Pixel Scroll 1/30/18 The Man Who Mooned The Scroll

(1) ANTIQUARIANS ARISE. Posters for three upcoming book fairs across the U.S.

(2) A WRITER’S LIFE. Kameron Hurley opens her books in “Writing Income: What I Made in 2017”.

A couple of observations:

Patreon Saves the Day (But Don’t Count On It)

Patreon has been a godsend this last year, as I’ve been producing a short story every month, instead of every other month or so as I did last year. That said, the shitstorm at Patreon at the end of last year when they were going to up their fees by 40% for folks at the $1 tiers saw me bleeding fans from the platform. That experience reminded me again that this income – though provided by a large pool of 750+ fans, is still reliant on a third party system that could implode and fuck everything at any time….

(3) SHARKE CALLING. Now online, a self-introduction by a 2018 Shadow Clarke juror — “Introducing Alasdair Stuart”.

What I hope for is this: that my time on the Shadow Clarkes will allow me to get better at walking that line between undiscerning joy and the relentless caution of analysis. That I’ll be able to communicate the joy of a trick well executed, and the astonishment of a trick never before seen. To explore the idea that there is joy in skill as well as show, and that when that joy is absent we can learn at least as much as when it’s present.

Stuart’s name will be familiar to Filers for his podcasting empire, described in an interview he gave to Carl Slaughter.

(4) TENNANT TENTHS AGAIN. Comicbook reports “‘Doctor Who’: The Tenth Doctor and Jenny Return in New Video”:

David Tennant’s time on Doctor Who may have ended over eight years ago, but his Tenth Doctor will always live on in the hearts of fans and, it seems, in clever video messages for friends.

Tennant recreated his role as the Tenth Doctor alongside his wife, Georgia Tennant, who appeared as The Doctor’s daughter in the appropriately titled episode “The Doctor’s Daughter,” for a short video to wish his friend, Doctor Who script editor Gary Russell, farewell upon Russell’s move to Australia back in 2013. You can check out the video embedded below

(5) DOCTOR PHONE HOME. Also in the news, David Tennant accepted a settlement in his suit against the now defunct News of the World over a phone hacking claim.

News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled Mr Tennant’s High Court claim and issued an apology.

Tennant’s lawyer said he was “outraged and shocked” by the invasion of privacy.

NGN made no admission of liability to claims relating to The Sun.

Tennant was among six people to settle claims with NGN on Tuesday.

The other claimants were Olympic medallist Colin Jackson, actress Sophia Myles, party planner Fran Cutler, fashion designer Jess Morris and footballer David James’s ex-wife, Tanya Frayne.

Tennant first launched his lawsuit in March 2017, after the parent company of the News of the World closed its compensation scheme in 2013.

(6) ARMIES TO COME. Marina Berlin, in “Five Ways To Build A More Believable Futuristic Military” at The Book Smugglers, subverts the axiom that sf is never about the future by asking what MilSF would look like if it was about the future like it pretends to be.

The military of Battlestar Galactica is supposedly egalitarian, with all types of soldiers filling all types of roles, and without divisions in bathing and sleeping areas. And yet, the women who have children on the show are never shown to have a systemic, military framework to fall back on when it comes to parental leave or childcare. It’s not that Sharon or Cally would be able to rely on the same system the military had in place before everything exploded, of course, but some traces of that system, some expectations, some details, had to have remained. Just like there are echoes of every other part of a particular military system on the show, even if parts of it have disappeared. Instead, for both women, it seems like they are the first soldiers in history to give birth, and the solutions they have to find for childcare, for being soldiers and mothers simultaneously, are personal and anecdotal.

Examples of stories that show a military like this, where everyone serves together and sleeps together and bathes together and yet pregnancy is not addressed one way or the other are endless in military science fiction. From old classics like Ender’s Game (where the kids in Battle School with Ender were in their mid to late teens by the end of the first book) to newly released books, like Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent Ninefox Gambit.

(7) SFWA STATS. Cat Rambo delivers the digits:

(8) CREDENTIALS AND OTHERS. SyFy Wire’s Ana Marie Cox, in “Space the Nation: The most important pets of fantasy and sci-fi”, does a roundup of famous genre pets.

Salem, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Technically, Salem is not a cat, but a 500-year-old witch sentenced to live as a cat as punishment for attempting to take over the world. Cat people might argue that becoming a house cat only furthered Salem’s ambitions rather than stymieing it.

(9) WINDING UP 2016. Rocket Stack Rank concludes a multi-part series on the best short SFF of 2016 with a look at their different sources of recommendations: “guides” like reviewers, “best-of” anthologists, and awards finalists — “2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Guides”.

Greg Hullender notes:

The biggest takeaway (which we saw in earlier installments) is that although some judgment is subjective, there does seem to be a strong underlying idea of excellence that runs across almost all the guides and which is consistent with the idea that the awards are, in general, recognizing stories that are among the very best. Awards are better guides than best-of anthologies, but the anthologies are better guides than any reviewer, and the reviewers are much better guides than just picking stories at random.

