What happens when Doctor Who, Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters collide?
And who picks up the pieces after that Gallifreyan road hog, Professor Venkman, and Doc Brown insist on the right of way?
What happens when Doctor Who, Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters collide?
And who picks up the pieces after that Gallifreyan road hog, Professor Venkman, and Doc Brown insist on the right of way?
(1) BROOKLINE SHOOTING INCIDENT. SF writer Michael A. Burstein faced an unexpected emergency decision today.
When I ran for Library Trustee of the Public Library of Brookline back in 2004 for the first time, I never expected the day would come when I would be saying the following over the phone to the Library Director:
“As far as I know at the moment, this is an active shooter situation in the town of Brookline. You have my complete authority as chair of the Library Trustees to send staff home, shut down the libraries, or do whatever you think you need to do to keep patrons and stay safe. Just keep me posted and I’ll check in with the police again once we’re off the phone.”
He, Nomi and their children were safe but rattled. At the time, Brookline police were responding to reports of two local incidents in which people were shot and/or stabbed.
Police have not yet captured the assailants, however, later in the day they found their car in Boston.
Police in Brookline said they have located the car from today’s shooting but are still looking for the driver and another suspect after three young men were shot and stabbed multiple times this morning in related incidents in Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village
(2) SFWA MAY ACCEPT GAME WRITERS. Science Fiction Writers of America will soon vote whether to allow sales in writing S/F games to qualify writers for membership. SFWA Vice President M.C.A. Hogarth discussed the question at the SFWA Blog.
The Gaming Committee has drafted solid credentials for admitting professional writers of SF/F games–tabletop or computer or console or app–to our numbers. The Board has reviewed them, made modifications, and chosen a final draft. Now it’s up to our members to vote to include our writing peers in the gaming industry into our numbers. The question will be going out on the election ballot at the end of Februrary.
Games, no less than books, tell compelling stories in our genre. I hope you’ll join me in opening our doors to our professional colleagues in SF/F game writing.
(3) HURLEY SAYS FIGHT BACK. Kameron Hurley on “Traditional Publishing, Non-Compete Clauses & Rights Grabs”.
One of the big issues we’ve been dealing with the last 15 years or so as self-publishing has become more popular are the increasing rights grabs and non-compete clauses stuck into the boilerplate from big traditional publishers terrified to get cut out of the publishing equation. Worse, these clauses are becoming tougher and tougher to negotiate at all, let alone get them to go away. Worser (yes, worser) – many new writers don’t realize that these are shitty terms they should be arguing over instead of just rolling over and accepting like a Good Little Author. What I’ve seen a lot in my decade of publishing is new writers on the scene who don’t read their contracts and who rely on their agent’s judgement totally (and that’s when they even HAVE an agent! eeeee). They don’t have writer networks yet. They aren’t sure what’s normal and what’s not and they don’t want to rock the boat.
I am here to tell you to rock the boat.
(4) DRUM LESSONS. M. Harold Page finds “Writerly Lessons from Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum” at Black Gate.
Even so, this literary failure is still a heroic one. The book not only displays the craft of a veteran adventure writer, it is also an object lesson in career strategy.
As an author I benefited from reading this book. Let me tell you why…
First, this book can teach us some craft. It confirms the idea that research can be layered (link). There’s a lot you don’t need to know when writing a Historical story and a lot you can put in on the final draft.
Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link then.
However, what makes The Walking Drum truly illuminating is that it is like sitting Louis L’Amour down with beer and getting him to brainstorm historical adventure plots until we can see how he does it.
L’Amour clearly focuses on conflicts leading to physical threats. I’m a great enthusiast for exploring story worlds through conflict (link). However, L’Amour reveals a shortcut: Identify the people who are a physical threat to your character and find the conflicts that link them. I suppose L’Amour would say:…
(5) FINDING YOUR VOICE. Elizabeth Bear on authorial voice, in “he’s got one trick to last a lifetime but that’s all a pony needs”.
You have a voice, as an artist and as a human being. That voice is part of who you are, and it’s comprised of your core beliefs, your internalizations, your hopes and dreams and influences and experiences. You can develop it. You can make it better. But until you find it–until you find that authentic voice, and accept it, and begin working on making it stronger and trusting it and letting it shine through–you will always sound artificial and affected. And there’s a reason we call it “finding your voice,” and not “creating your voice.” The voice is there. Whatever it is, you are stuck with it. So you might as well learn to like it, and work with it, and improve it.
(6) X-FILES. Steve Davidson has lots to say in “The X Files Return: Review & Commentary” at Amazing Stories. No excerpt. BEWARE SPOILERS.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
(8) MINSKY OBIT. Marvin Minsky (1927-2016), a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, as well as occasional sf author and convention participant, died January 24 reports SF Site.
He served as an advisor on the film 2001: a space odyssey and later collaborated with Harry Harrison on the novel The Turing Option.
The New York Times obituary noted:
Professor Minsky, in 1959, co-founded the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Project (later the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) with his colleague John McCarthy, who is credited with coining the term “artificial intelligence.”
Beyond its artificial intelligence charter, however, the lab would have a profound impact on the modern computing industry, helping to impassion a culture of computer and software design. It planted the seed for the idea that digital information should be shared freely, a notion that would shape the so-called open-source software movement, and it was a part of the original ARPAnet, the forerunner to the Internet.
(9) GRATEFUL. Mike Reynolds is one of the finalists who was not selected to be the teacher-astronaut aboard the Challenger.
The 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster this week has a deep meaning for college professor Mike Reynolds. At the time, he was a teacher at Fletcher High School and a finalist for the ill-fated Challenger mission.
Reynolds was picked out of thousands of educators nationwide, to fly in NASA’s teacher-in-space program, which was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was teacher Christa McAullife who was ultimately chosen and perished during takeoff with the entire crew.
Reynolds witnessed the Challenger explosion from the Kennedy Space Center viewing area.
“It was so surreal. It took probably a minute, even for someone like myself who is familiar with launches, to really sink in what had happened,” Reynolds said….
Reynolds said the days and months that followed were the most painful in his life, but he made friends with families of the seven onboard, including Capt. Dick Scobee’s wife, June Rodgers Scobee, and Greg Jarvis’ parents. Reynolds said the horror the nation witnessed on that day deeply affected him.
“It’s really affected me, knowing that every day on this earth is a gift, so use that time wisely and stick to your mission and God’s given gifts, and that’s why I stayed in education,” he said.
(10) PLAQUE FOR PRATCHETT. The Beaconsfield town council knows Pratchett will eventually get one of those famous blue plaques. In the meantime, the city will honor Terry Pratchett with a commemorative plaque of its own.
Born in Beaconsfield and educated at John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe from 1959 to 1965, [Pratchett] went on to become a reporter at the Bucks Free Press in 1965 before making a name for himself as an author.
The town council hopes to install a plaque on the wall at Beaconsfield Library in Reynolds Road, where Sir Terry was a Saturday boy and returned to give talks.
Cllr Philip Bastiman, chair of the open spaces committee, said the council had been in touch with Sir Terry’s daughter Rhianna, who was “very supportive” of the idea of commemorating the author.
He said: “Because I believe he worked in the library and used the library a lot and he came back and actually gave talks at the library relatively recently, in their mind, it had a place in his affections.
“They feel it is wholly appropriate to have a commemorative plaque to Terry Pratchett at the library itself.”
Cllr Bastiman said they could have to wait “a number of years” for a blue plaque, which are commonly used to commemorate historical figures and places, so will remember him with their own plaque.
(11) COMMENTS DEFACE HARTWELL OBIT. The Register gave David G. Hartwell a nice obituary. Unfortunately, Puppification intruded at the third comment.
(12) WOMEN IN SF. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is working on an anthology, Women of Futures Past, that will be published by Baen. The project’s blog has a new entry by Toni Weisskopf.
