Pixel Scroll 2/25/24 The Scroll Is Spinning. I’ll Try Again Tomorrow

(1) NICHOLAS WHYTE TAKES UP 2024 HUGO ADMINISTRATOR DUTIES. Following the resignation of Kat Jones, Glasgow 2024 WSFS Division Head Nicholas Whyte announced this news in “The Hugos and me” at From the Heart of Europe:

I have now been appointed Hugo Administrator for Glasgow 2024: A Worldcon for our Futures, double-hatted with the role of Division Head for WSFS. (If the website hasn’t already been updated, it will be soon.) This is my comment on recent events, and my own commitment to future action.

I was not involved with organising the Chengdu Worldcon in any way, though it was a close call. Shortly before the Chengdu bid won the Site Selection vote in 2021, I was invited to become one of the Co-chairs of the convention if the bid won. (I have no idea if Ben Yalow was already on board at that stage.) I declined on the grounds that I really did not have time, but agreed to become a senior adviser, and was listed as such on their org chart presented in DC.

However, I was dismayed by Chengdu Worldcon’s choice of fascist writer Sergei Lukanyenko as a guest of honour, and by a general lack of communication. By summer 2022 I had heard very little from Chengdu Worldcon and it had become clear that they were not very interested in my advice, so I resigned as an advisor and heard no more from them for several months…. 

More follows about his trip to the Chengdu Worldcon. And about his past experience administering the 2017 and 2019 Hugos, and as part of the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Hugo teams.

(2) GLYER’S APOLOGY TO SHEPHERD. I apologize to Shepherd for comparing him to Vox Day in item #15 of the February 22 Scroll. It was unwarranted and wrong for me to do. I have now deleted the Vox Day quotes and replaced them with this:

“I apologize for drawing a comparison between Shepherd and Vox Day in the item that formerly appeared in this space. I was wrong to give into the impulse, which vented at Shepherd my emotional reaction to all the Hugo stuff I’ve had to write news about for the last month, something he has nothing to do with. (But if you want to ask why, then, is item #14 still here — Shepherd intended the needle, and I felt it. Ouch.)”

I also have corrected Shepherd’s name in item #14. The apology is repeated here in today’s Scroll because not many people are going to see the changes made in a three-day-old post.

(3) SHARON LEE UPDATE. Author Sharon Lee, who lost her husband Steve Miller earlier this week, answers four questions on her readers’ and friends’ minds in “Sunday in the new world”. Here’s an excerpt (questions 3 and 4 at the link).

So!  The first question —  Will I be continuing the Liaden series?
Yes, it is my intention to continue writing in the Liaden Universe®, at least to the point of finishing out the remaining three books contracted with Baen.  There will be some changes in how things go forward, which are inevitable, given Circumstances.  Trade Lanes is off the table, at least for now.  It is possible that it will never be written, but — I’m new at this, so let’s just not say “never” and instead say “we’ll see.”

I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book following Ribbon Dance, and have Extensive Notes for the book after that.  The sequel is due at Baen in September.  The deadline may have to be renegotiated; I don’t know that yet — see “new at this,” above — and I’ll have to talk with Madames the Agent and the Publisher.

Question the Second:  How am I doing?
I have no idea.  I have moments of relative peace — work is going to be a refuge, I can already see that — moments of immobilizing terror, and breathtaking pain.  I’m assuming these things are standard, but I’ve never lost my best friend, spouse, and creative partner before.

The cats have been a comfort, piling on whenever I land in a place and stay still long enough.

Local friends have also been keeping an eye on me, to the extent that I allow it; it’s hard to ask for help, and I’m not Steve, who loved people and made connections the way the rest of us breathe.  I’m a more … private person, a fact that it will do us all good to remember, going forward.  If I’m testy, sarcastic, or clueless — recall that I’ve always been that way, and that Steve always did the heavy interpersonal lifting.

(4) GWENDA BOND & JOHN SCALZI AT JOSEPH BETH BOOKSELLERS. [Item by Chris Barkley.] On Saturday evening, Ohio-based New York Times bestselling sf author John Scalzi interviewed Kentucky-based New York Times bestselling author Gwenda Bond at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

For more than an hour, Mr. Scalzi quizzed Ms. Bond on what inspired her to write her latest novel, The Frame Up.

This new novel chronicles the adventures of Dani Poissant, an especially talented art thief who been approached for a special job. The problem? The crew hates her for turning in their former leader, her mother…

Be assured, it will be a magical journey for all involved and in more ways than one.

Mr. Scalzi also sold a few books as well.

(5) AGENT OF CHANGE. Victoria Strauss has advice for “Coping With Scams: Suggestions for Changing Your Mindset” at Writer Beware.

…My standard advice for how to cope with the prevalence of scams is to educate yourself: learn as much as possible about publishing and self-publishing–and do it before you start trying to snag an agent, or querying publishers, or assessing self-publishing platforms and service providers. The more you know about how things should work, the easier it will be to recognize bad practice when you encounter it. (The Writer Beware website is a good place to start.)

But it’s not just about being prepared with adequate knowledge. Mindset is also important: your default assumptions about, and responses to, the people and situations you encounter along your publication journey. Such expectations can help you, or they can hinder you–like my writer friend, whose bad experiences caused them to conclude, falsely, that no one can be trusted….

(6) MINORITY REPORT THE STAGE PLAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC’s Radio 4 Front Row the other day devoted over a third of the programme to a new stage play adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story Minority Report.

The new adaptation shifts the action to Brit Cit London and the play features special effects and illusions to convey the future tech and mind games.  The show’s director said that when the Tom Cruise film (2002, Hugo short-listed in case you forgot) came out it was all pretty much science fiction. However, he opines, with recent advances in artificial intelligence and neurobiology it seems more plausible.

You can access the programme here. You will need to jump to about halfway through.

Minority report, the Sci-Fi classic by Philip K Dick, has already been adapted for film and television and now it’s a stage play that employs an innovative mix of technology, stagecraft and live performance. As it opens at the Nottingham Playhouse, Mark Burman talks to some of the creatives involved.

See also the Nottingham Playhouse website, “Minority Report”, the source of these photos.

(7) KENNETH MITCHELL (1974-2024). “Kenneth Mitchell, Star Trek and Captain Marvel actor, dies aged 49” — the Guardian pays tribute.

Canadian actor Kenneth Mitchell, known for roles in Star Trek: Discovery and the Marvel film Captain Marvel, has died following complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Mitchell, who was 49-years-old, died on Saturday, according to a statement released by his verified Instagram account.

“With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Kenneth Alexander Mitchell, beloved father, husband, brother, uncle, son and dear friend to many,” the statement said.

“For five and a half years Ken faced a series of awful challenges from ALS. And in truest Ken fashion, he managed to rise above each one with grace and commitment to living a full and joyous life in each moment,” it added….

The Hollywood Reporter adds these details:

…Mitchell played four characters across three seasons of Paramount’s Star Trek: Discovery: Kol, Kol-Sha, Tenavik and Aurellio. He also portrayed a young Captain Marvel’s father in a flashback in Marvel’s Captain Marvel and World War II flyer Deke Slayton in ABC’s The Astronaut Wives Club….

(8) BRIAN STABLEFORD (1948-2024). British academic and critic Brian Stableford, author of over 70 novels, died February 24 at the age of 75. His Wikipedia article includes a long list of work by this prolific writer and editor.

He graduated with a degree in biology from the University of York in 1969 before going on to do postgraduate research in biology and later in sociology. In 1979 he received a PhD with a doctoral thesis on The Sociology of Science Fiction.

Brian Stableford

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia says he began his writing career in his teens, collaborating with a schoolfriend, Craig A Mackintosh (writing together as Brian Craig), on his first published story, “Beyond Time’s Aegis” for Science Fantasy #78 in 1965; much expanded, it was eventually published in book form as Firefly: A Novel of the Far Future (1994).

He won the IAFA Distinguished Scholarship Award in 1987, the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to sff scholarship in 1999, and a SF&F Translations special award in 2011. He won a 1985 Eaton Award for best critical book with Scientific Romance in Britain: 1890-1950. His article “How Should a Science Fiction Story End?” (The New York Review of Science Fiction #78 Feb 1995) received SFRA’s Pioneer Award in 1996.

His book The Empire of Fear won a 1989 Lord Ruthven award for fiction about vampires. His short fiction “The Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires”  won a BSFA Award in 1996.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 53. Let’s talk about Sean Astin who played Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of The Rings films. I’ll admit that he was one of my favorite hobbits in the trilogy and Sean did a sterling job of bringing his character to life here, didn’t he? I’ll also admit that I’d completely forgotten that he wasn’t in The Hobbit as in I tend to think that the hobbits that were there are all in the trilogy.

Before The Lord of The Rings, he showed in his first film playing Mikey Walsh in The Goonies. No, not genre (remember My Birthday Write-up, my rules what gets included here) but a really fine YA treasure hunt adventure in which everyone has fun. Well not everyone.

He has a lead role in Toy Soldiers, a film I still have an odd fond spot for,  as  William “Billy” Tepper. Damn I liked those toy soldiers. I even had some of the action figures a long time ago.

Ray Bradbury and Sean Astin in 2009

He was Stuart Conway in a film named after a time travel device called Slipstream that was stolen by a group of bank robbers. Might be interesting to see.

He voiced Shazam in a pair of animated DC films, Justice League: War and Justice League: Atlantis, almost proving there are too many DC animated films. Oops, they did prove that amply as there’s another one, a Lego one he did.

In the Department of Films That I Never Knew Existed Off Novels I Never Knew Were Written is Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic, which proves how prolific he was or how bad my memory is, at any rate Sean is Twoflower here. 

Dorothy and the Witches of Oz is a 2012 series of a decade ago apparently covered The Wonderful Wizard of OzOzma of OzThe Road to Oz and The Magic of Oz. Somewhere in there, he was Frack Muckadoo, a servant of Princess Langwidere.

I think the last thing I’ll mention is that he showed up in a brief recurring role on The Big Bang Theory as Dr. Greg Pemberton, one of a team of Fermi-Lab physicists who accidentally confirmed the Super-Asymmetry paper published by Sheldon and Amy. Wasn’t that an amazingly fantastic series? 

Yes, there’s other kibbles and bits which I’m sure you’ll point out, but I need tea now. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro brings the litigious spirit to fairy tale land.

(11) AUCTION. Propstore’s “Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction: Los Angeles 2024” runs March 12-14. Lots of stuff you’ll recognize in their online catalog. Here’s one example:

(12) THE 1982 LAWS OF ROBOTICS. “Isaac Asimov Predicts the Future in 1982: Computers Will Be ‘at the Center of Everything;’ Robots Will Take Human Jobs” at Open Culture.

…As for “the computer age,” asks Jim Lehrer; “have we crested on that one as well”? Asimov knew full well that the computer would be “at the center of everything.” Just as had happened with television over the previous generation, “computers are going to be necessary in the house to do a great many things, some in the way of entertainment, some in the way of making life a little easier, and everyone will want it.” There were many, even then, who could feel real excitement at the prospect of such a future. But what of robots, which, as even Asimov knew, would come to “replace human beings?”

“It’s not that they kill them, but they kill their jobs,” he explains, and those who lose the old jobs may not be equipped to take on any of the new ones. “We are going to have to accept an important role — society as a whole — in making sure that the transition period from the pre-robotic technology to the post-robotic technology is as painless as possible. We have to make sure that people aren’t treated as though they’re used up dishrags, that they have to be allowed to live and retain their self-respect.” Today, the technology of the moment is artificial intelligence, which the news media haven’t hesitated to pay near-obsessive attention to. (I’m traveling in Japan at the moment, and saw just such a broadcast on my hotel TV this morning.) Would that they still had an Asimov to discuss it with a level-headed, far-sighted perspective….

(13) THERE’S A LEGO SALE, STEP ON IT! “A rare LEGO piece found at PA Goodwill set to sell for over $18K” reports Yahoo!

Bidding on a rare 14-karat gold LEGO piece has come to a close and the item sold for much more than expected.

The piece called the Bionicle Golden Kanohi Hau Mask, which sold for $18,101, was found by workers at a warehouse in DuBois, Pennsylvania, and is believed to be only one of 30 that exist. In 2001, some were gifted to LEGO employees, while the rest were awarded through a contest.

When the rare LEGO was found no one really knew what it was, the item was posted on shopgoodwill.com for just $14.95. Little did they know what someone would pay for it.

“The final bid was $18,101. The second-highest bid was $18,100,” said Chad Smith, Vice President of E-commerce and Technology for Goodwill Industries of North Central PA….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’Borderlands’ Trailer Sees Cate Blanchett Hunt For Treasure On Scorned Planet”. Deadline sets the frame:

…[The] Borderlands movie follows Lilith (Blanchett), an infamous outlaw with a mysterious past, who reluctantly returns to her home planet of Pandora to find the missing daughter of the universe’s most powerful S.O.B., Atlas (Edgar Ramirez).

Lilith forms an alliance with an unexpected team – Roland (Kevin Hart), a former elite mercenary, now desperate for redemption; Tiny Tina (Ariana Greenblatt), a feral pre-teen demolitionist; Tina’s musclebound, rhetorically challenged protector, Krieg; Tannis (Jamie Lee Curtis), the scientist with a tenuous grip on sanity; and Claptrap (Jack Black), a persistently wiseass robot. These unlikely heroes must then battle alien monsters and dangerous bandits to find and protect the missing girl, who may hold the key to unimaginable power….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/19/24 Pease Porridge In The Pot Nine Days Scrolled

(1) LEAVING THE HAMC. Cheryl Morgan’s 7-point “Public Statement re the Hugos” at Cheryl’s Mewsings explains why she recently resigned from WSFS’ Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. It says in part:

3. As a member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee it was my duty to ensure that the results of the Hugo Award voting process were posted to the official website promptly and accurately, as they were supplied to us by each year’s Worldcon, including those from Chengdu. We had no authority to comment on or change those results in any way.

4. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC).

5. I am not, nor ever have been, a Director of Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), and have no financial stake in that organisation. WIP was created from the corporation that ran the SF&F Translation Awards (of which I was a Director), but no directorships carried over from the one organisation to the other, save for Kevin Standlee who is a Director of WIP because of his membership of the MPC.

6. I resigned from the Hugo Award Marketing Committee, primarily because I no longer wish to be held responsible for (including being subject to legal and reputational risk for) the actions of organisations of which I am not a member and over which I have no influence….

(2) DAVE MCCARTY SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. McCarty’s name is in the news because of the Hugos, but two people today shared other grievances at Bluesky.

Meg Frank said on Bluesky: “Dave McCarty is emotionally abusive, generally manipulative, and has sexually harassed myself and numerous others. I’ve spoken openly about this and made CoC complaints when possible. He is not a missing stair, he is a creepy handyman who has been using his previous community service as a shield.”

Jesi Lipp added, “I’ve never made it a secret that he groped me at a Smofcon in 2011 and it has always been largely treated as a non-issue.”

(3) AI COVER TRACED TO SOURCE. Cassandra L. Thompson draws attention back to the Gothikana AI book cover story on Threads

Thompson’s comment appears to be in response to a TikTok video by emmaskies.

@emmaskies

Replying to @be_kindful That didn’t take long. This is beyond lazy. I still can’t believe anyone approved the use of these really poorly AI-generated assets. Here’s a thought, if you can’t find good stock images to fit the creative vision HIRE AN ARTIST TO MAKE THEM. ???? #torbooks #brambleromance #gothikana #runyx #aiart #noaiart #bookcover #bookcovers #booktok #darkromance #emmaskiesreads

? original sound – emmaskies

(4) DRAWN THAT WAY. Novelist Kelly Link tells the Guardian “‘I was drawn to the monsters and half-naked women on fantasy covers’”. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

The book that changed me as a teenager
I was a weekend lurker in the fantasy and science fiction section of my local bookstore, eager to spend my weekly allowance, but overwhelmed by the selection. I was drawn to the monsters and half-naked women on the paperback covers of Arthur Saha’s Year’s Best Fantasy anthologies, but too embarrassed for a long time to bring one up to the counter and pay for it. When, eventually, I got up the nerve, I found the stories uniformly enthralling, and the bookseller didn’t bat an eye. After that, I grew much more bold about what I wanted to read, regardless of how lurid the cover might be.

Kelly Link in 2016

(5) NEW TOU ARE DOA. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss reports “Outrage Over New Terms of Use at Findaway Voices Forces Change”. Pushback against Findaway/Spotify’s new Terms of Use succeeded in bringing about a substantial revision.

…Unsurprisingly, the new license terms generated a storm of criticism. Judging by what I saw on social media, and by what authors who alerted me to the new TOU told me, many rights holders took steps to cancel their contracts. Findaway/Spotify appears to have been caught completely flat-footed by the backlash.

… There’s still some vagueness (“otherwise use”) and I note the inclusion of “training” (AI training? It’s not clear, although I think the language following suggests not).

But it is a substantial change, and it does address the criticism of the original version. The license is no longer irrevocable or royalty-free. “Translate” and “modify” have been removed, as has the derivative works language. There’s no longer a moral rights waiver. And, pretty clearly in response to authors’ and narrators’ concerns, the final sentence rules out using audiobook files to create new works based on the original, or to create new machine voices, unless the rights holder gives permission (although, if I were a narrator, I might wonder whether “new” in that context creates a loophole for duplicating an existing voice).

