Speculative Sounds with Ursula K. Le Guin Part 1: Music And Poetry of the Kesh and Rigel 9

Le Guin in 1984, a year before Rigel 9’s release. (Harlan Ellison at left.) Pip R. Lagenta/CC BY 2.0

By RL Thornton:

Introduction: When we think about speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction and fantasy), we usually think about novels, movies, or TV. But there are authors and musicians who try to expand those visions into sound. Ursula K. Le Guin was one of those people. This week, we will look at two of Le Guin’s musical collaborations with Todd Barton (“Kesh”) and David Bedford (“Rigel 9”), and next week, we will discuss Le Guin’s collaborations with composer and music educator Elinor Armen.

“Kesh” and Always Coming Home: Originally, this collection was on a cassette that came with a deluxe first edition of Le Guin’s 1985 novel Always Coming Home. Le Guin teamed up with synthesist Todd Barton to create a soundtrack to her 1985 novel Always Coming Home.

But it was reissued by the label RVNG International to acclaim by periodicals Pitchfork, who deemed it a Best New Reissue that “highlights the rich, totally immersive art Ursula K. Le Guin sought to create” and UK’s Guardian, who called it “deeply weird and enjoyable” even though they mistakenly called it an “electronica” album”. The first edition of 1000 vinyl LPs sold out and it was reissued a second time in 2018.

Music And Poetry of the Kesh is definitely different. Much of it is grounded in woodland sounds and the majority of the tunes feature sparse solo and duo unaccompanied singing that occasionally plays against a drum beating out time. Those unaccompanied tracks seem immediate and recorded live but feel a little thin due to the lack of reverb. Most of them seem to be a little thin sonically, though Barton occasionally brings in his synths (“Heron Dance”) and uses multitracked voices for “Long Singing.” It is said that there are instruments designed for the album but I didn’t really hear anything new–there was one sound that resembled a didgeridoo in “A River Song,” possibly the long droning horn that I read about.

Previously, I rejected this album out of hand because it lacked sound production values, but this album didn’t make sense to me until I actually started listening to it and reading Always Coming Home at the same time. As Le Guin’s prose cast its spell over me as usual, the soundtrack actually made Le Guin’s novel come alive. The decision to make the tracks part of the local soundscape suddenly made sense. It felt like I was among the Kesh! I swear it was absolutely magic. Who knew that the choice to use a minimum amount of recording tech would work so well! I’m really impressed. If you are a fan of Le Guin and especially a fan of Always Coming Home, I would say this is a must buy.

“Rigel 9” and Bedford: Next, we have Le Guin creating a libretto for a literal “space opera” with composer David Bedford and the County of Avon Symphonic Wind Band. In this story, explorers from Earth land on Rigel 9, a planet that seems to be nothing but bizarre trees. When the party begins to explore the world, everything changes after one of them is kidnapped by intelligent life. Bedford’s songs are grounded in that jazzy 70s British prog rock sound reminiscent of bands like Gong, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, and Henry Cow. Occasionally, I hear a brass band playing but most of the time it’s buried in the mix.

When the songs end and the spoken part of the libretto begins, Bereford’s blaring synths lay down weird background songs that are, well, like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s soundtracks for Doctor Who. Mix in the Dalek-ish robotic vocals that instruct the ship’s explorers, and Rigel 9 feels a lot like a rogue Doctor Who episode. My guess is the Bedford was trying to sell his rather unusual concept by deliberately pandering to the Whovians. Unfortunately, adopting the Whovian soundworld dilutes the work’s originality. The best part of Bedford’s musical setting is his cunning choice of ethereal female vocals to serve as the voices of Rigel 9’s inhabitants–literally unearthly and beautiful.

So what about Le Guin’s libretto? Honestly, it’s really meh for her and possibly the least interesting work that she has ever done, but even the least Le Guin is better than most. The explorer’s conversations are pretty flat and the characterizations are also flat, but the plot twist is actually pretty neat. Since this is on Apple Music and probably Spotify, I would suggest listening to Rigel 9 on those services before buying. And Whovians might want to try it too.

Warner Holme Review: Ursula K Le Guin’s Collected Poems

Ursula K Le Guin’s Collected Poems, Edited by Harold Bloom (Library of America, 2023)

Review by Warner Holme: Ursula K Le Guin’s Collected Poems represents a look at a wide swath of the career of a fine storyteller in an artform she often practiced but wasn’t nearly as well known for. Given that the Library of America has already provided a number of excellent releases of her work, this collection of poetry is definitely going to continue that trend.

Poems in this book come from as early as the author’s 1975 collection Wild Angels, and move forward to pieces composed and published very shortly before her death. In the context of a single volume on a poet, that is in many ways as comprehensive as a reader could hope for.

One early piece, and probably one of the smallest in terms of word count in the collection, is “Drums”. Totaling at 16 words, with two words a line it is a simple playful piece connecting different types of dance. Providing some of the simplest language and broadest imagery it nonetheless works solidly. Even with occasionally macabre imagery, this represents a piece that can easily feel more hopeful than many others she produced.

“Extinction” is a short and dark piece, depressing in its implications and apocalyptic in its scope. With each line having five or fewer syllables, the text would often move quickly yet the context and words make one take their time and slowly observe and absorb each piece of imagery.

This is, however, far from structurally common for the poetry of Le Guin. Another piece using much longer lines would be “Merlin.” This poem is a two stanza piece that is, amusingly, decidedly not in the Arthurian category. Instead it is a careful and majestic depiction of the familiar bird. short, observational and yet beautiful it provides a quick look at the author’s thoughts of the time with only its last line pushing directly to remind a reader of the fantastical with a note about “hearing the dragon speak” on page 597. While this will be comfortable territory for fans of her fantasy work, it’s hard not to look at it as a fan of poetry and think that the association with her literature is altogether unnecessary to appreciate the piece as is.

Students of her work will find this volume an invaluable collection of not only her poetry, but thoughts upon the art form as well. This includes a variety of forward, introductions, and afterwards as well as a detailed interview/conversation with one David Naimon. This is truly quite an in-depth piece, featuring her opinions and examinations of them in rather more detail than a simple interview to promote a book might have incorporated.

Le Guin Collected Poems is another wonderful example of the work of a master being treated with respect and academic rigor by the Library of America. With examples of her work ranging over a matter of decades the reader gets to experience the growth and change not only of the author but the world that influenced her. Short of already owning her complete poetry, it is unmissable for the interested party with a focus on the work of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Pixel Scroll 1/18/24 Mission Of Impossible Gravity

(1) LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR. C. E. Murphy shares her views about what kind of revision request letters work best: “Process Post: on edit letters” at The Essential Kit.

There was a discussion going on over on Bluesky about dealing with edit letters, and this truth came up: “Editors aren’t always right about the solutions, but they’re nearly always right about the problems.”

That thread went on to discuss how the person quoting it, who happens to be KJ Charles whose books I read all of last year and who is also an editor, approaches edit letters; her approach involves suggesting ideas to fix the problems, because it opens the writer’s mind to the possiblity that the book could have something different happen in that moment, and also it gives them something to reject/bounce off/spitefully correct. Which, like: that seems very valid.

That said, I have recently watched friends get SUPER LONG, to my mind, edit letters, 70%+ of which are ideas & suggestions as how to tackle problems, and I honestly think my brain would explode. My editors have VERY MUCH been of the “this is a problem, pls fix” approach, rather than the “let us brainstorm!” approach, and I think that works for me….

(2) NONSENSE OF TASTE. Camestros Felapton shared a couple of riotous sci-fi themed brew labels in “Thursday’s Sunday Beer”. I won’t steal his thunder – click the link to discover his selections — only thank him for introducing us to New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing Company where literally dozens more comical labels can be viewed, including tap badges like these:

(3) SEATTLE 2025 STATEMENT ABOUT REGISTRATION. Seattle 2025 Worldcon chair Kathy Bond today made the following statement about their registration software, and a delay in the ability to upgrade to attending membership for Seattle Worldcon bid supporters and site selection voters:

Due to a last-minute change in our registration software, our ability to process registrations and upgrades to attending memberships for site selection voters and bid supporters has been delayed past our originally projected date. We apologize for the delay. Please be assured we will honor our initial registration rates for at least two weeks after we are able to make our registration system go live. 

Thank you for your patience as we iron out the bugs.

(4) BRITISH LIBRARY CONVENES ONLINE PANEL ABOUT LE GUIN. On January 23, join Theo Downes Le Guin, Ursula’s son and literary executor; Julie Phillips, her biographer, and writer Nicola Griffiths (shortlisted for the 2023 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction) for an evening of appreciation and exploration: The British Library Cultural Events – “The Realms of Ursula K. Le Guin Tickets”.

  • Event: 7:00 pm UK/11:00 am Pacific
  • Tickets are £6.50, or £3.25 for Library members

This is an online event streamed on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

(5) THESE REBOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] This could be good, it could be decidedly not. “’The Avengers’ Reboot Coming; ‘Industry’ Writers Pen StudioCanal Pilot” at Deadline.

There were rumors that the project was in with HBO, but this was denied last year. It is not clear where The Avengers reboot will land. StudioCanal declined to comment as talks continue….

Macnee starred as Steed, who fought off diabolical plots against the state with his trademark bowler hat and umbrella. He had a succession of high-fashion assistants played by the likes of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. They broke ground for being Steed’s equal, holding their own in brawls and delivering playful quips….

Steed’s first partner wasn’t a woman at all but medical doctor David H Keel as the series  spun out of Police Surgeon where Keel played the same character who asked Steed to help on a case. It would feel like a uniquely different series than the later series as the tone, Steed’s personality and stories are markedly more grounded. 

Nightclub singer Venus Smith played by Julie Stevens was next, just six episodes in duration. Now we have Cathy Gale played by Honor Blackman, an anthropologist. Of course we finally got the extraordinary Emma Peel as played by Diana Rigg, described as a “talented amateur agent”.  

Linda Thorson ended the series as Tara King. An actual spy, enlisted at an early age in the Intelligence Service as a trainee, under the number 69. Would I kid about that? No, I would not. 

So how do you reboot a beloved classic of British television? Personally I don’t think you can. 

So before you ask, I prefer not to mention that film.

(6) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University has launched The Climate Action Almanac, a free collection of fiction, nonfiction, and art exploring positive climate futures, grounded in real science and in the complexities of diverse human and physical geographies. The book is presented in partnership with the MIT Press and supported by the ClimateWorks Foundation.

The Almanac features 8 individual works of science fiction, with four authors contributing two stories apiece: Vandana Singh, Gu Shi, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda. Overall, the collection features contributions from more than 25 writers representing 17 different countries around the globe, from Argentina, Norway, and China to Nigeria, Germany, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and more. On the science fiction front, there is also a dialogue between Kim Stanley Robinson and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(7) NOT OK IN OK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A certain Oklahoma state legislator might want to take advantage of any mental health benefits available in his medical plan. Representative Justin Humphrey apparently has a possibly-unhealthy obsession with Furries. Or, perhaps specifically, with the urban myth that Furries are being provided litter boxes by school systems. According to HuffPost, “An Oklahoma Republican Wants Animal Services To Remove Furries From Schools”.

A Republican legislator in Oklahoma who once said that transgender people have “a mental illness” introduced a bill this week that would allow animal services to remove students who identify as furries from school.

The bill, which was pre-filed ahead of Oklahoma’s legislative session, would bar students who “purport to be an imaginary animal or animal species, or who engage in anthropomorphic behavior commonly referred to as furries,” from school activities.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, may seem farcical. But the idea that schools accommodate students who identify as animals has its roots in a long-standing — and repeatedly debunked — conservative myth.

Republican legislators and candidates have for years claimed that schools are putting litter boxes in classrooms for students who identify as cats or furries. At least 20 GOP politicians peddled these claims in 2022, and used them as a way to sound the alarm over protections and accommodations for LGBTQ+ students, NBC News reported.

“What’s most provocative about this hoax is how it turns to two key wedge issues for conservatives: educational accommodations and gender nonconformity,” Joan Donovan, a researcher on media and politics at Harvard University, told the outlet at the time…

(8) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Rich Horton sadly reports that “Bad Things Come in Threes: Terry Bisson (February 12, 1942 – January 10, 2024), Howard Waldrop (September 15, 1946 – January 14, 2024), Tom Purdom (April 19, 1936 – January 14, 2024): A Tripartite Obituary” in an obituary notice for Black Gate.

On the heels of Terry Bisson’s death I heard news that Howard Waldrop had died. And this morning I woke up to learn that Tom Purdom had also died. A profound 1-2 punch to the SF community, followed by a knockout. Bisson and Waldrop were two of the most original, indeed weirdest, SF writers; and if Purdom wasn’t as downright weird as those two he was as intriguing in his slightly more traditional fashion. All three writers wrote novels, but it’s fair to say they are all best known for their short fiction….

(9) PURDOM TRIBUTE. Michael Swanwick also salutes the late author in “Tom Purdom, Heart of Philadelphia” at Flogging Babel.

This is very hard for me to write. So please excuse its infelicities. I knew this man for a full fifty years.

Tom Purdom is dead. Not enough people will know what a loss this is. While he was as vivid and eccentric an individual as any of the rest of us, he absolutely refused to promote himself. I think he believed it was ungentlemanly. But those who knew him, cherished him.

Tom was the very heart of Philadelphia science fiction long before I came to town in 1974. He and his socially elegant wife Sara Purdom had monthly open houses where all the SF community was welcome–even rowdies like Gardner Dozois and myself. They two served as role models for Marianne and me. 

His gatherings were as glittery events as our crew ever saw. I recall Milton Rothman discussing the physics of nuclear-powered aircraft, and I most vividly remember Jack McKnight (who machined the first Hugo trophies in  his garage) pretending to steal our then-infant son Sean at one of these soirees….

(10) PETER SCHICKELE (1935-2024). The composer also known as “P.D.Q. Bach”, Peter Schickele, died January 16 at the age of 88.

Schickele won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album four years in a row from 1990-1994. He also won in 2000 for Best Classical Crossover album. Once, he included in a concert program book an airsickness bag, labeled “For Use In Case of Cultural Discomfort.”

His catalogue of more than 100 works includes the score for Silent Running (1972).

He hosted the radio show “Schickele Mix” for Public Radio International. In 168 episodes, produced between 1992 and 1999, he explored the elements, concepts and techniques that make music work, illustrated with classical, jazz and rock recordings, proclaiming in his introductions that “all musics are created equal.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 71. So we come this Scroll to Pamela Dean, one of the writers I consider without equivocation to be one of the best fantasy writers ever. 

She’s a member of two writing groups, of which the first was the Scribblies, with Nate Bucklin, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey,Will Shetterly and Patricia Wrede.

Then there was Pre-Joycean Fellowship. Love that name!  It was a shared belief that was more or lesser seriously adopted by several writers to indicate that they value 19th-century values of storytelling. Steven Brust wrote that “it is in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.” 

Pamela Dean

Writers who are members include Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman, Will Shetterly, Adam Stemple and Jane Yolen. No idea when the Pre-Joycean Fellowship meet up for tea and biscuits, but they must, right? 

Warning: this is my list of favorites, not a comprehensive overview though it comes close. 

Tam Lin, based of course on that Child ballad, and set in the early Seventies at the fictional Blackstock College in Minnesota is just brilliant. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It’s certainly my favorite book by her. 

Another Child Ballad, “Riddles Wisely Expounded”, is the root text of her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I relish a story with a house that shouldn’t exist and a character who speaks in riddles. Quite delicious indeed.

And for my reading pleasure, the final set of works by her is The Secret Country trilogy consisting of The Secret CountryThe Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon. A Royal family in considerable turmoil, witches, unicorns — what’s not to like? Really it’s superb storytelling at its best. 

She’s written but thirteen short stories and a poem, six of which and the poem were published in the Laivek tales that were edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterley who created that franchise. Yes, I’ve read the Laivek tales and they are really great fantasy. Hers are among the best here. (The one here was co-written with Patricia C. Wrede.)

All of the novels I like are now available from the usual suspects. Oh and what I thought but now know having just checked the usual sources was a single Laivek story with Wrede is actually multiple stories as it’s available here as Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, all three hundred sixty-four pages of it! 

I’m very glad to see these nine Laivek stories getting published like this, and I’m hoping more Laivek writers do the same. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WATCH ON THE RHINE. The Governator ran afoul of German customs inspectors says the Guardian: “Arnold Schwarzenegger held at Munich airport over luxury watch”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was briefly held by customs officers at Munich airport on Wednesday after allegedly failing to declare a €26,000 (£22,000) Audemars Piguet watch the Terminator star was planning to sell at an auction in aid of his climate crisis charity.

