District, has reversed course and says he will now support outlawing military-style semiautomatic rifles like the one used in the killing of 18 people in Lewiston this week. But neither the House nor the Senate is likely to pass such a law, and if Congress actually did, the Supreme Court, as it now exists, would almost certainly rule it unconstitutional.

Every mass shooting is a gut punch; with every one, unimaginative people say, “I never thought it could happen here,” but such things can and will happen anywhere and everywhere in this locked-and-loaded country. The guns are available, and the targets are soft.

When rapid-fire guns are difficult to get, things improve, but I see no such improvement in the future. Americans love guns and appear willing to pay the price in blood….

(6) FUTURE TENSE. From Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives comes the October 2023 entry in  the Future Tense Fiction series: “Void” by Julián Herbert, translated from Spanish into English by Will Vanderhyden. The story is about artificial intelligence, codependence, and various kinds of addiction, from gambling to exercise to information.

It was published along with a response essay, “If We’re Addicted to Technology, What’s the Cure?” by journalist Katherine Mangu-Ward.

…We are desperately afraid of becoming addicted to our machines—the theme of “Void,” Mexican novelist Julián Herbert’s moody and compelling Future Tense Fiction story—and are deeply convinced we already are. We are also painfully aware of the inadequacy of our tools for dealing with addiction.

Research on the proposition that our current tech poses the threat of a new addictive disorder is weak and incomplete. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) considers “internet addiction” only a “condition for further study,” not an official mental disorder. The incompleteness of the research has not stopped governments—in China, South Korea, and the U.K.—from embedding assumptions about its prevalence and mechanisms into their laws. If the suits against Meta are successful, the U.S. may join the ranks of nations willing to use very expensive carrots and spindly sticks to combat the poorly understood problem of tech addiction with the slightly less poorly understood tool of the 12-step program….

(7) CON OR BUST ASSISTANCE FOR PALESTINIANS. Dream Foundry told readers today “We understand that the current situation makes applying for a grant, or planning for next year, extremely challenging,” but that the “Goldman Fund Applications for Palestinians Attending Glasgow WorldCon Are Open”.

Applications for the Con or Bust initiative to assist Palestinian creators and fans of speculative fiction in attending the World Science Fiction Convention are now open. We’ll be assisting self-identified citizens of Palestine and members of the Palestinian diaspora to pay for travel and membership expenses to five Worldcons beginning in 2024. If you qualify for the Goldman Fund and would like assistance attending 2024’s Worldcon, apply today! The preferred application window closes on November 5, 2023. Applications received after the window closes will be considered for any remaining funds.

We understand that the current situation makes applying for a grant, or planning for next year, extremely challenging. If at all possible, let us know you intend to apply for 2024 before November 5, even if you don’t have a budget prepared. We’ll work with you from there.

(8) WINTER IS (STILL) HERE. Katrina Templeton, whose cat Winter was featured in “Cats Sleep on SFF: The End of All Things”, and had medical problems that were the subject of a fundraiser in May, has an encouraging announcement:

I apologize for taking so long with this, but we’ve wanted to monitor Winter’s health a bit before we reported that he seems to be out of the woods. I was so certain we were about to lose him, but he pulled through. I’m not sure he would have without the help of everybody who took the time to help us out. His kidney values soared one day, but they dropped to normal the next and I spent a weekend giving him fluids four times a day. We were able to afford that thanks to everybody’s generosity. We’ve also started him on special urinary food. But, other than the time he tried to choke to death on a hairball, he’s been doing much better. I feel safe enough to say that we’re back on our usual course.

He is, of course, trying to learn how to live safely in this science fictional universe, and I figured everybody deserved a picture of him looking much more lively.

Thanks again, everybody. I hope that he can live a long healthy life from this point on without any more scares.

(9) JUDY NUGENT (1940-2023). Actress Judy Nugent, who gained fame as a child performer in the Fifties, died October 26 at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary says:

…Nugent, however, is probably best known for her turn as Ann Carson, a blind girl who enters and wins a Daily Planet contest, on the episode “Around the World With Superman,” which aired on March 13, 1954, as the second-season finale (and last black-and-white installment) of the syndicated series. 

After an operation restores her sight — Superman (George Reeves) had spotted a piece of glass lodged near her optic nerve! — Ann gets an amazing bird’s eye view of the planet while being whisked around by a superhero.

“That was top secret. I was told never to tell anyone about how George Reeves flew,” she recalled in an undated interview for the website Western Clippings.

“Anyway, they put George on this cement thing and dressed him over it, form-fitting up to his chest. They had a huge fan that made his cape fly out. The special effects people did the ups and downs. There was a ladder underneath — I’d sit on the ladder and he’d hold me up. Even though I was still little, I got awfully heavy.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 — Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1958 — Ian Briggs, 65. He wrote two Seventh Doctor stories, “Dragonfire” and “The Curse of Fenric”, the former of which of which introduced Ace as the Doctor’s Companion. (The latter is one on my frequent rewatch list.) He novelized both for Target Books. He would write a Seventh Doctor story, “The Celestial Harmony Engine” for the Short Trips: Defining Patterns anthology. 
  • Born October 31, 1959 — Neal Stephenson, 64. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made me re-read that work (which was very good) and Snow Crash (which was equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. There’s a sequel to the latter work but it’s not written by him. 
  • Born October 31, 1972 — Matt Smith, 51.  No, not that Matt Smith. He’s the current and longest-serving editor of long-running 2000 AD, and also the longest-running editor of its sister title Judge Dredd Magazine. He written three Judge Dredd novels plus a number of other genre novels based off the properties he edits. Along with Alan Ewing and Michael Carroll, he’s written the Judge Dredd audiobook, a take on the newly deputized Dredd.
  • Born October 31, 1979 — Erica Cerra, 44. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She was artificial intelligence A.L.I.E. and her creator Becca on The 100. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica,  plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention. Seriously I mean that. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 — Letitia Wright, 30. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda. She returned as Shuri for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which depicts Shuri becoming the new Black Panther following the death of T’Challa.  Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater focuses on the bittersweet for Halloween.
  • But Nathan W. Pyle is in it for the sweets.

(12) SLINGING A LINE. “Something fishy: what’s the real story with Amber Heard and Aquaman 2?” asks the Guardian.

What’s the truth about Amber Heard and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom? Was her widely-mooted leading role in the movie reduced because she had no chemistry with Jason Momoa’s sometime king of Atlantis? Or was it due to the media furore surrounding her legal battles with Johnny Depp, as the actor herself testified at trial in May last year?

Either way, we know that the second (and most likely final) solo Aquaman does not focus on Heard’s Mera, but instead a messy, shoehorned bromance between Aquaman and his half-brother, Patrick Wilson’s Orm. It is a weird storyline, given this pair spent most of the previous movie hating on each other, but that doesn’t mean it was only cooked up so Warner Bros could push Heard out of the picture. Aquaman has reportedly had numerous reshoots, but surely they didn’t involve changing the whole plot of the movie?

Interviewed in Empire magazine ahead of the sequel’s December release, director James Wan once again rolled out what has clearly become the studio line on Heard’s relegation to a minor role. Commenting on the actor’s suggestions that she had originally been due to play a bigger part in the follow-up to 2018’s $1bn-grossing Aquaman, the Saw director argued he always intended the sequel to go a different way.

“It’s fair that she [Heard] said that, because she wasn’t in my head as I was working on this movie,” said Wan, diplomatically. “Actors don’t necessarily know what we behind the scenes are thinking about. But this was always my plan. From the start, I pitched that the first film would be a Romancing the Stone-type thing – an action-adventure romantic comedy – while the second would be an outright buddy comedy. I wanted to do Tango & Cash!

(13) ONE OF HOLLYWOOD’S FAVORITE LOCATIONS. Driving there is barely an inconvenience.“From ‘Halloween’ To ‘Back To The Future’: Why Filmmakers Love Pasadena and South Pas” in LAist.

…The city of South Pasadena, Schuler says, is often a go-to destination when a film crew wants a location that has the feel of a small, Midwestern town.

