Pixel Scroll 2/18/24 Aren’t All Pixels Made Of Exotic Materials?

(1) CANCELLING HERSELF. Samantha Mills mournfully headlined her latest blog post “’Rabbit Test’ unwins the Hugo”. After reading the Barkley/Sanford report and some others’ analysis of the voting reports, Mills says:

…Looking at the information we currently have, it’s hard for me to conclude anything other than: I shouldn’t have been on that ballot. On the one hand, it seems as though the final vote hasn’t been tampered with, and the voters engaged in good faith with the works they were told were the finalists, for which I still say thank you! But it’s really, really hard for me to see past the initial fact, which is that I shouldn’t have been on that ballot.

This entire experience has been very stressful and fraught. Initially I assumed I wasn’t going to be a finalist, because even though the story had taken off like mad in the U.S., the bulk of the membership was not going to be American. I assumed we would see a lot of Chinese nominees — which would have been cool! We’d get a slice of international scifi that I rarely ever see! And then I was really pleasantly surprised to be informed I was a finalist after all. When the full ballot was posted, I was also surprised at how few Chinese nominees were in the fiction categories. There were four in the short story category, though, so I thought it was legit, and that wow, John Wiswell and I somehow made the cutoff anyway, isn’t that amazing!

I accepted the nomination because, you know, it is supposed to be an honor. But then due to concerns about the Worldcon event itself, I elected not to participate in programming or accept a free trip to Chengdu. This was also fraught. I’ve never been to a Worldcon, and I’d never been nominated before. And as I said in my previous long-winded post on the subject, I have nothing against the fandoms at play. But I wasn’t comfortable being one of the faces of local PR under political circumstances that felt entirely above my pay grade, so I bowed out…

(2) HUGO DIAGNOSIS AND POSSIBLE CURE. Nerds of a Feather editorsThe G, Vance K, Arturo Serrano, Adri Joy, Chris Garcia, Paul Weimer, and Alex Wallace have each written part of “The Hugo Awards Crisis Deepens – Where We Stand and How to Save the Awards”.

The G’s segment concludes:

There are two sets of problems here: (a) the proximate issue of what was done in 2023 and (b) what this reveals or illuminates about the the cartel of self-proclaimed “SMOFs” (secret masters of fandom) who treat the Hugos – and Worldcon more broadly – as their birthright, playground and personal fiefdom. The Hugo Awards are supposed to be democratic in nature and process; the behavior of the self-proclaimed “SMOFs” is fundamentally anti-democratic – and this is by no means confined to Chengdu Worldcon.

Now here are my suggestions for how to rebuild trust in the Hugo Awards:

  1. No one involved in the administration of the 2023 Hugo Awards, or who assisted in the collection of political evidence, can ever be allowed to have any role in administering the awards ever again.
  2. Vote tabulation must be performed in a transparent manner using software that multiple people have access to for purposes of validation. 
  3. All tabulations must be independently audited for purposes of verification. 
  4. Individual Cons should no longer administer the Hugo Awards – this should be done by an independent, rotating committee.
  5. All decisions by said committee must be audited; all disqualified nominees must be notified and given time to appeal.

(3) STARSHIP FONZIE SCOOP. Eric Hildeman got ahead of the “Glasgow 2024 Passalong Funds Announcement” with the information he reported in Episode 36 of his “Starship Fonzie” podcast. He’s now also posted a transcript on his blog.

Here’s more information about Chengdu’s passalong offer of $40,000 to Glasgow:

“… My colleague, and I think it’s fair to say, con-running coach, Alexia Hebel, is not only the treasurer for Capricon, she was the treasurer for the Western component of the Worldcon in Chengdu. And as such, one of her duties was to administer the pass-along funds from Chengdu over to Glasgow. What are pass-along funds? Well, if there’s any money left over after running a Worldcon, they have the option and traditionally always do of passing that surplus along to the next Worldcon as a donation towards its effort. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea. While in between duties at Capricon and after speaking with Ben Yalow about it, she offered $40,000 in pass-along funds to the Glasgow Worldcon. And again, that’s de rigueur. You know, every Worldcon does this if they can. Glasgow turned the money down. They’re so anxious to avoid any associations with the Chengdu Worldcon that they’re unwilling to even touch the money, to the tune of 40 grand.

(4) SEEN AROUND FANDOM. These convention badge ribbons will be in great demand once somebody starts handing them out.

(5) DRAMA CRITIC. Lauren Oyler asks what effect Goodreads one-star reviews – or any other reviews – have in “’God forbid that a dog should die’: when Goodreads reviews go bad” at the Guardian.

Something dramatic happens on a social media platform every day. On Goodreads, the anachro­nistically designed website for logging, rating (out of five) and reviewing books, the dramas are more amusing, and they occasionally even draw attention from areas beyond the site’s supposedly book-loving users. The most recent featured Cait Corrain, the fantasy author who set up an elaborate network of fake accounts to post positive reviews of her own forthcoming book as well as negative reviews of authors she felt were her competitors. When citizen journalists uncovered her plot in December 2023, her book was cancelled, and she lost her agent and a future book deal.

A juicy, postmodern story of self-sabotage, or a sad one about the intersection of the internet and mental health. Regardless, its stakes are relatively low: publicly harassing one’s colleagues is a sackable offence anyway, and it’s hard to find someone who really cares about the vicissitudes of the young adult literature world who isn’t part of the subculture. I’m not; I’m a professional critic, and an author of a literary novel. I’m a snob. I care about my book, and the authors I feel are my competitors. And while Goodreads has been around since 2007, its significance to the broader literary world remains steadfastly confusing. Does it sell books? Does it make and break careers? The flashy, funny stories that have emerged about the site over the last several years have done exactly what its proprietors surely want: make it seem like Goodreads is important. But is it?…

(6) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA presents episode 72 of the Simultaneous Times podcast with Eugen Bacon & Todd Sullivan. Stories featured in this episode:

  • “A Good Ball” by Eugen Bacon, with music by Fall Precauxions, read by Jean-Paul Garnier
  • “Shards of Glass” by Todd Sullivan, with music by Phog Masheeen, read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

Available on all podcast players or at Podomatic.

(7) THE SOURCE: SARAH MAAS FANTASY. Ann Smoot points out “The Jewishness of Sarah Maas’ Fantasy World” at Hey Alma. Beware spoilers.

Whether you’ve been thinking about starting to read “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” or you’re a long-time fan of “Throne of Glass,” it’s likely that you’ve heard of Sarah J. Maas. The author is making headlines the world over thanks to her fantasy series. Whether you’re invested in them for the well-written smut or the beautiful way she weaves her stories, fans can’t put down her novels. But what some readers might not know about the rather private author is that she was raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father and attended Hebrew school in her youth. She went on to attend Hamilton College for religious studies and met her future husband at her college’s Hillel, where he served as president. Her connection to her Jewish faith isn’t just apparent when looking at her personal history, though. It just takes a keen eye and a flip through any of her series’ to recognize that she has woven her culture through every story….

