Pixel Scroll 2/15/17 Do These Protocol Breeches Make My Throne Look Fat?

(1) RETURN OF INCOME. Jim C. Hines has posted the first results from his annual survey of novelist income.

Gross Income

Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.

  • I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Much more data, sliced and diced various ways, at the post.

(2) NEW AWARD FOR PAKISTANI SF. The inaugural Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction will be given this year. The new short story award, intended to “promote science fiction and related genres of writing in Pakistan,” is named for Dr. Albus Salam, one of the pioneers of science in Pakistan.

The website’s administrator says some Pakistanis may see pirated copies of sf movies, when it comes to written sf there’s little awareness

I don’t know if science fiction as a genre even exist for Pakistani readers. When you go to book stores, you don’t find any books other than religous ones or text books needed for school curriculum. How can an average reader than get exposure to different genres of writing and specially fiction?

Eligible for the award are original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. (The complete guidelines are here.) Entries must be received by July 31.

The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a review by an established literary agent, a review from a professional editor, with the potential for publication by Tor.com.

The award judges for 2017 are sf writers and critics: Jeff VanderMeer, Usman Malik, and Mahvesh Murad.

(3) I LOST ON… Jeopardy! devoted a category to “Sci-Fi Books” on February 14. I only knew the $1,000 question – you’re bound to do better. (The correct reply will display if you scroll over the dollar amount.)

I didn’t get this one despite having read the damn book!

Thomas in this James Dashner sci-fi book awakens being “jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft”

(4) NANOWRIMO’S POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS. Tom Knighton, in an article for PJ Media headlined “Supposedly Nonpolitical Writers Group Goes Hard Left”, criticizes a message he received from NaNoWriMo .

Unfortunately, the minds behind NaNoWriMo don’t seem to appreciate what that word “apolitical” really means. How do I know?  Because of this email the Internet-based creative writing project sent to its mailing list late last week.

Dear [Name],

As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.

Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake….

So while we are not a political organization, we feel moved to take action.

In response to the executive order, as well as any future government efforts that threaten people’s basic freedoms, we will:

Celebrate creativity over apathy, diversity over fear, and productivity over despair.

Welcome all stories and continue to make NaNoWriMo a safe space for all writers.

Advocate for the transformative power of storytelling to connect people and build a better world.

If you have concrete ideas for how we can work toward these goals (or if you have feedback about anything in this message), please share your thoughts.

That wasn’t all. Oh, no, not by any means.  They also took issue with President Trump’s desire to end the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

There are a few things about NaNoWriMo that one must consider before truly understanding the context of the above email.  First, there are no prizes for NaNoWriMo.  “Winners” are basically all who complete a book, and the prize is…well, you wrote a book.  Not insignificant considering how few people who talk about books ever finish one, but that’s about it.

Further, since it is basically an internet writers group/contest, President Trump’s executive order will have precisely zero impact on it.  None.

In short, there’s absolutely no reason for Grant Faulkner to put his name on an email about a piece of political hay that impacts his operation in no way, shape, or form.

The email is more about virtue signaling, a way to tell progressives that NaNoWriMo is with them — and screw the right-leaning members of the email list!  Of course, it’s also possible they couldn’t imagine that anyone on their list actually leans right politically.

(5) THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION. The Shimmer Program has posted Sanfeng’s “Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review”. I found it an interesting contrast with U.S. society – people generally were happy to hear about President Obama’s tastes as an sf fan, but what if he had announced a plan to co-opt science fiction to further his policies?

SF as National Agenda

Historically, the trajectory of Chinese SF was heavily influenced by top-down political forces at times. Recently it begins to receive continuous and influential support from the governments at all levels. On the one hand, following the tradition of focusing on ‘science’ in science fiction, the government re-emphasizes SF as a useful instrument for popularizing science and improving citizen’s scientific literacy. On the other hand, due to the high popularity and penetration rate of SF media, it is conceivable that the so-called ‘SF industry’ is often adopted in governmental agenda for creative and cultural industry development.

In a central government’s paper regarding promoting citizens’ science literacy issued by State Council in February 2016, it is explicitly stipulated that the government shall support science fiction writing as part of popular science writing. More details were revealed in a later talk given by Han Qide, president of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), announcing that CAST will set up a national award for SF and host international SF festivals. The story reached the climax when Vice Chairman Li Yuanchao attended 2016 National SF Convention held in September 2016 and gave a speech at the opening ceremony warmly encouraging SF writing.

The post also tells about the 30th anniversary Galaxy Awards, and the inaugural winners of a new set of Chinese sf awards.

At its 30th anniversary, Galaxy Awards were presented on the evening of September 8th. Best Novel was awarded to Dooms Year by He Xi. Three days later, the ceremony of 7th Chinese Nebula Awards was held in National Library of China. The top award Best Novel was awarded to Jiang Bo for Chasing the Shadows and the Lights, which is the final installment of his epic Heart of Galaxy trilogy.

A couple of new SF awards are noteworthy. First ‘Droplet Awards’, named after a powerful and terrifying alien weapon in TBP, were organized by Tecent to call for submission of SF screenplays, comics and short videos. Best Screenplay was awarded to Day after Day by Feng Zhigang and Best Comics to The Innocent City by Yuzhou Muchang. Besides, First ‘Nebula Awards for Chinese SF Films’ were presented at a ceremony held in Chengdu in August 2016. Best SF Movie was given to a 2008 children SF movie CJ7 directed by Stephen Chow. Best SF Short Film was awarded to Waterdrop, a highly praised fan film of TBP, directed and produced by Wang Ren.