The Austrian-born actor and former governor of California, 76, was stopped at the airport for about three hours upon arrival from Los Angeles, according to the German tabloid Bild, which quoted customs officials.

Schwarzenegger was taken aside by officers who searched his luggage and found the watch, which the actor had allegedly not declared on his arrivals customs form….

A spokesperson for the main customs office in Munich said: “We have initiated criminal tax proceedings. The watch should have been registered because it is an import.”

(14) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 101 of the Octothorpe podcast “John Has Developed Precognitive Abilities”.

Alison Scott, John Coxon and Liz Batty get the year started off correctly. We give listeners a round-up of forthcoming conventions (mostly in the UK), give Keanu Reeves a frank talking-to, and discuss some hot new SF.

(15) UP AGAINST THE PRIZE WALL. This project is not being marketed as horror for some inexplicable reason: “Chuck E. Cheese Television Series Based on Restaurant Chain Now in Development” at Yahoo!

Chuck E. Cheese reality television series is now in development.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Magical Elves, a production company that’s worked on shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway, is now developing a reality television series based on the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.

The description of the series reads, “The format will feature stand-alone comedic physical challenges where duos of ‘big kids’ (a.k.a. adults) will compete over supersized arcade games — including pinball, air hockey, alley roller, and the human claw.  The top ticket-earning duo will get the chance to exchange their tickets for prizes off the massive version of the iconic Chuck E. Cheese prize wall.”…

(16) IT’S A GAS! Futurism reports “Astronomers Puzzled by Galaxy With No Stars”.

Astronomers have accidentally found an entire galaxy that appears to have plenty of gas — but no visible stars to speak of.

Their findings, which were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society, may seem paradoxical on their face, but the discovery could provide a rare, possibly never-before-seen insight that challenges our understanding of how stars and galaxies are formed….

… The eerily empty object, called J0613+52, is located 270 million light years away, according to a Big Think writeup on the discovery, and at the very least appears to be a low-surface brightness galaxy (LSB).

As the name suggests, an LSB is significantly less bright than other glimmering objects that populate the night sky because the gasses it contains are so spread out that few stars are formed.

Still, this classification holds that such a galaxy would at least have some stars, and J0613+52, with seemingly none at all, could be something even more rare and elusive: a dark, primordial galaxy.

“This could be our first discovery of a nearby galaxy made up of primordial gas,” Karen O’Neil, a senior scientist of the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement about the research….

(17) BARBIE’S DREAM HOUSE. Neil DeGrasse Tyson geo-locates Barbieland using visual details in the movie in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as adapted by @EnigmaWorldOfficial.

(18) YOU’RE LOCKED INSIDE WITH ME. Isn’t that what Rorschach said was the inmates’ problem? There’s good reason to call this “The Creeptastic ‘Abigail’ Trailer”. The film arrives in theaters on April 19.

Children can be such monsters!. You just can’t ‘dance’ around the subject. If you need convincing, check out Radio Silence’s first trailer for the horror film ‘Abigail,’ featuring a very, very creepy kid. After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, as they discover that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/27/23 So Have You Looked Up And Seen How Pixels Twinkle Against The Midnight Sky? 

(1) UNFORSEEN INTERSECTION. Maya St. Clair draws a fascinating comparison between a current bestseller and Heinlein’s controversial classic in “Fourth Wing Review: Starship Troopers (for Girls!)”

…Criticisms of Starship Troopers’ themes, while hyperbolic, were not entirely off-base. In Heinlein’s world, the ideal military life is violent, abusive, and deindividualizing; death is and should be omnipresent at every stage of training. For example, there’s the basic training exercise in which

“… they dumped me down raw naked in a primitive area of the Canadian Rockies and I had to make my way forty miles through mountains. I made it [by killing rabbits and smearing fat and dirt on his body] … The others made it, too… all except two boys who died trying. Then we all went back into the mountains and spent thirteen days finding them…. We buried them with full honors to the strains of ‘This Land Is Ours’… They weren’t the first to die in training; they weren’t the last.”

Through the eyes of Johnnie, we experience an intensity of life that makes civilian existence seem anemic, even pathetic….

…With all that being said, it feels wrong to mention Fourth Wing in the same breath as Starship Troopers. Putting aside the fact that Fourth Wing is a poorly-written work whose prose has been critiqued to death by many people before me, the two books seem to represent opposing moments in publishing history. Heinlein, for all his faults, was writing “up” for an audience of teens, treating them as adults and including them in the sphere of “adult” science fiction, with complex worldbuilding and (relatively) sophisticated themes. Sixty years later, Fourth Wing and its team (author Rebecca Yarros and Entangled Publishing) represent a publishing world moving in the opposite direction: creating books for adults in an actively juvenile style, and cultivating an audience of adult readers who no longer demand that published books have good writing at all so long as they check necessary boxes of sensation and eroticism.

But thematically and content-wise, the two books are as close as one could possibly get. Fourth Wing, like Starship Troopers, sells a military coming-of-age story in which mass death is a part of the allure (“brutally addictive,” says the cover blurb). Someone on Reddit puts the death count of Fourth Wing at 222 cadets, plus an untold number of civilians — though it’s widely considered a “fluff” read. Its primary audience (and the primary audience of most mainstream fantasy now) is female, young, progressive, and would probably be aghast at being compared to grimdark bros, Heinlein apologists, or men in general. And yet here we all are, hooked on the same stuff….

(2) ICONIC LE GUIN COVER ART OFFERED. The estates of Carol Carr and her husband Robert Lichtman are in the news: “Original cover art for Le Guin sci-fi novel goes on sale” at Bay Area Reporter.

…First published in paperback by Ace Books, the novel sported cover art by award-winning artists and biracial couple Leo and Diane Dillon. Their painting featured profiles of the book’s protagonists in the left bottom corner looking off into the distance. Surrounding the pair is a blue and white celestial-like scene with what appears to be a brown planet and a spaceship hovering above.

(Leo Dillon, of Trinidadian descent, died in 2012. He was the first African American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustrators of children’s books, while the Dillons were the only consecutive winners of the award, having received the honor in 1976 and 1977.)

The Dillons’ original 17 and 1/4 by 13 inches acrylic painting is now being offered for sale for the first time at the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America global book fair taking place in San Francisco in early February. The asking price is $20,000.

“It is literally unique. This is it, the original and not a print,” said Mark Funke, a rare bookseller who lives in Mill Valley where his business is also located.

Scouting out shops in the East Bay several years ago looking for new material to sell, Funke had received a tip about the sale of various items from a home in the Oakland hills. It led him to receive an invite from the executor of the estate to come to the house.

To his amazement, Funke had stumbled onto the archives of three individuals involved in the world of science fiction writing. One was the late Terry Carr, an editor at Ace Books who published the works of Le Guin and other sci-fi authors and died in 1987. While most of Carr’s personal papers had gone to UC Riverside, Funke found several boxes still in the house and acquired them….

… Funke is now handling its sale on behalf of the Carr and Lichtman Estate. He will have it available on a first-come, first-served basis at his booth at the book fair.

“I am pricing it high for the artists but, I think, reasonable for it being Le Guin’s most famous novel. She won awards for it, and it ratcheted her up to the greats of science fiction,” said Funke. “It’s got very topical content; this idea of the planet Gethen and ambisexual individuals. I just think it is fascinating and a very active topic in today’s discussion.”

In a statement to the B.A.R. about the sale, the executor for the family estate said, “The Carr-Lichtman family has treasured this artwork for over 50 years and now it is time to find a new owner who will cherish this remarkable work of science fiction publishing history for the next 50 years.”…

(3) KORSHAK COLLECTION NEWS. The Korshak Collection announced on Facebook

We have partnered with the University of Delaware for an academic illustrated catalog of the Korshak Collection. We don’t want to give away all of our surprises, but the catalog will include a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and entry by Pulitzer prize winner author Michael Dirda, as well as an interview with the Hugo Award winning artist Michael Whelan. We are so grateful for this partnership and all of the outstanding contributions that have made this project possible.

(4) MCU UK. James Bacon recommends David Thorpe’s account of his time as a creator for Marvel UK: “In Review: The Secret Origin of Earth 616 By David Thorpe” at Downthetubes.net.

… This is a fascinating book, and, for Captain Britain fans, a definite buy. For comic fans interested in Marvel UK, of great interest. Yet it is also an excellent autobiography, a very readable and personal exploration of a comic fans desires, aspirations and progression to be a writer and an insight into how Marvel UK was, and offers real honesty when it comes to a comics career that took an interesting turn that saw David Thorpe’s work in the industry elsewhere. The story is brimful, and includes how another comic related moment saw him turn to a very successful career beyond comics, one that arguably has made a real difference to the world….

… David Thorpe came up with the concept of Earth 616, and he describes it as a Stan Lee styled “Hoo Boy” moment when he heard Mysterio say “This is Earth dimension 616. I’m from Earth 833.” to Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Far From Home and that is something that any comic reader can appreciate, many of whom have imagined themselves as writers….

(5) IN FELLOWSHIP THERE IS STRENGTH. “Board Game Cafe Workers Went on a Quest for a Union and Won” reports the New York Times.

A golden glow illuminated the employees huddled inside a Hex & Co. cafe on the Upper East Side, a haven created for board game enthusiasts to gather for fantastical quests.

Meticulous campaigns were second nature to these workers — how many times had they infiltrated an obsidian castle or vanquished a warlock? They had been immersed in this particular adventure for months, navigating a labyrinth governed by strict rules and made harrowing by unfamiliar tasks and tests. Now they gathered to plot their final triumph: unionization.

On that Tuesday in September, Hex & Co. workers confronted their bosses with a demand for recognition. Less than two months later, they voted to join Workers United, the same group that has been organizing workers at Starbucks stores across the United States. The workers at the three Hex & Co. locations across New York City were just the first employees of a board game cafe in the city to unionize. Workers at the Uncommons and the Brooklyn Strategist followed this month.

All the stores fall under the ownership of either Jon Freeman, Greg May or both, and they pleaded with their employees not to unionize, saying that a union would wipe out the “flexible and open-door atmosphere we have tried to foster.”

Teaching board games is a far cry from swinging a miner’s pick or working numbing hours on an assembly line. In fact, many of the cafe workers said they hung out at their workplaces in their off hours. But in the end, complaints over dollar-an-hour raises and bands of unruly children reigned: Among the 94 employees who voted, only 17 dissented….

…Only 10 percent of American wage and salary workers were union members in 2022, a historical low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The food-service sector’s membership rate was less than 4 percent. But this fiscal year saw the most representation filings since 2015, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

Young workers “are willing to take risks, because they feel like their future is at stake,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell University.

After slogging through a recession and a pandemic, many found themselves earning minimum wage while corporate profits soared, she said….

(6) AI AS SEEN BY THREE SFF AUTHORS. The River Cities’ Reader tells fans how to access the “Virtual Event: ‘Speculating Our AI Future,’” with Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells on January 11.

Designed for those fascinated by, or terrified about, the rise of artificial intelligence is invited to a January 11 virtual event hosted by the Rock Island and Silvis Public Libraries, when Illinois Libraries Present’s Speculating Our AI Future finds bestselling science-fiction writers Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells in discussion on the promise, perils, and possible impacts that AI will have on our future, as well as AI as portrayed in contemporary and future science-fiction writing.

The Speculating Our AI Future panel discussion with Corry Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells will begin on January 11 at 7 p.m., participation in the virtual event is free, and more information is available by calling (309)732-7323 and visiting RockIslandLibrary.org, and calling (309)755-3393 and visiting SilvisLibrary.org.

Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Martha Wells.

(7) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. Sam Thielman hits the high notes in a review of “The Year in Graphic Novels” for the New York Times.

Good graphic novels tend to appear in bookstores seemingly out of nowhere after years of rumors, scattershot serialization, “process” zines and snippets posted to social media. As literature, long-form comics are uniquely resistant to editing. As visual art, the cartoonist is in the weird position of having no access to the final product until it’s presented to the public. So it’s frankly miraculous when we get as many good comics as we do. This year there were remarkable new books from established masters and freshman graphic novels from brilliant young artists. Better still, a gratifyingly thick stratum of our 2023 stack was devoted to making us laugh. It’s a rich conversation, and one that promises to continue into next year and long beyond.

From the moment you open it, Daniel Clowes’s MONICA (Fantagraphics, 108 pp., $30) announces its ambition. Against the weird hellscape of its front endpapers, the title spread depicts the world at its lifeless, churning, brightly colored beginning. Then all of time (so far) goes by in a whoosh on the next two pages — the dinosaurs, Jesus, Hitler, Little Richard, Sputnik — alongside the copyright boilerplate and the names of the editors and publicist. In Clowes’s smooth lines and precise hues, the rest of the book borrows styles from war, horror and romance comics to tell the story of an ordinary woman trying to give her life some meaning. Is such a thing even possible? Could the attempt destroy everything?…

(8) EVA HAUSER (1954-2023). Past fan fund winner (GUFF) Eva Hauser died December 23 at the age of 69. Here is an excerpt from Jan Vaněk Jr.’s tribute on Facebook:

I am sad to announce that the 1992 GUFF delegate died on Friday 22nd. Eva Hauser[ová] travelled from Prague, still-Czechoslovakia to Syncon ’92 in Sydney, and then to Melbourne and back.

If you were there (despite the small attendance, the trip report reads like the Who Is Who of a golden age of the Australian fandom, and a testimony to their hospitality. Even though so much, and many, have already been lost in time, like tears in rain…), you may remember; and then you will understand why Eva is so much-lamented and widely eulogised from many different communities she was a part of….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 72. We have come tonight to honor a true film genius in Charles Band. He entered film production in the Seventies with Charles Band Productions. Dissatisfied with distributors’ handling of his movies, he formed his own company in the early Eighties. At its height, he would release an average of two films a month, one theatrically and one on home video. 

So what are you going to recognize out of his hundreds of films? 

Most of his films paid the cast next to nothing, were notoriously lax on safety measures according to State officials who fined him considerable amounts over the years and he paid screenwriters, well, guess. 

Trancers, also released as Future Cop, the first of a series, which I’ve seen and liked, had Tim Thomerson and Helen Hunt in the lead cast. Supposedly the detective here is homage to Bogart’s various detective roles.

As producer, he did Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.  Richard Moll who is in the cast and he shaved his head for his role here. The Night Court producers liked the look for Moll, so he continued shaving his head for the show.

Now he also produced a lot of more frankly sleazy SF such as Slave Girls from Beyond InfinityGalactic Gigolo, and Space Sluts in the Slammer, and the post-apocalypse zombie films, Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King and Barbie & Kendra Storm Area 51

His autobiography has a title that’s every bit has as over the top as most of some of film titles are, Confessions of a Puppetmaster: A Hollywood Memoir of Ghouls, Guts, and Gonzo Filmmaking

One final note. His entire financial house of cards collapsed in the late Eighties and was seized by various banks who in turned sold the assets off to MGM, so you’re likely to see one of his films streaming just about anywhere these days. 

(10) STORIES YES AND NO. Rich Horton reaches back to 1970 to tell Black Gate readers about “No More Stories — The Capstone to Joanna Russ’s Alyx Sequence: ‘The Second Inquisition’”.

“No more stories.” So ends Joanna Russ’s great novelette “The Second Inquisition.” But in many ways the story is about stories — about how we use them to define ourselves, protect ourselves, understand ourselves. It’s also, in a curious way, about Joanna Russ’s stories, particularly those about Alyx, a woman rescued from drowning in classical times by the future Trans-Temporal Authority….

(11) CORE TELEVISION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Now, I don’t agree with everything in this article (for one thing, Foundation is execrable.) But it is an interesting look at what Apple+ is doing in SFF and why so much of it works. “The Best Sci-Fi Shows of 2023 All of Have One Shocking Thing in Common” at Inverse.

For All Mankind isn’t the only sci-fi show pushing the limits of the genre on Tim Cook’s dime. The Apple CEO has been quietly funding some of the best science fiction TV in recent memory, ranging from the centuries-spanning Isaac Asimov adaptation Foundation to the mind-bending near-future of Severance to the globe-trotting Godzilla spinoff series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters — to name just a few.

And while it’s hard to say what exactly defines an Apple sci-fi show, Inverse spoke to several showrunners and producers who all agree the tech giant brings a unique, futurist perspective to the genre that — when combined with endless cash — helps explain why, all of a sudden, it seems like the best science fiction television is all coming from the same company that sold you your iPhone….