And interestingly, the city does have a historical connection with the Midwest — the Anglo founders of South Pasadena and Pasadena, back in the 1870s, were from Indiana.

Probably the most well-known filming location in South Pasadena is the “Michael Myers” house at 1000 Mission St., which was featured in the 1978 horror classic Halloween. In the film, and subsequent sequels, it’s the home of the killer, Michael Myers…

…Another big challenge to filming in residential neighborhoods, Schuler says, is getting the support of a homeowner to use a specific house.

The first step is knocking on the door, then explaining why you’re there, but also not giving them too much information too quickly.

“What we would have to do is talk to the people [about] whether they want to do it,” Schuler says, “and then eventually [explain that] yes, we need to move you out into a hotel, we want to take all your stuff out and put it in storage, we want to bring our stuff in…”

And depending on what city you’re in and what time of day or night you want to film, productions also need to get sign off from a certain number of neighbors….

(14) TIPS FOR THE AFTERLIFE. “An exhibition at the Getty Museum [in LA] reveals the Egyptian Book of the Dead, long relegated to a dark vault, in the light of day.” “Now Showing, an Ancient Spell Book for the Dead” in the New York Times. The exhibit opens November 1 and runs to January 29.

 …A standard component in Egyptian elite burials, the Book of the Dead was not a book in the modern sense of the term but a compendium of some 200 ritual spells and prayers, with instructions on how the deceased’s spirit should recite them in the hereafter. Sara Cole, the curator of the Getty exhibition, called the incantations a kind of supernatural “travel insurance” designed to empower and safeguard the departed on the long, tortuous journey through the afterlife. Unlike today’s insurance policies, no two copies were the same….

…Compiled and refined over millenniums since about 1550 B.C., the Book of the Dead provided a sort of visual map that allowed the newly disembodied soul to navigate the duat, a maze-like netherworld of caverns, hills and burning lakes. Each spell was intended for a specific situation that the dead might encounter along the way. For instance, Spell 33 was used to ward off snakes, which had an unsettling taste for chewing “the bones of a putrid cat.”…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended brings us “Villain Pub – Five Nights at Freddy’s”.

Five Nights At Freddy’s in The Villain Pub?!? A Storm Trooper must survive the night from Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy during their late night shift as villain pub security in this Halloween Special Episode.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/23 A Pixel Like That, You Don’t Scroll All At Once

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

What is the Tianwen Program/Award?

Right now, this is a bit of an enigma.  I stumbled across a link to this Chinese-language news article at the bottom of the article covered in the next item.  Here are some extracts via Google Translate (my emphases, I haven’t attempted to correct likely mistranslations):

Under the premise of the vigorous development of Chinese science fiction, in order to discover science fiction talents, support science fiction works, and promote the integrated development of the science fiction industry, the “Tianwen Project” jointly launched by the Chinese Writers Association and the World Science Fiction Conference Organizing Committee was officially “debuted” at the summit .

The plan includes a science fiction award “Tianwen Award” and N actions to promote the integrated development of China and even the global science fiction industry. The “Tianwen Award” is oriented to encourage emerging and young writers and has permanently settled in Chengdu. It has become a useful supplement to the “Hugo Award” of the World Science Fiction Conference. While awarding the award, it also holds various activities such as IP roadshows, theme exhibitions, and salon promotions. . At the same time, it will be displayed on the platform of the World Science Fiction Conference and hold exchange activities to promote the in-depth integration of Chinese science fiction into world science fiction.

“We very much appreciate Chengdu’s plan to establish the ‘Tianwen Prize’. It is not only for China, but also for the world.” In the view of Dave McCarty, a member of the Hugo Award selection committee, the “Tianwen Prize” will become China’s An important channel for science fiction to integrate into world science fiction, it has become a platform to promote in-depth exchanges between Chinese fantasy fans and world fantasy fans.

Given the highlighted bits, and with quotes from the current Hugo Administrator, and on a stage with “WSFS” at the bottom, it was hard to shake the impression that this award/project is in some way WSFS affiliated?  On re-reading, I suspect that’s actually a red herring, likely caused by a reporter not fully understanding all the different entities and relationships and/or machine mistranslation.  I presume “World Science Fiction Conference Organizing Committee” is a reference to the fact that three (I think) of the eight people on the stage for this announcement are on the Chengdu 2023 concom; four if you count Cixin Liu who was listed as part of the original bid team.

I tried searching on a few Chinese sites for 天问计划 (Tianwen Program) and 天问奖 (Tianwen Award), but found only one relevant result, a Weibo post.  The text appears to be much the same as the above linked article, but it does have a short, slightly strange, clip from the announcement.

My guess is that this is actually a domestic Chinese award, possibly with some extra stuff to help promote the finalists or winners internationally, perhaps similar to the Galaxy Awards 1 anthology that came out last year.

Media coverage of the “First Industry Development Promotion Conference”

Red Star News has an article on one of the handful of programme items deemed worthy of streaming to virtual attendees. The following extract via Google Translate (no manual cleanup edits):

Judging from the investment amount, the “Chinese Story·Science Fiction Situation Drama Incubation Base Project” with an investment amount of 2 billion will use the “program + park + base + academy” model to aggregate high-quality resources from the science fiction industry chain to create a first-class domestic science fiction sitcom Incubation platform.

From the perspective of project level, the Trisolaran Universe Global Headquarters project with a total investment of 1 billion yuan is committed to building a top Chinese science fiction brand with international influence. It will focus on developing Three-Body games, film and television drama content products, brand derivatives and other businesses, presenting A more three-dimensional three-body world.

(Note: 1 billion yuan is approximately 137 million USD.)

Huawei sponsoring the “Science Fiction vs Science Fact” panel?

Although they aren’t one of the previously announced corporate partners of the con, judging by this tweet it would appear that Huawei are sponsoring the “Science Fiction vs Science Fact” panel/event on Saturday.  This is another item that is being streamed.  Nnedi Okorafor is listed as one of the speakers.

Galaxy Award winners announced

These were announced on Thursday evening; winners include Hugo Short Story finalist “On the Razor’s Edge” by Jiang Bo.  The “Ghost of Tsushima” art book that was in the leaked list of Hugo finalists was also a winner in the Related Work category.  Weibo links: (1)(2)(3)(4)

Links to official (?) photo galleries

Earlier today, Adaoli/SF Light Year messaged me this photo of QR codes for what I presume are official photo galleries.  I think the first one has been previously linked in a Facebook post from the official con account, but I’d not seen any other mention of them online.

As yet, I’ve not been able to get my phone to recognize the QR codes for the 21st and 22nd; if anyone else can extract the links, please post in the comments.  I’ll try to get a better photo of that poster tomorrow, in the hope that I can get a readable image.  The links for the first three days are:

  • Wednesday 18th: here
  • Thursday 19th: here
  • Friday 20th: here

The galleries are arranged by the room the photos were taken in.  As far as I can tell, the UI and room names are only in Chinese, but the translation functionality built into Chrome does a decent enough job.

Photo galleries posted by publishers, writers and fans to Weibo

Eight Light Minutes Culture had several Weibo post showing some of the panels (1)(2)(3), (4)  as did Future Affairs Administration.  The latter also posted a gallery of an area documenting Worldcon history.

Translator Tian Tian posted photos of her meeting people and being on panels.  (As an aside, I notice from her CSFDB page that she co-wrote an essay which Google Translate renders as “The 2019 Hugo Awards are here. Will the United States continue to use science fiction to resist reality?”, which I am now dying to read.)

There were quite a lot of user comments on this post about James Bryant making his way alone to his 15th Worldcon at the age of 81.

Xie Yunning has written for SF World magazine, and also has a few gallery posts on his Weibo page.

Wandering Earth team video

I’m not sure exactly what the team behind the Wandering Earth film (including director and star) are doing here, but they seemed to enjoy themselves doing it.

Queue for Cixin Liu signing

Short video on Weibo; Twitter videoWeibo photo gallery posted by Adaoli/SF Light Year.

