Sasquan Housing Opens

Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, started taking hotel bookings today and a friend of mine trying to get into the Doubletree, closest to the convention center, found it is already unavailable. Anecdotal evidence is that the Doubletree filled almost immediately.

Update 09/16/2014: See Kevin Standlee’s comment. It is possible to reserve the Doubletree August 20-22. He suggests doing so, then requesting the Housing Bureau to add the earlier and later nights you want. I have gotten as far as successfully reserving the middle nights online.

More Evidence That SF Is Mainstream

Lots of bad news last week in pro football, so today on ESPN.com Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback is accompanied by this Sportsnation poll –

Looking on the bright side, in the past week the NFL:

  • Was not hit by an asteroid
  • Didn’t awaken a prehistoric monster
  • Did not start a zombie plague

Why, of course every sports fan will get these science fiction references. Not surprising at all.

The boundary between sf and the mundane is harder to see all the time.

(By the way, 50% of those responding picked “Did not start a zombie plague.”)

Letter To A Higher Critic

All I care about is whether I enjoy a writer’s work. Don’t be shocked when I say this: How much money a writer makes has nothing to do with how much I like his or her stories.

But one writer thinks I should care. This year’s Hugo Awards were fraught with drama because Larry Correia filled his customers with resentment by arguing that his inability to win the award proved they’d been treated unjustly. Because bestseller. And no Hugo.

I’m all in favor of sf writers being financially successful. It makes me happy to see people who work hard rewarded. Larry Correia is no exception.

How would anyone know what a writer makes anyway? We have very few tools — mainly bestseller lists.

While we never see actual sales figures, we assume the books that appear on the New York Times bestseller list are doing much better than those that don’t.

However, even that relative information may be unreliable. Last year I ran a post about Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article on ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients.

Then yesterday, Vox Day’s latest in a relentless series of negative posts about John Scalzi suggested that even ordinary publishers manipulate bestsellers as a marketing strategy:

That’s great and all, but recall what I pointed out before Lock In reached the NYT bestseller list: “[Scalzi] is getting annoyed that people keep pointing out that Larry Correia sells more than he does, even though his publisher keeps buying him a one-week spot on the NYT bestseller list each time he writes a book.”  And also “Just keep an eye on the NYT list. If LOCK IN is only on it for one week, it’s a paid marketing stunt. If it stays on it for several weeks, it’s probably legitimate.”

I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Twice Correia has blogged about his bestselling books. He wrote, “You may now officially refer to me as New York Times Bestselling Author Larry Friggin’ Correia” in October 2010 after learning that Monster Hunter Vendetta ranked number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller list:

This is awesome. This is actually a really big deal in the publishing business.

The guy sounded happy. I was happy for him.

A year later he was ecstatic when Monster Hunter Alpha appeared on the list at #23.  

I am the champion. My friends! Dum duh duh duh! And I’ll keep on fighting ’till the end! Dum duh duh duh! I am the CHAMPION! I AM THE CHAMPION!! NO TIME FOR LOSERS BECAUSE I AM THE CHAMPION!!!!!! and #23 on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out August 14th OF THE WORLD!!!!

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did.

But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done.

So what do we learn from this? Can it be that Larry Correia is not the Garth Brooks of science fiction after all?

Download Free Di Filippo Novel

Chasing the Queen of Sassi coverChasing The Queen of Sassi by Paul Di Filippo was written after an inspiring visit to the Subterranean City of Matera, Italy – a World Heritage Site known for its ancient cave houses.

After his wife’s death, Rupert decides to change his life…. He wants to see Matera again, and ends up loving it so much that he decides to move there. But the city is mysterious: who is the beautiful Daeria Bruno that appears and disappears without a trace? And how will the cucibocca’s curse affect his life? In a dizzying series of time travels, Rupert will reveal legendary secrets, being at the center of a timeless story.

Now available as a free download for the Nook or the Kindle.

