Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

(1) SKULL SESSION. NPR doesn’t think much of King Kong: Skull Island, but compensates by adding interesting movie trivia to their review:

A noble beast gets shackled, ape-napped from his island home and dragged to America in:

  • Minute 84 of 1933’s landmark King Kong,
  • Minute 90 of 1976’s Jeff Bridge/Charles Grodin/”and introducing Jessica Lange”-starring King Kong, and
  • Minute 135 of Peter Jackson’s 2005 prestige pic King Kong — which, at three hours and change, qualifies as the most Kong-sized of the bunch.

In the new, comparatively unambitious Kong: Skull Island, the big guy finally claims a perk of his eight decades of stardom: He gets to do the entire picture from home.

Indeed, this new colon-ized, name-and-address-formatted Kong is at its mediocre best when it pretends to be a nature documentary about Skull Island’s bizarro flora and fauna. One of its most captivating scenes has the big ape bathing himself in a river — at last, computer animators have learned to make convincing water! But every time the movie threatens to get interesting, one of its hordes of ersatz, non-animated characters shows up and starts talking again.

There’s plenty of top-flight talent — Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, the Johns Goodman and C. Reilly, and the Jacksons Samuel T. and Marc Evan — so it’s no chore to sit through. But good luck being able to remember in two months whether you saw this thing or not.

By comparison, the Boston Globe thought it was fun and gave it 3 stars out of 4:

“Kong: Skull Island” isn’t a remake or a reboot or a re-anything. It’s just a Saturday matinee creature feature with a smart, unpretentious script, a handful of solid supporting players, and a digital Kong who feels big enough and real enough to provoke the necessary awe. This is all to the movie’s credit.

Better yet (and unlike [Peter Jackson’s 2005] film), the new movie understands the line between thrilling an audience and scaring it silly — between action-adventure awe and horror-movie gross-outs. The movie feels as if it has been made for a 10-year-old kid, either the one living in your house or the one living in your heart.

(2) COMIC SECTION. And Dan Thompson’s Brevity welcomes the movie with a punny cartoon.

(3) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Why did Amazon build a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the first place? Why is it now about to open number 10?

People were surprised when Amazon announced its first brick-and-mortar bookstore in November 2015. Then came No. 2, 3 and 4.

Sixteen months later, Amazon just confirmed to Recode that it is now working on store No. 10 — a location at the Bellevue Square shopping center across Lake Washington from Seattle. Plans for this new location were found in building permits flagged by the building contractor site BuildZoom.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Bellevue Square in 2017, and we are currently hiring store managers and associates,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Amazon really likes the traction it has seen in the four stores that have opened so far and is committed to becoming a physical retailer at scale. New locations are opening in places like Chicago, New York City and the suburbs of New Jersey later this year.

That doesn’t mean the stores still aren’t puzzling. Why does Amazon — bookstore killer — want to become a physical book purveyor? One smart take has been that the stores are as much about selling Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle as they are about selling books.

(4) NEW STOPS ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. China’s Internet may be showing the way. British anthropologist Tom McDonald, who moved to Anshan, a small rural town between Beijing and Shanghai, has written a book about the Chinese internet, about which he is apparently very protective, and is the source of information for this BBC article.

Most writing about China’s internet had explored metropolitan elites living in the country’s huge cities – and had tended to focus on the issues of censorship and government control, painting a joyless place straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Yet here in Anshan, McDonald was surprised to find a vibrant and innovative online world. “It is easy for us to assume that ‘the Chinese Internet’ ought to be a very drab and boring and constraining place, whereas actually, Chinese internet users are incredibly creative and the internet is incredibly lively,” he tells me. “It was more like an online carnival.”

….One of the core differences, from British social media use, was the fact that the people of Anshan tended to shy away from political pronouncements on their profile pages – “not because of censorship, but just because all the people around them would ask why are you posting that on here,” says McDonald. Instead, their updates tended to be centred on the family and relationships with somewhat saccharine images and messages – perhaps as a way of upholding some of the values at the heart of their rural community.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment along with the link: “The writer seems especially taken with the way everything works together, which suggests the (possibly-mythical) computer scientist’s praise of cyberpunk (~’Sure, everybody’s doing terrible things to each other — but their computers all work together!’)”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 — Killer-creature flick Frogs hops into theaters.
  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premieres.
  • March 10, 1997 Buffy the Vampire Slayer premieres on television.

(6) THE BUFFYVERSARY. “20 Years Ago ‘Buffy’ Welcomed Us All To The Hellmouth (aka High School)” NPR reminds us.

Twenty years ago, on March 10, 1997, TV audiences were introduced to Buffy Summers, a pint-sized blonde who could hold her own against the undead. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003. It had witty dialogue and used monsters as a metaphor for everyday high school problems like bullies, catfishing and feeling invisible.

If that wasn’t enough to make high school seem hellish, the characters went to school on top of a literal Hellmouth. “So many people at the time sent us letters saying, ‘I’m only getting through high school because of Buffy,‘ ” says Buffy writer and producer Jane Espenson.

The BBC also cites Buffy’s influence on pop culture:

Without Buffy’s brilliant musical episode Once More, With Feeling would Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s movie ever have been green-lit?

Actually, yes, it would have been. But if you enjoyed the singing dancing love letter to LA which didn’t win best film at this year’s Oscars, you could do worse than to check out Buffy’s musical extravaganza.

It’s exactly like La La Land, but with added demons.

It also set a trend for other TV shows to unexpectedly feature a musical episode halfway through a series, including medical comedy Scrubs and medical drama Grey’s Anatomy – and an upcoming Supergirl/The Flash crossover.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS. You get your choice.

  • Mario Day

Mario Day came about when it was noticed that when one marks the day Mar.10, it spells Mario. From then it just took off. Mario was first introduced in Nintendo’s game Donkey Kong. When he appeared in this game in the early 1980’s he was not the well-named plumber that would be recognized today. His name was Mr. Jumpman and he was a carpenter.

  • International Bagpipe Day.

The Bagpipe Society has been sponsoring the celebration of International Bagpipe Day since 2012. They have helped to bring the bagpipe to new players since 1986. It is important to them that the history and playing of the bagpipes is not lost. Putting this day together was with the hope of bringing awareness of the over 130 different types of bagpipe throughout the world.

(8) JEDI JOCULARITY. Mark Hamill tweeting as Trump —

(9) DANDELION WINE KICKSTARTER FAILS. Filmmakers ambitious to produce a movie of Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” attempted to crowdfund production with a Kickstarter campaign but they had received only $4,791 of the hoped-for $350K when the campaign ended in January.

In December, the Utah Independent profiled the men behind the effort.

RGI Productions filmmaker Rodion Nahapetov and producer Natasha Shliapnikoff, long-time friends and colleagues of Ray Bradbury, have launched their Kickstarter campaign for the “Dandelion Wine” movie.

“The Kickstarter campaign is so important to us because by receiving the support of Ray’s fans and friends, we will be able to make the movie the way Ray would have wanted it made independently, true to his vision and with love!” said Shliapnikoff.

(10) ELIGIBILITY POST. Adam Rakunas keeps voters informed —

(11) NATIONAL TREASURE. Maybe the original art for the cover of Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world in June 1938, no longer exists, but in late 1938 or ’39, Joe Shuster re-drew that cover for use as a puzzle from the Saalfield Company of Cleveland, Ohio, which was manufactured in 1940. “I wonder what this piece of original art might be worth today?” asks John King Tarpinian. The search is on!

(12) OOPS! Meanwhile, we know what happened to these treasures — “Pulped fiction: Blundering artist destroys rare first edition of The Avengers and other valuable comics worth £20,000 to make papier-mache scultpture”. The Daily Mail has the story.

An artist made a papier-mâché sculpture from comics only to discover that the books were in fact first editions worth about £20,000.

The piece of artwork, called Paperboy, was created by Andrew Vickers, 49, from Sheffield, who found the comics for the man-sized statue in a skip.

However, after handing the sculpture over to an exhibition he was told the comics, which included a first edition of The Avengers, would have been worth a small fortune.

(13) THE NOT-SO-DREAD PIRATE GAME. The Digital Antiquarian remembers when Ron Gilbert made an adventure game that didn’t suck – Monkey Island.

The game casts you in the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a lovable loser who wants to become a pirate. Arriving on Mêlée Island, a den of piratey scum and villainy, he has to complete a set of trials to win the status of Official Pirate. Along the way, he falls in love with the island’s beautiful governor Elaine — her name sets the game up for a gleeful The Graduate homage — and soon has to rescue her from the villain of the story, the evil ghost pirate LeChuck.

The Disnefied piracy wasn’t hard to do, especially after Gilbert discovered a charming little historical-fantasy novel by Tim Powers called On Stranger Tides.

(15) SF IN LIVE THEATER. Alastair Reynolds tells about seeing Diamond Dogs in Chicago, a stage play based on his story.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story – involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire – achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/17 The Pixelated Things Apply As Time Scrolls By

(1) MONEY MANAGEMENT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch counsels authors in “Business Musings: Writer Finances Versus The Paycheck World”.

Here’s a piece of advice you don’t hear very often:

Pay off your house.

Seriously, my writer friends. If you get a lump sum of money, pay off your house.

Or your car.

Definitely pay off your credit cards, and take them out of your wallet. Use them only when you travel to a conference or plan to make a big purchase.

If the indie writers who made a lot of money in 2012-2014 had followed that advice, they’d still be writing and publishing. Sure, their incomes would still be down, along with their sales, but their careers would continue.

How do I know they didn’t do that? Because they’re gone. Mark Coker commented on it in his year-end blog. Writers in the comment section on this blog have mentioned that they’re leaving the business. The Kindle Boards discuss all the writers no one hears from any more.

And if you go to writer website after writer website, many of them for successful indies, you’ll see sites that haven’t been updated for a year or two, or you won’t find any site at all.

What happened?

(2) COLLECTIBLES. The March WIRED has a photo essay called “Scene Stealers:  Inside The Deeply Nerdy–And Insanely Expensive–World of Hollywood Prop Collectors.” (Online here.)  This tells us that you don’t just want a phaser from the original Star Trek –you want a “hero phaser,” created by designer Wah Chang for close-ups, because only two were made.  But if you want the Aries 1 Translunar Shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ve been outbid by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who spent $344,000 on it for a museum the academy plans to open in 2018.

The 2006 Worldcon makes an appearance, because the hero blaster used by Rick Deckard in Blade Runner showed up there after most collectors thought this prop had been lost because no one had seen it for over two decades.

(3) READING THE TEA LEAVES. If you want to know “How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse”, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Emily Feng will tell you – it’s the internet.

Chen Qiufan, a sci-fi writer who has won the Milky Way Award and Xingyun Award, China’s equivalent of the Hugo, remembers life before the web changed everything. “All we could do was write in paperback books and magazines. We sent out our stories on paper by mail,” Chen told Foreign Policy. Sending them out and waiting for a response and feedback took a long time — sometimes forever.” But the early 2000s saw an explosion of dedicated online sci-fi forums that allowed writers and fans to mingle virtually, swapping stories, publishing serialized works, and exchanging intense feedback. Social media sites like Baidu Tieba, the arts and literature-focused site Douban, and college messaging boards hosted the most active online communities.

Suddenly, anyone could be a writer; and writers could get instant, massive feedback on draft work. This development was particularly important for the heretofore much-ignored genre of sci-fi; a large portion of today’s most well known and decorated Chinese science fiction writers did not start inside the formal publishing and literary world.

… “In print publishing it was always difficult” for science fiction, said Michel Hock, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the author of a book on Chinese internet literature. “The state still owns most of the publishing houses, and state ideology is very ambivalent about literature that caters to mass taste.”

Hock noted that “the Communist Party represents the masses, but does not like the masses’ taste very much.”

(4) REGENERATIONS. At CBR.com, Charles Pau Hoffman asks, “Is Marvel Finally Embracing Legacy Characters with Generations?”

For decades, legacy heroes have been associated strongly with DC Comics rather than Marvel, and for understandable reasons. Apart from DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, most of its big name superheroes were reimagined into younger, more modern incarnations during the Silver Age. While DC’s creators eventually settled on the idea of the multiverse as the in-universe explanation for two radically-different Flashes or Green Lanterns, these stories helped to build an expectation among readers that as characters aged, they might be replaced.

The DC Universe is full of legacy heroes; there are now enough Green Lanterns to necessitate a whole Corps, nearly as many Flashes, and more Robins (and former Robins) than grains of sand on the beach. While the focus ebbs and flows between the iconic versions and their legacies, the idea of legacy heroes is so engrained in DC Comics that not even the New 52 could kill it.

