Pixel Scroll 2/23/24 (This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance

(1) PROLOGUE. Daniel Dern is champing at the bit to explain today’s Scroll title “(This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance”.

Deets: Via the Kern & Fields song “A Fine Romance”, “…written for the musical film, Swing Time, where it was co-introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”

Here’s that video clip:

And one of my favorite recordings by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong who have several great duets albums/CD/etc’s!

(2) GAIMAN AUCTION. Courtesy of Gary Farber, a gift link to the New York Times story “Neil Gaiman on the Collectibles He’s Auctioning”. Many pictures of comics and other art.

… Gaiman will donate part of the auction proceeds to the Hero Initiative, which is an emergency fund for comics creators, and the Authors League Fund, which benefits writers in financial hardship; he will also give living artists whose work sells part of the proceeds. The items are on display at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and bidding starts on Friday.

More than 100 pieces are up for sale, and Gaiman pointed to some highlights….

The whole shooting match can be seen at Heritage Auctions. The card uses a piece of art by Mike Kaluta.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on sushi with Ray Nayler in Episode 219 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ray Nayler

Nayler is the author of the Locus Award-winning debut novel The Mountain in the Sea, which was also a finalist for the Nebula Award and the L.A. Times Book Awards’ Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. He began publishing speculative fiction in 2015 in Asimov’s, and since then, his stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ViceNightmare, and other magazines. His story “Yesterday’s Wolf” won the 2022 Clarkesworld Readers’ poll, and the same year, his story “Muallim” won the Asimov’s Readers’ Award, his story “Father”, in French translation, won the Bifrost readers’ award, and his novelette “Sarcophagus” was a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award.

In addition to his speculative fiction, Ray has published in many other genres, from mainstream literary fiction to comics. Those have appeared in Ellery QueenCrimewaveHardboiledCemetery DanceDeathrealmQueen’s Quarterly, the Berkeley Fiction Review, and other journals. He’s also a widely published poet, with work in the Atlanta Review, the Beloit Poetry JournalWeaveJukedAble MuseSentence, and many more. He is currently Diplomatic Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at The George Washington University.

We discussed how his time living outside the U.S. helped him become a better science fiction writer, why he feels the greatest effect of having written The Mountain in the Sea was a culinary one, the reason we agree our favorite part of writing is rewriting, the sad results of his accidental Facebook experiment, whether his mammoth memory behavior is based on scientific facts or is purely speculative, why we’ll likely never be able to truly resurrect extinct species, how changes in culture can affect evolution, the train trip where he received career advice from a stranger he didn’t realize was Neil Gaiman, why we aren’t totally in control of our writing destines, how he’s haunted by the ghost of an alternate version of himself, plus much more.

(4) RADIO FREE FANDOM. Chris Barkley must feel like he’s reached the top of Mt. Olympus – he and Jason Sanford were interviewed for NPR’s “Morning Edition”. Listen here: “The Hugo Awards scandal has shaken the sci-fi community”.

And the dynamic duo were interviewed for the Retro Rockets podcast “RetroRockets With Chris Barkley & Jason Sanford”.

(5) SHOCKED THAT ‘YEET’ IS NOT IN MY ARCHAIC LANGUAGE DICTIONARY. [Item by Anne Marble.] We all need some lighter discourse. Here is a great response (from author Moniza Hossain) to another “hot take.”

The book in question “That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf” by Kimberly Lemming. She is a Black author who has been building her brand. And clearly has a great sense of humor.

She is aware of the recent posts and has a fun response here. It turns out that the “Yeet” title is actually the fault of people who criticized her for using modern language in her fantasy novels.

Another reaction:

(6) MY LITTLE PONY UNDER SUSPICION IN RUSSIA. “Moscow Police Investigated a ‘My Little Pony’ Convention for Alleged LGBTQ+ Propaganda”Them.us has the story.

This past weekend, the organizers of a My Little Pony convention in Moscow shut down the festivities early after police were called to investigate the event for alleged “LGBTQ propaganda.”

As the Associated Press reported, the organizers of Mi Amore Fest posted to the Russia social media site VK on Sunday, writing that police had received a complaint about the event promoting “non-traditional relationships and related symbols, adult content for minors, and general horror and darkness.”

Police were unable to find any confirmation of these allegations, but asked for the convention to be shut down a few hours early on Saturday, according to the post. The organizers additionally chose to end the event even earlier than the police asked, after hearing unconfirmed reports of additional officers heading to the venue, per the Associated Press. Both attendees and organizers were able to leave without incident.

My Little Pony has minimal canonical LGBTQ+ representation, but the franchise has been the subject of some scrutiny in Russia, especially in the wake of the country’s recent ruling against anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” In November, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the “international public LGBT movement” is an “extremist organization,” and banned all forms of related activism (which includes displaying LGBTQ+ “paraphernalia or symbols”). Shortly after the ruling was issued, the Russian streaming service Kinopoisk changed its age rating for My Little Pony to 18+, according to Pink News. (There has been speculation that the change was due to the character Rainbow Dash, who has a rainbow-colored mane and tail. )…

(7) MORE ON MARK MERLINO. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr is “Remembering Mark Merlino (1952-2024), a founder and soul of furry fandom” with a well-researched tribute.

…After 5 decades at the heart of it all, Mark’s elder health problems led to hospitalization at the new year in 2024. He was lovingly supported by friends and partners and a crowdfund until he passed away on February 20. Anime, furry, and brony networks lit up with condolences from around the world while the name Mark Merlino trended on social media next to mainstream celebrities.

He is survived by partners including Rod, and Changa who joined them for 28 years. They were united by love and creativity, but as queer people, their relationship was fundamental to the acceptance and expression that aligns many furries with queer culture. Fandom may be a hobby, but it’s also a way to show identity, and theirs was the soul of what furries are.

Mark contributed stories to Dogpatch Press. With eyes on the future, his 2022 look at Furality featured its hugely successful 15,000 attendance. He also wrote 2020’s A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club. Then there were meetings in person….

(8) NIKLAUS WIRTH (1934-2024). The New York Times pays tribute to the creator of the Pasacal programming language, who died January 1: “Niklaus Wirth, Visionary Software Architect, Dies at 89”.

…In 1970, while teaching at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, Dr. Wirth released Pascal, the programming language that powered early Apple computers and initial versions of applications like Skype and Adobe Photoshop. He also built one of the first personal computers and was instrumental in helping a Swiss start-up commercialize the mouse. (The start-up, Logitech, became one of the world’s largest makers of computer accessories.)

The Association for Computing Machinery honored Dr. Wirth in 1984 with the Turing Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing. Other recipients have included Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vinton G. Cerf, who wrote the code that powers communication on the internet.

For Dr. Wirth, simplicity was paramount in computing, and he created Pascal — named after Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician and calculator inventor — as a simpler alternative to languages like BASIC, which he deemed too cumbersome.

BASIC forced programmers to “jump all over the place, writing spaghetti code,” Philippe Kahn, a former student of Dr. Wirth’s who later founded several tech companies, told the New York Times reporter Steve Lohr in an interview for his book “Go To” (2001), a history of software.

“Pascal forced people to think clearly about things and in terms of data structures,” Mr. Kahn said. He added: “Wirth’s influence is extremely deep because so many of the people who were taught in real computer science programs learned Pascal. It was the language of classical thinking in computing.”…

(9) PAMELA SALEM (1944-2024). Actress Pamela Salem, who had James Bond film and Doctor Who roles on her resume, died February 21 reports Deadline.

… She played Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny in Sean Connery’s 1983 film Never Say Never Again

Salem made guest appearances in Doctor Who as Professor Rachel Jensen, first appearing in 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks episodes with Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor.

She reprised the character in Counter-Measures, a Big Finish audio spin-off series. The more recent story in the series, The Dalek Gambit, was released in 2020.

She also guest starred in Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures (reunited with Tom Baker) and then reprised the role of Toos in The Robots.

Other screen roles included 1978 crime film The Great Train Robbery and The West Wing, in which she featured as fictional UK prime minister Maureen Graty. ER and Blake’s 7 were also notable credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett Roddenberry. (Died 2008.) Majel Barrett. Number One.  Nurse Chapel. Computer. Betazoid. Widow of a Centauri emperor. 

She first appeared in the initial Trek pilot, “The Cage” as the Enterprise’s first officer. Number One, as she was called, is a title that was from there forwarded through the Trek universes, though not as their only name usually. 

Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel

Even before she was cast in this role, she was already involved with Roddenberry. So every reliable Trek source agrees that the network executives were extremely, well, pissed off that the girlfriend of a married man was cast in a series they were going to be broadcasting. So she had to go. And hence we got Spock instead.

So instead she was cast as Christine Chapel, a nurse, one assumes more to the least grumbling acceptance of the network bosses. (Though some Trek sources claimed they were still extremely annoyed at her presence in the series. Idiots.) Chapel made her first appearance the revised script of “The Naked Time.” Of the seventy-nine episodes, she would appear in twenty-five of them. I think she was in some of the films but I can’t confirm that and it’s been too long for me to remember if that’s true.

I said Computer above, and yes she provided the voice of the computer system starting off with the original series, but it continued on from there to include the computers of Next Generation and Voyagers ships, the Deep Space Nine station and the ships in these films — GenerationsFirst Contact, InsurrectionNemesis, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, Star Trek. She also reprised her role as a shipboard computer’s voice in two episodes of the prequel series Enterprise

Then there’s Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed who is also, Goddess help us, the Betazoid ambassador to the Federation. I’ll admit that I never warmed to her character, but then Picard didn’t really either. Mother of Deanna (who I felt they never played right), it’s a role that just never sat right with me.

She made just six appearances here and three on Deep Space Nine.

She appeared, live or animated, in her lifetime in nearly all series that were produced.

She got cast in other Roddenberry productions, too. She appeared as Primus Dominic in Genesis II pilot; as Dr. Bradley in The Questor Tapes and as Lilith the housekeeper in the Spectre pilot. 

She also appeared in Michael Crichton’s Westworld as Miss Carrie.

Remember Earth: Final Conflict?  She played the character Dr. Julianne Belman in it. Well she stitched it together from notes that Roddenberry left after his death and she executive produced it. 

Finally in a role I thought was pitch perfect she was in the Babylon 5 “Point of No Return” as Lady Morella, the widow of the Centauri emperor and she was psychic. Her role which was used to set-up a major story line.

I could go on, but I don’t think I will. 

So what’s your favorite story about her?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! suggests I was wrong when I assumed superhero sidekicks were independent contractors.

Tom Gauld has new cartoons.

(12) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] Today’s first round of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions had a whole category in the Double Jeopardy round.

First, in the Jeopardy round, there was this:

1960’s Fiction, $200: The Mrs. W’s (Whatsit, Who, and Which) are guides through the universe in this Madeleine L’Engle classic

Suresh Krishnan asked: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

Then in Double Jeopardy we had Pop Culture Dragons. Introducing the category, Ken Jennings quipped, “Not like the real ones.” I’ll present the clues in the order the contestants encountered them.

$1600: In a series of books by Cressida Cowell, this son of Stoick the Vast can speak Dragons & learns to train a dragon

Triple stumper: nobody knew this was Hiccup.

$2000: A Daily Double, found by Suresh, who wagered $3000. (All his money).

Falkor the white Luck Dragon helps Atreyu in this epic fantasy film from Wolfgang Petersen

Suresh did not come up with “The Neverending Story”.

The contestants then went through every clue in every other category before coming back to this one.

$400: Stuff the Magic Dragon is the name of the mascot for the NBA team that plays home games in this city

Emily Sands said, “What is Orlando?” (The team would be the Orlando Magic.)

$800: After killing the Ender Dragon in this “blockbuster” video game, players receive a dragon egg as a trophy

Matthew Marcus: “What is Minecraft?”

$1200: Instead of a standard written clue, we saw a picture of a group of musicians standing in front of a backdrop labeled with logos, reading things like “Golden Gods”, “Fireball”, and “Hammer”. Ken read the clue: 

Where Dragons Dwell” is a swell song from this band that took its name from the Japanese word for Godzilla.

Suresh tried, “What is Gorillaz?” but this was wrong. Matthew got it right with, “What is Gojira?”

(13) WHEN ZINES WALKED THE EARTH. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Warning: There are no sff fanzines in exhibit. “When Zines Walked the Earth” at the New York Times. “An extraordinary exhibition of dissident and countercultural takes at the Brooklyn Museum shows the power of the copy machine….”

The curators of “Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines” at the Brooklyn Museum, the art historians Branden Joseph and Drew Sawyer, define them as low-budget, limited-circulation publications (short for “magazine” or “fanzine”) that are not political pamphlets or countercultural newspapers.

The show’s territory starts in 1969, coinciding with the widening availability of photocopy machines, and runs to the present.

Daniel Dernnotes the obvious: SF fanzines clearly predate all this. Aside from the obvious — “starts in 1969” — I’m not seeing any mention of (mimeo or spirit) duplicators, enchanted or otherwise. IIRC, I was introduced to (sf) fanzines early ’60s, by a friend/fan from camp, Ed Reed.

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines. Through March 31, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-501-6354, brooklynmuseum.org.

(14) CHINA SCHEME FOR HARASSING DISSIDENTS. “Leaked document trove shows a Chinese hacking scheme focused on harassing dissidents”NPR has the story.

A large trove of more than 500 sensitive technical documents posted online anonymously last week details one Chinese technology company’s hacking operations, target lists and marketing materials for the Chinese government.

The majority of the operations appear to be focused on surveilling and harassing dissidents who publicly criticize the Chinese government, including on global social media platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter.

Target lists reveal victims from at least 14 governments from Pakistan to Australia, as well as academic institutions, pro-democracy organizations in places like Hong Kong, as well as the military alliance NATO. The company was also bidding for work to surveil the minority Uyghur population in Xinxiang, a broader Chinese government program that major global human rights’ organizations around the world have heavily criticized. There are even pictures of custom devices used for spying, such as a recording device disguised as a power bank….