[Kristine Kathryn Rusch] When it became clear to me that the sf field was losing its history, particularly the history of women in the field, I decided to do an anthology. And I immediately knew who would be the perfect publisher/editor: Toni Weisskopf of Baen. We’ve been the field for the same amount of time, and I knew, without checking, that all this talk about the fact that there are no women in sf had to bother her as much as it bothered me. We got together last February at a conference, and sure enough, I was right…
[Toni Weisskopf] …So I never experienced this mythical time of science fiction being an old boys club, with the Man oppressing women, keeping us down. What do these people imagine all the women in field before them did? I didn’t need Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg to remind me about the contributions of editor Bea Mahaffey at Other Worlds, or the obituaries to tell me about Alice Turner at Playboy; in my circles, they were both still remembered. Same with Kay Tarrant at Astounding/Analog and Cele Goldsmith at Amazing.
So one wonders who is really devaluing the work of women. Perhaps it is those who imply that the women who are successful in SF today need some sort of special consideration. Or is it simply that these people have not bothered studying the history of the field they are talking about? I finally begin to understand the purpose of those lists of names in epic poetry and the Bible: these people existed, they were there. It is my hope that Kris’s anthology will do something towards balancing the scales and prove a resource for anyone who loves great SF and cares about historical accuracy.
(13) SHORTCHANGED. Remembering that the sf genre had ANY women addresses a different question than the fairness issues that arise now that there are MANY women genre writers. Consider the next post about the horror genre…
Nina Allen asks “Where Are We Going? Some Reflections on British Horror, Present and Future” at Strange Horizons.
Somewhat conveniently for the purposes of this discussion, FantasyCon 2015 saw the launch of three “best of” horror anthologies: the latest (#26) in Stephen Jones’s redoubtable Best New Horror series, which has now been running for more than a quarter of a century, The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories under the editorship of Mark Morris, and the twenty-fifth anniversary reissue of Best New Horror #3, from 1991. Looking down the table of contents of this last, I encountered many familiar, well-loved names—some sadly no longer with us, some very much still writing and contributing to the literature. I want to stress right from the off how important the Best New Horror series has been to me, both as a reader and as a writer. When I began developing a professional interest in horror fiction towards the end of the 1990s, BNH was where I first started to acquaint myself with the field: who was writing, what they were writing, how they related to one another. I would read each volume cover to cover when it first appeared, adding to my knowledge and developing my taste with each new outing.
When I look at the table of contents for BNH #3, I see the names of writers who first drew me into the genre (McGammon, Grant, Newman, Etchison), writers who deepened my understanding of what horror writing could do and cemented my allegiance (Campbell, Royle, Lane, Ligotti, Tem, Hand), as well as one more recent discovery, Käthe Koja, whose writing is everything that modern horror should aspire to be. A wonderful compendium indeed, and if I felt a little disappointed to see that of the twenty-nine stories listed, only four were by women, I reluctantly put it down to the times. While women have always written horror, the awareness of women writing horror was not then so advanced as it has become more recently. Any anthology that styled itself “Best New Horror” in 2015 would surely provide greater parity in representation.
How surprised was I then, when I turned to the table of contents for BNH #26 and discovered that of the nineteen stories listed, a mere three were by women writers.
Three must be somebody’s lucky number, and nineteen, come to that, because of the nineteen stories selected to appear in the 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories—and this from more than five hundred submissions received—only three of those were by women, also.
I honestly don’t see how this is a situation anyone can feel happy with. I’m not even going to get started on the representation of writers from minority ethnic backgrounds in these tables of contents, because it’s practically nil.
OK, those are the facts, the figures I’d brought with me for discussion on the panel. They speak for themselves, and what they say about the state of horror fiction in the UK in 2015 is that it’s very white, heavily male-dominated, and furthermore, that this situation hasn’t changed at all in the last quarter-century.
(14) MORE TO REMEMBER. The BBC has a little list of its own — 10 Women Who Changed Sci-Fi. The name that follows Mary Shelley is –
Ursula K Le Guin
Le Guin has been a significant player in the science fiction field since the 1960s and has nourished the sci-fi and fantasy genre with piercing visions of race, gender, ecology and politics. She has also been its heroic defender with a host of best-selling writers citing her as an inspiration.
(15) SHINDIG. The Hollywood Reporter details plans for the Star Trek 50th anniversary fan event in New York City.
This September, Star Trek marks its 50th anniversary by returning from the final frontier and landing in New York City for Star Trek: Mission New York, a three-day event based around a celebration of the beloved TV and movie franchise.
Taking place Sept. 2-4 at the Javits Center, Mission New York comes from New York Comic-Con organizers ReedPOP. Lance Festerman, global svp for the company, said in a statement that the new convention “will be a completely unique fan event unlike anything seen before, giving [fans] the chance to go beyond panels and autograph signings, and immerse themselves in the Star Trek universe.”
(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
This first issue of the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction features four articles that explore science fiction through analysis of various themes, including—but by no means limited to—globalization, mythology, social commentary, and assemblage theory. Derrick King’s discussion of Paolo Bacigalupi’s critical dystopias explores utopian political possibilities that biogenetics could create, while Sami Khan’s analysis of Hindu gods in three Indian novels reveals how closely mythology and social commentary entwine with science fiction. Karma Waltonen examines how female science fiction writers have used loving the “other” as a means of challenging societal taboos about sex, and Amanda Rudd argues that Paul’s empire in Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) is an entirely new assemblage composed of rearranged elements from the previous ruler’s empire and the indigenous Fremen culture.
(18) TYSON IN RAP BATTLE. Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B. are getting their clicks battling over B.o.B.’s flat earth claims. NPR has the story.
So, a Twitter spat between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B over the flat Earth theory has turned into a full-blown rap battle (and it’s way better than Drake vs. Meek Mill).
B.o.B, whom you might know from his hits “Airplanes,” “Nothin’ On You” and “Strange Clouds,” kicked things off Monday when he started tweeting about how he believes the Earth is flat. He also tweeted about why he believes NASA is hiding the truth about the edge of the world. And he shared several meaningless diagrams about the planet including one about flight routes….
In a short series of tweets, Tyson explained why the Earth was round. He tweeted:
“Earth’s curve indeed blocks 150 (not 170) ft of Manhattan. But most buildings in midtown are waaay taller than that.”
“Polaris is gone by 1.5 deg S. Latitude. You’ve never been south of Earth’s Equator, or if so, you’ve never looked up.”
“Flat Earth is a problem only when people in charge think that way. No law stops you from regressively basking in it.”…
Here’s another: “I see only good things on the horizon / That’s probably why the horizon is always rising / Indoctrinated in a cult called science / And graduated to a club full of liars.” You can read the full lyrics on Gawker.
That was Monday night.
Tuesday afternoon, Tyson dropped his own dis track, called “Flat To Fact,” written and rapped by his nephew, Stephen Tyson. He tweeted: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.” Here’s a sample:
“Very important that I clear this up / You say that Neil’s vest is what he needs to loosen up? / The ignorance you’re spinning helps to keep people enslaved, I mean mentally.”
(19) MEANWHILE BACK AT HARRY POTTER FANDOM. Jen Juneau explains “Why we’re crushing hard on Fleur Delacour from ‘Harry Potter’”. That was news to me, so I paid close attention….
My absolute favorite Fleur moment isn’t in the movies, which is a travesty (and one of the 32843 reasons why everyone who enjoyed the movies even a little bit should go read the books, stat!). It’s at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Molly Weasley is tending to her son (and Fleur’s fiancé) Bill’s wounds. Molly starts lamenting over the fact that Bill will never be the same again, and that he was going to be married and everything, while Fleur is standing right there.