(10) MORE LE GUIN MEMORIES. Michael Dirda tells readers of The Weekly Standard  “Why Ursula Le Guin Matters”.

…I suspect that Le Guin, who herself majored in French at Radcliffe, must early on have taken to heart Flaubert’s dictum: “Be regular and ordinary in your life like a bourgeois, in order to be violent and original in your work.” For there is no question about it: This humorous, outspoken woman, who once told a feminist conference that she actually enjoyed housework, was one of the essential writers of our time. As I sit at this keyboard, the whole world, especially the science-fiction world, is mourning her passing—and a certain committee in Sweden is, I hope, kicking itself for having neglected to award her the Nobel Prize for literature.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born January 30, 1941 – Gregory Benford

(13) HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREG! Gregory Benford’s birthday is celebrated by Steven H Silver at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Gregory Benford’s ‘Down the River Road’”:

Gregory Benford was born on January 30, 1941. He helped start the first science fiction convention in Germany, WetzCon, in 1956 and the first convention in Texas, Southwestern Con, in 1958. He received the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 1975 for his collaboration with Gordon Eklund, “If the Stars Are Gods.” His novel Timescape received the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the John W. Campbell Memorial, Jr. Award, the Ditmar Award, and the British SF Association Award. It also loaned its name to a publishing imprint. Benford received a Phoenix Award from the Southern Fandom Confederation in 2004 and a Forry Award from LASFS in 2016. Benford was the Guest of Honor at Aussiecon Three, the 1999 Worldcon in Melbourne, Australia.

“Down the River Road” was included in After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Originally published in January 1992, the book and all the stories in it were translated into Dutch, Italian, and French. The story has not appeared outside of the original anthology.

(14) CHANGE AT NYT BOOK REVIEW. N.K. Jemisin will leave the column and be replaced by another well-known sf author — “Amal El-Mohtar Named Otherworldly Columnist for The New York Times Book Review”.

Amal El-Mohtar has been named science fiction and fantasy columnist for The New York Times Book Review.  She replaces N.K. Jemisin who served as the Otherworldly columnist for two years. Read more in this note from the Pamela Paul, Greg Cowles and David Kelly.

After two stellar (and interstellar) years as the Book Review’s science fiction and fantasy columnist, N.K. Jemisin is leaving to devote more time to her numerous outside projects, including her own books and a guest editorship for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series. Since inaugurating the Otherworldly column in January 2016, Nora has gone on to win consecutive Hugo awards for best novel, and her book “The Fifth Season” (the start of her Broken Earth trilogy) is in development as a television series for TNT. We were delighted to have her.

… “I’m especially fascinated by books that don’t want to save the world so much as break or dislocate it further, in order to build something better in its wake,” she told us. “Fantasy and science fiction have long had at their heart the question of how to be good, and the 20th century’s shifting visions from monoliths of Good and Evil to the more complicated battle between individuals and systems has been a wild ride. I’m excited to see it develop further.”

[Hat tip to SF Site News, Locus Online, and Andrew Porter.]

(15) TERRA TALES. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Terraform SF January 2018”:

The new year kicks off at Terraform with three excellent stories exploring futures that seems almost inevitable, that seems in many ways here already. The stories look at three very different things—immigration, employment, and nuclear destruction—but they all manage to tell emotionally resonating stories that share the feeling that most people are already accepting these futures as reality.

(16) RELATIONSHIPS SUCK. The Empties comic premieres on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Of course it does —

It’s a horror story centered around losing someone you love (or think you love). How scary is it to find out that person you love isn’t who you thought they were? (I’d say, pretty darn scary).

You can check out a preview of the book at emptiescomics.com. Kristen Renee Gorlitz says, “If you like what you see, sign up to check out the premiere of The Empties comic book on Kickstarter this Valentine’s day!”

When a loving chef comes home to an unfaithful wife, he cooks up a revenge plan so twisted… so disturbed… it will leave you in pieces.

 

(17) FEAR AND LOATHING. There are several genre authors among the “13 Writers Who Grew to Hate Their Own Books” discussed at Literary Hub: J.G. Ballard, Stephen King, Kingsley Amis, Stanislaw Lem, and —

Octavia Butler, Survivor (1978)

Survivor was Butler’s third novel, and also the third in her first series, now called the Patternist series. Though the rest of the series was reprinted (some multiple times), Butler refused to allow Survivor to be included, and (rumor has it) she didn’t even like to talk about it at signings or appearances. In an interview, she said:

When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

The novel is still out of print—used copies sell for about $175.

(18) COMMON KNOWLEDGE. The UK’s Mastermind show ‘banned’ Harry Potter and Fawlty Towers because too many would-be contestants want these categories and the show will use a category only once a season.

Hundreds of Mastermind applicants are being asked to change their specialist topics because too many people are choosing the same subject.