(15) BENNU BITS. “First Look at Asteroid Hints It’s a Fragment of a Lost Ocean World” says Science Alert.

NASA scientists are just getting started in their analysis of fragments brought back from the Bennu asteroid, and the early indications are that the material it contains originated from an ancient ocean world.

That assumption is based on the phosphate crust detected on the asteroid. The calcium and magnesium-rich phosphate mineral has never been seen before on meteorites – those small space rocks that make it through our atmosphere and down to Earth.

The mineral’s chemistry bears an eerie resemblance to that found in vapor shooting from beneath the icy crust of Saturn‘s moon, Enceladus….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/24 If I Could Talk Through The Ansibles

(1) VENITA BLACKBURN Q&A. “How Venita Blackburn Wrote a Sci-Fi Novel About Sex, Grief, and Debt Collection” at Interview Magazine.

RITA BULLWINKEL: Black Jesus and Other Superheroes and How to Wrestle a Girl are two of my favorite books I’ve ever read. And Dead in Long Beach, California, I just gobbled it whole in one sitting. I really feel like it is a book of science fiction. How do you feel about that genre camp? 

BLACKBURN: I don’t think about genre like that, so I don’t approach any kind of work with one tone or angle as the goal. I have to have the voice that matters to me. But for this one, I did have this intention of doing this sort of high fantasy sci-fi, speculative kind of world that was tethered to our current modern world in a way. And as I kept going, I figured out, “Oh, the thing that’s nagging me, the thing that’s most hard to write is actually the part that’s closer to reality, and that’s the part I need to start investing more of my energy in.” That was a turning point during the early drafting stages, where I had to readjust the proportions and the vision and the scope. But I always knew it was going to be a little bit out of this world. Of course, the original title was “Lesbian Assassins at the End of the World,” so I was definitely going to reach far beyond what we know in this tangible universe. So that was fun to write, especially during the pandemic, when I was very disconnected from humanity. I wanted to be someplace safer, someplace where I understood everything, where I knew what was going to happen. So I started to get invested in that process and, apparently, that is a pretty cross-genre kind of way of looking at a story. 

(2) LIVE FROM 1965. James Davis Nicoll fed the Young People Read Old SFF panel James Schmitz’ “Balanced Ecology” from a 1965 issue of Analog, and one of the nominees for the first Nebula Awards (1966). What did they think? Well, they didn’t hate it.

(3) NESFA NEWS. The 2023-2024 winners of the NESFA Short Story Contest were announced at Boskone 61 last weekend:

  • Winners (tie): Dragana Matovic of Serbia for the story “Outside the Rain Was Relentlessly Falling” and Dr. Jennifer Grimes of Milford, MA for the story “The Simulation: Subject Ashe Klinn”.
  • Runner-up: Michael Barron of Parkville, MD for the story “The Last Time My Twin Destroyed the World”.
  • Honorable Mention: Jessica Li of Fremont, CA for the story “Wed the Sea Angels”.
  • Honorable Mention: Tyler Robinson of Dexter, MO for the story “Acid Memory Reflux”.

(4) STANDING BY. Hazel’s Picture Gallery, the massive archive of fanhistorical photos hosted by Chaz Boston Baden, isn’t around right now, for reasons he shared on Facebook last month.

It turns out my unlimited hosting account was not as unlimited as I’d thought. In particular, it’s “not intended to be used for data backup or archiving purposes.” And 20-plus years and a quarter-terabyte of photos is clearly an archive of my own.

So I’m learning how I can rebuild the Gallery within my hosting service’s rules. It’s going to be a process, but we’ll get there.

(5) DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO OSCARLAND? “Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Jimmy Kimmel Spoof Barbie in Oscars Promo” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Jimmy Kimmel is ripping the Barbie parody band-aid a full month before the Oscars.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host dropped a five-minute short on Monday night, directed by JKL‘s Will Burke, hyping his March 10 gig emceeing the Academy Awards — re-creating many Barbie sets and reuniting four of its castmembers in a spoof that finds a hapless Kimmel trying to make his way to the Dolby Theatre. “Since the dawn of time, men have been getting lost,” says a voice-of-God Helen Mirren, spoofing her own narration of the Margot Robbie feature. “This is the story of one such dum-dum.”…

(6) THE MARVELS MINI-REVIEW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Marvels is now on Disney+ (as in, available to subscribers – we just watched it), and, I see, also on DVD/BluRay in libraries (having just checked my local library/network).

I liked this a lot. It was (IMHO) a fun, well-done ride throughout, with some unexpected scenes and bits.

Some brief possibly-helpful non-spoiler notes:

  • If you haven’t already watched the Ms. Marvel series (via Disney), it would help, I’m sure, so you know who (within the Marvel video universe) Ms Marvel is (there’s some powers differences vs the comics). And it’s a good show, well worth watching.
  • Captain Monica Rambeau’s story starts in WandaVision. I’m not sure watching WV for this is essential (they do one-line-summarize, which feels sufficient vis-a-vis the movie). IFTM (It Feels To Me)(and it’s implied/flashbacked) that some other of Rambeau’s character/backstory takes place in the Captain Marvel movie.

(One wonders what this movie might have been like if Rachel Brosnahan had been given that Cap M. role instead of Brie Larsen, yielding The Mazel-ous Ms Marvel 🙂 )

(7) NY FILM/TV TAX CREDIT CRITICIZED. “State-funded report says NY’s $700 million film tax credit is a bust” says Gothamist.

New York’s $700 million-a-year tax break for film and TV productions isn’t providing taxpayers with a good return on investment, according to a new analysis commissioned by the state itself….

…The state’s biggest industry-specific tax break belongs to the film industry, which gets $700 million a year to film or do post-production work in the Empire State. Hochul and legislative leaders are big supporters of the program, which has helped lure hundreds of productions over the years.

The tax break can be considerable. It covers up to 30% of a film’s qualified production costs, with another 10% available if productions are filmed in certain counties north of New York City. The credit is also refundable, meaning the state pays out the excess money if it exceeds a film production’s tax bill.

Last year, TV shows “Saturday Night Live,” “Blue Bloods,” “New Amsterdam” and “God Friended Me” all claimed the tax credit, totaling more than $20 million each, according to state records.

Beyond the lackluster return on investment, PFM’s report surmised that much of the filming that occurred in New York would have happened regardless of the tax credit….

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. Nancy Collins shared news with followers of her GoFundMe about her recovery from a blood clot in one of her lungs: “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”. Donors have given $6,708 of the $10,000 goal as of today.

February 7th, 2024 by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I had to adjust my goal upward because I just found out how much my Eliquis prescription is costing me even *with* insurance. Holy cow. As it is, I’m having trouble getting it filled. The doctor sent my prescription to the Walgreens I use Monday evening. It’s Wednesday morning and it’s still not in stock. Apparently the “Starter Pack” isn’t kept in stock at any of the Walgreens–or most pharmacies, for that matter. My PCP is trying to get me samples to tide me over. Luckily, I feel okay and have enough energy to go buy compression socks.

I am deeply touched by the response so far. Y’all are good peoples.

Today by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I saw my PCP today, and she said my lungs sound good and warned me from taking NSAIDS until I’m off the blood thinners. She also set up an outpatient appointment with a Cancer Care Center for next month, to check that my clotting issues have been resolved. Also, this is the last day I take 4 Eliquis–tomorrow I step down to 2 a day for the next 3 weeks. And it’s also Mardi Gras!
Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez to all of you who have helped by donating or passing along the link!

(9) GARY SWATY OBITUARY. Arizona fan Gary Swaty has died. The CoCoCon announcement on Facebook covered his lifetime of fanac.  

He’s been attending science fiction conventions for half a century.

The first con he worked was IguanaCon II, the 1978 Worldcon, here in Phoenix.

He chaired HexaCon 16 and CopperCon 28 and has worked most committee positions at a host of others, especially LepreCons and CopperCons, but also multiple Westercons, World Horror, World Fantasy, Anizona, MythosCon and RandomCon. Most recently he sponsored filk GoHs at CoKoCon.

Gary loved to read poetry on panels at various conventions. He was also a gaming fan and could be found at most of the local gaming conventions.

He was the editor’s assistant for years on ConNotations.

He’s served on the boards of LepreCon, Inc., CASFS and WesternSFA and still held positions on all three when he passed.

He was honoured at LepreCon 42, who made him their Fan GoH.

Perhaps most of all, he’s known for his association with filk, especially through the Phoenix Filk Circle, which he ran for many years.

Bruce D. Arthurs adds, “Hilde and I have known Gary for years, and always tried to catch up with each other at local conventions. One more face that will be missed.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 13, 1929 Carol Serling, (Died 2020.) I try here to write Birthdays that I’ve not done before which is how I come to be celebrating Carol Serling, wife of Rod Serling.

She was, as all her family and friends will tell you, the faithful defender and steward of his work. She was born Carolyn Louise Kramer and she married him in 1948; they were married just twenty-seven years until his heart simply didn’t survive open heart surgery at age fifty. 

Upon his death, she became rather active in preserving his legacy. She would become editor and television producer for many of The Twilight Zone-related enterprises including the third iteration of The Twilight Zone series in which she was an executive producer for the first twenty episodes.

She has but one acting credit, in Twilight Zone: The Movie’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment, as a passenger. She was a key consultant for this film. 

She was the executive producer on Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics, a two-story film.  Ms. Serling found these two unproduced stories by her husband in a trunk at her home. 

She donated many of his television scripts and movie screenplays to Ithaca College where her husband had taught courses in creative writing and film and television criticism. The gifts helped the college establish its Rod Serling Archives.

Now we come to her print publications. 

She edited five Twilight Zone anthologies (Journeys to the Twilight ZoneReturn to the Twilight ZoneAdventures in the Twilight ZoneTwilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary and More Stories from the Twilight Zone), plus the Rod Serling’s Night Gallery Reader with Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. 

With David Brode, she wrote Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone: The 50th Anniversary Tribute

I know that she was responsible for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine by licensing the name to Montcalm Publishing. She would be the associate publisher and consulting editor there. 

Carol told her daughters that she would like this poem to be read at the time of her death…

Mary Elizabeth Frye’s “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s strategy to save libraries.

(12) PYTHON KERFUFFLE. “John Cleese Responds To Eric Idle: ‘We Always Loathed Each Other’”Deadline recaps the brawl from X.com:

John Cleese is making it clear that he – and a few other Pythons – are in complete disagreement with long-ago co-star Eric Idle, who last weekend slammed manager (and daughter of Python co-founder Terry Gilliam) Holly Gilliam for what Idle suggested were the troupe’s dwindling finances.

“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” Idle posted on X/Twitter Saturday. “But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

Cleese left no doubt where he stands on the matter.

“I have worked with Holly for the last ten years,” the Fawlty Towers creator tweeted today, “and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with.”

Cleese continued, “Michael Palin has asked me to to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

Apparently there’s no love lost between Cleese and Idle, with the latter responding, when asked by an X follower if the two remain close, “I haven’t seen Cleese for seven years.” When another follower replied saying that made him sad, Idle responded, “Why. It makes me happy.”

Today, Cleese responded with an assessment so blunt some followers wondered if it was all a gag: “We always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.”

(13) PRIME CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. “Amazon Prime Video Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit Over Introduction of Ads” reports Cord Cutters News.

Some Amazon Prime customer were angry enough at Prime Video’s introduction of ads that decided to take legal action.

The retail giant is facing a proposed class action lawsuit filed on Friday that alleges it breached its terms of service and misled customers by introducing ads into Prime Video service and then requiring users to pay $2.99 to get rid of them. The Hollywood Reporter first spotted the lawsuit, and posted a copy of the lawsuit on its site.

Amazon turned on the ads to its Prime Video service after telegraphing the move a few months earlier. Executives said the ads would allow Amazon to continue investing in content without having to raise the price of the service. Unlike other subscription streaming services, Prime Video is a feature tied to the online retail company’s Prime service, so raising prices could’ve meant charging people who don’t even use the service a higher rate.

But beyond the introduction of ads, the new standard service also dials back sound and picture quality….

(14) DON’T POOH IN YOUR PANTS, BUT HE’S BACK… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] …and he brought along a new friend. “Tigger arrives in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ trailer” reports Entertainment Weekly.

A couple of years back, British filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield learned that the 1926 book Winnie-the-Pooh — which introduced the characters Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Christopher Robin — was about to fall into the public domain and decided to direct a horror film featuring the quartet. The low-budget result, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honeybecame a viral sensation after stills from the film hit the internet in May 2022.

At the time he was making the film, Frake-Waterfield was unable to feature the character of Tigger, who first appeared in 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner and had not yet bounced into the public domain. Pooh’s tiger buddy does, however, feature in the director’s sequel, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2, as you can see in the frightening first-look images of the horror franchise’s version of Tigger.

In the film, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl, and Tigger find their woodland home and their lives endangered after Christopher Robin reveals their existence. Not wanting to live in the shadows any longer, the group decides to take the fight to the town of Ashdown, leaving a bloody trail of death and mayhem in their wake….

(15) READER, I CLICKED. “Dinosaur Evergreens Thought Extinct for 2Mil Years Discovered by Park Ranger–the Grove is the ‘Find of the Century’” at the GoodNewsNetwork.

From Australia comes a story too cool to believe. Like a vegetable version of Jurassic Park or King Kong, a copse of pine trees from a species that evolved in the Cretaceous Era were found high in the mountains.

These living fossils, to use the classic phrase, survived both the comet impact and subsequent global firestorm that killed the dinosaurs, as well as two intervening ice ages to make it to our time, and Australian botanists are treating the specimens as a top-secret national treasure.

The Wollemi pine evolved 91 million years ago and went extinct according to the fossil record 2 million years ago, but in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, a stand of 90 specimens were found high in the more remote peaks in 1994.

For the past three decades, and in extreme secrecy, a team of specialists from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of Australia has been gradually planting small clumps of the Wollemi pine in other locations to help ensure it has every chance to see another 91 million years.

