(1) MEDIA CON INFLATION. Rob Salkowitz at ICv2 says “As The 2016 Con Season Begins, Seams Are Starting To Show”.
Competition for big names is getting crazy. Every show wants the top names to draw fans, but the bidding war for A-list talent is starting to sound unsustainable. I’ve heard reliable reports that the appearance fees for the Wizard World Show in Philadelphia in June, which lists Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and the stars of Back to the Future, top $1 million in guaranteed money.
Well sure. Those are all the stars of what seems likely to be 2016’s biggest movie, all in one place.
But this is having a trickle-down effect. Because this is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the surviving original cast members and just about everyone associated with all versions of the show, are in unusually high demand. Competition to get these names on the marquee has reportedly led to cancelled contracts, bidding wars, waivers of exclusives, a shift from guaranteed revenues for autograph sales to straight appearance fees, and other cutthroat tactics.
Cons need to make that money back somewhere, and it’s coming from three places: fans, exhibitors and sponsors.
Costs are rising for attendees. Badges for 3- and 4-day events are starting to crack the $100 level, and that’s just the start. More and more events are not only adding VIP packages, which start around $195 and can go as high as $800-900, but are also requiring fans to pre-pay for celebrity photo ops and celebrity autographs in advance. SVCC even experimented with charging a $10 surcharge for admission to the Back to the Future Panel in its big room on Saturday afternoon, only to oversell the event and not have room for prepaid customers.
(2) PATHFINDER. Marion Deeds has an excellent report on FOGCon 2016 at Fantasy Literature.
Is 72 Letters Enough? In Search of the Perfect Language
I consider a panel “good” if I come away with new book titles to track down, or lots of ideas. By those two measurements, this panel was the best panel of the convention. Panelists included Ted Chiang, who took his inspiration from the Umberto Eco book In Search of the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe). The other panelists were Cathy Hindersinn and Steven Schwartz, with Michelle Cox moderating. There was another panelist but I don’t remember her name and it doesn’t appear in the program. Hindersinn studied linguistics before making a lateral move and becoming a computer programmer. Schwartz is part of the FOGCon committee and writes speculative fiction and epic poetry. He loves language and he loves to talk about language. Cox has an MA in Church History and theology and is a technical writer.
Chiang is scary-smart, articulate if a bit abstract at times, and serious, but he has a great wit, which was on display during the panel. This panel was held in the large room and, as near as I could tell, there was one empty chair. Several people were standing. The panelists were opinionated, and in some cases their passion outstripped their knowledge; the audience was the same way. It was brilliant.
Chiang used the Eco book as a jumping off point for a discussion and critique of the conceit of a “perfect” language; one that existed in the past, in humanity’s “golden age;” a language that all humans could speak and understand. There are two parts to that idea: universalism; the idea that there is one language every human on the planet can communicate in, (perhaps as a second language); and then a language that has the smallest possible divide between the signifier and the thing signified.
(3) STRANGE PUBLISHING TREND. The New Republic reports “The Mass-Market Edition of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Is Dead”.
We may never know what Lee’s will stipulates, but the estate’s first action in the wake of Lee’s death is both bold and somewhat baffling: The New Republic has obtained an email from Hachette Book Group, sent on Friday, March 4 to booksellers across the country, revealing that Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the mass-market paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird…..
That said, mass-market paperbacks have been on a precipitous decline lately, though TKAM’s success, particularly in the education market, makes it a notable exception. But many publishers are moving away from the format. Pressed for further comment, a HarperCollins spokesperson informed me that “Like many American classics, To Kill A Mockingbird’s primary paperback format will be the trade paperback edition.” That’s an important distinction: The general trend in publishing has been against the mass-market and toward more expensive (and durable) editions—many American classics, including The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath no longer have mass-market editions.
(4) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Murray Leinster’s warning is just waiting for tech to catch up. “A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech. 70 years later, Murray Leinster’s disaster scenario is the internet you know and love.”
The story goes on to tell how “Joe,” a rogue logic with a slight manufacturing defect, becomes self-aware and resolves to provide his owners and all other “logic” users with whatever information they require. Leinster says of Joe:
Joe ain’t vicious, you understand. He ain’t like one of those ambitious robots you read about that make up their minds the human race is inefficient and has got to be wiped out an’ replaced by thinkin’ machines. Joe’s just got ambition. If you were a machine you’d wanna work right, wouldn’t you? That’s Joe. He wants to work right. And he’s a logic, an’ logics can do a lotta things that ain’t been found out yet.
This, in turn, leads to logics around the city providing tips on everything from poisoning spouses to covering up drinking binges and robbing banks. Only when Joe is taken offline is that information hidden away from humanity and order restored.
