A Small, Angry Planet On Sale

Harper Voyager recently acquired The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, the “rollicking space adventure” praised by several File 770 commenters.

To get everybody psyched up about this book, the publisher today is running a one-day offer — a Nook super-discount price of $1.99 for the eBook edition.

Long way

(The same price is available for the Amazon Kindle edition.)

Pixel Scroll 10/29 – Scrolls and the Art of Blog Maintenance

(1) Rob Cottingham’s “Ancillary Stapler” at Medium.com is highly recommended.

I am lost in thought when Coffeemaker speaks to me, timidly, to say she is almost empty.

Not the emptiness of a depleted urn; it is still half full. No, this is the emptiness that strikes at Coffeemaker’s soul: there are no beans in her hopper. When Coffeemaker dreams, this is how her nightmares end.

Marketing Six checks the bean level regularly, even though that isn’t in her job description, but Marketing Six isn’t here this morning, is she? Off sick. I reach out, and find her iPhone’s location coordinates.

“Address Book, where does Marketing Six live?” I ask silently.

“Not at a Starbucks in Eastgate Square Shopping Mall,” she says. I didn’t know Address Book could be wry.

(2) A previously unsuspected musical subgenre – Vulcabilly.

(3) Prowse Still Grumpy, Film at 11.

The original Darth Vader actor, asked about his interest Star Wars: The Force Awakens, told the Guardian:

“It depends,” he said. “It depends if I’m playing the part of Darth Vader in it … Yes – then I’d be very interested. But if they’re putting somebody else in Darth Vader’s mask, then I’m not the slightest bit interested.”

(4) At SF Signal – “SF/F Crowdfunding Roundup: Familiar, ZILF!, Spanish Women of Wonder”.

(5) It will be even harder to be a “dirt farmer” on Mars. Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University, will discuss how hard in a lecture titled “Soils of Mars: Keys to Understanding the Habitability of the Red Planet” at the Soil Science Society of America’s annual meeting on November 18.

(6) The “Journey To Space” exhibition opened today at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

journey-to-space-the-exhibition COMP

Of the more than 7 billion people on Earth, less than 600 have ever left our home planet to experience the beauty, wonder, and danger of space.

Now it’s your turn….

In the harsh, airless environment of space, peril is everywhere. Meteoroids soar by at speeds that can make them deadly to astronauts. Temperature fluctuates from burning hot to unbearably cold. It’s up to scientists to develop the technology that keeps astronauts safe. Journey to Space: The Exhibition’s hands-on exhibits and immersive experiences give you a chance to not only see that amazing technology (including Neil Armstrong’s glove), but to try handling some of the challenges of space travel yourself.

Take a turn managing the energy of a simulated orbiting space station, operate a robotic arm, and find out how astronauts eat, sleep, and even go to the bathroom in space. See if you have “the right stuff” to deal with the disorienting environment of zero gravity as you step into a rotating chamber, inspired by the International Space Station’s Destiny Module, and feel what it’s like to be in a place where there is no up and no down. Designed with the help of astronauts and space scientists, Journey to Space: The Exhibition will inspire the astronaut, engineer and scientist in all of us.

(7) Juliet McKenna appeals for donations to the GoFundMe benefitting Rochita Loenen Ruiz

Rochita Loenen Ruiz is a brave, generous and talented author and all round lovely person. She has suddenly, tragically lost her beloved husband, the father of her two young children, to an ultimately fatal heart attack.

We cannot comprehend her bereavement. But we can understand the practical challenges she and her family will face in the next little while. That at least is something we can help with.

A fundraising campaign has been set up by her closest friends via GoFundMe

As you will see on clicking through, an array of writers and publishers are offering rewards by way of thanks to those offering their support.

(8) Tom Knighton applauds Wil Wheaton’s refusal to let HuffPo post his stuff gratis.

Wheaton declined because he didn’t figure he needed the exposure.  Frankly, I’m proud of him.

