Pixel Scroll 2/20/24 The Scroll Of Theseus

(1) IN THE BEGINNING. Philip Athans asks everyone, “Don’t Be Hatin’ On Prologues (Again)” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

… Anyway, once again we’re being told that all prologues are bad, no books should ever have a prologue, and all authors who write prologues are bad, and anyway, it’s best to just skip over them if one should have the nerve to appear….

…Let’s take this monumental misconception in two parts. First, the notion that prologues are optional and no one reads them.

As both an editor and a reader I have never in my life skipped a prologue or in any way went in thinking it was not necessary to the story. Not one time, not ever. This notion is so alien to me I can’t even begin to understand the origin of it.

Richard Lee Byers, author of Called to Darkness and The Reaver (neither of which happen to have prologues) tried to help: “…the assumption is that the prologue is an info dump. Beyond that, even if it’s exciting in its own right, there’s a feeling that if Chapter 1 switches to different characters or is Ten Years Later, you’ve thrown away whatever narrative momentum you might have built up.”

There should never be an assumption that a prologue is an info dump, because prologues should never be info dumps—not ever, not under any circumstances. And yes, even if your world is really complex and you’ve spent years worldbuilding and you’re sure no one will understand your story unless you “set the scene” or teach them all about your amazing world, and all that nonsense. If this is what your prologue is doing, that’s why your book is being rejected, not because it has a prologue, but because it has a crappy prologue….

(3) HISTORY AND MORAL PHILOSOPHY. Canadian sff author D.G. Valdron writes about “Moral Compromise and the Lesson of the Hugos” on Medium.

… Well, the Hugos Scandal isn’t the battle for Civil Rights. But the sort of moral compromise and coercion that King criticized is on display here, and it’s frightening how unnecessary it was, how shallow virtue turned out to be.

How do we really act, how do we really think or behave, how virtuous are we if we are genuinely tested, if there’s a real push. How often have you bowed your head and simply gone along to get along.

And how brave will you be when there are real consequences? When taking a stand actually can get you arrested, or get you fired from your job, or get you beaten up? How principled are you, when there’s money involved, either to lose or to gain? When principles mean some form of inconvenience? When principles mean going against the crowd?

Sadly, I think that most of us won’t be. We’ll be just like the Hugo folk….

(4) THE FIRST. “’No one had done it before him’: the groundbreaking stories of Black astronauts” – the Guardian discusses the documentary film The Space Race.

…Glover describes the tension of code switching between his professional and personal lives. He is a military officer and Nasa astronaut – he will pilot the upcoming Artemis II mission that will orbit the moon – but also a Black man in America. “Is it really possible to have a double consciousness? No, but you almost have to think of it that way: there’s a bit of me that I am at home and then there’s a bit of me that I am at work, and the overlap is kind of small.”…

(5) STEVE MILLER (1950-2024). Sff author Steve Miller died this afternoon. His wife and co-author Sharon Lee told Facebook readers:

He went downstairs to take a walk at about 4:30. At about 5:30, I thought he’d been awhile and went downstairs to see what was going on.

He was on the floor, unconscious, and not breathing. I called 911, and did CPR until the ambulance and EMTs arrived. They did everything they could, but his heart just wouldn’t beat on its own.

Miller’s health had been failing; he recently wrote his own obituary, which Sharon Lee has allowed File 770 to post (see “Steven Richard Miller (July 31, 1950 – February 20, 2024)”.)

Steve and Sharon Lee declared themselves partners in life and in writing in 1978. They married in November 1980, and moved from Maryland to Skowhegan, Maine, in October 1988 after the publication of their first joint novel, Agent of Change, the first in what was to become a long series of space opera novels and stories set in their original Liaden Universe®. A book in that series, Scout’s Progress, won the 2002 Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Steve was an active member of fandom in earlier years, as Director of Information of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for some time, and as vice-chair of the bid committee to hold the 1980 Worldcon in Baltimore (they lost to Boston).

The SF Encyclopedia says Steve began publishing work of genre interest with “Shalgiel” for Flux Magazine in 1976, one of his few solo works. He began collaborating with Sharon with “The Naming of Kinzel: The Foolish” (June 1984 Fantasy Book); and all his novels have been with Lee, primarily the Liaden Universe® sequence. 

Steve ran his own small press from 1995 through 2012, specializing in chapbooks containing 2-3 short stories set in the Liaden Universe® and other settings from books by him, Sharon Lee and other authors.

For awhile Steve and Sharon ran Bookcastle & Dreamsgarth, Inc., a genre bookstore with a traveling convention SF art agency component.

Steve and Sharon were honored together in 2012 with NESFA’s Skylark Award, given for contributions to SF in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. (Died 2013.) Now we come to Richard Matheson. So where shall I start?  From a genre viewpoint, we should start with the Hugo he would share at Solacon for The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold from Matheson’s screenplay based off his novel. 

What next? Well The Twilight Zone, of course. He scripted thirteen episodes of which “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner is certainly the best-known. I’d also single out “Little Girl Lost” for just being out really, really scary, again it’s based off a story of his. Also, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” became part of the Twilight Zone film.

Richard Matheson

Oh, sweet mother, he was prolific! I mean really, really prolific. Just cinema films alone totaled up to at least twenty-eight: television work adds another thirty-four. So no, I’m not covering these in detail, am I? 

Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend was made into three movies – but he wondered in an interview why it kept being optioned when no one ever made a movie that actually followed the book. He hated The Last Man on Earth, so he’s credited as Logan Swanson instead. It got made twice more, as The Omega Man, and much later as I Am Legend with Will Smith.

Now where was I? (The phone rang from a medical office. Lots of those these days.) Ahhh, series work. 

The Night Stalker was his greatest success. The Night Stalker first aired in January 1972, and garnered the highest ratings of any television movie at that time. Matheson would receive an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Miniseries Teleplay. 

He scripted but a single episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., “The Atlantis Affair” and none of the other U.N.C.L.E. series. 

He did “The Enemy Within” episode of the Trek series, not one that I consider to be all that great.

Remember in the Jack Palance Birthday I mentioned Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula? Well guess who the scriptwriter was for it?

He’s the scriptwriter of The Martian Chronicles, the good, the bad whatever of that series. Seen it at least three times, still love the original version much more.

He was involved in Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. The first and much shorter segment, The Theatre, was expanded and scripted by him from a Serling outline. 

Now his fiction. 

Thirty novels which with the exception of the ones of the ones I’ve already noted and The Shrinking Man and The Night Stalker novels, I recognized absolutely nothing. What I found fascinating is that half of the nearly thirty novels had become films. Nearly all with him writing the scripts for them. 

Short stories. Oh yes. And as I’ve mentioned previously, many of them were adapted by him into scripts for such series as The Twilight Zone. He’s got literally dozens of collections but not being one who’s read him deeply, I cannot recommend what ones are the best to acquire.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) HOW EDUCATIONAL! The New York Times declares, “It’s Alive! EC Comics Returns”.

EC Comics, which specialized in tales of horror, crime and suspense, and was shut down in the “moral panic” of the 1950s, is making a comeback.

Oni Press will publish two new anthology series under the EC Comics banner. The first, Epitaphs From the Abyss, coming in July, will be horror focused; Cruel Universe, the second, arrives in August and will tell science fiction stories.

Hunter Gorinson, the president and publisher of Oni Press, said the new stories will interpret the world of today, much as EC Comics explored the American psyche of the 1950s. The cover designs will feel familiar to EC Comics fans: Running down the top left is a label declaring the type of story — “Terror” or “Horror” or “Science-Fiction” — and the logo evokes the bold colors and fonts of past series like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.”

The series are a partnership between Oni and the family of William M. Gaines, the original publisher of EC Comics, who died in 1992. Gary Groth, the editor of The Comics Journal, told The New York Times in 2013 that EC Comics was “arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium.”….

 (9) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. “I Went to Hogwarts for Seven Years and Did Not Learn Math or Spelling, and Now I Can’t Get a Job” is a 2020 humor piece from The New Yorker.

Dear Headmaster McGonagall:

I am a recent Hogwarts graduate, and, although my time with you was a literal fantasy, I unfortunately did not learn a lot of basic skills, like math or spelling, at your skool.

You may say, “Why do you need arithmetic? You’re a wizard. You can do magic!” To which I reply, sure, for some wizard careers that’s great, but other wizards work in middle management and just want a normal nine-to-five gig. When I graduated, I thought that all I would need was my wand and a couple of choice incantations, but these days, without at least a little algebra, you’re not even qualified to work in Bertie Bott’s retail department…

(10) ARTIFICIAL SURE, INTELLIGENT? MAYBE. Not including any copies of the images was an easy choice: “The rat with the big balls and the enormous penis – how Frontiers published a paper with botched AI-generated images” at Science Integrity Digest.

… The authors disclose that the figures were generated by Midjourney, but the images are – ahem – anatomically and scientifically incorrect.

Figure 1 features an illustration of a rat, sitting up like a squirrel, with four enormous testicles and a giant … penis? The figure includes indecipherable labels like ‘testtomcels‘, ‘senctolic‘, ‘dissilced‘, ‘iollotte sserotgomar‘ and ‘diƨlocttal stem ells’. At least the word ‘rat‘ is correct.

One of the insets shows a ‘retat‘, with some ‘sterrn cells‘ in a Petri dish with a serving spoon. Enjoy!…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Lise Andreasen, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John A Arkansawyer, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Steven Richard Miller (July 31, 1950 – February 20, 2024)

[Introduction: Sharon Lee just announced, “Steve died very suddenly today.  We knew his health was failing, and he told me a few months ago that he had written an obit. I found it on his computer.” File 770 is honored to publish it.]

Steve Miller

Steven Richard Miller was born in Baltimore MD July 31, 1950, son of Donald George Miller and Helen Lorraine Miller (Myers). He attended and graduated from Franklin Senior High School, Class of 1968, where he was on the chess team and also the editor of the literary magazine.  He attended University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where besides joining the chess team he became News Editor and later Managing Editor of the school newspaper, originating and teaching several courses on Science Fiction as an undergrad.

Pursuing his life-long interest in writing and science fiction he attended the Clarion West writing workshop in 1973 where he studied with genre greats Peter Beagle, James Sallis, Harlan Ellison, Terry Carr, Vonda McIntyre, Ursula LeGuin, and Joanna Russ, shortly after which he joined UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library staff as the founding Curator of Science Fiction.

Following his stint as a library curator, Steve pursued writing including freelancing features, photos, and community news for many Baltimore region weekly and monthly newspapers; along the way he was also editor of Prime Time News, The Valley Voice, and an owner of New County Express, while contributing articles to the Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, Locus, Bangor Daily News, Chess Life, Practical Survival magazine, Morning Sentinel, and others.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in 2017.

In April 1978, Steve and Sharon Lee declared themselves partners in life and in writing.  In the next while they opened Dreams Garth and Book Castle, a science fiction themed used bookstore and art gallery business.  They married in November 1980, and moved from Maryland to Skowhegan, Maine, in October 1988 after the publication of their first joint novel, Agent of Change, the first in what was to become a long series of space opera novels and stories set in their original Liaden Universe®.  In 1992, they moved to Winslow; and to Waterville in 2018.

After the move to Maine, Steve continued to pursue his writing career and also became increasingly involved in computers, starting Circular Logic BBS, which became one of the state’s largest independent BBS systems, about the same time he joined the Oakland Public Library (Maine) as children’s librarian and IT specialist, a part-time position.  Next, Steve was manager for Maine Computer Connection, which led to a job as lead sysop and trainer for the statewide Maine Meeting Place BBS, serving the disability community’s communication needs before the internet had become commonplace in Maine.  As the internet took hold, he became Internet Librarian for Unimation, a startup in Unity, Maine.  When Unimation folded during the dotcom winnowing in 1995, Steve transitioned to publisher and writer, a career he continued until his death.

Steve’s interest in chess spanned most of his life.  In addition to participating in the Maryland Scholastic Chess League in high school, he was a member of UMBC’s first intercollegiate chess team and later became a US Chess Federation Tournament Director, President of the Owings Mills Chess Club in Maryland, and a voting member of the USCF representing Maryland while directing a regular series of open tournaments at the Owings Mills Chess Club, publishing Skittles – a monthly chess newsletter – and enjoying occasional success over the board. 

After moving to Maine he joined and later became President of the Waterville Chess Club, where he reformed the club’s rating system, and instituted a series of regular open tournaments as well as running several Maine State Championships in a row, both of which were the largest to date in the state.  He was recognized as Maine Chess Organizer of the Year in 1995.  In addition to winning several club championships, Steve was part of Waterville’s Maine Chess League State championship team in 1998.  He remained active in the local chess scene for many years including frequent participation in the Waterville club’s virtual meetings during Covid.

Steve was predeceased by his father, Donald Miller of Madeira Beach FL, his stepfather, Ronald L. Moore Sr., and his mother, Helen Moore.  Survived by his wife, Sharon Lee, and siblings Donald George Miller (Kim), Craig Edward Miller (Brenda), Cindy Rex (Ron Prietz Sr.), Roland L. Moore, Jr. (Kay) numerous nieces and nephews.

[Thanks to Sharon Miller for the post.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/23 But Can He Put A Brick To Sleep Through Hypnosis?

(1) MAINE PAPER INTERVIEWS LIADEN CREATORS. “Waterville authors’ marriage has stood the test of time – and deadlines”, in the Portland, ME Press-Herald.

In the days when they were trying to build their careers as science fiction writers, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller had multiple jobs to pay the bills, and a shared typewriter.

Lee remembers going off to work at the paper mill in Skowhegan during the day and leaving whatever she had written in the typewriter for Miller, so he could pick up where she left off when he came home from his overnight shift at a Cumberland Farms.

“We just left the paper in the typewriter for whoever was home to work on the book,” said Lee, 70. “We had a deadline to meet, it was a necessity.”

Some 35 years later, Lee and Miller still write science fiction novels together, but with the luxury of time and space. Both write full-time and each have their own writing office, at opposite ends of their ranch house in Waterville. Nowadays, they sometimes leave finished pages on the dining room table for the other to read over. They’ve collaborated on some 100 stories and books over the years, including 25 novels in the popular Liaden Universe series.

The most recent book in the series, “Salvage Right,” went on sale in July and debuted at No. 2 on book publishing industry data provider BookScan’s science fiction list. It was published by Baen Books and distributed by Simon & Schuster. Their first book came out in 1988, the year they moved to Maine from Baltimore. The couple has been married since 1980.

“They are two very intelligent, creative people playing off each other, and there’s a huge element of trust in the way they work. You can’t tell which ones Sharon took the lead on or which ones Steve did,” said Toni Weisskopf, the publisher at Baen Books. “There have been some husband-and-wife collaborations in science fiction, but for a couple to work together this long and for their marriage to remain successful is probably unique.”…

(2) CHENGDU WORLDCON TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR FAN TABLES. The Chengdu Worldcon (October 18-22) is now accepting requests from those who want to run Fan Tables. The deadline to apply is August 31 at 5:00 p.m. (Beijing Time). Detailed information is in the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon Exhibition Brochure. The contact email is [email protected].

…As one of the most important parts of a Worldcon, the exhibition is an excellent platform for global fannish groups to experience science fiction culture from various community and communicate and exchange science fiction ideas and perspectives. This year, we have set up an area of over 5,000 sqm exhibition space which composed with industries and fannish groups related to science fiction genre. You can find exhibitors featuring the content of science fiction lifestyle, arts, films, publishing, games, popular science and culture and tourism along with Fan Table, Dealer’s Room and the Future Worldcons. Now we are pleased to announce the open of application for the exhibition, however, due to the limited space and table, we have to approve the application in a manner of first come first get.

