Pixel Scroll 1/4/24 It’s 2024, Are Those Godstalks Distimmed Yet?

(1) THE MUSIC OF HEAVY METAL. Maya St. Clair remembers “When Heavy Metal Magazine Made Playlists” at News from the Orb.

When I worked at Heavy Metal magazine, people in my life inevitably assumed it was a publication about heavy metal music. My usual response was “not really,” and I’d describe how Heavy Metal was a comics magazine focused on experimental, adult-rated sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve since realized that a better response would have been “fuck it, probably” — since Heavy Metal, like cosmic background radiation, seemed to presuppose and pervade everything, including music. Name a thing, and Heavy Metal had it: yellow, cyan, black, magenta, rectangles, circles, pterodactyls, Homer, Shakespeare, love, death, superheroes, hamburgers, Jane Fonda, H. P. Lovecraft, boobs, dicks, God, jazz, rockabilly, and (inevitably) heavy metal music, lower case….

St. Clair has compiled playlists at Spotify that emulate some Heavy Metal writers’ Eighties recommendation lists. Including two by my old friend Lou Stathis! Here’s the first —

In 1980, as it reached the height of its influence and circulation, Heavy Metal introduced music criticism by SFF editor/music nerd Lou Stathis and others, in the “Dossier” section. The contrarian Stathis was a fearless advocate for the experimental over the conventional (he hated the fucking Eagles, man, and Bruce Springsteen’s normie-ism was a running joke). Alternative icons like Brian Eno, Genesis, the Cure, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream got their recognition in Heavy Metal, plus uncountable niche bands.

Anyway, the HM squad would occasionally throw together a DJ set, album recs, or mixtape. I’ve consolidated them into playlists on Spotify, linked below….

The Metal Box: Lou Stathis’ 1983 Singles Picks

Stathis sometimes compiled lists of his “heavy rotation” singles and albums. In April 1984, he listed his top picks for the previous year. Some, like Michael Jackson and Eurythmics, are recognizable. Others are supremely obscure.

The Metal Box 1983 on Spotify

(2) ON A TANGENT. Dave Truesdale introduces the “Tangent Online 2023 Recommended Reading List”, once again targeting SFWA as the reason “real world politics” have intruded on the science fiction field. Not because Truesdale is unaware of the history of sf, but because he argues that somehow the Thirties political activism of young sff writers and editors didn’t really count.

For the most part, the literary aspect of the science fiction field proceeded as usual in 2023; the general machinery operated well enough to keep the magazines and books appearing on reasonable schedules, and SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, formerly for decades since its 1965 inception the Science Fiction Writers of America) the field’s one and only member-funded 501(c)(3) tax exempt administrative organization, was still alive and kicking, though to my mind and due to external “real world” politics, took a wrong turn that gave the outside world an entirely misleading picture of the organization as a literary organization, but instead revealed its political advocacy (or lack thereof) on any given issue.…. 

…Politics has entered the SF field directly but sporadically over the past 97 years, since its official birth as a genre began with the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories. Early readers became fans when they corresponded with others through letter columns, and small SF fan clubs began to sprout all over the country. The first SF worldcon was held July 1-4, 1939 in New York City, to coincide with the World’s Fair in the same city. Attendance was in the dozens and many of the members were in their teens. Sam Moskowitz (later to become SF’s premiere historian) chaired, with a few of his friends, this first worldcon at the ripe old age of 19. A group of SF fans known by their club name of the Futurians, led by Donald A. Wollheim (later founder of DAW Books), Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Doc Lowndes, and a few others were at odds with Moskowitz’s group and wanted to attend the worldcon. Many of these young SF fans were fashionably members of the local socialist or communist branches; it was the cool thing to do at the time. Without getting into the details (there were many different accounts given from both sides) the Moskowitz faction turned the Wollheim, Pohl, faction (the Futurians) away and were thus excluded from the convention. This became known in fandom and the early fan press as “The Great Exclusion Act.” Wollheim and Pohl, among others were either in their teens (C.M. Kornbluth 14 or 15, Pohl 19) or early twenties (Wollheim 24, Doc Lowndes 22) and full of headstrong piss and vinegar. That the feud between fan groups and the turning away of some from the worldcon was primarily because of politics was downplayed by Pohl when he wrote in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, “We pretty nearly had it coming,” and then, “What we Futurians made very clear to the rest of New York fandom was that we thought we were better than they were. For some reason that annoyed them.”

So in essence what amounted to an early fan feud between SF fan clubs whose members were still in their teens or early twenties and had little to do with politics, has somehow become the one size fits all go-to argument that supposedly proves politics has always been a part of SF and SF fandom and is thus nothing new….

(3) STAY OR GO? Catherynne M. Valente’s post “On Recent Developments at Substack” at Welcome to Garbagetown analyzes the dilemma of persisting in using that platform.

Many people have reached out to me to discuss Substack’s not-always-stellar history of managing a diverse breadth of opinions and/or policies on monetization.

Let me make it clear: This was always an issue, and I have always been aware of it. It’s gotten worse of late. And now I just feel like Marc Maron trying to figure out what to do with his friends who voted for Trump….

…Yes, Substack has and does allow dipshit fascist transphobic and otherwise morally-cancerous fuckgiblets to post freely and make money from their platform. They also allow a lot of marginalized creators to flourish and make a livelihood here. Like every other site I’ve ever known, all of whom have been incredibly reluctant to crack down on extreme right-wing content despite that very policy allowing it to proliferate wildly and bring us to a very bad historical place. Do I want them to kick out anyone making money on hate? Yep. Do I understand the slippery slope argument about free speech? That it’s much easier to take no stance and allow everything, trusting the users to sort it out, than to take the step of defining what opinions can be allowed to be heard? Yep.

I do not know if I’m going to stay here. I just don’t know. I came to Substack because of the Twitter diaspora. I managed to build a small audience, built mostly on hating fascism and idiocy. I like the community I and all of you have built here and I’m reluctant to migrate and lose people. But I don’t want to support the Badness by being here. And yet, if I go, does that not just abandon another space because bad people are also here, handing them control of yet another hugely-recognized platform, control they could never achieve on their own just on numbers and popularity, while the people who have any moral compass whatsoever have to continually start over from scratch?…

(4) AWARD-WORTHY APPAREL. The “Costume Designers Guild Awards 2024 Nominations” include two sff-specific categories. (See the full list of finalists at the link.)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

  • Barbie – Jacqueline Durran
  • Haunted Mansion – Jeffrey Kurland
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – Trish Summerville
  • The Little Mermaid – Colleen Atwood & Christine Cantella
  • Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire – Stephanie Porter

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

  • Ahsoka: Part Eight: The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord – Shawna Trpcic
  • Loki: 1893 – Christine Wada
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire – Shawna Trpcic
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Pride Parade – Laura Montgomery
  • The Witcher: The Art of the Illusion – Lucinda Wright

(5) OCCIDENTAL OCCULT. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton will teach a three-part online course “Confronting the Spectral: A History of Ghosts in the Western World With Lisa Morton” beginning January 22 through Atlas Obscura Experiences. Full details including schedule and prices at the link.

What We’ll Do

In this three-part lecture series, explore how people have thought about ghosts through time in the Western world.

Course Description

In this course, we’ll trace the history of ghostly encounters reported across the Western world, both friendly and nefarious. We’ll begin with ghosts from the classical world who haunted heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus, and look at the Biblical story of Saul and the Witch of Endor. We’ll meet medieval necromancers, Victorian spiritualists, and finally, the modern ghost-hunter. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a deep understanding of how cultures have conceived of the most common supernatural entity throughout history, but also ideas and suggestions for engaging in your own supernatural investigations.…

(6) SEA DEVILS SPINOFF? “Doctor Who Spinoff Series Seemingly Confirmed, Will Feature Classic Villains” says CBR.com.

A production listing on the Film and Television Industry Alliance website confirmed pre-production has begun on a spinoff series of the massively popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is scheduled to begin filming in March. The listing also provides a brief summary of the project, describing it as a fantasy-action adventure featuring the Sea Devils, an old villain from the classic Doctor Who series.

The listing does not provide any further details about the show’s plot, but it does reveal some of the crew members involved in the project, such as Doctor Who showrunner Russel T Davies set to return as the series’ writer. Other names include producers Phill Collinson, Vicki Delow, Julie Gardner and Lord of the Rings TV series producer Jane Tranter….

…As for when the spinoff series may see a premiere, the listing does not provide any concrete information, though it does confirm the projected filming date of March 4, 2024. …

(7) NEEDS WORK. The Mary Sue’s Charlotte Simmons would like to be a Zack Snyder fan if only the auteur would make that a little easier: “’Rebel Moon’ Proves That Zack Snyder Needs To Grow Up, and I Say That With Love”.

…Sure, it would have given the infamously obnoxious Snyder cult some more ammunition, but more good movies is a win for everybody. Sadly, whatever remotely interesting set dressing Zack Snyder cooked up here was woefully undermined by incoherent storytelling at its most relentless and suffocating character development—nay, the bare essentials of characterization—behind a mountain of formulaic sci-fi battles and dialogue that not even an amateur could be proud of.

Indeed, Rebel Moon is proof in the pudding that Snyder has some serious work to do, and that’s a damn shame, because the nature of his raw creative pursuits is stupendously important in the genres he occupies, which perhaps makes his failures all the more depressing….

(8) OCTOTHORPE CENTURY. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Lis Batty receive a telegram in episode 100 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I Don’t Have Show Notes or Alcohol”.

We celebrate with a bevy of special segments, including ”letters of comment”, “talking about the Glasgow Worldcon”, and “aftershow involving games”. PRETTY ADVANCED STUFF. 

(9) GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024). Actress Glynis Johns, best known to fans as Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) and as a forest maiden who assists Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1955), died January 4 at the age of 100. She also appeared in several episodes of Sixties TV’s Batman as Lady Penelope Peasoup.

…Johns won a Tony for her role as Desiree Armfeldt in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” introducing the song “Send in the Clowns” — written for her by Sondheim. In addition she was Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in 1960’s “The Sundowners.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 66. I encountered Matt Frewer the same way that I suspect most of you did when he was unrecognizable as Max Headroom almost forty years ago. That character debuted in April 1985 in the Channel 4 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It’s virtually identical to the premiere of the American television series, though there might be a bit of foul language if I remember correctly. Or not. 

Two days after it was broadcast, Max hosted on the same channel The Max Headroom Show, a program where he introduced music videos, made pointed comments on various topics, and conducted rather off the wall interviews with guests before a live studio audience. These would eventually be aired in the States on Cinemax.

Max would become a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on way too many TV commercials with the catchphrase “Catch the wave!”.  You can see one of those commercials here

Now we come to the Max Headroom series which on ABC from just March 31, 1987, to May 5, 1988 with just a total of fifteen episodes. Damn it seemed like it lasted longer than that. He, like everyone on the series, was spot on in creating a believable future. I consider it one of the best SF series ever done.

He’s got way too many genre roles to list them all here so let me focus on a few of my favorite ones.

He was Dr. Jim Taggart on Eureka. On screen for a total of eighteen episodes, his Aussie character was the Eureka’s veterinarian and “biological containment specialist”, which means he catches whatever needs to be caught. If it moved and it did something weird, he was after it.

And then he was Dr. Aldous Leekie, the primary Big Bad on the first season of Orphan Black. He was in charge of the handling the clones as if anyone should trust him.

Though I find it hard to believe, the Hallmark Channel produced the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes films. And he was Sherlock Holmes in four of these films — The Sign of FourThe Hound of BaskervillesThe Royal Scandal and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.

My final role for him a silly one indeed, it’s in In Search of Dr. Seuss where he is the Cat in The Hat. This thirty-nine-year-old film is a delightful romp  — Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Hunch, Patrick Stewart is Sgt. Mulvaney, and the list goes on far too long to give in full here. 

And yes, he’s been in a lot of genre films, go ahead and tell me your favorite. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHO IS YOUR HOST. All you Tennant fans pay attention: “David Tennant To Host 2024 BAFTA Film Awards” reports Deadline.

Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant has been set as the host of the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, which take place February 18 at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London….

…Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA, added: “We are over the moon that David Tennant will be our host for the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards. He is deservedly beloved by British and international audiences, alike. His warmth, charm, and mischievous wit will make it a must-watch show next month for our guests at the Royal Festival Hall and the millions of people watching at home….

(13) SEMI-MANDATORY VIEWING. Dylan sang “Everyone Must Get Stoned” but never mind that, CBR.com insists you see these 10 “Must-Watch Sci-Fi Movies For Fans of The Genre”. Or heck, maybe you already have! In the middle of the list comes the film that gave us Ripley.

5. Alien Combined Science and Horror Perfectly

Alien (1979)

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission….

Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s biomechanical designs for the alien artifacts and creatures helped turn a great movie into an incredible one. With a story that starts out similarly to Forbidden Planet, in which a space crew investigates a distress signal, the film is transformed into an intense thriller with a horrifying Alien Xenophorph stalking and killing the crew. With stunning visuals and a premise too good for just one movie, Alien spawned a multi-media franchise that has entertained for more than four decades.

(14) MORE PICKUP. And it’s arguably appropriate to follow a mention of the Alien series (“Get away from her you bitch!”) with Giant Freakin Robot’s news item “Exoskeletons Take Huge Step Toward Becoming Common”.

Science fiction would appear to be becoming nonfiction in Europe. Indeed, in Italy, a groundbreaking pilot project involving real-life exoskeletons achieved exciting results. The Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea and the Livorno Port Company reported marked advantages using the exoskeletal tech, developed by IUVO and Comau (a subsidiary of Stellantis)….

…The workers regularly undertook strenuous tasks: loading and unloading goods, relocating heavy loads, and securing containers onto ships. Without the sci-fi-reminiscent exoskeletons, these activities are notoriously exhausting. They also pose genuine risks of introducing musculoskeletal disorders.

The initial evaluations conducted by IUVO and Comau involved measuring muscle activity and gathering feedback through questionnaires–all to assess the perceived drop in fatigue. The findings were overwhelmingly positive. Laborers reportedly adjusted well to the novel technology, additionally recognizing the exoskeleton’s significant impact on their efficiency and physical well-being. 

Based on the data, utilizing MATE XT and MATE XB technologies can potentially lessen the effort required by workers.

By how much? As much as thirty percent….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended crew knows “How Batman Should Have Ended” – meaning the version where Michael Keaton is Batman and Jack Nicholson is The Joker.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/23 Warning – Spindizzy Recall! Your City May Auto-Return Abruptly!

(1) TO THE NASFIC AND BEYOND. A chapter of Sandra Bond’s Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip saga appears in the new issue of Geri Sullivan’s fanzine Idea 13. Says S&ra, “It contains my report on Pemmi-Con with detailed thoughts on What Went Wrong With It And Why.”

Day thirteen of TAFF, unlucky for some. Sandra Bond – already befuddled by her travels and overwhelmed by the generosity of North American fans – has left Minneapolis and has hitched a lift with Minnesota fans Curt Gibson and Alice Ableman in Curt’s mom’s SUV, riding north for NASFiC. No, you haven’t missed any previous instalments; they will be published elsewhere, in due course, and eventually a complete version will follow. I’m starting with this chapter, partly because Geri is publishing it and chapter 1 will largely be about her as my first host, and partly in order to air some issues arising from Pemmi-Con while the iron, so to speak, is hot….

Here’s a taste of those hot iron issues. Think of it as what the 2023 Worldcon experience would have looked like if Chengdu had not wrested it away from Winnipeg.

… (The programme as a whole showed every sign of having been thrown together by robots with no human eyes; for instance, the registration field had a space for you to enter your “organization.” I had put “TAFF”, which was fine, but Tanya Huff had foolishly essayed a little joke by putting “I am not at all organized” in that field, and was rewarded by having that phrase appended to her name on every single programme item featuring her. Others were flagged as variations on “n/a” or “–”, or found themselves billed as representing the organisation of “Myself” (Rich Horton) or “Julie E. Czerneda” (go on, guess). And Nisi Shawl – a fucking guest of honor, and consequently on many programme items – was accompanied on every occasion by the tag “I believe you already have my bio and photo.” Apparently they didn’t, since her “photo” was the generic one used for people who hadn’t supplied any.)…

(2) WHEN NEEDS MUST. The BBC interviewed a fan who remembers “When Tom Baker popped in to watch Doctor Who”. The experience wasn’t quite like when Dustin Hoffman needed to see “Wapner” in Rain Man, but was not entirely unlike it, either.

The time is November 1976, and the space is the Nuneaton branch of Radio Rentals, the old TV stockist that was once a familiar high street fixture. Pauline Bennett remembers being on shift there when a “very smart chap” walks in with a strange request.

“He came in about five o’clock and said he and Tom Baker needed to watch the Doctor Who episode that was going to be on shortly,” she said.

Titular star Baker had been travelling back from the show’s exhibition in Blackpool with BBC manager Terry Sampson when the pair were delayed by fog.

They had turned off the motorway heading for the town, hoping to persuade someone to let them watch the show, the first to feature filming at an outside location, she explained….

(3) FREE AT LAST. Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, tells us what we can look forward to on “Public Domain Day 2024” at the Duke University School of Law blog.