It helps the story that the Wollemi doesn’t look much like any pine tree you’ve seen in the woods by your house. Sporting Granny Smith apple-green foliage that grows in a pattern similar to a fern, it has a covering of bark reminiscent of Coco-puffs….

(16) GORT REPORT. Dan Monroe at Media Master Design tracks down “What Happened to GORT from The Day The Earth Stood Still?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the Argylle Pitch Meeting”.

Matthew Vaughn really made a name for himself with the ultra-stylized action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2014. Now he’s bringing us Argylle, with an absolutely stacked cast of actors who are sometimes in it! Argyle definitely raises some questions. Like why was Henry Cavill presented as the star of this movie when he’s in it for just a few minutes? How many twists is too many twists? What does The Division even do? Why did they let her publicly share their secrets for half a decade? What’s that cat doing here?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/24 No, That’s Not A Pixel, It’s A Cat Dreaming It’s A Pixel

(1) 2027 WORLDCON RACE HEATS UP. A Montréal in 2027 Worldcon bid was announced this weekend. The committee is led by Worldcon-running veteran Terry Fong, who lives there. Montréal previously hosted the 2009 Worldcon.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey were at Boskone today running a bid table – thanks to Lisa Hertel for this photo.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey at Boskone. Photo by Lisa Hertel.

According to Kevin Standlee their proposed site, the Palais des Congrès, is scheduled for a major renovation in 2028, so a bid for that year would not be practical.

The other announced bid for 2027 is WorldCon 2027 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Kaja Foglio has returned home from the hospital. Phil Foglio posted the good news.

(3) CHTORR GAME IN OUR FUTURE. David Gerrold has told Facebook readers that Dan Verssen Games has licensed the use of one of his Chtorr novels for a version of DVG’s Warfighter games series.

(4) VERSE WANTS TO BE FREE. Bobby Derie in “’A Dracula of the Hills’ (1923) by Amy Lowell” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein looks at the Lowell novel, what Lovecraft thought of Lowell, and how both were influenced by Bram Stoker’s novel.

… Time and experience somewhat mellowed Lovecraft’s attitudes towards free verse and Amy Lowell. While the 1922 publication of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” prompted Lovecraft to write his own satire in free verse, “Waste Paper.” For all that Lovecraft remained a lifelong devotee of traditional meters and rhyme schemes, continued interaction with poets that used free verse such as Hart Crane and Edith Miniter seems to have led him to a begrudging acceptance of the practice. When Amy Lowell died 12 May 1925, Lovecraft wrote:

“When I say that Miſs Lowell wrote poetry, I refer only to the essential contents—the isolated images which prove her to have seen the world transfigured with poetic glamour. I do not mean to say that the compleat results are to be judg’d as poems in any finish’d sense—but merely that there is poetical vision in the broken & rhythmical prose & disconnected pictorial presentations which she gave us. She is also, of course, the author of much genuine poetry in the most perfect metres—sonnets & the like—which most have forgotten because of the greater publicity attending her eccentric emanations.”

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 8 Aug 1925, Letters to Family and Family Friends 1.340

(5) BUT THE GROUND’S GETTING CLOSER. The Coyote may still be up in the air, however, his destiny seems certain: “’Coyote Vs. Acme’: With Pic’s Fate In Limbo At Warners, Phil Lord Observes, ‘How Funny It Would Be For This To End With A Congressional Hearing’” reports Deadline.

Warners Bros has screened their axed Coyote vs. Acme to around 12 buyers we hear with a rigid buy price of $70M+; which is how much the animated live-action hybrid movie cost.

Netflix and Paramount put forth bids, which we told you about, but they were lower than the $70M asking price (between $30M-$50M), therefore in Warner’s eyes, rivals didn’t want the feature for what it cost.

What Deadline has received clarity on is that Warner Bros took a $70M writedown on Q3 earnings, not the upcoming Q4. Nonetheless, the movie, which the Burbank, CA lot decided back in early November not to release — remains in purgatory. That said, we hear the door isn’t officially closed on Coyote vs. Acme‘s prospects yet — it’s just that the Coyote could wind up in the cave with Batgirl.

Phil Lord, whose Lego Movie made Warner Bros. over $471M in addition to spuring a feature franchise, took umbrage with the David Zaslav-run conglomerate on Twitter tonight exclaiming, “Is it anticompetitive if one of the biggest movie studios in the worlds shuns the marketplace in order to use a tax loophole to write off an entire movie so they can more easily merge with one of the bigger movie studios in the world? Cause it SEEMS anticompetitive.”

Lord is among those with Chris Miller, Michael Chaves, Daniel Scheinert and Deadline who’ve seen the movie.

Lord further added in reference to the climax of Coyote vs. Acme, “If you could see Coyote vs. Acme, you’d know how funny it would be for this to end with a congressional hearing.”…

(6) YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND THE MULTIVERSE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We at SF2 Concatenation enjoy diving into the really important questions of life, the Universe and everything, especially those on that fertile boundary between science fact and science fiction, feeling that there are more useful answers there than just a two-digit figure… And so is Becky Smethurst, who has used Rick and Morty as a starting point to explore the concept of the multiverse.

Is there really a parallel universe with an identical you in it? And which multiverse theory does Rick and Morty subscribe to? Indeed, how broad is SF’s approach to the multiverse concept?

Here, Brit Cit astrophysicist Dr. Becky would like to know of any SF story or film that employs the ‘bubble universe’ theory of the multiverse. If you have an example, put it in the comments beneath her 15-minute YouTube video. There’s a challenge for Filers. (Sadly, the end of video the good doctor displays worries that some (just some) of her science colleagues will object vehemently for her use of SF to explore science… There are trolls everywhere, even in science alas.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 71. Did you know that John Shirley has written n historical novel, a western about Wyatt Earp — Wyatt in Wichita? I wonder how many of our sff writers beside him and Emma Bull (whose novel Territory was decidedly not historical) have written novels on this incident and the individuals there? 

John Shirley. Photo by Sunni Brock.

I really enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin which I think is a brilliant rendering of a City come to life. 

I’ll admit I’m not much at all for grim dystopian SF but I did find his A Song Called Youth trilogy of EclipseEclipse Penumbra and Eclipse Corona fascinating if in a horrifying manner.

His best known script work is The Crow film, for which he was the initial writer, before David Schow reworked the script. I’m not sure he got actually any credit at all. He also wrote scripts for Poltergeist: The Legacy.

I see that to my surprise he wrote an episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. 

He wrote novels in the AliensDoomHaloResident EvilPredators franchise, Borderlands video gaming DC metaverse and Grimm series.

His latest novel which I’ve not read so do tell me about it is SubOrbital 7.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has an update about Peter and Wendy.
  • Tom Gauld has been busy since we last checked in.

(9) THE FUNGUS AMONG US. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Could The Last Of Us fungi be a real risk? The all-party Science Innovation & Technology Committee of the House of Commons Select Committee has held a special one-off session on fungi.

The session explored some of the risks and drawbacks of fungi, which can cause disease in plants and animals including humans. We know that one fungus, cordyceps, can infect and completely “take over” the life functions of insects like ants. But could they really start the zombie apocalypse as depicted in the video game and TV series The Last Of Us? The Daily Mail reported on the meeting

 A fungus called cordyceps, or zombie-ant fungus, is able to control insects’ minds using psychoactive chemicals. It drains their bodies of nutrients before directing them to a high place and releasing spores to infect others. Emmy Award-winning The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic drama based on a hit video game, shows a world in which cordyceps has spread to humans and wiped out most of humanity. Alarmingly, Professor Fisher said rising global temperatures are causing fungi like cordyceps to evolve and adapt to warmer conditions – which could enable them to colonise human bodies. Dawn Butler MP asked: ‘Is a zombie apocalypse driven by fungal infections a possibility? Professor Fisher said: ‘Well, all the bits exist, don’t they? ‘Fungi can produce strongly psychoactive chemicals, which can influence our behaviour dramatically, and they can also spread and invade humans. 

However, don’t take the Daily Mail too seriously, it is not the best of British newspapers.

The meeting also noted that few fungi can flourish in the warmth of the human body, nonetheless with a changing climate there will be more fungi about.

(10) YEAR OF THE DRAGON ON LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Filers might be interested in this One-Day Special quiz: Year of the Dragon at LearnedLeague. It actually has surprisingly little SFF content for a dragon-themed quiz.

(11) JABBA Q&A. Can you guess why this is topical?

(12) PHANTOM RETURNING. And this might be a good place to announce “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 25th Anniversary Cinema Release Confirmed For May The 4th Weekend” at Empire Online.

The epic Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn duel. The thunderous Boonta Eve Podrace. The battle of Naboo. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is packed with moments best witnessed on the big screen, spooling back to the very beginning of the Skywalker Saga to depict Anakin Skywalker’s first encounter with the Jedi, the beginnings of the galactic civil war, and the menacing meddling of Palpatine. Well, good news: to mark 25 years since the film first hit cinemas in 1999, it’s coming back to cinemas later this year. Cue the fanfare!

This May the 4th weekend (so, from Friday 3 May), The Phantom Menace will be re-released in cinemas for a limited time, meaning you can revisit all your favourite moments as large and loud as George Lucas intended….

 (13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At first I thought he made this up.

But no! I’m stunned to learn this is a real product.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, David Goldfarb, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/24 Intergalactic Antiques Road Show

(1) GALAXY QUEST FUNKOS. Slashfilm rejoices: “Cool Stuff: By Grabthar’s Hammer, Galaxy Quest Funko POPs Have Arrived!”

… Funko has revealed three new POP vinyl figures of Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) as Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, Sir Alexander (Alan Rickman) as Dr. Lazarus, and Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) as Tech Sergeant Chen. They’re all given the classic look from the original “Galaxy Quest” TV series, though they’re not intended to be the classic versions of their characters. If they were, Tim Allen’s hair mold would probably look more retro. However, they did depict Fred Kwan with that semi-squinted expression in his eyes, which only really happened when he was fully in character on the show. Personally, I’d like to have a series of “Galaxy Quest” Funko POPs with them looking disheveled, such as Sir Alexander with hair poking out of his torn alien headpiece.

What’s a little disappointing is the lack of the rest of the original crew, with no figures for Gwen DiMarco (Sigourney Weaver) as Lt. Tawny Madison and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) as Laredo in sight. Seems like quite an oversight to exclude both the woman and the Black cast members from the movie/series, especially since the packaging for the other figures indicates that there are two other “Galaxy Quest” Funko POPs on the way…

(2) AFTER ACTION REPORT PART II. {By Steven French.] [Part I was in a previous Scroll.] It wouldn’t be a fantasy exhibition in Leeds without *some* mention of JRR! Leeds Central Library’s Fantasy: Realms of Imagination included a couple of displays with Tolkien-related material including one with a photo of his and Edith’s house in West Park, out on the edge of the city, as well as two of his poems that were published in the university student magazine The Gryphon. One, ‘Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden’ not only features a dragon on its hoard but also makes mention of a ring (!). The other, ‘Light as Leaf on Lindentree’ , from 1925, eventually became the Song of Beren and Lúthien which Strider recited to the hobbits on Weathertop. 

(3) AFTER ACTION REPORT PART III. [By Steven French.] And finally (honest!), no fantasy exhibition would be complete without a dragon or two and Fantasy: Realms of Imagination at Leeds Central Library had its fair share, including this fine example:

Plus an egg or two:

But my favourite was this little fellow, made by the Bermantofts Pottery of east Leeds:

(Bermantofts Pottery also made the ox-blood faïence (glazed terracotta tiles) for the facades of such London Underground stations as Covent Garden and Russell Square)

Even the reading room, with its magnificent ceiling, took part in the spot-the-dragon competition (can you see it?!):

Fun for kids of all ages!

(4) ABOUT THOSE SMOFCON VIDEOS. Ersatz Culture advanced this “Modest Proposal” about the Chengdu panels at SMOFcon:

He’s also posted this at Mastodon, where Cheryl Morgan gave a response that can be read at the link.

(5) TIANWEN. The “Tianwen” project was announced in Chengdu last October with the cooperation of representatives of several professional writers groups and Hugo Award Administrator Dave McCarty. This puff piece encompasses what we know so far: “Tianwen: Unveiling China’s Diverse Science Fiction to the World” at News Directory 3. While the publicity seeks to associate a new literature prize with the Hugo brand, it does not appear to claim a formal connection to the WSFS award.

The announcement and unveiling of the “Tianwen” project at the first Industrial Development Summit of the World Science Fiction Conference is set to revolutionize the Chinese science fiction scene. This global project, launched by the Chinese Authors Association and the Organizing Committee of the World Science Fiction Conference, aims to discover new talents, support science fiction works, and promote the integrated development of the industry.

The project was unveiled by Alai, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Writers Association, Hiroshi Osawa, Chairman of the Japan Science Fiction Writers Association, and Dave McCarty, head of the Hugo Award Selection Committee. Alai expressed his hope that “Qu Yuan’s romanticism and idealism will be better publicized in ‘Tianwen’”, while Osawa emphasized the impact of the project on shaping the future generation.

The “Tianwen” plan includes the establishment of the Tianwen Global Science Fiction Literature Prize, which will be awarded annually from 2024. This prize aims to encourage new and young writers, focusing on their innovative literary works and expression of new cultural fields. It will serve as an important supplement to the prestigious Hugo Awards and contribute to the diversity of the Hugo culture.

Additionally, the “Tianwen” project will host various activities to promote the integrated development of the global science fiction industry. These include sub-forums, award ceremonies, promotion conferences, creation salons, exhibitions, and industry roadshows.

Liang Xiaolan, the chairman of the World Science Fiction Conference Chengdu 2023, emphasized that “Tianwen” is not only an award and program, but also a platform for the industrial development of national science fiction culture. This initiative aims to elevate Chinese science fiction to a global level and promote exchange and collaboration between China and foreign countries.