Fleur basically snaps and asks Molly if she thinks Bill won’t marry her now that he has been bitten by a werewolf. While Molly starts sputtering, Fleur is relentless, telling Molly that Bill’s scars are proof of his bravery and that she is good-looking enough for the both of them before snatching the ointment out of Molly’s hand and tending to his wounds herself. The scene ends with Molly offering Fleur her Aunt Muriel’s goblin-crafted tiara to wear on her and Bill’s wedding day, and the two cry and hug it out.
And though Fleur is not immune to using her beauty in the series to get ahead (but really, who hasn’t used a natural advantage to get ahead when they can?), there are two big lessons here: 1. Fleur is a certified badass who refuses to let looks define her or anyone around her, and 2. Read the books, y’all.
(20) THAT LOVABLE ROGUE VADER. Yahoo! Tech predicts Darth Vader’s role will be bigger on the inside than expected in Rogue One.
The next time we buy tickets for a Star Wars picture, we’ll be signing up for a movie that’s going to bring back the greatest villains in movie history. Darth Vader is returning to the Star Wars universe this December complete with original costume and voice and he’s going to have a bigger role than anticipated, a new report indicates.
Movie site JoBlo says it’s able to confirm that Darth Vader will indeed appear in the film, and his role will be bigger than just appearing in hologram messages. Even so, it’s not clear what Darth Vader’s role in the movie plot is. In fact, the actual plot of the picture is still secret.
What we know about the movie is that Rogue One tells the story of a group of daring rebels looking to steal the plans of the Death Star. The action in Rogue One takes place between Episode III and Episode IV.
(21) FORCEFUL CARTOONS. Nina Horvath posted examples of “Cartoons from the Dark Side: Star Wars Exhibition in Vienna” at Europa SF.
Tomorrow a new Star Wars exhibition will start and open its doors until March the 6th, 2016. It should not be confused with the Star Wars Identities exhibition that takes place in the same city at almost the same period of time, no, it is different: It shows funny cartoons inspired by the Star Wars universe. Like Darth Vader experiencing the result of his paternity test!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
Rob Latham, a tenured professor of English at University of California, Riverside and a member of its science fiction research cluster who evangelized the Eaton Collection throughout fandom, has been fired by the UC Board of Regents. Charges of sexual harassment and substance abuse are addressed in Latham’s 3,900-word statement, first presented to the Regents and now published by the Academe Blog, however, the exact charges are not quoted.
He denied the complaint of sexual harassment:
….I can’t believe that this case, which began with false charges of sexual harassment brought by a disgruntled graduate student and his girlfriend, has been allowed to reach the Board of Regents. It should have been settled through informal mediation long ago.
However, not only was no such good faith effort ever attempted by the UCR administration, but I was never even invited to respond to the charges or to submit exculpatory evidence. Instead, the administration adopted an adversarial posture from the outset, as if the original allegations—the vast majority of which we now know to be untrue—had already been proven. As Vice Provost Daniel Ozer testified at the disciplinary hearing, the administration never sought to change course even when it became clear that the two complainants had submitted doctored evidence and leveled charges that were proven false by a police investigation.
He argued the issue of substance abuse was being manipulated to support a disproportionate disciplinary action:
I made a serious error of judgment in relation to substance abuse, for which I sought treatment one full year before any charges were filed against me. The Senate, for whatever reason, gave me no credit for that effort at self-correction, and now Chancellor Wilcox is asking you to dismiss me for the recurrence of a psychological illness, rather than for the original charges of flagrant, serial sexual harassment—charges that were considered and dismissed by the Hearing Committee, whose findings the Chancellor has accepted in their entirety.
He levied many criticisms against the hearing process in his address to the Regents, including —
I have outlined, in my ten-page written statement, the political pressures and rank homophobia that deformed the disciplinary process, including acts of official misconduct that are currently being investigated by the Faculty Senate. All I will repeat here is that the intervention of the graduate student union, at an early juncture of this case, and their threats to “go public” if the administration did not acquiesce to their demand for my “removal as Professor of English,” was crucial in setting the administration on the course they pursued. This course included manipulating and corrupting an ostensibly fair and impartial Title IX investigation, coaching student witnesses supportive of their case while attempting to intimidate those supportive of me, and suppressing evidence crucial to my defense before the Faculty Senate.
Latham spent the first 13 years of his teaching career at the University of Iowa as a Professor of English and American Studies, where he ran a Program in Sexuality Studies.
He was hired by UC Riverside in 2008 to join the English Department faculty, with responsibilities that included serving as an informal liaison to the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature. He received the Clareson Award for Distinguished Service from the SF Research Association in 2012, the field’s premier award.
Latham has made many connections with fanzine fans. He contributed a perceptive and well-received article to Earl Kemp’s eI #37 about using fanzines for academic research. Mike Horvat’s vast fanzine collection landed at the University of Iowa because a former student of Latham’s, Greg Beatty, a UI graduate spotted the listing online, and immediately emailed Latham.
Despite the growing prestige of UCR’s science fiction collection and research, there have been signs of conflict between the administration and faculty members in UCR’s science fiction research cluster. Both Latham and Nalo Hopkinson, a well-known sf writer and another member of that research cluster, publically expressed concern in summer 2014 about the way the Eaton Collection was being administered (see “How Healthy Is The Eaton Collection?”.)
Nothing that was aired in 2014 seems directly related to the issues in Latham’s hearing, other than the foreshadowing of the toxic professional relationships explicitly described in Latham’s statement to the Regents:
My hiring was the result of an international search for a senior scholar, mounted by former Dean Steve Cullenberg and former Chancellor Tim White, two very good men and superb administrators with whom I had an excellent working relationship. However, following the hire of Chancellor Wilcox in 2013—and especially of Provost D’Anieri in 2014—the atmosphere at UCR changed from one of cooperation and consultation with faculty to one of confrontation and hostility. I say this merely to indicate that I gave seven years of exemplary service to the campus but, following the lodging of false charges by a student with a grudge, have been hounded by a vengeful administration intent on railroading me out of my job.
Readers do not have full information to evaluate the case, nor is that likely to become public unless Latham follows up with a lawsuit and the suit goes to trial. However, news of Latham’s firing is all the more surprising for coming at the same time his standing as a scholar has been affirmed by an announcement that the MLA 2017 session “Dangerous Visions: Science Fiction’s Countercultures” will base its call for papers on responses to Latham’s “Countercultures” chapter in his edited volume The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction (2014).
[Thanks to Andrew Porter and Nick Mamatas for the story.]
By Hampus Eckerman: There is a connection between Sweden and Chernobyl. Sweden was the first country where the fallout from Chernobyl was detected and it was from there the first news of the accident spread around the globe. This even before Pravda wrote about the accident. The Chief of IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was at that time a Swede — Hans Blix — and he was the first westerner to inspect the consequences of the disaster. The east coast of Sweden was one of the places outside of Ukraine that suffered the most fallout and there are areas where radiation is still much higher than normal. Around 1000 cases of cancer in Sweden are directly linked to the Chernobyl disaster. After the accident, Swedes opened up their homes on the west coast to let Ukrainian children come and visit during summer to build up their strength. I was only 16 years old at the time of the accident. I remember the newspapers questioning if it would be safe to eat elk meat (the local version of MAD Magazine jokingly talked about BecquerElks), but that is about it. Stockholm, where I live, is not one of the areas that was affected and I think I never understood the seriousness of the issue. For me, visiting Chernobyl had more to do with my interest in weird travel locations.
Before leaving for Chernobyl, I dug up my old copy of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic. For those of you that haven’t read it, the narrative of the book concern a visit from aliens to earth which causes a huge area to become affected. Strange lifeforms start to move around, the laws of nature seem to change and there are strange artifacts left that both governments and independents want to claim. The UN cordons off the area, saying that all items should be given to a specially created institute, but scavengers still sneak into the area to steal artifacts and sell to the highest bidders. These scavengers are called Stalkers.
