2017 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award

J.P. Sullivan won the 2017 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award with his short story “The Blue Widow.” Sullivan’s story was selected by Baen editorial staff. The announcement was made at Gen Con 50 on August 19.

GRAND PRIZE:

  • “The Blue Widow” by J.P. Sullivan

SECOND PLACE:

  • “Dust of the Fallen” by Barbara Doran

THIRD PLACE:

  • “And Not Go Hungry” by Laurie Tom

Started in 2014, this is the fourth annual Baen Fantasy Adventure Award.

As the grand prize winner, Sullivan won an engraved award, and a prize package containing various Baen Books.

His story “The Blue Widow” will be a featured story on Baen.com main page.

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

Second place finisher Barbara Doran is shown in this public post on FB receiving her certificate.

Barbara Doran receives her second place certificate from James Minz (left) and Larry Correia (right).

2016 Sidewise Awards

The winners of the 2016 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History have been announced.

Short Form

(Tie)

  • Daniel Bensen, “Treasure Fleet,” Tales from Alternate Earths, Inkling Press
  • Adam Rovner, “What If the Jewish State Had Been Established in East Africa,” What Ifs of Jewish History

Long Form

  • Ben Winters, Underground Airlines, Mulholland

This year’s award judges were Stephen Baxter, Karen Hellekson, Matt Mitrovich, Jim Rittenhouse, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #13

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

~ Gloria Steinem ~

By Chris M. Barkley

On July 19, Variety, once the primary news sources of the entertainment industry, reported that the Home Box Office network issued a routine press release announcing a new project, an alternate history series called Confederate, created by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the show runners of their top-rated show, Game of Thrones.

Confederate chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone – freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall,” said the Variety story, written by Elizabeth Wagmeinster.

“Benioff and Weiss created Confederate and will serve as show runners, executive producers and writers, along with Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified, The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire), who will co-write the series and executive produce. Game of Thrones producers Carolyn Strauss and Bernadette Caulfield will also serve as executive producers,“ it stated. (It should be noted at this point that Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman are African Americans.)

Now, if you are a tried and true sf fan and reader, you are well familiar with the concept of “alternate history” which we will delve into in a moment. But first, let gauge the initial reactions to the announcement, which were swift, and furious.

The first rumblings of trouble came the very next day in a New York Times article by their television critic, David Itzkoff titled, “Confederate Poses Test Over Race for Game of Thrones Creators and HBO.” “To the show’s critics, its promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of Confederate. They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy tv series,” wrote Itzkoff.

The story quotes Dodai Stewart, the editor in chief of Fusion, a social justice culture website, saying, “Racial history in this country is a very open, sensitive wound.” Also, “Nothing’s settled, nothing is healed. I want to believe that this will be handled sensitively. But it’s an emotional subject, and for too many people, it’s uncomfortably close to the reality they already experience.”

David Harewood, a black actor who has a starring role on the WB superhero program Supergirl tweeted, “Good Luck finding black actors for this project.”

The producers and HBO, realizing that they were facing a major blowback on social media, granted an interview on Vulture the very next day in which they defended the project and stated their intentions. “We plan to approach Confederate in a much different spirit, by necessity, than we would approach a show named Game of Thrones” said co-creator D.B. Weiss.  His partner David Benioff added, “You know, we might fuck it up. But we haven’t yet.” That last quote did not help matters very much.

On that same day, ReBecca Theodore tweeted:

On July 25, bestselling feminist author Roxanne Gay penned an NYT editorial titled, “I don’t want to watch Slavery Fan Fiction”.

Activist April Reign, creator of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in protesting the whitewashing of the Academy Award nominations of the past several years, came out with a new hashtag on Sunday, July 31: #NoConfederate, calling for HBO to cancel the series altogether. In an interview with Vox Reign stated, “One red flag was the premise of the show itself. This is supposed to be alternate history, yet we see in the news almost every day the way that the Confederate mindset is still very alive and well in present-day 2017. You’ve got somebody like Dylann Roof, who is a Confederate flag waver, a white nationalist, very calmly going into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killing nine black people. You’ve got textbooks in the state of Texas literally rewriting history so that black people and Africans and African Americans were not ‘enslaved,’ they were merely workers.”

This past Friday, author and Hugo award nominee Ta-Nehisi Coates weighed in with essay on The Atlantic’s website, “The Lost Cause Rides Again”.

And THEN, just when you thought things weren’t turbulent enough, Amazon threw another shoe into the cauldron: African-American producers Will Packer (Girls Trip and Straight Outta Compton) and Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks and Black Jesus) announced on August 1 that they were teaming up to create Black America, in which former slaves are granted the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the post-Reconstruction South as reparations for slavery. In other words, the “anti-Confederate.” And both producers readily admit that the announcement of their project, which had been in development for over a year, was spurred by the controversy surrounding Confederate.

Now, I have to admit that all of this sturm und drang regarding these two projects did not surprise me at all. In a world where a lie can circle the earth several times while the truth is still struggling to get into its pants, this sort of reaction is very typical of any breaking news flash, political misstep or celebrity meltdown. (And fan feuds; now, more than ever.)

It has always been personally dismaying to me that when a project something like Confederate is announced, people who are so damned concerned about the feelings of a constituency, whether it be whites, minorities and sexes, gather together to condemn, decry and call for either boycotts or cancel said projects.

I am particularly perturbed that two writers that I admire, Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, would jump on the censorship bandwagon. And let’s not kid ourselves, when you call for creators to abandon a project for being perceived as racist in nature, before a frame of film has been shot, it’s censorship.

What also upsets me is that when social critics attack science fiction or, in this case, the alternate history branch of sf, they often don’t know nor care about its history or purpose.

According to my good friend and Hugo-nominated sf author and editor Steven H Silver, an alternate history story requires three things: a point of divergence from the history of our world prior to the time at which the author is writing, a change that would alter history as it is known, and an examination of the ramifications of that change.

While there are many sources on what may have been the first literary instances of alternate history, the first one I vividly remember reading was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, wherein the Ghost of Christmas Future show Ebenezer Scrooge the consequences of his actions if he continued his curmudgeonly ways.

Many historians of modern sf recognize Nat Schachner‘s 1933 story “Ancestral Voices” and Murray Leinster’s “Sidewise In Time”, published a year later, as the most influential templates from which most alternate history stories we read today can trace their origins. Some of the more famous literary examples include Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee (1953), Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), Harry Turtledove’s The Guns of the South (1992) and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007) . Media contributions include many episodes of Star Trek, The Back to the Future series, the Terminator films, Groundhog Day, the Amazon series version of The Man in the High Castle, and Timeless.

So as an ardent fan of some of these works, the idea of the Nazis or Russians taking over America, World War Three starting right after the end of WWII or the enslavement of the human race by aliens or other humans doesn’t faze me in the least. In fact, the most disturbing thing I have seen recently is Netflix’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Which brings me to my first point, when well made, alternate history tales are meant to inform, illuminate and SCARE an audience into a different frame of mind. Or, as Robert Heinlein famously posited in the 1940’s, “if this goes on…”

Secondly, specifically to Roxanne Gay’s point, she does not want to watch “slavery fan fiction”. Well, as it turns out, neither do I. Yet one of her reasons for tuning out is that, and I quote, “My exhaustion with the idea of Confederate is multiplied by the realization that this show (referring to Game of Thrones) is the brainchild of two white men who oversee a show that has few people of color to speak of and where sexual violence is often gratuitous and treated as no big deal. I shudder to imagine the enslaved black body in their creative hands.”

Well to begin with, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff may have created the television version of Game of Thrones, but the outline of the story they are dramatizing is the sole property of one George R.R. Martin.

And Martin’s story is about power, greed, avarice, pain, faith, loyalty, perseverance and the longing for true freedom, all cloaked in a fantasy world where sometimes, doing the right thing, having a conscience or just being kind is an excellent way to a quick and sudden demise. Women have endured rape, betrayal, poisoning, torture and other various forms of violence. But men have not gotten off the hook so easily in the show as you imply; they have been decapitated, totally emasculated, has their throats slit and died other equally horrible fates. All of the characters, male and female, are serving the main substance of the story; surviving, forging on and trying to retain some small thread of humanity amid the carnage and terrible circumstances.

