Kelly Robson on “Waters of Versailles”

Kelly Robson

Kelly Robson

By Carl Slaughter: Kelly Robson’s fantasy alternate history short story, “Waters of Versailles,” edited by Ellen Datlow and published by Tor, was nominated for a Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, and Aurora Award. In this interview, she shares insight into the story’s appeal.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Who is the main character in ”Waters of Versailles,” what makes him tick, and what is he trying to accomplish?

KELLY ROBSON: Sylvain de Guilherand is a womanizer and social climber working his way up the social ladder at the Palace of Versailles in 1738. Sylvain is from a noble family in the southern Alps. He’s always been a man of action — a hunter at home and an officer in the French army — so the enforced elegant idleness of Versailles is maddening to him. He’s pursuing wealth and influence by upgrading the palace’s failing water systems and offering the nobility the latest status symbol — the flush toilet.

waters-ofversailles

CS: Who is the fantasy character, how does she enter the story, and what part does she play in the plot?

KR: Sylvain’s water system is powered by an incredibly powerful young nixie. Sylvain caught her in a glacier lake when she was just a tadpole, brought her to the palace, and installed her in an underground cistern. Now she’s the size of a six-year-old child, and has an irrepressibly playful and mischievous personality to match.

CS: What kind of dynamic do these 2 characters have?

KR: Sylvain has been relying on an elderly manservant to take care of the nixie, and he’s been rather snotty about it because doesn’t regard taking care of children as a proper use of a man’s time. The nixie, on the other had, thinks of Sylvain as her father. This is a recipe for trouble, because Sylvain has no idea how to care for a magical child and no particular desire to do so, and the nixie is easily bored. She’s perfectly capable of springing leaks all around the palace for fun.

CS: How does the main character evolve — or does he? — and what is the catalyst for that evolution?

KR: To save his reputation, Sylvain has to negotiate his relationship with the nixie. He has to nurture her, entertain her, and teach her — in essence, he becomes her parent. And parenthood comes with an emotional bond that Sylvain certainly wasn’t expecting.

CS: Same question for the fantasy character?

KR: The nixie is a sweet, good-hearted child, but like all children she craves attention and entertainment. She’s wants to please Sylvain — she’s imprinted on him — but doesn’t like being ignored. She’s demanding. She needs much more attention than Sylvain’s willing to give her, and she’s growing more powerful every day.

CS: How do the various other characters make things complicated for these 2 characters?

KR: I’ve always been interested in characters who have it all but find out how little it does for them. Sylvain has it all: a beautiful and charming lover, a steadfast best friend, a position of power and influence in the richest nation in the world, the admiration of the king and court, and the loyalty of an extremely powerful magical creature. Where it starts to go wrong for Sylvain is when he tries to be all things to all people — a man with no limits.

CS: What do we take away from this story?

KR: First, that the act of taking nurturing creates love, and love changes you. And second, that trying to be please everyone is a recipe for disaster. In the end, it’s only the people you love who matter.

CS: First the Nebula, then the World Fantasy, now the Aurora. Meanwhile, inclusion in Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year. What’s the appeal of this story?

KR: I think the story hits the mark with a lot of people simply because it’s about love. Not romantic love, but the simple uncomplicated bond between a parent and a child — which is universal.

Read Carl’s profile of Kelly at SF Signal.

Pixel Scroll 9/25/16 Keep Your Scrolls Close, But Keep Your Pixels Closer

(1) SFWA IN A TENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America had a tent at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival. Here’s some highlights.

The SFWA line up #bmorebookfest

A photo posted by Anne Tibbets (@annetibbets) on

(2) OVERTIME. William Patrick Maynard tells how “Phileas Fogg Finds Immortality” at Black Gate.

When Jules Verne created gentleman adventurer Phileas Fogg in his 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, he had no way of imagining the bizarre turn his character’s chronicles would take a century later. When Philip Jose Farmer added The Other Log of Phileas Fogg to his Wold Newton Family series in 1973, he had no way of imagining that four decades later there would exist a Wold Newton specialty publisher to continue the esoteric literary exploits of some of the last two centuries’ most fantastic characters.

(3) HOW THIS YEAR’S HUGO BASES WERE MADE. Read artist Sara Felix’s Facebook post about creating the bases. And there’s an Instagram from the company that did the fabrication.

(4) HUGO LOSER DIFFERENT FROM JUST PLAIN LOSER. The Vancouver Sun ran an article on Sebastian de Castell, with a Puppyish spin on events, “The time George R.R. Martin called Vancouver writer Sebastien de Castell a loser”.

It was nothing personal, though. In fact, it had little to do with de Castell at all. De Castell was at the annual celebration of science fiction and fantasy writing/fandom because he had made the Hugo shortlist for best new writer. De Castell figured he would lose to Andy Weir of The Martian fame — he was correct in this prediction — and he assumed Martin believed the same thing.

But Martin was also reacting to the fact that de Castell had been nominated in part because of the efforts of two fan voting blocs: the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. The Puppies groups have caused chaos in the Hugo Awards and the broader sci-fi and fantasy communities lately by trying to fight what they see as the takeover of the awards by “social justice warriors” who vote for politically correct works at the expense of good writing and storytelling. Both the Sad Puppies, created by bestselling author Larry Correia, and the Rabid Puppies, launched by right-wing writer Vox Day, have put forward slates of suggested writers and works to vote for, and de Castell wound up on just such a list much to his surprise.

Sebastien de Castell elaborated in this Reddit thread: As Peter [reporter Peter Darbyshire] noted in the article, George R.R. Martin wasn’t being hurtful towards me at all–he was simply calling it as he saw it and, of course, was completely correct in his assessment. My mature, adult self understood that there was nothing ungracious on his part in our very brief encounter. My eight year-old inner self, of course, had quite reasonably been expecting his first words to me to be, “What? Sebastien de Castell? By Jove, chap, I’ve been looking all over for you in order to praise your works as the finest in a generation. Also, because I’d love your thoughts on the final books in A Song of Ice & Fire…I happen to have some early pages here if you’d like to read them?”

That’s what Peter and I were discussing in that portion of the interview–the gap for me between feeling like a “big time author” and coming face-to-face with the reality of being a guy who’s really still very much in the early stages of his career.

The most interesting thing about WorldCon (MidAmericon II) for me was how kind people were to me overall. I was very cognizant that my presence on the Campbell shortlist was controversial and likely painful to a lot of people within that community. They had every reason to suspicious and even dismissive of me, but in fact folks were generous and welcoming. David Gerrold gave me some excellent advice on completing the final book in the Greatcoats series, Alyssa Wong was terrific and fun to hang out with (we were the only two Campbell nominees in attendance so our official photos got pretty silly), and I got to spend some time chatting with the brilliant Michael Swanwick.

(5) DC EXPLORING 2024 WORLDCON BID. Their polished website suggests a group that is doing more than just thinking about it, however, they say DC in 2024 is still in the exploratory stage.

We are members of the Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, Inc. (BWAWA). In 2013, we launched DC17, a bid to host the 2017 Worldcon in Washington, DC at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel… but we lost to Worldcon 75.

We’re back to explore the possibility of hosting the 82nd Worldcon in 2024. Washington, DC is still a super location for a World Science Fiction Convention and we believe it’s time Worldcon returned to DC for the third time. The year 2024 will be the 50th anniversary of Discon II, the last DC Worldcon.

We are still very early in the planning stage. Please check back for information on supporting our bid and our future activities. Our social media links are also still under construction.

They’re exploring right now – but I expect they’ll find they’re bidding if they keeping looking.

