Pixel Scroll 2/4/24 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll And Stumble. File Churn And Cauldron Double

(1) FUNERAL FOR CACHED WEBPAGES. Ars Technica says “Google will no longer back up the Internet: Cached webpages are dead”. That will make reporting controversial social media – where people sometimes take down posts that have attracted attention — rather harder.

Google will no longer be keeping a backup of the entire Internet. Google Search’s “cached” links have long been an alternative way to load a website that was down or had changed, but now the company is killing them off. Google “Search Liaison” Danny Sullivan confirmed the feature removal in an X post, saying the feature “was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn’t depend on a page loading. These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”

The feature has been appearing and disappearing for some people since December, and currently, we don’t see any cache links in Google Search. For now, you can still build your own cache links even without the button, just by going to “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:” plus a website URL, or by typing “cache:” plus a URL into Google Search. For now, the cached version of Ars Technica seems to still work. All of Google’s support pages about cached sites have been taken down….

(2) GERROLD Q&A. The Roddenberry Archive has released a two-part interview with David Gerrold.

The Roddenberry Archive presents an in-depth two-part conversation with award-winning science fiction novelist and screenwriter David Gerrold. During the conversation, Mr. Gerrold tells how, as a college student he broke into the television industry by writing a script for the original Star Trek, the classic episode, “Trouble With Tribbles.”. Mr. Gerrold speaks candidly of his sometimes-tumultuous relationship with Star Trek’s creator, the late Gene Roddenberry. He delves into his personal experiences in the making of the legendary series and of his pivotal role in the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(3) DISCUSSING HUGO REFORM. Brad Templeton has distilled his comments about the Chengdu Worldcon Hugo problems and potential fixes into a single post: “The World Science Fiction convention/awards were attacked again. How can its unusual governance structure deal with this?” at Brad Ideas. Here are the final two sections:

Legal clarity

The organization also needs more legal clarity. The terms of the agreement between WSFS and the conventions it appoints need to be more explicit and clear. The current WSFS constitution says the WorldCon (the local convention entity) does most of what goes on at a convention, but the Hugos and Site Selection are officially the actions of WSFS, though it delegates the logistics and administration to the WorldCon. It’s a bit confusing and might not handle legal scrutiny well.

That WSFS is constitutionally the party that awards the Hugos, using the WorldCon as its agent, has many advantages for trademark law and also if WSFS wants to exercise authority over the Hugos and the people administering them. This should be made more clear.

Recommendations

  • When all is done, there should at least be the appearance that they did not get away with it, to deter future corruption and censorship.
  • The best solution is not a specific one, but a general one that allows the organization to respond quickly to problems and threats, without removing its intentional slow pace of change, and resistance to control by “SMOFs.”
  • Auditing and more transparency are a good start, with an ethos of whistleblowing.
  • Put term limits on all WSFS officials.
  • Clarify and codify the structure of WSFS and the contracts.
  • Pick one way or another to allow WSFS to respond immediately to threats. I like the idea of actions that can be reversed, but some path should be chosen.
  • Do find some way to stop Hugo administration from being under the influence of censorship states, including China.

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

La Zi speaks again

Filers will recall that on January 24th, Mike ran an article by me that included an item about a bizarre Weibo post from Worldcon Vice-Chair and SFW editor La Zi.  I did notice that that Weibo post disappeared not long after it was featured here, but I’d not checked on his account since then, thinking that he might understandably be taking a step back from social media, especially given all the ongoing Hugo stats report controversy.

Reader, I was sorely mistaken.

Amongst some fairly mundane reposts, a couple of his recent posts stood out to me.  The most pertinent to File 770 is this short one from Wednesday January 31st, which is straightforward enough that I could just about understand it all, even with my meagre Chinese language skills.  That text reads:

中国科幻迷应该永远记得本·亚洛这个名字。他是真正的好人,也是真正的国际主义者。

which Google Translate renders as follows (surname error corrected):

Chinese science fiction fans should always remember the name Ben Yalow. He is a truly good man and a true internationalist. 

Here’s a screenshot of the Weibo post – including a similar translation from Alibaba Cloud – just in case it also disappears.

Note to readers: the censuring of Ben Yalow (and Chen Shi, and Dave McCarty) occurred on the previous day, the 30th – although obviously time zone differences make things a bit more complicated with regard to recording what happened when.

The second post that I would like to bring to your attention is a couple of days older, published on Monday the 29th.  The Chinese text reads:

应该要求美国尊重得克萨斯(孤星)共和国人民的民主诉求,承认其独立共和国身份。可以考虑签订《与得克萨斯(孤星)共和国关系法》,并提供防卫目的的武器贸易和军事援助,目的是保护得克萨斯不会因为强大北方邻国的觊觎而被掠夺珍贵的油气资源,任何企图以非和平方式来决定得克萨斯共和国前途之举——包括使用经济抵制及禁运手段在内,将被视为对东太平洋地区和平及安定的威胁,联合国应该介入。

Google Translate renders this as follows (text left unaltered):

The United States should be required to respect the democratic aspirations of the people of the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) and recognize its identity as an independent republic. Consider signing the “Relationships with the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) Act” and provide arms trade and military assistance for defense purposes. The purpose is to protect Texas from being plundered of precious oil and gas resources due to the covetousness of its powerful northern neighbors. Any attempt to use Non-peaceful measures to determine the future of the Republic of Texas, including the use of economic boycotts and embargoes, will be considered a threat to peace and stability in the Eastern Pacific region, and the United Nations should intervene.

Here’s another screenshot for posterity.

Whilst many may presume that this second post indirectly refers to some other place, please note that on January 30th, Newsweek reported that Chinese social media was full of stories about the US being in a state of civil war.  A couple of extracts:

As the battle of wills over immigration continues between the White House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a parallel debate is happening in China, where trending social media posts are backing the Lone Star State’s right to secede from the United States.

On China’s X-like microblogging site Weibo, accounts with more than a million followers were spreading misinformation this week claiming Texas had entered a “state of war” with the federal government. In the comment sections, Chinese netizens met the news with excitement and glee…

“If the U.S. really pushes Texas back, then it will be great fun,” the user said. “I hope both sides will not be cowardly and that they will fight to the end!”

In a follow-up post on Tuesday, the user said he was inspired to “definitely contribute money and effort” to support the cause against America’s “imperialist oppression” in Texas and elsewhere in the world.

There’s further discussion of this on Reddit’s /r/China, which is where I’d previously heard about this meme.

Note to readers: per Fancyclopedia:

Ben [Yalow] shocked most of fandom when he moved to Texas in 2021.

(5) GLOBETROTTER. Australian fan Robin Johnson has been writing posts for The Little Aviation Museum “Reading Room”. Here’s an example published in 2022: “1997 – A Year of Sightseeing and Science Fiction”.

I have been reminded by a Facebook post by astronomical artist Don Davis of the Hale-Bopp comet of 1997, a year that was a red-letter one for me. As a pensioner of BOAC (now British Airways) I was able to fly on a stand-by basis on their flights (and some other airlines). Flights from Australia to England were operating with one stop using the latest Boeing 747-400s.

I visited my father in England in January for his birthday, and on the way home to Tasmania attended two regional science fiction conventions in the U.S.A. and one in Perth – Arisia in Boston, Chattacon in Chattanooga, and Swancon in Perth.

In late March I set off to England again, attending a Con in Wellington, New Zealand en route, visited friends in the Los Angeles area, and took advantage of the fact that BOAC had recently taken over British Caledonian Airways to fly to London from Dallas-Ft Worth by DC-10.

Comet Hale-Bopp had not yet been easily visible in the Southern hemisphere when I left home, but was spectacular in the Northern Hemisphere. Sitting aboard the flight next to a flight crew member, we talked about the comet – and soon I was invited onto the flight deck. The DC-10 has spectacularly large windows, and standing behind the Captain as we overflew Greenland, on a moonless night: the view was unique. The comet had just passed its closest point to Earth, and the tail was prominently on view to the naked eye, and there could not have been a better viewpoint….

(6) CHRISTOPHER PRIEST OBITUARIES.

John Clute’s “Christopher Priest obituary” ran in the Guardian today.

The novelist Christopher Priest, who has died aged 80 after suffering from cancer, became eminent more than once over the nearly 60 years of his active working life. But while he relished success, he displayed a wry reserve about the ambiguities attending these moments in the limelight.

In 1983 he was included in the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, a 20-strong cohort, most of them – such as Martin Amis, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift and AN Wilson – significantly younger than Priest, whose career had begun almost two decades earlier, and who had at least 15 books and 50 stories in print by the early 80s. He clearly felt that it was not so much the quality of his work that delayed his “promotion” to the literary establishment, but his reluctance to deny, when asked, that he wrote science fiction.

His large body of work never fitted easily into any mould. Only in recent years has it become widely understood that the sometimes baffling ingenuity and thrust of his fiction has been of a piece, no more detachable into convenient genres than, say, Amis’s or Ishiguro’s tales of the fantastic….

Paul Kincaid’s reminiscences about “Chris” appear at Through the dark labyrinth.

The 1976 Eastercon was held in the rather grim surroundings of Owen’s Park student accommodation, Manchester. It was my third convention and I still wasn’t used to the fact that mere mortals could mix freely with actual authors. So I was very nervous approaching a small group in the bar. My target was a tall, thin guy wearing blue denim jacket and jeans and smoking with a long cigarette holder (later in the convention, Lee Montgomerie would win the fancy dress for the best costume as an author; she was wearing almost exactly the same outfit). This was Christopher Priest and I had just bought the paperback of his latest novel, The Space Machine. I asked for an autograph. He pointed to someone at the other side of the bar. “See that guy? Andrew Stephenson. He did the illustrations. Why don’t you get him to sign it?” To this day, that paperback is one of the few Chris Priest novels I own that isn’t signed by the author.

Later that day I was standing at the back of a programme item. Chris was on the panel, smoking with that long holder, and I began to notice the wild figure of 8 shape that the glowing end of the cigarette was making, and I realised his hand was shaking. He was more nervous than I had been.

Years go by. A BSFA meeting in London at a pub near Hatton Garden. I’m propping up the bar with Chris. I mention that I’ve just reviewed his latest novel, The Glamour, and I thought it was really good except that the ending didn’t quite work. Two days later I receive a thick envelope in the post. It was the typescript for a revised ending of The Glamour, the first of countless revisions of the novel that was so good but so impossible to end….

black and white photo of Christopher Priest taken in 1983 by Gamma
Christoper Priest outside Forbidden Planet in London in 1983. Photo by Gamma.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1940 The Adventures of Superman on radio

Black and white photo of Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)
Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)

The Adventures of Superman is a long-running radio serial. Initially, the show, which aired  from 1940 through to 1951, was  syndicated through the Mutual Broadcasting System’s cornerstone station, WOR in New York, subsequently taken up by the Mutual network, and finally by ABC. In the beginning there were three episodes a week of 15 minutes in length. When in 1941 they began making five episodes a week, some stations stayed with the three-a-week format. Late in the show’s run episodes ran 30 minutes.

The year after the comic strip debuted four audition radio programs were prepared to sell Superman as a syndicated radio series. It took very little time to have WOR sign the contract to do this, so it went on the air less two years after the comic strip launched.

The original pitch was that the audience was going to be predominantly juvenile so the scripts had to be lighthearted with the violence toned down. The performers were chosen with that mind, so they cast Bud Collyer in the Clark Kent / Superman role and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. She also voiced that role in animated Fleischer Superman shorts. 

The continuity of the series is significantly different than the series as Krypton is located on the far side of the sun, and on the journey to Earth,  Kal-el becomes an adult before his ship lands on Earth., so he is never adopted by the Kents but immediately begins his superhero / reporter career. 

This serial is responsible for the introduction of kryptonite to the Superman universe. Daily Planet editor Perry White and Jimmy Olsen who was a copy editor originated in the serial as well. 

As a gimmick that paralleled the Superman comic and which the audience adored, they kept the identity of Collyer as the character a secret for the first six years, until when Superman became the character in a radio campaign for racial and religious tolerance and Collyer did a Time magazine interview about that campaign.

Kellog Company was the sponsor at least initially with the product being its Pep cereal. It was sponsored Tom Corbet, Space Cadet.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side captures a photo op with visitors who aren’t from around here.
  • Pearls Before Swine finds an unexpected angle to library censorship.
  • Six Chix meanwhile shows the challenges of a bookstore customer.  

(9) EUROSTAR. The Guardian looks ahead to issues with cross-Channel train travel. “Eurostar may cap services due to post-Brexit biometric passport checks, says station owner”.

Eurostar could be forced to limit passenger numbers travelling from St Pancras each day under post-Brexit plans to bring in biometric border controls later this year, the owner of the station has warned.

HS1, the owner and operator of the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel, has raised concerns that planning for new Entry/Exit System (EES) checks at the London rail station are “severely inadequate”, and would lead to long delays and potential capping of services and passenger numbers.

The EES requires citizens from outside the EU or Schengen area to register before entering the zone.

This will replace the stamping of passports for UK travellers, and instead require passengers to enter personal information and details about their trip, as well as submitting fingerprint and facial biometric data.

It has been mooted that the new checks will come into force in October but the implementation has been delayed several times in recent years because the infrastructure was not ready.

HS1 has now raised several concerns to MPs around St Pancras’s ability to accommodate the changes, predicting “unacceptable passenger delays”.

It said only 24 EES kiosks had been allocated by the French government, despite modelling suggesting that nearly 50 would be needed at peak times….

(10) WOULD YOU CARE FOR A BEVERAGE? Comics on Coffee has enlisted this couple to share their “Mad Love for Raspberry Coffee”.

DC & Comics On Coffee have joined forces to make your mornings more action packed with great tasting coffee! It’s time to get crazy in love with this Valentine’s Day Special Edition Coffee. A smooth, raspberry flavored coffee.  

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. George R.R. Martin shares as much as he can about the films they’re making based on the late Howard Waldrop’s stories in “Come to the Pulls” at Not A Blog.

…COOTERS was just the beginning, though.  Only the first of a series of short films — and one full-length feature, we hope — we have been making, based on some of Howard’s astonishing, and unique, stories.   He wrote so many, it was hard to know where to start, but start we did, and I am pleased to say that we have three more Waldrop movies filmed and in the can, in various stages of post production.   Some of you — the lucky ones — will get a chance to see them this year, at a film festival near you.  As with COOTERS, we’re taking them out on the festival circuit.

First one out of the chute will be MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER.   We were able to screen a rough cut for Howard just a few days before his death.  I am so so so glad we did.   And I am thrilled to be able to report that he loved it.

We can’t show it to the world yet.   But here’s a trailer, to give you all a taste.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/24 Are You There, Microcosmic God? It’s Margaret’s Mini-Me

 (0) Today’s Scroll will be lean because I’ve spent my hours writing about the 2023 Hugo Award Stats Final report posted today on the official Hugo Awards website. My analysis is here: “2023 Hugo Nomination Report Has Unexplained Ineligibility Rulings; Also Reveals Who Declined”.

(2) NEIL GAIMAN. And here’s what he had to say on Bluesky about a couple of those ineligibility rulings.

(3) DIFFERENCE ENGINEER. [Item by Steven French.] “Play about computing pioneer Ada Lovelace wins Women’s prize for playwriting” reports the Guardian.

A play about the reincarnation of the Victorian computing pioneer Ada Lovelace has won this year’s Women’s prize for playwriting.

Intelligence, by Sarah Grochala, follows Lovelace’s attempts to forge a career for herself as a serious scientist in 1840s London and being continually obstructed by men.

But in an unexpected twist of fate, Lovelace finds herself repeatedly reincarnated and gets the chance to try for fame again, first as Grace Hopper (creator of COBOL) in 1940s America, and then as Steve Jobs in 1980s Silicon Valley. Eventually, confronted with the destruction of all her work by a shady tech billionaire, she realises that it is the very nature of intelligence that she should be fighting for….

(4) APPEAL TO CONSERVE PRATCHETT COVER ARTIST’S WORK. The Guardian tells that “Family of Discworld illustrator seek wealthy patron to conserve legacy of ‘one of the great artists of our time’”.

 Josh Kirby’s art has adorned hundreds of book covers – perhaps most notably dozens of Terry Pratchett novels, especially the bestselling Discworld series.

His body of work is far more wide-ranging, though – Kirby’s paintings have graced the covers of volumes by Ray Bradbury, Ian Fleming, HG Wells, Jack Kerouac, Herman Melville and Neil Gaiman, and he’s done posters for movies including the Star Wars franchise.

Now the family of the artist, who died in 2001, is looking for a philanthropist of the arts to keep the vast collection of original paintings together and make sure Kirby’s original artworks are preserved for posterity in one or more museums or galleries.

