Cats Sleep on SFF: Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Doctor Science guides us through what might be called the game of cat and dragons:

This is Sneakers, age 18 years 7 months, sleeping on (or next to) Within the Sanctuary of Wings. The dragon bedspread is from Full Moon Loom, btw.

The picture of him with The Silmarillion is from April 2008, when he was much younger and much larger, but clearly ahead of his time when it comes to sleeping on or near SFF.

Sneakers has been fading for a while and we really thought he had reached the end of the line last week, we were getting ready to make The Call. But he’s now on appetite-stimulating medication, is eating (etc.) again, and definitely acting like there’s life in the old boy yet. He’s a self-rescue who turned up at our door in December 1999 aged about 10 weeks (so-called humans used to dump pets in the fields next to our house), saying “Bastet sent me”. I’m allergic to some cats, but not him.


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Tool Talk

The April 20 Pixel Scroll quoted several paragraphs from Declan Finn’s blog post “The John Ringo and ConCarolinas issue” (see item 13) ending with this one —

On THEIR OWN TERMS, I should be concerned to even walk the halls as a regular attendee carrying a John Ringo book. While I have no problem defending myself, I to go conventions to have a good time. I don’t want to spend the majority of the con in cuffs because some dickheads decide “You’re a Ringo fan, therefore you’re [insert cliche lefty insults here]” and therefore I have to beat them senseless.

Today Robert D. Ries smugly chastised me in comments:

I am curious: Is your misquote of Declan Finn intentional, or simply incompetence?

Because the omitted “in self defense” gives the statement an entirely different tone and meaning.

Don’t worry, I don’t expect a retraction, correction OR apology. Your history of such incidents is obvious.

Why? Because that paragraph in Finn’s post now reads like this

Finn has rewritten the line since I quoted him.

However, the Google cache file at this hour still has the original text:

Will Robert D. Ries be more surprised or disappointed to learn it is possible to document the original quote? Surprised enough to apologize?

Pixel Scroll 4/22/18 The Inevitable Filer Recursion: A Meteorologist In Florida Named “Pixel Scroll”

(1) GONE OVERBOARD. Polling geek site FiveThirtyEight analyzes BoardGameGeek’s top rating for Gloomhaven: “Players Have Crowned A New Best Board Game — And It May Be Tough To Topple”.

…A new game now tops those rankings: It’s called Gloomhaven, and it’s the current BoardGameGeek No. 1, having taken over the top spot this past winter. The game has won scads of awards, including more than a handful of Golden Geeks and a Scelto dai Goblin — the goblins’ choice. Its place atop the BoardGameGeek list cements its status as a flagship of the current golden age….

In Gloomhaven (which retails for $215), “players will take on the role of a wandering mercenary with their own special set of skills and their own reasons for traveling to this remote corner of the world. Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins.” The game’s website likens it to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. Just don’t forget your swords or spells. Childres attributes his game’s success, at least among the hardcore denizens of BoardGameGeek, to the way it improves on the appeal of the roleplaying of Dungeons & Dragons, in which crawling dungeons can become rote. In Gloomhaven, you have special abilities that you can use over and over, and once you use them, you can watch them make cool stuff happen. It’s heavy on the fun stuff, rather than the grind of repetitious orc slaying, and as the BoardGameGeek leaderboard shows, gamers are appreciative.

(2) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. ConStellation 9 in Lincoln, Nebraska says funds raised this weekend put John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative over the top.

(3) DPP DELAYED. The German SFF event Phantastika 2018 has been cancelled, and taken with it this year’s Deutscher Phantastik Preis ceremony. Event organizer Mike Hillenbrand told an interviewer the award will still be given, at a time to be determined:

MH: …The DPP will be back this year, and we hope to get a grant as well. The joke is that we already had a name sponsor and several category sponsors for the award ceremony, and last year we had well over 600 guests at the ceremony – and I think the DPP is too important to call it off. How, where and if there will be a ceremony, but of course we have to discuss with the editors of phantastik-news.de and then someone will make known. Soon. 🙂

English version via Google Translate.

