Worldcon 75 Announces Special Guest Astronaut Kjell Lindgren

NASA Astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren has been named a Special Guest of Worldcon 75.

As one of Sasquan’s guests of honor in 2015 he participated by video from the International Space Station, which was wonderful in its own way, but he’ll attend this year’s Worldcon in Helsinki in person.

Dr. Lindgren also recently served as Toastmaster at the 2017 Nebula Awards banquet.

He became a NASA astronaut in June 2009, and spent 141 days aboard the ISS in 2015. During that time he conducted two spacewalks, cumulatively lasting over 15 hours.

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Clarion Instructor Reading Series Schedule

The Clarion workshop began June 25 at UCSD, and the Clarion instructor reading series commences tomorrow night at San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy bookstore — five evenings with leading sff writers working, presented by Mysterious Galaxy and Comickaze comics.

Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry: Wednesday, June 28, 7:00 PM (Mysterious Galaxy)

Nalo Hopkinson: Wednesday, July 5, 7:00 PM (Mysterious Galaxy)

Andrea Hairston: Wednesday, July 12, 7:00 PM (Mysterious Galaxy)

Cory Doctorow: Tuesday, July 18, 7:00 PM (Comickaze, Liberty Station)

C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson: Wednesday, July 26, 7:00 PM (Mysterious Galaxy)

Vernor Vinge at UCSD for “London in 2080” Series on June 29

SF writer Vernor Vinge and architect Niall McLaughlin will speak about Science Fiction Meets Architecture: Designing for an Aging Population as part of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination’s “London in 2080” debate series on June 29. The event begins in UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium at 10:30 a.m.

As life expectancy increases and modern medicine changes the health and vitality of those in their 80s and 90s, there will be major changes in the design of space as the London population ages. Cognitive impairment will also be more widespread.

  • Vernor Vinge has won five Hugo Awards, including one for each of his last three novels, Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and

Rainbow’s End (2006). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his science fiction, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella “True Names,” which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction and cyberspace. Dr. Vinge is Emeritus professor of mathematics and computer science and also noted, among other things, for introducing the term “the singularity.”

  • Niall McLaughlin is an architect, and educator. Niall won Young British Architect of the Year in 1998. He was named as one of the BBC’s Rising Stars in 2001 and his work represented Britain in a US exhibition Gritty Brits at the Carnegie Mellon Museum. Niall was made a Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (2015) and he represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale Architettura 2016. Peabody Housing (Whitechapel 2015), and Somerville Student Residence (Oxford 2010). He is currently working on museum designs for the Natural History Museum in London and Auckland Castle in Durham. Niall is Professor of Architectural Practice at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He was a visiting professor at the University of California Los Angeles from 2012-2013, and was appointed Lord Norman Foster Visiting Professor of Architecture at Yale for 2014-2015. Niall lives in London with his wife Mary, son Diarmaid and daughter Iseult.

The Debate Series is free and open to members of the public.

Sci-Fi Meets Architecture is a new forum for cross-disciplinary visions and debate at UCL and UCSD. Curated by: Prof David Kirsh (UCSD, San Diego), Prof Alan Penn (The Bartlett, UK), and Ava Fatah (Architectural Computation Programme, The Bartlett School of Architecture). Sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, The Bartlett School of Architecture, and The Leverhulme Trust.

War for the Planet of the Apes, Official HD Trailer #4

The fourth War for the Planet of the Apes trailer is online. The film comes to theaters July 11.

In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel.  After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.  As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

 

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Greg Hullender, Nigel, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

2017 James White Award Winner

The winner of the 2017 James White Award is “The Morrigan” by Stewart Horn. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine.

Commenting on the winning story on behalf of the judging panel, David Gullen said:

The Morrigan works very well, a very tight piece of writing, confident and accomplished. It breaks the rule on colloquial speech and not only makes it work but is stronger for it. An original take on a very old tale with good pace, and sense of time and place.

Horn’s story wins £200 and will be published in a future issue of Interzone.

The judges also chose to give a special commendation to “May the Pain Guide You Home” by Daniel Roy. Award Adminstrator Martin McGrath said, “Daniel’s story scored highly with all the judges, it packs a powerful emotional punch in a well-written and tightly told story.”

