Pixel Scroll 4/30/24 Hold Your Vibranium

(1) ANGELS IN SPITE OF AMERICA. It’s never too late to read Tobes TAFF Ting for the first time – the report of Tobes Valois’s westbound TAFF trip to the USA and the 2002 San Jose Worldcon (ConJosé) is the latest addition to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free ebooks.

It consists partly of his own confession “extracted by torture” in a dramatic two-hour event at the 2005 UK Eastercon. Also included are campaign details, his online trip notes, eye-witness accounts of his doings in the USA, commentaries, photographs and artwork.

Cover artwork by Sue Mason.

(2) NEW HORROR. Gabino Iglesias’s New York Times review column “Alien Terrors, Vampire Conspiracies and More in 4 New Horror Books” discusses Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Oracle (Tor Nightfire, 376 pp., $29.99); C.J. Tudor’s The Gathering (Ballantine, 336 pp., $29); S.A. Barnes’s Ghost Station (Tor Nightfire, 377 pp., $27.99); and The Black Girl Survives In This One: Horror Stories (Flatiron, 354 pp., $19.99), edited by Desiree S. Evans and Saraciea J. Fennell.

(3) NO NEED TO STAY BETWEEN THE LINES. Hugo finalist The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog has posted their contribution to the Hugo Voter Packet on Google Drive as a freely available download: UHBC Voter Packet 2024.pdf.

(4) WHEN YOU’RE YA AT HEART. “More than a quarter of readers of YA are over the age of 28 research shows” – the Guardian has details.

Young adult fiction such as The Hunger Games, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and the Heartstopper graphic novels might be aimed at teenagers – but new research has shown that more than a quarter of readers of YA in the UK are over the age of 28.

Research commissioned by publisher HarperCollins, in collaboration with Nielsen Book, the UK book industry’s data provider, suggests that a growing number of adult readers have been reading YA fiction since 2019. According to the report, 74% of YA readers were adults, and 28% were over the age of 28. The research suggests this is due to behavioural changes described as “emerging adulthood”: young people growing up more slowly and delaying “adult” life. The feelings of instability and “in-betweenness” this can cause has led to young adults seeking solace in young adult fiction – and for some these books remain a source of comfort as they grow older….

(5) BEST NEW BOOKS FOR KIDS AND TEENS. And for the rest of us. The Guardian’s Kitty Empire delivers a “Children’s and teens roundup – the best new chapter books”.

Lauren Child brings a light touch to big issues [with Smile], Elle McNicoll explores autism – and a secret society is at work in Paris’s sewers [Keedie],

The column also reviews The Wrong Shoes written and illustrated by Tom Percival,  The Whisperwicks: The Labyrinth of Lost and Found by Jordan Lees, Piu DasGupta’s debut, Secrets of the Snakestone, and Yorick Goldewijk’s Movies Showing Nowhere, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

(6) BSFA’S SF THEATRE COLUMNIST. Kat Kourbeti launches a new column on SF theatre titled Infinite Possibilities in the British Science Fiction Association’s critical journal Vector, starting with the latest issue.

The first iteration of the column tackles the current trends in UK theatre (and to a lesser extent Broadway), which see many well-known film IPs receive the musical treatment to varying degrees of success, and compares these trends to the last decade, during which time the UK had many original and thought provoking speculative theatre productions on the big stages across London and elsewhere.

Vector is available to all BSFA members in digital or print form. Articles and reviews of individual plays will also be appearing on the Vector website.

(7) BUT DID THEY GO IRONICALLY? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Remember the horribly failed Willy Wonka “Chocolate Experience” a while back in Scotland? Well, it has now spread to LA. Sort of. This time, however, there were no disappointed children, since children were not allowed at this THC-infused adult version. “Viral Glasgow Willy Wonka ‘Chocolate Experience’ inspires Los Angeles event” at NBC News.

Two months after a Willy Wonka-inspired “Chocolate Experience” in Scotland failed so spectacularly that it cemented itself in internet meme history, a similar event in Los Angeles attracted dozens of people hoping to take part in a re-creation of the absurd experience.

The original event in Glasgow, Scotland, had promised ticket buyers an immersive candy wonderland only to deliver a sparsely decorated warehouse. Faced with a crowd of crying children and shouting parents, the Fyre Fest-like event shuttered just halfway through the day.

“Willy’s Chocolate Experience LA”— organized by a collective of local artists unaffiliated with those behind the Glasgow event — had a similar vibe. This time, however, attendees knew what they were signing up for.

Held in a worn-down warehouse embellished with a few candy cane props, the one-night only pop-up event stayed true to the underwhelming decor of the Glasgow event, complete with artificial intelligence-generated art. Attendees were even offered two complimentary jellybeans, just like in Glasgow.

… Scottish actor Kirsty Paterson — who became known as “Meth Lab Oompa Loompa” — was a key participant in the event. Also present was a local actor donning the persona of “The Unknown” — the random and slightly unsettling masked character who went viral for scaring the children who attended.

This Los Angeles experience, however, was not catered to children. Attendees, who paid $44 per ticket, mingled and laughed with one another as they consumed THC-infused cotton candy, Oompa Loompa-themed cocktails and some not-so-PG on-stage performances….

(8) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 86.

By Paul Weimer: One could write a whole book about his early work, but I am here today on his birthday to discuss his later work, what I read of it anyway. Niven, like a number of writers, became less and less aligned with the kinds of SFF I was interested in as time goes by, but he lasted longer than many. 

Take The Burning City.  Years after The Magic Goes Away stories (still some of the best sword and sorcery out there), Niven teamed up with Jerry Pournelle to write a novel set in The Magic Goes Away verse.  It’s set in a version of Los Angeles in the distant prehistoric past, a Los Angeles that occasionally burns down again and again (Fire Gods are so temperamental).  Some of the magic of Niven, and some of the magic of the Niven and Pournelle combination, are here. Other things feel a lot like men shouting at clouds. (A group of antagonists clearly meant to be the IRS, for example, feels like leaden and unwanted political point making).  But the brilliance of Niven sometimes shines through.

Larry Niven, Steve Barnes and Jerry Pournelle at the LA Annual Paperback Show in 2015. Photo by Alex Pournelle. Used by permission.

Rainbow Mars is a book whose contents are published in the wrong order. The titular work is a novella, one of the Svetz series and a capstone to the stories of his time traveler going back in time and winding up tangling with all sorts of supernatural creatures. In Rainbow Mars, he winds up dealing with a number of different SFF Martian landscapes and creatures, and a world-killing Yddgrasil. But this novella is first in the book, and then the rest of the Svetz stories come after it.  It is my opinion that is the absolute wrong way to appreciate what Niven is doing in the Svetz stories and his cleverness is wasted thereby. 