Any kind of creative type gets these “offers” all the time.  Someone likes what you’re doing.  They like it so much they want to utilize it in some way, either have your band play in their bar or run your blog post or something.  “What do you pay?” you ask.

“Oh, we just pay in exposure,” they reply.

My reply?  “Son, people die from exposure.”

Huffington Post is one of the biggest news websites out there.  They can afford to pay for content.  Yet they don’t.  You know why?  Because people will give it to them for free.

(9) Melinda Snodgrass will be executive producer overseeing the writing of Star Trek: Renegades.

Okay, so now I can talk about the work I’ll be doing for Star Trek: Renegades. As many of you probably know there has been a tradition of fans of the show making their own episodes and putting them up on-line. They range in quality, but some are produced by people in “the Industry” as we call it. Renegades is one of those.

I was approached by executive producer Sky Conway and asked if I would come on board. I said I would have to look at the pilot they had produced and also that they had to be a WGA signatory. I don’t work outside of my guild. I then went and watched Renegades and was very impressed.

A Kickstarter to fund production of Star Trek: Renegades episodes 2 and 3 is in progress. So far they have raised $100,535 of their $350,000 goal.

(10) If Alice Cooper has a middle name, it’s not “Humility.” Three of his own songs are in his Halloween Top 10.

There were monsters in rock songs before Alice Cooper surfaced in the early ‘70s with songs like “The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” “Dead Babies,” and “Killer,” But there weren’t monsters in rock. Cooper changed all that.

Yet despite his violence and gore, Cooper’s style of horror has always been akin to a carnival ride or a monster movie. The thrills are real, but the terror is not, which makes Cooper the ultimate character for Halloween tricks and treats.

Cooper recently talked to Yahoo Music about his 10 favorite Halloween songs, 30 percent of which happen to be his own. “I’m going to have a lot of songs in this top 10,” he explained, “because I’m the only one that really writes scary songs.”

(11) Today In History

  • October 29, 1998 — In 1998, U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, who in 1962 became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit Earth, returned to space aboard the shuttle Discovery. At 77, he became the oldest person to travel in space.
  • October 29, 1969 — The first connection on what would become the Internet was made when bits of data flowed between computers at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute.

(12) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born October 29, 1947 — Actor Richard Dreyfuss, made famous by starring roles in American Graffiti, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is born in Brooklyn.

(13) Vox Day, in collaboration with artist Red Meat, has a new cartoon that explains the difference between the Ilk, the Dread Ilk, and the Vile Faceless Minions of Vox Popoli.

(14) Emperor Palpatine has been elected to a Ukranian city council; Chewbacca was arrested for campaigning for him…

A candidate who dresses as Star Wars villain Emperor Palpatine has been voted on to a Ukrainian city council despite standing as a joke.

According to fellow candidate Aleksandr Borovik, the man posing as Sheev Palpatine, the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, won a place on Odessa City Council, in the south west of the country.

It comes after the local electoral commission revealed that 48 candidates from the Darth Vader Block political party were registered to stand in the local election.

It has been reported that Emperor Palatine won 54.4 per cent of the poll, causing Mr Borovik to speak of his disbelief, despite respecting the choice of voters

He told RT.com: ‘This is beyond my understanding. People, what’s wrong with you?’

(15) If you’re an optimist about there ever being a Pacific Rim 2, you’ll be glad to know that Guillermo del Toro has finished the script. He’s still looking for somebody to greenlight production, of course.

(16) According to “The definitive list of werewolf-friendly cities”  Gregory Benford should beware – Irvine is #4 on this list. David Doering will be shocked to see which city is #1….

Werewolves, the cursed humans that turn into enormous beasts at the full moon, date back to the 15th century. Of old English folklore, supposed shapeshifters were put on trial in Switzerland in the 15th century, much like those believed to practice witchcraft.

In the spirit of Halloween, FindTheHome and FindTheCompany wanted to see where werewolves would live (if they do indeed exist) in the United States today. We looked at the following criteria to map likely werewolf haunts.