With the inclusion of Chinese works in the selection process of the Hugo Awards for the first time, “Tianwen” will play a crucial role in showcasing Chinese science fiction to a wider audience. Dave McCarty views “Tianwen” as a valuable platform for international science fiction exchange, leading the way for the global science fiction industry….

(6) LESS PAIN, MORE GAIN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Directors Guild of America–the most prominent Hollywood Guild that did not strike last year—has now gotten a bump in several contract areas to more closely match their sibling guilds. You know, the siblings who did walk the picket lines. “DGA, the Guild That Didn’t Strike, Gets Improved Contract Terms” in Variety.

The Directors Guild of America, the Hollywood union that did not strike last year, told members Thursday that it has won additional gains, including a viewership bonus for streaming shows.

DGA members will get a 50% residual bump for work on the most-watched shows on streaming platforms, matching the terms won by the Writers Guild of America.

The DGA also got increases in several other areas, including a .5% increase in pension and health contributions in both the second and third year of the contract.

The DGA agreed to a three-year deal with the major studios on June 3, about a month into the WGA strike. At the time, DGA negotiators did not seek a viewership-based bonus, instead choosing to focus on a 21% increase in streaming residuals to account for the growth in foreign subscribers.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was not obligated to reopen the terms of that deal, which was ratified by 87% of the members. But by doing so, and matching the streaming residual terms obtained by the WGA, the AMPTP helps DGA leadership make the case to its members that they were not disadvantaged by refusing to strike….

(7) BACK TO THE MOON. Maya St. Clair praises Samantha Harvey’s novel in ORBITAL Review: the stars look very different today” at News from the Orb.

…When literary authors cross over into science fiction, they often do so as enlightened homesteaders, equipped with notions of the field’s backwardness and confidence that their own innovative ideas will reform the backwaters of tropey sci-fi for the better. (Remember when Ian McEwan — in A. D. 2019 — told sci-fi writers that they’d better start “actually looking at the human dilemmas” that would arise with high-level AI?)

Samantha Harvey falls into a different camp, in that she’s not attempting what we might consider “science fiction” — not exactly. I initially found Orbital (2022) because it was displayed the sci-fi section of my library; however, Harvey has described it as “space realism”: a rendering of life in space as humans currently experience it. Orbital takes place in the near future, on an international space station (the ISS in all but name), wherein six astronauts live and work, sheltered from the black void by its narrow walls. Their daily tasks are structured and mundane, and nothing happens in the novel (spacewalks, toilet repairs, floating dinners served in bags) that hasn’t happened in real life. No speculative elements, except a new manned mission to the moon, are introduced.

That being said, sci-fi fans would do themselves a disservice in skipping Orbital. Although it has no aliens or new technology, it’s one of the most inventive and immersive novels I’ve read in a long time.

(8) A HIGH WIRE ACT. That’s what Paul Weimer says readers are witnessing in his review of the final volume of a trilogy by Kevin Hearne, A Curse of Krakens: “Seven Kennings Trilogy and the Power of Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Right at the start, we find that this novel, and this trilogy is about the telling of story. A bard with the power of a Kenning, in particular the magical ability to project his voice, begins to tell the war-weary city of the war that they themselves are suffering privation under.  We are in medias res of the Giant’s War, and the bard, we soon learn, has been sent to tell the story of the Giants War and prepare the populace for what is to come next.

But it’s not a simple linear narrative. This is not a simple recitation of facts. The bard has collected and (with his flawless memory) organized a raft of stories from, ultimately, twenty or so points of view. This sounds absolutely unwieldy and unsustainable and it is a high wire act that Hearne works at through the books. Hearne manages it by telling the stories of these characters through the bard in a narratively interesting and engaging order, which is not a straight up order by dates. And by having the bard tell the stories, we can use present day events in Pelemyn itself as a breather and a buffer from the stories he tells. 

What’s more, this ambitious three volume out of order narrative drives plot right up to the “present”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 43. In Elijah Wood, we’ve an actor that I always enjoy watching. Best known here and in the greater film community for being Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, he has a much more extensive film career.

Elijah Wood in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He makes his debut in a blink and you’ll miss it performance as Video Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II; he next has a significant genre role as Nat Cooper in Forever Young, the screenplay being written by J. J. Abram from his story named “The Rest of Daniel”. 

He next shows up as the young Mike Marshall (primary version) in Radio Flyer with Tom Hanks playing, uncredited the older version and the film narrator.  Fantastic film that. 

Then he’s Huck in, well, The Adventures of Huck Finn. Haven’t seen it, but the usual suspects at Rotten Tomatoes who did see this Disney Production did like it and gave it a seventy-three rating.  I know it’s not genre, but I like the story. A lot. 

Elijah Wood in 2019. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Next is SF in Deep Impact where he plays, let me see my notes, Leo Biederman, a teenage astronomer who discovers the Wolf–Biederman comet . Oh look they cast a teenager as a teenager!

Now we have an adult role for him in one of my favorite films — he’s Patrick Wertz in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Good role, wonderfully executed by him. 

Can we skip Sin City pretty please? Yes, I know, and do forgive me here.

He’s got a minor role in, depending in how you frame it, the reboot or new version or remake of The Toxic Avenger. I personally see no reason for such a perfectly trashy film to be made again, do you?

To quote Porky Pig, that’s it folks. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz has a question about lunch.
  • Candorville shares an interesting collection of filk lullabies.
  • Tom Gauld has more about the life of books.

(11) GRAND PRIX. “Graphic novelist Posy Simmonds wins prestigious French comics award” reports the Guardian.

The graphic novelist Posy Simmonds has won the Grand Prix at France’s Angoulême International Comics festival – the first time a British artist and author has been awarded the world’s most prestigious prize for lifetime achievement in comics.

Simmonds’s satirical observations on modern British society, interweaving detailed illustration with long literary texts, are held to have redefined the graphic novel genre.

She said of the award: “I was gobsmacked – époustouflée, as you would say in French … It’s extraordinary because if you’re writing or drawing, you work in a room on your own, and it’s then very extraordinary when the book, or your work, or you are given a lot of exposure.”…

(12) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport has another free story – “The Empty Throne” by Benjamin C. Kinney – to encourage new subscribers.

For the final free-to-read story of January, Benjamin C. Kinney takes us to 19th century Budapest, where a young woman wrestles with her father’s angels. Note: Should you be inclined towards tremendous footnotes, the author has linked one at the end of the story for you to peruse.

(13) SQUISHMALLOWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This Entertainment Weekly article recommends these as Valentine’s Day gifts. Hmpf. Perhaps for one’s young nephew, or niece, but it might be just a little bit ick (or EW) to give an adult love interest a squishy pillow-shaped plush styled after an underage tween/teen. “Harry Potter Squishmallows are available at Amazon just in time for Valentine’s Day”.

… Your wish has been granted with no wand-waving needed, as Harry Potter Squishmallows now exist. The lovable main character has been reimagined into a poofy, cozy plush toy that will delight any HP fan come Valentine’s Day. The Gryffindor legend has his glasses, Hogwarts house robe, and trademark lightning bolt scar all in an ultra-huggable material. 

If you’re interested in snapping up the OG trio, Ron Weasley is also available, and Hermione Granger can be preordered now, too, with the official launch date set for February 13….

(14) THUNDERBOLT FANTASY. A new episode of the Anime Explorations Podcast is up today, where they discuss the second season of the Taiwanese Wuxia Puppet series Thunderbolt Fantasy, with special guest Tom Merritt of the Daily Tech News Show and Sword & Laser Podcast. “Anime Explorations Podcast: Episode 16: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2”.

(15) BASKETBALL MOANS. I don’t know. Maybe you can figure it out: “Tyra Banks Nets, Furries Clip Goes Viral” at Buzzfeed.

…The clip that began picking up steam was Tyra on the Jumbotron, covering her eyes with her hands as the two furries leaned over her to caress one another….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Kathy Sullivan, Alexander Case, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/24 They Told Me The Pixel Was Safe To Scroll!

(1) WHEN YOU DISCOVER YOU’RE AN “INELIGIBLE”. Xiran Jay Zhao just got the news.

(2) ONLINE DISCUSSION OF CHENGDU WORLDCON HUGO NOMINATIONS REPORT. Hugo finalist Arthur Liu / HeavenDuke adds context to the 2023 Hugo Awards voting in an X.com thread that begins here. An excerpt:

(3) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. Heather Rose Jones’ “A Comparison of Hugo Nomination Distribution Statistics” at Alpennia takes the 2023 Hugo Nominations report and the statistics from selected other years to create graphs that show just how anomalous the 2023 results are. A very helpful tool.

(4) RESPONSES TO STAT RELEASE BY THREE HUGO WINNERS.

Ursula Vernon said on Bluesky:

Seanan McGuire said on Bluesky:

Chris Barkley told Facebook readers this evening:

As someone who attended the Chengdu Worldcon AND was the recipient of Hugo Award in the Best Fan Writer category, I am upset, incensed and angry at the exclusion of R.F. Kuang’s Babel and my friend, colleague and peer, Paul Weimer from the 2023 Final Ballot. There were numerous other irregularities and outrages as well.

I don’t know for certain if Paul Weimer’s presence on the ballot would have may any difference in the outcome and to some extent, that has weighted heavily on my mind since Saturday’s release.

We may never know what actually happened here but I would like to thank the people who voted for me and have repeatedly reiterated their support for my fan writing and took the time to reassure me that my work was worthy of the award.

I also know that this incident, whether it was at the behest of the government of the People’s Republic or China or some other entity, will NEVER be forgotten and that doing something about preventing such a thing from happening again will be at the top of the agenda at the Glasgow Worldcon Business Meeting in August…

(5) IN TIMES TO COME. John Scalzi’s “What’s Up With Babel and the Hugos?” at Whatever includes some ideas about what should happen going forward.

4. Likewise, depending on what we learn about these disqualifications, next year’s Worldcon Business meeting would be a fine time to offer proposals for disqualification transparency (i.e., there have to be reasons detailed other than “because”) and for dealing with state censorship regarding finalists and the award process.

5. Even the speculation of state censorship should give pause to site selection voters regarding future Worldcons. For example, there is a 2028 Worldcon proposal for Kampala, Uganda, and while the proposed Worldcon itself offers a laudable and comprehensive Code of Conduct page, Uganda is a country with some of the most severe laws in the world regarding LGBTQ+ people, including laws involving censorship. If the state leaned hard on the local Worldcon regarding what was acceptable on the Hugo ballot, would it be safe for the organizers to ignore this pressure? This is now an issue we will need to consider, among the many others, in where the Worldcon lands every year.

(6) 2024 DEADLINE TO QUALIFY AS HUGO VOTER. If this weekend’s Hugo Awards discussion hasn’t convinced you there might be a better way to use your money, like throwing it in the ocean, and you want to be able to nominate for the 2024 Hugo Awards but weren’t a member of Chengdu, you need to get a membership in the Glasgow 2024 Worldcon by January 31: Memberships and Tickets. [Via Jed Hartman.]

(7) MEANWHILE, IN CHINA. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Here are some Chinese user comments regarding the Hugo nomination news.  As these are (mostly) from regular fans or individuals, I’ve not included their usernames, but all are on public posts that anyone can access – I imagine stuff circulating in small private WeChat/Weixin groups (which I don’t have access to) will be much harsher than these.

All English translations via Google Translate, which doesn’t handle the slangy language used very well, so some of these are a bit opaque, but the general vibe should be pretty clear.  As yet, I’ve not come across any commentary about the works that just missed out on being finalists; hopefully that might appear once the initial controversies have died down a bit.

现在对国内的任何文学奖都失去信任,都不过是一小撮人自娱自乐地玩票而已。

Nowadays, we have lost trust in any domestic literary awards. They are just a small group of people playing for their own entertainment.

哈哈哈,目测你们没有审核机制,干的啥事啊

Hahaha, I guess you don’t have an audit mechanism, what are you doing?

令人不满在于数据披露拖延、不透明、疏忽大意,有呼声很高的作者和候选莫名被判定“不具备资格”,在于评奖数据显露出的组织管理混乱,而不是你以为的“烂作得奖”,只要符合规则,谁得奖都是该的,因为机制如此。所以我请你在开地图炮宣泄情绪之前,先了解一下始末

(replying to another user’s comment) The dissatisfaction lies in the delay, opacity and negligence in data disclosure. Some highly vocal authors and candidates were inexplicably judged to be “ineligible”. The dissatisfaction lies in the organizational and management chaos revealed by the award data, rather than the “bad work winning the award” as you thought. “As long as the rules are followed, whoever wins the prize deserves it, because the mechanism is like this. So I ask you to understand the whole story before opening the map cannon to vent your emotions.  [Note: I’m not sure what “opening the map cannon” is a euphemism for, but I think something like “setting off fireworks” might be a more reasonable translation,]

真丢脸,无话可说????对“环境污染”放任自流,各种花样层出不穷,无法理解这样的不作为。

It’s so shameful, I have nothing to say ???? Let’s let “environmental pollution” go unchecked, with all kinds of tricks emerging in endlessly, I can’t understand such inaction.

太丢人了

So embarrassing

丢脸

shameful

不是有stuff说了,公布一眼假的数据是为了表明他们也很无奈

Isn’t that what stuff said? The purpose of publishing fake data is to show that they are also helpless.

那到底有多无奈呢,总不会被枪指着头吧,感觉都是托词,总之不想负责

(reply to previous comment) So how helpless are you? You won’t have a gun pointed at your head. It feels like it’s all an excuse. In short, you don’t want to be responsible.

丢人丢到家了

I’m so embarrassed.