On January 1, 2024, thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. This year’s highlights include Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, and a trove of sound recordings from 1923. And, of course, 2024 marks the long-awaited arrival of Steamboat Willie – featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse – into the public domain. That story is so fascinating, so rich in irony, so rife with misinformation about what you will be able to do with Mickey and Minnie now that they are in the public domain that it deserved its own article, “Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle.” Why is it a love triangle? What rights does Disney still have? How is trademark law involved? Read all about it here. …

(4) NO WAITING FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN HERE. In “’Gale: Stay Away From Oz’ Offers a Horror Take on ‘The Wizard of Oz’”, The Mary Sue reminds everyone this 30-minute short already was released in September.

…In 2023, The Wizard of Oz books by L. Frank Baum entered the public domain. That means anyone can take those characters or the world of Oz and reimagine them in brand-new stories. The independent short horror film Gale: Stay Away From Oz does just that. According to IMDBGale‘s official summary is “Long gone are the days of emerald cities and yellow brick roads. In this dark re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale is now an elderly woman, broken by years of paranormal entanglement with a mystical realm.” Emily Gale, the granddaughter of Dorothy, reconnects with her grandmother and the mystical realm that haunts her.

Unlike Winnie the Pooh, which also got the horror treatment, the original stories of Dorothy already lend themselves to the horror genre. Who hasn’t watched Return to Oz and felt terrified? With Gale: Stay Away From Oz, it seems like the curse of Oz haunts any of Dorothy’s descendants, which makes for an even creepier connection. So when is Gale: Stay Away From Oz coming out and where can you watch it?…

(5) AT THE NIMOY. “Mr. Spock’s Widow Puts on a Show” – and The New Yorker profiles her.

The other day, Susan Bay Nimoy—actress, writer, director, philanthropist, and widow of Leonard—stood at the entrance of a historic Art Deco theatre in Westwood, which she had helped to restore and convert to a live-performance space. On the marquee, lit bulbs spelled out the theatre’s new name: the Nimoy.

“There’s a lot of history,” Bay Nimoy, an exuberant eighty-year-old, said. “I called Jane Fonda and asked if she would come to the press opening, because her mother, Frances, funded the theatre.” More history: during the Second World War, newsreels played at the theatre; “Dr. Strangelove” had its first L.A. screening there, in 1964. Two decades later, when Disney managed the theatre, “Three Men and a Baby” was the opening film. Leonard was the director; Bay Nimoy accompanied him to the première. “It was certainly in the eighties, because I wore a black suit with big shoulder pads, with a lot of jewelled things on them,” she said….

… “Leonard and I came from very poor backgrounds. His father was a barber. My dad was an accountant,” Bay Nimoy said. The couple invested their Hollywood earnings in California real estate and contemporary art. “Leonard was not a fancy person,” she went on. When they met, she said, “I was driving a Honda.” Their goal was to give their children—he had two, she had one—a buffer, and no more. “They will not be gabillionaires, but they have a leg up,” she said. “And the rest we’re giving away.” They built a Jewish day school (their rabbi asked them to), a new theatre at Griffith Observatory (Leonard loved outer space), and a theatre for Symphony Space, in New York (where Leonard used to perform short stories)….

(6) NOTHING YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT OF YOURSELF. Maris Kreizman tells New York Times Readers “Let’s Rescue Book Lovers From This Online Hellscape”.  

… In an ideal world — one in which it wasn’t owned by Amazon — Goodreads would have the functionality of a site like Letterboxd, the social network for movie fans. Letterboxd has called itself “Goodreads for movies” but it has far surpassed that initial tag line, having figured out how to create a smooth and intuitive user experience, provide a pleasant and inviting community and earn revenue from both optional paid memberships and advertisers, including studios that produce the films being discussed. Meanwhile, publishers still rely on Goodreads to find potential readers, but targeted advertising has grown both less affordable and less effective.

So how to fix it? It starts with people: Goodreads desperately needs more human moderation to monitor the goings-on. Obviously, part of any healthy discussion is the ability to express displeasure — those one-star reviews, ideally accompanied by well-argued rationales, are sacrosanct — but Goodreads has enabled the weaponization of displeasure.

It’s not just fledgling authors being pummeled. Earlier this year, Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” decided to withdraw a forthcoming novel, “The Snow Forest,” after Goodreads users bombarded its page with one-star reviews objecting primarily to the fact that the novel (which no one had yet read) was set in Russia and would be published at a time when Russia and Ukraine were at war. There is most likely no way to eliminate personal attacks entirely from the site — or from the internet, for that matter — but having more human beings on hand to mitigate the damage would certainly improve the experience.

Fortifying the guard rails wouldn’t be that difficult. Currently Goodreads uses volunteer librarians who add new books to the site’s database in their free time. Hiring these people (and scores more like them) and paying them a living wage would empower Goodreads’s representatives to communicate with publishers, large and small, to facilitate posting books to the site when, and only when, a book has actually been written and edited and is ready to be shared with the world….

(7) CURING YOUR WHO HANGOVER. In the unlikely event that you need somebody to explain the Doctor Who Christmas Special to you, The Hollywood Reporter has volunteered. “’Doctor Who’ Christmas Special “The Church on Ruby Road,” Explained”. For everyone else, beware spoilers. The following excerpt is a little spoilery though not prohibitively so, I thought.

…Initially, Mrs. Flood would appear to be just a normal neighbor. Nothing unusual about her, until we see her sitting down to enjoy the TARDIS dematerializing. Something that most humans would balk at.

However, not for Mrs. Flood. In fact, at the end of the episode, she says to her understandably shocked neighbor (who also witnessed The Doctor’s ship disappearing), “Never seen a TARDIS before?”

And, if this wasn’t enough, she looks directly down the camera and winks. Mrs. Flood is clearly someone to be reckoned with, and undoubtedly will make a return. But is she a familiar character in the Whoniverse? (Time Lords change their appearance quite regularly.) Or, is this a new friend/foe for The Doctor? Names have often hinted at deeper connections and meanings in Doctor Who (see Melody Pond and River Song, for example) — is there a clue here?

Mrs. Flood is played by Anita Dobson, who will be known to many in the U.K. as she made a name for herself as alcoholic landlady Angie Watts in the BBC’s long-running soap, Eastenders. An accomplished stage actress, Dobson is also married to Brian May, guitarist for rock outfit Queen (who’ve had a number of songs feature memorably in Doctor Who, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”)….

(8) IT ONLY GETS WORSE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Did you get new clothes for Christmas? Then beware Jólakötturinn, the gigantic Yule Cat, which will chase you down and eat you if you don’t wear those clothes! “Meet the Yule Cat, an Icelandic folklore beast who eats children” on NPR.

… That’s right. A child’s worst nightmare — new clothes under the tree — could only be outdone by a somehow worse nightmare, being devoured by a ferocious feline that hunts down children caught not wearing their new clothes.

The tale of Jólakötturinn, which translates to Yule Cat, is an Icelandic Christmas classic dating back to at least 1932, according to the Icelandic Folklore website, a research project managed by the University of Iceland….

(9) THE COMPUTER SAYS ‘CHEESE!’ “A.I. Is the Future of Photography. Does That Mean Photography Is Dead?” wonders Gideon Jacobs in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

John Szarkowski, the legendary curator at the MoMA, once described photography as “the act of pointing.” And for the nearly 200 years since its inception, photography has consisted of capturing a visual perspective from the physical world using light — first with light-sensitive plates, then film, then digital sensors. When digital cameras became widely available, many photographers lamented the move away from analog technology but basically Szarkowski’s definition still held: Photography consists of pointing, as a reaction to something that exists in the world.

With advent of A.I. image generators, however, this definition feels obsolete.

Generative A.I. tools can produce photorealistic images, typically in response to written prompts. These images are available for purchase from major stock photography agencies, alongside traditional photos. They routinely go viral before being debunked. They even occasionally win prestigious photography prizes. All if which has reignited a two-centuries-old debate: What exactly qualifies as a photograph?

… Artists, writers and theorists have long remarked on our very human tendency to project slippery ideas about truth onto two dimensional surfaces. In 1921, Franz Kafka was told about a miraculous machine that could automatically take one’s portrait, a “mechanical Know-Thyself.” He offered up his own name for the apparatus: “The Mistake-Thyself.” Kafka was ahead of his time — in Susan Sontag’s 1977 essay “In Plato’s Cave,” she wrote, “Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.” Each photograph, she argued, is inevitably the product of countless decisions informed, consciously or not, by the photographer’s predilections and biases, as well as the limits and parameters of the technology.

So when I hear some people calling the arrival of A.I. an extinction-level event for photography, I often think of the French painter Paul Delaroche who, legend has it, declared painting “dead” after seeing a daguerreotype, one of the first photographic inventions. Painting did not die; it just evolved into a different kind of artistry, freed from the obligations of verisimilitude….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 26, Elisha Cook, Jr. (Died 1995.) His first major role was the psychopathic killer Wilmer Cook in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. Yeah there are two versions, I’ve never seen the earlier version. Anyone here seen it? 

Now as for genre roles, his first was a Boris Korloff film, Voodoo Island, in which he was Martin Schuyler. Adam West is here in his first film role, uncredited.

His next horror film with Vincent Price, House on Haunted Hill, in which he was Watson Pritchard, is interesting because exterior shots of the house were filmed at the historic Ennis House in Los Feliz, California, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924.

Here’s a curious one for you. The Haunted Palace is a horror film starring Vincent Price Lon Chaney Jr. in which he’s Micah Smith / Peter Smith. The film was marketed as based on a Poe title but only the title is from him – the plot is from Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” novella.

I saw Rosemary’s Baby once in which he played Mr. Nicklas. That was more than enough, thank you.  Hey, he’s in the original The Night Stalker movie as Mickey Crawford. Neat. And next up is being Gordon “Weasel” Phillips in Salem’s Lot, a scary film indeed.

Most memorable series appearance? As Samuel T. Cogley, Esq in Star Trek’s “Court Martial” episode of course. He also made a Wild, Wild West appearance as Gideon McCoy in “The Night of the Bars of Hell”, the new Twilight Zone in “Welcome to Winfield” as Weldon, The Bionic Woman in “Once a Thief” as Inky and in ALF in “We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert” as Uncle Albert.  Oh, and his first television appearance was on the Adventures of Superman in “Semi-Private Eye” as Homer Garrity.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) EJECT! Arturo Serrano declares “Rebel Moon is the most Snyder that Snyder has ever been” at Nerds of a Feather. And that’s not a good thing.

One could summarize Rebel Moon as “the Zack Snyder of Star Wars,” which would sound mean-spirited if it weren’t its literal description. Conceived originally as Snyder’s pitch for Lucasfilm and eventually rescued by Netflix, Rebel Moon files off the Star Wars serial numbers just enough to prevent lawsuits from the Mouse. As you would expect, it tells the story of a loosely assembled team of impromptu freedom fighters who rise up against a brutal interstellar empire. A tale as old as time, and one that Lucasfilm has kept profitable for nine movies and I forget how many TV shows. But Snyder’s version of this formula, stripped of its identifiable markers for legal reasons, becomes a nameless, featureless collection of plot beats and cool poses. If there was ever a time when the infamous itch for canceling everything at Netflix could be used for good, it’s now. There’s no need for a Rebel Moon Part 2, or for all the multimedia spinoffs Snyder is reportedly preparing. This is not the galaxy you’re looking for….

(13) TO HELL AND MAYBE BACK. Disney+ has started airing the new series based on Rick Riordan’s YA fictionalization of Greek myth: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Quest Begins in New Clip” from Comicbook.com.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is gearing up to kick off its quest. The serialized adaptation of Rick Riordan‘s best-selling novels made its surprise debut on December 19th, dropping its first two episodes six hours ahead of schedule in the Tuesday primetime slot. This came with the announcement that all future episodes of Percy Jackson would get the primetime treatment, as the rest of Season 1 will premiere at 9 PM ET. The last fans saw, Percy (Walker Scobell) was officially claimed by his father, Poseidon, and given the news that he must lead a cross-country quest to retrieve Zeus’s (Lance Reddick) stolen master bolt. The belief is that Hades (Jay Duplass) stole it out of jealousy and is keeping it in the Underworld….

(14) STRANGE NEW WORLDS. We hear from the Guardian “How the James Webb telescope is ‘set to find strange and bizarre worlds’”.

There is a distant world where quartz crystals float above a searing hot, puffy atmosphere. Vaporised sand grains, not water droplets, form the clouds that fill the sky on Wasp-107b, a planet 1,300 light years from Earth.

Then there is GJ1214, the sauna planet. With a mass eight times that of Earth, it orbits its parent star at a distance that is one-seventieth of the gap between Earth and the sun and seems to be coated in a thick dense atmosphere containing vast amounts of steam.

Or there are the giant, Jupiter-sized planets of the Orion Nebula which have been discovered free-floating in space, rogue worlds that appear to be unconnected to any parent star – to the bafflement of astronomers….

(15) A YEAR’S WORTH OF SCREEN TIME. Gizmodo picks out the “40 Most Memorable Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Movie Moments of 2023”. Here’s one example:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Jarnathan Arrives

This is the moment you knew Honor Among Thieves absolutely got Dungeons & Dragons. It’s an incredible set-up to a gag that builds over the opening scenes, establishing the roguish humor of our heroes, throwing a loving curveball to an esoteric D&D race, and of course giving us the most perfect ass-pull of a character name that feels like a Dungeon Master made it up for an NPC on the spot mid-improv. Oh Jarnathan, indeed.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Our Pros bring Wednesday Addams to the Strictly Ballroom” from the BBC.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/23 He Was Scrolling Pixels When Scrolling Pixels Wasn’t Cool

(1) FOR ART’S SAKE. If you want to read “Bodily Autonomy in the Murderbot Diaries: Martha Wells Interviews Herself and ART” you need to buy F(r)iction’s “The Bodies Issue (No. 20)” – digital for $12, print & digital for $20. But Murderbot, right?!

(2) GET READY FOR SMOFCON $ALE. Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Chair, Smofcon 41announced they will be having a post holiday membership sale! From December 26-31, attending memberships will be $65! Get yours, they’ll never be any lower! Sign up here starting next week: “Membership – Smofcon 41”

(3) WORLDCON BID Q&A SESSIONS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] SMOFCon 40 allowed the Worldcon Events YouTube channel to extract the presentations from past and future Worldcons and from those bids who had representatives either in person or remotely.

I tried to trim these down to just the presentations/Q&A, not including the changeover time between presenters or any issues with getting the tech set up.

There were presentations from the following Worldcons and bids:

None of the other bids that have previously announced interest and that are currently listed on our Worldcon bids page (Tel Aviv in 2027, Brisbane in 2028, Texas in 2031, Minneapolis in 2073) had representatives at SMOFCon 40.

(4) TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN. Tom Emanuel of the University of Glasgow is looking for nonreligious people to interview about Tolkien:

Are you a fan of The Lord of the Rings? Do you identify as nonreligious? Would you be interested in talking to me (Tom Emanuel) for 1-2 hours about why you love Tolkien?

If you answered “yes” I would love it if you filled out this questionnaire for my PhD research at the University of Glasgow!

Robin Anne Reid forwarded the request with a couple of links to Tom’s previous scholarship that is open-access if people are interested in seeing what sort of work he does in Tolkien scholarship. 

(5) GOBLIN SONG FALLING AFTER SPLASH DEBUT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After climbing to number 12 in its first week in release, Doctor Who’s “The Goblin Song” has now slipped to 52 on UK charts.

There had been a concerted campaign to make it number one.

(6) MIKE NUSSBAUM (1924-2023). [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Actor Mike Nussbaum was The Principal in Field of Dreams, Gentle Rosenberg in Men in Black, Yuri Rosanov in Early Edition, and Mr. Wallace in The Water Engine. Look the last one up, it’s fascinating. No series work at all of a genre nature save a character on the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas called Nathaniel Harris. 

Deadline’s complete tribute is here: “Mike Nussbaum Dies: Veteran Actor In ‘Men In Black’ And ‘Fatal Attraction’ Was 99”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

December 23, 1960 Twilight Zone’s “The Night of The Meek”

On December 23rd in 1960, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. It was one of the six episodes of the second season which was shot on videotape in a failed attempt saved to cut costs. Networks and their bean counters.

This was a Christmas themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. But before we learn that we have this opening scene and narration:

As snow begins to fall, a drunk Henry Corwin ((Carney) wearing his Santa Claus suit, leans against a curbside lamppost. He is approached by two tenement children begging for toys, a Christmas dinner, and “a job for my daddy.” As he begins to sob, the camera turns to Rod Serling standing on the sidewalk:

This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely popular American institution, that of the department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’. But in just a moment Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found… in the Twilight Zone.

The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. 

Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”,  but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties for reasons never made clear and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series. The series runs on Paramount+ now in its original full, uncensored version. The line is still missing from all the DVD versions.

John Fielder who is Mister Dundee here would have a second Twilight Zone appearance in “Cavander is Coming” in which he has the lead as the Angel Harmon Cavender.

Oh, and let’s note that it’s a cat that mysteriously starts off this tale by knocking down a large burlap bag full of empty cans, which when Corwin trips over it, is then filled with gifts. See cats are magical! 

Serling ends with this narration:

A word to the wise to all the children of the Twentieth Century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek. And a Merry Christmas to each and all.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s Christmas shopping advice.
  • Or maybe the person on your list has dropped a heavy hint?

(9) SNYDERVERSE’S LATEST. Camestros Felapton has a very wry way of telling everyone how little he thinks of Zack Snyder’s new production: “Review: Rebel Moon (Netflix)”. There are three or four lines even funnier than this:

…This is Part 1 of 2. The Seven Samurai haven’t got to the village yet, Thanos knows Gamora is leading them and Darth Vader isn’t actually dead (spoiler), so there is a lot to expect in Part 2 including the whereabouts of the magic space princess….