English language videos from China Daily

China Daily posted a minute-long video to Twitter, with a couple of English native-speaker presenters, one of whom was the interviewer in the Chris M. Barkley video featured in yesterday’s Scroll.  As a guide to the quality of journalism on display, the presenter refers to the con venue as “the Space Museum”, although whoever did the Chinese subtitles evidently knows what it’s really called.  Still, it could have been worse.

Those presenters also appeared in a short comedic (?) video, and briefly in another China Daily video posted a couple of days ago.  Dave McCarty and Liza Groen-Trombi can be seen in the latter video at 0:25 chatting at what I assume is the Locus table.

(2) UGANDA BID TABLE. Micheal Kabunga, Kampcon 2028 bid chair/coordinator, sent this photo of the Kampcon booth at the Chengdu Worldcon — booth B40.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Tony C. Smith of Starship Sofa told subscribers today that his surgeon has declared him cancer free.

That is a great feeling.

If folks don’t know… I had bladder cancer, only picked up by the fact I was going to the toilet more often through the night. Huge thanks to my wife Melanie for pushing me to go get it checked out. So, I’m minus a bladder, prostrate and glands and now have a bag attached to my side for the rest of my life but it’s a small price to pay.

This means SSS is rebooting her engines on Tuesday 24th November. Hope you can join me, as we travel into deep space looking for amazing SF stories.

(4) GOING VIRAL. Editors Brian Keene and Christopher Golden have announced The End Of The World As We Know It: Tales Of Stephen King’s The Stand — an original short story anthology based on the highly influential and seminal work of apocalyptic fiction and good versus evil; featuring an introduction from Stephen King himself and new fiction from a world ravaged by the virus “Captain Trips” and the minds of Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Chizmar, S. A. Cosby, Tananarive Due, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, Michael Koryta, Scott Ian, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus and Wayne Brady, Bryan Smith, Somer Canon, Hailey Piper, Jonathan Janz and many others. Thanks to Stephen King for entrusting these two constant readers with this task.

Brian Keene added this update on Facebook:

F.A.Q for THE STAND Anthology:

1. Yes, this is 100% authorized by the Big Man himself.

2. No, we are not open to submissions. Anything sent will be deleted unread.

3. No, we don’t have an official release date yet, nor info on various editions.

4. No, we can’t release the final full line-up yet.

5. Yes, *that* Wayne Brady with Maurice Broaddus.

(5) IT’S A TRAP! Sarah Rees Brennan has discovered something about NaNoWriMo.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

October 20, 1955 — J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, the final volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was published sixty eight years ago today by Allen & Unwin with Tolkien’s artwork on the cover. 

In The Letters Of J.R. R. Tolkien as edited by Humphrey Carpenter, he says he felt the chosen title revealed too much of the story, and that he would have instead preferred The War of the Ring as the title for the volume. 

The entire series was nominated for a Hugo at Tricorn in Cleveland, though the Foundation series would be the winner that year.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen.  ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “A Study in Terror”. The Roman Hat Mystery, the first Ellery Queen mystery is free to all Audible members. Yes, I’m going to listen to it next. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1913 Barney Phillips. Though he’s best remembered as Sgt. Ed Jacobs on the Dragnet series and yes, I remember him well from it, he did do some genre work of which his most notable being was one on The Twilight Zone, in which he played a Venusian hiding out on Earth as Haley, the short-order cook in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” episode. Remember you can see it on Paramount+. I just did and he’s amazing. I’m not forgetting his other three appearances there, the first being in “The Purple Testament” as Captain E. L. Gunther, next in “A Thing about Machines” as television repairman which is also a brilliant role for him, followed by the Venusian role, and in “Miniature” as Diemel. Quite a feat that many appearances!  He also appeared on The Invaders, Shazzan, Three Musketeers where he was voice of Porthos for all 18 episodes of the animated series, Get Smart! And The Funky Phantomthe latter being a clone of Scooby-Doo! that was set in the American Revolution. Really, I’m not kidding. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had other appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “The Wax Men” episode. He was even in the Get Smart! pilot as Mr. Big. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.” I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her please if you’ve read her!  (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 77. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1955 Magdalena Tulli, 68. Polish writer of many, many novels, a few of which are fantastic tales. Some were translated into English and are available from the usual suspects. The one work by her that I wish to single out is Tryby, published in translation as Moving Parts, as it is a metafiction in which the novel in question takes over from its author.
  • Born October 20, 1966 Diana Rowland, 57. New Orleans writer with a fascinating job history that includes cop, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. She’s best known for her Kara Gillian series and White Trash Zombie series. Her only award is a Phoenix Award, a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, given by DeepSouthCon. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) EARTHLY CHILD BLOCKS UNEARTHLY CHILD. “First Doctor Who Story Excluded from BBC iPlayer in Legal Dispute”Gizmodo has the story.

Nearly 60 years to the day that Doctor Who began airing, next month, the BBC will launch an unprecedented collection of over 800 episodes from the show’s distant and not-so-distant past on its streaming platform, iPlayer—the first of its kind from the corporation. But it turns out that the very first story that kicked all those adventures off in the first place won’t be a part of it.

Known by the title of its first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” the four-part serial was written by Anthony Coburn, at the time a staff writer for the BBC, who would go on to write three more stories for Doctor Who that never made it to air….

Decades later, Coburn’s son, Stef Coburn, has repeatedly pushed back against the BBC over what he perceives as a mistreatment of his father—especially over the conceptual ideas behind, and eventual name of, the Doctor’s time-travel machine, the TARDIS. Coburn first attempted to legally challenge the BBC’s ownership of the TARDIS in 2013, timed to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who—alleging that the corporation lost the rights to use ideas leveraged in Coburn’s script for “An Unearthly Child” when he died in 1977, despite the corporation having held various copyrights and trademarks on the ship and its police box design for decades prior.

Now, a decade later, Coburn has taken to social media to confirm that he has rejected attempts by the BBC to license “An Unearthly Child” for streaming on its platforms, claiming that the corporation refused a proposed deal to license the story….

(10) THE MAYOR’S ON THE LINE. “Eric Adams Uses A.I. to Robocall New Yorkers in Languages He Doesn’t Speak” reports the New York Times.

The calls to New Yorkers have a familiar ring to them. They all sound like Mayor Eric Adams — only in Spanish. Or Yiddish. Or Mandarin.

Has the mayor been taking language lessons?

The answer is no, and the truth is slightly more expensive and, in the eyes of privacy experts, far more worrisome.

The mayor is using artificial intelligence to reach New Yorkers through robocalls in a number of languages. The calls encourage people to apply for jobs in city government or to attend community events like concerts.

Privacy advocates still criticized the robocalls, arguing that it was “deeply Orwellian” to try to trick New Yorkers into thinking that Mr. Adams speaks languages that he does not. The group has previously criticized the mayor’s embrace of facial recognition technology and his dispatch of a police robot to patrol the Times Square subway station.

“Yes, we need announcements in all of New Yorkers’ native languages, but the deep fakes are just a creepy vanity project,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project….

(11) TO HELL AND BACK. 100 Places to See After You Die: A Travel Guide to the Afterlife by Jeopardy! host and champion Ken Jennings is a thing.

Ever wonder which circles of Dante’s Inferno have the nicest accommodations? Where’s the best place to grab a bite to eat in the ancient Egyptian underworld? How does one dress like a local in the heavenly palace of Hinduism’s Lord Vishnu, or avoid the flesh-eating river serpents in the Klingon afterlife? What hidden treasures can be found off the beaten path in Hades, Valhalla, or TV’s The Good Place? Find answers to all those questions and more about the world(s) to come in this eternally entertaining book from Ken Jennings.

Written in the style of iconic bestselling travel guides, Jennings wryly outlines journeys through the afterlife, as dreamed up over 5,000 years of human history by our greatest prophets, poets, mystics, artists, and TV showrunners. This comprehensive index of 100 different afterlife destinations was meticulously researched from sources ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh to modern-day pop songs, video games, and Simpsons episodes. Get ready for whatever post-mortal destiny awaits you, whether it’s an astral plane, a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape, or the baseball diamond from Field of Dreams.