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner. The whole internet is barely big enough to contain everything there is to know about his show biz career. Google revealed to me that Shatner was on the old What’s My Line? game show in January 1965.
He was there to plug the premiere episode of his (then) new lawyer drama series For The People — which fortunately for all concerned failed in time for him to be cast in Star Trek.
(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born March 22, 2233 – James Tiberius Kirk. You could look it up!
(7) RECORD STRAIGHTENER. Larry Correia has been unfairly charged with abandoning the battlefield, as he explains in “The Guardian’s Village Idiot Declares Another Career Ruined”.
I wasn’t going to write anything about SP, but it has come to my attention that a new narrative has arisen amongst the mushy headed dope punditry of fandom, because they are always scrambling for something to get their collective panties in a bunch over. This time it is that Brad and I are cowards—and are probably misogynistic women haters too—because we abandoned poor female Kate to their mighty wrath.
Well, you’ll have to forgive Brad’s cowardice, because he has been deployed by the US Army to the Middle East for the last year, supporting missions against terrorists, but that’s nothing compared to the courage it takes to have a good fandom slapfight. (And really? Scared of what? There are only so many ways you guys can send out a press release alleging that somebody is a racist).
And you’ll have to forgive me too, because I thought I had made my point in 2014 that the system was biased, and I was done. Only Brad asked me to come back to help in 2015, so I did, and after the CHORFs proved my point for me far better than I ever could—wooden assholes and No Awarding the most deserving editor in the business—I said at the end of that I was done.
Why am I out? Mostly because it was a giant time suck, and I’ve got stuff to do. Unlike most of my detractors, I actually write books for a living. I wrote a novella worth of posts on SP in public, and another one worth of emails on the topic behind the scenes. Then there is the joy of spending an hour on the phone with reporters, so that they can quote one sentence from you, and then quote paragraphs from some dolt who knows jack about the topic but belongs to the right clique.
Honestly, in the time I spent on Sad Puppies, I probably could have gotten another book out the door. Plus in 2016 I’ve got my European research trip, I have a new business venture I’ve not talked about at all, I bought a big chunk of property, and mountain fortress compounds don’t build themselves. All that’s in addition to the three novels that are coming out this year, the short fiction collection I have to put together, and the MHI anthology I have to edit.
So I could either try to prove again the point that I’ve already proven, or I can get paid more. Hmmm…. Tough call.
(8) A PUPPY SURPRISE. Apparently Jeffro Johnson was the last person on Earth to realize this was the game plan from Day 1. “Comments on Sad Puppies IV and Rabid Puppies II” at Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog.
You know, I have to say… making the Puppies lists for Best Related Work was a real shock for me. That’s just not something that ever even occurred to me as being a possibility. Maybe it’s a bit ironic, but it’s actually humbling to have even a modest number of people think that well of me. I honestly don’t know what else to say, but “thank you.” So: thank you!
(9) HONORED. Cheah Kai Wai (Benjamin Cheah) is also pleased to be included. See “Rabid Puppies Recommended”.
I am greatly honoured to accept such praise, and am deeply humbled by the fact that there are people who believe I am worthy of standing beside such luminaries as Stephen King and Andy Weir. Looking at the rest of the Rapid Puppies recommendations, I am fully confident that the recommendations will live up to the Rapid Puppies’ mission of making the Hugos great again.
Further, I am especially pleased by Vox Day’s inclusion of Space Raptor Butt Invasion. Science fiction is the literature of ideas, allowing radical concepts to be explored in great detail. This story is indubitably a masterwork that skilfully portrays interspecies non-heterosexual relations within a vividly-created science fictional universe, and would surely be a shoo-in for the Hugos among certain quarters.
(10) REMOVAL REQUEST. In revolutionary Boston the tea had to be thrown overboard. This time it jumped.
Emma Newman speaks “Regarding Tea and Jeopardy being included on a certain list”.
All I know is that I would like Tea and Jeopardy to be removed from this latest list. I don’t want something that Pete and I spend a hell of a lot of time and energy creating to be associated with anything like this. Our podcast has made it to the nominations shortlist two years in a row on its own merit and if we are lucky enough to be shortlisted for a third time, I want it to be because people listen to the show and are moved to nominate it. Nothing more.
Sadly, it seems that requests to be removed for the Sad Puppies 4 list are being ignored. Whilst part of me agrees that people can put whatever they like into a list on their own website, the part that values courtesy disagrees with the refusal to respect a creator’s requests to remove something from it. I’m sorry if this hurts the feelings of the people involved, but no matter what the intentions are this year, no matter the reasons why our podcast made it onto that list, I personally do not want my work to be associated with it.