(4) BID ‘EM UP. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is taking bids on this item til 5 p.m. April 26: “Stephen Hawking Signed Book From 1973 — One of the Scarcest of Signatures”.

Stephen Hawking book signed from 1973, shortly before Hawking was not able to write his name due to ALS. Hawking signed this book, ”The Archaeology of the Industrial Revolution”, along with several other members of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge University, on the occasion of an employee leaving his job as a computer operator. Hawking signs the half-title page, ”Stephen Hawking”, in stilted, but legible writing, below the signatures of other faculty members and below the gift inscription, ”With gratitude and best wishes from the friends of the IOA computer staff.”

It was at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge where Hawking, as a research scientist, made some of his earliest scientific breakthroughs regarding black holes and quantum mechanics. Also in 1973, he published his important first book, ”The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time” which is now considered a classic and has been printed many times over. It was also at this time that ALS was overtaking Hawkings physically, and he would be confined to a wheelchair by 1975.

(5) BLACK PANTHER IN CHINA. Carl Slaughter says: “In this man on the street survey, Chinese people really open up about the Black Panther movie.  Easy to read subtitles with grammatically correct translation is a major bonus.” The takes are of varying sophistication.

(6) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. The Verge’s space reporter Loren Grush has written a story about commercial spaceflight — with emphasis on commercial: “Product launch: a trip to the Taco Bell Space Station”. It’s satire, but is it so far from Delos Harriman’s efforts?

Over my headset, I hear the flight controller counting down on the launch live stream.

“T-minus five minutes to liftoff.”

I don’t think my heart has ever pounded this hard. I’m strapped into a seat inside one of SpaceX’s SpriteDragon™ capsules, sitting on top of a Pepsi™ Falcon 9 rocket. And I’m just 300 seconds away from my first trip to space. With every second that ticks away, my nerves send an electric shock throughout my body. I’ve never been more exhilarated or more petrified….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 22, 1953 Invaders from Mars was released.

(8) GOTTESMAN OBIT. Star Trek fan Regina Gottesman (1948-2018) died April 17 reports Fanlore. A fanwriter and fanzine publisher, in 1982, she was nominated for a FanQaward. In a bio written at that time Gottesman said about herself:

She was involved with the New York STAR TREK conventions (The Committee Cons) from their inception, has worked on Lunacons (this year she edited the Program Book), and has attended many cons, both media and sf. TIME WARP was her first “official” ‘zine experience’, and, although no longer associated with TIME WARP (as of issue #6), she now co-edits COMLINK The STAR WARS and Media Letterzine, and has started her own’ zine, ERRANTRY….

(9) WINDOW ON GREEN TOWN. Atlas Obscura would like to show you around “Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan”.

Spend an afternoon visiting Bradbury’s greatest muse—the town now known as Green Town.

Ray Bradbury is a towering legend in the world of science fiction and horror, a man among the greats of American literature. Whether his stories were set in futuristic dystopias, nightmarish carnivals, or abandoned Martian cities, in Bradbury’s mind they all happened in Green Town—the pseudonym he gave to Waukegan, Illinois— his hometown.

Come see Waukegan, Illinois, through the eyes of Ray Bradbury with the Atlas Obscura Society Chicago. You’ll get a peek into the mind of the author as we are guided to places that toe the line between his life and his fiction. Walk the streets that both Ray and his characters walked, while seeing the places that molded the mind of one of the most creative authors of the last century.

(10) MOMENTUM. John Seavey’s Storytelling Engines: How Writers Keep Superhero Sagas Going and Going! comes out May 16. Here’s what readers will learn:

Every continuing series has an engine…

This engine is a collection of ideas, characters, and settings that help writers to generate good stories. STORYTELLING ENGINES examines comics from Fantastic Four and Superman to Spider-Woman and Dial H for H-E-R-O to find out which parts of that engine make a series easier to write, and which parts make a writer’s life miserable!

  • Why did Alfred the Butler have to die?
  • How did the Comics Code create Eclipso?
  • What do Aquaman and Thor have in common?
  • How does Conan the Barbarian resemble Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in STORYTELLING ENGINES!