There is no immediate connection between the book and Chernobyl other than a huge restricted zone that ordinary citizens can’t visit and where the earth itself has become poisonous. But in 1987, an Ukrainian game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, was made based on the Strugatskys’ book and instead of letting aliens be the reason for the zone, they moved the narrative to Chernobyl in an alternative reality were a second explosion in the reactor made a much larger area toxic and caused strange mutations in animals. I only played the game a few times, but the feeling of it stayed with me. So I packed my book, thinking I was cool who remembered this connection.
Little did I know.
Chernobyl is a city around two hours from Kiev. It used to be inhabited by 14,000 citizens before the accident, but they were all evacuated. Now, somewhere between one-third and half of the houses have been made functional again and house around 5,000 workers who are still involved in the aftermath of the accident, nearly 30 years after it took place. It is placed around 15 km away from the nuclear reactor. Closer to the reactor is the ghost town of Pripyat. It used to house 50,000 people, who were all evacuated in around three hours. They only had one hour to gather a few of their belongings and were told that they would be able to return later on. This never happened. Between Pripyat and Chernobyl there are smaller houses that are being reclaimed by nature. Some of them are visible from the road during winter time, but during summer they are completely hidden by trees and leaves.
Radiation is patchy depending on fallout. There are hot spots, sometimes just a few meters wide, were radiation starts to climb and caused our Geiger counters to start screaming. Other places are quite safe. When going on a guided tour, you are strictly forbidden to enter forests or walk outside of the road. Nuclear dust still covers the area. You have to have clothing that covers both arms and legs. You are not allowed to eat or drink outside and before entering the canteen or leaving the zone, you are checked for radiation to see that you are safe. But those are the rules for us mundanes.
These do not apply to the Stalkers.
There have always been tours available for scientists and journalists. But for the general public, nothing like that was available until official tours started in 2011. What no one really counted on was the enormous amount of interest the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R would create. Suddenly there were a lot of people who became interested in the area, wanted to visit, but found no legal ways. Thus were the Stalkers created. And there were many kinds of them. Some who only were after the thrills of doing something they weren’t allowed to. Classic youth rebellion. Others started to create their own tours for visitors. Plunderers had existed since the evacuation, and also poachers. As nature has started to reclaim the houses, so has wildlife. Boars, wild horses, dogs, wolves, bears and more. And all of them named from Strugatsky’s book.
In an article from 2015, Slate Magazine tracks down this subculture. Much like in the book, they have to sneak past police patrols and ever-increasing security. They have to navigate in a toxic environment where eating and drinking by itself is poisonous. The effect is not immediate as cancer can take decades to develop, so they often ignore the basic safety precautions, drinking from the rivers and pools. As in the book, they bring home artifacts plundered in the zone which in itself makes the radiation spread. They are shot at, have to avoid dangerous creatures in form of wild life that may have taken shelter in deserted building. They sometimes make up small installations for tourists or put up things they find interesting on walls.
When my guide first started to talk about the Stalkers, I got a weird sense of déjà vu. I was walking around in areas I had seen both in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R game and in other computer games as Call of Duty and Counter Strikes. It is officially forbidden to walk inside buildings, but it is hard to hide during winter time where tracks can be seen in the snow where people have walked. Looking inside a building showed how realistic the Fallout games really are. When windows are broken and the interiors are subjected to winds, cold and snow, walls and floors start to crack. This together with people plundering what others had left behind made me feel like a cross between a Stalker and the lone wanderer of Fallout 4, trying to adjust to a new reality after the catastrophe. For a comparison between the different games covering Chernobyl and reality, see this nice article on Atlas Obscura.
It is also possible to visit a missile base around three hours drive from Kiev. It is a scary place to visit in how it reminds you of Dr. Strangelove. Not only is there a bomb of the same type as the one that is dropped in the movie placed in the courtyard (that tourists straddle for nice touristy photos, preferable with a cowboy hat in one hand). We were also told that the nuclear weapons there, with a power of in total 500 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was connected to an automatic warning system for automatic deployment of the bomb. The Perimeter system was a system that analyzed data from a difference of factors as radiation, seismic activity and atmospheric pressure. If the system judged that a nuclear strike had occurred in Soviet Union, it would automatically deploy all existing nuclear missiles, bypassing any human decision making. It was in fact the doomsday machine from Dr. Strangelove.
It is one thing to read in articles about nuclear accidents and missiles. It is quite a different thing to see this in reality. To understand the real persons involved. In this I must applaud the museums of both the missile base and the Chernobyl (placed in Kiev). Both of them took care to tell the stories of individuals and how they were affected. The people who suffered radiation sickness, had to leave their homes for ever, died to try to save hundreds of thousands of others or who had to sit in a small tiny room for days upon days, waiting for a signal that might start a nuclear war. It was a humbling experience and, as both my guides said, a scary tale of the folly of humanity.
But it was the stuff of great Science Fiction.
By Brandon Anthony: Star Wars‘ was revolutionary when it first came out in 1977, and not only from a cinematic perspective. The film was able to foretell — by piecing together a broad pastiche of sci-fi influences- – many of the most impressive technological feats of today. While we all may not carry working light sabers quite yet, we are closer than ever to mastering many of the tools that appear in the original trilogy. From the digital helpers like “Siri” that live in our smartphones to the commercial spaceflights advertised by the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Star Wars is no longer confined to silver screen.
Space Flights for All
For anyone who fancies a quick trip to space, a new era of exploration and tourism may well be at hand. This summer, NASA selected four astronauts to begin working with The Boeing Company and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector. With the hopes of building a commercial market for space transportation, NASA’s endeavors could one day help everyday people experience a taste of what the characters of Star Wars feel when they rocket the Falcon “.5 past light speed.” A few minor accidents this year have slowed progress somewhat, but as long as there are enough well-to-do tech moguls out there to continue providing capital support the outlook for commercial trips to suborbital space remains optimistic.
If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s invent scary new ways for us to wreak havoc. Battle robots and droids, for instance, are now being used in real wars, though the robots are still controlled from a distance by a human. Many experts predict, however, that the future of warfare may be fully robotic, and the semi-automatic robots used today for bomb disposal and surveillance will be replaced by “droids” that can do our bidding intuitively. While our robots don’t yet look like the B1 battle droids in Star Wars, we are getting closer to robots that can make decisions independently from people – both a thrilling and terrifying thought. For civilian life back home, some of that same automated technology is being used within self-driving cars and other “intelligent” machinery. The encroachment of all these “self-help” tools may one day render many of our most laborious tasks obsolete.
Holographic Virtual Reality
Though the technology for holographic virtual reality was invented in the early part of the 20th century, George Lucas was ahead of his time in his onscreen depiction of its maturity. The average person saw “real” holograms for the first time in Episode IV, when Luke received Leah’s request for help. Now, with Microsoft’s developers working to develop a new device called the “HoloLens”, we may finally get a chance to experience high-definition holograms in real life. Though holograms in any form are still not in everyday household use, it’s easy to imagine a future where friends can leave each other holographic messages rather than voice mails.
Advanced Lithium Batteries (Power Cells)
Advanced “power cells” are a reality now as well. Though the science behind them is certainly different then the energy cells in the film franchise, the importance of storing energy in a way that is both efficient and compact is increasingly important for our electrical needs today. Now our advanced lithium batteries smaller, lighter, and more powerful than ever before. According to Dominion Ohio, one of the country’s largest energy providers, battery energy storage may soon be utilized for utility-scale energy storage – allowing us to better store power produced from renewables such as solar and wind. In Star Wars, Luke and his uncle Owen are “moisture farmers” in the deserts of Tatooine; going forward in an era of climate change, Earth’s inhabitants would do well to continue to take a leaf from Star Wars approaches to energy and innovation.
Apple’s “Siri” and Amazon’s “Alexa” are today’s AI assistants. Much like C-3PO they were designed for human interaction and are meant to respond to their owner’s requests in as natural a way as possible. Though they currently live in our cell phones or data devices, it is not hard to imagine a future where their software is installed into robots. Nor will it be long before they can think and react independently. At that point we may have an entirely different set of concerns to worry about.