Mastermind received 262 applications to answer questions about the Harry Potter series last year.

It is the most popular topic, alongside Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Father Ted.

But only one contestant can tackle a subject during each series.

(19) THINKING OUTSIDE THE ARK. An “‘Unsolvable’ exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed”:

Primary school students at a school in the Chinese district of Shunqing were faced with this question on a paper: “If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?”

The question appeared on a recent fifth-grade level paper, intended for children around 11 years old.

The answer in the last paragraph obviously comes from a fan….

The traditional Chinese method of education heavily emphasises on note-taking and repetition, known as rote learning, which critics say hinders creative thinking.

But the department said questions like the boat one “enable students to challenge boundaries and think out of the box”.

And of course, there’s always that one person that has all the answers.

“The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal,” said one Weibo commenter.

“In China, if you’re driving a ship that has more than 5,000kg of cargo you need to have possessed a boat license for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat’s license is 23, so he’s at least 28.”

(20) ALTERNATE ART. BBC’s “The Star Wars posters of Soviet Europe” shows lots of examples with bright space-filling colors, wild designs, and flashy features that aren’t in the movies.

(21) DON’T FORGET. There’s a “Super Blue Moon eclipse on January 31”.

The Blue Moon – second of two full moons in one calendar month – will pass through the Earth’s shadow on January 31, 2018, to give us a total lunar eclipse. Totality, when the moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, will last a bit more than one-and-a-quarter hours. The January 31 full moon is also the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons – that is, super-close full moons. It’s the first of two Blue Moons in 2018. So it’s not just a total lunar eclipse, or a Blue Moon, or a supermoon. It’s all three … a super Blue Moon total eclipse!…

IMPORTANT. If you live in North America or the Hawaiian Islands, this lunar eclipse will be visible in your sky before sunrise on January 31.

(22) INTERSTELLAR. The Dave Cullen Show on YouTube does a segment about a movie they can’t forget: “Revisiting Interstellar”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Kristen Renee Gorlitz, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pseudopod’s 10th Anniversary Kickstarter

pseudopod-logo

Alasdair Stuart of the Pseudopod podcast by Escape Artists has launched a Kickstarter fundraising appeal as part of the podcast’s 10th Anniversary celebration.

Here’s the plan: we already pay pro rates for stories. We pay our editorial, production and administrative staff – a unique position in the industry. Now, it’s time to add our narrators to that list. For that, we need extra capital.

A host of incentives are being offered to donors. Here are three examples.

The Mug: Pseudopod Tower

The mug has been designed especially for us by Jonathan M. Chaffin, whose Horror in Clay company has run five successful crowdfunding campaigns for horror-themed mugs. Jonathan does amazing work; I own a couple of the mugs myself and we’re really excited to see this one become a reality. Particularly since the design is Pseudopod Tower constructed with nods to famous horror movies, a mysterious hooded ‘Slush wrangler’ and the show’s catchphrase ‘We have a story for you and we promise you it’s true’ in Enochian. Enochian!

pseudopod-tiki-mug

The Anthology: For Mortal Things Unsung

We’re going all out too, launching our first ever anthology. For Mortal Things Unsung features specially commissioned stories from some of our best authors as well as reprints of all-time favourites.

Enhanced Patronage

We have added a few reward levels for those of you who would like to enhance your patronage.

Matross’ Lesser Sponsor

Want to be specifically thanked in an episode endcap? Or you want someone else to be thanked in your place? We can do that, and we’re ready to thank one person every week for a year.

Matross’ Sponsor and Matross’ Greater Sponsor

Want to include a special message before or after an episode? Birthday or anniversary wish to that special horror fan in your life? Pick the closing quote? Want to get Alasdair to recite horror limericks in his Manx accent? We can do that, too, and we’re ready to have one of each every month for a year. The Greater Sponsor can place the message before the story and the regular can place it after.

The Pseudopod 10th Anniversary Kickstarter has raised $4,199 of its $30,645 goal with 28 days left to run.

Alasdair Stuart on the Growth of SFF Podcasting

By Carl Slaughter: Alasdair Stuart is the CEO of Escape Artists, the parent company of the Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, and Cast of Wonders podcasts, and most recently the Mothership Zeta magazine.  He shares at length about the people, history, vision, and operations of EA.  He also expounds on the place podcasting has in the speculative fiction market.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Give us a brief history of how 4 podcasts and a magazine came under the Escape Artists umbrella.   

ALASDAIR STUART: Sure!

Escape Pod was started a decade ago when podcasting was basically the Wild West. Steve Eley set it up, was amazed by how quickly it took off and added in Pseudopod which, when it started was edited and hosted by Ben Philips and Mur Lafferty.

Just under a year passed. Mur left, I saw she was leaving and did one of the least British things I’ve ever done; stuck my hand up and said ‘Hire me! I’ll do that” and to my rank amazement; they did.