(11) POETRY JUDGE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has named John W. Sexton as the judge of its 2018 Speculative Poetry Contest. The contest opens June 1st. More details can be found here.

John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives in the Republic of Ireland. He is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent being the imminent Futures Pass, from Salmon Poetry. His earlier collections include Vortex (2005), Petit Mal (2009) and The Offspring of the Moon(2013). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTÉ Radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002. Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press: The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons of Shiva,which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem “The Green Owl” won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. (Photo of John W. Sexton courtesy of Niall Hartnett.)

The contest chair is Holly Lyn Walrath:

The SFPA is honored to have Holly Lyn Walrath as our 2018 contest chair to coordinate this process. She is a writer of poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Liminality, Eye to the Telescope, and elsewhere. She is a freelance editor and volunteer with Writespace literary center in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or at hlwalrath.com.

(12) DEADPOOL SCOOPS. ScreenRant guides you to “25 Deadpool Easter Eggs And Secrets Only True Fans Noticed.”

(13) WIN BY A HEAD. NPR’s Jason Sheehan likes the new Scalzi: “In ‘Head On,’ Killer Robots, Dogged Gumshoes … And A Very Important Cat”.

I love that the entire plot of John Scalzi’s newest novel, Head On, hinges on a cat.

I mean, it’s such a stupid idea. It’s a gimmick that’s been played straight, played crooked, played backwards and forwards in so many stories that there’s just no trope-life left in it. Cat as McGuffin. Cat as material witness. Cat as embodiment of damsels in distress. It’s the literary equivalent of Scooby Doo and the gang pulling the rubber mask off old Mr. McGillicutty the groundskeeper because he was the pirate ghost all along.

And I love that Scalzi did it anyway. Mostly because he found a new way to use it (in addition to all the old ways in which he absolutely uses Donut the cat) which, in conforming so literally to the defining nature of science fiction, somehow makes it seem new and fresh. The #1 thing that defines science fiction — that separates I, Robot from War and Peace — is that technology (no matter what it is) must play a pivotal role in the development of the plot. Read: It ain’t enough just to have spaceships, the spaceships have to matter, get it?

(14) THAT OTHER FIRST LADY. Dear to many fannish hearts: “The master blender who is Scotch whisky’s First Lady”.

Rachel Barrie is one of the few women ever to hold the title of Scotch whisky master blender.

In her 26-year career, Rachel has sniffed or sipped 150,000 different whiskies.

She is a trailblazer in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry, having held the coveted title since 2003.

As arguably the most prominent woman in her field, Rachel can reasonably be described at the First Lady of Scotch whisky.

(15) FIAT LUX. The BBC considers the question: “Is ‘bisexual lighting’ a new cinematic phenomenon?”

The under-representation of bisexuality on screen has been debated for a number of years, and some have seized on bisexual lighting as an empowering visual device.

Reflecting this, the Pantone Color Institute named Ultra Violet as its colour of the year for 2018, referencing the influence of “Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix”.

But is it really a tool to represent bisexuality, or are people reading too much into neon-tinged stylisation?

(16) THIRD ROBOT THEME. “Europe’s Mars rover takes shape” — it can wheel-walk out of sand traps that ended Spirit. They’re building three: one to stress-test, one to send, and one to test fixes on. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Wonder if anyone’s hoping it will be used for signaling as in The Martian)?”

So, here it is. Europe’s Mars rover. Or rather, a copy of it.

This is what they call the Structural Thermal Model, or STM. It is one of three rovers that will be built as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2020 mission to search for life on the Red Planet. And, no, we’re not sending all three to the Red Planet.

The STM is used to prove the design. It will go through a tough testing regime to check the rover that does launch to Mars – the “flight model” – will be able to cope with whatever is thrown at it.

What’s the third robot for? It stays on Earth and is used to troubleshoot any problems. If mission control needs to re-write a piece of software to overcome some glitch on the flight rover, the patch will be trialled first on the “engineering model” before being sent up to the Red Planet.