Snapshots 142 A Century After The Ultimate Answer

Here are 10 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Was he inspired by Martin Luther’s 95 theses? Brian Phillips review of Monica Seles’ Love Match for Grantland consists of 62 complaints. Fans are the target audience for gripe Number Five:

5. The fact that the Academy is a pristinely manicured 600-acre private high school that trains über-elite athletes in all sports, from tennis to golf to soccer to football; that it features “million-dollar villas” and a “cluster of stores” ranging from “Hermes and Versace to Prada and Manolo Blahnik”; yet that it is never given a name beyond “the Academy,” as if Game of Thrones were set in a vast fantasy kingdom known only as “Map,” or the Harry Potter series took place in a magical castle called “School.”

(2) Walter Jon Williams prefers an unscented deodorant – or does when he can find any in stock at the market. Failing that, he felt it was his duty as an sf writer to investigate the unknown alternatives.

I discovered that deodorants now have hip, cool names meant to convey excitement and attract the younger crowd, but which are basically meaningless.  When you had scents like Lime or Bay Rum or Old Spice, you sort of knew where you stood.  But now you can smell like Black Ice, or Fresh Rush.

After popping the caps and giving a quick sniff, I quickly discovered that I did not want to smell like Black Ice, or for that matter Fresh Rush.  Despite my enjoyment of aquatic adventure, I didn’t want to smell like Ocean Breeze,  or Ocean Surf.  I didn’t want to smell like a Clean Peak, a Phoenix, or an Axe.  I didn’t want to smell like Anarchy— which you’d think would be no deodorant at all— or an Arctic Refresh, whatever that is.  I didn’t want to smell like a Tropical Paradise or a Long-Lasting Mountain Spring.  And more than anything else, I didn’t want to smell Extreme, which would seem to defeat the point of deodorant entirely.

(3) Captain Worf? A new Trek series has been bruited about. What Culture makes 10 arguments why Worf should be the next Captain.

Some people may argue that, with a new timeline established by Abrams in 2009, there is no way to get back to the original history of the future, as laid down by Gene Roddenberry et al from 1966 – 2005.

Those people are wrong.

Abrams’ movie took great pains to ensure that we all knew it was set in a parallel reality to the original storyline. Ergo, it is logical to assume that the unfolding continuum that is Star Trek continues unabated, which ought to allow any/all fans to enjoy both versions without too much bother.

So, this hypothetical TV show would follow Worf from the original timeline, whilst the movies would do their own thing. How hard is that to grasp?

(4) Is it a swordfish? Or a mop? No, it’s a purple siphonophore! And it lives deep in the oceans basins of the world.

Amazingly, although this appears to be a single jellyfish-like animal, it is in fact a roving colony made up of thousands of individual organisms, called zooids, each contributing to the whole. But more than just its otherworldly shape, this specimen’s purple coloring is said to be rather unusual as well.

This video was collected as part of the Nautilus Live expedition headed by Dr. Robert Ballard, better known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic.

(5) Winnie the Pooh was 100 hears old on August 25. How I loved reading those stories to my daughter! She likes Divergent and The Maze Runner now – the connection linking the former to the latter is so subtle it eludes me.

(6) Stephen Hawking offers a theoretical doomsday scenario involving the Higgs Boson. He has already warned that aliens or artificial intelligence might finish off humanity. There seems to be a pattern here, still, I’m reluctant to accuse him of following Richard Dawkins around the bend.

He wrote: “The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100bn gigaelectronvolts (GeV).”

What might this lead to? Hawkins explained: “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

Before you prepare your loved ones for an evacuation to some distant star, Hawking did offer some hope with, it seems, a wry smile: “A particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate.”

By the way, how did Stephen Baxter write “Last Contact” without this science?

(7) TAFF delegate Curt Phillips roomed with his wife’s cousin Nick Falkner at Loncon 3. It was Nick’s first SF convention. While some bloggers felt the behavior of their elders was a drag, Falkner kept it all in proportion:

This is a strong community and, as I discovered, it’s a diverse, accepting, warm and friendly community, full of interesting people. Are there some jerks? Yes. But far fewer than I’ve run into outside of this space so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this is some sort of amazing jerk space. You’ll meet more jerks in the average pub and you won’t be able to talk to them about something that fascinated you when you were 12.

Of course, if everybody could experience the Curt Phillips model of senior fannishness, they might feel the same.