咋回事

What’s going on

一地鸡毛…控奖真是有点

It’s a piece of cake… Controlling awards is really a bit tricky

呵呵,这不明摆着么

Haha, isn’t this obvious? (note: I think this might make more sense translated as “blatant”)

国外网友表示雨果组织方所谓过去三个月仔细检查核准数据的说法难以让人信服,毕竟现在还有一个类别里同样的作品出现两次的错误(指最佳短中篇类别的《图灵大排档》)

Foreign netizens said that Hugo organizers’ claim of carefully checking the approval data in the past three months is unconvincing. After all, there is still a category where the same work has errors twice (referring to “Turing” in the best short and medium novel category). Food stalls》)

无非三个原因:商业运作,草台班子,不可说因素

There are no more than three reasons: business operation, grassroots team, and unspeakable factors

怕只怕有心人……

I’m just afraid of someone with a bad intention…

(8) CENSORS, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. “After national backlash, Florida lawmakers eye changes to book restrictions” at Politico.

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature wanted to keep obscene books out of the hands of kids. But some are now acknowledging they created a “logistical nightmare” that lawmakers are trying to rein in.

Legislators this month introduced a new idea to curb frivolous challenges to books — one of the first admissions the law, which tightened scrutiny around books with sexual content in K-12 schools, may have gone too far. The potential solution: allowing local schools to charge some people a $100 fee if they want to object to more than five books.

“I’m happy that we are digging in and trying to remove reading material that is inappropriate for our children,” said state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Republican from Fort Pierce who is sponsoring the legislation. “But I think [book challengers] really need to be respectful of the amount of books that they are pouring into schools at one time.”Florida’s Legislature in 2023 expanded education transparency laws by requiring books considered pornographic, harmful to minors or that depict sexual activity to be pulled from shelves within five days and remain out of circulation for the duration of any challenge. If school officials deem a book inappropriate, it can be permanently removed from circulation or restricted to certain grade levels.

The law caused a national outcry after local schools received hundreds of challenges to a wide range of books, leading to reviews of titles like Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “And Tango Makes Three,” a kids book about a penguin family with two dads. It’s also led to multiple lawsuits against top education officials and local school boards asserting that the restrictions violate free speech. Florida, according to the free speech advocacy group PEN America, has “banned” more books than any other state — some 1,406 works total….

(9) MEMORY LANE. (A 1984 REFERENCE COULDN’T BE MORE TIMELY!)

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1984 — On this day forty years ago, Apple (then know as Apple Computer) began selling its first Macintosh. It featured an 8 MHz processor and 128k of RAM in a beige all-in-one case with a 9-inch monochrome display — all for around $2,500. That’d be $7,380 today.

Now I’ll connect it to our genre, Apple for the Mac’s arrival with its 1984 commercial that aired during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. That commercial was based of course on that George Orwell novel. It starts off with the opening of “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” 

Ridley Scott was the director. Steve Jobs hired him to do it just after Blade Runner came out. Though the press said Scott spent a million dollars on it, he has said in several interviews since that Apple budgeted it at a quarter of that so he got creative, meaning instead of performers in Britain (where he filmed it) who had Union standing and would have cost him serious money, those are actually skinheads playing all those drones.

(This being 1984, those Union performers that there was got the Union minimum of twenty-five dollars for a day’s work.)

Anya Major is the sledge hammer throwing runner. She beat all models and runners who tested in a London park, most couldn’t lift the hammer, and several threw nearby parked windshields.  And yes, that is actual glass that she smashes though of course it gets enhanced afterwards.

She has only one other video appearance as Natika in Elton’s 1985 “National” video. Well and the documentary done about this commercial. Of course there’s a documentary. When isn’t there? 

Naturally the lawyers got involved. Because the ad looked an awfully lot like a scene from the 1984 film — which I’ve not seen so I don’t know how much it looks like that film — the Estate sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple, and the commercial never aired on television again. 

The commercial aired only twice on American television. It had been first screened in December 1983, right before the one am sign-off on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idoho, which made it eligible for advertising industry awards for that year. That’s why it got to win a Clio Award for Creative Excellence in Advertising and Design, a very high honor indeed. 

In addition, starting on January 17, 1984, it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks.

It’s on YouTube, though, so you can it see here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 21, 1933 Judith Merril, (Died 1997). Yes, I know Judith Merril is a pen name but it’s the name on her writing, so it’s the only name that I’m interested in for this Birthday. Let us get started.

She was no doubt most excellent SF writer. Her first novel, Shadow in the Hearth, was written by herself.  It was published by Doubleday in 1950 with the scary cover art by Edward Kasper. Geoff Conklin said her first novel was a “masterly example of sensitive and perceptive story-telling”. And I agree. 

Gunner Cade was under her Cyril Judd pen name, written in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth, as was Outpost Mars from Simon & Schuster just two years later, with a much more traditional SF cover. The novel itself is quite well done. 

Outpost Mars was also given a paperback edition from Dell that would get a very traditional SF cover by Richard Powers. It’s a great look at a Mars-based doctor, the colony, and their dealing and the Earth company and its meddling.

Eight years after Outpost Mars, her novels come to an end with The Tomorrow People. It is also her first novel not from a major house, being printed by Pyramid Books. 

(I’m going to leave it to someone here who’s more knowledgeable than me about fanzines to talk about them.)

Her short fiction is some thirty pieces deep, including a few collaborations. She co-wrote a story each with Kornbluth and Pohl. I’ve have read more than a few of her stories, there’s not a weak one, and even the ones written in the Forties still hold up very well. Which collection is a good question. That’s easy as NESFA, as always is our friend here publishing Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril.

She was not nominated for any Hugos in her lifetime. She, along with Emily Pohl-Weary, granddaughter of her and Frederik Pohl, would win at Torcon 3 for Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld probably didn’t need to find out about this from the sff field, much as it applies.

(12) MAESTRO’S NAME OVER THE DOOR. Deadline is on hand when “Sony Pictures & Steven Spielberg Dedicate John Williams Music Building”. (Photo at the link.)

“The first time I came to this studio was 1940 when my father brought me here to show me the stage, and I was about 9 or 10 years old, and I thought, ‘Some day this will all be mine!’ It’s finally come to be – it’s only taken me 92 years to get here!” That’s what five-time Oscar winner and 53-time nominee John Williams said as the curtain was raised on the iconic Sony Pictures Entertainment lot’s newly renamed John Williams Music Building.

Joining in the celebration — and it was a celebration — were Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, SPE Chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra (who made opening remarks), filmmaker J.J. Abrams and of course, Williams’ longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg, who instigated the idea of putting the legendary composer’s name on the building where they have worked on 20 or their 29 films, as Spielberg noted….

(13) SHE’LL BE BACK. Did no one ever tell them that when it comes to a choice between the truth and the legend, print the legend? “Reacher Showrunner Shares the Surprising Story Behind That Terminator 2 Reference” at CBR.com.

Reacher Season 2’s reference to Terminator 2: Judgment Day had nothing to do with the casting of Robert Patrick.

In the second season of the hit Prime Video series, Patrick, who played the T-1000 in Terminator 2, played the role of Shane Langston, a foe to Alan Ritchson’s Jack Reacher. The Season 2 premiere included a cheeky reference to Terminator 2 when Frances Neagley used the alias Sarah Conner, a nod to Linda Hamilton’s Terminator franchise character. When he’s asked by a henchman, “Who’s Sarah Connor?,” Patrick’s Langston replied, “I don’t give a sh*t.” It’s a stark contrast to the character he played in Terminator 2, where killing Sarah’s son was the T-1000’s sole objective.

Per TVLine, showrunner Nick Santora revealed that the Terminator 2 reference was not written in to the show because of Robert Patrick’s casting. Santora wanted to make it clear, noting how “everyone thinks we’re so smart and funny for doing it,” but that the Sarah Connor line was “in there before Robert Patrick came in. I don’t want to lie; that’s the truth.“…

(14) ABOUT UGANDA. Fans are already concerned about the prospects of a Uganda Worldcon bid. Something more to keep in mind: “Ugandan internet propaganda network exposed by the BBC”.

…They all claimed to be Ugandan citizens – often women – whose accounts appeared to have the sole purpose of posting praise for the president and pushing back against critics.

The Ugandan Media Centre, which handles public communications on behalf of the government, did not respond to our requests for comment.

A sprawling network of fake accounts

By analysing those accounts’ behaviour, BBC Verify was able to map out a network of nearly 200 fake social media accounts operating on X and on Facebook (even though the latter has been blocked in Uganda since 2021).

The vast majority of these accounts used stolen images as profile pictures – often social media photos of models, influencers, and actresses from across the world. But none of the usernames used by them appeared to be linked to real individuals in Uganda or Tanzania….

(15) CALLING OUT MAO. Inverse recounts a bit of Chinese sff history in “44 Years Ago, a Revolutionary Sci-Fi Movie Ushered in a New Golden Age For the Genre”.

Imagine a world where scientists are banned from and even persecuted for practicing their research in technological advancement. This was the reality in China during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Fueled by a desire to remove all forms of capitalism from their society, Mao’s followers destroyed laboratories and burned any literature related to science — including science fiction.

Science fiction author Enzheng Tong wrote Death Ray on Coral Island in 1964 but hid it for fear of being persecuted due to the belief that the genre was created by the West to corrupt the people of China. It wasn’t until 1978, under Xiaoping Deng’s reign, that science and technology became a national priority for the country and Tong published his short story. In 1980, director Hongmei Zhang took this opportunity to adapt Tong’s story into a film — keeping the original’s sense of nationalistic pride while taking other liberties to address the scientific failure of Mao’s rule.

(16) DEBOSE Q&A. “’I.S.S.’ Star Ariana DeBose Talks Shocking Ending, Returning To Broadway” in Variety. Beware spoilers.

“I.S.S.” is a thriller set in outer space, but the creative team was filled with pioneers in their own right. “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite helmed the project, with Oscar winner Ariana DeBose suiting up for the lead role — both creatives playing in a new genre for the first time.

The result is a fleet, pulpy film in which three American and three Russian astronauts are living and working together on an international space station. But things turn dire quickly when their governments declare war on each other and both groups are instructed to commandeer the space station by any means necessary….

What was the most challenging part about filming zero gravity realistically, for nearly the entire film?

Cowperthwaite: I just wanted it to look as real as possible. We tried different contraptions, some of which were a bit more comfortable, but unfortunately for the actors, they didn’t look as good. Now I understand why so many films don’t do zero gravity.

DeBose: To achieve this look and feel, we shot the movie in harnesses that are very tightly secured on our hips. Then there were tethers attached to them. We had about two weeks of training, where we learned how to balance our bodies. It’s very hard, but the especially challenging thing was when we had scenes that involved all six of us. That meant we were all in harnesses, and for every one of us, there were at least two or three people operating. While you don’t see the tethers, they were very much there, so shout out to VFX….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Peer.]

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 1/2/24 It Was A Dark And Scrolly Night, Suddenly A Pixel Rang Out

(1) THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. Rachel Craft tells “How Writing Challenges Made Me a Better Writer” at the SFWA Blog. One of the ways is: they make her “Let go of perfection”.

…For me, one of the hardest parts of writing is deciding when a piece is finished and ready to submit. No matter how many rounds of revision I’ve been through, the perfectionist in me can always find something else to tweak. Sometimes I suspect it’s less about perfectionism and more about fear of rejection. As long as I never quite finish a story, it can never be rejected, right?

Writing challenges forced me to let go of perfectionism, fear of failure, and all the other things that usually keep me from saying “It’s done.” They also reframed this last step of the process. Submitting used to be a big, daunting task that loomed like a specter over the rest of my writing process—but in a writing challenge, submitting is actually a triumph. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that comes from hitting “submit” as the clock ticks down after 24 hours of frenzied creativity. And even if your story doesn’t win or place in the challenge, you can go on to submit it elsewhere….

(2) MIDNIGHT ACQUISITIONS. Colin O’Sullivan tells his CrimeReads audience not to sleep through great raw material for their writing: “How to Corral Your Nightmares for Use in Your Next Novel” at CrimeReads.

Will robots dream of us in the same way that we dream about them? They say that AI can “hallucinate”, right? Hadn’t Philip K. Dick warned us about all this many years ago? Maybe we weren’t paying enough attention then. Maybe we aren’t paying enough attention now. What a strange world we are being thrust into… and are we ready?

Sunny, the titular robot character of my novel, was conceived in a dream. Several years ago, I tossed and turned in bed, unnerving visions unfurling in my head. In this nightmare I was being chased by a robot that I myself had programmed. The domestic robot had turned on me – and I had been under the illusion that it was merely a household appliance, there to help with the laundry, dust a shelf, or vacuum the floor. I was trying to access its “dark settings” in order to switch the damn thing off, but I wasn’t having much luck: I couldn’t find the manual that would provide me with the right set of instructions, and the machine was definitely out to get me. It was one of the nastiest nightmares I’ve ever had, so vivid, so real. I woke in the proverbial sweat, and was instantly relieved to realize we hadn’t yet reached that stage where the machines were taking over. Not yet, at least, not yet….

(3) IOWA BOOK BAN LAW REBUKED BY FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT. “Judge Blocks Key Provisions of Iowa Book Banning Law” reports Publishers Weekly.

In yet another legal victory for freedom to read advocates, a federal judge has blocked two key portions of SF 496, a recently passed Iowa state law that sought to ban books with sexual content from Iowa schools and to bar classroom discussion of gender identity and sexuality for students below the seventh grade.

In a 49-page opinion and order, judge Stephen Locher criticized the law as “incredibly broad” and acknowledged that it has already resulted in the removal of “of hundreds of books from school libraries, including, among others, nonfiction history books, classic works of fiction, Pulitzer Prize–winning contemporary novels, books that regularly appear on Advanced Placement exams, and even books designed to help students avoid being victimized by sexual assault.”

Specifically, Locher preliminarily enjoined two provisions challenged in two separate but parallel lawsuits. Regarding the law’s ban on books with any depictions of sex acts, Locher found that the law’s “sweeping restrictions” are “unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny.” In a rebuke, Locher said he was “unable to locate a single case upholding the constitutionality of a school library restriction even remotely similar to Senate File 496.”