(3) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. The Library of America interviewed Jonathan Eller, editor of  The Illustrated Man, The October Country, Other Stories, which gathers two of Ray Bradbury’s celebrated collections and twenty-seven other stories. Eller is the author of the definitive, three-volume Ray Bradbury biography (Becoming Ray BradburyRay Bradbury UnboundBradbury Beyond Apollo) and the general editor of the Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury and The New Bradbury Review. “Jonathan R. Eller on Ray Bradbury’s journey from the pulps to the slicks”.

Jonathan R. Eller: Throughout World War II, Ray Bradbury published in the genre pulps by way of his first New York agent, Julius Schwartz. His success with off-trail stories in the pages of Weird Tales came first, as he slowly developed a style to match his tales of strange children and eccentric supernatural creatures that bore little resemblance to the conventional vampires, ghosts, and werewolves usually featured in the supernatural pulps.

By 1945 he had found another reading audience through the crime fiction pulps, again creating unconventional characters who blurred the boundaries between rational, neurotic, and psychotic behavior. All along he had also been publishing in the science fiction magazines with limited success, hampered to some degree by an anxiety of influence and the virtual lack of any background in the sciences or technologies that stimulated many other writers in the field.

Nevertheless, Bradbury was already developing his own distinctive, metaphor-rich style, and genre mentors such as Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, and Henry Kuttner helped him discover his true strengths as a writer. Bradbury always believed that his subconscious was the key to original ideas, and by the mid-1940s he realized, on some level, that his strengths were not in imagining the experiences of others, but in telling stories that came from the emotional responses to life found in the mind of a child, and the mind of the adult that the child would become. These subjects he knew well….

(4) I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. “Rod Serling Committed Plagiarism In The Twilight Zone – By Accident”Slashfilm explains what they mean by that.

The pilot episode for Rod Serling’s seminal sci-fi TV series “The Twilight Zone” was called “Where Is Everybody?,” and it aired on October 2, 1959. It was directed by Robert Stevens and, like most episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” was written by Serling himself…

Bradbury was unambiguous when addressing Serling’s “inspiration.” He explained:

“The first program of ‘The Twilight Zone’ is based on a story from ‘The Martian Chronicles.’ He invited me to a screening with my friend Bill Nolan and the other boys in the gang, you know, and when we came out we all looked at each other and said, ‘God, that looks a little bit like a story from “The Martian Chronicles.”‘ I didn’t say anything because I was embarrassed. And a month or so later, Rod called me on the phone and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I said, ‘Tell you what?’ He said, ‘Well, my pilot script is based partially on a story of yours from “The Martian Chronicles?”‘”

It seemed that Serling didn’t know that Ray Bradbury had beaten him to a “lone soul wanders a human-free landscape” story by about nine years. Serling then told Bradbury that it took his wife, Carol, to point out the similarities to him. Luckily, she happened to be readying Bradbury’s book at the time. The author recalled:

“[Serling] said ‘I was in bed reading with my wife and Carol turned over, she was reading “The Martian Chronicles” and she said, “Rod, read this, it’s like your pilot.”‘ And he said, ‘My God, I realized that inadvertently I’d stolen part of your idea.'”

Luckily, Serling wanted to do the honorable thing, and give credit where credit was due; it seems that Rod didn’t want to rip off any ideas or claim credit for himself. He offered to pay Bradbury to appropriate amount to purchase the rights to his story. Bradbury refused, saying that the acknowledgment was enough, offering him vindication….

(5) SCOREBOARD, BABY! “Another judge agrees: AI-Created art isn’t copyrightable” reports Mashable.

…There has been a debate raging over whether or not work created by generative artificial intelligence can be copyrighted. Some judges have ruled no, of course not, that would be absurd; others have argued the opposite. On Friday, the computers took another L.

A federal judge ruled to uphold a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that states that pieces of art that are created by AI are not protected by copyright law. As the Hollywood Reporter found, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who delivered the ruling, said copyright law hasn’t ever protected “works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand.”

Stephen Thaler, the chief executive of the neural network firm Imagination Engines, has been leading the charge in hopes of copywriting AI works, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In his lawsuit, he argued that AI should be acknowledged “as an author where it otherwise meets authorship criteria” and that works generated completely and solely by artificial intelligence should be protected by copyright law.

“In the absence of any human involvement in the creation of the work, the clear and straightforward answer is the one given by the Register: No,” Howell wrote, adding that copyright law “protects only works of human creation.”…

(6) GRABBING WITH BOTH ROBOTIC HANDS. [Item by Bill.] Meanwhile, Google wants Australian copyright (and presumably other countries as well) to explicitly allow AI/LLM systems to scrape copyrighted material as “fair use”. “Google Wants AI Scraping to Be ‘Fair Use.’ Will Courts Agree?” at Tom’s Hardware.

What do you think would happen if I tried this? I stroll into a bank and see a wad of cash within arm’s reach behind an unoccupied teller window. I grab the dough and start walking out the door with it when a police officer, very rudely, stops me. “I’m entitled to take this money,” I say. “Because nobody at the bank told me not to.”

If you think my defense is implausible, then you don’t work for Google. This week, the search giant said that it wants to change copyright laws so that it can grab any content it wants from the Internet, use it as training data for its AI products, and argue “fair use” if anyone objects to the plagiarism stew Google’s cooking up. Google’s figleaf to copyright holders: they’ll find a way to let you opt-out.

In a recent statement to the Australian government, which is considering new AI laws, Google wrote that it wants “copyright systems that enable appropriate and fair use of copyrighted content to enable the training of AI models in Australia on a broad and diverse range of data while supporting workable opt-outs for entities that prefer their data not to be trained in using AI systems.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1890 Howard P. Lovecraft. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he was published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. He’s regarded now as one of our most important authors of horror and weird fiction. He is not the originator of the term Cthulhu mythos, that honor goes to August Derleth. (Died 1937.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that he enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 80. The Seventh Doctor (my second favorite of the classic Who Doctors after Baker) and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg BearBlood Music which won both a Nebula and a Hugo for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (Died 2022.)
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 62. Australian writer who exists though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. I assume he wasn’t there given his stance against attending Worldcons?
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 61. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe shows an alternative “next generation” idea.
  • Tom Gauld finds a case of scholarly overkill.

(9) RUSSIAN MOON LANDER FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, it looks like the anomaly in Luna 25’s orbit was of the “we attempted a negative altitude maneuver” type.  “Luna-25 crashes into moon after orbit maneuver” at Space.com.

Russia’s Luna-25 mission ended in failure after crashing into the moon, space agency Roscosmos has announced.

statement posted to the agency’s Telegram social media channel early Aug. 20 confirmed that an anomaly during an Aug. 19 maneuver to lower Luna-25’s orbit resulted in the spacecraft impacting the lunar surface.

The spacecraft was scheduled to attempt a soft lunar landing Aug. 21, near Boguslawsky crater, located approximately 70 degrees south latitude in the vicinity of the south polar region of the moon.

Roscosmos announced Aug. 19 that at 7:10 a.m. Eastern that day Luna-25 was instructed to fire its engines to send the spacecraft into a “pre-landing” orbit around the moon. The planned maneuver was anomalous, however. 

“An emergency situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters,” according to a translation of the Roscosmos statement. 

The agency clarified Sunday that contact was lost with the spacecraft around 7:57 a.m. Eastern. Measures taken Aug. 19 and 20 to reestablish contact with Luna-25 were not successful, according to the Aug. 20 statement.

A preliminary analysis revealed that a deviation of the actual parameters of the impulse from those calculated resulted in the spacecraft colliding with the lunar surface, according to a machine translation of the statement….

(10) ICONIC ARCHITECTURE NO MORE. The Guardian listens to the “Outcry over loss of features on Bangkok’s landmark ‘robot building’”.

A Bangkok landmark known as the “robot building” has been stripped of its identity, heritage campaigners have said, as they called for the city’s distinctive architecture to preserved.

The building – in the form of a giant robot made up of stacks of cubes and inspired by the architect watching his son play with a toy – has loomed over one of Bangkok’s busiest commercial districts for decades. Its design included oversized bolts and antenna, and windows shaped like cartoonish eyes.

The building’s owner, the Thai arm of the Singaporean multinational United Overseas Bank (UOB), is renovating the structure, however, and its distinctive features have been altered or removed.

The building, which is mentioned in many guides of the city, was completed in 1986 and was previously the headquarters of Bank of Asia. The architect, Dr Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya, who sought to reflect the computerisation of banking, wanted to create a building that was futuristic….

(11) WWII FLIGHT PHOTOS. The Guardian reports that the Historic England website has made available for the first time large numbers of photos indexed under “Baseball and Bombers: USAAF Reconnaissance Photography During the Second World War”.

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) reconnaissance aircraft flew hundreds of sorties over England during the Second World War. The Historic England Archive holds a USAAF collection of over 20,000 photographs that records airfields, military bases, towns, and countryside in England between 1943 and 1944.

… The photographs also show incidental details, including Second World War anti-invasion defences. Traces of earlier times can also be seen, from prehistoric archaeological features to the remains of First World War camps. Others record busy townscapes or the relative tranquillity of the natural landscape and cloud formations….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George convinces himself to make a sequel in “Meg 2: The Trench Pitch Meeting”.

Jason Statham fighting giant prehistoric sharks. That’s maybe the easiest pitch that’s ever been made, and first Meg movie made over half a billion dollars thanks to that awesome sounding premise. And when something makes half a billion dollars, you can bet we’re going to see some more of it. Meg 2: The Trench definitely raises some questions. Like why is this shark movie mostly about humans running around doing sketchy stuff? How did Jason Statham free dive at 25,000 feet? Wait, these movies are based on books? Where did that Kraken come from and why isn’t anyone talking about it? To answer all these questions, check out the pitch meeting that led to Meg 2: The Trench!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/20/23 Crouching Pixel, Hidden Jetpack

(1) THOUSANDS SIGN AUTHORS GUILD LETTER CALLING ON AI INDUSTRY TO PROTECT WRITERS. Over 9000 authors, including genre-recognizable names like Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, Carmen Machado, Joe Hill, Edward M. Lerner, Brendan DuBois, Terri Windling, Matthew Kressel, Sean Wallace,  and Cecilia Tan, have signed an open letter from the Authors Guild to the CEOs of companies developing AI generative software to not use their members’ work without consent, credit, and compensation when developing their systems.

Authors Guild press release: “More than 9,000 Authors Sign Authors Guild Letter Calling on AI Industry Leaders to Protect Writers”.

The Authors Guild, the leading professional organization for writers in the United States, has submitted an open letter to the CEOs of prominent AI companies, including OpenAI, Alphabet, Meta, Stability AI, IBM, and Microsoft. The letter calls attention to the inherent injustice of building lucrative generative AI technologies using copyrighted works and asks AI developers to obtain consent from, credit, and fairly compensate authors.

More than 9,000 writers and their supporters have signed the letter including luminaries such as Dan Brown, James Patterson, Jennifer Egan, David Baldacci, Michael Chabon, Nora Roberts, Jesmyn Ward, Jodi Picoult, Ron Chernow, Michael Pollan, Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, Celeste Ng, Louise Erdrich, Viet Thanh Nguyen, George Saunders, Min Jin Lee, Andrew Solomon, Rebecca Makkai, Tobias Wolff, and many others.

The open letter emphasizes that generative AI technologies heavily rely on authors’ language, stories, style, and ideas. Millions of copyrighted books, articles, essays, and poetry serve as the foundation for AI systems, yet authors have not received any compensation for their contributions. These works are part of the fabric of the language models that power ChatGPT, Bard, and other generative AI systems. Where AI companies like to say that their machines simply “read” the texts that they are trained on, this is inaccurate anthropomorphizing. Rather, they copy the texts into the software itself, and then they reproduce them again and again.

Maya Shanbhag Lang, president of the Authors Guild, said, “The output of AI will always be derivative in nature. AI regurgitates what it takes in, which is the work of human writers. It’s only fair that authors be compensated for having ‘fed’ AI and continuing to inform its evolution. Our work cannot be used without consent, credit, and compensation. All three are a must.”…

The text of the open letter is here. It begins:

We, the undersigned, call your attention to the inherent injustice in exploiting our works as part of your AI systems without our consent, credit, or compensation.

Generative AI technologies built on large language models owe their existence to our writings. These technologies mimic and regurgitate our language, stories, style, and ideas. Millions of copyrighted books, articles, essays, and poetry provide the “food” for AI systems, endless meals for which there has been no bill. You’re spending billions of dollars to develop AI technology. It is only fair that you compensate us for using our writings, without which AI would be banal and extremely limited.

We understand that many of the books used to develop AI systems originated from notorious piracy websites. Not only does the recent Supreme Court decision in Warhol v. Goldsmith make clear that the high commerciality of your use argues against fair use, but no court would excuse copying illegally sourced works as fair use….

(2) SFWA JOINS GLOBAL EFFORT. SFWA sent members a message encouraging them to read the AG’s open letter and consider signing it. And as an organization that have signed onto another initiative: “NWU Joint Action on AI Copyright Exceptions and Authors Guild AI/ML Open Letter”.

Last week, SFWA signed the “Creators Call for Action on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Copyright Exceptions,” a joint action from 24 creator-led organizations delivered to the European Union and United States governing bodies. This letter addresses the harm already caused to creators by AI companies’ manipulations of exceptions to copyright enacted by the 2019 European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The details of this issue are well explained on the National Writers Union (NWU) website.

We felt it was important to sign onto this particular joint call for a number of reasons:

  • Working with other organizations to monitor and respond to developments both in generative AI and in the legal environment around it is essential to advocating for concrete protections and restitution for writers. 
  • Responding to the unique issues that AI presents to creative copyrights is a global effort, not one limited to Silicon Valley. It’s important to ensure that writers’ rights are respected around the world, so corporations who may try to relocate their operations rather than compensate creators fairly will have no place to go. 
  • This letter, written by the NWU, is one such global effort, and we encourage everyone to read the letter in full to better understand some of the important copyright issues regarding the use of AI/ML applications. You are welcome to distribute the joint call and spread the word. Access the PDF of the complete joint call for action here.  

(3) TA-NEHSISI COATES ON THE SCENE. The author went to South Carolina to show his support. “Ta-Nehisi Coates Shows Up to SC School Meeting Over Removing His Book From Class” reports Daily Beast.

Ta-Nehisi Coates — screencap from news video.

A South Carolina school board meeting, in which community members railed against an African American culture writer’s award-winning memoir about racial injustice, featured a special guest appearance: Ta-Nehisi Coates, the famed author in question.

On Monday evening, the Lexington-Richland District 5 School Board met to discuss the outrage concerning Coates’ 2015 nonfiction bestseller, Between the World and Me, which has repeatedly caused political literary mayhem among reactionary right-wing communities and been placed on book ban lists.

In February, after getting approval from higher-ups, an AP Language teacher at Chapin High School conducted a lesson involving Between the World and Me. The book, written as an essay to Coates’ son to prepare him for the life he will live as a Black man, details personal accounts of Coates’ life and his first-hand experiences with racism. However, the lesson was shut down and the book was removed from the course after students filed a complaint claiming the book made them feel “guilty for being white,” local news outlet CBS 19 Columbia reported.

According to footage obtained by CBS 19, a slew of people wearing blue rallied in support for the book and for academic freedom during the board hearing. And Coates sat in the back of the room next to the teacher who assigned the book as a sign of solidarity….

