Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Shatner, Villenueve Honored With Order of Canada

William Shatner and Denis Villeneuve have been named Officers of the Order of Canada. Both celebrities came from Montreal and are perhaps the most recognizable names among the 125 or so honored this year. (Here is the complete list.)

Shatner, 86, was included not only for his work on the screen, but also for his charity work “related to health care, the environment and the well-being of children”

Villeneuve’s credits include the movies Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

TAFF News 3 Features Candidate Confessions

Need help deciding who to vote for in the 2018 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race?

The third issue of TAFF News [PDF file] is available on the TAFF Website with the candidates’ answers to a questionnaire. Find out what Johan Anglemark, Fia Karlsson, and Helena McCallum had to say when they were asked these probative fannish questions —

1) Tell us something about yourself and fandom: where did it begin for you and when.

2) Are there any specific subgenres of Science Fiction & Fantasy you prefer? e.g., hard science, alternative history, steampunk, etc.

3) Describe your fannish activity: clubs you’ve been in, official roles (club president, or whatever), cons you’ve attended/worked on, and fanzines you’ve produced, and so forth.

4) What was the craziest or most fun thing you have ever done or experienced in fandom?

TAFF voting to pick a European delegate to the San Jose Worldcon is open until midnight EST of April 3, 2018. Get the ballot and voting information on the TAFF website.

Pixel Scroll 12/30/17 Happy Scrollidays To All Who Pixelate

(1) NEW BLACK SFF INITIATIVE. The Chicago Tribune reports — “Chicago collective puts black characters in fantasy, horror and sci-fi films”.

When Chris Adams was a teen growing up in the Far South Side’s Roseland area, he would often imagine himself living in space and existing alongside alien creatures such as those in “Star Wars.”

Or he would picture an alternate reality, where black people were served by robots and lived in houses filled with futuristic devices or battled enormous, prehistoric monsters.

“I’ve (long) been a big fan of fantasy films and horror and sci-fi,” he said. “But black people are underrepresented in those genres. When we are there, we’re the first to die.”

Hoping to bring fresh voices and perspectives to film, Adams recently launched a project with a collective of Chicago filmmakers that concentrates on producing short movies.

Rather than giving voice to the typical stories of violence, grief or family drama, these filmmakers want to showcase fantasy, horror and science fiction films with black characters as the focus.

Their effort comes at a time when there is an increasing appetite for films and television shows that present black lives from nuanced and nonstereotypical perspectives.

Still, Adams and his Paradigm Grey project are unusual because the independent films center on black characters but have very little to do with the realities African-Americans experience. All five of the filmmakers and production crews involved in the group hail from the Chicago region and shoot their projects here, yet they avoid narratives centered on poverty, joblessness, drug abuse, corruption or other topics often central to storylines involving black characters.

With their combined reputations, they hope to take their films from underground to a wider audience, Adams said.

“Nearly everyone who joined on to this project were frustrated with the current state of filming,” he said. “The actors were sick of playing drug dealers, prostitutes, gangbangers and the typical roles you see us in. We all wanted a chance to do something completely imaginative. So this project was like a breath of fresh air.”

(2) PULPFEST PROGRAM POSTED. PulpFest has announced its planned program for the convention to be held July 26 – 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh. Joe Lansdale will be PulpFest Guest of Honor. They’ll be honoring the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. They’ll also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Science Fiction Grand Master Philip José Farmer.

(3) NOMINATE FOR MUNSEY AWARD. Nominations for PulpFest’s 2018 Munsey Award are being accepted through May 1, 2018. Full details here.

All members of the pulp community are welcome to nominate someone for this year’s award. If you have someone in mind that you feel worthy to receive this prestigious award, please let us know.

All members of the pulp community — excepting past winners of the MunseyRusty, or Lamont Awards  — are eligible. Your nomination can be sent to PulpFest marketing and programming director Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com. You can also reach Mike at 2217 W. Fairview Street, Allentown, PA 18104-6542. You will need to provide the person’s name and an explanation describing why that person should be honored.