And when Weiss and Benioff approached Martin with the idea of turning his books into a maxi-series, he, a seasoned television producer himself, was highly skeptical it could be done with any semblance of quality or coherence. What persuaded him to relent was their impressive demonstration of their knowledge of the material and a battle plan to interpret the story for the small screen.

And what are their qualifications? I mean despite winning the Emmy Award for Best Drama Series (from their industry peers mind you) for the past two years?

David Brett Weiss has a Master of Philosophy in Irish literature from Trinity College, Dublin and attended Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. He has written one novel, Lucky Wander Boy (2003), was an executive producer of The Specials (an Oprah Winfrey Network show about five friends with intellectual disabilities who share a house) and has co-written 45 episodes of Game of Thrones with his writing partner, David Benioff.

Mr. Benioff is an alumnus The Collegiate School, Dartmouth College and also attended Trinity College in Dublin for a year, where he met his writing partner, D.B. Weiss. He has a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of California, in Irvine. He has written two novels, The 25th Hour in 2001 (which was adapted for the screen starring Edward Norton and directed by, wait for it, Spike Lee!) and City of Thieves in 2008. He drafted an early version of Troy (2004) and wrote screenplays for the films Stay (2005) and The Kite Runner (2007).

You, Ms. Gay, object to these “two white men” tackling an alternate history project you don’t approve of? Well, I have a term for that, barefaced racism. One’s race, Ms. Gay should NOT disqualify a person to write, direct or produce anything. And from the credits of these two men cited above, I would hardly call either man close to being anything like Simon Legree. I feel some empathy for your distress you expressed in your editorial, Ms. Gay, but not at the expense of artistic freedom. Yes, I miss President Obama, too and the current occupant of the White House is an abomination to any rational person’s standards. Wringing our hands about him is not the way to react. In my opinion, projects like Confederate; if it’s done correctly, illuminates what makes human beings act in such a abhorrent manner. You may choose to cover your eyes, Ms. Gay, I intend to stay “woke” and attentive.

Secondly, Ta-Nesihi Coats and April Reign’s comments attack Confederate on the corporate level, taking direct aim at the motives of HBO. In his Atlantic editorial Coates writes, “A swirl of virtual protests and op-eds have greeted this proposed premise. In response, HBO has expressed ‘great respect’ for its critics but also said it hopes that they will ‘reserve judgment until there is something to see.’

“This request sounds sensible at first pass. Should one not ‘reserve judgment’ of a thing until after it has been seen? But HBO does not actually want the public to reserve judgment so much as it wants the public to make a positive judgment. A major entertainment company does not announce a big new show in hopes of garnering dispassionate nods of acknowledgement. HBO executives themselves judged Confederate before they’d seen it—they had to, as no television script actually exists. HBO hoped to communicate that approval to its audience through the announcement.

“HBO’s motives aside, the plea to wait supposes that a problem of conception can be fixed in execution. We do not need to wait to observe that this supposition is, at best, dicey.”

Well, it’s pretty clear to me what, HBO’s motives are; money, audience and acclaim, in that order. They provide the programming, money is provided by paid subscribers, the audience watches (ad free, I might add) and the acclaim, through ratings, awards and attracting bigger audiences, is the goal. Mr. Coates says we should be skeptical and on that point we are in total agreement; more often than not Hollywood rarely gets films or tv shows about race relations right. I don’t mind the criticism or the protests. What I mind is the insistence or even the implication that NO ONE (except maybe, people of color) should attempt to do these subjects, ever.

What both Mr. Coates and Ms. Reign seem to be asserting is that black people live in oppression and fear every single day, so why should we, as people of color, tolerate it being dramatized as entertainment?

Because, I reply, we, the American people, have a tradition of freedom of expression. Goodness knows, it has not been a perfectly implemented or even a fair tradition at certain points in our history. But it’s THERE, in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Yes, it only insures that the government is mostly inhibited in the free expression of speech and the arts. But we, without exception, are free to speak about almost anything we like without fear of retribution from the government. But the double edged sword is that we are not free from the consequences of our speech.

Just as Chic-Fil-A COO Dan T. Cathy, Mark Fuhrman, Paula Dean, former sheriff Joe Arpaio and pharma-bro Martin Shkreli and other miscreants ultimately discovered, you can express an unpopular, dumb, stupid or racist sentiments but the payment for that freedom will insure the bright glare of social media scrutiny, ridicule, protests, loss of privacy and yes, boycotts of their products and services.

HBO is not in the business of backing a losing proposition or inviting scorn. When they made a production deal for Confederate, they had the two writer-producers of the most popular television show in the world pitching it to them. Weiss and Benioff were given the benefit of the doubt by HBO, not the critics, protesters and naysayers. Nor, I suspect, do they want it. They, the other writers and co-producers bear the weight of the responsibility of producing a show that should provoke and confront the deepest and most powerful emotions from us.

What I sense from both you Mr. Coates and you, Ms. Reign, is that you appear angry and afraid; angry that Hollywood is going to screw it up again, afraid that the show is going to be a rallying cry for racists, right wing neo-conservatives and crazy people and angry that the creators of Confederate do not have the interests of minorities at heart.

And I say this: I am afraid of all of those things, too. But you know what I am more afraid of? That if artists and entertainers give into these sorts of protestations, we stifle free speech and artistic freedom to the point where people will go out of their way NOT to take a chance to be innovative, daring or take risks.

I am adamant in saying that we can’t give in to or give any credibility to this sort of fear and loathing. We must confront, overcome and transcend the fears within us. And sometimes, that means going head to head against it, not merely wanting to wish it away.

Those risks, of alienating the public, taking unpopular stances or being outright controversial or just plain wrong come with the territory of creating any art. But those are risks worth taking. That is why we revere the works people who were the risk takers of their times; Mozart, Janis Joplin, James Baldwin, Alice Cooper, Robert Mapplethorpe, Judy Chicago and Misty Copeland. Without the risk of failure, there is no reward and certainly no art worth noting for prosperity.

Frankly, we are damned lucky to have these four veteran writer-producers in charge of this particular high wire act.

And finally, Confederate, and Black America for that matter, are still untold stories right at this moment. Other than the provocative premises of each project, we know less about them than what Jon Snow knew during the first season of Game of Thrones.

Since the beginning of humankind, we have always expressed the compulsive desire for parables, tales and stories, either cut from real life or made from the fears and longings of our minds. These stories come in many forms, crime, romance, biography and yes, even fantasy and science fiction.

Speaking for myself, I don’t care for poorly told stories, only well told ones. My only charge to the writers, directors and producers of these projects is this: Make me CARE. Make it MATTER. And most importantly, make me beg to ask, WHAT COMES NEXT?

Pixel Scroll 8/19/17 (Isn’t It Good) Norwegian Groot

(1) WHAT A CONCEPT. ScienceFiction.com delivers the news in a very amusing way: “Is Jabba The Hutt In Line For His Own ‘Star Wars’ Anthology Film?”

Look out ’50 Shades’ and ‘Magic Mike’!  Some real sexy is about to hit the big screen!  Namely, a stand-alone ‘Jabba The Hutt’ movie.  Yes, following the now-in-production ‘Han Solo’ film, Disney is in some stage of development on additional films that focus on individual members of the vast ‘Star Wars’ mythology, including Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Now comes word that the space version of ‘The Godfather’ (who is just slightly slimmer than Marlon Brando later in his career) might also get similar treatment.

This news comes from a write-up by Variety about the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ movie and is just casually thrown out…

…As you probably know, Jabba doesn’t speak English.  This is something that helped protect C-3PO who he kept around (and intact) in order to translate for him.  American audiences rarely embrace foreign films.  Does Disney really think The Force is so strong with fans that they will turn out for a movie spoken entirely in a fake alien language?