Locher said that the law’s “underlying message” is that there is “no redeeming value to any such book even if it is a work of history, self-help guide, award-winning novel, or other piece of serious literature,” adding that with the law state lawmakers had sought to impose “a puritanical ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over school libraries.”

Furthermore, Locher suggested that the law was a solution in search of a problem. “The State Defendants have presented no evidence that student access to books depicting sex acts was creating any significant problems in the school setting, much less to the degree that would give rise to a ‘substantial and reasonable governmental interest’ justifying across-the-board removal,” he wrote….

(4) FROM ZERO COURANT TO AU COURANT. In “Scalzi on Film: When Fun Becomes Homework” at Uncanny Magazine, John Scalzi puts on his film critic’s hat and runs down the ridiculously large number of film and streaming series a person must have previously seen in order to fully appreciate the latest in certain Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars properties. This is a lot like a job!

…We are nerds, and more than slightly obsessive—all the minutiae of created universes are our jam. But there’s a difference between salting in easter eggs to reward the faithful, and requiring hours of prep work—or at least the willingness to locate a wiki and dive in. And even the nerds have limits. I am a nerd by inclination and by profession—but I’m also a 54-year-old human who lives in the world and who requires at least some of my time and brain slots remain open for other things, like family and work and sleep and domain knowledge in other areas relevant to my life….

(5) FUTURES HISTORY. Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Chair of Glasgow 2024, a Worldcon for Our Futures, posted a message on New Year’s Day: “Looking Ahead to 2024—Reflections from the Chair”.

…When I look up from writing this, I see original art on my wall by Iain Clarke, and an empty bottle of our gin, full of lights and on display in my bookcase. I see a mug that one of my team gave to me and a comic book that a Division Head sent this week to cheer me up. My phone is buzzing, because it always is, despite the fact that I said ‘This is the last week we have before the new year, you HAVE to all take breaks’. (Reader, my team absolutely has not let me do this, because there’s always one thing that needs addressing and, as a result, several of them have been forcibly told to take that break, because we really won’t get it from now on in.) I can see the official gavel of the convention, which is on my mantlepiece until next August. The gavel has been around the world multiple times, but for me, it will be next used to open Glasgow 2024, and five days later, it will be used to declare it closed. Another Chair told me once that closing their Worldcon with that gavel broke their heart a little bit. All of the Chairs cry in the Closing Ceremony. Because it’s five days to attend, but it’s years and years to build…. 

Any Chair that wants to cry should go right ahead. Do all Chairs? No.

(6) I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, so US House of Representatives members may claim after they leave this briefing: “Scoop: House members to receive classified UFO briefing” says Axios.

Members of the House Oversight Committee will receive a classified briefing on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), better known as UFOs, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Congressional interest in the issue has grown in recent years, with a small but vocal group of lawmakers in both parties pushing for greater transparency from the government on the issue.

Driving the news: The members-only briefing will be held in the Office of House Security, according to a notice obtained by Axios.

The briefing is being provided by the Office of Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the notice said….

(7) HURT IN NYC. A stuntwoman whose resume includes major MCU films was critically hurt by a hit-and-run driver on New Year’s Day: “Carrie Bernans Injured: Stuntwoman & Actress Hurt In NYC Hit & Run”Deadline tells how it happened.

Actress and stuntwoman Carrie Bernans was critically injured during an alleged hit and run in New York City at 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Bernans, whose work includes 2023’s The Color Purple as well as Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, was hurt along with eight others. Per her publicist, she was struck by a driver who crashed into an outdoor dining shed at Chirp, a Peruvian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. That driver then backed up and rammed into another car before officers swarmed.

Bernans recently gave birth to a son, and luckily the newborn wasn’t with her but rather in a hotel with her family. Bernans was in stable condition and is undergoing surgery. Her mom posted details on the traumatic incident on Instagram and said Bernans is in rough shape….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. (Died 1992.) I’m looking at Isaac Asimov this Scroll, one of the Big Three of SF, proclaimed so at the time along with Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Now let me note these selections are my personal picks, not a look at his entire career as that’s simply not possible given how prolific he was. One source says that he wrote five hundred books and I certainly wouldn’t say that’s impossible to believe!

Without a single doubt, I can state that the Foundation Trilogy which won a well deserved Hugo at NyCon 3 for All Time Best Series is my favorite work by him, and it is certainly the work by him that I’ve read the most down the years. Like everything by him, I’ve not watched any film adaptations that have been done. 

I am familiar with, and fond of, of his first two novels, Pebble in The Sky and The Stars, Like Dust.  It’s been decades since I’ve read either so I’ve no idea how they’ve fared with age. 

The Caves of Steel and the other Robot series novels I think are on the whole excellent. Now of course speaking of robots, I, Robot with Susan Calvin is simply awesome. Almost all of the Robot stories, all 32 of 37, can be found in the 1982 The Complete Robot collection. There also are six novels.

The Gods Themselves is an amazing and it stands up well when re-read. It would win a Hugo at Torcon II. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

That’s it for SF by him, but there’s one more tasty creation by him that being The Black Widowers stories which were based on a literary dining club Asimov 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.

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. 

Someone needs to get them collected in one ePub collection. Pretty please. 

So that’s what I like by him. What do you like? 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side asks, if a tree falls on an exoplanet, does it make a sound?
  • Peanuts (published March 22, 1955) has one more Martian joke.
  • Moderately Confused lives up to its name – does the sign refer to the store or the books?
  • Oh my gosh – Tom Gauld revealed a secret message!

(10) YOUR LACK OF FAITH ETC. ETC. It’s not a very good omen that Entertainment Weekly’s “The 40 best alien movies of all time” can’t make up its mind about the very first film on the list.

1 of 40 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978)

If you favor the later renditions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we don’t blame you. And it may be cheating to double up on our list’s first entry, but the 1978 version (featuring Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, and Veronica Cartwright) is one of the rare examples of a remake living up to the legacy of its predecessor, which is all the more impressive when you consider the magnitude of industry legend Robert Wise‘s original. As an EW staffer previously wrote, the 1956 film is meant to be “a timely Cold War parable of takeover from within.” It ultimately “hit upon even deeper mass-marketing-age fears,” which helped it stand the test of time. Meanwhile, the follow-up flick harnesses that same dread and translates it to a new age without losing any punch.

At the center of these effective alien features is our fear of the Other. Most people don’t worry about little green men taking over their cities and suburbs, but most of us have watched some of our friends and family become bizarre shadows of their former selves practically overnight — which is exactly what transpires in Body Snatchers as the citizens of Earth are infiltrated by alien doppelgängers. In an age where paranoia and misinformation reign supreme, this tale of science failing to explain the chaos around us seems more timely (and more frightening) than ever before.

(11) SCREAMBOAT WILLIE. “Mickey Mouse horror film unveiled as copyright ends” and BBC is quick to point it out.

…A trailer for a slasher film, featuring a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse, was released on 1 January, the day that Disney’s copyright on the earliest versions of the cartoon character expired in the US.

“We wanted the polar opposite of what exists,” the movie’s producer said….

…Creatives have been quick to take advantage of the new rules, with a trailer (contains violent scenes) for a Mickey horror film dropping on the same day.

In the horror comedy thriller, called Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a young woman is thrown a surprise birthday party in an amusement arcade – but things quickly take a turn for the worse when she and her friends encounter a knife-wielding murderer in a Mickey costume….

(12) WIPER NO SWIPING! Meanwhile Disney’s lawyers are staying in shape by working over the owner of a Chilean car wash. Forbes analyzes the case in “Lucasfilm Sues ‘Star Wash’—A Car Wash In Chile—Claiming Plagiarism”.

Lucasfilm, the billion-dollar Disney-owned film and production company behind the “Star Wars” franchise, is suing a Chilean car wash known as “Star Wash,” arguing the small business is plagiarizing the wildly popular franchise with its branding, according to Reuters.

The law firm representing Matias Jara, the owner of “Star Wash,” told Reuters that Jara was in the process of registering his brand with Chile’s patent authority when he received a lawsuit from Lucasfilm seeking to block the registration of his business’s name.

Lucasfilm is claiming the business brand could confuse consumers into believing it’s affiliated with the studio, though it hasn’t taken issue with car attendants who can be seen on the “Star Wash” Instagram account dressed as characters like Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Boba Fett….

Once I looked at this Instagram ad for the business, though, I thought Disney had a point.

(13) MUSICAL ITEMS. [By Daniel Dern.] By the way, a third theremin video (not here) said that playing the trombone was the best preparation/way for learning to play the theremin.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, 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 Thomas the Red.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/23 Always Cool To See A Reference To Big Pixel And The Scrolling Company

(1) THUMB OUT, THUMBS DOWN.  The 1979 Best Dramatic Hugo race is analyzed by the Hugo Book Club Blog in “Death From Above (Hugo cinema 1979)”. In spite of everything going for it, this finalist did not win:

…Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy is rightly regarded as a classic of science fiction comedy. Those in our cinema club who love it, do so unreservedly … but it was not to everyone’s taste. Understated and ironic, some consider it a masterpiece of timing and laconic charm, despite the dialogue feeling loose and unstructured. Following an everyday Englishman who survives the destruction of planet Earth, the series meanders between various science fiction tropes before the protagonist uncovers the galactic conspiracy behind his planet’s demolition. There’s a reason this radio show spawned four sequels, was adapted into a television series, a movie, a video game, and a novelization that sold more than 14 million copies….

(2) URSULA VERNON’S GOOD NEWS.

(3) SMALL WONDERS. Issue 7 of Small Wonders, the magazine for science fiction and fantasy flash fiction and poetry, is now available on virtual newsstands here. Co-editors Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade bring a mix of flash fiction and poetry from authors and poets who are familiar to SFF readers as well as those publishing their first-ever piece with us.

The Issue 7 Table of Contents and release dates on the Small Wonders website:

  • Cover Art: “Entrance” by Sarah Morrison
  • “Hikari” (fiction) by Morgan Welch (8 Jan)
  • “The Mummy Gets Adopted” (poem) by Amy Johnson (10 Jan)
  • “Quantum Eurydice” (fiction) by Avi Burton (12 Jan)
  • “Whispers of Ascension” (fiction) by Wendy Nikel (15 Jan)
  • “Lekythos” (poem) by Casey Lucas (17 Jan)
  • “The Sternum Ties it All Together” (fiction) by Janna Miller (19 Jan)
  • “Constellations of Flesh, Bone, and Memory” (fiction) by Timothy Hickson (22 Jan)
  • “Another Cemetery Wedding ” (poem) by Belicia Rhea (24 Jan)
  • “All the Dead Girls, Singing” (fiction) by Avra Margariti (26 Jan)

Subscriptions are available at the magazine’s store and on Patreon.

(4) MEDICAL UPDATE. Rusty Burke experienced a serious fall on December 16, resulting in severe head injuries and two subdural hematomas. Since then, he has been under intensive care, including intubation and sedation. There’s an extensive medical update at “The World of Robert E. Howard” on Facebook.

Rusty Burke is President of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, has edited several editions of Howard’s work, and has published countless articles on Howard for the academic and fan press. He founded The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listens to join Pat Murphy for lunch at “the single best restaurant in the world” in Episode 215 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Pat Murphy

My guest this time around is Pat Murphy, who won the Nebula Award for her 1986 novel The Falling Woman, plus a second Nebula the same year for her novelette, “Rachel in Love.” She also won the Philip K. Dick Award for her 1990 short story collection Points of Departure, and the World Fantasy Award for her 1990 novella, Bones. For more than 20 years, she  and Paul Doherty cowrote the recurring Science column in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She also co-founded the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 1991. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve known Pat for a loooong time, and I can tell you exactly how long — we met on September 4, 1980, more than 43 years prior to the conversation you’re about to hear. If you want to learn exactly how and why I can pinpoint that date, well, the episode will reveal all.

We discussed the part of Robert A. Heinlein’s famed rules of writing with which she disagrees, why she felt the need to attend the Clarion writing workshop even after having made several sales to major pro markets, the occasional difficulties in decoding what an editor is truly trying to tell you, the importance of never giving up your day jobs, why she can’t read Dylan Thomas when she’s working on a novel, the differences between the infighting we’ve seen in the science fiction vs. literary fields, what we perceive as our personal writing flaws, a Clarion critiquing mystery I’ve been attempting to solve since 1979, the science fiction connection which launched her career at the Exploratorium, and much more.

(6) ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has been revealing aspects of her life and writing to BBC Radio 4’s This Cultural Life. Download program at the link.

Margaret Atwood talks to John Wilson about the formative influences and experiences that shaped her writing. One of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed authors, Atwood has published over 60 books including novels, short stories, children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She’s known for stories of human struggle against oppression and brutality, most famously her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian vision of America in which women are enslaved. She has twice won the Booker Prize For Fiction, in 2000 for The Blind Assassin and again in 2019 for her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments.

Growing up in remote Canadian woodland with her scientist parents, she traces her career as a story-teller back to sagas that she invented with her older brother as a child, and her first ‘novel’ written when she was seven. She recalls an opera about fabrics that she wrote and performed at high school for a home economics project, and how she staged puppet shows for children’s parties. Margaret Atwood also discusses the huge impact that reading George Orwell had on her, and how his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four especially influenced The Handmaid’s Tale. She reveals how that novel – written whilst she was living in Berlin in 1985 – was initially conceived after the 1980 election of President Ronald Reagan and the resurgence of evangelical right-wing politics in America.

(7) ECSTASY OF HORROR. The BBC ruminates on “The Wicker Man: The disturbing cult British classic that can’t be defined”.

…At different times and from different perspectives, it can feel as though you’re watching a crime thriller, a fantasy, a celebration of alternate lifestyles or nature-centred folklore – or brilliantly conceived arthouse cinema. In the 2008 book Fifty Key British Films, Justin Smith considered The Wicker Man “a curious mixture of detective story and folk musical”.

