Changes in Store for BizarroCon

BizarroCon Director and Eraserhead Press publisher Rose O’Keefe today posted an “Open Letter To The Bizarro Fiction Community”, a thorough and detailed apology for the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown at BizarroCon 11, and for failing to take appropriate steps when informed about the online conduct of some authors she publishes. She outlined a series of actions she’ll be taking.

About the Showdown, O’Keefe wrote:

On a personal note, I need to deeply apologize for things that have gone on in our community.

First, to the people who witnessed or heard about The Ultimate Bizarro Showdown performance at BizarroCon 11 and were hurt by it, and in particular to those of you who experienced PTSD responses, I’m so sorry. This should have never happened. The Showdown event is intended to be a fun, interactive, entertaining time and I deeply regret that didn’t happen this year.

These were responses to Chandler Morrison’s act at the Showdown two weekends ago (described in “A Reckoning for BizarroCon”).

O’Keefe announced many changes are in store, some already implemented:

I am dedicated to making BizarroCon, Eraserhead Press, and our online communities safe and comfortable for all. To that end, I’m announcing the following changes, in response to your concerns:

  • Effective immediately, I will step down as coordinator of the current Bizarro Writers Association, and encourage the formation of a new BWA to be run by writers.
  • Effective immediately, Jeff Burk has stepped down as Head Editor of Deadite Press and is no longer employed by Eraserhead Press.
  • Effective immediately, Chandler Morrison’s DEAD INSIDE has been removed from Deadite Press’s 2019 publication schedule, and the book contract has been canceled with all rights reverting to the author.
  • Effective February 28, 2019, G Arthur Brown’s KITTEN and GOD’S MEAN OLDER BROTHER will no longer be published by Eraserhead Press. The titles will be removed from distribution and all rights will revert to the author.

Jeff Burk, no longer editor of Eraserhead’s Deadite Press imprint, told Facebook readers that he parted ways with them “due to artistic and creative differences.” According to Chandler Morrison, one of those differences was the cancellation of Deadite’s plans to publish his book.

O’Keefe also said Eraserhead Press was dropping two books by G. Arthur Brown. Brown has been a past subject of sexual assault allegations. While Brown is not addressed by name in today’s statement, part of O’Keefe’s apology is addressed to Tiffany Scandal, whose extensive comments about BizarroCon’s latest issues included this said about “Gary” (Brown):

But this performance [Morrison’s] is just one of many events that brought people to this point. The people who have exhibited predatory behavior at past cons have never been officially banned from the con, a person [Brown] who had legal action taken against him for predatory behavior not only gets a new book out, he also got a beer to celebrate him! And everyone who has experienced something less than pleasant at this con has been told to not talk about it, to not fan flames, and we don’t, and it’s like all that happens with this shit gets swept under the rug.

O’Keefe addressed her today:

To Tiffany, I want to clarify I had no intention of maintaining a working relationship with the person who harassed you. I barred him from the convention and have had no contact with him. The reason I advised we not burn bridges with him was because I was trying to avoid creating a hostile competitor. I appreciate you calling me out over this. It revealed to me the conflict of interest in being a book publisher and also being in charge of determining appropriate action related to harassment.

O’Keefe says she will be making other changes to BizarroCon and Eraserhead Press.

Going forward, I will also institute the following changes.

  • The creation of a BizarroCon Safety & Inclusion Committee.
  • Myself, the committee members, and the staff of Eraserhead Press will enroll in diversity, inclusion, equity, and crisis management training.
  • Revisions to the format of the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown.
  • The creation of new positions on the BizarroCon Planning Committee, and clarification for the roles and responsibilities of each position including the Book Nook Coordinator, Guest Liaison, Fundraising Director, Workshop Coordinator, Program Booklet Editor, Clean-up Crew, and other volunteer positions.
  • Creation of a Social Media Policy for Eraserhead Press which will outline best practices and standards for online conduct of our editors and authors.

Meanwhile, Chandler Morrison wrote a blog entry today trying to ameliorate public reaction to his BizarroCon Showdown performance by explaining its symbolic meaning.

In light of recent events, the time has come for me to directly address the controversial performance that has now brought about the pulling of my book, Dead Inside, and the subsequent termination of Jeff Burk, head editor of Deadite Press. Up until now, I’ve been clinging to the admittedly pretentious hope that someone was going to “figure out” the message I was trying to convey with the skit in question. As I watched hundreds of people…some of whom had been at BizarroCon, most of whom had not…take me to task in dozens of various social media threads, I ping-ponged back and forth in my head about whether or not I should respond. It was tempting for me to jump in and say, “Wait, no, you didn’t get the allegory, what I meant was…” Whenever I started to type, though, I would think to myself, “No, dammit. I’m a capital-A Artist. I shouldn’t have to explain myself. I will not explain myself. If they didn’t get it, that’s not on me.”

What I’ve now realized, however, is that the fact that nobody seemed to get it…even the ones who weren’t actually offended by it…means that I failed in my attempt at creating capital-A Art. The audience isn’t the problem. I am. I was trying to make a statement about a very specific cultural phenomenon, but the statement was so obscure and mired by my own affectations that it failed to resonate. I demanded too much from my audience. Because of that, the hidden meaning (the fact that I didn’t think it was all that hidden is a sign of my own arrogance) of my “statement piece” flew right over everyone’s head like a comet on a cloudy night.

Morrison says his act symbolized his feelings about the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories bandied about in the media.