The winning story was chosen from a field of almost 200 entrants this year.

 

The judges were Lorna Gibb, David Gullen, and Konrad Waleski.

[Thanks to  Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Pullman and the Grenfell Tower Fundraiser

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, offered to let readers bid for a chance to name one of the characters in his next book to benefit the victims of the recent Grenfell Tower disaster. A teacher is bidding for the name of one of his students, a resident of the tower who did not survive the fire — “Teacher’s bid to name Philip Pullman character after Grenfell Tower pupil gets £16,000 backing”.

Authors and well-wishers raising money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are augmenting a bid by a teacher to name a character in His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman’s new book after one of his former pupils, who lost her life.

Nur Huda, 16, died in the fire along with her parents Abdul Aziz and Fouzia, and her siblings Yasin, 21, and Mehdi, 8.

The teacher’s £1500 bid has been augmented by others’ donations, both small and large (one for £5000).

Many in the publishing industry are joining the Authors for Grenfell Tower online auction, offering items to help raise money for British Red Cross’s relief fund for Grenfell Tower residents and neighbors.

In addition to Pullman, sff donors include:

[Thanks to Nigel for the story.]

Wonder Woman, Series That Didn’t Happen

By Carl Slaughter: (1) Herstory. Comic Books vs the World offers a Wonder Woman screen history.

(2) Fan produced trailer of the 2011 Wonder Woman pilot.

This 2011 Wonder Woman pilot stars Adrianne Palicki of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.  It was produced by legendary TV producer David Kelly and starred Elizabeth Hurley as the villain.  This fan produced trailer takes a lot of liberties, adding scenes from other movies. NBC opted against a series.  ABC ordered a pilot for her S.H.I.E.L.D. character, “Marvel’s Most Wanted,” but decided against a series.  She will co-star along with Seth MacFarlane in the sci-fi comedy TV series The Orville.

(3) Adrianne Palicki in action.

(4) 1974 Wonder Woman pilot. Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman in 1974.  The Wonder Woman in this pilot is based on the mod era of the comic book, 1968-1972, dubbed the Marvelized version.  Ricardo Montalban plays the villain.  ABC decided against the series and later launched the Lynda Carter series, which is based on the traditional version.

(5) 1967 Wonder Woman pilot. “Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince.”  Designed as a straight comedy.  William Dozier, executive producer of the campy Batman series, the serious Green Hornet series, and the Dick Tracy live action series pilot, hoped to use this short to convince Warner Brothers to sign off on a full pilot.  “Wonder Woman.  Who knows she has the strength of Hercules, who knows she has the wisdom of Athena, who knows she has the speed of Mercury, and who thinks she has the beauty of Aphrodite.”  The Hollywood Reporter described it as, “So bad it’s a work of art.”

(6) Casting. Before Israeli supermodel Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, there was Australian supermodel Megan Gale as Wonder Woman.  Here are 2 links to stunning photos of Megan Gale as Wonder Woman and a background note about the Justice League big screen project.

“In January 2008, it was announced that she had been offered the part of Wonder Woman in the upcoming George Miller movie version of Justice League of America, before the project was put on hold and eventually cancelled…In January 2008, Gale announced her retirement from runway modelling after 15 years and walked the catwalk for the last time just weeks later at a David Jones winter collection launch in Sydney. Her final outfit was the Wonder Woman outfit she was to wear in the still-shelved film Justice League of America.”  –  Wiki

(7) They weren’t Wonder Woman. Here are 9 actresses who almost played Wonder Woman.  OK, so 3 actresses played Wonder Woman in rejected pilots.  Plus 9 actresses who were cast but didn’t film or who auditioned but were not cast or who threw their hat in the ring or whom a potential director favored.  Plus one television Wonder Woman and one movie Wonder Woman.  Plus animation versions.  That’s a lot of Wonder Woman actresses.

Pixel Scroll 6/25/17 One Click, My Bonny Pixel, I’m After A Scroll Tonight

(1) MORE, PLEASE. Here’s a provocative (in a good way) question:

(2) NOMINEE REVIEWING. Marco Zennaro is making progress in his Hugo reading, adding reviews as he goes along. Here’s the latest addition to “The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novels”.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu Death’s End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.