My first episode as host is episode 49. It is fair to say I have come a long way since then. I certainly sound much less frightened.

A while after that Podcastle was set up and not long after that, Steve stepped away from hosting. On we merrily trundled until, one day in 2012, I had this conversation with our accountant:

‘Hey Paul? Is this quick math I’ve done that suggests we run out of money in six weeks right?’

‘Yep.’

‘…OH.’

Emails were sent, meetings had and a plea for assistance sent out. It was overlong and a touch panicky but it did the job and our listeners massively rallied around us. We lived.

A year or so later I was working on a project with Dan Sawyer. I was frustrated with some EA stuff at that point and, after the third meeting with Dan opened with me complaining about this, he asked why we shouldn’t just buy the company.

I had no answer other than ‘yes’. There may have been a ‘gosh.’

So off we went! Steve was amazing about it and actually said he’d only want it to go to a group including me which was incredibly sweet of him. So we bought the company and started in on renovating it. And, as often happens, we soon realized we wanted very different things for it. We parted on amicable terms and I took on the company as sole owner.

What followed was about two years of putting out fires and getting stuff in a row. That stopped a little while ago, and we started doing the stuff that we’ve wanted to do for ages – expanding. So that’s when Cast of Wonders was brought in and Mothership Zeta was launched and now here we are.

CS: Any more podcasts or magazines joining the family any time soon?   

AS: We’re always looking to expand, but we want to do it in ways that make sense. As an example; during Eley’s tenure I know an erotica podcast was looked at. That’s not something we’ll be doing now (erotica and YA in the same house feel a bit off) but there are other genres we continue to review. Crime is logical.

Plus we’re starting to look at story lengths which aren’t well served by the existing audio community. Podcastle has run ‘Giants’ for several years, stories approaching the novella length. And Cast of Wonders has run an entire serialized short novel, called Camp Myth. In fact, serials like that or longer works are almost certainly what’s next for us.

CS: How much of the speculative podcast market does Escape Artists occupy?   

AS: At Sasquan I sat in the audience of a podcasting panel and listened to a panel member jokingly admit they stole their entire format from EscapePod. Another panel member then looked at them and said ‘But we stole our format from you!’

That was both really sweet and hard to sit through. EA was the first through the door and we’re still here. We’ve committed the absolutely necessary sin of consistency, which means people sometimes see through you. Everything we’re doing this year, from the launch of MZ and bringing aboard Cast of Wonders, to a long overdue web redesign and the Pseudopod 10th anniversary Kickstarter, is about changing that.

(Although that does position us as the Faith No More of genre podcasting and they’re one of my favorite bands so there’s that)

CS: Same question for the Parsec.

AS: I’m not quite sure what you mean? The Parsec awards are a very broad church. This last year there were 14 categories, of which stories produced by EA occupied only two.

CS: Who’s the competition?   

AS: We don’t view ourselves as having competition. The field, even though it’s expanding at a rate unlike anything we’ve seen so far, is still really small. We share staff with other shows, have definitely shared authors as well as narrators, and work hard on making sure we boost good work when we see it, not just when we produce it.

The trick, if there is one, is to be absolutely, almost ruthlessly, true to your own identity. There are dozens of podcasts in dozens of formats. Some concentrate on literary and critical analysis, like Faculty of Horror or Writer’s Roundtable. There are countless ‘three people and a mic’ commentary podcasts like School of Movies. There’s a string of amazing genre fiction audio drama podcasts.

And there’s us. Our guiding principle is One Story Told Well. The true art, we feel, of audio fiction is the paring of a great story with a great voice. Each of the shows specializes in a genre and to some extent, a specific type of story within that genre. EscapePod has always concentrated on the uplifting and hopeful sides of science fiction. Mothership Zeta emphasizes fun genre. Cast of Wonders has a very broad definition of YA but a narrower view on what their sense of wonder entails. And Pseudopod takes in every form of horror we can, from the classics (I’m about to write an outro for our subscriber exclusive reading of The Monkey’s Paw) to debut authors.

Lightspeed, Nightmare, Clarkesworld, BCS, Uncanny, Fireside and the others all do really great work and have their own approach. New magazines and shows like Glittership, Fiyah, Liminal and Holdfast are launching all the time and we enthusiastically support them. Likewise audio dramas like Archive 81, The Deep Vault, The Bridge, The Magnus Archives, Ars Paradoxica, Tanis, The Black Tapes and The Tunnels all make the entire audio field better. We’d much rather work with everyone than compete.

CS: Why branch into magazines?   

AS: Because we want, and need to expand. And because the magazine format is a medium everyone understands.

There’s a running gag rough the Tanis and Black Tapes podcasts where the lead will interview someone and the conversation will go like this:

‘Is this for the radio?’

‘It’s for a podcast.’

‘…’

‘It’s like radio on the Internet.’