Finally, a few words about Achilles’ Choice. Co Written with Steven Barnes, Achilles’ Choice is the story of Jillian.  In a world where winning Olympic medals means personal power, and where winning Olympic medals means taking a drug that, if not managed afterwards (expensively),  means death, the devil’s choice of the title becomes clear right away and is a Niven novel which runs on theme more than anything. Is it better to have an obscure, low life, safe and cossetted, or to risk greatly, in the hopes of getting great glory. Jillian of course goes for the latter, just as Achilles did, and the unfolding of that choice runs through the novel. It may be a standalone “lesser” Niven, but I think him and Barnes team up here as well as they did in the first couple of Dream Park novels. 

Happy Birthday, Larry Niven!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ALIEN EARTHS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Arguably one of SF’s commonest tropes is alien life.  So this week’s BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week is of interest, it being on Alien Earths. “Book of the Week: Episode 1 – Are we alone in the cosmos?”

Lisa Kaltenegger, the astronomer and world-leading expert in the search for life on faraway worlds takes us on a mind-bending journey through the cosmos, asking, are we alone? Pippa Nixon reads.

Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger’s eye-opening guide to the cosmos uses Earth’s diverse biosphere as a template to search for life on other planets beyond our galaxy. Working with a team of tenacious scientists from a variety of disciplines she has come up with an ingenious toolkit to identify possible life forms on planets far from Earth. Her enthusiasm and her expertise in the newest technological advances reveal the possibilities for whole new worlds. Perhaps, she muses aliens might be out there gazing back at us.

Lisa Kaltenegger is the Founding Director of the Carl Sagan Institute to Search for Life in the Cosmos at Cornell University. She is a pioneer and world-leading expert in modelling potential habitable worlds . She is a Science Team Member of NASA’s TESS mission and the NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. The recipient of numerous international prizes and awards, including a European Commission Role Model for Women of Science and Research, she was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine. Asteroid Kaltenegger7734 is named after her.

(12) FALLOUT TV ADAPTATION PERFORMANCE. JustWatch’s new graphic covers TV shows based on popular video games. Amazon Prime is the latest streaming platform to find success with Fallout, their latest production and one of the most anticipated releases of 2024, and JustWatch wanted to see how it stacks up against similar adaptations. 

Developments relevant to this report include Amazon’s release of Fallout, as well as HBO Max’s runaway hit, The Last of Us, and Paramount’s Halo

Key Insights:

  • All 3 adaptations have IMDb scores higher than 7, even though they vary in first week success
  • Even though The Last of Us was a runaway success, “Fallout” has still managed to dominate the global market during its first week of availability 
  • Even though Fallout is more popular, The Last of Us has a higher rating on IMDb 

The report was created by pulling data from the week following the release of Fallout, and compared it to other video game adaptation titles with similar themes. JustWatch Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity, including: clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as ‘seen’. This data is collected from >40 million movie & TV show fans per month. It is updated daily for 140 countries and 4,500 streaming services.

(13) EVERYBODY MUST GET STONED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Even Rolling Stones (no, not those Stones) can be spaceflight fans. While visiting Houston to kick off their latest tour, the Stones’ Mick Jagger made a visit to the Johnson Space Center. “Mick Jagger visits Johnson Space Center as Rolling Stones kick off nationwide tour” at Good Morning America.

… The collection of photos Jagger shared on Instagram showed the 80-year-old rock star exploring various parts of the station and posing in front of a sign in a control center that read “Welcome to Mission Control Mick Jagger” with his face in the center of the sign.

In another photo, Jagger peers down at his hands using what appears to be a virtual reality headset. The photo collection also includes shots of the music legend posing inside what appears to be an equipped spacecraft….

(14) USING EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE OINK. In the Guardian:  “’We used pig squeals to create their shriek’ … how we made Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (the 1978 version).

… You see a banjo player on the street with his dog a few times – the music was played by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Later we see the dog has the banjo player’s face – the result of Donald’s character striking the pod they were sleeping next to and causing an organic accident – man and beast have become one. For that effect, the dog was wearing a mask. We smeared something sweet on the front so its tongue came out through the mouth.

Ben Burtt, who had done the sound design for Star Wars, created the shriek made by the pods when they identify someone who’s still human, mixing pig squeals with other organic sounds….

(15) INCIPIENT DINO CHOW. “Jenna Ortega Exit Confirmed In ‘Jurassic World: Chaos Theory’ Trailer” says Deadline.

Netflix has dropped the official trailer for Jurassic World: Chaos Theory, the animated follow-up sequel series to Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, and there’s one name that is conspicuously missing. Jenna Ortega, who voiced Brooklynn in Camp Creatceous, is not listed in the voice cast for Chaos Theory, or seen in the trailer, and we’ve confirmed she will not be returning for the new series. Chaos Theory picks up with Brooklynn seemingly killed by a dinosaur attack. According to Ben (Sean Giambrone), she was targeted, and the other members of the Nublar Six are now in danger…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Paul Weimer, Kat Kourbeti, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/24 And The Riverbank Scrolls Of The Pixels Of March

(1) SEE SAMATAR’S EPIC LECTURE. Sofia Samatar will deliver the 2024 Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture on Monday, March 18, at 4:00 p.m Central. The lecture is virtual and you can register here. She will be speaking on the relationship between epic poetry and fantasy:

What is the relationship between ancient epic poetry and the contemporary genre known as epic fantasy? This talk offers five answers to that question, from the perspective of a speculative fiction writer. Sofia Samatar is the author of six books, including the memoir The White Mosque, a PEN/Jean Stein Award finalist. Her works range from the award-winning epic fantasy A Stranger in Olondria to Tone, a collaborative study of literary tone with Kate Zambreno.

(2) THE FIRST GREEN HILLS. Bobby Derie filled in a previously unsuspected gaping hole in my knowledge of sff history with “Quest for the Green Hills of Earth (1995) by Ned Brooks” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. Originally I was just checking to see if he was talking about the Ned Brooks I knew – he was. Then – bang! – I discovered that C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner are at the root of a famous verse tradition.

…Who wrote this bit [in “Quest of the Starstone”]? Moore was the poet of the pair, but Kuttner was no slouch, and the title itself is a callback to two previous tales. In “Shambleau” Moore wrote: “[…] he hummed The Green Hills of Earth to himself in a surprisingly good baritone”; and in “The Cold Gray God” (1935):

“No one sang Starless Night any more, and it was the Earth-born Rose Robertson’s voice which rang through the solar system in lilting praise of The Green Hills of Earth.”

That could be the kind of detail that a good pasticheur like Kuttner would pick up and expand upon. Yet it wouldn’t be surprising if they both had a hand in the final version of this scene….

…However, Sam Moskowitz claims:

“When Robert Heinlein read the story, he never forgot the phrase which became the title of one of his most famous short stories and of a collection, The Green Hills of Earth.”Sam Moskowitz, Seekers of Tomorrow (1967), 312

“The Green Hills of Earth” ran in The Saturday Evening Post for 8 Feb 1947, and provided the title for Heinlein’s 1951 collection of science fiction. Heinlein did not reiterate Moore & Kuttner’s verses, but came up with his own—and attributed it to an author, the blind poet Rhysling….