(17) TO BOLDLY MEDDLE. This is funny. See the image at the link. (Because it might not be polite of me to gank an image belonging to a Deviant Art artist. I’m not sure.)

A repaint of the Galileo shuttle as the Mystery Machine. Now comes the question of what those Meddling Kids would be in the Trekverse.  Velma, of course, would be a Vulcan but I’m not sure as to what the rest would be.  Any ideas?

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

2018 Tolkien Society Awards

Best Artwork 2018: “The Hunt” by Jenny Dolfen

The winners of The Tolkien Society Awards 2018 were announced April 22. The awards were voted by members from shortlists prepared by the Society’s Trustees.

The Society’s awards —

recognize excellence in the fields of Tolkien scholarship and fandom, highlighting our long-standing charitable objective to “seek to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE.”

Best Artwork

Best Article

Best Book

  • Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. by Christopher Tolkien

Best Website

Outstanding Contribution Award

  • Priscilla Tolkien

BSFS/Balticon Offer to Universal FanCon Attendees

[Press release]

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, sponsors of Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention is saddened to hear of the postponement of Universal FanCon as we had hoped to meet many fans at the fan table we had arranged at the convention. Because fandom is family we have decided to offer the following assistance to registered Universal FanCon attendees.

On Friday, April 27, 2018 we will host an impromptu social for Universal Fan Con registrants from 6:00pm till 9:00pm (or when folks want to leave) at the BSFS Building. Further Universal Fan Con registrants in Baltimore for the weekend are also invited to our Anime Social, Book Discussion and general Social Meeting on Saturday, April 28th and the Tabletop Role-Playing Game Event on April 29th all at the BSFS Building. Check our website at www.bsfs.org for details and directions.

In addition, this one time, we are breaking with our traditional policy of never offering discounts on Balticon membership. (Balticon will be held May 25-28, 2018) We can not change the online registration program at this late date, but anyone showing up at Balticon and buying a membership at the door will receive a 30% discount off the membership if they show printed proof they were registered at Universal Fan Con. Proof can be a receipt from Universal Fan Con, or a credit card statement showing payment etc…

Further, although we have the same number of dealers tables already sold as last year’s Balticon the dealers room manager will reduce the isle width back to the width used every year except last year to allow a few more tables. Any dealer not already in at Balticon, with printed proof of paying for a table at Universal Fan Con, will receive a 30% discount on our normal dealers table rate if space is available. For Universal Fan Con artists (with printed proof) wanting to exhibit at our art show, if they are not already exhibiting at Balticon, they will receive a 30% discount off art show hanging fees. (space available) Program participants can also ask to be on program and we will try, but time is getting short to fit more onto the schedule. To learn about participating in Balticon, Universal Fan Con registrants should check our website at www.balticon.org We hope these actions will help until Universal Fan Con can reschedule their event.

[This statement from the BSFS Board of Directors was submitted by BSFS President Dale Arnold.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Verne Troyer (1969-2018)

Verne Troyer as Mini-Me in Austin Powers

By Steve Green: Verne Troyer, U.S. actor, died April 21, aged 49. Genre roles include Pinocchio’s Revenge, Jingle All the Way (both 1996), Men in Black, Wishmaster (both 1997), Young Hercules (one episode, 1998), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (one episode, 2002), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), Gnome Alone (2015). Hipsters, Gangsters, Aliens and Geeks is due out next year.

Cats Sleep on SFF: Space Opera

Lis Riba’s cat is really into books:

She may not understand prepositions, but Small (inherited from Stephanie Clarkson ) is definitely a diva. So, when she saw the title of my current read, she had to check it out.

Plus, a more posed photo so everyone can better admire her. 🙂


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 4/20/18 A Fool And His Pixels Are Soon Parted

(1) SF IN NYT. Amal El-Mohtar’s latest Otherworldly book review column for the New York Times covers “Princesses, Priestesses and Time Travel: What’s New in Science Fiction and Fantasy”

What does it mean to retell a story? Does it mean dressing up a familiar tale in different clothes? Reading it against its grain? Replacing parts of a story like boards in a ship, until an old story’s shape is built of entirely new wood? This month, I’m looking at recent books that are all retellings of one sort or another.