I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.

I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.

The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent…

Hugo worthy? Yes! It was one of the books I nominated.

Was it part of a slate? No

Zennaro has also written about the nominated Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories.

(3) COMPELLED. In a review for Strange Horizons, Alexandra Pierce works hard to explain the complex world of Jo Walton’s novel Necessity.

On the philosophical side, the interactions of Apollo and Hermes demonstrate how gods are themselves constrained by higher powers: both by Zeus, father of all the gods, and Necessity. As the title suggests, the compulsion of Necessity is an important aspect of the novel. It’s a force that not even gods can avoid, and it can even be used to avoid the potentially damaging aspects of time travel, of getting stuck in difficult situations: if Necessity says you must do something later in your timeline, you can’t be stuck somewhere else. Complementing this is a strong focus on the free choices of humans to undertake either stupid or worthy actions, in politics and personal relationships and everything else—and the contention that this is a noble part of the human condition.

(4) BRONZE PLATE SPECIAL. The other day I Scrolled about the “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era” – never suspecting my friend, archeologist Louise Hitchcock, has personally worn a replica.

After you’ve looked at the picture, check out Minoan Architecture and Urbanism: New Perspectives on an Ancient Built Environment edited by Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett, which includes the co-authored article “Lost in Translation: Settlement Organization in Postpalatial Crete – A View from the East” by Louise A. Hitchcock and Aren M. Maier. The book is available for pre-order, with a release date of September 23.

(5) IMMORTAL CATS. No one can forget them once she’s told their story — “Mog author Judith Kerr, 94, to publish new book Katinka’s Tail”.

Almost 50 years after the appearance of one of the most famous felines in children’s books, Mog creator Judith Kerr is to publish a book inspired by her latest pet cat, Katinka. The much-loved author and illustrator, who celebrated her 94th birthday last week, is to publish Katinka’s Tail in the autumn.

The story of a “perfectly ordinary cat with a not-so-ordinary tail” was inspired by Kerr’s observations of her cat, the ninth in an inspirational line. “She is a ridiculous-looking white cat with a tabby tail that looks as though it belonged to somebody else,” she said. It was watching the “bizarre” behaviour of her first family pet, Mog – which included licking her sleeping daughter’s hair – that inspired the eponymous stories beloved by generations of children.

(6) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. The Last Knight, an unimpressive number one at U.S. box offices this weekend, did better overseas — “No. 1 ‘Transformers’ hits new low with $69-million domestic debut, but is saved by global box office “.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise from Michael Bay, may have topped the weekend, but all the robot-smashing has gotten a bit rusty at the box office.

The Paramount film, which opened Wednesday, took in $45 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, placing it in the No. 1 spot ahead of returning titles “Cars 3” and “Wonder Woman.” When factored into its five-day debut, “The Last Knight” grossed a franchise low of $69 million.

….The latest installment, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins and features a new mythology involving King Arthur and Stonehenge, cost $217 million to make. And however squeaky “The Last Knight’s” debut may have been domestically, the film took in an Optimus Prime-sized number overseas. It earned $196 million from its first 40 markets — with $123 million of that haul coming from China.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“I’m Batman.”

Anyway, he was – Olan Soule (1909-1994).

Soule’s voice work on television included his 15-year role (1968-1983) as Batman on several animated series that were either devoted to or involved the fictional “Dark Knight” superhero

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster began stalking movie theatres.
  • June 25, 1982 The Omen arrives to terrify movie audiences.
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner was shown on some theater screens.
  • June 25, 1982 – Meanwhile, other screens played John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DYSTOPIAN

(10) LINE DIRECTOR. While being interviewed about his new assignment directing the Han Solo movie, Ron Howard reminisced that right after he and his wife saw Star Wars they loved it so much they got right back in line and waited to see it again.

As news of the 1977 film Star Wars began to unfold, Howard said he became “so curious.” He and his wife went to see it on the first day of release and were “so moved by the movie. It was all the things you dream you’re going to experience in the movies.”