With the latest Star Wars still in theaters and continuing to break records left and right, one is left to wonder — how many of the innovations shown in The Force Awakens, will soon be in all of our homes as well? I certainly wouldn’t mind a lightsaber, but the BB-8 has the advantage of also doubling as a cat toy. As they say, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
(1) MILLIONS STAYED HOME. The Force Awakens made plenty of money in China, but it did not blow up the way it did in the U.S. Inverse ponders “Why Chinese Audiences Skipped The Force Awakens”. BEWARE SPOILERS.
But Zhen, also the director of NYU’s Asian Film and Media Initiative, says there’s another simple reason why Star Wars isn’t as successful in China.
“Chinese audiences are not as familiar with the series and franchise as a whole,” she says. “There is much less knowledge of it or a cult following, but the curiosity is there.”
It makes perfect sense. The Chinese market is blooming so quickly that it’s easy to forget it’s Hollywood’s youngest sibling. The first Star Wars film to be released in China was The Phantom Menace in 1999, making both the rapid proliferation of Hollywood blockbusters in China in recent years impressive, but also the extreme newness of Star Wars as a phenomenon that much more apparent.
China’s primary moviegoing audience is made up of 17-to-31 year-olds who didn’t get the same embedded, multi-generational cultural significance as American audiences that came of age when Star Wars debuted in 1977.
(2) EYE CANDY. Terra Utopische Romane 1957-68 on the Retro-Futurism LiveJournal.
“These old covers are like candy,” says Will R. And Planet X makes an appearance.
(3) FANDOM’S CLOSER. A pitcher for the Oakland Athletics doubles as a trivia maven — “Watch Sean Doolittle answer your deepest, most important Star Wars Questions”. Cut4 warns there could be SPOILERS – at least there could be if any of the stuff he says is true.
— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) December 18, 2015
If you’re a nerd like us, chances are you also love coffee. Those things tend to go hand-in-hand, and today’s app combines coffee nerdiness with space action gaming nerdiness, and it’s called Super Barista.
The premise behind Super Barista is that you serve a very specific, yet broad clientele in your coffee shop. The trick is, that coffee shop is set in space, and your clientele is an assortment of strange, interesting, and sometimes dangerous alien beings. Your shop will take you across the galaxy to five different unique planets where you’ll have to manage your resources, build your staff and crew, and serve your delicious drinks in a timely and efficient manner.
(5) IN MEMORIAM. Steven H Silver has posted his annual In Memoriam list at SF Site.
(6) PEN HONORS ROWLING. “PEN America to Honor J.K. Rowling, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch at Annual Literary Gala”.
Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling will receive the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award at PEN America’s annual Literary Gala on May 16 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. PEN America, the country’s largest writer-driven free expression advocacy organization, presents the award annual to a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies its mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity….
Since her rise from single mother to literary superstar, J.K. Rowling has used her talents and stature as a writer to fight inequality on both a local and global level. Her charitable trust, Volant, supports causes in the United Kingdom and abroad that alleviate social exclusion, with particular emphasis on women and children. In 2005 she founded Lumos, a nonprofit organization that works to help eight million children institutionalized around the world regain their right to a family life. Herself the frequent object of censorship in schools and libraries across the globe, as well as online targeting, Rowling has emerged as a vocal proponent of free expression and access to literature and ideas for children as well as incarcerated people, the learning -disables, and women and girls worldwide….
(7) MORE ON FANFIC. Sharrukin at Sharrukin’s Palace tells what he finds helpful about writing fanfic. His is set in the universe of the Mass Effect game.
First advantage of writing fan-fiction: You will immediately start to build an audience, and get feedback for your work.
By the end of that month, I had posted thirteen chapters, about 40,000 words of new material, and I was still going strong. I finished that entire first novel in a little over four months.
Memoirs was followed by a second novel, composed of substantially original work since most of it was set during a period when Liara and Shepard are not on stage together. I took the opportunity to flesh out Liara’s character arc, introduce a bunch of new supporting characters, and start patching the big plot holes I saw in the games. By the time I got to my novelization of the third game, I was working almost entirely without a net, openly rewriting the story from the ground up.
The experience was tremendously valuable. I learned more about my craft from writing a fan-fiction trilogy than I had learned in decades of on-again, off-again dabbling. I even broke my long-standing aversion to the shorter forms, writing several short stories and a novella along the way.
Some pro authors are a little disdainful of fan-fiction. I believe George R. R. Martin has compared it to paint-by-numbers, something that doesn’t rank with original work as a creative endeavor. I’m not going to dispute that. There are several reasons why I’m working hard now to move away from fan-fiction, and one of them is the desire to create something worthwhile that’s really mine. But as an exercise in improving your craft so that you can survive as a genre author, there’s a lot to recommend it.
You won’t have to do all the work yourself. The source material provides a framework on which you can build and experiment. Your audience will already be familiar with it. Still, you will have to work on the mechanics: prose style, description, exposition, dialogue, point of view, characterization and voice. You will end up taking the original material apart and analyzing it, seeing what worked and what didn’t, in the process of putting together your own version. You will get practice in the simple art of sitting down and cranking out word count, week after week, so that your audience doesn’t get bored and wander away.
(7) EBOOK PRICING. Amanda S. Green compares print book and ebook pricing in “Publishers, You Need To Hear This” at Mad Genius Club.
So, is there a trend — or possibly a clue — here as to why e-book sales for the Big 5 are leveling off?
Some folks were having this discussion yesterday in a private FB group I belong to. The consensus among those taking part in the discussion was that the price point publishers were charging, especially for newly released titles, was more than they were willing to pay. Not just for e-books but for hard covers as well. Those who aren’t big fans of e-books lamented the fact they were turning to used bookstores to buy those hard cover titles they wanted. Not because they were paying less for the book but because they knew authors don’t receive royalties for those sales.
Note, they weren’t worried about the publishers.
And that is something the Big 5 needs to realize. The reading public is starting to look at the prices they pay for their books — whether they are print or digital — and wonder why the prices are so high. They are following their favorite authors, many of whom write for publishers that aren’t the Big 5 or who are indies, and they are paying attention to what the authors are saying. They understand that the life of the writer is closer to struggling author working in a coffee shop than it is to Castle. They are beginning to realize that the majority of the money they pay for that book, the vast majority of it, goes not to the person who created it but to the corporation what distributed it.
(8) STRACZYNSKI INTERVIEW. Lightspeed Magazine has a transcription of the J. Michael Straczynski interview that was originally part of WIRED’s Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
I was a street rat, had grown up a street rat, I come from nothing, my family has no connection to literature or writing, and in his introductions I found a kindred spirit. Harlan Ellison was a street rat. He had run with gangs; he was considered trouble. I remembered that in one of his introductions, he had given his phone number. “I wonder if that’s real,” thought I, so I dialed the number and waited and it began to ring. There was a click and I heard, “Yeah?”
“Is this Har-har-har-lan Ellison?” says I.
“Yeah, what do you want?”
“My-my-my-my name is Joe,” I say, stammering through the whole thing, “And I’m a writer and my stuff isn’t selling and I thought you might have some advice.” Which is the stupidest thing to ask any writer; it’s like saying to someone, “What are you doing to my wife?” There is no good answer to that question.
So he says, “All right. Here’s what you do: If it’s not selling, it’s shit. My advice to you? Stop writing shit.”
“. . .Thank you, Mr. Ellison.” Years later, I got to LA and we met in bits and pieces and eventually we became friends, and I finally reminded him of that conversation. And he said, “Were you offended?” And I said, “Had you been wrong, I would’ve been offended.” But he wasn’t.