(10) THE VOICE-CLOCK SANG. The National Review pointed readers to “Ray Bradbury’s ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’” with a commentary by Luther Ray Abel that says in part:

…Something splendid this way comes from “Rains”: its treatment of the works of man. Even the seemingly immortal machines we build — contraptions subservient to our whims and intelligence that can operate without our input — will disappear in time, much faster than one would expect, even.

There’s this idea from the utopianists among us, many of them progressives, that technology will undergird the socialist state — that objects will remove the necessity for man to do and to make, and, ultimately, be answerable for anything. Scruton refuted this irrational optimism as only he could, “[Political optimists] ignore or despise the findings of experience and common sense. The millions dead or enslaved do not refute utopia, but merely give proof of the evil machinations that have stood in its way.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, but with its false promises, we pick through the ruins of Babel and dream of raising her again. Man cannot save himself, even with infinite microprocessors and processes. To think of technology as anything other than a temporary salve — a way to soften the effects of the Fall — is folly; the family vaporized on the wall of their home consider the purported benefits of progress fatally unfulfilling….

(11) TYPE LIKE TOLKIEN. Slashfilm has its Eye on “Cool Stuff: Colorful Lord Of The Rings Custom Keyboards Come In Elvish, The Black Speech & More”.

Taking cues from the various realms of Middle-earth… Drop’s keyboards and keycaps utilize various fantastical languages, including Elvish, Dwarvish, and even the sparsely spoken Black Speech that adorns the Ring of Power, to give your mundane keyboard a beautiful upgrade. Don’t worry if you don’t speak any of those languages fluently; these keyboards still have English where needed to define keys you might not use frequently….

With another green color scheme, you might also be interested in the Elvish keyboard featuring custom artwork by OSHETART depicting the Two Trees of Valinor (because the time of the elves is not over)….

(12) CHECKING IT TWICE. Santa’s feeling the last-minute stress, too, in this old Emsh cover for Galaxy Magazine.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/23 Never Feed Pixels During A Blood Moon. Why? That I Wasn’t Told

(1) NEW VONDA MCINTYRE COLLECTION. Clarion West has announced that Little Sisters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction by Clarion West founder and life-long supporter, Vonda N. McIntyre, will be released April 23, 2024 and is available for preorder now.

With story notes by Una McCormack, this collection spans the whole of McIntyre’s career, showing the broad range of her interests and her voice, taking us from bleak dystopian worlds on the verge of environmental collapse to baroque intergalactic civilizations populated by genetically modified humans; from cries for freedom to sharp-eyed satire to meditations on aging.

Published by Gold SF, an imprint of Goldsmiths Press dedicated to discovering and publishing new intersectional feminist science fiction, the collection captures McIntyre’s distinctive themes of gender and power dynamics, human and species diversity, and a pragmatic utopianism that emphasizes our mutual dependency.

Featuring previously uncollected stories from McIntyre’s earlier career, including her first published piece, “Breaking Point” (1970), as well as McIntyre’s last two vivid and provocative pieces, the award-nominated “Little Faces” (2005) and “Little Sisters” (2015). One story, “XYY,” was intended for The Last Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison, and we are pleased to present it here for the first time. 

The ten stories in this collection include:

  • Breaking Point
  • Thanatos 
  • Shadows, Moving 
  • Elfleda 
  • A Story for Eilonwy 
  • Malheur Maar 
  • The Adventure of the Field Theorems 
  • Little Faces 
  • Little Sisters 
  • XYY

Clarion West is also actively seeking a publisher for The Curve of the World, Vonda’s last manuscript. Direct inquiries about that work and Vonda’s other stories to Jennifer Goloboy with the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

(2) AND WHEN IT ENDS, NO ONE CATCHES IT. The Westercon business meeting held at last weekend’s Loscon voted “None of the Above” when asked to pick a 2025 site, for reasons explained in Kevin Standlee’s post “Westercon 77 Site Selection Detailed Results”. Then they authorized a Caretaker Committee of Kevin and Lisa Hayes to consider proposals that may be made to host the con.

No bids filed to host the 2025 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 77). Nineteen voting fees were paid to vote in the election at Westercon 75 (Loscon 49) In Los Angeles on November 24, 2023, and nineteen ballots were cast. The detailed results were reported to the Westercon 75 Business Meeting on November 25. As there were no filed bids, none of the write-in votes were for valid candidates, and consequently None of the Above won, referring the selection to the Business Meeting.

The Westercon 75 Business Meeting awarded Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes, with the understanding that this committee will entertain proposals from groups that want to host the 2025 Westercon and select from among them, then transferring the right host Westercon 77 to one of those groups. The Caretaker Committee will announce additional details on how they will proceed before the end of 2023.

(3) HOW DISCREET. Futurism uncovered that “Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers”.

…There was nothing in Drew Ortiz’s author biography at Sports Illustrated to suggest that he was anything other than human.

“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”

The only problem? Outside of Sports Illustrated, Drew Ortiz doesn’t seem to exist. He has no social media presence and no publishing history. And even more strangely, his profile photo on Sports Illustrated is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”

Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author published by Sports Illustrated, according to a person involved with the creation of the content who asked to be kept anonymous to protect them from professional repercussions.

“There’s a lot,” they told us of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”…

… After we reached out with questions to the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated‘s site without explanation.

Initially, our questions received no response. But after we published this story, an Arena Group spokesperson provided the following statement that blamed a contractor for the content…

A disclaimer has been added to the pages noting that “a 3rd party” created the content and that Sports Illustrated editorial staff were not involved.

However, the article includes examples of the same issue with The Arena Group’s other publications.  

…Though Sports Illustrated‘s AI-generated authors and their articles disappeared after we asked about them, similar operations appear to be alive and well elsewhere in The Arena Group’s portfolio.

Take TheStreet, a financial publication cofounded by Jim Cramer in 1996 that The Arena Group bought for $16.5 million in 2019. Like at Sports Illustrated, we found authors at TheStreet with highly specific biographies detailing seemingly flesh-and-blood humans with specific areas of expertise — but with profile photos traceable to that same AI face website. And like at Sports Illustrated, these fake writers are periodically wiped from existence and their articles reattributed to new names, with no disclosure about the use of AI….

And there are further examples of other companies that have been detected running AI-generated content.

Deadline’s coverage of the Futurism news item includes the response from the Sports Illustrated Union: “Sports Illustrated Writers “Horrified” By Report About AI-Generated Stories”.

…Shortly after noon today, the Sports Illustrated Union, which bills itself as a the publication’s “united editorial staff” organized under the New Guild of New York, issued a response on social media….

(4) AI IMPACT ON PUBLISHING. Last night BBC Radio4’s Front Row general arts program took on “AI and publishing, terrible record covers, Fred D’Aguiar”.

Michael Connelly is one of several authors suing the tech company OpenAI for “theft” of his work. Nicola Solomon, outgoing Society of Authors CEO, and Sean Michaels, one of the first novelists to use AI, discuss the challenges and opportunities facing writers on the cusp of a new technological era.

(5) BANKS APPRECIATION. Eurogamer devotes an article to“Remembering Iain Banks: a prolific, terrific talent”.

…In 1996’s Excession, the fourth of Banks’s sci-fi novels set in the symbiotic human/machine intergalactic utopia of the Culture, artificial intelligence clever-clogs known as Minds entertain themselves by experimenting with the options sliders on virgin galaxies to analyse the pinballing ways in which they might evolve. This God Mode mucking about is interrupted when an inscrutable but all-powerful onyx sphere appears on the edge of Culture space. In interviews at the time Banks likened that plot development to the stomach-dropping sensation in Civilization of seeing a fleet of AI-controlled ironclad warships on the horizon when your fledgling society has barely mastered clay pots and raffia mats….

(6) A YEAR FROM NOW. Loscon 50 “Celebrating 50 Loscons” will be held next Thanksgiving Weekend at the LAX Hilton. Congratulations to the GoHs!

Guests of Honor
Writer: SPIDER ROBINSON
Musical Artist: KATHY MAR
Artist: DR. LAURA BRODIAN FREAS BERAHA
Ghost Artist: FRANK KELLY FREAS
Fan: GENNY DAZZO AND CRAIG MILLER

(7) NO CAPES ALLOWED. “Zack Snyder’s Cut: Filmmaker Talks Rebel Moon on Netflix, DC Movies” – a profile in the Hollywood Reporter.

…“It’s a compulsion,” Snyder admits on a balmy November day at his compound in the hills above Pasadena. He’s sitting in his home office, a modernist cube that also contains a screening room, an editing bay and a gym. Steps away is the pottery studio Snyder recently constructed on the property for his new hobby. Not far from that, near the pickleball court, is his family’s sprawling dwelling, a midcentury glass-and-concrete structure that bears more than a passing resemblance to Bruce Wayne’s house in Snyder’s 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Snyder’s compulsion to mold — and pull apart — has made him one of the most argued-about directors of the past couple of decades. To some, he was the savior of the DC superhero universe. To others, he was its destroyer. But his latest film, Rebel Moon, is something of a departure from his career trajectory up till now, a shift in genres, if not necessarily in tone or ambition, and perhaps a refreshing change of pace from the controversy magnets he was making in the 2010s. For one thing, his new film contains not a single comic book character for him to darkly reimagine. Instead, it’s a big-budget space epic about a group of outlaw rebels on a remote planetoid who battle an evil empire. Think Star Wars, only grittier, more violent, sexier and R-rated (at least in the negotiated director’s cut, but more on that later).

Ironically, Rebel Moon arrives on Netflix on Dec. 22, the very same date that Snyder’s former home, Warner Bros., will be releasing Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Snyder had nothing to do with that sequel, but technically it’s the final film in the so-called SnyderVerse, the constellation of DC comic book-inspired pictures — some of which Snyder directed, some of which he produced, most featuring actors he initially cast, like Henry Cavill in 2013’s Man of Steel, and Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa in the original 2016 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — that all carry Snyder’s inimitable underglaze…. 

(8) THE SANDMAN. Variety shares a message from Neil Gaiman: “’The Sandman’ Season 2 Resumes Production, Neil Gaiman Pens Fan Letter”. Read Gaiman’s letter at the link.

Netflix has resumed production on Season 2 of “The Sandman” in London after it was initially interrupted by the Hollywood strikes.

The news comes on the 35th anniversary of the DC comic book series on which the show is based. Neil Gaiman, who wrote the comics and developed the TV series, celebrated the occasion with a letter to fans promising that “good things are coming.” Netflix also shared a new photo that shows Tom Sturridge, who plays Dream, and Mason Alexander Park, who plays Desire, on set….

(9) A WRITER WHO SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED. Rich Horton’s obituary of D.G. Compton is posted at Black Gate: “David Guy Compton, August 19, 1930 — November 10, 2023”.

… It was always clear that Compton was a major writer who never found a mass audience. And so he received two awards that were aimed at bringing deserved attention to neglected writers: the SFWA Author Emeritus in 2007, and the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2021….

(10) TAKING A BITE OUT OF COLLECTORS. The Wikipedia article on “Vampire killing kit” buries the lede, which I suppose is fitting to the subject, but gets there eventually.

…The items within vampire killing kits often date to the 19th century, although they may be combined with items such as paper labels that are significantly more recent.[1][8]

The kit in the collection of the Royal Armouries contains a pocket pistol dating from around the middle of the 19th century, wooden stakes with a mallet, a crucifix, jars for holy water, soil and garlic, a rosary, and an 1851 Book of Common Prayer.[3] The case has been assessed as dating to around 1920, although the full kit was likely assembled circa 1970 or later.[9]

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 29, Madeleine L’Engle. (Died 2007.) I first encountered her not as a genre writer but through her more literary work in the form of her Katherine Forrester Vigneras series, A Small Rain and A Severed Wasp which tell the tale of a woman who’s a pianist, first in her teens and then when she’s in her seventies. Most decidedly worth reading.

Then came the Time Quintet of A Wrinkle in TimeA Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Truly extraordinary novels. I see that A Wrinkle in Time won a Newberry Award which it richly deserved. 

I did not know until I was writing this up that there was a second series of four novels set a generation after these novels. Who’s read them?

There’s serious amounts of her writing that I’ve not touched upon as I’ve not read them, her in-depth Christian writings, her Children’s books, her non-fiction, her poetry and her more literature undertakings. Even a play was done by her. 

I did see the 2003 four miniseries version of A Wrinkle in Time that Disney did and I share what L’Engle told Time: “I have glimpsed it. I expected it to be bad, and it is.”  And we will not talk about the Disney 2018 A Wrinkle in Time film as polite company doesn’t do that. 

She would receive a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WHERE BEAR? THERE CASTLE. The New York Times finds that “With an Artist’s Help, Paddington Can Go Anywhere”. “For nearly 1,000 straight days, Jason Chou has inserted Paddington, the anthropomorphized bear, into absurd situations. He has no plans to stop.”

(14) VIRTUAL MONUMENTS. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Reminds me of something from William Gibson – the “locational art” from “Spook Country”, “The Statue Wars Turn to Cyberspace” in The New Yorker.

…Brewster is a co-founder of the Kinfolk Foundation, an organization attempting to remake the city’s streetscape with an app. In 2017, Brewster was working at Google, and he was among the many local activists who tried and failed to persuade lawmakers to remove the towering statue of Christopher Columbus on Fifty-ninth Street. “We were, like, ‘All right, we lost that one,’ ” Brewster recalled. “So we started creating monuments.”

Each was fashioned not from bronze or marble but from bits and bytes in the cloud, visible only on screens using augmented reality. “You can build hundreds of digital monuments for the price of one physical one,” he said.

He believes that in a nation where there are ten times as many monuments honoring mermaids as honoring U.S. congresswomen, and where statues of Robert E. Lee outnumber those of Frederick Douglass, having more diverse monuments makes more sense….

… This week, without permission from the city’s bureaucrats, Kinfolk is placing four new statues around town. The installations were created in collaboration with the Black artists Hank Willis Thomas, Pamela Council, Derrick Adams, and Tourmaline. Thomas’s piece is a three-hundred-foot Afro pick in the East River, looming over the Brooklyn Bridge. Adams designed two huge statues representing Alma and Victor Hugo Green, who, in the nineteen-thirties, began publishing the “Green Book” travel guide, which identified businesses around the U.S. that welcomed Black customers. Tourmaline explained, of Kinfolk, “It’s kind of like Pokémon Go. You didn’t know it was there—until you did.”…

(15) DON’T LET THE SOUND OF YOUR OWN MEALS DRIVE YOU CRAZY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Scientist believe they have found a pattern of brain activity that helps explain misophonia—an abnormal reaction to sounds that may include anger, disgust, panic, and other strong emotions or physical reactions. Triggers may include eating sounds (chewing, slurping, smacking, etc.), repetitive clicking or tapping sounds (e.g., clock ticks), and more. “What is misophonia? Causes and why the sound of chewing angers some” at USA Today.

Misophonia is a complex disorder that causes decreased tolerance to specific sounds or stimuli associated with those sounds. It was named and described for the first time in the early 2000s, yet a survey conducted earlier this year found that just 11% of people knew about it.

Noises such as chewing, slurping, sniffing and heavy breathing are common triggers, as well as clicking, tapping and other repetitive noises that come from objects like clocks and fans….

…“People without misophonia struggle to understand it because they also don’t like certain sounds, in the same way that people don’t understand ADHD because they relate to having trouble concentrating,” said Jane Gregory, a clinical psychologist with the University of Oxford who studies the disorder. “It’s not that people with misophonia don’t like the sound — it’s that their body is reacting as if that sound is somehow dangerous or harmful.”…

(16) BUGS, MISTER RICO! “Mars Needs Insects” according to the New York Times.

At first it was just one flower, but Emmanuel Mendoza, an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University, had worked hard to help it bloom. When this five-petaled thing burst forth from his English pea plant collection in late October, and then more flowers and even pea pods followed, he could also see, a little better, the future it might foretell on another world millions of miles from Earth.

These weren’t just any pea plants. Some were grown in soil meant to mimic Mars’s inhospitable regolith, the mixture of grainy, eroded rocks and minerals that covers the planet’s surface. To that simulated regolith, Mr. Mendoza had added fertilizer called frass — the waste left after black soldier fly larvae are finished eating and digesting. Essentially, bug manure.

The goal for Mr. Mendoza and his collaborators was to investigate whether frass and the bugs that created it might someday help astronauts grow food and manage waste on Mars. Black soldier fly larvae could consume astronauts’ organic waste and process it into frass, which could be used as fertilizer to coax plants out of alien soil. Humans could eat the plants, and even food made from the larvae, producing more waste for the cycle to continue.

While that might not ultimately be the way astronauts grow food on Mars, they will have to grow food. “We can’t take everything with us,” said Lisa Carnell, director for NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division.

But gardening doesn’t just require a plot of land, a bit of water, a beam of sunlight. It also requires very animate ingredients: the insects, like black soldier flies, and microorganisms that keep these ecological systems in working order. A trip to Mars for a long-term stay, then, won’t just involve humans. It will also involve creeping, crawling carry-ons most people don’t think about when they envision brave explorers stepping foot on new worlds….

(17) WHAT’S TO EAT ON SESAME STREET? “Nom Nom Nom. What’s the Deal With Cookie Monster’s Cookies?” Of course you want to know what’s in those things. And the New York Times has the answer.

