Pixel Scroll 5/6/16 Waggin’ Train

(1) WELL WISHING. James H. Burns, the frequent File 770 columnist, is in the hospital – keep him in mind.

Hey, folks: Quite unexpectedly, I’m in Mercy Hospital, in Rockville Center, at least through the weekend. Cards and visitors welcome! Room 245A.1000 N Village Ave.Rockville Center, NY.11570

(2) NEW BEST FANZINE FINALIST. Lady Business acknowledged its nomination in “Hugo Ballot Finalist Announcement, or More Ladies and Queers on Your Ballot”.

We at Lady Business are excited to announce that we have accepted a place on the final ballot for Best Fanzine in the 2016 Hugo Awards.

This is a strange year to be be a Hugo finalist. If you’ve been following the Hugo Awards, you know that the last couple of years have been controversial. We prefer not to dwell on the controversy here, but if you’re unfamiliar and would like a summary, Fanlore has a good overview. After the 2016 finalists were announced, one of the original five Fanzine finalists, Black Gate, withdrew from consideration. The Hugo administrators contacted us to let us know that we were next in the voting tally, and offered us the open slot. After some conflicted deliberation, we decided that we wanted to acknowledge the people who voted for us in the nomination phase, and we accepted a place on the final list….


(4) PARTY PLANNER. George R.R. Martin welcomes “The Replacements”. And contemplates their impact on the Alfies.

…((Though I am curious as to whether these two new finalists were indeed sixth. It seemed to take MAC a rather long time to announce the replacements after the withdrawal, something that could presumably be accomplished in minutes just by looking at the list and seeing who was next up — unless, perhaps, there were other withdrawals along the way? We’ll find out come August)).

Short Story and Fanzine were two categories where the Rabid Puppies had swept the field, top to bottom. Accordingly, they were also two categories that I had earmarked as being in need of Alfies. But the withdrawals and replacements broke the Rabid stranglehold, leaving me with a decision to make — do I still present Alfies in those categories, or no?

I am going to need to ponder that for a while.

(5) KNOCK-ON EFFECT. With SF Signal’s announcement fresh in mind. Adam Whitehead discusses “Blogging in the Age of Austerity” at The Wertzone.

…For bloggers who do have day jobs and families, it’s become clear that the lack of material reward for blogging means greater pressure to step away and spend that time instead with loved ones or doing other things. And that’s why it’s easy to see why the guys at SF Signal decided to step away. If I get one of the several jobs I’m currently going through the recruitment process for, the amount of blogging on the site will have to fall as I devote time to that instead.

Is there a way around this? Should there be? Kind of. For a lot of bloggers, blogging is a springboard into writing fiction and once they make that transition, the blogging is left behind. For me, I have no interest in writing fiction day in, day out. I may one day try my hand at writing a short story or a novel if a story demands to be told, but I’m never going to be a career fiction writer. I much prefer writing about the genre as a critic, but the paid market for that is much smaller. After over five months doing the rounds with my agent, A History of Epic Fantasy has failed to garner as much as the merest flicker of interest from a professional publisher, despite the people nominating it for awards (and in any year but this one, it might even have stood a chance of making the shortlist) and clamouring for the book version (look for an update on that soon). But even if that takes off, that’s just one project. Being an SFF critic isn’t much of a career path these days, especially with venues drying up (even the mighty SFX Magazine seems to be in financial trouble and may not last much longer)….

(6) WITHOUT MUMBLING. At Fantasy Literature Sam Bowring takes up the perpetual challenge — “Coming Up with Fantasy Names: A Somewhat Vague and Impractical Guide”.

One of the hardest aspects of writing a fantasy story, I find, is conjuring a bunch of made-up names that don’t sound like I spilled alphabet soup on a crossword puzzle. It’s important to get names right, of course. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has flung away a potential read in disgust because the blurb said something about a protagonist called ‘Nynmn’dryhl of the Xyl’turym’. Can I buy a vowel, please? I’m also guessing this is one reason why so few fantasy worlds include any equivalent of telephones, for everyone would be forever spelling their names over them.

That said, personal appreciation of fantasy names is about as subjective as it gets. One person’s ‘Nynmn’dryhl’ may be another’s ‘Bilbo Baggins’. It would be arrogant for me to sit here (I really must get a standing desk so I can sound more authoritative when I type) and tell you what does or does not make a good fantasy name, especially when I myself have created names I know for a fact that others find cringe-worthy. One of my good friends, for instance, never lets me forgot that I named a place ‘Whisperwood’. ‘Whisperwood,’ he will say, years later, out of the blue, shaking his head in dismay.