(2) GALAXY QUEST. A new writer will help the beloved movie resume its trek to TV? Promises, promises!

Amazon’s Galaxy Quest TV revival is back on track. Writer-actor-comedian Paul Scheer of The League has been tapped to pen the script for the Paramount Television-produced series. Scheer takes over for the feature film’s original scribe, Robert Gordon, who was on board to pen the script for the Amazon reboot. The Amazon series is described as a new take on the cult movie that starred Tim Allen, the late Alan Rickman as well as Sigourney Weaver. The original 1999 movie centered on the cast of a since-canceled beloved sci-fi show that was forced to reunite to save the planet after aliens believe their show was real. Plans for the Amazon series were put on hold after Rickman’s passing.

 

(3) ECLIPSE GUILT. You tell ‘em.

(4) HEROIC EFFORT. Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte has posted packet coordinator Jo Van Ekeren’s deeply interesting “2017 Hugo Voter’s Packet Debrief”. Did we mention, this job is not that easy? Here’s the part about eligibility issues:

Eligibility Issues encountered: after consultation with the Hugo Admins, an explanation was sent to the Finalist of the issue and what the resolution was going to be, and the Finalists were all quite gracious about understanding:

  • Short Form Editor including stories they published but did not edit resolution: they resubmitted a document without those stories
  • Short Form Editor including a short Novel they edited resolution: the Novel was not included in the packet
  • Short Form Editor including an entire issue of a magazine in which they had an editorial published resolution: an extract with only the editorial was included in the packet
  • Professional Artist including two works from an non-eligible publication resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist requested inclusion of non-fiction work in the packet resolution: this was not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist including a story from a non-eligible market, and a poem resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Fanzine creating an online web page with links to reviews of 2016 works which included a vast majority of reviews written in 2016, but a handful written in 2015 and 2017 resolution: let them know that I was going to let it slide, but that a future Packet Coordinator might not, and if there had been more of them, I wouldn’t have either, and suggested this might be something they wish to take into consideration in future as far as the timing of posting reviews
  • Explicit Content: The porn novelette was placed inside a subfolder which included “Note – Explicit Content” in the folder name. The Fan Writer whose work included cartoon nudity and explicit verbiage agreed to create an online page on their website, and a document with a link to that webpage was included in the packet (at my recommendation, this URL was added to their robots.txt file, so that it would not be indexed by search engines).
  • Editor Long Form: My original e-mail to the finalists referred to novels edited during the year, and it was called to my attention that the definition actually specifies novel-length works which were published during the eligibility year, and that those works could be either fiction or non-fiction. I sent a revised e-mail to the Editor Long Form Finalists to reflect these changes

(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA’S CREATOR. Mark Peters details “8 Ways Comic Book Legend Jack Kirby Fought Fascism” at Paste.

  1. He Scouted for the Army

When Kirby joined the army, his reputation as the co-creator of Captain America preceded him—but this talent didn’t get him a cushy job, like many luckier writers and artists. Rather, Kirby ended up serving as a scout, a thankless job that involved sneaking into enemy territory and drawing what he saw to help prepare future missions. This was extremely dangerous. As Kirby put it, “If somebody wants to kill you, they make you a scout.” Before setting off for duty, the auteur cranked out an increased flow of comics, stating that he wanted “to get enough work backlogged that I could go into the Army, kill Hitler, and get back before the readers missed us.”…

  1. He Was Ready to Fight Nazis Anywhere

Kirby, who grew up in Manhattan’s rough Lower East Side, knew how to throw a fist and didn’t back down from anyone—especially a Nazi. As Mark Evanier describes in his biography Kirby: King of Comics, “…Jack took a call. A voice on the other end said, ‘There are three of us down here in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comic book and show him what real Nazis would do to his Captain America’. To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. The callers, however, were gone by the time he arrived.” Based on everything we know about Kirby, these Nazi crank-yankers got lucky.

(6) THE WALKING SUITS. A billion dollars is at stake: “Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman Joins Lawusit Against AMC”. ComicsBeat has the story.

It’s a giant chess game out there in the entertainment world, with streaming giants and known content producers vying for the upper hand. Mark Millar signing with Netflix and Robert Kirkman going with Amazon made headlines on their own, but a new lawsuit makes the reason for Kirkman’s new home even more apparent.

On August 14, The Walking Dead’s series co-creator Robert Kirkman, joined producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara and David Alpert in a complaint filed against the AMC television network. The complaint alleges breach of contract, tortious interference, and unfair or fraudulent business acts under California business code. The damages being sought could exceed $1 Billion dollars.

Filed at Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit alleges that AMC “exploited their vertically integrated television structure” to keep “the lion’s share of the series’ profits for itself.” The Hollywood Reporter has provided a great breakdown of the major claims in the suit. The complaint alleges the network in effect reduced series profits using various means, thereby diminishing the percent owed to the named plaintiffs. One of the ways this was accomplished, the suit claims, is by AMC Network paying a lower than fair market licence value than the show is worth–a violation of the plaintiff’s signed agreements.

(7) HODGELL. On the Baen Free Radio Hour for August 18, P.C. Hodgell discusses The Gates of Tagmeth, her latest entry in the Kenycyrath Saga high fantasy series; and part thirteen of the complete audiobook serialization of Liaden Universe® novel Alliance of Equals by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 19, 1692 — Five hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts
  • August 19, 1983 Yor, the Hunter from the Future premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 19, 1921 – Gene Roddenberry

(10) THE COLOR ORANGE.  The Horror Writers Association has opened its Halloween Pumpkin Recipe Contest.

(11) THE COLOR PINK. Safety first! “Bed and breakfast helps chickens cross street with high visibility vests”.

A bed and breakfast in Scotland fitted a group of chickens with high-visibility vests to help them cross a local road.

Glenshieling House shared video Friday of a pair of chickens wearing the bright pink vests as they strolled across the rainy street.

(12) PAINOPISTE. The fans who produced Worldcon 75’s newsletter will be happy to tell you how they did it.

A central feature in the preparation of the newsletter was two parallel concerns: we resolved to make the W75 newsletter as accessible to fans with dyslexia & other reading issues as possible; and we resolved to make the newsletter visually impressive and professional-looking.

The Design AH’s experience with several years of Finncons had led to the emergence of a Finncon “house style,” including preferred typefaces & colors, through which Design sought to present a unified visual identity for W75. Consequently Design was able to provide the newsletter with an adaptable, minimalist & clear template design including a custom masthead and footer. This template was produced using Adobe Indesign and some custom graphics.

For my part, I concentrated on the question of accessibility. Early in this process, I noted that while W75 had agreed to follow the SWFA’s document “Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces,” that document contained no discussion on the question of readability. Discussions between myself, the Design AH, the Design DH, and the Member Services DH Vanessa May, resulted in a number of recommendations which were incorporated into the final W75 newsletter. These recommendations were drawn from a combination of personal experience, systematic reviews in academic literature on readability, the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Style Guide, and the UK National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign’s guidance on accessible printed materials.

(13) PRO TIP. There’s some truth in what she says –

(14) IN THE BEGINNING. James Cooray Smith, in “Starting Star Wars: How George Lucas came to create a galaxy” in New Statesman, has a lot of good information about how Star Wars came to be created, including how the first character Lucas created was Mace Windu and how much of Star Wars was filmed at EMI Elstree because the Harold Wilson government was trying to keep the facility open and one condition of studios filming there was that they had to bring in their own technicians, which suited Lucas fine.

The script development money gave Lucas enough to live on whilst he continued work on the screenplay. As he did so it changed again; a ‘Kiber Crystal’ was written in and then written out. Skywalker became Deak Starkiller’s overweight younger brother before becoming the farm boy familiar from the finished film. Characters swapped names and roles. A new character named Darth Vader – sometimes a rogue Jedi, sometimes a member of the rival ‘Knights of Sith’ – had his role expanded. Some drafts killed him during the explosion of the Death Star, others allowed him to survive; across subsequent drafts his role grew. Some previously major characters disappeared altogether, pushed into a “backstory”, Lucas choosing to develop the practically realisable aspects of his story.