…The recipe, roughly: Pancake mix, puffed rice, Grape-Nuts and instant coffee, with water in the mixture. The chocolate chips are made using hot glue sticks — essentially colored gobs of glue.

The cookies do not have oils, fats or sugars. Those would stain Cookie Monster. They’re edible, but barely.

“Kind of like a dog treat,” MacLean said in an interview.

Before MacLean reinvented the recipe in the 2000s, the creative team behind “Sesame Street” used versions of rice crackers and foams to make the cookies. The challenge was that the rice crackers would make more of a mess and get stuck in Cookie’s fur. And the foams didn’t look like cookies once they broke apart.

For a given episode, depending on the script, MacLean will bake, on average, two dozen cookies. There’s no oven large enough at Sesame’s New York workplace, so MacLean does almost everything at home….

(18) SPEED-READING CUNEIFORM. The Debrief tells readers “5000-Year-Old Tablets Can Now Be Decoded by Artificial Intelligence, New Research Reveals”.

… Using a novel AI process to decode ancient cuneiform tablets, they leveraged a sophisticated AI model based on the Region-based Convolutional Neural Network (R-CNN) architecture, a specialized system designed for object recognition. The study utilized a unique dataset consisting of 3D models of 1,977 cuneiform tablets, with detailed annotations of 21,000 cuneiform signs and 4,700 wedges. 

The AI’s methodology entailed a two-part pipeline: initially, a sign detector, built on a RepPoints model with a ResNet18 backbone, identified cuneiform characters on the tablets. In simple terms, the RepPoints model combs through the ResNet18 collection of images connected to the Mesopotamian languages and then combines the patterns to ‘see’ the text. This step was crucial for locating the signs accurately. Subsequently, the wedge detector, using Point R-CNN with advanced features like Feature Pyramid Network (FPN) and RoI Align, classified and predicted the wedges’ positions, which forms the basis of the cuneiform script’s fundamental elements, allowing the AI, in effect, to ‘read.’…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/23 Walking My Sloth Named Thoth

(1) A TAFF GUIDE TO BEER. [Item by Geri Sullivan.] A TAFF Guide to Beer is now available in print on Amazon in the US and UK!

Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer published A TAFF Guide to Beer during the 2019 Eastbound TAFF race. It celebrates the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund and the ways in which in brings together and fosters connections between science fiction fans from across Europe and North America, seen through the lens of beer. It features contributions from over 3 dozen TAFF delegates as well as the 4 candidates in the 2019 race. We printed copies then, and it’s been available on Dave Langford’s splendid TAFF ebook page pretty much ever since.

When I started working on Idea #13 (being published shortly, a mere 23 years since Idea #12), Pat Virzi advised me to publish another, small project on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) since the first book you publish with them often takes a long time for them to process. 

Claire and Mark gave the go-ahead. I faffed around for longer than I like to admit, but finally figured out how to make room for the bar code on the back cover, and sent off for a proof copy. It arrived Tuesday. After I clicked the “publish” button, the fanzine spent a few days in KDP’s review process, but it’s now available for $10 or £8. TAFF will receive just over $1/£1 for each copy sold.

Note: KDP says it takes up to 3 days Amazon.com to show it in stock and up to 5 days in other marketplaces. These links are working for me tonight; you’re welcome to share them with fans who might be interested: 

And several other countries, too. 

(2) BOOKS FOR CREDENTIALS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Harvard Book Store was expecting a shipment of books. A pallet of boxes marked ‘haddock filets’ arrived instead — Warehouse workers panicked, but it was only a red herring.

The Boston Globe story is paywalled, so here’s an excerpt:

…Sitting before [the bookstore’s warehouse manager] were dozens of green-and-white cardboard packages that read, “FROZEN FISH” and “HADDOCK” in big block letters…but it turns out that the store’s regular distributor…simply had extra boxes lying around… [that] happened to be for a Florida-based seafood wholesaler called Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

The bookstore did an Instagram caption contest; entries included “Available in hardcover, paperback, and filet.”

(3) THIEVES LIKE US. “Lost Doctor Who episodes found – but owner is reluctant to hand them to BBC” reports the Guardian.

For Doctor Who-lovers they are the missing crown jewels: lost episodes of the first series of the TV sci-fi drama, shown in the 1960s. But now film recordings of not just one, but two of the early BBC adventures, both featuring the first doctor, William Hartnell, has been found in Britain by amateur sleuths.

The episodes, one featuring the Daleks, would offer viewers a chance to travel back in time without the use of a Tardis. But the Observer has learned that the owners of the rare, rediscovered footage are not prepared to hand it over to the BBC, even as the clock ticks down to the 60th anniversary of the show’s launch this month.

Veteran film collector John Franklin believes the answer is for the BBC to announce an immediate general amnesty on missing film footage.

This would reassure British amateur collectors that their private archives will not be confiscated if they come forward and that they will be safe from prosecution for having stored stolen BBC property, something several fear….

(4) EARLY JOANNA RUSS. “’It’s Not Shrill, It’s Ultrasonic’: Queer SF Pioneer Joanna Russ’s Feminist Awakening” at Library of America.

…“We started with the assumption that the woman’s problem is not a woman’s problem; it is a social problem,” [Sheila] Tobias wrote. “There is something wrong with a society that cannot find ways to make it possible for married women, single women, intelligent women, educated or uneducated, or welfare women, to achieve their full measure of reward.” Some two thousand people attended discussions on abortion, contraception, childcare, race, and sexuality. It was one of the first conferences in the United States to address sexism in an academic setting….

(5) HAND Q&A. “Elizabeth Hand on Playwriting, Haunted Houses, and Shirley Jackson” at CrimeReads.

[ELIZABETH HAND]: I just love haunted house stories. And The Haunting of Hill House is kind of the haunted house story, certainly for Americans. For me, it was just a matter of really following the template that [Jackson] created. Laurence sent me scans of the drawings that she had made, like the house plans for Hill House, some of which I think are reprinted in the Franklin bio. But I had them in like a bigger format. And so that was really cool—to see how she envisioned that space. And I had read the book multiple times over the years, and I reread it more than once when preparing to write this book [A Haunting on the Hill]. And during one of those three readings, I just went through with a highlighter to highlight all the references to doors and windows of the halls and just… spaces within it, because I thought, if I get anything wrong, people are going to call me on it! If I have the red room at the wrong end of the hallway, you know, no one’s going to let me get away with it!

(6) INVEST WISELY. Cat Rambo advises writers about “Making the Most of Your Con Budget” at the SFWA Blog.

…Decide who you want to connect with by a) looking at the guest or membership list, which is usually available online, b) joining/following the convention’s social media accounts to see who’s posting there, and c) asking among your friends, including online groups you belong to.

If the convention is non-genre-specific, find out what kind of presence your genre will have. What teachers or mentors are attending that you would like to meet? What agents are appearing and what genres do they represent? (You may need to go to their agencies’ websites to find this out.)

Look over the convention’s website and promotional materials to determine what the event’s strengths are—what does it offer that isn’t always available, such as a chance to pitch to multiple agents, or the Nebula Conference Mentorship Program that pairs newer conference attendees with experienced Nebula-goers?

Using all of the above, set your goals for the event….

(7) UNMANNERLY VISITORS. Recommended: “’The Earthlings’ by Matthew Olzmann” at Academy of American Poets.

(8) SHADES OF TRALFAMADORE. Sophie Kemp assures us “Kurt Vonnegut’s House Is Not Haunted” in The Paris Review.

… And as for me, I do not remember when I first registered that Kurt Vonnegut lived in Alplaus, a small hamlet in Schenectady County, named after the Dutch expression aal plaats, which means “a place of eels.” (There were no eels that I am aware of.) I think it was in high school. I think my hair was cut short. I think it was when I was a virgin. I think it was when I got a job as a bookseller at the Open Door on Jay. I think I was probably sixteen….

… They asked if we wanted to see inside. The thing about the house, they told us, is that it was not haunted, because ghosts are not real, but also a copy of Player Piano, sitting face out on a bookshelf, kept falling on the head of one of their kids and as a result the family had this inside joke about it being Kurt’s ghost. Obviously, I wanted to see the haunted bookshelf so they showed me the haunted bookshelf. It looked pretty normal. Also facing out was a stuffed animal gnome holding a coffee cup that said “Best Mom,” and a book about raising chickens. I cannot stress enough that the house of Kurt Vonnegut is now just a completely normal house where people live and is full of completely normal things that appear in completely normal houses. Which to me makes a lot of sense. Vonnegut in my opinion is a charming and scrappy weirdo. He is not the kind of person you think of as living on some kind of grand estate…. 

(9) THE FIRE THIS TIME. [Item by Dann.] Author and lecturer, Virginia Postrel, found herself aghast at a repeated misrepresentation of the myth of Prometheus.  The tale of Prometheus was presented as a cautionary tale about the risks of innovation and technology.  She responds by pointing out that Prometheus was a defender who loved humanity in “The Myth of Prometheus Is Not a Cautionary Tale”

…No. No. No. No.

Prometheus is punished for loving humankind. He stole fire to thwart Zeus’ plans to eliminate humanity and create a new subordinate species. He is a benefactor who sacrifices himself for our good. His punishment is an indicator not of the dangers of fire but of the tyranny of Zeus.

…The Greeks honored Prometheus. They celebrated technē. They appreciated the gifts of civilization.

The ancient myth of Prometheus is not a cautionary tale. It is a reminder that technē raises human beings above brutes. It is a myth founded in gratitude.

She points out that a similar anti-technology reading of Frankenstein is also flawed.

(10) ABANDON TWITTER ALL YE WHO EXIT HERE. Not at all trying to be a completist, but here are a few more authors who are leaving X.

Scott Edelman also wants Filers to know that he bailed from Twitter – except he did it two months ago.

Several advertisers are also applying the brakes. “Disney, Apple, Lionsgate Suspend X/Twitter Ads; White House Condemns Musk Post” according to Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is the latest company to suspend its advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of owner Elon Musk‘s amplification of an anti-semitic post two days ago. Read more below.

…More companies are suspending advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of reports that the site has let spots run next to pro-Nazi content.

Apple has decided to pause advertising on the platform, according to a report from Axios, citing sources at the company. An Apple spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Lionsgate also confirmed a Bloomberg report that it, too, was suspending advertising on the platform.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 Raymond F. Jones. Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1932 Dennis McHaney. Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 87. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs to list here, some of which I’d loved to have read such as “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”,  a fanzine done in support of the Save Star Trek campaign which was edited by him and Bojo. You can read one of their late Fifties fanzines, which I choose because of its title, “Some Important Information Concerning Unicorn Productions”, here.
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 57. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevilCatwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 40. He is the author of the most excellent Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. Several years ago, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out sometime ago but I’ve not seen it. His SF Fractulverse series, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and Fractal Noise, is quite well crafted.

(12) WHO FAN FROM THE BEGINNING. “Russell T Davies on secrets, sex and falling for Doctor Who: ‘Something clicked in my head: I love you’” in the Guardian.

…The turning point came at the age of 11 – a huge change for me and for the show. I went to comprehensive school; the Doctor became Tom Baker. I have a crucial memory of TV Comic’s weekly Doctor Who strip printing a gorgeous piece of artwork (drawn, I now know, by Gerry Haylock) showing Tom Baker in full hat, scarf and toothy grin. And something clicked in my head. Something clicked and has stayed clicked ever since. A simple thought which said: I love you.

It’s easy to draw a link between gayness and fandom. So easy, maybe it’s true. Because as those teenage years advanced, two things synced up. I was gay and went silent, watching all the parties and fancying boys at a remove instead of getting drunk on cider, scared of giving myself away. At exactly the same time, I watched TV fiercely. Both things became closeted. Doctor Who became the other love that dares not speak its name.

It lasts, the closet. Many years later, in my late 20s, when I’d moved to Manchester and worked in TV and went to Canal Street every weekend, I copped off with a nice lad who saw a book about Doctor Who on my shelf and said: “I was in that! I was a soldier in The Caves of Androzani.” And I lied, I lied to a man I’d just had sex with, I said: “No, that book’s from work, it’s someone else’s, I don’t really know what it is.” Sorry, soldier.

I wonder now why I fell in love so hard. Though can anyone ever answer that? Some of the secret exists in what the Doctor is not. He/she/they have never had a job or a boss or even parents, they never pay tax, never do homework. They never have to go home at night. Maybe you fall in love with the show when you’re a kid because the Doctor’s a big kid, too. I could never love Star Trek in the same way because they’re the navy; when I survive to the year 2266, they won’t allow me on board. I’ll be scrubbing the floor below decks, at best. But Doctor Who’s greatest idea is that the Tardis can land anywhere. I’d walk home from school wishing I could turn the corner and see that blue box and run inside to escape everything. I don’t think that wish has quite gone….

(13) WELL, HARDLY EVER. Black Nerd Problems’ Mikkel Snyder says, “To Watch ‘Pantheon,’ I Wouldn’t Ever Promote Piracy…”

… The central point of all of this is that studios are much more concerned with not paying residuals, and you know what, in the capitalist hellscape that we exist in, I can pretend that I can understand. However, as someone who loves media in all of its forms and is a proponent of media preservation, it’s exceedingly frustrating that works of art that I could see as seminal are subject to the whims of razor thin profit margins. And I’m willing to pay to get access to this media. I immediately purchased all four seasons of Infinity Train in a desperate bid to get access to one of my favorite animated series of 2020 and 2021. Even now, I’m aware that if Prime wanted to they could wipe my entire library, and I would have next to no recourse.

But let’s flash forward to early October when thanks to a friend, I caught wind that for some reason, the second season of Pantheon was in fact airing exclusively on Prime Australia and New Zealand and had no discernable release in the States.

Now, I wouldn’t ever promote piracy. Piracy hurts hard working creatives. It denies them of any direct revenue that is generated from purchases or views, and the only thing potentially worse is completely removing any evidence that it ever existed and preventing any legitimate means of acquisition…or you know, something like that.

And it would be a real shame if the second season of a phenomenal science fiction series that may or may not conclude its story as there is no way in hell a third season is ever going to exist. And it would be completely wild if access to the episodes would be entirely dependent on the random whims of a random Prime ANZ executive. But at least *someone* would get to watch it. And at least it would be online….

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter enjoyed this wrong reply on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: Literary Characters

Answer: In his first appearance in 1902, he was described as “betwixt-and-between” a boy & a bird.

Wrong question: Who is Batman?

Right question: Who is Peter Pan?

(15) UPDATE TO THE ROBERT BLOCH OFFICIAL WEBSITE. Two updates to the Psycho page at the Robert Bloch Official Website.

  • A link to a video showing Psycho (film) locations and how they look today.
  • A nice behind-the-scenes shot with Hitchcock in front of the Bates home.

(16) KEEP CALM, ZACK FANS. “Both of Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon films will get their own R-rated director’s cut” says Entertainment Weekly.

For years after Zack Snyder departed Justice League in the midst of production, the filmmaker’s most passionate fans repeatedly pleaded their case: #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Eventually, they succeeded. In 2021, Warner Bros. brought the director back to their DC superhero roster one last time to complete Zack Snyder’s Justice League

That experience taught Snyder and his wife/producing partner Deborah that there is a significant subset of people who will always be interested in seeing his pure, uncut artistic vision. They took that lesson with them as they set out building their own new cinematic universe in the form of the two-part sci-fi epic Rebel Moon (which you can read all about in EW’s new cover story). 

Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire hits Netflix on Dec. 22, but that won’t be the only version of the film. At some undisclosed point in the future, a longer R-rated version will be added to the streaming platform, and the same will be true for next year’s Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver. But unlike the messy years-long experience with DC, these “director’s cuts” were planned from the beginning. During an hourlong Zoom interview with EW on Halloween about the making of the new films, Snyder said that Netflix producers brought up the idea very early on in the process….

(17) HISTORY FROM ANOTHER PLANET. StarWars.com reminds everyone about “The Origins of Life Day”.

Before you and your family gather your glowing orbs, don your ankle-length red smocks, and gather at the sacred tree to recite hallowed Shyriiwook verses in celebration of Life Day, let’s look back at the holiday’s origins. Not from within the Star Wars setting, mind you; rather, let’s examine its real-world history and evolution from an obscure TV source to an annual fan tradition.

The root of Life Day is found in The Star Wars Holiday Speciala star-studded 1978 prime time broadcast that aired on CBS once on November 17, 1978. After that broadcast, it was never to be (officially) seen again in the US and instead was relegated to bizarre cultural curiosity in the years that followed. The intent of the Holiday Special was to keep Star Wars in the public eye during the long three-year stretch between movies with new entertainment, using a tried-and-true television format of the 1970s: the variety special….

(18) STARSHIP HELD FOR QUICK FIX. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX has announced it will delay the planned second launch of its “Starship“ rocket until Saturday to replace a failed or questionable grid fin actuator. The rocket has been unstacked at the launchpad to provide access for replacing the part. The four grid fins provide guidance/attitude control when returning the super heavy booster to a controlled landing. (In this case, a “land”ing in the ocean.) “SpaceX delays launch of its giant Starship rocket to swap out a part” at Ars Technica.

The launch of SpaceX’s second full-size Starship rocket from South Texas is now scheduled for Saturday, a day later than previously planned, according to company founder Elon Musk.