(2) EDITORS YOU RECOGNIZE. Amber Troska pays tribute to two editors in “Shaping the Speculative Fiction World: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling”.

It is difficult to overestimate the tremendous value of editors. The contributions that authors make to their respective fields, and their impact on the readers that encounter their work, can’t be overstated either, of course—but it is equally important to remember that no truly great author goes it alone; there are always strong editors behind the scenes, shaping the individual stories themselves as well as the publishing world at large. The Hugo Awards are named for an editor, after all.

Yet I can count most of the editors I recognize by name on one hand. Even with such a limited group to choose from, only two have had an extremely significant, identifiable impact on me as a reader: Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. I could never hope to cover everything the two have contributed to the publishing world—their careers have stretched too far and are too varied and far-reaching for me to do them full justice. However, there are several projects that are worth looking at in order to appreciate their impact and get a sense of how influential their work has been, and continues to be.

(3) AFRICAN SF EDITORS. From The Minnesota Review: “Editor Interview: Mazi Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu of Omenana”.

Mazi Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu are co-founders and editors of Omenana, a web-based literary magazine dedicated to publishing speculative/sci-fi/fantasy fiction by African writers. In this interview with Uche Okonkwo, Mazi Chiagozie and Chinelo talk African speculative fiction, life lessons, and writing and publishing as a labour of love.

UCHE OKONKWO: This idea that Africans don’t write sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction is, I believe, part of the reason you started Omenana. Where do you suppose this idea comes/came from and why did/does it persist?

MAZI CHIAGOZIE: I think it comes from that general misconception that Africa is a backward place that hasn’t played any notable role in man’s journey to the stars. So even Africans look at Africa as this place whose people only concern themselves with war, famine, dancing, and procreation. It’s a view that has been propagated for a long time and has now come to offer a copout for people who don’t want to do the work needed to unravel the complexity that is Africa and her varied nations and peoples. We are doing our bit to change the perception, but it continues to persist. And with Wakanda being a fictional place, will continue to persist.

CHINELO ONWUALU: I think the idea that Africans don’t write speculative fiction is born out of the rather racist definitions that limit what speculative fiction is to the sorts of things written by white men in North America and Europe. Thus, when Africans write speculatively, it’s often dismissed as folklore or fable telling.

I feel many of us have adopted this same attitude as part of the deep-seeded practicality that is common with a lot of oppressed groups. Because our systems are so broken – often by colonialist design – we don’t see a lot of value in imaginative endeavours that might divert our energies from the struggle for daily survival. Combined with the devaluation of cultural artefacts like our stories, traditions and beliefs, many of us end up dismissing creative pursuits as wastes of time.

(4) ONCE LESS IN THE BREACH DEAR FRIENDS. David Langford tells about a program Terry Pratchett asked him to write in “The Silicon Critic” at the Milford SF Writers blog

Milford participants often have distinctive personal crotchets when commenting on stories, and John Brunner’s (as I remember from the 1980s) was a particular sensitivity to repetition. Sometimes it seemed that the unintended re-use of a significant word too soon after its last appearance pained him more than a gaping plot hole. The “deliberate repetition for effect” card could be played only so often, especially if you hadn’t noticed the repetition of “repetition” and the fact that it’s now appeared four times in one paragraph.

Terry Pratchett was another author who worried about such things. In 1998 he invited me to write a little Windows application to monitor his own use of favourite words. This, he stipulated, was to be named Bicarb because the idea was to stop you repeating….

(5) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. The Hollywood Reporter picked up the con’s Twitter announcements: “Universal FanCon Suddenly Postponed a Week Before Event”

The Baltimore convention created to celebrate diversity has not been rescheduled.

A week out from its announced debut, organizers have confirmed that Universal Fan Con, the new convention created to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in fandom, will not take place and has been postponed to an as-yet unspecified date.

In a series of tweets, organizers said that they were “devastated to make this postponement decision,” and shared that there is a “contingency plan” for those whose travel to Baltimore next week was already booked and are unable to reschedule their trip.