2019 American Library Association Youth Award Winners

The American Library Association (ALA) today announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – at its Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

Results of genre interest include:

A Newbery Honor Book, The Book of Boy was illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, son of famed sff artist John Schoenherr.

The Corretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award went to a story that begins with the Big Bang, The Stuff of Stars, illustrated by Ekua Holmes. And one of the King Illustrator Honor Books is a space race historical Hidden Figures, illustrated by Laura Freeman and written by Margot Lee Shetterly.

The Schneider Family Book Award for teens (ages 13-18) was won by Anger Is a Gift, written by Mark Oshiro, sff author, YouTuber, and a director of Con or Bust.

Four of the 10 Alex Awards for best adult books that appeal to teen audiences went to sff works:

  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark
  • Circe, by Madeline Miller
  • How Long ’Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

The Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults was won by sff author M.T. Anderson.

Neil Gaiman has won the 2020 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, and will present a lecture at a winning host site.

The honor books for the Pura Belpré Awards, honoring a Latinx writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience included Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, and written by Junot Díaz.

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, written by Gail Jarrow, was named a Robert F. Sibert Award Honor Book “for most distinguished informational book for children.”

Toni Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award, given to a debut author writing for teens.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Older Readers category winner is Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier.

A list of all the 2019 award winners follows:

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Newbery Honor Books

  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  • The Book of Boy written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

  • Hello Lighthouse, illustrated and written by Sophie Blackall

Caldecott Honor Books

  • Alma and How She Got Her Name, illustrated and written by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • A Big Mooncake for Little Star, illustrated and written by Grace Lin
  • The Rough Patch, illustrated and written by Brian Lies
  • Thank You, Omu!, illustrated and written by Oge Mora

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

  • A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, written by Claire Hartfield

King Author Honor Books

  • Finding Langston, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • The Parker Inheritance, written by Varian Johnson
  • The Season of Styx Malone, written by Kekla Magoon

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

  • The Stuff of Stars, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

King Illustrator Honor Book

  • Hidden Figures, illustrated by Laura Freeman, written by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison, written by Monica Clark-Robinson
  • Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Alice Faye Duncan

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award:

  • Monday’s Not Coming, written by Tiffany D. Jackson

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award:

  • Thank You, Omu!, illustrated and written by Oge Mora

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement:

  • Dr. Bracy is Professor of Library Science and Director of the Office of University Accreditation at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

  • The Poet X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo

Printz Honor Books

  • Damsel, written by Elana K. Arnold
  • A Heart in a Body in the World, written by Deb Caletti
  • I, Claudia, written by Mary McCoy

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:

  • Rescue & Jessica A Life-Changing Friendship, written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon and published by Candlewick Press, wins the award for young children (ages 0 to 10).
  • One honor book for young children was selected: The Remember Balloons” written by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children.
  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, written by Leslie Connor and published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is the winner for middle grades (ages 11-13).
  • One honor book for middle grades was selected: The Collectors, written by Jacqueline West and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
  • Anger Is a Gift, written by Mark Oshiro and published by A Tor Teen Book, Tom Doherty Associates, is the winner for teens (ages 13-18).
  • One honor book for teens was selected: (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health, edited by Kelly Jensen and published by Algonquin Young Readers, an imprint of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing.

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:

  • The Black God’s Drums, By P. Djèlí Clark
  • The Book of Essie, By Meghan MacLean Weir
  • Circe, By Madeline Miller
  • Educated: A Memoir, By Tara Westover
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, By Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
  • Green, By Sam Graham-Felsen
  • Home After Dark, by David Small, illustrated by the author
  • How Long ’Til Black Future Month? By N. K. Jemisin
  • Lawn Boy, By Jonathan Evison,
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

Children’s Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children through books that demonstrate integrity and respect for all children’s lives and experiences.

  • Walter Dean Myers

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:

  • M.T. Anderson

His books include: Feed; The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party; and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

2020 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.

  • Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States:

  • The Fox on the Swing — Originally published in Lithuanian as “Laime Yra Lape,” the book was written by Evelina Daci?t?, illustrated by Aušra Kiudulait?, translated by The Translation Bureau and published by Thames & Hudson, Inc.

Four Honor Books also were selected:

  • Run for Your Life, published by Yonder, an imprint of Restless Books, Inc., written by Silvana Gandolfi and translated from the Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz;
  • My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder, published by Graphic Universe, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., written and illustrated by Nie Jun, originally published in Mandarin and translated from the French by Edward Gauvin;
  • Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure, published by NorthSouth Books, Inc., written and illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann and translated from the German by David Henry Wilson; and
  • Jerome By Heart, published by Enchanted Lion Books, written by Thomas Scotto, illustrated by Olivier Tallec and translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick and Karin Snelson.

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States:

  • Sadie, written by Courtney Summers and narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and more.

Odyssey Honor Audiobooks

  • Du Iz Tak produced by Weston Woods Studio, a division of Scholastic, written by Carson Ellis and narrated by Eli and Sebastian D’Amico, Burton, Galen and Laura Fott, Sarah Hart, Bella Higginbotham, Evelyn Hipp and Brian Hull;
  • Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist, produced by Live Oak Media, written by Susan Wood and narrated by Brian Amador;
  • The Parker Inheritance, produced by Scholastic Audiobooks, written by Varian Johnson and narrated by Cherise Booth; and
  • The Poet X, produced by HarperAudio, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Pura Belpré Awards honoring a Latinx writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:

Belpré Illustrator Award winner

  • Dreamers, illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales

Belpré Illustrator Honor Books

  • Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, written by Junot Díaz
  • When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, illustrated by Jose Ramirez, written by Michael Mahin

Pura Belpré Author Award winner

  • The Poet X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo

Belpré Author Honor Book

  • They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems, written by David Bowles

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children:

  • The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, written by Joyce Sidman

Sibert Honor Books

  • “Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild,” written by Catherine Thimmesh and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt;
  • Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, written by Gail Jarrow
  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, written and illustrated by Don Brown
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, written by Traci Sorell,
  • When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, written Michael Mahin, illustrated by Jose Ramirez

Early Learning Digital Media Award

  • Play and Learn Science, produced by PBS Kids.