The award recipient will be chosen by a vote of all living Lamont, Munsey, and Rusty Award winners. The 2018 Munsey Award will be presented on Saturday evening, July 28,

(4) DECEMBER’S CHILDREN. (And Everybody’s): Jason lists the big hits of this month’s short web fiction in the “Summation of Online Fiction: December 2017” from Featured Futures.

Thinking about this month’s noted stories, I’m reminded of the rational Isaac Asimov’s comments on how numerology “works” because you can find patterns in anything. In this 12th month (1+2=3), threes and twos (and thus ones) are a recurring motif. This month, I recommend three SF stories (two of which come from Compelling – though the one from Nature really can’t be missed) and three fantasy stories (two of which come from Grievous Angel) and honorably mention three fantasy stories (two of which come from Uncanny). Which is, again, three sets: two of recommendations and just one of honorable mentions. Meaningless, but I’ll admit it is a weird coincidence. These nine tales were chosen, not from 32 stories of 123K words, but from forty December webzine stories of 162K words.

(5) GRAFTON OBIT. Sue Grafton, famed for her alphabet-titled mystery series about private eye Kinsey Millhone, died December 28 at the age of 77.

The first, A is for Alibi, was published in 1982 and the last, Y is for Yesterday, was published in August.

“As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” her daughter said in a statement posted to Facebook.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw the ghost of a mashup yet to come in Ziggy.

(7) APEX SUBMISSION WINDOW OPENS. Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Guidelines and information here.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

(8) LIKE LEGO AND EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE. Io9’s Andrew Liszewski says “You Can Beam Whatever You Want From My Wallet for These Custom Star Trek: TNG Minifigures”.

The eight-figure set isn’t officially produced by Lego, but each of the minifigures—including Wesley Crusher, Lt. Commander Data, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Cmdr. William Riker, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Counselor Deanna Troi, Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge, and Lieutenant Worf—are 100 percent compatible with your existing plastic brick collections.

(9) SOME BOOKSTORES DOOMED. A New York Times article about bookstore chains that have been forced to the brink or given up — “Bookstore Chains, Long in Decline, Are Undergoing a Final Shakeout”.

Here is one way to measure the upheaval in bookselling: Replacing Book World as the fourth-largest chain, Publishers Weekly says, will be a company that had no physical presence a few years ago. That would be Amazon, which having conquered the virtual world has opened or announced 15 bookshops, including at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

In a famous passage in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” a novel that Book World used to sell, a character is asked how he went bust. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

That more or less mirrors what happened to Book World and other bookstore chains.

(10) TWO HEARTS AND THIRTEEN LIONS. That’s fun – Camestros Felapton, in “Today’s Infographic: Doctor Where”, plots out the birthplaces of Doctor Who actors.

(11) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Fabrice Mathieu shared “STAR WARS 4.7: Skywalker vs Starkiller,”his new Star Wars Mashup, successor to “Darth by Darthwest” and “Raiders of the Lost Darth”.

Young Jedi Luke Skywalker and his trusty companion R2-D2 pilot their battle worn X-wing fighter into a massive black hole, propelling them 30 years into the future.  They find themselves engaged in the mighty rebel attack against the New Order’s fierce machine known as the Starkiller Base.

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jason, Francis Hamit, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Jason Sizemore, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Giant Panda.]

2018 Queen’s New Year Honours List

Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent in Black Adder the Third

James Hugh Calum Laurie has been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to Drama in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

A performer perhaps best known for House, M.D., Laurie’s genre credits include the alt-history series Blackadder II (Prince Ludwig / Simon Partridge), Black Adder the Third (The Prince Regent, their master), Blackadder Goes Forth (Lieutenant The Honourable George Colthurst St. Barleigh) and other Blackadder productions. He’s also played the family patriarch in the live-action and animated Stuart Little features, David Nix, leader of the future world in Tomorrowland, and Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves and Wooster series. He’s been a voice actor in the Monsters vs. Aliens franchise.