… One thing you can say about pretty much any show or movie on Apple TV+ is that it probably looks gorgeous. While many Netflix productions have a certain flatness to them that can make it feel like the streamer has been cutting corners, Apple is pouring a lot of money into the look (and star power) of its original series — it helps to have a trillion-dollar cash pile, even if Amazon and Disney are still outspending the MacBook maker….

(12) MARATHON FAN. SYFY Wire understandably wants us all to know “How to Watch SYFY’s Twilight Zone New Year’s Marathon 2023-2024”.

Just as you can count on our planet making a full rotation around the sun every 365 days or so, you can also rest assured that SYFY will use the key of imagination to unlock its annual New Year’s marathon of The Twilight Zone. The honored tradition of airing Rod Serling’s groundbreaking anthology series won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the 2023-24 edition is super-sized, with the marathon spanning a total of three whole days — starting Saturday (December 30) and ending Tuesday (January 2).

Who needs to smooch someone at midnight when you’ve got Jason Foster (Robert Keith) teaching his wicked family members a lesson they’ll never forget in “The Masks”? Fittingly enough, the classic episode — which revolves around a collection of vain and greedy individuals ordered to wear hideous masks until the stroke of midnight — will air about 40 minutes before the ball drops. If someone offers you a grotesque party favor along with that glass of Champagne, you might want to turn it down….

(13) CHINA’S MIXED SIGNALS ON VIDEO GAME PLAYING. “Will China Ease Its New Video Game Controls? Investors Think So.” The New York Times says, “After a market rout, gaming companies like Tencent and Netease rally on signals that regulators might apply proposed curbs on users less harshly than feared.”

 …The events of the past several days underline the push-and-pull forces in Chinese policymaking. The country’s top leaders have acknowledged they need to stabilize the economy, which has been slow to recover from being virtually locked down during the Covid pandemic. But the government’s tight control of how companies do business continues to inject uncertainty into the markets.

China’s National Press and Publication Administration, which issues licenses to game publishers and oversees the industry, unveiled a proposal on Friday aimed at effectively reducing how much people spend playing games. The plan took the industry by surprise, and investors dumped tens of billions of dollars in company stock.

The regulator issued a statement on Saturday stressing that the draft rules aim to “promote the prosperity and healthy development of the industry,” and said it is “listening to more opinions comprehensively and improving regulations and provisions.”

Then on Monday, the agency announced that it had licensed about 100 new games, after licensing 40 others on Friday. And a semiofficial association affiliated with the agency said that the additional game approvals were “positive signals” that the agency supports the industry.

The new regulations would cap how much money users could spend within games on things like upgrading the features of characters or procuring virtual weapons or other things used by the characters. It would also ban rewards that companies use to entice players to return. The proposal did not specify a spending cap…..

… The industry is still reeling from earlier restrictions first imposed in 2019 aimed at what the government deemed was an online gaming addiction among minors, as well as a broader crackdown against tech companies. Regulators also stymied publishers by not issuing any new game licenses for an eight-month stretch that ended in April 2022….

(14) CHART YOUR COURSE. Archie’s Press offers interesting “Outer Space” prints.

Outer Space is so huge, there’s really no way to wrap your head around the entire thing. This makes it all make sense.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] A tale of old Japan.  A tale as old as time.  A beleaguered hero looking to avenge past wrongs.  Western forces looking to control a local government.  A beauty of a beast.

When the culture and government deny any usual path to survival, much less happiness, our hero seeks unusual opportunities instead.  Learning the secrets of steel.  Surreptitiously learning the secrets of the sword.  All of them.

Eventually, our hero sets out on a path of vengeance leaving rivers of blood along the way.  Companions are found, whether or not our hero desires their companionship.

Each character is well-developed with unique strengths, flaws, and motivations.  Even the villains have a compelling story to tell.

Blue Eye Samurai is not to be missed.  And The Critical Drinker knows why.  Go watch the “The Drinker Recommends… Blue Eye Samurai”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/18/23 Jetpack Crashes, An Old Scroll Dies, Its Pixels Fall To The Floor

(1) LUKYANENKO NOT AT WORLDCON. There’s no sign of the Chengdu Worldcon’s Russian GoH Sergey Lukyanenko in social media coverage of the con. And the latest posts to his blog on his official website (devoted to anti-Israel remarks, and a report that his wife rescued a migrating woodcock in the backyard) suggest he’s at home. Although he made two other professional visits to the Far East earlier in 2023 he hasn’t mentioned Chengdu on his blog this year.

(2) 2023 HUGO BASE. This year’s Hugo base was debuted at the Chengdu Worldcon Opening Ceremonies by Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty. Here’s a screencap from the video. There are much better closeup photos of the base at his Facebook page.

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON SOUVENIR BOOK. The “Member Guidebook” Member Guidebook for 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention has been released. It’s a publicly available download here (PDF).

The member guidebook for the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention is available online. The guidebook consists of the welcome message from the co-chairs, an introduction to the main venue, notes for participants, an introduction to theme activities, a brief introduction of Chengdu, and an appendix.

(4) UYGHURS REMEMBERED. Andrew Gillsmith moderated a pre-Worldcon panel for the “World Uyghur Congress” which can be viewed on X.

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

Unofficial (?) Bilibili video of the opening ceremony

This seems to have been ripped from the stream, as it has a jump near the start where the video froze for me and others and audio glitches later on.  It is mostly in Chinese.

I don’t think that opening ceremony video is complete; there was a section at the end where a bunch of the VIPs came up on stage to declare the con open. Most of that is in this 2-minute video, but it also has bits chopped out for some reason.

Some people also struggled to get access to the video stream of the opening ceremony; hopefully whatever glitch or capacity issue caused that will be resolved soon.

Various arrivals photographed at the airport

Donald Eastlake, Kevin Standlee, Chris M. Barkley and Nicholas Whyte are amongst several Western fandom figures pictured in this Xiaohongshu photo gallery.

Longer fannish reports on Weibo

(Note: in the last couple of weeks or so, Weibo has added a “Translate content” link to posts, similar to what you get for foreign language tweets on Twitter.  However, for long-form posts like these, it tends to time out, so you might instead want to use any translation tools built into browsers such as Chrome to read the following links.)

For those not keen on the more commercial or “mainstream” stuff in some of the prior links, Best Fan Writer and Fanzine finalist RiverFlow has a long Weibo post going over his activities today, which included meeting various fans and pros, and being on a panel about university SF societies.  

From left to right: Hua Wen, Wei Ran, Bei Yu, RiverFlow (Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine finalist), Tian Tian, San Ma, Dan Fan.
(left) Best Fan Writer finalist Arthur Liu; (middle, in blue polo shirt) Ling Shizhen, who worked on the Best Fanzine finalist, Zero Gravity SF

SF Light Year aka Adaoli, who has commented here on File 770, has also posted some long reports on Weibo, such as this one.

English language promo video from Chengdu Museum

This 6-minute English language video is for the most part covers things that are more likely to appeal to general tourists, but is framed within a time-travel story featuring the Kormo mascot, and ends with the SF museum.

Xiaohongshu videos and photo galleries

As is to be expected with the con now underway, there are loads of these out there, and there’s a lot of repetition of material.  These are a fairly arbitrary selection of the ones that showed up in search results:

(6) LE GUIN VIDEOS. Available for viewing on Literary Hub, The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author. Here are the fifth and sixth installments.

In the fifth of the series, Theo Downes-Le Guin introduces “Where I Write,” an intimate peek into Ursula’s study and her writing process.

…Recently I viewed an online video titled “I Tried Ursula K. Le Guin’s Writing Schedule,” one of many such links. The production was snappy and well-intentioned, but the writer-presenter lost me when she described preparation of a “fancy breakfast.” The fried egg, tomato, and rocket sandwich bore no resemblance to mornings in my childhood home. Note to content creators: if you geek out on someone’s routine, do your research. Ursula wrote an entire essay about how to properly soft-boil an egg. That’s what she ate for breakfast. Not fancy.

In the final installment of the series, Julie Phillips reflects on “He’s My First Reader,” in which Ursula and her husband, Charles, discuss how their division of household labor helped Ursula thrive.

When Ursula Kroeber met and fell in love with Charles Le Guin, their meeting, on a ship bound for France, seemed to her almost magically improbable. “Obviously this sort of thing doesn’t happen,” she wrote him six weeks after they met. “I mean, conceivably you might exist, but you would never sit at Table 30 at 2nd sitting for dinner in tourist class on the Queen Mary on Sept 23rd 1953; I ask you, now would you?”

Charles felt the same, though he didn’t recognize true love quite as quickly as she. “I thought she was awfully snooty and shy the first meals; and she thought that I was British and very reserved. But after those first misapprehensions were displaced, we have scarcely been apart at all the last month,” he wrote his parents. “How do I tell you all this without it seeming silly or impossible? It is neither—not impossible because it has happened; not silly because it is too deep and too wonderful. Ursula and I are going to be married.”…

(7) GOOD DUDES. Charlie Jane Anders nominates “12 Male Role Models From Science Fiction and Fantasy” at Happy Dancing.

Lately I feel like everyone is talking about masculinity and what it means to be a good dude. The other day, I was on a panel at the Pride on the Page book festival with Jacob Tobia (Sissy) who was saying that we’ve spent decades expanding gender roles for women in mainstream society — women won the right to wear pants in the workplace (for now) — but meanwhile, most men remain trapped, unable to express healthy emotions or process all of their trauma.

As someone who was so successful at being a man that I actually graduated, I want to help!

So it’s a really good thing that science fiction and fantasy offer us so many excellent examples of guys who are secure in their masculinity and ready to do the right thing, even when it’s tough….

Take for example —

11) Henry Deacon (Eureka)

In a “town full of geniuses,” Henry Deacon might just be the smartest of them all — but when this underrated show begins, he’s working as a mechanic because he has ethical objections to the work that Global Dynamics is doing. Henry isn’t just the guy who steps in and fixes things when all the out-of-control science goes off the rails, he’s also the town’s moral center. (And eventually, he becomes its mayor.) Emmy-winning actor Joe Morton, who plays Henry, also plays a resourceful, kind alien refugee in the movie The Brother From Another Planet.

(8) LARA PARKER (1938-2023). Actress Lara Parker, age 28 when she was cast as Dark Shadows’ beautiful and evil witch Angelique Bouchard Collins, died October 12. She was 84. The Deadline tribute  also mentions her writing career:

…In her later years, Parker turned to writing and teaching — her novels include Angelique’s Descent (1998), The Salem Branch (2006), Wolf Moon Rising (2013) and Heiress of Collinwood (2016). The books proved popular among Dark Shadows‘ still-devoted, conventions-attending fan base, as well as devotees of romance and horror genre novels.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a suggestion by Mike Glyer.]

So let’s talk about Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which is where our Beginning is from this Scroll.

It’s a novel in her series about Oxford time-traveling historians, which consists of Fire WatchDoomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump  and Blackout/All Clear.

It was published thirty-one years ago by Bantam Spectra with the cover art being by Tim Jacobus. 

The series has an extraordinary history when it comes to awards. Fire Watch started off with a Best Novelette Hugo at ConStellation, along with winning a Nebula and being nominated for Balrog. Next up was a BSFA nomination for this novel followed by a Hugo win (a tie with with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep) at  ConFrancisco and a Nebula as well as picking up Clarke and Mythopoeic nominations. 

To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last won a Hugo at Aussiecon Three and also picked a Nebula nomination too. 

Blackout/All Clear got a Hugo at Renovation and Nebula, plus a Campbell Memorial nomination. 

So now that we’ve got those out of the way, let’s turned to the Beginning….

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.

 “Am I too late?” he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.

 “Shut the door,” she said. “I can’t hear you over the sound of those ghastly carols.” 

Dunworthy closed the door, but it didn’t completely shut out the sound of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” wafting in from the quad. “Am I too late?” he said again. 

Mary shook her head. “All you’ve missed is Gilchrist’s speech.” She leaned back in her chair to let Dunworthy squeeze past her into the narrow observation area. She had taken off her coat and wool hat and set them on the only other chair, along with a large shopping bag full of parcels. Her gray hair was in disarray, as if she had tried to fluff it up after taking her hat off. “A very long speech about Mediaeval’s maiden voyage in time,” she said, “and the college of Brasenose taking its rightful place as the jewel in history’s crown. Is it still raining?”

“Yes,” he said, wiping his spectacles on his muffler. He hooked the wire rims over his ears and went up to the thin-glass partition to look at the net. In the center of the laboratory was a smashed-up wagon surrounded by overturned trunks and wooden boxes. Above them hung the protective shields of the net, draped like a gauzy parachute.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1917 Reynold Brown. Artist responsible for many SF film posters. His first poster was Creature from the Black Lagoon with other notable ones being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Mothra vs. Godzilla. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 18, 1925 Walter Harris. He wrote a New Avengers novel, To Catch a Rat, and novelized Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Werewolf of London. ISFDB lists four more genre novels by him, The Mistress of Downing Street, The Day I DiedThe Fifth Horseman and Salvia. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 78. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great.
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 72. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 59. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent Empire Games and Dark State novels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe.
  • Born October 18, 1965– Kristen Britain, 58. She is writing the Green Rider series of which Green Rider was nominated for the Crawford Award and Blackveil was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award. It’s now a dozen novels deep. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side — This is mainly about Mrs. Frankenstein’s monster? 
  • Ziggy is suspicious of his shrink’s credentials.

(12) THAT POPEYE FILM. Daniel Dern (as a longtime fan of the movie) encourages Filers to watch “Popeye – It’s Not THAT Bad – The Insane True Story Behind the Movie”. Interesting enough. One notable item early in: the initial leads casting offer went to Dustin Hoffman (for Popeye) and Gilda Radner (for Olive Oil).

The final selections were Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall, both delightfully great… but I would still love to have seen Radner’s take on Ms. Oil, particularly playing opposite Robin Williams.

(13) DOWNLOAD VECTOR’S “CHINESE SF” ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association opens issues of Vector to the public after about two years. The 2021 issue on Chinese SF is now available to download here.

 Vector 293 is a collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu WangYen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China. Artist and curator Angela Chan interviews Beatrice Glow about her work with colonial histories and the ability of science fiction to ‘tell truthful histories and envision just futures together’ through art. The conversation about history, futures, science fiction and art continues in Dan Byrne-Smith’s interview with Gordon Cheung. Chinese SF scholars Mia Chen MaFrederike Schneider-Vielsäcker and Mengtian Sun offer glimpses of their recent and ongoing research. Authors Maggie Shen King (An Excess Male) and Chen Qiufan (Waste Tide) interview each other about their recent novels. Feng Zhang introduces us to the SF fandom in China, while Regina Kanuy Wang brings us up to speed with accelerating Chinese SF industry. Dev Agarwal questions the maturity of the Chinese SF blockbuster as can be judged from Shanghai Fortress and The Wandering Earth (both available on Netflix). Virginia L. Conn explores Sinofuturism, while Emily Xueni Jin delves into the implications of translating a growing body of SF work from Chinese into English. We learn about the global perspectives on Chinese SF from an illustrious panel assembled at WorldCon 2019, and about transnational speculative folklore of the Uyghur people from Sandra UnermanNiall Harrison completes the issue with an illuminating survey of Chinese short SF in the 21st Century.’

(14) CLASSIC SFF ARTIST. Lots and lots of Virgil Finlay art can be viewed at this link: Raiders of the Lost Tumblr (posts tagged Virgil Finlay)

(15) TRAILER PARK. Beacon 23 – a series coming on MGM+. The series, based on a book by Hugh Howey, is set to premiere its first two episodes on MGM+ on Sunday, November 12 at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST. 

Aster (Lena Headey) and Halan (Stephan James) are drawn to Beacon 23 and face an onslaught of threats. When an object called The Artifact appears, they begin to unravel its mysteries, and develop a deep bond just in time to face a deadly AI.

(16) ANNULAR ECLIPSE. “What the ‘Ring of Fire’ eclipse looked like to a satellite nearly 1 million miles from Earth” at Popular Science.

The recent “ring of fire” solar eclipse looked stunning across portions of North and South America and we now have a new view of the stellar event. The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite created the image of the eclipse on Saturday October 14, depicting the mostly blue Earth against the darkness of space, with one large patch of the planet in the shadow of the moon. 