While legacy heroes have traditionally been more associated with DC, in the past few years Marvel has leaned hard into the concept. Practically every major Marvel hero now has a legacy of one sort or another: Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster proved she was worthy of wielding Mjolnir, Miles Morales is swinging around New York with Peter Parker’s blessing, Kamala Khan has taken Ms. Marvel’s battle for justice to Jersey City, and even Nick Fury, Jr., is upping his spy game as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And that’s not even getting to Kate Bishop, Sam Alexander, Amadeus Cho, Laura Kinney, Riri Williams, Viv, the Original 5 X-Men, and an unending list of Young Avengers, New X-Men and Spider-Women…

Last week, Marvel released an incredible new piece of art by Alex Ross, accompanied by four simple words: “GENERATIONS – coming Summer 2017.” It is not clear yet whether “Generations” will be a new prestige miniseries, event, or line-wide rebranding a la Marvel NOW, but the name and image highly suggest whatever “Generations” is, it will focus on the idea of legacy heroes in the Marvel Universe.

(5) COMICS ART. Elle Collins curates a gallery of Silver Age sci-fi comic book covers at Comics Alliance.

While the Golden Age established comics as a medium, the Silver Age was when comic book art really came into its own. And it’s worth noting that comics’ Silver Age corresponded with a wider cultural fascination with science fiction. The actual Space Race was in full swing, and everybody was thinking about rocket ships, alien monsters, and the wonders of science.

In comics, it was science fiction that gave comics artists the freedom to go big. Giant monsters, futuristic technology, and huge-scale threats to the entire Earth became commonplace. And of course everyone had their own ideas about what aliens might look like, from the typical little green men with antennae to yellow giants with segmented eyes and butterfly wings for ears.

In assembling this Silver Age sci-fi gallery, I looked for covers that had more science fiction elements to them than just giant monsters, because while there’s overlap, I think giant monsters deserve their own gallery. I also avoided superheroes, because while so many of their stories are science fiction by nature, we understand superheroes as a different genre. Plus this whole gallery could easily be filled up with Fantastic Four and Green Lantern covers, but that would be a different thing. Sci-fi heroes like Adam Strange and Captain Comet were allowed, on the other hand.

(6) NANCY WILLARD OBIT. Black Gate reports the passing of author Nancy Willard, June 26, 1936 – February 19, 2017.

Nancy Willard was the author of more than 70 books, including more than 40 books for children, such as the Anatole trilogy, Firebrat (1988), East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989), and Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (1991), illustrated by the Dillons. She won the Newbery Award in 1982 for her book of poetry, William Blake’s Inn, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. It was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery.

Willard’s Things Invisible to See won the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book (1986).

The family obituary is here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY HOBBIT

  • Born February 25, 1971 – Sean Astin

(8) PATRON OF THE ARTS. Ray Bradbury was on the Chamber Symphony Society of California’s board of directors, as this 1973 clipping reminds us.

(9) HELLO, CENTRAL? In “The Coming Amnesia”, Geoff Manaugh explores a prediction made by Alistair Reynolds that if the universe keeps expanding, galaxies wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other and any interstellar civilizations would be unable to contact any other ones.

As the universe expands over hundreds of billions of years, Reynolds explained, there will be a point, in the very far future, at which all galaxies will be so far apart that they will no longer be visible from one another.

Upon reaching that moment, it will no longer be possible to understand the universe’s history—or perhaps even that it had one—as all evidence of a broader cosmos outside of one’s own galaxy will have forever disappeared. Cosmology itself will be impossible.

In such a radically expanded future universe, Reynolds continued, some of the most basic insights offered by today’s astronomy will be unavailable. After all, he points out, “you can’t measure the redshift of galaxies if you can’t see galaxies. And if you can’t see galaxies, how do you even know that the universe is expanding? How would you ever determine that the universe had had an origin?”

There would be no reason to theorize that other galaxies had ever existed in the first place. The universe, in effect, will have disappeared over its own horizon, into a state of irreversible amnesia.

…It is worth asking here, however briefly and with multiple grains of salt, if something similar has perhaps already occurred in the universe we think we know today—if something has not already disappeared beyond the horizon of cosmic amnesia—making even our most well-structured, observation-based theories obsolete. For example, could even the widely accepted conclusion that there was a Big Bang be just an ironic side-effect of having lost some other form of cosmic evidence that long ago slipped eternally away from view?

Remember that these future astronomers will not know anything is missing. They will merrily forge ahead with their own complicated, internally convincing new theories and tests. It is not out of the question, then, to ask if we might be in a similarly ignorant situation.

(10) THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Dave Langford reports that in addition to their 2017 TAFF ballot platforms, all three candidates have since posted campaign material online. Click on each name for more: Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, John Purcell.

(11) INTELLIGENT TALK. Kim Stanley Robinson and a non-genre author will be interviewed by Adam Roberts at Waterstones in London on April 3.

Waterstones Piccadilly is delighted to announce a very special event featuring three exceptional authors.  Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford will be discussing their work with critic and author Adam Roberts.

Kim Stanley Robinson is widely regarded as one of the foremost living writers of science-fiction. Author of the bestselling Mars trilogy as well as numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, he has won many awards over the years, including multiple Hugo and Nebula prizes.

Francis Spufford teaches writing at Goldsmiths University and has written 5 highly-acclaimed works of non-fiction. His first fiction title, Golden Hill, was a Waterstones Book of the Month and won the 2016 Costa Prize for First Novel.

Adam Roberts has written an extensive collection of works in both the fiction and critical genres. Author of some wonderfully original science-fiction and parody titles, Adam teaches English literature and writing at Royal Holloway University.

(13) NOT BEEN BERRY BERRY GOOD. The 2017 Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. The Razzies, highlighting the “cinematic sludge” of the past year, were announced today.

WORST PICTURE

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTOR

Dinesh D’Souza in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTRESS

The “Actress” Who Plays Hillary Clinton in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kristen Wiig / Zoolander No. 2

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jesse Eisenberg / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREEN COMBO

Ben Affleck & His BFF (Baddest Foe Forever) Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST DIRECTOR

Dinesh D’Souza & Bruce Schooley / Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF or SEQUEL

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREENPLAY

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

RAZZIE® REDEEMER AWARD

2014 Worst Supporting Actor nominee Mel Gibson, for his Oscar-nominated direction of Hacksaw Ridge

 

(14) HOW HARD IS YOUR SF? Futurism groks the fullness: “How Scientifically Accurate Is Your Favorite Sci-Fi Film?”

“Minority Report”

If you can look past the draconian dystopia of the world presented in the movie, you’ll find a lot of interesting scientific details “Minority Report” strived to get correct. Steven Spielberg consulted with computer engineers to come up with the now-iconic vision of the next gen computer systems. While our current touchscreen devices aren’t exactly what was depicted in the film, we are getting closer to gesture-based interfaces.

(15) INKSTAINED WRETCH. Jon Skovron, author of Hope and Red and Bane and Shadow, gives us an insight into how he writes, from first draft to the final book.

(16) THUG NOTES OF GENRE INTEREST. Selected by John King Tarpinian.

  • 1984

  • BRAVE NEW WORLD

  • FAHRENHEIT 451

  • A HANDMAID’S TALE

(17) SUMMER CAMP. Tor.com says “Shared Worlds is Now Open for Registration!” Shared Worlds is supported by co-director Jeff VanderMeer and Editor-in-Residence Ann VanderMeer.

Shared Worlds, a world-building summer camp for kids, is now open for registration. The program is open to rising 8th-12th graders, and will take place from July 16th-29th at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Registration will be open until April 1st so be sure to register soon!

The students work in small groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world, spending a week building their worlds from the ground up: geography, population, religion and philosophy, legal systems—everything you’d need for a functional world. The second week is spent writing stories that can only occur in the worlds they’ve created. The program culminates in individual sessions between the students and the guest authors so the students get personalized feedback on their work. Finally, the students’ stories are published in the annual program anthology.

[Thanks to JJ, Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/17 I Wanted To Know The Exact Pixels Of Scroll

(1) DESIRED FUTURE. While we were wondering if Whoopi Goldberg was getting enough love from Star Trek conventions, the truth came out – what she really wants is a role on Doctor Who. Den of Geek has the story —

“I like the idea of doing things the way y’all do them,” the Sister Act and Star Trek: The Next Generation star added. “You do some really fun stuff like Black Mirror or, you know, I’m still dying to do Doctor Who.”

She added: “I always hope when I come to England the BBC will say, ‘Hey we want you to do something [on Doctor Who]’. I would love that.”

(2) A SECOND HELPING. ScienceFiction.com says Arrival is being re-released immediately to capitalize on its Oscar nominations.

This Friday, January 27th, 2017, Paramount is re-releasing ‘Arrival‘ on the big screen with an added 8 minutes of bonus material! Now, this isn’t an extended cut of the film but could be thought of as more of a preview of the special features from the eventual Blu-Ray. Think commentary and behind-the-scenes material that includes the Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and even more of the cast and crew from the film.

(3) STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds tells more about the stage adaptation of Diamond Dogs in Chicago. He’ll be in the audience next month.

Directed by Nathan Allen, the play is an adaptation by Althos Low , a pen name for Shanghai Low Theatricals, a group dedicated to bring challenging works to the stage. Frankly you couldn’t get much more challenging than a piece of space-operatic dark SF, involving interstellar travel, cyborg prosthetics and a monstrous alien structure – but suitably undaunted, Shanghai Low (with chief adaptor Steve Pickering) have put together what is by all accounts a very striking and inventive production, involving hi-tech stage design, imaginative costume work, and the resourceful and skilled puppetry of Mary Robinette Kowal, already greatly respected within SF circles as a fine writer. The script, which I read some months ago, is clever and involving, and very true to the beats of the original story. This is the first adaptation of any of the Revelation Space stories into another medium, and I can’t wait to see it.

(4) BLAST FROM THE PAST. The Traveler from Galactic Journey has a request — “[January 25, 1962] Shameless Self-Promotion (Nominate Galactic Journey For The Hugo!)”.

Galactic Journey has brought you the latest in science fact and fiction for over three years, since October 1958.  It’s been a tremendous pleasure and privilege to review the monthly sff digests, the new books, the best (and worst!) scientifiction TV shows and movies, enormously rewarding to report on the myriad space shots as they happen.  Coverage of 1960’s pitched election season was eye-opening and exciting.

Though it was not originally our mission, the Journey has become a progressive entity, focusing on the women and minority contributors that add to the diversity and value of our fandom, yet who are overlooked and underrepresented.

Oh, how we’ve grown in three years!  Since this column’s humble beginnings, our staff of two has grown to ten, including an overseas correspondent.  Last June, we began providing the latest news on the right-hand side of our pages.  In August, no less a personage than Rod Serling honored us for our coverage of The Twilight Zone….

It’s the 2017 Hugo he’d like to be nominated for – he’s leaving the 1962 field to front-runners Warhoon and Cry of the Nameless.

(5) PLEASE EXCUSE ME. Charles Stross, on the other hand, asks that fans not nominate his work in this year’s trial Hugo category.

(6) YOG’S LAW ENFORCEMENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in “SFWA Statement on Magazines and the Monetization of Writers”, frowns on magazines cashing in on the slush reading.

In the past year SFWA has seen several examples of magazines contemplating monetizing the writers submitting work to them for publication. Strategies for doing so have ranged from the subtle to the overt, including submission fees, fees for personalized feedback, statements that contributors who are subscribers will get preferential treatment, and other charges.

One tenet that SFWA holds to strongly is Yog’s Law, the idea that money should always flow towards the writer. The organization strongly condemns any practice where a magazine take money from a writer and allows it to or implies it will affect the reception of the writer’s submission(s) in any way.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

January 25, 1999 The Blair Witch Project is seen for the first time.

(7a) TODAY’S BELATED BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 24, 1944 — David Gerrold

(8) ASK ME ANYTHING. Authors of The Expanse James S. A. Corey are doing an AMA on Reddit on January 26 at Noon EST (9 a.m. PST) — https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/. Got a question about the series? Go on!

(9) BRING ‘EM BACK ALIVE. The topic for the 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate is “De-Extinction.” At New York City’s Hayden Planetarium on Wednesday, March 29 moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson and a panel of experts will take on this topic —

Biologists today have the knowledge, the tools, and the ability to influence the evolution of life on Earth. Do we have an obligation to bring back species that human activities may have rendered extinct? Does the technology exist to do so?

2017 Asimov Debate panelists are:

  • George Church – Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University and MIT
  • Hank Greely – Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University
  • Gregory Kaebnick – Scholar, The Hastings Center; Editor, Hastings Center Report
  • Ross MacPhee – Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology; Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School
  • Beth Shapiro – Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

(10) PROP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar:  “San Jose Councilman Takes Oath of Office With Captain America Shield: ‘I Want to Shine a Ray of Optimism’”.

A new San Jose city councilman held a Captain America shield as he was sworn in on Tuesday night, telling NBC Bay Area that the Marvel Comics character “embodies the ideas of America.”

Lan Diep, a Republican legal aid attorney, received cheers after he said “I do solemnly swear” when the clerk asked if he would defend his oath of office. His final vote of his first meeting? Joining the council in unanimously banning the communist Vietnamese flag from flying in San Jose.