Fascinating, funny, and irreverent, this “gung-ho travel guide to Heaven, Hell, and beyond” (The New Yorker) will help you create your very own bucket list—for after you’ve kicked the bucket.

(12) WAS IT JUSTIFIED? JustWatch’s Owen Harris asks, “Are you as astonished by the Netflix price increase as I am?” 

We all just got to know the news about the subscription price change. What we don’t know, however, is how their catalog justified such an increase. 

That’s why I thought you might want to see our data, which will show you the top 5 streaming services by catalog size over time and quality. It shows that Netflix’s price rise is not justified.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/23 Nobody Knows The Pixels I’ve Screened

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON PROMO VIDEO UNVEILED. “Chasing Dreams for the Future_Worldcon” on YouTube.

A two-and-a-half minute video was released today on various platforms, including the official con site.  It features animated characters, against imagery based on a variety of SF works, and also references prior Worldcons.

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

No reference to Lukyanenko in latest PR material

This Weibo post from the con’s official account has a couple of interesting details.   Google Translate rendition of the post text (minor manual edits to fix mangled names):

The World Science Fiction Conference is held for the first time in China. This science fiction event brings together the best science fiction writers and industry insiders from the East and the West in Chengdu, where the past and the future are intertwined.

Liu Cixin, Robert Sawyer, Richard Taylor, Lezli Robyn, Michael Swanwick, David Hull, Satoshi Hase, Neil Clarke, Wu Jing, Guo Fan, Wang Jinkang, Han Song, He Xi… these shining names in the science fiction world, these stars who evoke the exciting dreams of countless science fiction fans, will all be unveiled at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference. 

I think this might be the first official mention of Michael Swanwick’s attendance?  Also, Japanese novelist Satoshi Hase is a name that I don’t think I’ve previously seen mentioned as a guest.

The linked weixin.qq.com page has an article by a reporter from the Chengdu Business Times org, which is involved in the running of the con.  The piece is titled (via Google Translate) “Liu Cixin and Robert Sawyer: Representative figures of hard science fiction from the East and the West will appear together in Chengdu!” Liu and Sawyer are interviewed, and it seems this will be the first in a series of interviews with con guests:

Starting today, we are launching a series of reports called “When Science Fiction Stars Shine” to introduce the science fiction writers, academicians, experts, and industry figures who will appear at this conference, and look forward to and welcome the event with everyone.

There’s also a slightly puzzling statement which says “Robert Sawyer and Liu Cixin will appear together at The 81st World Science Fiction Convention Industrial Development Promotion Conference (WSDF)”, with “WSDF” being an acronym appearing in the Chinese text.  Whilst I’ve seen a bit of con-related material that has references to “industry” and “promotion”, this is the first I’ve heard of something called the “WSDF”.  This “WSDF” term also appears in Weibo posts today from the HELLOChengdu and GoChengdu accounts, which reference the same news item.

Sawyer/Liu/Lukyanenko anthology published

It is reported that the “Stellar Concerto” Chinese-language anthology featuring stories from the three (ahem) Worldcon GoHs, which was previously covered in the September 28th Scroll, has now been published.  The ToC shows that of the 18 stories, 7 are by Sawyer, 6 from Lukyanenko and 5 from Liu.

Special edition coffee packaging

I guess I jinxed things in yesterday’s updates when I said I hadn’t seen any evidence of sponsor branding, because guess what showed up today?  Coffee cups and bags adorned with a stylized representation of the con venue. In fairness, they seem to be licensing from the science museum rather than the Worldcon — the text in the photos only mentions the former.  

A couple more  Xiaohongshu posts

A short video of street artists decorate an electricity substation.

This post has a handful of images, most of which are fairly familiar views of the interior and exterior of the venue, but there are a couple of things I haven’t seen before: a topiary of something that I can’t quite fathom, and what I assume is interior signage for the fan area.

(3) ON THE DRAWING BOARD. Jeremy Zentner offers advice about “Designing Your Fictional Spaceship” at the SFWA Blog.

Spaceships have been iconic in science fiction ever since Jules Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon. There are many features for writers to consider when designing their craft, including microgravity, faster-than-light (FTL) capabilities, journey time, habitation and resources, whether there’s a menacing AI on board, and so much more. In this article, we’ll examine how many published authors designed their sci-fi spaceships, so strap in and get ready for launch!

Interstellar travel: To FTL or not to FTL. In general, books that describe interstellar travel write about ships with FTL capability. In The Indranan War series, K.B. Wagers uses the Alcubierre drive, a concept developed by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre to enable interstellar travel. Other books use wormhole technology. In John Scalzi’s The Interdependency series, ships penetrate a network of wormholes called the Flow to travel to other star systems. Since the Flow is a natural phenomenon, it’s also subject to cosmic events that can change the nature of its location, culminating in a great plot point. In Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the Galactic Commons uses artificial gates that tunnel through the fabric of subspace, built by scrappy crews like that of the Wayfarer….

(4) CROWDFUNDING FOR APEX ANTHOLOGY. The Kickstarter campaign for The Map of Lost Places, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas and Lesley Conner, is now live. Click here – “The Map of Lost Places: A Horror Anthology by Apex Publications” to join in bringing this anthology to life. Check out the submission guidelines as well if you’re interested in sending a story to the open call in December.

Here are the perks:

Beyond the anthology itself, we’ve got all sorts of fantastic rewards, add-ons, and stretch goals included in this Kickstarter. Ai Jiang has contributed a beautiful handmade planner as an add-on, and there are five slots available for 15-minute Zoom calls with Brian Keene. A little ways down the line, we’ll have a few surprises from co-editor Lesley Conner, and maybe one or two other things up our sleeves….

Lesley and Apex Magazine managing editor Rebecca Treasure are also offering critiques on up to 7,500 words. Additionally, we have ten explorer care packages available, which will include items to keep you safe on your travels: a train ticket, holy water, a book of protective phrases…visit the Kickstarter page to find out more! Stretch goals include excitements like more open call slots, a new dark microfiction anthology from Marissa van Uden, art for the interior of the Map of Lost Places anthology, and an introduction written by Linda D. Addison.

(5) WARNING ABOUT KOSA. Charlie Jane Anders is quoted in the Sacramento Bee’s paywalled article “CA senators quiet on bill allowing removal of LGBTQ content”.

“Simply put, KOSA as currently written would allow (Texas Attorney General) Ken Paxton and other red-state attorney generals to bring frivolous lawsuits against any content they believe is harmful to kids — which includes LGBTQIA+ content in their view. The states are already passing state laws to censor the internet, but a federal law would give them much more leeway,” said writer and commentator Charlie Jane Anders in an email interview with The Bee.

(6) NOT QUITE THE ELEVENTH HOUR. The latest (in 1968) episode of Star Trek did not wow Gideon Marcus: “[October 10, 1968] Going Native (Star Trek: ‘The Paradise Syndrome’” at Galactic Journey.

With two episodes under its belt, the third season of Star Trek has both disappointed and elated.  The general reaction to “Spock’s Brain” amongst the fan population (beyond the Journey) was universally negative.  Buck Coulson of Yandro has even called for this season’s producer Fred Freiberger to be ridden out on a rail.  On the other hand, “The Enterprise Incident” wowed everyone.  And so, we waited eagerly for Trek at 9:59 PM on a Friday night, a night when we could have been out drinking and carousing (who are we kidding—we’re probably the only group for whom the Friday night “death slot” is actually perfect timing).

What we got was…well, closer to “Spock’s Brain” in terms of quality….

(7) WHEN FRANCHISES LOSE THEIR WAY. Not behind a paywall! “Jedi Knights and Vulcans Both Suck Now. What Happened?” asks Charlie Jane Anders at Happy Dancing.

Something strange happened to both Star Wars and Star Trek around twenty-five years ago: both franchises suddenly became disillusioned with their spiritual, selfless bands of heroes.