(5) MORE ON ROGER PERKINS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The British SF fan recently sadly died.  He was introduced to fandom through the ‘City Illiterates’, the Phil Strick SF class at the Sandford Institute in 1971 before moving to the City of London Institute of Literature (City Lit – hence the  ‘City Illiterates’). His first convention was Chessmancon in 1972 after which he was an Eastercon and Novacon regular.  He then became part of the BECCON (Basildon Essex Centre/Crest CONvention) team that ran series of biennial SE England regional conventions (1981, ’83 and ’85) conventions before running the BECCON ’87 Eastercon (Britain’s national convention) in Birmingham (which saw the launch of SF2 Concatenation as an annual print zine as one of a couple of the convention’s spin-offs).  Roger was BECCON’s treasurer for all four conventions. He went on to be a member of the 1989 Contrivance Eastercon. In their bid to host that year’s Eastercon, they held a fan vote on two sites: one on mainland Britain and one on the Jersey Channel Isles.  The vote for Jersey was decisive but nonetheless caused the usual ire of fandom’s vocal minority who claimed that as the Channel Isles were not part of Britain (it is a UK protectorate), they should not host the British national convention. Nonetheless, that convention was such a success that it prompted others to put on the 1993 joint Eastercon-Eurocon in the same venue a couple of years later.  Roger gafiated shortly after moving from NE London to Wales where he had a boat called Chrestomancy.

BECCON ’81 committee and GoH. From left: Peter Tyers, Simon Beresford, Jonathan Cowie (behind), Mike Westhead, Anthony Heathcote, Bernie Peek, Barrington J. Bayley (GoH), Kathy Westhead, Roger Robinson, John Stewart, Brian Ameringen, Simon Beresford, Charles Goodwin, Roger Perkins.

(6) WHO COMPANION SHOWN THE TARDIS DOOR. Deadline says after her first season “’Doctor Who’ Star Millie Gibson Dropped; Varada Sethu Joins BBC Show”.

Here’s a shocker: the BBC and Bad Wolf have reportedly replaced Millie Gibson as Doctor Who‘s companion after she filmed just one season as Ncuti Gatwa‘s sidekick.

The Daily Mirror’s Nicola Methven, who is well-sourced on Doctor Who, said Gibson would be replaced by Andor star Varada Sethu in Gatwa’s second season as the Time Lord.

The BBC and Bad Wolf did not respond to a request for comment. The story has not been denied and appeared to be confirmed by Gatwa on Instagram (see below)….

…The Mirror said the decision was made by Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies and Gibson will not appear in the 2024 Christmas special after her first full season, which premieres in May.

“Millie Gibson has all but left now and there’s a brand new companion, which is really exciting,” a source told the Mirror. “Russell is keeping things moving and isn’t letting the grass grow, that’s for sure.”

On Sethu, a BBC source added: “Varada is a real gem, Russell was just blown away by her talent. The cast and crew have really warmed to her and he’s sure the fans will too.”…

Here’s the Wikipedia on Varada Sethu.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 20, 1948 Nancy Kress, 76. Another one of my favorite writers. Okay, I do like a lot of female writers. I also have a fair number who get chocolate. A coincidence? You decide. 

She has won two Hugos, the first for her “Beggars in Spain” novella — later a novel as well, both are excellent in their own way.  Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine published it first in April 1991 in three parts.  Avon than, after expanded it, adding three additional parts to the novel, published it two years. There followed Beggars and Choosers, and Beggars Ride. They make up the Sleepless series. 

Nancy Kress

She’s a prolific writer. The Probability Universe trilogy, or a trilogy so far, with an Earth wrecked by ecology disaster coupled with a stargate and an alien artifact of possible immense power is fascinating.

The Crossfire twofer reminds a bit of something Anderson might do if he was writing today with a colony finding that it’s sharing a world with an alien race. It’s excellent but then she’s a very, very good writer always.  

Under the pen name Anna Kendell, she wrote a trilogy of present day thrillers in a series called Robert Cavanaugh Genetic. Bit awkward I think but it gets some point across. 

Not to be outdone there, that name went all out fantasy in Soulvine Moor Chronicles Series where a man cross over to the land of the dead. It was set in imagined medieval times.

We’re back to her name and her fascination with genetics, so t Nebula Award-winning novella, the Yesterday’s Kin series, this purely SF looks the limits of human genetics.

Now for her short stories, oh my, I think she wrote, though I can’t count accurate that high, close to a hundred stories. So which collection is the best to get a reason sampling of these stories? That’s easy —the Subterranean Press’ massive 560 page The Best of Nancy Kress

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a writer in crisis.
  • Tom Gauld has gone revisionist.

(9) £1 MILLION COMICS. “First-edition Superman and Spider-Man comics sell for more than £3million” at Wales Online.

Heritage Auctions in Dallas, US, has sold a number of comics. A Superman> no. 1 went for £2,006,269 (US$2.34 million). The first Amazing Spider-Man from 1963 in mint condition fetched £1,086,990 (US$1.38 m) which is reportedly nearly three times the previous record for that title. Finally, an All-Star Comics no.8, which saw Wonder Woman’s debut, was sold for £1,182.166 (US$1.5m).

(10) MISSED CLOSE ENCOUNTER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I was disappointed to learn that I missed a close encounter with a UFO in central London this week: I was just several miles away and had I looked over the roof tops I would have seen it in the distance! “Massive Samsung drone show with colourful whirring lights ‘mistaken for UFO’ – and passerbys cry ‘call the Men In Black’” in The Sun.
 
The huge UFO seemed to have made it through the Moonbase interceptor shield, and evaded Sky Diver.  Over 100 feet across (police laser range finders put it at 100 cubits exactly), the UFO shone with many lights, some of which were presumably navigation landing lights.

The craft hovered and rotated for eight minutes before appearing to land on the River Thames.
 
So why did it pick Canary Wharf, London’s second financial centre and overflow from the city’s ‘Square Mile’?  Well, for us Brit Cit locals, who are used to seeing SHADO mobiles rumbling through green belt woodland, the prevailing view is that that location was picked to avoid the said SHADO mobiles as these are too bulky to operate in the city. (Besides, think of the damage a mobile cannon could do to the area’s opulent buildings.)

Of course, it wasn’t long before SHADO released its cover story. The UFO was composed of a hundred drones flying in formation to mark Samsung’s launch of its new AI powered Galaxy S smartphone. Believe that if you must.

The truth is up there.

(11) FOR YOUR BETROTHED. Manly Brands has plans for your wedding ceremony – give your spouse a selection from the “Lord of the Rings™ Ring Collection”. Others not shown include The Gollum and The Ringwraith. Fully endorsed by marriage counselors and divorce attorneys!

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/24 Send Pixels, Scrolls And Files, The Fifth Has Hit The Fan

(1) SEATTLE 2025 WORLDCON MEMBERSHIP RATES RISE TOMORROW. At least for a few more hours the cost of a WSFS Membership + Attending Membership Supplement for an adult over the age of 25 is $175. The other permutations are explained at the Memberships – Seattle Worldcon 2025 page.

Mark Roth-Whitworth sent a few editorial comments along with the foregoing reminder:

I just got our memberships for Seattle in ’25. Ouch. This far out, $175 each, and I think it goes up after tomorrow.

Was the same demographic going as did back in the Sixties and Seventies, it would be a *lot* smaller. Most of us were working class. Hell, my late wife and I together maybe made the median income, or maybe just under. In 1993 it would have been hard to pay for this.

Forget the graying of fandom, how about the economic stratification of fandom? Where are the folks who are making a living working construction, or flipping burgers, or barista, or drive a cab, or working in a thousand other jobs that we need, but make crap wages? Or people on SSI or other welfare?

I know I ghosted a con or two in my mid-twenties, when I just did not have the money. I don’t know a lot of folks who go to other than their local cons, and work them to afford it.

Have we become elite?

(2) EMMY AWARDS. Genre TV was shut out at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony which aired on January 15. The complete list of winners – largely repeated wins by Succession, The Bear, and Beef — is here.

(3) HISTORIC MOMENTS IN TELEVISION. There are, however, plenty of genre highlights in the Television Academy’s anniversary list of 75 “Top TV Moments”.

Arguably the first one on the list is genre, because fans voted the Hugo Award to TV coverage of the Apollo 11 mission. Beyond that, you have to wait ‘til way down the list before there’s another.  

1. The Moon Landing. After Apollo 11 landed on the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong proclaims “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 1969.

40. The Twilight Zone. “Time Enough at Last” After a nuclear catastrophe, loner Harry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) is left with all the time in the world to read his beloved books, only to shatter his glasses, leaving him virtually blind. 1950.

50. Star Trek – Kirk and Uhura kiss, 1968

51. Game of Thrones — “The Rains of Castamere” At Robb’s (Richard Madden) wedding, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) reveals chain mail under Bolton’s (Michael McElhatton) clothes just as Robb’s wife is murdered, Robb is shot with arrows, and his men’s throats are cut.

And there are several more beyond that, from The Last of Us, Lost, another from Game of Thrones, and the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan.

(4) DEEP IMPACT. Animation World Network’s Kevin Geiger anticipates “The Impact of AI on Hollywood in 2024: 12 Predictions”. Short version: AI will take away a bunch of existing jobs. Here’s an excerpt of what he forsees.

4. Deepfake filmmaking has become the new paradigm.

The continued evolution of deepfake technology enables filmmakers of all resource levels to create younger versions of living actors or bring deceased actors back to the screen. This has already been used to tell stories that span different periods. While the technology offers exciting creative opportunities, it raises significant ethical concerns regarding consent and the potential misuse of digital likenesses. Seeing is no longer believing.

5. Rise of the AI-driven extras and stunt doubles.

The use of AI-generated virtual extras and stunt doubles will be a game-changer in reducing production costs and logistical complexities, particularly in scenes requiring large crowds or dangerous stunts. However, the application of AI technology will accelerate the reduced employment opportunities for human extras and stunt performers.

6. The visual effects industry becomes more director-driven.

AI’s ability to produce sophisticated visual effects quickly and cost-effectively is set to enhance the visual storytelling in films. The prospect of generating visual effects via “prompting” (otherwise known as “directing”) will make VFX more director-driven, and encourage greater creative expression and experimentation. The number of “technical directors” required on a film will be reduced: a benefit to major studios and indie producers, but a threat to hired guns.

7. AI-assisted editing is now the default starting point.

AI-assisted editing is revolutionizing work reels and post-production by autonomously selecting takes, suggesting edits, and assembling rough cuts. This can significantly speed up the editing process and reduce costs, but over-reliance on AI could reduce the editor’s creative control, lead

(5) AAFCA AWARDS. The 15th Annual African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) Award Winners include Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Best Drama: Origin
Best Comedy: American Fiction
Best Musical: The Color Purple
Best Director: Ava DuVernay (Origin)
Best Screenplay: American Fiction
Best Actor: Colman Domingo (Rustin)
Best Actress: Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (Origin)
Best Supporting Actor: Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction)
Best Supporting Actress: *TIE* Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers), Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple)
Best Ensemble: The Color Purple
Breakout Performance: Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon)
Emerging Filmmaker: Cord Jefferson (American Fiction)
Best Independent Feature: A Thousand and One
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary: Stamped From The Beginning
Best Music: The Color Purple
Best International Film: Io Capitano
Best Short Film: The After

(6) EKPEKI Q&A. Paul Semel interviews “’The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022’ Co-Editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.

While other Best Of type anthologies only consider short stories, The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022 also includes poems. I recently interviewed Stephen Kotowych, the editor of Year’s Best Canadian Fantasy And Science Fiction: Volume One, which also includes poetry. Is there something going on in the speculative realm where poetry is becoming more popular or respected?

Speculative poetry is such a wide and important form that we decided to include this year to make the book separate from last year’s. Hopefully, it’s something that matches up with the vibrancy the speculative poetry world exudes [and this is a] chance to showcase some of that speculative poetry vibrancy going on

(7) THE METERS OF MIDDLE-EARTH. And CBR.com studies “How The Lord of the Rings Made Poetry Exciting”.

…The characters of The Lord of the Rings used poetry as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions. Shortly after leaving the Shire, the hobbits were overwhelmed with uncertainty and weariness about the journey ahead. To raise their spirits, Frodo recited “The Road goes ever on and on,” a poem that Bilbo had taught him. In Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf and Bilbo both sang sections of this same poem. As the hobbits rested at Weathertop, poetry again assuaged their worries. In the chapter “A Knife in the Dark” from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the RingAragorn “began to tell them tales to keep their minds from fear.” These tales came in the form of poems, such as the song of Beren and Lúthien….

(8) FREE READ. Entries in the Quantum Shorts flash fiction contest are available to read at the link. The shortlist will be announced in March.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 93. This Scroll you’re getting James Earl Jones, most notably known in our circles as the voice of a certain Sith Lord whose voice he did up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but he’s got much more, and sometimes surprisingly diverse career here. So let’s see what he’s done…

His film debut was as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52’s bombardier  in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

In 1969, Jones participated in making short films for what became Sesame Street. These were combined with animated segments, then were shown to groups of children to see if the format appealed to children. As cited by production notes included in the Sesame Street: Old School 1969–1974 DVD, the short that had the greatest impact with test audiences was one showing a bald-headed Jones counting slowly to ten. And yes, it was shown on the show when it aired.

I truly love him in Conan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom, an antagonist for the character Kull of Atlantis. Thulsa Doom was created by Robert E. Howard in the “Delcardes’ Cat” story. Neat character for him, I’d say. 

He’s in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold withthe name of Umslopogaas, a fearless warrior and old friend of Allan Quatermain. I looked him up in the original novel, Allan Quatermain. Please don’t make me do that again. Really. Don’t. 

Ahhh, Field of Dreams: “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.” Great role. To say more would involve spoilers, right? 

He voices Mufusa, the lion murdered by his brother in The Lion King and its sequel, who death does not stop from being present. Really present. Extraordinary performing by him. 

Did you know that he narrated Stallone’s Judge Dredd? Well he did. He was uncredited at time but as is with these things, it didn’t stay a secret permanently, did it? 

He had series appearances on Faerie Tale Theatre (as, and I simply love it, Genie of the Lamp, Genie of the Ring), Highway to HeavenShelley Duvall’s Bedtime StoriesPicket FencesLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, (he was the uncredited narrator of 3rd Rock from the Sun (maybe he’s the nameless narrator for all of the multiverse?), Touched by an Angel in which he’s the Angel of Angels, cool name, Stargate SG-1 , Merlin and finally as himself on The Big Bang Theory.

He hosted Long Ago and Far Away, a children’s series that lasted thirty-five episodes with each of them based on a folk or fairy tale. Stop motion animation, live actors and traditional animation were all used.

That’s it, folks.

Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones and Jim Parsons in a scene from Big Bang Theory.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PAYDAY FOR COMIC OWNER. “Rare copy of The Amazing Spider-Man No 1 sells for more than £1m” – the Guardian wanted you to know. And weep if you ever owned a copy in your youth.

A rare copy of the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man has sold for more than £1m.

The comic, published in March 1963, reached a record-setting $1.38m (£1.1m) at auction. It is one of only two copies of The Amazing Spider-Man No 1 rated “near mint/mint” by comic book grading service Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

“It was obvious this Spider-Man was an opportunity not likely to come around, and the final price reflected that,” said Barry Sandoval, vice president at Heritage Auctions, the company that ran the auction, according to Fine Books magazine.

The copy sold for nearly three times as much as a CGC-rated “near mint” version sold in July last year for $520,380 (£410,184)….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. The lede is the most interesting part of Variety’s article “When Superman and Batman Copyrights Expire in a Decade, Will It Be Kryptonite for DC?”.

About a decade ago, Zack Snyder developed a storyline for the DC Extended Universe that involved Bruce Wayne impregnating Lois Lane.

The subplot in which Batman cuckolds Superman was poised to unfold in “Justice League,” with Batman dying in the sequel and Lois raising their spawn with Superman. Snyder’s vision for Wonder Woman was equally unorthodox, with visuals featuring a superheroine who brandished the decapitated heads of her conquered enemies like an ISIS jihadi.

Warner Bros. and DC Studios — which hold a firm grip on their intellectual property — rejected Snyder’s ideas, which were deemed “super creepy,” according to a source familiar with the back and forth. (DC declined to comment for this story. A representative for Snyder did not respond to a request for comment.) But in the next decade, artists and rival studios won’t need permission to create their own take on the characters.

A sad fact of Hollywood is that while superheroes never truly die, all copyrights do. On Jan. 1, Disney lost control of “Steamboat Willie,” and within 24 hours two horror-comedies starring Mickey Mouse were announced. The DC characters are the next major expirations looming on the horizon. Superman and Lois Lane will enter the public domain in 2034, followed by Batman in 2035, the Joker in 2036 and Wonder Woman in 2037….