In an interview after the meeting, the proud comic book geek and Houston-born son of Vietnamese refugees said that Captain America stands for the “kinds of things I strive for: equal justice, fair play and democracy.” …

(11) WHO KNEW? Cnet blew my trivia-loving mind by proving “The Star Wars Death Star trench isn’t where you think it is”.

Vaziri has some theories about why the mistaken impression is so widespread, even among hard-core fans.

He points out that the Death Star’s two biggest features are the dish and the equatorial trench. “Our brains want to connect this new trench with something we’ve seen before, and because of their similarities, and the simplicity of that connection, it’s not a big leap for us to (incorrectly) deduce the two trenches are one and the same,” he writes.

(12) SPACEWAY ROBBERY. Remember – being ripped off is the sincerest form of flattery. ScreenCrush lists “The Top Five Most Shameless ‘Star Wars’ Rip-Offs”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Porter, and Doctor Science for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day m. c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/16 Scroll Measured By Weight. Pixels May Settle In Packing

(1) PROMETHEUS AWARDS RECOMMENDATIONS. Members of the Libertarian Futurist Society can formally nominate a work for any category of the Prometheus Awards.

Here are the works nominated so far in 2016 for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel:

2016 Prometheus Award Best Novel nominations
(Nominations as of Dec. 17, 2016. Nominations deadline: Feb. 15, 2017)

  • Morning Star: Book III of The Red Rising Trilogy, by Pierce Brown (Del Rey, Feb., 2016)
  • Speculator, by Doug Casey and John Hunt (HighGround Books, Sept. 2016)
  • Dark Age, by Felix Hartmann (Hartmann Publishing, June 2016)
  • Kill Process, by William Hertling (Liquididea Press, June 2016)
  • Through Fire, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit, 2016)
  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (TOR Books, 2016)
  • Written in Fire, (Book 3 of The Brilliance trilogy) by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer, Jan. 2016)
  • The Core of the Sun, by Johanna Sinisalo and Lola Rogers (Grove Press/Black Cat, January 2016)
  • Blade of p’Na, by L. Neil Smith (Phoenix Pick, October 2016)
  • Arkwright, by Allen Steele (TOR Books, March 2016)
  • On to the Asteroid, by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson (Baen Books, August 2016)
  • Necessity, by Jo Walton (TOR Books, July 2016)

(2) THEATRICAL ALIENS. Alastair Reynolds’ story is being brought to the stage using puppets designed by Mary Robinette Kowal — “The House Theater of Chicago to Stage World Premiere of Sci-Fi Thriller DIAMOND DOGS”.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents their initial production in 2017, Diamond Dogs, adapted from Alastair Reynolds’ science fiction adventure by Althos Low and directed by Artistic Director Nathan Allen, playing at the Chopin Upstairs Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., January 13 – March 5. Diamond Dogs is also a participant in the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, January 19 – 29. Preview performances are January 13 – 20. Opening/press night is Sunday, Jan. 22.

Diamond Dogs follows a 26th century team of humans and transhumans as they investigate a mysterious alien tower, bent on brutally punishing all intruders. Uncovering clues and solving puzzles, each crusader will make dangerous, eye-popping sacrifices to get to the mysteries atop the spire. Blood will spill. This thriller is one of 16 stories set in novelist Reynolds’s expansive Revelation Space Universe. Artistic Director Nathan Allen teams up with The House’s most inventive designers and guest artists to bring this unique universe to life. Body modification is the norm in the future, and award-winning puppet designer Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also an award-winning sci-fi author, articulates and re-shapes the actors’ human forms into powerful mechanized players battling for their lives. Reynolds is one of a new generation of hard science-fiction authors, a craft he began during his decade-long career as an astrophysicist with the European Space Agency. Diamond Dogs is a pure example of the “Deadly Maze Story,” a staple of Science Fiction since H. P. Lovecraft. This world premiere production at The House Theatre of Chicago marks the first of Reynolds’ works to be adapted for another medium.

(3) RESNICK ON WRITING. Joshua Sky interviews Mike Resnick for Omni.

JS: What other elements are important in a new writer? Is it attitude, is it talent? What’s your take on that?

MR: First, you’ve got to be a smooth enough writer so that it’s not an effort for the editor, or the reader to get to the bottom of each page. That’s essential. You’ve got to know how to push a noun up against a verb with some grace. And of course you should have a knowledge of the field, because while there’s still a million ideas we haven’t touched, there’s probably half a million ideas that have already seen print. And unless you have a totally new take on it you’re not going to sell it. There used to be a rejection slip from Amazing Stories, back when Ted White was editing it, where there’d be a number of boxes he could check to explain why he’d rejected it. The box he checked most was, “Heinlein did it better – and earlier.”

I would love to have a rejection slip like that, but all Galaxy’s Edge’s rejections are personal. But yeah, you’ve got to know the field if you want to write in it. Which makes sense. I mean, shouldn’t you care enough about the field in which you want to make all or part of your living so that you’ve been reading it and know about it, and know what has been done to death and what hasn’t?

(4) ANSWERS WANTED James Davis Nicoll wants to tap into File 770 readers’ collective wisdom about project management tools useful for conrunners.

A local theatrical organization has ongoing communications challenges. The current means of communication (email, facebook, facebook messages) all seem to lend themselves to communications breakdowns [1]. I recall that Basecamp worked pretty well for the Tiptrees but Hipchat, Slack and Telegram have also been suggested as well. I know a bunch of you run cons. Would you recommend any of these tools?

[1] Facebook lends itself to amnesia but even in email it can be hard to find the specific email you want, particularly if you’ve forgotten it exists. Or never knew.

(5) BILL WARREN REMEMBERED. Scott Shaw! told Facebook readers that Svengoolie paid tribute to the late Bill Warren on this week’s program.

Tonight on Me-TV, during his presentation of Hammer’s 1960 classic THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, Svengoolie (AKA Rich Koz) made a VERY nice mention of Bill Warren‘s passing. He showed the photo of Bill with Robby the Robot and Kerry Gammill‘s cover for the new edition of Bill’s KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES! Sven mentioned Bill’s work with Forry Ackerman and his insanely voluminous knowledge about the films we all love. He even mentioned Beverly Warren! It made me very proud to see such a wonderful acknowlegement of the sweet, funny guy we all miss.

I wasn’t aware that Sven’s tribute to Bill was gonna be tonight, but surely some of you out there recorded tonight’s episode of SVENGOOLIE

(6) GABOR OBIT. Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) died December 18. Her Internet Movie Database bio says —

Undoubtedly the woman who had come to epitomize what we recognize today as “celebrity”, Zsa Zsa Gabor, is better known for her many marriages, personal appearances, her “dahlink” catchphrase, her actions, life gossip, and quotations on men, rather than her film career.

Her biggest genre credit was the movie Queen of Outer Space. She also appeared in Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and episodes of Night Gallery (segment “The Painted Mirror”), Batman, and Supertrain.

queen-of-outer-space

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of the Moon. (“Say ‘Cheese!’”)
  • December 18, 1968Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opens in New York

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born December 18, 1913 – Alfred Bester
  • Born December 18, 1946 — Steven Spielberg (Amazing Stories) and
  • Born December 18, 1958 — Steve Davidson (Amazing Stories)

(9) OUR REPLACEMENTS. Kate Macdonald looks back at early cyborgs in her “Review of ‘No Woman Born’ (1944) by C.L. Moore and ‘Lady in the Tower’ (1959) by Anne McCaffrey” at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

I teach sf to university students, and knew from the critical literature about gender in sf that sometime in the 1940s a writer called C. L. Moore published a landmark story about the first female cyborg. I tracked down a copy of ‘No Woman Born’ this year, and was deeply impressed. This story is a glowing beacon of fine writing and an impressive acceleration of how the cyborg operates in fiction. No longer a destructive masculine, war-making automaton from the post-WW1 years, this cyborg is a dancer and singer whose new flexibility and vocal range enhance her art, and successfully disguise her strength of purpose by using her femininity to cloak her developing ambitions. Deirdre is a person who is now a cyborg, and her humanity is totally present throughout this novella, despite her gleaming gold body, and her inhuman speed and agility.

The story could just as well be a three-act play. It’s set in Deirdre’s apartment where Harris, her former manager, comes to visit her for the first time after her rehabilitation following a disastrous fire, then when he and her besotted surgeon Maltzer watch her first public performance on TV in her new body, and finally when Harris witnesses Maltzer’s threat to prevent any more cyborgs being made, and Deirdre’s command. ‘No Woman Born’ is not just a story of one person, it’s an opening up of possibilities: cyborgs are stronger and faster, so what will that mean for women, as well as for men? What will that mean for the humans left behind? Can relations between a man and a woman be the same now that the woman is made of metal? How will a woman feel about her body, when no-one is there to admire it? And does this matter? By creating a female cyborg whose primary attributes, in the eyes of the men who managed and created her, are her grace and beauty, Moore shows us that when a cyborg claims autonomy, she becomes nobody’s creature, and can decide how she will live her extended, augmented life. It is a tremendous, game-changing story for feminism in sf, and for how we need to learn to think about being post-human. It’s also beautifully written, with unforgettable images of Deirdre learning to see, to stand, move and dance humanly again, in her glittering robe of metal mesh, and her golden, visored face.

(10) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY MUSIC. If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite dark ambient fan, the Cryo Chamber label has been releasing massive collaborations named after Lovecraftian gods. The latest one is named Nyarllathotep. The albums are available in CD and digital formats.

A 190 minute dark soundscape album recorded by 25 ambient artists to pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. Field recordings from the deepest dark corners of 4 continents. Dusty tapes out of forgotten archives. Strings through crackling amplifiers and distorted drone combine into a sea of pitch black. Nyarlathotep is a manipulative being in the Lovecraftian Mythos. Unlike Cthulhu, or Azathoth, he delights in cruelty and deception. Causing madness is more important than destruction to him.

Smell the burning embers as you kneel outside the sunken temple before Nyarlathotep. Feel the raspy touch of the faceless pharaoh as he leads you to the ancient Pyramid. Hear his inhuman summoning call to gods beyond reality.

(11) AFROFUTURISM. The New York Times highlighted Afrofuturism in their Year in Style 2016 section. In the article, Ytasha L. Womack, author of the 2013 Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, speaks almost in counterpoint to the Puppies:

“When…in the imaginary future… people can’t fathom a person of non-Euro descent a hundred years into the future, a cosmic foot has to be put down.”

…Afrofuturism’s resurgence could not be more timely, arriving as it does in a climate perceived as indifferent, if not downright inimical, to racial and ethnic minorities. In her book, Ms. Womack recalls a time when black or brown sci-fi characters were all but invisible in the culture at large. As a girl, she would fantasize that she was Princess Leia of “Star Wars.”

“While it was fun to be the chick from outer space in my imagination,” Ms. Womack writes, “the quest to see myself or browner people in this space age, galactic epic was important to me.” It was in the absence of minorities from pop lore, she goes on, “that seeds were planted in the imaginations of countless black kids who yearned to see themselves in warp-speed spaceship too.”

Count among them Tim Fielder, a New York graphic artist and animator whose sci-fi illustrations, produced over a 30-year span, drew visitors last spring to “Black Metropolis,” at the Gallatin Galleries at New York University. Mr. Fielder’s pioneering cartoon narratives — notably those of “Matty’s Rocket,” his spirited black female cosmonaut, who will lift off next year in graphic novel form — are particularly relevant now, he maintained: “They let young artists know that they’re not on dangerous turf, that someone has gone there before them.”

(12) BEFORE YOUR EYES. NPR combines story and video in its report “Google assembles decades of satellite photos to show changes on Earth”.

Google Earth’s time lapse videos of earth’s landscape could make you think about the great baseball player Yogi Berra.

“I thought about one of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra,” says Marc Levy, a political scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who specializes in issues of global health and development. “He said, ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.'”

To show just how much the Earth’s landscape has changed over the past three decades, Google sifted through 5 million satellite images containing three quadrillion pixels. The result is a series of high-resolution, zoomable time-lapse videos that capture, in unprecedented detail, the human impact on this planet.

 

(13) SCIENCE HISTORY. Genevieve Valentine reviews “’Hidden Figures,’’The Glass Universe,’ And Why Science Needs History” for NPR.

But history tends to get simplified; a map becomes a single road leading from point to point. It’s not surprising that some scientists who contributed invaluably to the field have been kept out of the dominant narrative because they were women, and they were considered anomalies of their time. (That those times practically overlap — meaning a steady line of crucial work being done by women — is one of those scientific patterns that tend to get forgotten.)

But in the last days of the 19th century and the early days of the 20th, Henrietta Swan Leavitt — one of the many woman “computers” at the Harvard Observatory — used the measurements of variable stars to determine fixed distances across space. And fifty years later, Katherine Johnson — a black woman working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia when the state was still deeply segregated — would map John Glenn’s space flight, and America’s trip to the moon.