Honor recipients

  • Coral Reef, produced by Tinybop Inc., and
  • Lexi’s World, produced by Pop Pop Pop LLC.

Stonewall Book Awards

Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:

  • Julián Is a Mermaid, written by Jessica Love

Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Young Adult Literature Award

  • Hurricane Child, written by Kheryn Callender

Honor Books

  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, written by Ashley Herring Blake  
  • Picture Us in the Light, written by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book is

  • Fox the Tiger, written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor

Geisel Honor Books

  • The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap, written and illustrated by David Milgrim
  • Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories, written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
  • King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth, written by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers
  • Tiger vs. Nightmare, written and illustrated by Emily Tetri

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay, written by Adib Khorram

Other Finalists

  • Blood Water Paint, written by Joy McCullough
  • Check, Please!: #Hockey, written and illustrated by Ngozi Ukazu
  • Children of Blood and Bone,” written by Tomi Adeyemi
  • What the Night Sings,” written and illustrated by Vesper Stamper

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults:

  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, written and illustrated by Don Brown

Four other books were finalists for the award:

  • The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor, written by Sonia Sotomayor
  • Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam, written by Elizabeth Partridge
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler, written and illustrated by John Hendrix
  • Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction, written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Picture Book

  • Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Children’s Literature Category.

  • Front Desk, written by Kelly Yang

Young Adult Literature

  • Darius the Great is Not Okay, written by Adib Khorram

Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

Younger Readers

  • All-of-a-Kind-Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky,

Older Readers

  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier,

Teen Readers

  • What the Night Sings, by Vesper Stamper, illustrated by the author

2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were presented on January 27. Black Panther won for Cast in A Motion Picture, one of the top awards, and also Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture.

Emily Blunt won Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for her performance in the post-apocalyptic thriller A Quiet Place.

Here’s the complete list of winners.

FILM CATEGORIES

Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “Black Panther”

Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

  • Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture

  • Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place”

Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

TV CATEGORIES

Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • “This Is Us”

Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Jason Bateman, “Ozark”

Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Female Actor in a TV Movie/Limited Series

  • Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”

Male Actor in a TV Movie/Limited Series

  • Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

STUNT CATEGORIES

Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

  • “Black Panther”

 Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • “GLOW”

Pixel Scroll 1/27/19 My Daddy Was A Pixel – I’m A Son Of A Dot!

(1) ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS. No genre works were on the shortlist, so needless to say today’s Andrew Carnegie Medal winners were all non-genre books. The omnivorous readers among you might like to know what they are anyway:

(2) ST:D PREMIERE FREE FOR A SHORT TIME. Thanks to The Verge I learned: “You can now watch Star Trek: Discovery’s season 2 premiere on YouTube”.

According to ComicBook.com, the episode will be available for the next two weeks, long enough to serve as a reminder that the series is back,

(3) OUTSPOKEN AI. Tansy Rayner Roberts and Rivqa Rafael listed “5 Books that Give Voice to Artificial Intelligence” for Tor.com readers. Among their picks is —

The Tea Master & the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The trouble with reading SFF is that you end up with amazing life goals that probably will not be attained during your own lifetime. It’s bad enough when a favourite book leaves you wanting a dragon librarian to be your best friend, or a magic school to invite you in when you turn eleven… and now I need a spaceship who brews tea in my life.

A really good cozy mystery balances rich characters with charmingly creepy murders, and de Bodard hits all the right notes in this wonderful, warm homage to Sherlock Holmes in which our detective is Long Chau, an angry and traumatised scholar, and her Watson is a calm, tea-brewing shipmind.

As with the original Watson, Long Chau’s story is told from the point of view of the detective’s friend, which allows a contrast between the detective’s technical brilliance, and our narrator’s emotional intelligence. Yes, the emotional work in the story is largely done by the spaceship. That’s how great it is. –Tansy

(4) HEMMING DEADLINE. If you’re going to nominate for the Norma K. Hemming Award, you need to get it done by January 31. Details at the website.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work.

Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Nominations are open to all relevant and eligible Australian work produced in 2018

(5) FOOD REVELATIONS. Fran Wilde did a class about “Fantastic Worldbuilding.” Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights.

Fran Wilde’s online writing class talks about how to build a vivid, compelling world in the context of writing about an event set in that world. For other Rambo Academy live classes, see http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/

(6) BASED ON CIXIN LIU STORY. A trailer for The Wandering Earth has shown up on The Verge (“A new trailer for The Wandering Earth shows off a desperate plan to save the planet”). The film is slated for a limited release starting on February 8.

A new trailer for The Wandering Earth — described as China’s biggest science fiction movie ever — landed earlier this week, showing off an ambitious adventure that follows the efforts to save Earth after scientists discover that the sun is about to go out. 

The movie is based on a story by Chinese author Cixin Liu — who’s best known for his Three-Body Problem trilogy and last year’s Ball Lightning. While those books are huge, epic stories, The Wandering Earth is no less ambitious: when scientists realize that the sun will go out in a couple of decades, they hatch a desperate plan: to move the planet to Proxima Centauri. The construct thousands of giant engines to move the planet out of orbit, where it can then slingshot post Jupiter and out of the Solar System. 