This is an important clarification to the idea that Star Wars was “always” a part of a larger saga, one later incarnated in its sequels and prequels. That’s true, but not in an absolutely literal way. Star Wars itself isn’t an excerpted chunk of a vast plotline, the rest of which was then made over the next few decades. It’s a distillation of as much of a vast, abstract, unfinished epic as could be pitched as a fairly cheap film to be shot using the technology of the mid 1970s. And even then much of the equipment used to make the film would be literally invented by Lucas and his crew during production.

(15) ANALYZING WINNERS. Cora Buhlert has “Some More Words about the 2017 Hugo Awards”.

Last I said in my last Hugo post, I did not expect The Obelisk Gate to win, because it was the second book in a trilogy and those rarely win and also because it was competing in a very strong ballot. In fact, I suspected that All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders would win (which also wasn’t one of my three top picks), since it already won the Nebula and Locus Awards (in the end, it came in second). I’ve been wondering how my predictions for this category could have been so totally off and I suspect that we’re seeing an effect at work here we often see with awards of any kind, from genre awards via general literature prizes to the Oscars, namely that more serious works focussed on serious issues tends to trump lighter works. Now both All the Birds in the Sky and A Closed and Common Orbit are lighter and more hopeful works, even though they do tackle serious issues as well. Coincidentally, A Closed and Common Orbit addresses very similar issues as The Obelisk Gate, namely who is viewed as a person and who is viewed as a thing or tool, but it handles these issues in a very different way. And due to a general bias towards more serious works that can be found in pretty much all awards, a darker book like The Obelisk Gate trumped a lighter and more hopeful treatment of the same theme like A Closed and Common Orbit (or the equally lighter and more hopeful All the Birds in the Sky). It was always pretty obvious that Death’s End and Too Like the Lightning were not going to win, since both were love it or hate it books, which leaves Ninefox Gambit as the other darker and more serious work on the ballot.

(16) THE RETURNS. Steven J. Wright also pores over the order of finish in “Hugo Awards 2017: The Relentless Detail”. For most readers “gone are the days when everyone just voted for Langford and forgot about it” is a lighthearted jape about Best Fanwriter (medic!), while I found it easier to admire this turn of phrase about Best Fancast:

And a big (though genteel) yay from me for Tea and Jeopardy, there, easily my favourite among the podcasts. Not much to say about the vote, except that Ditch Diggers got gradually jostled down into its final place. Next one down the long list is Verity!, which has got to be more fun than The Rageaholic, if only because groin surgery is more fun than The Rageaholic, and yes, I am qualified to make that comparison.

(17) PSYCH. Alexandra Erin did an analysis of how professed beliefs can interact with internal worldviews to lead to apparently contradictory behavior. She used as an example Brad Torgersen and the Hugos. The thread begins here —

(18) DRAGON AWARDS RUNNERS. Rebecca Hill viewed the recording of last year’s Dragon Awards ceremony and noted the names of the organizers are, besides President Pat Henry, David Cody, Bill Fawcett, and Bev Kaodak. Of course, we reported last year that David Cody left a comment on Monster Hunter Nation on a thread, making sure people knew how to register.

(19) BETTER HUMOR. The death of a space-age “treat”: astronauts no longer have to eat freeze-dried ice cream: “The Best Item In An Astronaut’s Care Package? Definitely The Ice Cream”.

We all remember astronaut ice cream, those little dehydrated bricks of neopolitan.

The reason astronauts generally don’t have much access to the real stuff isn’t rocket science, but rather something we’ve all encountered: a lack of freezer space.

What limited refrigeration there is on the space station is given over to blood samples, urine samples, etc. — stuff you don’t really want next to your Moose Tracks.

Unlike previous cargo vehicles used by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule has the ability to return to Earth without burning up on re-entry.

That means it can bring stuff back. The spacecraft is equipped with freezers to transport medical and scientific samples back to Earth. And sometimes, those freezers are empty when they go up to the station — which leaves room for ice cream, Vickie Kloeris, manager of NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory, tells NPR.

Before the capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Monday, she says, NASA’s cold storage team packed it with a sweet array of frozen treats: 30 individual cups of Bluebell ice cream and some Snickers ice cream bars.

(20) HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN. NASA attacks a bigger worry than asteroid collisions: “NASA’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano”.

There are around 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, with major eruptions occurring on average once every 100,000 years. One of the greatest threats an eruption may pose is thought to be starvation, with a prolonged volcanic winter potentially prohibiting civilisation from having enough food for the current population. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that food reserves worldwide would last 74 days.

When Nasa scientists came to consider the problem, they found that the most logical solution could simply be to cool a supervolcano down. A volcano the size of Yellowstone is essentially a gigantic heat generator, equivalent to six industrial power plants. Yellowstone currently leaks about 60-70% of the heat coming up from below into the atmosphere, via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up inside the magma, enabling it to dissolve more and more volatile gases and surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.

But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt….

(21) NOW IN SESSION. A Chinese ‘cyber-court’ has been launched for online cases:

The Hangzhou Internet Court opened on Friday and heard its first case – a copyright infringement dispute between an online writer and a web company.

Legal agents in Hangzhou and Beijing accessed the court via their computers and the trial lasted 20 minutes.

The court’s focus will be civil cases, including online shopping disputes.

Judges were sworn in and the first case was presented on a large screen in the courtroom.

(22) BEAGLE SUIT. Cat Eldridge has made the latest filing by Peter S. Beagle’s attorney in his suit against his former manager Connor Cochran available here. The filing includes a brief history of the litigation, including the information that in 2016 the court awarded a firm representing Beagle’s attorney $24,000+ in attorneys fees.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Five That Shouldn’t Be Forgotten

[Republished as a post by permission.]

By Kyra: For my own contribution to “Five That Shouldn’t Be Forgotten,” here are the most obscure SFF books that I have listed as among my favorites, according to Goodreads. None has more than 200 ratings. By comparison, the most popular book on Goodreads I have listed among my favorites, The Hunger Games, has 4,940,743 ratings.

War Birds, by R. M. Meluch (Total Goodreads ratings: 46) A novel about the aftermath of one interplanetary war and the build-up to the next one, touching on culture clash, first contact, fear of the other, and the existential dangers of a technological arms race. Meluch took her writing to the next level with this 1989 tour de force space opera, and it shouldn’t be forgotten.

The Maerlande Chronicles by Elisabeth Vonarburg (Total Goodreads ratings: 153) How is this masterpiece of Canadian SF so obscure, according to Goodreads? Perhaps because it was originally available only in French? But a great translation is now available, so there’s no excuse. Although technically a sequel to 1981’s The Silent CIty, this 1992 far-future post-apocalyptic novel stands on its own quite well. Cultural change occurs in a matriarchal society where women vastly outnumber men. One of the best depictions I have ever read of how cultural shifts actually happen, plus a riveting plot and characters. Don’t forget it!

All the Colors of Darkness by Lloyd Biggle Jr. (Total Goodreads ratings: 155) This one comes from 1963. When humans finally develop practical teleportation, they attract the hostile attention of aliens. It falls to one man, held captive on the moon, to convince them that humans aren’t awful. A great piece from an SF master who deserves a wider reputation.

The Masters of Solitude / Wintermind by Parke Godwin and Marvin Kaye (Total Goodreads ratings: 163 and 71, respectively) The first two books of a planned trilogy that was sadly never completed, but enough is explored and enough plotlines are wrapped up in these rich, complex novels from 1978 and 1982 that you might not care — I didn’t. Another post-apocalyptic setting, another set of novels about change; when the “barbarians” of the outer world finally begin talking with the technologically advanced inhabitants of The City, both find themselves altered. There’s so much to these!