… The board did not conduct a vote after public discussion.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Lexington-Richmond District 5 wrote that it is “important to understand” that Between the World and Me “is not banned in our school district.”…

(4) INNOCENCE ASSERTED. Michele Lundgren, wife of sff artist Carl Lundgren, charged by Michigan authorities this week with numerous felonies as a fake Trump elector, gave an interview to a reporter in which she says she was duped. “I was an innocent little bystander in the whole thing thinking I was doing my civic duty.”

However, if you watch this Detroit Free Press video from December 15, 2020 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NgLQxMV9c&t=206s — it shows her just after the Michigan fake electors were turned away from the State House, standing next to Ian Northon, an attorney, nodding vigorously as he explains his theory of why the GOP fake electors should have been let in. (Thanks to Kathryn Cramer for the link.)

Michele Lundgren, left, in news video covering 2020 attempt to deliver fake Trump electors.

(5) LIADEN UNIVERSE® CREATORS. Paul Semel interviews “’Salvage Right’ Co-Authors Sharon Lee & Steve Miller”.

As with all of the stories in the Liaden Universe® series, Salvage Right is a sci-fi space opera story. But are there any other genres at work in this story as well?

Sharon: Salvage Right is as pure a space opera as we’ve written in a while. It was fun to let all the stops out.

Steve: We also draw from regency romance and comedy of manners fiction; almost every time a character bows that’s tip of the hat to Georgette Heyer!

Are there any writers, or stories, who had a big influence on Salvage Right but not on anything else you’ve written?

Steve: I don’t think so; nothing recent, certainly, and with Salvage Right being a merge of story lines, it would be hard to filter one new factor in, I think.

Sharon: Harlan Ellison’s short story “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”; The Prestige, the novel by Christopher Priest….

(6) O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN. Kimberly Unger is at San Diego Comic-Con. From her hotel room window she was able to take a great photo of this bit of Star Trek publicity.

(7) TRACING OPPENHEIMER’S FOOTSTEPS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. William Deverell takes readers on a historic tour of a Caltech neighborhood significant to the history of J. Robert Oppenheimer in “The Pasadena Project” at Alta Online.

It’s only a couple of hundred yards from our house to the heart of the Caltech campus, less than a 10-minute walk, an environment our dogs never tire of exploring. Devoted mostly to classrooms, dorms (“houses,” in Caltech parlance), and research labs, the campus is almost always quiet, and if you know where to look, there are places on campus that are little changed from when Oppenheimer and members of his eventual Los Alamos team worked there.

Hiding in plain sight, innocuous and out of place, is a small Spanish revival home, smack-dab in the middle of everything else. This is the Tolman-Bacher House. Built around the same time as our home, which it resembles, the Tolman-Bacher House was the residence of Richard Tolman and his wife, Ruth (Louise Lombard plays her in the film). Richard Tolman had come to Caltech in 1922 as a professor of physics. He was a giant at Caltech and, later, in the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer (played in the film by Irish actor Cillian Murphy) often stayed with the Tolmans when he’d come to Caltech from Berkeley during many a spring term in the 1930s. His brother, Frank, was a graduate student at Caltech then….

(8) EARLY VERDICT. According to critic Leonard Maltin, “’Oppenheimer’ Is A Traditional Biopic”.

… Being a Nolan screenplay, the story is told in nonlinear fashion. Cillian Murphy, with his open, seemingly guileless expression, is completely convincing as the scientist known as the father of the atomic bomb who, after building it, counseled against its use and made many enemies in the process. But no one can get inside the head of a genius—be it a painter or a composer or a brilliant scientist, so we don’t leave the theater with a feeling of knowing what Oppy was all about, except on the surface. (There is even a glimpse of Albert Einstein, played by that wonderful actor Tom Conti.)…

(9) FRANK WALLER (1957-2023.) Longtime LASFS member Frank Waller died July 18 at the age of 66. He had quadruple bypass surgery on his heart in May, but had gone through rehab and was out of the hospital. Frank joined the club in 1988. He is survived by his sister, Beth and his brother, Joe.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2005 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Graham Joyce wrote our Beginning this time. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. 

No Hugos, not even a nomination, but he’s won a few BFAs and even one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. 

Mike picked The Limits of Enchantment which was published eighteen years ago by Artia Books in the States with the cover illustration by David Sacks. It was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. 

And now for our Beginning…

Prologue 

If I could tell you this in a single sitting then you might believe all of it, even the strangest part. Even the part about what I found in the hedgerow. If I could unwind this story in a single spool, or peel it like an apple the way Mammy would with her penknife in one unbroken coil, juice a-glistening on the blade, then you might bite in without objection. 

But Mammy always said we have lost the art of Listening. She said we live in an age when everyone chatters and no one takes heed, and that, she said, is not a good time in which to live. 

And while I offer you my story unbroken, like the apple peel, it hangs by a fibre at every turn of the knife. When you come to know the nature of the teller of this tale you may have good reason to doubt both. You may suspect the balance of my mind and you may condemn my position. You may start to disbelieve. 

Perhaps I once was mad. Briefly. Perhaps that much is true. And this, in an age where we no longer have the patience to listen, may cause you to break off, to give up on me, to turn away. A young woman has so little of interest to offer, after all. A young woman of unsteady temper, even less. 

What they did to Mammy they tried to do to me. They released the dogs. And when it comes to telling how it was done, I only ask this: when doubt wrinkles your brow; when incomprehension clouds your eyes; when distaste rests like a rank fog on your lips, then think how we few have held our tongues for so long. How we have choked back the truth. How we have burned in our hearts rather than risk the telling. And when you feel most far from me, then at that moment listen hard. Not to your thoughts, which will mislead you, nor to your heart, which will lie, but to the voice behind the voice, and trust the tale and not the teller.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 20, 1924 Lola Albright. Though she’s best remembered best known for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Peter Gunn, she did do some genre performances. She’s Cathy Barrett, one of the leads in the Fifties film The Monolith Monsters. Television was really her home in the Fifties and Sixties. She was on Tales of Tomorrow as Carol Williams in the “The Miraculous Serum” episode, Nancy Metcalfe on Rocket Squad in “The System” episode, repeated appearances on the various Alfred Hitchcock series, and even on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes released as the feature length film The Helicopter Spies. She was Azalea. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 20, 1930 Sally Ann Howes. She is best known for the role of Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was in Brigadoon as Fiona McLaren at New York City Center Light Opera Company, and in Camelot as Guenevere at St. Louis Municipal Opera. She was even in The Hound of the Baskervilles as Laura Frankland which has a certain Starship Captain as George Stapleton. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 20, 1931 Donald Moffitt. Author of the Baroness thriller series, somewhat akin to Bond and Blaise, but not quite. Great popcorn literature. Some SF, two in his Mechanical Sky series, Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars, another two in his Genesis Quest series, Genesis Quest and Second Genesis, plus several one-offs. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 20, 1938 Diana Rigg, née Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg. Emma Peel of course in The Avengers beside Patrick Macnee as a John Steed. Best pairing ever. Played Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau followed by being Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the Eighties, she’s doing lighter fare such as being Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper and Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, not to mention The Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother in Snow White. Now she would get a meaty role in Game of Thrones when she was Olenna Tyrell. Oh and she showed up in Dr. Who during the Era of the Eleventh Doctor as Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower in the “The Crimson Horror” episode. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 20, 1947 Michael “Mike” Gilbert. A fan artist in the late ’60s in Locus and other fanzines as well as an author, and publishing professional who won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist at the first Noreascon. His wife Sheila was the co-publisher of DAW Books, and Mike worked in both editorial and art capacities at DAW, and was one of their primary first readers. He died of complications following open-heart surgery. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 20, 1949 Guy H. Lillian III, 74. Letterhack and fanzine publisher notable for having been twice nominated for a Hugo Award as best fan writer and rather amazingly having been nominated twelve straight times for the Hugo for best fanzine for his Challenger zine, unfortunately never winning. As a well-fan of Green Lantern, Lillian’s name was tuckerized for the title’s 1968 debut character Guy Gardner.
  • Born July 20, 1959 Martha Soukup, 64. The 1994 short film Override, directed by Danny Glover, was based on her short story “Over the Long Haul”. It was his directorial debut. She has two collections, Collections Rosemary’s Brain: And Other Tales of Wonder and The Arbitrary Placement of Walls, both published in the Nineties. She won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “A Defense of the Social Contracts”. “The Story So Far” by her is available as the download sample at the usual suspects  in Schimel’s Things Invisible to See anthology if you’d liked to see how she is as a writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 88 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Someone Somewhere Must Know What’s Going On”, John Coxon is on brand, Alison Scott wants to do Mark, and Liz Batty had a few twinges.

We re-introduce ourselves for anyone who hasn’t listened before, and then we dive into in-jokes, regular segments, waffling, and all the other things that have firmly cemented us as “a podcast that people can listen to”. (COVID, Eastercon, Hugo Awards, Chengdu,  Clarke Awards, Arkham Horror, and—checks notes—cycling.)

(14) VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS REFERENCED ON BANDCAMP. [Item by Steve French.] Back in 1974, British experimental folk musician Mike Cooper released his ‘landmark’ album, Life and Death in Paradise. The opening track was apparently influenced by David Lindsay’s classic 1920 SF novel A Voyage to Arcturus, which influenced Lewis, Tolkien and more recently, Pullman. “A Reissue of ‘Life and Death in Paradise’ Brings Mike Cooper’s Music to a New Generation” at Bandcamp Daily.

The opener, “Rocket Summer,” like the songs on Trout Steel (inspired by Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America) was born of Cooper’s “esoteric” choice in literature—in this case, a sci-fi book called A Voyage to Arcturus. Aside from its narrative of interstellar travel, it’s filled with “lots of references to sound and color” which were attractive to Cooper.

The album has just been re-issued, prompting Bandcamp to give Cooper the full-on ‘feature’ treatment. 

(15) DEATH VALLEY DARTH. Space isn’t the only place no one can hear you scream: “In 128-degree Death Valley, a man dressed as Darth Vader ran a mile”.

…Around 2010, Rice wanted to make the runs harder, and he thought wearing a mask and black clothing would do the trick. When he remembered that parts of the Star Wars franchise were filmed in Death Valley, he got the idea to dress up as the villain of the series.

Rice, who edits a cryptocurrency trade publication, has done the Darth Valley run most years since then, with breaks during the coronavirus pandemic and a cross-country move. Sometimes other runners join him – occasionally in a Chewbacca costume….

(16) THE PRIMAL SCREAM. Speaking of screaming, film historians will want to know “The Original ‘Wilhelm Scream’ Was Found, And It’s A Call For Better Sound Effect Preservation” at LAist.

The “Wilhelm scream” is arguably the most recognizable stock sound effect in the history of film and television, having been used in everything from mega-franchises like “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” and “Die Hard,’ to beloved TV shows from “X-Files” to “SpongeBob SquarePants” to “Game of Thrones” and beyond.

If the mere mention of its name doesn’t immediately make the sound play in your head, you may recognize it from this scene in the movie that made it popular, 1977’s “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” when the effect is used for a stormtrooper that falls off a ledge after Luke Skywalker shoots him with a blaster round.

The scream that’s been used in more than 400 films is finding new life this year after California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Professor Craig Smith discovered the Wilhelm’s original recording session while preserving a collection of 35-millimeter sound films he got from USC’s Cinematic Arts Library.

(17) SONIC SCREWDRIVER. There will be a new sonic screwdriver in the hands of the new Doctor Who. And it’s ready for its close-up.

(18) FREQUENCY. “Unregulated radio waves emanating from satellites in the Starlink constellation could cause problems as more are launched,” reports Nature: “SpaceX satellites are leaking radio waves — a potential headache for science”,

Some of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are leaking radio waves that could interfere with astronomy.

In the last few years, astronomers have warned about light pollution and other unintended consequences of the growing number of satellites. Since 2019, the company SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, has launched more than 4,300 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit, where they make up around half of all active satellites.

Federico Di Vruno at the Square Kilometre Array Observatory in Cheshire, UK, and his colleagues used the LOFAR radio telescope in the Netherlands to observe 68 Starlink satellites. They found that 47 of the satellites were emitting radio waves at frequencies very different from those used, and approved, for satellite communications with control stations on Earth.

The satellites’ emissions are not harming current radio astronomy observations, but such emissions might cause problems in future, as more and more satellites are launched. And although the emissions don’t violate any regulations, satellite operators and government authorities might consider regulating them, the authors say…

(19) FROM THE MAKERS OF MINIONS. The trailer for Migration, coming to theaters December 22.

The Mallard family is in a bit of rut. While dad Mack is content to keep his family safe paddling around their New England pond forever, mom Pam is eager to shake things up and show their kids—teen son Dax and duckling daughter Gwen—the whole wide world. After a migrating duck family alights on their pond with thrilling tales of far-flung places, Pam persuades Mack to embark on a family trip, via New York City, to tropical Jamaica. As the Mallards make their way South for the winter, their well-laid plans quickly go awry. The experience will inspire them to expand their horizons, open themselves up to new friends and accomplish more than they ever thought possible, while teaching them more about each other—and themselves—than they ever imagined.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/23 Every Pixel In The Room Was Scrolling At Me

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Michael Cisco and Farah Rose Smith on Wednesday, July 12, beginning at 7 Eastern.

MICHAEL CISCO

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe Great Lover, The Narrator, and Pest, as well as the Stoker-nominated nonfiction book Weird Fiction: A Genre Study. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, and his most recent collection is Antisoc. He is the author of two novellas: ETHICS, and Do You Mind If We Dance With Your Legs? He lives in New York City.

FARAH ROSE SMITH

Farah Rose Smith is the author of the horror and dark fantasy novellas EvisceratorThe Almanac of Dust, Anonyma, and Lavinia Rising. She has also written two collections of short supernatural fiction, Of One Pure Will and The Witch is the Body. Smith recently completed a master’s degree in English Literature, Language, and Theory and is writing her third collection. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Smith currently lives in New York City with her husband, weird fiction author Michael Cisco, and their three cats.

Location: The KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

(2) BANKS ACCOUNT. On the 10th anniversary of the author’s death, the Guardian’s Steven Poole helps readers decide “Where to start with: Iain Banks”. The second book he considers is Consider Phlebas:

The billionaires’ favourite

Banks originally wanted to be a science-fiction author, but after several unsuccessful drafts in the 1970s decided to write something “normal” instead, thus rocket-boosting his literary career with The Wasp Factory. He then started publishing science fiction as Iain M Banks, beginning with Consider Phlebas, a phrase taken from Eliot’s The Waste Land. It’s a cosmos-spanning romp that introduces the Culture, a post-human galactic civilisation in which AI does all the work and no one wants for food or other resources. (Fully automated luxury communism – in space.)

In this first story, the smug liberal Culture is at war with the Idirans – AI refuseniks who are waging a jihad against them. Through this backdrop wanders sympathetic mercenary Bora Horza Gobuchul, a Mandalorian-style drifter with a very particular set of skills. Banks’s vision of a starfaring, post-scarcity civilisation run by AIs, in which people can change their DNA at will and live for 400 years, is publicly admired by tech giants such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk – even as they toil along with us in the capitalist present. Unfortunately for Bezos, a planned Amazon TV series based on the novel was cancelled in 2020 after Banks’s estate withdrew permission.

(3) APOCALYPSE, THE NEXT GENERATION. The New York Times magazine looks at media to probe the question “Will Children Save Us at the End of the World?”