And there was a previous trailer in December.

(7) THEY’D RATHER PLAY SOMEONE ELSE. Travis M. Andrews in the Washington Post tells about actors who really didn’t like their roles. People know Harrison Ford doesn’t like Han Solo, and Robert Pattinson apparently won’t like you if you tell him you really loved Twilight: “Penn Badgley thinks his ‘You’ character is a creep. Here are 5 other actors who hated the people they played.”

Robert Pattinson despises his iconic “Twilight” character, Edward Cullen, with a fury unlike any other. Pattinson has complained throughout so many interviews about Edward, the century-old telepathic vampire who falls for Kristen Stewart’s Bella (a witch or something), that there’s an entire Tumblr feed dedicated to his most (self-) scathing comments.

Among his harshest words: He has said “Twilight” “seemed like a book that shouldn’t be published.” That “if Edward was not a fictional character, and you just met him in reality — you know, he’s one of those guys who would be an ax murderer.” He called his performance “a mixture of looking slightly constipated and stoned.”

(8) OBSCURE AWARD. The Society of Camera Operators’ awards were presented January 26, and if you scan The Hollywood Reporter article closely enough you’ll be able to discover the single winner of genre note: “‘A Star Is Born’ Camera Operator Tops SOC Awards”.

Movie category had no genre nominees

Movie category winner

* P. Scott Sakamoto for A Star Is Born

TV category winner

* Chris Haarhoff and Steven Matzinger for Westworld

Other awards presented

* Jane Fonda — Governor’s Award

* Harrison Ford— President’s Award

* “Lifetime Achievement award recipients were Dave Emmerichs, camera operator; Hector Ramirez, camera operator (live and non-scripted); Jimmy Jensen, camera technician; John Man, mobile camera platform operator, and Peter Iovino, still photographer.”

* Technical achievement award — makers of the Cinemoves Matrix 4 axis stabilized gimbal

(9) HARPAZ OBIT. Former Israel Air Force Pilot Colonel (Res.) Rami Harpaz passed away January 24 at the age of 80: “Father of iconic ‘Hebrew Pilots’ translation of Tolkien dies” in the Jerusalem Post (behind a paywall).

Rami Harpaz lead a group of IAF pilots in Egyptian captivity to translate the iconic fantasy work into Hebrew while in prison, the book introduced Tolkien to Israeli readers and remains iconic.

…He was captured by the Egyptians during the War of Attrition, while in captivity he was given a copy of the Hobbit, the famous fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, by his brother who was able to deliver the book to him via the Red Cross. 

Prison conditions were harsh and the Egyptians tortured the Israeli prisoners, yet despite of this, Harpaz and his fellow  prisoners began to translate the book into Hebrew. The initial motivation was to allow Israelis who could not read English well to enjoy the book in Hebrew. 

The translation was done in pairs with one person reading in English and speaking it out in Hebrew and the translation partner writing it down in Hebrew and editing it. Harpaz and three other captured pilots were the translators of what became known as ‘the pilots translation’ of the Hobbit. The final product was seven notebooks written by hand, the book was published in 1977 with funding provided by the IAF.   

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also  produced  his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem exploring the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 79. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact  which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, RobotSpider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 62. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3, Sin City, 300, Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 56. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?). 
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 49. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction. Interestingly she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) KIPLING, SFF AUTHOR? Fred Lerner’s well-regarded essay “A Master of our Art: Rudyard Kipling considered as a Science Fiction writer” addresses a topic that surfaced in comments the other day.

…Like Verne and Wells, Kipling wrote stories whose subject-matter is explicitly science-fictional. “With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.” portrays futuristic aviation in a journalistic present-tense that recalls Kipling’s years as a teenaged subeditor on Anglo-Indian newspapers. “The Eye of Allah” deals with the introduction of advanced technology into a mediaeval society that may not be ready for it.

But it is not this explicit use of science and technology in some of his stories that makes Kipling so important to modern science fiction. Many of Kipling’s contemporaries and predecessors wrote scientific fiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Conan Doyle are among them. Yet echoes of their work are seldom seen in today’s science fiction. Kipling’s appeal to modern readers lies instead in his approach and his technique.

The real subject-matter of Rudyard Kipling’s writing is the world’s work and the men and women and machines who do it. Whether that work be manual or intellectual, creative or administrative, the performance of his work is the most important thing in a person’s life. As Disko Troop says in Captains Courageous, “the most interesting thing in the world is to find out how the next man gets his vittles”….

(12) PACIFIC INKLINGS FESTIVAL. Sørina Higgins, Editor of The Inklings and King Arthur, will be the featured speaker when The Southern California C.S. Lewis Society presents The Pacific Inklings Festival and General Meeting on March 9.

(13) NOT A STAN FAN. HuffPost reports “Bill Maher Doubles Down On Trashing Stan Lee Fans, Adults Who Like Comics”.

His latest was supposed to address a controversial blog post from shortly after Stan Lee’s death. Address it, yeah. Back down from it? Not at all.

Bill Maher is not backing down when it comes to criticizing fans of Marvel giant Stan Lee, and fans of comic books in general.

On Friday’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” the host insisted that he had nothing against the late Lee, but that adult fans of comics simply need to “grow up.”

“I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead, I’m sad you’re alive,” Maher said.