Launched in 2015, DSCOVR is a joint NASA, NOAA, and U.S. Air Force satellite. It offers a unique perspective since it is close to 1 million miles away from Earth and sits in a gravitationally stable point between the Earth and the sun called Lagrange Point 1. DSCOVR’s primary job is to monitor the solar wind in an effort to improve space weather forecasts

A special device aboard the satellite called the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) imager took this view of the eclipse from space. According to NASA, the sensor gives scientists frequent views of the Earth. The moon’s shadow, or umbra, is falling across the southeastern coast of Texas, near Corpus Christi….

The official NASA broadcast can be viewed here: “The Ring of Fire: 2023 Annular Solar Eclipse”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/5/23 The Fan-Kzin Scrolls

(1) NICOLA GRIFFITH Q&A. “’Hild’ sequel author Nicola Griffith talks about ‘Menewood’” in the Christian Science Monitor.

When did you first learn about the real Hild?

I love old abbeys, old castles, all that kind of thing. But I had never been to [the ruins of Whitby] Abbey until I was in my early 20s. I crossed the threshold of the abbey, and it was like stepping into Narnia. The world just changed. You know when some people talk about the skin of the Earth being thin in some places, this sense of immanence? It was like that for me. 

I read in a tourist pamphlet about St. Hilda of Whitby, who founded the abbey, and I wanted to learn more, but there were no books about her. 

My question was, why is this woman, from a time when we’re told that women had no power, no influence, no significance whatsoever, still remembered 1,400 years later? Nobody could tell me. I was on fire to find out; I thought what we knew of history must be wrong. This could not have happened if what we think of as history is actually true. So I basically started this enormous controlled experiment. I rebuilt the seventh century. I mean, I researched before I even wrote a word.

I’d been researching that book [“Hild”] for 20 years. I’d been reading everything you could possibly think of, all the medieval plants, everybody’s lists of grave goods. I followed all the archeology magazines and blogs and journals, and I read about the weather. I researched the flora, fauna, jewelry, making textiles. And then the day before my birthday, I thought, I cannot start another year without having done this book. So I sat down and said, I’m going to write one paragraph. And so I did. And there was Hild. And she was 3 years old and sitting under a tree. And I thought, that’s how I’m going to do it. She’s going to learn the world along with the reader.

(2) LE GUIN VIDEOS PART FOUR. The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author.

In the fourth of the series, Khadija Abdalla Bajaber introduces “There I Am on the Page,” in which Ursula and other writers—including Nisi Shawl and adrienne maree brown—reflect on Ursula’s decision to make many of her characters people of color. Watch  “Ursula K. Le Guin on Writing Characters of Color” at Literary Hub.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David D. Levine and Robert Levy on Wednesday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

DAVID D. LEVINE

David D. Levine is the author of Andre Norton Nebula Award winning novel Arabella of Mars, sequels Arabella and the Battle of Venus and Arabella the Traitor of Mars, and over fifty SF and fantasy stories, some collected in the award-winning Space Magic. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. His latest novel is The Kuiper Belt Job.

ROBERT LEVY

Robert Levy’s novel The Glittering World was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Shorter work has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionNightmareBlack Static, and The Best Horror of the Year. He teaches at the Stonecoast MFA Program, and his collection No One Dies from Love: Dark Tales of Loss and Longing is out now from Word Horde.

(4) NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. Jon Fosse has won the 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature “for his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

(5) LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON DONATES $100K TO PEN AMERICA’S FIGHT AGAINST BOOK BANS. The 2023 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate, American writer Laurie Halse Anderson, is donating $100,000 of her prize money to PEN America’s fight against book bans.

…Many of Laurie Halse Anderson’s books are frequently found on lists of banned books: books that, in some states or districts in the United States, are not allowed to be read in schools or bought by public libraries because of their subject matter or plot. Earlier this year, Anderson received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest award for children’s and YA literature. The prestigious award comes with a cash prize of SEK 5 million ($452,000).

“Public libraries and schools have a duty to offer a broad range of books to the communities that they serve. People who find a book that they don’t like don’t have to read it. They do not have the right to dictate what books other people, or other people’s children, can read. I am proud to support PEN America and their fight against book banners and others bent on destroying our freedom to read. Remember: censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance”, says Laurie Halse Anderson….

(6) THEY WENT APE. Matthew Hays recalls how “50 Years Ago, One of the Gutsiest, Strangest Sci-Fi Movie Franchises Came to a Close with Battle for the Planet of the Apes” at Literary Hub.

When Planet of the Apes opened in cinemas in 1968, its box-office success was surprising even to the filmmakers themselves. After all, the film featured an astronaut survivor named Taylor (played by Oscar winner Charlton Heston) facing off against a planet of actors wearing elaborate ape makeup.

The possibility that the film would seem a giant joke to audiences had already crossed the minds of the suits at 20th Century Fox. The studio had set up an audience screening before they greenlit the project. Producer Arthur Jacobs was commissioned to film a 15-minute short film that would include some actors in ape makeup; if one person in the audience laughed, there would be no movie. No one laughed, and a legendary science fiction film was born.

To kids (I first saw the film at age six), Planet of the Apes seemed a basic movie about an astronaut landing on a planet run by a different species. But when the film arrived, many adults got the film’s multilayered jokes and running commentary: screenwriters Rod Serling and Michael Wilson (adapting Pierre Boulle’s novel) packed every imaginable bit of baggage that would fit into their carefully crafted Trojan horse. As New Yorker critic Pauline Kael immediately intuited, Planet of the Apes was a hate letter to America, full of commentary about slavery, manifest destiny, religious fundamentalism, creationism versus evolution, colorism and racism generally. The extensive medical experimentation done on the humans by apes is a clear reference to the Tuskegee Experiments. That some thought the apes were meant to represent Black Americans was a fundamental misreading of the film; the ape society is clearly a parody of American society, with all of its contradictions (especially the purported separation of church and state).

(7) WRITING POEMS, AND WAITING TO BE ARRESTED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With Chengdu Worldcon in mind, it is worth checking out today’s BBC World Service programme on the life of a Uyghur artist (poet, film and documentary maker) in China.

The programme is very Orwellian.

Tahir Izgil is one of the most highly respected living Uyghur poets. Tahir was born near Kashgar, in Xinjiang province, and from an early age he was immersed in the poetry of his culture. When the Chinese state clamped down on the Uyghur community, he lived under constant threat of arrest, and says he couldn’t even perform his poems. So he decided to try and escape his homeland…

You can listen to it here: “Writing poems, and waiting to be arrested”.

(8) 24TH FANTASIC SHORT STORY CONTEST. [Item by Ahrvid Engholm, contest administrator.] Results are in for the “24th Fantastic Short Story Contest” or “Fantastiknovelltävlingen”, probably the oldest running writing contest in Sweden, organized by writing E-mail list SKRIVA. (The term “fantastik” is here often used for sf, fantasy and horror, the “fantastic” genres.)

1st prize: “Der Berliner Underwellen”, by Kristian Schultz

2nd prize: “Cladosporium¨, by Isak Laestander

3rd prize: “The Cleaning Day”, by Kristian Schulz

There also were five “honorable mentions”.

A total of ca €200 is handed out in prize money plus a diploma and a secret prize… The Google English translation version of the result announcement

The winner 2023 Kristin Schultz also grabbed 3rd place, and despite having a German sounding title — it’s set in Berlin — the short story was in Swedish. An edited summary of the jury’s comments, authors P Lindestrand, K Bjällersted-Mickos and N Krog:

“…well-balanced description of a relationship in disintegration…Very eerie environments and Lovecraftian abominations that dwell in dark cellars…exciting and evocative story about…an underground tunnel populated by a hungry monster. The ending is dramatic, well written and classic…Wonderfully well-written and well-thought-out story about a Mathias and Klara who go on group sightseeing in the Berlin underground…Soon total chaos breaks out. The short story is well structured…A pleasure to read.”

Next contest starts in spring 2024. It will be the 25th and a silver jubilee!

(9) FAN HISTORY ZOOM: EVOLUTION OF FAN ART. The Fan History Project has another great FANAC Fan History Zoom session coming up coordinated by webmaster Edie Stern.

  • Evolution of Fan Art with legendary fan artists Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull and Dan Steffan.

Sunday, October 15, 2023. Time: 4 pm EDT, 1 pm PDT, 9 pm BST (UK) and 7 am (Oct. 16, Melbourne, AU)

To attend, please send a note to [email protected]

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 5, 1945 Judith Kerman, 78. Can we call her a polymath? She’s a translator, publisher, academic, anthologist and poet.  All of her poetry, collected in Uncommonplaces: Poems of the Fantastic, is well worth your time. She did two non-fiction works of which I’m recommending one, “Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, as I’ve a Jones for that literature.
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 74. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film but it has not. But he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his film work. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 71. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art, which is not to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his ideas.  My personal fave work by him is the Weaveworld novel.
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 64. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year, merged into The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy in 2010. He wrote a review column for Locus for twenty years, signing off this past February. His Strange at Ecbatan blog includes reviews, criticism, and a well-received series that proposes Hugo finalists to fill in the old years when only winners were announced, or even before the award was created.
  • Born October 5, 1971 — Paul Weimer, 52. Writer, Reviewer, and Podcaster, also known as @PrinceJvstin. An ex-pat New Yorker living in Minnesota, he has been reading science fiction and fantasy for over 40 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for more than 35 years. A three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer (2020-2022), he is a prolific reviewer for Nerds of a Feather and contributes elsewhere, including Tor.com, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, A Green Man Review, and here at File 770. He also contributes to the Hugo-nominated fancast The Skiffy and Fanty Show and the SFF Audio podcasts. He was the 2017 Down Under Fan Fund delegate to the Australia and New Zealand National Conventions, and his e-book DUFF trip report, consisting of more than 300 pages of travel stories and stunning photographs, is still available here.
  •  Born October 5, 1974 Colin Meloy, 49. He’s best known as the frontman of the The Decemberists, a band that makes use of folklore quite a bit,  but he has also written the neat and charmingly weird children’s  fantasy Wildwood chronicles which is illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET READY FOR LIFE DAY. Marvel comics will publish four Life Day variant covers in November – in time for the Wookiee celebration of Life Day on November 17.  

Each November, the galaxy far, far away celebrates family, joy, and harmony on Life Day, and this year, Marvel Comics will commemorate this longstanding Wookiee tradition by reflecting these values in all-new variant covers!

 Gracing the covers of STAR Wars, Star Wars: Darth Vader, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, and Star Wars: Bounty Hunters, the four new Life Day Variant Covers come from artists Mike Del Mundo and Rod Reis and feature characters from throughout various eras of Star Wars storytelling, including nods to the original Star Wars Holiday Special. Fans can enjoy heartwarming moments like young Anakin Skywalker sharing a meal with his mother Shmi, Han Solo and Chewie decorating, Chef Gormaanda whipping up a delicious feast, and Doctor Aphra and Krrsantan reuniting for the season!

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to relive Capclaves past and present during Eating the Fantastic’s lightning-round Capclave Donut Carnival.

I love Eating the Fantastic’s lightning-round donut episodes, for which I park myself in a heavily trafficked area of a con with a dozen donuts and chat with anybody who’s up for trading five minutes of talk for a freebie. It’s a fun contrast to my usual well-researched one-on-one conversations, in that it’s completely spontaneous, since I never know the identities of my guests until their eyes alight on my donuts and they choose themselves.

In 2016, listeners were able to eavesdrop on the Readercon Donut Spectacular, then in 2017 the Balticon Donut Extravaganza, in 2018 the Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree, and in 2019 — before the pandemic forced me to take a break from such things — the StokerCon Donut Spooktacular.

Because Capclave — which ended the day before yesterday as this episode goes live — not only has a patio, but this year, unlike last, had weather warm enough for us to gather there, I was able to bring back that tradition. On Saturday afternoon, I sat down out on the patio with two boxes of donuts from Donut King in Kensington, Maryland, and waited for potential guests to materialize.

So join us during the lightning-round Capclave Donut Carnival, where you’ll hear R. Z. Held and me bond over rejection, David Hacker explain his love of listening to writers read, Michael Dirda recall why Orson Scott Card once kneeled before him on an elevator, James Morrow share his fascination with Charles Darwin, how Katy Lewis found her husband through Dungeons and Dragons, Michael Walsh’s favorite moment as a con chair (which involved Howard Waldrop, Gardner Dozois, and George R. R. Martin), Bill Lawhorn clarify the creation of the bronze dodo, Sarah Pinsker reveal how and why her first science fiction convention was Capclave, Adeena Mignogna explain why space is cool but space travel gets really hot, Mike Zipzer’s memories of Terry Pratchett’s surprise visit, Sarah Mitchell’s arranging of a secret con wedding, Sunny Moraine opine on how the world’s response to COVID-19 changes our ideas of what would happen in a real-world zombie apocalypse, John Pomeranz chat about how the infamous Disclave Great Flood thrust him into being a hotel liaison — and much more!

(14) WOOF 2023. [Item by Rich Lynch.] WOOF(the Worldcon Order Of Faneditors) will have a collation at the upcoming Worldcon in Chengdu.  This year’s Official Editor (OE) is Don Eastlake. 

WOOF is an amateur press association (apa) that has been a feature of Worldcons since 1976 thanks to its originator, the late Bruce Pelz.  For those who will be attending this year’s Worldcon, there will be a WOOF collection box at the Worldcon for printed fanzines.  Alternatively, you can email your WOOFzine as a PDF to <[email protected]>. Your contribution must be received by October 22, Chengdu time. After the deadline passes, the OE will collate all fanzines received into a single PDF document and this assembled mailing will then be made available for download and viewing at efanzines.com, where several previous mailings of WOOF are now archived.  (It’s not yet known if there will be any printed copies.)

(15) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [By Ersatz Culture.]

Procedure for Chengdu bid supporters to be able to enter the lottery https://weibo.com/5726230680/NmqACu8fo

Following on from recent items, File 770 commenter Adaoli has documented the process that (Chinese?) supporters of the Chengdu site selection bid have to go through, in order to enter the lottery to attend any of the main ceremonies.  (I don’t think this particular quirk was mentioned in those earlier updates, because I didn’t — and still don’t — fully grok all the details.)  In my understanding, anyone who had Chengdu membership through supporting that bid — as opposed to buying a new membership or ticket — doesn’t have the purchase number that is necessary to fill in the lottery application, and so they have to go through this process.  Amongst other things, this involves calling a telephone helpline.

Some initial Weibo comments about the apparent lack of foreign/Western guests

Via Google Translate.  Poster’s identities have been removed, as have the names of authors, which has involved some minor editing for readability.  There are multiple comments from certain posters, so I wouldn’t claim that this is a representative sample of Chinese fandom by any means.

  • Guest of honor Lukyanenko did not appear (understandably). The willingness of foreign science fiction people to participate in the conference is indeed too low (visible to the naked eye).  (I suspect that last bit would be more accurately translated as “invisible to the naked eye”.)
  • Many authors who have been inactive for many years have been brought up to make up the number. Foreign guests invited many cartoonists and artists who are not well-known in China. There were only four well-known foreign writers. Yes, this is really embarrassing.
  • There is no publicity outside. When I helped distribute flyers at the Japan Science Fiction Convention in August, many people who sold doujinshi didn’t know it was held in Chengdu.  (FWIW, this poster has Korean hangul characters in their username, and Weibo indicates they posted that comment from a Japanese IP address.)
  • [In] 1991, there were 45 foreign guests at the WSF conference in Chengdu.
  • Let’s not talk about European and American writers. I didn’t see the writers from neighboring Japan, [Names of 8 Japanese writers omitted.]  It feels not much different from domestic science fiction conventions.
  • I checked that there were probably more than 120 foreign guests attending the event in Yokohama 2007. There were approximately 1,210 foreign participants at that conference (the total number of participants was 2,788) 

At time of submitting this item, I’ve not seen any general reaction to the schedule – although as the announcement on Weibo went out at 22:52 local time, I’m hoping there’ll be more commentary tomorrow.

Video posted showing the interior of the con site https://weibo.com/6088652407/4952842881735936

Chengdu-based KanDu News posted this 2:42″ video to Weibo, which is the best look yet at the interior of the con venue.  The opening captions indicate it was filmed yesterday (October 3rd), and there’s clearly a lot of interior construction work still underway.

From 0:30 to 0:55 shows the “Hugo Hall”, which is 4000 square meters. The guy talking indicates there’s something special about the video wall; it looks to be translucent and/or visible from both sides?  The area shown between 0:55 – 01:10 is (I think) the area for the press and media, and is 1000 square meters.  