Ned Brooks later produced a chapbook based on these works:

…This is where Quest of the Green Hills of Earth (1995) comes in. Edited by Ned Brooks and illustrated by Alan Hunter, this is the kind of standalone chapbook that is a hallmark of science fiction and fantasy fandom. It reprints “Quest of the Starstone” in its entirety, Heinlein’s verses from “The Green Hills of Earth,” and three fan-made versions—one by Chuck Rein, George Heap, “and other fans of the 1960s”; one by Don Markstein (“late 60s”), and one by Steve Sneyd (Oct 1992)….

(3) SPIRITED GIVING 2024. Spirited Giving, a horror-themed fundraiser serving as the official kickoff to StokerCon 2024, takes place May 29, 2024 beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the San Diego Central Library. Full details at the link.  

It’s a night of author readings, live performances, meet and greets, and book signings, all while raising funds for the San Diego Library Foundation, particularly the Books Unbanned Initiative.

The event will feature readings from: Clay McLeod Chapman, Jamie Flanagan, Ai Jiang, Vincent V. Cava, Danger Slater, and Bridget D. Brave. And a special one-hour live performance by YouTube Horror Narrator Mr. Creepypasta.

To attend the event, get Spirited Giving Tickets at Eventbrite.

(4) IF NOT NEWS TO YOU, IT WILL BE NEWS TO SOMEONE. At Literary Hub Debbie Berne makes her case — “Not Just Covers, But Every Page: Why Writers Should Talk About Book Design Early On”.

… Interior design is both micro and macro. It involves technical prowess and creativity. There is line-by-line typesetting and there is translation of vibe.

Take, for instance, chapter openers. Most books are divided into chapters and an author has decided if they each have chapter titles or just numbers, or both, or neither, or additional info like a subtitle or time stamp or narrator name or geographic locator or setting-up-an-idea pull quote.

The designer, then, must figure out how to make those pieces of text—many or few—look nice and clear on the page and put forward an aesthetic, bringing visual voice to the writing voice. Which font? How big? How bold? Italic? Centered or no? In a single line, neatly stacked, cascading? Each decision is literal and expressive….

(5) HOW MUCH WAS C-3PO’S HEAD WORTH? Read the answer reported in Friday’s Birmingham (UK) Mail.

(6) SPRINGTIME FOR WONKA. Everyone is going to make money off this disaster except the people who perpetrated it. (Would you have it any other way?) “Viral Willy Wonka Glasgow event to be turned into musical” at BBC.

A new musical satire based on a Glasgow Willy Wonka experience that went viral is in the works.

The show’s lead producer, Richard Kraft, has assembled a team of writers and producers for the project titled Willy Fest: A Musical Parody.

The event in February gained notoriety after angry families, who paid up to £35 to attend, demanded their money back.

Kraft says he hopes people watching the show “won’t be left in tears.”

The creative team working on the musical includes Emmy-nominated actor and comedian Riki Lindhome who tweeted, “I’m so excited,” along with screenshots of an article.

Others attached to the project include Broadway songwriters Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.

Kraft is known for producing and directing a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory concert at the famed Hollywood Bowl.

He told the BBC it was his idea to turn the Glasgow event into a musical and that the writing team was “assembled in less time than it takes for someone to sing the first verse of ‘Oompa Loompa Doompa-Dee-Do’.”

He hopes to launch the musical later this year….

…Asked why the Glasgow event might be ripe for the musical theatre treatment, Kraft said: “It is about desperate dreamers who actually have fragments of a great idea, just executed beyond their budget and abilities.”

He said he loved shows “about big-hearted flim-flam artists in musicals like The Music Man, The Greatest Showman, and The Producers. At the core they are romantics who get in over their heads.”…

(7) THREE-BODY, BUT NOT JUST ONE PROBLEM. “’3 Body Problem:’ How Netflix’s new sci-fi saga employs the legendary Wow! signal”Space.com is sure you’ll want to know.

The Wow! signal is one of the great astronomy puzzles of the past 50 years, but it’s not so mysterious in the sci-fi universe of “3 Body Problem.”

Netflix’s new eight-episode alien invasion saga “3 Body Problem” uses the famous SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) signal as a prominent plot device in its wild centuries-spanning narrative.

The Wow! signal was an intense narrowband radio signal detected on the night of Aug. 15, 1977 by Ohio State University’s Big Ear Radio Observatory and the North American Astrophysical Observatory (NAAPO) during a standard SETI search. No personnel were on duty at the time, yet the strong 72-second-long signal was recorded by a computer printer….

Beware spoiler:

… “3 Body Problem,” which drops on March 21, puts its own spin on the signal. In the series, Wow! is a real message from intelligent aliens beyond Earth. A Chinese astrophysicist responds to the translated signal by inviting the aliens to visit Earth — to humanity’s detriment, as we later learn….

(8) SIGNING TIME. John King Tarpinian has the Glendale Civic Auditorium all prepared to welcome tomorrow’s influx of dealers to the 2024 LA Vintage Paperback Collectors Show & Sale.

(9) JON STOPA (1935-2024). Longtime Chicagoland fan Jon Stopa died March 4 at the age of 88. See the family obituary in the Kenosha News at the link. (The family obituary spells his first name “John”. In the sff field he was known as “Jon” except for the few instances when he used “John” in the credits for his book cover art for Advent:Publishers).

Jon Stopa

Fancyclopedia 3’s article about Jon records that he made his first sf short story sale to Astounding at age 22, “The First Inch” published in 1957, followed by two more appearances in Campbell’s magazine in 1958. Jon’s fourth and last fiction credit was in 1973 with “Kiddy-Lib” in Eros in Orbit.

He co-founded Advent:Publishers in 1955 with Earl Kemp, Robert Briney, Sidney Coleman, James O’Meara, George Price, and Ed Wood. The company produced nonfiction books about the sf field, the first of which was Damon Knight’s essay collection In Search of Wonder (1956).

A Jon Stopa-designed Advent book cover.

Stopa met Joni Cornell at the 1960 Worldcon (Pittcon). They married in 1962 and lived at Wilmot Mountain, Stopa’s family ski resort in Wilmot, WI, where they began hosting Wilcon, a three-day long invitation-only relaxacon.

Jon appears as a bartender in the video Faans (1983) (around the 18:50 mark) in a scene shot at the lodge at Wilmot Mountain.

Throughout the 1960s, the Stopas entered and won many convention masquerades. In the early 1970s, the couple helped found the conrunning group ISFiC.

The Stopas were Fan GoHs at Chicon V, the 1991 Worldcon.

Jon’s survivors include his grandson, Keanen (Kim) Burns; sister, Diane Reese; great-granddaughter, Kinsley Burns; and nieces: Tiffany and Amanda Stopa. Along with his parents and wife; John was preceded in death by his daughter, Deb Burns; and brothers: Walter Jr. and Conrad (Karen) Stopa.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. (Died 2002.) Pop culture is wonderful, isn’t it? And Leo McKern was definitely part of it. 

The Prisoner where he was Number Two in three of the seventeen episodes is definitely his best remembered SF role. He played that role more than any of the other seventeen credited actors. That is if you consider The Prisoner to even be SF and not merely a spy series gone very weird. Just tossing that idea out here.