(8) Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales is bringing back Hellhound on My Ale in time for Halloween:

2011 would have marked the 100th birthday of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson, who according to legend, sold his soul down at the crossroads in a midnight bargain and changed music forever.

Working again with our friends at Sony Legacy (yup, the same folks we did our Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew with), Dogfish Head paid tribute to this blues legend by gettin’ the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale…

To accentuate and magnify the citrusy notes of the Centennial hops (and as a shoutout to Robert Johnson’s mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson), we add dried lemon peel and flesh to the whirlpool.

(9) Speaking of flesh, I learned this obscure bit of trivia about The Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” from the Wikipedia:

An unofficial badge of the 509th Bomb Wing based in Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, shows a space alien with huge eyes holding a stealth bomber near its mouth. The text reads, “To Serve Man,” and the caption below reads, “Gustatus Similis Pullus”—dog Latin for “Tastes Like Chicken.”

(10) D. Gary Grady recently educated readers of his blog about a pervasive, Andy Rooney-style complaint against “Vertical Video Syndrome.”

The previous post features a video shot in a vertical orientation, so in the interest of aesthetics and all that is holy, let me point show you a couple of educational videos explaining why you shouldn’t shoot videos that way:

Movies, TV, computer screens – I get it. But weren’t the Ten Commandments vertical? The tablets, I mean, not the film with Charlton Heston. I may have to reserve judgment on this.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Taral Wayne and John King Tarpinian.]

Today’s Birthday Boy 9/14

Lone_ranger_silver_1965Who was that masked man? He was Clayton Moore, born a century ago today — on September 14, 1914.

Moore grew up in Chicago, becoming an accomplished gymnast and part of the trapeze act The Flying Behrs who performed during the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. He went into modeling, moving to New York where he worked for the John Robert Powers agency.

In 1938 he made the jump to Hollywood and within a few years was a leading man in Republic Studios serials. His performance in The Ghost of Zorro prompted George W. Trendle to offer him the role of TV’s Lone Ranger, which aired on ABC from 1949 to 1957

The show’s success resulted in a salary dispute and the producers replaced Moore for the 1952-1953 season, but brought him back in 1954 and for the rest of the run. When CBS began showing reruns of the first three seasons on Saturday afternoon, Moore’s masked man was on two networks at the same time.

After the series ended production, Moore made his living doing personal appearances in the Lone Ranger regalia. However, the owner of the Ranger character, Jack Wrather, obtained a court order in 1979 to stop him, believing the association of the character with Moore would damage the market for a new Lone Ranger movie.

Moore quit wearing the mask and started to appear in similar-looking wraparound sunglasses. He also counter-sued Wrather and eventually won, allowing him to resume appearing in the Lone Ranger costume. Meanwhile, Wrather’s movie bombed.

Clayton Moore’s last acting role was in the pilot for what would have been The Greatest American Heroine in 1986. The pilot was never aired and was recut and added to the syndicated package of the original Greatest American Hero.

The CBS News Almanac has posted a fine short video with classic footage – including a snip from the famous Aqua Velva commercial Moore made with Jay Silverheels (Tonto) in the 1970s.

Bradbury Tribute in Pomona 10/12

Bradbury Display PomonaActors Joe Mantegna, Edward James Olmos and Liza Torres, plus director Stuart Gordon, will participate in a panel discussion at A Tribute to Ray Bradbury where their film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit will be screened to benefit the Pomona Public Library. Official Bradbury biographer Sam Weller also will be on hand, and the event will be moderated by Steven Paul Leiva, author of Searching for Ray Bradbury.

The event takes place Sunday, October 12 at 3:00 p.m. at Pomona’s Western University of Health Sciences in the Health Education Center. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

2015 Worldcon Housing Available 9/16

Sasquan logoMembers of Sasqan, the 2015 Worldcon, will be able to make hotel reservations using a link on the website on September 16 at 8 a.m. (Pacific).

Sasquan advises fans who wish to host a party to first make a reservation, then send the confirmation number to parties@sasquan.org with a request for party space (including the date of the party.)