But the head of Marvel did not respond as you might have predicted SYFY Wire learned: “Bill Maher receives high-profile invite to Stan Lee tribute event after controversial comic book remarks”.

Bill Maher received an invite to the Stan Lee tribute event in Los Angeles this coming Wednesday from none other than Marvel‘s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada.

This came after Maher found himself in hot water once again after doubling down on his controversial comments about how comic books cannot be considered “literature” and how superhero movies are not “great cinema.” Moreover, he said that people who think otherwise “are stuck in an everlasting childhood.”

Maher played himself in a deleted scene in Iron Man 3, where he blames America for creating The Mandarin

(14) NEEDS SOME LUCK. Paul Weimer says this epic fantasy novel is well worth your time and attention in a review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons”

Kihrin is a thief, an apprentice musician, and a resident of the Capital. He’s also possesses a rather powerful artifact whose provenance he does not quite understand, one that is difficult to take from him except by his free will. Even more than this, Kihrin and his artifact are pawns in a long simmering plot that would see him as key to the destruction of an empire. Instead of being a prophesied hero come to save the world, Kihrin’s role is seemingly destined for a much darker fate, unless his patron goddess, the goddess of luck, Taja, really IS on his side.

(15) MORE GOOD REVIEWS. Lady Business links to selected reviews around a theme — “Eight Book Minimum: Bring me queer ladies or bring me death!”

1. Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband by Joanna Russ [Top]
Someone’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband is Joanna Russ talking about the narrative tropes of gothic fiction from the late sixties and early seventies. The essay itself was originally published in 1973; I first read it in the collection To Write Like A Woman, which is great if you have a chance to read it. I found Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me at work though, and ah, it’s good to have it back.

The premise of this essay is that Joanna Russ, faced with the new wave of gothic fiction, had a publisher friend send her some of the most representative examples of the genre and broke down all of the common elements and analysed them as expressions of the “traditional feminine situation.” I would argue that regardless of how representative those books were, that’s a very small sample size (she mentions about half a dozen titles, and I’m just trying to picture the reaction today if someone tried this with, say, romantic suspense books). But her analysis is interesting? She’s analysing it, justifiably, as an incredibly popular genre with female readers, and picking out the elements that might be contributing to that (“‘Occupation: housewife’ is simultaneously avoided, glamorised, and vindicated” is one of the stand-out points for me, especially when coupled with the observation that the everyday skills of reading people’s feelings and faces are often the only thing keeping the heroine alive), but it’s a little strange to read. It’s interesting, and I can definitely relate some of her points to female-led genres today (I’m mainly thinking of things like cozy mysteries), but it is definitely an outsider to a genre picking apart its building blocks. So, interesting as a dissection of those specific titles and tropes, but maybe not representative of the wider genre.

(16) HOURS OF WITCHING. Phoebe Wagner checks in about the first season of a TV reboot: “Microreview [TV Series]: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In addition to balancing the magical aspects of the show, multiple episodes explore issues of feminism, smashing the patriarchy, race, sexual orientation, disability, and bullying. Through Sabrina, these becomes issues of her world rather than political statements. While TV shows at times have issue-driven episodes that seem to be responding to the political climate of the previous six months, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina focuses on the lives of the characters, and since this is part of their lives, of course Sabrina is going to help them. That being said, especially early in the season, it at times felt a little white-savior as Sabrina works behind the scenes with magic to help her friends….

(17) THAT LEAKY WARDROBE. In this Saturday Night Live sketch, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy, reprising a character he played in a movie) meets several women who have recently arrived in Narnia.

(18) REVIEW OF “I AM MOTHER”. Variety: “Sundance Film Review: ‘I Am Mother’”. “After a mass extinction, a robot raises a little girl in a handsome, if derivative sci-fi thriller that salutes its own parentage.” The review gives much of this female-cast-led gerne film generally good marks, though significant issues are also pointed out. Bottom line:

What really presses [Director Grant] Sputore’s buttons is proving that he can make an expensive-looking flick for relative peanuts. If this were his job application for a blockbuster gig, he’d get the job. Though hopefully he and [Screenwriter Michael Lloyd] Green realize that the best sci-fi thrillers don’t just focus on solving the mystery of what happened — they explore what it all means. Sputore is clearly an intelligent life form. But as even his robot creator knows, “Mothers need to learn.”

  • Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne (voice), Hilary Swank, Luke Hawker (motion capture), Tahlia Sturzaker.

(19) SPONSOR WILL DROP MAN BOOKER. BBC reveals that the sponsoring hedge fund feels “underappreciated” — “Man Booker loses £1.6m hedge fund sponsor amid talk of tension”.

Britain’s most famous literary award is looking for a new sponsor after hedge fund Man Group said it would end its support after 18 years.

The UK-based financial giant said its annual £1.6m backing of this year’s Man Booker Prize would be its last.

The link between the hedge fund and the literary world has not always been a smooth, with novelist Sebastian Faulks last year calling the firm “the enemy”.

Man Group said in a statement it had been a privilege to sponsor the prize.

But the BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, said relations between Man Group and Booker organisers had been strained for some time, with a company source suggesting they felt underappreciated.

(20) DID IT MAKE A SOUND? A celebrity tree is no more: “Game of Thrones: Dark Hedges tree falls in high winds”.

A tree made famous by the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones has fallen in strong winds.

Gale force winds of up to 60 mph hit Northern Ireland overnight on Saturday.

The Dark Hedges are a tunnel of beech trees on the Bregagh Road near Armoy that have become an an international tourist attraction since featuring in the hit series.