Thus instead I’ll merely tell you about general approaches I find to be useful. One such, which I imagine is a common starting point for many authors, is to simply diddle around with various syllables, rearranging them in different ways until striking upon a pleasing combination. I do not own the patent for this, and mind altering drugs are optional. Losara, Olakanzar, Lalenda, Elessa are all the results of such a ‘process’, as we shall kindly call it…

(7) SCIENCE TOO. The Traveler at Galactic Journey begins “[May 6, 1961] Dreams into Reality (First American in Space)” by connecting the dots.

I’ve been asked why it is that, as a reviewer of science fiction, I devote so much ink to the Space Race and other scientific non-fiction.  I find it interesting that fans of the first would not necessarily be interested in the second, and vice versa.

There are three reasons non-fiction figures so prominently in this column:

1) I like non-fiction;

2) All the science fiction mags have a non-fiction column;

3) Science fiction without science fact is without context.

(8) SENSE8. From SciFiNow, “Sense8 Season 2 sneak peek photos give a look at what’s to come”.

Sense8‘s co-creator Lana Wachowski shared a tonne of brand new Season 2 production stills on the show’s official Tumblr page recently (sense8.tumblr.com if you’re bored…), and they are absolutely delightful. They also look potentially spoilerific, so browse through the above gallery with caution.

(9) TRIBAL THEORY. Damien G. Walter takes up the topic “Have the Locus awards been hit with ‘myopic sexism’” at The Guardian.

Taken as a whole, the Locus awards were broadly representative of a sci-fi field that is continuing to grow in diversity: 18 female to 17 male writers, with many upcoming writers of colour among the voters’ top picks. Placed in that context, the way the YA category has turned out seems less like myopic sexism, and more indicative of the older demographic of readers who read Locus magazine and see the YA genre from their own preferences. When I caught up with Joe Abercrombie, nominated twice in the category for his Shattered Seas trilogy, he agreed.

“I think this has much more to do with adult SF&F readers voting for the authors they recognise, and tending to read YA that crosses over into SF&F territory.” Abercrombie’s popularity among adult readers has carried over to his YA books, which in America have been sold and marketed as adult fantasy; it’s that adult readership, who recognise Abercrombie as one of their tribe, whose votes count in the Locus award. “I’m pleased people voted for me,” he says, “but I don’t think it’s ever a good thing when someone’s on the same shortlist twice.”

(10) SF IN PORTUGAL. Luis Filipe Silva’s new entry on Portugal for the Science Fiction Encyclopedia chronicles the past century of sf/f there. The focus is on fiction, as one would expect, with this being the only comment about the interaction between literature and national politics:

Nevertheless, if utopia bewitches the faithful, it frightens the unbelievers. A decade of political and social turmoil, following the Regicide in 1908 that turned Portugal into an uneasy Republic, inspires some highly pamphletary Dystopian fiction: in A Cidade Vermelha [“The Red City”] (1923) by Luís Costa, the misguided Portuguese people welcome a full Republican/Communist government, only to see the country devolve into absolute chaos; it is not surprising that the people then cry for the return of the unjustly deposed monarch, who comes back from exile and sets things right again. Amid such strong ideological trends, any text that pictures an ideal future based solely on the workings of science and technology becomes a rarity: in the landmark vision of Lisboa no Ano 2000 [“Lisbon in the Year 2000”] (1906), Melo de Matos (years) turns Lisbon into a major world economic hub thanks to advances in Transportation and Communication made by Portuguese Scientists.

I was curious, after reading many posts by Sarah A. Hoyt.

(11) COMMONWEALTH SHORT STORY PRIZE. Locus Online reports a speculative story by Tina Makereti is one of five winners of the 2016 Pacific Regional Commonwealth Prize.

The 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize judges have announced this year’s five regional winners, including the speculative story “Black Milk” by Tina Makereti (New Zealand) for the Pacific region.

…The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded to the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English, and short stories translated into English from other languages (stories may be submitted in their original language if not in English). Five winning writers from five different Commonwealth regions receive £2,500 (USD $3,835), and the overall winner receives £5,000 ($7,670)….

(12) BLAME HARRY. Fantasy causes brain damage, according to a school headmaster in the UK — “Nailsworth teacher claims Harry Potter books cause mental illness”.

A headmaster has urged pupils not to read Harry Potter – claiming the books cause mental illness.

Graeme Whiting also said other fantasy titles such as Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games and Terry Pratchett encourage ‘difficult behaviour’. He told parents to steer clear of JK Rowling’s ‘frightening’ books and they should read classics like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare. Writing on his blog, Mr Whiting, head of the independent Acorn School in Nailsworth, Gloucester, thinks that people should have a ‘special licence’ to buy fantasy books. He wrote: “I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty….”