(13) FIREFLY ON THE CHEAP. SYFY Wire admires “How Serenity Slashed Its Budget from $100 Million to $39 Million” and was able to get greenlighted.

…In a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the effects crew and film’s creators opened up about the ways they shaved tens of millions off the film’s cost. Basically, they shot it like a TV show, creating only what was necessary and meticulously storyboarding things out so no resources were wasted.

One of the movie’s most ambitious set pieces, a wild chase scene early in the film, was projected to be one of the costliest segments in the film. So instead of trying to build out a massive CGI chase, they built a trailer with a cantilevered arm big enough to hold the on-screen hovercraft and actors. Then they just shot the scene on Templin Highway around Santa Clarita. For the Reaver vehicle chasing the crew, they hacked an old pick-up truck together with some CGI overlays for final effects. In the end, a scene expected to take 30 days was finished up in five.

To create the spaceship models in the space-set scenes, they used a common cost-cutting approach called “kit bashing,” where you combine several different ship models and kits and mix them all together to create something new. It’s a cheap alternative to full-on spaceship design, and it saved time and money for plenty of those space scenes.

They even had to rebuild the Serenity ship itself for sets, using old blueprints and DVD screen grabs for reference, a process they knocked out in a brief 14 weeks and under budget. All the explosions and pyrotechnics in the film were also done on a tight schedule, filmed across three nights at Mystery Mesa near Valencia. Traditionally, that level of sci-fi action pyro work for a blockbuster movie would’ve taken around two weeks….

(14) KLINGONS DON’T DRINK MERLOT. TrekMovie.com invites as to watch as “Paul Giamatti Auditions For Star Trek, Recreates His Iconic ‘Merlot’ Moment In Klingon”.

Danish movie journalist and friend of TrekMovie Johan Albrechtsen has once again used a non-Star Trek promotional junket to recreate a Star Trek moment. As Paul Giamatti was promoting his award-winning role in The Holdovers Albrechtsen brought up the actor’s previously expressed interest in playing a Klingon in Star Trek. And he persuaded the Giamatti to recreate his famous “I am not drinking any f###ing Merlot!” moment from the 2004 wine-themed film Sideways, but this time in Klingon. The moment was then edited to create a new Star Trek “audition tape” with Giamatti as a Klingon captain, cut into a scene from The Next Generation….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/24 What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Pixels?

(1) WHAT, ME WORRY? Should we share Jeffrey Davies’ concern about “Is Reimagining History Through Biofiction Ethical?”. His Book Riot post focuses on work that is not marketed as genre, although it arguably is alternate history.

…On the other side of the argument, the popularity of biofiction in the digital age, where information about the past lives of our favorite celebrities and public figures is available instantly at our fingertips, speaks to an appetite for the comfort and familiarity a fictionalized account of our favorite famous people offers. Take Daisy Jones & The Six, for example. While not considered biofiction because Daisy Jones and her friends are entirely fictional, no one can deny that they bear a remarkable resemblance to Fleetwood Mac.

Sure, Daisy Jones is a rip-off, but don’t we like it that way? Doesn’t some part of us crave a new adventure surrounding characters we pretty much already know? It’s like rewatching a movie you haven’t seen in a really long time, but you remember enough of it that it’s not asking your brain to continue engaging with new material at the end of a long day. The same can be said for Lucy Holliday’s A Night in With Audrey Hepburn, also not quite biographical fiction, but the same effect.

Then there’s Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy, a biofiction novel following L. Frank Baum’s wife in the present (1938), witnessing the production of the MGM film adaptation of her husband’s most famous novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It then flashes back to the late 1800s, imagining the historical events that led to the inspiration for Oz. Because the author treats its history with respect, it’s a joy to read and fun for any fan of Dorothy Gale, big or small, even if some aspects of the narrative can be fictionalized….

(2) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 12 to make your voice heard:

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2023. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 15 to February 12, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

(3) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS 2024 SUBMISSIONS UPDATE. Peter Dennis Pautz today sent this change in the instructions for sending items to judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

Due to new customs practices in Europe and the UK, some packages that are still marked “GIFT” or “NO VALUE” or “NO COMMERCIAL VALUE” or “PROMOTIONAL” or “WORLD FANTASY AWARDS JURY MATERIAL” are requiring a duty or “landing fee” at the recipient’s end.

While some packages are getting through with those fees, there are no funds available from the WFC, WFA, or the jury member(s) to pay for or reimburse those costs.

Thus, please be aware that those submissions requiring a fee will be refused by WFA Judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt, with our agreement.

M. Olde Heuvelt still prefers hard copies of any submissions. However, I suggest backing up those submissions with PDF or EPUB to ensure your submissions receive their due attention.

(4) COLLECTIBLE CRAZE. “Pokémon pandemonium: did the Van Gogh Museum play its cards right?” asks the Guardian.

In early November, I was standing in a long line at the Van Gogh gift shop in Amsterdam waiting to purchase a Pokémon ballpoint pen. It was one of the few remaining items left in the store – this was the second month of the establishment’s Pokémon collaboration, but the clamour for the limited edition merchandise was ceaseless. Everything from T-shirts to notebooks to shoulder bags with an image of Pikachu on the front had been picked bare, leaving only prints and postcards behind the till. It was barely past midday but the number of people crammed into the shop meant the area was soon cordoned off with others now rejected entry until it calmed down.

This had become an all too familiar sight for attendees and staff. From the very start of the collaboration, which began in September for the museum’s 50th anniversary and was intended to introduce new audiences to the work of the Dutch artist, the Pokémon merch caused mayhem as eager fans – and scalpers – clamoured for the best stuff. But the main cause was a single item: a limited edition “Pikachu With Grey Felt Hat” trading card. As soon as the card was made available, it sold out online, while desperate gallery visitors had to enter scrums to try and pick one up. Footage of the Poké riots soon hit Twitter (now known as X), and later, eBay listings had the card on sale for up to $900. In mid-October, the card was discontinued….

Pikachu inspired by Self-Portrait With Grey Felt Hat, Naoyo Kimura (1960) at Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum exhibition, Amsterdam. Right: Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, Vincent van Gogh, 1887. Photograph: The Pokémon Company International/Vincent van Gogh Foundation

(5) NEW HORROR UNIVERSITY WORKSHOPS. The Horror Writers Association has announced that from January 22 to April 8, 2024, Horror University will offer these live workshops to horror writers everywhere interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, exploring new writing formats, or better understanding the genre. Full descriptions and registration information is available at Teachable.com: “Horror University Online”. Registration now open.

The Winter 2024 Session includes:

  • January 22: An Evening with Ellen Datlow: A wide-ranging discussing with multiple-award-winner, Ellen Datlow, editor of the annual The Best Horror of the Year. 
  • January 29: Writing for Haunts with Kevin Wetmore: Learn tips and techniques for writing scripts for engaging and frightening live haunted house attractions.
  • February 5: Shifting Shapes: Writing the Transformation Scene with Michael Arnzen: Learn the scenecraft for depicting how a “normal” body mutates, a mind spirals into madness, or a human morphs into a monster.
  • February 11: Horror Archives at University of Pittsburgh with Benjamin T. Rubi, Linda Addison, Clay McLeod Chapman, Lisa Morton, Tim Waggoner, and L. Marie Wood: Join curator Ben Rubin and several horror authors for a discussion of the Horror Studies Collection at the University of Pittsburgh! THIS SESSION IS FREE!
  • February 12: Anti-Ableism in Horror with Callie Stoker: How to write accurately and avoid pitfalls when representing all abilities in the human spectrum.
  • February 26: Building Your Author Roadmap with JB Kish: An interactive workshop to help identify your goals and the steps to achieve them using techniques of project management.
  • March 4: Expanding Your Writing Horizons with Lisa Morton: Learn how to move beyond fiction into non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, paid blogging, and more!
  • March 11: Writing the Witch with Stephanie Wytovich: Immerse yourself in the rich literary history of witchcraft and create fictional work inspired by our interpretation of witches over time.
  • March 18: Bringing Cosmic Horror Down to Earth with James Chambers: Explore techniques for developing grounded settings, well-developed characters, and troubling themes for effective cosmic horror stories.
  • March 25: The Horror Hero’s Journey with Tim Waggoner: Learn how to adapt the “hero’s journey” template to write epic horror fiction!
  • April 8: Marketing 101: Selling and Extending The Life of Your Work with Robert P. Ottone: Learn ways to market your work–and yourself–to better extend the life of your publications and more.

(6) HUMAN PREDICTABILITY. Dan Rockmore’s article in The New Yorker, “How Much of the World Is It Possible to Model?”, naturally includes an Asimov reference:

… But as scientific as all this sounds, it remains hopelessly messy: it’s a model not of a natural system but of a sentimental one. In his “Foundation” novels, the writer Isaac Asimov imagined “psychohistory,” a discipline that would bring the rigor of cause and effect to social dynamics through equations akin to Newton’s laws of motion…

(7) VINTAGE VIDEO. Michael J. Walsh mourns the passing of Howard Waldrop, adding: “I look back to the 2013 Capclave and am so glad we were able to pull this off.” Click through to watch “The Howard, George and Gardner Show”.

(8) WALDROP REMEMBRANCE. James Hollaman tells about the time he made Howard Waldrop the guest of honor at Room Con – his con inside a con at ConQuesT.

I was staying with a person and had woke up early like I normally do. I went to the library of books they had and picked up a book and read a story called “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop. I really liked the style, there was something about it. This was my introduction to Howard’s work. I then found a few other things that Howard had wrote. I really enjoyed them all. They all had a flavor, a style that I loved. (I think the one word that comes close is vaudeville, but that doesnt do it justice. I would pick up anything that he worked on.

Cut a few years when Howard was a guest at a con in Oklahoma. Before the con Howard, Bradley Denton, the Murray/Bahm’s and I went to eat at a BBQ place. When it came to pay the check I paid for Howards meal (which was a barbecue bologna sandwich). I told him that I owed him for the joy his work brought me. I found out later this was the way to handle it. He normally didn’t like when people did this. getting to hear him read at the con was a joy. So great. He had wrote the story on his way up to the con, it was all hand written.

I started a party called Room Con. We was up to Room Con 6(66) and I wanted to really do something evil, but cool at the same time. It dawned on me that I liked the guest list that ConQuesT had, but i could do better. So I got a hold of Brad and got the info for Howard as I was going to ask him to be my guest of honor. I got his info and called him. A few rings of the phone and he picked up. There I was, talking to a legend. You don’t know how much that meant to me. He agreed to do so. I got his info, bought him a ticket, got him a room, paid him a per diem. He was all set up, all he had to do was show up.

Paula took and drove me to the airport to pick Howard up. We got there just as he was getting off the plane. There he was, just a small carry on in his hand. He was ready for the weekend. Got him to the hotel and in his room. He had a few panels (his pay for the membership to the con), one being the George and Howard show, 2 hours getting to hear Howard and George R.R. Martin talk. That was amazing. Over the weekend I got to eat with Howard several times, him and i would talk. I enjoyed every bit of the time I got to spend with him.

It was time to get Room Con started. Howard got to the party before we started and staid for the whole thing. He liked hearing Bland Lemon Denton and David Lee Anderson play music. Oh and he talked to everyone, just as nice as a human could be. During the party a person took and pulled me off to the side and told me that he had heard I had brought Howard in on my own, to which i said “yes, i did”. He was shocked. He had thought that ConQuesT had brought him in. This made my day. I found out that some others had thought the same, all was shocked I had brought him in.

I didn’t help get him to the airport, mainly because I was a little sad to see the weekend was done. I saw him at a few other cons after that, enjoyed any time I got to spend with him. We wrote each other mainly. I did call him a few times, but they was short calls. We talked about how he was doing and what was going on. While i did not have as close of a relationship with him as others did, I still had a closer relationship than others, and i am all the better for it.

Howard, you will be missed. Thank you for the friendship, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for your kindness.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 54. Garth Ennis is without no doubt one of my favorite comic writers. Born in Northern Ireland, though a rare individual who grew up with no religious background (and you are fully aware why I’m mentioning that), he’s now resident in the States.

Garth Ennis. Photo by and © Luigi Novi.

So as a six-year-old, his teacher told the class that God was a being who could see inside their hearts, was always around them, and would ultimately reward or punish them. It scared, as he says in an interview, the shite out of him, and that was the genesis of Preacher. I love that series, have read it multiple times and no, I have not seen the series. 

Next up on the list of series he wrote that he created and I seriously adore is Hellblazer with the supernatural detective John Constantine. I can’t say that I’ve read every issue of that series as I lost interest in it a decade or so ago but his work on it, mostly from issues forty to eighty three, was among the best undertaken in the series. 

He had a run on The Authority for the Wildstorm imprint, that run being possibly the most annoying run in the history of the series as it focused on a character called Kev; and the first arc of the Authority spin-off series Midnighter, a character he admits was conceived as an ainti-Superman by him and artist Brian Hitch. 

Before you ask, where’s the Marvel Comics, I looked at his work there and since I hadn’t read any of it, save random issues of his Punisher writing, I can’t say what is good and what isn’t. So do feel free to tell me what is good over there.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz admits another fandom interest.
  • Non Sequitur shows a side of public domain we never expected.
  • Hi and Lois illustrates why the difference between a Marvel superhero and Star Wars villain is just a little bit of sunshine.

(11) IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! IT’S A ONE LINER! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Just as we always suspected. That kid from Smallville wants to be a comedian. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to make you laugh until your ribs hurt! Truth, Justice, and Impeccable Comedic Timing! “New Superman ‘Will Have a Sense of Humor,’ Says Lois Lane Actor Rachel Brosnahan: ‘Every Single Person Involved’ in the Film ‘Is a Perfect Nerd’” in Variety.

No surprise here. James Gunn is bringing comedy back to the Man of Steel, at least according to the director’s Lois Lane actor Rachel Brosnahan. The star recently told Entertainment Tonight that the new Superman (played by David Corenswet) will “have a sense of humor” and that her iteration of Lois Lane will be “feisty, marvelous and fiercely intelligent.”…

…Given that Gunn almost always infuses his work with comedy (see his “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy for Marvel), it’s not too surprising to hear his upcoming “Superman: Legacy” will be bringing out a more humorous side to the Man of Steel. It’s still a notable change given Superman’s last run on the big screen was defined largely by Zack Snyder’s ultra-serious and gritty tone. Henry Cavill played that iteration of the more super-serious Superman….

(12) EYE V. DRAGON. CBR.com wants to know “What If Smaug Had Survived The Hobbit?” Their thought experiment covers both the possibility that Sauron and Smaug would have allied, and that they would have become rivals.

Could Smaug Have Defeated Sauron?

…If Smaug and Sauron had gone to war with one another, the dragon would not have fared well. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf noted that dragon fire was capable of melting most Rings of Power, but not the One Ring. Smaug might have been able to destroy the Nazgûl’s rings, thus robbing Sauron of his most loyal servants, but without destroying the One Ring, Sauron would have persisted. Even if Smaug had annihilated Sauron’s army, the Dark Lord was an immortal Maia, so he could have retreated and rebuilt from the shadows as he did after his defeat in the Second Age. Additionally, Smaug’s weakness was far more exploitable than Sauron’s. Tolkien gave little information about the creation of the black arrow, but Sauron and Saruman were both master craftsmen with plentiful resources, so they surely could have reproduced it. From there, it would only have been a matter of time before an Orc archer got a lucky shot against Smaug….

(13) BACK IN THE ZONE. Interzone has published the January issue in EPUB form — Interzone #297. Costs 5 euros. Here’s the cover.

(14) WOULDN’T YOU RATHER VOTE FOR THEM? Atlas Obscura takes us inside the “Hall of Fake Presidents – Washington, D.C.” (Photos at the link.)

…Regally displayed in the cinema lobby, Alamo Drafthouse’s Hall of Presidents includes a dozen fictional U.S. Presidents from popular films. This is a bipartisan gallery that includes beloved leaders like Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact and Harrison Ford in Air Force One, to more polarizing Commanders-in-Chief like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and President Camacho himself: Terry Crews in Idiocracy. The hall’s centerpiece is a life-sized statue of President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from Independence Day, framed by an engraving of his patriotic speech from that film….

(15) SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gizmodo declares “These Were the Best, Cutest, Most Obscene Bots of CES 2024”. The cubist-face bot, the are-you-sure-this-isn’t-potentially-lethal industrial arm massage bot and the mini-Killdozer are particularly notable.

…Despite all the modern innovations, some of our favorite bots weren’t even meant to showcase the advancements of modern autonomous tech, one of our favorite displays was a simple, miniaturized Robot Wars demo layed out for tech press struggling after long days hoofing it through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Sometimes, the best way to unwind after listening to an obscene amount of robot promotion is to literally dismantle an opponent’s bot with large, serrated teeth.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Resident Alien’s third season gets under way on February 14 says SYFY Wire: “Resident Alien Season 3 Gets Premiere Date & New Trailer”.