(14) RADIO ART. A few months ago we reported the drawing competition BBC Radio 4 was having  to draw episode art for their re-broadcast of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust radio adaptation. The program is airing this month – there will be a repeat Christmas weekend. Schedule here: Stardust – Next on – BBC Radio 4.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian,  Bruce Arthurs, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, and Rob Thornton for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/16 Carry On My Wayward Scroll

(1) NEXT STEP. Sigrid Ellis responds to the Orlando attack with a series of autobiographical notes in “The road to murder is paved with microaggressions”.

  1. I was horrified to hear the news out of Orlando. But I wasn’t surprised. I wish I found murders of LGBTQIA folk to be surprising. But I have been found guilty of being gay my entire life. I know how much, how casually, how thoughtlessly I am hated. Hated not because I am evil, but because I am merely the most horrible disgusting thing people can imagine.
  2. The shooter went to a place of refuge, of joy, of celebration. He went to a place where queers go when we are told we are too queer to be seen anywhere else. He went to the place where all the shoving and flaunting of queer would have been hidden away from him. He sought it out, this crusader vigilante, this one good man with a gun we hear so much about. He took his righteousness and hunted down the gay he hated and feared.
  3. So how do we go on. How do we live in a world that hates and fears us?

I cannot stop anyone from murdering anyone else. I don’t have that power. But I am … done. I am done with letting the jokes and remarks slide by. I cannot continue to passively agree that I am a punchline, a threat, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale. I just, … I am done.

I can’t stop the Orlando murders, or any other murders of queers.

But I am done being complicit.

(2) HELPING. Stephanie Burgis researched a list of links about ways to help Orlando victims, and community LGBTQ organizations.

This is not the post I wanted to write today. Today, I was planning to announce a fun new project up for pre-order. I was going to talk about other stuff, the normal, small incidents of life. But I’m still reeling. So I’ll post about all those things another day. Today, I just want to pass on the things I’ve seen that might help a bit:…

(3) DIAMOND TIME. Alastair Reynolds’ story “Diamond Dogs” will be on stage in Chicago this season.

An adaptation by Althos Low (the pen name for Steve Pickering and creatives from Shanghai Low Theatricals) of Alastair Reynolds sci-fi story “Diamond Dogs” will complete The House Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

The production, set in the future, follows characters caught in an alien tower and will be third in the company’s season, running Jan. 13-March 5. Artistic director Nathan Allen will direct.

(4) TIME TRAVELERS PAST. The Economist discusses“Time-travel from H.G. Wells to ‘Version Control’”.

MUCH of what is good in science fiction is not about the future. Rather, the genre uses the future as a canvas on which to imprint its real concerns—the present. Counterintuitively, perhaps, time travel stories are often those tales that are most anchored in the present. As Sean Redmond argues in “Liquid Metal: the Science Fiction Film Reader”, time travel “provides the necessary distancing effect that science fiction needs to be able to metaphorically address the most pressing issues and themes that concern people in the present”.

One of the earliest time-travel novels, H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”, can, for example, be read as reflecting contemporary anxieties about the effects of the industrial revolution on Britain’s rigid class system. The elfin “upper class” Eloi are seemingly content, but are in fact easy prey for the ape-like “working class” Morlocks. The fear that a strong but supposedly inferior working class, empowered by industrialisation, could come for them would have resonated with many of Wells’s Victorian readers.

Robert Heinlein’s time and dimension-hopping novels featuring Lazarus Long, who lives for over 2,000 years, are rooted in the author’s rejection of the social norms of his times. With their enthusiasm for nudism and free love, the novels, which must have seemed provocative in the 1950s and 60s, can now feel dated.

(5) REYNOLDS WOULD STAY. Alastair Reynolds tells “Why I’m for the UK remaining in the EU” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Many of the arguments for and against membership of the EU seem to revolve around economics, which seems to me to be an extremely narrow metric. Even if we are better off out of the EU, which we probably won’t be, so what? This is already a wealthy country, and leaving the EU won’t mend the widening inequality between the very rich and almost everyone else. More than that, though, look at what would be lost. Friendship, commonality, freedom of movement, a sense that national boundaries are (and should be) evaporating.

(6) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. SF Gate reveals the crime of the millennium — “The great city of San Francisco no longer has a center”.

A brass surveyor’s disk, recently installed on an Upper Market-area sidewalk to mark the precise geographic center of San Francisco, has been stolen.

On Wednesday, city surveyors and Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru visited the spot in the 700 block of Corbett Avenue to call attention to the disk and to the work of the surveyors who had established the spot as the precise center of town.

It wasn’t technically the center of town — that spot is under a bush on a nearby hillside — but it was close, and it was publicly accessible.

At the time, surveyor Michael McGee predicted that the small brass disk — attached to the concrete with heavy-duty glue — would suffer the fate of similar markers and be stolen by vandals.

“I’d give it about six weeks,” McGee said.

He was off by five weeks and six days.

On Thursday, an orange arrow and shakily written “Geographic Center of City” were still on the sidewalk. A circular patch marked the spot where the disk had been, briefly.

(7) YOU SHOULD WEAR A HELMET. “Could a satellite fall on your head?” BBC follows German scientists’ efforts to find out.

“There are a lot of satellites in orbit and they will come down sooner or later,” he says. “They’ll probably break up and the question for us is: what is the chance of an impact?”

In other words, could sections of dead satellites survive re-entry to hit something or, worse, someone?

The wind tunnel being deployed for Willems’ experiment resembles a giant deconstructed vacuum cleaner attached to a pressure cooker, arranged across a concrete floor. The gleaming machine is covered in a mass of pipes and wires. Capable of producing air currents of up to 11 times the speed of sound, the wind tunnel is used for testing the aerodynamics of supersonic and hypersonic aircraft designs.

(8) GENRE DINERS. Lawrence Schoen presents — Eating Authors: Naomi Novik, the June 13 edition of his Q&A series.

I’m preparing this week’s post from New Mexico, where I am ensconced at a writers’ retreat and working hard to up my craft (while also enjoying great company, fabulous meals, and some truly awesome leisurely walks through nature). But such things cannot stop the juggernaut that is the EATING AUTHORS blog! Which is about as much of a segue as you’re going to get this week by way of an introduction for my latest guest, Naomi Novik, who should already be known to you for her Temeraire series which blends fantasy and alternate history (or, as it’s more commonly described, the Napoleonic Wars with dragons!).

(9) SEND ONE BOOK. Throwing Chanclas pleads the case for a Nevada high school library looking for book donations. Cat Rambo says SFWAns are pitching in.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries….

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who are excelling are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of. Just one book.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you for your support.

If sending during the month of July (when school is closed) please send to

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

(10) SFWA. Today was the second SFWA Chat Hour. Streamed live and saved to video, you can listen to Operations Director Kate Baker, member Erin Hartshorn, Volunteer Coordinator Derek Künsken, President Cat Rambo, and Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk talk about the organization’s new member experience, game writer criteria, the state of SFWA finances, volunteer opportunities, Worldcon plans, the 2017 Nebulas, awards for anthologies, what they’re reading, and more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell

(12) TSF&HF. Leonard Pierce experiments with placing the emphasis on each different word in this six-word phrase, and ends up with a column called “Third Booth on the Left”.

“So, what do you guys sell?”

“Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Your average author isn’t 83 years old and nearly dead, then?”

Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Oh.  Okay.  But, I mean, you don’t just do space operas based on the technical education of someone who was an undergraduate when Eisenower was in the White House, right?”…

(13) TEH FUNNY. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Reality Check cartoon by Dave Whamond.

(14) CHINA SF AWARD. “The Chinese Government is Setting Up Its Own Major Science Fiction Award” reports the Lifeboat Foundation.

This is pretty interesting: during the latest national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, chairman Han Qide announced that the country would be setting up a program to promote science fiction and fantasy, including the creation of a new major award.

Throughout much of its genre’s history, China’s science fiction has had a legacy of usefulness, often promoted to educate readers in concepts relating to science and technology. This new award will be accompanied by an “international sci-fi festival” and other initiatives to promote the creation of new stories.

(15) HE BITES. A deliberately harmful robot named “First Law” has been built to hype discussion about the risks of AI.

A robot that can decide whether or not to inflict pain has been built by roboticist and artist Alexander Reben from the University of Berkeley, California.

The basic machine is capable of pricking a finger but is programmed not to do so every time it can.

Mr Reben has nicknamed it “The First Law” after a set of rules devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov.

He said he hoped it would further debate about Artificial Intelligence.

“The real concern about AI is that it gets out of control,” he said.

“[The tech giants] are saying it’s way out there, but let’s think about it now before it’s too late. I am proving that [harmful robots] can exist now. We absolutely have to confront it.”

(16) VERY LATE NEWS. Appropriate to the previous item, Bill Gates was named 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner – in January.

Story

January 3, 2016 — The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.   The 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Bill Gates in recognition of his fight against infectious diseases, his warnings about artificial intelligence, and his funding of improvements in education since a smarter civilization is one that is more likely to survive and flourish.

About Lifeboat Foundation

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

(17) PLAY BALL. “Chewbacca Mom and some special ‘Star Wars’ friends threw the first pitch at the Rays game”, as major league baseball blogger Chris Landers told Cut4 readers.

Over 150 million Facebook views later, “Chewbacca Mom” was born. She sang with James Corden. She was offered a full scholarship to Southeastern University in Florida. She started charging $20 for an autograph. And finally, on Saturday, the cherry on top: Payne threw out the first pitch before the Rays’ 4-3 loss to the Astros.

But, befitting a woman who was brought happiness to so many, it wasn’t just any first pitch. It was a “Star Wars” first pitch — featuring the cantina song, another Wookiee, and of course, Taylor Motter at catcher wearing a Chewy mask.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Jim Henley, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/16 Every Bark a Doorway

(1) ATTACKING CREATORS. Devin Faraci at Birth. Movies. Death. lit up the internet with the claim “Fandom Is Broken”.

… Last week the AV Club ran an excellent piece about the nature of modern fan entitlement, and I think it’s fairly even-handed. The piece covers both the reaction to an all-female Ghostbusters reboot but also the hashtag that trended trying to get Elsa a girlfriend in Frozen 2. The author of that piece, Jesse Hasenger, draws a line between the two fan campaigns, rightly saying that whether driven by hate (Ghostbusters) or a desire for inclusion (Frozen 2) both campaigns show the entitlement of modern fan culture. It’s all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators….

The old fan entitlement has been soldered onto the ‘customer is always right’ mindset that seems to motivate the people who make Yelp so shitty. I’m spending a dollar here, which makes me the lord and master of all, is the reasoning (I don’t even want to speculate about whether or not modern fans spend their dollars on licensed, legal products – that’s an essay for another weary day). It’s what makes people act like assholes to servers, and somehow it’s become the way ever-growing segments of fans are behaving towards creators. It’s been interesting watching so many people bring up Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the Captain America fracas; one of part of it is that their Jewishness allows angry, petulant fans to throw down a social justice bomb but it also speaks to how modern fans see many modern creators. They’re nobody compared to the ones who invented this stuff. The modern creator is the server, and they should be going back into the kitchen and bringing back a Captain America cooked to their exact specifications, and without any sort of complications or surprises. This is what fans have always wanted, but the idea of being consumers – people who are offering money for services rendered – only reinforces the entitlement.

And so we have these three elements – one old as fandom itself, one rooted in technological advances and one impacted by the corporatization of storytelling – coming together in such a way to truly break fandom. I wish this was the part of the essay where I come to you with a hopeful pep talk about how we can all be better, but I just don’t see a positive solution. If anything, I see things getting worse – creators walling themselves off from fans while corporate masters happily throw vision and storytelling under the bus to appease the people who can get hashtags trending. “You can’t always get what you want” is a sentiment that belongs to another era when it comes to mass storytelling. I recently read Glen Weldon’s excellent The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture and the arc of fandom it sketches out is a profoundly disheartening one, with Batfans morphing from monkish annotators of the character’s fictional history into crusaders harrassing anyone on the internet who sees Batman differently than they do….

(2) THE RISING OF THE DOUGH. More details about the Sons of Anarchy cast payment problems at a Houston convention this past weekend from Official Ava Jade Cosplay: “Space City Comic (Con) – Thousands Swindled, Contracts Broken and Many Still Looking for Answers”:

The previously included statement about the rooms not being paid for has been retracted-  A representative from the staff contacted me and informed me that I was misinformed about the exact situation. There was a mishap regarding the hotel check in. The credit card for the room was for the reservations and not for incidentals. Upon checking in, some cast members had to pay cash for the incidentals, instead of putting their own credit card up, and risking being charged upon checking out.  The cast was NOT charged for their room.  I was informed during the interview, that there was a problem checking in the hotel due to the credit card not being accepted, it later was realized that we should clarify to what extent.   When Mr. Hunnam took his check to the bank to cash it, he found out that the check that was given to him was written from an account that had been CLOSED. This happened to the entire cast. Many of the actors went to the promoters office to demand payment, where the promoter ended up calling the cops because he was “being held hostage”. The cast was in no way held him hostage, but wanted answers and payment.  The panel schedule was completely jacked up, the cast was not given the correct times for photo ops and for panels. The Friday panel was canceled due to the AVI team refusing to allow anyone onstage until they were paid. They were promised payment upfront, instead they weren’t paid and pulled the plug on the event. The cast was all there, waiting to go on. It seems that the event promoter broke the contract not once, but TWICE.