The Wine of Violence by James K. Morrow (Total Goodreads ratings: 179) Can this really be obscure? Can James K. Morrow’s first novel, and one of his finest, really be falling down the memory hole? Say it isn’t so! When a spaceship crash lands on a harsh planet, they find a utopia whose inhabitants are incapable of murder, assault, or aggression. But that utopia is under threat from external enemies … and from the novel’s protagonists. A true classic from 1981.

MAC II Delivers Pass-Along Funds to Worldcon 76

The pass-along policy is a commitment to distribute at least one-half of a Worldcon’s surplus to the next three Worldcons that make the same promise.

Last year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon II, benefitted from that policy and now is paying it forward. They gave $33,000 to Worldcon 75 earlier, and in a ceremony at Helsinki turned over a like amount to Worldcon 76 chair Kevin Roche.

They also gave $5,000 of their surplus to the 2017 NASFiC.

“We plan to but haven’t given pass-along funds to Dublin yet,” says MAC II chair Ruth Lichtwardt. “We’re also assessing several requests from fan groups along with looking at other possible contributions, and will be determining distribution soon.”

2017 ENnie Award and Spotlight Winners

The 2017 ENnies, the Gen Con EN World RPG Awards, and Judges Spotlight Winners were presented on August 18. The ENnies celebrate excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming.

And congratulations to the Age of Ravens blog, run by Cat Rambo’s brother, for winning silver in its category.

Best Adventure

Gold: Blood in the Chocolate (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Silver: Doors to Darkness (Chaosium)

Best Aid/Accessory

Gold: Call of Cthulhu – Keeper’s Screen Pack (Chaosium)

Silver: Kobold Guide to Plots & Campaigns (Kobold Press)

Best Art, Cover

Gold: Call of Cthulhu – Investigator Handbook (Chaosium)

Silver: Torment: Tides of Numenera — The Explorer’s Guide (Monte Cook Games)

Best Art, Interior

Gold: Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was (Free League Publishing)

Silver: S. Petersen’s Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors (Chaosium)

Best Blog

Gold: Gnome Stew: The Gaming Blog

Silver: Age of Ravens

Best Cartography

Gold: 7th Sea: Map of Théah (John Wick Presents)

Silver: Call of Cthulhu – Keeper’s Screen Pack (Chaosium)

Best Electronic Book

Gold: The Things We Leave Behind (Stygian Fox Publishing)

Silver: Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure (DIY RPG Productions)

Best Family Game

Gold: Bubblegumshoe (Evil Hat)

Silver: Masks: A New Generation (Magpie Games)

Best Free Product

Gold: 7th Sea: Basic Rules (John Wick Presents)

Silver: City of Mist – Free PDF Starter Set (Son of Oak Game Studio)

Best Game

Gold: Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was (Free League Publishing)

Silver: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook (John Wick Presents)

Best Miniature Product

Gold: Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish: Servitors of Nyarlathotep (Modiphius Entertainment)

Silver: Dungeons & Dragons: Molzur’s Marvelous Miniatures (WizKids)

Best Monster/Adversary

Gold: S. Petersen’s Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors (Chaosium)

Silver: Veins of the Earth (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Best Podcast

Gold: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

Silver: Spellburn

Best Production Values

Gold: Call of Cthulhu – 7th Edition Slipcase Set (Chaosium)

Silver: Unknown Armies Deluxe Set (Atlas Games)

Best RPG Related Product

Gold: Call of Cthulhu: The Coloring Book (Chaosium)

Silver: The ABCs of RPGs (Hunter Books)

Best Rules

Gold: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook (John Wick Presents)

Silver: Adventures in Middle-Earth Player’s Guide (Cubicle 7 Entertainment)

Best Setting

Gold: Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was (Free League Publishing)

Silver: The Dark Eye: Aventuria Almanac (Ulisses North America)

Best Supplement

Gold: Pulp Cthulhu (Chaosium)

Silver: 7th Sea: Pirate Nations (John Wick Presents)

Best Website

Gold: Tabletop Audio

Silver: Elven Tower, RPG articles and cartography website

Best Writing

Gold: Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was (Free League Publishing)

Silver: Veins of the Earth (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Product of the Year

Gold: Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the ’80s That Never Was (Free League Publishing)

Silver: 7th Sea: Core Rulebook (John Wick Presents)

Fans’ Choice for Best Publisher

Gold: Wizards of the Coast

Silver: Chaosium

Judges’ Spotlight Winners

The livestream video of the awards ceremony can be viewed at YouTube.

Pixel Scroll 8/18/17 And Though She Thought Mike Knew The Answer, Well He Knew But He Would Not Say

(1) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY! Nicholas Whyte is back with “The Adminstrator’s Worldcon – part 2 of my 2017 Hugo memories”.

I almost didn’t make it to Worldcon 75. My taxi was 15 minutes late picking me up from home, and then encountered serious traffic en route to Zaventem airport. I was far too late to check my bag and brought it through security, where I almost came unstuck because of the Official Hugo Glue, which Dave McCarty had given me at Smofcon in December and I now needed to give back to him. (In fact we did not need it, as the artist who created the bases had engraved the winners’ plaques and attached them to the bases herself.) Five different security officials inspected the Official Hugo Glue Gun (which fortunately in Dutch is not a gun but a “lijmapparaat”, glue machine) before I was allowed to go on my way. The captain of my plane then scolded me, entirely fairly, for bringing “hand luggage” which was, in his words, “way too big”. But he did not throw me off, and I arrived in Helsinki.

Whyte includes a clear photo of the Hugo base by itself:

(2) ALL’S WELL. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted Renay’s tweets about the dismaying condition of Lady Business’ Hugo when it arrived. She told File 770 the problems were quickly resolved:

It turns out it was melted glue from where the felt was attached to the base (it’s hot here in Arkansas!). It’s been cleaned off with no problems and we’re looking into the proper type of glue to reattach the felt so disaster averted!! The bolt and washer were missing, too, but we’re going to pick a replacement up tomorrow. Nicholas Whyte from the Hugo team was super responsive. I’m also impressed everything arrived so fast. Those Worldcon 75 volunteers are ON IT.

(3) HUGO WINNER. The speech Ada Palmer was too overwhelmed to read at the Hugos is posted at her blog: “Campbell Award & Invisible Disability”.

Thank you very much. I have a speech here but I actually can’t see it. I can think of no higher honor than having a welcome like this to this community. This… we all work so hard on other worlds, on creating them, on reading them, and discussing them, and while we do so we’re also working equally hard on this world and making it the best world we possibly can. I have a list with me of people to thank, but I can’t read it. These tears are three quarters joy, but one quarter pain. This speech wasn’t supposed to be about invisible disability, but I’m afraid it really has to be now. I have been living with invisible disability for many years and… and there are very cruel people in the world for which reason I have been for more than ten years not public about this, and I’m terrified to be at this point, but at this point I have to. I also know that there are many many more kind and warm and wonderful people in this world who are part of the team and being excellent people, so, if anyone out there is living with disability or loves someone who has, please never let that make you give up doing what you want or working towards making life more good or making the world a more fabulous place.

(4) CONREPORT. Cora Buhlert shares her Worldcon experience in a short video, Cora’s Adventures at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki. Includes a shot of one of the File 770 meetups.

(5) CURBED ENTHUSIASM. Mark Ciocco weighs in on “Hugo Awards 2017: The Results”.

The 2017 Hugo Awards were announced on Friday, so it’s time for the requisite whining/celebration that peppers the steak of our blogging diet (that’s how food works, right?) Um, anyway, despite my formal participation in the awards process roughly coinciding with the Sad/Rabid Puppy era/debacle, this marks the fourth year wherein I’ve contributed to the results. This year’s awards were less directly impacted by those meddlesome puppies, but I feel like we’re still suffering through an indirect backlash and overcorrection. This isn’t exactly new, so let’s just get on with it. (For those who really want to geek out and see how instant-runoff voting works, the detailed final and nominating ballots are available.)