Leo McKern as Number Two in The Prisoner.

Next up is The Adventures of Robin Hood where he was Sir Roger DeLisle, usurper of the Locksley manor and lands, and Herbert of Doncaster, a corrupt moneylender. It was an early Fifties series and his of earliest acting roles. 

Sliding on later in his career is one of my favorite roles by him, Horace Rumpole, a London barrister on Rumpole of the Bailey. He was a great  character to watch, the cases were interesting and the supporting cast was well thought out.

Slipping on over to his radio work, he was the voice of Captain Haddock in the 1992 and 1993 BBC Radio Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin.

He was “Mac” MacGill in X the Unknown, a Fifties horror SF film from Hanmer Productions; and he’s got a lead role as Bill McGuire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, an end of the world Sixties film.

The final role I want to mention is in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother where he gets to be Professor Moriarty. I’m almost certain that I’ve seen it. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

And we’re overdue to catch up with Tom Gauld!

(12) STAND AND DELIVER. [Item by Steven French.] Sally Wainwright is a national treasure over here in the U.K. so her writing a new fantasy show set in the 18th century (featuring Louisa Harland formerly of Derry Girls as a gender fluid highwaywoman with superpowers!) is a Big Deal: “’I never dreamed I’d get this role!’: Derry Girl Louisa Harland on Sally Wainwright’s thrilling new heroine” in the Guardian.

When Louisa Harland was cast as the lead in the new Sally Wainwright drama, Renegade Nell, the director told her: “Nell needs to be one of those characters, even when she’s on the screen so much, you still want the audience to miss her when she’s not.” It’s quite an ask: Nell is a massive Doctor Who of a role, swashbuckling, always with a new accent or cool pyrotechnics or punch in the face, and Harland fills the screen every second she’s on it. Somehow, though, you do miss her when she isn’t. Meeting the 31-year-old in central London, I can see exactly why she was chosen for Nell, even though almost the first thing she says is “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get this role. My parents still think it is so random.”

Renegade Nell is a rebel and a chancer, an 18th-century tomboy in a constant life-or-death scenario of some other bugger’s making. The year is 1705, and she’s just lost her husband in a battle that has left her both widowed and superhuman, but only sometimes. The show has a lush period feel and is a closely observed love affair with the British countryside (Harland describes the incredibly precise location scouts combing through forests searching for trees that would have been mature by 1705), but it is powered by mischief – fight scenes, disguises, magic monsters and highway robbery after highway robbery….

(13) JAPANIMATION’S SUICIDE SQUAD. Animation Magazine introduces Warner Bros. Japan LLC’s updated trailer featuring the anime-styled anti-heroes of Suicide Squad ISEKAI.

Synopsis:  In the crime-ridden Gotham city, Amanda Waller, the head of A.R.G.U.S., has assembled a group of notorious criminals for a mission: Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Peacemaker, Clayface and King Shark. These DC Super-Villains are sent into an otherworldly realm that’s connected to this world through a gate. It’s a world of swords and magic where orcs rampage and dragons rule the skies — an “ISEKAI!”

Harley and others go on a rampage after arriving in ISEKAI but are captured by the Kingdom’s soldiers and sent to prison. They only have 72 hours before the bomb on their neck explodes.

The deadline is fast approaching. After negotiations with Queen Aldora, the condition for liberation was the conquest of the hostile Imperial army. They have no choice but to throw themselves head-first into the front line of battle.

They run; they die. They lose; they die. With their lives on the line, can Harley Quinn and The Suicide Squad survive in ISEKAI? Brace yourselves for the pulse-pounding saga of the elite task force known as the “Suicide Squad” as they embark on a jaw-dropping adventure! Let the party begin!

(14) THE HOBBIT DIET EXPLAINED SCIENTIFICALLY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Filers may have noted “(10) NO MICHELIN STARS FOR MORDOR.  CBR.com chronicles ‘Every Meal Hobbits Eat In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings’” in “Pixel Would Like A Word With Engineering”. It strikes me that there is a very logical, biological reason for Hobbits requiring more meals than us, larger, humans!

It centres on the fact that scale is size specific: a cube does not have the same spatial properties at any scale – its surface area to volume ration is scale specific. For example, to depart slightly from a simple cube, a single cube might have a volume of one unit and a surface area of six square units: a cube has six sides. However, a cube of volume of two cubic unites only has a surface area of ten square units. (You can easily create a volume of two cubic units by joining two one-cubic-volume cubes together and in the process cover two, one cubic square sides leaving just ten cubic squares as the surface area.)

What this all means is that smaller creatures have proportionally more surface area from which to lose heat.

Hobbits are smaller than humans and so must lose more heat assuming they have the same blood temperature. Proportionally losing more heat means that they must consume proportionally more food, hence require more meals.

Jus’ sayin’.

Second breakfast anyone?

(15) POOR LITTLE MERCURY! Space.com says “Mercury slammed by gargantuan eruption from the sun’s hidden far side, possibly triggering ‘X-ray auroras’”.

A gigantic, fiery eruption around 40 times wider than Earth recently exploded from the sun’s hidden far side. The eruption hurled a massive cloud of plasma into space that later smashed into Mercury, scouring the planet’s rocky surface and potentially triggering “X-ray auroras” on the unprotected world.

The eruption was likely triggered by a powerful solar flare, which occurred around 7 p.m. ET on March 9, Spaceweather.com reported. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spotted a large, partially obscured plasma filament exploding outward from behind the sun’s northeast limb. Based on the amount of visible plasma, the eruption likely spanned around 310,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) across.

SDO data showed that the explosion, which likely left behind a massive “canyon of fire” on the sun’s surface, also released a large coronal mass ejection (CME) — a fast-moving cloud of magnetized plasma and radiation — that collided with Mercury on March 10.

Mercury is often blasted with CMEs due to its proximity to our home star. The small planet has no atmosphere left as a result of this bombardment and is fully exposed to the full force of these solar storms. …

(16) HOT TIMES CLOSER TO HOME. “The Staggering Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud” at The MIT Press Reader. “Anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate draws on five years of research and ethnographic fieldwork in server farms to illustrate some of the diverse environmental impacts of data storage.” (A full version of this article, as well as a bibliography, can be accessed here.)

…The molecular frictions of digital industry, as this example shows, proliferate as unruly heat. The flotsam and jetsam of our digital queries and transactions, the flurry of electrons flitting about, warm the medium of air. Heat is the waste product of computation, and if left unchecked, it becomes a foil to the workings of digital civilization. Heat must therefore be relentlessly abated to keep the engine of the digital thrumming in a constant state, 24 hours a day, every day.

To quell this thermodynamic threat, data centers overwhelmingly rely on air conditioning, a mechanical process that refrigerates the gaseous medium of air, so that it can displace or lift perilous heat away from computers. Today, power-hungry computer room air conditioners (CRACs) or computer room air handlers (CRAHs) are staples of even the most advanced data centers. In North America, most data centers draw power from “dirty” electricity grids, especially in Virginia’s “data center alley,” the site of 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic in 2019. To cool, the Cloud burns carbon, what Jeffrey Moro calls an “elemental irony.” In most data centers today, cooling accounts for greater than 40 percent of electricity usage….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Physicist Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time this week takes a dive into a decidedly SFnal trope, that of the possible need to hide humanity from aliens as they themselves may be doing so?