Greetings, Earthlings, and welcome back to Patience, Colorado, for Resident Alien Season 3. When we last left our out-of-this-world hero Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk), he was carving out his place in our world, struggling with his newfound humanity, and … learning that his alien race isn’t the only one determined to kill us all.

“The Grey Aliens, they are here to destroy the planet,” Harry explains in the first trailer for Resident Alien Season 3 (above). Now that he’s firmly set down roots on Earth, he seems ready and willing to fight for humanity — but not everyone trusts his motives….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Andrew (not Werdna) Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/24 Yippie-i-ay (Yippie-i-ay), Yippie-i-oh (Yippie-i-oh), Ghost Pixels In The Sky

(1) EMSH REVIVAL FOR AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about the work he’s doing to get the second Ellison anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, ready for publication. It involves the interior art and graphics.

Now that Harlan’s first Dangerous Visions is locked for print, we’re now moving to getting a proper galley for Again, Dangerous Visions. The main problem, in my eyes, with that process is that many of the later editions used the same Ed Emshwiller graphics/stats made for the original book (second generation images), or worse still, simply copied/reproduced the graphics from the printed pages themselves (third generation images).

This needs to be the most pristine version of the book done since the original print run, so after an exhaustive search, Ed’s original stats/graphics were discovered, and despite being sick as a dog (long story) I’ve spent every night for the past several days, going until dawn in most cases, carefully scanning every one of those eighty-plus images at high res, using air-blowers to remove dust, and gloves to avoid getting finger oil on anything.

I’ve just finished the last of the scans, and these images are just gorgeous, in astonishing detail and clarity. Honestly, so many of them could have been book covers all by themselves. Thinking that assembling these along the lines we see in the book, joined by ECG like pulses, might make a really cool promotional poster (but that’s just a thought for the moment, haven’t discussed it with anyone yet).

(2) ON THE NOSE. Philip Athans describes the use of an evocative fiction technique in “Smells Like Vivid Description” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…I was surprised to hear in this video that, “Smell is apparently the strongest inducer of memories—of early memories. And the beauty is, even people suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia, never lose their olfactory memory.”

If you look back to last week’s post about How to Tell, it’s all about triggering memories. So a particular smell can help introduce some further detail about either or both of the world and the character. For instance, I find the smell of old books particularly delightful. This is my childhood love of the old books in the library coming to the forefront, and helping to propel my own love of collecting vintage books decades and decades later. If I were a character in a novel the smell of an old book could trigger a two-paragraph mini info dump about my childhood spent primarily in books, which turned into an adulthood spent primarily in books….

… Smells can also poke certain emotional triggers in your POV character, and go a long way to establishing the atmosphere of a scene….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB speculative fiction reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present P. Djéli Clark and Eric Schaller on Wednesday, January 10. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

P. DJÉLI CLARK

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novels Abeni’s Song and A Master of Djinn, and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com and in print anthologies including, Hidden Youth and Black Boy Joy. His upcoming novella, The Dead Cat Tail Assassins, will be out in 2024.

ERIC SCHALLER

Eric Schaller’s latest collection of dark fiction, Voice of the Stranger contains stories selected for Fantasy: Best of the Year, Best of the Rest, and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. His fiction can also be found in his collection Meet Me in the Middle of the Air and in many anthologies and magazines. His stories are influenced in part by his studies in the biological sciences and the uneasy relationship humans have with each other and the world around them.

(4) WHAT TECH FORESEES IN 2024. Tech.co’s post “Experts’ Predictions for the Future of Tech in 2024” begins with a survey of sff:

2024 is about to dawn on the world. But in one of the most precient novels of the science fiction genre, it already has: Octavia Butler’s decades-old novel Parable of the Sower opens in Los Angeles in 2024.

Butler’s fictional world dealt with many of the social and environmental pressures that we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of in the real 2024. Climate change has boosted sea levels and increased droughts, increased privatization from greedy corporations is threatening schools, police forces are militarized, and a Presidential candidate is literally saying he’ll “make American great again.”

It’s hard to beat Butler’s entry when it comes to predicting what’s coming down the pike in the new year, and no one has really come close. Honorable mention goes to a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featuring a time-travelling social-commentary jaunt to 2024 San Francisco that deals with revolutionaries and homelessness encampments. A distant finalist is a grim tale by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog, which features a dystopian 2024 set among post-nuclear war mutated cannibals.

Things aren’t looking quite as bad for the real 2024, however. None of the dozens of industry experts and tech leaders that we’ve looked to for opinions about the future predicted a single incident of cannibalism….

(5) NOMINATE FOR THE REH AWARDS. “The 2024 Robert E. Howard Awards Are Open for Nominations!” announces the Robert E. Howard Foundation. You do not need to be a Foundation member to nominate.

…Under the new rules, nominations are due in to the Awards committee by February 15, 2024, with the Awards committee selecting the top nominees in each category for the final ballot by March 1, 2024….

(6) CRITTERS READERS’ POLL. Meanwhile, the “26th Annual Critters Readers’ Poll” is open through January 14. The Readers’ Poll honors print & electronic publications published during 2023. Its newest categories are Magical Realism, and Positive Future Fiction (novel & short story).

(7) MAYOR SERLING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Slashfilm reminds us of the time that Jack Benny took a detour through the Twilight Zone. No, not any of The Twilight Zone TV series nor the theatrical nor TV films. Not even the radio dramas. It all happened inside Jack Benny‘s own eponymous TV show. “Rod Serling Played The Mayor Of The Twilight Zone On The Jack Benny Program”.

…Serling’s episode aired on January 15, 1963, and, as was the show’s custom, he also played himself. In the fictionalized universe of the series, Benny hires Serling to help his struggling writers smarten up their material. Though Serling acknowledges he has little experience with comedy (before “The Twilight Zone,” he was probably best known as the Emmy-winning writer of “Requiem for a Heavyweight”), he’s excited to collaborate with Benny’s two-man staff.

This does not go well.

After repeated clashes with Benny’s writers, Serling gives up, citing his desire to tell stories with deeply considered characterizations and thought-provoking themes. Benny takes issue with Serling’s dismissive opinion of his style of comedy and fires back that “The Twilight Zone” can’t possibly tell stories of significance because the Twilight Zone does not actually exist. And you can probably guess what happens next.

After quarreling with Serling, Benny decides to take a leisurely walk home. On the way there, he gets lost in a thick fog and finds himself in an area of town he doesn’t recognize. Eventually, he encounters a road sign which tells him exactly where he is. It reads: “Welcome to Twilight Zone, Population: Unlimited.” Below this is an arrow pointing left to “Subconscious 27 Mi,” and one pointing right to “Reality 35 Mi.”

This is when matters take a distressingly surreal turn….

(8) JUST SEWN THAT WAY. Camestros Felapton gives the film a thorough critique in “Review: Poor Things”. Beware spoilers.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2023 film starring Emma Stone is a dark comedy fantasy set in an unreal, stylised world suggestive of the late 19th century. Based on the novel by Alisdair Gray (which I haven’t read) but stripped of its Scottish setting and metatextual elements, the film follows the strange life of Bella Baxter.

Dr. Godwin Baxter is a surgeon and a mad-scientist like figure who resembles Victor Frankenstein in his obsession to reanimate corpses surgically but who also resembles Frankenstein’s monster physically due to experiments conducted on him by his own father…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1990 — Isaac Asimov’s “The Fourth Homonym” story is the source of our Beginning this time. His Black Widowers stories of which this is one I think are some of the cleverest bar style stories ever done even if they weren’t set in a bar like Clarke’s White Hart tales.  

These stories which were based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders.  The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

This story was first published thirty-four years ago in The Asimov Chronicles: Fifty Years of Isaac Asimov. It may be the only Black Widower story not collected in the volumes that collect the other stories. 

There were sixty-six stories over the six volumes that were released. So far only one volume, Banquets of the Black Widowers, has been released as an ePub. And yes, I’ve got a copy on my iPad as they are well worth re-reading.

And now for one of the best Beginnings done I think in the Black Widowers stories…

“Homonyms!” said Nicholas Brant. He was Thomas Trumbull’s guest at the monthly banquet of the Black Widowers. He was rather tall, and had surprisingly prominent bags under his eyes, despite the comparative youthfulness of his appearance otherwise. His face was thin and smooth-shaven, and his brown hair showed, as yet, no signs of gray. “Homonyms,” he said.

“What?” said Mario Gonzalo blankly.

“The words you call ‘sound-alikes.’ The proper name for them is ‘homonyms.’ “

“That so?” said Gonzalo. “How do you spell it?”

Brant spelled it.

Emmanuel Rubin looked at Brant owlishly through the thick lenses of his glasses. He said, “You’ll have to excuse Mario, Mr. Brant. He is a stranger to our language.”

Gonzalo brushed some specks of dust from his jacket sleeve and said, “Manny is corroded with envy because I’ve invented a word game. He knows the words but he lacks any spark of inventiveness, and that kills him.”

“Surely Mr. Rubin does not lack inventiveness,” said Brant, soothingly. “I’ve read some of his books.”

“I rest my case,” said Gonzalo. “Anyway, I’m willing to call my game ‘homonyms’ instead of ‘sound-alikes.’ The thing is to make up some short situation which can be described by two words that are sound-alikes – that are homonyms. I’ll give you an example: If the sky is perfectly clear, it is easy to decide to go on a picnic in the open. If it is raining cats and dogs, it is easy to decide not to go on a picnic. But what if it is cloudy, and the forecast is for possible showers, but there seem to be patches of blue here and there, so you can’t make up your mind about the picnic. What would you call that?”

“A stupid story,” said Trumbull tartly, passing his hand over his crisply waved white hair.

“Come on,” said Gonzalo, “play the game. The answer is two words that sound alike.”

There was a general silence and Gonzalo said, “The answer is ‘whether weather.’ It’s the kind of weather where you wonder whether to go on a picnic or not. ‘Whether weather,’ don’t you get it?”

James Drake stubbed out his cigarette and said, “We get it. The question is, how do we get rid of it?”

Roger Halsted said, in his soft voice, “Pay no attention, Mario. It’s a reasonable parlor game, except that there don’t seem to be many combinations you can use.”

Geoffrey Avalon looked down austerely from his seventy-four-inch height and said, “More than you might think. Suppose you owned a castrated ram that was frisky on clear days and miserable on rainy days. If it were merely cloudy, however, you might wonder whether that ram would be frisky or miserable. That would be ‘whether wether weather.’ “

There came a chorus of outraged What!’s.

Avalon said, ponderously. “The first word is w-h-e-t-h-e-r, meaning if. The last word is w-e-a-t-h-e-r, which refers to atmospheric conditions. The middle word is w-e-t-h-e-r, meaning a castrated ram. Look it up if you don’t believe me.”

“Don’t bother,” said Rubin. “He’s right.”

“I repeat,” growled Trumbull, “this is a stupid game.”

“It doesn’t have to be a game,” said Brant. “Lawyers are but too aware of the ambiguities built into the language, and homonyms can cause trouble.”

The gentle voice of Henry, that waiter for all seasons, made itself heard over the hubbub by some alchemy that worked only for him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “I regret the necessity of interrupting a warm discussion, but dinner is being served.”

(10) TEA FOR 2(ND). Before reading Cat’s birthday, pour yourself a cup of “Second Breakfast – Chapters Tea”.

Small batch hand blended English breakfast tea with Marigold petals. Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, and afternoon tea. Enter our fan drawn rendition of a realm where friendship, nature, and the simple pleasures of life come first. Inspired by, but not affiliated with, our favorite series with a ring.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. (Died 1973.) Obligatory preface — this is my personal encounters with Tolkien, so if I’ve not been up close with something say The Silmarillion than it isn’t here. And I haven’t with that work. Some works I haven’t read get included anyways as they passed through Green Man and have a Story attached to them. 

Tolkien in 1972.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the individuals who I always picture in the photo of him that must be of in his seventies with his pipe with that twinkle in his eye. He looks like he could be akin to a hobbit himself about to set down to elevenses. 

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again which was published by George Allen & Unwin  eighty-six years ago written for his children but obviously we adults enjoy as much, and so it is my favorite work by him.  Dragons, hobbits, epic quests, wizards, dwarves — oh my!  

I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve read over the years, and the recent time, just several back as a listening experience showed the Suck Fairy enjoys it as much as I do.

I hadn’t realized until putting together this Birthday that all three volumes of the Lord of The Rings were published at the same time. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in 1954, The Return of The King the following year. I’m so used to trilogies being spread out over a longer period of time. 

Though I’ve not read the trilogy nearly as much I’ve read The Hobbit, and that shouldn’t surprise you, I do enjoy it though I will confess that The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the three novels here. 

It was nominated at Tricon for a Best All-Time Series Hugo. Asimov’s Foundation series won that year. It did garner an International Fantasy Award first Best Series and the same for a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. I’m more than a bit surprised that it didn’t get nominated for a Retro Hugo.

Now unto a work that I like just as much as the sister of Kate Baker, Kathleen Bartholomew, does. That being Farmer Giles of Ham. Kathleen, who now has Harry, Kage’s Space Pirate of a parrot, says “Farmer Giles is a clever, solid, shrewd fellow, clearly cut from the same cloth as the most resourceful hobbits elsewhere in Tolkien’s most famous universe.” It’s a wonderful story indeed.

We got in a custom bag from the United Kingdom that the USPS made me sign for so that HarperCollins UK could sure that all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-Earth got here. No, I didn’t read it, but I did skim it. Liz reviewed it for Green Man and here’s that review thisaway. A hobbit sitting down and having elevenses is shorter than it is. 

A much, much shorter work is The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle and much more first published in 1967. It’s a book of sheet music and as an audio recording. It is largely based off poems in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien approved of the songs here. 

Why it’s important is that side one of this record consisted of has him reading six poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, than the first track on side two has him reading part of the Elvish prayer of “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” from The Lord of the Rings

I love Letters from Father Christmas which were originally written for his children. I see Allen and Unwin gave what I think was the better title of The Father Christmas Letters when they first published then collectively in 1976 which was more declarative. A local theatre group dud a reading of them some twenty years back — it was a wonderful experience as it was snowing gently outside the bookstore windows where they were doing it as we had hot chocolate and cookies.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something by him that I like but I think that I’ve prattled on long enough this time… 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nonsequitur has a nice variation on the old Hans Christian Andersen tale.
  • Carpe Diem is a vision of the future.
  • Dog Eat Doug shows when the bark(er) is as fierce as the bite.

(13) BEGUILE THE DIAL. [Item by Steven French.] A call for more weirdness on U.K. TV: “Britain is plagued by bland, box-ticking television. Bring back weird TV” in the Guardian.

…Schedules from the 60s and 70s – the height of Britain’s TV weirdness –contained nuclear attacks, ghosts, war stories, brutal public safety films and intellectually demanding folk horror dramas such as Robin Redbreast, Penda’s Fen and Artemis 81….

(14) WOULD YOU BELIEVE…IRISH REUNIFICATION? Gizmodo reminds fans that “2024 Is a Hell of a Year in Star Trek History” with a slideshow that starts at the link.

A lot—a lot—happens historically in Star Trek’s 2024, crucially important events that go on to not just shape Earth as it is in the early 21st century, but form foundational pillars for the contemporary Star Trek timeline. It’s a year we’ve heard about, and visited, multiple times across several Trek shows. So what’s exactly wild about it? Well, let us take a look through Trek’s past to find out… and perhaps, our future?

(15) AI IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. “’Proceed with caution:’ AI poses issues of discrimination, surveillance” at WBUR.

There are many uses for AI as the technology becomes more accessible and normalized, but not everyone is excited about that premise. AI scholar and activist Joy Buolamwini is one of those critics. She’s the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and author of the book “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines.”

She started her journey as a scholar enamored by the promise of AI. But her views changed when she tried face-tracking software and it didn’t work well on her dark skin. However, the software registered her when she put on a white mask.

Buolamwini questioned whether her problem was unique or would happen to others with dark skin. And she found that the data was skewed.

“The data sets we often found were largely male and largely pale individuals,” Buolamwini says.

This poses problems especially when AI is used by law enforcement agencies to identify suspects, assess whether a defendant will commit another crime, and assign bond limits or flight risk status. Buolamwini uses Porcha Woodruff’s story as an example. Woodruff was 8 months pregnant when she was mistakenly arrested for carjacking after being misidentified by Detroit police’s facial recognition software.

“We’re creating tools for mass surveillance,” Buolamwini says, “that in the hands of an authoritarian state can be used in very devastating ways.”

Buolamwini stresses that even if data set bias was addressed, accurate artificial intelligence could still pose problems and be abused….