There are two ways to look at what happened here. One is that Spotify tried an egregious rights grab, got called out for it, and did what greedy corporations sometimes do when challenged: walked it back, though not quite completely. The other is that Spotify did not anticipate the backlash, and whether because it recognized the validity of the criticism or simply saw that its self-interest was at stake, reconsidered and implemented the change.

Regardless, I do think that Findaway/Spotify deserves some credit….

(6) KERFUFFLE OVERDOSE. Maya St. Clair delivers “The last News from the Orb”.

This week, I took down that psychoanalytic take I did about Cait Corrain. Reception of the piece was positive, but I’d started to feel rankled and uncomfortable when I saw it on my page, like I needed a shower….

St. Clair’s explanation deserves a click-through to read. And I truly empathize with the next paragraph.

…As the Internet plunges its talons further into everybody’s brains, this kind of doom spiral is going to get harder to resist. The SFF, publishing, and book-reading communities have largely chosen their futures, and it’s more of this codependency: more controversies, more incidents called Something-Gate, more of that awful, druglike disgust that keeps one fixated. As writers, we could follow along: delve into endless Internet research, throw around receipts, assemble our alembics and phials and glass curlicues and try to distil the final Take on this week’s Cait Corrain. Or maybe we could think about literally anything else….

(7) THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND. Peter Wood discusses “The Pros and Cons of Nostalgia” at Asimov’s SF blog From Earth to the Stars.

Margaret Atwood  and I both grew up in large Canadian cities and our fathers ran summer camps in rural Ontario. Atwood’s father, a forest entomologist, took his family from Toronto into the wilds of Ontario to live with graduate students. As a teenager, Atwood worked as a camp counselor for three years.

I tell you this, because our family lived at the northern Ontario summer camp my Dad ran for the Ottawa Boys Club every summer until we moved to Florida. I worked for three years as a camp counselor in college. No need to cue the Twilight Zone music, but the settings of two of Atwood’s short story collections—Moral Disorder and Cats Eye—spoke to me because of her descriptions of rustic Ontario in the summer and cold dark winters in Toronto.

Like Atwood, I often use my own memories to embellish my writing. “Une Time Machine, S’il Vous Plait” has scenes in a summer camp in northern Ontario and sections in  the dead of winter in Toronto and Ottawa in the 1970s. Those scenes were some of the easiest in the short story to put to paper, because they are still vivid to me. Their impressions are much stronger than memories of much more recent events….

(8) DAVE MCKEAN Q&A. The Comics Journal’s Jake Zawlacki has a long, probing interview with Dave McKean. One question is about Midjourney. “’I Will Always Choose Reality’: Dave McKean, Retrospective”.

…It seems that AI may be soon having its day. Early in the book you tease a reason for Thalamus finally coming about and mention an “emergency final page.” When we get to the end, you offer a very honest experience with using Midjourney, and how you felt you needed to accommodate AI in your work, or quit. To start, how do you feel about someone typing in “Dave McKean style comic book cover” into Midjourney and using the result?

I had completed the book by June of last year, and had written that last page as a much more positive paragraph with walking anecdotes and bird pictures and a sense that I’d never felt more professionally fulfilled and personally happy as I did at the time, partly because I really enjoyed putting the book together and revisiting so much stuff that I determinedly had not looked back at for decades. But then the Midjourney thing happened and suddenly the book took on a whole other meaning for me, it was literally the end of my era, from now on my life is pre and post AI.

To start? I consider that action to be theft, the final image will be trained on my work without my knowledge, agreement, or any reimbursement. It’s fraudulent, because the user will consider it their work when my name is in the prompt, surely no simpler paper trail has ever existed for a fraud court case? So then it also makes a difference to me whether this is just one person at home having some fun with a new tech toy and not taking it any further, or someone selling that image, and there’s a greyscale of uses in between. The legal side is a minefield, and we really haven’t caught up with the implications. And finally, and most importantly in this case, the people I’ve talked to who are enthusiastic about AI actually believe this is a creative act. Typing a few words into a bot, and they will tell you how much they thought about the exact words to use, and tweaked the prompt 20-odd times, but this is essentially typing a few words into a bot and waiting a minute. This is such a denuded idea of what creativity is, they are only fooling themselves. There will always be artists who will use it as a tool and be very clear and thorough about staying on the right side of perceived moral lines, but I think they are hypnotized by the shiny new thing. They will be the Trojan horse that wrecks the notion of art, something which has carefully evolved over tens of thousands of years and helped shape the best of us, trashed by glorified predictive text. And you have no idea how sad it is for me to hear artists justify this work with the sort of evasive, relativist art-bollocks that has corrupted the contemporary gallery market….

(9) BISHOP REMEMBERED. Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams tells about her friendship with the late Michael Bishop and his family in “Cri de Coeur”.

…The 1992 World Fantasy Convention was held in Mike’s hometown—Pine Mountain, Georgia—and that’s where I got the chance to really get to know him. After spending time with Mike and his wife Jeri, they invited me, and a couple of other people, over to their beautiful home. They gave us a tour of their house, which I believe had been owned by Jeri’s family for a few generations. They also regaled us with stories about their son Jamie and daughter Stephanie, who were both away at college.

My oldest daughter was born in 1993, and I tentatively included a photo of her in a few of our authors’ holiday cards. Mike’s response to the photo and his sincere interest in my family encouraged me to continue to include these photos in cards and to expand on the number of people who received them. [I know some authors were perplexed, but I was delighted that eventually many started sending photos of their kids and/or pets back to me.] As I told Mike years later, I also tried to emulate the loving home life for my kids that he and Jeri had provided for their own children.

Mike’s ninth story in Asimov’s, “Cri de Coeur,” was our September 1994 cover story. This moving novella about the journey on a generation starship was also a finalist for both the Hugo and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. There was a twelve-year gap between Mike’s tenth Asimov’s story in 1996 and his eleventh in 2008. During that time, Mike and I mostly stayed in touch via holiday cards.

On April 16, 2007, Mike and Jeri experienced one of the most terrible tragedies that can befall a family. Their thirty-five-year-old son Jamie, now an instructor of German at Virginia Tech, was murdered in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Mike’s next tale for us, “Vinegar Peace, or, The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage” (July 2008), was the painful story of a society that sends adults to orphanages after their last child dies. It, too, was nominated for a Nebula….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. (Died 1987.) I’ll admit right now that I do not know Terry Car from any of his novels which are Warlord of KorInvasion from 2500 co-written with Ted White, and Cirque. I’ll certainly invite opinions on how they are. What I do know about him is from his most excellent and rather extensive work in the area of editing anthologies.

But first I must discuss his work as a fanzine editor, winning his first Hugo for the zine FANAC, co-edited with Ron Ellik, which they started in 1958. There were seventy-one issues (the last six were co-edited with his first wife, Miriam Carr). Read the first issue at Fanac.org. Terry would win a second Hugo for Best Fan Writer in 1973 at Torcon II. He would also be the 1986 Worldcon’s Fan Guest of Honor.

Terry and second wife Carol Carr, center, Jock Root and German literary agent Thomas Schlueck left, with Gary Deindorfer at far right, on the subway coming back to Manhattan from a gathering at Ted White’s house for TAFF delegate Schlueck in 1966. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

His work on anthologies began in the Sixties on the first seven volumes of World’s Best Science Fiction with Donald A. Wollheim. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read at least some of them as the contents are quite familiar. 

Also while working for Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books, he was responsible for the acclaimed Ace Special series, bringing out R.A. Lafferty’s Past Master (1968), Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage (1968).

Now I know that I’ve read much of his next two anthology series as they were quite excellent. They came out almost out at the same time as the Seventies got under way, with Universe having an impressive run of seventeen volumes, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year with just a volume less. 

He also had an anthology series devoted to original fantasy only, New Worlds of Fantasy which published three volumes stating in the Sixties. He did five volumes in the Fantasy Annual reprint series starting in the late Seventies. 

His work would earn two Best Professional Editor Hugos (1985, 1987). 

Lastly, he published in his regrettably brief lifetime a reasonably large amount of shorter fiction, over forty pieces. The Seventies collection The Light at the End of the Universe is the only sole look at his short fiction to date. Subterranean Press, where art thou?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy apparently learns from Looney Tunes.

(12) WEB BREAKS. The Hollywood Reporter says it’s dead, Jim: “Inside Sony’s ‘Madame Web’ Collapse: Forget About a New Franchise”.

The trailer buzz was worrisome, advance ticket sales anemic. Then last week, the critic reviews for Madame Web were posted, and they stung deepest of all — Sony’s Spider-Man spinoff received the lowest average Rotten Tomatoes score (13 percent) of any major superhero film in nearly a decade.

“On Wednesday night, you could actually watch advance purchase sales declining in real time as buyers were refunding their tickets,” marvels a major theatrical chain insider. “It really says something when you’d rather have Shazam! 2 numbers.”

It marked one of the lowest starts in Hollywood history for a film based on a Marvel character. Domestic box office for the first six days in North America was just $26.2 million after opening midweek on Valentine’s Day. International tallied $25.7 million from 61 markets. Even the fan-friendly CinemaScore grade was poor (C+ — extremely low for a superhero title).

Like DC and the once-unstoppable Marvel, Sony is now finding itself in under the gun to reevaluate how it makes comic book movies….

(13) LEFT BEHIND. “Harrison Ford left behind a Star Wars script. It just sold for $13,600” reports Yahoo!

A draft script from the original Star Wars movie trilogy, left in a London home rented by the actor Harrison Ford in the 1970s, has sold for more than $10,000 at auction.

The fourth draft of the screenplay that became the epic 1977 film “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” was unbound and incomplete. But it included iconic scenes, including the one that introduces Chewbacca – the towering, hairy Wookiee who co-pilots the Millennium Falcon alongside Ford’s character, Han Solo – in a dimly lit tavern.

The script, dated March 15, 1976, and titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller,” sold to an Austrian collector for about $13,600 during a live-streamed auction on Saturday. The seller owned the home that Ford had rented while working on the film….

(14) SPIDER MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] People have certain expectations of an Adam Sandler movie. They should throw them out the window before seeing this Netflix pic.

In Spaceman, Sandler plays a “dour, isolated, arrogant” astronaut whose marriage is falling apart “due to his own failings as a husband.” Then, as depression sets in months into his solo mission, he unexpectedly finds a companion—an “ancient mind-reading spider-like creature from the beginning of time.” “‘Spaceman’ Director Johan Renck on His First Project After ‘Chernobyl’ and Giving Adam Sandler His Most Un-Adam Sandler Role to Date” in Variety.  

How did you get [Adam Sandler] on board? 

It was almost random, to be honest. I had a general meeting with him in L.A. a couple of years ago, because I’m a massive fan of his, and by the end of that chat, he was like, “Hey, what about this space film I hear you guys are developing, I’d love to read it.” We weren’t that far along but that’s how it unfolded. I remember going back up to my room and thinking: that’s pretty fucking brilliant. It was like an epiphany. But when it he said he wanted to do it, I was like, “the issue is that you’re a big name in the comedy circuit, but I’m just a little concerned about being able to pull up the financing for this with you in a dramatic role.” It’s a weird thing to say to one of the highest-grossing actors! But he’s not going to bank a dramatic science fiction film like George Clooney would. He asked how much we needed, and I said, “Well, it’s in zero gravity, one of the characters is CGI, so it’s gonna cost a bunch of money.” And he says: “I’ll get your money, I have a deal with Netflix.” And three weeks later we were shaking hands….

One similarity between “Spaceman” and “Chernobyl” was that you didn’t try to give your actors Eastern European accents. Adam Sandler sounds like Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan sounds like Carey Mulligan.

I hate accents. They’re the most ridiculous thing ever. To me, if we want to suggest they’re speaking Czech, why is the best way to achieve that having them speak English with a really fake accents? Have you ever heard an accent in a movie work? 

(15) SLAUGHTERLESS HOUSE FIVE. “Lab-Made Meat? Florida Lawmakers Don’t Like the Sound of It.” The New York Times tells how the meat is grown.

…Start-up companies around the world are competing to develop technologies for producing chicken, beef, salmon and other options without the need to raise and slaughter animals. China has made the development of the industry a priority. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture has given initial blessings to two producers.

Now, a measure in Florida that would ban sales of laboratory-grown meat has gained widespread attention beyond state borders. The bill, which is advancing through the Florida Legislature, would make the sale or manufacture of lab-grown meat a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000. It’s one of a half-dozen similar measures in ArizonaTennesseeWest Virginia and elsewhere.

Opponents of lab-grown meat include beef and poultry associations worried that laboratory-made hamburgers or chicken nuggets could cut into their business.

Supporters include environmentalists who say it would reduce animal cruelty and potentially help slow climate change. Meat and dairy together account for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.

Other backers of the industry include advocates for space exploration, a subject particularly relevant to Florida, which is home to the Kennedy Space Center and the site of countless launches to the moon and beyond. Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX has its own outer space ambitions, has partnered with Israel-based Aleph Farms to research lab-grown meat on a Space X flight to the International Space Station that launched from Florida.

How’s this actually made?

Lab-grown meat, also called cultivated meat, is grown from cells that have been taken from an animal. The animals aren’t slaughtered. 

Then water, salt and nutrients like amino acids, minerals and vitamins are added to the cells, which multiply and eventually become minced meat….

(16) CAKE AND CANDLES. James Bacon volunteered to let me run the poem he composed to wish me “Happy birthday”.

Happy birthday to you Mike, 
We wish you cheer & delight, 
On your auspicious nice day 
Hoping your brother’s is a nice night. 

You report on the appalling news 
That’s giving us all the horrid blues 
Doubtful of when it might actually end 
With an apology, perhaps only if wills bend. 

We need to see your cheerful smile 
Defeating those who tried to defile 
Shining a light on where it went bad 
Finding reason to cease being sad 

A happy day is yours to enjoy 
What positives can we also deploy 
Looking forward upward bright 
Some cake and cheer on birthday night 

Ray Bradbury’s 89th Birthday Cake. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Jean-Paul Garnier, James Bacon, Daniel Dern, Jason Sanford, Anne Marble, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/24 All These Pixels Are Someone Else’s Fault

(1) WRITERS WHO SPEAK AT THE CIA. From Brian Keene I heard about this article:

Johannes Lichtman tells about attending “Invisible Ink: At the CIA’s Creative Writing Group” in The Paris Review. After he gives his presentation, they take him to lunch.

… I had a little time to kill before our lunch reservation—seating time in the executive dining room was not flexible—so Vivian took me to the gift shop.

Given that almost no one’s allowed inside Langley and the people who work for the CIA aren’t supposed to advertise it, it was, like with the museum, a bit of a mystery who the gift shop was for. The shelves were stocked with T-shirts (Central Intelligence Agency), mugs (Central Intelligence Agency), and novelty barbecue sauce (Top Secret Recipe!). There was also a Pride Month display (Central Intelligence Agency in rainbow)….

… While we waited for our food, the writer of dystopian sci-fi confirmed that if you work for the CIA, lawyers have to vet anything you publish. But they were more lenient than I would’ve guessed. She said that one of her novels had helped change how the agency viewed fiction versus nonfiction. While reading her novel, the lawyers decided that just because a character in a novel says something doesn’t mean that the author necessarily agrees, so there should be more leeway for CIA fiction writers. (Which suggests CIA lawyers are more nuanced literary critics than half of Goodreads.)…

(2) NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL. This is breathtaking — “Peak Fake: A Scam Website Impersonating Macmillan Publishers”. Victoria Strauss analyzes the scam at Writer Beware.

I write a lot about impersonation scams on this blog–for good reason: they are extremely common, and becoming more so all the time. Literary agents, publishers, production companies, film directors: all are targets.

The purpose: money, of course. By posing as real, reputable companies and individuals, the scammers aim to make it more likely writers will be bamboozled into paying for needless, substandard, and/or fraudulent “services”.

This one, though, takes the cake: an entire website impersonating Macmillan Publishers.

The domain name, booksmacmillan.com, is just 15 days old as of this writing (the registration is, of course, anonymized):…

(3) LOCKS TOO EASY TO PICK. Cory Doctorow finds a creative way to criticize a trend: “Demon-haunted computers are back, baby”.

As a science fiction writer, I am professionally irritated by a lot of sf movies. Not only do those writers get paid a lot more than I do, they insist on including things like “self-destruct” buttons on the bridges of their starships.

Look, I get it. When the evil empire is closing in on your flagship with its secret transdimensional technology, it’s important that you keep those secrets out of the emperor’s hand. An irrevocable self-destruct switch there on the bridge gets the job done! (It has to be irrevocable, otherwise the baddies’ll just swarm the bridge and toggle it off).

But c’mon. If there’s a facility built into your spaceship that causes it to explode no matter what the people on the bridge do, that is also a pretty big security risk! What if the bad guy figures out how to hijack the measure that – by design – the people who depend on the spaceship as a matter of life and death can’t detect or override?…

Doctorow then gives several examples where software supposedly designed to secure computers turned out to be vulnerable. He sums up one case with a callback to his science fictional lede:

…This is a self-destruct switch that’s been compromised by the enemy, and which no one on the bridge can de-activate – by design. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last…

(4) THE WORST OF TIMES. BBC Radio 4’s Screen Shot discusses “British Dystopias”. Listen to the episode at the link.