(6) WEINBERG OBIT.  SF Site News reports Robert Weinberg (1946-2016) passed away today.

Author Robert Weinberg (b.1946) died on September 25. Weinberg began publishing fiction in 1967 and from 1970 to 1981 edited the fanzine Pulp about pulp magazines. He wrote for Marvel Comics and was known for his art collection. Weinberg also ran a mail order book business until 1997. Weinberg received a special committee award at Chicon 7, the 2012 Worldcon.

Here is the citation that was read at Chicon 7 when Weinberg was presented with his Special Committee Award.

Each year, the Worldcon committee is entitled to recognize someone who has made a difference in our community.  Someone who has made science fiction fandom a better place.  This can be a fan, an author, a bookseller, a collector, a con-runner, or someone who fits into all those and more.  This year, Chicon 7 is pleased to recognize someone who fits into all of those categories.

Robert Weinberg attended his first meeting of the Eastern SF Association in 1963, discovered the club offered something he liked, and became active, eventually becoming the club’s president in 1968.  Maintaining an interest in the pulp magazines which formed so much of the basis for what we read today, Bob published fourteen issues of the fanzine, Pulp, from 1974 through 1980.

In 1968, Bob began publishing readers guides to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, eventually expanding both to book length and publishing additional guides and books about the pulp magazines and the authors who wrote for them.  1973 saw his publication of WT50, an anniversary tribute to Weird Tales, a magazine to which Bob would acquire the rights in 1979 and help revive.

Bob is a collector of science fiction and fantasy art from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, working to preserve art which otherwise might have been lost. His interest in art collection also led to him writing A Biographical Dictionary of SF & Fantasy Artists, which served as a basis for Chicon 7’s Guest of Honor Jane Frank’s own A Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.

Beginning in 1976, Bob began serving as the co-chairman of the Chicago Comicon, then the second largest comic book convention in the United States.  He continued in that position for twenty years before it was sold to Wizard Entertainment.  During that time, Bob also chaired the World Fantasy Convention when it came to Chicago on two different occasions and in 1978 he co-chaired the first major Doctor Who convention in the United States.

Bob has also written his own books, both non-fiction and fiction.. His first novel, The Devil’s Auction, was published in 1988 with more than a dozen novels and collections to follow.  He worked with Martin H. Greenberg to edit and publish numerous anthologies beginning in the 1980s.

Not content to write his own books and monographs, run conventions, and collect art, Bob also, for several years, ran the mail-order Weinberg Books.  Bob offered advice to Alice Bentley when she was setting up The Stars Our Destination, a science fiction specialty bookstore in Chicago from 1988 through 2003.  In 1997, Bob sold his mail order business to Alice.

Bob’s long career as a fan, author, bookseller, collector, and con-runner has helped make science fiction the genre, and the community, it is today.  Chicon 7 would like to recognize Robert Weinberg for his years of service and devotion given to advancing the field of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

(7) PETERSON OBIT. First Fandom member Robert C. Peterson (1921-2016) died August 15. John Coker III wrote the following appreciation:

Robert C. Peterson (May 30, 1921 – August 15, 2016)

Robert Constant Peterson passed away on August 15 after a brief illness.  He is survived by his four sons, John, James, Alan, and Douglas, and his grandchildren, Katherine, Eric, Diana, and Jay.

Robert was preceded in death by his wife of over 50 years, Winifred.

Robert graduated in 1942 from the University of Wyoming and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.  He was an avid hiker and was an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club.  He led hikes for the club until just before he turned 80.  He met his wife, Winifred, on a mountain club hike.

Robert was an early fan of science fiction.  In 1994 he was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame, and in 2008 he received the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award in recognition of his SF collection.

Robert and Winifred were lifelong members of the Washington Park United Church of Christ and were strong supporters of social justice.  They supported Winifred’s sister Gretchen in her work at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Japan.  Robert and Winifred travelled extensively in the U.S. and throughout the world.

In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the American Friends of the ARI (http://www.friends-ari.org/).

(8) GARMAN OBIT. Jack Garman (1944-2016), credited with a judgment call that saved the first moon landing, died September 20 at the age of 72.

On July 20, 1969, moments after mission control in Houston had given the Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, the O.K. to begin its descent to the moon, a yellow warning light flashed on the cockpit instrument panel. “Program alarm,” the commander, Neil Armstrong, radioed. “It’s a 1202.”

The alarm appeared to indicate a computer systems overload, raising the specter of a breakdown. With only a few minutes left before touchdown on the moon, Steve Bales, the guidance officer in mission control, had to make a decision: Let the module continue to descend, or abort the mission and send the module rocketing back to the command ship, Columbia.

By intercom, Mr. Bales quickly consulted Jack Garman, a 24-year-old engineer who was overseeing the software support group from a back-room console. Mr. Garman had painstakingly prepared himself for just this contingency — the possibility of a false alarm.

“So I said,” he remembered, “on this backup room voice loop that no one can hear, ‘As long as it doesn’t reoccur, it’s fine.’”

At 4:18 p.m., with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining for the descent, Mr. Armstrong radioed: “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Mr. Garman, whose self-assurance and honed judgment effectively saved mankind’s first lunar landing, died on Tuesday outside Houston. He was 72. His wife, Susan, said the cause was complications of bone marrow cancer.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 25, 1959 — Hammer’s The Mummy, seen for the first time in the UK on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 25, 1930  — Shel Silverstein
  • Born September 25, 1951 – Mark Hamill
  • Born September 25, 1952  — Christopher Reeve

(11) JUST BEFORE THE FINAL FRONTIER. Need an excuse to feel miserable? Read “Leonard Nimoy Died Hating William Shatner” at About Entertainment.

(12) CULTURAL APPROPRIATION DEBATE. Kaitlyn Greenidge makes some trenchant comments in “Who Gets To Write What?” for the New York Times.

…Claudia Rankine, when awarded the MacArthur genius grant this past week, noted that the prize was “the culture saying: We have an investment in dismantling white dominance in our culture. If you’re trying to do that, we’re going to help you.” For some, this sounds exciting. For others, this reads as a threat — at best, a suggestion to catch up and engage with a subject, race, that for a long time has been thought of as not “universal,” not “deep” enough for fiction. The panic around all of this is driving these outbursts.

It must feel like a reversal of fate to those who have not been paying attention. The other, who has been relegated to the background character, wise outcast, dash of magic, or terror or cool or symbolism, or more simply emotional or physical whore, is expected to be the main event, and some writers suspect that they may not be up for that challenge.

A writer has the right to inhabit any character she pleases — she’s always had it and will continue to have it. The complaint seems to be less that some people ask writers to think about cultural appropriation, and more that a writer wishes her work not to be critiqued for doing so, that instead she get a gold star for trying.

Whenever I hear this complaint, I am reminded of Toni Morrison’s cool assessment of “anti-P.C. backlash” more than 20 years ago: “What I think the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them.”

This debate, or rather, this level of the debate, is had over and over again, primarily because of an unwillingness on one side to consider history or even entertain a long line of arguments in response. Instead, what often happens is a writer or artist acts as though she is taking some brave stand by declaring to be against political correctness. As if our entire culture is not already centered on a very particular version of whiteness that many white people don’t even inhabit anymore. And so, someone makes a comment or a statement without nuance or sense of history, only with an implicit insistence that writing and publishing magically exist outside the structures of power that dominate every other aspect of our daily lives.