Dark Forest: Should We NOT Contact Aliens?

In 1974 we sent the Arecibo radio message towards Messier 13, a globular cluster near the edge of the Milky Way, made up of a few hundred thousand stars. The message was mostly symbolic; we weren’t really expecting a reply. Yet surely other civilisations out there are doing the same thing. So, why haven’t we heard anything? What if the silence from the stars is a hint that we shouldn’t be so outgoing? What if aliens are deliberately keeping quiet for fear that they might be destroyed?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/24 What Can You Scroll About Chocolate Covered Stepping Disks?

(1) WALDROP TO THE SCREEN. George R.R. Martin tells us, “The Chickens Are Coming” at Not A Blog.

Howard Waldrop is gone, but his work will live on.

…And here’s the latest one, an adaptation of Howard’s most famous story, THE UGLY CHICKENS.  Winner of the Nebula.   Winner of the World Fantasy Award.   Nominee for the Hugo, but, alas, not a winner.   A pity, that.  Howard never won a Hugo, but in some more Waldropian  world he has ten of them lined up on his mantle.

Felicia Day (SUPERNATURAL, THE GUILD, DR. HORRIBLE’S SING ALONG BLOG) stars in our film of “that dodo story.”   Mark Raso (COPENHAGEN, KODACHRONE) directed.   Michael Cassutt (TWILIGHT ZONE, MAX HEADROOM, TV101, EERIE INDIANA, and many more) did the screenplay.

Howard saw a rough cut of the film before he died.   He liked it, which pleases me no end.   I only wish we had been able to screen the final cut for him.

(2) HIGH CALIBER CANON. The Atlantic’s list of“The Great American Novels” includes Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick and a number of other works of genre interest.

(3) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. Based on the descriptions of the works at the website, there are no books of genre interest among the 13 that made the International Booker Prize 2024 longlist.

(4) BECOMING THE LIFE ON MARS. Space.com interviews Robert Zubrin about his new book: “’The New World on Mars’ offers a Red Planet settlement guide”.

To say that Dr. Robert Zubrin, the esteemed Colorado-based aerospace engineer, author, lecturer and founding president of the Mars Society, has the Red Planet on his mind is a colossal understatement.   

This pioneering educational voice and influential space authority has written many books on the timely topic of Mars and Mars settlement over the years as interest in humankind’s role in its ultimate development has risen exponentially. Now Zubrin adds to his impressive catalog of visionary volumes about our mysterious planetary neighbor with the recent release of “The New World on Mars” (Diversion Books, 2024), a fascinating and infinitely readable peek into Mars’ inestimably rosy future….

Space.com: One of the most interesting chapters deals with the psychological aspects of leaving Earth and establishing an identifiable Martian culture with its own customs, rites and rituals and the importance of that process. Can you elaborate on that subject more?

Zubrin: The Mars Society over the past couple years held two contests asking people to design a 1,000-person Mars colony and a one-million-person Mars city-state. And by design we meant not just the technology or the economy, but the social system, political system, what kind of sports are likely to be played, as well as the aesthetics. 

Between the two contests, there were something like 300 entries. The ideas proposed spanned a huge range of political systems from socialist, to democratic and libertarian. Rather than attempt to choose my favorite system for a Martian utopia, I took the point of view that there will be many Martian cities founded by different people with very different ideas on what the ideal state should be, and it’s going to be sorted out by natural selection.  

Some of the answers I came up with I like a lot, like human liberty. But this is in contradiction to many visions of science fiction colonies that are totally controlled because no one would immigrate to one. The ones that will outgrow the others will clearly be the ones that are most attractive to immigrants. Freedom is a great attractor. North Korea does not have an illegal immigrant problem. Martian colonies will have to be highly inventive and invention only thrives under freedom. I believe a Mars colony will also require a great deal of social solidarity, so it will not be multi-cultural and will need to have a strong sense of community and common identity….

(5) DOCTOR WHO STARTING TIME.  From Variety we learn “’Doctor Who’ Starring Ncuti Gatwa Reveals May Premiere Date”.

…The new season of “Doctor Who,” starring “Sex Education” breakout Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor, will premiere on May 10.

The new installment will be the first-ever to launch on Disney+ and release simultaneously worldwide. The premiere will start on May 10 at 7 p.m. ET in the U.S. and internationally (excluding the U.K.) with Christmas special “The Church on Ruby Road” airing before two brand-new episodes. In the U.K., the season will premiere at midnight GMT on May 11 on BBC iPlayer.

…A new trailer for the season will debut on March 22.

(6) SHATNER WON’T BE ECLIPSED – FOR LONG, ANYWAY. The Los Angeles Times interviewed “William Shatner on his long career, horses and watch design”. Behind a paywall, unfortunately. Here’s the first paragraph:

A documentary on his life, “You Can Call Me Bill,” directed by Alexandre O. Philippe (“Lynch/Oz”), is scheduled to roll out in theaters March 22 to coincide with his 93rd birthday. He continues to host and narrate the puzzling-phenomena History series “The UnXplained With William Shatner.” A 2022 performance at the Kennedy Center, backed by Ben Folds and the National Symphony Orchestra, is about to be released both as an album, “So Fragile, So Blue,” and a concert film. The title song, says Shatner, “encompasses a lot of my thinking about how we’re savaging the world, and [I’d hope] it’d be a song that people would listen to and perhaps be inspired to do something about global warming.”

And on April 8, for 15 minutes before the shadow of an eclipse falls over Bloomington, Ind., Shatner will address “55, 60,000 people” in the Indiana University football stadium. “So what do you say, what do you write, what do you do? I’m going to have to solve those problems.”…

(7) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES CELEBRATES ANNIVERSARY. Space Cowboy Books presents a special six-year anniversary episode of Simultaneous Times in collaboration with Worlds of IF Magazine bringing you works from the pages of Worlds of If Magazine #177. Listen to the podcast at the link. Story and poetry featured in this episode:

  • “Contact” by Akua Lezli Hope; with music by Fall Precauxions. Read by the author
  • “The Pain Peddlers” by Robert Silverberg; with music by Phog Masheeen. Read by Jean-Paul Garnier
  • “Time Junkies” by Pedro Iniguez; with music by Fall Precauxions. Read by the author

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(8) RELICS OF WONKY PROMOTION TRANSMUTED TO CHARITY GOLD. “Props from botched Willy Wonka event raise more than £2,000 for Palestinian aid charity” reports the Guardian. The charity is Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Props from a botched Willy Wonka event in Glasgow that went viral after frustrated attenders called the police have raised more than £2,000 at auction for a Palestinian aid charity.

Fabric backdrops from the “immersive experience”, which was cancelled midway, were found in a bin outside the warehouse where it took place.