The Wicker Man can also be watched as a challenge to orthodox religion – not least when Lord Summerisle defends his pagan ethos by wryly questioning Howie’s Christian worship of “the son of a virgin impregnated by a ghost”. Or perhaps it’s the first mockumentary in British cinema history, given an opening credit offering thanks to Summerisle residents “for this privileged insight into their religious practices and for their generous cooperation in the making of this film”….

(8) AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS AND GRAHAM GREENE. [Item by James Bacon.] Irish science fiction fan Pádraig Ó Méalóid investigates the circumstances under which one of the leading novelists of the twentieth century, Graham Greene, came to write a blurb for the back cover of the first edition of Flann O’Brien’s debut novel At Swim-Two-Birds, published by Longmans, Green & Co. in 1939. “The Mexican Pas de Trois of Flann O’Brien, Graham Greene, and Shirley Temple: The Background to At Swim-Two-Birds’s Back Cover Blurb” at The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O’Brien Studies.

…Greene had worked as a publisher’s reader for Eyre & Spottiswoode in his younger days,13 but by the time At Swim-Two-Birds was published in 1939 he had already had eight novels published, including England Made Me (1935) and Brighton Rock (1938), so was probably both too busy and too successful to be working for anyone as a first reader for incoming manuscripts from first-time writers. At Swim-Two-Birds came to Longmans recommended by A.M. Heath, which might have meant that it would have started its journey on a higher rung than a book straight off the slush pile…

(9) ROGER HILL (1948-2023). “Roger Hill, Early Comics Fan, Historian and Scholar, Dies at 75”The Comics Journal paid tribute. Here’s a brief excerpt:

… During the early 1990s, Roger worked with [Jerry] Weist as comic art advisor to the Sotheby’s Comic Book and Comic Art auctions in New York City.

Beginning in 2004, he edited and published his own fanzine called the EC Fan-Addict Fanzine. The fifth issue was published by Fantagraphics in November 2023, and a sixth, posthumous issue is due out in June 2024 (also from Fantagraphics). He was the art editor for Bhob Stewart’s 2003 book Against the Grain: MAD Artist Wallace Wood, writing several chapters as well. In 2010, Roger contributed an essay called “The Early Years” for the Éditions Déesse edition of the WOODWORK: Wallace Wood 1927-1981 catalog done for the Wally Wood exhibition presented by the Casal Solleric in Palma City, Spain. After Jerry Weist’s passing, in 2012 Roger and Glynn Crain finished assembling his book Frank R. Paul: The Dean of Science Fiction Illustration for IDW Publishing.

Roger’s first book, Wally Wood: Galaxy Art and Beyond, was published by IDW in 2016. His other books include Reed Crandall: Illustrator of the Comics (2017), Mac Raboy: Master of the Comics (2019), and The Chillingly Weird Art of Matt Fox (2023), all for TwoMorrows Publishing….

(10) TOM WILKINSON (1948-2023). [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Definitely one of ours — Shakespeare in Love as Hugh Fennyman, the fantasy film Black Knight in the role of Sir Knolte of Marlborough,  in the sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, next is Batman Begins as Mafia boss Carmine Falcone, The Exorcism of Emily Rose has him playing Father Moore, he’s  a taxi driver in the romantic fantasy If Only and finally he’s James Reid in The Green Hornet.  

Late in his career, he had two animated genre voicing credits. First as The Fox in The Gruffalo’s Child based off  the picture book of the same name written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It looks adorable. 

The second is yet another of the seemingly endless credits for Watership Down, this time for the character Threarah. 

Died December 30.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. (Died 1936.) Yes, Rudyard Kipling. I’ve not ever dealt with him at length so let’s do so now.

I think the works I like best by him are The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, the 1894 and 1895 collections of stories. Most of the characters are animals such as Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear, though a main character is a boy Mowgli. As with most of his work, it reflects strongly his Anglo-Indian heritage and upbringing. 

Up next for us is the Just So Stories for Little Children written eight years later. This collection of origin stories such as how the elephant got his trunk is considered a classic of children’s literature, and deservedly so.

Puck of Pook’s Hill borrows that character, and you know which character I mean, and drops him in 1906 Britain for a series of comical adventures with two children. Really, really fun stories.

He’s written at least two ghost stories, “The Phantom ‘Rickshaw” and “My Own True Ghost Story” published in his 1888 The Phantom ‘Rickshaw & other Eerie Tales collection.

Lastly he did write some SF. To wit, “With the Night Mail” a 1905 story and As Easy As A.B.C., a 1912 publication. (Both were set in the 21st century in Kipling’s Aerial Board of Control universe.)  The first was published in McClure’s Magazine in November 1905, and then in The Windsor Magazine in December 1905. In 1909 it was issued as a popular book, slightly revised and with additional poetry and faux advertisements and notices from the future. Both have anthologized repeatedly in the last one hundred and twenty-five years.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has that name for good reason, as this arrest for a peculiar game-related crime will show.
  • Nancy sounds like someone who went to the same school as Writer X.
  • Tom Gauld presents:

(13) SPARKLING DEBUT. This is who was named TVLine’s “Performer of the Week”: “Ncuti Gatwa’s Performance as the Fifteenth in ‘Doctor Who’ Special”.

…On top of it all, Gatwa also plays the more serious moments so well, mining them not just for the inherent drama (Ruby has mysteriously vanished from the timeline!) but also the emotionWatch him watch the woman who left newborn Ruby at the church doorstep walk away, and you feel the conflict. The heartbreak. Perhaps a hint of recognition…? And then, Fifteen’s eventual resolve to stick to his plan.

Gatwa has stepped into this role with such elan and ease, while also infusing it with specific and fresh nuances, well, it’s almost as if he’s been playing it for 900 years.

(14) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN ALIEN. Atlas Obscura takes readers to “1890s Alien Gravesite – Aurora, Texas”.

According to a story run in the April 19, 1897, edition of the Dallas Morning News a “mystery airship,” as UFOs were known in those days, came sailing out of the sky, smashing through a windmill belonging to Judge J.S. Proctor, before finally crashing into the ground. The debris also destroyed the good judge’s flower garden. Unfortunately the pilot was also killed in the collision, but locals were able to drag what was described as a “petite” and “Martian” body from the wreckage. The body was supposedly buried under a tree branch in the Aurora cemetery, observing good Christian rites….

…Today, the alien’s headstone has been stolen but all traces of the Wild West alien spot are not lost. The Texas state historical marker that commemorates the cemetery still mentions the Martian burial among the other honored (and real) dead buried at the site….

(15) HE’S GOT TO HAVE IT. “’I’d sell a kidney for a Jarvis Cocker Spitting Image puppet!’ The collectors who’ll do anything for a TV treasure” in the Guardian.

…Is there any piece of television treasure [TV writer Tom Neenan is] still holding out for? “There is a Spitting Image puppet of Jarvis Cocker from the 90s that’s really spindly and awesome. If that came up I’d consider selling a kidney or something to buy it,” says Neenan. “Oh and I’m building a Dalek at the minute. It’s based on the plans for the new series and it’s all built by me but I’m very jealous of people who have a screen-used Dalek.”

Ah yes, Daleks. Holy mackerel, there is a wealth of Doctor Who collectors, hunters and enthusiasts out there, meeting up in conference centres, museums and online message boards to compare their wares. It is on one such website that I first came across Chris Balcombe, a man who owned and restored an original 1960s Dalek….

(16) FRIGHTENINGLY NUTRITIOUS. This 1945 Cream of Wheat ad was illustrated by Charles Addams. (Click for larger image.)

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Olav Rokne, Rich Horton, Scott Edelman, James Bacon, 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 Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 12/25/23 It’s Not My Pixel, Monkey Boy!

(1) SCROLL LITE. I’m spending Christmas with my brother and his wife today, so this will be a short edition of the Scroll. I wish a happy holiday season to all of you!

(2) ‘TIL NEXT YEAR. Santa’s finished his rounds and can relax at his favorite intergalactic watering hole. (An Emsh cover for Galaxy Magazine.)

(3) DOCTOR BARBIE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It’s Christmas and some science journals have festive light-heartedness…

The cover of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) relates to the fantasy film hit of the year Barbie. “Christmas 2023: Ideas for a new world”.

The cover of The BMJ’s Christmas issue this year shows a Barbie that challenges sexist and racist norms. Richard Hurley describes the other new ideas this Christmas issue presents.

See also: “This Barbie is a surgeon”.

In her elegant qualitative study, Katherine Klamer dares the reader to dream bigger for a rising generation of girls.1 In an analysis of nearly 90 Barbies, Klamer found that Barbie brand medical professional dolls largely treated children (63%, n=48/76), with only three dolls (4%, n=3/76) working with adults. 59% of the Barbie brand dolls were white, 28% black, and 6% East Asian, and none had any physical disabilities. All Barbie brand doctors appeared to have either no specialization or were paediatricians with no apparent sub-specialization. Analysis showed that the dolls’ personal safety accessories were inadequate for standard practice; 98% of the Barbie brand dolls came with stethoscopes yet only 4% had face masks. Overall, the group of Barbies showed only a very limited range of medical careers.1 As surgeons in decidedly male dominated fields, we support Klamer’s conclusion that Barbies should represent a more diverse field of medical and scientific professions and that safety comes before fashion. Surely, personal protective equipment (known as PPE) should be commonplace accessories in medical and scientist Barbies’ wardrobes. While the evolution of Barbie’s career options has expanded in recent decades, there is clearly still room for improvement….

The issue also includes an article about  “The space doctors”

Few doctors get to go on real space missions, but they do conduct space research, often in extreme…

What do you actually do on a mission?

SR: “You’re trying to simulate the conditions in an environment like the Moon or Mars or anywhere in space so that you can test out technologies and see how they stand up and whether they’re appropriate to be used by a group of isolated people. But you also train future astronauts.”

RV: “When I started in analogue missions (where researchers carry out field tests in places with physical similarities to space environments1 ) there was me and two other doctors in the whole discipline and that was it. Now analogue space medicine has grown into a bigger specialty, and I think that may be because of the Lunar Gateway (the planned extraterrestrial space station to orbit the Moon) plus multiagency/international collaboration planning an extraterrestrial space station on Mars. For that we need to have more testbeds for doing what we call ‘quick, fast, and fail’ to learn what works. To do that you need analogues.”…

(4) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1980 — I assume most of you are familiar with the M*A*S*H series that ran eleven seasons starting in 1972. Based off of the Robert Altman film of the same name, it was supposed to be a comedy but a lot of very dark humor, pathos, tragedy and even quite moving deaths got in it as well. 

It did three Christmas-centered episodes of which I think only “Death Takes A Holiday” from the ninth season stands up as a truly interesting story. 

The secondary story which I’ll detail first has Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, our insufferable Bostonian surgeon, refusing to help salvage things after a party for orphans is cancelled. Everyone else digs into their rations from home and puts together a true military style Christmas party, but him. 

It turn out that Emersons don’t do public charity and he had given expensive chocolate that he got from his parents to that orphanage instead. Thus he’s understandably angry when he discovers the chocolate had made its way to the black market. So he takes the director aside and shouts at him, but the director says the candy was better used to purchase rice and cabbage, which the kids needed far more than candy.

So now for the main story.

A soldier shot by a sniper is choppered in on Christmas. It’s clear that there’s absolutely no hope of saving him as the surgeons know he is brain dead and will die no matter what they do. Just as they’re dropping life saving measures, they find a photograph of his family.

So Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret decide to keep him alive, not indefinitely as not cannot happen even as a Christmas miracle, just until December 26th, so his family will never have to think of Christmas as the day their husband and father died. They succeed until after late evening, but he doesn’t make it to midnight. Finally, Hawkeye makes the decision to push the hands past midnight, and they agree to the list his time of death as early the next morning. 

So no Christmas miracles, just a lie that will help a family be just a little more happy come the next Christmas. Maybe. 

As our medical staff leave the dead behind and Father Mulcahy has administer the Last Rites, they are greeted by Potter as Santa. Potter says Santa knows they’ve “been very good boys and girls today” and has an elf, one of the orphans, give them the last four pieces of nurse Peg’s mother’s fudge from California.

Snow begins falling as they each take a piece and toast each other with it, wishing each other a Merry Christmas while the M*A*S*H staff  in the Mess Tent sing the last lines of “Silent Night”. 

Writing episodes was never a solitary enterprise for the series, so this episode was written by Mike Farrell, John Rappaport, Dennis Koenig, Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox, and Burt Metcalfe and directed by Farrell. Mike Farrell played Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the series. 

Colonel Potter here became the third and final member of the 4077th to play Santa Claus, after Hawkeye in “Dear Dad”, and B.J. in “Dear Sis”.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. (Died 1975.) Rod Serling is best remembered for the original and certainly extraordinary Twilight Zone series and its sequel series of sorts Night Gallery, with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He was involved at some stage in Seven Days in May, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeUFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes.

So let’s look at that work I listed above which is other than Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and what Serling had to do with them, if anything. 

Let’s start Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, which first in released in 1964. Director John Frankenheimer hired Serling to write the script off the novel of the same name by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. It’s a solid piece of alternative history.

The New People series isn’t really anything he was involved in despite many websites listing him as being so. He was given the idea by Aaron Spelling about a group of young people who crash-land on a remote island and with everyone thinking they’re dead, they set out to form a new society.   

He said in a later interview that “He brought me the idea and I wrote the pilot script. Beyond that, I have nothing to do with it. The show is somewhere between Gilligan’s Island and San Francisco State. It may work. But not with me.” The original never-aired fifty-one minute pilot was screened at UCLA Film & Television Archive with a full Serling credit eleven years ago.

Now Serling again had nothingwith the final aired version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film. He was hired to write the script when it was to film in London but Jason Robards was unhappy with his script so it was moved because of a strike to Toronto and a new script by a new writer done. No idea what happened to that script. A pity as it might’ve been interesting.

UFOs: Past, Present, and Future was narrated by Rod Serling, Burgess Meredith, and José Ferrer who had been involved in The Twilight Zone. A documentary purportedly proving they were real. It is various claimed that officials at California’s Norton Air Force Base, the U.S. Department of Defense or the National Republican Party asked for this film. Serling had no role in it beyond narrating part of it. 