Imagine the better, stronger fiction that could be produced if writers took this challenge to stretch and grow one’s imagination, to afford the same depth of humanity and interest and nuance to characters who look like them as characters who don’t, to take those stories seriously and actually think about power when writing — how much further fiction could go as an art.

(13) THE VOX DAY FASHION SHOW. Day spared no effort to fit into the theme of a 5K he ran —  “The Color Run: a story of courage, endurance, and ninjas, part I”.

Spacebunny and Vox Day.

Spacebunny and Vox Day.

We got up very early, so early that it was pretty much a toss of the coin as to whether I’d just stay up all night or not, and made the drive to Lausanne, Switzerland, where we met our friends with whom we were doing the run. We changed in the parking lot, where it was much appreciated how my multicolored tutu nicely matched the colorful logo of the t-shirts we were provided. It was rather cold, which inspired Spacebunny to deliver an equally colorful soliloquy in appreciation for the generosity of the donors who were the reason she was wearing nothing but a bikini under her tutu.

Which, of course, was not as pretty as mine, as hers was only yellow. I pointed out that she would probably be glad to not be wearing very much in the way of clothing once we started running and the sun rose a bit higher in the sky, an intelligent observation that impressed her to such an extent that she expressed a keen wish to feel my teeth in her flesh, a sentiment that she managed to phrase in an admirably succinct manner. She was also delighted to discover that while there were people wearing everything from unicorn suits to dragon outfits, she was the only runner in a bikini.

The Color Run happens in hundreds of town internationally in the course of a year:

The Color Run is a five-kilometer, un-timed event in which thousands of participants, or “Color Runners”, are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer. With only two rules, the idea is easy to follow:

1Wear white at the starting line!

2Finish plastered in color!

After Color Runners complete the race, the fun continues with an unforgettable Finish Festival. This larger than life party is equipped with music, dancing and massive color throws, which create millions of vivid color combinations. Trust us, this is the best post-5k party on the planet!

(14) REAL NEWS AND A FAKE TRAILER. From Den of Geek, “Doctor Who Spinoff: Class – Latest News”.

Peter Capaldi will be appearing in the first episode of Class! The show announced the good news via its social media accounts.

We also know that the show’s first two episodes will premiere in the UK on October 22nd. The Twitter account also announced the titles of the first two episodes: “For Tonight We Might Die” and “The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo.” Whoa. That first one is dark and that second one really does sound like it could be a Buffy episode….

Sadly, we don’t yet have an official trailer for Class, though we do have an amazing fanmade one that is pretty brilliant in showing a potential tone of the show and put it into context within the larger Doctor Who universe. It gives a sense of just how ingrained the Coal Hill School has been in the Doctor Who world.

 

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Bartimaeus, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Rambo, A wee Green Man, and John King Tarpinian, for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor IanP.]

2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award

Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovsky

[Catching up on another major news story…]

Adrian Tchaikovsky won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award for his space opera The Children of Time. The award, announced August 24, is presented for the best science fiction novel whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year.

children-of-time-graphic

The BBC carried remarks by the judges and award director:

In awarding the prize, the judges said the novel shared much in common with the works of Sir Arthur himself.

Tchaikovsky’s victory was announced at a ceremony on Wednesday, attended by Sir Arthur’s niece Angie Edwards, at Foyles bookshop in central London….

“Children of Time has a universal scale and sense of wonder reminiscent of the novels of Sir Arthur C Clarke himself,” said award director Tom Hunter.

He described the novel as “one of the best science fictional extrapolations of a not-so-alien species and their evolving society I’ve ever read”.

Andrew M Butler, chair of judges, added: “Children of Time tells two parallel stories of the last survivors of Earth and the inhabitants of a terraformed planet – it takes the reader’s sympathies and phobias, and plays with them masterfully on an epic and yet human scale.”

The evening began with a toast to the memory of Sir Arthur C. Clarke led by Angie Edwards, Sir Arthur’s niece, and the winner, Adrian Tchaikovsky, was presented with a trophy in the form of a commemorative engraved bookend cheque as well as prize cheque for £2016.00.

The judging panel for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2013 were:

  • Ian Whates, British Science Fiction Association
  • David Gullen, British Science Fiction Association
  • Andrew McKie, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Liz Bourke, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Leila Abu El Hawa, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, gave a speech about the difficulty of choosing one winner:

Novels with spaceships and novels with spiders,
near future Europe with parallels beside her,
a modified woman?—?flying with wings,
these are a few of my favourite things.

You’d think after thirty years it’d be easy to choose the Clarke winner?—?we’d turn up and all know that that novel is the one.

But this year we had a tough time getting to a short list and a tough time agreeing on a winner.

All of the books play with and reinvigorate the sandbox of science fiction?—?generation starships, ill-matched crews, AIs, parallel universes, mutants and have one or more moments of conceptual breakthrough, when you realise that the fictional universe is more complicated than you think….

Clarke Award director Tom Hunter told The Bookseller why, in the future, the award will be open to self-published novels, and he explained how that will work.

Last night saw British author Adrian Tchaikovsky win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction for his novel Children of Time. It also saw director Tom Hunter announce that the award – now thirty years old – is finally open to self-published works for the first time.

Here, Hunter explains why, and the impact his decision will have for publishers, authors and the judges of the award.

[Tom Hunter] …Fast forward to this year and our own shortlist included the fabulous The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, a novel published in the UK and submitted to us by Hodder but also well known as a fan-favourite title originally launched via a popular Kickstarter campaign.

Tipping point reached, and we’re now running the risk of missing books our judges really ought to have the chance to read, and so we change the rules: The Arthur C. Clarke Award is now open to self-published titles.

Beyond the announcement though, what are the practicalities? How will the judges cope with the potential extra titles when submissions in recent years have already increased from around 50 books a year to over one hundred.

First, the Clarke Award is the kind of award that charges a submission fee for entry. It’s not there as a barrier, it’s there as part of our core fundraising to keep the award running, but it is a consideration independent authors will need to consider as part of their own business planning.

Second, we are launching this change by expanding an existing rule whereby judges can ask to call in works they want to have the chance to consider. Previously this has usually involved us going to a publisher, most often a more mainstream imprint, and asking for a title that might not otherwise automatically have been submitted to us. We will be operating a similar principle here.

Hunter also issued a press release about other Award initiatives that will begin in 2017 and the coming decade.

Speaking as part of the 30th presentation of the annual Arthur C. Clarke Award on Wednesday 24th August, award director Tom Hunter used the occasion to reveal a bold new plan for the next decade of the UK’s premier prize for science fiction literature.

Key initiatives include:

A new partnership with the organisers of Ada Lovelace Day, the international day celebration day of women’s achievements in STEM, as part of an ongoing collaboration exploring the positive benefits of female role models across both science and science fiction.

A range of activities to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s birthday in 2017, including a conference to be held at Canterbury Christchurch University and a charitable fundraising drive working with the charity Rebuilding Sri Lanka to provide educational facilities and resources for children living in Sir Arthur’s adopted home country.

2016 British Fantasy Awards

BFS_Logo_red_SMALLThe winners of the British Fantasy Awards 2016 were announced on Sunday, September 25, at the awards banquet at FantasyCon 2016 in Scarborough, UK.