Although they had stood in line for two hours to see it, when Howard and Cheryl came out, they threw each other a look and decided to see it again immediately — standing in line for another 90 minutes.

Which made me wonder — how did Ron Howard not see this movie at a free pre-release screening? After all, I did — along with many other LASFSians.

(11) WHY IT HAPPENED. Carl Slaughter recommends, “For those in shock or scratching their heads over the Han Solo project shakeup, Mr. Sunday Movie offers an explanation that seems to make sense.”

(12) EQUIVALENCIES. Jesse Hudson makes clear there are some usages of alternate history that have worn on him, in his “Review of Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore” at Speculiction.

Its Jonbar point the American Civil War, Bring the Jubilee looks into the idea ‘what if the South won’?  The story of Hodge Backmaker, son of a poor farmer in what’s left of the United States of America (essentially the Union), the young man breaks free of his rural home at an early age and heads to New York City—an impoverished metro compared to the grand, lavish cities of the Confederate States of America.  Getting lucky and finding work with a book printer, Hodge spends the next few years of his life learning the trade.  And he learns much more.  The book printer’s essentially a front, namely that of printing propaganda and counterfeiting money, Hodge learns of ongoing secret operations to build a Grand Army and restore the United States to its former glory.

While many readers might expect such an early effort of alternate history to go the black and white route of vilifying the South by portraying them as tyrannical victors while glorifying the North as honorable victims, instead, the South is not portrayed as a slave-loving region which stamps the poor further into the ground, rather simply an economically and politically aggressive government bent on empire.  In other words, Moore spins the tables… to look something like the North.  This is all a convoluted manner of saying Bring the Jubilee is more interested in finding common ground between reality and the alternate reality, than it is putting the 8 millionth nail in the coffin of ‘slavery is bad’.

(13) EUROCON REPORT. Alqua shares the many highlights of “Eurocon 2017 (U-con) in Dortmund” at Fandom Rover.

The evening concert on Friday was called A night to remember. I was a little bit sceptical if it would be really a night I will remember for long, but I was wrong. There were few artists presenting their pieces. We were able to hear people playing guitar and theremin, reciting poetry or “interpreting alien poetry”. But the best pieces of this evening were songs played by Dimitra Fleissner on her harp and the ATS show by Gata. Music and dance were quite different but they both left me astonished and I will be looking forward for another possibility to see one of these artists performing.

(14) DISSENTING VOICE. Brad R. Torgersen deems “cultural appropriation” of no concern in his Mad Genius Club post titled: “If you’re not appropriating culture, you’re not paying attention”.

Clearly, nobody owns culture. So why do we worry about appropriating it?

(Cough, when I say “we,” I mean American progressives and Social Justice Zealots who clearly have too much time on their hands, cough.)

My take: If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, you have more to say on this topic than anyone. Because you’re extrapolating futures, presents, and pasts. Alternative histories. Possible horizons. The “What if?” that makes SF/F so much fun in the first place. There are no rules which you aren’t automatically authorized to break. The entire cosmos is your paint box. Nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Are we really going to be dumb enough to pretend that SF/F authors of demographics X, Y, or Z, cannot postulate “What if?” for demographics A, B, and C?

We’re not even talking about homework — which is a good idea, simply because some of your best syntheses will occur when you take Chocolate Culture and Peanut Butter Culture — kitbash them together — and come up with the inhabitants of a frontier planet for your thousand-year-future interstellar empire.

We’re talking about authors voluntarily yoking their creative spirits to somebody else’s pet political and cultural hobbyhorses. A game of rhetorical, “Mother, may I?”

(15) WEIRD TECH. Labeling produce with lasers instead of paper: “M&S says labelling avocados with lasers is more sustainable”.

M&S will sell avocados bearing what look like pale tattoos, showing a best-before date and origin.

Peeling away the traditional labelling will save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year, says M&S.

More of its fruit and vegetables may be laser-branded in future, the retailer says.

“The laser just takes off one layer of skin and instead of inking it or burning it, the skin retracts and leaves a mark,” says Charlie Curtis, senior produce agronomist at Marks and Spencer.

“What we’re putting onto the fruit is country of origin, best before date and there’s a short code so you can put it through quickly at the [checkout] till.”