 The structure shown between 1:35 and 2:20 seems like it’s a reproduction of something from the Wandering Earth 2 film, although I haven’t seen that, so I’m unclear what exactly it is. 

That organization also posted a video yesterday composed of night drone shots of the exterior — https://weibo.com/6088652407/NmaFNiigG.

Tibet Airlines magazine interview https://weibo.com/6045346855/NlSyioyiG

Via the Weibo account of Chengdu SF publisher 8 Light Minutes, (what I assume is) the October issue of the in-flight magazine of Tibet Airlines has a 6-page interview with Best Editor (Short Form) finalist Yang Feng, with various photos relating to the history of Chinese SF and the upcoming Worldcon

(16) WE APOLOGISE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A time-loop, Groundhog Day-type audio play on BBC Radio 4, “We Apologise for Any Inconvenience.”

The being-trapped-in-a-repeating-time-loop trope has an early exemplar film in Groundhog Day (1993) but that was decidedly fantasy.

The SF version was 12:01 (1993) in which the loop was caused by technology. However, the trope’s provenance does not begin there: there was the earlier, Oscar short-listed, short film, 12:01 (1990) which in turn was based on the short story ’12:01 P.M.’ (1973) by Dick Lupoff (who sadly died in 2020).

Alas, challenging Hollywood as to potential plagiarism is arguably hard: it has deep pockets. But you can’t keep a good trope treatment down, and the idea of being stuck in a recurring time loop has been used in a fairly recent Star Trek series as well as an episode of Stargate as well as elsewhere.

And now the BBC has just gotten in on the act with a play on Radio 4 this week: We Apologise for Any Inconvenience, only this time, the principal protagonists are not those actually stuck in the loop themselves but others who happen to encounter the hapless looper that day… 

Sebastian Baczkiewicz’s drama takes us to an anonymous northern station at the heart of the rail network on the day everything grinds to a halt. Hundreds of lives go into limbo but one person claims to have been stuck there longer than anyone else. Will his groundhog day ever end? 

You can listen to it here.

(17) TOP STREAMING. JustWatch lists the top 10 most streamed movies and TV shows for the month of September.

(18) OVER 20K YEARS OLD. A U.S. Geological Survey “Study confirms age of oldest fossil human footprints in North America”.

In September 2021, U.S. Geological Survey researchers and an international team of scientists announced that ancient human footprints discovered in White Sands National Park were between 21,000 and 23,000 years old. This discovery pushed the known date of human presence in North America back by thousands of years and implied that early inhabitants and megafauna co-existed for several millennia before the terminal Pleistocene extinction event. In a follow-up study, published today in Science, researchers used two new independent approaches to date the footprints, both of which resulted in the same age range as the original estimate. 

The 2021 results began a global conversation that sparked public imagination and incited dissenting commentary throughout the scientific community as to the accuracy of the ages. 

“The immediate reaction in some circles of the archeological community was that the accuracy of our dating was insufficient to make the extraordinary claim that humans were present in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum. But our targeted methodology in this current research really paid off,” said Jeff Pigati, USGS research geologist and co-lead author of a newly published study that confirms the age of the White Sands footprints….

In addition to the pollen samples, the team used a different type of dating called optically stimulated luminescence, which dates the last time quartz grains were exposed to sunlight. Using this method, they found that quartz samples collected within the footprint-bearing layers had a minimum age of ~21,500 years, providing further support to the radiocarbon results…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George is there when “The Eggplant Emoji Finds Out” what everybody uses it for.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/23 Do Pixels Dream Of Electric Scrolls?

(1) LE GUIN ON EARTHSEA. Literary Hub invites fans to “WATCH: Ursula K. Le Guin on Creating the World of Earthsea”.

The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guina Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author.

In the third of the series, John Plotz reflects on “Worlds Out of Words,” in which Ursula talks about creating her most beloved fantasy world.

Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea is both a series of books and a whole world. Perhaps its most amazing power is how it teaches readers that even here, in our own shared world, “words do make magic.”

Nobody who came to A Wizard of Earthsea as a child will ever forget Ged’s relationship to words of power. Calling down birds, or threatening a dragon with its own name, is the sort of magic that makes an overlit library fade away, that puts readers like shy solitary nine-year-old me out on the sea in a boat held together only with spells. “Making worlds out of words,” as she puts it here, is a power she felt lucky to have.

(2) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY? Even though Publishers Weekly says the suit doesn’t mention books, nevertheless, they report that the “Book Business Applauds Government Lawsuit Against Amazon”.

The Federal Trade Commission, supported by 17 state attorneys general, finally filed its long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Amazon yesterday. In a 172-page complaint, the government alleged that the e-tailer “uses a set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies to illegally maintain its monopoly power.” The use of that power, the government continued, allows Amazon “to stop rivals and sellers from lowering prices, degrade quality for shoppers, overcharge sellers, stifle innovation, and prevent rivals from fairly competing against Amazon.”

The immediate industry reaction to the news of the suit was uniform: “What took so long?” Or, in the words of Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson, that it was “about fucking time.” An industry lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, gave a more nuanced view in wondering why it took the government so long to act, pointing to the infamous buy button case in 2010, when Amazon pulled Macmillan’s buy buttons in a dispute over e-book terms. (The fight is detailed in former Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s new book, Turning Pages.)

Even with Amazon’s dominant position over the sale of e-books and print books, the suit doesn’t mention books, which, of course, were Amazon’s first line of business. The suit does, however, highlight Amazon’s hold over the companies who use its online marketplace to sell a range of products, including books, to consumers….

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

He talks about his nominated story, and then about SF generally and the Chengdu Worldcon.

There’s a title card that says this is “Episode 1”, but I’ve not come across an episode 2.  Although there’s a brief bit with Cixin Liu at the start, you see more of Yao Haijun, who is a Best Editor (Long Form) finalist this year.  The video doesn’t seem to be directly tied to this year’s Worldcon or Hugos though.

(4) HISTORIC INFLUENCE. Digital Trends posits these as the “10 most influential sci-fi movies ever”. I very much agree with the decision to include this one on the list:

A Trip To The Moon (1902)

As the first science-fiction movie ever created, this black-and-white short holds great importance in the world of cinema. Based on a story by Jules Verne, this picture follows a team of astronomers who launch themselves into the eye of the Moon and encounter the alien Selenites on the lunar surface. While this film is known more for its technical achievements, A Trip to the Moon still stands out as a goofy satire of imperialism and colonialism.

(5) ED BRYANT’S BLOOD. Scott Edelman says he’s at 77% of the fundraising goal to buy new podcasting equipment for Eating The Fantastic. What will he do to move the needle now?

“I’m parting with an autographed copy of the limited edition to Edward Bryant’s Fetish — which he signed using his own blood. The letter at the listing explains how and why.” The item is here on eBay. “I bought this at an HWA charity auction during the 1995 World Horror Con … and now it’s time to let someone else own Ed’s DNA.”

(6) HANSBERRY’S FANTASTIC PLAY. Nisi Shawl’s essay “Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry”, part of the “Expanded Course in the History of Black Science Fiction”, can be read at the Carl Brandon Society website.

…This essay is about Les BlancsLorraine Hansberry’s last play.

WHERE IT FITS IN THE OEUVRE
First produced in 1970, a little over five years after the author died of cancer at the age of 34, Les Blancs never achieved the acclaim of Hansberry’s massively successful Broadway play A Raisin in the Sun, nor that of the Off-Broadway dramatic adaptation her widower Robert Nemiroff patched together from her notes and autobiographical writings, To Be Young, Gifted and Black. But though it remained unfinished at the time of her death, she considered it her most important work.

HOW TO TELL IT’S FANTASTIC
Les Blanc’s action takes place in an unnamed African country modeled on Ghana and Kenya, according to Hansberry’s biographers, and also somewhat on the Congo, according to me. (See, for instance, the reference in Act Two, Scene 2 to the Belgian King Leopold’s favorite method of mutilation, the cutting off of indigenes’ hands.) The “Kwi,” this country’s original inhabitants, are in the midst of being supplanted by English-speaking whites. The supplantation is carried out via multiple methods: a paternalistic Christian mission-cum-hospital, a white-run government supported by a white-run soldiery, and political interference with the threat of military intervention from the US. Like many SF and Fantasy authors before and after her, Hansberry is able to analyze real-life issues with lessened fear of triggering reprisals by situating them in a purely speculative location. Rather than invoking an alternate past as I do in Everfair or an extrapolated future as Nnedi Okorafor does in Who Fears Death, though, Hansberry creates a semi-imaginary present. (Now, of course, that present has passed….

(7) HOUSE COLORS. You can watch the Empire State Building lit up in Harry Potter colors tonight, September 27, via this livestream.

(8) MIXING IN WITH MARVEL. The creator of the Mutts comic goes in a different direction with his new book. Patrick McDonnell’s The Super Hero’s Journey, published by Abrams ComicArts in collaboration with Marvel Comics, was released September 26.

The book begins with the Watcher as he observes Earth and the inner struggles of the Marvel heroes. He watches Doctor Doom (who has harnessed the power of the Negative Zone) slowly destroy the human spirit. The Watcher then leads Mr. Fantastic on a meta journey through the pages of classic comic books. Ultimately, our heroes come to a Zen solution in an unexpected fashion — one that aligns with Patrick’s other beloved and award-winning books — leaving us with a renewed sense of love, hope, and redemption.

Learn more about the project as Forces of Geek “Chats With Cartoonist Patrick McDonnell About ‘The Super Hero’s Journey’”.

The book features excerpts of early Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Vince Colletta. Was including original Marvel art part of the plan from the beginning and when it came to your selections, were they already definitive in your mind or did Marvel make suggestions on certain images/panels to include within your narrative?

One of my first concepts for this project was to combine my art with the classic ‘60s comic panels and pages to tell a new story in a new way. It gave me an excuse to re-read all those amazing early issues. I was looking for panels that would work with my storyline, but also staying open to find happy surprises that might help shape the story. Marvel was not part of that process but were supportive and enthusiastic of the final product.

Early in the book, you mention that reading the early Marvel comics was life-altering and transformative and transported you. Can you explain how the experience changed you?

Early childhood art experiences open you up to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. Those comics made me want to explore my own imagination and creativity. The Marvel super heroes made you believe that everything and anything is possible and to strive to be the best you could be.

(9) PETE KOZACHIK (1951-2023). Cinematographer Pete Kozachik, who worked on several well-known stop-motion animation genre features, died September 12 at the age of 72 reports SFGate.

Pete Kozachik, the pioneering visual effects artist and cinematographer who brought his unique style to stop-motion animation classics including “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Coraline” and more, died Tuesday, Sept. 12, at his Bay Area home due to complications related to primary progressive aphasia. He was 72 years old….

…Kozachik decided he wanted to try his hand at making his own Harryhausen-esque movies. A family friend taught him how to shoot, develop and print photos, and after reading an article titled “Build a Movie” in one of their Popular Photography magazines, he got to work on his very first project. Earnings from his job as a paperboy with the Detroit Free Press allowed him to buy a black-and-white 8 mm camera, foam pieces snipped with scissors became crude dinosaurs and cave people, and a dark rabbit-fur purse he found in a trash can was transformed into his star: a King Kong puppet he would pit against the dinosaurs….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1989 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids where our Beginning is from one of the early Discworld novels, being just the seventh. It was published by Gollancz thirty-four years ago. Josh Kirby did the absolutely amazing wrap-around cover for this edition. 

Pyramids was unusual for the early novels as it was  split into four ‘Books’, a structure that gives it a unique position amongst the otherwise early chapterless Discworld novels. No, The Colour of Magic doesn’t really count as it’s a collection of linked novellas, not a single novel with chapters or sections. Later novels did have chapters. 

The only Award that it got nominated for, a British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel, it won. 

And now our Beginning…

Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the windscreen of his car and hadn’t bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces. 

This is the gulf between universes, the chill deeps of space that contain nothing but the occasional random molecule, a few lost comets and . . . . . . 

but a circle of blackness shifts slightly, the eye reconsiders perspective, and what was apparently the awesome distance of interstellar wossname becomes a world under darkness, its stars the lights of what will charitably be called civilization. 

For, as the world tumbles lazily, it is revealed as the Discworld—flat, circular, and carried through space on the back of four elephants who stand on the back of Great A’tuin, the only turtle ever to feature on the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, a turtle ten thousand miles long, dusted with the frost of dead comets, meteor-pocked, albedo-eyed. No one knows the reason for all this, but it is probably quantum.

Much that is weird could happen on a world on the back of a turtle like that. 

It’s happening already. 

The stars below are campfires, out in the desert, and the lights of remote villages high in the forested mountains. Towns are smeared nebulae, cities are vast constellations; the great sprawling city of Ankh-Morpork, for example, glows like a couple of colliding galaxies. 

But here, away from the great centers of population, where the Circle Sea meets the desert, there is a line of cold blue fire. Flames as chilly as the slopes of Hell roar toward the sky. Ghostly light flickers across the desert. 

The pyramids in the ancient valley of the Djel are flaring their power into the night.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1920 Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. His other genre fiction was all in the Toffee series which consisted of a novel, The Shades of Toffee, and related short stories. Any of you read them? (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 27, 1927 Roberta Gellis. Though she wrote nearly a dozen novels of her own, you most likely know her writing within the Elves on the Road Universe created by Mercedes Lackey. She co-wrote the Serrated Edge prequels with Lackey, two of which were full novels — Ill Met by Moonlight and And Less Than Kind. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 67. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1966 David Bishop, 57. In the Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story.  He’s written Big Finish stories in the DreddSarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio dramas. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Andy Briggs, 51. He started out as an uncredited writer working on story developer on the Highlander Series. I’m going to single out his writing of The Tarzan Trilogy which consists of Tarzan: The Greystoke LegacyTarzan the Jungle Warrior and Tarzan: The Savage Lands. Most excellent pulp. He’s written eleven scripts including a remake of The Philadelphia Experiment

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd reinvents book podcasts.

(13) IGNORE THAT BOND BALONEY. JoBlo quickly walked back its story that “Christopher Nolan could possibly direct period James Bond films”. Ain’t happening.

…Well, that was fast but a knowledgeable source has reached out to us to say that this rumour is “1000% fantasy” and not at all true. Nolan is not in discussions with EON to take on the James Bond films, and indeed, the rumour below did seem too good to be true. The fact is, with Oppenheimer having grossing over $900 million worldwide, Nolan’s next project can be – well – whatever he wants. Would he really tie himself to a franchise at this point in his career? It’s unlikely. Chalk this one up to wishful thinking as far as us James Bond fans go. Oh well, it was fun thinking about it while it lasted!…

(14) YOU HAVE TO SPEND MONEY TO STEAL MONEY. “Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in AI startup Anthropic in growing tech battle” reports AP News.

Amazon is investing up to $4 billion in Anthropic and taking a minority stake in the artificial intelligence startup, the two companies said Monday.

The investment underscores how Big Tech companies are pouring money into AI as they race to capitalize on the opportunities that the latest generation of the technology is set to fuel.

Amazon and Anthropic said the deal is part of a broader collaboration to develop so-called foundation models, which underpin the generative AI systems that have captured global attention.

Foundation models, also known as large language models, are trained on vast pools of online information, like blog posts, digital books, scientific articles and pop songs to generate text, images and video that resemble human work.

Under the agreement, Anthropic is making Amazon its primary cloud computing service and using the online retail giant’s custom chips as part of work to train and deploy its generative AI systems.

San Francisco-based Anthropic was founded by former staffers from OpenAI, the maker of the ChatGPT AI chatbot that made a global splash with its ability to come up with answers mimicking human responses….

(15) VISIT A NEARBY TOWER. The Guardian has good news about an architectural and scientific landmark: “Observatory built to represent Einstein’s theory of relativity reopens in Germany”.

A solar observatory built to substantiate Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity has been reopened near the German capital after a renovation project to preserve it for future generations.

The Einsteinturm (Einstein Tower) on Telegraph Hill in Potsdam, 16 miles (25km) south-west of Berlin, spent a year under scaffolding while work was carried out using modern techniques to seal its many thousands of cracks, cure it of extensive dampness, and to save its domed zinc roof, while retaining its authenticity.

Constructed between 1920 and 1922 by the architect Erich Mendelsohn in collaboration with the astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich, the 20-metre tower, said at the time to resemble a “gawky spaceship”, has long been a lure for architectural enthusiasts and astrophysicists alike….

… The tower is very much still in operation as a working solar observatory today, run by the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics (AIP), where it is mainly used for the study of solar magnetic fields….