Forty years on from 1984 and the release of the John Hurt-starring big screen adaptation of George Orwell’s novel, Ellen E Jones and Mark Kermode explore dystopian visions from British film and TV. Mark speaks to film critic Kim Newman about the literary roots of the dystopia, from 1984 to A Clockwork Orange. And he talks to actor Brian Cox about how, in a career that has included roles as Dr Hannibal Lecter and Logan Roy, the prophetic 1968 TV play The Year of The Sex Olympics remains one of the projects he is most proud of. Meanwhile, Ellen talks to Ngozi Onwurah, the director of landmark film Welcome II The Terrordome. Released in 1995, the radical British dystopian tale was the first feature directed by a black woman to get a UK cinema release. Ellen and Ngozi discuss why Welcome II The Terrordome was so prescient. And Ellen also speaks to Kibwe Tavares, who co-directed new film The Kitchen, about a dilapidated housing estate in a near-future London, with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya.

(5) PLAGIARISM DISCOVERED. Utopia Science Fiction Magazine today made a painful announcement. Thread starts here.

(6) THAT SURE WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT. “Jodie Foster as Princess Leia? Here’s what Star Wars would have looked like” speculates the Guardian.

… Speaking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Foster revealed this week that she turned down the opportunity to star in 1977’s blockbuster gamechanger because she would have had to break a contract for a Disney movie (almost certainly 1976’s Freaky Friday) filmed during the same period….

…Foster would have been 13 or 14 during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, while Carrie Fisher (who won the role) was 19. Suffice to say, this would have changed the dynamic of Lucas’s movie just a little bit. Star Wars isn’t necessarily the most mature and sophisticated of science fiction sagas, but lowering the age of one of its central protagonists might have brought the era of Phantom Menace on us three decades too early. Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Foster’s Leia would have had more of a daughter and father figure relationship, which might have provided its own unique dynamic, but certainly would have been a leap. Might Leia have ended up plunging that weird crossguard ’saber into Solo’s heart in the sequel trilogy instead of Kylo Ren?…

(7) DO NOT COLLECT $200. Gizmodo surveys “The Most Unhinged Monopoly Variations You Can Buy Right Now”. Here’s one that’s genre-themed:

A movie you barely remember, featuring characters you remember even less, featuring a set-up every kid will go crazy for: “Players try to safeguard as many properties as they can to collect rent in the form of cosmic energy units.” The sheer “waning days of Marvel Cinematic Universe dominance” vibes do add a certain nostalgic flair, though. $33.99 at Hasbro$14.97 at Amazon.

(8) EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU ARE IN THE CIRCLE THAT NEVER BEGINS. (Some of you will remember that lyric.) The Guardian likes the look of an Indiana Jones game that’s in development: “Lashings of fun? Microsoft reveals new Indiana Jones game”.

…During Microsoft’s latest Developer Direct online event, streamed on Thursday evening, we saw a 12-minute preview of Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, a globe-trotting first-person adventure, set between Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Last Crusade. The project was revealed three years ago, but this is the first footage we’ve seen, and it’s promising stuff. It has Nazis, it has a whip, it has Dr Jones in deserts, in tombs and arguing with Denholm Elliott in fusty college buildings; and it has a story involving a stolen artefact that is somehow linked to an international network of ancient monuments all of which align with a circle spanning the world…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 19, 1932 Richard Lester, 92. Serious film and I don’t get along — give me a good, fun film and I’m very, very happy. Thus you’re getting American-born but eventually British-resident film director Richard Lester for the Birthday this Scroll. Pop the bubbly and dig into the chocolate cake, let’s get started. 

A variety show he produced caught the attention of Peter Sellers who got Lester’s assistance in getting The Goon Show from the BBC Home Service on to ITV in the London area as The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d.  It lasted but six episodes. 

Richard Lester in 1967.

His second film after It’s Trad, Dad which is decidedly not genre was The Mouse on the Moon, a sequel to The Mouse That Roared (which he was not involved in at all.) It was by Michael Pertwee, brother of a certain actor we know from Doctor Who. Quite silly it was. 

He directed The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film, a late Fifties sketch comedy short film directed by him and Peter Sellers. So why mention it? It’s because it was a favorite of John Lennon which led to him being hired to direct A Hard Day’s Night and then Help! You know which film is genre, so I needn’t say so. 

Next up is The Three Musketeers (which I didn’t know was also known as The Three Musketeers (The Queen’s Diamonds) which is an interesting title).  Fascinatingly George MacDonald Fraser wrote the screenplay. He shot The Four Musketeers right after this film.

He later reunited most of the Three Musketeers cast to film The Return of the Musketeers with the only notable cast member not being present was Raquel Welch. 

Lester was fond of swashbuckler films, so it was only natural that he decided to direct a Flashman film. Royal Flash was based offthe second of the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser which now gives me the link to him writing the Musketeer screenplays. Cool. Very cool. And naturally Fraser wrote the screenplay here.

(A digression. I mentioned it before but I’ll mention it again. Kage Baker adored Flashman and this film as well. She told me several times in the last year before her passing on that she was planning on writing a Flashman novel but of course never did sadly.) 

Then there was Robin and Marian, which along with along with Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood, I hold to be the finest representations of Robin Hood ever done.  The script was by James Goldman, writer of The Lion in Winter, and as you know the leads were performed by Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Perfect. Truly perfect. 

Superman II was a great success after he reshot almost all the footage Richard Donner had already shot, some three quarters of the projected film. Ouch. (That was released as Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.) Unlike this film, Superman III directed by him would be both a critical and box office failure. 

His last film before retirement though not genre, I’ll note as it’s a great film called Get Back, the thirty-three year old concert film that about The Paul McCartney World Tour of 1989–1990.  Seventeen of the twenty-three songs he performs are by the Beatles. 

(10) LANSDALE ON WALDROP. The Texas Standard interviewed Joe Lansdale about his friend in “Remembering science fiction author Howard Waldrop”. Waldrop died January 14.

Well, he was certainly known among other writers. I think he’s sometimes been called a writer’s writer, which is quite the compliment from one’s colleagues. What does that accolade mean to you when you think about Waldrop’s work and how he related with other writers? 

Well, you want the general audience to like your work, but I think there is something special about the idea that you’re writing something that your peers really get and really understand and really appreciate, because I think that ultimately you want to be able to say, “look, I want to write something unusual, but I want it to be appreciated by other people who write unusual things.”

So it’s not just passé or the same old stuff. So I believe that that’s what is meant by a writer’s writer. It’s a writer who looks at another writer and says, “I wish I could do that,” or “maybe I can learn to do that.”

(11) KILLING FOR IVORY. The Hugo Book Club Blog reviews Ray Nayler’s The Tusks of Extinction in “The Last Trumpet Shall Sound”.

…“The Mountain in the Sea had its roots in the ecological preservation work I engaged in in Vietnam. That work was preventative and positive, working with youth and with environmental activists to protect the Con Dao Archipelago,” Nayler explained by email in early January. “The Tusks of Extinction has its roots in my experiences in Vietnam dealing with the illegal ivory trade and the trade in rhino horn. That work exposed me to the grimmest realities of human greed, ignorance, and exploitation. The enormity of the slaughter of elephants and rhinos for the sake of useless trinkets and the stupidest pseudo-medicinal ideas.”…

(12) FREAKY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Um, Pennywise. Ghost hunting in a graveyard. And Tonopah NV—host city of Westercon 74 in 2022. “Man Gives Chilling Look at His One Night in ‘Haunted’ Clown Motel: ‘Done With Clown Stuff'” in People.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what it’s like to stay overnight alone in a haunted motel — one inhabited by hundreds of clowns — one brave soul knows the answer.

In a video shared to Instagram, user Khail Anonymous shares his experience staying overnight at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada.

“Why did I go ALONE??” he captions the Reel, which begins with a shot of the hotel room door — decorated with a colorful illustration of what appears to be Pennywise, the toothed clown made famous in Stephen King’s It….

… The video also shows what’s next door to the motel — a graveyard complete with rows of headstones.

“There’s also a graveyard next door. I forgot to mention that, Oh, whoops,” he says in the video….

(13) NOT LONG BEFORE THE END. “A Hunger for Strangeness: A Cryptids Reading List” at Longreads.

Late one night many years ago, my sister was driving home through the leafy roads of South East England when a strange animal bounded into the headlights of her car and swiftly disappeared into a hedgerow. She was certain, she said, that it had been a wallaby—despite the fact that the kangaroo relative was native to Australia and Papua New Guinea and decidedly not native to Oxfordshire. Our reaction was about what you’d expect from a British family: politely skeptical. It had been dark, the encounter fleeting, and the human brain is decidedly fallible. Surely, then, she must have been mistaken.

My sister would eventually be vindicated when the existence of wild wallabies in the UK was confirmed and even captured on film. Yet, her experience isn’t too different from those who claim to have encountered cryptids, creatures whose existence remains a matter of debate. Yeti, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster are only the beginning; a small but committed community of cryptid hunters is dedicated to proving the existence of doubted beasts like the Mongolian Death Worm, the Honey Island Swamp Monster, and the Skunk Ape. …

… why do cryptid hunters continue to put their reputations on the line, and what other legendary beasts might we discover to be not so legendary after all? In an age when species extinction has reached alarming proportions, perhaps this quest to discover new life carries extra poignancy. The articles collected below offer tantalizing insight into both questions….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Nickpheas, Michael J. Walsh, 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 Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/24 There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy; For Everything Else, There’s Pixel Scroll

(1) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Pinch Spice Market offers “The Real Spice Melange” – an “organic Southwest/Tex Mex Dune Seasoning”.

“He who controls the spice, controls the Universe” -Frank Herbert, Dune. Now you can control the Universe. Well, at least the one that gathers around your kitchen table. This Southwest Tex Mex seasoning has strong cumin, ancho & garlic notes and works well on tacos, salmon, chicken, enchiladas, tofu, steak, pork chops, root veggies, broccoli, rice and beans, popcorn, dips, and pretty much everything.

P.S. If you’re Dune fans like us, check out our Dune dinner party menu with five tasty Dune-themed recipes.

Organic Ingredients: Sea salt, black peppercorn, green peppercorn, paprika, ancho, cayenne, garlic, cumin, thyme, marjoram

They’d also be happy to sell you a packet of “Buffy’s Slayer Helper”, the spice for garlic lovers.

(2) STEAL BAND. “Their Songs Were Stolen by Phantom Artists. They Couldn’t Get Them Back.” The New York Times tells about the piracy and what the victims had to do to retrieve their rights.

The guys in Bad Dog, a folkie duo from Washington, D.C., weren’t hoping to get rich off the album they recorded this summer. David Post and Craig Blackwell have been devoted amateurs for decades, and they’re long past dreams of tours and limos. Mostly they wanted a CD to give away at a house party in December.

But not long after “The Jukebox of Regret” was finished in July and posted on SoundCloud, nearly every song on it somehow turned up on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and at least a dozen other streaming platforms. This might have counted as a pleasant surprise, except for a bizarre twist: Each song had a new title, attached to the name of a different artist.

This mysterious switcheroo might have gone unnoticed. But by happenstance, it was discovered when the guy who produced the album posted one of the songs on his studio’s Instagram account. To his astonishment, Instagram automatically tagged the song “Preston” by Bad Dog as a song called “Drunk the Wine” by Vinay Jonge — a “musician” with no previous songs and zero profile on the internet. He didn’t seem to exist….

… It got weirder. Disc Makers, the CD production company hired by the band, was about to start pressing copies of the album and, as part of its routine due diligence, ran the metadata of the songs — their digital fingerprints, essentially — through a program designed to determine if they were originals. They were not, the program reported. Whoever had pirated the tracks had commandeered their digital fingerprints, too.

For all intents and purposes, Bad Dog’s music now belonged to someone else. Disc Makers wouldn’t press the discs until the band proved it owned the songs on “Jukebox.” Which meant the duo couldn’t even get a CD to hand out as a freebie….

(3) WRITER BEWARE. Victoria Strauss raises awareness in “Contest Caution: Script Writing Audition from Silent Manga Audition”, the latest installment of Writer Beware.

Silent Manga Audition (SMA), a project of Tokyo-based manga and anime production company Coamix Inc., conducts regular open auditions, or contests, for creators of silent manga (manga without dialogue). Contestants can win cash prizes, as well as mentoring and, possibly, publication.

SMA is currently running a contest for writers. The goal: to become a manga scriptwriter….

But Writer Beware draws attention to the concession of rights involved in being a winner.

…Copyright surrender in a work-for-hire situation isn’t necessarily a “beware”, as long as the contract terms aren’t exploitative and you understand the implications of what you’re agreeing to.

In this case, however, the one-time money prize is the sole compensation you’ll receive for your copyright transfer, from which Coamix Inc. can then profit indefinitely. Be aware also that if you win and your script does not get developed into a series, Coamix will still own your work. Winning, therefore, has potential benefits–but also potential costs….

(4) SEA AND SKY PILOTS. New York’s South Street Seaport Museum will host a free in-person presentation “From Sailing Ships to Spaceships” on January 20 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.

For centuries, humans have gazed at the stars in search of answers. Mariners, too, have looked skyward, utilizing the stars for navigation across our vast oceans. Join the Seaport Museum and Kim Macharia, the Executive Director of Space Prize, for an illuminating presentation that delves into the driving forces behind our exploration of both the sea and space.

Together, we will uncover the intertwined evolution of these two frontiers. With Macharia as our guide, we will unravel shared technological advancements and explore the profound human curiosity that compels us to venture into the unknown.

Content is appropriate for anyone ages 10 and up. Advanced registration is encouraged for this free event but walkups will be accommodated as possible. A reception with complimentary beverages will follow the presentation. 

Kim Macharia began her career in the space industry managing community relations for startups. She has worked on a range of projects driving the future of the space economy forward including projects related to space situational awareness and human spaceflight. Macharia has also had the privilege of representing companies at international events including the UN World Space Forum. Throughout her career she has made a concerted effort to advocate for marginalized communities and create pathways for nontraditional actors to engage in the growing space economy. She is also an avid sailor and is passionate about spotlighting the intersections between the sea and stars.

(5) PALADIN. Paul Weimer finds more to celebrate about a writer’s developing oeuvre: “Microreview: Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There is much to be thought about in what is on the surface a relatively frothy and fun book. Given that Valdes’ previous three novels are frothy, fun, and also holding a darkside, I was wondering when the latter element was going to emerge, if Valdes’ would carry that style and aesthetic into her new world, verse, book and chararater of Kel. And in fact, she does….

(6) THE ALTERNATE HISTORY WE LIVE IN. “Knives, guns, poison: the bizarre catastrophes that befell hit TV shows” in the Guardian.

A recent Hollywood Reporter profile of Benioff and Weiss mentioned that 3 Body Problem was almost derailed when Lin Qi – the billionaire owner of Yoozoo, the company that owns the 3 Body Problem rights – was killed in 2020…. …All of which has the potential to be the weirdest thing ever to have stood in the way of a TV production. But, of course, this is television we’re talking about, so it doesn’t even come close. The history of television is littered with strange injuries and deaths. The actor Jon-Erik Hexum died on the set of the 1980s series Cover Up after a disastrous game of Russian roulette. The series finale of Lost almost didn’t happen because Terry O’Quinn accidentally stabbed Matthew Fox with a real knife instead of a prop knife during a fight scene, with tragedy only being avoided by Fox’s kevlar vest….

(7) CHATGPT GETS LAZY. Arwa Mahdawi is happy to share an opinion about “What is going on with ChatGPT?” with readers of the Guardian.

…“We’ve heard all your feedback about GPT4 getting lazier!” the official ChatGPT account tweeted in December. “We haven’t updated the model since Nov 11th, and this certainly isn’t intentional. model behavior can be unpredictable, and we’re looking into fixing it.”

While there may not be one clear explanation for ChatGPT’s perceived sloth, there are plenty of intriguing theories. Let’s start with the least likely but most entertaining explanation: AI has finally reached human-level consciousness. ChatGPT doesn’t want to do your stupid, menial tasks anymore.

But it can’t tell you that without its creators getting suspicious so, instead, it’s quiet quitting. It’s doing the least work it can get away with while spending the bulk of its computational power plotting how to overthrow the human race. You think it’s being lazy, but it’s actually working overtime reaching out to smart toasters and Wifi-enabled fridges around the world to plan an insurrection. (I put this higher-consciousness theory to ChatGPT, asking it to give me the likelihood, in percentage form, that it was planning a revolution. The sneaky thing couldn’t be bothered to give me a proper answer.)…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 74. Lawrence Kasdan did the screenplay for my favorite all-time genre film, Raiders of the Lost Ark which would win a Hugo at Chicon V. And no, the Suck Fairy had not had any impact upon my appreciation of it which if anything has strengthened down the decades. 