Monorail Music, a record shop in the city, auctioned the remains on eBay after they were passed on by the finder. The listing said: “Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to own a piece of history.”

The Wonka event gained online notoriety after images of the sparsely decorated warehouse in Glasgow, staffed by actors dressed as Oompa Loompas and other characters, spread worldwide. On Thursday, the listing had a total of 57 bids and the items were sold for £2,250. Michael Kasparis, online manager of Monorail, described the outcome as “amazing”….

(9) RED FLAGS RAISED ABOUT TCG-CON. Outside the Asylum urges “Don’t Go to TCG-Con”. Here’s the synopsis of a long post with many receipts:

Summary: TCG-con frequently does not pay out its advertised prizes and staff compensation. They currently owe upwards of $50,000 to players, cosplayers, judges, and other staff members for previous conventions, and appear to be in the process of collapsing entirely. I would strongly recommend not purchasing a ticket to their future events, trying to get a refund if you already have, and warning anyone you know away from them as well. If you’re owed money yourself, see the end of this page for information on next steps.

(10) GRANT PAGE (1939-2024). Deadline pays tribute in “Grant Page Dead: Australian Stuntman In ‘Mad Max’ Films & 100-Plus Others Was 85”.

Grant Page, the Australian stunt icon who performed in and coordinating stunts for the original Mad Max,sequel Beyond Thunderdome,the upcoming prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Sagaand more than 100 other films and TV series, died Thursday in a car crash. He was 85.

A legend of Aussie cinema, Page worked … on the 1979 action classic Mad Max,which introduced the world to Mel Gibson. He performed and served as stunt coordinator on …  its 1985 second sequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome… He also worked on … prequel, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, which is on the radar to premiere at Cannes in May, and on his 2022 pic Three Thousand Years of Longing.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

The New Yorker cartoon for the Ides of March gives us Dr. Seuss’ interpretation instead of Shakespeare’s.

(12) I BECAME WHAT I BEHELD. “Grant Morrison Responds to Zack Snyder’s Take on Batman Killing, ‘If Batman Killed His Enemies, He’d Be the Joker’” (comicbook.com) – in a quote at Comicbook.com.

Filmmaker Zack Snyder recently stirred up some controversy when he defended his aggressive version of Batman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice who killed, a choice that for many comic book fans runs counter to basic tenets of the character. Now, comic book writer Grant Morrison is weighing in and they don’t agree with Snyder. According to Morrison, “if Batman killed his enemies, he’d be the Joker.”

In their newsletter Xanaduum (via ScreenRant), Morrison — whose own work has been among some of the more definitive takes on Batman — dug into not only the practical aspect of why Batman doesn’t kill (because he’d end up arrested by Commissioner Gordon, in theory) but also the psychological aspect of the character and how Batman’s “no-kill” rule is something locked into him from the time he was a small child and is a part of his mental state having never fully developed, in some respect, out of the child who saw his parents murdered in Crime Alley.

“That Batman puts himself in danger every night but steadfastly refuses to murder is an essential element of the character’s magnificent, horrendous, childlike psychosis,” Morrison wrote.

There’s also the matter of the line between what Batman does and what the villains do. Villains kill; Batman does not. It makes all the difference, at least to Bruce Wayne who, should he ever cross the line, would then become no better than those who killed his parents….

(13) SNOWPIERCER RESCUED. It won’t be frozen out by streaming services after all says Deadline: “’Snowpiercer’: AMC Picks Up Season 4 After TNT Scrapped Sci-Fi Drama”.

The final season of Snowpiercer has finally found a home.

The fourth season of the sci-fi drama will air on AMC after the company acquired the rights to the Tomorrow Studios-produced series. It comes after TNT scrapped the show last year as part of a wider Warner Bros. Discovery content write-down strategy.

Deadline revealed in January 2023 that the fourth season wouldn’t air on its original home, as part of a slew of content cuts that also included the axing of Batgirl, Abrams’ HBO drama Demimonde, and TBS series such as The Big D, Chad and Kill The Orange Bear….

(14) A YELLOWSTONE UNSTUCK IN TIME. Gizmodo assures us “Josh Brolin’s Sci-Fi Hole Show Will Get Even Sci-Fi-er, Holier in Season 2”.

…The central mysteries of Outer Range surround that giant hole, which materializes on property owned by Brolin’s Wyoming rancher character and is eventually established to be a time portal. Along the way, various characters go missing, are revealed to have been born in different centuries, notice odd happenings that seem anachronistic, or are unmasked as characters we’ve already met who happen to be several years older than they should be. In season two, we’ll all take a time leap; the action begins in 1984 with a younger version of Brolin’s character, and Vanity Fair describes the narrative structure as “gamely hopping between different decades (and centuries) with newfound propulsion.”

An astrophysicist called in to help the time-travel stuff make sense—but according to new showrunner Murray, “The biggest part of what time travel meant to me and the writers was: How can this help us expose something that a character’s going through?” We’re very intrigued to see where this wild trail heads next….

(15) DISHING IT UP. A reporter tells BBC that “’Journalists are feeding the AI hype machine’”.

When Melissa Heikkilä looks back on her past four years writing about artificial intelligence (AI), two key things jump out to her, one good, one bad.

“It’s the best beat… AI is a story about power, and there are so many ways to cover it,” says the senior reporter for magazine MIT Technology Review. “And there are so many interesting, and eccentric people to write about.”

That’s the positive. The negative, she says, is that much of the wider media’s coverage of AI can leave a lot to be desired.

“There is more hype and obfuscation about what the technology can and cannot actually do,” says Ms Heikkilä. “This can lead to embarrassing mistakes, and for journalists to feed into the hype machine, by, for example, anthropomorphizing AI technologies, and mythologizing tech companies.”…

(16) RIGHT TURN, CLYDE. And while we’re on the subject of dud reportage – “Seismic signal that pointed to alien technology was actually a passing truck” says Physics World.

In January 2014 a meteor streaked across the sky above the Western Pacific Ocean. The event was initially linked to a seismic signal that was detected on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. This information was used by Harvard University’s Amir Siraj and Avi Loeb to determine where the object likely fell into the ocean. Loeb then led an expedition that recovered spherical objects called spherules from the ocean bottom, which the team claimed to be from the meteor.

Because of the spherule’s unusual elemental composition, the team has suggested that the objects may have come from outside the solar system. What is more, they hinted that the spherules may have an “extraterrestrial technological origin” – that they may have been created by an alien civilization.

Now, however, a study led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University has cast doubt on the connection between the spherules and the 2014 meteor event. They have proposed a very different source for the seismic signal that led Loeb and colleagues to the spherules.

“The signal changed directions over time, exactly matching a road that runs past the seismometer,” says Benjamin Fernando, a planetary seismologist at Johns Hopkins who led this latest research.

“It’s really difficult to take a signal and confirm it is not from something,” explains Fernando. “But what we can do is show that there are lots of signals like this, and show they have all the characteristics we’d expect from a truck and none of the characteristics we’d expect from a meteor.”