Best Anthology

  • The Doll Collection, ed. Ellen Datlow (Tor Books)

Best Artist

  • Julie Dillon

Best Collection

  • Ghost Summer: Stories, Tananarive Due (Prime Books)

Best Comic/Graphic Novel

  • Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV and Cris Peter (Image Comics) (#2–5)

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)

  • Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Macmillan)

Best Film/Television Production

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Peter Harness (BBC One)

Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award)

  • Rawblood, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Best Independent Press

  • Angry Robot (Marc Gascoigne)

Best Magazine/Periodical

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, ed. Scott H. Andrews (Firkin Press)

Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award)

  • Zen Cho, for Sorcerer to the Crown (Macmillan)

Best Non-fiction

  • Letters to Tiptree, ed. Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Novella

  • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Usman T. Malik (Tor.com)

Best Short Fiction

  • Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Tor.com)

The Special Award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award)

  • The FantasyCon redshirts, past and present

The nominees in each category were decided by the voters of the British Fantasy Society, FantasyCon 2015 and FantasyCon 2016, with the juries having a discretion to add up to two further egregious omissions in each category. The full list of nominees is here.

The winners were decided by the following jury members. Best anthology: Gary Couzens and Zean Fairbanks-Gilbert. Best artist: Caroline Callaghan, Howard Watts and Jay Eales. Best collection: Carole Johnstone, E.G. Cosh and Simon Bestwick. Best comic/graphic novel: Ian Hunter, Jo Thomas and P M Buchan. Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): Elaine Hillson, Rhian Bowley and Ross Warren. Best film/television production: Catherine Hill, Jim Steel and Johnny Mains. Best horror novel (the August Derleth Award): Aleksandra Kesek, Nina Allan and Sarah Carter. Best independent press: El Ashfield, Ole Andreas Imsen and Richard Webb. Best magazine/periodical: Kate Coe, Marcus Gipps and Sean Wallace. Best newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award): Elloise Hopkins, Lizzie Barrett and Robin Lupton. Best non-fiction: Kevin McVeigh, Martin Petto and Ruth EJ Booth. Best novella: Jo Thomas, Laura Mauro and Mark West. Best short story: Stephen Bacon, Penny Jones and Phil Sloman. The Karl Edward Wagner Award was decided by a vote of the British Fantasy Society committee.

The awards administrator was Stephen Theaker. The physical award is a handmade wooden bookend featuring Lee Thompson’s BFS logo design, commissioned from Sarah Goss, who works in traditional woodcarving and restoration: http://www.sarahgoss.co.uk.

2016 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award

Shawn Snider won the 2016 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award with his short story “The Lavender Paladin.” Snider’s story was selected by Baen editorial staff. The announcement was made at GenCon on August 6.

GRAND PRIZE: “The Lavender Paladin” by Shawn Snider

SECOND PLACE: “Gunfight at the Thornmount Colossus” by Anthony Lowe

THIRD PLACE: “Watching the Door” by Joel and F.I. Goldhaber

Started in 2014, this is the third annual Baen Fantasy Adventure Award. Baen executive editor Jim Minz said, “Our third year has been the best year yet. Each year the overall quality of submitted stories has only gotten better. We are excited to continue to grow this award and highlight the very best in fantasy storytelling.”

As the grand prize winner, Snider, who was on hand with his family in Indianapolis, received an engraved award, and a prize package containing various Baen Books. Snider describes himself as “the product of a good home, a supportive wife, and years and years of reading and people-watching.”

His story “The Lavender Paladin” will be a featured story on Baen.com main page starting September 16 until October 16, and available at the Baen Free Library after that.

The annual contest was held in conjunction with the GenCon Writers Symposium.

Pixel Scroll 9/24/16 The Scroll Glows White On The Mountain Tonight, Not A Pixel To Be Seen

(1) INTERNMENT DRAMA. Courtesy of Fathom Events, “Broadway Musical ‘Allegiance’ Starring George Takei to Screen in Cinemas”.

Allegiance,” the Broadway musical that starred George Takei in a four-month run last season, will come to movie theaters around the country in a one-night-only December screening presented by Fathom Events, the distributor of alternative cinema content.

“Allegiance” tackles the serious historical subject of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, in a story loosely inspired by Takei’s childhood. Also starring Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung, the musical has songs by Jay Kuo with a book by Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione. Stafford Arima directed the production.

(2) HOLLYWOOD POWER COUPLE SPLITS. Did you wonder why Leia and Han broke up? Now we know: “Carrie Fisher’s Hilarious Reasons Why Leia and Han Solo Broke Up” from CInemaBlend.

Carrie Fisher was the guest of honor at the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo (via NB), and in front of a crowd of Star Wars fans she revealed why Han and Leia put an end to their relationship. Apparently, Han spent too much time smuggling with the “hairy guy” and not enough at home with his wife. While hyperspace is a pretty good metaphor for a breakup, I’m not sure that it’s a particularly flattering one with regards to Han’s powers as a husband (hyperspace is awfully fast). Of course, it’s pretty safe to say that this is non-canonical, but it’s always nice to hear from Fisher. She’s typically hilarious and sarcastic about everything, and hearing her version of Star Wars events is almost always entertaining.

(3) PYTHON MEDICAL UPDATE. Monty Python’s Flying Circus member Terry Jones has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, the BBC reports.

The news was confirmed as Bafta Cymru announced the Welsh-born comedian is to be honoured with an outstanding contribution award….

Jones, who is from Colwyn Bay in north Wales, was a member of the legendary comedy troupe with Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and the late Graham Chapman.

He directed Monty Python’s Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life and co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Gilliam.

The surviving members reunited for 10 reunion performances at the O2 Arena in London in 2014.

(4) FRAUGHT WITHOUT MEANING. Joshua Rivera ponders the meaning of Bill Hader being cast as Alpha 5 in the Power Rangers movie for GQ readers.

No upcoming movie confounds me more thaJoshn 2017’s Power Rangers remake. In an era of Hollywood where every studio needs a franchise, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that the Teenagers With Attitude would get another at-bat sooner or later, but it’s hard to figure out who this movie is going to be for. Is it something chill enough for modern teens, like this super cool Instagram-ready group shot suggests? Is it going for pure outrageous spectacle, like those goofy-ass costumes and giant CGI robots suggest? Or is it somehow trying to get even our attention, by casting Bryan Cranston as Zordon the floating space wizard head and Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa.

Oh, and Bill Hader’s here now too….

(5) TECH APPLICATION. Motherboard suggests “Google Glass Could Be a Social Gamechanger For Kids on the Autism Spectrum”.

“While reading facial expressions is difficult for all of us at times (Was that a smile or a grimace?), for people with ASD, social interactions and friendships can be especially nerve-wracking. People on the spectrum may avoid eye contact and therefore fail to recognize and interpret facial expressions, challenges that also have far-reaching repercussions in school or at work.”

JJ noted, “Several Filers have said that they have to deal with prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces). I have to wonder if this would have positive applications for that, as well.”

(6) IN NO TIME. ”Quantum Teleportation Just Happened For Real”, Gizmodo tells us.

Quantum teleportation is the mystical, far-off in the future idea where quantum information encoded into particles of light can be transferred from one place to another remotely. Except it’s not far-off in the future — it just happened. Teleportation is real and it is here.

The teleportation occurred over several kilometres of optical fibre networks in the cities of Hefei in China and Calgary in Canada.

The two independent studies show that quantum teleportation across metropolitan networks is technologically feasible, and pave the way towards future city-scale quantum technologies and communications networks, such as a quantum internet.

(7) UNKNOWN CONTRIBUTORS TO SPACE AGE. Tor.com invites fans to “Meet the Hidden Figures of NASA in New Trailer”.

While the first trailer for the forthcoming NASA biopic Hidden Figures takes a wide look at how three black female mathematicians launched John Glenn into space, the second trailer tightens its scope, reintroducing you to Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

Called the “colored computers” and tucked into a corner of NASA’s offices, these women weren’t given their due—neither within nor outside of NASA’s walls, as everyone from engineers to the police cannot fathom women of color working in the space program

.