Bleeding Cool wrote a story of its own based on the Official Ava Jade post with the dramatic headline, “Police Called On Cast Of Sons Of Anarchy After They Demanded Space City Comic Con Pay Up”. Houston police were helpful in protecting the convention staff from an irate customer —

Comments from volunteers included this, from Shelley Montrose,

This will be the last Saturday/Sunday that I volunteer at any Comic Convention. I was shouted at more in the 6 hours that I volunteered on Saturday than I was in the entire year last year. Friday was amazing and Saturday in my LAST 2 MINUTES there HPD had to intervene as a grown man came into my face and threatened to “choke me to death, rape me, and burn me like on YouTube.” I decided not to come to my scheduled 8 hour volunteer shift on Sunday. I thought my life was in danger. One of Charlie’s bodyguards ran over to help me before the guy got to me. Honestly, I thought the guy was gonna to hit me. After reading this article I think I understand what happened a little bit better. I can’t even explain how horrible it was the tell people who traveled all the way from England, China, Australia,etc., that the $800-$3000 that they spent on a prepaid ticket will not be honored at the desk at the majority of the sons of anarchy autograph sessions , and that they would have to go to the ATMs on the inside of the convention ( because all the ATMs on the outside of the entrances were broken ) in order to get money to pay cash for any autographs or photo ops they wanted with the celebrities.I personally ended up going to the ATM to help people pay for the prepaid tickets that they purchased for autographs with the celebrities. I won’t even go into how much that puts me back on my budget, including but not limited to my rent, utilities, and food.I was with Charlie Hunnam for almost four hours, and He pulled it together for all of his fans. Anyone that was there saw me standing beside Charlie Hunnam, I was taking pictures of them with him, knows that he was very giving to fans as well as professional. I feel like I did a good job of keeping the fans calm, entertained, and happy until they got to Charlie Hunnam .Ron Perlman was also professional as well. When I left he was still excepting those bogus tickets that people had pre-purchased.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Speaking of grand theft – Swedish astronomers theorize Planet 9 is a stolen exoplanet.

New research suggests the mysterious and controversial “Planet 9” isn’t an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet — stolen by the sun from its original host star.

“It is almost ironic that while astronomers often find exoplanets hundreds of light years away in other solar systems, there’s probably one hiding in our own backyard,” researcher Alexander Mustill said in a news release….

 

(4) EXCELLENCE IN FILKING. SF Site News reported that nominations have opened for the 2016 Pegasus Awards, given by the Ohio Valley Filk Festival.

pegasus logo

Any member of the worldwide filk community is eligible to win. Past Nominees have hailed from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore as well as the United States.

The nomination and ballot procedure is similar to that of the Hugo, except that one does not need to be a paid member of the convention to nominate or vote. Anyone with an interest in Filking or Filk music can place a nomination and/or vote.

The results are tabulated, the winners determined, and the award is presented at the Pegasus Awards Banquet...

There are currently six Pegasus award categories, including two floating categories that are different each year.

Fans suggested nominees and songs through the Brainstorming Poll, and the results can be seen on these pages:

Ballots must be received by 12:01AM PDT, August 1, 2016, whether cast online or by mail.

(5) BEWARE GAME OF THRONES SPOILER. Here’s something George R.R. Martin revealed at Balticon 50:

According to Vanity Fair, Martin appeared at a convention in Baltimore called Balticon to read aloud to those in attendance a new chapter from his forthcoming book The Winds of Winter. During his time in front of the crowd, the author announced that Brienne of Tarth is the descendant of Ser Duncan the Tall.

For those who don’t know, Ser Duncan the Tall is one of Westeros’ most famous knights, making this connection with Brienne particularly noteworthy, especially when considering he’s one of Martin’s favorite characters.

(6) MORE SHOOTING. ScienceFiction.com says “’Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Gets Planned Reshoots After Disney’s Rumored Unhappiness”.

Many films that are destined for the big screen get re-shoots or planned production times after an initial cut of the film has been done where the crews can go back and shoot additional or replacement footage for certain scenes.  It’s a fairly common practice, although the re-shot and re-edited scenes are usually minimal in nature, comparative to the overall plot of the film.  Rumor has it, however, that the upcoming Star Wars spinoff, ‘Rogue One,’ has heavy reshoots planned by parent company Disney, who is unhappy with how the film has fared so far with test audiences.

There has only been one trailer released so far for the film, which was actually met with great enthusiasm from the fans.  However, a cool-looking trailer does not directly equate to a successful and well-received film — look no further than this very franchise’s ‘Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ for evidence of such.

(7) WHO BLABBED? Cora Buhlert shares Cap’s secret with us:

(8) SFWA YA JURORS. “Andre Norton Award Jury Announced” at the SFWA Blog.  

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce the members of the jury for the 2016 Andre Norton Award. Throughout the coming year, the jury will be compiling its list of picks for the Norton Award. This year for the first time, SFWA will release a Norton Honor list of the top 15-20 books compiled from member votes and jury picks.

Chair Ellen Klages says, “Speculative fiction is a literature about exploration, possibilities, and dreams. The Andre Norton Award honors the best SF/F works written for the people who will create the future — children and young adults. What they read today will influence them — and the world — for decades to come.”

The jury members are: Ellen Klages (jury chair), E.C. Myers, Fran Wilde, Leah Bobet, and Jei D. Marcade. Read their bios at the linked post.

(9) SFWA SFWA. Cat Rambo notes anyone can watch the SFWA Chat Hour, 1st edition, on YouTube, “complete with annoying echo that we will fix next time.”

Come hear Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) officials and staff Cat Rambo, M.C.A. Hogarth, and Kate Baker talk about the recent Nebula conference weekend, current SFWA efforts, and what’s coming in 2016 in the first episode of the biweekly SFWA Chat Hour.

 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born May 31, 1961 — Lea Thompson, known to the world for other things but to fans for Howard the Duck and Back to the Future.

(11) BUTLER CONFERENCE. UC San Diego will be the site of “Shaping Change: Remembering Octavia E. Butler Through Archives, Art, and Worldmaking”, a conference from June 3-5 that is open to the public.

Shaping change

50 years from now, how have we shaped change (through art, activism, and archives) in the world? What have we left behind that that we can draw from our presents and pasts? What lessons in Butler’s life and writing will help forestall what seems like the inevitable collapse of human civilization?

Organized by Shelley Streeby (UC San Diego) and Ayana Jamieson (founder, Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network), the event will feature talks from: Adrienne Maree Brown, Aimee Bahng, Alexis Lothian, M. Asli Dukan, Ayana Jamieson, Krista Franklin, Lisa Bolekaja, Melanie West, Moya Bailey, Nisi Shawl, Ola Ronke, Rasheedah Phillips, Shelley Streeby, Sophia Echavarria, Ted Chiang, and Walidah Imarisha.

(12) MEETING ABOUT MEDUSA. Steven Baxter and Alastair Reynolds will speak at Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road (tickets required) on June 4.

Foyles talk

Join us for a conversation with two leading figures in science fiction, Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter, as they discuss their new collaboration The Medusa Chronicles. Inspired by the classic Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s short story ‘A Meeting with Medusa’, The Medusa Chronicles continues the story of Commander Howard Falcon over centuries of space-exploration. One of the most compelling novels of either author’s career, it combines moments of incredible action with an intricately-realised depiction of an expansive universe.

Stephen Baxter is the author of more than forty novels, including the Sunday Times bestselling Long Earth series, co-authored with Sir Terry Pratchett, and the acclaimed Time’s Eye trilogy, co-authored with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He has won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton.

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry, South Wales, in 1966. He studied at Newcastle and St Andrews universities, has a Ph.D. in astronomy and worked as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency before becoming a full-time writer. An award-winning as well as bestselling writer, with more than thirteen published novels to his name, Locus described him as ‘the most exciting space opera writer working today’.

Together, Reynolds and Baxter will talk about Clarke’s influence on their own writing, the themes that underpin his work, and how they were inspired to continue his story, as well as their bodies of work as a whole. This will be followed by an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions and a book signing.

This event is in association with The Arthur C. Clarke Award and SFX.

(13) BYO LIFE ON MARS. SpaceReview.com sifts its favorite ideas from the many conferences about human expeditions to the red planet, in “A Year on Mars”.

How many humans on Mars conferences do we need in a year? That thought came to mind during the recent Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit in Washington, DC. There are a lot of them, especially in Washington. There were at least six humans-to-Mars related public events in Washington in 2015, not counting the NASA-sponsored human Mars landing site selection workshop in Houston. Now 2016 is shaping up the same way. Last Tuesday following the H2M conference, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning DC-based think-tank, held a talk “Beyond the Moon: What will it take to get astronauts on Mars?” The Mars Society was in Washington last August and will be back in September, and there will probably be at least one or two other Mars-related meetings or lectures that will happen later this year. And not everything is happening in Washington: the same week as the H2M conference there were a series of talks on Mars at the International Space Development Conference in Puerto Rico.

Some, but not all, of this attention to the humans to Mars subject is due to the success of the movie The Martian and the book that inspired it. But the subject is also culturally bigger than that: witness the attention that Mars One got last year, both positive and negative, and NASA pushing the theme hard as well (every time somebody uses the hashtag #JourneyToMars an angel gets its wings.) Human missions to Mars, or at least talking about humans on Mars, is all the rage these days, and H2M has made a pretty impressive effort at taking the lead.

H2M seems to have upped its game recently. Their website is slick, featuring computer animations and links to video recordings of most of the presentations at their conference, much of which was live-streamed….

(14) ATTENTION ANN LECKIE. “Tea in space” might be a highly scientific idea. Scientists say it could be used to create useful materials for astronauts visiting Mars.

Former Prime Minister William Gladstone said: ‘If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.’

It may also one day help astronauts on Mars.

The humble cup of tea holds the key to new ‘wonder materials’, new research suggests.

The bacteria found in tea could lead to breakthroughs in water filtration and technology.

(15) THIS IS STRANGE. An sf novel hidden in Reddit posts? The BBC interviewed the anonymous author.

The plot ranges across the CIA, hallucinogenic drugs, humpback whales, Nazis and the death of Michael Jackson. But just as mysterious and intriguing is the way in which what is being dubbed ‘The Interface Series’ is emerging into the world.

If you watched the TV-series Lost, you’ll probably be familiar with that feeling of confused anticipation as you hope for several threads of narrative to tie together. Over the course of this month, a new kind of mystery, for a new kind of audience, has been unfolding on Reddit – the online bulletin board where people post articles and comments on threads about a bewildering range of subjects….

The posts appeared in threads about a bizarre range of seemingly unconnected topics including: a debate about whether pirates really did have parrots, the responses to somebody seeking advice about how to help a relative with a drugs problem and the comments under a video of a cat sliding down stairs.

But these weren’t just random nonsensical rants. There is a theme that ties them all together; ‘The Flesh Interfaces’ which seem to be “portals of some kind, made of thousands of dead bodies, which transport biological matter to some unknown place and returns it inside a fleshy sack, heavily dosed with LSD.”

(16) DAILY TRIVIA. George R.R. Martin, wrote 14 episodes of the Beauty and the Beast TV series, which ran from 1987-90.

(17) JOHNSON TRIBUTE VIDEO. See part one of the George Clayton Johnson Memorial held at the Egyptian on February 26.

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Arifel.]

Four Nominees’ Statements About Staying on the Ballot

Since Thomas A. Mays decided to withdraw his Hugo-nominated short story as his way of dealing with its having been on the Rabid Puppies slate, some Hugo and Campbell nominees in the same position have made statements to explain why they are not withdrawing. Alyssa Wong and Alastair Reynolds posted theirs today, and Brandon Sanderson yesterday. Also included is a quote from Lois McMaster Bujold — made prior to Mays’ withdrawal — addressing her story’s presence on the slate.

ALYSSA WONG

Alyssa Wong says she is staying, in “Toe the Line:” On Being a 2016 John W. Campbell Award Finalist.

There is no way in hell I’m withdrawing. The fact is, in spite of the Rabid Puppies attempts to lock people like me out of the finalists list through slate voting, some truly deserving folks and their works who weren’t on their slate slipped onto the list anyway….

And that’s the crux of it. If you are on this list despite the Rabid Puppies’ slate voting, it means you absolutely, absolutely deserve it. It means that enough SFF fans appreciated your work and contributed their individual voices to overwhelm a slate being pushed by an organized mob of malicious people determined to “leave a big smoking hole where the Hugo Awards were.” And to withdraw is to let them win.