… The way that Maas deftly and lovingly weaves her Jewish culture and faith into her writing opens up the world of our stories and tradition to a wider audience. Jewish faith hasn’t had a very loud voice in fantasy — but thanks to Maas, that might be about to change.

(8) ROLE MODEL. [Item by Danny Sichel.] “Peter Talks To a Spider”, a ten-page comic, by Donny Cates and Chip Zdarsky, published on Marvel’s official Threads account: “What happens when Spider-Man chats with an actual Spider”. Images at the link.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. (Died 2006.) Tonight I’ve come to talk of Jack Palance who was born of Ukrainian immigrant parents with name of Volodymyr Palahniuk. His last name was actually a derivative of his original name. While guesting on What’s My Line?, he noted that no one could pronounce his last name, and how it was suggested that he be called Palanski but instead that he decided just to use Palance instead. He didn’t say where his first name came from.

(OK nitpickers, I do not want to hear from you. Seriously, I don’t. His career makes a gaggle of overly catnapped kittens playing with skeins of yarn with lots of lanolin still on it look simple by comparison so I may or may not have knitted it properly here, so bear with my version of it.) 

Jack Palance in 1954.

Surprisingly it looks like that he got his start in our end of things in television performances and relatively late as they started in the Sixties with the first one being Jabberwock on a musical version of Alice Through the Looking Glass. I’m sure I want to see that as it had Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty, and the Smothers Brothers as Tweedledee and Tweedledum. 

Next up was a Canadian production with him in the title role of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and that in turn saw him being the lead in Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula, the last when the ego of the Director got way, way too big. 

Jack Palance as Dracula (1973)

I’m going to digress here because it’s so fascinating. In 1963, The Greatest Show on Earth first aired. This Circus drama had Johnny Slate as the big boss who keeps the circus running as it moves from town to town. It was produced by Desilu, the production company founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Sr. It lasted but one season as it was up against shows by Jack Benny and Richard Boone. 

A bit of hard SF was next, Cyborg 2, released in other countries as Glass Shadow, creative but terribly uninformative, where he’s Mercy, an old renegade cyborg. 

Remember my Birthday recently on the wonderful Carol Serling? Well he was in The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics film that she made possible as Dr. Jeremy Wheaton in “Where the Dead Are”. 

If Treasure Island counts as genre and yes I do count it in my personal canon, then his role as Long John Silver is definitely canon. 

He got to play Ebenezer Scrooge in Ebenezer. Now the fun part is that it’s set in the Old West, where he is the most greedy, corrupt and mean-spirited crook in the old West obviously, he sees no value in “Holiday Humbug” by several reviewers. This film I went to look up on Rotten Tomatoes, but no rating there.

Not at all shockingly to me, he shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where he plays a character of Louis Strago in a two-parter “The Concrete Overcoat Affair” which got reedited as “The Spy in the Green Hat”. 

A bit of horror was next in Tales of the Haunted as Stokes in “Evil Stalks This House” was up late in career.

Finally for roles that I’m reasonably sure were of genre interest, he was on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Kaleel in the “Planet of the Slave Girls” episode.

One more gig for him related to genre or at least genre adjacent, though not as a performer, but as the host of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for four years. He had three different co-hosts from season to season, including his daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and finally singer Marie Osmond. 

I’ll take your leave now. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HEAVENLY OSCULATION. [Item by Steven French.] David Tennant answers Guardian readers’ questions about the length of his sideburns, what kind of cheese he would be and being a Doctor Who fan: “David Tennant: ‘Kissing Michael Sheen was fine. He’d brushed his teeth’”.

“Am I as geeky as the Doctor who fans? Yes. As a Doctor Who fan myself of old, I can very much can plug into that. I don’t think I ever got in trouble at school. That is one of those stories that’s ended up on Wikipedia. I wrote an essay on Doctor Who, which some unpleasant newspaper found and printed. But I didn’t get in trouble for it. I think I got quite a good mark for it.”

(12) LGBTQ VIDEO GAMERS. The New York Times article about a GLAAD study says “Report Says 17 Percent of Gamers Identify as L.G.B.T.Q.”  There were 1500 participants in the survey.

Less than 2 percent of console video games include L.G.B.T.Q. characters or story lines even though 17 percent of gamers are queer, according to GLAAD’s first survey on the industry.

The survey, whose results were released on Tuesday, said a majority of respondents had experienced some form of harassment when playing online. But it also found that many queer gamers saw virtual worlds as an escape in states where recent legislation has targeted L.G.B.T.Q. people. Seventy-five percent of queer respondents from those states said they could express themselves in games in a way they did not feel comfortable doing in reality.

“That is a statistic that should pull on everyone’s heartstrings,” said Blair Durkee, who led the advocacy group’s survey alongside partners from Nielsen, the data and marketing firm. “The statistic is driven largely by young gamers. Gaming is a lifeline for them.”

GLAAD has produced a similar breakdown of queer representation in television since 1996. Its latest report found that 10.6 percent of series regulars in prime-time scripted shows identified as L.G.B.T.Q., which researchers said helped put their video game study in perspective….

(13) CREATING VIDEO FROM TEXT. That’s the latest step forward in artificial intelligence says OpenAI in “Sora”.

We’re teaching AI to understand and simulate the physical world in motion, with the goal of training models that help people solve problems that require real-world interaction.

Introducing Sora, our text-to-video model. Sora can generate videos up to a minute long while maintaining visual quality and adherence to the user’s prompt.

Today, Sora is becoming available to red teamers to assess critical areas for harms or risks. We are also granting access to a number of visual artists, designers, and filmmakers to gain feedback on how to advance the model to be most helpful for creative professionals.

We’re sharing our research progress early to start working with and getting feedback from people outside of OpenAI and to give the public a sense of what AI capabilities are on the horizon….

… The current model has weaknesses. It may struggle with accurately simulating the physics of a complex scene, and may not understand specific instances of cause and effect. For example, a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The second trailer for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has dropped. Only in theaters March 29.

The guardians of nature. The protectors of humanity. The rise of a new empire.

The epic battle continues! Legendary Pictures’ cinematic Monsterverse follows up the explosive showdown of “Godzilla vs. Kong” with an all-new adventure that pits the almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla against a colossal undiscovered threat hidden within our world, challenging their very existence—and our own. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” delves further into the histories of these Titans and their origins, as well as the mysteries of Skull Island and beyond, while uncovering the mythic battle that helped forge these extraordinary beings and tied them to humankind forever.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Paul Weimer, Eric Hildeman, Joshua K., Cliff Ramshaw, Kathy Sullivan, Jean-Paul Garnier, Dan Bloch, Rich Lynch, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

2024 D.I.C.E. Awards

Baldur’s Gate 3 — Game of the Year

At last night’s Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) 27th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards ceremony Spider-Man 2 won six awards while Baldur’s Gate 3 was acclaimed Game of the Year and won in four other categories.

Here is the complete list of winners.

GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Baldur’s Gate 3

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ANIMATION

  • Spider-Man 2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION

  • Alan Wake 2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHARACTER

  • Miles Morales (Spider-Man 2, Nadji Jeter)

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSITION

  • Spider-Man 2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AUDIO DESIGN

  • Spider-Man 2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN STORY

  • Baldur’s Gate 3

OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT

  • Spider-Man 2

ACTION GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

ADVENTURE GAME OF THE YEAR

  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

FAMILY GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder

FIGHTING GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Street Fighter 6

RACING GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Forza Motorsport

ROLE-PLAYING GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Baldur’s Gate 3

SPORTS GAME OF THE YEAR

  • MLB The Show 23

STRATEGY/SIMULATION GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Dune: Spice Wars

IMMERSIVE REALITY TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT

  • Horizon: Call of the Mountain

IMMERSIVE REALITY GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Asgard’s Wrath 2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT FOR AN INDEPENDENT GAME

  • Cocoon

MOBILE GAME OF THE YEAR

  • What The Car?

ONLINE GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Diablo IV

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN GAME DESIGN

  • Baldur’s Gate 3

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN GAME DIRECTION

  • Baldur’s Gate 3

2024 D.I.C.E. Awards Finalists

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) announced the nominees for its 27th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards on January 10. Finalists for the top honor, Game of the Year, are: Alan Wake 2, Baldur’s Gate 3, Cocoon, Spider-Man 2, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

The peer-juried video game award winners will be revealed February 15 at a ceremony in Las Vegas. 

A total of 56 games released in 2023 are nominated. Topping the list with nine nominations is Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, followed by Alan Wake 2 with eight and Baldur’s Gate 3 with seven. 

The complete list of finalists follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/6/24 10 Pixels To Scroll, Number 9 Will SHOCK You

(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.

And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”

This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…

Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.

The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.

(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.

…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.

Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.

Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….

The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.

“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:

Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.

They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.

I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.

I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.

It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.

I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”

I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”

What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”

(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.

One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.

…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.

The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.

“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)

The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….

(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)

(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.

Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.

Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.

To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.

Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.

(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.

We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.

Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…

(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.

Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.

The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.

All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.

(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years. 

Eric Frank Russell

Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in AstoundingUnknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.

At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo.  The Great Explosion novel garnered  a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best. 

The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.

And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it? 

He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess. 

(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)

Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows there are always lines.
  • Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”

(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…

(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.

‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
Sheena Patel

I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.

I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.

In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.

We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s KindredStanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta

(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.

Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.

Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.

(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.

Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.

City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.

“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…

…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….

(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.

To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.

The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….

It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.

(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.

New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former.  “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/23 Pixel’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Scroll

(1) LET LOOSE THE LAWYERS. The New York Times would like to be the first to tell you: “The Times Sues OpenAI and Microsoft Over A.I. Use of Copyrighted Work”.

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular A.I. platforms, over copyright issues associated with its written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.

The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times….

(2) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. Meanwhile, the Guardian ponders the corporate trauma Disney will (or won’t) suffer as the “Copyright for original Mickey Mouse persona to run out 1 January 2024”.

…The loss of exclusive rights to the historically important first draft of a character who went on to capture the hearts of millions worldwide will cut deep, as proven by the decades of legal maneuvers the company made to try to preserve them.

The episode is also reflective of the turbulent waters in which Disney currently finds itself, including a bruising culture war fight with Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, over LGBTQ+ rights, and strong financial headwinds from its loss-making streaming service Disney+, as well as a worrying series of movie flops.

“I always say any of us going past 100 years will usually have issues, but this whole original Mickey Mouse thing is something to think about as we look at Disney going into its second century with a good deal of troubles,” said Robert Thompson, a trustee professor of television, radio and film, and founding director of the Bleier center for television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

“Disney has a lot of things to worry about right now, and the expiration of Steamboat Willie’s Mickey Mouse probably shouldn’t be on the top of their list. The original Mickey isn’t the one we all think of and have on our T-shirts or pillowcases up in the attic someplace.

“Yet, symbolically of course, copyright is important to Disney and it has been very careful about their copyrights to the extent that laws have changed to protect them. This is the only place I know that some obscure high school in the middle of nowhere can put on The Lion King and the Disney copyright people show up.”…

(3) CREATING GAME CHARACTERS AS TRANS OUTLET. “Video Games Let Them Choose a Role. Their Transgender Identities Flourished.” The New York Times says, “Transgender people have turned to games, some with robust character creators, as places where they can safely express themselves.”

Nearly a decade before Anna Anthropy came out as a transgender woman, she was wearing a dress in the world of Animal Crossing on the Nintendo GameCube, leaving virtual bread crumbs for her family about information she was not prepared to share as a teenager.

“We were all playing in the same town, and I had chosen a female character,” said Anthropy, 40, now a professor of game design at DePaul University, in Chicago. “It wasn’t something we talked about, but it was my way of seeing a version of my family where I was the right gender.”

More than a dozen transgender and nonbinary people said in interviews that video games were one of the safest spaces to explore their queer identities, given the array of tools to modify a character’s appearance and a virtual world that readily accepts those changes.

Character creation tools in role-playing games like Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 are making fewer gendered assumptions than in the past, giving players more freedom to select pronouns, shape their bodies and select a vocal range. Those new options are leading some players to spend hours creating their virtual avatars….

(4) THE KING TOPS THE DOCTOR? UNBEEVABLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] When it comes to Christmas, if Nineteenth Century Britain gave us the Christmas Card then arguably the Twentieth Century gave us the tradition of watching TV at Christmas (as well as throughout much of the rest of the year). So, of 68 million in the United Kingdom, what were the Brits watching this Christmas day?

Well, according to B. A. R. B., (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) the UK broadcasting ratings bureau, the most watched programme over the 2023 Christmas was the King’s Speech. This is an annual address from the Monarch and this year it was King Charles III’s second such address. Some 7.5 million tuned in live (not counting catch-up viewers). The King was broadcast on both BBC1 (the UK’s principal state sponsored terrestrial channel) and simultaneously with ITV 1 (Independent Television) Britain’s leading commercial terrestrial channel.

Second was BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, a dancing competition, which garnered a little over 5 million viewers.

Third, was a programme that was broadcast immediately after Strictly on BBC1, so no need to get up from the sofa as the turkey with all the trimmings digested. It was Doctor Who and Ncuti Gatwa’s first solo outing as the new Doctor. Some 4.75 million tuned in to see him tackle the Goblin King. (Again, this figure does not include catch-up viewers.)

Of course Doctor Who was also broadcast in other countries including N. America’s Mega-Cities, so the global viewing figure would be much higher.

(5) THE APPAREL OF AFROFUTURISM. Visit the “Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design” exhibit at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit anytime through March 31.

This new exhibition features over 60 of the Two-Time Academy Award winning costumer designer’s original designs from iconic films such as Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing, and more.

(6) MAN OF STEEL, FEET OF CLAY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Polygon makes some good points about the phenomenon of “superhero fatigue,” which they argue has more to do with ill-considered studio decisions than with the core idea of superpowered guys in capes having adventures on screen. “People aren’t tired of superheroes, they’re tired of bad superhero movies”.