(16) DO YOU HAVE PRINCE ALBERT IN A CAN? “Scientists just opened the lid to NASA’s asteroid sample canister”Ars Technica peeked over their shoulders.

…When the spacecraft departed the roughly 1,600-foot-wide (500-meter) asteroid Bennu in 2020, engineers estimated the probe had gathered around 250 grams, or 8.8 ounces, of specimens from Bennu’s porous surface. The spacecraft sampled the asteroid by extending a robotic arm out in front of it, then essentially pogoing off the surface, only contacting Bennu for a few seconds. When it touched the asteroid, the spacecraft released a burst of gas to funnel loose rocks into a collection chamber shaped like an air filter on the end of the robot arm. This device is called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM.

Scientists discovered the collection chamber’s door was wedged open with larger rocky material, with some fragments of rock leaking out into space, so they decided to quickly stow the sampling device inside the return capsule to avoid losing more material. That led some scientists on the OSIRIS-REx team to wonder whether the spacecraft might come back to Earth with even more than the 250-gram estimate, which was four times the minimum requirement for mission success.

Researchers likely won’t know for sure how much material OSIRIS-REx brought home until next month. That will require the lab team in Houston to remove the TAGSAM sampling mechanism from its restraint inside the canister, which protected it for the journey back to Earth like a nested doll. Then they will open up the device and hopefully find larger chunks of rock. All of this should happen in the next couple of weeks….

(17) BUT DOES IT LAND JELLY SIDE DOWN? “Scientists find antimatter is subject to gravity” – the Guardian has the story.

Galileo put gravitational theory to the test by dropping balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Four hundred years on, scientists have performed a higher tech version of the experiment to demonstrate for the first time that antimatter also falls downwards.

The study, by scientists at Cern, showed conclusively that gravity pulls antihydrogen downwards and that, at least for antimatter, antigravity does not exist.

“Broadly speaking, we’re making antimatter and we’re doing a Leaning Tower of Pisa kind of experiment,” said Prof Jonathan Wurtele, a theoretical physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re letting the antimatter go, and we’re seeing if it goes up or down.”…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Daily Woo earlier this week posted a video with a “Final Look At Warner Bros Ranch As It’s Leveled – Hollywood History Gone Forever”.

…I pulled over here and parked on this street in Burbank where the Warner Ranch was. It is no longer the Warner Ranch even though there are still some buildings back in here. I was lucky enough twice to be able to get inside once like a year ago and then once like four months ago. Since then from what I am hearing there are no employees of the company of Warner, it’s not even title that anymore, and there’s just a demolition crew in there so I’m gonna see what I can find…

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

Pixel Scroll 9/20/23 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel

(1) NEW COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT SUIT OVER AI TRAINING. “The Authors Guild, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, David Baldacci, George R.R. Martin, and 13 Other Authors File Class-Action Suit Against OpenAI”. The Authors Guild explains the case.

The Authors Guild and 17 authors filed a class-action suit against OpenAI in the Southern District of New York for copyright infringement of their works of fiction on behalf of a class of fiction writers whose works have been used to train GPT. The named plaintiffs include David Baldacci, Mary Bly, Michael Connelly, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, Elin Hilderbrand, Christina Baker Kline, Maya Shanbhag Lang, Victor LaValle, George R.R. Martin, Jodi Picoult, Douglas Preston, Roxana Robinson, George Saunders, Scott Turow, and Rachel Vail.

“Without Plaintiffs’ and the proposed class’ copyrighted works, Defendants would have a vastly different commercial product,” stated Rachel Geman, a partner with Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel for Plaintiffs and the Proposed Class. “Defendants’ decision to copy authors’ works, done without offering any choices or providing any compensation, threatens the role and livelihood of writers as a whole.”

Scott Sholder, a partner with Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard and co-counsel for Plaintiffs and the Proposed Class, added, “Plaintiffs don’t object to the development of generative AI, but Defendants had no right to develop their AI technologies with unpermitted use of the authors’ copyrighted works. Defendants could have ‘trained’ their large language models on works in the public domain or paid a reasonable licensing fee to use copyrighted works.” …

(2) THE RULE OF THREE. Didn’t Gallagher have a routine about that rule? “Amazon restricts authors from self-publishing more than three books a day after AI concerns” – the Guardian has the story.

Amazon has created a new rule limiting the number of books that authors can self-publish on its site to three a day, after an influx of suspected AI-generated material was listed for sale in recent months.

The company announced the new limitations in a post on its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) forum on Monday.” …

The rule change will “probably not” be a “gamechanger for managing the influx of AI-written content on Amazon’s platform,” said Dr Miriam Johnson, senior lecturer in publishing at Oxford Brookes University. “It will dent the numbers a bit, but for those who are making money by flooding the market with AI-generated books and publishing more than three a day, they will find a work-around.”

The three-book limit announcement comes a week after Amazon introduced the requirement for authors to inform the company when their content is AI-generated and added a new section to their guidelines featuring definitions of “AI-generated” and “AI-assisted” content….

The new sets of rules come after Amazon removed suspected AI-generated books that were falsely listed as being written by the author Jane Friedman. Earlier this month, books about mushroom foraging listed on Amazon were reported as likely to have been AI-generated and therefore containing potentially dangerous advice. AI-generated travel books have also flooded the site.

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Watch these videos at the links.

This was posted by a Chengdu-related account – the Google Translation of their account bio states “Chengdu People’s Government Press Office” – yesterday (Tuesday 19th), but the card at the end indicates the video was produced by some division of the Red Star media organization.  (Are they maybe some sort of sponsor or partner?)  No new information; it’s a vaguely comedic skit, presumably aimed at a general audience.

This is over a week old, but I only just came across it, because it’s not hashtagged with any of the more commonly used tags.  A Three-Body Problem-inspired 3D effect public display counting down to the start of the Worldcon.  The captions refer to it being a 1000-hour countdown, but you can see in the video it actually starts at 1200-hours.

This seems to be another product of Red Star media and posted by a Chengdu local government account.  It’s a fairly random collection of CG imagery of the con venue, (likely) copyright infringing clips from Hollywood films, and stock footage, but the Hugo Awards get namechecked a couple of times.

From September 10th, it looks like this Yahoo-ish site is running a few Worldcon-related articles.  It looks like this interview was carried out at an science-related event earlier in September, that might have some ties to the Worldcon.  A brief extract from the interview (via Google Translate):

Reporter: What are your views and expectations on the World Science Fiction Convention being settled in Chengdu?

Jiang Bo: For a long time, Chengdu has been a “source” for Chinese science fiction, and the reputation of “science fiction capital” is completely deserved. The World Science Fiction Convention can be held in Chengdu, which has a very positive effect on further expanding the influence of Chengdu in science fiction, and allows the world to witness why Chengdu is a “science fiction capital”.

I know that the World Science Fiction Convention is held in Chengdu’s Pidu District very grandly, and this excellent hardware facility will attract more opportunities, which is a positive effect for Chengdu. Similarly, it can also promote the world, especially the majority of “science fiction fans” to understand Chengdu.

What I am most looking forward to is meeting science fiction authors from all over the world and communicating with them. I also look forward to their trip to have a deeper understanding of our Chinese writers, learn from each other, and jointly promote the development of science fiction culture.

Red Star News is part of the Chengdu Business Daily media organization that seems to be running the Chengdu Worldcon, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re putting out lots of stories about the event.

(4) JAPANESE FILM FAVORITES. “Notorious Film Nerd Hideo Kojima Reveals His Criterion Collection Picks” at IGN. Several are horror.

…Criterion, the organization behind the Criterion Collection, invited Hideo Kojima to do a video in its ‘Closet Picks’ series on its YouTube channel. The series is dedicated to highlighting notable voices in creative industries where a selected luminary picks their favorites from the “Criterion Closet,” which is exactly what it sounds like; a closet containing physical copies of each film in the Criterion Collection….

Here are a couple of Kojima’s picks.

Onibaba

“Again, I watched this at night as a kid and it shocked me,” he said, before he recalled discussing Kaneto Shindo’s folk-horror set in medieval Japan with Guillermo Del Toro when they met for the first time. He added, “He loves this film as well. There’s a monster called Onibaba in Pacific Rim.”

Woman in the Dunes

Kojima got discovered Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1960 art-house darling after reading Kobo Abe’s book (also called Woman in the Dunes).

If you’d like to watch the full video–and watch Kojima light up as he talks about some of his favorite Japanese movies–check it out on Criterion’s YouTube channel.

(5) DISTILLATION OF A CAREER IN SFF. Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s Being Michael Swanwick, a collection of interviews, will be released in November 2023.

In 2001, Michael Swanwick published the book-length interview Being Gardner Dozois. Now Swanwick himself becomes the subject of inquiry. During a year of conversations, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg) set about discussing with Swanwick his remarkable career, with a particular focus on his extraordinary short fiction. 

The resulting collection of transcribed interviews is a tribute to the similarly-named book that inspired it, a discussion of writing craft, an anecdotal genre history, and a chronological survey of the work of a modern master.

 “Michael Swanwick shows a rare, writerly combination: He’s articulate about his own work and also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. What can I say other than I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt privileged to have read it.” — Samuel R. Delany

(6) SPEAK, MEMORY. Cat Rambo came up with a great perk for her $10 level Patreon supporters:

Here are four audio files that can be used as ringtones or other places requiring audiofiles. They feature me saying the following things:

  • You should be writing.
  • Why aren’t you writing?
  • Stop fucking around and write.
  • Be kind to yourself.

(7) EARLIEST LE GUIN. In “Ursula K. Le Guin on Writing Fantasy as a Young Girl”, Literary Hub invites readers to watch the second in a series of videos about the author.

The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guina Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author.

In the second of the series, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas introduces “Elves, Dragons, and Countries That Didn’t Exist,” in which Ursula reflects on how her childhood influenced her development as a writer.

Watch the video on Vimeo: “The Journey That Matters: Elves, Dragons, and Countries That Didn’t Exist”.

(8) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE AND ASK THE HORSE. Have the producers offered a good deal? This striker says nay.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt is where our Beginning is taken from. 

It was released as a hardcover edition twenty-eight years ago by Harcourt Brace with copious illustrations and cover art by Francisco Mora, a pupil of Diego Rivera, who was deep into the Mexican political scene making posters for trade unions and government literacy campaigns.

If one takes into account the illustrations it’s not a novel really as there’s not that much text, so I’d say it’d be a novella if judged by length alone. 

I’ve got my personally-signed copy on hand and I read every Winter. Yes, she is on the chocolate gifting list. She prefers no more than seventy percent chocolate. 

It is that rare wonderful work where the text and the illustrations (see the cover illustration below of The Wild Hunt) are truly intrinsic to each other. I cannot imagine it as just text, though I can imagine it as a spoken work as Yolen’s language here is brilliant.

So let’s have just the introduction now…

A wild winter storm rages around a large house that is isolated from the rest of the world. Traditionally, the Wild Hunt appeared around the time of Epiphany— January 6 in the Church Calendar—when winter was at its most severe in Northern Europe. No country is specified, but this is, after all, a fantasy world. The house is both a comfortable dwelling with a large library in keeping with Jerold’s quiet personality, and a parallel setting that matches Gerund’s much more active one. A hundred yards from the house is a granite outcrop where the Hunt gathers: “This rock might have been a thousand miles away. Or a thousand years.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  Oh and he has four BSFA Awards including ones for the artwork for the cover of his own first edition of Kaeti & Company. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1948 George R. R. Martin, 75. I’ll admit that I’ve only read the first two volumes of A Song of Fire and Ice as I lost interest at the point — massive volumes in general don’t appeal to me given how much great fiction there is to read.  I loved The Armageddon Rag and think that he’s a wonderful short story writer.  And no, I’ve not watched A Game of Thrones. 
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 73. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives which collects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. He’s generously stocked at the usual suspects these days.
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 49. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 37. He plays Alec Hardison on Leverage. Ok, I know it’s not SFF but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reveals what collectible is at the top of the heap.
  • Tom Gauld knows some people just can’t help being who they are.

(12) SIGNPOSTS TO A GOLDEN AGE. Charlie Jane Anders, who says “We are living in a new golden age of space opera,”  discusses “11 Books That Changed How I think About Space Opera” at Happy Dancing. Second on the list:

2) The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

Okay, continuing the theme of ridiculousness… in high school, my friend John turned me on to these bonkers books, about an interstellar con man who falls in love with the super-assassin who keeps trying to kill him. And he runs for president of a planet! (Back then, the notion of a slimy con man getting elected president felt satirical.) Unlike Arthur Dent, “Slippery” Jim di Griz is hypercompetent and he definitely knows where his towel (and blaster) are. In a corrupt, rotten galaxy, an amoral con man can become kind of a good guy, using dirty tricks to clean up a planet. I often think about Harrison’s clever explanation of why an interstellar war would make no sense — essentially because given the costs of transporting goods between star systems, there’s nothing worth going to war for.

(13) THE MAJOR AND THE MISSIONARY. The Habit podcast features “Diana Glyer on Warnie Lewis’s Letters”.

Diana Glyer teaches in the honors college at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing and research focus on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings. Her most recent book is The Major and the Missionary. Dr. Glyer edited this collection of letters between Warren Lewis, the brother of C.S. Lewis, and Dr. Blanche Biggs, a medical missionary in Papua New Guinea. Their conversation spans faith, literature, fear, doubt, tragedy, sickness, health, friendship, and life & death itself. 

(14) CHRISTOPHER NOLAN WILL SPEAK. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists “Conversations Before Midnight — 2023” online event will take place November 6 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Central. Full information and purchase tickets at the link.

For our annual gathering, Conversations Before Midnight (CBM) 2023, we will remain virtual, acknowledging that our audience is spread throughout the United States and around the world. This year we are thrilled to feature award-winning and Academy Award-nominated director Christopher Nolan as our keynote speaker. As with past gatherings, we also will continue to provide unique access to high-level conversations with world-renowned experts on a variety of topics including nuclear risk, climate change, disruptive technologies like AI, and biosecurity.

For those that have purchased Zoom room (“tables”) in the past, we have a few exciting changes to enhance your experience. This year, each attendee can select which conversation to join based on their area of interest, rather than travel through the evening together as a table. Participants will still have the opportunity to ask questions of the experts, who will be led in discussion by a seasoned moderator.  Then, following these focused discussions, your guests can return to your private Zoom room to share what they heard over the course of the evening.

You get the opportunity to interact with guests at your hosted table during the evening, but you also join other groups in your topic of interest. Here are the dynamic conversations we have planned for you:

(15) AND IF WE DON’T BLOW OURSELVES UP. The Smithsonian Magazine says “Humans Have Exceeded Six of the Nine Boundaries Keeping Earth Habitable”.

… According to the paper, Earth’s ability to sustain human society depends on nine primary “planetary boundaries,” or global systems that are key indicators of its health. Of these nine limits, humans have blown past six: climate change, biosphere integrity (which includes biodiversity), freshwater availability, land use, nutrient pollution and novel entities (meaning human-made pollution, such as microplastics and radioactive waste). Only the categories of ocean acidification, air pollution and ozone depletion remain within the constraints….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Maze Runner: The Death Cure Pitch Meeting”. “So now six months have passed.” “What was everybody doing for six months?” “Stuff.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/23 Scroll Your Pixels Well

(1) LE GUIN ON HER ILLEGAL ABORTION IN 1950. Arwen Curry told Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin Kickstarter backers that a “New Ursula K. Le Guin short film series starts today on LitHub!”

The Journey That Matters, a series of six short films about Ursula K. Le Guin’s life and work that will be serialized on Literary Hub, based on outtakes from the feature documentary you all helped me to create. Spending time with Ursula meant having access to her warm, wise perceptions about all kinds of questions in literature and life. With these little films, I hope to share some more of that abundance.

It starts today with “What it Was Like,” in which Ursula reads her powerful essay about the illegal abortion she had as a senior at Radcliffe in 1950, which she credits with allowing her to pursue her career as a writer and to build her family. It’s a chilling reminder of what we’ve lost since Roe fell — and how women’s success and happiness is predicated on our bodily autonomy….