(13) AFTERMATH. Anne Heche and James Tupper have been cast as the leads in Syfy’s forthcoming post-apocalyptic series Aftermath. Deadline reports the former Men in Trees co-stars will reunite on screen  as a married couple who “have to contend with supernatural creatures as well as their own teenage children after a series of natural disasters finally sticks a fork in life as we know it.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

215 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/6/16 Waggin’ Train

  1. @Vasha – Do you Kate Daniels fans disagree with that characterization? How, exactly, does this series avoid the alpha trope?

    I’m not certain the Kate Daniels series does avoid the alpha trope, In fact, I think it introduces it in order to subvert it and that’s why the relationships in it work for me. It’s a running theme that male characters take one or several He Man approaches and they keep not working on the female characters (there are same sex relationships, but so far have only involved important but subsidiary characters). An ongoing conflict, resolved variously, involves everyone learning new ways of doing things.

    For instance, in the three major relationship arcs – Kate/Curran, Andrea/Rafael and Jim/Dani – the men are rescued by the women in the stories featuring them, in scenes that are consistent with the internal logic of the series (which includes the idea that we’re all responsible for one another).

    I certainly don’t recall anything particularly rapey in the series. However, vs univat fbzrbar oernx vagb lbhe ncnegzrag naq erneenatr lbhe sheavgher nf n pbhegfuvc evghny skeeves you in spite of the set up making sense of it, then, yeah, there are going to be Objections.

  2. @Stoic Cynic: ‘Puppies! I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Bronyism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos’.

    This is what you get when fcnpr encgbe ohgg vainfvba?

  3. Regarding the cover of Mirabile:
    With those front flippers, it’s probably one of the creatures from the first story

    Ab, V guvax gung vg vf gur zbbfr nf va gur Ybpu Zbbfr Zbafgre. Bs pbhefr gur zbbfr va gur fgbel vf n obt-fgnaqneq, aba-uloevq zbbfr, gur wbxr bs gur fgbel orvat gung vg ybbxf yvxr n uloevq. Gur snpg gung gur onra pbire znxrf vg vagb n uloevq vf cneg bs jul V pnyyrq vg “n gnq zvfyrnqvat” (nybat jvgu gur arrq gb “npgvba vg hc.”)

    Darren Garrison: I’m not a fan of those Baen Kagan covers, but I’m unfamiliar with her books, so maybe they’re a good fit?

    My copy of Mirabile is just a generic drawing of a planet (not completely unlike the one in my mention days back of how to easily create planetary images with Photoshop filters.) I’m keeping the planet cover on my ebook (an old pirate scan—IIRC, it was plain-text, and I edited/italliced it by hand going by my MMPB copy, then scanned my MMPB cover image) but still liked the baen version. As for Hellspark (which I had only as an old pirated ebook, never as a dead-tree copy) the cover image was something god-awful that looked as bad as a Chuck Tingle Poser job.

    Discworld–I somehow managed to not hear (or maybe just not consciously take note of) the Discworld series until the early 21st century. I then binge-read all 35 of the books available at the time (up to Thud!) back-to-back on an old Handspring Visor. (I think it took me somewhere around 2 ½ months—I’m not as fast a reader as some of you.) I had no problem with bouncing of the first books—the ones I didn’t like were the “pop-culture parody” ones (for the lack of a better term) like Soul Music and Moving Pictures (and, later, Unseen Academicals.)

    Never read the Lensman books, but read all of the Skylark books as a teen. Cheesy, but I liked them.

  4. Hugo ranking: last year persuaded me that I should raise my standards. At the same time, I still don’t think I’ll rank something below NA if I can see why a reasonable person might have thought this was an award-worthy work, even if it’s not my cuppa. My threshold has gone from “truly bad” to “bleh”. I’ve been a Hugo voter less than a dozen times, and I can’t think of any particular examples where my new standards would have affected how I voted in the past.

    There’s also a lot of categories that I used to skip, and would probably skip again if there weren’t ugly slates to worry about. I think the last time I’d voted for editor was in the nineties, when there was only one such category. And anything with “Fan” in the title I’d rather leave for those who are more engaged in fanac than I am.

    I read all but the first of the Discworld novels in order as they came out. I thought that Men-at-Arms was a threshold novel; it was the first where the characters actually started to seem three-dimensional to me. It’s one I often recommend as a starting point, especially for those who’ve struggled with him in the past.

    The Truth is one of my all-time favorites, though. Easily in my top five; possibly in my top three.

    Mokoto on May 8, 2016 at 6:03 am said:

    In the context of other nominations– He’s trolling. For all I know he sat in his house and chortled over using the tools of his enemies against them. It didn’t work out with Space Raptor Butt Invasion. Nope, it did not.

    I suspect he thought that having such a title on the nominees list would somehow be so embarrassing that it would help ruin the Hugos reputation. Which only shows that he’s either forgotten about “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” (which I’ve mentioned before), or that he thinks that something referring to Teh Gays is much worse than an F bomb. Which he probably does. That whole crowd seems to think that suggesting someone is gay is an insult.