There are others on the List with tangential genre credits (former Beatle Ringo Starr, for one). See the full list of honorees in the Mirror. Maybe you’ll spot somebody else who needs mentioning.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/17 A One-Note Scroll With More Than One Note

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites all to share cannoli with Charles Sheffield and Arlan Andrews, Sr  — in 1994.

Back in 1991, when I laid out for the publishers of Science Fiction Age the vision I had for that magazine—which I’d go on to edit through the year 2000—I knew that to compete with the existing SF mags of the time, and give readers what they couldn’t get elsewhere, one of the things we needed to do was deliver a science column unlike any published by the competition. So I decided I’d take science fiction writers who were also scientists out to lunch or dinner, then record, transcribe, and condense the conversations for publication.

Earlier this year, I happened to think back to those chats, and it occurred to me:

Eating in restaurants … while discussing the fantastic … with science fiction writers? Isn’t that what this podcast is all about?

So I ran to the basement and dug out the box which contained my old cassette tapes, all the while wondering whether any recordings of those Science Forums still existed, and if they did, whether the sound quality would justify sharing them with you.

Rummaging through that box, I discovered many tapes, and listened first to a recording of my March 1, 1994 lunch with Arlan Andrews, Sr. and  Charles Sheffield at the Bethesda, Maryland restaurant the Pines of Rome. Our subject was the many ways the world might end. I’d transcribed that talk, edited it down, and published it in the September 1994 issue of Science Fiction Age.

(2) CAT RESCUE. Oor Resnick on rescuing SJW credentials:

Cat Rescue, Part 1: In the beginning…

To date, I have fostered approximately 65 cats and kittens in my home (which is why my upstairs carpet looks like it belongs in a crack house). Although I have fostered a few adult cats, I mostly focus on kittens–for several reasons. Kittens are easier to place (that is, more people want to adopt them), and so I can save a greater number of feline lives by fostering kittens; they move through here at a faster rate, making room for more fosters. Also, this is a small house that already has 4 permanent cats, so I favor fostering kittens because, again, they’re more likely to find homes elsewhere, rather than go unadopted and remain here the rest of their lives. Finally, my adult male cats accept the presence of kittens–they even like kittens and help me socialize them. But two of my cats are very hostile to adult cats moving in here, which creates a lot stress for everyone (including me).

Kittens very often arrive without a mother. Sometimes the mother is feral (doesn’t want contact with people, can’t be adopted), so she’s spayed, vaccinated, and released. Often the mother isn’t around; the kittens are at the age where she has stopped caring for them or is about to stop. Sometimes the mother is dead. And sometimes the mom comes into foster care with the kittens (I’ve had two such mom-cats here with their litters; one got adopted, the other is still awaiting adoption).

I got into fostering by adopting a couple of cats from a rescue group. While researching pet adoption (I am a writer; I research everything I do), I read that black cats are hard to place (and therefore have a very high rate of euthanasia), and also that bonded pairs of cats (and dogs) are harder to place than solo animals. I was perfectly willing to adopt both/either kind of cat, and Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) had a bonded pair of black cats available…

Cat Rescue, Part 2: Happy & Sad Endings

I get to see a lot of happy endings, which is the rewarding part. I send my fosters home with people who are so excited to get them, and in our follow-up exchanges days and months later, they tell me how much they love the cats, send me photos so I can see how they’ve grown, and say this pet is a member of the family. That is a long, long way from the ditches and cardboard boxes and sewers and dumpsters where many of our fosters were found. And that happy ending is the best part of animal rescue.
Here is a small sample of the photos I receive updating me on my former fosters….