Companies considered the simple existence of an extended universe and the affection for recognizable characters as a core selling point, when it is, and should always be, the sauce and not the meat.

(7) FIFTEENTH DOCTOR, FOURTEENTH SERIES. “Doctor Who Series 14 Trailer Confirms a Returning RTD Character and Release Date Window “ at Den of Geek.

The Fifteenth Doctor era of Doctor Who is well underway with Ncuti Gatwa‘s first full episode helming the TARDIS. This year’s Christmas Special, “The Church on Ruby Road,” saw the Doctor not only face off with mischievous Goblins with a taste for baby scones (that is, scones made out of babies) but also meet his new companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), who brings plenty of her own mysteries to the show. Who are her birth parents, what does her neighbor Mrs. Flood have to do with the upcoming season’s overarching plot, and what’s going on with the Hooded Woman who dropped her off at the church 24 years ago?

All questions we’ll have to wait to have answered in series 14, which is officially being marketed as Doctor Who season 1, marking the start of a new production era for the show, with returning showrunner Russell T Davies back at the helm. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long for season 1/series 14 to hit our screens. The very first trailer for the Fifteenth Doctor’s debut series confirms that the show will return in May 2024 with eight new episodes. Give the short trailer a watch below…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols. (Died 2022.) So let’s us honor Nichelle Nichols on her Birthday. I’ll get her SF work eventually but she’s got a fascinating story long before that. She started off as a dancer and a singer in the bands of Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, very impressive indeed. This photo is her as a singer with Duke Ellington.

In 1959, she appeared as the principal dancer in Carmen Jones and performed in a New York production of Porgy and Bess

Did I mention Hugh Hefner briefly employed her to sing at his Chicago club? Well he did. No idea if she also danced there. 

Now we come to the Sixties. 

It said that she came to attention of Roddenberry when she was cast as Norma Bartlett in the “To Set It Right Episode” of his The Lieutenant military series. 

(The series was thick of actors who would later appear on Trek. The lead here, second lieutenant William Tiberius Rice, played by Gary Lockwood, who will appear in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Majel Barrett, Leonard Nimoy, and Walter Koenig also appeared as guest stars, along with Ricardo Montalbán and Paul Comi, of the “Balance of Terror” episode.)

She did an interesting bit of genre work appearing in the Tarzan’s Deadly Silence is a 1970 adventure film composed of an edited two-parter of Ron Ely’s Tarzan series released as a feature. The actual original air dates were October 28, 1966 and November 4, 1966. She played Ruana. I was even able to find a high-resolution image of her on location on Hawaii. 

Now Star Trek. What a wonderful character Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was! And yes, I realize that she wasn’t called by that full name until William Rotsler created the name it for Star Trek II Biographies, his 1982 licensed tie-in book. 

There’s little I could say here about her Trek years that haven’t been said before.  She had one of the best roles on the series bar none and the writers wrote her wonderfully.  The films give her an ever more active role and I applaud the writers for doing this..

The films give her a more active role and I applaud the writers for doing this. 

She did appear possibly in several fan video fictions, the first beinStar Trek: Of Gods and Men in which she was Captain, and a narrator role in Star Trek First Frontier (but not onscreen). Here she is as captain in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and yes, that is Walter Koenig as well. 

But you want to see her given a more expanded role as a character in the real Trek universe, that’s after the original series was long off the air. It comes into play in the matter of a hidden Star Trek: Picard season two Easter egg which reveals that she has become a starship captain after The Undiscovered Country.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Peanuts from March 1, 1955 is the first day of 4 Martian jokes. (March 3 is my favorite.)
  • Pickles asks a sci-fi question.

(10) OLIVE & POPEYE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] ComicsKingdom takes you “Inside the Kingdom with Olive & Popeye: A Heartfelt Chat with the Creators of the New Comic Sensation”

Olive & Popeye are back with a new twice-weekly webcomic here at Comics Kingdom, where fans are family. The strip stars two of the most iconic and classic characters that have been around for nearly 100 years, with a rich history in comics.

Olive and Popeye, published twice weekly, is done alternately by webcomic creator Randy Milholland and comic writer and artist Emi Burdge (following Shadia Amin’s departure).

The new weekly comic was originally penned by Shadia Amin (Aggretsuko, Spider-Ham) and Randy Milholland (Popeye, Something Positive) and centers on both beloved pop-culture characters and their individual adventures, including Olive’s yoga classes, or Popeye’s messy family dynamic, which usually leads to brawls.

Comics Kingdom offers a 7-day free trial period — or (as of December 27, 2023, “four months free.” (To all Comics Kingdom’s strips etc., not just O & P.)

Or, if your library offers Hoopla access, Hoopla includes a Comics Kingdom Binge Pass (good for seven days).

(11) DRESSED FOR BATTLE SUCCESS. [Item by Steven French.] From Prince Caspian to Assassin’s Creed: on the use of brigandines in fantasy. “Brigandines” at The Secret Library, the Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog. There is a photo gallery at the link.

… A brigandine is a form of armour that became popular in Europe in the 15th century.  Constructed of overlapping plates that were riveted to fabric, it offered more flexible protection than plate armour, and could be produced at a lower cost….

(12) WEARING PROTECTION. Incidentally, here’s a whole article (from 2017) about “The armor sets of ‘Game of Thrones,’ ranked”, which are many and varied, at CNET.

Ranking the armor sets on “Game of Thrones”? Not exactly a walk in the water gardens of Dorne. But we gave it a shot anyway. Here are 21 different armor styles, ranked from worst to best.

Starting with No. 21: The Sons of the Harpy get points for being dramatic but their attire is going to do little to shield from them injuries on any actual battlefield…. 

(13) GONE IN A SPLASH. “Historic SpaceX Falcon 9 booster topples over and is lost at sea” reports Spaceflight Now. Without knowing what they expected, nineteen successful missions sounds like impressive longevity to me.

A piece of America’s space history is now on the ocean’s floor. During its return voyage to Port Canaveral in Central Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster toppled over and broke in half.

This particular booster, tail number B1058, was coming back from its record-breaking 19th mission when it had its fatal fall. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Dec. 23 carrying 23 Starlink satellites. The booster made a successful landing eight and a half minutes after launch on the drone ship ‘Just Read the Instructions’ which was stationed east of the Bahamas. SpaceX said in a statement on social media that it succumbed to “high winds and waves.”…

… The company stated that “Newer Falcon boosters have upgraded landing legs with the capability to self-level and mitigate this type of issue.

In a separate post, Kiko Deontchev, the Vice President of Launch for SpaceX, elaborated by added that while they “mostly outfitted” the rest of the operational Falcon booster fleet, B1058 was left as it was, “given its age.” The rocket “met its fate when it hit intense wind and waves resulting in failure of a partially secured [octo-grabber] less than 100 miles from home.”…

(14) CYBORG? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A hybrid bio-computer – combining laboratory-grown human brain tissue with conventional electronic circuits – has been built… and it has learned speech recognition.