(16) UNFORGETTABLE IMAGES. This Yardbarker slideshow might just live up to its title: “The 20 most epic moments in sci-fi movies”. At least, there’s a bunch of my favorites here.

Science fiction excels at pushing the boundaries of the possible, both in terms of the stories it tells and the methods by which it brings those stories to life. People often go to sci-fi films to see the world brought to life in ways new, strange, and sometimes terrifying, precisely because the genre is so adept at taking things in the present and exploring what they might look like in the future. Some of the best scenes in sci-fi films take the viewer out of themselves, allowing them to encounter something akin to the sublime.

In sixteenth place:

The assembling of the Avengers during the battle against Thanos in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Throughout much of the 2010s, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the franchise that couldn’t be beaten, and it had its fair share of epic moments. The pinnacle, however, was during the climactic battle against the genocidal Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, when at last, the Avengers and all of those who have been restored appear to strike back against the Titan. It evokes the moment in the first Avengers film where the beloved characters first united, and it is also a climactic moment for those devastated when so many were killed with the Snap. In the world of comic book movies, no one ever remains truly dead.

(17) ‘TIL THEN HE’S COPYRIGHT KRYPTONITE. Someday you may ask “When Do Superman & Batman Enter the Public Domain?” Yahoo! has anticipated your interest. First on the list:

When does Superman enter the public domain?

As per US law, 2034 is the year when Superman would be joining the public domain.

In 2034, fans of Man of Steel and a few other DC characters will be able to use Superman in their content up to a certain extent without being afraid of copyright, trademark, or patent laws as that’s when Superman will be joining the public domain (PD).

According to US law, a property introduced before 1978 makes its way into the public domain if 95 years have passed after its first publication. So, because Superman made his debut on April 18, 1938, in Action Comics #1, he will be joining the public domain in 2034.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/23 Pixeltar: The Fifth Scrollbender

(1) CONTEST KERFUFFLE. The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has announced that one of its judging teams – unnamed in their statement, but it’s Team EPIC – will no longer be participating.

Kris, who reviews on YouTube as A Fictional Escapist, and formerly at EPIC Indie, said they found something on EPIC’s “About” page that led them to leave the SPSFC’s Team EPIC. They gave this explanation on X.com.  And followed with a screencap of the offending rules.

Team EPIC leader Matthew Olney published a statement on X.com:

Some of the exchanges have been taken down. Other parts can still be traced starting with this tweet by JCM Berne.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. [By Lisa Hertel.] I visited Erwin Strauss at Steere House in Providence, R.I. today. He is in good spirits and resting comfortably, and would love visitors, cards, or phone calls; he has his mobile. (Obviously use his real name when you are at reception or talking to the switchboard.) If he doesn’t answer the phone, try again later. He expects to be in Providence through mid-January.

(3) 400-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR AND SCIENTIST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Front Row devotes its first third of the programme to Margaret Cavendish, the British scientist and SF author who was born 400 years ago and known for her novel The Blazing World (1666), which of course pre-dates Frankenstein 1818. In The Blazing World there is a parallel Earth which can be accessed via the North Pole as the barrier between the two Earths is weakest there…. 

Margaret Cavendish was born exactly 400 years ago, and her many achievements include writing The Blazing World, arguably the first ever sci-fi novel. Novelist Siri Hustvedt and biographer Francesca Peacock discuss the enduring legacy of this pioneering woman. 

You can hear the programme here.

(4) PICKING UP THE BRUSH. “Dream of Talking to Vincent van Gogh? A.I. Tries to Resurrect the Artist.” The New York Times tells how it’s being done. Doesn’t seem quite as cheerful as in that Doctor Who episode.  

…His paintings have featured in major museum exhibitions this year. Immersive theaters in cities like Miami and Milan bloom with projections of his swirling landscapes. His designs now appear on everything from sneakers to doormats, and a recent collaboration with the Pokémon gaming franchise was so popular that buyers stampeded at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, forcing it to suspend selling the trading cards in the gift shop.

But one of the boldest attempts at championing van Gogh’s legacy yet is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, where a lifelike doppelgänger of the Dutch artist chats with visitors, offering insights into his own life and death (replete with machine-learning flubs).

“Bonjour Vincent,” intended to represent the painter’s humanity, was assembled by engineers using artificial intelligence to parse through some 900 letters that the artist wrote during the 1800s, as well as early biographies written about him. However the algorithm still needed some human guidance on how to answer the touchiest questions from visitors, who converse with van Gogh’s replica on a digital screen, through a microphone. The most popular one: Why did van Gogh kill himself? (The painter died in July 1890 after shooting himself in a wheat field near Auvers.)

Visitors can chat with the A.I. Vincent van Gogh through a microphone. In this video, A.I. van Gogh responds to questions about his paintings.Video via Jumbo Mana

Hundreds of visitors have asked that morbid question, museum officials said, explaining that the algorithm is constantly refining its answers, depending on how the question is phrased. A.I. developers have learned to gently steer the conversation on sensitive topics like suicide to messages of resilience.

“I would implore this: cling to life, for even in the bleakest of moments, there is always beauty and hope,” said the A.I. van Gogh during an interview.

The program has some less oblique responses. “Ah, my dear visitor, the topic of my suicide is a heavy burden to bear. In my darkest moments, I believed that ending my life was the only escape from the torment that plagued my mind,” van Gogh said in another moment, adding, “I saw no other way to find peace.”…

(5) LOCAL SFF WORKSHOP. The organization that hosts The Tomorrow Prize and the Green Feather Award will hold a workshop at a library in Pasadena (CA) next week.

My name is Valentina Gomez and I am very excited to introduce myself as the new Literary Arts Coordinator for the Omega Sci-Fi Project! I am reaching out to invite your participation in this season’s short science fiction story writing program, both through creative writing workshops and student story submissions.

Join our upcoming creative writing workshop at the Jefferson branch of the Pasadena Public Library on 12/19, catered to young creative writers and open to all ages! Please share with the high-school students in your life!

(6) YOU’LL KEEP HEARING THIS. Former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott asks “Will Books Survive Spotify?” in a New York Times opinion piece.

Spotify may have made it easier than ever for us to listen to an enormous trove of music, but it extracted so much money in doing so that it impoverished musicians. Now the company is turning its attention to books with a new offering. It will do the same thing to writers, whose audiobooks Spotify has begun streaming in a new and more damaging way.

We’ve read this story before. Tech platforms and their algorithms have a tendency to reward high-performing creators — the more users they get, the more likely they are to attract more. In Spotify’s case, that meant that in 2020, 90 percent of the royalties it paid out went to the top 0.8 percent of artists, according to an analysis by Rolling Stone.

That leaves the vast majority — including many within even that small group — struggling to earn a living. The promise of the business strategy laid out in the book “The Long Tail” was that a slew of niche creators would prosper on the internet. That has proved illusory for most content creators. It’s a winner-takes-all game; too often the tech platforms aggregating the content and the blockbusters win it all, starving the vast majority of creators. The result is a gradual deterioration of our culture, our understanding of ourselves and our collective memories.

This is why regulation is so crucial. Before writing books, I worked at Google, leading three large sales and operations teams and before that, I was a senior policy adviser at the Federal Communications Commission. What I learned is that today’s tech platforms are different from the kind of monopolies of an earlier era that inspired our regulatory framework. Their networks can have powerful positive or negative impacts. We don’t want to regulate away the value they can create, but the damage they can cause is devastating. We need a regulatory framework that can distinguish between them….

(7) DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. The Hollywood Reporter cues up the “Civil War Trailer: Kirsten Dunst Stars in Politically Charged Movie”.

Alex Garland‘s mysterious Civil War is coming into focus with its politically charged first trailer.

As the trailer reveals, Kirsten Dunst stars as a journalist living in a near future in which 19 states have seceded from the Union, with Western Forces (including California and Texas) and the Florida Alliance among those in the conflict. Meanwhile, the three-term President of the United States, played by Nick Offerman, has ordered air strikes on U.S. soil against these forces.

“Every time I survived a war zone, I thought I was sending a warning home: don’t do this,” Dunst’s character says as she attempts to reach Washington, even as forces close in on the city….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge from a selection by Mike Glyer.]

1962 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a work that I saw and read but once in both cases but is still inedible upon my mind’s eye. 

The novel was published first by William Heinemann Ltd., in 1962 and I read in University in a literature class taught by professor who very obviously thought SF was cool as Le Guin and Bradbury were also included. I won’t say I like it but then I’m not into novels involving sexual violence. Very really not. 

Now the film was fascinating the way encountering a cobra was — Stanley Kubrick captured the dangerous of the characters in the book all too well. Still didn’t want to see it again, like not encountering a cobra again, but it was worth seeing once. 

So here’s our beginning.

What’s it going to be then, eh?

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, o my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 69. Damn, I can’t believe Emma Bull is sixty nine! My mind’s image of her is fixed upon her being the imperious sidhe queen in the War for the Oaks trailer shot way back in Will thinks 1994 according him just now in an email.

Her first novel. War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-six years ago. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy. 

It, along with Bone Dance which would be nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon, and Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands show, I believe, a remarkably great writer of genre fiction. 

I’m pleased to say that I have personally signed copies of all of them. Two of them for Oaks, one not long after she broke both forearms at a Minneapolis RenFaire and another after they’d moved to Bisbee, Arizona and she’d healed up quite a bit. 

(I absolutely love Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands love which is along with the two novel written by Wills are the only novel in Terri Windling’s Bordertown universe. I still, sort of spoiler alert, makes me sniff every time I read it.) 

(Not to say I that I don’t love War for the Oaks and Bone Dance as I do. I cannot count how many times I’ve read each one of them.) 

Will Shetterly and Emma Bull in 1994. Photo from Wikipedia.

Now about that trailer. It was financed by Will at his own expense from money originally intended first and run first the governorship of Minnesota. Emma as I said is the sidhe Queen here and I know any of you that were active in Minnesota fandom back then will no doubt be able to tell me who many of the performers are here as Will tells me that many of them came from local fandom. 

(I really do need to do an in-depth interview with him about this sometime.)

The music is by Flash Girls and Cats Laughing. Emma was in both, and some of the music the latter played is referred to in the novel as being played by Eddi and the Fey. (Cats Laughing didn’t form until after the novel.) Lorraine Garland, Gaiman’s administrative assistant at that time, was the other half of the Flash Girls. 

Lorraine went to found another group, Folk Underground, whose tasteful black t-shirt of, one moment while I look, three skeleton musicians (violinist, guitarist, accordionist) in coffins I have twenty years in remarkably good shape. 

Oh, the screenplay did later get published. It’s an interesting read. 

So what else? There’s Liavek, a most excellent fantasy trade city akin to one Aspirin did. She and Will edited the many volumes of them on Ace with, and I think this a complete listing, Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Emma Bull, Nancy Kress, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Megan Lindholm, Barry Longyear and Will Shetterly. Generally speaking, they’re all fine reading, lighter in tone that Thieves’ World is.

Finally there’s the Shadow Unit series which created by her and Elizabeth Bear. If you like X-Files, you’ll love this series as it’s obvious that both of them are deep lovers of that series and their FBI unit, the Anomalous Crimes Task Force, could well exist in the same universe.  

Well there’s one more that reflect their deep love of the Deadwood video series, her Territory novel. This is certainly one of the more unique tellings of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Clantons and what happened there. I particularly like the dialogue heron, some of the best I’ve seen anywhere.

And no, this doesn’t by any means cover everything as she wrote some truly great short fiction set in the Borderlands universe, not to mention the novel she wrote with Stephen Brust, Freedom & Necessity which I could write an entire essay on. Wait I did, didn’t I? She even did space opera of sorts in Falcon. And there’s a wonderful children’s book that she sent Green Man to review, The Princess and the Lord of Night

(10) LOOKS GREEN TO HIM. For what it’s worth, someone is reporting “’Dune: Messiah’ Greenlit by Warner Bros, 2027 Release Date Eyed” says World of Reel.

…As for “Dune: Messiah,” the trilogy capper, we have an update on that project, and it seems to be picking up some major steam. At this point, its future making is turning into an inevitability. Here’s Jeff Sneider, via his newsletter:

“I’m already hearing rumblings that WB is so bullish on Villeneuve’s vision for Dune that ‘Part Three’ has already been greenlit with a 2027 release date in mind. WB sees Part Two as a home run, and internally, I’m hearing the studio is already projecting an opening north of $100 million. That may be optimistic, but given the trailer above, hardly out of the question….”

(11) ODD NOGGIN. [Item by Steven French.] Shirley this can’t be true?! (Sorry – channeling Airplane! there …) Gastro Obscura introduces readers to the “Head of the Egopantis”. “The head of a legendary creature allegedly killed during colonial times is now on display at a local restaurant.” Unlike Bigfoot and Nessie, this one supposedly has left remains.

… According to legend, the Egopantis was a mighty and terrifying creature that once roamed the woods behind the tavern instilling fear among the locals. One evening, a Captain named Nathaniel Smith spotted the creature wading through the Mulpus Brook and took aim with his musket. He fired mortally wounding the creature which charged across the brook before succumbing to its injuries. The colossal Egopantis had been felled with its head and the musket both on display ever since….

(12) IT’S A SMALL WORLD. “Researchers Develop Tiny Cute VR Goggles For Mice With Big Implications” at HotHardware. Daniel Dern quips, “Raptors seldom strafe passes/at meeces with VR glasses.”

Virtual reality can be an immersive way to play games, experience new environments, or consume and learn new content for anyone of any age. With that philosophy in mind, scientists have expanded the use cases of VR to rodents to enable new pathways and possibilities in neuroscience with tiny mouse-sized VR goggles that simulate environments better than ever before.

Earlier this week, researchers from Northwestern University published research outlining a new mouse VR goggle system called Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR, or iMRSIV system….

(13) SUPERCONDENSATION. From 10 years ago, “Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short”.

From the creative minds of Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, this short follows Superman through the years, from his first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 to Henry Cavill in this year’s Man of Steel…all in two minutes!

(14) NIHILISTIC ALIENS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur spent his monthly Sci-Fi Sunday looking at nihilistic aliens.

Many doubt whether existence has any purpose or meaning, but could entirely civilizations become nihilistic. Would this spell their doom? And if not, what would they be like?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/2/23 Three Files, Three Scrolls, Three Thousand Pixels

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

Part two of Huawen’s con report

The first part of this con report was covered in yesterday’s Scroll; here are some extracts from the second part, as usual via Google Translate with manual cleanup edits.

(Warning: the original post is very meme heavy towards the end; I’ve skipped them in these extracts.)

4. Remote location, but very high standards

Many people have mentioned it before, and I have to say it again, the venue is indeed very, very remote!  [As mentioned in yesterday’s report, I believe that Huawen lives in a different district of Chengdu, although he mentions elsewhere in the report of not understanding Sichuan dialect, which makes me think he wasn’t originally a local?] …

However, being in a remote area with few people also has the advantage of being convenient for closed management…

The organizing committee actually had the ability to persuade the traffic control department to work overtime to help, and it must have been very hard work to control such a large area for such a long time.

5. The publicity and display work is in place

I can see the promotion of this convention in various forms almost anywhere in Chengdu…

Once, when we were having dinner a few kilometers away from the venue, the proprietor of the establishment asked curiously, was there any conference going on there? We quickly responded, yes, yes, a science fiction convention, the World Science Fiction Convention. She asked what a science fiction conference was, and we explained it for a long time. We had never explained it in this way before, and I don’t know if she understood it.

Then she asked a question that sent shivers down our spines – “Can you take me in to sell packed lunches?” …

6. I’m sorry about the ticketing problem

[There were] more than 20 million citizens who were eager to practice their English for the Chengdu World University Games without thinking about food or drink. The overwhelming publicity also directly ignited the enthusiasm for science fiction among Chengdu citizens.

Soon everyone would see it!

In August, before the large-scale publicity machine was launched, nearly 3,000 people bought offline tickets in just two days. At that time, the organizing committee estimated that the final number of participants would be around 8,000.

In the end, no one expected that the tickets would no longer be available as of September 21st!!! …

The originally unlimited tickets were all bought up by Chengdu citizens!  It was only September, and there was still a full month before the conference! …

However, I realized something was amiss – oops!  I haven’t bought a ticket for myself yet!

7. The regrettable and heart-wrenching drawing of lots for the three major ceremonies

However, now there was a problem that was not expected before; that is, the ticket purchase and admission channels were not unified.  [These groups were]

(1) During the 2021 site selection voting period, there were about 2,000 people who spent 640 yuan [around $87 USD] to support Chengdu’s site-selection bid.
(2) Those who bought a membership on the official website in August 2023.
(3) Those who bought 5-day tickets on Damai.com in September 2023.
(4) One-day tickets purchased on Damai.com in October 2023.
(5) Guests from home and abroad.
(6) Con staff from who have to go to the venue to work.
(7) Venue security personnel.
(8) Concerned about and inspected the leaders and accompanying personnel at all levels of the conference.  [I put this through a couple of different machine translators, and couldn’t get anything readable; I assume he means VIPs, other bigwigs, and their entourages] …

Then, not all guests have special privileges. It has been observed that a considerable number of guests do not have access right “1”, to the Hugo Hall. Maybe this was a secret, but I heard that some of the finalists had almost no right to enter to receive their award.  