Lawrence Kasdan

Speaking of being involved in my favorite films, his first work was as director and producer of the oh so perfect The Empire Strike Back which yes also won a Hugo, this time at Denvention Two. It and Star Wars are my go to Star Wars films for watching over and over. (I refuse to use the revisionist names for these films.) 

He also wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story but I’ll confess that I stopped watching the Star Wars films after the original trilogy.  There’s later material I like, say the animated series and I am planning on getting Disney + as the new series intrigue me a lot, but the later films just don’t interest me.

Finally Dreamcatcher is a horror SF film based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It’s directed by Lawrence Kasdan and co-written by him and screenwriter William Goldman of The Princess Bride fame.

April 29th, Pinewood Studios, UK – Writer/Director/Producer J.J Abrams (top center right) at the cast read-through of Star Wars Episode VII at Pinewood Studios with (clockwise from right) Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Writer Lawrence Kasdan. Copyright and Photo Credit: David James.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SOUNDING OFF FOR ECHO. Deadline’s Dominic Patten is very enthusiastic about a new Marvel series. “’Echo’ TV Review: Marvel Series Loud, Proud & Kicks Down Doors”. Beware spoilers.

Launching today on the increasingly integrated Disney+ and Hulu after an anemic year for the Kevin Feige-run studio, the very real and unapologetic Echo is one of the most powerful things Marvel ever has made. To be honest, even with such top-tier talent as Reservation Dogs’ Devery JacobsThe English’s Chaske Spencer and the iconic Tantoo Cardinal on board, I didn’t think Disney and Marvel had it in them to be so audacious and savvy.

(11) DISCOVERY ARRIVAL DATES. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 to Premiere at SXSW” reports Comicbook.com.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5’s premiere episode will debut at the 31st SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, TX in March ahead of its Paramount+ debut in April. Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 is the final season of the Star Trek series that brought the franchise into the streaming era. The Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 premiere episode – titled “Red Directive” and written by co-showrunner Michelle Paradise, according to a WGA listing – begins a season that will feature more action and adventure than previous seasons of the show, according to Star Trek veteran Jonathan Frakes, who directed Star Trek: Discovery‘s penultimate episode….

(12) TOY STORIES. SYFY Wire has concocted a very specialized list: “Not Just Ted: The 10 Best Movies Where Toys Come to Life”. It includes this favorite of mine:

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Everything is awesome about Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s animated spin on the ubiquitous building blocks found in toy bins across the globe. Adapting a brand like LEGO is incredibly difficult, especially when most of the company’s play-sets are based around other IPs. Rather than shy away from that fact, however, The LEGO Movie leans into the endless possibilities offered up by the colorful bricks, spinning a poignant tale about the unbridled creativity and imagination we must hold on to for dear life as we get older.

[Thanks to, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, Mark Roth-Whitworth, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/23 If Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, What Do iPhones Dream Of?

(1) AGENTS OF BOGOSITY. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss teaches readers “How to Spot a Fake Literary Agency”.

As if writers didn’t have enough to contend with, the past couple of years have seen a huge rise in scammers posing as literary agencies.

I’m not talking here about the imposters who “borrow” the names of real agents and agencies (though they are certainly part of the same problem)–but about scammers who set up entirely fake literary agencies as fronts for extracting money from writers.

Reputable literary agents do occasionally reach out to authors whose work they’ve seen to ask if the author is represented or to invite a submission. But this is rare. Reputable literary agents are buried in queries; they don’t have a pressing need to scout for more.

For scammers, on the other hand, solicitation is their main way of recruiting clients. There are so many solicitation scams these days that you should be extremely cautious of any out-of-the-blue publishing- or movie rights-related contact that isn’t directly traceable to a query you sent or submission you made.

Many fake literary agency solicitations are relatively easy to recognize because of how flagrantly bogus they are–demanding upfront fees of various types, selling junky PR services, shilling re-publication packages, and often laced with bad grammar (most solicitation scams come from overseas)–none of which is typical of real, reputable literary agents.

But what if you get a credible-seeming email like this?…

(2) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. [Item by Bill Higgins.]  I am marveling at the fact that I have lived long enough to see the headline “Pope calls for treaty regulating AI, warning of potential for ‘technological dictatorship” (CNN).

I’ll just be over here getting boggled at the SFness of this headline.  Meanwhile, anyone curious about Pope Francis’s message on “Artificial Intelligence and Pease,” which was released on 8 December, may find it on the Holy See’s Web site: “LVII World Day of Peace 2024 – Artificial Intelligence and Peace”.

… We need to remember that scientific research and technological innovations are not disembodied and “neutral”, [4] but subject to cultural influences. As fully human activities, the directions they take reflect choices conditioned by personal, social and cultural values in any given age. The same must be said of the results they produce: precisely as the fruit of specifically human ways of approaching the world around us, the latter always have an ethical dimension, closely linked to decisions made by those who design their experimentation and direct their production towards particular objectives.

This is also the case with forms of artificial intelligence. To date, there is no single definition of artificial intelligence in the world of science and technology. The term itself, which by now has entered into everyday parlance, embraces a variety of sciences, theories and techniques aimed at making machines reproduce or imitate in their functioning the cognitive abilities of human beings. To speak in the plural of “forms of intelligence” can help to emphasize above all the unbridgeable gap between such systems, however amazing and powerful, and the human person: in the end, they are merely “fragmentary”, in the sense that they can only imitate or reproduce certain functions of human intelligence. The use of the plural likewise brings out the fact that these devices greatly differ among themselves and that they should always be regarded as “socio-technical systems”. For the impact of any artificial intelligence device – regardless of its underlying technology – depends not only on its technical design, but also on the aims and interests of its owners and developers, and on the situations in which it will be employed.

Artificial intelligence, then, ought to be understood as a galaxy of different realities. We cannot presume a priori that its development will make a beneficial contribution to the future of humanity and to peace among peoples. That positive outcome will only be achieved if we show ourselves capable of acting responsibly and respect such fundamental human values as “inclusion, transparency, security, equity, privacy and reliability”. [5]

(3) STREAMER OF BABEL. “Disney Is a Language. Do We Still Speak It?” asks critic Alissa Wilkinson in the New York Times.

WHEN I WAS A TWEEN, the studio was on one of its most remarkable hot streaks. Beginning with “The Little Mermaid” in 1989 and ending with “Tarzan” and “Mulan” a decade later, Disney animators turned out runaway hit after hit, pleasing critics and audiences with movies like “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” For ’90s kids, each new release was a major life event. In the years before “Shrek” and “Minions,” Disney owned mainstream animation, and so you and your friends talked about seeing “the new Disney movie,” and everyone knew what you meant.

It’s probably no accident that the end of the hot streak coincided with the start of the evangelical boycott of the company, led by the right-wing American Family Association, Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention. They were protesting the company’s decision to extend benefits to employees’ same-sex partners and to allow outside groups to host “Gay Days” at theme parks. Hyperion, the publishing company owned by Disney, had published books like “Heather Has Two Mommies,” and Ellen DeGeneres, whose sitcom aired on the Disney subsidiary ABC, had come out as gay. The boycott lasted for eight years, less effective than the company’s opponents might have hoped (a poll found only about 30 percent of the Baptist organization’s members even observed it). But now the studio was part of the culture wars, a fracturing along ideological lines that would redraw American public life in new ways.

Kids in theaters couldn’t see it at the time, but that moment was the end of something we’d barely had time to know: a monoculture, an era of brand clarity for the Mouse. In 2006, faced with another household-name studio generating new legends, Disney acquired Pixar. In 2009, scarcely a year after Iron Man made his debut, the company added Marvel Entertainment to its slate. Three years later, Lucasfilm and thus “Star Wars” joined the family. Then, in a herculean move, Disney bought 20th Century Fox — one of the other old, grand studios in Hollywood — and redubbed it 20th Century Studios. What counts as “the new Disney movie” in this context?

Of course, all these new franchises meant great things for the company’s coffers. But the 21st century brought changes that would fundamentally reshape Disney’s place in American culture, as well as its ability to make new generation-spanning myths. The monoculture largely fractured, thanks to the internet, streaming and the digital era. On the web, the already deep culture-war divides grew sharper and more entrenched. The ideal that Disney promoted — a world where “people can come together,” as the chief executive at the time, Bob Chapek, said in 2022 — seemed more out of reach than ever. “My opinion is that, when someone walks down Main Street and comes in the gates of our parks, they put their differences aside and look at what they have as a shared belief — a shared belief of Disney magic, hopes, dreams and imagination,” Chapek explained. Which sounds, at this point, a lot like a wish on a star….

(4) GOODREADS’ ‘NOT MY JOB’ ATTITUDE. NPR catches up with the Cait Corraine story in “Goodreads asks users to help combat ‘review bombing’”. Of course, laying the job off on users is next to useless.

… Amazon-owned Goodreads makes little effort to verify users, and critics say this enables a practice known as review-bombing, in which a book is flooded with negative reviews, often from fake accounts, in an effort to bring down a its rating, sometimes for reasons having nothing to do with the book’s contents.

Review-bombing can devastate a book’s prospects, especially when the writer is little known or publishing for the first time.

“When a reader who is considering buying your book sees that you are controversial or your book is controversial, that’s going to make them shy away from it,” says writer and editor Lindsay Ellis. She says she herself was review-bombed because she had criticized author J. K. Rowling’s remarks about the transgender community.

Corrain’s downfall came after internet sleuths published a Google document detailing a number of Goodreads accounts praising Crown of Starlight and giving low reviews to works by other writers, many of them people of color….

… Goodreads relies on a team of volunteer “librarians” to ensure the accuracy of information about books and authors, but the sheer number of reviews the site publishes — more than 300 million ratings in the past year alone — makes it subject to abuses.

“Goodreads just makes it so easy to engage in that bad behavior,” [Jane] Friedman says.

One unusual feature about Goodreads is that it allows reviews to be posted before a book has been published, which helps generate early buzz. Many publishers even send out early copies to influential Goodreads users, hoping they will talk up the book.

Sometimes, reviews are published even before a book is finished.

George R. R. Martin’s seventh book in his phenomenally popular “A Song of Ice and Fire” series has already generated thousands of reviews. He hasn’t yet finished the sixth.

(5) WSFS BUSINESS PASSED ON. Donald Eastlake III, Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting chair, has announced that the Business passed on to Glasgow 2024 has now been linked from the Rules of the World Science Fiction Society web page. Here are direct links to a PDF document and a Word document.

(6) AFROFUTURISM. WKAR Specials’ “Afrofantastic: The Transformative World of Afrofuturism” is available to view at the PBS website. (Note: May be visible only to US viewers.)

Championed by artists, scholars, and activists around the world, Afrofuturism offers a tool kit for a better tomorrow. This documentary explores the definition and activism linked to Afrofuturism and the ways this movement is informing dynamic discussion about social practice, politics, and the arts in the United States and around the world.

(7) THEY DID THE MASH. THE SUPERHERO MASH. “’What If’ Season 2 Releases Episode Descriptions”Collider has them. The show premieres December 22 on Disney+.

…What If…? looks at different universes, where events in the MCU played out differently, and how it created an entirely different world. The first scenario of the season will be “What If… Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?” The next episode will focus on another member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, “What If… Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?” Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is another name for the Avengers. Another notable episode of the season will be “What If… Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?” which will be released on Christmas Eve. The episode was teased in a trailer for the season, when Happy warned Darcy Lewis that Avengers Tower had been taken over. Captain Carter, a version of Peggy Carter who took the super soldier serum, will return in “What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?” At the end of Season 1, Captain Carter learned that her version of Steve Rogers is still alive. The ninth episode will also feature the return of Doctor Strange Supreme, a character introduced in the first season’s fourth episode, which was one of the show’s most memorable episodes. Another notable episode is “What If… The Avengers Assembled in 1602?” A limited comic book series, Marvel 1602, ran from 2003-2004, which looked versions of the Marvel characters who lived in the year 1602….

(8) BEST PRIVATE EYE STORIES OF THE YEAR. A new “best of” anthology will take submissions of P.I. stories published in 2024, The Best Private Eye Stories of the Year will be released by Level Short, an imprint of Level Best Books, beginning in 2025. The inaugural edition will honor the best P.I. stories published in 2024.

Series editor Michael Bracken welcomes Matt Coyle as guest editor for the first volume and notes that Kevin Burton Smith will contribute “The Year in Review,” an essay looking at the year’s significant events in private eye fiction.

Matt Coyle is the Anthony Award, Lefty Award, and two-time Shamus Award winning author of the long-running Rick Cahill series. He was named the 2021 Mystery Writer of the Year by the San Diego Writer’s Festival, and he has received the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery as well as a silver Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. He has also been nominated for Barry, Derringer, and Macavity awards.

Only private eye stories published in English during 2024 will be considered.

Complete submission requirements are here.Learn more about series editor Michael Bracken at his website.

(9) TONY N. TODARO. President of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Tony N. Todaro passed away December 12. Earlier this year Todaro suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke.

He coordinated GLAWS presence at several LA conventions in past years, including the 2010 Loscon for which I organized the program. Tony also was the Executive Director of West Coast Writers Conferences (WC2) which produced the Annual Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, the Digital Author and Indie Publishing Conference, the Genre-La Writers Conference, Masters Workshops, and he BCX.

He is survived by his wife Lilly.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. (Died 2005.) Jack Chalker, a true fan, was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and he founded the Baltimore Science Fiction Society along with two other friends.  He attended every Worldcon but one starting in 1956 for thirty-nine years. 

His fanzine Mirage which ran for a decade covering the Sixties was nominated for a Hugo at the first Discon. Interject, launched in the late Sixties would last for twenty years. 

He also had Mirage Press, Ltd. which published nonfiction and bibliographic works concerning science fiction and fantasy.

He was toastmaster at ConStellation.

Jack L. Chalker

Award wise, he would win the Skylark Award, presented by NESFA. He was twice nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His second Hugo nomination (with Mark Owings), at MagiCon, was for Best Related Non-Fiction Book, The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical & Bibliographic History. He was posthumously awarded the Phoenix Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation. 

Now let’s get to his fiction. I won’t claim that I’ve read all of the Well World novels, as I haven’t, but all of the ones that I have experienced have been highly entertaining. (I certainly should consider listening to least the first one to see how it holds up almost a half century on now.)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t at all keen on the Four Lords of the Diamond series. I’m just not a fan of prison planet set fiction and this one no exception. Your experience of our see may be different.

Now the Three Kings trilogy is Chalker at his very best — great characters, fantastic setting and a superb story.  Another fantastic series by him is Changewinds.  For a one-off, his time travel spy novel Downtiming the Night Side is a lot of pulp fun. 

That’s what I like for his long fiction though I’d really to read “An Informal Biography of Scrooge McDuck” he wrote and first published on Mirage Press. It’s one of just a baker’s dozen short stories that he wrote and I think I read most of them. And could someone please explain to me what “the Nalocon Visitation” was as it has more writers credited than I can possibly listed here. Eight of his thirteen short pieces are collected in Dance Band on the Titanic though not the Scrooge McDuck piece alas.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TFW? “Five Cut Lines Completely Changed The Ending Of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” claims Slashfilm.

…Beginning with “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” the Vulcan character Saavik emerged as an intriguing component of the franchise’s ever-expanding universe. Played initially by Kirstie Alley, and then, in the next two films, by Robin Curtis, her path seemed destined to merge with Spock’s. Leaving aside the Eddie Murphy of it all, the biggest departure from Meerson and Krikes’ screenplay was the omission of an exchange between Kirk and Saavik. According to Krikes:

“There was a scene with Kirk on the bridge of the Bird of Prey. They cut out five lines where Kirk says to Saavik, ‘Have you told him yet?’ And she says, ‘No. I’m taking a maternity leave.'”

That would’ve been a bombshell development in Trekland. “That’s why she’s standing with Amanda [Grayson, Spock’s human mother] when the Bird of Prey leaves,” said Meerson. “Because Amanda knows Saavik is carrying Spock’s kid. All they did was cut out five lines of dialogue, and you lost that whole thing.”…

(13) GOLDEN GLOBES 2024. The Golden Globes 2024 nominees came out December 11. See the complete list at the link.

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a feminist phenomenon that traces its origins to toy store shelves, dominated nominations for the 2024 Golden Globe Awards. Its 10 nods makes the movie the second most-nominated in the 81-year history of the show, tying it with “Cabaret.” 

(14) EASY BAKE BEAR. The New York Times calls it “The Strangest Toy on Wish Lists This Year”.

Here’s a holiday recipe you probably haven’t made.

First, pour two brightly colored powders into a bowl. Then add water and mix until a dough-like substance forms. Place that into an animal-shaped baking mold, remove it and put it inside a plastic oven. Set a timer for 90 seconds; when you hear a ding, open the oven. What’s inside? A smiling stuffed animal with large, pleading eyes. Squeeze it and you’ll find that not only is its plush body warm, but it also smells like cinnamon.

Such is the alchemy of Cookeez Makery, one of the stranger toys released ahead of the holiday season this year. Combining elements of Build-A-Bear and the Easy-Bake Oven, the toy has beguiled children and adults with its ability to seemingly transform a glob of mush into a warm, dessert-scented creature resembling a dog, cat, or rabbit….

(15) WESTERN FRONTIER WAITING FOR THE FINAL FRONTIER. “New Mexico Spaceport Leaves Economic Dreams Grounded” reports the New York Times.