(9) SANDIFER WONDERS ALOUD. It’s funny that some people will think Phil Sandifer was the first person to ask this question, in “An Open Letter to Sad Puppies IV”.
As the science fiction community mutters “I thought MidAmericon said nominations would open in early January” with baited breath, I note that certain fascist pricks have begun to ramp up their performative chortling. So I figured “why not write a mildly trolling open letter to someone else entirely?”
Ms. Paulk et al:
I note with some bemusement your efforts to reform the Sad Puppies movement from its oft-criticized 2015 form, stripping away its overtly conservative trappings, widening it to a ten-item recommendation list, et cetera. By and large, I have to admit, these seem like, if not strictly speaking good things, at least less bad things. So thank you for your efforts to be less odious than your predecessors. It’s genuinely appreciated. That said, there’s one rather large issue that you don’t seem to have addressed, and that I’d like to raise.
Simply put, why are you doing this?
(10) GRRM RESPONDS. For the record, here’s how George R.R. Martin answered John C. Wright’s latest overture.
I agree, death has a way of putting life’s other trials and triumphs in perspective. My own political and social views are very much at odds with yours, Mr. Wright, and our views on literary matters, especially as regards science fiction and fantasy, are far apart as well. But I have always believed that science fiction has room for all, and I am pretty sure that David Hartwell believed that as well. If we want to heal the wounds our community suffered last year, all of us need to stop arguing about the things that divide us, and talk instead about the things that unite us… as writers, as fans, as human beings. Our grief in David’s passing is one of those things. Everyone who ever knew him or worked with him will miss him, I do not doubt. So thank you for your note, and your heartfelt and compassionate words about David.
(11) A DIFFERENT WRIGHT. The home of the late Jack Larson – “Jimmy Olsen” on the original Superman TV series – is up for sale.
Frank Lloyd Wright‘s George Sturges House, owned by actor and playwright Jack Larson, will be auctioned on 21 February, 2016, for an estimated $2.5 million to $3 million. It is among 75 lots from the estate owned by Larson to be sold after the actor passed away in September. The residence, designed in 1939, was the first Usonian house on the West Coast and was acquired by Jack Larson and Jim Bridges in 1967.
(12) DON’T PANIC. Thug Notes has done a summary and analysis of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Got to love the moment our narrator explains, “But Dude don’t know what the question is!”
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Ian P.]
By James H. Burns: One Sunday afternoon, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, at one of Fred Greenberg’s erstwhile comic book marketplaces, the once-a-month comic book shows that took over from the late Phil Seuling’s “Second Sunday” events, I met a lovely young lady.
In the late 1980s, it was still rare to see women at comic book conventions, particularly “dealers’ room only” get-togethers.
If you saw a young lady, usually she was someone’s sister, or daughter, wife or girlfriend.
As in this case!
I was behind a dealer’s table when we met, and we chatted amiably.
About an hour later, she came walking by, and threw something at me…
It was a wadded up piece of paper.
“Well, that’s very nice,” I said.
“Open it!” she replied.
It was her phone number.
I was on a several-week break-up from my own girlfriend; this gal was just on a second date with someone, so I did give her a holler.
She was petite, and had a Carly Simon look (not unusual, intriguingly, for those years in New York), and was a perfectly nice, bright and funny person. We dated briefly, and remained friends.
But I was astonished, just a few years later.
Someone gave me a copy of the 1965 Hammer film, She, an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s fantasy-adventure novel about a lost kingdom, and its matriarch. (The film starred Ursula Andress, John Richardson, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee.) Early in the picture, heroes Leo Vincey and Major Holly unknowingly meet a member of Queen Ayesha’s “tribe,” while in an Israeli cafe.
Rosenda Monteros portrayed Ustane, and she was stunning and had a particularly winsome charm.
She also could have been the sister of the gal I met in New York City.
Perhaps the reason I was instantly attracted to the latter, was that the image of Ustane had been locked in my mind since I was a boy, and saw She in the late 1960s!
Flash back again with me, if you you will, to the Autumn of 1967, when ABC premiered a new Friday night hour-long series from MGM, which has now largely been forgotten, called Off To See The Wizard. It was an anthology series featuring titles from the studio’s catalog that could be considered family viewing.
Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Flipper were two of the bigger movies shown on the series, which usually split its offerings into two separate installments. (Genre-related titles of interest included Captain Sinbad, The Glass Slipper, Island of the Lost, Mike and the Mermaid, Tarzan the Ape Man, and What Ever Happened To Mother Goose (aka Who’s Afraid of Mother Goose?) William Shatner’s pilot for an Alexander the Great television series, shot in late 1963, was also finally broadcast, co-starring Adam West as his best friend (along with Simon Oakland), and “guest-starring” Joseph Cotten and John Cassavettes… (Had an Alexander series begun airing in 1964, starring Shatner and West, the course of 1960s pop culture might have been vastly altered!)
In late October, Off To See The Wizard also presented Lili, the charming 1953 movie, with some fantasy overtones, starring Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kurt Kaszner.
Lili, which takes place at a circus in a small French town was actually based on a very different tale by the popular sports-writer turned fiction author, Paul Gallico, about a misanthropic, if successful, television puppeteer in New York, entitled “The Man Who Hated People.” (Gallico’s short story originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post). Helen Deutsch’s screenplay adaptation later served as the basis for the Broadway musical Carnival!, in 1961. But oddly, nowhere in the credits of the original cast album, or some other material related to the play–presented by legendary Broadway impresario David Merrick (and with a script by Michael Stewart, and music and lyrics by Bob Merrill, for director Gower Champion) — is Gallico’s name….
The “Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo” song sequence, in which Caron communicates with Mel Ferrer’s puppets just beyond their simple stage, stayed with me throughout my childhood, as it had for so many who saw the movie, a generation earlier!
But I was absolutely stunned, twelve years ago, when I finally caught up with the movie again, and discovered that some part of the picture had always lived within my subconscious. Because the styles worn by some of the film’s male cast I realized, had influenced elements of my own fashion sense, as a young man!
….All of which goes to prove that the films and television we show our youngsters are of importance. There is no telling how, or when, they may continue to live in mind!
Did you hate the X-Files revival, or love it? Brian Z. produced this roundup of critics’ negative responses to help jumpstart discussion.
We wanted to believe the revival of The X-Files would be a return to form, but after last night’s inaugural episode, our hope quickly faded. From the opening monologue, a seriously confusing snooze-fest, to the arbitrary new conspiracy theory, the episode veers off track early and never recovers.
To understand where it goes wrong, watch the video above, which goes back to the masterful original pilot of The X-Files to show how creator Chris Carter and his writers have forgotten what made the show work in the first place.
weird, but not in a good way – The Guardian
“You can’t say these things,” Scully tells Mulder after his epiphany (by the way: Anderson is great here, even without this monologue to endear her to the embrained members of the audience). “It’s fearmongering claptrap isolationist techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. Saying these things would be irresponsible.”
I have another reason Mulder, and people who think the dumb things Mulder thinks, should stay silent: equating news reports of government surveillance (which is real) with the theory that the Trilateral Commission secretly orchestrated 9/11 (which is not real) makes it harder for people who want to stop things like the expansion of the former to be taken seriously.
‘I want to believe’ – Hollywood Reporter
After more than a few heavy-handed scenes that would otherwise seem like parody, there’s a moment in the first hour when — after an “oh-don’t-do-that” rant by Mulder about what’s really happening under their noses — Scully says something that serves as both descriptor and indictment of revisiting the series: “It’s fear-mongering, clap-trap, isolationist, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason.”
Yes, what she said.
I Wanted To Believe, But… – Yahoo!
The fault in the new X-Files is in some part our own fault. After all, Carter might not have executed his wish to get the old band back together for a reunion tour if there wasn’t an audience perennially agitating for it. This aspect of Nostalgia Culture — the one that is inspiring the returns of everything from Full House to Twin Peaks to Gilmore Girls — is both understandable and regrettable.