In the end, access to the ceremonies was mainly distributed among three groups: 1, 2, and 3.

Even if there were 3,500 passes for each ceremony, that might not be enough to distribute among such a huge groups of people, perhaps close to 10,000…

This was a valuable learning experience for me.

If hosting a future event, you must have a venue space that is large enough to accommodate everyone to be able to sit and watch.  And be sure to leave enough redundancy.

Taiyo Fujii’s report on his “Decolonize the Future” panel

His personal site has this write-up of a panel he moderated, which I think is a translation from the Japanese article.  An excerpt, with minor edits for style and grammar:

After introducing the panel’s participants, I retold the time of how we Japanese encountered Chinese SF.  Through the efforts of Mr. Kenji Iwagami, in the late 1970s the Japanese SFF community became aware of modern Chinese SFF.  Mr. Iwagami translated and published many volumes over the decades for our community, but we did not pay much attention.  Only in 2015 and 2016, when The Three Body Problem and Invisible Planets were translated by Ken Liu into English, and then won Anglophone awards, did we turn our gaze to our neighbouring country.  We discovered Chinese SFF by the road paved by the Anglophones.  Of course, Ken is not a colonizer, and neither is the Worldcon community.  But our attention and marketing had been colonized by English-language SFF.

Audience member Phong Quan also posted a thread on Twitter about the panel.  

Fujii also posted a four-part Mastodon thread about another panel he was on, about the “Localization Paths of Science Fiction in Non-English-Speaking Countries”.

Online Chengdu Worldcon site down – but not in China?

SF Light Year posted on Weibo about the online component of the con.  This prompted me to have a look at the online site to see what was up there now, but I just got an error page.  Given that that site still seems to be accessible in China, I asked people on Twitter and Mastodon to do similar checks, but it seems that everyone outside China got the same error as me.   Just as a sanity check I verified that URL matches the one posted on the con’s site on October 17th.

Based on a screenshot I was sent, there are 20 “replay” videos available; I suspect most of them are the “businessy” things that were available as livestreams, and so probably of minimal interest to most fans, but I would imagine the three ceremonies are amongst those 20.

SF Light Year’s post also links to a URL that has details of the contract/bid for the online part of the con.  Unfortunately that also seems to be a webpage that foreign visitors aren’t allowed to access, but there is a screengrab of it in the Weibo post, indicating that the winning bid to build the online component was 1.85 million yuan, around a quarter of a million US dollars.  (It’s unclear if this covered just the 3D environment with avatars, and/or the video streaming bandwidth and servers.)  Given that the contract was awarded to China Telecom, who were one of the two top-tier sponsors of the con, the value of the contract might simply be a case of one part of that business moving money to another part. making it slightly meaningless.

Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch, and by highlighting the problem publicly, it might get fixed shortly…

(2) CHANGE IN SFWA BOARD. SFWA has a new Director-at-Large following the resignation of Jordan Kurella, who left his position for health reasons.

SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy, with the approval of the Board, has appointed Anthony Eichenlaub to serve out the remainder of Kurella’s term, which expires on June 30, 2024.

Eichenlaub ran for the Board last spring and received the most votes of the unelected candidates. As a SFWA volunteer he has worked at the Nebula Conference and as a member of the Independent Authors Committee. He led the effort to create the Indie Pub 101 resource site and assisted with the Heritage Author Republication (HARP) pilot program.

(3) SFWA NEBULA READING LIST. SFWA’s public-facing “Nebula Reading List” is filling up with 2023 recommendations in all the Nebula categories. Fans may find it an interesting source of things to read, too.

(4) MICHAEL BISHOP HEALTH UPDATE. Michael Bishop’s daughter Stephanie made an appeal yesterday on Facebook:

Hi all–I am writing on behalf of my dad, so this post won’t be nearly as eloquent as usual. As many of you know, Daddy is in hospice care now, mostly at home. His wound will not heal, and the pain is great. Between the pain and the medication, he isn’t able to communicate on Facebook and not terribly well on the phone either. However, his birthday is coming up–on the 12th–and I know he would love to hear from anyone who might want to wish him well. He does so love his friends and his fans, and we can tell he loathes not being able to write and be in touch the way he once could. Please send cards to P.O. Box 646, Pine Mountain, GA 31822. Gratefully yours, Stephanie

Here is Andrew Porter’s photo of David Hartwell, and Jeri and Michael Bishop at an ABA convention, decades ago:

David Hartwell, Jeri and Michael Bishop. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(5) OKORAFOR Q&A. “Nnedi Okorafor, a pioneer of Africanfuturism, doesn’t want her work put in a box” – an Andscape interview.

Do you have any thoughts on the creative process, maybe advice for aspiring creatives?

I guess one thing that I haven’t really said much about involves fear around the emergence of artificial intelligence and how it may affect creatives. My advice: Don’t stress about it. Keep being human and keep using your humanity to create. And do the work. Don’t be afraid of the work. There are no shortcuts. That’s part of the beauty of creating – that there are no shortcuts.

Enjoy those difficulties. Don’t be afraid of telling your stories. There’s always going to be someone who wants to hear it. And tell it your way. Don’t follow trends. 

When it comes to process: For me, I’m highly disciplined. I come from an athletic background, and that’s really where the way that I work comes from. It’s relentless, and I like work. The discomfort is part of the process. That’s the standpoint that I come from. There isn’t one way to tell a story. I don’t write linearly. I write nonlinearly. I don’t outline. I just sit down and start writing.

There are all sorts of ways. Learn your way of creating. If you’re new to this, give yourself time. When you’re new to this, the only way to find your voice is by experimenting and having the confidence to experiment…

(6) CREATURE FEATURES. “’People were hooked’: A wild show that kept the Bay Area up all night”SFGate remembers.

Late one night in January 1971, a 9-year-old August Ragone sat in the dark living room of his childhood home on Alabama Street in the Mission District, transfixed by the man on the tiny black-and-white television screen glowing in front of him. 

He had an unassuming presence. Wearing a plain business suit and thick glasses, he puffed at an oversized cigar as he leaned back in a yellow rocking chair, a wry grin on his face. Next to him was a small table adorned by a human skull with a candle jutting out of it. A window shrouded in cobwebs loomed over his head. On the wall behind him was a sign with an unforgettable mantra: “Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!”

His name was Bob Wilkins, and he was about to present the Bay Area premiere of “Creature Features” on KTVU’s Channel 2 with a screening of “The Horror of Party Beach,” a wonky ’60s monster movie with a reputation so poor Stephen King once called it “an abysmal little wet fart of a film.”

Ragone, who begged his mother to sit through the film with him, was riveted. There was something about Wilkins’ unexpectedly calming, Bob Ross-like persona, the spooky atmosphere of the set, and the funky theme music that was unlike anything he had experienced before. Even more bewildering was what the host said in a droll monotone during his introduction: “Don’t stay up late, it’s not worth it.”

For the next 14 years, the Bay Area would do exactly the opposite….

(7) STREAMER PASSWORD SHARING. Disney+ is cracking down on password sharing starting today. A study with JustWatch users about how much they are using shared accounts shows that Disney+ is the most shared streaming service among JustWatch users in the US – almost twice as much as Prime Video.

(8) BB&B. Brooklyn Books & Booze on November 21, 2023 will feature readings by Marielena Gomez, C.S.E. Cooney, Stephanie Feldman and Sarena Straus.

The free event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern at Barrow’s Intense Tasting Room at 86th 34th Street, Brooklyn, NY. For more information, go to BrooklynBooksBooze.com.

(9) KEN MATTINGLY (1936-2023) Former NASA astronaut Rear Adm. (ret.) Thomas K. (TK) Mattingly II (known to the public as Ken) died October 31. NASA Administrator Bill Golden paid tribute:

…“Beginning his career with the U.S. Navy, TK received his wings in 1960 and flew various aircraft across multiple assignments. Once he joined the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School as a student, NASA chose him to be part of the astronaut class in 1966. Before flying in space, he aided the Apollo Program working as the astronaut support crew and took leadership in the development of the Apollo spacesuit and backpack.

“His unparalleled skill as a pilot aided us when he took on the role of command module pilot for Apollo 16 and spacecraft commander for space shuttle missions STS-4 and STS 51-C. The commitment to innovation and resilience toward opposition made TK an excellent figure to embody our mission and our nation’s admiration.

“Perhaps his most dramatic role at NASA was after exposure to rubella just before the launch of Apollo 13. He stayed behind and provided key real-time decisions to successfully bring home the wounded spacecraft and the crew of Apollo 13 – NASA astronauts James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove.  He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 2, 1941 Ed Gorman. He’d be here if only for writing the script for the Batman: I, Werewolf series in which Batman meets a werewolf. Very cool. More straight SFF is his Star Precinct trilogy with Kevin Randle which is quite excellent, and I’m fond of his short fiction which fortunately is available at the usual suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 2, 1942 Carol Resnick, 81. Wife of that Resnick who credited her according to several sources with being a co-writer on many of his novels. He also credited her as being a co-author on two movie scripts that they’ve sold, based on his novels Santiago and The Widowmaker. And she’s responsible for the costumes in which she and Mike appeared in five Worldcon masquerades in the Seventies, winning awards four times.
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 74. First let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprise three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. Early on she joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster.
  • Born November 2, 1955 Nisi Shawl, 68. An African-American writer, editor, and journalist. They write and teach about, and I quote from their site, “how fantastic fiction might reflect real-world diversity of gender, sexual orientation, race, colonialism, physical ability, age, and other sociocultural factors”. Their short stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, the Infinite Matrix and Strange Horizons. Their “Filter House” story won an Otherwise Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award; they got a Solstice Award (a SFWA award for distinguished contributions to the sff community); their New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and an Ignyte Award for incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. Cool award indeed. 

(11) MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS. “The Major and His Legacy – The Major, A Real Life Hero” is a website devoted to a pioneer publisher of comic books.

The annals of comic book history are studded with legendary names, but one of the most pivotal, yet often overlooked, is that of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. As one of the founding figures of DC Comics, “the Major” was one of the pioneers of the American comic book industry, laying the groundwork for an empire of imagination. Today, his legacy continues to flourish and evolve in the hands of his granddaughter, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson..,.

…Before the Major came along, comic books that existed, with a few exceptions, were reprints of the comic strips from the daily newspapers. This changed in 1934 when the Major began publishing Fun Comics and New Fun Comics, featuring original artwork and stories. What could possibly motivate someone to launch such an untested venture at the height of the Great Depression, when a staggering 25 percent of the American populace was out of work, and to do so in a new and unfamiliar medium? It was an enormous risk….

(12) STRIKES + ECONOMIZING = KRYPTONITE. Deadline reports that “’Superman & Lois’ To End With Upcoming Season 4 At CW”.

The end is in sight for Superman & Lois. The CW series, starring Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as the title characters, will conclude with its upcoming 10-episode fourth season, marking the end of the DC series’ era at The CW. The final season is slated to air on The CW in 2024….

It has been tough going for Superman & Lois, combined with the strikes and budget cuts that came with the series’ Season 4 renewal. As we previously reported, those cuts impacted the writers room, which underwent downsizing for the upcoming season, going from eight writers down to five.

Superman & Lois, along with All American: Homecoming were renewed in June after producing studio Warner Bros. Television agreed to deliver the new seasons at a significantly lower license fee to make them feasible for the network under its new lower-cost original programming model. For the shows to still make financial sense for the studio, their budgets were slashed, leading to cast reductions, with not all of the series regulars asked to come back full-time….

(13) THEY ALSO SERVE. The Guardian’s Catherine Bray assesses a sff comedy in “The Bystanders review – British parallel-universe comedy of invisible guardian angels”.

Peter (Scott Haran) is a former child chess prodigy who these days excels at nothing much in particular, except perhaps his ability to blend into the background. A birthday card at his office is handed to him to sign – for his own birthday. None of his colleagues know who he is, and the card is crammed with polite, anodyne messages. But he discovers that there’s one arena in which his anonymity might be a boon rather than a liability: he is recruited into the world of Bystanding, a parallel universe filled with invisible guardian types whose job is to imperceptibly guide or nudge their charges into making better life choices. They are all, in their own ways, as unremarkable as Peter, hence their selection for bystander duty.

There’s a scrappy energy to this British sci-fi comedy that offsets its micro-budget limitations. The premise is part of a cinematic family tree of quirky, metaphysical science fiction that includes the likes of Cold SoulsThe Adjustment Bureau and Another Earth. There’s also a strong strand of UK comedy in the DNA, recalling material like Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in its desire to juxtapose the mundane, trivial annoyances of life with a more expansive sense of the universe. There’s something neat too about the film’s focus on life’s quiet losers, in an era when the loudest “main character energy” personalities seem predestined for rewards in the attention economy. It almost feels like a throwback to the loose mumblecore movement of the early 2000s….

(14) OSIRIS-REX. [Item by Steven French.] Maybe they should try banging on the lid with a knife – works for me when I can’t open a new jar of marmalade!

“NASA can’t open its OSIRIS-REx asteroid capsule yet, but its outside holds more than enough samples” says Space.com.

… According to a NASA blog post, the curation team that’s been processing the samples says it has removed and collected 70.3 grams (2.48 ounces) of Bennu material from the capsule so far — and it hasn’t even actually been opened yet. Those 70.3 grams come from just the area on the outside (and part of the inside) of the sample collector’s head.

“The sample processed so far includes the rocks and dust found on the outside of the sampler head, as well as a portion of the bulk sample from inside the head, which was accessed through the head’s mylar flap,” the post states. “Additional material remaining inside the sampler head, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, is set for removal later, adding to the mass total.”…

(15) SGT. PEPPER’S HI-TECH BAND. “The Beatles ‘Now and Then’: Listen to their last new song”AP News issues an invitation.

The final Beatles recording is here.

Titled “Now and Then,” the almost impossible-to-believe track is four minutes and eight seconds of the first and only original Beatles recording of the 21st century. There’s a countdown, then acoustic guitar strumming and piano bleed into the unmistakable vocal tone of John Lennon in the song’s introduction: “I know it’s true / It’s all because of you / And if I make it through / It’s all because of you.”

More than four decades since Lennon’s murder and two since George Harrison’s death, the very last Beatles song has been released as a double A-side single with “Love Me Do,” the band’s 1962 debut single.

There is a short “making of” film about the work done over the years to produce this recording: “The Beatles – Now And Then – The Last Beatles Song”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/23 My Pixel Threw Out All My Old Scrolls And All That’s Left Is This Godstalk

(1) HELL OF A STORY. Jennifer McMahon discusses nine books where “The Devil Made Me Do It” at CrimeReads.

…I was a child of the late seventies. I grew up watching The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby. Movies that taught me the nature of true evil and terror. While movies were the gateway to this terrifying genre, books go to deeper and darker places still. So light a candle, get out your crucifix, cast a ring of salt around your favorite reading chair and settle in….

One of McMahon’s selections is:

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a multi-layered literary horror novel that pays homage to the exorcism story genre and explores big questions about possession, mental illness and reality TV. The story follows Merry, at 23, sharing her recollections about her childhood with an author. When she was 8 and her sister Marjorie was 14, Marjorie… changed.  Their parents were split on whether this was a mental health crisis, or the work of the devil. A local priest became involved, and soon, their family became the center of a reality show called The Possession. Was Marjorie actually possessed? Get sucked into this spellbinding story and see what you believe.

(2) THIS MAKES ME THINK OF SNL’S DAVID L. PUMPKINS SKETCH. “Madame Tussauds and the InterContinental New York Times Square host spooky overnight stays in NYC”TimeOut says it will cost a mere $4K!

This might be the scariest Halloween-themed experience out there at the moment: Madame Tussauds and the InterContinetal in Times Square are offerings folks with a flair for the spooky the chance to stay in a room reminiscent of some of the most petrifying movies in history on the nights of Friday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 31.

The chilling experience for two will cost around $4,000 plus taxes—a hefty price for what will likely be a sleepless night but, alas, some of us just can’t enough of the whole sinister vibe. 

Guests will start off enjoying a three-course dinner and drinks menu delivered by the hotel’s room service staff and inspired by four popular movies: The ExorcistThe Nun, Annabelle and IT. …

…The room you’ll actually sleep in will be an eerie one, decorated like a subway station, yet complete with a fully stocked mini bar (clearly, you’ll need to drink to get through this all)….