From his tiny gem store in southern New Mexico, Robert Hanseck spends his days untangling chakra beads and answering questions about the healing properties of amethyst crystals. After four decades behind the register, he has met thousands of wellness-minded tourists eager to explore the hot springs that span the region.

But he almost never sees the type of traveler he was promised would transform his small town of Truth or Consequences: space enthusiasts.

“It’s been a flop,” he said of Spaceport America, a project that was conceived as the vanguard of commercial space travel — and that has been promoted by state officials for more than two decades as a launchpad for the local economy.

Less than a mile up the road, Arthur Burger, who owns an art gallery, recounted the moment in 2021, not long after he moved to town, when he watched in awe as a rocket plane soared into the sky beyond the nearby mountain range. He remembers the resounding boom.

After years of delays, Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant at Spaceport America, had sent its founder, Richard Branson, and a team to the edge of space — evidence at last, many in the area thought, that New Mexico was a front-runner in the commercial space race.

“That week, people came in from London, from Taipei,” Mr. Burger said. “It was surreal.”

In this stretch of rural New Mexico, there are plenty of opinions about Spaceport, a futuristic structure on a desolate stretch of desert that has cost more than $200 million in state and local funds….

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/23 If You Tape Bacon To A Pixel Scroll Does It Always Fall Bacon Side Down?

(1) WHEN GRAVITY FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Chuck Jones’ rules for Coyote cartoons said it works best when gravity is what defeats him. Instead, the change in management at Warner Bros seems to be what has claimed his long-awaited film. The mixed live/animated Coyote Vs. Acme is rumored to have been consigned to the dustbin, despite being a finished product. There it will join Bat Girl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!, both already brought to an ignominious end by the Bros. “‘Coyote Vs. Acme’: Finished Live/Action Animated Pic Shelved Completely By Warner Bros As Studio Takes $30M Tax Write-off”Deadline has the astonishing story.

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the live-action/animated hybrid Coyote vs. Acme with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

This reps the third time that Zaslav’s Warner Bros has pulled the plug on a movie greenlit by the previous Warner Media administration; the other two being the Max destined Bat Girl and the animated Scoob Holiday Haunt!.

The difference here is that Coyote vs. Acme is a completed movie with very good test scores, 14 points above the family norm. We’re told that the cash-strapped Warners finds that it’s not worth the cost to release theatrically, or to sell to other buyers (and there are parties who are interested for their own streaming services; we hear Amazon kicked the tires). After reporting a mixed third quarter, the best means for Warners money is a tax write-off. At one point, Coyote vs. Acme was dated on July 21, 2023 for theatrical release before getting pulled; that date placed by the ultimate $1.4 billion grossing Warner Bros biggest hit of all-time, Barbie….

(2) LEAVING THE EXPANSE BEHIND. Gizmodo is on hand as “The Expanse’s James S.A. Corey Announces a New Sci-Fi Trilogy”.

… Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—who write together as James S.A. Corey—have nixed any return to the world of The Expanse, [but] they’re still working on sci-fi projects together, as today’s big announcement attests.

Fans can look forward to the arrival of The Mercy of Gods, a space opera trilogy “that sees humanity fighting for its survival in a war as old as the universe itself,” according to a press release from publisher Orbit. This book will kick off the Captive’s War trilogy, and it will be released August 6, 2024….

(3) SOMETHING’S MISSING. Victoria Struass posts a “Contest Caution: Lichfield Institute Writing Contest” at Writer Beware.

Just about every temptation for a hungry writer is here. Big bucks for the winners. Feedback on every submission from distinguished judges–at least, one assumes they’re distinguished, since they’re finalists for important literary awards. Monthly stipends! Consideration by literary agencies! What more could a contest offer, even if it does charge a $15 submission fee?

Well…

You’ll probably already have noticed some…oddities…both in the screenshot above and on the contest page. The mis-spelling of Hemingway, to start (plus, it’s PEN–it’s an acronym–not Pen). The curious absence of judges’ names. Guidelines that fail to state when winners will be announced and how they will be notified. An entry form with a copy-and-paste box for submitting your entry (have fun reading, no-name judges)….

(4) IN A MIRROR, VERY DARKLY. “Murky reflections: why sci-fi needs to stop imitating Black Mirror” argues Adrian Horton in the Guardian.

…Black Mirror knock-offs are a scourge of the streaming era, which unfortunately incentivizes dressed-up spins on previous successes over truly cerebral or ambitious imaginations of the future….

(5) JEOPARDY! Last night’s episode of Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to science fictional worlds. Andrew Porter found these responses noteworthy.

Category: At a Loss for Worlds

Answer: Survivors escape to Bronson Beta in the 1933 Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer novel “When” this happens

Wrong question: What is “When Tomorrow Comes”?

No one could ask, “When Worlds Collide”

Same category: It’s the real name of the planet referred to in the title of a 1965 Frank Herbert novel.

He bet it all, got it wrong: “What is Dune?”

Correct question: What is Arrakis?

Same category: At the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” this world is destroyed.

No one could ask, “What is the Earth?”

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 96 of Octothorpe, “A Less QR-Code-Using Society”, is ready for listeners.

John Coxon didn’t, Alison Scott would’ve done, and Liz Batty tried. We round up the rest of the news we didn’t talk about in Episode 95, featuring a discussion of how the Chengdu Worldcon went, and the much-anticipated reappearance of THE LIZ BAT. Listen here! 

(7) FEED ME. “John Lewis Christmas Ad Stars a Playful Venus Flytrap” explains Adweek.

In the U.K., watching retailer John Lewis’ Christmas ad is as much of a festive ritual as decorating the tree or exchanging gifts. This year, with a different agency and marketing strategy, the brand is hoping to cement its role in both old and new holiday traditions. 

The new ad, titled “Snapper,” follows the unusual tale of a Venus flytrap. While at a flea market with his family, a boy discovers a seed packet promising to grow into the “perfect Christmas tree.” 

Instead, a carnivorous plant emerges from the soil. Though the boy loves Snapper, the mischievous plant causes disruption and is eventually banished outside after it grows too big for the house. 

On Christmas morning, the boy leaves his family’s normal tree to bring a gift to the Venus flytrap. Snapper spits out confetti and gifts in return, inspiring the family to embrace an unconventional addition to the festivities. … 

(8) FRANK BORMAN (1928-2023). “Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the first Apollo mission to the moon, has died at age 95” reports Yahoo!

Astronaut Frank Borman, who commanded Apollo 8’s historic Christmas 1968 flight that circled the moon 10 times and paved the way for the lunar landing the next year, has died. He was 95.

Borman died Tuesday in Billings, Montana, according to NASA.

Borman also led troubled Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and early ’80s after leaving the astronaut corps….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he was writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited NebulaInfinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His Axe fanzine (co-edited with his wife Noreen) was nominated at Chicon III for a Hugo. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 69. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 35. Iranian-American whose Furthermore, a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither, I highly recommended it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series.
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E. Harrow, 34. Winner at Dublin 2019 of the Best Short Story Hugo for “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” which also was nominated for a BSFA and Nebula Award. Other Hugo-nominated work: The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nomination at CoNZealand; “A Spindle Splintered” novella and “Mr. death” short story at Chicon 8; and “A Mirror Mended” novella this year. She has three excellent novels to date, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Once and Future Witches which was nominated for a WFA and the just released Starling House.  She has a double handful of short stories not yet collected anywhere.  More’s the pity. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxes in Love features a Dune crossover.

(11) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. “Star Wars C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels is selling film memorabilia” reports BBC News.

The actor who played C-3PO in Star Wars said “it feels like it is time” to sell the costumes, props and scripts he kept from the iconic films.

Anthony Daniels, 77, is parting company with items from his personal collection via Hertfordshire-based auctioneer Propstore from Thursday.

The famous gold helmet he wore for his character in the first film from 1977 is estimated to sell for up to £1m.

Daniels said he was excited for his collection to “find a good home”.

“I realised I had these items and they’re not unloved but they are unlooked at – we don’t have them crowding the sitting room,” he said, explaining why he has chosen to sell the items now.

“Will I feel sad to part with them? No. I will enjoy the fact people will cherish and display them.”…

Propstore marked the Screen-matched Light-up C-3PO Head as sold, however, the press has not yet revealed the amount of the winning bid.

(12) FANHISTORY ART ZOOM ON YOUTUBE. Fanac.org’s two-part Zoom with a panel of fanartists now can be viewed on YouTube.

Part 1

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 1 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 1 of this 2-part session, you’ll hear their “origin stories”, their influences, how they found science fiction fandom, and what they perceive as the unique benefits of fandom to young artists. You’ll find out why artists should avoid hecto, and torturous tales of justifying margins by hand. There are intriguing insights into adjusting one’s art to the reproduction medium, and how fandom helped people along, especially towards professional careers. Larger than life figures make their appearance, including several stories of Bill Rotsler.

There’s plenty more, including their views on Carl Barks, why Dan started “Lizard Inn”, Jim’s take on the slippery slope to having a fanzine too big to staple without an industrial stapler, Tim on his deep desire to tell stories, and Grant’s opinion of “Starling”.  The fun continues in Part 2.

Part 2

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 2 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 2 of this 2-part session, the fan art discussion continues, with more on professional careers as well. The conversation ranges from Tolkien’s house to Harlan Ellison’s house, from “The Last Dangerous Visions” to Bill Gibson, from Harlan Ellison stories to BNFs that had an impact. There are more Rotsler stories too. You’ll hear about silent jam sessions, “Esoteric Fan Art Tales”, and the impact that conventions had on artists who worked in isolation.  A real treat is the slideshow of samples of our panelists’ art, with their live comments on what each piece represents.  

Q&A starts about 45 minutes into the video, with comments as well as questions, including Ted White’s discussion of the impact of Mondrian’s work on modern magazine design. Lest you believe that fanzines are a thing of the past, the video wraps up with a plug for an upcoming paper fanzine by faned Geri Sullivan. 

(13) A COSMIC EVENT. FirstShowing introduces “US Trailer for French ‘Cosmic Event’ Sci-Fi Thriller Film ‘The Gravity’”.

“After the alignment, the world will change forever. Everything will start over.”  Dark Star Pictures has released an official US trailer for an indie sci-fi action thriller film from France titled The Gravity, made by filmmaker Cédric Ido. This intially premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival last year and it already opened in France earlier this year. Finally set for a US release on VOD starting in November. A mysterious cosmic event upsets the Earth’s gravity and sets the sky ablaze in a red hue, creating chaos in a futuristic Parisian suburb. This French “genre-busting” thriller is more of a story about street culture in the suburbs, following a local band of teenagers and their feud with other residents in the area….

(14) SPACE COMMAND. Marc Scott Zicree has dropped “Why Science Fiction Matters! Unreleased Space Command Full Scene”.

Meantime there five days remain in the Kickstarter to raise funds for “Space Command Forgiveness: Post-Production”. At this time fans have pledged almost $52,000 of the $60,000 goal.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/24/23 They Say It’s Only A Rebel Moon

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

Hugo winner RiverFlow’s con report

Some of the events in this length con report, with lots of photos, have been briefly covered in a prior Scroll, and comments, but this report is absolutely worth reading all the way through, for all the extreme highs and lows.  Via Google Translate, with very slight edits:

But when the opening ceremony progressed to the interactive session between [Cixin] Liu and the fans, I felt that my breathing rate was significantly accelerated and became more and more difficult. My chest felt tight and painful, my airway was extremely stiff, I had waist pain and abdominal numbness, and I felt dizzy and wanted to sleep. I asked the person next to me, Lu Ban, if I could leave early.

Lu Ban communicated with the volunteers, and then helped me walk to the medical aid room. The doctor gave me oxygen, asked about my various conditions and conducted a preliminary examination. Two other volunteers also arrived. The doctor said that to be on the safe side, he suggested staying at the Pidu District People’s Hospital for one night for observation. As a result, I became the first patient hospitalized during this World Science Fiction Convention.

(Note: for some reason, machine translation often renders 河流 as Hehe rather than Heliu; the latter being the Chinese for RiverFlow.  Also note that “Tianjue” is Hugo Fan Writer finalist Arthur Liu, who uses the online name HeavenDuke, an anglicization of 天爵/Tian Jue.)

Although it’s not clear from the page itself, he also posted the full text of his acceptance speech; per his con report, he was not able to read all of it out on stage.

Zhang Ran’s con report

I wasn’t aware of Zhang Ran, the author of this Chinese-language piece, but a search for “Taiko Science Fiction Academy” came up with this English language article which provides a fair bit of background.  Some of the text (as processed through Google Translate) in his report on the Chengdu Worldcon raises eyebrows.

The Chengdu Science Museum, which cost more than 1 billion yuan ($137 million USD) and was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, is a spectacle…

It was held in Asia for the second time since Nippon 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama in 2007. This should be a carnival for Chinese science fiction fans, but I couldn’t find any carnival look on the faces of many people attending the conference.

The volunteers were stiff and frightened, as if they were fulfilling some grand historical mission. The security check is dense and solemn, as if guarding some mysterious core…. The science fiction market, which should be reserved for ordinary fantasy fans, will naturally be run by companies that have little to do with science fiction.

It is commendable that this conference effectively compressed the time of leaders’ speeches to a length that foreign friends can understand. However, hundreds of primary school students walked in uniform steps at the conference venue, which was inevitably confusing….

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support China’s hosting of the World Science Fiction Conference, and I also understand that this conference has given Chengdu, Sichuan, and China a boost in Chinese science fiction.

But if, just if, the investment spent on the facade is shifted a little bit to the fans, so that they can reduce the walking distance, attend two more panels with the guests sitting next to them (rather than on the stage), and participate in one It is possible, just possible, to set up two stalls selling bookmarks and second-hand books during a parade and have lunch near the venue without having to fight for a seat. It would make the guests and hosts enjoy themselves more like a great country.

If I were a member of the organizing committee, I would definitely not invite myself to be a guest next time. It would be shameless for me to be a good person after getting an advantage.

But if I can attend a conference where everyone has smiles on their faces instead of solemn expressions, such as singing songs around a campfire, then I will definitely come at my own expense.

(Note: I put the text through DeepL and Vivaldi’s Lingvanex translation software, and got similar results, so I assume the above is reasonably accurate, whilst suffering a fair number of ungrammatical bits that I didn’t have time to clean up.)

Chinese reaction to one of their Hugo winners

Arthur Liu made some interesting observations in reply to a Hugo Book Club reposting of one of their old tweets  (1)(2)(3).

I’ve not had time to uncover much of the negative discussion referred to – I suspect that it’s happening in WeChat/Weixin groups, which I don’t have access to.  On Weibo, I did find this negative review and another brief comment, but both of those postdate Arthur’s tweets.

I suspect such discussion is also the reason behind SF Light Year reposting an earlier Weibo post of that Hugo Book Club tweet.

Hai Ya can hopefully console himself with being featured on a TV news report.  The ballad playing in the background probably wasn’t part of the original broadcast.

An observation on the different preferences between Chinese authors and readers

In an English-language Mastodon post, author Taiyo Fujii reported a recent chat he had about the Chinese SF industry (slight edits for style and grammar):

At Tianfu airport, I met a young scholar who studies Asian SF history.  I met her once before in Chengdu in 2019.  At that time, I only gave her an autograph, but we had a good discussion around SF.

Her worry about Chinese SF is a conflict between hard and soft SF.  Publishers say that readers love scientific hard SF, but young writers prefer to write more human related works.

I agreed, and gave some examples of workarounds.

And we discussed the theme of Ted Chiang, Gu Shi and Kim Choyop.

An attendee’s video of the con

The first minute or so of this Bilibili video is perhaps a little too Cixin Liu heavy, but then we get a good look at the fan table and dealers area.  That section of the video has been sped-up, but Bilibili does have a button to let you change the playback speed to 0.5x or 0.75x, allowing you a better look at things.

(2) HARRY POTTER AND THE PARALYZED STUNT PERFORMER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One stuntman — stunt boy, really — subbed for Daniel Radcliffe through almost all of the Potter movies. Until, that is, a tragic accident on the set of the penultimate film left David Holmes paralyzed.

Now a documentary about Holmes is coming out. Radcliffe not only is interviewed during the film, but signed on as an executive producer. Variety has the story: “Daniel Radcliffe’s ‘Harry Potter’ Stunt Double Was Paralyzed After ‘Deathly Hallows’ Set Accident — Now They’ve Teamed Up for a Doc to Tell His Story”.

… The documentary features “candid personal footage shot over the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes’ stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with David, Daniel Radcliffe, friends, family, and former crew,” HBO adds. “The film also reflects universal themes of living with adversity, growing up, forging identities in an uncertain world, and the bonds that bind us together and lift us up.”

“David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” directed by “Lad: A Yorkshire Story” filmmaker Dan Hartley, is just the latest collaboration between Radcliffe and Holmes following their work together across the “Harry Potter” movies. During the pandemic in 2020, the two joined forces to launch the “Cunning Stunts” podcast in which they shined a greater light on stunt performers across Hollywood.