This 24-hour delay will allow time for SpaceX technicians at the company’s launch facility, known as Starbase, to replace a component on the rocket’s stainless steel Super Heavy booster. There is a 20-minute launch window on Saturday, opening at 7 am CST (13:00 UTC), shortly after sunrise in South Texas.

A delay at this point is unsurprising. Starship is a complex launch vehicle with a sum of 39 methane-burning engines, each producing roughly a half-million pounds of thrust, powering its booster stage and upper stage. And this is only the second test flight of SpaceX’s new full-scale, nearly 400-foot-tall (121-meter) rocket, the largest launch vehicle ever built…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Steven French, Dann, Scott Edelman, Geri Sullivan, Rich Lynch, 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 11/13/23 Yesterday, Upon A Scroll, I Met A Pixel Who Wasn’t There

(1) MAYBE “COYOTE” ISN’T DEAD YET. “I’m feeling better!”Deadline reports “Coyote vs. Acme: Warner Bros Showing Pic to Amazon, Apple For Acquisition”.

Screenings are being set up this week for streamers Amazon Prime Video, Apple and Netflix to check out and potentially acquire Warner Bros‘ axed Looney Tunes movie Coyote vs. Acme after the studio’s phone ran off the hook the entire weekend from angry filmmakers and talent reps over their third feature film kill after Batgirl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!

The more egregious Hollywood sin with Coyote vs. Acme is that it’s a finished film was intended for a theatrical release, while the other two movies were still in the works.

Of those kicking the tires, even though no deals have been drafted, I hear Amazon is a leading contender given the fact that Courtenay Valenti, the Head of Film, Streaming and Theatrical for Amazon Studios and MGM, was a big champion and linchpin for the movie while she was President of Production and Development at Warner Bros. All of this boils down to Head of Amazon Studios Jen Salke’s signoff, I understand. During the pandemic, Prime Video acquired Sony’s family titles Hotel Transylvania 4 and Cinderella, among other movies. Amazon has been known to take finished films off the table for $100M and turn them into events for Prime Video….

(2) SFPA OFFICER ELECTION RESULTS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has tallied the votes and announced that starting January 1, 2024, John Philip Johnson will be SFPA Secretary and Jordan Hirsch will be SFPA Treasurer.

(3) ULTRAMAN ARRIVING IN 2024. “The First Ultraman: Rising Trailer Looks Incredible” says Yahoo!

Ultraman is one of Japan’s biggest superheroes – both figuratively and literally – but outside of Japan the hero’s popularity hasn’t quite hit fever pitch. Netflix’s newest film could change all that, if the first trailer for Ultraman: Rising is anything to go by, as it looks absolutely incredible.

Netflix released the first trailer for the CG animated film Ultraman: Rising last night, as part of its annual Geeked Week celebrations. The trailer shows off a rebooted Ultraman, a gigantic super-powered hero that’s the powered-up form of baseball superstar Ken Sato.

As the story goes, Ken comes back to Japan to take up his duties as the biggest superhero on the planet, promptly defeating a large, dragon-like kaiju. In the trailer, he retrieves a mysterious orb from the monster, only to discover it’s an egg — and it hatches into the child of his greatest foe…

(4) LEARNEDLEAGUE CALENDAR. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Here are LearnedLeague One-Day Special quizzes scheduled for 2024, that relate to SF and fantasy. Some are specifically SFF-related, some are genre-adjacent. I’ll list both.

SFF-related:

  • Spaceballs: The One-Day Special!  Jan 9
  • The Sandman  Jan 10
  • The X-Men   May 8
  • Folk Horror Films  May 13
  • Science Fiction Homeworlds  Jul 20
  • Mars in Popular Culture  Jul 23
  • Studio Ghibli  Jul 23
  • Faerie Tale Theatre  Aug 6
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere  Aug 7
  • Murderbot for Everyone  Aug 21
  • Elemental Masters (probably? Mercedes Lackey has a series with that title, but it could be about something else with a similar name)  Oct 7
  • The Silmarillion   Oct 10 (we’ve had 3 quizzes already about The Lord of the Rings, so now we move on to The Silmarillion)
  • Godzilla  Oct 14
  • Just Audio Horror Pairings  Oct 16
  • Jurassic Park  Oct 17
  • Just Images Portals  Oct 28
  • Romance Novels 3: Super Friendly Monsters  Oct 31
  • Science of Science Fiction 2  Nov 4
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation  Nov 7

Genre-Adjacent:

  • Polyamory  Jan 12
  • Video Game Weaponry  Jan 22
  • Homestuck  Feb 7
  • Year of the Dragon (possibly? not 100% clear what this one is about)  Feb 8
  • Secret Identities  Mar 25
  • DuckTales  Apr 9
  • Nanotechnology  Apr 10
  • Chemicals I Won’t Work With  Apr 13
  • Asteroids  Apr 15
  • Horror Hosts  Apr 15
  • Fictional Religions  May 15 (not clear how this will differ from Fictional Theology)
  • Science Theater  Jul 15
  • Tintin Comics  Jul 18
  • Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy  Oct 10
  • Mercury 7 Astronauts  Nov 7

I’m particularly looking forward to Cosmere, Homeworlds, Murderbot, and Science of SF. (I was part of a 10-way tie for champion of the first “Science of Science Fiction” quiz.)

(5) WHO MAY GIVE YOUNG VIEWERS THE CREEPS? “Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies issues warning to parents ahead of anniversary specials” and The Independent boosts the signal.

Doctor Who’s returning showrunner Russell T Davies has issued a warning to parents about “dark” and “violent” content in the show’s forthcoming episodes.

… Of the three episodes, series opener The Star Beast, which airs on 25 November and centres on a furry creature called a Meep (voiced by Miriam Margolyes), is the most child-friendly, Davies explained.

“It is like a great big Pixar family film, like a bank holiday film – all the family watching, lots of laughs, a funny monster,” he said.

However, the following two episodes will not be appropriate for children, Davies warned. “The second one, Wild Blue Yonder, is darker. Not scary – it’s genuinely weird,” he said.

“We do very scary stuff. Some stuff is quite violent. It’s not for children, it’s about children.”…

(6) LOKI SEASON 2 BOX SCORE. Deadline has the viewership numbers: “’Loki’ Season 2 Finale Pulls In 11.2M Views, +3% From Opener”.

Marvel Studios’ season 2 finale of Loki went out with a blast attracting 11.2M global views over three-days, which is +3% from the season 2 first episode 3-day draw of 10.9M.

Loki‘s season 2 kickoff was the second most-watched season premiere this year on Disney+, behind March’s season 3 premiere of The Mandalorian.

The finale of the Marvel Studios series—which concluded last Thursday—was only behind the season three finale of The Mandalorian, which wrapped up its season in April….

(7) OUROBOROS Q&A. “Ke Huy Quan Discusses Loki Season 2 Finale & His Marvel Entry” at Deadline. Beware spoilers.

DEADLINE: It’s so great to get to talk with you about Loki. You haven’t really been able to talk about your role, due to the actors strike. What have you been waiting to say?

KE HUY QUAN: When I decided to become an actor again, [being part of the MCU] was at the top of my wishlist…They all welcomed me with wide open arms, and I was so happy. I was patiently waiting for the show to come out so we can go and celebrate it and tell the fans. Then, of course, the strike happened. I just want to tell everybody how proud of the show I am. How happy I am with it. And working with Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, the entire Loki family has just been incredible. We made this last year in London. I was there for four months, my wife and I were there. It was one of the best four months of my life. I’ve done a few shows before, and this was the first time where I didn’t want it to end. I was so happy. In fact, I’ll tell you this. We were scheduled for reshoots this February, and I was waiting. My wife and I were looking forward to spending more time in London and with our Loki family. And all of a sudden we were told, ‘Oh, we don’t need any reshoots. It’s all good.’ I was kind of disappointed. I was actually disappointed that we didn’t get to go back because of how much fun we had… So we made history. We make history two times. One is the first series of Marvel getting a second season and the second is the first time a Marvel show didn’t have any reshoots. I’m so proud of that….

(8) MICHAEL BISHOP (1945-2023). Beloved sff author Michael Bishop died November 13, the day following his 78th birthday, after a prolonged stay in hospice care. His daughter made the announcement on Facebook.

…It is with great sadness (and yet relief for my dad) that I post with the news that Daddy breathed his last breath early this morning with my mom by his side. He is at peace and free from pain AND we miss him terribly already….

He made such an immediate and strong impression on the field that he was presented DeepSouthCon’s Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement in 1977, less than a decade after his first work was published.

By the time his career was over, Bishop was a 17-time Nebula finalist, winning Best Novelette for “The Quickening” in 1982 and Best novel for No Enemy But Time in 1983. He was also a 9-time Hugo finalist, though never won.

His versatility was proven by the other awards he received. His short story “The Pile” won a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Unicorn Mountain won the Mythopoeic Award for Best Fantasy in 1989. His poem “For the Lady of a Physicist” won a 1979 Rhysling Award. He was also a four-time Locus Award winner.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 13, 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson. Author of Treasure IslandStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the New Arabian Nights collection of short stories.  Internet Movie Database gives over three hundred productions that have been based off of his works. What are your favorite ones? And I’m not even going to get into the deeps of genre fiction based off just the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll as I know Theodora Goss was making use of that story in one of her series and Simon R. Green had Hydes in his Nightside series. Not to mention Bugs Bunny… (Died 1894.)
  • Born November 13, 1887 A. R. Tilburne. Pulp artist who by 1938 was selling cover illustrations to Short Stories and Weird Tales such as the November 1938 issue of the latter, and in the 1940s he also drew many interior story illustrations for Weird Tales. In 1947 he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear, published by Avon paperback books. (Died 1965.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Philip Nowlan working for the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, was contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The Buck Rogers strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929, but the first appearance of “Anthony Rogers” was actually in Amazing Stories in August of 1928 in the “Armageddon—2419 A. D.” Story there with cover illustration by Frank R. Paul. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1945 Pierre Pelot, 78. A French writer who wrote fourteen science fiction novels and seven horror novels including space operas. Only But What If Butterflies Cheat? (its English translation title) is available in English so far. It’s part of the might exist The Child Who Walked on the Sky / But What If Butterflies Cheat? omnibus as I failed to find it anywhere including Amazon and any of the places that resell books online. He was nominated for a dozen Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Awards winning two. 
  • Born November 13, 1955 Brenda Clough, 68. She was nominated for a Hugo at ConJosé for her “May Be Some Time” novella. I’m very fond of her fantasy Averidan series. Though very much not genre, I recommend her A Most Dangerous Woman, a sequel to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collin. It’s a serial on Realm which you can find at the usual suspects. 
  • Born November 13, 1957 Stephen Baxter, 66. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett.  I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF!  Ok I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading.  To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of awards as well though no Hugos.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a Hugo for best short story at Denvention 3 as were The Time Ships as L.A. Con III, “Moon Six” novellette at BucConeer, “On the Orion Line” novellette  and “The Gravity Mine” short story at the Millennium Philcon, and finally “The Ghost Pit” short story at ConJosé.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump checks the shelves of an interesting library.
  • Thatababy has a strange way of getting rid of autumn leaves.
  • Wallace the Brave gives a teacher a novel excuse.
  • Tom Gauld made a design with you in mind.

(11) HORRENDOUS PROBLEMS IN IRON FLAME PRINT BOOKS. Publishers Lunch learned that “Entangled Is Working On A Solution to ‘Iron Flame’ Misprints”.

Entangled Publishing said in a statement that it’s working to correct misprints in the new Rebecca Yarros novel Iron Flame that published on November 7. Entangled reportedly indicated the book sold more than half a million copies on its release day, and some of the copies had irregularities including damaged pages, missing pages, upside down pages, and more, which readers catalogued on TikTok.

In a statement to Variety, the company acknowledged that the misprints “have caused disappointment among those who eagerly awaited this release.” They write, “In keeping with our values of quality and responsibility, we are committed to making this right. We are actively working with our distribution partner to create a solution for those who wish to exchange their copy but are unable to do so at their original retailer. Our printing company is also working to produce the additional copies needed to facilitate this process. Entangled Publishing appreciates the patience and support of our readers as we work to swiftly resolve this issue. More details will be available on our social media platforms in the coming weeks.”

(12) AI COPYRIGHT LAWSUIT NEWS. Publishers Weekly reports“Judge Will Toss Part of Authors’ AI Copyright Lawsuit”.

At a hearing last week, a federal judge said that he will dismiss part of the lawsuit filed by a group of authors including comedian Sarah Silverman that claims Meta’s Llama AI application infringes their copyrights.

According to Reuters, judge Vince Chhabria said the authors’ allegations that text generated by Llama infringes their copyrights simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. “When I make a query of Llama, I’m not asking for a copy of Sarah Silverman’s book—I’m not even asking for an excerpt,” Chhabria observed, noting that, under the authors’ theory, a side-by-side comparison of text generated by the AI application and Silverman’s book would have to show they are similar.

However, the judge said he will not dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning the authors will be allowed to amend and refile their claims. Furthermore, a core claim of the suit—that Meta’s use of unauthorized copies to train its AI model is infringing—remains.

The judge’s decision was not unexpected. As PW reported in July, multiple lawyers said that the authors’ copyright claims face long odds in court.

The proposed class action suit before Chhabria was filed on July 7 by the Joseph Saveri Law Firm on behalf of authors Christopher Golden, Richard Kadrey, and comedian Sarah Silverman, just days after the Saveri firm filed a similar suit on behalf of authors against Open AI, with authors Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad as named plaintiffs (though Awad has since withdrawn). A third group of authors represented by another firm (with authors including Michael Chabon, David Henry Hwang, Matthew Klam, Rachel Louise Snyder, and Ayelet Waldman among others) filed a lawsuit in August….

(13) TOY-BASED MOVIE GETTING ANOTHER CHANCE. “‘Masters of the Universe’ Movie Eyes New Home at Amazon” reports Variety.

In “Masters of the Universe,” He-Man’s nemesis is the evil wizard Skeletor. In Hollywood, his greatest threat has been a list of studio partners that have sidelined him from the big screen for nearly two decades. 

The blond barbarian, based on a popular set of Mattel toys, may finally win the day. Amazon MGM Studios is in serious talks to mount a live-action “Masters of the Universe” movie from Adam and Aaron Nee, the writing and directing team behind “The Lost City,” according to multiple insiders. Conversations are taking place with Amazon after Netflix dropped a planned version of the Nee brothers film in July….

(14) TERMINATOR BEGINS AGAIN. Yahoo! says“Terminator is back with a new anime series coming to Netflix”.

Netflix is giving the Terminator franchise the anime treatment in a new series that’s set to hit the streaming platform “soon.” The company dropped the first teaser for Terminator: The Anime Series this weekend during its Geeked Week event. Details so far are scant, but we do know it’ll be produced by Production IG, the Japanese animation studio behind the original Ghost in the Shell movie and spinoff TV series.

Terminator: The Anime Series will take us back to August 1997, when the Skynet AI becomes self-aware and turns against humans. While there is no information on the cast just yet, Variety reports the series will feature entirely new characters….

(15) THESE GHOSTS ARE ON THE CASE. Variety is there when “’Dead Boy Detectives’ Netflix Series Drops First Trailer”.

The “Dead Boy Detectives” series is officially set to air on Netflix after originally being set up at Max.

The show, based on characters created for DC by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner, was originally ordered to series at Max back in April 2022. However, it was reported earlier this year that it would be moving to Netflix due to the fact it did not fit the new direction for Max-DC content being spearheaded by James Gunn and Peter Safran.

The official description for the eight-episode series states, “Do you have a pesky ghost haunting you? Has a demon stolen your core memories? You may want to ring the Dead Boy Detectives. Meet Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), ‘the brains’ and ‘the brawn’ behind the Dead Boy Detectives agency. Teenagers born decades apart who find each other only in death, Edwin and Charles are best friends and ghosts… who solve mysteries….

(16) MOON UNIT. “Rebel Moon Trailer: Part One A Child of Fire Kicks Off Zack Snyder Epic”Variety provides the introduction.

Netflix has debuted an explosive new trailer for Zack Snyder‘s “Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire,” set for a limited one-week theatrical release on Dec. 15 and a wide streaming release on Netflix on Dec. 22.

Snyder’s epic space adventure film stars Sofia Boutella, Ed Skrein, Cleopatra Coleman and Cary Elwes. The story centers on a young woman living on the outskirts of a galaxy who must find a group of warriors to save the galaxy from an invasion from a tyrant. Snyder revealed to Total Film that “Rebel Moon” takes place in the same universe as another Netflix film of his, “Army of the Dead,” though one is set in outer space and the other in apocalyptic Las Vegas….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/22/23 The File Exploded With A Mighty Crash As We Fell Into The Scroll

(1) WILL KOSA LEAD TO DELETION OF ONLINE QUEER CONTENT? Charlie Jane Anders’ latest Happy Dancing newsletter warns “The Internet Is About to Get a Lot Worse”.

…For now at least, you can still talk freely about being trans or queer on the Internet, without fear of overt censorship*. You might well face online harassment and violent threats, and you might even face real-world consequences if you get on the radar of the worst people. But the Internet does not suppress the trans and queer stories that are being violently removed from schools, libraries, and other public spaces in much of the country right now.

That’s about to change — unless we all take action.