(8) NYRSF FALL SCHEDULE. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings announces its schedule for the beginning of its 26th season — http://www.hourwolf.com/nyrsf/.

(9) SOMEWHERE IN TIME TRIVIA. The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is hosting a “Somewhere in Time” Weekend on October 28-30.

Somewhere in Time Weekend is one of our most popular and special weekends at Grand Hotel. The movie Somewhere In Time was filmed at Grand Hotel and on Mackinac Island in 1979 and the movie was released in 1980

Movie Trivia from the Wikipedia:  Richard Matheson, who wrote the original novel and screenplay, appears in a cameo role as a 1912 hotel guest. He is shocked by Richard’s (Christopher Reeve) having cut himself shaving with a straight razor.

A then-unknown William H. Macy has a bit role as a critic in the 1972 scene before Elise hands the watch to Richard. George Wendt is credited as a student during this same scene, but his appearance was omitted from the final cut of the film. Richard Matheson’s daughter, Ali, is similarly credited as a student.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 24, 2004 Shaun of the Dead is released in theaters in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 24, 1936 – Jim Henson

(12) HELP DRAFT WORLDCON 75 PROGRAM. Worldcon 75 open for programming suggestions.

Do you know somebody who would be a perfect programme participant for Worldcon 75?

We want suggestions on everything and anything SF-related: books, movies, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, urban fantasy, translations, science, fandom, dance, music, writing, authors, graphic novels, plays, cosplay, anime etc.

The theme of Worldcon 75 is WORLD in all its many, many meanings! We are especially interested in programming items which fall under that theme, as well as those covering “Erilaisuus” (difference/diversity/alien – this word does not translate well into English), “Music” and “100 years of Finland”.

(13) INTERIOR DECORATION. N. K. Jemisin found a happy place to park her Hugo.

(14) ONLINE AND OFFLINE. How John Scalzi strikes the balance: “Who We Are Online, Who We Are Offline, How They’re Different and How They’re the Same”.

Over on Facebook, a person who claims to have met and interacted with me (and he may have! I meet and interact with a lot of people) suggests that he wouldn’t want to associate with me because, among other things, there’s a difference between how I present myself online and how I present myself offline, which this fellow takes to mean that I say things here, that I wouldn’t say there. Which means, apparently, that I’m false/dissembling/a coward and so on.

This is interesting to me! I have thoughts on this! I am going to share them with you now!

One: Of course, and I think obviously, people who don’t want to associate with me should not associate with me. Whatever reason you have for not wanting to associate with me — including having no reason at all! — is perfectly acceptable. It’s your life, and life is too short to associate with people with whom you have no desire to spend time, even if that person is me. Maybe I’ll be sad about that, if you are someone I like or admire or thought I might one day like to get to know. But I’ll just have to be sad about that. If you don’t want to associate with me, I celebrate your choice. Go! Be associative with others who are not me….

(15) THE LASAGNA STRATEGY. Why is Lou Antonelli “Staying at Home”? Well, he wasn’t invited to be a guest of FenCon this weekend. To avoid this happening too often, he offers this incentive —

Those of you who attended Conquest in Kansas City may recall I brought home-made lasagna for the reception held in the con suite for the debut of the “Decision Points” anthology. That was on a Friday night; I’ve been told that for the rest of the convention people kept coming into the con suite asking “Is there any more lasagna?” I will bring lasagna to any con I go to next year – unless I fly – so there is an incentive to invite me right there. If you have never tasted my lasagna, it’s universally conceded to be the best in the world.

As we say in Texas, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Kyra.]

Thank You to the Sponsors of Park 770

On April 24, it was proposed that Filers, as a group, sponsor a park bench in the MidAmeriCon II Fan Village.

Response was so tremendous that we ended up sponsoring two parks, decorated with foliage and exotic miscellanea and benches with engraved plaques.

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WIN_20160818_13_21_48_Pro (2)

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JJ set up a draft of this post for me, but I was hospitalized before I could finish editing the photos and working up the layout. Today is the day!

Thank You to the Filers who donated to sponsor Park 770:

list order created with a random-number generator — because how else would SF geeks do it???

  • Cathy Green
  • Lisa Harrigan
  • Heather Rose Jones
  • Stoic Cynic
  • DMS
  • Laura Watkins
  • Robin Reid
  • Travis Creason
  • Jim Henley
  • Kevin Chollman
  • Keith Stevenson
  • Willard Stone
  • Elise Matthesen
  • Lenore Jones
  • Linda Lewis
  • Susan Johnson
  • Christopher Gerrib
  • Soon Lee
  • Dawn Incognito
  • Hampus Eckerman
  • Tony Cullen
  • Bret Grandrath
  • Tasha Turner Lennhoff
  • Brian Vander Veen
  • Andrew Kuchling
  • JJ
  • Lowell Gilbert
  • Bonnie McDaniel
  • TYP
  • Levana Taylor
  • Mark-kitteh
  • Cassy Beach
  • bookworm 1398
  • StephenfromOttawa
  • Sylvia Sotomayor
  • Ursula Vernon
  • Naomi Kritzer
  • Greg Machlin
  • Doctor Science
  • Geoff Thorpe
  • Kendall
  • Charon Dunn
  • Doire
  • snowcrash
  • tofu
  • Simon Bisson
  • Mimse
  • Leslie C
  • Kimberly Kohn
  • Mike O’Donnell
  • Chris S
  • Cally Soukup
  • Lydia Nickerson

And, just to prove that we are truly a Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy, here are the SJW Credentials of Filer Donors:

Tasha Turner Lennhoff

  • Lucky
tasha-turner-lennhoff-and-lucky

Tasha Turner Lenhoff and Lucky

Stoic Cynic

  • Princess and the Pea

stoic-cynic-princess-and-the-pea

Mark-kitteh

  • Jake

mark-kitteh-jake-20140628_173706

Soon Lee

  • Tickee

soonlee-tickee

Cally S.

  • Spats

cally-soukup-spats

Charon

  • T.B. Kahuna

charon-kahuna-portraits-nicole-paulson-photography-10029-min

Robin Anne Reid

  • Luthien

robin-anne-reid-and-luthien

Guess what – the all black boy is Sooty. Minnie is no longer mini, but much reduced from her attempt to grow bigger than Sooty’s predecessor.

Doire

  • Minnie and Sooty

doire-minnie-and-sooty

Doctor Science

  • Sneakers

doctor-science-sneakers-silmarillion

JJ

  • Tweek and Penwiper (aka The Cat From Hell)

jj-tweek-and-penwiper-aka-the-cat-from-well

Lauowolf

  • The Doctor and Sextus

lauowold-the-doctor-and-sextus-min

jonesnori/Lenore Jones

  • Pogo, Betty, Shadow (of blessed memory), Magpie

lenore-jones-w-pogo-betty-shadow-magpie-min

Hampus Eckerman

  • Top left: Fred Lower left: Eddie Lower right: Dizze

hampus-eckerman-fred-eddi-dizze-min

Dawn Incognito

  • Tunafish

dawn-incognito-tunafish

  • MissieMaya

dawn-incognito-missiemaya

Bonnie McDaniel

  • Sweetie

bonnie-mcdaniel-sweetie-min

Cheryl

  • Sam and Bubba.

cheryl-s-sam-bubba

Naomi Kritzer

  • Emily
  • Balto
  • Cassie McFluff

(Pictured below: Cassie McFluff, aka Fluffypants.)

naomi-kritzer-cassie-mcfluff

Sylvia Sotomayor

The cat is DC, which stands for “Dazed and Confused”, “Darn Cute”, “Damn Cat”, “Demanding and Complaining”, and anything else we can come up with. She’s 15 in this pic (16 now), and this shows her hanging out in the garden, waiting for a lizard to show up.

sylvia-sotomayor-dc-min

SciFiMike

Here’s a pic of me and a couple of SJW Kitties guarding the TBR pile.