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS

The author posted “Slow Bullets on the Hugo Ballot” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

…I’d had high hopes for Slow Bullets, after all. I considered it a strong story, and it had picked up enough positive reviews and recommendations throughout the year that it didn’t seem beyond the bounds of possibility that it might make the ballot. That’s not to say I was confident, but that just that the omens were about as good for that story as they had been for any of my recent pieces.

The adminstrators, quite reasonably, wanted a clearer, less ambiguous commitment from me. After a friendly and productive transatlantic phone call, I came around to the view that I’d not only accept the nomination, but take whatever came after it.

As several commentators have noted, the eventual ballots are quite strongly biassed in favour of Rabid Puppy choices. The unpalatable conclusion to be drawn from this is that my story, good as its chances were, probably wouldn’t have made the cut were it not for the RP block vote. However, I didn’t ask for those votes and in fact I expressly requested that my story not be slated. Kate Paulk (of the Sads) and Vox Day (of the Rabids) both declined my requests.

Since the announcement of the ballots, there’s been quite a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the finalists withdrawing their stories. Quite honestly, I’m very sympathetic to both sides of the debate. If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably have declined the initial nomination. But I didn’t, and beyond that I made a commitment to the administrators not to withdraw at a later stage. On that basis alone, therefore, I’m keeping “Slow Bullets” on the ballot. I can’t say I’m exactly over-joyed about this decision, though – from my point of view it just feels like the least worst choice of a very bad hand. Compare and contrast to the situation when my only other nomination happened, for “Troika”, and my mood couldn’t be more different.

Let’s hope things are better next year….

BRANDON SANDERSON

Brandon Sanderson, author of a slated Hugo finalist, the novella Perfect State, says he is staying on the ballot and urges other nominees to do the same. This excerpt is just part of his lengthy post, which also describes what he tried to achieve behind-the-scenes during last year’s puppy travails. Oddly, while he mentions the Sad Puppies he never names the Rabid Puppies, obviously the “list” under discussion here —

If I’d known I was on this list, I would have asked to be taken off of it. This year, their list seems to include some people (I can’t know if I’m one) who are mainstream. People liked in the community, or likely to get a nomination anyway. They’ve done this, I presume, in order to see whether these people too would get “No Award.”

I can’t know how much the nomination of my novella was helped by this group, and even contemplating the idea is distasteful to me. This puts me in the position of having to decide whether or not to withdraw my nomination. It wouldn’t be heartbreaking for me to do so. I’ve won a Hugo in this category before, during the pre-Puppy years. I think my story is strong, but I will write other, stronger stories in the future. I’d be fine sitting it out this year.

I think that would be bad for fandom, and the award. Though I agree with those who withdrew nominations last year, I think we’re entering into a dangerous area. If we withdraw anytime someone like this person puts us on a slate, that gives them an enormous amount of power over us and the award. In addition, if we vote something under No Award anytime someone we don’t like advocates for it, then that’s the same as letting that person win the award whenever they want. Either way, we’re just being pushed around by a troll.

I’d like to think that we’ve learned from last year, and I have decided not to withdraw my nomination. I realize I’m setting myself up for being part of a potential blanket “No Award” voting slate this year. I will accept that, if it happens. But I don’t think letting a troll dictate my actions is going to work out better for me. And I certainly don’t want to insult the fans who nominated my work in good faith.

Therefore, I will stand by what I’ve always said: Nominate and vote for me only if you think the story itself deserves the recognition. Don’t vote for (or against) any person or their ideas. Vote for or against the story. Even when the nomination rules change next year (assuming the proposal gets enough votes again this year), we’re still likely to have a candidate in every category that was nominated in by certain elements.

In many cases, I feel it’s going to be impossible to separate which nominees are the result of trolls throwing rocks at us and which are the result of passionate fans who simply have different views from the mainstream. We’re going to have to do better than counter-voting, a point which many voices in the community, including Scalzi and GRRM, made last year.

I request that my fellow nominees consider not withdrawing. And I request that voters continue to look at the individual stories, artists, and editors, and judge based on the nominee themselves—rather than judging based on who is advocating for them.

LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD

On the day the nominees were announced, Lois McMaster Bujold also posted a brief statement — “Penric’s Demon” is a Hugo nominee – about the slate:

…(As a point of information, “Penric’s Demon” was conscripted onto the “Rabid Puppies” slate without my notification or permission, and my request that it be removed was refused.)

Ta, L.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh and Greg Hullender for the links.]

While You’re Waiting for the Hugo Announcement

The Guardian has set the table for the Hugo shortlist announcement with today’s article featuring quotes from George R.R. Martin, Vox Day, and Alastair Reynolds. The piece even tries to explain how Hugo voting works, and the benefits of the proposed E Pluribus Hugo rules change.

You might think handing out awards for the best science fiction writing of the year would not be, ahem, rocket science. But you’d be wrong.

George R.R. Martin commented:

“When I saw [the 2015] ballot I felt I had to say something and refute the Puppies’ claims that there was discrimination against conservative fiction,” Martin says. “There have been plenty of conservative writers in SF. I think SF has always had both liberal and conservative writers, but there probably have been more liberals.

“This is a genre about the future, it’s about looking at different ways of living, of governing, of sexuality, all those things. It’s always been forward thinking. As the great writer Theodore Sturgeon said, SF is about asking the next question.”

This year, following the controversy of 2015, the Sad Puppies have published recommendations, rather than a “slate” for supporters to submit. “This works much better; anyone can publish lists of recommendations for books they want to win,” Martin says. He pauses. “The Rabid Puppies, on the other hand, that’s another matter. Their intention is to burn down the Hugos, to destroy everything. That’s pretty toxic.”

Vox Day (Theodore Beale) responded:

In 2015, Beale published a slate of 67 nominations and asked his followers to nominate them. Fifty-eight made it in, including two of his own works. But why? “For over 20 years, the mainstream science-fiction publishers have been trying to pass off romance in space and leftwing diversity lectures as science fiction,” Beale tells me. “The Puppies are a popular reaction to mediocrities and absurdities being presented as the very best that the field has to offer.”

Are people buying memberships to a convention they have no intention of attending, purely to vote on the Puppies’s slates? “I believe so,” says Beale. “The unprecedented numbers make it clear that people on both sides were buying supporting memberships in order to vote for and against the Puppy recommendations.” Doesn’t that make a mockery of the whole Hugo system and ethos, though? “No more than it has always been,” Beale says. “I think they [the Puppies campaigns] have successfully exposed the extent of the ideological bias in science fiction and fantasy publishing, and in the media. The media coverage last year was so insane and so over the top that it significantly boosted support for the Rabid Puppies.”

Alastair Reynolds offered his analysis:

“This is an attempt by various elements of the American right to regain the centre ground of SF from some perceived shift to the liberal left,” he says. “It’s predicated on a falsehood … as any analysis of recent Hugo nominations and winners will show: there is no demonstrable bias from within the field against writers of faith, or those who have right-leaning politics. And yet, the Puppies keep recounting the same doctrinal narrative, with a seemingly endless appetite for name-calling.”

Reynolds asked for Slow Bullets to be removed from both the Puppies’ lists, to no avail. “I do not want their endorsement; I do not want even the suggestion of their endorsement, and for that reason I requested that my story be removed from both lists,” he says.

And Reynolds shared his guess about the immediate future:

E Pluribus Hugo needs to be approved at this year’s Worldcon to get passed. If it does, a change to the World Science Fiction Society constitution can go ahead – and this time next year the Hugos nominations process could look very different. But overhauling the nomination system wouldn’t close out the Puppies – I’m told it’s about not allowing any one party to shut everyone else out. Even if it makes for a fairer, less easy-to-game system, has the reputation of the Hugo awards already been broken?

“Well, badly, I suspect,” says Alastair Reynolds. “Last year was a catastrophe and this year may not be much better.”

Pixel Scroll 4/20/16 Through the Scrolling-Glass

(1) FARSCAPE ON BIG SCREEN. ComicBookMovie.com reports “Rockne O’Bannon Officially Confirms FASRSCAPE Movie”.

After years of rumours, Rockne O’Bannon has finally confirmed that a Farscape movie is actually happening. The show was cancelled back in 2003 and a mini-series titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was aired in 2004 to provide closure to the fans but it appears we shall be getting more Farscape in the near future. Confirmation comes from TV.com’s Ed Shrinker who had a friend that attended the Showrunners panel at Wondercon which O’Bannon was a part of.

(2) BEAGLE COMING TO BALTICON. Peter S. Beagle will be a Special Guest of Honor at Balticon 50, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore, MD.

“It’s Peter’s birthday, but the fans are getting the gift,” says Beagle’s attorney, Kathleen Hunt.

(3) AXANAR IS DOCKED. In “’Star Trek: Axanar’ Fan Film Docked After Copyright Suit from CBS/Paramount”, Elizabeth Howell gives Space.com readers a status report on the lawsuit.

… According to Peters, Winston & Strawn subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. CBS and Paramount responded, he said, by amending portions of the complaint. The new complaint alleges that copyrights were violated in matters such as the pointy ears and “distinctive eyebrows” of Vulcan, the gold-shirt uniforms of Federation officers, and the Klingon language, according to documents posted by The Hollywood Reporter on March 13.

New motion to dismiss

In the meantime, the production of “Axanar” is on hold pending the result of the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is resolved in the film’s favor, Peters said, production will still be delayed, as it would take a couple of months to organize everything, including coordinating the actors’ schedules and resuming work on elements such as the costumes.

Winston & Strawn filed a new motion to dismiss on March 28. CBS and Paramount have yet to file a response in court.

“The motion provides examples as to how CBS and Paramount overreach in what they claim are elements protected under copyright, and fail to be specific as to exactly which copyrights have been infringed upon; and, in the case of the potential feature film Axanar, claims of alleged copyright infringement cannot be made against a film that doesn’t yet exist,” read part of an Axanar statement on the motion to dismiss.

(4) A THOUSAND WORDS IS WORTH A PICTURE OF A CAT. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat has his claws out: “Ctrl-Alt-Delete – A Reviewing”.

[Timothy] No sarcasm. Don’t forget, this time I control the narrative. I can make you say anything. Say “I’m a poo-poo head”
[Camestros] I’m a poo-poo head.
[Timothy] OK say I’m a fish’s butt.
[Camestros] You are a fish’s butt.
[Timothy] Oops – forgot the speech marks. So back to the book – naturally you hated it?
[Camestros] You know I actually enjoyed quite a bit of it.

Despite what you might assume from this exchange, they spend most of their time reviewing books. But as today’s Top Level Poster I can quote whatever part I like.

(5) ICE FIVE. Theory: Game of Thrones is science fiction, not fantasy: “This Is the Most Insane and Compelling Theory for How the Wall in Game of Thrones Stands”. Esquire’s John Maher delves into the ideas advanced by vlogger Preston Jacobs.

Let’s go back to the Wall, a prime example in the case of Game of Thrones. Maybe there is some sort of magic keeping it up. “Or maybe,” Jacobs suggests, “there’s some sort of refrigeration unit.”

It seems farfetched, until you start digging deeper—and Jacobs, an auditor for the U.S. State Department by day, is an expert at doing just that. After re-reading the series a couple of years ago, he jumped right into reading the vast majority of Martin’s extant works, including every story that’s taken place in the author’s most frequently visited setting, a shared universe called the Thousand Worlds….

The Long Night itself seems to hint at the explanation for how this world—as Jacobs and other theorists do, let’s call it Planetos—became the way it was. A winter that lasts for a generation seems pretty hard to believe, even in a world with seasons as crazy as those on Planetos. In the first season of Game of Thrones, Tyrion discusses with Maester Aemon and Lord Commander Mormont the longest winter he’d ever lived through, and mentions it lasted three years. But as Jacobs points out, there is such a thing as a generation-long winter in the real world: a nuclear winter.

In the Thousand Worlds universe, humanity is at perpetual war with multiple hive-minded species—a form of life that pops up in A Song of Ice and Fire as well, and which Jacobs explores in detail in one of his theories. During this endless war, the hive-minded races typically destroy human worlds using nuclear weapons, wait a hundred years for the dust to settle, and then invade and enslave the survivors. And in the interim, something familiar happens, as it does on High Kavalaan, a planet in Martin’s first novel, Dying of the Light.

“I think the book that really made me think Westeros could be post-apocalyptic was Dying of the Light,” says Jacobs. “When he started writing about nuking people, with everybody hiding in mines and founding their own houses and holdfasts, it just occurred to me that the Long Night could be a nuclear winter.”

(6) HEINLEIN ON THE LINE. At the MidAmericCon II site, Toastmaster Pat Cadigan has blogged her fannish origin story.

Forty years ago, in the spring of 1976 in Lawrence, Kansas, the phone rang in the late afternoon, about an hour and a half before I had to go and teach a belly-dance class. When I picked up, a deep, warm-as-a-woolly-blanket man’s voice said, ‘Hello, Mrs. Cadigan. This is Robert Heinlein.’

And I freakin’ died.

Seriously; I died. This is my afterlife. Isn’t it great?

Okay, let me back up a little….