  5. Xtifr: The commenters there talk about gay sex more than people who are actually having it. Not in any complimentary way, of course, yet it makes one wonder.

  6. I’m finding I like reading the Discworld novels in publication order. I do like some storylines better – The Watch and The Witches in particular, and anything focusing on Death and friends – but this way, I “suffer” through the less appealing material and then get special treats when I get to my favorite characters.

  7. Mike Glyer on May 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm said:

    Xtifr: The commenters there talk about gay sex more than people who are actually having it. Not in any complimentary way, of course, yet it makes one wonder.

    I don’t actually wonder. A thousand years ago I was out dancing with a group of friends. A man came up and asked the one straight guy present if he wanted to dance. His response was to smile and say no thanks, just the way I would have when asked to dance by someone I didn’t find attractive. Since that pivotal moment in non-homophobia, I’ve been suspicious of any less than neutral response by “straight” men and the more frothy the response, the less convincing I find it.

  8. A friend of mine, a cis straight guy, used to get propositioned by men fairly often when he was younger. He said he learned quite a lot from those experiences about how to proposition people politely and take no for an answer with grace.

  9. @JJ: I’m the same as you in how many times I’d used NA before then. Very rarely. I’d mostly just rank things from 1 to 5, maybe leave something off, and only used NA maybe once every 5 years. But I had exactly the same reaction to “Leviathan…” that you did, and ever since Larry threw his first hissy, pissy fit, I have No Awarded fearlessly. And I even used NA more than strict anti-slate voters last year, because Heuvelt always makes me ask “WTF is this doing on the ballot?” and gets to be under NA. If it was up to me, there would have been one more category NA last year. Even when Puppies go away, I may be using NA more often.

    Pratchett: I don’t remember which was my first. “Pyramids”, I think, then I went back and read some earlier ones and some of the Witches, dabbled in alt.fan.pratchett, and by the time I got to the first footnote in “Moving Pictures” (which literally made me ROTFLMAO), I was hooked.

  10. I have been propositioned more than once by lesbians, I suppose because I frequently have very short hair and wear comfy man-style clothes. I tell them “I’m flattered, but no thanks.” All of them were much more polite in both the hitting on and the taking rejection parts than almost all the men who’ve done so. The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten is when one woman then spied my wedding ring and said “Dammit, you’re straight, aren’t you? I have no gaydar, I’m always hitting on straight girls. I’m sorry!” I assured her it was quite all right and wished her better luck.

    Most men I know well either simply say no thanks, or at worst splutter “Uh. Wait? What? No, um, I’m… waves hands not…” at which point the gay man has already realized his error and apologized profusely.

    At NO time do they froth about it IRL or online, nor fantasize about tire irons.

  11. I think I read Mort first, after years of hearing about Pratchett and Discworld. But I also love Rincewind and the first two books. The book I got stuck on was Maurice. I never got past that book.

  12. My now-ex, by virtue of his physical appearance and preferred mode of dress, collected a fair number of propositions from gay men. His reaction was always basically, “Flattered, but not interested.”

    I got hit on once by a lesbian, very butch, who came on pretty strong. As it also came completely out of the blue, my response was less calm than I would have expected — but then, I had always thought that if it was ever going to happen, it would happen in the context of someone I already knew — but I don’t think it was significantly different from getting unexpectedly hit on by a guy I wasn’t attracted to. It certainly wasn’t a “OMG TEH GAYZ!!!” freakout.

    It does occur to me to wonder how much overlap there is between the kind of guy who freaks out over being propositioned by a gay man and the ones who go from “Can I buy you a drink?” to death threats in the space of a “No, thanks.”

  13. @Lee, I have several times heard people speculate that some of those most uncomfortable with gay men are straight men who fear being treated as they themselves treat women.

  14. I have read and reviewed The Sands of Sarasvati by Risto Isomaki, tr. Owen F. Witesman. Rather than copying-and-pasting the review, I’ll just link to it. Summary: It’s a pretty good book, although not quite the book I thought I was going to be reading when I started it.

    I don’t know how readily available the book is outside of Finland — I picked up my copy from the Helsinki party at Sasquan. I would recommend that if you think it looks interesting and are going to Helsinki, you pick up a copy there; and if you’re not planning to go, see if you can arrange to have a friend who is going get it for you.

    @ JJ: I got your message. I’ll hunt around for it, but it’s buried in a U-Haul box full of old con photos, and I’m not absolutely sure where the box itself is at the moment.

  15. @Lee and @Lenore: I suspect that’s true. It is in my experience; I’ve never seen anything to the contrary. Of course, I can’t generalize to the world that way, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true the majority of the time. Also men who are deeply closeted may over-react if hit on, and adopt a stereotypical masculinity when dealing with both men and women to cover up their attractions.

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