Er, Tigerman and Lionman?

michael-o-donnell

Cassy B.

  • Sebastian

cassy-sebastian-3-14-11

Heather Rose Jones

I don’t have a current SJW credential, but it occurred to me that “tree-hugger” is a SJW credential, so I supply here a picture of me and my huggable tree, which does not have a name.

heather-rose-jones-hrj%2020150506

(Apologies in advance for any mistakes; please send any corrections ASAP to mikeglyer [at] cs.com)

2016 Gemmell Awards

The 2015 David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented at FantasyCon in Scarborough, UK on September 24.

RAVENHEART AWARD (Best cover art)

Ravenheart Award

Ravenheart Award

  • Jason Chan for The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

lawrence-mark-the-liars-key200

MORNINGSTAR AWARD (Best debut)

Morningstar Award

Morningstar Award

  • The Vagrant by Peter Newman

LEGEND AWARD (Best novel)

Legend Award "Snaga"

Legend Award “Snaga”

  • The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

Pixel Scroll 9/23/16 Is There In Pixel No Scrolling?

(1) WOKING UNVEILS WELLS STATUE. H. G. Wells only lived in Woking for 18 months, but the city’s theory is the time there had a big impact on his work, so they’ve put up a statue. This week saw the unveiling of unveiling of a seven-foot statue of the author, to honor his 150th birthday on September 21.

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Stephen Baxter, president of the British Science Fiction Association and vice president of the HG Wells Society, said: “HG Wells was in this very small town for a very brief period but in that time he produced a novel that changed forever mankind’s view of our infinite future in infinite space.”

Woking was a landing site for the Martian invasion in *War of the Worlds*; some years ago, sculpture illustrating the novel appeared around town. One can see a Martian tripod, a crashed interplanetary cylinder, and [SPOILER ALERT] a bacillus.

In a video on the *Get Surrey* site, sculptor Wesley Harland explains notable features of the work.

On the back of Wells’s chair is “802,701 AD,” the year his narrator visits in *The Time Machine*. Beneath the chair, the red weed from Mars creeps across the ground, as in *War of the Worlds*. And in his hand he holds a model of Professor Cavor’s spherical antigravity vessel, from *The First Men in the Moon*. Harland’s sculpture is made of bronze and, presumably, Cavorite.

(2) COWS IN SPACE. I discovered this on the back of a lunch-sized milk carton – the Cows in Space ttp://www.dairypure.com/cows-in-space game.

(3) THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Mark Leeper had a little fun deconstructing the 1959 movie based on Jules Verne’s novel Journey To The Center of the Earth.

Last week I wrote an evaluation of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959), one of my favorite movies of the 1950s and what I consider one of the great adventure films of all times. I find what is wrong with the film forgivable. But I would not feel right about just ignoring the many problems I saw watching the film recently. This is effectively an appendix to that essay listing problems with the writing of JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

Jules Verne’s novel leaned rather heavily on lucky coincidence. He started with a note falling out of a book where just the right person could read it. But that is a small coincidence compared to those in the 1959 adaptation. Walter Reisch’s and Charles Brackett’s screenplay seems to consider this a carte blanche and ver and over has fortuitous accidents pushing the story forward. Consider Arne Saknussemm who, knowing he would not return from his expedition, scratched his message into a plumb bob. Somehow this tool made its way back up to the surface from near the center of the earth. Along the way somehow this tool was lightly coated in lava so it look much like another rock. It managed not to fall into the sea surrounding the volcano. Then someone found the rock and sold it individually to a shop in Edinburgh where a student volcanologist found it. What do you figure are the chances of all that happening? Later an explosion blows off the lava jacket and the plumb bob is left shiny and legible once the lava is removed.

(4) THE BIG BOOK OF BIG BOOKS. John Scalzi’s latest piece for the LA Times takes off from Alan Moore’s epic Jerusalem.

Writer Alan Moore, perhaps best known for the classic “Watchmen” graphic novel, has this month released a novel, “Jerusalem,” to generally very positive reviews. There are many words to describe the novel (“epic,” “Joycean,” “vast,” and “show-offingly brilliant” are some of them) but the one word I think that every reader and critic of the work can agree is accurate with regard to the book is “long.” “Jerusalem” clocks in at over 600,000 words, a length that dwarfs such monster books as “Ulysses” (a mere 265,000 words), and exceeds  “Shogun,” “Infinite Jest,” “War and Peace” and either the Old or New Testament individually (but not together).

… When a single word encompasses such a wide range of objects, it has the effect of skewing people’s expectations. I’m a fairly standard working novelist, in that I publish about a novel a year. In one decade, from 2006 to 2016, I wrote eight novels; Alan Moore wrote one. In terms of novel-sized objects, it appears that I have ­vastly outpaced Moore, by a ratio of 8 to 1. But my novels ranged in length from about 75,000 words to about 130,000 words, with an average of about 90,000 words. So across eight novels, I’ve written — or at least, had published — about 720,000 words in novel form. Moore, on the other hand, published more than 600,000.

(5) SELF-PUBLISHED PATRONUS. A lot of Filers were mildly grumpy about the patronus that Pottermore picked for them, but unlike most, RedWombat was ready to solve the problem herself…

I got Chestnut Mare which left me with questions–like how you know it’s chestnut when it’s SILVER!–and also I’m not that fond of horses, so I took it again with a different email, got completely different questions…

And got Bay Stallion.

Filled with burning rage, I drew my own.

(6) TRILOGY TRAILER. Tor/Forge has posted a trailer for Cixin Liu’s Three Body Trilogy on YouTube. I watched it to find out why I should buy the books I’ve already bought. (Reminds me of that cabinet member in Dave justifying the budget to buy advertising that makes people feel better about the American autos they’ve already purchased.)

(7) ROCKET ARRIVAL. Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo arrived.

So maybe this is a good time for me to thank Elayne Pelz fo dropping off my Hugos this week. And I had John King Tarpinian shoot a photo:

mike-with-hugos-crop

(8) YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. Atlas Obscura pays a nice graphical tribute to “Places You Can No Longer Go: Ray Bradbury’s House”, which includes one frame based on John King Tarpinian’s iconic photo of the shattered garage published in news services in January 2015.

(9) LONG TIME FRIEND. Scoop hosts Maggie Thompson’s tribute: “In Memoriam: David Kyle”.

That’s some of what a formal obituary would say, but I have to add that David was one of the fan friends I’ve always known: He and Ruth were friends of my mother and father and then of Don and mine, and their kids—Kerry and AC—grew up as friends of my daughter. In fact, our families even “traded daughters” some summers, and Valerie moved to New York City to room with Kerry the year she graduated from high school.

In recent years, David has been acting grandfather to Valerie’s son—and every time I’ve seen David, he’s been the same delightful friend I’ve known for years. His body grew weaker, but his wit continued to entertain friends and fans alike.

The post also tells some of the byplay between ultimate comics fan Thompson, and Kyle, who didn’t care for comics.