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin takes the rocket for Best Novel, making Jemisin just the third author to have back-to-back wins in this category (joining the ranks of Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold). She’s a good author, but damn, these books are not for me. Both were at the bottom of my ballot and while I can see why her novel won last year, this one is a little more baffling. It appears to have been a close race though, with All the Birds in the Sky only narrowly missing the win. I regret not putting it higher on my ballot, as it’s the only non-series finalist, and that’s something that’s becoming more and more of an issue… My preferred Ninefox Gambit came in third in the voting, which wound up being a theme for my first ranked works this year….

(6) PHOTO FINISH. Amal El-Mohtar coincidentally provides another clear photo of the Hugo base.

(7) WHAT THEATRICAL GENIUSES ARE READING. Broadway World delivers “Your 2017 Summer Reading List Courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda”, which includes a few genre works:

(8) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE READING. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has sicced the panel on “By the Waters of Babylon”. (Wow – I first read that in a junior high school textbook, when I was a Young People myself!)

The second story in Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF is Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937’s“By The Waters of Babylon”. He’s more obscure than he once was now—dying at age 44 didn’t help him stay in the spotlight—but you may have encountered his The Devil and Daniel Webster or Benét’s upbeat toe-tapper, Nightmare, with Angels, quoted in part in John Brunner’s disco-era The Jagged Orbit…

(9) ROWELL REUNITES RUNAWAYS. Marvel is bringing back Nico, Karolina, Molly, Chase, Old Lace and even Gert.

This fall, best-selling YA writer Rainbow Rowell (Carry On, Eleanor and Park), superstar artist Kris Anka (All-New X-Men, Star-Lord) and Eisner-winning colorist Matt Wilson (The Mighty Thor, Black Widow)  team up to bring the universe’s pluckiest team of super heroes back to where they belong: in the pages of a Marvel comic book.

“As a Runaways fan, it’s been such a thrill for me to see these characters together again,” said writer Rainbow Rowell. “I can’t wait to let everyone else into the party.”

“For years I batted other editors and creators back from the Runaways,” said Executive Editor Nick Lowe. “I was the last Editor to edit them and they are precious to me, so I didn’t want just ANYBODY to bring them back. So when my new favorite writer (Rainbow’s Eleanor & Park slayed me in the best way) said they were her favorites, I knew I had half of the lightning I needed. Kris [Anka] was the other missing link for the PERFECT RUNAWAYS creative team and I’m so excited to share them with the world!”

(10) NO CAPTAIN SULU. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, talks about an unproduced Trek series:

Star Trek and Deep Space Nine writer Marc Scott Zicree shares the entire Captain Sulu Star Trek pilot he and Emmy winner Michael Reaves wrote, and shares the untold story of why you never got to see that series — despite its Hugo and Nebula Award nominations!

 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 18, 1947 – Hewlett-Packard Co. is incorporated, nine years after William Hewlett and David Packard sold their first oscillators from a garage in Palo Alto, where they had set up shop with $538 in capital. Moving from oscillators, the first of which they sold to Disney for the movie Fantasia, the Stanford graduates built one of the world’s largest electronics companies
  • August 18, 2001Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies premieres in Japan.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 18, 1925 – Brian Aldiss

COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian approves of the monkey business on Brevity.

(13) INFRINGEMENT SUIT. In January the Arthur C. Clarke estate, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac to sue Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement. They charged that KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

Publishers Weekly has a progress report on the litigation in “Still No Opinion, but Judge’s Order Bans Distribution of ‘Infringing’ KinderGuides”.

Following a summary judgment ruling last month, a federal judge this week signed off on a permanent injunction immediately barring Moppet Books from distributing in the U.S. any versions of its KinderGuides series held to be infringing, until the works on which they are based enter the public domain. In addition, Moppet Books also agreed to destroy all current copies of the infringing works “in its possession or under its control” within 10 days.

Don’t expect the shredders to fire up quite yet, however. While the ban on distribution is effective immediately, the injunction includes an automatic stay on the destruction of existing stock, pending the “final outcome” of the appeal process.

…On July 28, Judge Jed Rakoff issued a summary judgment for the plaintiffs, rejecting Moppet Books’ claims that the works, created by founders Frederik Colting and Melissa Medina for the company’s KinderGuides series, were protected by fair use. The ruling came just days after oral arguments were presented in the case, and without an accompanying memorandum by Rakoff explaining his decision, which the judge said would come “in due course.”

…Meanwhile, despite the ongoing legal battle, Moppet Books is moving ahead with plans to launch a new line of books in October, including a collection of KinderGuides based on public domain works, and two original nonfiction works.

(14) WHAT’S THAT, ROCKY? The New York Times, in “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”, reports that new fossil discoveries show prehistoric “squirrels” glided through forests at least 160 million years ago.

In a study published on Wednesday, a team of paleontologists added some particularly fascinating new creatures to the Mesozoic Menagerie. These mammals did not lurk in the shadows of dinosaurs.

Instead, they glided far overhead, avoiding predatory dinosaurs on the ground — essentially flying squirrels of the Jurassic Period, from an extinct branch of mammals that probably still laid eggs.

(15) BRADBURY DRAMATIZED. Broadway World says a one-man Bradbury play will be part of a stage festival in New York next month.

Bill Oberst Jr. brings his award-winning solo performance, “Ray Bradbury‘s Pillar Of Fire,” one of Bradbury’s darkest tales, to Theatre Row on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 6:00pm. The NYC debut is part of the United Solo Theatre Festival.

Ray Bradbury has something to say to us at this exact moment in time;” said Oberst, “that we are citizens of the cosmos first, that the way we imagine our future determines our future, and that the most dangerous minds are those which cannot imagine themselves to be wrong.”

Oberst’s one-act adaptation uses Ray Bradbury‘s poetic prose to tell the story of William Lantry, a 400-year-old corpse who rises from the grave in the year 2349 to find himself the last dead man on Earth. Filled with hatred for a future world where superstition, gothic literature and human burials are all banned, Lantry decides to create an army of the dead. Bradbury later called the novella “a rehearsal for Fahrenheit 451.” He also famously said, “I don’t predict the future, I try to prevent it.”

(16) OLD HOME WEEK. Andrew Porter used to live in part of the historic Henry Siegel mansion, whose story was chronicled in the Daytonian in Manhattan blog yesterday.

…This is where I first published ALGOL, DEGLER! and then S.F. WEEKLY. It’s where I lived while I worked on the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3. I had numerous fan gatherings there, and have photos of Ted White and Arnie Katz in my room. This block of East 82nd Street is also the direct approach to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose fabled entrance stairs are visible directly down at the end of the block.

He wrote a long, fascinating comment there, including this genre tidbit –

In later years, part of the basement housed a toy store accessed by a stairway from the bookstore above. The proprietor told me that some of the toy soldiers he sold came from the collection of Donald A. Wollheim, a well-known collector and once publisher of DAW Books. And one of the buyers was George R.R. Martin, whose “Game of Thrones” (HBO) is so popular.

…For many years there was also a bookstore. In early 2017, Crawford Doyle Booksellers, which claimed to be there for 21 years, closed. However, there’d been a bookstore there since at least the late 1950s. I know, because as a teenager, I had a job delivering Womrath Library rental books to posh apartments around the area.

(17) IN THE FLOW. The Hugo Award Book Club discusses John Scalzi’s latest novel in “Review: The Collapsing Empire”.

Given John Scalzi’s track record, high profile, and vocal fan base, it seems likely that The Collapsing Empire will be given a fair amount of consideration on many 2018 Hugo nominators’ lists.

Based on how fun this book is at times, that consideration is probably warranted. The novel is set in an interstellar empire tied together by limited faster-than-light traderoutes known as ‘the Flow.’ This empire — The Interdependency — has lasted for millennia because of the economic dependence of its member worlds to each other. The key protagonists are the new Empress of the Interdependency, and the son of a scientist on a distant world whose father has spent decades discovering that the flow is going to collapse. The overaching plot — which has some parallels to Asimov’s Foundation— is expertly constructed and well-paced. Although the characters all seemed to speak with a similar voice, their motivations were clear, and the conflicts felt natural.