The Jedi knights and the Vulcans had been an essential part of these iconic universes from the very beginning, and twentieth century viewers would have come away with a mostly positive impression of them. That changed drastically in the late 1990s, when both Trek and Wars started portraying their respective bands of detached, disciplined seekers of truth as uptight jerks. It was a jarring transformation, and I’m still wondering what exactly happened….

(8) THERE IS ANOTHER. And what about Battlestar Galactica? To find out what Charlie Jane Anders thinks you’ll need to listen to episode 138 of Our Opinions Are Correct “Battlestar Galactica, 20 Years Later”.

One of the greatest science fiction shows on TV debuted twenty years ago: the rebooted version of Battlestar Galactica. This show broke new ground in depicting realistic politics — and a nuanced view of a society of artificial people. How does it hold up? To find out, Charlie Jane went back and watched the entire series — here’s what she found.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood, Jr. Best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Really how could they? He did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver which I submit is possibly genre, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. He attended his last convention, in a wheelchair, assisted by his daughter Sabra, after a debilitating stroke at the age of 70. His health continued to get worse until he died from heart failure. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 82. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvement.
  • Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 76. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa”. She’s credited for the cover art for New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 57. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine – “I’ll just say — it hits pretty close to home even with my minimal experience at autographings!” says Rich Horton.
  • Wizard of Id has a Dune reference.

(11) DUBLIN COMIC ARTS FESTIVAL. James Bacon’s report about the other con he went to last weekend: “In Review: Diving deep into DCAF 2023, the Dublin Comics Art Festival” at Downthetubes.net.

The Dublin Comics Art Festival, held this year over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th of October, has been connecting comics and comic fans for years and I got the opportunity to go to their new venue, Richmond Barracks, which is now repurposed as a community cultural centre and library.

I depart Octocon, the National SF convention taking place at the Gibson Hotel and jump onto a Luas (tram), which terminates outside the hotel door and get off at Golden Bridge and its a very short walk to this excellent venue.

This gathering is in a lovely open and airy hall, filled with excitement and art, it’s a welcoming space and it’s busy. 

… In many respects I found DCAF as rewarding as Thought Bubble when it comes to small press, entry level publications, zines and art. It’s a good show, with a wide and desirable selection of vendors. I also liked how relaxed everyone was. It was friendly but there is no hard sell. An occasional “feel free to browse” or “happy to answer questions” and I have to bite my tongue and not ask “why haven’t Marvel hired you for covers” because actually, the creative art of writing and drawing ones own unique story, for me as a reader, is hugely rewarding. I’ll take this, thanks….

(12) HE MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. The New York Times reports “Unity Chief Resigns After Pricing Backlash” “John Riccitiello angered video game developers who use Unity’s software when he announced a new fee structure that could have significantly increased their costs.”

John Riccitiello, the chief executive of Unity Technologies, abruptly stepped down on Monday, less than a month after a change to the company’s pricing structure infuriated thousands of software developers who rely on the video game company’s tools.

Unity, which makes the underlying software that powers video games, has long imposed an annual licensing fee on developers. But in September, the company said it would begin charging developers additional money each time someone downloaded one of their video games. That meant developers would pay more as their games increased in popularity. Mr. Riccitiello was one of the main proponents of the change….

…His swift exit underscored the precarious position Mr. Riccitiello found himself in after an attempt to fix a corporate balance sheet awash in red ink. But the abrupt shift in the company’s financial model angered many programmers who rely on Unity for their own businesses….

(13) IN THE ZONE. In “20 Best Quotes From The Twilight Zone (& What They Mean)”, ScreenRant sifts through the series’ twists and morals. Among them:

 Season 4, Episode 1, In His Image

“In His Image” follows an android man named Alan, created by Walter Ryder to be a perfect version of himself. However, as the ending reveals, Alan has unexplained flaws that cause him to want to kill others. Walter takes over his life at the end of the episode, realizing he is actually a perfect version of Alan. The episode’s quote, “There may be easier ways to self-improvement, but sometimes it happens that the shortest distance between two points is a crooked line.”

The common phrase says the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but The Twilight Zone turns this on its head. The quote is saying the bizarre scenario in which Walter created a robot version of himself was the quickest way for him to realize that he is actually the best version of himself. There may have been an easier way, but this is the fastest way he came up with. This could be applied to various areas in life, as sometimes unusual circumstances can be the most effective way to realize or accomplish something.

(14) THE EVOLUTION OF WOMEN. “Eve by Cat Bohannon review – long overdue evolutionary account of women and their bodies” in the Guardian.

…This long overdue evolutionary account is the pre-history to Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women (2019), showing how wrong it is to think of women as just men with breasts and wombs bolted on. Over hundreds of thousands of years, women have developed more sensitive noses (particularly around ovulation and pregnancy), finer hearing at high frequencies, extended colour vision, and longer life expectancy than men by an impressive half decade. Forget plasma exchange and supplementation – entrepreneurs trying to extend human life should be studying women, who comprise around 80% of today’s centenarians.

American academic and author Cat Bohannon asks how this came to be, tracing defining female features back to our “presumed true ancestors”, our Eves as she calls them. The story starts more than 200m years ago in the Jurassic period with a rodent, Morganucodon, nicknamed Morgie, which still laid eggs but also had glands on its tummy that began secreting milk. It was perhaps the first breastfeeder….

… There is no fossil record of brains or wombs. Where any organ once was becomes a cavity of uncertainty. Bohannon finds the gaps “incredibly fun”, excavating possibilities from silence. She revises the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, replacing the testosterone-filled scene of early man as the “primordial inventor” of weapons, with women who were sharpening the tools while also making the babies…

(15) IS STEPHEN KING ‘KING’? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult channel on YouTube is teasing us as to whether Stephen King the horror writer is a king of SF????

The Science Fiction Of Stephen King Filmed in a haunted forest in the pouring rain.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/21/23 The Long And Winding Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

(1) HWA WORLD OF HORROR INTERVIEW SERIES. The Horror Writers Association is running a worldwide interview series in August. Alan Baxter launched it with “World of Horror: Introduction to International Horror Month 2023”:

It has long been recognised that the USA is the main focus of attention when it comes to horror fiction. If that hasn’t been noticed by people in North America, it most certainly has by everyone outside the country. But there is a growing interest in horror set beyond America’s shores, and for stories written by authors from other countries and other cultures…

Here’s an example of the many interesting responses, from “World of Horror: Interview with Austrian Spencer”:

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

It’s the most honest of the genres—it asks its readers to understand their own capabilities for violence, fear, loathing, and our need to overcome them or embrace them. Horror writers ask the questions we all shy away from—because the commitment to face those emotions is too personal. We don’t address those situations daily, so it forces us to learn. Plus—I love turning on that cold hard place inside of me and destroying, clinically, that which I have built.

There’s probably a lot to work on in therapy in that admission.

These are the links to the rest of the series as of today, with more to come.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Martha Wells is currently in the middle of treatment for breast cancer, which she’s been blogging about on Dreamwidth. She’s had one surgery and will have a second one in the next week. She’ll also be undergoing radiation treatment for a month. Prognosis is good, however, her husband Troyce wrote in a comment here.

(3) 103 YEARS OF RAY BRADBURY. The Bradbury 100 Podcast will follow its time-honored tradition of doing a live episode on Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Tomorrow — August 22 — is the 103rd anniversary of Ray’s birth. Just drop by this page, and catch the live stream: https://www.facebook.com/bradburymedia/

They’ll be taking you back 70 years to 1953 – one of the biggest years of Ray’s life!  

(4) IT IS YOUR DESTINY. The Guardian’s Philip Ball comes up with many answers to the question “Should we colonise other planets?”

…Let’s go with that, and assume something like Musk’s big fat rocket can get us there. What might life in Mars City be like? Advocates for off-world colonies love to show images like those in the physicist and space activist Gerard O’Neill’s 1977 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space – an orderly, utopian American suburbia of chic apartments and parks, simply transplanted elsewhere in the solar system. Science fiction, on the other hand, is full of grim outposts on bleak, frozen planets, and savage prison or mining colonies. If history is any guide, frontier settlements are no picnic, and certainly not the kind of places that nurture harmonious, tolerant societies. If you want to know what to expect from colonies established by “billionauts” such as Musk or Jeff Bezos, perhaps ask their employees in Amazon warehouses or the Twitter offices…. 