It’s not always such a happy outcome, though. Sometimes, it is truly heartbreaking. …

[Thanks to Scott Edelman and JJ for these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/17 A Very Modest Scroll

(1) SFWA IN TIMES TO COME. Cat Rambo’s yearly recap of all her activities includes a look ahead for SFWA —

  • SFWA’s excellent Executive Director Kate Baker said a few years back, “I want to make the Nebula weekend -the- premiere conference for professional F&SF writers” and I said, “Tell me what you need to do it.” This year’s Nebulas were fantastic; next year’s will be even more, including having Data Guy there to present on the industry, an effort that’s taken a couple of years to get in place.
  • The SFWA Storybundle had its first year and was wildly successful, as was the Nebula-focused HumbleBundle. The Storybundle program will grow 150% in size in 2017, which sounds really impressive but just means 3 bundles instead of 2. Plus – SFWA’s Self-Publishing Committee has taken that effort over, so no work for me! (Last year I read a bajillion books for it.)
  • A long, slow revamp of Emergency Medical Fund stuff driven by Jennifer Brozek, Oz Drummond, and Bud Sparhawk is coming to its final stages. I just saw the EMF stewards in action: they received an appeal, evaluated it within 24 hours, and within a week, if I am correct, funds had been disbursed. The Grants Committee just wrapped up its 2017 work; next year it’ll have even more money to play with, thanks to the aforementioned Nebula HumbleBundle.

(2) A BIT ICKY. A nine-year-old got a lovely note from the outgoing Doctor Who. BBC has the story: “Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi reassures fan over regeneration”

(3) SIPS. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241”

With its last issue of the year, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers two very dark fantasy stories about expectations and rules, curses and sacrifices. In both characters find themselves playing out roles that have been laid out for them, having to find ways to exist in stifling situations. In both, the main characters must contend with the weight of tradition and expectation. In both, the main characters are faced with strong willed women who want to change things. Who want to break the Rules. And in both stories the main characters have to face what the world is like, what their life might be like, should those Rules shatter. It’s an interesting issue that asks some very difficult questions and reveals some visceral hurts. To the reviews! …

(4) DOG STAR. The Storm Trooper K-9 division –

(5) CURTIS OBIT. The actor who famously played a disfigured Star Wars cantina criminal has died reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Alfie Curtis, the British actor who earned a place in the Star Wars pantheon for playing the menacing Mos Eisley Cantina scofflaw with the “death sentence on 12 systems,” has died, according to the BBC. He was 87. News of Curtis’s death was first reported by the fan site Elite Signatures.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 — J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London
  • December 27, 1951Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARGAZER

  • Born December 27, 1571 — Johannes Kepler

(8) YOUNG SETH MACFARLANE’S STAR TREK VIDEO. David Klaus sent this video and made these comments about it on Facebook:

I presume this is only an excerpt of a longer fan film Seth MacFarlane made as a teen, a far better film than I could have made when I had thoughts about trying to do when I was a teen many years before this.

His space background is an artist’s conception of gases spiraling into the event horizon of a black hole, pretty cool, along with what appears to be an AMT model of the refit Enterprise. His voice occasional verges into sounding like Shatner’s instead of his own, and he uses sound effects and music from the original series. I’d get a kick out of seeing the whole thing.

 

(9) NUKE HOBBYIST. He told NPR it’s not that hard, compared to what else is done today in manufacturing: “North Korea Designed A Nuke. So Did This Truck Driver”

To make his models, he drove 1,300 miles to Los Alamos, N.M., the birthplace of the atomic bombs. The museum there has accurate, full-scale replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man that he could work from. As he designed his models, he decided he’d write a brochure to go with them.

“The brochure turned into a 431-page book,” he says.

Coster-Mullen never sold a single model, but he has been adding to his bomb brochure ever since, building up what are basically complete specs for America’s first nuclear weapons. He has traveled the country, and the world, to glean all sorts of supposedly secret details.

“Nobody leaked anything to me,”he says. “I found all this information was hiding in plain sight.”

(10) SOI DISANT DISNEY PRINCESS. She’s willing to take the promotion!

(11) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Chris Nuttall argues the case for the original — “Classic Battlestar Galactica – The Review” at Amazing Stories.