That ‘…’ Is where we sometimes feel trapped. There’s a real sense, although it is fading, of podcasting not being ‘real’ publishing. The establishment (and recent renewal) of the Fancast Hugo award really seemed to drive that home, despite audio publication finally being recognized as on-par with print publication for SFWA membership purposes.

But static isn’t something we can afford to be even though it’s all too easy to feel frustrated and overlooked because we publish in a format some people don’t connect with. We have a decade’s worth of content in our back catalog and it’d be very easy to assume people will find it. It’s harder, but far more necessary, to go tell them about it and a great way to start doing that is by branching out into a format that’s more universally recognized.

Plus, we feel there’s room for the EA mindset of enthusiastic, articulate and supportive positivity to be carried over to the magazine market. The immensely positive response we had from MZ authors at WorldCon this year leads me to believe we were right.

CS: Your podcasts pay pro rates.  How do you afford this while offering stories free?   

AS: We’re entirely listener funded. We can afford pro rates because of the generosity of our listeners, it’s that simple. Even with the expansion this year it’s been a source of stress seeing if donations can support that. Right now things are sustainable, but like any donation funded organization it’s tighter than we’d like.

One of the things we realized when we bought the company and started looking in closets is that EA has never, ever had a consistent or proactive approach to marketing. That has to change, and that’s on us. The fact that we’re not on Patreon yet is a constant frustration to both staff and some of our listeners. But we feel it would be a real slap in the face to our 10 year veteran PayPal donors to not align first on what Patreon rewards would be offered, and how our PayPal donors would translate to that. We’d rather take a bit longer and do it right.

Fun fact: we have over 400,000 unique downloads every month across the four shows. Less than 1% of our listeners donate. If just 3% donated we could do so much more.

CS: Do you podcast original material, reprints, or both?  Do you buy stories by submission, invitation, or both?   

AS: All of the above. While we (and audio fiction as a whole, really) were initially formed as reprint markets, when we stepped up to SFWA qualifying rates that very definitely changed. Cast of Wonders is a recent example – their submissions quadrupled when they announced their rate increase.

It’s worth talking a little about reprints here because they’re the foundation of the shows. When Eley set up EscapePod, we initially couldn’t pay full rates so targeting reprints was a way to make sure we could source stories and still pay for them. That also opened up potentially entire back catalogs for authors to send back out into the world and get paid for again. So it became a virtuous circle; when we started out Escape Artists could afford to pay for reprints. Authors had a home for reprints. We got some really great stories. The audience grew and we began to expand.

But there’s also a point to make here about why we work as a format; we aim to sit perfectly inside the average commute. So, if you’re on a train or in the car for 45 minutes you’re going to be able to hear a full story that will entertain you, keep you engaged and distract you from how little coffee you have left. We’re designed, very deliberately, to fit into that hole in people’s days and help them claw a bit of time back for them. We get dozens of emails about listeners telling us we’ve improved their commutes, their workouts, their school runs and more.

Most stories come in via submission. We have a small amount of solicits every year, usually for traditions. Podcastle loves a Tim Pratt Christmas story, for example.

And we do some special events too. Alex Hofelich, the co-editor of Pseudopod, has commissioned some incredible pieces for the anthology which will be part of the Kickstarter. Cast of Wonders had a special call for Banned Books Week which runs the end of September.  Artemis Rising, our showcase for female and non-binary authors, hits its third year next March. Both of those had specific calls for submissions attached to them and we’ve had some amazing stories through.

CS: What’s your role in the daily/weekly operations of the podcasts?   

AS: Most of the time it’s listening to our people, helping them solve problems and, largely, making sure I’m not in their way. On a week to week basis I’m one of three hosts on EscapePod, occasionally narrate for the shows and host Pseudopod weekly.

CS: What’s your role behind the scenes as CEO of Escape Artists?   

AS: Marguerite and I split the duties. We organize bimonthly meetings for editorial, administrative or technical staff to discuss any issues raised, see where people are in the year and find out what we can do to help. Sometimes there’ll be offshoots of those with smaller follow up meetings but mostly it’s those two.

Editorial meetings run 2-3 hours, and are where everyone can share what they’re working on or get ideas about concerns. We always start with sharing positive news, and end with where we’re going to focus until the next meeting.

And because our people are all in scattered timezones we make sure the antisocial start time always lands on us. The bad news is that means a late night every month. The good news? Excellent debriefing over breakfast the following morning

Dave Robison, Alasdair Stuart, and Marguerite Kenner

Dave Robison, Alasdair Stuart, and Marguerite Kenner

CS: What have been the pivotal moments in speculative podcast history?  What percentage of the speculative market does podcasting occupy?  What part will podcasting play in the future of speculative fiction?   

AS: In no particular order:

Mur Lafferty launching I Should Be Writing, Scott Sigler podcasting Earthcore, the glorious life of Variant Frequencies which is still one of the greatest fiction podcasts ever, the launch of the Parsec Awards, the launch of EscapePod and the creation of the audio reprint market, the adoption of the podcasting method by major genre magazines like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, and the launch of Serial.