Although no official reason has yet been given for the sudden postponement — social media accounts for the event were promoting the show as recently as yesterday — a source told Heat Vision that the event “has a financial deficit.” In January, Heat Vision talked to Universal FanCon executive director Robert Butler, who said that the Kickstarter campaign to fund the show had been “a greater success than we could have imagined,” raising twice the amount initially asked for….

One committee member announced her resignation:

One dealer publicized how the cancellation is affecting him financially – start the thread here.

The con committee now has posted a FAQ on their website: http://www.universalfancon.com/. They claim the con will be held at a later date.

Why are you postponing FanCon?

Currently we are in a financial deficit that will not allow us to operate the convention within budget. Accordingly, we have made the decision to postpone and reschedule FanCon so we can put forward the type of event our fans deserve.

Why did you wait so long to postpone the event?

The FanCon team worked really hard up to the last minute to put forward an amazing event. However, it became clear in our last team meeting that we would not be able to deliver the event the fans deserved without more time.

How long will the event be postponed?

Once we are able to fully assess our options, we will make an announcement.

(6) ANDERSON OBIT. Harry Anderson (1952-2018): US actor and writer, died April 16, aged 65. Genre roles include Tales from the Darkside (one episode, 1985), Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1990), It (1990), Harvey (1996), Lois & Clark (one episode, 1997), Nightmare Ned (voice for video game, 1997), Noddy (one episode, 1998). He also wrote one 1992 episode of Tales from the Crypt.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 – George Takei
  • Born April 20, 1939 – Peter S. Beagle
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen discovered it’s not all play time when you’re a werewolf.

(9) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will “Share spring rolls with Stoker Award-winning author Elizabeth Massie” in Episode 64 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elisabeth Massie

It’s time to head to Providence, Rhode Island for the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during this year’s StokerCon, following my Italian lunch with Paul Di Filippo and a Portuguese dinner with Victor LaValle.

This episode I wandered off with one of the con’s Guests of Honor, Elizabeth Massie, for lunch at Apsara, a restaurant which serves up Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cuisine. Massie made her first professional fiction sale 35 years ago, and since then has won two Bram Stoker Awards for the critically acclaimed novels and short stories which followed.

We discussed why Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner is the one to thank for her Stoker Award-winning first novel Sineater, how reading Robert Bloch’s Psycho at a young age was like a knife to her heart, which episode of Twilight Zone scared the crap out of her, why you’ll probably never get to read her Millennium and Law & Order novels, her nearly impossible task of writing one spooky book for each of the 50 states in the U.S, why Kolchak: The Night Stalker was her favorite franchise to play in, the great-great grandfather who cut off his own head with a homemade guillotine, which Dark Shadows secret was only revealed in her tie-in novel, and much more.

(10) NO B5. “J. Michael Straczynski Says With Current Warner Bros. Execs, Babylon 5 Never Going to Happen”Bleeding Cool has the story:

During an extended series of tweets on Thursday evening, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski expressed at length that the award winning science fiction series’ current television rights holder Warner Bros. has no intention of either doing anything with the license themselves, or of letting anyone else do anything with it….

(11) HELP WANTED. Hugo nominee nerds of a feather has put out a call: “New Contributors Wanted: 2018”.

Who we’re looking for: we are looking for people who (1) write well and don’t need extensive copyediting, (b) appreciate our brand of humor, (c) understand and are ready to abide by our established format and scoring system and (d) are otherwise good fits with our voice and style. We are not, however, looking for automatons who agree with the rest of us on anything and everything.

We would also like to note that one of our goals is to feature a diverse range of voices on the topics that matter to us. As such, we encourage writers of all backgrounds to apply.

Caveat: we know lots of you have awesome projects you want everyone to know about, but since these are regular contributor positions, we would like to emphasize that this would not be an appropriate forum to use for promoting that awesomeness (aside from your blogging awesomeness, of course).

(12) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Here’s a no good very bad article for everyone to disagree with: Olivia Ovenden asks “What’s Going Wrong With Sci-Fi?” at Esquire.