See the first video in the series on Literary Hub: “Ursula K. Le Guin on Her Illegal Abortion in 1950” introduced by Elisabeth Le Guin and Caroline Le Guin:

As young women growing up under the protection of Roe, we never really talked with our mother about her abortion. Elisabeth [Le Guin] learned that it had occurred when she went through several abortions of her own in the 1980s; but what we know about the story of Ursula’s necessarily different experience comes to us through her written words, as it does to you.  “The Princess” was her keynote address to NARAL Pro-Choice America in 1982 when Roe was not even a decade old, and this piece, “What It Was Like,” was a talk for Oregon’s NARAL chapter in 2004. These stories are public statements, performances of Ursula’s own life material as a means to inspire and transform. The second of them, which you are about to hear, is also a rather extraordinary public love letter to her own family.

This is a hard essay to read or listen to, and it’s meant to be. Clearly, it was hard to write; watching Ursula in her 80s read her own words aloud, more than a decade after she wrote them, the emotion is palpable—and that shy little shrug at the end, that letting go. For us, it’s hard to watch. It’s a hard thing to think about your mother having an abortion, and an illegal one at that—to do so takes you to an exquisitely painful, vulnerable place, imagining what she went through: the shame, the grief, the sense of loss she must have experienced, the lingering, corrosive doubt. A hard thought exercise, but necessary to fully honor the fact that she could later choose to carry you to term, bring you into the world, into her world, to love and mother you the way she wanted to mother….

(2) NEW SFWA PROGRAM SEEKS INTERNS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) to support a new program they’re launching: Publishing Taught Me. This program will be shepherded by Nisi Shawl, an accomplished and multiple award-winning author, editor, instructor, and Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award recipient. It will take place over the coming year. And the press release adds that “Publishing Taught Me Launches with an Intern Search”.

…Publishing Taught Me will produce an online essay series, to be collated into an anthology, and a symposium aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. This will be done by inviting publishing professionals of color to describe their journeys and to provide advice and motivation to writers entering the field via their essays and participation in a Publishing Taught Me symposium. These goals will be accomplished with the support of two paid interns, who will serve as assistant editors for the essay series, symposium, and resultant anthology.

As managing editor for the project, Shawl will oversee the operational aspects of putting together an online essay series and anthology, and will work with SFWA staff to coordinate and execute their publication and the associated events. They will also provide mentorship to the two assistant editor interns, who should be early in their professional publishing careers.

We are now recruiting for the assistant editor internship positions for this program. Interested individuals must be at least at 18 years of age, and should have at least three months previous editing experience, preferably within the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres, and a firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing people of color in the current publishing environment. Familiarity with Google Docs, Zoom, WordPress, and Canva is a plus.

Responsibilities include soliciting and editing project essays, overseeing contributor agreement completion, assisting with arranging the essays within the final publication, helping to establish and supporting project participant communication protocols, and preparing marketing materials for the project. The term “editing” includes developmental editing, line editing, and copyediting.

The editorial assistants’ work on the project begins November 1, 2023 and will be completed in November 2024. Hours worked will vary from week to week, but the anticipated time commitment will be up to 50 hours per month per person. A flat $2,000 stipend will be provided to each intern for their participation in the program.

If you are interested in applying, please complete the application here by September 30, 2023. We encourage you to share this opportunity with anyone who qualifies and would benefit from learning about the science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishing industry as they fill this important role.

…This program will deliver invaluable insight into our industry that will benefit current and future genre storytellers, and we’re excited to bring it into existence. For questions about Publishing Taught Me, please contact [email protected]

(3) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM NEXT WEEK. Katie Conrad, Interim Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction shared the schedule for the Second Annual Sturgeon Symposium being held at the University of Kansas from September 20-22. Full details at the link.  

The Symposium theme this year, “Fantastic Worlds, Fraught Futures,” was inspired by this year’s KU Common Book, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. The festivities start Tuesday night (9/19) with a co-sponsored Feminist Futures Forum, and continue through Friday (9/20-9/22) with a three-day academic conference open to all and events including a zine workshop (Wednesday afternoon), an open-to-all young adult creative writing workshop with YA author L.L. McKinney (Thursday afternoon), the reception and presentation of the annual Sturgeon Award with a reading by author Samantha Mills (Thursday evening), a closing reception in the gallery with the KU Common Work of Art (Friday afternoon), and a free showing of the movie The Host (Friday evening).  

(4) WHAT LIES IN STORE FOR SIMON & SCHUSTER? The Atlantic warns about the potential consequences of KKR’s purchase of Simon & Schuster in “Private Equity Comes for Book Publishing”.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice blocked Penguin Random House, owned by the German media giant Bertelsmann, from acquiring Simon & Schuster. The big five publishers—HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—already control about 80 percent of the book market. The literary class was relieved.

Less than a year later, the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts announced that it would buy Simon & Schuster. Because the firm doesn’t already own a competing publisher, the deal is unlikely to trigger another antitrust probe. But KKR, infamous as Wall Street’s “barbarians at the gate” since the 1980s, may leave Simon & Schuster employees and authors yearning for a third choice beyond a multinational conglomerate or a powerful financial firm.

“It may be a stay of execution, but we should all be worried about how things will look at Simon & Schuster in five years,” says Ellen Adler, the publisher at the New Press, a nonprofit focused on public-interest books….

…In their recent book about private equity, These Are the Plunderers, Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner recount maddening stories about KKR: how it bankrupted Toys “R” Us; gouged residents of Bayonne, New Jersey, for water and sewage; and, very recently, ran a vital provider of emergency services into the ground. If KKR’s latest deal follows a similar trajectory, Morgenson and Rosner might have a harder time documenting it. Their publisher is Simon & Schuster….

(5) DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE 2023. Noah Hawley’s Anthem is a work of genre interest among the six fiction finalists for the 2023 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Given for both fiction and nonfiction, the prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Each winner receives a $10,000 cash prize.

2023 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalists

Anthem by Noah Hawley (Grand Central Publishing)

Something grave is happening to teenagers across America. Recovering from his sister’s tragic passing, Simon breaks out of a treatment facility to join a man called “The Prophet” on a quest as urgent as it is enigmatic. Their journey becomes a rescue mission when they set off to save a woman being held captive by a man who goes by “The Wizard” in this freewheeling adventure that finds unquenchable light in the dark corners of society.

Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta by James Hannaham (Little, Brown and Company)

A trans woman, Carlotta Mercedes, reenters life on the outside after more than twenty years in a men’s prison. Set over the course of a whirlwind Fourth of July weekend, Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta follows her struggles to reconcile with the son she left behind, to reunite with a family reluctant to accept her true identity, and to avoid anything that might send her back to lockup.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks (Viking)

A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history. Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, Horse is a novel of art and science, love and obsession, and our unfinished reckoning with racism.

Mecca by Susan Straight (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From the National Book Award finalist Susan Straight, Mecca is a stunning epic tracing the intertwined lives of native Californians fighting for life and land. The author crafts an unforgettable American epic, examining race, history, family, and destiny. With sensitivity, furor, and a cinematic scope that captures California in all its injustice, history, and glory, she tells a story of the American West through the eyes of the people who built it—and continue to sustain it.

The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara (W. W. Norton & Company)

In an Indian village in the 1950s, a precocious child is born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers. King Rao will grow up to be the world’s most accomplished tech CEO and lead a global corporate government. King’s daughter, Athena, must reckon with his legacy—literally, for he has given her access to his memories. The Immortal King Rao obliterates the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction, the historical and the dystopian, to confront our age of technological capitalism.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton (Grand Central Publishing)

As devastating weather patterns wreak gradual havoc on Florida’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Wanda, named for the terrible storm she was born into, grows up in a landscape abandoned by civilization. Moving from childhood to adulthood, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.

(6) ONLINE EVENT WILL DRAW ATTENTION TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST UYGHURS. “World Uyghur Congress announces #WritersSupportUyghurs campaign to coincide with World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Chengdu, China”. The complete press release is at the link.

The World Uyghur Congress will host an online panel discussion featuring several award-winning and bestselling authors on Tuesday, October 17th, 2023. The date, one day before the opening of the Worldcon science fiction convention in Chengdu, China, was selected deliberately in order to draw attention to ongoing human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in East Turkistan. The United States, along with 11 parliaments and senates around the world and the independent Uyghur Tribunal have officially recognized the abuses as a genocide and a crime against humanity. 

This marks the first year that Worldcon, the largest science fiction convention and the bestower of the prestigious Hugo Awards, will be hosted in China. The decision to hold the event in China has prompted concern from a wide range of science fiction fans, journalists, and authors, many of whom have called for a boycott. Making matters worse, the organization has invited Liu Cixin and Sergei Lukyanenko to attend as “guests of honor.” Both writers have been outspoken in favor of genocidal policies, with Liu saying that the genocidal policies are a justifiable form of “economic development” and Lukyanenko calling for Ukrainian children to be drowned

“The Chinese government wants to use Worldcon as a sort of Potemkin Village in order to showcase how futuristic and technologically advanced the country has become,” said Andrew Gillsmith, author of the bestselling novel Our Lady of the Artilects and organizer of the #WritersSupportUyghurs campaign. “Meanwhile, they are interning people in concentration camps, forcibly separating children from their families, conscripting Uyghurs into slave labour schemes, and implementing the most comprehensive and technologically sophisticated surveillance regime in history. Science fiction writers and fans have a longstanding tradition of standing for human rights. This is in the spirit of that tradition.”

The event in October will broadcast live worldwide and is expected to last 90 minutes….

“We are grateful for this support from the science fiction and literary communities,” said Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress. “Our goal is not to disrupt Worldcon but to ensure that coverage of the event includes the facts about an ongoing genocide being perpetrated by the host country.”… 

(7) ALAN MOORE NOW SENDING HIS DC ROYALTIES TO BLM. Variety reports “Alan Moore Donates Film and TV Money to Black Lives Matter”.

Alan Moore, the comic book visionary best known for writing such revered works as “Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta” and “Batman: The Killing Joke,” revealed to The Telegraph that he is longer accepting royalty checks from DC Comics for films and television series based on his works. He’s asked the company to instead reroute these checks to Black Lives Matter.

The Telegraph asked Moore if reports were true about him taking all of the money he makes from film and TV series and dividing it among the writers and other creatives, to which the writer answered: “I no longer wish it to even be shared with them. I don’t really feel, with the recent films, that they have stood by what I assumed were their original principles. So I asked for DC Comics to send all of the money from any future TV series or films to Black Lives Matter.”…

(8) SPACE:1999 SPACECRAFT GETS DOCUMENTARY. “’Space: 1999′ documentary to focus on the iconic Eagle spacecraft” at Space.com.

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to raise funds for a dedicated documentary focusing specifically on the design and development of the iconic Eagle transport spacecraft from the epic 70s sci-fi TV show “Space: 1999.” The documentary feature is called “The Eagle Has Landed” and will showcase never-before-seen archival footage. It’s set to be released in time for the 50th Anniversary of “Space: 1999” in 2025. 

“‘Space: 1999’ appeared on TV a few short years after the world watched Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon. The show’s unforgettable Eagle inspired a generation to envision a future in space and is still doing so decades later. The question we explore is why?” said writer, director Jeffrey Morris and founder FutureDude Entertainment, the production company behind the project….

The Kickstarter link is here: “The Eagle Has Landed – Sci-Fi Documentary by Jeffrey Morris”. The appeal has raised $27,000 of the $500,000 goal on the first day.

…The Eagle Has Landed explores a passionate and ongoing nostalgia for a future that never happened. This intriguing feature-length documentary follows Jeffrey Morris—a Minnesota-based filmmaker and lifelong science-fiction aficionado—as he examines the fascinating connections between art, science, culture, and the iconic Eagle spacecraft. …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1964 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

So let’s talk about the publishing of Keith Laumer’s A Plague of Demons which is our Beginning this time as it’s fascinating.  Especially when it got entangled with Baen Books later on.

It first was published in If in the November and December 1964 issues as The Hounds of Hells. This is not the later version known as A Plague of Demons but a shorter version.  

It got its first book publication as a paperback from Berkley Medallion the next year. The cover illustration is by Richard Powers. 

Penguin, Paperback Library and then Warner Paperback Library (yes Warner bought Paperback Library), then Warner Books (such for Paperback Library) and finally Pocket Books before we get to Baen Books.

And there’s Baen Books. They did three paperback editions of it and then printed it as part of A Plague of Demons and Other Stories which collected a lot of his shorter fiction, mostly novelettes. It was then offered up as part of the Baen Free Library. ISFDB says it was included as part of The 1634: The Baltic War Disk and The 1635: The Eastern Front CD-ROMs. 

Now let’s not overlook as you see in a few moments that A Plague of Demons is a most amazing novel. I’ve only included the first paragraph but it’s all you need as it’s most excellent. 

So here is it. Do enjoy it.

It was ten minutes past high noon when I paid off my helicab, ducked under the air blast from the caged high-speed rotors as they whined back to speed, and looked around at the sun-scalded, dust-white, mob-noisy bazaar of the trucial camp-city of Tamboula, Republic of Free Algeria. Merchants’ stalls were a slash of garish fabrics, the pastels of heaped fruit, the glitter of oriental gold thread and beadwork, the glint of polished Japanese lenses and finely-machined Swiss chromalloy, the subtle gleam of hand-rubbed wood, the brittle complexity of Hong Kong plastic – islands in the tide of humanity that elbowed, sauntered, bargained with shrill voices and waving hands, or stood idly in patches of black shadow under rigged awnings all across the wide square. I made my way through the press, shouted at by hucksters, solicited by whining beggars and tattooed drabs, jostled by UN Security Police escorting officials of a dozen nations.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1931 — Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, 92. An American author. Anthropologist, author of both fiction and non-fiction books on animal behavior, Paleolithic life, and the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. She was written three works of fiction two genre, Reindeer Moon and The Animal Wife and one, Certain Poor Shepherds: A Christmas Tale, a Christmas story, a folk tale and therefore at least genre adjacent. 
  • Born September 13, 1933 Warren Murphy. Ok, I’ll admit that I’m most likely stretching the definition of genre just a bit by including him as he’s best known for writing along with Richard Sapir the pulp Destroyer series that ran to some seventy novels and was (making it possibly genre) the basis of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  He did a number of other series that were more definitely genre. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 76. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth. It would be adapted by Matt Wayne for Justice League Unlimited’s “Chaos at the Earth’s Core”. 
  • Born September 13, 1960 Bob Eggleton, 63. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork, Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 62. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, deeply into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. His only two Awards are a pair of World Fantasy Awards, both for novellas, “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” and “Let’s Maps to Others”. And yes, I know that he also publishes under the K. J. Parker name as well but I won’t go into the works he publishes here. 
  • Born September 13, 1974 Fiona Avery, 49. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with three spin-offs of J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. She did work on Tomb RaiderSpider-ManX-Men and Witchblade as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CHENGDU WORLDCON NEWS. A three-part news release primarily devoted to a name for the Chengdu Worldcon mascot and its slogan – “Meet The Future! Slogan and Mascot’s Name for 2023 Chengdu Worldcon Announced” – included this segment publicizing some of the guests and programs, from which Sergey Lukianenko’s name is conspicuously absent.

…This year, the Committee has invited famous sci-fi activists such as Ben Yalow and Dave McCarty, as well as sci-fi litterateurs such as Robert Sawyer and Liu Cixin to bring a sci-fi literature feast to sci-fi fans. Meanwhile, Richard Taylor, the founder of Weta Workshop founder, who has won five Oscars for Best Visual Effects, and prominent figures in the Chinese sci-fi industry such as directors Guo Fan and Yang Lei, will attend the convention. They will engage in in-depth discussions on topics related to the fusion and development of science and technology innovation, culture, cultural tourism, and cultural creativity.

According to Liang Xiaolan, the full-time chairman of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon and the vice president of the Chengdu Science Fiction Association, the convention will hold about 260 themed salons and parties, which are divided into eight categories: Science Fiction and Literature, Science Fiction and Art, Science Fiction and Film and TV, Science Fiction and Games (Animation), Science Fiction and Academics, Science Fiction and Technology, Science Fiction and Future, and Science Fiction and Industry. “For example, in the Science Fiction and literature section, there will be salons like Liu Cixin’s ‘A Sci-fi Reunion After 10 Years’, and Robert Sawyer’s ‘The Past, Present, and Future of Science Fiction’; In the Science Fiction and Technology section, we will discuss ‘How Far Are We From Space Travel?’ In the Science Fiction and Film and TV section, there will be a ’Sci-fi Film Special Effects Summit’; In the Science Fiction and Art section, there will be a ‘Three-Body Themed Concert’; In the Science Fiction and Games section, we will release the International Sci-fi Gaming Ranking,” Liang said….