Cities deemed dog-friendly. Low number of gun shops and gunsmiths. Low prevalence of silver-producing companies (silver is rumored to be able to kill wolves).Low population density (where werewolves would be less easily found).

(17) Today is the day to see Son of Frankenstein at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

Alex marquee son of frankenstein COMP

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Jonathan Olfert, Janice Gelb, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Noory Boots Brom From Coast To Coast

Krampus the Yule Lord

Brom, artist and author of Krampus the Yule Lord, told his Facebook followers that he was kicked off George Noory’s radio show last night.

Well, now that’s a feather in my cap. Seems I weirded out George Noory on Coast to Coast so bad he kicked me off the air. Apparently he is disturbed by children being tormented in folktales. Seems that being the case, he would have done just a touch of research before having me on to talk about Krampus. For the record, I do have a very dark sense of humor, but I am a father and am very aware of the difference of fairytales and real life, something George does not seem to understand. Even so, it is the over the top horribleness of Krampus that I dearly love.

…Funny thing is, I was so nervous and focusing so hard on just trying to get through the show, that I didn’t even clue in that he was offended until he hung up on me. I just kept wondering where these odd questions were coming from. I wanted to talk about Krampus’s rich and colorful folklore, not real life infant deaths – geesh.

Laurie Lee Brom, also an artist, said:

So for those of you who missed the shenanigans last night, Brom was HUNG UP ON by George Noory on Coast to Coast! Noory clearly hadn’t taken even two minutes to prep for the show and had NO idea about Krampus. Displaying brilliant interviewing skills, the show asked Brom to provide the questions to ask so Noory didn’t need to do anything at all but be a host to the invited guest. Apparently UFO abductions are fine for airplay, but ancient myths of kids being thrown in a sack of a mythological beast were just too “Halloweenie” for George, who abruptly hung up on Brom. It’s all so hilarious and infuriating at once. Through it all Brom did great. Here’s link to the show.

You can listen to the segment here– http://www.cknw.com/audio/. Select October 28, 10:20 p.m. (Which you can’t literally do, but if you set it for 10 p.m. you can advance the recording for that hour to where you want to start by using the red bar.)

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner for the story.]

San Jose in 2018 Taking GoH Suggestions

The San Jose in 2018 Worldcon bid invites the sf community to suggest potential guests of honor, thus “ensuring worthy candidates are not overlooked.”

Or as the committee phrased it in the press release, their bid is “crowdsourcing guest candidates” in the event they win the right to host the 76th World Science Fiction Convention.

Worldcon’s Guest of Honor appointments function as a sort of lifetime achievement award for contributors to SF & F literature, arts and the community. SJ in 2018 asks people to send guest recommendations to goh@sjin2018.org, and to include in their recommendation how the candidate meets the basic criteria for consideration and why they think the candidate should be honored.

Recommendations will be accepted through December 15, 2015.

The traditional criteria for Worldcon Guest of Honor consideration identified by the San Jose bidders include —

  • An established career, usually considered to be 30 years from entry into the field.
  • Current relevance, usually considered to be current activity and notability. In the case of writers, availability of their back catalog in print/distribution is an excellent yardstick.
  • No prior recognition as a Worldcon Guest of Honor (for past guests, see http://www.smofinfo.com/LL/TheLongList.html).

San José in 2018 is considering honoring guests in the following genre fields:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Art
  • Music
  • Science
  • Fandom

The Guest of Honor selection process is confidential. Guests of Honor cannot be named until after the 2018 Site Selection process is completed and the 76th Worldcon has been awarded.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the story.]

Continue reading

Cursed Child Leads To Cursing Ticket Buyers

land rushThe first round of tickets for the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rapidly sold out, generating complaints about delays and technical difficulties the way these internet “land rush” events often do.

According to the BBC —

Producers say more than 120,000 fans went online this morning [October 28] to try and buy tickets, some of which appeared on re-sale ticket websites soon after, priced at more than £1,000.