A new bill called the Kids Online Safety Act, or KOSA, is sailing towards passage in the Senate with bipartisan support. Among other things, this bill would give the attorney general of every state, including red states, the right to sue Internet platforms if they allow any content that is deemed harmful to minors. This clause is so vaguely defined that attorneys general can absolutely claim that queer content violates it — and they don’t even need to win these lawsuits in order to prevail. They might not even need to file a lawsuit, in fact. The mere threat of an expensive, grueling legal battle will be enough to make almost every Internet platform begin to scrub anything related to queer people.

The right wing Heritage Foundation has already stated publicly that the GOP will use this provision to remove any discussions of trans or queer lives from the Internet. They’re salivating over the prospect.

And yep, I did say this bill has bipartisan support. Many Democrats have already signed on as co-sponsors. And President Joe Biden has urged lawmakers to pass this bill in the strongest possible terms….

(2) WRITER’S NATIONAL FRONT CONNECTION RECALLED. David A. Riley announced to readers of his blog on June 19 that his 11,600-word sword and sorcery novelette “Ossani the Healer and the Beautiful Homunculus” “has been accepted for publication – and by one of the most prestigious markets I have ever appeared in.” On July 5 he revealed that the story “will be published sometime later this year in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.”

Today someone who noticed the F&SF sale news connected Riley with his history of having once been part of the UK’s National Front.

https://twitter.com/ChristopherRowe/status/1693978873245860074

Christopher Rowe is referring to F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder and editor Sheree Renée Thomas.

David A. Riley’s history with the UK’s National Front became common knowledge in 2016 after Riley was included on HWA’s Bram Stoker Award Jury. The HWA appointment became news at a time when questions were already being asked of Riley due to his involvement in the relaunch of Weirdbook. Riley reportedly answered in a no-longer-available Facebook thread. The davidandrewrileyisafascist Tumblr hosts a screenshot of the comment, which says in part:

I think I need to put the record straight. Yes, I was in the National Front for ten year from 1973 to the middle of 1983. During that time I never regarded the party as fascist, though it did have minority elements within it that undoubtedly were. …I have never regarded myself as a fascist, and certainly not a nazi. The term ‘white supremacist’ is one I don’t recognise and certainly repudiate. If you saw me associating with my ethnically diverse neighbours in Bulgaria you would not level that at me then. I know this will not convince some people, and, quite honestly, I accept that….

The relationship between Riley’s past political views and organizing activity, and his current views, and whether he should be serving on an HWA awards jury, became subjects of intense discussion. Before long HWA President Lisa Morton said he was taken off the jury by mutual agreement.

Riley was interviewed by David Dubrow shortly after the 2016 kerfuffle (“Interview With David A Riley”.) Here is a quote:

Do you feel as though you have anything to apologize for in regard to your politics, past or present?

Who should I apologize to? To those who have been baying for my blood? Most of the people involved in this debate come from the States. Since I have never been involved in politics there I should certainly not have to apologise to them. Do I regret having spent those years that I did in the National Front? Yes. If I had my time over again I would not do it. But the early seventies were a different time….

Today s. j. bagley commented on Rowe’s report about Sheree Renée Thomas’ statement:

And Rowe expressed this concern to another author:

(3) AI TRAINING PUSHBACK. [Item by Bill.] Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance has taken down the prominent “Books3” dataset, that was used to train high-profile AI models including Meta’s. “Anti-Piracy Group Takes AI Training Dataset ‘Books3′ Offline” reports Gizmodo. Despite being removed from their original host site, the dataset is available elsewhere on the internet.

One of the most prominent pirated book repositories used for training AI, Books3, has been kicked out from the online nest it had been roosting in for nearly three years. Rights-holders have been at war with online pirates for decades, but artificial intelligence is like oil seeping into copyright law’s water. The two simply do not mix, and the fumes rising from the surface just need a spark to set the entire concept of intellectual property rights alight.

As first reported by TorrentFreak, the large pirate repository The Eye took down the Books3 dataset after the Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance sent the site a DMCA takedown. Now trying to access that dataset gives a 404 error. The Eye still hosts other training data for AI, but the portion allotted for books has vanished….

(4) PURLOINED VOLUMES. And the Guardian is quite familiar with what’s in Books3: “Zadie Smith, Stephen King and Rachel Cusk’s pirated works used to train AI”.

… More than 170,000 titles were fed into models run by companies including Meta and Bloomberg, according to an analysis of “Books3” – the dataset harnessed by the firms to build their AI tools.

Books3 was used to train Meta’s LLaMA, one of a number of large language models – the best-known of which is OpenAI’s ChatGPT – that can generate content based on patterns identified in sample texts. The dataset was also used to train Bloomberg’s BloombergGPT, EleutherAI’s GPT-J and it is “likely” it has been used in other AI models.

The titles contained in Books3 are roughly one-third fiction and two-thirds nonfiction, and the majority were published within the last two decades. Along with Smith, King, Cusk and Ferrante’s writing, copyrighted works in the dataset include 33 books by Margaret Atwood, at least nine by Haruki Murakami, nine by bell hooks, seven by Jonathan Franzen, five by Jennifer Egan and five by David Grann….

(5) WEEKEND B.O. The Hollywood Reporter checked the cash registers and found “’Blue Beetle’ Box Office Opening Beats ‘Barbie,’ ‘Strays’ Gets Lost”.

…After ruling the box office roost for four weekends, Barbie fell to second place as DC’s superhero pic Blue Beetle took the top spot. It opened to an estimated $25.4 in North America. …

(6) BRADBURY MEMORIES. On Ray Bradbury’s 103rd birthday, John King Tarpinian visited his gravesite, bringing a funny book, a cake, and a dinosaur. (John always takes the cake to the cemetery office for the staff to enjoy.)

(7) BACK IN THE DAY. In this episode of Day at Night taped on January 21, 1974, host James Day speaks with Ray Bradbury about his career, the importance of fantasizing, his aspirations as a young child, his dislike of college for a writer, his idea of thinking compared to really living, and his love of the library.

(8) REMEMBERING BUSTER CRABBE. Steve Vertlieb invites fans to read his article “Careening Spaceships And Thundering Hooves: The Magic, Majesty (And Friendship) Of Buster Crabbe … And An Era” at Better Days, Benner Nights.

When I was a little kid, prior to the Civil War, I had an imagination as fertile and as wide as my large brown eyes, dreamily filled with awe and wonder. My dad brought home our first television set in 1950.

Here is an affectionate remembrance of the Saturday Matinee and 1950’s Philadelphia television when classic cliffhanger serials thrilled and excited “children of all ages”… when careening spaceships and thundering hooves echoed through the revered imaginations and hallowed corridors of time and memory…and when Buster Crabbe lovingly brought “Flash Gordon,” “Buck Rogers,” “Red Barry,” and “Captain Gallant Of The Foreign Legion” to life in darkened movie palaces, and on television screens, all over the world.

Return with us now to “those thrilling days of yesteryear” when Zorro, Buzz Corry of the “Space Patrol,” Ming, The Merciless, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry in “The Phantom Empire,” and Larry “Buster” Crabbe lit the early days of television, and Saturday afternoon motion picture screens, with magical imagery, and unforgettable excitement. Just click on the blue link above to escape into the past, via the world of tomorrow.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1909 Paul W. Fairman. His story “No Teeth for the Tiger” was published in the February 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. Two years later, he was the founding editor of If, but he edited only four issues. In 1955, he became the editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic which he would hold for three years. There are several films, Target Earth and Invasion of the Saucer Men, based on his stories, plus some TV episodes as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. Seriously where do I start? He wrote some of the most wonderful stories that I’ve ever read, genre or not, many of which got turned into quite superb video tales on the Ray Bradbury Theater. As for novels, my absolute favorite will always be Something This Way Wicked Comes. (I’m ambivalent on the film version.) And yes I know it isn’t really a novel but The Illustrated Man I treat as such and I loved the film that came out of it with Rod Steiger in that role. Let’s not forget The Martian Chronicles. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 78. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope for Two”, which he also directed.
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 68. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull whose Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands is always highly recommended, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. And Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold.  Will was planning to run for Governor of Minnesota so he had collected funds for that. That instead went instead to this film
  • Born August 22, 1948 — Susan Wood. She received three Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer in 1974, 1977, and 1981, and a Best Fanzine Hugo as coeditor of Energumen in 1973In 1976 she was instrumental in organizing the very first feminist panel at a con, at MidAmericon. The reaction to this helped lead to the founding of A Women’s APA and of WisCon. While teaching courses in SF at UBC, one of her students was William Gibson.  “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” which is his first published story was written as an assignment in her SF class. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 60. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams) and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman is based on her. Bookriot did a nice piece on their friendship.

(10) LONE STAR REVIEWS. BookRiot challenges readers: “Can You Guess the Fantasy Book Based on Its 1-Star Reviews?” I’m surprised I’m able to say I did guess one.

We’ve all been there: You go to leave a review of an amazing book, only to see that someone has left it a dreaded 1-star review. And when you read it? Oof. Did the two of you even read the same book? Well, let’s put it to the test. Can you guess these fantasy books based only on their 1-star reviews?

I did not get this one. I should have – I read it! But then, I thought it was good. Maybe that threw me off.

3. CLICK HERE TO REVEAL THE BOOK.

“What a bore! To read a rock’s thoughts and almost nothing else happens? Please!”

“Be careful when you see a Shakespeare reference while looking for a good fantasy read. I do not recommend.”

[M]oves at a pace that a snail could race past.”

(11) WARM UP YOUR CREDIT CARDS. “Disney Drops Another Great 4K Blu-Ray Surprise With Plush Releases Of Major Star Wars And Marvel Shows”Forbes has the story.

…The information released by Disney today lists four initial series set to get the 4K Blu-ray and Blu-ray treatment: Loki Season One, WandaVisionThe Mandalorian Season One, and The Mandalorian Season Two….

… What’s more, these TV series releases are going all-out to appeal to fans by sporting steelbook packaging for both their 4K and HD Blu-ray versions; gorgeous box art designs by artist Attila Szarka; as well as concept art cards and never-before-seen bonus features. And as perhaps the biggest surprise of all, Disney has confirmed that it will be pressing the 4K versions of these TV series releases on 100GB discs rather than the 66GB-capacity discs that it’s used for all of its previous 4K Blu-ray releases bar the two Avatar movies….

(12) WHERE’S MY JETPACK LYRICS? Here they are. Thank you, Peer, for these sympathetic words.

Jet pack crashes
A new Scroll cries
Its pixels falls to the floor
Mike opens his eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the filer can even click the box

Jetpack crashes
An old scroll dies
Its pixel fall to the floor
Mike closes his tabs
The items that was in theirs
Reposted now, by the baby down the hall
Oh, now feel it being discussed again
Like a rolling thunder reported on X
Blogs pulling Items from the center of the scroll again
I can tick box now

Jetpack crashes
A new scroll is born.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon comes to Netflix starting December 22. The way Variety sees it, “…The trailer has just about every piece of sci-fi and fantasy imagery you can imagine: a princess prophesied to end a war, spaceships raining lasers down on a hapless village, talking robots, a spider creature, a badass wielding glowing red laser swords, a flying pegasus-like animal and lots of slow-mo….”

The YouTube blurb says:

From Zack Snyder, the filmmaker behind 300, Man of Steel, and Army of the Dead, comes REBEL MOON, an epic science-fantasy event decades in the making. When a peaceful colony on the edge of a galaxy finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, Kora (Sofia Boutella), a mysterious stranger living among the villagers, becomes their best hope for survival. Tasked with finding trained fighters who will unite with her in making an impossible stand against the Mother World, Kora assembles a small band of warriors — outsiders, insurgents, peasants and orphans of war from different worlds who share a common need for redemption and revenge. As the shadow of an entire Realm bears down on the unlikeliest of moons, a battle over the fate of a galaxy is waged, and in the process, a new army of heroes is formed.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/23 The Magic Morlock, So Pixeled And So New

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Nathan Ballingrud and Dale Bailey on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Where: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of The StrangeWounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell, and North American Lake Monsters, which won the Shirley Jackson Award. A novella, Crypt of the Moon Spider, will appear in 2024. He has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have been adapted into the Hulu series Monsterland. He lives in Asheville, NC.

Dale Bailey

Dale Bailey is the author of This Island Earth: 8 Features From the Drive-In and eight previous books, including In the Night Wood and The End of the End of Everything. His story “Death and Suffrage” was adapted for Showtime’s Masters of Horror television series. He has won the Shirley Jackson Award and the International Horror Guild Award, and has been a finalist for the World Fantasy, Nebula, Locus, and Bram Stoker awards. He lives in North Carolina with his family.

(2) THESE FIGURES ADD UP. Cora Buhlert’s latest Masters of the Universe action figure photo story is “The Prisoner of Castle Grayskull Revisited”.

Masters of the Universe: Revelation never really goes into what happens to Duncan, after Lyn gets the Power. We only see him again, after he has escaped from the dungeon with the help of the tentacled creature known as the Orlax of Primeria and joins the battle outside Castle Grayskull.

But would Lyn really ignore her favourite prisoner? I don’t think so, so let’s see what happens when the powered up Lyn goes to see Duncan in the dungeon.

In the dungeons deep underneath Castle Grayskull…

(3) SPIDER-VERSE NETS BIG DOLLARS. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse opened to $120.5 million in North America, the third-biggest opening ever for an animated film, as well as a best-ever for Sony Animation. According to Deadline:

Among all animated pic domestic openings, Spider-Verse is sixth behind Incredibles 2 ($182.6 million), Super Mario Bros ($146.3 million), Finding Dory ($135 million), Frozen 2 ($130.2 million) and Toy Story 4 ($120.9 million). 

NPR analyzes why the film is drawing a big audience in “’Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ stats show how representation works”.

Turns out inclusivity also means more people want to give you their money! The early box office figures for the new Spider-Man film — and the demographic data of moviegoers — paint a vivid picture.

Who is he? There are plenty of variations on who Spider-Man is, and now Miles Morales is getting the spotlight….

What’s the big deal? The most recent film in the series, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has made even bigger headlines and received rave reviews.

  • The film grossed $208 million worldwide in its opening weekend, roughly three times as much as the opening of the first film, as reported by NPR’s critic, Bob Mondello.
  • And while in his review Mondello cites the inventive animation and plot as contributing to the success, he says that the diversity on screen was a huge draw for audiences.
  • That ranges from the main hero portrayed by Shameik Moore, to the several Spider-women featured, as well as the India based Spider-guy, Pavitr Prabhakar.
  • According to Mondello’s reporting, the film opened strongly in 59 countries. In North America, exit tracking found that the audience was about one-third Latino and another third Black and Asian, diversity percentages far higher than for most superhero films.

(4) COULD IT BE…TRINITROTRITICALE? The filmmaker insisted on a real crop of wheat for scenes in his movie.“Zack Snyder Goes Galactic: Exclusive First Look at ‘Rebel Moon’” at Vanity Fair.

Zack Snyder is world-building once again with Rebel Moon. This time the 300 and Justice League filmmaker is creating not just one world but a sprawling menagerie of planets, full of cyborg warriors with molten-metal swords, giant half-humanoid arachnids, and ancient robots that seem to have emerged more from medieval times than the future. The new Netflix space saga that Snyder directed and cowrote extends far beyond the verdant orb of the title. That moon is actually one of the more modest worlds. It circles an immense gas giant at a distant edge of the galaxy and is populated mainly by farmers. It’s nowhere special, but it’s about to change the balance of power in this fictional universe.

While any sci-fi extravaganza naturally features copious digital effects, Snyder also used his estimated budget of at least $166 million to manifest as much of it in real life as possible. In a Santa Clarita canyon just outside Los Angeles, a full-size abandoned starfighter decays not far from what appears to be an idyllic Scandinavian-style village, complete with clusters of homes, shops, and barns, as well as a stone bridge arching over a crystalline river. (Team Snyder also built the river.) Vast fields of actual wheat sprout from desert hardpan never meant for such lush growth, but Snyder insisted on real crops for his farmers to harvest and defend. Just over the rocky hillside sits another Rebel Moon set for a larger community known as Providence that looks like an Old West metropolis.  All of these are just locations on the moon of the title; there are other worlds beyond.…

(5) FILM HAS NEW NAME BUT YOU’LL RECOGNIZE THE SHIELD. Yahoo! is on hand when “Marvel Announces ‘Captain America 4’ Retitled as ‘Brave New World’”.

…Brave New World comes on the heels of the events of Avengers: Endgame and the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The former saw Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers pass the Captain America shield on to Mackie’s Sam Wilson, who had been serving as hero Falcon since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which released in 2014…

(6) GRIFANT Q&A. Space Cowboys Books will host an online reading and interview with KC Grifant on Tuesday June 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free here.

In an Old West overrun by monsters, a stoic gunslinger must embark on a dangerous quest to save her friends and stop a supernatural war. Sharpshooter Melinda West, 29, has encountered more than her share of supernatural creatures after a monster infection killed her mother. Now, Melinda and her charismatic partner, Lance, offer their exterminating services to desperate towns, fighting everything from giant flying scorpions to psychic bugs. But when they accidentally release a demon, they must track a dangerous outlaw across treacherous lands and battle a menagerie of creatures-all before an army of soul-devouring monsters descend on Earth. Supernatural meets Bonnie and Clyde in a re-imagined Old West full of diverse characters, desolate landscapes, and fast-paced adventure.
Get your copy of Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger here.

(7) DENNY LIEN MEMORIAL ITEMS. A memorial celebration was held on June 2 for Minneapolis fan Denny Lien, who died April 15.