(16) JUST WEIRD. The new Canadian Toonie glows in the dark.

Canadians may now have a slight advantage when it comes to digging for lost change in sofa cushions and car seats; the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled what it described as the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation.

The specially designed two-dollar coin, or toonie, as it’s known in Canada, features two people paddling in a canoe as the northern lights – vivid in green and blue – dance high above them. When the coin is put in the dark, the aurora borealis glows softly, thanks to a new ink formulation that contains luminescent material.

The coin, part of a collection created to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, also ranks as the world’s first coloured bimetallic coin, said a mint spokesperson. “Only the core of the $2 coin is coloured and the glow effect makes the aurora borealis part of the design look lifelike,” said Alex Reeves.

(17) UNABOMBER INVESTIGATION. Polygon’s article “The FBI kept a list of D&D players as part of its hunt for the Unabomber”.

It appears that in 1995 the FBI made a sincere effort to investigate a group of D&D players. It suspected them of having a connection with the Unabomber, a terrorist named Theodore Kaczynski who spent the better part of two decades mailing people explosives.

Step one was to dig back into the past of TSR and the role-playing hobby as a whole. In so doing, the FBI put together a pretty decent three-page history, if I do say so myself. It also came up with a list of armed and dangerous individuals who were “known members of the Dungeons & Dragons” that it pulled from TSR’s own computer system.

David Klaus sent the link along with his comments:

The fishing expedition into TSR as a cocaine front would appear to be sparked by cultural bigotry.  Unable to find real crime, to justify his existence, local FBI agent investigates legitimate business run by “weirdos” playing a game Pat Robertson says is Satanic.  (This would be in keeping with the Secret Service act of stupidity against Steve Jackson Games at about the same time.) Again, having no evidence of crime, just prejudiced opinion, the personal histories of all corporate officers are gathered, civil rights being violated, the company computers are invaded and lists of game purchasers are kept on file. And that Gary Gygax!  He answers his mail!  He ‘s a Libertarian Party member!  He had a difficult divorce!  He’s eccentric!  Somebody whose credibility can’t be judged says he’s “frightening”! His business makes money!  He spends his own money as he pleases!  The file included allegations he breaks drug and gun laws.  (If there were evidence, why didn’t they make an arrest?  Perhaps because there wasn’t?) We’re incompetent to find the Unabomber, and this guy uses a computer.  It might be him, yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s drop some hints among his friends and watch them get paranoid about each other!  Since we couldn’t find evidence, let’s see if one of them will manufacture some out of fear!  Scare ’em enough, and they’ll say anything. These Flatfeet Keystone Cops are supposed to protect us from foreign terrorism.  Right.

(19) THE WAKING LAND. Strange Horizons reviewer Mark Granger finds much to like in The Waking Land by Callie Bates.

Callie Bates’s strength lies in how quickly and succinctly she lays down the plot without making it complicated, a great feat when you consider the story is told in the first person; Elanna’s view point restricts us to what she is seeing and hearing, but never distracts from the bigger picture—and Bates manages to cleverly insert plot points along the way without them appearing to be shoe-horned in. I was immediately sympathetic to Elanna’s plight, her confused and conflicted state: the fact that everything she has been taught—from history to basic morals—is falling down around her makes her someone you want to side with. In a lesser writer’s hands Elanna’s character could have easily become whiny, but Bates makes her a strong, opinionated woman, yet one who is forced to have her mind opened to something beyond herself.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and Louise Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Elizabeth Moon: Kylara Vatta’s War and Peace

By Carl Slaughter: After a hiatus of several years, Elizabeth Moon is back with Vatta’s Peace, a new subseries of Vatta’s War.  The first Vatta’s Peace novel, Cold Welcome, came out in April from Del Rey. Check out the new cover art for Elizabeth Moon’s Cold Welcome.  Comes with the paperback edition.  Much more striking.

The sequel, Into the Fire, is set for early 2018.  Moon has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, Heinlein, and Crook awards.