Battlestar did it’s level best to depict a society that was different from ours, even though it had points in common. Everything from the ranks and uniforms to the games and terminology smacked of an alternate universe, not men and women who could have walked off a modern day aircraft carrier. It wasn’t that far from America, I admit, but it was different – again, unlike the remake. It’s really a pity they didn’t put quite so much thought into their FTL drive concepts, as the exact nature of ‘light-speed’ is never really addressed.

Like most other shows from that era, Battlestar needed a good cast – the special effects could not carry the show by themselves. And Battlestar had some very good characters – Commander Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Tigh and Boomer … and, on the other side, Baltar and Count Iblis. (Notably, Baltar was originally executed by the Cylons after betraying the Twelve Colonies, but he was later brought back because they needed someone as the face of the enemy, a problem the remake sought to solve with ‘skin-jobs.’)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Will R. Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

GUFF Seeks European Candidates for 2018 Trip Down Under

GUFF administrators are calling for nominations for the Southbound Race 2018 to send a European fan to Continuum in Melbourne, Australia over the June 8-11, 2018 weekend.

GUFF is the Get Up and Over (or Going Under) Fan Fund which transports SF fans from Australasia to Europe (and vice versa).

The winner will also be required to take over the administration of the fund for the next northbound and southbound races.

The administrators tell how to become a GUFF candidate:

If you wish to stand, please contact us at the postal or email address below. You will need three Australasian and two European nominators (who will each need to confirm their nominations), a platform of no more than 100 words to appear on the ballot, a bond of £15/€20/AU$25 and a guarantee to attend the 2018 Continuum convention in June if you win.

If you wish to stand and are unsure about how to go about getting any of these things, what the fund pays for or the duties of a GUFF delegate and administrator, then feel free to contact us in confidence.

Nominations are open until 15 February 2018, and candidates will be announced soon after. Voting will then run until 3 April 2018, with the winner announced online as soon as possible after voting has closed.

Nominations should be sent to donnamareehanson@gmail.com or via post to PO Box 6445, Conder, ACT, 2906 or rantalica@gmail.com or Mihaela-Marija Perkovic, Maksimirska 100d, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia. The bond can be sent by PayPal to guffeurope@gmail.com, or contact her for bank deposit details. Cash can be given directly to Donna Hanson or through Paypal guff2018@ozfanfunds.com or contact her for Australian direct bank deposit details.

Full information at the link.

The reason for bringing the next GUFF winner to Continuum rather than the Australian Natcon (Swancon at the end of March) was not specified, however, the Natcon would be only three months away at this point.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
News Torrent

  • In November Sharon Lee and Steve Miller released two chapbooks of previously published stories — Cultivar and Heirs to Trouble. These echapbooks with limited paper editions from Amazon, are part of the Adventures in the Liaden® Universe chapbook series.
  • Their holiday story “Block Party”, published on December 15, is a free read on the front page of Ben’s website until January 15.

  • The next Liaden Universe novel, Neogenesis hits all the major outlets on January 2 in hardback, ebook, and audio editions. A few dozen signed copies will be available from Uncle Hugos in Minneapolis starting January 2, as well. Neogenesis is the 21st Liaden novel.
  • Sharon Lee & Steve Miller are signing Neogenesis locally come Saturday, January 13, at Childrens Bookcellar, 52 Main St, Waterville, ME 04901 from 1:00 to 3:30.
  • On January 15 their all new echapbook Degrees of Separation will be available from Pinbeam Books and distributed by major ebook venues as well as on paper from Amazon. Degrees of Separation is a prequel to the “Block Party” story currently online at Baen, and is Number 27 in our Adventures in the Liaden Universe chapbook series that started at SRM Publisher in 1995.
  • In March Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will travel from the wilds of Maine via Amtrak to be Author Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon, (March 9-11), in Memphis, TN. Mike Resnick will be toastmaster, Ellen Datlow is Editor GoH.
  • Also, this year’s Liaden novel The Gathering Edge — already available in hardback, ebook, and audio editions —  will be released in mass market paperback July 31, 2018.

[Thanks to Steve MiIler for the story.]