The photo stream about Denny Lien’s life put together by David Dyer-Bennett for the memorial celebration (which was not screened due to equipment problems) can be viewed on DD-B’s Facebook feed.

At the memorial co-editors Karen Schaffer and Geri Sullivan distributed copies of the 32-page sampler of Denny’s fanwriting, LienZine, now available at eFanzines. Their introduction begins:

Denny Lien was Minneapolis fandom’s gentle giant. He was a research librarian at the University of Minnesota, and a mainstay of Minneapolis fandom back in the day. His height and impressive muttonchops could be intimidating on first encounter, but his quiet and calm demeanor was reassuring. He was also a prolific, erudite, and funny writer, with a fondness for parodies, puns, and imaginative flights of speculation. His letters to newspapers range from stern factual corrections to delightful skewering of logical fallacies. He wrote columns and articles for science fiction fanzines and APAs (Amateur Press Associations). He exercised his skill for parody in musical lyrics, especially in the beloved local production of Midwest Side Story. He even enlivened the minutes from the local science fiction club Minn-StF during his times as secretary.

For this memorial fanzine, we tried to include a representative cross section of his prodigious output, though we undoubtedly missed many gems. Perhaps you, the reader, will discover more someday. 

They suggest if LienZine leaves you looking to make a donation in Denny’s memory, make it to the Down Under Fan Fund or Habitat for Humanity.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2010[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Catherine Asaro is the writer who provides our Beginning this Scroll. 

She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire.  The Ruby Dice, one of those novels,is the source of our Beginning. 

It was first published thirteen years ago by Baen Books and in audio format by Recorded Books. 

Digging around the net, I discovered the Point Valid band had worked with her. Their second CD, Diamond Star, released fourteen years ago, is considered the soundtrack for Asaro’s novel of that name. She provides vocals on several tracks including “Ancient Ages” and her voice is quite excellent indeed. That album is available on Apple Music and I assume elsewhere. 

It’s worth noting that she’s a member of SIGMA, a think tank of speculative writers that advises the government as to future trends affecting national security.  

My favorite works by her are this series plus The Quantum Rose series and her last novel, The Jigsaw Assassin.  I can’t say that I’ve read he short fiction, so do tell me about it please. 

And now for The Ruby Dice Beginning…

Prologue

The Emperor of the Eubian Concord ruled the largest empire ever known to the human race, over two trillion people across more than a thousand worlds and habitats. It was a thriving, teeming civilization of beautiful complexity, and if it was also the greatest work of despotism in all history, its ruling caste had managed to raise their denial of that truth also to heights greater than ever before known.

Lost in such thoughts, the emperor stood in a high room of his palace and stared out a floor-to-ceiling window at the nighttime city below. The sparkle of its lights created a visual sonata that soothed his vision, if not his heart. At the age of twenty-six, Jaibriol the Third had weathered nine years of his own rule. Somehow, despite the assassination attempts, betrayals, and gilt-edged cruelty of his life, he survived.

Tonight the emperor grieved.

He mourned the loss of his innocence and his joy in life. His title was a prison as confining as the invisible bonds that held the billions of slaves he owned and wished he could free.

Most of all, he mourned his family. Ten years ago tonight, his parents had died in a spectacular explosion recorded and broadcast a million times across settled space. In the final battle of the Radiance War between his people and the Skolian Imperialate, the ship carrying his parents had detonated. He had seen that recording again and again, until it was seared into his mind.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 76. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Of course, most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 72. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it? 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 64. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think could be considered the best SF series ever made. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and and as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. 
  • Born June 6, 1961 Lisabeth Shatner, 62. Uncredited as a child along with her sister Melanie in “Miri” episode. Also appeared uncredited on TekWar entitled “Betrayal” which she wrote. The latter also guest-starred her sister, and was directed by their father.  Co-wrote with father, Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V the Final Frontier.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 60. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1973 Guy Haley, 50. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular paycheck comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in their Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it.
  • Born June 6, 1973 Patrick Rothfuss, 50. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. He also won the Gemmell Award for The Wise Man’s Fear. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002. 

(10) DRAWN FROM THE SOURCE. Publishers Weekly’s questions about her latest book leads them to revelations about “Tananarive Due’s Haunted History”.

Tananarive Due’s new novel The Reformatory (Saga, Aug.) opens with this dedication: “For Robert Stephens, my great-uncle who died at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, in 1937. He was fifteen years old.”

Due learned of Stephens’s existence 10 years ago, when she got a call from the Florida state attorney general’s office telling her she likely had a relative buried at the Dozier School, a reform school operated by the state from 1900 to 2011 that has become notorious for its horrific abuse of students. This brutality resulted in the deaths of dozens of boys who were then buried on the premises. After getting the call, Due and her father traveled to the site and attended a meeting of survivors.

Speaking via Zoom from her home office in Upland, Calif., clad in black and with posters for several of her works framed on the wall behind her, Due recalls the meeting: “I heard the firsthand testimony of survivors, Black and white, and the things that they had been through,” she says. “Some of those stories I will just never forget.”

Due mentions a man who spoke about receiving a beating so violent that the school physician had to remove pieces of his clothing from the lash marks on his back. “And this was a white man,” she notes, “which I say because if you’re talking about the segregation era, the 1960s and the 1950s, if they’re treating white students like that—white prisoners—you can only imagine how they’re treating the Black prisoners.”

Learning of her personal connection to the institution inspired Due to write The Reformatory, a ghost story that fictionalizes the experience of her great-uncle at Dozier. It’s set in 1950, when 12-year-old Black boy Robert Stephens is convicted of the crime of kicking a white boy. After being sent to the Gracetown Reformatory for Boys, Stephens finds himself under the jurisdiction of the sadistic Superintendent Haddock.

The school is also crawling with the “haints,” or ghosts, of boys who were killed there, and Haddock soon discovers that Robert has a gift for spotting them….

… “My real wish was to create almost a historical fable,” Due says, “but built on reality, where I could raise awareness about the horrible things that happened at the Dozier School and in the Jim Crow South in general.” Using the format of a ghost story also allowed her to put a spotlight on a broken criminal justice system “without retraumatizing readers.”…

(11) ZILLIONS OF CATEGORIES, MISTER RICO! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Oh my good ghod there are tons and tons and tons of categories here. And, despite the name of the award, it covers a lot more than just trailers. All that said, quite a percentage of the nominees are genre or genre related. “Golden Trailer Awards Nominations List: ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ ‘Ted Lasso’ & ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ Among Most Nominated” at Deadline.

The Golden Trailer Awards has unveiled its nominees for its 23rd annual extravaganza taking place on Thursday, June 29th at The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. The awards show honors the creative teams that are tasked with condensing two-hour films into two-minute trailers.

Films that received the most mentions include Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverDungeons & Dragons: Honor Among ThievesGlass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Nope and Oppenheimer. The TV series that were the most nominated included Ted LassoStranger Things and Only Murders in the Building.

This awards show highlights the phenomenal trailers from the current year. The 2023 jury comprises an illustrious lineup of A-list directors, producers, actors, writers, executives, and advertising creatives. Winners are awarded in categories such as Best Action, Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Horror, Foreign, Video Game, Romance, and more….

(12) TRANSFORMERS FRANCHISE POPULARITY RANKING. With the premiere this week of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, JustWatch has checked how many people are viewing the various films in the Transformers franchise.

Classic Transformers claims the first position, followed closely by Bumblebee in second place, which outshines the third-ranked Transformers: The Last Knight. The sixth spot is occupied by Transformers: Dark of the Moon. completing the lineup.

(13) DON’T LET IT BUG YOU. Mant (1993) is the story of a man who has mutated into a giant ant.

This 16-minute film in glorious black and white is the complete ‘film within a film’, which was featured in Joe Dante’s Matinee from 1993. A parody or homage morphing of several low-budget science-fiction horror films of the 1950s (many in black & white) that fused radioactivity with mad science and mutation.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Good Omens Season 2 Opening Title Sequence has been released.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/23 Scroll Me Once, I Am The Pixel, Scroll Me Twice, I Am The File

(1) RIGHTS ACQUIRED. A novel George R.R. Martin co-authored with Daniel Abraham and the late Gardner Dozois has been optioned for a movie. Variety has the details: “George R.R. Martin, Exile Content Pact on ‘Hunter’s Run’ Film Rights”.

…The sci-fi tale is the only one among Martin’s body of work that features a Latino lead, making it a natural fit for Exile Content which has produced a slew of content in Spanish and English.

Based on the sci-fi novel co-penned by Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham (“The Expanse”), “Hunter’s Run” follows Ramón Espejo who ekes out a living as a day laborer on a distant planet where he finds his living conditions no better off than what he left on planet Earth. He escapes but finds himself on the run for the murder of an interplanetary diplomat….

The novel itself took thirty years to finish, for reasons explained in the Wikipedia: “Hunter’s Run”.

…In 1976, science fiction author and editor Dozois conceived of a story beginning with a man floating in darkness. Dozois conceived of Ramón’s name, ethnicity (feeling that Hispanic protagonists were underrepresented in science fiction) and his basic situation, but the story did not proceed far. The following year, while working as a guest instructor at a Catholic women’s college at the invitation of Martin, his friend and colleague, Dozois read the story out loud. Martin thought the story was interesting and waited for Dozois to finish it, but Dozois found himself unable to do so. In 1981, Dozois suggested that Martin continue the story instead, which he did, bringing the story to the beginning of the chase sequence. Martin hit on the idea of expanding the story to a 500-page novel exploring the ecosystem of São Paulo..

After his writing on the story stalled in 1982, Martin handed it back to Dozois, suggesting they alternate working on it until it was done. However, Dozois was unable to come up with any ideas on how to proceed and the book remained in his desk drawer until 2002, when he and Martin decided to bring the story to the attention of a third author, Daniel Abraham. Abraham completed the story, and titled Shadow Twin, it was published by Subterranean as a novella in 2004. Dozois then went back and reworked the manuscript into a 380-page novel, renamed Hunter’s Run, for publication in 2007….

(2) STAY TUNED. Zack Snyder’s own longtime-in-hatching project Rebel Moon is finally on the way says The Hollywood Reporter: “Rebel Moon Netflix Release Date: Zack Snyder Movie Hits in December”.

Netflix has set a date for Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon. The space epic will bow Dec. 22 on the streaming service, Netflix revealed Wednesday as part of a broader look at its 2023 slate.

Snyder originally developed Rebel Moon as a potential Star Wars feature more than a decade ago, before Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. “This is me growing up as an Akira Kurosawa fan, a Star Wars fan,” Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2021. “It’s my love of sci-fi and a giant adventure. My hope is that this also becomes a massive IP and a universe that can be built out.”…

(3) NOT AGAINST THE LAW? [Item by Daniel Dern.] Behind a paywall, more from the New York Times on the not-dead indie romance author: “A Fake Death in Romancelandia”

… She had not heard again from the police and sounded confident that she would not face charges, saying the family had not received substantial donations after her online death announcement; she had offered the detectives access to her bank accounts to prove it. She did admit feeling remorse for the fans who had grieved her loss.

“I’m sorry for their mourning, but from a legal standpoint, I did nothing wrong,” she said. “Morally, I might have done something wrong. But legally, there’s nothing wrong.”

(4) WHAT IF YOUR BOOK IS ALREADY INSIDE THE PICKET LINE? Dan Kois, a mainstream author, discusses the “HarperCollins strike: why publishing my first novel has me deeply conflicted” at Slate.

Today, my first novel is being published. It’s the culmination of seven years of work and, uh, a large number of years of dreaming of writing a novel. Publication day for a debut novel can be a little overwhelming, I’m told—you’ve got all those TV news producers begging you for interviews. (They haven’t called me yet, but I assume they will soon.) Overall, though, pub day ought to be a time of joy, if slightly nervous joy: A thing you made, and care deeply about, is finally making its way into the world!

But for me, and for a lot of other authors this winter, publication day is feeling a little bittersweet. That’s because we’re being published by HarperCollins.

About 200 HarperCollins publishing employees, primarily younger assistants and associates, have been on strike since November. Their demands are not outlandish and reflect the issues facing junior employees across publishing: They want the company’s minimum starting salary increased from $45,000 to $50,000. They want the publisher to address diversity issues at the company. They also want to ensure all eligible employees are in the union.

… So what do owe the young striking employees of HarperCollins? Should I be delivering public statements about my support for the union? Sure, that’s easy. But is that enough? Isn’t the success of my book also success for a company that’s currently behaving in a way I can’t agree with? Should I be withholding my labor and refusing to promote my book entirely?

No, said Rachel Kambury, a striking associate editor at HarperCollins. “That’s not your responsibility,” she said. “We don’t want to harm HarperCollins authors.” Indeed, the striking workers aren’t asking customers to boycott Harper titles, and have even created a Bookshop.org affiliate page where you can buy Harper books (here’s a great example!) while also contributing to the union’s strike fund, which supports workers who haven’t gotten paid for two months now….

And Publishers Weekly posted a lengthy article about the strike, the company’s intransigence, and its prospective effects on the industry: “Who Wins in the HarperCollins Union Labor Dispute?”

As the HarperCollins labor dispute rolls into a new year, the company’s unionized employee strike is now the longest in the union’s more than 80-year history at the top publisher. Since the initial employee walkout on November 10, the dispute has caught the attention of all publishing sectors, with many anticipating the outcome as a test case for how labor unions could change business operations. But for many publishing industry veterans, whether that change is positive or negative remains to be seen.

Indeed, some smaller independent publishers—mostly outside of New York City—are concerned that the public nature of the strike, with wage demands made public, is raising unrealistic financial expectations. Smaller publishing operations can’t afford to match wages at the Big Five publishing companies. Moreover, despite the double-digit profit margins that the publicly-traded publishers have posted in recent years, publishing is generally a low margin business. Sales gains during the initial years of the COVID-19 outbreak notwithstanding, the industry typically has marginal growth in annual sales, and “flat is the new up” has long been an unofficial business slogan. A lengthy, very public strike only adds to the industry’s challenges, with many agents and authors wanting the dispute to be resolved quickly and immediately so the industry can get back to business.

As of January 18, unionized employees have missed 50 work days, amid numerous stories about HarperCollins’ low pay, particularly for entry-level employees….

(5) MARVEL MOVIES RETURNING TO CHINA SCREENS. “China ends de facto ban on Marvel films after more than three years” reports the Guardian.

China has ended its de facto ban on Marvel films, with superhero flicks Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania both locking in surprise release dates, after a three-and-a-half-year gap that has cost Disney hundreds of millions in ticket sales.

The films will be released in February, after the lunar new year, marking the first Marvel releases in the world’s second-largest theatrical market since Avengers: Endgame in 2019.

Foreign film releases are approved or denied by regulators at the China Film Administration, which is part of the Chinese Communist party’s propaganda department. The CFA routinely blocks the release of foreign films to maintain censorship and protect the domestic film industry.

The CFA has never explained why Marvel films have been blocked since mid-2019….

…The readmittance of Marvel films comes as the US and China work to repair relations, and amid other signs of China’s government easing its hardline approaches on the private sector.

(6) KINSMAN HISTORY MAKER. The Tribune-Chronicle in Warren, Ohio ran a profile about a famous local author: “Valley author found success in the stars”.

Edmond Moore Hamilton was a popular author of science fiction stories and novels through the mid-20th century. During his career, he wrote more than 30 science fiction novels and 400 stories.

… On Dec. 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett in San Gabriel, California, and in 1951 moved with her to a farmhouse in Kinsman, where they worked side by side for a quarter-century, but rarely shared the task of authorship….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1993 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I am not making the assumption that all of us here love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fiction but I deeply, madly do. At forty one novels and a number of related works including the Hugo nominated The Science of Discworld, there’s a lot of great reading to be had.

And let’s not forget a music adaptation by Steeleye Span of one of his novels. As the Green Man reviewer says, “It may be an example of retrospective inevitability now that it has actually happened in the form of the Wintersmith CD, however.  In any case, the end result is one that is overwhelmingly a credit to all concerned; worthy of the names involved and their reputations.” 

And of course, Discworld has food.  Tonight, I’ll offer up one of my favorite quotes by him on that subject. Don’t worry — there’s more food to follow by him. 

Our quote this Scroll is from “Theatre of Cruelty”, a Discworld short story that Terry Pratchett wrote in 1993. It has an interesting history as it was first written for W. H. Smith Bookcase magazine and then was slightly changed before being published in the program of OryCon 15, and finally in The Wizards of Odd, a compilation of fantasy short stories.

Pratchett allowed it to be published sort as a feral thing online, so you can find the full text, well, pretty much everywhere. Here’s a nicely formatted copy.

And here’s the excerpt from it that I promised. 

There is such a thing as an edible, nay delicious, meat pie floater, its mushy peas of just the right consistency, its tomato sauce piquant in its cheekiness, its pie filling tending even towards named parts of the animal. There are platonic burgers made of beef instead of cow lips and hooves. There are fish ‘n’ chips where the fish is more than just a white goo lurking at the bottom of a batter casing and you can’t use the chips to shave with. There are hot dog fillings which have more in common with meat than mere pinkness, whose lucky consumers don’t apply mustard because that would spoil the taste. It’s just that people can be trained to prefer the other sort, and seek it out. It’s as if Machiavelli had written a cookery book.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh, Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? A talking, honey loving bear? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both? I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce in it! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 80. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson. He played Frederick Selous on two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. His last genre appearance was the new The Man Who Fell to Earth series.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 70. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 68. Some of his genre films are Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly. Bull Durham is one of my go-to films when I want to feel good. He also was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. On the baseball side of things, I really like his Field of Dreams — his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shares the latest in alien transportation.