(5) A WRITER CAN CHANGE HIS MIND. In case you wondered: “Why Stephen King Retired In 2002 (& Why He Came Back)” at ScreenRant.

In 2002, Stephen King told the Los Angeles Times (via People) he was going to retire from writing once he finished five more books he had lined up and work on a limited series for ABC (Rose Red, which isn’t based on a book by King but was scripted by him). King told the Times he was “done writing books”, explaining that it gets to a point where “you get to the edges of a room and you can go back and go where you’ve been” so you end up recycling stuff. King admitted to seeing this in his own work, explaining that when people read his recently published novel, From a Buick Eight, were going to think about his 1983 novel Christine, about a car possessed by malevolent supernatural forces. King added that he would retire then as he was still on top of his game, but this “retirement” didn’t last long, and he has continued to write a variety of stories….

That wasn’t the only reason. You can find out the rest at the link.

(6) WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? We don’t know. Ursula Vernon’s language lesson was interrupted.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.” and “Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”, was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis. (Died 1975.)
  • Born August 21, 1911 Anthony Boucher. I’m reading Rocket to the Morgue which the folks at Penzler Publishers sent me. Really great read. Oh and  The Case of The Crumpled Knave, one of his superb mysteries, is quite good as well. If you can find a copy, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher is a most excellent read. The Case of The Crumpled Knave, The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction are available digitally and a lot are more at the usual suspects. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Life During Wartime is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I don’t remember reading “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 21, 1927 Arthur Thomson. Fanzine writer and editor and prolific artist known as ATom. Artist for the well known Hyphen zine, he won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 1964 and visited the States. He was nominated five times for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist, but never won. After Thomson won the 2000 Rotsler Award, it was decided not to present the Rotsler posthumously again. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 21, 1938 Ted Pedersen. Writer and producer. As a screenwriter, he wrote a number of scripts for Jason of Star Command and Flash Gordon. He wrote for a lot, and I do mean a lot of animated series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStargate: Infinity and Batman: The Animated Series (“Be a Clown”). (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 21, 1966 Denise Mina, 57. Genre wise, she’s best known for having written thirteen issues of Hellblazer. Her two runs were “Empathy is the Enemy” and “The Red Right Hand”.  ISFDB lists The Dead Hour as genre but it’s very much not. Excellent novel but think rather in the vein of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels.

(8) BLADE CO-CREATOR MARV WOLFMAN RETURNS TO MARVEL COMICS HORROR. Marvel Comics welcomes back legendary writer Marv Wolfman as he teams up with artist David Cutler in What If…? Dark: Tomb Of Dracula #1, a tale that sees Blade transformed by Dracula. For more information, visit Marvel.com.

Wolfman redefined comic book horror storytelling in his groundbreaking run of The Tomb of Dracula where he introduced Dracula to the Marvel Universe and co-created Blade and the daughter of Dracula, Lilith Drake. Now decades later, he’ll revisit his mythology-molding work with a new What If…? story that asks the question, “WHAT IF…the legendary Dracula transformed BLADE the vampire slayer…into a vampire?!”

 “In 1972 I was a fledgling comics writer who mostly wrote short 2 to 8 page ‘monster’ stories when Editor Roy Thomas asked if I’d like to write Tomb of Dracula, my very first series for Marvel, and the book that would jump-start my career,” Wolfman recollected. “So it is a real thrill now that 50-plus years later Marvel asked me to once again dive into that pool with this very special What If…? story, and to bring back that great cast of characters that artist Gene Colan and I created so many years ago. Thank you, Marvel, for giving me the chance to play with old friends one last time.“

(9) I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. José Pablo Iriarte remembers childhood 50 years ago.

(10) CHEESE SCANNERS LIVE IN VAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Microchips in the Parmigiano and Other Ways Europeans Are Fighting Fake Food” at MSN.com.

… Now, makers of Parmigiano-Reggiano, as the original parmesan cheese is officially called, are slapping the microchips on their 90-pound cheese wheels as part of an endless cat-and-mouse game between makers of authentic and fake products….

Other European food producers are also going to ever greater lengths to protect their hallowed brand names against knockoffs. Guaranteeing food authenticity is big business in the European Union and more than 3,500 EU products have received protected status in addition to Italy’s Parmigiano, including Greek feta cheese, French Champagne and Italian Parma raw ham.

The market is worth almost €80 billion annually, equivalent to $87 billion, according to an EU study published in 2020. The market has grown considerably in recent years, in part due to the addition of new products to the list, according to food industry analysts. 

Because the protected products command premium prices, in some cases double those of similar but unprotected products, the market in Europe and farther afield is awash with fakes. Estimates put the market for knockoff products at about the same size as that for the originals….

(11) POSTHUMOUS FAME. The New York Times continues its series of obituaries for people whose deaths went unreported in the paper at the time: “Overlooked No More: Robert M. Budd, Whose Newsstand Was Unlike Any Other”.

…It was the height of the Civil War, and a young Robert M. Budd was hitching a ride from a Union Army encampment in Northern Virginia to his home in Washington, D.C. Boarding a wagon, he found that it was carrying federal soldiers — some wounded, others dead.

Robert was brave. Not only was he risking getting shot in a theater of war, but, because he was Black, he was also in danger of being kidnapped and enslaved. But he had accepted those risks to earn some money: selling newspapers to the troops as a newsboy.

Some soldiers, he found, were willing to pay more for older issues carrying stories about battles they had fought in — $3, for example, for a paper that carried reports of the second Battle of Bull Run, in August 1862, rather than the typical price of three cents.

And with that discovery, a business idea was born.

Later moving to New York, Budd, in the early 1880s, opened a newsstand in Manhattan, where for a time he was recognized as the sole purveyor of old newspapers and magazines, also called back numbers. The New York Sun in 1895 described him as “the only man in America in the back number newspaper business” (though some book stores also had a few old papers on hand).

Stairs next to his newsstand, in Greeley Square, led to a tunnellike gaslit basement, which, as The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote, Budd filled with “the world’s largest collection of old newspapers” as well as magazines, sensational dime novels and theater programs. Budd became known as the Back Number King or, more often, Back Number Budd, which was how he signed his checks….

(12) ICE AGED. Smithsonian Magazine has Ötzi’s ancestry report: “Famed 5,300-Year-Old Alps Iceman Was a Balding Middle-Aged Man With Dark Skin and Eyes”.

…The study also used comparisons with other ancient individuals’ DNA to suggest that the Iceman is descended, in large part, from the Anatolian agriculturalists who first brought farming to Europe about 9,000 years ago, through what is now Turkey into Greece and the Balkan Peninsula. Ötzi’s genes show little mixing with the hunter-gatherer populations already living in Europe during that time, suggesting that his community was small and relatively isolated in their beautiful but remote alpine environment….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/16/23 La Pixel È Malleable

(1) NEW SFF NOVELLA CONTEST COMING IN SEPTEMBER. The Fantasy Review will take entries in the inaugural Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS) beginning September 2.

The Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”) is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. We are a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and we highlight greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.).

See eligibility requirements here. Find the judging process and timeline here.

These are the organizers and their social media pages: Nathan: TwitterInstagram, and TikTok; The Shaggy Shepherd: Twitter; Rowena: Twitter and Instagram; Tabitha: Twitter and Instagram.

(2) WILL FTC DIP INTO BIG RIVER? “Authors and Booksellers Urge Justice Dept. to Investigate Amazon” reports the New York Times.

With mounting signs that the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to file a lawsuit against Amazon for violating antitrust laws, a group of booksellers, authors and antitrust activists are urging the government to investigate the company’s domination of the book market.

On Wednesday, the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank, along with the Authors Guild and the American Booksellers Association, sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, calling on the government to curb Amazon’s “monopoly in its role as a seller of books to the public.”