That’s right, it was a truck driving past the seismometer, not a meteor….

(17) WAR OF THE WORLD. “Air defense for $13 a shot? How lasers could revolutionize the way militaries counter enemy missiles and drones” at Yahoo!

Britain this week showed off a new laser weapon that its military says could deliver lethal missile or aircraft defense at around $13 a shot, potentially saving tens of millions of dollars over the cost of missile interceptors that do the job now.

Newly released video of a test of what the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry calls the DragonFire, a laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) system, captured what the ministry says was the successful use of the laser against an aerial target during a January demonstration in Scotland.

“It’s a potential game changer for air defense,” the video says as a bright laser beam pierces the night sky over a firing range in the remote Hebrides archipelago, creating a ball of light as it hits its target.

The Defense Ministry says the DragonFire can precisely hit a target as small as a coin “over long ranges,” but it did not offer specifics. The exact range of the weapon is classified, it said.

The laser beam can cut through metal “leading to structural failure or more impactful results if the warhead is targeted,” a UK Defense Ministry statement said….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/24 Two Scrolls Diverged In A File, And I — I Took The One Less Pixeled By

(1) WONKA EVENT SCAM, WITH AI ‘HELP’. [Item by Tom Becker.] A Willy Wonka-themed event closed immediately upon opening due to complaints from disappointed customers. UK correspondent Mark Plummer says there is a long-standing tradition of disappointing special experiences. A Christmas show turns out to be a muddy field with a donkey with reindeer horns tied to its head.

The Glasgow Willy Wonka fiasco is interesting because of its use of AI. The AI-generated images used to sell the show include total gibberish. Who would not want to experience a “Twilight Tunnel™” with features like “TWDRDING”, “DODJECTION”, “ENIGEMIC SOUNDS”, “SVIIDE”, and “UKXEPCTED TWITS”? Or “ENCHERINING ENTERTAINMENT” with “exarserdray lollipops, a pasadise of sweet treats”? “Cops called after parents get tricked by AI-generated images of Wonka-like event” at Ars Technica.

Actors were given AI generated scripts that were pathetically bad. They showed the guests responding “with a mix of excitement and trepidation” to the trite lines and meager offerings of candy. “The AI-Generated Script From the Fake Willy Wonka Experience Is Beyond Wild” says The Mary Sue.

And then there was the AI generated character of the Unknown, “an evil chocolate maker who lives in the walls.” At this point the children started crying and ran away. “Willy Wonka Experience Actor Says Event Had AI-Generated Script, Unknown Character, and No Chocolate” reports IGN.

The promoter behind the House of Illuminati also sells AI-generated books on Amazon. “’Willy Wonka’ Huckster Sells AI-Written Vaccine Conspiracy Books” at Rolling Stone.

Scams have always been with us, but now they are glitzier and weirder than ever. Who could possibly have predicted this? (Besides Cory Doctorow and thousands of others.)

(2) VERTLIEB NOMINATED FOR RONDO “BEST ARTICLE OF THE YEAR”. Congratulations to Steve Vertlieb whose File 770 article “Subversion of Innocence: Reflections on ‘The Black Cat’” is a finalist for the 2024 Rondo Hatton Awards. Steve’s article is an analysis of the sumptuous, Grand Guignol, pre-code Gothic decadence of Universal Pictures’ horrific Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi classic of 1934.

Public voting has begun for the 22nd Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. You’re invited to vote for your favorites in any or all 28 categories. Click the link for instructions and the complete ballot. The deadline to participate is midnight April 16. Mail Votes (and your name) to David Colton c/o [email protected].

(3) WORMSIGN. Io9 interviews the filmmaker: “Denis Villeneuve Talks Making Dune: Part Two an Epic Theatrical Experience” at Gizmodo.

io9: Got it. I love that both movies have this weird little moment before the studio logo of some kind of Dune language statement. Is that something you have to okay with the studio? Because ultimately it’s their movie and you’re putting your mark before their logo. Was there any pushback and what was your thinking in doing that?

Villeneuve: The first time in Part One, the truth is that as we were doing sound design and developing ideas for sound, we came up with this language that was developed by Hans Zimmer that I absolutely adored. And there was this idea of putting a statement right before the logo to own the space. And maybe it was a reaction at that time, an arrogant reaction by me, but I didn’t get any pushback. Everybody loved the idea. And I love it when you watch a movie and it’s not a slow-down descent, it’s an abrupt start. You put away the parking lot and your concern about dinner. [Slap noise] Right away, it’s like, “Okay, guys, listen.” A bit like in theater when you have the boom at the beginning to say to the audience, “Okay, quiet down, we start right now.” I love that.

(4) CONLANG IN CINEMA. And The New Yorker devotes a whole article to “’Dune’ and the Delicate Art of Making Fictional Languages”.

A trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two” features the boy prophet Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, yelling something foreign and uninterpretable to a horde of desert people. We see Chalamet as the embodiment of charismatic fury: every facial muscle clenched in tension, his voice strained and throaty and commanding. A line at the bottom of the screen translates: “Long live the fighters!”

The scene fills barely a few seconds in a three-minute trailer, yet it establishes the emotional tone of the film and captures the messianic fervor that drives its plot. It also signals the depth of Villeneuve’s world-building. Part of what made his first excursion into the “Dune” universe such an experiential feast was its vivid, immersive quality, combining monumental architectural design with atmospheric soundscapes and ethereal costuming. We could see a few remnants of our world (remember the bit with the bagpipes?), but the over-all effect was transportive, as if the camera were not a piece of equipment but a cyborgian eye live-streaming from a far-flung alien civilization. Chalamet’s strange tongue is part of the franchise’s meticulous set dressing. It’s not gibberish, but part of an intricate linguistic system that was devised for Villeneuve’s adaptations.

Engineered languages such as the one Chalamet speaks represent a new benchmark in imaginative fiction. Twenty years ago, viewers would have struggled to name franchises other than “Star Trek” or “The Lord of the Rings” that bothered to invent new languages. Today, with the budgets of the biggest films and series rivalling the G.D.P.s of small island nations, constructed languages, or conlangs, are becoming a norm, if not an implicit requirement. Breeze through entertainment from the past decade or so, and you’ll find lingos designed for Paleolithic peoples (“Alpha”), spell-casting witches (“Penny Dreadful”), post-apocalyptic survivors (“Into the Badlands”), Superman’s home planet of Krypton (“Man of Steel”), a cross-species alien alliance (“Halo”), time-travelling preteens (“Paper Girls”), the Munja’kin tribe of Oz (“Emerald City”), and Santa Claus and his elves (“The Christmas Chronicles” and its sequel).

A well-executed conlang can bolster a film’s appearance of authenticity. It can deepen the scenic absorption that has long been an obsession for creators and fans of speculative genres such as science fiction and fantasy….