Artificial Intelligence, cyborgs, replicants, positronic brains, are all allied SF tropes. Meanwhile, in real life we have in the past built computers part of whose electronic circuitry is based upon neural network structures and we have had computer-to-brain interfaces. This new development is different: it is an artificial intelligence computer made out of both electronic and purely biological components.

The biological component is a brain organoid. An organoid is a clump of cells created by stem cells next to brain cells. The stem cells grow and multiply taking on the properties of the neighbouring cells and turning into brain cells that are in effect similar to brain tissue. (This is different to growing a brain from an embryo.) A high-density multi-electrode array connects the electronic part of the bio-computer with the brain cell organoid. The researchers have only begun to explore the possibilities of this new technology, which they call ‘Brainoware’, but already they have trained it to recognise and distinguish speech from different speakers as well as solve non-linear equations.

(See the primary research Cai, H. et al (2023) Brain organoid reservoir computing for artificial intelligence. Nature Electronics, vol. 6, p1,032–1,039 and the review piece Tozer, L. (2023) ‘Biocomputer’ combines brain tissue with silicon hardware. Nature, vol. 624, p481.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

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 12/11/23 Pixelmancer

(1) BOTTOM FALLS OUT OF THE CORRAIN MARKET. Cait Corrain, a debut author who was on Goodreads dropping one-star reviews on several others’ debut novels (see Pixel Scroll 12/7/23 item #1 and Pixel Scroll 12/8/23 item #4) has lost her agent, her publisher has pulled the book, and Ilumicrate has dropped her book from the upcoming crate.

The story even made NBC News today: “Author Cait Corrain loses book deal after accusations of review bombing on Goodreads”.

A first-time author has been dropped by her U.S. publisher and her agent after readers and fellow authors accused her of posting fake negative reviews to a popular book recommendation website.

Many within the book community last week appeared to publicly turn against Cait Corrain, the author of the coming sci-fi fantasy novel “Crown of Starlight,” after allegations surfaced that she made fake accounts on the Amazon-owned book review platform Goodreads to post negative user reviews online about fellow authors — a practice known as review-bombing….

(2) WORLDCONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has interviewed the writer of “Worldconned: How China Co-Opted Sci-Fi’s Crown Jewel Amidst the Uyghur Genocide”, recently linked in the Scroll: “Human Rights & Worldcon: An Interview with Danielle Ranucci of the Human Rights Foundation”.

ASM:  In moving forward, do you think that WSFS and its members should be taking a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids for host countries?

D.R.: It’s essential for WSFS and its members to take a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids. There are many reasons for this. First, self-protection. How safe would it be for an attending member to publicly criticize China for its genocide at the 2023 Worldcon? For reference, when China hosted the 2022 Olympics, it warned Olympic athletes not to criticize the regime or they would face consequences. Given how China had handled protestors during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the consequences for speaking out against the regime are all too evident: intimidation, arrests, and killings.

It would be downright perilous for anyone to criticize China while at Worldcon. Now, I doubt that state repression is a common conversation topic at Worldcon, but the extreme danger that members would face for even broaching this topic means that they are never truly secure. For every second they spend in a dictatorship like China, their safety is always jeopardized. Clearly, it is unconscionable to ignore a country’s human rights record and so jeopardize the safety of attending members in this way.

Considering human rights also helps protect Worldcon from being twisted into a tool of totalitarian repression. Hosting events like Worldcon helps dictatorships distract from, and legitimize, ongoing repression. I wrote about the effect such reputation-laundering has on outside countries, but it also has an important effect on those living within the dictatorship: It isolates them. Americans praise China’s futuristic-looking sci-fi museum while Chinese citizens can’t even find employment. Yet their lived experiences become invalidated. Their reality is made unimportant. And for people being persecuted by the regime, to diminish their suffering in this way is to forsake them. In a sense, it’s to render their pasts, presents, and futures meaningless….

(3) A CONFEDERATE HELICOPTER? An Alabama inventor tried to design a helicopter for military use during the Civil War. What could be steampunk-ier than that? “Helicopters During the Civil War? Almost” at Historynet.

…What if Confederates had invented a helicopter capable of dropping bombs?

It came closer to happening than many people realize. An innovative inventor in Alabama saw the potential for such an aircraft and actually drew up plans for how it might fly. Those drawings are preserved today in the archives of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

By January 20, 1862, Union ships had managed to prevent most vessels from entering or leaving the major Confederate port of Mobile Bay. While certainly not a complete cordon, the blockade cut off delivery of supplies and, more important, the export of cotton to other nations—a much-needed source of income for the Southern war effort.

William C. Powers believed he had the answer to breaking the blockade: a motorized airship capable of bombing the Northern fleet. Known today as the Confederate helicopter, his idea offered a revolutionary look at solving a bothersome military problem….

…And to many historians as well. Powers’ plans and a small-scale model he built were donated by his family to the Smithsonian Institution in 1941. Since then, researchers and aeronautical engineers have pored over his design to determine the scope and feasibility of his idea….

(4) GETTING IT RIGHT AND GETTING IT WRONG. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This weekend’s Infinite Monkey Cage on BBC Radio 4 looked at the depiction of space in SF film compared to reality.

Infinite Monkey Cage is a light-hearted look at science co-hosted by a comedian and a physicist (other sciences are available). This week they were accompanied by an Oscar winning SFX person and three astronauts.

There was much covered during the course of the show including how one aspect of space craft SFX they deliberately got wrong for Interstellar because it looked right.  And in Gravity Sandra Bullock would not have worn those undies as nappies are the order of the day…You can listen to the 25-minute programme here.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince put Hollywood under the microscope to unpick the science fact versus science fiction of some of the biggest movies set in space. They are joined by a truly out of this world panel of space experts including astronauts Tim Peake, Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain alongside Oscar winning Special FX director Paul Franklin, whose movies include Interstellar and First Man. Tim, Nicole and Susan fact check how space travel and astronauts are portrayed in movies such as Gravity and The Martian, whilst Brian and Robin argue about Robin’s lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars. They look back at some of the greatest Space movies including Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey and ask whether some fictional aspects of these blockbusters may not be so far from our future reality?

(5) BLACKLOCK Q&A. The Arthur C. Clarke Award blog has a piece about “The Nonfiction of J.G. Ballard: An interview with editor Mark Blacklock” at Medium. Blacklock’s new book is The Selected Nonfiction of J. G. Ballard.

MARK: … Once it was all gathered, my first instinct was to include everything, but wiser counsel prevailed: it would have been unmanageable. I made sure to include anything significant that had been ignored for A User’s Guide or turned up since — the Introduction to the French Edition of Crash, for example, which I think he felt was not for a general audience; all the commentaries on his own work that had appeared in forewords and introductory glosses; and a sample of the reviews he wrote for Chemistry & Industry at the start of his career. I cut the number of book reviews that make up the majority of A User’s Guide too, in favour of showing a greater range of his work — the lists and glossaries, the “capsule commentaries.” The major decisions then were over which of the book reviews to include, because he was so prolific as a reviewer. I have about 30 of some 180. I printed them all off, read them several times and gave them all star ratings and then selected from the top-starred for a representative range across dates and publications. This felt like quite a heavy responsibility, but all the reviews are included in the bibliography so geeks like us can go and find those that aren’t in the book….  