The play’s official Twitter account warned fans not to use the sites, writing: “Please do not attempt to resell your tickets on alternative platforms, as patrons will not be admitted into the theatre.”

…Many fans expressed their frustration on Twitter, complaining of hours spent online trying to buy tickets.

Em Maree wrote: “Finally got my three tickets for the #CursedChild play but am shocked by the shambles that was the booking. 4 hours is a joke!”

Nikki Alden was one of many people reporting being bumped out of the queue, writing: “There was and error on the site right before I was about to pay for my tickets and now I’m 33,084TH in line!!!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Lucas Museum Approved By Chicago City Council

chi-photos-lucas-arts-museum-collection-20140520The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is another step closer to beginning construction. The Chicago City Council voted to approve zoning for the project on October 28, after the Bears football team and the museum organization agreed on rules governing parking, Bears fan tailgating and advertising rules around Soldier Field and the museum.

Still in the way is a lawsuit by the nonprofit Friends of the Parks. According to the Chicago Tribune, the grounds for the suit are that the planned museum “violates the public trust because it will be built on the submerged waters of Lake Michigan and that a privately held museum is not in residents’ best interests.” The next court hearing is scheduled for November 10.

Council approval was the major last hurdle in respect to city requirements.

Construction on the museum is slated to begin no sooner than March 1 with an opening date as early as 2019, according to The Associated Press. See more museum design illustrations here.

chi-lucas-museum-aj--ct0031133786-20150916

Interior design of proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Pixel Scroll 10/28 Trolling Down the Moon

(1) The Galactic Journey blog is written as the day-to-day experiences of an sf fan living 55 years ago. Last week The Traveler covered the final Nixon-Kennedy debate and the first episode of The Twilight Zone’s second season.

Today’s post is inspired by a Mack Reynolds story in the “current” November 1960 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Really well done.

Science fiction is not prediction.  It is extrapolation.  No one can see the future, but a gifted writer can show you, dramatically, what will happen “if this goes on.”

It’s no surprise that science fiction writing has enjoyed a boom since 1950.  Never has our world been on the brink of so many exciting and dangerous potentialities.  On the positive side: space travel, automation by computers and robots, atomic energy.  On the negative side: pollution, global warming, and atomic annihilation….

On the other side of the coin, we have Mack Reynolds’ Russkies Go Home!, which appeared in this month’s (November 1960) Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Mr. Reynolds reportedly just returned from a trip behind the Iron Curtain, which explains the multitude of Russia-related stories he’s recently turned out.  Clearly, the trip impressed the writer, as the stories all posit a Soviet Union that fulfills Senator Kennedy’s nightmare prophecies by surpassing the United States in prosperity by 1970.

(2) StoryBundle’s 2015 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle includes Book View Café’s own Brewing Fine Fiction anthology, and two additional guides by BVC members: Writing Horses by Judith Tarr and Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan.

  • The 2015 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle contains 13 new books on all aspects of writing, from craft, to productivity, to business, to career advice, to specific areas of expertise, designed for novices or experts alike.
  • A second-tier bonus: If you beat the total of $25, you can get 25 total books, all put together by curator and bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson.
  • When you purchase a bundle you can choose to donate to NaNoWriMo itself.

(3) ‘Tis the season. “Witch wins protective order against warlock in Salem court”.

A judge granted a protective order against a warlock on Wednesday, spelling relief for the Salem witch who accused him of harassment.

The two squared off in court before a Salem District Court judge, who granted the protective order to witch priestess Lori Sforza. She had accused self-proclaimed warlock Christian Day of harassing her over the phone and on social media over the past three years.

(4) Sarah A. Hoyt’s “Swallowing A Fly — #2 How to plot” is useful for NaNoWriMo or any of the other 11 months.

To not lose the plot, I invite you to contemplate the little old lady who swallowed a fly.

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, she swallowed a bird to catch the spider, she swallowed a cat to catch the bird etc.  Note that starting with the original problem (It might help to know that in regency slang at least to swallow a spider was to go deep into debt you can’t escape) she swallows each animal to catch the last — i.e. to try to solve her problem.  And each time her problem gets worse.