TRADING IN DANGER

Kylara Vatta is the only daughter in a family full of sons, and her father’s only child to buck tradition by choosing a military career instead of joining the family business. For Ky, it’s no contest: Even running the prestigious Vatta Transport Ltd. shipping concern can’t hold a candle to shipping out as an officer aboard an interstellar cruiser. It’s adventure, not commerce, that stirs her soul. And despite her family’s misgivings, there can be no doubt that a Vatta in the service will prove a valuable asset. But with a single error in judgment, it all comes crumbling down.

Expelled from the Academy in disgrace–and returning home to her humiliated family, a storm of high-profile media coverage, and the gaping void of her own future–Ky is ready to face the inevitable onslaught of anger, disappointment, even pity. But soon after opportunity’s door slams shut, Ky finds herself with a ticket to ride– and a shot at redemption–as captain of a Vatta Transport ship.

It’s a simple assignment: escorting one of the Vatta fleet’s oldest ships on its final voyage . . . to the scrapyard. But keeping it simple has never been Ky’s style. And even though her father has provided a crew of seasoned veterans to baby-sit the fledgling captain on her maiden milk run, they can’t stop Ky from turning the routine mission into a risky venture–in the name of turning a profit for Vatta Transport, of course.

By snapping up a lucrative delivery contract defaulted on by a rival company, and using part of the proceeds to upgrade her condemned vehicle, Ky aims to prove she’s got more going for her than just her family’s famous name. But business will soon have to take a backseat to bravery, when Ky’s change of plans sails her and the crew straight into the middle of a colonial war. For all her commercial savvy, it’s her military training and born-soldier’s instincts that Ky will need to call on in the face of deadly combat, dangerous mercenaries, and violent mutiny. . .

MARQUE AND REPRISAL

The exciting military career she hoped for never got off the ground–but Ky Vatta ended up seeing plenty of combat when she took the helm of one of the commercial transport vessels in her family’s fleet . . . and steered it into a full-blown war. Now the lessons she learned in that trial by fire are about to pay off: because this time, the war has come to her. To be exact, someone unknown has launched a full-throttle offensive against Vatta Transport Ltd., Ky’s father’s interstellar shipping empire. In short order, most of Ky’s family is killed, and subsequent attacks sever vital lines of communication, leaving Ky fighting, in every sense, to survive.

Determined to identify the ruthless mystery enemy and avenge her family’s name, Ky needs not only firepower but information. And she gets both in spades–from the band of stranded mercenaries she hooks up with, from her black-sheep cousin, Stella, who’s been leading a secret life, and from Stella’s roguish ex-lover, Rafe. Together they struggle to penetrate the tangled web of political intrigue that’s wreaking havoc within InterStellar Communications, whose effective operation their own livelihoods–and perhaps lives–depend on.

But the infighting proves to be infectious, and it isn’t long before Ky’s hired military muscle are turning their suspicions on the enigmatic Rafe, whose wealth of knowledge about ISC’s clashing factions and startling new technologies has begun to make him smell like a rat . . . or a mole. With swift, violent destruction a very real possibility, the last thing Ky needs is a crew divided against itself–and she’s prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Vatta stays in business, as well as in one piece.

What she’s not prepared for is the shocking truth behind the terror– and a confrontation with murderous treachery from a source as unexpected as it is unrelenting.

ENGAGING THE ENEMY

The brilliantly unorthodox Kylara Vatta, black-sheep scion of Vatta Transport Ltd., one of the galaxy’s wealthiest merchant houses, is a heroine like no other, blessed with a killer instinct for business and for battle. Now, in the aftermath of cold-blooded assassinations that have left her parents dead and the Vatta shipping empire shattered, Kylara faces her greatest challenge yet.

There is a time for grief and a time for revenge. This is decidedly the latter. Placing her cousin Stella in command of the trading vessel Gary Tobai, Ky embarks aboard the captured pirate ship Fair Kaleen on a twofold mission: to salvage the family business and to punish those responsible for the killings . . . before they strike again.

Since the network providing instantaneous communication between star systems has been sabotaged, news is hard to come by and available information impossible to trust. But as she travels from system to system, with Stella a step behind, Ky pieces together the clues and discovers a conspiracy of terrifying scope, breathtaking audacity, and utter ruthlessness.