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON COVERAGE CONTINUES. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] There have been several con reports and related news items since the last update in a Scroll; the following are a fairly arbitrary selection of recent and older items, with more to follow at some point.

Sylvia Hildr con report

This is a unique – I think – report, in that it’s written in English by a Chinese person.  Given that this report isn’t subject to the vagaries of machine translation, I’ll just include a short extract here

Did I have a good time? Well, I met with fans and writers who share the same deep passion for science fiction and it was fascinating experiences. I learned of lots of sci-fi magazines and databases where organizers put their best efforts to make it easier for Chinese fans to open their eyes. I will always cherish these memories. But, the difficulties that these people had to overcome truly blew my mind. Not a single conversation could end without any reasonable complaints. I could not take the stance for them but as I checked WeChat groups and Moments, or talked with friends, the situation was the same.

Hugo finalist Yang Feng receives WSJ magazine award

On Saturday, Best Editor (Short Form) and Best Related Work Hugo finalist Yang Feng received an award from the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal magazine; relevant Weibo posts are herehere and here.  I’m not sure exactly what relevance is of the guy with the shamisen-esque stringed instrument, but traditional music seems to have been a running theme of the awards ceremony.

I don’t think this is directly Worldcon/Hugo related, as the award seems to have been for business innovation, so it was possibly more due to her being CEO of the 8 Light Minutes publishing company?

Chengdu kids write about their Worldcon experiences

In early November, Character Weekly – which seems to be a magazine aimed at a young audience – published several short write-ups and photos (alternative link) from Chengdu children documenting their thoughts about attending the Worldcon.  A couple of examples (via Google Translate, with manual edits):

I felt very honored to visit the World Science Fiction Convention that was held in Chengdu. In the science fiction museum, I communicated with an intelligent robot dog, walked through a fantasy universe, and saw various science fiction works that I had never heard of before. I was particularly fortunate to have a brief exchange, and to take a photo with, Mr. Ben Yalow, Chairman of the Worldcon. Through this event, I truly felt the infinite imagination of human beings and the charm of science fiction.

_________________

A few days ago, my mother and I participated in the 81st World Science Fiction Conference held in my hometown of Chengdu. In the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, which is like a vast nebula, we experienced The Wandering Earth, Benben [the giant robot/vehicle structure], Kemeng [aka Kormo, the mascot), and the Hugo Awards with science fiction fans from all over the world, wonderful lectures by science fiction celebrities, etc., I also collected a book full of autographs, and took photos next to the beautiful Hugo Hall. This is the closest experience I have to science fiction, and I hope that one day I can do follow the same path, winning the Hugo Award for writing good science fiction works.  I will meet the future with my scientific dreams.

Lukyanenko ends China tour

This Weibo post from his Chinese publisher covers the final event in Shanghai on Sunday 10th.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 64. Tonight’s Birthday is that of M. Rickert who I must say never disappoints me. I loved her writing ever since I read her very first short story nearly a quarter of a century ago, “The Girl Who Ate Butterflies”. It’s certainly a wonderful story. 

I’d say that two-thirds of her nearly fifty pieces of short fiction were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Very impressive indeed. Some picked up well deserved awards— “Journey into the Kingdom” won a World Fantasy Award, and “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece” a Shirley Jackson Award.  Many more were nominated for Awards. 

There are three collections of her short fictions, both well worth your time on these cold nights. The first, Map of Dreams, covers a wide spread of her stories, and won a World Fantasy Award and the Crawford Award. The “Map of Dreams” novella herein was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award.  

The second, Holiday, showing how prolific she is as a short fiction writer as it is filled with just stories from 2006 and 2007. You can find “Journey into the Kingdom” here. 

The third, You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories, to a certain extent is less necessary than the first two as a large part of it is already in the first two. If you’re a fan of hers, by all means pick it up.

Now her novels, her interesting novels. Both are very impressive with my favorite being The Memory Garden which sort of tangentially reminds me of McKillip’s The Solstice Wood in tone if not story.  I’ll say The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie is one quirky novel. Really quirky novel. Not quite what to make of it. 

Since this is the Christmas season, I should note her “Lucky Girl: How I Became a Horror Writer” is a Krampus story. It’s available as an actual paperback book or an epub. 

(8) SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. Bobby Derie looks at what remains of Lovecraft’s Christmas verses to his correspondents: “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Christmas Greetings” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

H. P. Lovecraft spent most of his adult life in genteel poverty, slowly diminishing the modest inheritance that had come down to him from his parents and grandparents. He had no cash to spare on expensive gifts for his many friends and loved ones. So Lovecraft was generous with what he had—time, energy, and creativity. While not religious or given to mawkish displays, when it came to Christmas, Lovecraft poured his time and energies into writing small verses to his many correspondents, a body of poems collectively known as his “Christmas Greetings.”…

… In looking at Lovecraft’s Christmas Greetings to his women correspondents, we catch a glimpse at Lovecraft’s thoughtfulness. Their response, unfortunately, is often lost to us; though some few of them certainly responded in kind. We know Elizabeth Toldridge, for example, wrote her own Christmas poems to Lovecraft, because at least one survives….

(9) RAYMOND CHANDLER POEM REVEALED. Apparently located in the Bodleian, it may be a poetic response to the loss of his wife: “’A moment after death when the face is beautiful’: rare Raymond Chandler poem discovered by US editor”, a news item in the Guardian.

… Published on Monday in the 25th-anniversary issue of the Strand magazine, the poem, titled Requiem, dates back to 1955 and was discovered by the magazine’s managing editor, Andrew Gulli….

Grappling with loss, grief and what it describes as the “long innocence of love”, Requiem opens with: “There is a moment after death when the face is beautiful / When the soft, tired eyes are closed and the pain is over.”

For two stanzas, Requiem describes the moments after death when the “long innocence of love comes gently in / For a moment more, in quiet to hover”, as well as the fading of “bright clothes” and a “lost dream”. It adds that “silver bottles”, “three long hairs in a brush” and “fresh plump pillows / On which no head will lie/ Are all that is left of the long, wild dream”….

(10) MAKING A LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE. “Big Bang observatory tops wish list for big US physics projects” reports Nature.

The United States should fund proposed projects to dramatically scale up its efforts in five areas of high-energy physics, an influential panel of scientists has concluded.

Topping the ranking is the Cosmic Microwave Background–Stage 4 project, or CMB-S4, which is envisioned as an array of 12 radio telescopes split between Chile’s Atacama Desert and the South Pole. It is designed to look for indirect evidence of physical processes in the instants after the Big Bang — processes that have been mostly speculative so far.

The other four priorities are experiments to study the elementary particles called neutrinos, both coming from space and made in the laboratory; the largest-ever dark-matter detector; and strong US participation in a future overseas particle collider to study the Higgs boson.