Why Serial?

Because without Serial you don’t get the new age of fiction podcasts, the bluntly astounding audio dramas like Limetown, The Magnus Archives. The Black Tapes, The Tunnels, Archive 81 and all the rest. Those shows are the ‘80s horror classics of the 21st century; incredible creators doing amazing work with almost no budget.

And that brings us to the present day, and to your second question. I think podcasting has done a really good job of sneaking into everybody’s world view. A podcast has become a default delivery method now and, with shows like us and others paying pro rates there’s no longer any reason for it to feel like a second hand market. Not that there ever was but it’s nice to see the industry realize that too.

And as for the future? All those shows I mentioned have helped sculpt it in a dozen ways. Serial made the ‘intrepid reporter looks at stuff’ a viable template for fictional subversion. I Should Be Writing continues to map the territory we all write on as does DitchDiggers.

And as for fiction shows? They’ll continue being petri dishes for some of the best new writers on the planet. Podcasts are places where new stories can be tested on an audience orders of magnitude larger than anyone dreamt of at the birth of this medium.

Did I mention I love my job? I REALLY love my job.

CS: What writing do you do on the side and where do you find the time with all the responsibilities of Escape Artists?   

AS: I write regularly for tor.com, MCM Buzz, Ghostwoods Books and a couple of other places. I also work as an RPG designer. I was actually ENnie (The RPG industry Oscar) nominated for an adventure last year which was really cool. It was even cooler given it was for the Doctor Who RPG.

Most of the work I do in that field is modules or scenarios but I’ve done longer form projects too. I wrote The Sixth Doctor sourcebook for the Doctor Who RPG and was lead writer on the Tenth Doctor book. I’ve also got a setting coming out for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, an adventure for The Laundry RPG and my own game, After The War, due for release next year with Genesis of Legend.

As for finding the time it’s really two things. My partner, Marguerite Kenner and I split the running of EA between us. That makes it an incredible amount of work instead of simply an impossible one but there isn’t a day that goes by when the work isn’t massive fun. We’re unsure which one of us is Leo and which one of us is President Bartlet so far but we’re enjoying finding out.

Secondly, I work very fast and I work a LOT. One of the reasons I took over the company was the realization that this is the job I’ve held the longest. I celebrate my tenth year with the company in 2017 and I’ve never had more fun, or felt more at home, than I do here. I love what we do and when that’s the basis of a working day it’s really easy to get stuff done.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Escape Artists?   

AS: A new back catalogue system. We have 1700+ episodes which will always be available, for free, on the websites. We’re completely committed to the Creative Commons model. But even with our new wikia they can be a challenge to navigate. We have plans to fix that with some great added value, and to give our listeners a new method to donate in a way that hasn’t been done before.

A magnificently overdue art and website refresh. Ten year old websites. Ouch.

Artemis Rising 3, our showcase for female and non-binary authors returns for its third year next year.

Our first ever Kickstarter! To celebrate Pseudopod’s 10 anniversary, we’ve worked with Horror in Clay’s Jonathan Chaffin to design an incredible tiki mug! Jonathan designed Pseudopod’s original art. Plus editor Alex Hofelich is hard at work on our first anthology of original stories from fan favorite Pseudopod authors. The Kickstarter will go live in October and I can’t wait. Also I can’t wait to own one of the tiki mugs.

CS: What’s on horizon for Alasdair Stuart?

AS: I have my first ever project I’m not allowed to mention beyond the fact it exists. I may take the Warren Ellis route and give it a codename. Yes, why not! Project HARDISON it is. So, I have Project HARDISON to do this month, as well as work on After The War. There’s still a few more WorldCon follow-ups on my chase list, plus I’ll be at FantasyCon in Scarborough September 23rd through 25th.

I also need to finish off Pseudopod Tapes Volumes 2 through Fox Spirit Books. The first volume is a collection of extended essays from a year’s worth of Pseudopod episodes. I’m now woefully behind and Adele is clamoring for it.

And more Pseudopod itself of course. Best job I’ve ever had.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Alasdair Stuart Website — https://alasdairstuart.com/

Pixel Scroll 10/30 The Stainless Steel Hedgehog Has A Harsh Mistress, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

(1) Larry Smith is out of the hospital reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook.

Please forgive the lack of recent updates. As they say, no news is good news. Larry is back out of the hospital, and appears to be doing well. He was finally able to attend a convention last weekend, and held up remarkably well. At this point, he is hoping to make all of his November commitments. Clearly, he is not exactly on top of his game, and has had to make some adjustments to his activity level and routine, but he is improving.

Larry and Sally asked me to try to convey the enormous gratitude they feel to everyone who has come to their aid through this very trying time. I say *try* to convey, because there just are not enough words to adequately express how thankful and humbled they feel. And let me just add my thanks as well. These are some very special people, and my heart swells when I see this wonderful family that we call fandom come together to help them like you have.