Now the story goes that aliens grew concerned for humanity’s survival when we started toying with nukes, but we in turn killed their emissary at Roswell in 1947 and stole their technology to further fuel a shadow government’s takeover of America, and then the planet. That’s just…well ok, that’s something I think is borderline plausible given the evils and atrocities on display by humankind lately. But I digress.
Behold Mulder, a man of the year 2016, which we know because apparently he’s learned how to use Uber. (This is something I honestly find a little hard to believe. Any man driven to investigate conspiracies on Mulder’s level ought to at least be a little familiar with that company’s shady underpinnings.)
But yeah, levitating invisible spaceships built by humans. It was like we were in a Syfy miniseries suddenly! Anyway, Mulder honestly looked like he’d rather stretch out on a futon than think about aliens for another second.
That said, it’s best to be forewarned that while the post-Mulder episodes of the series aren’t spectacular pieces of television, I find season eight incredibly underrated (and miles better than season seven, where David Duchovny seems as bored as all of us were at that point), and I actually like not only John Doggett, but Monica Reyes, too. Please don’t stop reading.
(1) X-OUT THE X-MEN FAN VIDEO PROJECT. Joel Furtado, an animator from Vancouver, Canada has cancelled his fan film X-men: Danger Room Protocols due to legal issues with Marvel, which prevented the first video in the series from being hosted on YouTube or Vimeo.
Now, there’s word of another fan production falling to legal issues: Joel Furtado’s X-Men: Danger Room Protocols.
Furtado has been working on the web series for a long while now, with eighteen episodes planned to showcase different pairs of 1990s-era X-Men characters in animated adventures against iconic villains in a Danger Room scenario. Furtado told io9 via email: “I’ve always loved X-men since I was a little kid. It was something I gravitated to, reading the comics at that time even before the animated series,” adding, “When Fox’s cartoon came out that was it, I was hooked. I’ve done a few personal projects over the years, but nothing of this scale or scope. I decided I wanted to take a year off and do this thing for myself, as well as the fans. I knew there were X-men fans out there, wanting more than what the official powers that be were giving them.”
The first episode featured Jean Grey and Wolverine against the Sentinels, but was quickly pulled from YouTube. Furtado released it on Vimeo, but the video was pulled from there as well.
Furtado gave a valedictory talk to his supporters in a new video.
(2) USING YOUR POWER. Kameron Hurley was at Confusion over the weekend, and was inspired to write a wisdom-filled post, “On Kindness and Conventions”.
I have argued with authors for years about the power imbalance between authors and fans. By the very fact that you’re an author, that you’ve had worked published, it puts you in a position of perceived power, even if you don’t feel powerful. And what you do with that power is important. But first you need to realize, and accept, that you have it and people have given it to you….
Most importantly, though, when I was out at parties, or in the bar, I opened up the conversation circle to people. This is probably the most important thing you can do at either of these events. There is nothing worse than hanging on outside the circle hoping to try and get someone to invite you in. Here are these people who’ve known each other for years, and you’ve been told to socialize at the bar because it’s so great to network! and all you’re doing is standing outside these circles of people with a drink, feeling stupid….
I have talked a lot of talk over the last decade. It’s my turn to pay it forward, and to help build the community I’d like to see, instead of just complaining about how shitty things are elsewhere.
Because there is no greater joy than seeing the reactions of people who’ve had their first amazing convention, and who tear up all the way home because in a single weekend they’ve found their people, they feel included, they felt like part of something bigger than themselves.
Be the change you want to see, right? I need to act like the author I always wished I would have encountered when I was twenty-one years old at my first convention. Every time I talk to some new person, especially those at their first convention, I imagine that I’m talking to somebody who is going to come up fighting through here just like me. I’m holding out the hand I didn’t get that first time. I’m opening up the circle.
(3) FANFIC. Mindy Klasky’s “F is for Fanfiction” at Book View Café is an overview of the topic for professional writers that raises good questions writers should consider about setting boundaries on the use of their work, however, it was this paragraph that generated all the comments – most disagreeing that one must outgrow fanfic.
Fan fiction might be a great way for an author to exercise writing skills, learning to recreate an established author’s tone and/or using known characters expected to act in specific ways. But if you intend to publish your work, you’ll need to move beyond fanfic. That “moving beyond” should include at least “filing off the serial numbers”, erasing the specific references to character names, locations, and other details. Thus, Bella Swan from Twilight became Anastasia Steele, and Edward Cullen became Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey. The special world of sparkling vampires became the elite life of a billionaire.
(4) KING CONTEST SHORTLIST. The finalists have been announced in a short story competition to celebrate the publication of Stephen King’s collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. There were more than 800 entries.
A team of dedicated readers carefully selected stories worthy of putting forward to the long list. 20 stories were in serious contention and after due deliberation judges Claire Armitstead (Books Editor at the Guardian), Philippa Pride (Stephen King’s British editor) and Kate Lyall-Grant (our independent judge and Publisher at Severn House Publishers) unanimously chose six stand-out stories for the shortlist.
The judges were extremely impressed by the quality of the six stories which are now on their way to Stephen King. The winner will be announced on or after 30 January. Watch this space…
Please join us in congratulating the talented authors on the shortlist:
‘The Spots’ by Paul Bassett Davies; ‘The Unpicking’ by Michael Button; ‘Wild Swimming’ by Elodie Harper; ‘The Bear Trap’ by Neil Hudson; ‘La Mort De L’Amant’ by Stuart Johnstone; ‘Eau de Eric’ by Manuela Saragosa.
(5) THORNTON OBIT. SF Site News reports Kathy Thornton (1957-2016) died on January 16. She was one of the founding members of Con-Troll in Houston and worked on Texas NASFiCs and Worldcons. In 2005, she was the fan Guest of Honor at Apollocon.
(6) CAST IN THE HAT. As Nicole Hill warns, “We Sort the Cast of The Force Awakens into Their Hogwarts Houses” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is MOSTLY SPOILERS. So no excerpt here. Fun article, though.
(7) LOVECRAFT. Submissions are being taken for the Dunhams Destroys Lovecraft anthology through February 6. What do they mean by the title?
Destroy it all.
Burn the tropes.
Smash the traditions.
The so-called gatekeepers of Weird Fiction.
Mock the big fish in the small pond of Lovecraftian fiction.
Nothing is safe.
NO ONE IS SAFE.
Parody as a means to topple to regime.
Spoof the blowhards.
Take anything Lovecraftian and mock the hell out of it.
Payment is $25 and a contributor’s copy for 5-10K word stories. And they repeat, “We do NOT want traditional Lovecraftian fiction.”
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
(9) BROKEN NEWS. People asked Jim C. Hines what he thought about his name being mentioned in a Breitbart story based on a comment here. He told them in “Fact-Checking for Dummies. And Breitbart.”
This is what rates an article on Breitbart. “Hey, a commenter on the internet said that some unnamed person is talking to a couple of Toronto bookstores and showing them what some of the Sad/Rabid Puppies have said and asking them not to stock said puppies. Oh, and yeah, there’s no actual evidence of it having any effect.”
(10) SOMETHING IN COMMON. George R.R. Martin’s tribute to David Hartwell touched John C. Wright. He sent this note to Martin.
It grieves me that you and I should be at odds over unimportant political matters when science fiction as a genre, and the people in our lives, and much else besides are things we both have in common and outweigh any differences.
The shadow of our mutual loss of a friend sharply reminds me of what is important in life, and mutual ire is not one of those things.
You wrote not long ago of a desire for peace in the science fiction community; I second that sentiment and voice it also. Let there be peace between us.
(11) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo favors Hugo eligibility posts.