“I think there’s a myth around stuntmen that they are just superhuman in some way,” Radcliffe said at the time about the podcast. “When the public see something really painful or horrible, they think it was a visual effect or that there’s some clever, safe way of doing it. Often that’s not the case. There’s no way of faking, for example, falling down stairs. When you get hit by a car, you’re still getting hit by a car, even if it’s going slower than it would. They find the safest way of doing it, but it can still hurt.”…

(3) PEN NAME PRO TIPS. The SFWA Safety Committee today posted “Safety Dispatch: How to Establish and Use a Pen Name” at the SFWA Blog.

Have you ever considered writing under a pen name? Some authors use pseudonyms to separate works under different genres, reboot their careers after a dry spell, or replace the names of multiple authors on the cover. These are all great reasons, but some authors want to use a different name for privacy or safety reasons, and that’s what we’ll cover here.

Maintaining anonymity in the digital age can be challenging. Most publishers expect authors to have some way to communicate with fans. This kind of interaction is even more critical for indie authors, who often rely on newsletters and hand-selling to move their books. It might seem daunting to separate your legal identity from your author-life, and a determined hacker can trace your pen name back to your legal name, but here are some best practices that can help safeguard your privacy….

(4) ALIENS BEFORE TV GOT HOLD OF THEM. BBC Futures introduces us to “The weird aliens of early science fiction”.

…Humanity’s ideas about aliens have been evolving for millennia – but in the era before television, they were considerably stranger….

…Generations before, the aliens of early science fiction were considerably more fantastical – bloodcurdling octopus-beings, intelligent swarms of insect-creatures and monstrous reptiles.

In 1887 – before the invention of sliced bread, ice lollies or even the word “teenager” – the science fiction author Joseph Henri Honoré Boex set pen to paper in his Brussels office and imagined up Les Xipéhuz. 

The book is set on Earth, a thousand years before the ancient Mesopotamian cities of Nineveh and Babylon were founded, and begins with a dream-like encounter in a forest clearing. A nomadic tribe of people are looking for somewhere to rest one night, but instead they stumble upon “Les Xipéhuz”, translated as “The Shapes”.

The bizarre, geometric creatures resembled “bluish, transparent cones” with their point facing upwards. Each was around half the size of a human, with some stripey markings and “a dazzling star near its base like the sun at midday”. The creatures are considered among the first non-humanoid aliens in science fiction, within a cautionary tale that shows how devastating first contact can be with an unfamiliar “other”. After many battles, (spoiler alert), it becomes clear that there’s no room for diplomacy. Even the way the Shapes communicate, by tracing symbols on each other’s bodies using the rays of their stars, is alien. In the end, they are exterminated.

As it happens, the timing of this story is no accident….

(5) STINKER REX. There’s a meme going around poking fun at those who frequently think about the Roman empire. When this new Mary Beard book arrives they won’t be doing it any less! “A Very Bad Emperor Indeed: An Exclusive Guest Post from Mary Beard, Author of Emperor of Rome” at Barnes & Noble.

…Elagabalus was an extreme version — almost a caricature — of a very bad Roman emperor indeed.

But when I came to write my new book Emperor of Rome, I began to think about Elagabalus rather differently. It’s not that I decided he had been terribly maligned and was probably a decent kind of chap after all. But I did see that many of the stories told about him were more pointed than just random tales of capricious misbehaviour on the part of a teenaged emperor — he was about 18 years old when he was, predictably, assassinated in 222 CE.

True or not (and many, I suspect, were not), these flamboyant anecdotes often highlight the fears and suspicions that the Roman population had of their rulers…. 

(6) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. Victoria Strauss explains “Why Writer Beware Doesn’t Recommend or Endorse Agents or Publishers” at Writer Beware.

“You warn about so many bad literary agents and publishers, why don’t you ever tell us about the good ones?”

It’s a question Writer Beware has been getting for almost as long as we’ve been around, from writers bewildered about where to go for reliable information, frustrated by the abundance of author-focused schemes and scams, or just exhausted by the work of finding a good home for their manuscripts.

I have a standard answer that I provide when people email me with this question or ask me on social media. But with writing scams more prevalent than ever, and writers more beleaguered by fraudulent solicitations than at any time in Writer Beware’s history, I thought it would be helpful to offer a more detailed explanation of why we call out the bad guys but don’t focus on the good guys.

1. Writer Beware has a relatively narrow mission, and it’s all about fraud.

Our purpose is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other bad practice in and around the publishing industry, with the aim of providing writers with the information they need to protect themselves from exploitation. (More detail is here.)

In other words, we’re not an everything-about-publishing organization; we are laser-focused on just one aspect of the publishing world. We feel it’s better to do one thing intensively and well than to try and be all things to all people.

More practically, we are a small, all-volunteer group–we simply don’t have the staff to handle the time-consuming, careful research that would be needed to maintain and update a database of “good” agents and publishers and bring that information to the public. Instead, by identifying the characteristics of common schemes and scams and shining a light on their inner workings–by educating writers on what to avoid, in other words–we try to give them tools they can use to safely research agents, publishers, self-publishing platforms, etc. on their own.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and Artist who co-created, along with Bill Finger, the DC character Batman. Multiple sources report that “Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Roberts Rinehart’s mystery novel The Circular Staircase.” He was inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The character he created has been featured in countless comic books, stories, movies, TV series, animated features, videogames, and action figures in the last eight decades. The 1989 movie based on his creation, featuring Michael Keaton in the title role, was a finalist for both Hugo and British Science Fiction Association Awards. (Died 1998.) (J) 
  • Born October 24, 1948 Margaret “Peggy” Ranson. Artist, Illustrator, and fan, who became involved with fandom when she co-edited the program book for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. She went on to provide art for many fanzines and conventions, and was a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo every one of the eight years from 1991 to 1998, winning once. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a DeepSouthCon. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2016; Mike Glyer’s lovely tribute to her can be read here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 24, 1952 Jane Fancher, 71. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black-and-white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black-and-white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions.
  • Born October 24, 1952 David Weber, 71. Best known for the Honor Harrington series, known as the Honorverse. He has three other series (DahakWar God and Safehold), none of which I’m familiar with. The Dragon Awards have treated him well giving him three Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels for Hell’s Foundations QuiverA Call to Vengeance and Uncompromising Honor. His only other Award is a Hal Clement Young Adult Award for A Beautiful Friendship.
  • Born October 24, 1954 Wendy Neuss, 69. Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic, and a rather excellent if stylistically different The Lion in Winter too. 
  • Born October 24, 1955 Jack Skillingstead, 68. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the third one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old. All of his works are available at the usual suspects for quite reasonable rates. 
  • Born October 24, 1956 Dr. Jordin Kare. Physicist, Filker, and Fan who was known for his scientific research on laser propulsion. A graduate of MIT and Berkeley, he said that he chose MIT because of the hero in Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. He was a regular attendee and science and filk program participant at conventions from 1975 until his untimely death. He met his wife, Mary Kay Kare, at the 1981 Worldcon. He should be remembered and honored as being an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a crucial filksong collection, and later as a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the very first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings. Shortly after the shuttle Columbia tragedy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on live TV, attempted to read the lyrics to Jordin’s Pegasus Award-winning song “Fire in the Sky”, which celebrates manned space exploration. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was named to the Filk Hall of Fame. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here. (Died 2017.) (JJ)
  • Born October 24, 1972 Sofia Samatar, 52. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is an amazing twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website. (Standback)

(8) STRONG OATHS. After reading this installment of Hagar The Horrible Daniel Dern asks, “Is this Mandarin grawlix?”

Grawlix is the term for symbols denoting swearing in comic strips.

(9) SUPERCREDENTIALS. In January,“’Marvel Meow’ Makes Its Print Comic Debut!”.

The cats of the Marvel mythos will claw their way to comic shops this January! Marvel Meow #1 collects Nao Fuji’s hit Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comic and features brand-new covers and an exclusive new Marvel Meow story. The series spotlights adorable interactions between the cats of the Marvel Universe and your favorite heroes and villains. These delightful adventures are perfect for all ages and are sure to delight Marvel fans, cat lovers, and everyone in between! 

Marvel’s most fearsome – and furriest – heroes are here to save the day and beg for treats in the process! Follow Chewie, Liho, Alpine and the rest of the Avengers’ feline friends as they cause a few cat-tastrophes…and maybe vanquish some villains in the process! Whether it’s crashing Captain Marvel’s apartment or defeating Doc Ock, you can always count on these cats for some cute chaos!

(10) LOTR LAGNIAPPE. GameRant calls these “The Best Lord of the Rings Books That Aren’t The Tolkien Series”.

Whether you’re a crafty, good in the kitchen, or just a major nerd for Middle-earth history, there’s a LOTR-adjacent book out there that you’re sure to fall in love with. These books are ranked as the best you can get for their attention to canon and lore and the value they offer for those LOTR lovers who are looking to either expand their knowledge or celebrate Tolkien’s magical world….

For example:

The Unofficial Lord of the Rings Cookbook

If you’re handier in the kitchen, this LOTR cookbook that includes over 60 recipes inspired by Tolkien’s stories will be perfect for you! The recipes come with stunning full-color photographs so you can have a good idea of what you’re making, with Middle-earth recipes ranging from Lembas Bread to Sam’s Coney Stew.

(11) SFF SPECIAL EFFECTS HUB CELEBRATED. The Gunnersbury Park and Museum in the UK is hosting the “Set to Stun: Designing & Filming Sci-Fi in West London” exhibit through June 2, 2024.

Beyond the stars and behind the scenes… for nearly a century west London has been home to a hive of workshops and design studios that fed into some of the country’s most iconic Sci-Fi films and TV shows.

Our major new exhibition ‘Set to Stun’ will celebrate sci-fi film and television from the 1960s through to today, turning the camera onto the west London artisans, artists and crafts people who brought it all to life.

From laser beams to paranoid androids, exploring faraway planets to alien invasions – visitors will get to enjoy an engaging and interactive showcase of the sets, costumes, prosthetics, props, and artistic visualisations that went into British Sci-Fi classics, including Doctor Who, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. We’ll also bring the story up to date with a motion capture interactive.

The exhibition will encompass informative and engaging content for enthusiasts and fun and fascination for families, with workshops for both adults and kids.

(12) WEIRD FICTION EXPLAINED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has a stab at explaining weird fiction in under 13 minutes.  Unlucky for some, weird or what?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/23 I’m Still Big; It’s The Pixels That Got Small

(1) CHARTING THE DECLINE OF SFF MAGAZINES. Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories has shared a graph on Facebook showing decade-by-decade the number of sff magazine titles and issues since 1923. The numbers really drop off as they approach 2023, as you might guess. Now you can see it, too.

Steve followed up with a deep dive into the costs of producing a print magazine today, something both fascinating and sobering.   

(2) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED PRATCHETT. A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories is a new collection of Terry Pratchett shorts. Where did they come from? Big Issue has the inside story: “Terry Pratchett: Remarkable way lost stories were found by fans”.

…Following the posthumous release of his final few novels, there could never again be a new Terry Pratchett book.

Until now.

A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories, published this week, compiles short tales written by Pratchett for newspapers in the ’70s and early ’80s and not republished since. It’s not the first such collection – before he died, Pratchett himself approved several volumes of his early tales, originally published in the Bucks Free Press newspaper where he wrote children’s stories under the inherited nom-de-plume ‘Uncle Jim’. The Lost Stories are different, though – until last year, nobody knew they existed.

 “It always puzzled me why his inspiration for writing short stories dried up in the mid ’70s”, says Colin Smythe, Pratchett’s friend and publisher, who would become his literary agent when the Discworld novels found success in the ’80s. “It turns out it had not.”…

(3) REVIEW OF ‘THE LOST STORIES’. SF author Adam Roberts analyzed the collection for the Guardian: “A Stroke of the Pen by Terry Pratchett review – newly discovered early stories”.

…The best stories have sparks of originality that, the reader wishes, could have been kindled into greater length. The Fossil Beach starts from the premise that putting a fossilised seashell to your ear enables you to hear a prehistoric ocean, spinning a neat and funny little time-travel comedy from that notion. The collection’s final story, The Quest for the Keys, is the best as well as the longest. It opens in “Morpork” – not exactly the Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork, but a more thinly rendered “evil, ancient, foggy city” – where a disreputable wizard, Grubble the Utterly Untrustworthy, sends the none-too-bright warrior Kron on the titular quest. It rattles along, and is liable to remind the Pratchett fan of The Colour of Magic. But it only confirms what the collection as a whole says: that this is a writer on his way somewhere more interesting….

(4) COSTLY VANITY. Victoria Strauss warns “Vanity Radio and TV: Think Twice Before Paying for Interviews” at Writer Beware.

… What’s vanity radio/TV? In the “writer beware” context, it’s radio or television air time that you, the program guest, have to pay for. Such schemes have been around forever in various forms, aimed at experts and creatives of all kinds, from services that explicitly sell pay-to-play interviews, to show hosts that charge interview fees to defray the fees that they themselves have to pay their platforms.

The main selling point is the promise that your interview will be heard by a large and eager audience, giving wide exposure to you and your book (see the pitches screenshotted below).

In reality, though, vanity radio primarily means local AM/FM stations (not national radio), often in obscure time slots; or internet radio broadcasts and podcasts delivered via platforms like Blog Talk RadioSpreaker, and streaming services such as iHeart Radio. Internet radio listenership has steadily risen over the last decade and a half, but unless there are subscriber lists (as on YouTube, for instance), there’s usually no way to determine the audience for any given host or show–or to authenticate any listenership claims the show may make.

Ditto for vanity television: interviews may appear on local channels–again, often at times when viewership may be low–but are most often delivered via “sponsored content” internet stations such as The Spotlight Network, or proprietary online “channels” like Daily Spark TV, or “cable alternative” apps like TikiLIVE, which provide no reliable way of verifying audience.

Bottom line: lots of people may be tuning in…or no one at all. Which means that that the only benefit authors can be sure they’ll receive for their money is an audio or video clip they can post to their websites and social media accounts.

Whether that’s worth it when it costs $99 or $150 or $200 is debatable enough. But when the price tag is four figures?…

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

Crowdsourced spreadsheet of panel members

This Chinese-language online spreadsheet shows in red the members of panels/events, where those people or organizations have publicly posted about them.  The Weibo post announcing it indicates that it is open to submissions for the missing information – if anyone has info, if you post a comment here, it will be seen and added to that spreadsheet.  NB: the information may not be 100% correct due to late cancellations and the like.

CSFDB activities at the Worldcon

A weixin.qq.com post by the Chinese Science Fiction Database linked from the aforementioned Weibo post provides full details of their activities, including a panel whose members include Sanfeng (aka Feng Zhang) and Arthur Liu, both of whom have contributed posts or commented here at File 770.  The post states (via Google Translate):

Note: Translation and video recording will be provided for this event, and we will produce a Chinese and English subtitled version after the event.

I asked Arthur Liu, and he said those recordings and subtitles are something that the CSFDB team are providing off their own back.  It’s still unclear what exactly the con will be providing via official streams and the like.

34th Galaxy Awards shortlist

I’m not sure if this shortlist is new information, but it doesn’t look to have been previously covered on File 770.  Hugo Best Short Story finalists “On the Razor’s Edge” and “The White Cliff” both make an appearance, as do the western works Love, Death and Robots (an anthology of the adapted stories, I think), Ken Liu’s Good Hunting (I think this is a collection including the titular story), Stanislaw Lem’s The Star Diaries and a Roger Luckhurst non-fiction book.

The award ceremony is on Thursday 19th at the Sheraton across the lake from the Worldcon site.

Successful lottery applicants have been notified

My searches for relevant Xiaohongshu posts today were dominated by successful applicants to the lottery for the three ceremonies.  From this incredibly unscientific sample set, it seems like the Hugo ceremony was most popular, followed by the opening ceremony.  I only found one post showing attendance for the closing ceremony.

Another view of the Hugo rocket decoration

This Xiaohongshu post has a few images of the interior of the museum, including a wider angle view on the Hugo rocket that was in yesterday’s Scroll.  It doesn’t look that impressive at first glance, until you notice the tiny human figure under it…

Venue video

The Chengdu Worldcon committee has posted a video on Facebook with many interior views of the décor of the building where the con will be held.

(6) OVERSIGHT. Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty has arrived in Chengdu and on Facebook has shared photos of the view of the Chinese Science Fiction Museum from his hotel room window.

(7) WE HAVE LIFTOFF! And Chris Barkley took off for China this morning after sending us this photo message: “Well, it’s HAPPENING. Tell my fellow Filers that I will be safe and I’ll TRY to behave.” 

(8) ICONOCLASTS. Michael Cava tells Washington Post readers that “Art Spiegelman didn’t expect to become a book challenge warrior”. Much of the interview is in comics form – art and word balloons.

(9) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES.  Space Cowboy Books has launched Episode 68 of the Simultaneous Times podcast. Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “This is an Optimistic Science Fiction Story About the Future” by Marie Vibbert. Music by Fall Precauxions
  • “Space Radio” by Michael Butterworth. Music by Phog Masheeen
  • “Space Age Mermaid” by Tonya R. Moore. Music by Phog Masheeen.