(7) HUGO TIME. It’s no coincidence that Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty and staff are doing a lot of work just about now:

First, on behalf of the Hugo administration staff and all the rest of the folks making preparations to run MidAmeriCon II, I want to thank all of the people who participated in our Hugo and Retro Hugo nomination processes. There were over 4,000 of you and that is a new record participation by quite a large margin.

There’s a large number of tasks we have to do to administer the Hugos. Identifying eligible nominators and voters, setting up servers and web pages to handle secure nominations and voting, answering hundreds of questions about the process for the members, making sure everyone’s nominations are counted appropriately even if they don’t use the same name for something they loved that all the other folks who loved it used or nominated it in the wrong category accidently, locating and contacting the potential finalists to get their acceptance and inform them of how the process works and what to expect, coordinating with convention events staff to run the awards ceremonies and pre-receptions, and numerous other tasks. The previous run on sentence would be staggeringly large if we tried to give a full accounting of everything the awards administration entails. It can be fun, it can be exhausting, and it can even sometimes be frustrating. When we do a good job, though, it’s very rewarding.

(8) HUGO LOVE FROM WORDPRESS. Kevin Standlee’s The Hugo Awards website came in for recognition today —

(9) NEIL GAIMAN. Gaiman on mourning Pratchett — “Good Omens, Cheap Seats, and the Memorial”.

I haven’t blogged for a long time, but right now I’m on a train, and it feels like a good time to catch up. This morning I was interviewed by Charlie Russell for his documentary on Terry Pratchett. (Charlie made the previous BBC Terry Pratchett documentaries, Living With Alzheimer’s, Choosing to Die, and Facing Extinction.) We did it in a Chinese restaurant in Gerrard Street, because Terry and I had first met in a Chinese restaurant, in February 1985. It was easy and pleasant, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I was talking about the last time I’d seen Terry, and what we said, and I found myself crying uncontrollably, unable to talk. And then I pulled it together, and we carried on….

The memorial the other night was beautiful. I wore my mourning frock coat that Kambriel made for me, and I went out that afternoon and bought a white shirt and a black tie. (Actually, I bought four shirts, which, given how often I wear white shirts, should take me easily to the end of my lifetime.)

I read the introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, which I’d written for Terry while he was alive. I got sad at the end but that was fine. And I held it together just fine when Rob, Terry’s amazing right-hand man, presented me with a big black author’s hat Terry had left me. I couldn’t put it on, though. I wasn’t ready for that. (I tried it on later, in the dressing room. I looked, to my mind, like a rabbinical cowboy assassin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)…

(10) MORE LIKE INDIE FOR SMART PEOPLE. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Going Indie For Dummies: You Lays Down Your Money” at Mad Genius Club, begins her survey of professional services available to indie authors with a warning –

I cannot emphasize enough that you should at all costs avoid paying money up front to have any of the necessary stuff done to your book.  Particularly if your indie ebook is a short story or a novella, it’s QUITE possible you’ll never see that money again….

Then she follows with a lot of practical experience. (And no, I am not picking this quote as a setup for predictable comments about Baen copyediting, but because writers in general suffer through this.)

b) Copy editing: even houses confuse this with “editing” and I’ll get a list of typos or repeated words from editors who are supposed to be doing high-grade structural.  It’s what most people think of as “editing.”

PLEASE make sure you get a copy editor who actually knows what he/she is doing.  Again it is too easy for a copy editor to screw with a book by making the wrong choices, and/or not getting what you’re trying to say.  (I recently had a copy edit that suggested changing “calloused hands” to “callous hands” — yes, her hands are cold and unfeeling.  What the actual F?)  so several steps:

1- look for a copy-editor with references and call/email those references where the copy-editor can’t hear/read and ask for the real skinny and how hard they are to work with.

2- ask them what manual of style they use.  If you get back “manual?” or “I just use sensible grammar” and this is a paid copy-editor it’s time to bail, ladies, gentlemen and fuzzy toys.  There are many ways of doing things including punctuation (unlike what your grammar teacher told you.)  I favor, for my own checking, Strunk and White which has a slightly British flavor.  Most publishing houses use Chicago Manual of Style.  Baen uses Words to Print (I think that’s the title.)  You want to make sure your books are consistent, so make sure your copyeditor uses a style you can live with.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

(12) TODAY’S OTHER HISTORY LESSON. Hmm. Good point.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, age 79 today.
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(14) IN BOOKS TO COME. “Andy Weir, Author of The Martian, Shares Details About His Next Novel” at The Smithsonian. Here’s a guy nobody will ever accuse of having SJW tendencies.

Your next book will have a woman as the central character. Given that “gender wars” in science fields is still a contentious topic, why did you decide to go with a lady lead? What kinds of challenges does your protagonist face, and does her gender play any role in those challenges?

I don’t take part in any political debates. So I’m certainly not trying to make a point by having a female lead. She’s just a character I came up with that I thought was cool, so she’s the lead.

The book is another scientifically accurate story. The main character is a low-level criminal in a city on the moon. Her challenges are a mix of technical/scientific problems, as well as juggling personal interactions—staying a step ahead of the local police, working with shady and dangerous people to do illegal things.

She doesn’t encounter any distinctly “female” challenges. There’s no love plot. And the story takes place in a future society where there is practically no sexism.

(15) NOT JUST TANG. The BBC discusses “Four ways NASA is teaching us how to live more sustainably”.

2. Clean water

In space, water is in short supply, so Nasa has developed an innovative way to filter waste water on the ISS using chemical and distillation processes. This lets it turn liquid from the air, sweat and even urine into drinkable H2O.

In fact, since 2008, more than 22,500 pounds of water have been recycled from urine alone on the ISS – something that would have cost more than $225m (£160m) to launch and deliver to the station from Earth.

“Most people are horrified when they see what we drink!” says Ms Coleman. “But the filtered water up there just tastes beautiful, it really is delicious.”

Nasa has since licensed the technology to companies on Earth, which have created portable filters for use in places where fresh drinking water is scarce.

Filters produced by US firm Water Security Corporation, for example, have been installed in villages across Mexico and Iraq, allowing residents to purify water from contaminated sources.

(16) RILEY INTERVIEWED. David Dubrow conducted an “Interview With David A Riley” after the author dropped off a Horror Writers of America award jury last week amidst controversy.

Why did you withdraw from the jury of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology?

Because, as I saw it, that was the best thing to do for the good of the HWA. There is nothing prestigious or glamorous about being a juror. It does involve a lot of unpaid, unseen, arduous work reading an enormous number of books by authors or publishers or, in the case of anthologies, editors, keen to have their books included amongst the finalists for the Stoker awards. Of course the juries cannot add more than a few books, but it does mean reading all those submitted, good, bad or indifferent. I know from when I was a juror for First Novels this can be a hell of a chore. Standing down, therefore, was easy – it saved me a lot of hard work, some of it far from enjoyable. I only put my name forward because the HWA sent out a last minute email appealing for volunteers from active members for this position. I thought I was helping the HWA by stepping forward, never realising the reaction stirred up by certain individuals, some of whom already had a personal grudge against the HWA and are not even members….

Are you still part of the UK National Front?

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

A lot of people have characterized you as a fascist. Would you say that’s a fair description of your politics?

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

(17) EISNER AWARD MANGA. Brigid Alverson reviews six works in her post “This Year’s Eisner-Nominated Manga Shows What the Medium Can Do” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Nominees for the Eisner Awards, the top honors in the comics industry, were announced on April 19. This year’s nomnees in the manga category (technically, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia”) offer a range of different types of manga, from genre comedy to poignant literary works. As a former Eisner judge myself, I know how hard the choices are, and this year’s slate is exceptionally good. All these series are accessible to non-manga readers as well as longtime fans. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Assassination Classroom, by Yusei Matsui This was the surprise nominee, because it’s not exactly a highbrow series, though it is wickedly funny. The setup is totally over the top: a class of misfit high school students are assigned the job of killing their teacher, Koro-sensei, an octopus-shaped alien who has announced he will destroy the earth at the end of the school year. Armed with weapons that are harmless to humans but deadly to their teacher, they study his weaknesses and plot new attacks, and new assassins join the class as the series goes on. What makes it so fun (and so weird) is that Koro-sensei is actually a really good teacher, and he uses his superpowers to help his students as much as to evade their attacks. He’s quirky, overly fond of gossip, a bit self-indulgent, and he often finishes a face-off with an opponent by doing something silly like giving them a manicure. This is a series that shonen fans will particularly enjoy, as there are a lot of inside jokes about the conventions of the genre, but it’s also a fun action comedy for anyone willing to go all in on suspension of disbelief. There is a darker side to Koro-sensei, and occasionally he lets the jovial mask slip, adding a bit of edge. The judges nominated volumes 2-7 of this series for the award.

(18) STEM INTO STEAM. Wil Wheaton has posted “My speech to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival”.

Which brings me to funding.

You’re never too young for science – getting children interested in the world around them, and asking them to try and figure out how things work is a fundamentally good idea. Curious children will naturally gravitate towards STEAM subjects. Let’s encourage that and make sure that a child who wants to explore that particular part of our world has everything she needs to get there, and keep learning about and making awesome things when she leaves. This is and will continue to be a challenge. Despite the clear and undeniable benefits of a comprehensive education, including science education, not only to individuals but to our entire society, we have allowed the funding of our schools to become part of the culture wars. This is as disgraceful as it is predictable. When so many of our poorly-named “leaders” deny scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines, a scientifically literate and well-informed populace can be tremendously inconvenient to them and theiir corporate owners. Well … good. Let’s be inconvenient to them. Let’s educate and empower a generation who will be real leaders, and carry our nation into the future.

We all know that it’s possible to fund STEAM education. The money is there, it’s just being spent on other things. Making enough noise and applying enough sustained pressure to change this will not be easy. It will actually be quite hard. But when has America ever shied away from doing things that are hard? Everything worth doing is hard, and President Kennedy said as much when he challenged our nation to go to the moon. Right now, decades later, every single one of us has benefitted in some way from that commitment. Right now, a generation of future scientists can look to MARS and beyond, because nearly fifty years ago, we did whatever it took to go to the moon.

Why aren’t we doing that today? Because it’s hard?

 

(19) 2016 SPECULATIVE FICTION EDITORS. The Book Smugglers are already “Announcing the Editors of Speculative Fiction 2016 & Call for Submissions”.

In which we announce the editors for the 2016 edition of the award-winning collection Speculative Fiction

As you probably know by now, we are the new publishers of the ongoing editions of Speculative Fiction: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary – a collection that celebrates the best in online Science Fiction and Fantasy nonfiction. We are currently hard at work on the publication of SpecFic ’15 – edited by Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro – and we feel it is time to move on to the next very important step for next year: announcing the two new editors for 2016.

Since its inception in 2012, the Speculative Fiction collection has been envisioned as an annual publication, curated by a new pair of editors each year. Each incumbent pair is also given the weighty task of selecting the next year’s editors.

Today, we are extremely proud to finally announce the editors of Speculative Fiction 2016: Liz Bourke and Mahvesh Murad!

Apparently items for the 2015 collection needed to be submitted to the editors? Well, I didn’t send in anything from File 770, so that’s that.

(20) CELEBRITY VERSIONS OF BB-8 AUCTIONED. Til April 24 you can bid on a variety of BB-8 droids that have been kitted up by celebrities. 100%* of the proceeds from this auction will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, on behalf of Force For Change.

The Londonist ran an article and a gallery of photos.

We enjoyed the recent Star Wars film. But, like many, we couldn’t help thinking that BB-8 would look far more fetching dressed up as the globus cruciger from the Crown Jewels, or else painted in the colours of the Union Flag, tarted up like a teapot, or made to look like one of the Beatles.

Our wishes are fulfilled at a new exhibition and charity fundraiser. The cutesy droid has enjoyed a makeover from dozens of artists and celebrities, with the best efforts on show at White Rainbow Gallery (47 Mortimer Street) until 21 April.

Contributing celebrities include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Simon Pegg (responsible for the Beatles droid, above), Paddy McGuinnes, Jonathan Ross, Nicola Adams and the band Years and Years. Each has daubed the droid with a design celebrating an element of British culture, from Robin Hood to the Sex Pistols.

bb8 auction

(21) LOOK UP IN THE SKY. Alastair Reynolds is in awe by the end of a session of starwatching (“Pattern Recognition”) —

The light I caught had travelled 25,000 years to reach my telescope. If there’s ever a day when that sort of thing doesn’t send a shiver down my spine, please feel free to shoot me.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/16 The Fog Scrolled in on Pixilated Feet

(1) KEN LIU ON THE SCROLL. Ken Liu notes that we’re back to scrolling, in “The Grand Evolution of Books” at the Powell’s Books blog.

A similar shift may be happening today as we go from reading on paper codices back to endless (electronic) scrolls in the form of Web pages. Hyperlinks and sophisticated search functions have allowed scrolls to catch up to and even surpass the advantages of codices in random access and ease of reference, and electronic texts offer many more advantages: user-controlled text formatting and flow, instant access to encyclopedias and dictionaries, ease of note-taking and quote-sharing, community-based discussions, and so on.