(3) SURVIVORS. “’Scavengers Reign’ Official Trailer Released”GlobalGrind is on top of the story.

This week (October 11), Max released the official trailer for its new adult animated series Scavengers Reign. Click inside to check it out!

In Scavengers Reign, the brainchild of visionary creators Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner, the remaining crew of a damaged interstellar freighter ship find themselves stranded on a beautiful yet unforgiving alien planet – where they must survive long enough to escape or be rescued. But as the survivors struggle to locate their downed ship and missing crew mates, their new home reveals a hostile world allowed to thrive without human interference. Featuring lush, visually stunning animation, Scavengers Reign presents a wholly unique view of the consequences of unchecked hubris and humanity’s eternal desire to conquer the unknown….

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

Students from nearby school post English language video about the event

This is a nice two minute video where some students from the Hua’ai school just across the lake from the Science Museum talk in English about the event, and some of the related activities they are taking part in.

(I’ve attached 4 PNG screengrabs, filenames prefixed school)

8 Light Minutes Culture: book launches, ribbons, Aldiss and Lukyanenko stamps, and more

An incomplete summary of this mp.weixin.com post:

  • CG render of their booth
  • Launch of volumes 2 and 3 of Chinese SF: An Oral History
  • Limited edition of the Sawyer/Lukyanenko/Liu anthology
  • “The Songs of Space Engineers” hard SF anthology edited by Cixin Liu
  • Pick up a luminous bracelet from their booth
  • Get your books stamped by Brian Aldiss and Sergey Lukyanenko stamps
  • 18-different ribbons; different ones to be available each day from (I think) two different booths.  NB: 8LM has the Chinese licence for Doctor Who books, so the DW ribbons are presumably official merch

Video of official “Kormo” figure

I think this toy was covered along with other merchandise in a previous Scroll; there’s now an unboxing video of what looks like the finished item.

Kaiju Preservation Society, Ray Bradbury and The Culture ribbons and merchandise

Xinxing Publishing House are launching three limited edition sets of merchandise at the con, this Xiaohongshu post says that information about buying them online will come later, although whether that includes international purchases remains to be seen.

  • Kaiju Preservation Society canvas bags
  • Culture “Gravitas” bags  (Google Translate calls these “laser bags”; they seem to have some sort of foil/metallic effect?)
  • There are also ribbons for KPS, The Culture and Ray Bradbury

Secondary market tickets being advertised

I’ve no idea how widespread or successful these are, but here’s a Xiaohongshu user posting a screengrab from some other app/site showing a Chengdu resident advertising a single day “youth” (age 13-25) ticket for Saturday  21st for 500 yuan.  For reference: the sale price for the 5-day youth tickets was 200 yuan, and the individual youth day tickets that were sold more recently were 78 yuan.

Per Google Translate (with minor manual edits) the original ad states:

Youth tickets for the Chengdu Science Fiction Convention on the 21st are available at a premium price.  If you are interested in tickets click [the button] and chat with me privately.

The footer text notes:

There are risks in concert products, please follow the transaction process and do not trade outside the site.

(5) OCTOTHORPE PODCAST. Octothorpe 94 “Satisfying Meat” is now up. Listen here.

John Coxon is eating cinnamon rolls, Alison Scott doesn’t think it’s funny, and Liz Batty has two lists. We discuss the Best Novel finalists for the Hugo Awards. Art by the very lovely Sue Mason.  

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(6) ROYAL ARTIST. The New York Times tells “How the Queen of Denmark Shaped the Look of Netflix’s ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’”.

…Around the time the princess turned 30 — and after she had earned a diploma in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and had studied at Aarhus University in Denmark, the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics — she read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It inspired her to start drawing again.

Not long after, upon her father’s death in 1972, the princess was crowned as queen: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, to be specific.

Margrethe, now 83, celebrated 50 years on the throne in 2022. But in assuming the role of queen, she did not abandon her artistic passions. As a monarch she has taken lessons in certain media, has taught herself others and has been asked to bring her eye to projects produced by the Royal Danish Ballet and Tivoli, the world’s oldest amusement park, in Copenhagen.

Her paintings have been shown at museums, including in a recent exhibition at the Musée Henri-Martin in Cahors, France. And her illustrations have been adapted into artwork for a Danish translation of “The Lord of the Rings.” (They were published under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, and the book’s publisher approached her about using them after she sent copies to Tolkien as fan mail in 1970.)

Margrethe recently notched another creative accomplishment: serving as the costume and production designer for “Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction,” a feature film that debuted on Netflix in September and has wardrobes and sets based on her drawings and other artworks.

The film is an adaptation of the fairy tale “Ehrengard” by Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness who published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Set in a fictional kingdom, the story is loosely about a woman named Ehrengard who becomes a lady-in-waiting and foils a royal court painter’s plot to woo her.

(7) IT’S ALL GREEK TO THEM. “Of Snakes and Men: ‘Krapopolis’ Monstrous Transformations”: Animation World Network takes a look (and doesn’t turn to stone.)

While most people find solace in reading fiction novels, Pete Michels gets his kicks from history and archeology books. So, when Dan Harmon, who Michels had worked with previously on Rick and Morty, reached out with a proposal for a parody series on Greek mythology, Michels jumped at the opportunity… 

…In the series, Ayoade voices Tyrannis, the mortal son of a goddess and benevolent King of Krapopolis, who tries to make do in a city that lives up to its name. Waddingham plays Deliria, Tyrannis’ mother, goddess of self-destruction and questionable choices. Deliria is as petty as she is powerful, and only seems interested in defending civilization if it means she’ll get more worshipers out of it than her frenemies up on Mt. Olympus. Berry is Shlub, Tyrannis’ father, a mantitaur (half centaur [horse + human], half manticore [lion + human + scorpion]). He’s the self-described “life of the orgy,” and a true pleasure seeker. Murphy voices Stupendous, Tyrannis’ half-sister, daughter of Deliria and a cyclops. Trussell plays Hippocampus, Tyrannis’ half-brother, offspring of Shlub and a mermaid, and a hot mess, biologically speaking….

(8) PULPFEST. “2023 PulpFest Convention Report, by Martin Walker” at Mystery File.

…This year, though, Walker [Martin] did attend but managed to catch Covid while there, and while he’s doing much better now, it took him a while to recover, and he never did manage to write up a report. As you may have surmised, “Martin Walker,” whose report follows, is a pseudonym, but I can guarantee the facts he relates are 100% accurate. Bill Lampkin, whose photos I used is real, however, and I thank both him and our anonymous reporter for this year’s annual PulpFest report, at last!

Here’s a snippet from the report:

…There was more buying and selling on Friday, August 4. Competing for attendees’ attention were a couple of afternoon presentations. Chris Carey and Win Scott Eckert discussed “Doc Savage — The Man and Myth of Bronze.” Part of PulpFest’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of “The Man of Bronze,” it was also this year’s FarmerCon presentation. Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer….

(9) AUDIO ALARM. “Spotify’s new audiobook streaming could have ‘devastating effect’, says Society of Authors” – the Guardian has the story.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has said it is “deeply concerned” about Spotify’s new audiobook provision. The industry body cited “the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists’ incomes”, and expressed its fear that authors may suffer in a similar way.

“The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times,” a statement from the SoA read.

At the beginning of October, the Bookseller reported that “all of the major book publishers” had agreed limited streaming deals with Spotify. Since 4 October, Spotify Premium subscribers in the UK and Australia have been able to access to up to 15 hours of audiobook content per month, from a catalogue of more than 150,000 titles.

“As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms,” the SoA said. “Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.”…

(10) KEITH GIFFEN (1952-2023). Keith Giffen, whose 47 years in the comics business were heavily SF-themed, died  October 9 at the age of 70. The veteran writer and artist’s work included DC’s Lobo and the Jamie Reyes version of the Blue Beetle and Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon. The full details of his career are in his Wikipedia entry.

(11) PHYLLIS COATES (1927-2023) Phyllis Coates, known as TV’s first Lois Lane, died October 11 reports Deadline.

Phyllis Coates, who became television’s first Lois Lane when she was cast in the classic Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves, died yesterday of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 96.

In 1951, Coates was invited to audition for the role of Lois Lane in the low-budget feature film Superman and the Mole Men. Starring Reeves as Superman, the film was a de facto TV pilot, and by the end of the year both Reeves and Coates were asked to join the upcoming TV series.

Coates stayed with the series for only one season – 1952-53… Until her death, Coates was the last surviving regular cast member of the classic superhero series.

Though best remembered for Superman, Coates would build an extensive roster of TV and film credits in a career that lasted well into the 1990s. She appeared in the now-classic monster movie I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and … later, one 1994 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which she played the mother of Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Mystic. Charlatan possibly. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he later turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 58. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 57. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. 

(13) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos of last night’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with David D. Levin and Matthew Kressel.

(14) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine on oxtail stew with Lauren Beukes in Episode 209 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lauren Beukes

At this year’s Readercon, my first guest of the weekend was Lauren Beukes, who I first met at the very start of her novel publishing career — at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, where Angry Robot Books held a launch party which included Moxyland. That party also debuted the first novel of previous guest of the podcast Kaaron Warren, who was launching her own book Slights.

In addition to Moxyland, Beukes is also the author of the novels Zoo City (winner of the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award), The Shining GirlsBroken MonstersAfterland, and her newest novel, BridgeThe Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer and the survivor who turns the hunt around is currently an Apple TV+ series with Elisabeth Moss. She’s also the author of the short story collection, Slipping, plus a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

Beukes has worked also in worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC. Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, and the New York Times best-selling Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom, a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as “The Trouble With Cats,” a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack.

We discussed why the genre community is like a giant amoeba, how her choice of D&D character is in perfect sync with the way she writes, the reason she only recently realized she has ADHD (and why her new novel Bridge is definitely an ADHD book), why AI can never replace writers, the ways in which the protagonist of her new novel is different from all her other protagonists, the importance of authenticity readers, why acquiring editors at publishing companies are like restaurant critics, the importance of art in helping us find our way through the darkness, the reason you shouldn’t be so hard on your younger self, how she uses the Tarot to get unstuck, and much, much more.

(15) PLANT EXTINCTION RISK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 45% of all flowering species of plant are at risk of extinction, is just one of the sobering statistics in the Royal Botanic Gardens latest State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023 reportThe fifth edition of State of the World’s Plants and Fungi, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), focuses on the latest knowledge on the diversity and geographical distribution of plants and fungi.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used models to predict the extinction risk of every flowering plant species and identify the uncertainty level of each prediction. The report looks back at all the plant species known to us and there threat of extinction classification. Further, it looked at when each species was discovered and its extinction threat. The researchers found that the earlier a species had been discovered, the lower its extinction threat: recently discovered species were more at risk. Extrapolating this into yet-to-be-discovered species, the conclusion is that these would be even more prone to extinction. The report says that there are 77% undescribed plant species are likely threatened with extinction. And there are many species yet to be discovered. Taking flowering plants alone, the report estimates that potentially tens of thousands of flowering plant species have yet to be scientifically named.

Since 2015, a project to have all tree species assessed for the IUCN (the UN’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List, has so far found that 31% of tree species are at risk of extinction. And this does not include tree species yet to be discovered for whom the extinction risk is higher.

But there are notable black holes in the data. Given the history of fungal species discovery, it is estimated that 92% and 95% of fungi have yet to be scientifically described. Since the beginning of 2020, more than 10,200 fungal species have been described as new to science.  (See Antonelli, A. et al (2023) State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, Middlesex, Great Britain.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Orphan Black: Echoes Teaser Trailer”.

#OrphanBlackEchoes, starring Krysten Ritter and Keeley Hawes, premieres in 2024 on AMC, BBC America, and AMC+.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge Scott Edelman, John Coxon, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/23 Make Your Scroll Kind Of Pixel Even If Nobody Else Scrolls Along

(1) TICKET AGENCY OFFERS CHENGDU WORLDCON ADMISSIONS. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The SF Light Year Weibo account posted on August 11 that Chengdu Worldcon tickets would be put up for sale on a Ticketmaster-style service. [Screencap of computer-translated post.]

Damai listing page which has much the same info. [Screencap of computer-translated post.]

Here’s a 2017 text story in Google’s cache confirming that Damai is a Ticketmaster equivalent: “Alibaba acquires China’s biggest ticket seller Damai”.

In itself, I don’t think this story is particularly controversial or bad, but just another indicator that this is a Worldcon like no other before…

(2) SOMETHING BORROWED. WorldCat identifies the “Top 25 books requested via interlibrary loan January through June 2023”. There are at least three sff books including R.F. Kuang’s Babel.

Here are the 25 books most frequently requested for interlibrary loan from January through June 2023 through the OCLC resource sharing network of 10,000+ libraries worldwide.

(3) SUPERMEN BEFORE SUPERMAN. Bleeding Cool remembers when “George Bernard Shaw Sent Lawyers After DC Comics About Superman”. The post is based on the “Superman 1939 Jerry Siegel Internal Memo Memorabilia” up for auction at ComicConnect.

…But back in 1938, there were other accusations in play. Readers have noted that Superman bore some resemblance to the lead character of Philip Wylie‘s Gladiator novel from 1930. Less than a year after Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, National Comics executive Jack Liebowitz was sending this letter to Siegel that suggests that Wylie had actually acted upon his threats of a lawsuit. And that the same attorney was also representing George Bernard Shaw, author of the play Man and Superman, suggesting George Bernard Shaw he was also being represented in legal negotiations with National Comics….

(4) ROUND TWO. {Item by Mike Kennedy.] Here’s a companion piece for the ongoing Internet Archive book copyright issue. “Record Labels File $412 Million Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Internet Archive” at Rolling Stone.

Complaint claims organization’s “Great 78 Project,” which includes music from Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and more serves as an “illegal record store”

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Capitol, and other record labels filed a copyright lawsuit on Friday against Internet Archive, founder Brewster Kahle, and others over the organization’s “Great 78 Project,” accusing them of behaving as an “illegal record store.” The suit lists 2,749 pre-1972 musical works available via Internet Archive by late artists, including Frank SinatraElla FitzgeraldChuck BerryBillie HolidayLouis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby, among others.

The suit, which was filed in federal court and reviewed by Rolling Stone, claims the Internet Archive’s “Great 78 Project” — launched by Internet Archive as a community project for “the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records,” according to its blog — has violated copyright laws. By “transferring copies of those files to members of the public, Internet Archive has reproduced and distributed without authorization Plaintiffs’ protected sound recordings,” the suit alleges.

The Internet Archive blog’s explanation of the The Great 78 Project says in part:

…We aim to bring to light the decisions by music collectors over the decades and a digital reference collection of underrepresented artists and genres. The digitization will make this less commonly available music accessible to researchers in a format where it can be manipulated and studied without harming the physical artifacts. We have preserved the often very prominent surface noise and imperfections and included files generated by different sizes and shapes of stylus to facilitate different kinds of analysis.

78s were mostly made from shellac, i.e., beetle resin, and were the brittle predecessors to the LP (microgroove) era. The format is obsolete, and just picking them up can cause them to break apart in your hands.  There’s no way to predict if the digital versions of these 78s will outlast the physical items, so we are preserving both to ensure the survival of these cultural materials for future generations to study and enjoy…

(5) REASONS TO LISTEN. [Item by Steven French.] Interesting review of a BBC Proms – Prom 36: A Space Odyssey, a concert available on BBC Sounds until October 9th:

The Guardian’s Tim Ashley says: “Prom 36 A Space Odyssey: LPO/Gardner review – unsettling and awesome”.

Strauss’s Zarathustra, meanwhile, was rich in drama and detail, the playing finely focused and sensually immediate. We can easily forget that, like 2001, it deals with human evolution. But it also has points in common with Ligeti’s Requiem, notably its comparably ambivalent ending, oscillating between keys to an irresolute silence and asking more questions than it can ever answer. Ligeti was apparently uncertain about their juxtaposition. Kubrick, you realise, knew exactly what he was doing in putting them together.

(6) A TELE-ALL BOOK. Tom Easton and Frank Wu have a new book coming out – ESPionage: Regime Change — Frank’s first novel, Tom’s 13th. It’s about psychics in the CIA battling Russians trying to assassinate the US President. Pre-order the ebook  on Amazon.com, or order the paperback edition when it’s available on August 28.

There’s mind-reading, telekinesis, and telepyrosis! Love and romance! Guns & explosions! A gun hidden in a camera! A fighting style based on 70’s rock! A bad iPhone game that’s really spy software! Secret messages sent in a Paul Simon song! Excitement and action action action!  