Your character, in the same way, starting with a problem on which they act in what has to be a somewhat rational manner (unless it’s one of my refinishing mysteries) and where the result backfires horribly, must engage in attempting ever bigger solutions (to bigger problems) and having them blow up even bigger.

(5) Allen Steele has a comeback for Nancy Fulda’s “What To Expect When You Start An Internet Kerfuffle” at the SFWA Blog.

There is a solution to all this: don’t blog.

Really, you don’t need to do so, regardless of the current conventional wisdom that says a writer must relentlessly promote himself on the web. Quite a few well-established writers don’t, and their literary careers are just fine, thank you. If you visit the bookstore, you won’t find THE COLLECTED BLOGS OF MARK TWAIN or DUNE BLOGGER by Frank Herbert or ASIMOV BLOGS AGAIN, and there may be a reason for this.

And if getting yourself in trouble for your internet posts isn’t reason enough, then consider this: over the years, I’ve noticed that — with very few exceptions — an author’s literary output decreases in inverse proportion with the amount of time and energy he or she spends on the Internet. And no one is going to pay you for what you post on your blog or even care a month or so later…unless it’s something that may adversely effect your literary career.

The Internet is not your friend. So don’t blog.

(6) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born October 28, 1951 – Joe R. Lansdale, 10-time Bram Stoker Award winner.

(7) Motherboard airs its outrage that “Someone in Alabama sold a priceless lunar rover for scrap metal”.

During the Apollo missions, NASA only made a handful of lunar rovers. Three of them are still sitting on the surface of the moon. One of them is at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. And another was recently smashed into bits in an Alabama junkyard.

According to documents acquired by Motherboard as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, a priceless lunar rover prototype designed for the Apollo missions was sold to a junkyard in Alabama for scrap metal sometime last year. Specific names and details are redacted in the documents, which include internal emails and reports by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency responsible for investigating and recovering lost and stolen NASA property.

(8) “He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I’m gonna dismiss this charge”, a made-up quote, headlines Eugene Volokh’s latest installment of “The Volokh Conspiracy” for the Washington Post. Kentucky jurisprudence is notorious inside the Beltway, therefore it’s surprising Volokh reaches the end of his column without having made much legal headway against the fellow who shot down a drone flying through his property.

(9) Via Bayou Renaissance Man, another article on model masculinity —

According to Country Life magazine in the UK, a gentleman’s traits include such gems as:

  • Is aware that facial hair is temporary, but a tattoo is permanent
  • Possesses at least one well-made dark suit, one tweed suit and a dinner jacket
  • Avoids lilac socks and polishes his shoes
  • Breaks a relationship face to face
  • Arrives at a meeting five minutes before the agreed time
  • Knows the difference between Glenfiddich and Glenda Jackson
  • Would never own a Chihuahua
  • Can tie his own bow tie
  • Demonstrates that making love is neither a race nor a competition

(10) James H. Burns found a YouTube video of film footage from the costume contest at Phil Seuling’s 1973 Comic Convention, at the Commodore Hotel, in New York. He identified many science fiction friends in the proceedings.