(18) THROWING SHADE. Solar-powered California prepares for the eclipse:

“We’re doing a lot of coordination, a lot of preparation,” says Deane Lyon, a manager at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages about 80 percent of the state’s electric grid. “It’s probably the most work this company has done to prepare for a three-hour event in our history.”

Solar power already comes with up and downs, in the form of clouds.

“So this was a particularly cloudy day,” says Jan Klube of Enphase, pulling up a graph showing the solar output from one California home. The Petaluma-based company monitors rooftop solar systems around the country day in and day out.

To show how a single cloud can make a difference, he points to the afternoon hours, when the output dips by about a third. “You see the big drop, so there’s a cloud coming and going,” he explains. “That’s why you see the zigzag.”

If your solar panels are in the path of totality during the eclipse, “it will go all the way to zero,” he says.

California isn’t squarely in the path, but the moon’s partial shadow will obscure 90 percent of the sun in the north, down to nearly 60 percent in the south. That’s more than enough to cause some anxiety for the people who have to keep California’s lights on.

(19) THE DARK SIDE. Scientists to study whether nature really goes crazy during an eclipse: “Will The Eclipse Make Crops And Animals Flip Out? Scientists Ask (Really)”.

With the help of elementary school students, University of Missouri biology professor Candi Galen is putting out microphones near beehives, in gardens and in a pumpkin patch to record buzzing activity.

“I don’t think it is really known the cues that bees use or don’t use when they are foraging that tell them to jump ship and go back their hives or stay put,” Galen says. “Bees depend upon the environment to regulate their temperature, and that may suggest that if indeed it does cool off a few degrees as the eclipse progresses, then they would get less active because they would be at a lower temperature physiologically.”

Researchers are also working with nearby cattle ranchers and even fishermen to monitor fish activity, Reinbott says.

(20) DNA EDITING. An NPR report is allowed to go “Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos”.

Critics, however, pounced on the news. They fear editing DNA in human embryos is unsafe, unnecessary and could open the door to “designer babies” and possibly someday to genetically enhanced people who are considered superior by society.

As the debate raged last week, I asked Mitalipov if I could visit his lab to see the next round of his experiments. He wants to confirm his initial results and determine whether the method can be used to repair other mutations.

He agreed to a visit, and on Monday, I became the first journalist to see these scientists cross a line that, until recently, had been taboo.

Chip Hitchcock adds a historical note: “Readers of antique SF may remember Heinlein’s elaborate description of deductive sorting of ova in Beyond This Horizon; another infodump bites the dust.”

(21) PUNISHER. The Verge invites everyone to watch The Punisher teaser trailer:

The Defenders hits Netflix today, and with it comes a look at Marvel’s upcoming show The Punisher. Frank Castle was introduced in season 2 of Daredevil. He’s played by Jon Bernthal, who will reprise his role as the gun-toting Army vet out for revenge.

Various rips of the trailer are popping up all over YouTube…

 

(22) SAY HELLO. Amazon Prime video will stream The Tick on August 25.

From creator Ben Edlund comes the hero you’ve been waiting for. In a world where heroes and villains have existed for decades, a mild-mannered accountant named Arthur has his life turned upside down when he runs into a mysterious blue superhero, The Tick, who insists that Arthur become the brains to his brawn in a crime-fighting duo. Will Arthur resist the call of Destiny or join the fight?

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Karl-Johan Norén, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Cosplay, Charlottesville, and Trump

Charlottesville: Attention-seeking fans attracted to media hotspots don’t always get the kind of reaction they want. Bleeding Cool News, in “The Supergirl Cosplayer Who Went To Charlottesville – Guess Whose Side She Was On”, reports that celebrity cosplayer Alisa Norris (aka Alisa Kiss) marched with her partner and other white supremacists last weekend. She was not there in costume, but drew attention to her participation by complaining on Facebook about how the media had portrayed them.

Once the negative reaction set in she denied being in the march, however, Bleeding Cool has video showing her walking hand-in-hand with her partner while he shouts anti-Semitic slogans.

Even the webmaster of her “adult entertainment” site is outraged and has taken it down in protest. The website, AlisaKiss.com, now only displays a message denouncing Alisa Kiss for promoting racism.

Phoenix: Cosplayers on the other side of the culture war are being called to protest Donald Trump’s appearance in Phoenix on August 22. The organizer of a counter event, Cosplayers Rally Against Hate, urges fans “to help drown out the hate groups that will make an appearance by showing up to the rally in cosplay.”

Notes:

1) We are not an official organization, but a rag-tag diverse group of creatives and costumers.

2) We plan to be as safe as possible. I encourage folks to plan exit strategies, and we will be following the main protest groups for updates and recommending staging/protesting areas.

3) Keep your messaging positive – dont react to hate. Also, PLEASE do not wear military-themed cosplay. Wear “safe” looking cosplays, and comfortable cosplays in case of the weather. Signs encouraged (some examples on the page).

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 8/17/17 Like A Scroll Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) MEMOIRS OF A HUGO ADMINISTRATOR. The first part of “The Administrator’s Tale”, Nicholas Whyte’s account of handling the Hugos for Worldcon 75 includes his feelings about the run-up to his awards year.

On my birthday in 2016, I was sitting in a noisy Brussels pub with a former Lib Dem MP and had to keep excusing myself as the Hugo finalists were announced by MidAmeriCon II on Twitter. Only one of the previous year’s slaters had been active this time, but again several ballot categories were dominated by candidates chosen by him. I was dismayed. Concerned that the EPH system as proposed might not be sufficient to protect the Hugos in future, I put my name to a proposal supporting an extra preliminary stage of voting to screen out troll nominees, and to another moving the qualifying date for nominating back to December 31 of the previous year rather than January 31.

Both of these were passed at the WSFS MidAmeriCon II business meeting in August and sent on to Helsinki for ratification. After the 2016 Hugos had been handed out (with No Award winning only twice rather than five times), Dave McCarty provided detailed voting statistics showing that EPH would have drastically reduced the number of slate finalists. The WSFS business meeting consequently ratified both EPH and the shift to six finalists (but up to five nominations per voter) in each category, these changes to take effect for my turn as administrator in 2017.

This concentrated our minds rather wonderfully on the need to test our software for processing nominations, newly and beautifully designed by Eemeli Aro, using the new rules…

(2) ALL YOUR BASE. However, a Hugo Administrator’s work is never done. Renay, of Best Fanzine winner Lady Business, has had a catastrophe.

Seanan McGuire’s Hugo seems to have arrived okay – maybe it’s that special base packing material.

(3) WOW WITHOUT BOW. Which gives us a smooth segue to Torsten Adair’s analysis of the Best Graphic Novel winner in “The 2017 Hugo Awards: No Dogs Allowed” at Comics Beat.

2,464 nominating ballots were validated this year. 842 of those (34%) nominated at least one graphic novel title. Why does a publisher want to make the final list? Well, aside from being a nominee, which gains you shelf cred with a blurb on the cover, and another reason to issue a press release, it does something even more important: it gets your work seen by every Worldcon attendee. How so? Each attendee can download the Voter Packet, containing many of the nominated works.

A publisher can send out 7,740 digital copies (2017 attendance) to some of the most passionate and well-read fans in science fiction, some of whom may have never considered reading graphic novels before, or realized that there were amazing graphic novels which appealed to their tastes!

(4) WORLDCON TECH. Kyuu Eturautti’s “Worldcon 75 – great challenge, mixed feelings” is a thoughtful and deeply interesting account of his experiences working IT at Helsinki.

So, much of this is just “we do it different”, without right or wrong, but some differences were more than that. I’ll just say it: there was a chronic lack of responsibility seen many times. Equipment that was loaned was never returned. Often enough people didn’t even remember where it was. “Oh, we gave it to someone who asked” was heard occasionally. There was also a lot of odd attitudes, people leaving to party just like that and assuming everyone else would pick up the work. The key parts of the tech team worked 10-16 hours each day. We didn’t catch drinks or meet new friends at bars. I walked an average of 19315 steps a day, almost solely inside Messukeskus and I was not the hardest working one of the team. I’ve heard some other departments also suffered from this attitude. Many had to fix things which were caused simply due to attitude problems and laziness. Of course this wasn’t the majority attitude, but it doesn’t take many a fail to cause notable fusterclucks.