The groups are pressing the Justice Department to investigate not only Amazon’s size as a bookseller, but also its sway over the book market — especially its ability to promote certain titles on its site and bury others, said Barry Lynn, the executive director of the Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy group focused on strengthening antimonopoly policies.

“What we have is a situation in which the power of a single dominant corporation is warping, in the aggregate, the type of books that we’re reading,” Lynn said in an interview. “This kind of power concentrated in a democracy is not acceptable.”

The letter, addressed to Lina Khan, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, and Jonathan Kanter, who leads the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, comes as the F.T.C. appears to be closing in on its decision to bring an antitrust case against Amazon. Amazon representatives are expected to meet this week with members of the commission to discuss the possible suit, a sign that legal action may be imminent….

(3) BARBIE’S TEACHABLE MOMENTS. The New York Times asks “Will Hollywood Learn These 5 Lessons From ‘Barbie’?” Here’s one of the lessons they have in mind:

5. Stop saving the good stuff for the sequel

With “Barbie” on a path to become the year’s highest-grossing movie worldwide, Warner Bros. will inevitably try to conjure a franchise from it. Yet much of what makes “Barbie” feel fresh is that it tells a complete story and doesn’t spend time setting up spinoffs or sequels. In fact, it ends in a place that would be hard to roll back: with its lead at the definitive end of her character arc. Gerwig and her stars aren’t signed for “Barbie” sequels, and when I spoke to Gerwig after her blockbuster opening weekend, she said she’d put every idea she had into this movie without the thought of doing more: “At this moment, it’s all I’ve got.”

(4) KING HAS PLANS. The Guardian tells readers, “Stephen King says he may continue the Talisman series”. Later in the article King tells what he finds scary.

Stephen King has suggested that he may write a third instalment of the two-book Talisman series, which he co-wrote with the late Peter Straub. Asked on a podcast if his days of writing “epics” were in the past, King replied “never say never”. “Before he died, Peter sent me this long letter and said we oughta do the third one, and he gave me a really cool idea and I had some ideas of my own,” he said.

Speaking as a guest on an episode of the Talking Scared podcast, King added that the volume – which would follow The Talisman and its sequel, Black House – “would be a long book”….

(5) HAUNTED LAUGHS. Nostalgia Central introduces a new generation to the Fifties ghostly comedy series Topper. Episode videos can be viewed there, too.

… The Thorne Smith classic came to television with Leo G Carroll as the stuffy and befuddled well-to-do banking vice president, Cosmo Topper, whose new house at 101 Yardley Avenue in New York, was inhabited by the ghosts of the former owners, George and Marion Kerby, who had been killed in an avalanche while skiing in Switzerland.

Only he could see them, which made for some hilarious situations indeed, especially as George and Marion – not to mention their alcoholic St Bernard dog, Neil – were prone to practical joking….

(6) EVEN A DOLLAR. Francis Hamit’s Kickstarter for his novel Starmen is over 80% funded. As he explained in the latest update, he’s looking for any level of help.

An old friend who I have not seen or heard from for many years wrote me to say that she hasn’t got much these days but would give something.  And that is all I want. Even a dollar is welcome.  Seriously.  I set the goal low deliberately because I want as many people as possible to read this book and tell their friends.  Most publishers will reject this out of hand.  It’s too long.  180,000 words  and counting as I add more material to fix flaws my developmental editors found.  

I’m a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, generally acknowledged as the best writing school in the English speaking world but I never thought i’d learned it all.  My motto is KAISAN!, a Japanese management term meaning “continuous improvement”.  

Most publishers will also reject this book because it does not fit neatly into a genre.  They won’t know how to market it unless  there is  so much “buzz” that everyone wants to read it.  And that, Gentle Reader, is where you come in.   Give me a dollar or more and help me make goal.

 If I make more there are other things I can do with it.  Hire help.  Both Leigh and I are disabled. The goal amount will go to hire someone to properly format the E-Book so its a smooth read.  Buying reviews from Kirkus and other outlets. Managing the fulfillment.  The  T-shirts and mugs come from Printful.  They will send them directly to you.  Formatting and producing a paperback.  Upgrading our computers.  I have a big backlog of other work to publish. Every dollar helps!

As the old English folksong goes “Have you got a penny?  Can you give a  penny?  But if you haven’t got a penny, then God Bless You!

(7) ORPHANS IN THE SKY. “Our Galaxy Is Home to Trillions of Worlds Gone Rogue” in the New York Times says “Astronomers have found that free-floating planets far outnumber those bound to a host star.” But Andrew Porter is disappointed the article doesn’t mention “spindizzies”.

Free-floating planets — dark, isolated orbs roaming the universe unfettered by any host star — don’t just pop into existence in the middle of cosmic nowhere. They probably form the same way other planets do: within the swirling disk of gas and dust surrounding an infant star.

But unlike their planetary siblings, these worlds get violently chucked out of their celestial neighborhoods.

Astronomers had once calculated that billions of planets had gone rogue in the Milky Way. Now, scientists at NASA and Osaka University in Japan are upping the estimate to trillions. Detailed in two papers accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal, the researchers have deduced that these planets are six times more abundant than worlds orbiting their own suns, and they identified the second Earth-size free floater ever detected.

The existence of wandering worlds orphaned from their star systems has long been known, but poorly understood. Previous findings suggested that most of these planets were about the size of Jupiter, our solar system’s most massive planet. But that conclusion garnered a lot of pushback; even scientists who announced it found it surprising.

To better study these rogue worlds, David Bennett, an astronomer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and his team used nine years of data from the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics telescope at the University of Canterbury Mount John Observatory in New Zealand. Exoplanets were indirectly detected by measuring how their gravity warped and magnified the light arriving from faraway stars behind them, an effect known as microlensing.

With help from empirical models, the researchers worked out the spread of the masses for more than 3,500 microlensing events, which included stars, stellar remnants, brown dwarfs and planet candidates. (Data from one of those candidates was compelling enough for the team to claim the discovery of a new rogue Earth.) From this analysis, they estimate that there are about 20 times more free-floating worlds in our Milky Way than stars, with Earth-mass planets 180 times more common than rogue Jupiters…

(8) MEMORY LANE

1987 – [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Sharyn McCrumb is, to me, an interesting writer that I like and admire a lot. Appalachian-born and resident, her novels are deeply rooted in the history and folklore of that region though for the most part our Beginning this Scroll is definitely not.

My favorite series by her is decidedly genre, the Ballad series, which has a woman who knows exactly when an individual is going to pass beyond the mortal veil, and more than one novel where ghosts figure in. I think Ghost Riders is the best of these.

And her Elizabeth MacPherson novels aren’t genre but they are really fun mysteries with MacPherson being an archaeologist. The Scottish games set Highland Laddie Gone is the best and intentionally comical of these. (Davina Porter narrates the audio version and does a stellar job.) You need to have attended a Scottish game or two, and been possible slightly inebriated while there to appreciate this novel. Don’t miss the haggis on a stick if you do go. Is it in a sheep’s stomach? Maybe, maybe not.

The Bimbos of the Death Sun duology where our Beginning comes includes Zombies of the Gene Pool

Bimbos of the Death Sun was published by Windwalker / TSR in 987 with the cover illustration by Jeff Easley. Zombies of the Gene Pool followed five years later from Simon & Schuster. Not quite a Meredith Moment but really close, both are available from the usual suspects. 

Both are set within fandom and that means that anyone who reads them, well, I like them a lot but I know that is not a opinion not universally shared. But since when is any book universally liked or disliked, loved or hated?

Now I expect nearly all of you have read these novels but some haven’t so I’m not spoiling a damn thing. 

So here’s the beginning of Bimbos of the Death Sun

The visiting Scottish folksinger peered out of the elevator into the hotel lobby. When he pushed the button marked “G,” he naturally assumed that he would arrive at the ground floor of the building. Now he wasn’t so sure. Things were different in America, but he hadn’t realized they were this different. Perhaps “G” stood for Ganymede, or some other intergalactic place. Who were those people? 

A pale blonde in blue body paint wearing a green satin tunic stepped on to the elevator, eyeing his jeans and sweatshirt with faint disapproval. “Going up?” she said in her flat American accent. She looked about twenty, he thought. The elevator was moving before he realized that he’d forgotten to get out.