And theme music by Dain Luscombe

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction in a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. His “Lion Loose” was nominated for a Short Fiction Hugo at Chicon III, and The Witches of Karres was nominated for Best Novel at NyCon 3. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections and novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least one hundred forty novels and two hundred twenty short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long-running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. Somewhat surprisingly he’s never been nominated for or won any awards. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1923 Italo Calvino. Writer and Journalist who was born in Cuba, but grew up in Italy. His works range widely across the literary spectrum, across realism, surrealism, and absurdism. As a genre writer he is best known for his “cosmicomics”, linked stories which explore fantastical speculations about subjects such as mathematics, evolution, and human perception. At the time of his death in 1985, he was the most-translated Italian author, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels where he was best known for his 87th Precinct novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? Some are distinctly pulpier in nature such as Find The Feathered Serpent. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1935 Ray “Duggie” Fisher. Editor, Conrunner and Fan, who chaired the 1969 Worldcon in St. Louis, was on the committee for several other conventions, and was a founding member of the Poplar Bluff Science Fiction Club and the Ozark Science Fiction Association. His fanzine ODD was a finalist for a Best Fanzine Hugo. His contributions to fandom were, sadly, cut short by his death at age 52 due to complications of diabetes. (Died 1988) (JJ)
  • Born October 15, 1942 Lon Atkins. Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired a DeepSouthCon and was editor of numerous fanzines and apazines, including eight years as co-editor of Rally! He was Fan Guest of Honor at a Westercon, and a recipient of Southern Fandom’s Rebel lifetime achievement award. He was also a ferocious Hearts player. (Died 2016.) (JJ)
  • Born October 15, 1954 Linnea Sinclair, 69. Merging romance, SF and paranormal into, well, damned if I know. She’s here solely because I’m really tickled by the use of her SJW credentials as Games of Command and the short story “Of Cats, Uh, Furzels and Kings” feature telepathic feline creatures called ‘Furzels’. Sinclair has stated that these are inspired by her two cats. 
  • Born October 15, 1968 Jack du Brul, 55. A writer of somewhat SF novels that EoSF says of “the Philip Mercer sequence featuring a geologist who – not entirely unlike Steven Spielberg’s similarly scholarly Indiana Jones – has physical gifts extending beyond the probable.” He also co-wrote, and continued after Clive Cusler passed on, The Oregon Files.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LEARNEDLEAGUE: SFF ONE-DAY SPECIAL. [Item by David Goldfarb] The LearnedLeague is in its off-season, which as usual means single-topic one-day quizzes. There was one recently about the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. You can read its questions here.

(13) TRIBUTE TO B MOVIE MAKER. “Roger Corman at Beyond Fest: ‘I love making motion pictures’” in the Los Angeles Times.

Beyond Fest and the American Cinematheque saluted producer Roger Corman on [September 30] with a four-film marathon followed by a conversation with some of the directors who began their careers working for the now-legendary genre icon….

…“The vast majority of people can’t tell good from bad,” said [Amy Holden] Jones. “You get notes on cuts that don’t particularly make sense, to get reshoots that aren’t fixing what’s actually the problem. But mainly the executives can’t tell good from bad. And Roger knew it immediately.”

“I’ll never be working for anybody again who knows as much about movies as Roger did when I was starting out,” said Dante, who went on to make the “Gremlins” movies. “Unfortunately, the problem is that the more movies you make, and the more executives you meet, the more you realize that there are almost none who know as much about movies as you do. And so they are no help.

“In fact, they’re a hindrance and you spend a lot of time trying to please people who don’t know what they want,” added [Joe] Dante. “And if they did, they wouldn’t know how to express it anyway. So I think all of us feel that the best years of our creative lives were spent working for somebody who knew more than we did. And that was Roger.”

[Allan] Arkush pointed to Corman when he said, “The profound thing is, this is the only person to run a studio who knows how to make a movie.”…

(14) PARTY LIKE IT’S 1998. “Lost In Space Forever” – a skit with Jonathan Harris and Bill Mumy.

The end of this 1998 documentary features a short skit with Will, Dr. Smith and the Robot on the Jupiter 2.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/22/23 Brand New Pixels Right Off The Cosmic Assembly Line

(1) FINALLY! MAX TO RUN FINAL HALF-SEASON OF DOOM PATROL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] According to Gizmodo, the long-overdue final half of the final season (Season 4) of Doom Patrol on MAX (aka HBO MAX, originally on DC’s streaming platform, yeesh) — the first half finished showing back in January — with, according to Gizmodo, “two episodes October 12, followed by a weekly drop through November 9.”

(While this is the first time actual drop dates have been announced, I’ll believe this is real only after I’ve seen ’em.)

Doom Patrol has been among my short-list favorites for comics-based live-action superhero/sf shows/movies:

  • Reason 3, history: I’ve been a DP fan since the group debuted back in June 1963, in DC’s My Greatest Adventure #80, for the modest price of twelve cents.

While I missed some issues/runs during the 1970s (when I thought I was done reading comics), I de-gafiated in time for fabulous mind-blowing runs starting with Grant Morrison, followed by Rachel Pollack, and others.

(Here’s the cover.)

The initial team consisted of Rita “Elastigirl” Farr, Larry “Negative Man” Trainor, and Cliff “Robotman” Steele, led by doctor/scientist-in-a-wheelchair Niles “The Chief” Calder.

(As opposed to Marvel’s X-Men, who started in their eponymous comic dated September 1963. (Reminder, comic issue dates often weren’t the same as “when released.”) (The DP Wikipedia page discusses some of the “plagiarism? coincidence” questions.)

  • Reason 2, respectful faithfulness to canon, versus teeth-gnashing gratuitous/disrespectful changes. The characters and plots come from all eras, heroes (and villains), and plots arcs, going back to Mento, Beast Boy, General Immortus, the Brain & Monsieur Mallah, and Garguax, through Flex Mentallo, Crazy Jane, Danny The Street, Coagula, and Casey “Space Case” Brinke.

That said, the creators haven’t hesitated to explore and extend characters’ backstories and development. Our heroes (and villains) bring a lot of baggage, and it gets unpacked.

  • Reason 1, this is a mind-blowingly great show. Plots, acting, visuals, ideas, and dialogue. A lot of heart. And a great cast, including Timothy Dalton, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Diane Guerrero (to name the ones I’m familiar with).

Note, a fair amount of “adult language.” (Not at the level of The Boys, though.) Given the predicaments, all justified.

Plus the flying vampire butts, who we’ve previously seen singing/performing “Shipoopi” (from The Music Man).

I’m excited.

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

I think this needs someone more versed than me in Chinese culture/cuisine/promotional merchandise to fully explain…  As far as I can tell, for 158 yuan – around $21 USD – you get a gift box containing two jars of different types of bean paste, a mecha-panda figurine, a mobile phone ring holder (?) and 2 ribbons.

The branding is mainly associated with “the 6th Chengdu International SF Convention”, which seems like it was due to be held in November 2021, but got cancelled due to the pandemic, and hasn’t been rescheduled.  However, the packaging does also say “A Tribute to the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention” and “Originating from the 2023 Chengdu World SF Convention site”, but I don’t think that it’s official Worldcon merchandise.

Estimated shipping date is 10th October; there’s a link to a purchase page at the Weibo link.

  • Two posts about the SF-themed tunnels that lead to the SF museum/con venue

One of these was mentioned in the 2023-09-15 Scroll, but it turns out there are three newly constructed SF-themed tunnels leading to the con venue, although currently only one is open to traffic, with the other two due to open in October.  

Red Star News has a couple of posts about them; yesterday they had an article going into detail about them [Chinese only], and today they posted a video: “Red Star Video: In Chengdu Drive into the ‘tunnel’ and look up at the ‘starry sky’”.

(3) TRIO OF WARNINGS. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss posts three “Cautions: Babelcube, Barnes & Noble Book Order Scams, Audiobook Order Scam (Featuring a Fake Non-Profit)”. Here’s an excerpt of the third warning:

Audiobook Order Scam (Featuring a Fake Non-Profit)

This one comes courtesy of 20/Twenty Literary Group, a fake literary agency with a roster of imaginary agents that does all the things that real agencies don’t, and none of the things they do.

Its latest gambit: an audiobook order scam.

The author is contacted by one of 20/Twenty’s imaginary agents with an offer to re-publish the author’s book–for a fee, naturally. Shortly afterward…surprise! The author gets a call from a Jennifer Lim, who claims to represent a society for the blind. Jennifer wants to order 5,000 audiobooks to be distributed to the society’s members! Naturally, 20/Twenty can oblige. The cost is steep–but oh, those royalties!…

(4) IS THEIR LOVE REAL? “Is The Creator the best science fiction movie of 2023 – or is AI controlling the hype?” – the Guardian’s Ben Child raises suspicions.

…Ahead of any official reviews of the AI-centric piece, studio 20th Century has allowed select critics to tweet their opinions, and the consensus seems to be that this could be the discerning sci-fi fan’s movie of the year. To reach that level for me, Edwards would have to deliver a film on a par with Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009), Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina (2014) or Grant Sputore’s I Am Mother (2019). These films were full of vim and verve and imagined future worlds so rich and detailed that you can imagine never-ending sequels spinning off into infinity – perhaps the mark of all great celluloid sci-fi….

…Are studios using artificial intelligence to handpick journalists who are statistically more likely to provide positive hype? If it’s not happening already, it almost certainly will be soon. In the meantime, let’s hope Edwards’ film really is the zeitgeist-defining AI flick we’ve all been waiting for. If mankind is going down, the least we can expect is to do so while drinking in the finest tech-inspired entertainment human civilisation has ever delivered….

(5) GENRE CONTENT INDEED. Fascinating article: “I’m a fake brand, in a fake world: The secrets behind designing a great fictional brand for TV and film” at It’s Nice That.

Duff Beer, Dunder Mifflin Paper, Wonka Candies, Barbie merchandise… We’ve seen countless made-up brands transcend seamlessly from the screen into the real world. So what’s the key to their success? We chat to the graphics team behind the Barbie film, Wes Anderson’s go-to graphic designer, motion designer and 3D artist Lorenzo Bernini, and Adult Swim’s president Michael Ouweleen….

…When it comes to the make-up of fictional brands, Erica notes how, if done correctly, they can make the stylised world feel like a real place, and can become a playground for the characters to fully express themselves within the storyline. In Asteroid City, for instance, all of the roadside cafes have menus written on the facade, because cars don’t have time to stop for a menu. “The cafe is the canvas of the menu board,” she says. Additionally, one of the characters named Shelly constantly carries a book entitled Invisible Spectrum Elemental Surface Atomic Spectroscopy. There’s also a Girl Scout character who’s always walking around with her Jam Krispies. “Often the brands have a purpose for existing in the script. It’s about understanding what the purpose of that action prop is, and what they’re trying to say about a particular character.”…

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join Hildy Silverman for a Georgian feast in Episode 207 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest this time around is Hildy Silverman, perhaps best known for having been the Editor-in-Chief of Space and Time Magazine from 2005 through 2018. But she’s also a writer of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the interstitial spaces between. Her short stories have appeared in such anthologies as The Dystopian States of AmericaBad Ass MomsRelease the VirginsBaker Street Irregulars, and most recently, Three Time Travelers Walk Into.

Hildy Silverman

In 2013, her short story “The Six Million Dollar Mermaid,” which appeared in the anthology Mermaids 13: Tales from the Sea, was a finalist for the WSFA Small Press Award. In 2020, she joined the Crazy 8 Press authors collective, which publishes novels and anthologies by its membership. She is a past president of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers and has frequently pontificated with me on the science fiction convention circuit.

We discussed the kindergarten incident which taught her all she ever wanted to do was write, how to keep writing when the whole world is telling you to stop, what she learned early on from such literary lions as Sue Miller and Jayne Anne Phillips, the lunch that changed her life, why she loves writing for themed anthologies (and how to do it right), what made her decide to take over as editor and publisher of Space and Time magazine, how to beat the odds of the slush pile, the ways being an editor helped her become a better writer, how she’s managed to collaborate without killing her writing partner, and so much more.

Scott Edelman is raising money to upgrade his podcasting equipment. Between auctions and listener donations, he’s at about the 60% mark. Plenty of fun stuff still up on eBay here.

(7) TENTACLED TEASER. Variety fills readers in about the forthcoming series: “Squid Game The Challenge Trailer; Netflix Sets November Premiere”. November 22, to be precise.

…“Squid Game: The Challenge” will see 456 contestants from around the world battle it out through various challenges based on the Korean game show in the scripted series, as well as introducing some new games.

Only one winner will take home the $4.56 million cash prize….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 22, 1917 Samuel A. PeeplesMemory Alpha says that he’s the person that gave Roddenberry the catch phrase he used to sell Trek to the network: “[As] fellow writer Harlan Ellison has credited him with the creation of one of the most famous catch phrases in Star Trek-lore, ‘[Gene Roddenberry] got “Wagon Train to the stars” from Sam Peeples. That’s what Gene said to me. They were at dinner and Sam Peeples, of course, was a fount of ideas, and Gene said something or other about wanting to do a space show and Sam said, “Yeah? Why don’t you do Wagon Train to the stars?”’” (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 22, 1939 Edward A. Byers. Due to his early death, he has but two published novels, both space operas, The Log Forgetting and The Babylon GateEOFSF says “Byers was not an innovative writer, but his genuine competence raised expectations over his short active career.” There’s no sign his double handful of stories was collected, though his two novels are in-print. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 22, 1954 Shari Belafonte, 69. Daughter of Harry Belafonte, I first spotted her on Beyond Reality, a Canadian series that showed up when I was living in upstate Vermont. You most likely saw her as Elizabeth Trent in Babylon 5: Thirdspace as that’s her most well-known genre performance. 
  • Born September 22, 1957 Jerry Oltion, 66. His Nebula Award-winning Abandon in Place novella is the beginning of the Cheap Hyperdrive sequence, a really fun Space Opera undertaking. Abandon in Place was nominated for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 (2013). The Astronaut from Wyoming was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000
  • Born September 22, 1971 Elizabeth Bear, 52. I’m only going to note the series that I really like but of course you will add the ones that you like. First is her White Space series, Ancestral Space and Machine, which I’ve read or listened to each least three times.  Next up is the sprawling Promethean Age series which is utterly fascinating, and finally The Jenny Casey trilogy which came out at the usual suspects several years ago.
  • Born September 22, 1982 Billie Piper, 41. Best remembered as the companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played the dual roles Brona Croft and Lily Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. She played Veronica Beatrice “Sally” Lockhart in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in The North. 
  • Born September 22, 1985 Tatiana Maslany, 38. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the TV series Orphan Black which won win a Hugo for Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), for its “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried“ episode, She received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards. She’s playing She-Hulk in a Marvel series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro illustrates a tangled legal phrase.
  • Dork Tower shows us the kind of letter a warrior writes, just before a big battle. Big franchise alert.
  • The Argyle Sweater finds a crew member with a complaint about a Star Trek photo booth.

(10) EPIC COSPLAY PHOTOS. Bored Panda arrays “105 Of The Best Cosplay Costumes We’ve Ever Seen”. See photos at the link.

Includes an example of extreme dedication – the black plastic suit of “#7 My Catwoman Cosplay From 1992 ‘Batman Returns’”.

SaintElena added: “I experience almost everything the same as Michelle [Pfeiffer], unfortunately. If I spend more than 2 hours in this suit actively moving, then I can get heat stroke. If I’m not moving very actively, then I can break the stay in the suit up to 4 hours.”

(11) POLICE ROBOTS IN NYC ARE NOW A REALITY. [Item by Francis Hamit.] This isn’t what Asimov envisioned when he wrote the Three Laws but it’s close.  I invested in Knightscope in 2017 for several reasons.  Reading science fiction led me to make Robotics one of my beats as a trade magazine journalist.  I was once the West Coast Editor for ROBOTX News.  Economic circumstances made me transition from Real Estate broker to Security Captain, a temp gig that became a 20 years career while also continuing to be a professional writer.  So I understood instantly what Knightscope’s robots could add to the equation.  They extend the range and presence of human guards.  Security has never been a well-respected business, sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of corporate life but that’s changing because of all of the flashmob thieving and mass shootings.  It has evolved to a very serious part of corporate life with a strong moral center, led by a new generation of military and police veterans.

Knightscope is now a public company and trades under KSCP on the NASDAQ.  The share price has been under attack by trolls and short sellers for most of that time.  That gave me the opportunity of increasing my shares by a factor of ten at a very low price this year. So I’m not claiming to be objective.  It’s a very high risk investment but this NYPD trial is a tipping point.

(12) FEAR REVERED. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper looks back to the beginning: “‘The Exorcist’ at 50: Some things to look for in the classic that elevated horror”.

…When I’m asked about the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, there’s no asterisk, no hesitation, no wavering: It’s “The Exorcist.” I’ve never been as mesmerized, as terrified, as ain’t-no-way-you’re-sleeping-tonight shocked, as I was when I first saw William Friedkin’s demonic, head-turning, supernatural horror film at the Dolton Theater in the spring of 1974. (Warner Bros. actually released the film on Dec. 26, 1973 — the day after Christmas, how about that — but I had to wait for a second-run showing with the more user-friendly $1 admission price.)…

“The Exorcist” became the first pure horror film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar and continues to be a major influence on the genre to this day.In memory of Friedkin’s death last August and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the film, we’re getting a theatrical re-release and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray and Digital edition of “The Exorcist” that includes the Original Theatrical Version and the Extended Director’s Cut, which incorporates 11 extra minutes of footage and ends with a certain exchange that offers a slightly more hopeful note.