…There’s “Station Eleven,” the 2014 novel by Emily St. John Mandel about the aftermath of a swine flu, which was turned into a much-discussed 2021 HBO Max series, in which an 8-year-old girl manages to survive with the help of a stranger turned surrogate parent. “The Last of Us,” HBO’s video game adaptation, which debuted in January, features a zombie-fungus pandemic; a seemingly immune teenage girl is humanity’s one hope. “Leave the World Behind,” Rumaan Alam’s 2020 novel — soon to be a movie — about a bourgeois family vacation gone very bad, features a vague but menacing threat of apocalypse. Also loosely belonging to this category are the shows “Yellowjackets” (2021-present) — a girls’ soccer team turns to cannibalism after a plane crash — and “Class of ’07” (2023) — a school reunion coincides with a climate apocalypse — and the new-to-Netflix 2019 Icelandic movie “Woman at War” (a renegade activist tries to stop the destruction of the environment and adopt a child).

These stories are, in various ways, about how and whether our children can survive the mess that we’ve left them — and what it will cost them to do so. In “Station Eleven,” post-pans (children who were born after the pandemic) are both beacons of optimism and conscripted killers deployed by a self-styled prophet who hopes to erase anyone who holds on to the trauma of the past. And in “The Last of Us,” Ellie, the young girl with possible immunity (played by the actor Bella Ramsey), is forced to kill to survive, and to grapple with whether it’s worth sacrificing her own life in the search for a cure….

The anxieties that these works explore — about planetary destruction and what we did to enable it — are, evidence suggests, affecting the desire of some to have children at all, either because of fear for their future or a belief that not procreating will help stave off the worst. But following the children in these fictions, who didn’t create the conditions of their suffering, isn’t just a devastating guilt trip. Almost all these stories also frame children as our best hope, as we so often do in real life. Children, we need to believe, are resilient and ingenious in ways that adults aren’t. In these stories, when the phones stop working and Amazon stops delivering, it’s children, less set in their ways, who can rebuild and imagine something different. They’re our victims but also our saviors….

(4) SALVAGE RIGHT NEWS. Salvage Right by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, the 25th Liaden Universe® novel (and their 100th collaborative work), will be officially released in paper and ebook editions July 4, 2023. Some stores already have the hardback on the shelves; signed copies are available from Uncle Hugo’s bookstore in Minneapolis.

Sample chapters from Salvage Right are available online at Baen Books

In honor of Salvage Right Lee and Miller are taking part in a number of podcasts and special events:

  • Annies Bookstore: Selina Lovett at Annie’s Bookstore did a Zoom interview with the authors, which can be found here
  • Watch for Griffin Barber’s interview with them at the Baen Free Radio Hour
  • Upcoming: An interview with fyyd: CultureScape with Peter PischkeCultureScape with Peter Pischke with release date TBA
  • Another interview with Under The Radar SFF Books is due later in July
  • The authors will be doing a virtual book signing at Pandemonium Books, Wednesday July 26, details TBA

(5) MANNERS, PLEASE. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki thought a timely reminder was in order about the awards etiquette published by the Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog a couple of months ago, so he retweeted it today. Thread begins here. Here’s an excerpt:

(6) AMY WISNIEWSKI (1947-2023). Mythopoeic Society member Amy Wisniewski died June 20 at the age of 76. She is survived by her wife, Edith Crowe. David Bratman has written a tribute on Kalimac’s corner, “Amy Wisniewski”, which says in part:

…Amy was already in the Society when I arrived. The first meeting I attended was at the small house that she and her partner (and later wife) Edith Crowe were living at in the flatlands of Redwood City. 48 years later, in a larger house further up in the hills, they were still hosting meetings. Almost every year, except during pandemics, they hosted the annual Reading and Eating Meeting. We would gather for a potluck meal and then take turns reading short selections around the (once real, later theoretical) fire.

For a few years, Amy was our discussion group’s moderator, and she actually directed meetings with a skill and knowledge surpassing that of anyone else who had that title. Amy wasn’t a Tolkien scholar; she didn’t give papers at Mythcon; but she had read and absorbed his books and did the same for the books we were discussing, and consequently always had intelligent things to say….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2002 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Tonight we have a Beginning by Carol Emshwiller. She was prolific as a short fiction writer with more stories than I can comfortably count.  The two volume collection of The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller that Nonstop Press did a decade back collects nearly twelve hundred pages of her stories. 

She did just six novels of which four were genre and two were in the cowboy genre, Ledoyt and Leaping Man Hill.  No, I didn’t know she’d written the latter. All four of her genre novels are quite excellent.  The Mount which is where our Beginning comes from garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. 

And now from stage left comes our Beginning…

We’re not against you, we’re for. In fact we’re built for you and you for us – we, so our weak little legs will dangle on your chest and our tail down the back. Exactly as you so often transport your own young when they are weak and small. It’s a joy. Just like mother-walk.

You’ll be free. You’ll have a pillow. You’ll have a water faucet and a bookcase. We’ll pat you if you do things fast enough and don’t play hard to catch. We’ll rub your legs and soak your feet. Sams and Sues, and you Sams had better behave yourselves.

You still call us aliens in spite of the fact that we’ve been on your world for generations. And why call aliens exactly those who have brought health and happiness to you? And look how well we fit, you and us. As if born for each other even though we come from different worlds.

We mate the stock with the stocky, the thin with the thin, the pygmy with the pygmy. You’ve done a fairly good job of that yourselves before we came. As to skin, we like a color a little on the reddish side. Freckles are third best.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 29, 1919 Slim Pickens. Surely you remember his memorable scene as Major T. J. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove? I certainly do. Simply astounding. And, of course, he shows up in Blazing Saddles as Taggart. He’s the uncredited voice of B.O.B in The Black Hole and he’s Sam Newfield in The Howling. He’s got some series genre work including several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, plus work on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1983.)
  • Born June 29, 1920 Ray Harryhausen. All-around film genius who created stop-motion model Dynamation animation. His work can be seen in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (his first color film) which was nominated for a Hugo at Detention, Jason and the Argonauts, Mighty Joe Young and Clash of the Titans. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 29, 1943 Maureen O’Brien, 80. Vicki, companion of the First Doctor. Some 40 years later, she reprised the role for several Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio works. She had a recurring role as Morgan in The Legend of King Arthur, a late Seventies BBC series. Her Detective Inspector John Bright series has been well received.
  • Born June 29, 1947 Michael Carter, 76. Best remembered for being Gerald Bringsley in An American Werewolf in London, Von Thurnburg in The Illusionist and Bib Fortuna in the Return of the Jedi. He plays two roles as a prisoner and as UNIT soldier in the Third Doctor story, “The Mind of Evil”. 
  • Born June 29, 1950 Michael Whelan, 73. I’m reasonably sure that most of the Del Rey editions of McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series was where I first noticed his artwork but I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere since. He did Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls cover which I love and many more I can’t recall right now. And there’s a wonderful collection of work available, Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan.
  • Born June 29, 1956 David Burroughs Mattingly, 67. He’s an American illustrator and painter, best known for his numerous book covers of genre literature. Earlier in his career, he worked at Disney Studio on the production of The Black HoleTronDick Tracy and Stephen King’s The Stand. His main cover work was at Ballantine Books where he did such work as the 1982 cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (superb novel), 2006 Anderson’s Time Patrol and the 1986 Berkley Books publication of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith Triplanetary.
  • Born June 29, 1957 Fred Duarte, Jr. His Birthday is today and this long-time Texas fan is eulogized by Mike here upon his passing almost a decade back. (Died 2015.)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Catching up with Tom Gauld —

(10) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] From the June 28 episode, three clues in the single Jeopardy round.

Open Door, $1000: Gandalf initially struggles to open the door to this place, but after speaking the Elvish word for “friend” he gets it right

This was a triple stumper.

Google Easter eggs, $400: A Google search for what’s the answer to life, the universe, & everything gives you this number

Bryan White (whose score was $4200!): “What is 37?”

Neither of the other two could respond correctly. Douglas Adams is spinning in his grave.

$800: Google this HBO show with Pedro Pascal & keep clicking the mushroom icon for your screen to be enveloped by some humongous fungus

Bryan knew “The Last of Us”.

(11) ALL KAIJU ALL THE TIME. “24-Hour Godzilla Channel Coming to Pluto TV With Exclusive Films” promises Comicbook.com.

Godzilla is coming to Pluto TV with a huge new channel dedicated to showing off tons of Godzilla movies and shows 24 hours a day with some exclusive films to boot! TOHO’s famous Kaiju has been stomping through many eras since the giant monster was first introduced back in the 1950s, and has since amassed a massive library of TV shows and movies that fans still enjoy to this day. Now Pluto TV has made checking out your favorite Godzilla projects easier than ever before with a new streaming channel with the platform highlighting all of the biggest and best Godzilla outings over the years! 

Pluto TV has announced a new Godzilla channel filled with not only classics such as the original 1954 Godzilla debut film, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and more but even left-field additions such as the animated Godzilla: The Series from the late ’90s and early ’00s. But the biggest surprise is that this new Godzilla channel will also offer up seven Godzilla films that are exclusive to Pluto TV as fans won’t be able to find them streaming anywhere else. Read on to see the massive list of movies and TV shows coming to Pluto TV’s new Godzilla channel launching on July 1st…. 

(12) HERE’S MY NUMBER AND A DIME, DIAL ANYTIME. “The Real History Behind the Archimedes Dial in ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’” in Smithsonian Magazine.

Off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera in 1900, sponge divers came across a shipwreck filled with ancient treasures. Hidden among flashier finds like marble statues and jewelry was a mysterious device known today as the Antikythera mechanism.

Dated to more than 2,000 years ago, the device “is probably the most exciting artifact that we have from the ancient world,” says Jo Marchant, author of the 2008 book Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World’s First Computer. More than a millennium before 13th-century Europeans invented the first mechanical clocks, the Antikythera mechanism employed similarly complex technology—including gear wheels, dials and pointers—to chart the cosmos. The ancients used it to predict eclipses, track the movement of the sun and the moon, and even see when sporting events like the Olympics were scheduled to take place.

Contrary to what Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the latest installment in the epic franchise, suggests, the Antikythera mechanism won’t transport you back in time—not literally, at least. Every Indiana Jones adventure needs an exotic MacGuffin; in the new outing, which arrives in theaters this week, the hero chases after the Archimedes Dial, a fictionalized version of the Antikythera mechanism that predicts the location of naturally occurring fissures in time.

…In the film’s 1944-set prologue, Indy (Harrison Ford) captures a train loaded with Nazi plunder, including the titular Dial of Destiny. The movie then jumps ahead to 1969. Indy is set to retire from teaching archaeology, and the world is celebrating the safe return of the Apollo 11 crew. One of the men most responsible for the United States’ victory in the space race is Jürgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi who was given sanctuary by the Allies in exchange for his expertise, much like the real-life NASA engineer Wernher von Braun. When Indy learns that Voller wants to use the Archimedes Dial to travel for nefarious purposes, he reluctantly dusts off his old hat and bullwhip to (again) keep a potentially devastating weapon out of Nazi hands….

(13) NATURE EDITORIAL WARNS ABOUT AI. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know, I simply love the end of the world.  You can’t beat it. Of course, as long as it is firmly in SF.  (Wouldn’t like it in reality: it’d get in the way of afternoon tea and evening real ale down the pub…)

Today’s Nature editorial once more tackles doomsday.  Beware of tech companies achieving their goals through obsfucation… “Stop talking about tomorrow’s AI doomsday when AI poses risks today”.

Talk of artificial intelligence destroying humanity plays into the tech companies’ agenda, and hinders effective regulation of the societal harms AI is causing right now.

The idea that AI could lead to human extinction has been discussed on the fringes of the technology community for years. The excitement about the tool ChatGPT and generative AI has now propelled it into the mainstream. But, like a magician’s sleight of hand, it draws attention away from the real issue: the societal harms that AI systems and tools are causing now, or risk causing in future. Governments and regulators in particular should not be distracted by this narrative and must act decisively to curb potential harms. And although their work should be informed by the tech industry, it should not be beholden to the tech agenda.

Many AI researchers and ethicists to whom Nature has spoken are frustrated by the doomsday talk dominating debates about AI. It is problematic in at least two ways. First, the spectre of AI as an all-powerful machine fuels competition between nations to develop AI so that they can benefit from and control it. This works to the advantage of tech firms: it encourages investment and weakens arguments for regulating the industry. An actual arms race to produce next-generation AI-powered military technology is already under way, increasing the risk of catastrophic conflict — doomsday, perhaps, but not of the sort much discussed in the dominant ‘AI threatens human extinction’ narrative.

Second, it allows a homogeneous group of company executives and technologists to dominate the conversation about AI risks and regulation, while other communities are left out. Letters written by tech-industry leaders are “essentially drawing boundaries around who counts as an expert in this conversation”, says Amba Kak, director of the AI Now Institute in New York City, which focuses on the social consequences of AI.

To all of which the SF fan might ask how the genre might contribute…?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/29/23 I Do Not File With My Scroll. The Man Who Files With His Scroll Has Forgotten The Face Of His Father. I File With My Pixel.

(1) GROOT, STAR-LORD, ROCKET, OR WHO? Guardians of the Galaxy stars Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff test their knowledge of Volumes I and II by seeing if they remember who said what lines.

With such a stacked cast, the challenge should be difficult, but having such iconic characters like Groot played by Vin Diesel, Starlord by Chris Pratt, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Mantis and Nebula’s knowledge proves to be superior. Get ready for Vol III of ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ by time-traveling through lines of volumes past.

(2) WISCON SPEECHES. The WisCon 46 GOH speeches and Otherwise Award presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

(3) NEXT YEAR IN NEW MEXICO. And WisCon GoH Martha Wells has been announced as Guest of Honor of the 47th Jack Williamson Lectureship which will take place April 11-13, 2024.

Best known for her Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells has been an actively publishing author in scifi and fantasy since 1993 and in that time she has won four Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and three Locus Awards. The Murderbot Diaries is also currently being adapted for a TV series, and this series has been growing increasingly popular in the past few years. 

(4) GOOD OMENS GRAPHIC NOVEL. The second season of the TV series arrives July 28, and now a Good Omens graphic novel has been announced – Comics Worth Reading has the story. Neil Gaiman, the Terry Pratchett Estate, and Colleen Doran are creating a graphic novel version of Good Omens that will be funded via Kickstarter. The Kickstarter has not yet launched, but you can sign up at the link to be notified when it does.

(5) SIGNED, SEALED, AND SOON TO BE DELIVERED. Guess where fans will be able to find the new Sharon Lee and Steve Miller book?

(6) NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA, IT’S THE LAW. James Davis Nicoll brings us “Five Ways SF Writers Sidestep the Problem of Relativity” at Tor.com.

Relativity! Extremely well supported by the evidence, and extremely inconvenient for SF authors who want jaunts to the galactic core to be as easy as popping down the road. Given a universe so large that light takes as long as anatomically modern humans have existed to meander across a single galaxy, combined with a very strict speed limit of C, and you face a cosmic reality that makes many stories authors might want to write quite simply physically impossible. So… what are hardworking science fiction authors to do?

 The first solution, courtesy of E. E. “Doc” Smith is —

Disregard the Issue

By far, the most popular option is to ignore the issue or actively deny that it is an issue. Maybe Einstein divided when he should have multiplied (he didn’t). Perhaps light speed can be surpassed given sufficient will (it can’t). What if some miracle material for which absolutely no evidence exists could facilitate superluminal travel? (More likely, such materials are simply non-existent.)

(7) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. SYFY Wire reveals “The Real Reason Kong Is Alone: The Science Behind King Kong”. For some values of science…

…The particulars of Kong, including his size and origin, vary from movie to movie, but in every single telling he is alone. The reasons for his solitude haven’t been widely explored, but the 2005 movie shows the decaying skeletons of other giant apes, long since dead. While their cause of death isn’t entirely clear, it’s implied that the rest of Kong’s family were killed off by the other large predators on the island, particularly the T. rex-like theropod dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs probably contributed to the demise of Kong’s species, but the true culprit may have been the island itself. In the continuity of Jackson’s 2005 film, Skull Island was slowly sinking into the ocean by the time Denhem and crew landed on its shores. By 1948, a 9.2 magnitude earthquakes broke it loose and the island vanished into the sea….