There are just audience shots for the first two minutes, and then footage of the costumed revelers gathered together. That’s the legendary Joan Winston in the midriff baring dress and the star-spangled cape–Joan was the CBS and ABC executive key to helping run the early STAR TREK conventions, who later became an author (and an agent), and also helped contribute to MANY science fiction events. Thomas Anderson, chairman of a Lunacon or two, and a World Fantasy Convention (and another original Trek Con veteran),appears with his girlfriend (were they married yet?) Dana L. Friese (soon to have more fame in fandom as Dana L.F. Anderson) as Elric.  Costume con favorite Angelique Trouvere (aka “Destiny”) is there as Vampirella (with Heidi Saha as the young Vampi).  Long time film actor, and science fiction fan, Teel James Glenn is there as Flash Gordon (and is that Cortland Hull as Ming?) Soon-to-be-veteran comics pro Jack Harris is Two-Face, Patrick Daniel O’Neill hams it up as Captain Marvel Jr…. (Amazngly, Dave Burd,  future cast member the cult TV comedy program THE UNCLE FLOYD SHOW, is also in attendance, as THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS’ Dynamo.) The sound kicks in at about 4:05, and then suddenly one is back in July, 1973!  I find this particularly amazing, because I would become friends with many of these folks, just two-and-a-half years later!  (Heck, I’d be helping to run the programming at some of these comic cons, just a little while after that!)  Although I couldn’t spot any familiar faces in the audience, some among the File 770 faithful might be able to recognize someone–and it’s still a great record of just what a comic con crowd often looked like, even during the next d=few seasons.  (The Andersons, and Joanie, perform a skit, at around 10:10.)  It would be interesting who else can identified here, among the costumed cohorts!

 

(11) I’ve heard of The 39 Steps, but this is the first time I have heard of The 75 Steps, although I’ve seen The Exorcist.

For Andrew Huff, lover of horror films, the 75 steps in Washington, D.C., where Father Karras plummets to his death in “The Exorcist” are his Lincoln Memorial. “I go to the steps all the time,” he said, “and when visitors come to Washington, I always take them there.”

All that was missing was a special tourist designation. And on Friday, largely through Mr. Huff’s efforts, that oversight will be rectified. The eerie stairway will be commemorated with an official city plaque — even signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser — declaring them “The Exorcist Steps.”

I wonder where you go in that neighborhood for a nice bowl of pea soup.

(12) Ray Bradbury manuscripts going under the hammer! And some nice artwork. You have until tomorrow to bid on these items in the latest Nate D. Sanders auction.

Bradbury lot COMP

Ray Bradbury Original Typed Manuscripts For “The Women” And “The Shape Of Things” – Also With Letter Signed By Bradbury From 1964

Ray Bradbury typed letter signed, plus two original typed manuscripts, given by Bradbury to Fracisco Porrua, who edited Bradbury’s works for the Spanish language population. Accompanying the typed manuscripts for ”The Women” and ”The Shape of Things”, Bradbury writes to Porrua on 3 March 1964 on his personal stationery: ”…I have no secretary, which means that hundreds of letters which come in during each month must be funneled through my own inadequate hands and sometimes I fall far behind with my correspondence. Forgive me. To help you in your search for stories for R IS FOR ROCKET, I enclose the following science-fantasy stories and weird-fantasy stories…” Bradbury goes on to list 10 stories, including ”The Women” and ”The Shape of Things” and then continues, ”…I believe these stories would give you much to juggle with in reshaping your various titles in the various books…” Bradbury continues, regarding the introduction for ”R Is for Rocket” and writes, ”…I am happy to hear you will soon be making an offer on MACHINERIES OF JOY and THE ANTHEM SPRINTERS…[signed] Ray Bradbury”. Both manuscripts are typed on thin tracing paper which was placed behind regular sheets of paper. ”The Women” is 16 pages and ”The Shape of Things” is 26 pages. Manuscripts and letter measure 8.5” x 11”. Lot is in very good condition.

Minimum Bid: $1,000.

Pooh COMP

Ink and Watercolor Drawing by E.H. Shepard of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet

Beautifully rendered watercolor and ink drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet by E.H. Shepard, the illustrator chosen by A.A. Milne to bring his literary characters to life. Here, Shepard draws Pooh and Piglet upon a letter to his agent, allowing the characters to express his feelings of gratitude and joy. In the autograph letter signed, dated 29 February 1932, Shepard thanks his agent for a letter, writing that he has ”done splendidly” and that ”this view is shared by others”. To emphasize his feelings, Shepard draws Winnie-the-Pooh reaching up and Piglet excitedly jumping at his side. Shepard must have been very pleased with his agent, as he very seldom drew his most famous characters; this drawing, done early in the illustrator’s career and just a few years after the Pooh series, is a rare exception. Single page is written from Long Meadow, Guildford. Light uniform toning and mounted to card. Overall in very good to near fine condition. With provenance from Sotheby’s.