They are currently still trying to find a replacement van. The one they had was a 15 passenger model, with a long wheelbase and extra suspension to handle the weight of the books. They have found a couple of possibilities (of course, none local), so they hope to find one soon. Give yourselves a much – deserved pat on the back for making this possible for them. Please share this update on any list or social media that you have available to you

(2) David Langford proudly displayed his “Sausage Maker To Fandom” badge ribbon in the new issue of Ansible.  It was given to him at LonCon 3.

(3) Thursday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert had Seth MacFarlane and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as guests. Stephen is convinced that star KIC 8462852 is evidence of the alien life predicted in one of his favorite books. In the final interview segment, Colbert goes off on a seriously detailed Ringworld rant, including crediting Larry Niven.

“Just because you don’t understand what you’re lookin’ at doesn’t mean it’s alien,” countered Tyson…

In this YouTube clip, the Ringworld bit starts just after the 1:50 mark.

(4) CNN reports “Orbiting bacteria: Space Station may need some tidying up”.

The next time NASA picks an astronaut to live in the International Space Station, it might want to send Mr. Clean. That’s because scientists using a kind of high-tech white glove test found something in the space dust there.

The astronauts are not alone, it turns out. They share tight quarters with some previously undetected, opportunistic bacterial pathogens.

Nothing unusual here. The Sasquan guest of honor left his hotel room in the same condition as every other fan at this year’s Worldcon. A generous tip ordinarily covers these things. In this case, two or three million dollars should do it…

(5) Grantland, ESPN’s pop culture site founded by Bill Simmons, is shutting down. I’ll miss genre-themed coverage like Brian Phillips’ ”50 Scenes That Do Not Appear in the Fox ‘X-Files’ Revival”.

  1. It does not, at any point, transpire that Assistant FBI Director Walter Skinner joins Kickstarter to seek funding for his “elegantly bound novelization” of Infocom’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
  2. The word “copyleft” — that doesn’t get thrown around a lot.
  3. Jonathan, who is not making churros, does not tell Scully that “it’s about the cinnamon” and then gasp, “I’ve said too much,” and then get shot in the head by a sniper from Venus.

(6) Charle Jane Anders acknowledges “The Difference Between a Great Story and a Shitty Story Is Often Really Tiny” at io9.

To some extent this is a “Devil in the details” thing: It’s the little details that will trip you up. Small inconsistencies can make your world feel flimsy. But, too, tiny character moments and little bits of emotional resonance, in between the big incidents, can do a ton to make people buy stock in your world and its people.

The difference between a shitty story and a great story is often just one of clarity, also. A great story sets up its premises early on, then builds on them and deepens them, until finally you reach some kind of crisis. Going back to the topic of movies, I’ve been amazed by how many movies I’ve seen lately where the first 20 or 30 minutes are compelling and fascinating (the “first act”) and then what follows is a dull morass. It’s like the “building and deepening” part of the recipe just got thrown out.

(7) That lunar rover that went to the junkyard?

“Although Mr. Clueless opted to dispose of the moonlander for scrap, not so the junkyard owner!” reports David Doering.

Motherboard has an interview with the anonymous buyer.

Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there’s a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition.

The scrap dealer spoke to Motherboard on the condition of anonymity because he says he wants to speak to his lawyer about his next steps, but he did send me the recent photo of the buggy above to confirm it’s in his possession. The rover matches a historical NASA image we believed to be the rover in question. It also matches the description given by NASA in its investigatory documents.

“The man who originally bought it, from my understanding, he bought it at an auction. He was a road conditioner [in Alabama],” the junkyard owner told me. “I can’t confirm this is true, but he bought it at a NASA auction many years ago. NASA just discarded a lot of that stuff back then. When it was brought to my scrap facility, I set it aside because I knew what it was. The unit does exist today. It is not scrapped. I have that unit in storage.”

“I’ve done quite a lot of research on the unit and it’s an artifact that needs to be saved,” he added.

David Doering says, “Sure looks like an easy cut-and-dried Kickstarter campaign to buy the rover!”

(8) Speaking of space exploring antiques, NASA needs a programmer fluent in 60-year-old computer programming languages to keep the Voyager 1 and 2 crafts going. The new hire has to know FORTRAN and assembly languages.

(9) Although written before the revised WFC 2015 harassment policy came out, Alasdsair Stuart’s post on the issue remains revelant for making points like these:

In the last two years I’ve been part of a team asked to deal with a single incident. I saw my colleagues treat the individual who had been harassed with compassion, patience and respect. I saw them be given the space they needed to collect themselves and make decisions rather than be pressured into a choice they might later regret. I have rarely been prouder of the teams of volunteers I’ve worked with over the last few years than I was on that day.