 “You here for the con?” she asked, noticing his guitar case.

“No. I’m a tourist.” He liked that better than saying he was on tour; it prevented leading questions that ended in disappointment when the American discovered: 1) that they had never heard of him, and 2) that he didn’t know Rod Stewart. “What are you here for?” 

She grinned. “Oh, you mean you don’t know? It’s Rubicon—a science fiction convention. We’re practically taking over the hotel. There’ll be hundreds of us.” 

“Oh, right. Like Trekkies.” He nodded. “We have some of your lot back home.” 

“Where’s home?” she asked, fiddling with the key ring on her yellow sash.

“Scotland.” At least she hadn’t tried to guess. He was getting tired of being mistaken for an Australian. 

As the elevator doors rumbled open on the fifth floor, the departing blue person glanced again at his jeans. “Scotland, huh?” she mused. “Aren’t you supposed to be wearing some kind of funny outfit?” 

“Is Diefenbaker here yet?” asked Bernard Buchanan breathlessly. He always said things a little breathlessly, on account of the bulk he was carrying around, and he was always clutching a sheaf of computer printouts, which he would try to read to the unwary. 

Miles Perry, whose years of con experience had made him chief among the wary, began to edge away from the neo-fan. “I haven’t seen him,” he hedged.

“I had a letter from him on Yellow Pigs Day, and he said he’d be here,” Bernard persisted. “He’s supposed to be running one of the wargames, and I wanted him to look at my new parody.” 

Miles swallowed his exasperation. It was, after all, the first hour of the convention. If he started shouting now, his blood pressure would exceed his I.Q. in no time, and there were still two more days of wide-eyed novices to endure. Diefenbaker would encourage these eager puppies; he brought it on himself. Miles had a good mind to post a notice in the hotel lobby informing everyone of Diefenbaker’s room number. Maybe a few dozen hours of collective neo-fans, all reading him fanzine press at once, would cure him of these paternal instincts. Really, Diefenbaker would write to anybody. Just let someone in Nowhere-in-Particular, New Jersey, write in a comment to Diefenbaker’s fan magazine, and Dief would fire back a friendly five-page letter, making the poor crottled greep feel liked. More comments would follow, requiring more five-page letters. Miles didn’t like to think what Dief’s postage budget would run. And this is what it came to: post-adolescent monomaniacs waiting to waylay him at cons to discuss Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms, or whatever their passion was. If he weren’t careful, he’d get so tied up with these upstarts that he wouldn’t have time to socialize with the authors and the fen-elite. Miles would have to protect Dief from such pitfalls, for his own good.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories in 1926. Also helped create fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in Outer Limits’ “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he made one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode? I’ve not seen it. Do we consider I Spy genre? Well we should. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 90. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eleen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland which is a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by Dan Craig. Yes, I bought it without opening the book solely because of the cover! (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 16, 1934 andrew j. offutt (and Andrew J. Offutt, A. J. Offutt, and Andy Offutt). I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not a Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. His only award was a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who had done a great deal for Southern Fandom. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 16, 1952 Edie Stern, 71. Fancyclopedia 3 says that she is “a well-known SF club, con, filker, collector and fanzine fan.” Well it actually goes on at impressive length about her. So I’m going to just link to their bio for her thisaway.
  • Born August 16, 1960 Timothy Hutton, 63. Best known as Nathan Ford on the Leverage series which is almost genre. His first genre was in Iceman as Dr. Stanley Shephard, and he was in The Dark Half in the dual roles of Beaumont and George Stark. He’s David Wildee in The Last Mizo, based off “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (husband-and-wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). He was Hugh Crain in The Haunting of Hill House series. I’m going to finish off this Birthday note by singling out his most superb role as Archie Goodwin on the Nero Wolfe series. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a superhero case of “It’s not you, it’s me…”
  • Last Kiss shows a summer camp where all eyes are on Wonder Woman

(11) DOES THIS DOME HAVE A FUTURE? The New York Times notes how “A Dormant Dome for Cinephiles Is Unsettling Hollywood”.

Since the November night in 1963 when the Cinerama Dome opened its doors with the premiere of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” — drawing Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett and Ethel Merman to the sidewalks of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood — the theater, and the multiplex that later rose around it, has been a home for people who liked to watch movies and people who liked to make movies.

Its distinctive geodesic dome, memorialized by Quentin Tarantino in the 2019 film “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” has become more retro than futuristic over the years, a reminder of a Technicolor past. Yet through it all, the complex known as the ArcLight Hollywood remained a cinephile favorite, with no commercials, no latecomers admitted and ushers who would, after introducing the upcoming show, promise to stay behind to make sure the sound and picture were “up to ArcLight standards.”

But today the ArcLight Hollywood is closed, both a victim of the coronavirus pandemic and a symbol of a movie industry in turmoil, even in its own backyard….

The shuttered complex — its entrance marked by plywood boards instead of movie posters — stands as a reminder of the great uncertainty that now shadows old-fashioned cinema in American culture. Dual strikes have shut down production. Competition from streaming services, as well as shortened attention spans in a smartphone era, has led movie theaters around the nation to shut their doors….

Yes, that’s where I saw It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Also Krakatoa, East of Java. And years later, E.T. It would be missed.

(12) ELEMENTARY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “12 Different Ways to Organize the Periodic Table of Elements” at Visual Capitalist. (Playlist: Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”, of course…) I’m sure there are yet more arrangement variants out there.

The Periodic Table of Elements is an iconic image in classrooms and laboratories all around the world.

Yet despite having an almost unanimous agreement amongst scientists on its composition, there are over 1,000 different periodic tables—and that number continues to grow. This is because the standard table does not highlight all of the existing relationships between the elements.

With 118 elements currently known, there are many different interactions and stories to tell. Here are some of the most remarkable, fascinating and bizarre periodic tables that we could find….

(13) IT’S NOT EXACTLY SACRAMENTAL. Good grief, whoever thought of this branding? “The Exorcist Collectors Series” at Mano’s Wine.

Mano’s Wine is thrilled to offer horror fans the chance to collect officially licensed bottles featuring moments from their favorite movies. Whether you plan to kick back and calm your nerves after those jump scares with a glass of delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, or keep it on your bar for the suspense this bottle is a showstopper.

(14) TAKES A KICKING AND KEEPS ON TREKKING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Tsk! and maybe “Maybe you don’t want to do that…” “Introducing Unitree H1: Its First General-purpose Humanoid Robot”.

(15) MENTAL MASONRY. Scientific American tells how “Neuroscientists Re-create Pink Floyd Song from Listeners’ Brain Activity”.

Researchers hope brain implants will one day help people who have lost the ability to speak to get their voice back—and maybe even to sing. Now, for the first time, scientists have demonstrated that the brain’s electrical activity can be decoded and used to reconstruct music.

A new study analyzed data from 29 people who were already being monitored for epileptic seizures using postage-stamp-size arrays of electrodes that were placed directly on the surface of their brain. As the participants listened to Pink Floyd’s 1979 song “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” the electrodes captured the electrical activity of several brain regions attuned to musical elements such as tone, rhythm, harmony and lyrics. Employing machine learning, the researchers reconstructed garbled but distinctive audio of what the participants were hearing. The study results were published on Tuesday in PLOS Biology….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Billie Ellish sings “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(5) MEMORY LANE.

2005[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

So here’s that Beginning…

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

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

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

We have been waiting for months for this day. 

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

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

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audie Awards 2023

The 2023 Audie Awards winners were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on March 28.

The complete list of winners is here. Categories of genre interest include:

SCIENCE-FICTION

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc

  • By Ash Bishop
  • Narrated by Scott Brick and Suzanne Elise Freeman
  • Published by CamCat Books
  • Published by Hachette Audio

FANTASY

The Monsters We Defy

  • By Leslye Penelope
  • Narrated by Shayna Small
  • Published by Hachette Audio

BEST MALE NARRATOR

BEST FEMALE NARRATOR