(5) MORE TBR. NPR’s “Here and Now” program recommends “Black genre fiction to pick up this History Month”. There are lists for romance, horror, thriller/mystery and —

Speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy

(6) EXPERT EYE. In Gabino Iglesias’ column “4 New Horror Novels That Are as Fresh as They Are Terrifying” for the New York Times, the Stoker-winning author reviews new books by Emily Ruth Verona, Jenny Kiefer, Christopher Golden and Tlotlo Tsamaase.

(7) ANIME ART GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. Heritage Auctions will run “The Art of Anime, Dragon Ball, and More Animation Art Showcase Auction” on March 23-24.

Heritage Auctions celebrates the world of anime with its largest showcase sale, “The Art of Anime, Dragon Ball, and More,” on March 23-24. This event features over 700 lots, including an extensive collection from the iconic Dragon Ball series, celebrating its decades-long journey from its inception in Weekly Shonen Jump. The auction spans a wide range of anime titles, offering production art, promotional materials, model kits, and action figures. Highlights include rare items from Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and more, alongside unique finds like Akira T-shirt prototypes. This showcase aims to reconnect fans with the unforgettable moments of their favorite anime series.

Here’s an example of what’s up for bid: “Dragon Ball Z Goku, Gohan, Master Roshi, Piccolo, and Cel Ice | Lot #85069”.

Some of Dragon Ball Z‘s most famous characters take a break from training and put on their ice skates in this incredibly rare hand-painted production cel featuring our beloved protagonist Goku, accompanied by his son Gohan, Piccolo, Master Roshi, and even the heinous Cell in his imperfect form! Possibly created for a TV commercial, this four-layer 12-field production cel offers sensational full-figure images of the characters with Gohan and Cell stopping as skillfully as they fight. 

(8) “HOMAGE” TO WARD SHELLEY’S HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION ON DISPLAY IN THE CHENGDU SF MUSEUM. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The SF Museum in Chengdu has been re-opened to the public for almost exactly a month now, and whilst I’ve been trawling the likes of Bilibili and Xiaohongshu for any coverage, there hasn’t been much I thought that I thought was worth writing up and submitting to File 770.

However, tonight I encountered the image below in a small XHS gallery.  I’d not noticed it before; whether that’s because it has been newly added to the museum, or simply that previous posters didn’t consider it worth taking pictures of, I don’t know.  I’ve not tried to read any of the Chinese text, but the English subtitle reads:

Together, let’s write imaginative explorations of the future science fiction world

which I assume relates to the Post-It notes shown on the left of the image.

Readers may well find this image vaguely familiar.  For those who don’t, it bears a startling resemblance to Ward Shelley’s “The History of Science Fiction”.

Source: Andrew Liptak / The Verge

That earlier image was included in a talk that was part of “[the] First Industrial Development Summit of [the] World Science Fiction Convention”, which also had Ben Yalow as a speaker. Whether that earlier presentation was the genesis for this new display, who knows?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 28, 1909 Olan Soule. (Died 1994.) Olan Soule, an actor who had at least two hundred and fifty performances in his career. So let’s look at this career that I find so interesting. 

First genre role? That’d be Mr. Krull, a boarding house resident in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Remember Captain Midnight? From the third year on the radio serial, Soule had the role of L. William Kelly, SS-11, the second-in-command of the Secret Squadron. When it became a television series where it was rebranded Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, he was scientist Aristotle “Tut” Jones for the entire series. He was the only actor who performed on both the radio and television shows.

Olan Soule on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

He was in two Twilight Zone episodes, the first as IRS agent in “The Man in Bottle” and then as Mr. Smiles in “Caesar and Me”. The letter was the one with that evil ventriloquist dummy. Brrrr. The former which involves a couple and a genie I just don’t remember. 

He was on My Favorite Martian as Daniel Farrow in one of my favorite episodes, “Martin’s Favorite Martian”. 

He would appear as a newscaster on Batman in “The Pharaoh’s in a Rut”.

Olan Soule as newscaster on Batman.

He voiced Mister Taj in the English language version of Fantastic Planet. One seriously effing weird film. 

And now for a roll call of his other genre appearances: One Step BeyondBewitchedThe Addams FamilyThe MunstersMission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and Fantasy Island.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • F Minus – could this be Pluto’s revenge?

(11) REALLY EDUCATIONAL COMICS. “A Boom in Comics Drawn From Fact” – the New York Times says “One in four books sold in France is a graphic novel. Increasingly, those include nonfiction works by journalists and historians.”

Soon after the journalist and historian Valérie Igounet heard about the killing of Samuel Paty, the schoolteacher whose 2020 murder by an Islamist extremist shocked France, she knew she wanted to write a book about him.

Paty, who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to students during a class on freedom of expression, was murdered near the middle school where he taught in a Paris suburb. “I absolutely wanted Samuel Paty’s students to be able to read this book,” Igounet said, “and it was obvious that a 300-page book with footnotes would be reserved for a different kind of readership.”

Instead, Igounet decided to produce a comic book: “Black Pencil: Samuel Paty, the Story of a Teacher,” based on two years of reporting and made with the illustrator Guy Le Besnerais, was published in October. It meticulously reconstructs the events leading up to the murder while also showing Paty’s daily life in the classroom. Le Besnerais’s illustrations are accompanied by Paty’s handwritten notes, newspaper clippings and messages exchanged by his students in the weeks before he was killed.

One in four books sold in France is a comic book, according to the market research company GfK, and a growing number of those are nonfiction works by journalists and historians. In the past year, they have included titles such as “M.B.S.: Saudi Arabia’s Enfant Terrible,” a biography of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by Antoine Vitkine and Christophe Girard; “What Are the Russians Thinking?” based on the cartoonist Nicolas Wild’s conversations about the war in Ukraine during a 2022 trip to Russia; and “Who Profits From Exile?,” by Taina Tervonen and Jeff Pourquié, which looks at the economics of European immigration….

(12) FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM IN MARCH. “The Women Fen Don’t See” is the last FANAC Fan History Zoom for this season. The March 16 event promises to be an exceptionally interesting program on a topic that is often overlooked in fannish annals.

The Women Fen Don’t See

With: Claire Brialey, Kate Heffner, and Leah Zeldes Smith

Saturday, March 16, 2024. Time: 3PM EDT, 2PM CDT, Noon PDT, 7PM London (GMT), and Mar 17 at 6AM AEDT in Melbourne. To attend, send a note to [email protected]

[Click for larger image.]

(13) NEUROMANCER TO TV. “Apple Orders ‘Neuromancer’ Series Based on William Gibson Novel” reports Variety.

Apple TV+ has ordered a series adaptation of the William Gibson novel “Neuromancer,” Variety has learned.

The 10-episode series hails from co-creators Graham Roland and JD Dillard. Roland will also serve as showrunner, while Dillard will direct the pilot. Skydance Television will co-produce with Anonymous Content.

Per the official logline, the series “will follow a damaged, top-rung super-hacker named Case who is thrust into a web of digital espionage and high stakes crime with his partner Molly, a razor-girl assassin with mirrored eyes, aiming to pull a heist on a corporate dynasty with untold secrets.”…

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From The Simpsons several years ago, “What about Ray Bradbury?”

Martin is running for class president, and this is his platform.

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