(10) SF-THEMED CAT SHOW. The Cat/SF conspiracy continues. Mark-kitteh reports, “The UK’s Supreme Cat Show (yes, this is a real thing) will have a SF-themed competition for Best Decorated Pen, and the theme continues with special guests appearing including Colin Baker, Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, John Leeson & Peter Purves.”

[Thanks to Bill Higgins, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Alasdair Stuart on the Growth of SFF Podcasting

By Carl Slaughter: Alasdair Stuart is the CEO of Escape Artists, the parent company of the Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, and Cast of Wonders podcasts, and most recently the Mothership Zeta magazine.  He shares at length about the people, history, vision, and operations of EA.  He also expounds on the place podcasting has in the speculative fiction market.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Give us a brief history of how 4 podcasts and a magazine came under the Escape Artists umbrella.   

ALASDAIR STUART: Sure!

Escape Pod was started a decade ago when podcasting was basically the Wild West. Steve Eley set it up, was amazed by how quickly it took off and added in Pseudopod which, when it started was edited and hosted by Ben Philips and Mur Lafferty.

Just under a year passed. Mur left, I saw she was leaving and did one of the least British things I’ve ever done; stuck my hand up and said ‘Hire me! I’ll do that” and to my rank amazement; they did.

My first episode as host is episode 49. It is fair to say I have come a long way since then. I certainly sound much less frightened.

A while after that Podcastle was set up and not long after that, Steve stepped away from hosting. On we merrily trundled until, one day in 2012, I had this conversation with our accountant:

‘Hey Paul? Is this quick math I’ve done that suggests we run out of money in six weeks right?’

‘Yep.’

‘…OH.’

Emails were sent, meetings had and a plea for assistance sent out. It was overlong and a touch panicky but it did the job and our listeners massively rallied around us. We lived.

A year or so later I was working on a project with Dan Sawyer. I was frustrated with some EA stuff at that point and, after the third meeting with Dan opened with me complaining about this, he asked why we shouldn’t just buy the company.

I had no answer other than ‘yes’. There may have been a ‘gosh.’

So off we went! Steve was amazing about it and actually said he’d only want it to go to a group including me which was incredibly sweet of him. So we bought the company and started in on renovating it. And, as often happens, we soon realized we wanted very different things for it. We parted on amicable terms and I took on the company as sole owner.

What followed was about two years of putting out fires and getting stuff in a row. That stopped a little while ago, and we started doing the stuff that we’ve wanted to do for ages – expanding. So that’s when Cast of Wonders was brought in and Mothership Zeta was launched and now here we are.

CS: Any more podcasts or magazines joining the family any time soon?   

AS: We’re always looking to expand, but we want to do it in ways that make sense. As an example; during Eley’s tenure I know an erotica podcast was looked at. That’s not something we’ll be doing now (erotica and YA in the same house feel a bit off) but there are other genres we continue to review. Crime is logical.

Plus we’re starting to look at story lengths which aren’t well served by the existing audio community. Podcastle has run ‘Giants’ for several years, stories approaching the novella length. And Cast of Wonders has run an entire serialized short novel, called Camp Myth. In fact, serials like that or longer works are almost certainly what’s next for us.

CS: How much of the speculative podcast market does Escape Artists occupy?   

AS: At Sasquan I sat in the audience of a podcasting panel and listened to a panel member jokingly admit they stole their entire format from EscapePod. Another panel member then looked at them and said ‘But we stole our format from you!’

That was both really sweet and hard to sit through. EA was the first through the door and we’re still here. We’ve committed the absolutely necessary sin of consistency, which means people sometimes see through you. Everything we’re doing this year, from the launch of MZ and bringing aboard Cast of Wonders, to a long overdue web redesign and the Pseudopod 10th anniversary Kickstarter, is about changing that.

(Although that does position us as the Faith No More of genre podcasting and they’re one of my favorite bands so there’s that)

CS: Same question for the Parsec.

AS: I’m not quite sure what you mean? The Parsec awards are a very broad church. This last year there were 14 categories, of which stories produced by EA occupied only two.

CS: Who’s the competition?   

AS: We don’t view ourselves as having competition. The field, even though it’s expanding at a rate unlike anything we’ve seen so far, is still really small. We share staff with other shows, have definitely shared authors as well as narrators, and work hard on making sure we boost good work when we see it, not just when we produce it.

The trick, if there is one, is to be absolutely, almost ruthlessly, true to your own identity. There are dozens of podcasts in dozens of formats. Some concentrate on literary and critical analysis, like Faculty of Horror or Writer’s Roundtable. There are countless ‘three people and a mic’ commentary podcasts like School of Movies. There’s a string of amazing genre fiction audio drama podcasts.

And there’s us. Our guiding principle is One Story Told Well. The true art, we feel, of audio fiction is the paring of a great story with a great voice. Each of the shows specializes in a genre and to some extent, a specific type of story within that genre. EscapePod has always concentrated on the uplifting and hopeful sides of science fiction. Mothership Zeta emphasizes fun genre. Cast of Wonders has a very broad definition of YA but a narrower view on what their sense of wonder entails. And Pseudopod takes in every form of horror we can, from the classics (I’m about to write an outro for our subscriber exclusive reading of The Monkey’s Paw) to debut authors.

Lightspeed, Nightmare, Clarkesworld, BCS, Uncanny, Fireside and the others all do really great work and have their own approach. New magazines and shows like Glittership, Fiyah, Liminal and Holdfast are launching all the time and we enthusiastically support them. Likewise audio dramas like Archive 81, The Deep Vault, The Bridge, The Magnus Archives, Ars Paradoxica, Tanis, The Black Tapes and The Tunnels all make the entire audio field better. We’d much rather work with everyone than compete.

CS: Why branch into magazines?   

AS: Because we want, and need to expand. And because the magazine format is a medium everyone understands.

There’s a running gag rough the Tanis and Black Tapes podcasts where the lead will interview someone and the conversation will go like this:

‘Is this for the radio?’

‘It’s for a podcast.’

‘…’

‘It’s like radio on the Internet.’

That ‘…’ Is where we sometimes feel trapped. There’s a real sense, although it is fading, of podcasting not being ‘real’ publishing. The establishment (and recent renewal) of the Fancast Hugo award really seemed to drive that home, despite audio publication finally being recognized as on-par with print publication for SFWA membership purposes.

But static isn’t something we can afford to be even though it’s all too easy to feel frustrated and overlooked because we publish in a format some people don’t connect with. We have a decade’s worth of content in our back catalog and it’d be very easy to assume people will find it. It’s harder, but far more necessary, to go tell them about it and a great way to start doing that is by branching out into a format that’s more universally recognized.

Plus, we feel there’s room for the EA mindset of enthusiastic, articulate and supportive positivity to be carried over to the magazine market. The immensely positive response we had from MZ authors at WorldCon this year leads me to believe we were right.

CS: Your podcasts pay pro rates.  How do you afford this while offering stories free?   

AS: We’re entirely listener funded. We can afford pro rates because of the generosity of our listeners, it’s that simple. Even with the expansion this year it’s been a source of stress seeing if donations can support that. Right now things are sustainable, but like any donation funded organization it’s tighter than we’d like.

One of the things we realized when we bought the company and started looking in closets is that EA has never, ever had a consistent or proactive approach to marketing. That has to change, and that’s on us. The fact that we’re not on Patreon yet is a constant frustration to both staff and some of our listeners. But we feel it would be a real slap in the face to our 10 year veteran PayPal donors to not align first on what Patreon rewards would be offered, and how our PayPal donors would translate to that. We’d rather take a bit longer and do it right.