(21) OVER THE TOP. Let Quinn Curio tell you “The Dumbest Things About Gotham.”

What are the dumbest things that have ever happened on Fox’s Gotham show? Welcome to the party. The pain party.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark Blackman, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Francis Hamit, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award

  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine), the second of his “airship utopia” stories, envisions a twenty-first century world founded on free travel, the rule of law, and an inherited abhorrence of crowds. Officials of the Aerial Board of Control are summoned to the remote town of Chicago, which is convulsed by a small group’s demands for revival of the nearly forgotten institution of democracy.
  • “Sam Hall,” a short story by Poul Anderson (first published 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction): A story set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences. Anderson, the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement, explores political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.
  • “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut (first published 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), a dystopian short story, set in a United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else, satirizes the authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an extreme that denies individuality and diversity. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death.
  • “Conquest by Default,” by Vernor Vinge (first published 1968 in Analog), Vinge’s first exploration of anarchism, offers a story about human civilization being overwhelmed by a superior alien force, told from the point of view of an alien sympathetic to the underdogs, who finds a way to save the humans by breaking up governments into much smaller components. The alien culture uses a legal twist to foster extreme cultural diversity, as characters draw explicit parallels between the plight of humanity in the face of superior alien tech and the fate of Native Americans faced with European invaders. 
  • Schrödinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door, by Robert Anton Wilson (first published 1979 by Pocket Books), a parallel-worlds novel, draws upon theories from quantum mechanics to explore themes about the evil of violence, particularly political coercion and the carnage of the Vietnam War. The speculative fantasy features alternate versions of characters from the Illuminatus! trilogy by Wilson and Robert Shea, which won the Hall of Fame Award in 1986. 

In addition to these nominees, the Hall of Fame Committee considered nine other works: “The Man Who Sold the Stars,” by Gregory Benford; “ILU-486,” by Amanda Ching; The Mirror Maze, by James P. Hogan; That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis; A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn;  A Time of Changes, by Robert Silverberg; Demon and Freedom, by Daniel Suarez, as a combined nomination; The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, by T.H. White, as a combined nomination; and “Even the Queen,” by Connie Willis.

The LFS says the purpose of the Prometheus Awards is to recognize

…outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

The final vote will take place in mid-2019. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at the Dublin Worldcon.

Nominations for the 2019 Hall of Fame Award can be submitted to committee chair William H. Stoddard (halloffame@lfs.org) at any time. All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.

The Libertarian Futurist Society also presents the annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel. More information is available at their website, www.lfs.org.

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

A Reckoning for BizarroCon

Chandler Morrison’s performance during the “Ultimate Bizarro Showdown” at BizarroCon 11, simulating sex with an aborted fetus, not only provoked a flurry of protests, it ignited a wider discussion of predatory behavior at the convention which one commenter says “has been insufficiently addressed for years.” (Warning: this article includes some descriptive details.)

The annual BizarroCon, held last weekend near Portland, OR, celebrates the work of various small press publishers of “bizarro” fiction, described by some as transgressive surrealism and associated fantasy/crime, and by Eraserhead Press publisher Rose O’Keefe, the Director of BizarroCon as something that “clearly wasn’t horror, science-fiction, fantasy, or even experimental fiction. The only real way to describe it would be: weird,” and as “the literary equivalent to cult movies. Our books are quirky, campy, freaky, funny, lewd, rude, and just out there.”

The “biggest event at BizarroCon” is The Ultimate Bizarro Showdown:

[The] banquet hall is transformed into Bizarro Thunderdome! 20 authors enter, only one leaves victorious. Each author gets 2 minutes to tell the weirdest story they can come up with to a drunk and impatient crowd. After 2 minutes, if the story entertains the audience enough they are allowed to continue. If their story fails they are fucking decapitated! The distinguished bizarro judges will choose the top three readers. Winners will receive fabulous prizes and bragging rights for a year.

Author Chandler Morrison spent more than three minutes simulating sex with a doll covered in fake blood to look like a recently extracted fetus, using a dildo positioned adroitly enough to lead some to believe he had used his penis.

Morrison is a young writer who thinks of himself in these terms:

In today’s overly sensitive snowflake society, in which art of a transgressive nature tends to be derided and scorned, Chandler brazenly dares to speak truths that others are afraid to even acknowledge to their innermost selves.  He sees the writing on the wall, and transcribes it for the world in a language as breathtaking as it is blasphemous. 

Brian Keene, a BizarroCon guest of honor and one of the event’s judges, wrote on Facebook:

Personally, I did not care for the performance.

It wasn’t because of the prosthetic penis, or because of the baby doll (the view from the judges table was that the doll looked dead and bloody — which mirrored the dead fetus of the story in question. It wasn’t until the next day, in listening to the privately shared concerns of others, that I understood that some interpreted the doll’s color as a skin tone).

The reason I didn’t care for the performance was the same reason I have never watched A SERBIAN FILM — sexual violence against children is something I abhor, and I don’t care to be exposed to the imagery, even if the imagery in question is in the context of a fiction, be it film, prose, or performance art.

My other personal issue was that, as a parent who lost three children before birth, I don’t dig dead baby jokes.