Fans who wish to get a suite should first make a reservation, then send the confirmation number to suites@sasquan.org with their request. Party and non-party suites are available.

Full details are in the press release following the jump.

Continue reading

Richard Kiel (1939-2014)

Richard Kiel in 2014

Richard Kiel in 2014

Richard Kiel, the 7-foot-tall actor who played villains, aliens and imposing sitcom characters, died September 10, three days shy of his 75th birthday.

He achieved stardom as the ominous killer Jaws opposite Roger Moore in two James Bond movies, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Despite his prolific work in TV and low-budget movies he did not have a unique identity before then and complained that people were prone to confuse him with Ted Cassidy (Lurch on The Addams Family), Fred Gwynne or even Andre the Giant.

Michael Dunn and Richard Kiel in The Wild, Wild West.

Michael Dunn and Richard Kiel in The Wild, Wild West.

Prior to the Bond films his best role was in The Longest Yard (1974) as the football-playing prisoner who flattens a guard then cheerfully declares, “I think I broke his f***ing neck!” He also played one of Patrick McGoohan’s henchmen in Silver Streak (1976).

Between gigs Kiel worked as a nightclub bouncer, a cemetery plot salesman and a car salesman. LASFS member Charles Lee Jackson II knew Kiel in the Sixties when he worked at Star Lincoln Mercury in Glendale, CA. “He was a friendly, nice fellow who loved being recognized (in fact, he made many car sales that way – the dealer had glass walls and Dick was always visible).”

LASFSian Bill Warren met Kiel at a screening of Moonraker. “Kiel was in the lobby, as was Roger Moore, so I approached with a joke ready. ‘This is a long way from Eegah,’ I smirked. ‘Hell,’ said Kiel, ‘It’s a long way from The Human Duplicators!”

Eegah (1962) and the movie Kiel named in his response, The Human Duplicators (1965), were so notoriously awful that both appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Kiel played the title character in Eegah, a giant caveman who somehow survived to the 20th Century. The movie bombed – its total box office take was $3,274 – and Michael Medved lists it as one of The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

Nevertheless, The Human Duplicators was not bad enough to keep its makers from releasing it on VHS under the title Jaws of the Alien to cash in on Kiel’s notoriety from the James Bond movies.

"To Serve Man," from The Twilight Zone.

“To Serve Man,” from The Twilight Zone.

Kiel’s TV work was divided between Westerns, fantasy and sitcoms. He played a Kanamit in the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”. He was in Gilligan’s Island, The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie. He played Voltaire, an assistant to the evil scientist Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild, Wild West. And his appearance in the William Shatner western series Barbary Coast convinced producers he was ideal for the role of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Kiel’s lesser-known talents included writing — he co-authored a biography of the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay called Kentucky Lion.

He is survived by his wife, Diane, and their children and grandchildren.

Clarkesworld Kickstarter To Fund Publication of Chinese SF in Translation

Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of his magazine. He’s launched a Kickstarter appeal to pay the authors and defray some related expenses.

Each month, Storycom’s team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I’ll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They’ll be paid too.)

He wants to raise $7,500 by October 8. As this is written $3,074 has already been pledged.

The array of premiums started with three Tuckerizations – the donor’s name in the author’s next story for Clarkesword – and a pair provided by Kij Johnson and Aliette de Bodard have already been claimed. The opportunity remains for someone to give $275 and have his or her name appear in a Catherynne M. Valente story — but for how long?

Clarke says the recommendation team he’s working with at Storycom includes:

  • Liu Cixin: the most-famous science fiction writer in China and author of the Three Body Trilogy;
  • Yao Haijun: Editor-in-Chief of Science Fiction World;
  • Zhang Zhilu: Scriptwriter at the China Film Group Corporation and one of the pioneering scriptwriters of science fiction movies in China;
  • Wu Yan: a Doctoral Supervisor for the Science Fiction Literature major at Beijing Normal University and President of World Chinese Science Fiction Association;
  • Ken Liu: Award-winning American science fiction writer and translator.

Funds from the Kickstarter will underwrite this feature for the first year, long enough to make the project self-sustaining through subscriptions and other sources of revenue.