Yet, we persist in pretending that the scroll is not authoritative.

Shocking.

(2) SCIENCE FICTION LEAGUE IN CHICAGO. Doug Ellis chronicles “Jack Binder and the Early Chicago SF Fan Club” at Black Gate.

Back in the mid-1930’s, one of the most active science fiction fan clubs was the Chicago Science Fiction Club, which had among its members such fans as Jack Darrow (among fandom’s most prolific writers of letters of comment to the SF pulps), Earl and Otto Binder (the Eando Binder writing team), Jack Binder (their brother, an artist), Walter Dennis and Paul McDermott (both of who had started the Science Correspondence Club in 1929 and later published The Comet, edited by Ray Palmer and arguably the first SF fanzine), William Dellenback, Allen Kline (brother of author Otis Adelbert Kline) and Howard Funk. The Chicago Club had formed as the Chicago Chapter of the Science Fiction League, the nationwide fan organization created and promoted by Wonder Stories. The Chicago Chapter’s activities were prominent in the pages of Wonder Stories, and in Sam Moskowitz’ words, it was “the outstanding chapter of the time.”

(3) DINING WITH DOYLE. Episode 4 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic with Tom Doyle is now live —

Writer Tom Doyle and I recorded Episode 4 of Eating the Fantastic at Ethiopic Ethiopian restaurant nearby the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and Union Station in Washington D.C.—which unless I’m mistaken has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia after so many resettled here during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Tom’s the author of a contemporary fantasy series from Tor which began in 2014 with American Craftsmen, returned in 2015 with The Left Hand Way, and continues in the third installment War and Craft—the manuscript of which he handed in to his editor mere days before we met.

Edelman’s next guest will be Carolyn Ives Gilman.

(4) HAMILTON PHONES ADAMS. “The Legacy of 1776: A Conversation with William Daniels and Lin-Manuel Miranda” on New York City Center.

CITY CENTER: Before we get too deeply into ticketing, I want to talk a bit about 1776. Today we think of it as being in the pantheon of great musicals, but in the 1960s, the show was so unconventional that Sherman Edwards had a hard time getting it produced. “Some of the biggest [names] in the theater,” he recalled, “looked at me and said, ‘What, a costume musical? A costume, historical musical?’” Mr. Daniels, do you remember your initial reaction to the idea?

WD: I read the script with a bunch of people at somebody’s apartment. Sherman Edwards was a former schoolteacher from New Jersey, and he had written not just the songs, but the script. It was a little stiff; I remember thinking, We’re in the middle of Vietnam, for Christ’s sake, and they’re waving the flag? I really had to be talked into doing it. At any rate, when the script came back to me, Peter Stone had taken ahold of it, and he’d gone back to the actual conversations in the Second Continental Congress. He had written them out on little cards and injected them into the script, and it made all the difference in the world. It added humor and conciseness and truth.

LM: I love that anecdote, because it gets at something that I discovered in writing Hamilton: the truth is invariably more interesting than anything a writer could make up. That Peter Stone went back to the texts written by these guys, who were petty, brilliant, compromised—that’s more interesting than any marble saints or plaster heroes you can create. And the picture you all painted together of John Adams was so powerful; in the opening scene, he calls himself “obnoxious and disliked,” which is a real quote. We don’t have a John Adams in our show, but we can just refer to him, and everyone just pictures you, Mr. Daniels.

(5) SOVIET MOON LANDER. “Giant steps are what you take, walking on the Moon”, from The Space Review.

If there is an infinite number of universes, then certainly in one of them Alexei Leonov climbed down the ladder of the Soviet Lunniy Korabl (“lunar ship”) and put his bootprint on the surface of the Moon. But Leonov did not take such a step in our universe and, as a result, the Soviet effort to beat the Americans to the Moon is largely forgotten. Had the Soviets ever gotten that far, had they ever sent Leonov to the Moon, he would have died rather than eventually become a genial geriatric cosmonaut, ambassador of the Soviet space program, and living legend. That was my thought when looking at the ungainly and rickety LK-3 test article on display at London’s Science Museum a few weeks ago. It is the second time that a lunar landing craft has ever ventured outside of Russia (one was displayed at EuroDisney in Paris in the 1990s), and will probably be the last time for many, many years to come.

Soviet moon lander.

Soviet moon lander.

(6) ENTER STAGE LEFT. M. J. Herbert has a long, intensively researched piece about the earliest days of Doctor Who in “Doctor Who and the Communist: The art and politics of Malcolm Hulke” at Fantasies of Possibility.

The origins of Doctor Who Sydney Newman’s  success on ITV led him to being poached by the BBC, who offered a job as Head of Drama: he  started work in January 1963. Looking back 20 years later, when interviewed for a BBC oral history project, he described what he found at the BBC.

The material didn’t really cater to what I assumed to be the mass British audience. It was still the attitude that BBC drama was still catering to the highly educated, cultured class rather than the mass audience which was not aware of culture as such . But above all I felt that the dramas really weren’t speaking about common everyday things…” 

They needed to come up with a new series for was the late afternoon slot at 5:15 between the end of the afternoon sports programme Grandstand and the start of  Juke Box Jury. At a number of meetings in the spring of 1963 Newman and his staff evolved the notion of a mysterious Doctor who could travel in time and space. The aim of the series were educational, similar to Pathfinders in Space,  with the remit  of teaching its young audience in an enjoyable way  about space and history. In its first years the serials alternated between a science fiction adventure and an adventure set during a dramatic historical event such as the travels of Marco Polo, the Crusades, and the St Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre of 1572  (an extraordinary subject for a tea-time children’s serial, although no actual killings were shown).

Newman brought in as producer a young woman he had worked with at ABC, Verity Lambert, which caused a stir as the BBC was then a very male world. Verity persuaded the veteran actor William Hartnell to take on the role of the Doctor. Hartnell had been working as an actor since the 1930s,  but was frustrated by the limited roles he was being offered, often as an army sergeant. Verity had been impressed by his part in a recent British film This Sporting Life.

(7) TREK IN CONCERT. STAR TREK: The Ultimate Voyage visits the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on April 1-2.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other.

This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise’s groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen.

The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Starfleet Academy and much more. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

(8) SUPPLEMENTAL CHAOS. Brandon Kempner returns with an alternative set of rankings, “Final Best of 2015 SFF Critics Meta-List” at Chaos Horizon.

To supplement the mainstream’s view of SFF, I also collate 10 different lists by SFF critics. Rules are the same: appear on a list, get 1 point.

For this list, I’ve been looking for SFF critics who are likely to reflect the tastes of the Hugo award voters. That way, my list will be as predictive as possible. I’m currently using some of the biggest SFF review websites, under the theory that they’re so widely read they’ll reflect broad voting tastes. These were Tor.com, the Barnes and Noble SF Blog, and io9.com.

For the other 7 sources on my list, I included semiprozines, fanzines, and podcasts that have recently been nominated for the Hugo award. The theory here is that if these websites/magazines were well enough liked to get Hugo noms, they likely reflect the tastes of the Hugo audience. Ergo, collating them will be predictive. This year, I used the magazines Locus Magazine and Strange Horizons, the fan websites Book Smugglers, Elitist Book Reviews, and Nerds of a Feather (to replace the closing Dribble of Ink; Nerds didn’t get a Hugo nom last year, but was close, and I need another website), and fancasts Coode Street Podcast and SF Signal Podcast.

(9) LOCAL APES MEETUP. The Damn Dirty Geeks’ second annual Planet of the Apes Day gathering to celebrate the classic 1968 film Planet of the Apes and “all its sequels, remakes and re-imaginings”takes place April 2 at the Idle Hour Cafe in North Hollywood, CA (map below) beginning at 5 p.m.

The organizers ask those planning to attend to RSVP on the Facebook event page and note that you plan to be there in person. Space is limited.

(10) IRISH ORIGINS DEBATED. According to the Washington Post, “A man’s discovery of bones under his pub could forever change what we know about the Irish”. (Tolkien is quoted in the article.)

From as far back as the 16th century, historians taught that the Irish are the descendants of the Celts, an Iron Age people who originated in the middle of Europe and invaded Ireland somewhere between 1000 B.C. and 500 B.C.

That story has inspired innumerable references linking the Irish with Celtic culture. The Nobel-winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats titled a book “Celtic Twilight.” Irish songs are deemed “Celtic” music. Some nationalists embraced the Celtic distinction. And in Boston, arguably the most Irish city in the United States, the owners of the NBA franchise dress their players in green and call them the Celtics.

Yet the bones discovered behind McCuaig’s tell a different story of Irish origins, and it does not include the Celts.

“The DNA evidence based on those bones completely upends the traditional view,” said Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Oxford who has written books on the origins of the people of Ireland.

(11) A DIFFERENT PUPPY DISCUSSION. Sarah Hollowell has a dialogue with Chester the Corgi, in “Put Fat Girls in Your SFF YA” at Fantasy Literature.

Yeah, you’re right. Okay. Okay. Let’s go.

You’re a fat teenage girl, and you love YA. You especially love scifi and fantasy. Space? Hell yeah. Magic schools? Hell yeah. Magic schools in space? Sign you up. And everyone says dystopias are out of style, but you still can’t get enough. Got it?

Got it.

So you read all these books, as many as you can, and it becomes difficult not to notice a pattern. You realize all the girls in all the books are just different kinds of skinny. You can’t for the life of you find a girl that looks like you. Books are supposed to help us dream and dream big but you’re starting to feel like you’re just too big to dream. You’ve read a couple books where fat girls get to be loved in the real world, and that’s wonderful, but fat girls don’t get whisked away into alternate worlds and told they’re a long lost princess. Fat girls don’t get to see the magical underside of New York City. Fat girls don’t save planets.

(12) DIED ON THIS DATE IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1950 — Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • March 19, 2008 — Arthur C. Clarke

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 19, 1928 – Patrick McGoohan

(14) STARZ PRODUCTION OF GAIMAN NOVEL. In “’American Gods’ Casts Its Laura Moon”, The Hollywood Reporter says A Series of Unfortunate Events alum Emily Browning will take on the role in the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel.

(15) A METAPHOR FOR AN ANALOGY. “It’s Over Gandalf. We Need to Unite Behind Saruman to Save Middle Earth from Sauron!” at Daily Kos.

Gandalf had the crazy idea that some little hobbits could stand up to and defy the power of the billionaire class Dark Lord Sauron. But I guess that was a pipe dream after all.

Gandalf failed. He got his ass locked up atop Saruman’s tower when he foolishly defied the head of the Democratic Party council of wizards. And now that he’s locked up it’s not like some eagle is going to magically appear and rescue him. It’s over. And now Saruman is our only hope against Sauron.

We need to stop saying nasty things about Saruman or it will be difficult to rally the people of Middle Earth to his side. Here are some things we should no longer mention, or if we do, we should put a positive spin on them so people will still see Saruman is our only hope.

  • Saruman’s Environmental Record: While it is true that Saruman has supported clear cutting huge ancient forests, and while an old hippie tree hugger like Treebeard might tell you lots of those trees were his friends, we ARE talking about trees here. And sure, Gandalf has a much better record on the environment but he’s done now. It’s time to focus on how much worse Sauron’s environmental record is. I mean, have you seen Mordor?

(16) A TREE FALLS IN THE WOODS. Alastair Reynolds, in “’Slow Bullets’ and Sad Puppies”, says his request to be removed from the SP4 List has not yet been posted in comments at Mad Genius Club.

I was away for a few days without internet access and discovered when I returned that my novella “Slow Bullets” has been included on the “SP4” Sad Puppies list for Hugo nominators. At this point it’s of no concern to me whether this is a slate or a set of recommendations. Given the taint left by last year’s antics, I don’t care for any work of mine to be associated with any list curated by the Sad Puppies. The list was announced at Kate Paulk’s website Madgeniusclub.com. Late last night I left a comment asking – politely, I hope – for the story to be removed, but after I checked the site in the morning I couldn’t find my comment and the story was still listed. I’ve tried to leave another comment to the same effect.

(17) ANTIQUE PREHENSILE. In the event someone wants to run out and buy a fanzine I published in 1973, with a 1973-appropriate Grant Canfield nude on the cover, Prehensile 10 is for sale on eBay. Since the seller doesn’t say what the contents I wondered if I remembered correctly. Checked my file copy — yes, that’s the issue with Jerry Pournelle’s article about how to reform the Worldcon, written the year he was President of SFWA. Lots of good stuff by Richard Wadholm, Bill Warren, Jerry Pournelle, Marc Schirmeister and others.

(18) INSIDE JOKES. A mash-up of references to Bewitched and Star Wars in this Brevity cartoon.

(19) ALL LIT UP. Darth Maul: Apprentice, a Star Wars fan film, is basically 20 minutes of lightsaber fights.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Gregory N. Hullender.]