In addition, Keene now feels compelled to apologize for not putting a stop to it:

Watching the crowd from the judges table, I saw people who were clearly entertained by the performance in question. But I also saw people who were clearly upset by it. And seeing the looks on the latter group’s faces, I thought to myself, “I should stop this.” But I didn’t, and for that I apologize. I didn’t because I thought, “You’re 51, Brian. Maybe you just don’t get it.” I also think that I — quite stupidly — mistook the uneasy laughter by some in the crowd as complicity. In hindsight, it clearly wasn’t. I can’t speak for all the judges, but I echo what Gina said above about sitting there sort of stunned. I kept thinking, “Okay, this is going to go somewhere. There’s going to be a truth, or a twist, or maybe just a punchline.” But there wasn’t.

I thought perhaps the crowd would speak up at the 3-minute mark. When they didn’t, I again mistook this for “Well, they are into it, Brian, and you’re just an old mainstream guy who doesn’t get it. You speak up and vote no, and it’s just going to be another case of, ‘Brian Keene was an asshole and ruined BizarroCon’. So I didn’t.”

… I hope that the dialogue and conversation will take precedence over the finger-pointing and blame game. If anyone still needs someone to blame, then blame me. Like I said, I should have spoken up…and I didn’t, because of my own personal insecurities.

Since the convention Facebook has played host to discussion threads with hundreds of comments protesting and defending Morrison’s performance, while raising wider implications for the BizarroCon community.

Author Jennifer Robin wrote on January 21:

The realism of the performance is an issue here. The performer said he was having sex with an abortion as part of his narrative. The doll was a full-grown baby shape, not a cluster of cells. The color of the doll was a darker brownish color, not a bright blood red. Several people were taken aback by the uniform brown color of the doll and assumed that it was a racial statement meant to be shocking. As for the dildo, even men close to the stage have said it was hard to tell whether it was real or a prosthetic, and the same with the eventual cum. So I’ll shift the question to this: If the performer didn’t want to say “brown skin” he should have put more care into picking a red fake blood to cover it, because many audience members saw brown. If the performer wanted to say “abortion-fucking” and not trigger PTSD or other violation-related reactions in the crowd, a full-blown baby doll is not how to say it. How many ways can there be to say babyfucking is not a good thing to show with these props at a literary convention? The number of audience members who have condemned it should be bringing the organizers to seriously consider what damage has been done, and what they want to encourage as free speech in the year 2019.

And in case that sounded inconsistent with what people are used to from her, Robin explained:

How can I, who regularly has explored surrealist and dadaist and cathartically ritualistic performances over the course of my life, who has almost ALWAYS played devil’s advocate for free speech, how could I suddenly make a declaration that shocking for shock’s sake is low, is crass, is a form of sadism?

Well, I did. And I haven’t gone soft at all. It isn’t soft to talk about consent of an audience, or about whether the artist’s intent is to dominate a crowd and hurt them—versus illuminating concepts about the barbarism and strangeness of the human psyche.

… After a century of artists exploring actions like this, it is no longer innovative, no longer something that enhances our awareness of taboos, or starts up fresh conversations about “what the human race really is.”

It’s no longer an innovation to be naked, or cut your chest open, or have an orgy on stage, or do anything regarding blackface or incest or involving suspension or projectile vomiting or threatening to cut off an audience member’s hand. For a lot of performances like this, the idea that you are “SHOWING PEOPLE” what fear or darkness or reality or a soul is made of…is…expired.

I strongly value the existence of ritualistic theater, avant-garde art, horror and gore and darkness, but I feel that in 2019, the “edges” aren’t what they once were, and that we are facing the deepest global and existential crisis a sentient species on this planet has ever had to face.

Yes, everything we took for granted is going extinct, as are we.

Meanwhile, Morrison is not without his defenders. Monica J. O’Rourke, an author published by Eraserhead Press’ Deadite imprint, wrote on Facebook:

This is NOT directed at anyone specific. And for those who don’t know me, I’ve been around for decades and have either organized or participated in (or both) gross-out contests at several major conventions, some of which i’ve chaired or co-chaired.

Sorry, and maybe I am SOOOO not PC on this one … but if you go to a horror convention, and a gross-out contest (or even an open mic — what do you believe you’ll get at a horror convention???? especially a bizarro convention), why do you get to pick and choose what’s considered offensive? You seriously go to a gross-out contest and have triggers? Really? Were your legs broken, sweetheart, that you couldn’t get up and walk out? Have you not seen a gross-out contest before? Jesus.

O’Rourke also commented:

Censorship is censorship, regardless of the topic. This was about feelings and sensibilities being hurt in a venue where people could have walked out. BTW, some of the people in that thread complaining the loudest about that performance either 1. weren’t even in the room during the event or 2. congratulated the author at the end on his performance. Suddenly they’re all offended. And in another juicy bit of irony, these same people decrying censorship are calling for the author to be banned from future conventions and are even trying to get his book pulled. Sure doesn’t sound like kneejerk overreaction!

In contrast, Chandler Morrison has now publicly apologized:

I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I hurt with my performance at the BizarroCon Showdown. I have remained silent until now because I was listening and reflecting. I made a lot of new friends over the course of those very special few days, and I am deeply troubled that some of those friends were hurt by an act that was clearly in poor taste and insensitive to the audience to whom I was presenting. It was truly never my intent to inflict mental harm or emotional distress, but that’s no excuse, and I am genuinely sorry.

And Brian Keene offered:  

One final thought on the young author in question. I’ve seen some characterizing him as an “edgelord”. Having met him, I don’t think that is a fair characterization… From what I know of him I think this young man has a good heart, and I hope he learns from this and is given that time.

However things play out for Morrison individually, the lid has come off a much wider discussion about BizarroCon’s handling of antiharassment issues.