An ad hoc group called the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) presented the recommendations on 7 December. The committee, which is convened roughly once a decade, was charged to make recommendations for the two main US agencies that fund research in high-energy physics, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark me as one of Today’s 10,000. I just learned there’s a Roblox game based on the Hamilton musical. “Hamilton X Roblox”.

Enhanced battle, squad upgrades, and a new rebirth mode to keep the adventure going. Check out the newest Hamilton Roblox update now!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/30/23 Too Much Pixel And No Scroll

(1) THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGIN’. Gabino Iglesias is the new horror columnist for the New York Times. He told told readers on X.com, “It’s a dream come true. Can’t wait to bring you all the horror goodness starting in January. Long live horror.”

(2) LUKYANENKO EVENT AT WORLDCON VENUE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Sergey Lukyanenko will appear December 1 in an event at the Worldcon venue.

In the Friday 24th Scroll, it was mentioned that Sergey Lukyanenko would be making four appearances in Chengdu between December 1st and 4th.  Today (November 30th) I saw a Weibo announcement indicating there will be an additional event on December 1st; notably, this one takes place at the SF Museum that was the venue for the Worldcon.  I think this may be the first time that the museum has been used or open to the public since the con?

There was also a new Weixin/WeChat blog post from his publisher yesterday (Wednesday 29th); curiously this does not mention the event at the SF Museum.

(3) GOLDMAN FUND UPDATE. Dream Foundry reports that they were able to fully fund everyone who applied within the preferred window for the Con or Bust initiative to assist Palestinian creators and fans of speculative fiction in attending the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention.

They still have funds remaining for 2024 and will continue taking applications on a rolling basis. They say –

Don’t self reject! Anyone who is a citizen of Palestine or a member of the Palestinian diaspora qualifies and is encouraged to apply.

Applications for the 2025 Worldcon will open in summer of 2024.

(4) FURIOSA TRAILER. The first official trailer has dropped for Furiosa : A Mad Max Saga.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth star in Academy Award-winning mastermind George Miller’s “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” the much-anticipated return to the iconic dystopian world he created more than 30 years ago with the seminal “Mad Max” films. Miller now turns the page again with an all-new original, standalone action adventure that will reveal the origins of the powerhouse character from the multiple Oscar-winning global smash “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The new feature from Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures is produced by Miller and his longtime partner, Oscar-nominated producer Doug Mitchell (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Babe”), under their Australian-based Kennedy Miller Mitchell banner. As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. Sweeping through the Wasteland, they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home.

(5) A GOOD TONGUELASHING. “Adam Sandler’s ‘Leo’: A Crotchety Old Lizard Helping Kids Be Kids” at Animation World Network.

Hitting Netflix [on November 21] is Leo, a clever and charming coming-of-age animated musical comedy starring noted actor and comedian Adam Sandler as a curmudgeonly 74-year-old iguana, stuck living for decades in an elementary school class terrarium, who plots his escape – complete with an odd bucket list – after learning he only has one year to live. At the same time, he can’t help but offer friendly advice to a bunch of kids who each must take him home for a weekend, only to discover – and swear to keep secret – that he can talk…

… The idea for the film gestated with Sandler for eight years. “Basically, I had the idea of looking at an elementary school graduation, almost like in Grease, the kids’ last year of elementary school, and how you’re moving on to the big leagues after that,” he shares. “And me and my friend, Paul Sado, were working on that idea. And then I told Robert Smigel about it, and he said, ‘What about if you do it that year, but through the eyes of a class pet that’s been involved in that grade forever?’ And we got excited, and that’s when everything got flowing.”…

(6) PAGE-TURNER. Jay of Tar Vol On posted an extra-large magazine review this month, with thoughts on 35 different works of short SFF and a little bit of related non-fiction. “Tar Vol Reads a Magazine: November 2023”.

… the piece that inspired me to pick up this issue [of Asimov’s] in the first place: “Berb by Berb” by Ray Nayler. This story is connected to some of his other work that I haven’t yet read, but it makes an acceptable standalone, delivering a heartfelt tale of one person trying to do the best they can in a world that has gone to pieces around them. It’s a theme Nayler returns to often, and it makes for a good read every time. ..

(7) HOME IS THE SPACEMAN. Neil Clarke tells about his adventures at the Chengdu Worldcon in his Clarkesworld editorial, “This Would Have Been Longer”. He was impressed by how many children were at the con, and participated in the Hugo ceremony.

…Oh! That’s me up there with “little astronaut” after unexpectedly winning the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form. Those are two of the hosts of the event on the left and the gentleman on the right is convention Co-Chair Chen Shi, who presented the category. I actually had a speech written this time, but in the moment, I opted to abandon it and try to speak from what I was feeling instead. Probably not the brightest thing to do, but I wanted to say something to the kids watching now or later. I let them know that I was once like them and never believed that I would someday be up on this stage accepting an award I considered the domain of my childhood heroes. I told them that I hoped to be in the audience and watch them win one someday. I encouraged them to try, told them it wasn’t easy and that people might tell them it wasn’t possible . . . but it is.

After the ceremony, I was whisked off to do interviews. They had maybe two dozen reporters from a variety of outlets present and asking questions. It kept me from enjoying part of the after party with friends, but how often does a Hugo winner get that kind of attention? I understood and appreciated the novelty of it, and besides, they weren’t asking me about AI, so that’s progress, right?…

(8) YOU’VE HEARD HER WORK. [Item by Steven French.] “Jane Horrocks: ‘I’d love to be a baddie in a Tarantino movie’”, so she told the Guardian. Horrocks voices Babs, one of the chickens in Chicken Run and also starred with Anjelica Huston in Jim Henson’s film of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

When did you discover you had an amazing voice? chargehand
From starting impersonations, really. My first impersonation was Julie Andrews when I got The Sound of Music album when I was nine. I fell in love with sounding like Julie. My mum and dad were massively into Shirley Bassey and I found I could impersonate her and Barbra Streisand. That’s when I started to realise that utilising my voice was going to be a good thing for me. It’s brought me a lot of pleasure, and I’ve made people laugh, which is great.

(9) NEW TO U.N.I.T. A disabled character is featured in the latest episode of Doctor Who. The actress discusses her role with Radio Times. Beware spoilers, maybe; I’m not sure.

“She is just so fun and feisty and ballsy – she’s just so much fun to play,” Doctor Who star Ruth Madeley says of her character Shirley Anne Bingham. “I’d love to be more like Shirley in my real life, I have got nowhere near that much cool in me!”

Madeley made her spectacular on-screen Doctor Who debut in The Star Beast as UNIT’s 56th scientific advisor. In the space of the 57-minute special, she got David Tennant’s Doctor out of some very sticky situations – and took absolutely none of his nonsense.

“Overall she is not overly impressed by anyone or anything, which I love about her because I am the complete opposite. That’s really fun to play,” Madeley tells RadioTimes.com….

(10) WHO PREVIEW. “Doctor Who debuts new scene from next episode Wild Blue Yonder” at Radio Times.

The veil of secrecy surrounding the next episode of Doctor Who, Wild Blue Yonder, is slowing beginning to lift, with the BBC dropping a first-look clip….