Fun fact: we have over 400,000 unique downloads every month across the four shows. Less than 1% of our listeners donate. If just 3% donated we could do so much more.

CS: Do you podcast original material, reprints, or both?  Do you buy stories by submission, invitation, or both?   

AS: All of the above. While we (and audio fiction as a whole, really) were initially formed as reprint markets, when we stepped up to SFWA qualifying rates that very definitely changed. Cast of Wonders is a recent example – their submissions quadrupled when they announced their rate increase.

It’s worth talking a little about reprints here because they’re the foundation of the shows. When Eley set up EscapePod, we initially couldn’t pay full rates so targeting reprints was a way to make sure we could source stories and still pay for them. That also opened up potentially entire back catalogs for authors to send back out into the world and get paid for again. So it became a virtuous circle; when we started out Escape Artists could afford to pay for reprints. Authors had a home for reprints. We got some really great stories. The audience grew and we began to expand.

But there’s also a point to make here about why we work as a format; we aim to sit perfectly inside the average commute. So, if you’re on a train or in the car for 45 minutes you’re going to be able to hear a full story that will entertain you, keep you engaged and distract you from how little coffee you have left. We’re designed, very deliberately, to fit into that hole in people’s days and help them claw a bit of time back for them. We get dozens of emails about listeners telling us we’ve improved their commutes, their workouts, their school runs and more.

Most stories come in via submission. We have a small amount of solicits every year, usually for traditions. Podcastle loves a Tim Pratt Christmas story, for example.

And we do some special events too. Alex Hofelich, the co-editor of Pseudopod, has commissioned some incredible pieces for the anthology which will be part of the Kickstarter. Cast of Wonders had a special call for Banned Books Week which runs the end of September.  Artemis Rising, our showcase for female and non-binary authors, hits its third year next March. Both of those had specific calls for submissions attached to them and we’ve had some amazing stories through.

CS: What’s your role in the daily/weekly operations of the podcasts?   

AS: Most of the time it’s listening to our people, helping them solve problems and, largely, making sure I’m not in their way. On a week to week basis I’m one of three hosts on EscapePod, occasionally narrate for the shows and host Pseudopod weekly.

CS: What’s your role behind the scenes as CEO of Escape Artists?   

AS: Marguerite and I split the duties. We organize bimonthly meetings for editorial, administrative or technical staff to discuss any issues raised, see where people are in the year and find out what we can do to help. Sometimes there’ll be offshoots of those with smaller follow up meetings but mostly it’s those two.

Editorial meetings run 2-3 hours, and are where everyone can share what they’re working on or get ideas about concerns. We always start with sharing positive news, and end with where we’re going to focus until the next meeting.

And because our people are all in scattered timezones we make sure the antisocial start time always lands on us. The bad news is that means a late night every month. The good news? Excellent debriefing over breakfast the following morning

Dave Robison, Alasdair Stuart, and Marguerite Kenner

Dave Robison, Alasdair Stuart, and Marguerite Kenner

CS: What have been the pivotal moments in speculative podcast history?  What percentage of the speculative market does podcasting occupy?  What part will podcasting play in the future of speculative fiction?   

AS: In no particular order:

Mur Lafferty launching I Should Be Writing, Scott Sigler podcasting Earthcore, the glorious life of Variant Frequencies which is still one of the greatest fiction podcasts ever, the launch of the Parsec Awards, the launch of EscapePod and the creation of the audio reprint market, the adoption of the podcasting method by major genre magazines like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, and the launch of Serial.

Why Serial?

Because without Serial you don’t get the new age of fiction podcasts, the bluntly astounding audio dramas like Limetown, The Magnus Archives. The Black Tapes, The Tunnels, Archive 81 and all the rest. Those shows are the ‘80s horror classics of the 21st century; incredible creators doing amazing work with almost no budget.

And that brings us to the present day, and to your second question. I think podcasting has done a really good job of sneaking into everybody’s world view. A podcast has become a default delivery method now and, with shows like us and others paying pro rates there’s no longer any reason for it to feel like a second hand market. Not that there ever was but it’s nice to see the industry realize that too.

And as for the future? All those shows I mentioned have helped sculpt it in a dozen ways. Serial made the ‘intrepid reporter looks at stuff’ a viable template for fictional subversion. I Should Be Writing continues to map the territory we all write on as does DitchDiggers.

And as for fiction shows? They’ll continue being petri dishes for some of the best new writers on the planet. Podcasts are places where new stories can be tested on an audience orders of magnitude larger than anyone dreamt of at the birth of this medium.

Did I mention I love my job? I REALLY love my job.

CS: What writing do you do on the side and where do you find the time with all the responsibilities of Escape Artists?   

AS: I write regularly for tor.com, MCM Buzz, Ghostwoods Books and a couple of other places. I also work as an RPG designer. I was actually ENnie (The RPG industry Oscar) nominated for an adventure last year which was really cool. It was even cooler given it was for the Doctor Who RPG.

Most of the work I do in that field is modules or scenarios but I’ve done longer form projects too. I wrote The Sixth Doctor sourcebook for the Doctor Who RPG and was lead writer on the Tenth Doctor book. I’ve also got a setting coming out for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, an adventure for The Laundry RPG and my own game, After The War, due for release next year with Genesis of Legend.

As for finding the time it’s really two things. My partner, Marguerite Kenner and I split the running of EA between us. That makes it an incredible amount of work instead of simply an impossible one but there isn’t a day that goes by when the work isn’t massive fun. We’re unsure which one of us is Leo and which one of us is President Bartlet so far but we’re enjoying finding out.

Secondly, I work very fast and I work a LOT. One of the reasons I took over the company was the realization that this is the job I’ve held the longest. I celebrate my tenth year with the company in 2017 and I’ve never had more fun, or felt more at home, than I do here. I love what we do and when that’s the basis of a working day it’s really easy to get stuff done.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Escape Artists?   

AS: A new back catalogue system. We have 1700+ episodes which will always be available, for free, on the websites. We’re completely committed to the Creative Commons model. But even with our new wikia they can be a challenge to navigate. We have plans to fix that with some great added value, and to give our listeners a new method to donate in a way that hasn’t been done before.

A magnificently overdue art and website refresh. Ten year old websites. Ouch.

Artemis Rising 3, our showcase for female and non-binary authors returns for its third year next year.

Our first ever Kickstarter! To celebrate Pseudopod’s 10 anniversary, we’ve worked with Horror in Clay’s Jonathan Chaffin to design an incredible tiki mug! Jonathan designed Pseudopod’s original art. Plus editor Alex Hofelich is hard at work on our first anthology of original stories from fan favorite Pseudopod authors. The Kickstarter will go live in October and I can’t wait. Also I can’t wait to own one of the tiki mugs.

CS: What’s on horizon for Alasdair Stuart?

AS: I have my first ever project I’m not allowed to mention beyond the fact it exists. I may take the Warren Ellis route and give it a codename. Yes, why not! Project HARDISON it is. So, I have Project HARDISON to do this month, as well as work on After The War. There’s still a few more WorldCon follow-ups on my chase list, plus I’ll be at FantasyCon in Scarborough September 23rd through 25th.

I also need to finish off Pseudopod Tapes Volumes 2 through Fox Spirit Books. The first volume is a collection of extended essays from a year’s worth of Pseudopod episodes. I’m now woefully behind and Adele is clamoring for it.

And more Pseudopod itself of course. Best job I’ve ever had.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Alasdair Stuart Website — https://alasdairstuart.com/