I blogged about it as a result of Twitter conversation with Daniel Older and Shveta Ta; he’s posted his own and I urged people to post links to theirs in my post. Any help spreading the word is appreciated; too many people let themselves get silenced by fear of internet kerfuffles. I’m hoping that puppies feel free to post on there as well; too many people forget that as SFWA President I’m representing a range of writers, not a single crowd.
Rambo introduces the post on her personal blog with these sentiments:
Let us begin by acknowledging that this is a rancorous period, full of clashing agendas, bewildered onlookers, and all too many innocents caught in the crossfire (although it is not the first time we’ve seen these storms, nor will it be the last.). And that right now making an eligibility post particularly mentioning Hugo Award categories like Related Work is something that some of us are circling and wondering about.
And my answer is yes. Yes, you should. Why?
Check the post for her three arguments.
(12) RSR CAMPBELL LIST. Rocket Stack Rank has made a list of new writers whose stories were reviewed on their site who should be eligible for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award.
Here are 62 writers who are eligible for the 2016 Campbell Award. They were selected from the 565 stories reviewed by Rocket Stack Rank and eight other prolific reviewers in 2015. There are many more new writers out there, but their stories weren’t read by Rocket Stack Rank so they’re not included here.
(13) A LONGLIST OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather will be posting lists of recommendations drawn from its contributors. First up is the Hugo Award Longlist for fiction.
For the past couple years I’ve posted a draft Hugo ballot (2014, 2015). Last year’s slate voting controversy, however, made me rethink that practice. True, this blog has limited influence within fandom, and we’ve never tried to mobilize voters to further a cause or agenda either. But it still feels strange to call out slate-based voting campaigns while publishing something that looks, superficially at least, like a slate of our own. So instead of giving you my personal ballot, I asked the the thirteen nerds of a feather to contribute to a longlist of potential Hugo nominees.
The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere
(14) UFO FILES. The Express has a photo-illustrated article, “Some of ‘world’s best ever UFO pictures’ go online with CIA former top secret files”.
The US intelligence agency, often accused by UFO conspiracy theorists of being involved in a major cover up to hide evidence of alien life from the public, has for some reason chosen to upload some of its formerly classified UFO case files to its website.
(15) RETROFUTURISM. Joshua Rothman comments on “The Nostalgic Science Fiction of ‘The X-Files’” in The New Yorker.
Scholars have a term for our fascination with the science fiction of the past: they call it “retrofuturism.” In the “Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction,” Elizabeth Guffey and Kate Lemay offer an elegant definition of the term: “Where futurism is sometimes called a ‘science’ bent on anticipating what will come,” they write, “retrofuturism is the remembering of that anticipation.” Retrofuturism tends to be both celebratory and regretful. On the one hand, the retrofuturist sensibility is drawn to old visions of the future because today’s have lost their appeal; on the other, it recognizes that those old visions had their downsides. Steampunk, for example, is attractive precisely because it rejects the disembodied corporatism of the digital world; still, the vision of the future in the film “Snowpiercer” is both refreshingly analogue and brutally Dickensian. (That’s not to say that retrofuturism is always ambivalent: “Star Wars” is, among other things, an upbeat retrofuturist response to the drug-addled sci-fi of the sixties and seventies.) “The X-Files” was a retrofuturist show. It celebrated the wide-eyed sense, prevalent in the forties, fifties, and sixties, that science was about to change everything. It also recalled the darkness of the Cold War, when individuals felt powerless against vast geopolitical forces, and science brought us to the edge of thermonuclear doom.
Because we live in a moment of reboots, remakes, and revivals, we seem to be surrounded by retrofuturism. Superhero movies, with their emphasis on mad-science mutation, have a retrofuturist appeal. So do the rebooted “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Mad Max.” Even “Interstellar,” in many ways a forward-looking film, also looked back to the sci-fi of the past. If you’re of a theoretical cast of mind, you might wonder what it means to be nostalgic for a retrofuturist show like “The X-Files.” Is it possible, “Inception”-style, to square retrofuturism? Can you look back ambivalently at the way people used to look back ambivalently at a vision of the future?
(16) TV SUCCESS WOULD X-OUT THIRD X-FILES MOVIE. A third X-Files movie has been scripted by Chris Carter – but if the ratings are good for the TV series, he’d prefer to focus on that.
“I actually wrote a third movie, just because I was interested in the idea of where that might go,” Carter told the audience. When Fox approached him about bringing The X-Files back to television, Carter considered repurposing the script for the series. “I let my wife read the third movie,” he shared, “and she said ‘I think not for television.'”
Any chance of a third X-Files film will depend on how strong (or poor) the ratings for the upcoming mini-series are. If the ratings are good, Carter seems more interested it sticking to TV. “I’m waiting for Fox to come back and ask for more,” said Carter. “Then we’ll talk about it.”
And early reports are that ratings for the new show were good.
The preview of the mini-series premiered on Sunday night following the NFC Championship game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers and received strong ratings.
Monday’s debut on the mini-series’ normal night will be the true test, along with the subsequently five episodes. Should that run be as strong as many suspect that it will be, a third film might yet by in the cards
(17) SATIRE NOSTALGIA. The WSJ’s Speakeasy blog remembers “When Mulder and Scully Went to Springfield: An Oral History of the ‘Simpsons’ – ‘X-Files’ Crossover”.
Mike Reiss: We had the most illegal shot in TV history. [The episode has] a line-up of aliens where Homer is supposed to pick out which alien is his. We had Alf, Marvin the Martian, Chewbacca — they were all copyrighted. In one five-second shot, we violated five people’s copyrights. But the only comment we ever got was, we had Alf in there. Alf said “Yo!” and I got a call from the real Alf, who said, “Next time you do me, let me do it.”
(18) REV. BOB CROWNED. Our own Rev. Bob was king for about as long as it takes to boil an egg at the Whoisthekingrightnow site. He’s still searchable as Robert in the Hall of Kings, where his three decrees have been immortalized.
King Bob the Horizontal.
- The denizens of Sensible Castle do not judge. Unless you’re a jerk.
- Get thee down. Be thou funky.
- In case of emergency, the masks that drop from the ceiling will make everyone’s final moments MOST interesting. You’re welcome.
[Thanks to Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Nick Mamatas for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]
Update 01/26/2016: Corrected Rev. Bob’s royal name to the right royal name, with the right decrees.
By James Bacon: For a number of years now, the Dublin Convention Bureau and Fáilte Ireland the National Tourism Development Authority have been encouraging the ‘Conference Ambassador’ scheme, which helps support and encourage individuals and organisations to bring international conferences and conventions to Ireland.
To recognise the efforts of people who give up their own time to organise international events, Fáilte have set up the Conference Ambassador awards, and plan to hold them every two years going forward.
Shamrokon, Co-Chair James Shields was invited to the inaugural award ceremony on the 21st of January at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin. Shields came up with the idea of a Eurocon the weekend after a potential UK Worldcon while on his GUFF trip to New Zealand and Australia in 2010. He was in the vanguard of efforts to win the Eurocon bid for Dublin and was subsequently joined by Brian Nisbet who co-chaired the convention.
He informs us:
Irish television celebrity, comedian and student of theoretical physics Dara O’Briain came on stage and gave an introduction, and spoke a little about the awards and the kinds of people who were present. He singled out a woman who happened to be sitting next me, called Karen O’Sullivan, who had held the European ice skating conference in Dublin, and is hoping to hold the European Championships, and Dublin doesn’t even have a proper ice rink!
I didn’t expect to be receiving an award. Admittedly they weren’t “best in” style awards, and there were about 40 given out on the night, but it was still really wonderful to receive such recognition and It was especially nice to be there with my partner Fionna O’Sullivan and I was really proud to be there with her.
The Irish government have always been keen to promote tourism in all its forms and see the efforts to welcome conventions as an important aspect. The Dublin 2019 World Science Fiction bid is also supported by Fáilte and I was pleased to wear my Dublin 2019 badge on the night
[Photos by Fionna O’Sullivan and James Shields.]