(13) NANCY AND ZIPPY. “Bill Griffith on Love, Loss and the Lives of Ernie Bushmiller and Diane Noomin” at the Comics Journal – “Long and moving,” says Andrew Porter.

There are scenes in both Three Rocks and The Buildings are Barking that converge for me. Toward the end of the Diane book, there’s a haunting scene where she appears to you on a sort of “ghost ferry,” and she’s beckoning to you, in a dream sequence, to come join her. It’s very powerful, very sad, very beautifully rendered, and it’s heartbreaking. And toward the end of Three Rocks you have Ernie—toward the end of his life—snoozing on his chair, and Nancy, in another dream sequence, is in some ways doing the same thing to Ernie. Calling on him to follow her.

So that’s me recognizing that parallel– or, under the reality that we’re all experiencing together, there is another reality. It’s just there. It’s there to find. Or create. In that dream sequence in Three Rocks, the conceit is that Nancy is doing this. I’m not doing this. Ernie is not. Nancy is doing this. So, I am saying something that I have said throughout the book, which is that Nancy is a powerful figure. She both represents and controls the world she is in. And Ernie’s world as well. Some people thought she was a child that Ernie and Abbie never had. That’s a little sentimentalized, but possible. And before that dream sequence, I’ve used Nancy in these transitional sections throughout the book where Nancy is taking you from the previous chapter, in effect, to the next chapter. Once again, it’s Nancy, physically, the drawing. Yes, I’m writing it, but it’s Nancy [who is doing it].

In the dream sequence, she’s just pure Nancy. To me, because there’s no writing going on until the very end. It came out of a conversation I had with [Nancy collector and producer/writer for The Simpsons] Tom Gammill, and I’ve also heard the same thing from Mark [Newgarden]. That Ernie would always say that he’s looking for “the perfect gag.” There’s always a more perfect gag that he can’t quite find. The most perfect gag ever. [Laughs] Which I think is a little bit… romanticizing. Either people who heard Ernie say it, or they themselves, romanticized it. It seems a little bit like false humility. In other words, “I’m not all that funny, I’m still looking for the perfect gag. If I ever find it, I’ll let you know.” It’s like a way of deflecting, that he’s a great cartoonist or a funny guy….

(14) BEAMS CHOICE. “The Influence of Star Trek and Science Fiction on Real Science” at Smithsonian Magazine, an excerpt from Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

…To trace the roots of Star Trek’s replicator, it is necessary to understand that it is essentially a repurposed form of the transporter—the teleportation or matter transmission device that “beams” the crew between starship and planet surface. According to legend, the transporter was invented only because the original series lacked the budget to film special, effect-heavy scenes of planetary landing shuttles, but Star Trek did not invent the concept of matter transmission. Its first appearance in science fiction dates back at least as far as 1877, in Edward Page Mitchell’s story “The Man Without a Body,” which prefigures George Langelaan’s much better-known 1957 story “The Fly,” by having a scientist experience a teleportation mishap when his batteries die while he is only partway through a transmission, so that only his head rematerializes.

The replicator uses the same basic principle as the transporter, in which the atomic structure of a physical object is scanned and the information is used to reconstruct the object at the “receiving” end through energy-matter conversion. In practice, all transporters are replicators and matter “transmission” is a misnomer, because matter itself is not transmitted, only information. Every time Captain Kirk steps out of the transporter having “beamed up” from a planet’s surface, it is, in fact, a copy of him—the original has been disintegrated during the initial phase of the operation.

This was precisely the mechanism of teleportation explored in one of the earliest stories on this theme. In Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1910 story “Remote Projection,” an inventor finds that his teleporter is actually a replicator and ends up with 841 identical copies of himself scattered around the world. This idea anticipated the well-known Teletransporter philosophy thought experiment by British philosopher Derek Parfit, which explored questions of continuity of identity. If a transporter is actually a replicator, is the Captain Kirk that steps off the transporter pad the same as the one that was “beamed up” from the planet? If the planet-side Kirk is not disintegrated in the process, and survives the process, which of the two Kirks is the “real” one? Star Trek TNG explored this precise scenario as an ongoing story line, after an episode (“Second Chances,” 1993) featuring a transporter malfunction that results in two copies of the character Will Riker—one who materializes on board his ship and the other who is stranded on a planet. The planet-side copy eventually chooses to be known as Tom Riker….

(15) BID ARAGORN REMEMBER. Far Out Magazine counts this as “The movie with the largest battle scene of all time”.

…However, the formula for creating monumental battle scenes saw a paradigm shift as we moved into the digital age. It was no longer just about recruiting an army of extras and meticulously planning every combat move. Instead, the magic started happening in the digital realm, thanks to pioneering technology developed by New Zealand-based Weta Digital.

Enter Peter Jackson’s acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, released from 2001 to 2003. With the assistance of Weta Digital’s specialised crowd-simulation software, the movies shattered all previous records by featuring battles with an unprecedented 200,000 characters. The program, sensibly named Massive, fused digital animation with early artificial intelligence to govern individual character interactions, creating a spectacle of unparalleled scale and complexity.

What sets Massive apart is its innovative use of AI, allowing each digitally-created soldier to act and react in ways that mimic real-life human behaviour – not just this, but to do it ‘independently’. By allowing the program to govern the movements, animators were spared from tailoring the movements of each of the 200,000 figures. This leap in technology generated battle scenes that were vast in scale and eerily realistic. The technology altered the very foundations of what directors considered possible, raising the bar for epic cinema to an entirely new level….

(16) A SIGNATURE OF LIFE? Mashable reports an intriguing James Webb Space Telescope discovery: “Webb finds a molecule made by microbial life in another world”.

While the James Webb Space Telescope observed the atmosphere of an alien world 120 light-years away, it picked up hints of a substance only made by living things — at least, that is, on Earth.

This molecule, known as dimethyl sulfide, is primarily produced by phytoplankton, microscopic plant-like organisms in salty seas as well as freshwater.

The detection by Webb, a powerful infrared telescope in space run by NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies, is part of a new investigation into K2-18 b, an exoplanet almost nine times Earth’s mass in the constellation Leo. The study also found an abundance of carbon-bearing molecules, such as methane and carbon dioxide. This discovery bolsters previous work suggesting the distant world has a hydrogen-rich atmosphere hanging over an ocean.

Such planets believed to exist in the universe are called Hycean, combining the words “hydrogen” and “ocean.”

“This (dimethyl sulfide) molecule is unique to life on Earth: There is no other way this molecule is produced on Earth,” said astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan in a University of Cambridge video. “So it has been predicted to be a very good biosignature in exoplanets and habitable exoplanets, including Hycean worlds.”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The new miniseries of Star Trek: Very Short Treks continues with “Holiday Party” about a “blooper reel” that’s mostly not actually funny, which is the point.

It’s a First Contact Day celebration and Spock is in charge of the entertainment.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/23 And The First One Said To The Second One There, I Hope You’re Having File

(1) BRITISH LIBRARY “FANTASY” EXHIBITION. [Item by Steven French.] For those who might be in London between October 27 and February 25, the British Library is putting on an exhibition about “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination”.

Set out on a legendary quest through the impossible worlds of fantasy. 

Let our landmark exhibition cast its spell as we explore the beautiful, uncanny and sometimes monstrous makings of fantasy. From epic visions to intricately envisaged details, we celebrate some of the finest fantasy creators, reveal how their imagined lands, languages and creatures came into being, and delve into the traditions of a genre that has created some of the most passionate and enduring fandoms. 

Journey from fairy tales and folklore to the fantastical worlds of Studio Ghibli. Venture into lands occupied by goblins and go down the rabbit hole. Travel through Middle-earth and into the depths of Pan’s Labyrinth. And discover how the oldest forms of literature continue to inspire fantasy authors today.

Gather your fellow adventurers and step through the British Library gates into the realms of fantasy as they have never been chronicled before. Who knows where your journey will lead…

Associated with the exhibition are a series of events including a discussion of some of Terry Pratchett’s ‘lost stories’ “A Stroke of the Pen: Terry Pratchett’s Lost Stories” on October 10 (also live-streamed on the BL platform).

And “The Dark is Rising and other stories: Susan Cooper and Natalie Haynes in conversation” on October 27 (also to be live streamed).

(2) BOOK HAUL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] For those that follow young Moid Moidelhoff and his introduction to the cosmos of SF books (with the occasional sojourn into film and TV) on his Media Death Cult YouTube channel, there is a small soap opera dimension. Moid has an SF library in the room in which he shoots most of his videos and there are more books in the attic. Moid’s approach is to find books in good condition, second hand in the wild (buying brand new books is kind of cheating though he does occasionally do this too). This means he often changes books in his collection as titles migrate through various stages from tatty paperback to good condition hardback. Some of his Patreon followers also send him books and so, every other month or so he posts a “Book Haul” video in which he opens for the first time packages sent to him.

The long game plan had been for he and his wife to move to a bigger place where he could have a large library in his YouTube shooting room. And at last it looks like they are about to move. But there’s bad news. Apparently, their new place does not have the space to house all his existing library as well as all his attic-stored books in his new study. And so young Moid has taken the decision to stop posting “Book Hauls” on YouTube (though will still occasionally post some solely for his Patreon supporters).

Actually, I am a little saddened about this. I found it interesting to see what he was being sent and whether or not I had read the titles, or even have them in my own library. The festive December Book Hauls were particularly enjoyable as they conveyed the present-opening activities of Christmas Day. (You can see the 2021 Christmas Book Haul here).

I would tentatively (as there’s no reason for Moid to take notice of little old me) suggest that perhaps he might convert his new place’s loft into a larger library or, alternatively he might get an Alastair Reynolds type garden building in which to house the books Al Reynolds writes in his own garden study…

(As I have pointed out elsewhere – science journals and SF magazine articles – having a large library is environmentally friendly. Books lining a wall provide a thermal barrier so improving a house’s energy efficiency. Books also store atmospheric carbon. Books lining a wall saves on decorating costs, etc.)

Anyway, it looks like there will be no more fu¢k Alan Moore (it’s a running Book Haul joke borne of love for the man’s works, and not what you might initially suspect). You can see Moid’s last SF Book Haul YouTube video below. It is a long one with an interlude in which he, and his on-location cameraman, Charlie, visit Hay on Wye. For those on the other side of the Black Atlantic, outside of Brit Cit, Hay on Wye is a Welsh village where just about every other shop is a bookshop. If you are coming to CalHab next year for the 2024 UK Worldcon and are spending a week or so sight-seeing BritCit, then spending a full day (a couple of nights) in Hay on Wye might reward you with that long-sought after book edition you’ve been hunting for for ages… If you like hunting books in the wild, Hay on Wye makes for a full-blown safari. (Probably best to invest in posting the books you get back to your home country as opposed to taking them back on the plane if, like me, you have the moral breaking strain of a chocolate Mars bar and easily give in to temptation. This means you need to go on a weekday when Hay on Wye’s post office will be open all day.)

I digress… Moid’s last YouTube Book Haul below (it really is this time, honest)…

(3) OXENMOOT A WEEK AWAY. The Tolkien Society expects 350 Tolkien fans from 25 different countries will meet in Oxford next weekend to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This year’s Oxonmoot is the Tolkien Society’s 50th Oxonmoot which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death. 

The event, taking place at St Anne’s College, Oxford from Thursday 31st August to Sunday 3rd September, has sold out due to the increasing popularity of Tolkien’s works. The event follows the recent publication of The Fall of Númenor and the release of the Amazon TV-series The Rings of Power set in the Second Age of Middle-earth.

The event itself will include talks from leading Tolkien scholars – including Brian Sibley, editor of The Fall of Númenor, screenwriter of The Lord of the Rings radio series and biographer of Peter Jackson – quizzes, workshops, an art exhibition, a masquerade, a Hobbit bake-off, a party and even theatrical performances. The weekend concludes, as always, with Enyalie, a ceremony of remembrance at Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on Sunday afternoon….

(4) TIL WE HAVE FACES. “Dragons Are People Too: Ursula Le Guin’s Acts of Recognition” are analyzed by John Plotz at Literary Hub.

Nobody would dare to boil down Ursula Le Guin’s marvelous writing—all that fantasy, all that science fiction, poetry, essays, translations—into one idea. But in a pinch I’d pick two sentences from her 2014 National Book Award speech: “Capitalism[’s] power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

Fantasy and science fiction never meant escapism for Ursula Le Guin. The dragons of Earthsea and the reimagined genders of The Left Hand of Darkness were always lenses, lenses she ground in order to sharpen her readers’ focus on everyday life. Indeed, for Le Guin, there was no difference between the stories she invented and everyday stories about the institutions governing our world. The dragons of Earthsea and capitalism are woven from similar material: it is imagination all the way down.

James Baldwin said not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed without being faced. The word for facing things in Le Guin is recognition, or you might even say re-cognition. Her characters—and readers—find themselves forced to think again. When they do so, what had seemed a fundamental truth about their universe turns out to be anything but….

(5) PALACIO Q&A. Here’s an excerpt from “Interview: R.J. Palacio” in the New York Times.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“The Lord of the Rings.”

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I got very into the works of the original creators of the literary fairy tale genre a few years ago — the women, like Madame d’Aulnoy and Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, who wrote stories to entertain themselves and their friends in the salons of Louis XIV. These were very subversive tales that empowered these women and vented their wishful fantasies — often published in the literary gazettes of their day. I have five original Mercure Galant books from the 1600s in which some of these stories first appeared.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

While I wouldn’t mind nerding out with Carl Sagan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Arthur C. Clarke, I’ll keep it to the living: Susanna Clarke, Margaret Atwood and Judy Blume. Can you guys arrange that?

(6) FUTURAMA. Gizmodo tells how “Odd couple Bender and Dr. Zoidberg join forces for holiday chaos in this peek at ‘I Know What You Did Next Xmas’”: “Hulu’s Futurama Exclusive Clip: Robot Santa’s Sci-Fi Christmas”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air and they too are worth reading. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek.  So have I missed anything for him, genre or otherwise worth noting here? (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant ManSleeping BeautyTime BanditsWillowFlash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 87. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 72. Probably best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, theCrusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy.
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett. Another one who died way too young. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of LightPoint of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. She won the Lambda Literary Award. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 66. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role genre wise is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. His best roles however are decidedly not genre — it was the comic act Fry and Laurie with Hugh Laurie, with the two also in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and  then as Jeeves and Wooster. Bloody brilliant!

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd is Tech-Geeky enough to qualify for an item, not to mention the hidden moral message.

(9) MOON PROBE SUCCESS. “India lands a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, a first for the world as it joins elite club”AP News has the story.

India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole on Wednesday — a historic voyage to uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water, and a technological triumph for the world’s most populous nation.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India now joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone. A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 p.m. local time, sparking celebrations across India, including in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, where space scientists watching the landing erupted in cheers and applause….

(10) SMARTIE PANTS. “IARPA’s new pants will record your location” reports Nextgov/FCW.

Officials from the research agency said Tuesday that they had launched a program to craft performance-grade, computerized clothing that can record audio, video and geolocation data while retaining the wearability and comfort of normal fabrics.

The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems — SMART ePANTS — program emerged a year ago with a broad agency announcement seeking contractors to help deliver sensor systems that can be integrated into normal clothing like shirts and pants, or even socks and underwear.

Those sensors are part of a system that is woven into the textiles to make the garments more wearable and washable, but also able to “sense, store, interpret, and/or react to information from their environment,” effectively making them Active Smart Textiles, according to agency documents….

Daniel Dern quips, “This gives new meaning to ‘flying by the seat of one’s pants’ (and perhaps ‘No matter where you, there you are’).”

(11) ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AGES HEARTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Your biological age – how old you are – is actually just one age you have.  Various parts of your body – brain, eyes, etc – have their own age. If, for example, you are middle aged, you might still unknowingly have the heart of an older person and so be at greater-than-you-think risk of a heart attack.

Up to now, things like your over-all biological age, lifestyle, blood cholesterol and genetic predisposition (did anyone in your family die young of a heart attack) have been used to guess a person’s heart’s age.

What biomedical researchers based in London, Brit Cit, have now developed is an artificial intelligence (AI) that can tell how old is a person’s heart. They also were able to quantify heart ageing factors and some of the genes involved – five seem particularly important.

They used used computer vision techniques to analyse cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging in 39,559 participants of the UK Biobank to train their AI.

See the primary research Shah, M. et al (2023) “Environmental and genetic predictors of human cardiovascular ageing”. Nature Communications, vol. 14, 4941.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] Stone Trek is a five-episode mashup of Star Trek and the Flintstones.

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