(8) AD ASTRA. Chris McKitterick recently announced that Ad Astra (originally established as a University of Kansas Center in AAI) has now grown into the not-for-profit Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination.

Led by yours truly and Kij Johnson, Ad Astra is an umbrella organization that brings together creators, readers, educators, and fans to learn about and create speculative fiction through writing workshops, expert talks, seminars, and more. The people we work with create and teach art that opens minds and imaginations, reaching for the stars and “Saving the world through science fiction!”

Their residential Science Fiction Summer program takes off in mid-June, in-person again for the first time since before Covid. Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb’s Novel Architects Workshop is now full, but there’s still room in McKitterick’s Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop (and both of his and Johnson’s “Repeat Offenders” workshops).

Also, a talk-and-weekend-workshop “Science into Fiction” Spec-Fic Writing Workshop series resumes in late August.

(9) HOWARD DAYS. Brian Murphy reports on the annual Robert E. Howard gathering to readers of The Silver Key: “There and back again from Massachusetts to Cross Plains: A recap of 2023 Robert E. Howard Days”.

…I live in Massachusetts, some 1600 miles from the small town in West Texas that Howard called home. With a wife and family, domestic obligations, and a busy professional career to manage, there is never a good time to do something like this, even though Howard Days had been on my bucket list for years….

The annual con is also part pilgrimage:

…Nothing can quite prepare you for the first view of Robert E. Howard’s home and ultimately the humble bedroom where did the majority of his writing. Others have made the same observation many times, but its stunning that Howard was able to birth and deliver such vivid creations to the world from such small, prosaic quarters. It’s a testament to his unique genius. The volunteer docents who serve as tour guides, women from the Cross Plains community, were patient and wonderful. I learned that Howard’s father, Isaac, treated bloodied oil field workers right in the Howard home. One docent noted poetically that blood has seeped its way into the roots of the home….

Murphy is also one of the guests on the Rogues in the House podcast episode “Howard Days Wrap Up”.

(10) ATOMIC SHAKESPEARE. Eighties cult TV favorite Moonlighting reportedly is slouching its way towards availability on a streaming service. Meantime, Heritage Auctions will put on the block some of the costumes from its most iconic episode, as explained in “Maddie, David and Bill Shakespeare”.

…That episode essentially paid tribute to [showrunner Glen] Caron’s inspiration for the entire series: The Taming of the Shrew. Willis, of course, would play the fortune-seeking Petruchio; Shepherd, the titular “shrew,” Katherina. The rest of the regulars rounded out the cast, among them Allyce Beasley and Revenge of the Nerds’ Curtis Armstrong, which was transported from the Blue Moon Detective Agency in Los Angeles to Padua, Italy, in 1593 (“or just an incredible facsimile,” per the title card, which was the Universal backlot).

The episode starts as a Moonlighting episode about a kid wanting to watch a Moonlighting episode; no series winked at itself in the funhouse mirror more. But the boy’s mother banishes him to his room to do his homework – in this case, read Shakespeare. He cracks open the play, and the episode quickly morphs into a rather sincere retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, down to the iambic pentameter and its occasional use of actual dialogue, combined with some anachronistic winks (Willis’ Ray-Bans, his saddle bearing the BMW insignia, the performance of The Rascals’ “Good Lovin’”)….

(11) GEORGE MAHARIS (1928-2023). Actor George Maharis, best known for his work on TV’s Route 66, died May 24. Though it was not a genre program, Steve Vertlieb recalled in his File 770 post about Route 66 there was one episode with a strong genre appeal to horror fans:

…“Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” premiered over the CBS television Network on Friday evening, October 26th, 1962. Featuring guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr., this beloved episode of the classic television series “Route 66” starring George Maharis and Martin Milner would be the last time that Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. would ever reprise their signature performances as Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man….

Deadline’s summary of his career includes these appearances on genre shows:

In the 1970’s, Maharis returned to television and starred in shows like Night GalleryThe Mostly Deadly Game, … Mission: Impossible, … The Bionic WomanFantasy Island, and many more.

Maharis’ final credit was in the film Doppelganger directed by Avi Neshar in 1993 which starred Drew Barrymore and George Newbern.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2011[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Sheri Holman’s Witches on the Road Tonight is the source of our Beginning this Scroll. 

It was published twelve years ago by Atlantic Monthly Press. It would win a Shirley Jackson Award  for Best Novel, and it also won the Independent Publisher Book Award, Gold Medal, Literary Fiction.  It was named a Book of the Year by the Boston Globe, the Toronto Globe and Mail, and PopMatters. Very impressive I’d say. 

It is her only genre novel to date. She has written several other novels including a mystery set in a medieval monastery.  Oh, and she was a principal writer on the Longmire series for much of its run.

(I finished watching the Longmire series recently. They did a stellar job of tying everything up there.) 

And now the Beginning…

Eddie

New York City

Midnight

Of all the props I saved, only the coffin remains. Packed in boxes or tossed in the closet were the skulls and rubber rats, the cape folded with the care of a fallen American flag, my black spandex unitard, white at the seams where I’d stretched out the armpits, sweat-stained and pilled. I saved the squeezed-out tubes of greasepaint, the black shadow for under the eyes, the porcelain fangs. Of the gifts fans sent, I kept that bleached arc of a cat’s skeleton, the one you used to call Fluffy and hang your necklaces from, and a dead bird preserved with antifreeze. I kept maybe a hundred of the many thousands of drawings and letters from preteen boys and girls. There were some from adults, too, confessions of the sort they should be writing their shrinks or the police, and not a man who plays a vampire on TV. “Dear Captain Casket, Fangs for the memories.” 

But in the move up to Manhattan, in the successive apartments Charles and I shared, everything has been lost or thrown away. Coming to me late in life, Charles has been pitiless in tossing my prehistory, usually while I am off at one of the twice-yearly conventions I attend as if having an affair we both tacitly refuse to discuss. Now everything has been scrapped but the coffin, too big not to be missed, too great a conversation piece even for Charles, a bit of memorabilia that you might send off to a regional horror movie museum or sell to some theme restaurant as the base of a fixin’s bar to defray a small portion of the funeral cost. We’ve been using it as a coffee table, pushed in front of the big picture window that overlooks the Chrysler Building, a view that accounts for three-quarters of the ridiculous price we paid for this apartment. It has held up well over the years, made of wormy chestnut, hand-planed and smooth as a wooden Indian. I used to keep it in the carport between Saturday shows, and you played in it as a girl. Sometimes when we couldn’t find you, your mother and I would look outside and you’d be curled up inside it, asleep, your hand bookmarking the eternally youthful and nosy Nancy Drew, your mouth brushed with cookie crumbs.

I have made it as comfortable as possible. It is lined with an old down comforter tucked inside one of Charles’s more elegant duvet covers, a dusky rose shot with gold thread. I have a pillow for my head and a scarlet throw to keep me warm. You might think I’d like to go out in full costume, but camp comes too easily these days. I’m wearing, instead, my most comfortable pajamas, the ones with the pug dogs you bought me for my birthday last year. They are about the only ones my chemo-blistered skin can bear. Before I put them on, I took a shower and washed what’s left of my hair. Maybe it was cowardly to wait to do this until Charles was out of town. His mother, who is only a few years older than I, is ill, too, and poor Charles hasn’t known whom to nurse more dutifully. He refuses to discuss my death, pulling, instead, all sorts of prophylactic voodoo like purchasing cruise tickets for next spring, or placing a down payment on a purebred mastiff puppy, if you can imagine, as if he can mortgage me back to life, keeping me on the ventilator of increasingly onerous financial obligation. I know he will be furious when he gets back from Philadelphia, but maybe he’ll take his mother with him on that cruise through the Cyclades.

My only real regret is not seeing you one last time. I left you a message before you went on the air, something light and innocuous, and I hope you’re not too shocked to hear it after you get the news. I want this good-bye to set the tone for all the memories that follow it. When people approach me about my show, they never want to talk about the cut-rate monster movies. Most can barely remember the titles. No, it is the irreverence of the interruption they cherish, the silliness and explosions. I made it my career for decades, but only now do I begin to understand the need to terrify, followed by the even greater need to puncture the fear we’ve called into being. It is a surrender and recovery that feels suspiciously like love.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor,” his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith were to do so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections.  He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1923 Genevieve Linebarger. Widow of Cordwainer Smith. She had a hand in The Instrumentality of Mankind series, co-authoring “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960), and “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!” (1959) and, after her husband’s death, was the sole author of “Down to a Sunless Sea” (1975) published under his name, and completed “Himself in Anachron” (published 1993). (Credits per NESFA Press’ Rediscovery of Man collection.) (Died 1981.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. An Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born May 29, 1939 Alice K. TurnerPlayboy fiction editor from 1980 to 2000. Silverberg praised her highly and she did much to make sure SF had an important place in the fiction offered up there. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction collects a good tasting of the SF published during her tenure. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1996 R. F. Kuang, 27. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so-called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She’s been a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows a new tech that combines streaming with nagging.
  • Non Sequitur looks for a definition of intelligent life.
  • Macanudo has a strange mashup of Darth Vader and Casablanca.

(15) ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. This is impressive – watch Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” deftly remove a pistachio from its shell.

(16) FACTORY SECONDS. Discover Magazine chronicles “Why 1 Second Is 1 Second”.

…Today, however, when computers perform operations at the rate of 4 billion cycles per second, we need a better measure. The rotation of Earth, and its orbit, change slightly over time. Earth’s rotation, for example, is slowing slightly. So measuring a second based on rotation would mean that a second would get slowly longer over time. Ultimately, we couldn’t compare the second of today to the second of yesterday.

So, to pin down a truly timeless measure of a second, scientists in the 1950s devised a better clock, one based not on astronomical processes but on the movement of fundamental bits of matter — atoms — whose subtle vibrations are, for all intents and purposes, locked in for eternity. Today, one second is defined as “9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom”.

That’s a mouthful.

…When hit with a laser, the single electron in a cesium atom’s outermost shell will cycle back and forth between two states — known as a hyperfine transition. It can be magnetically aligned either in the same direction as the atom’s nucleus, or the opposite direction, and under a laser’s beam, it will flip back and forth between these two states rapidly at a rate that never changes. Cesium isn’t the only element for the job, but it has only one stable isotope, so it’s easier to purify, and the hyperfine transition is both large enough and fast enough to be accurate, unlike some other atoms….

(17) NEANDERTHAL CHESS ODDS? According to Discover Magazine, “Neanderthal Brains: Bigger, Not Necessarily Better”. But once you’ve clicked they admit they don’t really know.

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today.

In any textbook on human evolution, you’ll find that fact, often accompanied by measurements of endocranial volume, the space inside a skull. On average, this value is about 1410 cm3 (~6 cups) for Neanderthals and 1350 cm3 (5.7 cups) for recent humans.

So does that quarter-cup of brain matter, matter? Were Neanderthals smarter than our kind?

While brain size is important, cognitive abilities are influenced by numerous factors including body size, neuron density and how particular brain regions are enlarged and connected. Some of these variables are unknowable for Neanderthals, as we only have their cranial bones and not their brains. But anthropologists have made the most of these hollow skulls, to learn what they can about the Neanderthal mind….

(18) NEXT GEN NAVIGATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A quantum inertial navigation system has the potential to improve INS accuracy to the point that it could replace satellite systems like GPS for some applications. “Imperial College working with Royal Navy on groundbreaking system to replace GPS on ships” explains the Telegraph.

A new quantum compass that could replace GPS on ships has been tested on water for the first time, The Telegraph can reveal.

Inside an old shipping container onboard XV Patrick Blackett, the Royal Navy’s experimental ship, could be the future of navigation.

Military chiefs have been warning for years of the dangers of relying on GPS, due to the potential for adversaries to jam and manipulate trackers.

In an interview with The Telegraph last year, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the Armed Forces, warned Russia could wage war in space against the West.

He said: “Russia could also attack the GPS systems which play a key role, both military and civilian, throughout the world,” he said. He added that attacking a nation’s GPS was attractive to an adversary because it involves “neither direct casualties nor an attack on another country’s territory,” and is therefore less likely to provoke a direct Western military response….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended knows “How The Little Mermaid Should Have Ended” and asks for three minutes to tell you.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/23 Rough Scrolls Do Shake The Sweet Pixels Of May

(1) BIGGEST STAR WARS DAY EVENT. The Hollywood Reporter covers the ceremony: “Billie Lourd Gets Teary Honoring Late Mother Carrie Fisher at Walk of Fame: ‘Mama, You’ve Made It’”

… Lourd accompanied her mother to Comic-Con. There she learned that Fisher was also beloved.

“People of all ages from all over the world were dressed up like my mom, the lady who sang me to sleep at night and held me when I was scared. Watching the amount of joy it brought to people when she hugged them or threw glitter at them — sorry about that — was incredible to witness. People waited in line for hours just to meet her. People had tattoos of her, people named their children after her. People had stories of how she saved their lives. It was a side of my mom I had never seen before, and it was magical,” recalled Lourd. “I realized then that Leia is more than just a character. She is a feeling. She is strength. She is grace. She is wit. She is femininity at its finest. She knows what she wants and she gets it. She doesn’t need anyone to rescue her because she rescues herself and even rescues the rescuers. And no one could have played her like my mother.”

The ceremony, which kicked off shortly after 11:30 a.m. near the El Capitan Theatre on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, saw Lourd accept Fisher’s honor as she received the 2,754th star on the famed Walk of Fame….

(2) THE STAR WARS PARKING LOT. If you’re going to be in LA on May 6, this is an option available to you: “Movies on Location – ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’”.

In celebration of Star Wars Day, My Valley Pass is thrilled to present Star Wars: A New Hope as part of our ongoing film series Movies On Location. Throughout this exciting series, we screen films at their actual filming locations, or at settings that go hand-in-hand with these specially curated movies. The series features state of the art projection and sound.

This May the 6th, join us in Van Nuys as we screen Star Wars: A New Hope in the parking lot of Neiman & Company, formerly the original location of Industrial Light & Magic where all of the visual effects for Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) were produced.

(3) STAR WARS UNDERGROUND. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie forwarded this photo taken by a member of his local UK sf group today.

(4) HIGH TEA. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are home from a convention visit. Sharon shares all the interesting details in “To HELIOsphere and beyond!”

…Immediately following our conversation, was the highlight of the convention — the Teddy Bear Tea.

The Teddy Bear Tea is something Steve and I try to schedule, whenever we are Guests of Honor.  It turns out that many fans travel with their stuffed friends, who usually stay in the room, ready for comfort and conversation, when their companions come back from panelling and partying.  We thought it was a shame that the plushies never got a chance to socialize, and that was the inception of the Teddy Bear Tea.

The Teddy Bear Tea is Vastly Flexible, depending on the understanding of the programming folks about what, exactly, we were doing here.

HELIOsphere did us more than proud.  A full British High Tea awaited the plushies and their human friends — cucumber sandwiches (finally! I have had a cucumber sandwich), chicken salad, and egg salad, all cut into triangles and the crust trimmed off.  Cookies!  Biscotti!  It was just marvelous.  All of the plushies and people I talked to were impressed.  Just a very good time, indeed….

(5) DS9’S UNION ORGANIZING EPISODE. “This ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Episode is Suddenly Very Relevant” says Bell of Lost Souls.