The only hope the independent systems and merchants have against this powerful enemy is to band together. Unfortunately, because she commands a ship known to belong to a notorious pirate–her own relative Osman Vatta, whom she killed for his part in her parents’ deaths–Ky is met with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Rumors swirl about her intent, her very identity. Soon even Stella begins to question her cousin’s decisions and her authority to make them.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy Ky hunts is hunting her in turn, with agents insinuated into every space station, every planetary government, every arm of the military, and every merchant house–including her own. Before she can take the fight to the enemy, Kylara must survive a deadly minefield of deception and betrayal.

COMMAND DECISION

With the Vatta’s War series, award-winning author Elizabeth Moon has claimed a place alongside such preeminent writers of military science fiction as David Weber and Lois McMaster Bujold. Now Moon is back–and so is her butt-kicking, take-no-prisoners heroine, Kylara Vatta. Once the black-sheep scion of a prosperous merchant family, Kylara now leads a motley space force dedicated to the defeat of a rapacious pirate empire led by the mysterious Gammis Turek.

After orchestrating a galaxy-wide failure of the communications network owned and maintained by the powerful ISC corporation, Turek and his marauders strike swiftly and without mercy. First they shatter Vatta Transport. Then they overrun entire star systems, growing stronger and bolder. No one is safe from the pirate fleet. But while they continue to move forward with their diabolical plan, they have made two critical mistakes.

Their first mistake was killing Kylara Vatta’s family.

Their second mistake was leaving her alive.

Now Kylara is going to make them pay.

But with a “fleet” consisting of only three ships–including her flagship, the Vanguard, a souped-up merchant cruiser–Kylara needs allies, and fast. Because even though she possesses the same coveted communication technology as the enemy, she has nowhere near their numbers or firepower.

Meanwhile, as Kylara’s cousin Stella tries to bring together the shattered pieces of the family trading empire, new treachery is unfolding at ISC headquarters, where undercover agent Rafael Dunbarger, estranged son of the corporation’s CEO, is trying to learn why the damaged network is not being repaired. What he discovers will send shock waves across the galaxy and crashing into Kylara’s newly christened Space Defense Force at the worst possible moment.

VICTORY CONDITIONS

For Ky, it’s not just about liberating the star systems subjugated by Turek and defending the rest of the galaxy’s freedom. There’s also a score to be settled and payback to be meted out for the obliteration of the Vatta Transport dynasty . . . and the slaughter of Ky’s family. But the enemy have their own escalation efforts under way–including the placement of covert agents among the allies with whom Ky and the surviving Vattas are collaborating in the war effort. And when a spy ring linked to a wealthy businessman is exposed, a cracked pirate code reveals a galaxywide conspiracy fueling the proliferation of Turek’s warship fleet.

Matching the invaders’ swelling firepower will mean marshaling an armada of battle-ready ships for Ky to lead into combat. But a violent skirmish leaves Ky reeling–and presumed dead by her enemies. Now, as Turek readies an all-out attack on the Nexus system–a key conquest that could seal the rest of the galaxy’s doom–Ky must rally to the challenge, draw upon every last reserve of her strategic skills, and reach deep if she is to tear from the ashes of tragedy her most decisive victory.

COLD WELCOME

Summoned to the home planet of her family’s business empire, space-fleet commander Kylara Vatta is told to expect a hero’s welcome. But instead she is thrown into danger unlike any other she has faced and finds herself isolated, unable to communicate with the outside world, commanding a motley group of unfamiliar troops, and struggling day by day to survive in a deadly environment with sabotaged gear. Only her undeniable talent for command can give her ragtag band a fighting chance.

Yet even as Ky leads her team from one crisis to another, her family and friends refuse to give up hope, endeavoring to mount a rescue from halfway around the planet—a task that is complicated as Ky and her supporters find secrets others will kill to protect: a conspiracy infecting both government and military that threatens not only her own group’s survival but her entire home planet.

INTO THE FIRE

As Admiral Kylara Vatta learned after she and a shipfull of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, the secrets she and her makeshift crew uncovered were ones someone was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been uncovered, but much of the organization behind it still lurks in the shadows. And it is up to the intrepid Ky to force the perpetrators into the light, and finally uncover decades worth of secrets–some of which lie at the very heart of her biggest family tragedy.