… In the new clip, Donna is left panicked when the TARDIS disappears, with the Doctor promising to return her home to her daughter Rose. But it appears someone – or something – is watching them……

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. (Died 1977.) As you know, we don’t do just sff genre Birthdays here and so it is that we have here one of my favorite mystery writers, John Dickson Carr.  Indeed I’m listening to The Hollow Man, one of his Gideon Fell mysteries. 

He who wrote some of the best British mysteries ever done was himself not British being American. Oh the horror. He did live there for much of the Thirties and Forties, marrying a British woman. 

Dr. Fell, an Englishman, lived in the London suburbs. Carr wrote twenty-seven novels with him as the detective. I’m listening to The Hollow Man because it’s considered one of the best locked room mysteries ever done. Indeed, Dr. Fell’s discourse on locked room mysteries in chapter reprinted as a stand-alone essay in its own right.

All of the Fell novels are wonderful mysteries. The detective himself? Think a beer drinking Nero Wolfe who’s a lot more outgoing. Almost all of the novels concern his unraveling of locked room mysteries or what he calls impossible crimes.  Of these novels, I’ve read quite a number and they’re all excellent.

Now let’s talk about Sir Henry Merrivale who created by Carter Dickson, a pen name of John Dickson Carr. (Not sure why he bothered with such a thinly-veiled pen name though.) Merrivale was like Fell an amateur detective who started who being serious but, and I’m not fond of the later novels for this, become terribly comic in the later novels. Let me note that Carr was really prolific as there were twenty-two novels with him starting in the Thirties over a thirty-year period. One of the finest is The White Priory Murders which was a Wodehousian country weekend with yet another locked room mystery in it. 

He also, as did other writers of British mysteries, created a French detective, one by the name of Henri Bencolin, a magistrate in the Paris judicial system. (Though I’ve not mentioned it, all of his mysteries are set in the Twenties onward.) Carr interestingly has an American writer Jeff Marle narrating the stories here and he describes Bencolin as looking and feeling Satanic. His methods are certainly not those of the other two detectives as he’s quite rough when need be to get a case solved. 

There are but four short stories and five novels of which I think The Last Gallows is the best. 

With Adrian Conan Doyle, the youngest son of Arthur Conan Doyle, Carr wrote some Sherlock Holmes stories that were published in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes collection. Not in-print but used copies available reasonably from the usual suspects. 

He was also chosen by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1949 to write the biography of the writer. That work, The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is in-print in a trade paper edition.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ARTILLERY AND JOSEPHINE. Haley Zapal is the first reviewer I’ve seen who is genuinely enthusiastic about Ridley Scott’s Napoleon. Find out why in “Review: Napoleon” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The scenes where men and horses fall into the water are brilliant and artistic. There are things in Napoleon that I definitely have never seen before, and that’s wild considering director Scott is nearing 90. There is also absolutely brutal gore that makes Saving Private Ryan seem like Hogan’s Heroes….

(14) IT’S WASHED. Applause to Arturo Serrano for being one of the rare folk reviewing The Marvels who talks about the movie instead of its box office. But he’s no fan of the movie either: he rates “On the woes of ‘The Marvels’” only 5on a scale of 10 at Nerds of a Feather.

Someone at Marvel Studios should have pointed out that being simultaneously a sequel to WandaVisionCaptain MarvelMs. Marvel and Secret Invasion and providing two sequel teases was too much weight to load onto the shoulders of one movie. But we’ve played this tune before: Marvel movies are doomed to be mere links in a neverending chain, each forgettable villain is just there to get the pieces in position for the next entry, what you see isn’t most of what the director intended, and so on. To keep going to theaters for a Marvel movie is by now a thoughtless habit, like grabbing one more potato chip when you know you’re full….

(15) IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. The New York Times covers “A Video Game That Doubles as a World War I History Lesson”. “Last Train Home tells an overlooked story of the Czechoslovak Legion’s evacuation across Russia in the embers of the Great War.”

 … Foregrounding historical accuracy was a priority for Ashborne’s first original game, Last Train Home, which retells the Legion’s rolling evacuation eastward across Russia in the embers of the war. Its journey for homebound ships at the port of Vladivostok was tangled in Russia’s internal conflict between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik armies….

…Jos Hoebe, the founder of BlackMill Games and a longtime producer of World War I shooters, said video game developers had a responsibility to get details correct, especially when a particular battle or event has few depictions in popular culture. For his games, Hoebe digests historical documents in an attempt to understand the average soldier and shed light on overlooked aspects of combat.

“It feels like we’re responsible for creating the image that people have of this theater of war,” Hoebe said.

Last Train Home is a real-time strategy game in which the player orders specialized squads around rural battlefields. Scouts clear the fog of war, riflemen charge at enemies — usually the Bolshevik Red Army — and medics heal wounds. Another significant portion of the game is managing the armored train and exhausted infantry while fighting disease, starvation and the cruel Siberian cold…..

(16) THE DOOR INTO WINTER. Here’s an interesting artifact at Fullerton Arms Ballintoy: Giant’s Causeway North Coast Guesthouse and Restaurant in Ireland.

In 2016, Storm Gertrude ripped up some centuries-old beeches from the avenue known as Dark Hedges, (familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the Kingsroad). Ten doors, fashioned from the fallen trees, were carved with scenes from the cult TV show and placed in 10 pubs with Thrones connections in Northern Ireland. A fierce dragon embellishes the deep-brown polished door in Ballintoy’s Fullerton Arms. From the pub, it’s 20 minutes’ walk down a dramatic winding road to the cliff-ringed harbour, used to film scenes involving Theon Greyjoy in the Iron Islands. The steep climb back up will help build an appetite for the pub’s rope-grown mussels or seafood chowder, and Northern Irish specialities such as champ (mash with spring onions).
Doubles from £60 B&B

(17) NONE DARE CALL IT “LIP-SYNCHING”. A ventriloquist and his dummy sing “’Time Warp’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a song by Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, and Richard O’Brien as sung by Terry Fator and Walter In this video Terry is singing live without moving his lips, 100% guaranteed!

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

The Game Awards 2023 Finalists

The Game Awards 2023 nominations were released on November 13. Survival-horror themed Alan Wake 2 from Remedy Entertainment and role-playing game Baldur’s Gate 3 from Larian Studios lead the field with nominations in eight categories apiece, including Game of the Year. 

Fan voting continues through December 6 on The Game Awards website and the official Discord server for The Game Awards. In China fans can vote on the winners via Bilibili, WeChat, and other platforms. Winners are determined by a blended vote between the voting jury (90%) and public fan voting (10%).

The awards show will stream live from L.A. on December 7 across more than 30 platforms including YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, TikTok Live and X (aka Twitter). 

The full list of nominees follows the jump.

Continue reading

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

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

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

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

No reference to Lukyanenko in latest PR material

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sawyer/Liu/Lukyanenko anthology published

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

Special edition coffee packaging

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

A couple more  Xiaohongshu posts

A short video of street artists decorate an electricity substation.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the perks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Season 4, Episode 1, In His Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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