There’s a WGA strike happening. Now is the perfect time to watch the Deep Space Nine‘s episode about union organizing “Bar Association”….

Deep Space Nine, Ferengi, and “Bar Association”

It’s the Bajoran Time of Cleansing. We don’t know what this holy time is about exactly but cleansing means no drinking or gambling. There’s nary a holosuite rental in sight. It’s Lent on steroids. And since much of the station consists of Bajorans that means wildly depleted profit margins for Quark’s Bar!

In “Bar Association“, Quark’s brother Rom nearly dies on the floor of the bar from a nuclear-grade ear infection because Quark won’t give him time off for a doctor’s visit. Worse, Quark decides that, in order to deal with the lack of incoming profit, he’s reducing salary by a third effective immediately.

Finally, in sickbay, Rom complains to Doctor Bashir about the lack of paid time off. Bashir offhandedly suggests that Rom should start a union in order to fight for an improved contract for all the workers. Rom takes the idea to heart and before you know it Quark’s entire staff is on strike.

“Bar Association” is very funny. But it’s also one of the most serious episodes in Star Trek history precisely because it deals with the mistreatment of workers. Obviously, right at the top, the episode deals with the dangers of working while sick. Rom nearly dies of that ear infection. But “Bar Association” says a lot more about the importance of unions than just paid sick leave….

(6) WHO HYPE. “Doctor Who airs new footage of 60th anniversary in cryptic teaser” and Radio Times has the morning-after report.

The ten-second clip aired during the channel’s Saturday (29th April 2023) evening schedule, with a message flashing up onscreen that read Network Error before making way for a number of distorted images and seemingly indecipherable sounds.

But it didn’t take sleuthing Whovians too long to work out some meaning behind the teaser, with fans noting that when the audio is played backwards Donna can be heard saying: “Why did this face come back?”

(7) DEAR DIARY. Radio Times will be running excerpts: “The 1963 Doctor Who diaries of Waris Hussein – part one”.

Much has been written about Doctor Who across the past six decades, but surely little could be more striking and fascinating than the diary kept by Waris Hussein way back in 1963 – his contemporaneous account of those crucial months 60 years ago when the sci-fi series was slowly, sometimes painfully, coming into being.

As Doctor Who’s very first director, he was heavily involved in the programme’s inception and can be counted among its talented band of founding parents…

…What follows is not a day-by-day diary. In 1963 Waris was far too busy for that. Instead, whenever time allowed, he kept a journal in a notebook, sometimes recording his thoughts on one particular day or else summarising recent events. That year he was also directing the BBC soap Compact, a Sunday Play called The Shadow of Mart and wartime espionage series Moonstrike. His diaries cover those in depth, as well as many private matters. For this series of articles exclusive to Radio Times, he has kindly allowed us to edit his accounts, extracting aspects pertinent to Doctor Who.

Thursday 30th May 1963

The more I think of “Dr Who”, the more it depresses me and I can’t bear the thought of it. I hope it never happens.

[Waris in 2023: “You see, nobody knew exactly what the format was. The scripts were non-existent apart from the first one by Anthony Coburn. There was nothing more to go on. The sci-fi element didn’t bother me particularly; it was more that we’d be dealing with Stone Age characters. I mean, the discovery of fire was not my idea of directing something after my Cambridge days where I studied Shakespeare. And I didn’t want to be laughed at – directing actors in skins.”]….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1984[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Barry Hughart’s career, I was surprised to learn, consisted of just one exemplary series, the Master Li novels which in turn were but a trilogy — Bridge of Birds, The Story of The Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen

Why this was according to Hughart wasn’t due to his publishers screwing him over though they, according to him, did just that doing everything from labeling his fiction as exclusively being genre to releasing the paperback edition of Eight Skilled Gentlemen the same time as the hardback edition resulting in very few sales of the latter. 

None of which he says actually had to do with him ending his writing career. In the Subterranean Press printing of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox series as it is called, he stated:

“Will there be more? I doubt it, and it’s not because of bad sales and worse publishers. It’s simply that I’d taken it as far as I could. … [N]o matter how well I wrote I’d just be repeating myself.”

So that was it for his writing career. Mind you, according to him in another interview, there were supposed to be seven novels in the series had it run its full course. 

But oh what extraordinary fiction it was. Blending an ancient China that never was, Chinese mythology with detective genre influences, Bridge of Birds won the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. It’s an amazing series and go read it if you’ve not. 

The series is available at the usual suspects. 

Our Beginning naturally is from Bridge of Birds… 

I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world. 

My surname is Lu and my personal name is Yu, but I am not to be confused with the eminent author of The Classic of Tea. My family is quite undistinguished, and since I am the tenth of my father’s sons and rather strong I am usually referred to as Number Ten Ox. My father died when I was eight. A year later my mother followed him to the Yellow Springs Beneath the Earth, and since then I have lived with Uncle Nung and Auntie Hua in the village of Ku-fu in the valley of Cho. We take great pride in our landmarks. Until recently we also took great pride in two gentlemen who were such perfect specimens that people used to come from miles around just to stare at them, so perhaps I should begin a description of my village with a couple of classics. 

When Pawnbroker Fang approached Ma the Grub with the idea of joining forces he opened negotiations by presenting Ma’s wife with the picture of a small fish drawn on a piece of cheap paper. Ma’s wife accepted the magnificent gift, and in return she extended her right hand and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger. At that point, the door crashed open and Ma the Grub charged inside and screamed: “Woman, would you ruin me? Half of a pie would have been enough!

That may not be literally true, but the abbot of our monastery always said that fable has strong shoulders that carry far more truth than fact can. 

Pawnbroker Fang’s ability to guess the lowest possible amount that person would accept for a pawned item was so unerring that I had concluded it was supernatural, but then the abbot took me aside and explained that Fang wasn’t guessing at all. There was always some smooth shiny object lying on top of his desk in the front room of Ma the Grub’s warehouse, and it was used as a mirror that would reflect the eyes of the victim.

“Cheap, very cheap,” Fang would sneer, turning the object in his hands. “No more than two hundred cash.” 

His eyes would drop to the shiny object and if the pupils of the reflected eyes constricted too sharply he would try again.

 “Well, the workmanship isn’t too bad, in a crude peasant fashion. Make it two-fifty.” The reflected pupils would dilate, but perhaps not quite far enough.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1852 Alice Pleasance Liddell (rhymes with “fiddle”). One of the sisters to whom “Lewis Carroll” (Charles Dodgson) told the story that he later developed into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and a second book about the character Alice, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). She eventually auctioned the manuscript copy of the first book Carroll had given her (under the original title Alice’s Adventures under Ground). That is how it came to be displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll’s birth, with Alice present, aged 80. In a nice coincidence, during this visit to the United States she met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brothers who inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. (Died 1934.) (OGH/JH)
Alice Liddell dedication copy of Through The Looking Glass
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England. (Died 2020.)
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 80. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1966 Murray McArthur, 57. He first shows up on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 47. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moira Quirk does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal calls this argument about consciousness “Robot John Searle”.
  • The Argyle Sweater delivers a Cinco de Mayo/May the Fourth crossover. “Surely Han is giggling and saying ‘Come on Luke, use the Force!’” says Rich Horton.

(11) COME AS YOUR FAVORITE KAIJU. Tomorrow’s First Fridays 2023 event at the LA County Museum of Natural History has a “Giant Monsters/Giant Robot” theme. Cosplay encouraged. See full details at the link.

The Natural World vs. Fantasy Worlds: This season we focus on how nature and science influence the creation of our favorite imagined worlds. From dragons and witchcraft to superheroes and giant monsters, First Fridays 2023 is where the fans come out to celebrate the intersection of pop-culture fandom and the work and collections of NHM. 

(12) WESTERCON 2025 WIDE OPEN. “No Bids Filed for 2025 Westercon” writes Kevin Standlee. “No bids have been filed to host Westercon 77 (2025), meaning that once again (as in 2021 and 2022), there will only be write-in spaces on the ballot, and if no valid bid wins (technically, that’s what happened last year, even though nearly every vote was for Utah, because the Utah bid was technically deficient), the Business Meeting will again have to make a decision, or if they can’t decide, throw it to LASFS. The last choice is thought to be the least-wanted one, at least by those LASFS directors who have expressed an opinion about it to me.”

(13) NNEDI OKORAFOR BOOK ANNOUNCED. DAW Books, an imprint of Astra Publishing House, has added another Nnedi Okorafor novel to the DAW publication schedule for this December. 

Four months after the release of SHADOW SPEAKER (on sale September 26, 2023; ISBN 9780756418762) by critically acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor will come the never-before-published sequel, LIKE THUNDER (on sale December 5, 2023; ISBN 9780756418793), completing the Desert Magician’s Duology. 

LIKE THUNDER is the story of the powerful young man whom the magical protagonist of SHADOW SPEAKER befriends, and continues the precedent of powerful prose and compelling story-telling that has made Nnedi Okorafor a star of the literary science fiction, fantasy, and Africanfuturist spaces

“This duology is really one long story,” says Betsy Wollheim, publisher of DAW Books, “and we felt it would be exciting for readers to have the finale to this story publish just four months from the first half, rather than waiting nearly a year to read the conclusion.” 

The Desert Magician’s Duology tells the story of Ejii, as she embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father’s killer, in an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, set in Niger, West Africa at the end of the 21st century, on an Earth changed by a momentous apocalyptic event that altered the laws of physics and created “The Changed,” children born with rare and odd abilities: shadow speakers, shapeshifters, windseekers, firemolders, faders, and rainmakers.

Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and was a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has been the winner of many awards for her short stories and young adult books, and won a World Fantasy Award for Who Fears Death. Nnedi’s books are inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa.

(14) BIG GULP REDUX. Here’s more about Nature’s cover article “Exoplanet destruction”

As stars evolve, they expand and so will engulf planets in close orbit around them. This planetary catastrophe is expected to generate powerful luminous ejections of mass from the star, although this has not been observed directly. In this week’s issue, Kishalay De and his colleagues present observations of a short-lived optical outburst in the Galactic disk accompanied by bright, long-lived infrared emission. The combination of low optical luminosity and radiated energy suggests that the source of the outburst was the engulfment of a planet by its Sun-like star — an event that awaits Earth and the other planets of the inner Solar System in about 5 billion years, and that is captured in the artist’s impression on the cover.

Also there’s a review article here.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/23 Have You Met Lydia, Lydia The Tatooine Lady?

(1) UNCLE HUGO’S NEEDED A DIFFERENT KIND OF BAIL-OUT. As Uncle Hugo’s & Uncle Edgar’s Bookstores owner Don Blyly explains in the latest “How’s Business” he’s lucky he didn’t need to invest in gopher wood, build an ark, and start gathering the Baen authors two-by-two.

I came to the store Sunday morning and started doing payroll, and a few minutes late I saw a small wet spot on the floor, far from any books, and assumed some snow had fallen off my boots and melted.  About 5 hours later I noticed that the small wet spot was slightly larger and I saw a drop of water hit it from a drip from the ceiling.  Before closing on Sunday Jon put a bucket under the occasional drip, and it seemed safe to go home.   

In the early morning hours, the rain started.  When I got to the store around 7:30 Monday morning, water was pouring from a large area of the ceiling, primarily near the new bookshelves that contained the used sf hardcovers and trade paperback with authors “R” through “W”.  Much of the water was hitting the floor and then bouncing up onto the bottom shelf of books.  I pulled all the books from the bottom shelves and moved them to safer locations, grabbed some buckets to put under the bigger streams of water,  and then headed to the nearest hardware store to pick up a better mop and some plastic drop cloths.   

When I got back to the store I couldn’t find any duct tape, and the flooding had spread, so I drove over to Target to buy duct tape and a bunch of plastic “under-bed storage units”, which were much cheaper than buckets, plus being rectangular instead of round.  Back to the store, and I spread the storage units under a lot more drips.  I then tried to tape the plastic drop cloths to the top of the bookshelves to protect the books that had yet been damaged–and immediately discovered that duct tape does not stick to wet wood.  Fortunately, I had a lot of cans of ginger ale in the refrigerator, and a series of cans of soda managed to hold the drop cloths in place.  A couple of hours later Ken and Marie showed up and joined the fight against the water.  Ken was swinging the mop handle so energetically that he knocked the thermostat off the wall in 3 pieces. 

Given the rate at which we were emptying buckets, I estimate that between 20 and 30 gallons of water were coming through the ceiling every 15 minutes, and a lot of it leaked through the floor into the basement..  The rain finally ended around noon, and about an hour later the flood slowed a little.  A customer made a suggestion of a solution, and about two hours later I was finally able to get his solution to work.  Around 3:30 the flood turned into a bunch of drips.  (Supposedly there is about an 8 inch layer of insulation above the ceiling, so I expected the drips to continue to drain from the insulation long after the water stopped coming in from the roof.)   

I was delighted not to spend the entire night at the store, emptying buckets every 15 minutes, as I had feared I would.  We did some cleaning up before closing (removing water-logged flattened cardboard boxes and replacing them with dry flattened cardboard boxes, mopping the floor on the ground level, using a snow shovel to push water in the basement towards the floor drain, etc.).  I came back to the store at 6:30 this morning and continued cleaning up.  All the buckets and storage containers are put away, all the wet cardboard is thrown out, the plastic drop cloths are removed from the bookshelves and put away.  I started going through the piles of books from the bottom shelves, looking for undamaged books to put back on the shelves, while the damaged ones will have to either be thrown away or have their prices dropped and descriptions changed.  I found that the section of shelving that contained David Weber, Margaret Weis, and H. G. Wells got wet from the top shelf to the bottom shelf, with the books so swollen that it was hard to get them off the shelves.  Several hundred books were damaged, but they will have to dry out more before I can figure out which ones can be salvaged.  Some of the floor boards have warped, and I don’t know if the warping will decrease after the boards finish drying.

Fortunately, the new wooden bookshelves don’t seem to have warped.  The thermostat has been repaired, so we have heat again.

This week there will be another good reason to drop by the store. Thursday, March 2, 2023 is Uncle Hugo’s 49th anniversary. Blyly will he be holding an anniversary sale from Thursday, March 2 through Sunday, March 5, with an extra 10% off everything in the store.  With a discount card, you can get 20% off everything during the sale. The sale only applies to in-store purchases, not to mail orders.

(2) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! On Scout’s Progress Book Day!” and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller celebrate the anniversary re-issue of their book – part of a duo that begins the chronology of the Liaden Universe® series. (As I understand it. Which if I don’t please let me know.)

… Returning to 1993, we had no expectation that Scout’s Progress – or Local Custom – would ever be read by anybody but us. They were therefore written to amuse – us. Things that amuse us particularly are word-play; dry, understated humor; a certain grace – of manner and of person – protagonists with a strong sense of honor and right action, who are competent, though they may be flawed.

Improbably, Local Custom and Scout’s Progress were published in February 2001, as original omnibus Pilots Choice, from Meisha Merlin Publishing.

It’s apparently Traditional on occasions such as these for authors to reflect on what they would have done differently, were they writing the work being celebrated today.

And our answer is? Nothing….

(3) DON’T SALUTE THIS FLAG. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss helps writers see the problems: “When Your Publishing Contract Flies a Red Flag: Clauses to Watch Out For”.

…In this article, I’m going to focus on contract language that gives too much benefit to the publisher, and too little to the author. Consider these contract clauses to be red flags wherever you encounter them. (All of the images below are taken from contracts that have been shared with me by authors.)

