Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

https://twitter.com/HEIROFSLYTHERlN/status/649915885704970240

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Tick Tock Dog 6/27

aka The Hugo Chronicles: Puppies of Spring Barking

Today roundup features Steve Davidson, Aditya Manu Jha, Kevin Harkness, Nick Mamatas, Scott Bakal, Vivienne Raper and Spacefaring Kitten. (Title credit belongs to — Anna Nimmhaus, who was inspired by The Phantom Tollbooth, and John Seavey.)

Steve Davidson on Amazing Stories

“FANS Need to Take the Moral High Ground” – June 26

I would like to call for the following actions on the part of fans everywhere:

First, the crafting of a formal statement that articulates the position that Fandom and Fans (which includes authors, artists, editors, podcasters, bloggers, fan writers, fan artists and everyone) do not game awards (or other fannish institutions) for personal, political or financial gain.  Further, that individuals who may be eligible for awards state formally that they do not grant permission for third parties to include them or their works in voting campaigns or slates or organized voting blocs and that if their names or works are found on such, it is without their express permission.*

Second, the creation of a publicly accessible web-based archive that publishes the above statement and allows individuals to publicly endorse the statement.

Third, that an amendment to the WSFS by-laws be written and formally adopted (after the appropriate votes), stating that the members of WSFS do not endorse or support voting slates, voting campaigns or organized bloc voting for the awards that WSFS oversees.  Further, that rules be crafted that would allow WSFS to deny or withdraw membership privileges from individuals who violate the by-law.

Fourth, that SFWA craft and adopt a formal statement that engaging in actions the same as or similar to those described previously are considered by the organization to be unethical and unprofessional actions on the part of its members that could result (after proper internal review) in censure or withdrawal of membership privileges.

 

Aditya Mani Jha on The Sunday Guardian

“How a hate-mongering group gamed the Hugos” – June 28

Vox Day and his sexist, homophobic lobby group Rabid Puppies have “played” the science fiction world successfully and tarnished the Hugo Awards, perhaps irreparably….

…What the Puppies (both sets) did was publish a “voting slate,” a curated list of titles that they urged their follows to put on the ballot. It worked, and how: out of the 60 nominated by the Sad Puppies, 51 were on the initial ballot. The corresponding figure was 58 out of 67 for the Rabid Puppies….

To top it all, Day has put himself on the slate: twice over, actually, which has made him a double nominee for this year. His publishing firm, Castalia House, has received nine Hugo nominations in total…

 

Kevin Harkness

“The Hugo Awards Controversy” – June 27

Cent One: The Sad and Rabid Puppy slates don’t work, and will eventually turn around and bite the people who created them.  By showing the effectiveness of recruiting voters, you make this into a contest of numbers, not quality.  And, considering demographics and mortality rates, I think the 21st century is going to beat the 20th in that fight.

Cent Two: Their reasoning isn’t going to win the Puppies a new generation of converts and so boost their numbers.  For example, one of the Puppy arguments I’ve run across is that Hugo-winners are preachy, the so-called SJWs (sidebar: I’m ashamed to say it took me forever to figure out who they were mad at, Single Jewish Women?  Slow Jesuit Wardens?).  But have the Puppies read Heinlein or Niven and Pournelle?  Their old-timey sic-fi adventures are infomercials for their politics, and not very subtle ones either.  By the time I was 18, I was yelling, “Shut up and tell the story!” at my last Heinlein books.  A second irritating point is the puppies claim the current Hugoists are too literary . . .for a literary award.  Yikes!

As a writer with no awards and never a hope for a Hugo, I can say this with the utmost objectivity: stop messing with the system just because the results offend you.  Create your own awards.  Or better yet, vote as an individual and leave slates for the world of politics.  I’m afraid I won’t change a single Puppy’s mind with this blog, because for them, the Hugo Awards are political.  It follows then that writing itself is political, and, by extension, all art.  If art is political, it must serve the politics of its maker.  Come to think of it, that’s what Chairman Mao said.  Maybe he was a secret Puppy.

 

https://twitter.com/NMamatas/status/614888459057016832/photo/1

 

 

 

Scott Bakal on Instagram

Catching up a little bit with some news: I’m honored that this piece I did for Tor and @irenegallo was given a Distinguished Merit Award from 3×3 Magazine along with 10 other pieces. Thank you to the judges! It’s special because this is one of my recent favorites.

 

https://twitter.com/OddlyDinosaur/status/614827808674697216

 

Vivienne Raper on Futures Less Traveled

“Reading the Rockets – Best Graphic Story” – June 27

[Reviews all five nominees.]

#1 Saga Volume 3

I was reading Saga before the Hugo nomination for Volume 3. I love this series and the strange future-fantasy world the author has created. Volume 3 isn’t the best volume, but it’s hard for me to judge as a standalone as I’ve read the others.

The series follows two former soldiers from long-warring alien races and their struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, as they’re chased by the authorities. Hazel is born at the beginning of Volume 1 and narrates part of the story as an adult.

Saga has lost narrative momentum as the series has progressed, but I’ve found it remains imaginative and  entertaining. I don’t think there’s one baseline human here. In Volume 1 artist Fiona Staples even solved one of my longstanding character niggles – how do you dress a person with more than two legs? (Answer: a prom skirt)

There are flying tree spaceships. There are Egyptian lying cats. There are family feuds, blood feuds, assassins, deaths, births, love affairs, lots of running away. The standard palate of all-purpose human conflict that has driven good storytelling from time eternal. Big thumbs up from me.

 

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“The Shittiest Unrelated Drivel in the History of Hugo Awards — Michael Z. Williamson: Wisdom from My Internet” – June 27

This. Was. Shit.

Moreover, Wisdom from My Internet is hard evidence of the fact that there were at least 200 sheer, hundred-percent, honest-go-god trolls sending in nominating ballots. It’s a collection of supposedly humorous, bad to reprehensible tweets with no SFF content whatsoever and — let’s face it — it’s on the ballot to piss off anybody who voted for Kameron Hurley last year.

The time I had to use to write these three sentences is all I’m going to devote to discussing this drivel.