Planet of the Apes is an interesting story as the script he wrote was then modified by subsequent screenwriters. Even Serling himself disputes that much of his script remains in the final shooting script saying “The original script that I wrote was considerably different than the one they ultimately used” and whether iconic visual aspects of the film such as the hand of The Statue of Liberty were solely his idea. 

So The Twilight Zone and The Night Gallery which I just checked to make sure and yes Paramount + is still streaming the original Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone as created, largely written by and presented by Rod Serling premiered on CBS with the “Where is Everybody?” episode sixty-four years ago. An earlier pilot was developed but it ended up airing on a different show, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and was later adapted as a radio play. Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote ninety-two of the show’s one hundred and fifty-six episodes. 

The series would run four seasons in total. It would win the Hugo at Pittcon and then again the next year at Seacon for Best Dramatic Presentation repeating that for a third year straight at Chicon III. It didn’t do that for a fourth year running at DisCon I as no Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo was awarded. 

Some of my favorite episodes? “Five Characters In Search of an Exit” for its minimalistic approach to, well, everything; “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with Shatner of course which was actually written not by Serling but by Richard Mathewson; “The Mighty Casey” and “I Sing The Body Electric”, an episode based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. 

Now for The Night Gallery. Unlike The Twilight Zone which has seeped into my consciousness and into my bones as well, I’ll willingly admit that although I’ve watched bits and pieces of it down the decades that I won’t say that’s it has gotten a firm hold on my consciousness like its predecessor. I think it’s that I’m just not interested in horror and suspense which was its focus, so what I saw just didn’t interest me the way the stories on The Twilight Zone always did.  It’s not just as pure a storytelling experience for me as that series is. Oh well. 

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld brings back a couple of his Good King Wenceslas variations.

(7) WHO WAS THAT MASKED DOG? CBR.com tells how “Batman: Ace the Bat-Hound Received an Award-Winning New Christmas Origin”.

It’s our yearly Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar! This year, the theme is the Greatest Christmas Comic Book Stories Ever Told! I had you all vote for your all-time favorite comic book Christmas stories and I collected all the votes, and now I am counting down the results! Each day will spotlight the next story on the list as we count down from #24 all the way to #1!

Every day until Christmas Eve, you can click on the current day’s Advent Calendar post, and it will show the Advent Calendar with the door for that given day opened, and you can see what the “treat” for that day will be! You can click here to see the previous Advent Calendar entries.

And now, we open the sixteenth door on the calendar…

Who was the original Ace the Bat-Hound?

The best thing about Ace the Bat-Hound (created by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris) is that originally he wasn’t even Batman and Robin’s DOG!

When he debuted in 1955’s Batman #92, he was just a dog that they found with a distinctive mark on his forehead and Bruce Wayne advertised in the local newspaper that he found the dog. The dog then jumped into the Batmobile while Batman and Robin were on the way to a crime scene, and since Batman and Robin couldn’t very well be seen hanging around with the same dog that Bruce Wayne just advertised that he had found, Robin made him a mask to cover the distinctive mark, and so Ace the Bat-Hound made his debut!…

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

Pixel Scroll 12/24/23 I’ve Got 99 Pixels But The Scroll Ain’t Fifth

(1) WHAT HAPPENS IN TRISOLARIS — STAYS IN VEGAS. “Netflix to Stage ‘3 Body Problem’ Immersive Experience at CES 2024”. Variety tells what visitors at the Las Vegas event will encounter.

Next month, Netflix will have a booth on the main CES show floor for the first time — where it will stage an “immersive experience” for the “3 Body Problem,” the sci-fi drama series from “Game of Thrones” duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo.

The streamer’s exhibit space at CES 2024 will be located at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Central Hall, Booth #17048. Per Netflix’s description of the activation: “An otherworldly headset will transport CES attendees into the mysterious world of ‘3 Body Problem’ in a fun and experiential way, showcasing the series’ genre-bending high stakes.” The experience keys off a key narrative element in the “3 Body Problem” universe, in which a gaming headset is used by characters to transport into an unknown world.

In the wearable-display experience, CES attendees will be able to watch the series trailer for the very first time. And as they watch, Netflix says, “they are transported into an immersive, real-world extension of the series, revealing clues about the nature of the core threat in the ‘3 Body Problem.’”…

(2) BAD BUZZ ABOUT GOODREADS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The saga of Cait Corrain, et al., takes the lede in the Guardian story, “’It’s totally unhinged’: is the book world turning against Goodreads?”

For Bethany Baptiste, Molly X Chang, KM Enright, Thea Guanzon, Danielle L Jensen, Akure Phénix, RM Virtues and Frances White, it must have been brutal reading. All received scathing reviews on Goodreads, an online platform that reputedly has the power to make or break new authors.

But the verdicts were not delivered by an esteemed literary critic. They were the work of Cait Corrain, a debut author who used fake accounts to “review bomb” her perceived rivals. The literary scandal led to Corrain posting an apology, being dropped by her agent and having her book deal cancelled.

It also uncovered deeper questions about Goodreads, arguably the most popular site on which readers post book reviews, and its outsized impact on the publishing industry. Its members had produced 26m book reviews and 300m ratings over the past year, the site reported in October. But for some authors, it has become a toxic work environment that can sink a book before it is even published.

“It has a lot of influence because there are so many people now who are not in the New York ecosystem of publishing,” says Bethanne Patrick, a critic, author and podcaster. “Publishers and agents and authors and readers go to Goodreads to see what is everybody else looking at, what’s everyone else interested in? It has a tremendous amount of influence in the United States book world and reading world and probably more than some people wish it had.

Goodreads allows users to review unpublished titles. Publishers frequently send advance copies to readers in exchange for online reviews that they hope will generate buzz. But in October, Goodreads acknowledged a need to protect the “authenticity” of ratings and reviews, encouraging users to report content or behaviour that breaches its guidelines.

Goodreads said: “Earlier this year, we launched the ability to temporarily limit submission of ratings and reviews on a book during times of unusual activity that violate our guidelines, including instances of ‘review bombing’. This kind of activity is not tolerated on Goodreads and it diminishes the community’s trust in people who participate.”…

(3) THE HAUNTENING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has had a short comedy, thriller. When he gets a gift from his girlfriend, he does not realize that it is a deep fake powered by an artificial intelligence.  But the AI does not take well to criticism and things soon become personal… You can listen to it here. “The Hauntening”.

Travel through the bad gateway in this modern ghost story as writer and performer Tom Neenan discovers what horrors lurk in our apps and gadgets. In this episode, a celebrity birthday message from Joanna Lumley turns into a terrifying gift for Tom

Modern technology is terrifying. The average smartphone carries out three-point-three-six billion instructions per second. The average person can only carry out one instruction in that time. Stop and think about that for a second. Sorry, that’s two instructions – you won’t be able to do that.

But what if modern technology was… literally terrifying? What if there really was a ghost in the machine?

(4) POSTERIZED. Think of it as a start on next year’s shopping. Or simply a well-deserved gift for yourself.  “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Millennium Records, 1977)” at Heritage Auctions. Bidding is only up to $16 at last look.

Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Millennium Records, 1977). Very Fine on Linen. All English Language Japanese Record Store Poster (20.25″ X 29.25″) Robert Rodriquez Artwork.

Even though its films take place in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars franchise has connected with audiences since the original film’s release in 1977. 20th Century Fox had no idea that the film would resonate so much with fans, so when George Lucas agreed to pass up a $500,000 directing bonus to attain merchandising rights, it seemed safe for the studio to do. However, Lucas, who had seen the merchandising blitz that came with his good friend Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, knew well the power that films had on consumers. George Lucas’ imagination led to a licensing goldmine of action figures, play sets, posters, board games, books, trading cards, costumes, and more. It’s been 45 years since Star Wars hit the screen, and the franchise has raked in over $29 billion in merchandise sales alone. Much more than the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey set in a space opera, the retail and promotional items made in conjunction with this multi-faceted property have brought tremendous joy to fans worldwide and remain coveted among collectors. The characters, the settings, and the galaxy continue to be beloved by Force believers, and here we present an extensive treasure trove of rare items dating from 1977 to today. May the Force be with you!

Offered in this lot is a rare all-English language Japanese record store poster for Meco’s best-selling album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, which reworked the Star Wars score into a disco and jazz fusion medley. A restored poster with bright color and a clean overall appearance. Minor touchup and color touchup is applied to several creases. Grades on all restored items are pre-restoration grades.

(5) VISION QUESTS. Deadline studies the rapid advancement in animation effects in “’Across The Spider-Verse’, ‘Nimona’ & ‘TMNT: Mutant Mayhem’ VFX”.

… Since the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was awarded in 2002 to DreamWorks’ Shrek, the animation industry has made incredible strides. This awards season, such films are pushing the boundaries of what animation can be, and VFX plays a huge part in infusing new artistic styles into every frame….

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse pushed the animated comic book style of the 2018 film even further with six new, distinct worlds and a visually complex villain. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse amazed everyone in 2018 with an interpretation of animated comics, and set a bar for what animation could look like. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse exceeded expectations with the introduction of six new worlds, each with a new style of animation. While these were all challenging in their own way, VFX supervisor Mike Lasker says the most challenging aspect of the film was the new villain, the Spot. 

“This was the culmination of every tool in our toolbox we had created over the course of production,” he says. “We had a lot of great reference paintings of him, and there were all these different, dark and evil sorts of purples and ink splattering off of him as he moved his limbs.” Using 2D tools integrated into the 3D animation software, Lasker’s team was able to add hand-drawn ink lines, paint strokes, distortion, and more to create the final look. “We ended up using the stroke system, ink splatter coming off the layers, heavy compositing, lighting, paint strokes—every area of the pipeline was involved.”

Lasker says look supervisor Craig Feifarek was an essential part of creating the final look of the Spot. “Craig actually lit and composited all of these shots,” he says. “He did a great job, but also the animation department did an amazing job prototyping how the Spot acts in the last shots of the film. They were able to create all these crazy flash frames… I look at this now and I’m still in awe of what they’ve done.”

(6) HERE’S MY NUMBER AND A DIME. Slashfilm says “A Chance Run-In With Ray Bradbury Helped Bring Blade Runner To The Big Screen”.

…Paul M. Sammon’s “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner” provides an in-depth look at the genesis of “Blade Runner” and details Fancher’s attempts to seek out [Philip K. Dick] the man behind “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Unfortunately, the search was proving fruitless at first, with Fancher claiming “it was just about impossible to learn anything about him.” The writer, eager to get going on a script, took a trip to New York in search of the mysterious author’s agents, who turned out to be unhelpful.

What happened next was complete luck, according to Fancher, who ended up “accidentally” running into an author not dissimilar to Dick: the legendary author Ray Bradbury. The man responsible for sci-fi classics such as “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles” handed Fancher a lifeline during their chance encounter. Flipping through his address book, he found Philip K. Dick’s home phone number and promptly handed it over to Fancher.

As the future co-writer of the “Blade Runner” script recalled: “the next day, in fact, I called Phil about the book and we set up an appointment to meet in his apartment.” The two spoke at Dick’s Santa Ana home where they are said to have gotten along well despite Fancher sensing some “manic” and “self-reverential” tendencies in the author, who seemed initially wary of any Hollywood treatment of his novels….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 24, 1910 Fritz Leiber. (Died 1992.) Now in Birthdays we come to the matter of Fritz Leiber.

Fritz Leiber. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Warning: this is my list of favorite works by him, not a definitive look at him. 

I’ll  start with The Big Time as it has long been my favorite work by him, and I must say that it has magnificently held up over the years. No Suck Fairy has dared approach it lest she turn to dust on the winds of the Change Wars. 

First published sixty-two years ago as a novel by Ace Books, The Big Time started out as a two part-serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s in the March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. 

It was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but he noted it was more of a play than an actual novel. One set, a small number of actors — perfect to be staged.

There were also the Change War stories, collected in Snakes & Spiders: The Definitive Change War Collection, published by Creative Minority Productions which I can’t say I’ve ever heard of. It is available from the usual suspects. And yes, I just got a copy as I can still read short stories fine even if novels are long beyond me. 

Next up without question are that barbarian and thief duo, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Leiber wrote it as a counterpoint he says in part to such characters as Conan the Barbarian, and I for one like them very much better. I think I’ve read all them, and they’re certainly his most entertaining writing by far.

I really like Conjure Wife which was awarded the Retro Hugo Award at Dublin 2019. A most delicious take on the premise that all women are witches, and told all so well. 

Yes, I like his short stories by I can’t remember which are my favorite ones other than the Change 

That’s my list of favorite Leiber works, what’s yours?

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld sends help to those hunting for last-minute gifts.

(9) AFTER THE CALAMITY. [Item by Steven French.] Read Jeff Vander Meer “On Sven Holm’s Novella of Nuclear Disaster” in The Paris Review. The post-apocalyptic story Termush,  originally published in 1967, was reissued earlier this year with a foreword by Vander Meer:

…In its treatment of the aftermath of nuclear war, Termush distinguishes itself from the so-called disaster cozies of the fifties, like the novels of John Wyndham, to occupy more urgent territory. In this genre, the dangers of some calamitous situation become entwined with an almost cheery disaster-tourism tone; more importantly, civilization always wins in the end, even if in an altered form. The militias may hold sway for a while, or the plague lay waste to whole towns, but by the novel’s close, equilibrium and balance, logic and order, always return to human endeavors. Not so much in Termush, which also eludes, through its particular focus and narrative velocity, echoes of Cold War conflict that otherwise might have dated the novella. Instead of a pervading sense of “the other” about to storm the gates, Holm delves into the psychology of the holed-up survivors and the hazards of societal breakdown….

… The right excerpt from Termush could easily have appeared in New Worlds, the seminal sixties magazine for the New Wave…

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the Wish Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]