First on her list:

Copyright Transfer

Unless you are doing work-for-hire, such as writing for a media tie-in franchise, a publisher should not take ownership of your copyright. For most publishers, copyright ownership doesn’t provide any meaningful advantage over a conventional grant of rights, and there’s no reason to require it. Even where the transfer is temporary, with rights reverting back to you at some point, it doesn’t change the fact that for as long as the contract is in force, your copyright does not belong to you.

Copyright transfers usually appear in the Grant of Rights clause. Look for phrases like “all right, title and interest in and to the Work” and “including but not limited to all copyrights therein.”…

(4) WHICH SECRETS CAN BE REVEALED? “’The Mandalorian’ Returns: Jon Favreau’s Exclusive Tour of the Secret Set” in Vanity Fair.

The Mandalorian returns this week with Pedro Pascal’s masked antihero sharing words of wisdom with his adopted son, Baby Yoda (a.k.a. Grogu): “Being a Mandalorian is not just about learning how to fight. You also have to know how to navigate the galaxy. That way, you’ll never be lost.”

Jon Favreau, the creator of the show and the writer of those lines, found his own way to navigate this universe’s disparate worlds. He brings all of the planets to him, storing them inside an otherwise nondescript California soundstage. By now, it’s not a secret that the show makes use of Industrial Light & Magic’s StageCraft technology, which creates photorealistic alien landscapes on a colossal curved LED wall called a volume. But not many outsiders have ever stepped within the reality-bending walls. 

Favreau, a stickler for secrecy, welcomed Vanity Fair to the set during the making of the new episodes, asking only that we not reveal too much about the scene playing out. Outside the doors of the soundstage, Favreau scratches at his beard, trying to decide what can be revealed about the setting sprawled across the 20-foot digital walls. “What should we call it? It’s a good question,” he says, settling on: “A cavernous atrium. With…tech elements embedded.”

He laughs. “And if you think that’s not going to be a sentence that launches a thousand YouTube videos…”

(5) ASHE Q&A. The Horror Writers Association’s “Black Heritage in Horror” series continues: “Interview with Paula Ashe”.

Paula D. Ashe (she/her) is an author of dark fiction. Her debut collection — We Are Here to Hurt Each Other — was released in early ‘22 by Nictitating Books….

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

Since childhood I’ve been drawn to things that have a dark bent to them. I feel like horror is the most honest genre and it’s a place where I can tell some painful and usually private truths. I also just really enjoy disturbing the shit out of people….

(6) RICOU BROWNING (1930-2023). [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Sad to learn of the passing of the wonderful Ricou Browning yesterday at age 93. Here are the original “Creatures From The Black Lagoon”… Ben Chapman (the land creature) on the left, and Ricou Browning (the proverbial “Sea Beast”) on the right, with an even more Monstrous “victim” wedged between them. He was both a cinematic icon, and a delightfully aquatic gentleman. Rest In Peace amongst the “stars.”

The Hollywood Reporter tribute is filled with anecdotes from his career.

… Browning was charged with showing the area of Wakulla Springs, Florida, to location scouts from Universal who were seeking filming locations for Creature From the Black Lagoon. He also did some swim moves for them, and that led to his Gill-Man gig. (Ben Chapman played the beast on land in the first movie.)

“The lips of the suit sat about a half-inch from my lips, and I put the air hose in my mouth to breathe,” he said in a 2019 interview. “I would hold my breath and go do the scene, and I’d have other safety people with other air hoses to give me air if I needed it. We had a signal. If I went totally limp, it meant I needed it. It worked out well, and we didn’t have any problems.”

Browning said he filmed his scenes in wintertime, and it was pretty cold. “The crew felt sorry for me, so somebody said, ‘How would you like a shot of brandy?’ I said, ‘Sure,’” he recalled. “Another part of the crew [also] gave me a shot of brandy. Pretty soon they were dealing with a drunk creature.”…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1969[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley is a novel that I’ll admit that I do like. 

It was published first in 1969 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The cover art (which I think is utterly wrong for the novel) is by Jack Gaughan. 

I did not know until now that a shorter novella length version of this was first published in the October 1967 issue of Galaxy. Who here can tell me how significantly different the two versions are? That novella is in The Last Defender of Camelot collection which unfortunately has not made it to the usual suspects.

And now the Beginning in which we meet Hell Tanner.

The gull swooped by, seemed to hover a moment on unmoving wings. 

Hell Tanner flipped his cigar butt at it and scored a lucky hit. The bird uttered a hoarse cry and beat suddenly at the air. It climbed about fifty feet, and whether it shrieked a second time, he would never know. 

It was gone. 

A single white feather rocked in the violent sky, drifted out over the edge of the cliff, and descended, swinging, toward the ocean. Tanner chuckled through his beard, against the steady roar of the wind and the pounding of the surf. Then he took his feet down from the handlebars, kicked up the stand, and gunned his bike to, life. 

He took the slope slowly till he came to the trail, then picked up speed and was doing fifty when he hit the highway. 

He leaned forward and gunned it again. He had the road all to himself, and he laid on the gas pedal till there was no place left for it to go. He raised his goggles and looked at the world through crap-colored glasses, which was pretty much the way he looked at it without them, too. 

All the old irons were gone from his jacket, and he missed the swastika, the hammer and sickle, and the upright finger, especially. He missed his old emblem, too. Maybe he could pick one up in Tijuana and have some broad sew it on and … No. It wouldn’t do. All that was dead and gone. It would be a giveaway, and he wouldn’t last a day. What he would do was sell the Harley, work his way down the coast, clean and square, and see what he could find in the other America.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs.  Known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations. He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yes, that novel. It obviously served as the basis for the 1976 film by Nicolas Roeg, The Man Who Fell to Earth, with Bowie as star, as well as a later television adaptation which I’d never heard of. He also wrote Mockingbird which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel. James Sallis reviewed both novels in F&SF. He wrote the best novel about chess ever published, Queen’s Gambit, which was made into a much praised Netflix production.(Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 76. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 66. I read and like the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like?
  • Born February 28, 1966 Philip Reeve, 57. He is primarily known for the Mortal Engines and its sequels. I read Mortal EnginesPredator’s Gold and Infernal Devices before deciding that was enough of that series, it’s a fine series, it just wasn’t developing enough to warrant me reading any more of it.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), 53. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 46. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville just wants to say it out loud so badly – but that would sound nuts!
  • Dustin has a sort of Walter Mitty moment.

(10) SIGNOFF. Author Karl Drinkwater explains why “Karl Is Antisocial” in a 2021 article.

I’m a full time author. I am part of professional networks, and have colleagues and friends that are authors. One of the maxims is that an author needs a platform. That platform includes social media. If you don’t use them you will face obscurity and poverty.

This post is the culmination of a number of decisions. One of them: I’m planning on leaving social media.

Those who know me won’t be so surprised. They know I am a non-conformist. That I question everything (including myself). That I’m the kind of person who would email my audiobook narrators and offer to sign all my royalties over to them as part of me leaving Amazon. (I did that this morning.) That I would stop using Windows after 20 years and switch to Linux. (I did that last week.)

Those who don’t know me will just think I’m bat-shit crazy.

But I do have my reasons, however strange they may appear at first….

…I don’t like the idea of social media being a kind of untargeted shotgun blast out at the universe, with everyone shouting to be louder than everyone else, hoping that by screaming they will get more attention. And so you just get a cacophonous wall of noise. I don’t like the impersonality of much of it.

And do I really need to be on there? My business is already unconventional. I don’t do paid adverts on Amazon and Facebook. Yet people find me and my work, and they buy it. And, more often than not, they love it. Another convention is for books to have a copyright page telling you everything you are not allowed to do. I’m the opposite. I want readers to have more rights. Certainly more than the law currently allows. So some of my books have a copyright page saying it’s fine to convert my e-books between formats, and to save a copy as a backup (I don’t add DRM). To copy or quote up to 50% of a print book. To give print books away or sell them on….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/22 Goodnight, Barsoom

(1) YOU’RE INVITED TO THE PARTY. File 770’s 45th anniversary celebration begins soon after the turn of the year. The 45th birthday of the fanzine is on January 6, and the 15th anniversary of the blog is on January 15. Is there something you can contribute to the occasion? It doesn’t have to be about File 770 – a book review, a parody filksong, a guest opinion post, a piece about your favorite Korean TV show – anything in the realm of sff and fandom that you’re passionate about. Contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.

(2) BIG TICKET ITEMS. AbeBooks’ list of ten “Most expensive sales in 2022” kicks off with the nonfiction volume I Quattro Libri dell Architettura by Andrea Palladio in first place with a $57,750 price tag. Genre works occupy the fifth and sixth position.

#5 — The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – $30,500

Published by Henry Holt, this is the 1895 first edition of The Time Machine with the author’s name misspelled as H.S. Wells on the title page. This copy is signed by Wells just below the names of the previous owners. The Time Machine was the author’s first novel and has become a cornerstone of science fiction with its time traveling theme.

#6 — The Tour of the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne – $30,000

Better known as Around the World in 80 Days, this is the first American printing of Verne’s story. The book was rebound in 1952 in green calf leather. It was owned by Mrs. Nellie W. Pillsbury. One of Nellie’s daughters, Nellie Ruth King, was the mother of the author Stephen King. The book was accompanied by a handwritten note from Verne, signed and dated October 1883, where he describes two upcoming titles. In addition, a handwritten note from American author Nellie Bly is tipped into the book. Inspired by Verne, Bly made her own trip around the globe and wrote a book called Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.

(3) NEW TEST RULE. Beginning January 5, the U.S. is instituting a new requirement for travelers from China: “US to require travelers from China to show negative Covid-19 test result before flight” reports CNN.

The United States will require all travelers from China to show a negative Covid-19 test result before flying to the country as Beijing’s rapid easing of Covid-19 restrictions leads to a surge in cases.

Passengers flying to the US from China will need to get a test no more than two days before flying, federal health officials said, and present proof of the negative test to their airline before boarding.

The tests can be either a PCR test or an antigen self-test administered through a telehealth service.

The requirement will apply both to passengers flying directly to the United States from China as well to passengers flying through popular third-country gateways, including Seoul, Toronto and Vancouver.

Passengers who test positive more than 10 days before their flight can provide documentation of their recovery in lieu of a negative test result.

The new rules take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on January 5….

(4) FIRE RECOVERY FUNDRAISER. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Lisa Garrison, who has long been active in MarCon, has run Windycon’s children’s programming for several years, and chaired the 2020 NASFIC in Columbus/Online suffered a devastating house fire on December 23 and lost everything, including her pets (although Lisa and her children are okay.)  A GoFundMe has been set up: “Fire Recovery Fund Lisa Garrison & Family”. At this writing $28,594 of the $35,000 goal has been donated.

….They lost their house in a fire early this morning and have lost everything, including their beloved pets. I am heartbroken and doing all that I can to help ease the loss, but I know that many people far and wide love Lisa, Seamus, and Jade, and will also want to help. We would love if you chip in to help them get on their feet, and try to pick up the pieces after this horrific loss. God bless you and Merry Christmas!

We are so very thankful for the immense outpouring of support, but as the days pass the amount of items that were lost continues to grow, and the need is so very great. Lisa & the kids are overwhelmed with gratitude from their community, but I know that they will need as much help as we can all give them!

(5) MIKE CAREY Q&A. Moid over at Media Death Cult has an interview with Mike Carey.

Mike Carey (The Girl With All The Gifts, X-Men, Lucifer, Hellblazer) is an English comic, novel and screenplay writer who bloody loves the end of the world.

(6) MARK YOUR CALENDARS. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller of the Liaden Universe® chart the first half of 2023 for fans – what’s being published, and where you can meet them.

January 3, 2023 Chicks in Tank Tops publication date.  Edited by Jason Cordova, with brand new stories from Esther Friesner, Kevin Ikenberry, Jody Lynn Nye, Joelle Presby, Marisa Wolf, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and?  More!  No, honestly, there’s a whole lot of good reading in this book, and you don’t want to miss out.  Available from your favorite bookstore.

January 5, 2023:  Rembrandt’s Station by Christie Meierz releases, a happy fact that will be celebrated by a Zoom launch party on January 7.  Steve and I will be there, and hope that you will, too.  Party details here

February 17-19, 2023:  Boskone 60.  GOHs: Nalo Hopkinson, Vito Ngai, Tui T. Sutherland, Dave Clement.  Steve Miller and Sharon Lee will be attending in person after a several year gap.  We cannot yet reveal our schedules, but we can say that we will be reading from Salvage Right, the 100th Lee and Miller collaboration; participating in a few panels, and hosting a kaffeeklatsch.  Hope to see you there.  Here’s your link to register

February 28, 2023:  The anniversary re-issue of the classic Liaden Regency, Scout’s Progress, with a new and exciting cover by Sam Kennedy, and! a new foreword by the authors, releases from All the Usual Suspects.

Looking a little further down the line — April 28-30, 2023:  Heliosphere 2023.  GOHs: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, David M. Mattingly.  Registration is open and though it is a thought over four months away, we urge you to register now.  Heliosphere is a small con and depends on its pre-registrations.  Here’s your link.

And, going way, way out, now — July 4, 2023Salvage Right, the 25th novel set in the Liaden Universe® created by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller back in the last century, releases from all of your favorite bookstores.

(7) WHO KNEW? Flying Cars and Food Pills is Steve Carper’s Retrofuturism site. Among its many offerings is an article about an atomic bomb mystery story published during WWII that the FBI investigated – not the Cleve Cartmill story you already know about, but “The Last Secret” by Dana Chambers.

…If the government investigated Cartmill’s story, then why didn’t they spot The Last Secret? They did. The only difference is that the mystery world doesn’t have the obsessive fan grapevine that the f&sf world has and had.

The government’s virtually unknown actions are laid out in a wonderfully informative paper by Patrick S. Washburn presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (July 2-5, 1988): “The Office of Censorship’s Attempt to Control Press Coverage of the Atomic Bomb during World War II.”…

(8) GNOME PRESS. Steve Carper also has a site devoted to an early sff publisher: “Gnome Press: The Complete History and Bibliography”. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction.

Hard to believe today, but before World War II not a single mainstream publisher in America would publish a genre science fiction or fantasy novel. H. G. Wells had once been so fanatically popular that publishers would pirate his works if they couldn’t get them legitimately, but the coming of the pulp magazine era destroyed the reputation of the field. Science fiction was written by subliterates for subliterates, or so went the opinion of the literary world….

A few science fiction fans saw a niche. They pooled what seems today like pitifully small amounts of money and started small presses. There was Shasta and Prime Press and the New Collector’s Group and Fantasy Press and Hadley Publishing and the Buffalo Book Company and many more.

Perhaps the most ambitious, the most professional, the most forward thinking, the most successful – all attributes that the acolytes of the other presses will forever dispute – was brought into being as The Gnome Press, Inc. Martin L. Greenberg, who must always be carefully introduced as no relation to the anthologist Martin H. Greenberg, wanted to do more than resurrect older stories from their living death in browning pulp magazines – although he did much of that, very successfully; he wanted to make modern science fiction and fantasy part of the modern world of publishing….

And another excerpt from “The History of Gnome Press”:

… Greenberg had no experience in publishing, especially with regards to the printing the book and getting it out the door function, far more important for a small press in 1948 than any other aspect of the job. He turned to David A. Kyle, who essentially grew up in fandom, reading the pulps from his early teens, and turning into a letter hack, fanzine publisher, founder of fan groups, and all-around friend of everybody in New York fandom, somewhat like being a music junkie in 1967 San Francisco….

(9) DILLONS AND THE SPOKEN WORD. Artist and designer John Coulthart chronicles the album covers produced by a couple who were among sff’s most famous artists: “The Dillons at Caedmon”. The post includes many images.