And that’s why the mealy mouthed legal tapdance WFC’15 was throwing up wasn’t just bullshit, it was and still is actively harmful. This event, that proudly lays claim to being the definitive convention for industry professionals, was not bothering to do something that events with a tenth its status and a hundredth its reach have baked into their procedures. The obvious defense here is of course the tiny size of the community and ‘we’ choosing to deal with it ‘in house’.

That’s not even in the same time zone as ‘good enough’.

No one on Earth WANTS to have a harassment policy. Even in building one you’re forced to imagine the absolute worst of the people around you, and in doing so, work out how to minimize the damage they may cause. These people have to, by definition, include your friends and colleagues. It’s an inherently cautious, inherently cynical piece of work that codifies the worst potential human behaviour and how to deal with it. No one wants that, least of all members of a community that likes to pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. But we all need it precisely because of that inclusion and diversity.

(10) John Holyoke reviews Stephen King’s new short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams in the Bangor Daily News.

bazaar of bad dreams cover COMP

For loyal King fans who devour anything the author produces, these collections are tiny desserts: sweet morsels that can be consumed rapidly, without guilt. Like some? Fine. Love ’em all? Better. Hate a few? Oh, well — move on. Take a bite out of another.

For those who are new to King and unsure whether they’ll like what they find, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” provides a tasty sampler that, like his other short story collections, showcases the master’s array of talents.

King said a year ago that he was confident he could still “write stories that are sleep-with-the-lights-on scary.” And he can. (Try his novel “Revival” on for size, if you’re in doubt.)

But “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” is a collection of a different flavor and seems to reflect the maturing — and aging — of a writer who likely has left far more tales in his rear view mirror then he has remaining in front of his headlights. Recurring themes this time around include aging, dealing with aging and death itself.

And while that isn’t surprising in itself — there’s often a hefty helping of dying going on in a King book or story — the tone is different, almost melancholy at times, as characters face their mortality and battle with questions like the age-old unanswerable: What’s next?

(11) Lisa Morton, Horror Writers Association president, tells the true, highly commercial origins of today’s Halloween holiday.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that Halloween is a ghoulish tradition that goes back to Druid priests practicing pagan rituals, tell them that companies like Hershey, Coors and Dennison had a lot more to do with the modern Halloween we revere than the Celts from 2,000 years ago.

And that’s a good thing, because these companies have largely created the holiday we now love.

While it is likely that Halloween owes much of its macabre character to the Irish Celtic harvest celebration, Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), there’s no proof whatsoever to suggest that the Celts dressed in costumes, begged candy from neighbors or staged elaborate haunted scares (although they probably did hold major feasts complete with alcohol).

(12) The Horror Writers Association website has a fine array of posts about the holiday by its members. Today’s entry is “Halloween Haunts: Souled” by Tonya Hurley.

We almost drove past it until I noticed the line snaking around the side of the nondescript-looking Dutch Colonial house on the canal. It hardly looked like the scene of any crime let alone that crime — The Amityville Horror. “112 Ocean Avenue.  That’s it!” I shouted with half excitement and equal parts guilt. The latest family to own the house was moving out and this was hyped as a yard sale guaranteed to top them all.  Shoppers and rubberneckers from miles around gathered to land a piece of horror history, joking with each other, retelling tall tales, mixing myths with fact about the house and the crime like a demonic game of telephone as they waited. A quick walk through the home yielded little contents owned by the DeFeo family, the original owners, who were famously murdered there…

(13) Amy Wallace has updated her Wired article “Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul”.

It is August 2015, and things are looking up for Team Humanity. Or are they? A record 11,700-plus people have bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners are soon to be announced. A record number have also forked over dues of at least $40 in time to be allowed to vote, and almost 6,000 cast ballots, 65 percent more than ever before.

But are the new voters Puppies? Or are they, in the words of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, “gathering to defend the integrity of the Hugos”? Just before 8 pm on August 22, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail, and the like, one question is on most attendee’s minds: Will the Puppies prevail?

The evening begins with an appearance by a fan cosplaying as the Grim Reaper, and that turns out to be an omen for the Puppies. By evening’s end, not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate takes home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editors for Short and Long Form—voters choose “No Award.”

Earlier, Beale explained to me that his plan was a “Xanatos gambit”—“that’s where you set it up so that no matter what your enemy does, he loses and you win.” No surprise then, that in an email he sends after the awards ceremony, Beale is crowing. “The scorched-earth strategy being pursued by the SJWs in science fiction is evidence that we hold the initiative and we are winning,” he writes. The number of major categories in which no awards are given “demon­strates the extent to which science fiction has been politi­cized and degraded by their far left politics.”

Quotes from pro writers only – Kloos, Bellet, Correia, Torgersen, Vox Day, George R.R. Martin, N.K. Jemisin.

Zero quotes from fans, who merely run and vote for the awards. Yet Brad R. Torgersen is outraged that still another pro, Sarah A. Hoyt, wasn’t interviewed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh,Tom Galloway, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]