Minimum Bid: $50,000

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, David Doering, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Introduction to National Novel Writing Month

By Greg Hullender: Every November, NaNoWriMo challenges would-be writers to produce an entire 50,000-word novel from scratch in 30 days. It sounds almost impossible, but it can be done, it can be lots of fun, and you can learn a lot in the process.

National Novel Writing Month logoYou’re not supposed to start from something you’ve already partially completed, but the entire thing is on the honor system, so it’s really up to you.

You submit a daily update on your word count so far, and they predict whether you’ll make it or not. More important, they tell you how many words you need to write today to be on track. This turns out to be very motivating.

To give you more motivation, they encourage you to share your experience with friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives. They have a number of widgets you can post on Facebook or Twitter to share your word-count info and progress estimates. The idea is that you’ll make yourself work harder rather than be humiliated in front of all those people.

Participants help each other out by answering questions in numerous forums. SF authors seem to ask a lot of questions about relativity and celestial mechanics. E.g. “Can my planet orbit two stars in a figure 8?” (No.)

Forum participation is a good way to find a few “writing buddies.” Your friends and family will get bored with you talking about NaNoWriMo pretty fast, but your writing buddies will be happy to cheer you on every day for the whole month. Some may even become friends for real.

They have a lot of materials for people to study prior to beginning NaNoWriMo, but there’s no requirement to use any of it. http://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep

Some areas even have real-world NaNoWriMo events, where you can chat in person with others about how it’s going. Some events include quiet time when everyone is supposed to be writing.

Different things will work for different people, of course, but a few things worked well for me when I did this in 2012:

I devoted an hour or two every evening to writing, and I didn’t let anything preempt that time.

I started with a really rough outline of what would happen. I never prepared a proper outline, but I started off knowing how it would end. That doesn’t mean that’s how it actually did end, but at every point, I thought I knew how it would end.

Every few days, I’d spend 15 minutes or so making a rough outline of the next few chapters or scenes. The rest of the time I was filling those in.

I (almost) never went back to revise. The story had to move forward.

I didn’t allow myself to browse the forums until after I’d already made that day’s quota of words.

In the end, I think most people have fun and learn a lot about writing, even if they don’t get a publishable work out of it. It’s very cool to be able to tell people “I’ve written an SF novel. I never published it, but I did write one from beginning to end.”

The sense of satisfaction when you hit that 50,000-word number is hard to describe. Almost as good as when you write “The End” a day or two later.

[Greg Hullender is the co-creator of the SF recommendation site, Rocket Stack Rank.]

2015 Green Slime Awards

The “winners” of the 2015 Green Slime Awards were announced at Bubonicon 48 in Albuquerque on August 28 by Jessica L. Coyle (with assistance from the Slime Players). The Green Slime Awards were created in 1976 by the late Roy Tackett “to recognize annual wretchedness in films, books and such.”

SF Adult Novel

  • The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord

(Odd structure and viewpoints, no explanations, all world-building with no action or intrigue)

SF Young Adult Novel

  • Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

(Characters are dull; confusing setting and plot)

Regular TV

  • The Messengers on The CW

(Second-rate and cheesy; a jumble and not compelling – even though it was shot in New Mexico)

SyFy Movie

  • Sharktopus vs Whalewolf

(Absurd story, horrible cartoony FX, female scientist with terrible German accent)

SF Film

  • Pixels

(A Ghostbusters wannabe but without the talent; dimwitted and lazy, brain-dead and inane script)

Collectibles/Toys

  • Spider-Man Balloon

(Prominent “webshooter” valve between legs)

  • Punch It! Invincible Iron Man

(Disturbing & promotes super-villain actions in children)

  • Yoda Cat Headpiece

(Sad cat torture, possible danger to humans)