There’s a lot you could write about illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon. They were very prolific for a start, creating many book covers and interior illustrations in a variety of styles and different media. They also maintained a long-running association with Harlan Ellison whose praise for the pair was never less than fulsome. Like Bob Pepper and other versatile illustrators, they created art for album covers as well as books, with regular commissions from Caedmon Records, a label that specialises in spoken-word recordings….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

[By Cat Eldridge.] Terry Pratchett statue

There is apparently to be a statue of Terry Pratchett. Or so it is thought. So the sculptor, Paul Kirby, announced on his site in 2016: “I am delighted that Salisbury City Council has given the thumbs up to the proposal of a bronze statue of Sir Terry Pratchett for the city.  Designs and plans can now progress to the next stage.  I am proud to be the chosen artist to create this piece and very much look forward to sculpting Terry. I hope the end result will be an unsentimental and a happy depiction of the author, which celebrates his achievements both literary and philanthropic and brings pride to the people of Salisbury.” 

Let me show you the proposed statue. The sketch below until recently (I’ll explain that in a minute) was all that existed of the idea. It was to be crowdfunded according to the sculptor and that really, really didn’t happen. But then hundred thousand dollar statues generally need government and foundation backing, don’t they? 

The campaign had received the enthusiastic support of Pratchett’s family, as well as his friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman. That however was six years ago as I noted above and until this year, not a word more we heard about it. Is it moving forward? Who knows? 

However the concept of a seven foot-and- a-half statue has turned into one solitary bronze bust that you can see below. According to the news stories, that’s all the sculptor has completed in six years as “he said getting the expression right was especially hard, trying to portray Pratchett as not unhappy, but not smiling too much.” Left absolutely unsaid was if funding had been raised to do the statue itself. My guess? If it had been raised, it’d been shouted from here to Discworld that it had. 

For now, it’s safe to say that no date has been announced for a statue going up, nor has any government body or foundation committed to funding, not even the Pratchett people themselves which is curious indeed.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles MaxwellHe makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in “Spectre of the Gun”, a Trek story that opinions are divided on.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian’s “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited until late in that series. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in a way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator. He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares. Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which definitely isn’t canon. (Died 2022.)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 88. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films.
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 80. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s been a WisCon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 77. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. He was an editor of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America.
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 52. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am, yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later was Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro records a superhero’s visit to his tailor.

(13) EYE TO EYE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new art exhibition in China juxtaposes works by H.R. Giger and Hajime Sorayama—two very different futuristic artists. It will be at UCAA Lab in Beijing through 19 February 19, 2023. “‘H.R. Giger X Sorayama: Approaching’ Is a Must-See Exhibition for Science Fiction Lovers” at Hypebeast.

H.R. Giger and Hajime Sorayama grew up on opposite ends of the earth and equally possessed a starkly different view on the promises of technology. Giger, whose monstrous machines would characteristically be tied to the Alien franchise, presented a haunting vision of the distant future. Whereas, Sorayama continues to create erotically-charged robots that oscillate between human and machine, reality and fantasy.

NANZUKA worked with COEXIST and UCCA Lab in Beijing to present an enthralling new exhibition juxtaposing the work of the two legendary artists. H.R. Giger X Sorayama: Approaching features 45 works by each figure from the 1960s to the present day. The show’s layout was inspired by an underground ant colony, where visitors will be pitted amongst a series of rooms — each presenting a duality of notions….

(14) TZ MARATHON. Get in the zone! SYFY Wire has everything you need to know: “SYFY’s 2022 New Year’s ‘Twilight Zone’ marathon is here”.

It’s that time of year again — time to cross over into The Twilight Zone … and stay there for a bit. A few days, actually. SYFY’s annual New Year’s marathon of The Twilight Zone episodes is returning, and the extravaganza stretches over four freaky calendar days, beginning on Saturday and running through Tuesday morning.

As a bonus this year, in addition to featuring episodes from the five-season Rod Serling-created anthology series that ran from 1959 to 1964, the marathon will also include episodes from the Jordan Peele-developed revival of The Twilight Zone that premiered in 2019 and came back for a second season in 2020…. 

(15) HAPPENING IN 2024. “Mickey’s Copyright Adventure: Early Disney Creation Will Soon Be Public Property”. The New York Times can’t wait to do news stories about the problems that will create.

There is nothing soft and cuddly about the way Disney protects the characters it brings to life.

This is a company that once forced a Florida day care center to remove an unauthorized Minnie Mouse mural. In 2006, Disney told a stonemason that carving Winnie the Pooh into a child’s gravestone would violate its copyright. The company pushed so hard for an extension of copyright protections in 1998 that the result was derisively nicknamed the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

For the first time, however, one of Disney’s marquee characters — Mickey himself — is set to enter the public domain. “Steamboat Willie,” the 1928 short film that introduced Mickey to the world, will lose copyright protection in the United States and a few other countries at the end of next year, prompting fans, copyright experts and potential Mickey grabbers to wonder: How is the notoriously litigious Disney going to respond?

… The matter is more complicated than it appears, and those who try to capitalize on the expiring “Steamboat Willie” copyright could easily end up in a legal mousetrap. “The question is where Disney tries to draw the line on enforcement,” Mr. Moss said, “and if courts get involved to draw that line judicially.”…

(16) THE BY-NO-MEANS-OFFICIAL HISTORY. The Comics Journal’s Chris Mautner reviews “See You at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture”.

Having spent years, if not decades, as the top dog of comic conventions, and largely recognized by the hoi polloi as the de facto pop culture happening for well over a decade now, it’s surprising that a big book on the history of the San Diego Comic-Con hasn’t been published sooner. See You at San Diego, a whopping 480-page(!!) oral history of the show’s creation and growth, attempts to detail the origins of the convention and how it became the massive juggernaut it is today, with lots of anecdotes and remembrances from the people that helped shape it.

Unfortunately, while See You at San Diego does contain some engaging and occasionally delightful anecdotes, it’s also more than a bit of a mess, badly in need of an editor that could whittle its massive length down to a leaner and more succinct size, avoid the numerous repetitions, ask some tough questions about inclusion and the dominance of geek culture today, and perhaps even suggest some different page design choices than what’s offered in the final product….

(17) AND DON’T FORGET THIS BIRTHDAY. CNN is there when the “World’s oldest-ever tortoise turns 190”.

… Further proof of his age emerged when an old photograph taken between 1882 and 1886 was uncovered. In it, a fully grown Jonathan can be seen grazing in the garden of Plantation House, the residence of the Governor of St. Helena, where he has spent most of his life.

… Officials on the island are currently working on Jonathan’s birthday celebrations, which are planned for later this year. A series of commemorative stamps will be issued and anyone who visits him this year will receive a certificate featuring the first known picture of his footprint.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the conversation in “Avatar: The Way of Water Pitch Meeting”.

2009’s Avatar was the highest-grossing movie of all time. Naturally, that meant sequel-time, and FAST. Okay maybe not fast. Maybe not even slow-paced. Maybe THIRTEEN YEARS LATER James Cameron has brought us back to the world of Pandora, along with all the characters whose names we definitely remember. Avatar: The Way Of Water definitely raises some questions. Like why spend so much money bringing back Colonel Quarritch to life, the guy who famously failed the last time he attempted something similar to this mission? Why does Jake suddenly decide that it’s suddenly time to run away after literally heading into battle regularly? Where did all the ocean people go in the third act? How many decades until the next movie?

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

Pixel Scroll 10/30/22 I’ve Looked At Scrolls From Both Sides Now

(1) GETTING HITCHED. Congratulations to Brian Keene on his successful marriage proposal to Mary SanGiovanni. Read about it in Keene’s “Letters From the Labyrinth 305”. (And see the proposal video on TikTok.)

… What I neglected to mention was that I intended to propose to Mary during that trip. Centralia is an abandoned mining town that has been on fire underground for nearly 100 years, and was the basis for many things in the horror genre, including Mary’s favorite — the Silent Hill franchise. The ghost town has special significance for us, as we took a trip there together very early in our relationship, and have continued to go back at least once a year for the last eleven years.

While Centralia’s original graffiti highway was destroyed during the pandemic, there are still plenty of roads there with graffiti on them (as well as abandoned buildings deep on the woods and hidden entrances into the mines, if you know where to look). So, John Urbancik and I drove up there the week before, and I spray-painted a proposal on what used to be a residential side street. This was known as Plan E.

Plans A through D were considered, however…

Click through to find out those imaginative but ultimately discarded options.

… People have already begun inviting themselves to the wedding, and Christopher Golden and Rio Youers have started planning hijinks, so everything is going about as you’d expect so far. I have been assured that I can DJ our reception, so that’s okay.

Oh, and the honeymoon is going to be a cross-country book signing tour so stay tuned for that. It was Mary’s idea. I wanted to go to Alaska or Easter Island but she needs to sell copies of Alien: Enemy of My Enemy, so a honeymoon tour it is….

(2) KEEPING COUNT. “Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 130” has a roundup of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s forthcoming publications, how to get signed copies, and what ebooks will be available. It also tells where you can see them early next year, and clocks some remarkable career milestones.

CONVENTION APPEARANCES

Lee and Miller have applied to be in-person panelists at Boskone 60 (February 17-19, 2023). There is a new process in place this year, and we’ve not yet heard back concerning our applications. More news when we have some.

Lee and Miller will be Writer Guests of Honor at Heliosphere, April 28-30, 2023 in Piscataway NJ. Artist Guest of Honor will be David Mattingly.

CAREER MILESTONES
*As above, Salvage Right is the 25th Liaden Universe® novel.
*It is also Lee and Miller’s 29th collaborative novel, and 100th collaborative work.
*It is Sharon Lee’s 34th novel.
*And! It brings Lee-and-Miller’s total lifetime collaborative words written to Three million, seven hundred fifty-eight thousand, four hundred and eight.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Ryk E. Spoor needs the help coming from his “A Series of Unfortunate Events” Gofundme even more than before. He wrote today:

As many of you know, my hope that things would settle down has not QUITE worked out as I planned…. as I’m writing this from the ICU of our local hospital, having had a heart attack.

I appreciate very much everything all of you have done for us, and ask that you share the fundraiser around again, as obviously this is going to add a quite significant expense to our household.

(4) SCARE IN THE AIR. Shat chats with Ethan Alter of Yahoo! Entertainment about his great Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet”. “William Shatner explains why his classic ‘Twilight Zone’ episode still frightens flyers” at Yahoo!

… “Nightmare” was a more ambitious episode than the small-scale “Nick of Time,” which also meant that The Twilight Zone‘s budgetary restraints were more evident, at least to Shatner. Specifically, he found himself skeptical of the episode’s gremlin, who was played by stuntman Nick Cravat in a costume that didn’t exactly strike fear into the star’s heart. “What was amusing was the acrobat who was in a little furry suit on the wing of the [plane],” Shatner says now. “There were times when I looked at him, and I thought: ‘This is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever done!'”…

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1985 [By Cat Eldridge.] Bradbury’s Crumley Mysteries

Although Bradbury was far better known for his genre writings, he did from time to time write rather good mysteries, mostly as short stories and scripts. So is the case with the Crumley Mysteries, penned over an eighteen-year period starting in 1985.

They were by no stretch of the imagination his first as he’d been writing mysteries in a shorter form since the Forties, but these are his first full-length mysteries. There are three here — Death Is a Lonely BusinessA Graveyard for Lunatics and Let’s All Kill Constance.

They are all set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, which is definitely a setting that Bradbury really likes. They have the same two primary characters, detective Elmo Crumley and the narrator who is never named. He set the entire premise up with a short story, included in the Subterranean 2009 collection of these novels, Where Everything Ends. It is a rather weak take on the premise compared to the three novels. 

I’ve read them and I think the first two are quite excellent. The third one, Let’s All Kill Constance, I think is just weak with a mystery that just doesn’t hold up.

Our Green Man reviewer noted that Bradbury created great characters in these novels: “Crumley, the cop who just happens to also be a writer; Fannie, the 380-pound sedentary soprano; A.L. Shrank, the psychiatrist with the downbeat library; Cal, the incompetent barber with the ragtime past; and John Wilkes Hopworth, the ex-silent film star who still pines for former love Constance Rattigan.”

This is Bradbury so don’t expect hard-boiled anything here. These novels are what you get when a writer is kinder gentler so everything is indeed soft-boiled and no, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Bradbury gives us a somewhat idealistic version of the era and the people inhabiting it.

It is available used on AbeBooks and the like. I won’t say it’s particularly affordable as it’s not. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1896 Ruth Gordon. You’ll likely best remember her as Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby. (Trust me, you don’t need to see Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.) She’s quite excellent as Cecilia Weiss in The Great Houdini, and that pretty much sums up her genre work save Voyage of the Rock Aliens which keeps giving me the giggles. Serious giggles. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek — a proper Halloween episode even if it wasn’t broadcast then — he was Trelane, and in “The Trouble With Tribbles” he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He appeared in several horror films including Blood BathNight of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1951 P. Craig Russell, 71. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC with his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He would segue into working on several Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects including a Coraline graphic novel.  Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250+-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin, 71. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island. He was Astronaut John Pope in the genre adjacent Space miniseries. On the stage, he’s been Faust in Dr. Faustus
  • Born October 30, 1958 Max McCoy, 64. Here for a quartet of novels (Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxIndiana Jones and the Hollow EarthIndiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs and Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone) which flesh out the back story and immerse him in a pulp reality. He’s also writing Wylde’s West, a paranormal mystery series.
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 50. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the most excellent Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and  “Drop Dead” episodes.

(7) GHOSTPLUSTERS. The New York Times needs its clicks, too: “The Dos and Don’ts of Living in a Haunted House”.

…Many Americans believe that their home is inhabited by someone or something that isn’t a living being. An October study from the Utah-based home security company Vivint found that nearly half of the thousand surveyed homeowners believed that their house was haunted. Another survey of 1,000 people by Real Estate Witch, an education platform for home buyers and sellers, found similar results, with 44 percent of respondents saying that they’ve lived in a haunted house.

Researchers attribute increasing belief in the supernatural to the rise of paranormal-related media, a decline in religious affiliation and the pandemic. With so many people believing that they live with ghosts, a new question arises: How does one live with ghosts? Are there ways to become comfortable with it, or certain actions to keep away from so as not to disturb it?…

(8) ZERO SUM GAMERS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Business Insider writer Samantha, Delouya argues that Meta is trying to follow Google’s lead in stealing back market share from Apple. So, does that make Meta’s vision of the metaverse the next Android? Well, maybe not. “Mark Zuckerberg is trying to do what Google did with Android — but he learned all the wrong lessons”.

… However, there’s one main difference between Google’s attempt to escape Apple’s supremacy and Meta’s gambit: there was already proof of consumer demand for the product Google was allegedly duping. Apple had sold 1 million of its first-generation iPhones just 74 days after its introduction.

Google’s pivot paid off. Will Meta’s? 

Google saw where Apple was going and continued to develop its Android platform to match Apple’s iOS. The company has also continued to invest in making its smartphones, a device it knows people want.

Google’s bet paid off. Android is now the dominant mobile operating system worldwide. 

But Google was a fast follower; Meta’s pivot could be more dangerous because it’s investing in a largely untested product: the metaverse. 

“It’s a massively huge risk, and I think the primary risk is there are no tangibles right now,” Zgutowicz said. 

Some analysts on Wall Street are skeptical Meta will pull this off. 

“Even if the Metaverse does turn out to be the immersive hardware-based vision that Meta articulates, will Meta really be the winning hardware provider to consumers?” Martin asked in a recent note. ….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Ahrvid Engholm, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]