“One of the problems with science fiction,” said Ridley Scott back in 2012 ahead of the release of Prometheus, “is the fact that everything is used up. Every type of spacesuit, every type of spacecraft is vaguely familiar. The corridors are similar, the planets are similar. So what you try to do is lean more heavily on the story and the characters.”

Great science fiction has always done just that. So why have a recent string of releases shown less interest in the story than the spaceships? Is sci-fi a genre in trouble?

(13) PUNCH BROTHERS, PUNCH WITH CARE. Declan Finn says his personal solution would be what Asimov described as “the last resort of the incompetent” — “The John Ringo and ConCarolinas issue”.

I’ve been scratching my head for a while about whether or not I was going to do a blog post for the whole ConCarolinas debacle.

You know, how they told John Ringo that they couldn’t guarantee his safety, etc. THEN the announcement they released about his not attending seemed … poorly managed.

To be honest, I’d never heard of them until this fashla happened. So they made a great first impression on me.

So much so that they convinced to never attend their convention, as a guest or even as just an attendee.

And no, it’s not necessarily “Oh, look what they did to Ringo.”

I am doing something radical. I will take them ENTIRELY AT THEIR WORD that they can’t guarantee the safety of one of their own guests against the angry hordes of Social Justice Zombies.

On THEIR OWN TERMS, I should be concerned to even walk the halls as a regular attendee carrying a John Ringo book. While I have no problem defending myself, I to go conventions to have a good time. I don’t want to spend the majority of the con in cuffs because some dickheads decide “You’re a Ringo fan, therefore you’re [insert cliche lefty insults here]” and therefore I have to beat them senseless.

(14) ERASURE. Sarah A. Hoyt rehashed Sad Puppy history in “Of Conservatives And Conventions” [Internet Archive link] at PJ Media.

…I went over to John Ringo’s page and read about it.  As far as I could tell, a bunch of people on Twitter had been badgering both the con-committee and the other (very leftist) guest about inviting someone who was… what the heck was he?  I don’t know.

In the beginning, the accusation against him was that he was “Puppy Adjacent.”

For those of you wanting to follow this at home, the score card is this: Five years ago, my friend Larry Correia started a movement called Sad Puppies, which was a half joking attempt to get books not of solid leftist bent (not even right wing, just not preachy left) nominated for the Hugo, which used to be one of the most prestigious fan awards in science fiction.

When Larry tired of the game after two years, my friend Brad Torgersen took it over…

Vox Day was a little offended to find that he and the Rabid Puppies have been erased from Hoyt’s version of history — “SJWs in SF: Sad Puppy version” [Internet Archive link.]

I find this rather fascinating for what it omits. The Baen cum Sad Puppies crowd is in an uncomfortable position not terribly different from that of Never Trump and the cuckservatives. They are accustomed to being the sole opposition to the SJWs in science fiction, and viewing themselves as the proper and respectable opposition, so they really don’t know what to do about the Rabid Puppies or the considerably less accommodating opposition that is now represented by Castalia House, Arkhaven, and Dark Legion. Nor do they understand how various trends favor the growth of our influence, in part at their expense.

So, they push a narrative to the public in which we don’t exist, even though without us, Sad Puppies would have remained what it was prior to our involvement, a minor bump in the road that didn’t even require any suppression outside of the usual routine. This is not to say that what they did was not admirable, and indeed, their construction of the Dragon Awards will likely prove to be more significant in the long run than our demolition of the Hugo Awards. I merely observe that their efforts would have been insufficient in our absence.

But unlike the SJW narrative, the Sad Puppy narrative does not harm us at all. I am content to let them push it in peace; after all, they are not the enemy. Right now, we are marshaling our forces and preparing to engage in offensives on multiple fronts, some of which are known and others which will prove to be unexpected….

Let the others trail in our wake at their own pace. As long as they refrain from either attacking us or getting in our way, they are not part of the problem. They are trying to be part of the solution, even if they go about it in different and suboptimal ways.

[Hat tip to Camestros Felapton.]

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in Stems, Scottish animator Ainslie Henderson shows how he takes found objects and turns them into stop-motion animation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]