I suppose the biggest problem and reason for massive overworking was the differing staff policy which made it very hard to recruit help. Allow me to summarise. 1. In a Finnish con of around this size, a key staff member would get free tickets for himself and perhaps also friends, free warm meals each day, possibly costs of transportation to pre-con workshops and the con, basic accommodation during the con, a t-shirt and a staff only dead dog party with free food and free drinks, alcoholic and non alcoholic (alcohol in limited amounts, of course). 2. At Worldcon, a key staff member had to pay for entry, which even for a first timer was three times a common convention ticket price. There was partial food compensation, no travel costs compensation, no accommodation, a t-shirt and an open for all dead dog party with nothing free, which was full and out of food by the time our department was only halfway done packing.

(5) FIVE MORE. Steven J. Wright, inspired by Victor Milán’s choice of “five works of SFF which deserve (in his opinion) not to be forgotten” (in yesterday’s Scroll), makes recommendations of his own in “Five from the Forests of my Memory”. For example:

Elizabeth Lynn’s classy story A Different Light is also known to the cognoscenti – it’s been reviewed by James Nicoll, but, let’s face it, James knows all the books.  This story of an artist who gives up his life for an outer-space adventure manages to be clever and exciting and compassionate all at once.  Elizabeth Lynn has a substantial body of work besides, but I think this one deserves not to be overlooked.

(6) TEXAS REMEMBRANCE. The Texas Senate adopted a resolution honoring the late Julie Gomoll’s many accomplishments and important work in the city of Austin.

(7) HARRIS OBIT. Stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris was killed August 14 on the set of Deadpool 2 while performing a stunt on a motorcycle. She is known for being the first African-American female professional road racer. Deadpool 2 was her first movie as a stunt performer. She was the stand-in for Zazie Beetz who is playing the mutant mercenary Domino.  Vancouver authorities shut down production while they investigated, but ScienceFiction.com reports shooting has now resumed.

Joi Harris had been riding motorcycles since 2013 and had more than 1,500 hours of practice under her belt prior to the incident. She started competing in the American Sportbike Racing Association/Championship Cup Series in 2014 and was an advocate for female racing. Here’s some of what she had to say on her official website.

(8) KIM POOR OBIT. Astronomical artist Kim Poor (1952-2017) died August 16 of ataxia. His NASA bio lists his extensive credits:

…[His art appeared in] Omni, Science Digest, Discover, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Germany’s Kosmos, and the Russia’s popular Ogonjok. His book credits include Smithsonian Books, Time-Life Books and Carl Sagan’s Comet. Movies and TV often use his work as background props as in Alien Nation, Seaquest and Babylon 5.

Kim’s artwork is found in textbooks, encyclopedias, planetarium shows and scientific presentations. His work has been commissioned by the National Air& Space Museum and is found in collections worldwide, including those of many astronauts and NASA personnel. He headed up an American delegation of space artists who were brought to Moscow, USSR in 1987 to display their work for the thirtieth anniversary of Sputnik. His work hangs in the Yuri Gagarin Museum in Star City, Russia. This was one of the first overtures of Gorbachev’s glasnost, and resulted in an ongoing series of cooperative workshops between Russian and American artists. Their efforts culminated in a joint exhibition at the National Air & Space Museum in 1992.

He was also the founder of Novaspace, and the creator that brought Spacefest to life. A gallery of his art prints is here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 17 – Neil Clarke

(10) WHO KNEW? Jeff VanderMeer learned that the new Doctor Who is reading his books from Glamour’s follow-along visit with actress Jodie Whittaker on the set of Broadchurch. “Ever wondered what a day in the life of the first female Doctor Who looks like?”

11.40am

Straight into make-up, one of my favourite parts of the day. You get to catch up with all the cast, we’re just in a row chatting. Beth’s ‘no make-up’ make-up takes 45 minutes max, it’s blow-drying my frizzy hair that can take time.

1pm

After a lamb curry from catering, we’re on set. There’s lots of waiting, so I always have a book. I’ve nearly finished the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer.

(11) I STREAM, YOU STREAM. When Camestros Felapton ran out of things he wanted to watch, he went back to a show he’d originally given up on — “Review: Killjoys (Syfy, Netflix)”.

The initial premise of the show was this. On a planetary system with a bunch of human colonised moons (known as the Quad), a kind of freelance, bounty-hunting, law enforcement agency called the RAC catches (or sometimes kills) wanted criminals. The bounty hunters are known as Killjoys because “joys” are the local currency and they (occasionally) kill people. At the start of the season, the two main characters are a two person team Dutch (an ex-assassin) and Johnny Jaqobi (a less amoral and more geeky pilot) as well as their (stolen) spaceship/AI Lucy. The initial episodes involved the arrival of Johnny’s brother Da’vin into the system, an ex-soldier with psychological trauma.

While not terrible, it also wasn’t great. The three main actors were good, in particular, Hannah John-Kamen as Dutch managed to stop her role as sexy-badass-assassin from being actively bad and say corny lines with conviction. The stories themselves were a bit dull (mainly catch the baddy of the week) and while the premise of the show was original it all somehow felt terribly derivative. The Firefly DNA was obvious but also a heap of tropes from everywhere and everything just piled up together in the apparent hope that something would stick. Dutch’s backstory as a child raised to be a deadly killer who got away from that life etc smacked of a show that wanted depth just by throwing tragedy at its characters….

(12) OBI-WAN GOES SOLO. Er, I’m sorry, I’ll read that again. Deadline’s Anthony D’Allesandro and Anita Busch, in “‘Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie In Works With Stephen Daldry In Early Talks To Direct”, says that Disney is planning a stand-alone Obi-Wan Kenobi film. They want Stephen Daldry, who got Oscar nominations for The Reader, The Hours, and Billy Elliot to direct.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is in early talks with three-time Oscar nominated director Stephen Daldry on a Star Wars standalone Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. No word on casting and at this time there is no deal and no script.

(13) HERE, TAKE THIS INTERNET.

(14) MASTERS OF DYSTOPIA. Today’s installment of NPR’s 1a program, “The Next Chapter For Dystopian Literature”, boasted a hall of fame lineup. You can listen to it at the link.

Today’s book lovers are hungry for stories of dark, dystopian futures. Novels like “1984,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Parable of the Sower” are hard to keep in stock these days.

But what’s inspiring the next generation of dystopian narratives? We assemble a panel of authors to talk about how current events, national politics and international relations inspire their new works and appeal to an audience with an affinity for apocalyptic endings.

Guests

Cory Doctorow Science fiction author, co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.

N.K. Jemisin Bestselling author of the “Inheritance” series and the “Broken Earth” trilogy. She’s won the Hugo Award for the past two years.

Paolo Bacigalupi Bestselling author of more than a half-dozen books, including “The Wind-Up Girl” and “The Water Knife”

Omar el Akkad Award-winning journalist and author of “American War”

(15) TEASER. Gnome Alone comes to theaters October 13.

From the producer of SHREK and the director of NUT JOB, GNOME ALONE is an energetic animated movie about one girl’s journey to discover the hero within herself. After moving to a new city with her mother, Chloe (Becky G) finds herself in a new house that creaks, a new school with creeps, and mysterious garden gnomes that are kind of freaky. No sooner has Chloe tried to fit in, but aliens from another dimension descend upon her house and threaten everything! To top it all off, the gnomes in her house come to life and ask for help to save the world. Now, the only thing standing between Chloe and the end of life as we know it are her new gnome-tastic friends, her neighbor Liam (Josh Peck) and the strength within. It’s up to Chloe and Liam to become the champions they’ve always been inside, and in the process discover that no matter where you are, you’re never GNOME ALONE!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Karl-Johan Norén, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (with an uninvited assist from moi).]