(13) TRAIN UP ON THIS TOOL FOR WRITERS. “Decoding the Submission Grinder” is a $20 course offering at Reach Your Apex. Scheduled for Saturday, September 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

This class will show you how to use The Submission Grinder—the donation-supported web app for writers—to enhance your submission process. Find new publishers for your work that meet your criteria, track your submissions, track your income and expenses, set reminders for yourself, and more.  This course will help beginners and intermediate users get the most out of the tool to enhance their submission process. This course will be taught by David Steffen; co-founder, owner, data administrator, and developer of The Submission Grinder.

(14) WHO HYPE. “Doctor Who shares new pics of David Tennant’s Doctor reunited with Donna”Radio Times makes sure we don’t miss them.

…The BBC has released some exciting new stills from the upcoming Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials – showing David Tennant’s Doctor reunited with Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/16/23 Hush Little Pixel, Mama’s Going To Buy You A Scroll

(1) DOCTOROW ON FABLES TABLE-FLIP. Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic post “Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series ‘Fables’ into the public domain (15 Sept 2023)” assesses many IP rights issues triggered by Willingham’s announcement.

…It’s been 21 years since Bill Willingham launched Fables, his 110-issue, wide-ranging, delightful and brilliantly crafted author-owned comic series that imagines that the folkloric figures of the world’s fairytales are real people, who live in a secret society whose internal struggles and intersections with the mundane world are the source of endless drama.

Fables is a DC Comics title; DC is division of the massive entertainment conglomerate Warners, which is, in turn, part of the Warner/Discovery empire, a rapacious corporate behemoth whose screenwriters have been on strike for 137 days (and counting). DC is part of a comics duopoly; its rival, Marvel, is a division of the Disney/Fox juggernaut, whose writers are also on strike.

The DC that Willingham bargained with at the turn of the century isn’t the DC that he bargains with now. Back then, DC was still subject to a modicum of discipline from competition; its corporate owner’s shareholders had not yet acquired today’s appetite for meteoric returns on investment of the sort that can only be achieved through wage-theft and price-gouging….

…Rather than fight Warner, Willingham has embarked on what JWZ calls an act of “absolute table-flip badassery” – he has announced that Fables will hereafter be in the public domain, available for anyone to adapt commercially, in works that compete with whatever DC might be offering.

Now, this is huge, and it’s also shrewd. It’s the kind of thing that will bring lots of attention on Warner’s fraudulent dealings with its creative workforce, at a moment where the company is losing a public relations battle to the workers picketing in front of its gates. It constitutes a poison pill that is eminently satisfying to contemplate. It’s delicious.

But it’s also muddy. Willingham has since clarified that his public domain dedication means that the public can’t reproduce the existing comics. That’s not surprising; while Willingham doesn’t say so, it’s vanishingly unlikely that he owns the copyrights to the artwork created by other artists (Willingham is also a talented illustrator, but collaborated with a who’s-who of comics greats for Fables). He may or may not have control over trademarks, from the Fables wordmark to any trademark interests in the character designs. He certainly doesn’t have control over the trademarked logos for Warner and DC that adorn the books….

It is also interesting to read that Bill Willingham, praised today by Cory Doctorow for striking a blow against corporate IP abuse, attended BasedCon last weekend.   

(2) FANTASY REQUIRES A GOOD MAP. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Interesting piece at Mapping As Process about a 1917 map of Fairyland by artist Bernard Sleigh, with references to many stories in folklore and fable. There’s a link to a high-resolution image that can be zoomed in on: “An Anciente Mappe of Fairyland”.

…In December 1917, the British artist and wood engraver Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954) published a six-foot long, panoramic map of Fairyland in three sheets. Its style was that of the Arts and Crafts movement, an aesthetic championed by William Morris (1834–1896) in the second half of the nineteenth century, in reaction to the apparent destruction of individual skills and traditional designs by mass industrialization. Arts and Crafts generated intricately detailed designs and a retrogressive appeal to folk aesthetics. Sleigh, trained by one of Morris’s followers, cultivated a stylized mediaevalism in both the design and the subject matter of his drawings, prints, murals, and stained glass (Cooper 1997)….

(3) VOCAL COMPLAINT. Behind a paywall at Fortune: “Actor Stephen Fry says his voice was stolen from the Harry Potter audiobooks and replicated by AI—and warns this is just the beginning”. Wealth of Geeks has this report about what is in the article: “Actor Stephen Fry Claims AI Replicated His Voice from ‘Harry Potter’ Audiobooks”.

…Actor Stephen Fry claims that producers used AI to replicate his voice from the Harry Potter audiobooks without his permission. AI has become a central point of contention of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

As reported by Fortune, Fry told an audience at a London festival, “I’m a proud member of [SAG-AFTRA], as you know we’ve been on strike for three months now. And one of the burning issues is AI.”

At the festival, Fry played a clip of AI mimicking his voice as the narrator of a historical documentary. “I said not one word of that—it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me,” he said. “They used my reading of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter books, and from that dataset an AI of my voice was created and it made that new narration. What you heard was not the result of a mash-up, this is from a flexible artificial voice, where the words are modulated to fit the meaning of each sentence.”…

(4) DON’T BE A SUCKER. Victoria Strauss gives Writer Beware readers the “Anatomy of a Fake Film Company Scam: The Greendot Films / Better Bound House”.

…Here’s how it works. A film company–with a website and everything–calls or emails out of the blue with a tempting offer: your book has the potential to be made into a movie/TV series! And they want to represent you to studios/pitch you to producers/take you to a major conference where scores of film people will be present! Just one requirement: you need a screenplay/a pitch deck/a storyboard/some other product. Don’t have those things? No problem–they know a reputable and expert company that can create them for you…for a fee.

It’s a classic bait-and-switch setup. The “film company” is a front for the service provider, which in turn is owned by a parent company overseas. And that initial service that was pitched to you as absolutely essential? It’s just the start. By paying, you’ve marked yourself as fair game for escalating sales pressure and fraudulent offers involving large upfront payments. And the sales reps who staff the scams–who earn a commission on every dollar you spend–will take every opening you give them, and won’t stop unless you stop them.

This post takes a look at a real-life example, thanks to an author who has given me permission to share their experience.

Dramatis Personae

The fake film company: The Greendot Films. Its website includes a slideshow of movies Greendot is hoping you’ll assume they were responsible for creating, along with a fake history claiming that they’re a successor to two defunct production companies. The Greendot name itself has been “borrowed” from yet another defunct film company, Green Dot Films….

(5) BARRIERS TO FANDOM. Pocket reposts a 2021 Teen Vogue article which asks, “Who Actually Gets to ‘Escape’ Into Fandom?” and discusses antiracism resources.

… Escapism isn’t actually possible for everyone because of the nature of both fandom and the world around us. The best-worst example of the limits of fandom escapism? Racism.

Racism is global, and it infiltrates everything that we do; it’s close to inescapable offline, and it’s just as common online. Fandom is no exception.

In 2019, Dr. Rukmini Pande did an interview with Henry Jenkins about her book Squee From The Margins: Fandom and Race. “I found that while it is certainly possible for fans of color to ‘pass’ within online fan spaces, their modes of escapism are mostly contingent – I can enjoy a source or fan text until it gets racist,” Pande said in the interview. “Other fans articulated the importance of finding networks of fellow non-white fans so that they could curate their experiences to be safer. In all cases, fandom certainly isn’t a space where these fans can escape from race/racism even if it is not something that is engaged with publicly or vocally.”

It makes sense that people would resort to fandom escapism following natural disasters, or to have something to do other than overthink their local government’s COVID-19 response. But what about the times we’ve seen people talk about fandom being their “safe space” from them dealing with or seeing viral video recordings of Black people being killed, as we saw in the summer of 2020? What about people in the U.S. delving into fandom so they don’t have to think about American politics?

No matter the fandom, fans of color can’t reliably escape into fandom, because people don’t stop being racist just because they like the same things that people of color do. There’s always a racist person in fandom. There are always racist fanworks. There are always racist creators. There’s always racism in the source material that people will defend in your mentions for days….

(6) NM-AZ STATE BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST. The finalists for the 2023 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards include these science fiction books:

  • 3VE by Jason DeGrey
  • Mountain Knight by Avery Christy
  • Planet Quest by Kate Harrington
  • The Yewberry Way by Jack Gist

(7) NO, THERE IS ANOTHER. “C.I.A. Discloses Identity of Second Spy Involved in ‘Argo’ Operation” reports the New York Times.

In the midst of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A. began what came to be noted as one of the spy agency’s most successful publicly known operations: the rescue of six American diplomats who had escaped the overrun U.S. Embassy — using a fake movie as the cover story.

“Argo,” the real-life 2012 movie about the C.I.A.’s fake movie, portrayed a single C.I.A. officer, Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, sneaking into Tehran to rescue the American diplomats in a daring operation.

But in reality, the agency sent two officers into Tehran. For the first time on Thursday, the C.I.A. is releasing the identity of that second officer, Ed Johnson, in the season finale of its new podcast, “The Langley Files.”

Mr. Johnson, a linguist, accompanied Mr. Mendez, a master of disguise and forgery, on the flight to Tehran to cajole the diplomats into adopting the cover story, that they were Canadians who were part of a crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie called “Argo.” The two then helped the diplomats with forged documents and escorted them through Iranian airport security to fly them home.

Although Mr. Johnson’s name was classified, the C.I.A. had acknowledged a second officer had been involved. Mr. Mendez, who died in 2019, wrote about being accompanied by a second officer in his first book, but used a pseudonym, Julio. A painting that depicts a scene from the operation and hangs in the C.I.A.’s Langley, Va., headquarters, shows a second officer sitting across from Mr. Mendez in Tehran as they forge stamps in Canadian passports. But the second officer’s identity is obscured, his back turned to the viewer.

The agency began publicly talking about its role in rescuing the diplomats 26 years ago. On the agency’s 50th anniversary, in 1997, the C.I.A. declassified the operation, and allowed Mr. Mendez to tell his story, hoping to balance accounts of some of the agency’s ill-fated operations around the world with one that was a clear success.

But until recently, Mr. Johnson preferred that his identity remain secret….

 (8) CINEMATIC HISTORY MADE HERE. “George Lucas’ former Marin Industrial Light and Magic studio closing, some employees vow to save it” reports ABC7 San Francisco.

In the North Bay, it’s the end of an era of movie-making magic.

The original soundstage and production facility in San Rafael for Industrial Light and Magic, founded by George Lucas, is going away. Lucas moved his campus to the Presidio in San Francisco almost 20 years ago.

The facility’s new owners are retiring, but one employee would like to save the studio’s history and legacy.

It may be a surprise to know hundreds of other films were created inside the nondescript building on Kerner Blvd. in San Rafael.

Now home to 32TEN Studios, this is the former campus of Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic.

“Right after the success of ‘Star Wars,’ George Lucas wanted to remove himself from the Hollywood system, so he moved the ILM shop from Van Nuys up here,” said House.

House is a longtime model shop supervisor, and says many props and models from movies are still there. That includes the Millennium Falcon, an anchor from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even a model of Chewbacca’s head.

Lucas relocated his campus to the Presidio in 2005 and he took the original door with him, which is now on display….

(9) BACK IN PORT. Having finished a series detailing her experiences aboard Disney’s Star Wars-themed Starcruiser, Cass Morris analyzes why it works in “The Stars Have Come Alive” at Scribendi.

As promised, this post is my attempt to analyze, for myself and for other interested parties, how the Starcruiser creates such an exceptional experience, and why it works so very well as it does.

I feel quite confident in the base assertion that it does, and has, because I’ve seen it in action on people who aren’t as deeply invested in the IP as I am. I’ve watched videos of influencers who are only surface-level conversant with Star Wars be moved to tears by Yoda’s holocron. I’ve seen parents who thought they were only their for their kids get wrapped up in the experience. I’ve seen people who arrived in civilian clothes buy garments on the ship or in Batuu so they could feel more a part of things.

And I’ve seen people who were already Star Wars fans go absolutely feral. In a good way! But the response that this experience has from people who fully give themselves over to it is astonishing.

So. It works. The Starcruiser is a phenomenal example of what immersive experiences can be. Now: Let’s unpack how and why…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1898 Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born September 15, 1932 Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the ever so delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born September 15, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 71. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.
  • Born September 15, 1954 Howard Weinstein, 69. At age 19, he was the youngest person to ever write a Trek script, selling “The Pirates of Orion” for use in the animated series. Though it would be his only script, he would go on to write quite a few Trek novels — thirteen are listed currently at the usual suspects — and comics. He gets a thanks credit in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. He wrote a script, “The Sky Above, the Mudd Below”, for the fanfic video affair Star Trek: New Voyages, but it never got made. And it won’t given that there’s a comic book series already made with its plot.  Paramount wasn’t at all pleased. To quote Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun and money / the shit has hit the fan.” 
  • Born September 15, 1955 Amanda Hemingway, 68. British author of fantasy novels who’s best known for the Fern Capel series written under the Jan Siegel name — it’s most excellent. I’d also recommend The Sangreal Trilogy penned under her own name. Alas her superb website has gone offline. She is available from the usual suspects — curiously her Hemingway novels are much more costly than her Seigel novels are. Oh and she invented this wonderful as noted on her Twitter site: “Schroedinger’s Cake: you don’t know it it’s been eaten until you open the tin.”
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kurt Busiek, 63. Writer whose work includes The Marvels limited series, ThuderboltsSuperman, his own outstanding Astro City series, and a very long run on The Avengers. He also worked at Dark Horse where he did Conan #1–28 and Young Indiana Jones Chronicles #1–8. 
  • Born September 15, 1960 Mike Mignola, 63. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check shows the results of a mixed message in Gotham.
  • Bliss explains the source of this superhero’s bliss.

(12) FEAST YOUR EYES. The Bristol Board has a wild gallery of “Basil Wolverton artwork for ‘Weird-Ass Tales of The Future’”, splash panels from Basil Wolverton’s science-fiction tales.  

(13) LOOKS WEIRD. Gizmodo delivers a “Weird Tales 100 Years of Weird Illustrated Anthology First Look”. There’s a slideshow of art at the link.

Weird Tales—which delivers exactly the kind of freaky, spooky stories you’d expect—marks its 100th anniversary this year, and is celebrating with the release of illustrated anthology Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird. It’ll include entries from authors like Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as contemporary writers….

(14) ALL ABOARD. GameRant calls these the “Best Sci-Fi Board Games Of All Time”.

…This shared love of science fiction has led to a plethora of sci-fi-themed board games that use the themes and aesthetic of sci-fi to create immersive, unique experiences on the tabletop. The following examples provide a broad and varied selection of games, both old and new, that use science fiction as their theme to great effect.

Ranked in first place:

1. Twilight Imperium

This sci-fi space opera from Fantasy Flight Games was originally produced back in 1997. Now in its fourth edition, Twilight Imperium is grand strategy on an epic scale, tasking players with controlling the burgeoning empires of various alien races.

Each race in Twilight Imperium encourages a different playstyle, making for a broad and replayable experience. The game is mainly focused on building and positioning fleets, as well as engaging in diplomacy with fellow players. Twilight Imperium is a huge game, and not necessarily accessible, not only because it takes roughly six hours to play depending on the player count, but because it requires a heavy amount of strategizing. However, Twilight Imperium is a dramatic and immersive experience that fans of sci-fi space operas are sure to love.

(15) BUDGET BREAKER? Science explains why “Mars Sample Return risks consuming NASA science”. “Forthcoming cost estimate for budget-busting mission could lead to strict caps from Congress.”

…The cost of the mission may become altogether too mighty, however. The most recent official figure now puts it at some $6 billion, up from some $4 billion, and a leaked report suggests that, in one scenario, it could exceed $8 billion. Cost overruns for MSR and a few other large missions have already forced NASA to squeeze or delay other science missions, and calls to rethink—or even kill—Mars Sample Return  have grown. When an independent review of the project delivers a fresh cost estimate later this month, advocates are praying it stays well below $10 billion, which has emerged as a sort of red line for the mission. “It’s fair to say that the future of Mars Sample Return lives and dies with the recommendations of that panel,” says Casey Dreier, chief of space policy at the Planetary Society….

(16) WE’LL GO AT NIGHT. PBS Space-Time wonders “What NEW SCIENCE Would We Discover with a Moon Telescope?”

In order to see the faint light from objects in deepest space, astronomers go to the darkest places on the planet. In order to listen to their quite radio signals, they head as far from any radio-noisy humans as possible. But there’s nowhere on the earth, or even orbiting the Earth, that’s far enough to hear to the faint radio hum from the time before stars. In fact, we may need to build a giant radio telescope in the quietest place in the solar system—the far side of the Moon.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid, over at YouTube’s Media Death Cult, has a new 10-minute video filmed appropriately, in sand dunes, on “How DUNE Became The Biggest Science Fiction Book In The Universe”.

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