Michael Kazepis wrote on January 23:

There’s never really been a scene like bizarro before—genre literature that often overlaps themes of violence, fetish, fantasy, sex, and the grotesque, while encouraging people to let out their inner “weirdo/cult” selves without being shamed for what they’re into. But it’s also a scene that’s got almost no firm boundaries for what’s acceptable, for consent and respect, because all scene performances or art/literature exists in the name of free expression. And that’s what’s at the heart of all this, right? It does require noting that Rose O’Keefe, after endless criticisms of the bizarro scene being a “boy’s club” over the years, did make great effort to bring more women into the scene and largely succeeded. But with the arrival of more women, also came the arrival of some predatory shitbirds. I won’t list them here, but it’s become a thing. A similar compliment can be made of Rose reaching out for more diverse voices, LGBTQ authors.

That in mind, there is an institutional problem (and now a proportional backlash to that problem) that’s only grown over the past five or so years. Both are reinforced by those infirm boundaries, as well as inadequate responses to inappropriate conduct and a tacit enabling of the accused. Also, shutting down concerned voices as a first response has been the worst possible move this week. I realize that folks want to defend the scene from any attack, and there have been needless ones in the past, but now an outcry over a performance has become an outcry over trending sexual impropriety and is on the verge of becoming an exodus of those concerned voices etc etc etc. On a long enough timeline, no one benefits but predatory shitbirds. This seems a conflict of “Do you try to keep the peace?” or “Do you take major corrective actions?”

BizarroCon Director Rose O’Keefe has answered with her own apology and told what she’ll do to heal the community and keep the con viable:

What I understand is that people are feeling unheard and are dissatisfied with my response and/or lack of response to past as well as to present grievances related to their experiences at BizarroCon and in our community. I am truly sorry. Especially to my fellow women and to anyone who has felt harassed in any form. I let you down.

…I acknowledge that I have made mistakes and that there are problems in our community. Actions such as establishing an anti-harassment policy, appointing a trained counselor to handle issues that arise, recruiting the assistance of security professionals and military veterans from within our community to help during the event, banning offenders and unwelcome individuals privately rather than publicly and making unilateral decisions on who to welcome into our scene have not eliminated the sense of unease that many are expressing. Moreover, they haven’t sufficiently prevented instances of harassment and trauma from continuing to occur at our event. Therefore these things are insufficient and are in need of improvement. I am deeply regretful for this and it is my greatest wish to continue to work together to find meaningful resolutions to those problems and develop actionable plans to improve our future.

…Additionally, effective immediately, I would like to establish a Safety and Inclusion Committee for BizarroCon. It could be a group of 3-4 people whose responsibilities include fielding any complaints pertaining to our anti-harassment policy and creating very clear and specific protocol for handling and addressing these complaints. They may also audit panels for diverse panelists and topics.

I will also be expanding and improving the BizarroCon committee, establishing clear lines of responsibility, and delegating some of the roles and responsibilities that are in the best interest of the community. There is a lot that goes into running this thing and I know I am not alone in my desire to see this genre expand and improve and its level of professionalism increase. I see this moment as an opportunity for change and I am ready to embrace it.

…For now, one thing we can share is that in addition to the creation of the Safety and Inclusion Committee we will be crafting changes to the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown that will fully empower the hosts, the judges and the audience. I’d also like you to know that I have sent a letter to Edgefield apologizing to the staff who were on-duty at the Showdown last week.

Postscript: In case you wondered what artistic achievements are ordinarily presented at this event, author Zé Burns’ (“BizarroCon 11”) conreport describes 2019’s winning entries:  

Then came the highlight of the convention: the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. Each participant was allotted six minutes to perform their weirdest story or sketch. These ranged from amusing monologues to such depravity that I dare not soil this page.

Cameron Pierce won, rapping humorous poetry under the moniker “Young Stepdad.” Danger Slater sang “Rainbow Connection” in a Kermit the Frog voice, wearing a green bodysuit and face paint and strumming a cardboard banjo, while Karl Fischer gave a pitch about teaching horses to ski, stopping here and there to moon the audience who in turn pelted him with oranges.

Update 01/26/2019: Dropped the comparison to the WHC “gross-out” contests after further comment from Brian Keene: “The Showdown was inspired by the old World Horror Gross Out contests, but they have always been separate things. Sometimes there has been some crossover content (Shane Mackenzie’s The Aristocrats, for example) but by and large, very different material for very different audiences. Only reason I compared them was to illustrate the Showdown’s origins. Didn’t mean to imply they are similar.”

2019 Barry Awards Nominees

The nominees for the 2019 Barry Awards have been published by Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine. The winners will be announced on October 31 at the Dallas Bouchercon Opening Ceremonies

Best Novel
November Road by Lou Berney,(Morrow) 
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly, (Little, Brown)
The Shadow We Hide by Allen Eskens, (Mulholland)
Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson, (Viking)
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia,(Atria)
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee, (Pegasus)

Best First Novel
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite,(Doubleday)
Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, (Ballantine)
Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver,(Pegasus)
Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear, (Harper)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin, (Ecco)
The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor (Crown)

Best Paperback Original 
A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo, (Atria)
Dead Pretty by David Mark, (Blue Rider Press)
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, (Penguin)
The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas,(Berkley)
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic, (Pushkin Vertigo)

Best Thriller
The Terminal List by Jack Carr, (Atria)
Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman,(Knopf)
London Rules by Mick Herron, (Soho)
Forever and  a Day by Anthony Horowitz, (Harper)
Light it Up by Nick Petrie, (Putnam)
The King Tides by James Swain, (Thomas & Mercer) 

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]