Amazing Stories did a Q&A with Frank in honor of the occasion: “Unexpected Questions with Frank Wu”. It includes a whole alternate history scenario built around the career of astronaut John Glenn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though in the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part was awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not yet read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 — Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Vians in “The Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1932 John Berkey. Artist whose best-known work includes much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy. He also did a lot of genre cover art such as the 1974 Ballantine Books cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (I read that edition), and the 1981 Ace cover of Zelazny’s Madwand which I think is the edition I read. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 58. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of VengeanceDracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun. Anyone remember the latter? I liked it a lot. 
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 46. Though you might know him from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on the animated Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter.
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 33. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I finally got around to watching and it’s absolutely fascinating. I will also admit it’s nice to see a SF series that’s truly adult in nature with realistic violence.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUGGESTED PROTECTIVE CONTRACT LANGUAGE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Deborah Beale — who, in addition to being married to Tad Williams, has a substantial background in the business side of genre publishing — posted a useful boilerplate statement for authors concerned about large language models based on something in one of Mercedes Lackey’s contracts.

(10) MAKE A CRITICAL ROLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Herein is the tale of how one man turned being a D&D Game Master into a full time job and a multi-million dollar business. “The Game Master” at Slate.

…Today he is, without question, the most famous Dungeons & Dragons player in the world. Every Thursday, he and a group of friends gather in a studio for the latest episode of Critical Role—a show, broadcast on the livestreaming platform Twitch, which doubles as Mercer’s weekly tabletop RPG campaign. The structure should be familiar to anyone who’s palmed a 20-sided die in their youth: Mercer, as Game Master, is the primary storyteller. He provides the narrative elements, motifs, and obstacles for his players, who reciprocate by embodying a band of high-fantasy ne’er-do-wells who explore the world he’s created. (There’s been Pike the gnomish cleric, Vex the half-elf ranger, and Grog the Goliath barbarian to name a few.) Together—seated around a set made to look like the torchlit halls of a stone-wrought castle—they roll dice, slay monsters, and dream up their very own Lord of the Rings–sized epic. In one episode, the crew descends into a labyrinthine sewer system to fight off a massive spider. In another, they infiltrate a royal ball that exists between dimensions. Dungeons & Dragons is essentially an exercise in collaborative storytelling, which means Critical Role is unedited and unscripted—those who tune in watch the saga unfold in real time.

This was a radical premise when the show launched in 2015. Dungeons & Dragons was not considered to be spectator entertainment—much less an entrepreneurial enterprise—at any point throughout its previous 40-year history. Nobody, least of all Mercer, expected Critical Role to be a hit….

(11) I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW. “How The Witcher Will Explain Geralt Changing from Henry Cavill to Liam Hemsworth Seems Clear Now” according to Redanian Intelligence. Their theory is at the link.

The Witcher Season 4 will replace its titular character, Geralt of Rivia. Henry Cavill will no longer don the ash-white wig, the suit of armor, and the twin swords. The Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth will step into Cavill’s very large shoes and become the new Geralt starting with Season 4. Though we reported not long ago that filming of Season 4 has been delayed to 2024 due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, Netflix is still very much determined to produce this next season of the show. One of the few officially confirmed plot points of this fourth season involves Geralt of Rivia’s new face….

(12) AI UP TO BAT. [Item by Steven French.] “’Only AI made it possible’: scientists hail breakthrough in tracking British wildlife” reports the Guardian. If they help us spot more pipistrelle bats, then I for one welcome our AI overlords!

…“Bats almost certainly use railway bridges for roosting,” Dancer told the Observer. “So if we can get more detailed information about the exact locations of their roosts using AI monitors, we can help protect them.”

This point was underlined by Strong. “In the past, we have had to estimate local wildlife populations from the dead animals – such as badgers – that have been left by the track or the roadside. This way we get a much better idea of population sizes.”…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Ersatz Culture, Rich Horton, Danny Sichel, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/12/23 O Beautiful For Pixeled Files

(1) ACTION IS YOUR REWARD! [Item by Chuck Serface.] The next issue of The Drink Tank is dedicated to all things Spider-Man.  We’re looking for articles, artwork, fiction, poetry, photography, or whatever you’d like to share about Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Ben Reilly, Spider-Woman, Ghost-Spider, Silk, Venom, Carnage, or others throughout the Spider-Verse from comics, films, television, and beyond.  The deadline is August 25, 2023.  Send submissions to Chris Garcia at [email protected] or to Chuck Serface at [email protected].

(2) SUPPORT STARMEN. Author Francis Hamit, a longtime File 770 contributor, has launched a Kickstarter appeal for his novel Starmen. Jacqueline Lichtenberg has these words of praise for it: “I read the manuscript of this book. As is all of Hamit’s work, it is engrossing, well-paced, easily readable storytelling. But the mixture of history, imagination, and insightful extrapolation doesn’t fit current commercial genre formulae. Notably, even after years, I recall many vivid images from the book that should be set pieces from an Indiana Jones movie.”

Every donor gets the E-book Edition for a dollar, and there are additional perks for other contribution levels. What’s it about?

It’s a detective story that begins at the El Paso office of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1875. That also makes it historical.  A huge balloon arrives with a group from the British Ethnographic Society. With them is George James Frazer, a young academic from Cambridge who wants to study the Apaches. The balloon is commanded by Rose Green, a beautiful young woman who is the daughter of Confederate secret agent Rose Greenhow.  The balloon is surveying for minerals and is a threat to the USA and the Apaches and Mexico.  A young Apache boy working for Pinkerton’s becomes Frazer’s guide. He says that Apache witches can fly…and later proves it by flying himself!  The balloon intrudes on a sacred place and its crew encounters multiple troubles but Frazer, left with the Apaches, almost becomes one of them. Pinkerton’s is hired to find the balloon and the missing heir to a wealthy Chicago family. Two detectives, one of them newly hired and suspected of being an agent of the Confederate government in exile in Britain, go in search of the heir.  Their journey takes them to a curious small town taken over by a hotelier whose customers come from far away; very far away.  Famous gunfighters are one of the amusements provided with showdowns and barfights every day.  The Strangers win every fight.  The missing heir has been arrested for killing a Stranger in a bar fight.   He cannot buy his way out of it and appeals to the detectives for help. There are also romantic, magical subplots.  

Francis Hamit models the Starman book cover shirt, one of the available donor perks.

(3) INTERVIEW WITH CHINA FAN RIVERFLOW. [Item by mlex.] Emad Aysha of the Egyptian Science Fiction Society just posted an interesting interview with RiverFlow, editor of an online SF zine in China, Zero Gravity Newspaper“The Sci-Fi Overflow – From China’s Fanzines and Moviemakers to a World in Waiting” at The Liberum. This provides some more context to fandom in China on the eve of Worldcon Chengdu.

Please introduce yourself.
“My name is RiverFlow. I have been organising the historical materials of Chinese university sci-fi clubs and fanzines, Chinese fandom.

I first came to know the concept of sci-fi writing after reading an introduction article by Baoshu(宝树) in the Chinese literary magazine “Literary Style Appreciation”(《文艺风赏》). In 2019, when I was searching for science and technology information on the official website of “Global Science magazine”(《环球科学》), I inadvertently turned to Liu Cixin’s Ball Lightning(《球状闪电》) and began to create some sci-fi practice works, but only conversational, and I did not write after eight novels.

At that time, I had a severe stomach illness, so I wrote novels and poems to relax my mind, and at that time the pen name was “Running RiverFlow”(奔腾的河流). In May 2020, with the help of Chinese science fiction researcher Sanfeng(三丰), I started to contact the Chinese sci-fi circle, began to organise the historical data of the Chinese sci-fi fan community, and interviewed more than 80 Chinese sci-fi practitioners.

There was no same work in China in the past, and a group of sci-fi fans in “zero gravity”(零重力科幻)who gave me a lot of comfort and support during the process of my illness, so I wanted to do something for them, and I did not expect to do it now. I am an entry member of the “Chinese science fiction database”(中文科幻数据库), so I have been exposed to this article a lot, and the concept of science fiction writers is a little unsympathetic….

(4) MEET EGYPTIAN SF AUTHOR EMAD AYSHA. [Item by Mlex.]  For those interested in SF in the Arab Muslim world and Eqypt, there is also a recent interview that I conducted with Emad Aysha for Diamond Bay Radio:  “Arab and Muslim SF with Emad Aysha”.

An interview with Dr. Emad Aysha, author and member of the Egyptian Society for Science Fiction.

Emad introduces Arab and Muslim Science Fiction: Critical Essays, a major survey of the genre, which he co-edited with Dr. Hosam El-Zembely (McFarland, 2022)

The vast range of this book is stunning. It covers 45 contributors, 29 countries, 4 continents, and many languages. Biographical notes and photos: PDF. Complete publication details.

Emad also describes the popular science fiction and fantastic pulps that crowded the news stands of Egypt in the 1990s, and their main authors, Nabil Farouk and Ahmed Towfik.

Fantasy? Futurism? Dystopia? The science fiction of the greater Arab and Muslim world is a dimension in creativity that is little known in the English speaking world. Join us to find out about the multi-layered cultures, religions, and imaginary altered states that stretch from desert… to mountain… to archipelago.

(5) PITCH IN. Kameron Hurley issued an appeal for help funding her dog’s vet care. (Lovely photo at the link.)

Indy the saint bernard is in a bad way and spouse has covid and we’re flat broke, so if you can spare a couple bucks for the emergency vet on this hell timeline we’d all appreciate it

Transmit funds vis PayPal or venmo Kameron-Hurley.

(6) THE FAITH OF THE EXORCIST. “William Friedkin’s Movie ‘The Exorcist’ Understands Old-Time Catholicism”, an opinion piece in the New York Times by Matthew Walther, editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal.

 It is one of those strange accidents of history that the best film ever made about the Roman Catholic Church was directed by a Jewish agnostic. The career of William Friedkin, who died on Monday at 87, spanned seven decades, but to the end of his life, his best-known picture remained “The Exorcist,” a horror movie from 1973 about a demonically possessed girl whose mother enlists two Catholic priests to save her.

Despite the fact that Mr. Friedkin repeatedly acknowledged the essentially religious nature of the film, “The Exorcist” continues to be regarded, like his other signature movie, “The French Connection,” as a genre picture — a very well-crafted one, to be sure — rather than what it really is: an art film premised on the idea that the claims the Catholic Church makes for itself are true — not in some loose metaphorical sense but literally….

It appears that throughout his life Mr. Friedkin remained interested in demonic possession. In his old age he befriended Father Gabriele Amorth, a priest who served for many years as an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome and who allowed Mr. Friedkin to film an actual exorcism. In an interview in 2018, Mr. Friedkin was asked about his own religious beliefs. “I don’t know anything,” he said, “but neither does anyone else. No one knows anything about the eternal mysteries, how we got here, why we’re here, is there an afterlife. Is there a heaven and a hell? Who knows?”…

(7) SAN FRANCISCO’S DOWNWARD SPIRAL CONTINUES. “Owner giving up 2 big S.F. hotels now expects city’s recovery to take up to 7 years” reports the SF Chronicle. One of them – the Parc 55 – is where I stayed during the 1993 Worldcon.

Park Hotels & Resorts gave up two of the biggest hotels in San Francisco in a “difficult but necessary decision” that reflected a plunge in bookings and a pandemic recovery expected to take far longer than expected.

In an earnings call Thursday, CEO Thomas Baltimore elaborated on June’s announcement that the company would stop mortgage payments on a $725 million loan due in November for the 1,024-room Parc 55 and 1,921-room Hilton San Francisco Union Square, the city’s largest hotel.

…Park Hotels joins an exodus of investors and retailers from the hard-hit Powell Street and Union Square area, a critical tourism district and shopping hub. Westfield is giving up its namesake mall two blocks from Parc 55, where Nordstrom is preparing to close its store at the end of the month after 35 years in business. Saks Off Fifth and Old Navy have also shuttered within a block. Still, some luxury retailers are expanding in the area.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in three volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips. (Died 1962.)
  • Born August 12, 1881 Cecil B. DeMille. Yes, you think of him for such films as Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments, but he actually did some important work in our genre. When Worlds Collide and War of The Worlds were films which he executive produced. (Died 1959.)
  • Born August 12, 1921 Matt Jefferies.He’s best known for his work on the original Trek where he designed much of the sets and props including the Starship Enterprise, the Klingon logo, and the bridge and sick bay. The Jefferies tubes are named after him. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrote the original Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. He was hired to adapt “Flowers for Algernon” as a screenplay but the story goes that Cliff Robertson intensely disliked his screenplay and it was discarded for one by Stirling Silliphant that became Charly. Not genre at all, but he won an Academy Award for his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screenplay. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced Doctor Who from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished having become the longest-serving Doctor Who producer and cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Other than Who, he had a single production credit, the K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend film. He wrote two books, Doctor Who – The TARDIS Inside Out and Doctor Who: The Companions. He would die of a massive infection just a year before the announcement the show was being revived. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 12, 1957 Elaine Cunningham, 66. She’s best known for her work on Dungeons & Dragons, creating the campaign setting of Forgotten Realms, including the realms of EvermeetHalruaa, Ruathym and Waterdeep. She’s also wrote The Changeling Detective Agency series as well as a Star Wars novel, Dark Journey.
  • Born August 12, 1960 Brenda Cooper, 63. Best known for her YA Silver Ship series of which The Silver Ship and the Sea won an Endeavour Award, and her Edge of Dark novel won another such Award. She co-authored Building Harlequin’s Moon with Larry Niven, and a fair amount of short fiction with him. She has a lot of short fiction, much collected in Beyond the WaterFall Door: Stories of the High Hills and Cracking the Sky. She’s well-stocked at the usual suspects.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld delivers a few blood drops of truth from Dracula.

(10) SUPER ORIGINALS. You will believe a man can fly – if he’s thrown by another pro wrestler. Literary Hub’s Paul Martin takes a long look back “On the Men Who Lent Their Bodies (and Voices) to the Earliest Iterations of Superman”.

On a Friday night in May 1942, the Shadowland Ballroom in St. Joseph, Michigan, hosted a match between Karol Krauser, a Polish wrestler, and Gorilla Grubmyer. Grubmyer was an ugly man with cauliflower ears, and he had a habit of eye-gouging. Krauser was, as the local paper noted a few weeks before, “the poor girls’ Robert Taylor in a G-string”—in other words, a gentleman-hero. “Karol is a champion, and wrestles like one. He refuses to stick his tongue out at the referee, won’t bite very hard, and deplores amateur histrionics.” He was also the model for Superman.

 To be more specific, he was the model for the version of Superman that appeared in a series of cartoons made by the Fleischer Studios in Miami. It’s not clear when he posed for the studio team, but it was probably during the previous summer, when he was performing in matches at the city’s Tuttle Arena, one of them a battle royale in which he and eight other wrestlers hurled each other at a 500-pound black bear….

(11) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the August 9 Fantastic Fiction at KGB where C.S.E. Cooney and Steve Berman graced the audience reading their work.

(12) CRUNCHY BITS. “Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway Is Full of Earthly Wonders, Too” promises Atlas Obscura.

Driving Through an Interstellar Impact Event

Leif Tapanila, paleontologist and director of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, has spent years studying the area’s desert, craggy hills, and mountain peaks of tan and brown. He can read the rocks like the pages of a tattered novel, and says visitors driving the Extraterrestrial Highway looking for evidence of alien invaders are surrounded by it—only they’re about 380 million years too late.

The best place to see evidence of what Nevada was like during this period is about 13 miles west of the town of Crystal Springs, where an unmarked turnoff takes you about a quarter-mile to the base of a wedge-shaped hill. Here, tilted layers of pale limestone are interrupted by a thicker gray section, the telltale pattern of a marine environment disrupted by a catastrophic event.

“The whole area was a shallow sea. It would have looked like the Bahamas, warm and tropical with all sorts of underwater life,” says Tapanila. In an instant, a space rock estimated to be at least a mile wide slammed into the teeming waters of Nevada’s Devonian Period. The massive meteor strike sent shockwaves across the sea, creating megatsunamis as tall as 1,000 feet. Geologists estimate that the monstrous waves carried debris across 1,500 square miles, an expanse nearly the size of Rhode Island.

The destructive event, known as the Alamo Impact, scattered countless organisms and tons of sediment. The rocks along Route 375 contain fossilized sponges, corals, fish, and a cement-like rock conglomerate known as breccia that formed from the heat of the impact. …

VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George (both of them) bring us “Secret Invasion Pitch Meeting”.

Disney and Marvel Studios have been absolutely churning out content in the past few years with a ton of shows hitting their streaming service Disney+. Secret Invasion has come out after a deluge of other superhero shows and people seem to be… tired of this? Secret Invasion definitely raises some questions. Like why didn’t the show play more with the mystery of who is a Skrull and who isn’t? Why doesn’t Nick Fury call the Avengers? If this fight is so personal, why doesn’t he actually fight it? How are all the powers in the final fight even being used? To answer all these questions, check out the pitch meeting that led to Secret Invasion!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, mlex, Chuck Serface, 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 jayn.]