(11) SECOND CUP. Peter Newman affirms the request in “Tea and Jeopardy, Hugo nominations and Sad Puppies”.
To be clear, I have never solicited the attention of this group, nor do I endorse it. I was not asked if Tea & Jeopardy could be included and I am told that requests to be taken off the list will be ignored. That said, I’d like Tea & Jeopardy to be taken off the Sad Puppies 4 list.
(12) SCHMIDT ASKS OUT. Bryan Thomas Schmidt tells Facebook readers he’s unhappy to find himself on the Rabid Puppies slate.
So apparently the abominable Vox Day put me on his Hugo list this year. First I heard if it. I have paid NO attention this year to lists, etc. I would demand removal but he clearly cares not what people think and states flat out he will not entertain removal requests. I “No Awarded” him last year and would again. I do not approve of this and see it as his attempt to do me further harm. Just going to ignore.
He’s also got an asterisk next to his name on the Sad Puppies 4 List now, too.
In fact, Schmidt says he would rather not be considered for the Hugo at all.
Although I am flattered when friends say they nominated me for the Hugo, please do not waste votes on me this year. I do not want to participate in this broken, biased process, at least until perhaps people of all creeds and levels can be fairly considered without politics ruling the day. I would decline a nomination if offered, though I highly suspect there will be no need. Instead, please consider MISSION: TOMORROW for the Locus Awards. Thanks.
(13) LIMITING DAMAGE. David D. Levine also got his short story “Damage” asterisked by asking to be removed from the Sad Puppies 4 List in a comment.
(14) SUPPORT FOR KATE PAULK. Amanda S. Green in “Cranky Writer is, well, cranky” said —
As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.
(15) BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARDSHELL. Alexandra Erin brings back the field’s most insightful reviewer, John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired) – “Sad Puppies Review Books: Yertle the Turtle”.
The villain of the piece is a turtle named Mack who is so dissatisfied with his place in the world that rather than climbing the ladder and making something of himself, he instead blames society for such petty things as the pain in his back and his lack of food. Not content to merely complain, he uses his extraordinary power and privilege to impose his will upon all other turtles. Lacking the gumption and will to raise himself up, he instead only tears down, and will not be satisfied until all other turtles have been brought down to his level.
(16) DELVING. Alexandra Erin’s “Nineteen Puppy Four” contains her opinion of the Sad Puppy worldview and motivations.
Well, so much for the notion that this year’s litter of Sad Puppies were kinder, gentler, or even more moderate than last year’s. Over the past weekend, when the initial reactions to their new list were still more initial, Sarah Hoyt posted a response that was… well, we’ll say “typically hyperbolic”, but also quite telling.
A lot of it follows the “BUT MOM, I’m NOT Touching Him!” school of legalism that sprouts up whenever reactionaries try to argue with or by what they think is progressive logic, but as she goes on, she eventually compares Puppy critics to such nuanced things as German citizens whipped into a frenzy of anti-Semitism by the Nazi party, only “worse” because those who disagree with the Pups are doing it of our own free will. In the same piece, she refers to those who dissent from her party line as being slaves bound in chains.
(17) NOT THE DOG IN THE NIGHT. Paul Cornell can still hear them.
It's like the Sad Puppies are calling from over a distant hill. 'We're still here! We're still important! Hello? Hello, anyone?'
— Paul_Cornell (@Paul_Cornell) March 22, 2016
(18) AND NOW ABOUT SOME BOOKS. Book Smugglers Publishing thinks you will be interested in Superheroes in Space.
Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow has earned a Starred Review by Publishers Weekly, a super great review by Foz Meadows over at Hugo Award winner A Dribble of Ink and has sold TV rights. Broken is Book Smugglers Publishing’s first novel and the opening act in The Extrahuman Union Series….
Introducing readers to Susan Jane Bigelow’s sprawling series in which Extrahumans will fight wars, overthrow governments, fall in and out of love, have life-changing adventures and travel the stars in search of a home—and their promised freedom—Broken is out now and is available as a trade paperback and ebook (EPUB & MOBI) from all major retailers online. The print book contains the novel, two illustrations from Kirbi Fagan, and a sneak peek at Sky Ranger, the second book in the series (published this June). The ebook edition also contains a prequel short story, Crimson Cadet, as well as an essay from the author and a Q&A with the artist.
(19) ET TU PENTAWERE? Scanners do not live in vain when it comes to extracting secrets from the mummies of Pharoahs.
The New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III was assassinated by multiple assailants — and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to improve his mummy’s appearance.
Those are some of the new tidbits on ancient Egyptian royalty detailed in a new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem, “Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies” (American University in Cairo Press, 2016).
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darren Garrison, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]