(10) LET THERE BE MOMENTARY LIGHT. “Inside the nuclear fusion breakthrough that could be a step to unlimited clean energy in the distant future” CBS’ 60 Minutes has posted their coverage as a text article in addition to the video recording.

…Last month, the nearest star to the Earth was in California. In a laboratory, for the first time, the world’s largest lasers forced atoms of hydrogen to fuse together in the same kind of energy producing reaction that fires the sun. It lasted less than a billionth of a second. But, after six decades of toil and failure, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proved it could be done. If fusion becomes commercial power one day, it would be endless and carbon free. In other words, it would change human destiny. As you’ll see, there’s far to go. But after December’s breakthrough, we were invited to tour the lab and meet the team that brought star power down to Earth.

Uncontrolled fusion is easy–mastered so long ago the films are in black and white. Fusion is what a hydrogen bomb does, releasing energy by forcing atoms of hydrogen to fuse together. What’s been impossible is harnessing the fires of Armageddon into something useful. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helps maintain nuclear weapons and experiments with high-energy physics. An hour east of San Francisco, we met Livermore’s director, Kim Budil, in the lab that made history, the National Ignition Facility. 

Kim Budil: The National Ignition Facility is the world’s largest, most energetic laser. It was built starting in the 1990s, to create conditions in the laboratory that had previously only been accessible in the most extreme objects in the universe, like the center of giant planets, or the sun, or in operating nuclear weapons. And the goal was to really be able to study that kind of very high-energy, high-density condition in a lot of detail….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: High on Life”, Fandom Games is not just honest, but brutally honest.

…From Rick and Morty creator and alleged domestic abuser Justin Roiland comes a brand new video game that’s exactly the thing that you would expect from him. It’s a space adventure where every joke goes on two minutes too long – High on Life.

Witness what happens when Justin Roiland decides to bring his vision to life in game and experience a world that feels like a cheap knockoff of a thing made by the same guy… 

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/22 And The Pixel That Was Planted In My Brain Still Remains, Within The Scrolls Of Filers

(1) BOT AND PAID FOR. In “Fandoms Can Do Bad All by Themselves”, Vice looks at reports about what percentage of social media support for the release of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League came from bots, but concludes most of it was probably genuine.

According to a report in Rolling Stone, the very online campaign for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League was a battle waged in no small part by bots. The report is gossipy fun and well worth reading in full—multiple sources tell reporter Tatiana Siegel that Snyder, discoursing on his enemies to a studio executive, said, “I will destroy them on social media,” and it gets more absurd from there—but the main impression the reader is left with is that the pro-Snyder movement was perhaps not quite as organic as it seemed. One interesting thing is that it’s not clear how much that would matter—the behavior of most fandoms when they’re incensed, after all, is not all that different from bots to begin with.

… The outlet commissioned reports from three different cybersecurity and social-media firms, and also quotes from reports that were commissioned by Warner Bros. According to reports commissioned by Rolling Stone, at least 13% of the accounts using the hashtags related to the Snyder fandom were deemed fake—much higher than the average of around 5%. Because people and bots using this hashtag would often target specific Warner Bros. executives with implied death threats, Rolling Stone reports, the studio hired cybersecurity firms to analyze its contents. While all acknowledge that any popular hashtag will have bot activity, at a few points in the article different people argue that if Snyder was scheming behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studios, then these bots must have been under his control as well. (One site, forsnydercut.com, was at one point registered by an ad agency, but Rolling Stone was unable to establish a connection between Snyder and a person apparently behind the site, whom he denied knowing or hiring.)

While this report is full of juicy gossip surrounding Snyder’s behavior towards the people he felt had wronged him, it probably somewhat overstates the power of robot armies; whatever else Snyder was or wasn’t in control of, he certainly knew how to present himself to a fandom in order to garner its sympathy….

(2) LOVE NEVER FAILS. “Sarah Gailey On Loving Monsters” at CrimeReads.

Just Like Home is dedicated “to everyone who ever loved a monster.”

It is the easiest thing in the world to love a monster. It’s easy to love a monster because love isn’t a decision. It’s no one’s fault that love happens. Emotions, urges, and impulses are themselves beyond our ability to control. Love in its many forms wells up out of the human spirit irrepressibly. Like anger or sadness or the desire to kill, it arrives without invitation or intention. Action might spring from emotion—love might lead to an expression of affection, anger might lead to violence, a powerful impulse might lead to a monstrous act. But on its own, love is no different from any other feeling. To love a monster is easy, when the monster seems loveable.

It’s easy for a monster to seem loveable. All monsters partition other people into two categories—those who witness their monstrosity, and those who don’t. Maybe this is because the monster sees the world as divided into unequal parts, where some deserve to flourish while others deserve to be the targets of ungoverned impulse. Or maybe it’s because monsters want to be loved just as much as anyone else, and they understand that those who experience their ungoverned impulses aren’t likely to give them support, affection, admiration. Maybe it’s just another reflex, as unconscious as the way my voice slips into a slightly different register when I’m around trusted friends….

(3) AFROFUTURISM NEWS. In the Guardian’s interview with artist and filmmaker Edward George, he talks about Black cultural history, Tupac Shakur, the evolution of dub and his remarkable cinema essays with the Black Audio Film Collective: “Edward George: ‘You can’t have Afrofuturism without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in’”.

…Last Angel is not only a film about science fiction but, partly influenced by Chris Marker’s 1962 film La Jetée, it features a character called the “data thief” who travels back from the year 2195 to probe the failure of the Ghanaian revolution. If this all sounds hugely ambitious, Icarean even, that’s part of its appeal. It played a crucial role in popularising Afrofuturism – a term first coined by white theorist Mark Dery, and now used to describe countless exhibitions, film series and even films (such as the feudalism-romanticising Black Panther) in which the term is used breezily, a floating signifier for something to do with technophilia, empowerment, a vague and breezy form of utopianism. “Because of the ways it uses the archive, its montage, its commentary – the film has become a codex of futurity,” says George.

“If you want to fetishise futurity less, you have to go back to the plantations and to the slaves themselves: a lot of the songs that they were singing were literally about a tomorrow. These were cast in the metaphysical language of the day – that of the Bible – which was an act of mastery in itself. More than that, look at Italian futurism in the early 20th century: it opened out on to all kinds of fascism. You can’t have futurity, or futurism, or Afrofuturism, without some ambience of a fascist thinking creeping in.”…

(4) FLINT FUNDRAISER ACHIEVES GOAL. The “Eric Flint” GoFundMe created to help pay the costs of memorial services raised $12,540. The organizer announced, “The family wants to thank you for your generosity. We have reached the goal and will be closing the campaign. Hug your loved ones today.”

(5) SFWA SPOTLIGHTS ROMANCE STEERING COMMITTEE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) announced that a SFWA Romance Steering Committee (RSC) was formed in Fall 2021.

The RSC will offer meaningful input and assistance in cultivating a positive trajectory for authors of stories that combine fantasy, science fiction, and romance in a way that encourages diversity, engagement, and quality, while also providing outreach and support resources for romance writers struggling with inclusion in the SFF community at large.

RSC resources that are already available, or will be soon, include:

  • The SFWA Discord channel #romantic-sff
  • Monthly posts in the Romancing SFF series on the SFWA Blog searchable here.
  • A Romancing SFF Meetup to be held in the fall.

The members of the Romance Steering Committee are Alexia Chantel, Claire Davon, Miranda Honfleur (co-chair), Victoria Janssen, Chelsea Mueller (co-chair), Abigail Reynolds, Katherine Ley, and R.K. Thorne.

(6) HOT ITEM. From AbeBooks “Most expensive sales from April to June 2022”, see the asbestos-bound copy of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The third-biggest sale of the quarter, it went for $22,500.

This is the famous asbestos-bound edition of Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about the power of books. #83 of 200 signed and numbered copies. A regular signed first edition of Fahrenheit 451 sold for $12,000 via AbeBooks earlier in the year.

Sixth on the list was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dali sold for $21,375.

(7) CYBER-GROUNDHOG DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Sure, sounds useful, but also “Yet another ‘what could possibly go wrong,’ e.g., heists/capers, foreign invaders, alien invaders, and AI/cyber takeovers. E.g, Niven/Pournelle Oath of Fealty, probably also at least one PK Dick story. “Earthgrid Aims To Rewire the USA Using Super-Cheap Tunnel Tech” at Slashdot.

Bay Area startup Earthgrid says it’s developing a plasma boring robot that can dig underground tunnels 100x faster and up to 98% cheaper than existing tech, and it plans to use it to start re-wiring America’s energy, internet and utilities grids….

(8) SHATNER LENDING VOICE TO MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Yahoo! was a witness as “William Shatner crashes Comic-Con—and soon, Masters Of The Universe”.

He-Man and his friends will welcome a new addition to the follow-up to Netflix’s Masters Of The Universe: Revelation—an animated series set in outer space that, up until now, has been sorely lacking anyone who’s actually been in outer space. William Shatner made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel celebrating 40 years of Masters Of The Universe toys, films, and series, at which series creator Kevin Smith confirmed that Shatner will voice a mystery character in the upcoming Masters Of The Universe: Revolution.

The legendary Star Trek actor and actual astronaut arrived to deliver the news of his casting in the most conceivably Comic-Con way possible: his booming voice startling and delighting Hall H audience members before he emerged to join the panel. The 2022 edition of the convention is a busy one for Shatner, who was also on hand to preview a forthcoming documentary about his life produced by Legion M, the production company created and led entirely by fans. “San Diego Comic-Con has grown,” he quipped. “There’s something in the water. It used to be a little sleepy town!”…

There are more details about the panel in CBR.com’s article “SDCC: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe 40th Anniversary Panel”.

Cora Buhlert is keeping a sharp eye on these developments. She notes there will be another Masters of the Universe panel on Friday focused on the toys. Plus, says Cora, “Mattel has a huge toy display at the con, including a diorama featuring the massive Eternia playset, of which only a handful were produced in the 1980s. Apparently, the Eternia set will be crowdfunded, e.g. Mattel will be collecting preorders and only then go into production. There are a couple of videos about the Mattel display online. This one is pretty detailed and offers a good look at the Eternia diorama and the other toys announced.”

(9) BUHLERT’S NEW TOY PHOTO STORY. The previous item would have been the perfect lead-in to a new Masters of the Universe figure photo story, but that’s not the source of her latest, which is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, an adaptation of a story by Robert E. Howard.

…For those who don’t know, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is the second story about Conan of Cimmeria that Robert E. Howard ever wrote, ninety years ago now. It was rejected by Weird Tales and only published in altered form (with Conan renamed Amra) in the fanzine The Fantasy Fan during Howard’s lifetime. The original version did not appear until way after Howard’s death. You can read the Amra version here.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” is set early during Conan’s career. Many believe it is the earliest of Conan’s chronicles adventures. I’m not entirely convinced by this, but Conan is definitely young in this story.

My adaptation differs from the original story in two aspects. For starters, I made it less rapey. Secondly, instead of the male pseudo-Viking companions from the original story, the companion I gave Conan is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, pirate, mercenary, swordswoman and all around awesome character, whom Conan meets in the later story “Red Nails”.

So I present you: “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard, starring Conan of Cimmeria and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood…

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dig into dumplings with Patrick O’Leary in episode 176 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Patrick O’Leary

We discussed the way his new novel 51 is similar to The Great Gatsby, why he believes his books will crumble if he attempts to describe them, the perils and pleasures of pantsing (and how his stories often don’t get any good until the 15th draft), the tragedy of being an invisible creature, our mutual fears of what aging might bring, his love for Marvel Comics (and especially the Silver Surfer), how Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced him to literature, the way reading Kurt Vonnegut taught him there were no rules, the two science fiction greats who literally left him speechless, and much more.

(11) ALAN GRANT (1949-2022). Comic writer Alan Grant, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Batman, died July 20 at the age of 73. 2000AD has a full profile of his career here.

…Grant was one of his generation’s finest writers, combining a sharp eye for dialogue and political satire with a deep empathy that made his characters seem incredibly human and rounded. Through his work he had a profound and enduring influence on 2000 AD and on the comics industry….

(12) MEMORY LANE.  

1922 [By Cat Eldridge.] One hundred years ago, Agatha Christie’s Secret Adversary was released in the United Kingdom by The Bodley Head. The novelintroduces Tommy and Tuppence who will be featured in three more novels and a collection of short stories. The five Tommy and Tuppence books would span Christie’s writing career.

The story here is that the Great War is over, and jobs are almost impossible to find, so childhood friends Tommy Beresford and Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley decide to start their own business as The Young Adventurers. In this novel, they are hired for a job that leads them into many dangerous situations, and meeting allies as well, including an American millionaire in search of his cousin.

The critics liked it. The Times Literary Supplement said it was “a whirl of thrilling adventures” and the Daily Chronicle was very happy with it: “It’s an excellent yarn and the reader will find it as impossible as we did to put it aside until the mystery has been fathomed.” 

It would be the second Christie work to be turned into a film as it would be made in Germany by the Orplid Film company in 1929 as a silent movie which ran for 76 minutes. Thought to be lost, it wasn’t and was shown at the National Film Theatre in 2001. 

The novel was adapted twice for television, in 1983 and in 2014. Significant changes were made to story. A graphic novel was done.  Several theatre productions were staged. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1882 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 90. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 78. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really like be it genre adjacent or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 50. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. Damn I miss that series which amazingly won no Hugos. (I just discovered the series is on the Peacock streaming service which I subscribe to so I’m going to watch it again!) He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and he made a series of commercials for Maytag.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Last Kiss has genre-related advice for a foundering romance.

(15) COLBERT AT COMIC-CON. “SDCC: Stephen Colbert hosts Lord Of The Rings extravaganza”A.V. Club has the story.

Amazon spent nearly half a billion dollars on their new Lord Of The Rings series, and at least half of that must’ve gone into their Comic-Con panel. Led by a string accompaniment featuring series composer Bear McCreary, the panel kicked off with the music of Middle Earth to set the stage, and Late Show host Stephen Colbert on hand to speak elvish and keep things moving.

Prime Video played a room-wrapping trailer on screens all around Hall H, showing off the various peoples of Middle Earth. And all that’s before showrunner J.D. Payne taught us to say “Oh, shit” in Elvish—only to be challenged by Colbert. “Tolkien speaks the language of the soul,” said Payne. And he also speaks the language of debate.

… And finally, Colbert asked question that was on everyone’s lips: “Will there be Entwives?”

“Maybe you’ve seen them already,” McKay teased.

(16) RINGS TRAILER. Here’s the “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” trailer shown at San Diego Comic-Con. Begins streaming September 2 on Prime Video.

Discover the legend that forged the rings. #TheRingsOfPower Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

(17) FREE READ. Cora Buhlert has a new flash story online at Wyngraf Magazine. This one is called “Demon Child” which she says “is a changeling story in reverse.” The first line is —

“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm….

(18) A COMIC ABOUT MARTIANS IN PASADENA. NPR presents “NASA engineer Nagin Cox on Mars rover time”. “This comic, illustrated by Anuj Shrestha, is inspired by an interview with NASA engineer Nagin Cox from TED Radio Hour’s episode It Takes Time.

(19) ALTERNATE RACE TO MARS CONTINUES. “’For All Mankind’ Renewed for Season 4 at Apple”Variety reports from Comic-Con.

For All Mankind” has been renewed for Season 4 at Apple.

The announcement was made Friday as part of the show’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Production on the new season is scheduled to begin in August. Season 3 of the series debuted on the streamer on June 10.

“For All Mankind” is an alternative history series that explores what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. The series presents an world where NASA astronauts, engineers and their families find themselves in the center of extraordinary events seen through the prism of an alternate history timeline — a world in which the USSR beats the US to the moon.

In Season 3, the series moved into the early ‘90s with a race to a new planetary frontier: Mars. The Red Planet becomes the new front in the Space Race not only for the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but also an unexpected new entrant with a lot to prove and even more at stake. The characters find themselves going head-to-head as their ambitions for Mars come into conflict and their loyalties are tested, creating a pressure cooker that builds to a climactic conclusion….

(20) STRANGER CHICKEN. Adweek is fascinated when “KFC Releases ’80s-Style Horror Film With Killer Pizza”.

The phenomenon of Netflix series Stranger Things has produced a resurgence of interest in ’80s horror movies. Now chicken restaurant chain KFC is looking to tap into that interest from younger consumers by producing its own short film in Spain, featuring killer pizza.

The fast-food chain has released La Massacre—a 14-minute short film, which tells the often-told story of five teenagers who travel to a remote cabin in the woods to enjoy a weekend away. However, once they reach it, they are stalked and killed by a terrifying entity shaped like a pizza.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George notes the sixth Harry Potter movie begins with Harry Potter breaking Hogwarts security by reading a magic newspaper in a Muggle coffee shop.  But Dumbledore drags him back to Hogwarts so that he can begin his yearly ritual of “placing children in mortal danger.” The producer notes that at Hogwarts “they really don’t teach anything except how to die a horrible death,” so Harry and the gang “spend way too much time on teenage romance.”  But things are so lax at Hogwarts that Harry nearly kills Draco Malfoy until Snape saves him but Harry isn’t punished for this.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Bill, Steven French, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]