The Shimmer Program has also compiled a list of works from China eligible for 2017 Hugo nominations.

(7) TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, SET A SPELL. Co-Geeking’s Erik Jensen is an American married to a Finn (Eppu) and living in the U.S. He has written a column of advice to fans going to the Worldcon this summer: “How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns”. There are quite a few do’s and don’ts, for example —

DO give people space – Finns expect a lot of it and they will give you a lot of it in return. If you’re talking to a Finn and they back away, don’t chase them. They’re probably not trying to get away from you, they’re just resetting comfortable boundaries. (See previous points.)

DO take your shoes off if you visit a private residence – so you don’t track in dirt that your host then has to clean up. Most Finnish homes have places for taking off and putting on shoes right by the front door….

…DON’T suggest getting together unless you want to make concrete plans – “We should do lunch some time” is just a casual pleasantry in the US. It’s an expression of general good will with no commitment attached. In Finland it is a commitment to future plans and Finns will expect you to follow through.

DON’T make small talk – if you’re in conversation with a Finn and feel like there’s an awkward silence, don’t try to fill it. For most Finns, silence is not awkward at all, but comfortable. The conversation will start again when someone has something to say.

And Eppu has put together an index to cultural resources published by Worldcon 75.

  • “Finland: A Very Short Guide For Your First Trip” (Facebook)
  • “Finland: An Assortment of Notes and Information” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Fandom: Some Unique Characteristics” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Foods and Where to Find Them” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Hotels: Understanding the Differences between Countries” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Non-Fandom Things to Do in Helsinki, If You Have the Time” (in Progress Report 2)
  • “Älä hätäile! Don’t Panic! A Short Guide for Pronouncing Finnish” (in Progress Report 2)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1903  — The first Teddy bear goes on sale.

Toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution

  • February 15, 1950 — Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella opens in theaters across the United States.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1950 — Matt Groening, cartoonist; creator of The Simpsons.

(10) FORD’S IN HIS FLIVVER. Stephen Baxter has an op-ed in the February 11 Financial Times, “Dude, where’s my flying car?” He looks at flying cars, based on Uber’s announcement that they are launching a flying car development project.  Examining the way flying cars are portrayed in movies from Metropolis through Back To the Future and Thunderbirds Are Go, he concludes that it’s more likely that monorails and electric cabs will be the future’s preferred form of transportation and “flying cars will remain a plaything of the super-rich–and a dream (perhaps in virtual reality) for the rest of us.”

Note – you will probably hit a paywall using the direct link. I was able to access and read the article through a Google search.

(11) LITTLE BUNDLES OF JOY. And maybe not all that little, when you pop for the maximum sized bundle.

Both are limited-time offers.

(12) NEW BIMBO VERSE. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff continues her Book View Café series with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 8: Who Reads Reviews, Anyway?” and a story of the Analog Mafia.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

The way Mark Kelly synopsized it,

I barely recognized it,

but they reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

True story. In fact, it happened repeatedly with my Analog stories….

(13) ETHICS BEYOND THE STRATOSPHERE. At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron has reviewed Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation by Tony Milligan.

In Nobody Owns the Moon, Milligan begins his inquiry from the ground up, so to speak, starting with the fundamental question of whether space exploration itself can be ethically justified at all, specifically focusing on whether manned space exploration is justifiable. By starting at such a fundamental level, Milligan indicates that he is going to tackle the questions at hand without presuming that anything is justified. Instead, Milligan works through each issue with as few preconceptions as possible, examining both the arguments for and against the proposition being examined. This can seem frustratingly indecisive at times, because with most questions there is no clear cut answer one way or the other, because there are pros and cons to every position. The end result is that for most such questions, the answer lies in choosing which is the best of a flawed collection of alternatives, not in choosing the one that is clearly correct.

Milligan is also concerned with only dealing with questions that result from actions that are within the realm of possibility. To this end, he spends a fair amount of time examining the question of whether terraforming a planet to be more Earth-like is possible before he gets into the question of whether it is ethical. As he points out, examining a question that could never possibly come to pass is simply idle speculation. To a certain extent, almost all of the questions Milligan addresses in the book are somewhat hypothetical – no one is currently actually mining asteroids or terraforming Mars, but as he outlines in the book, they are all within the realm of reasonable possibility, and thus it is worthwhile to consider their the ethical implications.

(14) FIXING THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joe Stech, of Compelling SF, asks you to help him decide which of his guidelines to work on first.

Every so often I receive engaging story submissions that have wonderful writing and great human elements, but contain clearly implausible science. This can pull readers out of the story and potentially mar an otherwise excellent work.

I’ve been thinking about working with scientists to create a series of writer’s guides to help with this pain point, and I was hoping you could help me out by letting me know which subjects you’d find most useful in such a series. The idea is that we’d provide a general overview of the topic and then give some specific tips regarding common misconceptions that we’ve seen. If you have a moment please let me know what you think via the following survey:

A Survey About Science Fiction Writer’s Guides

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfoME88hE2nuDpuX9JZKsl9GSL-8lRYbBux2phjdwsSDtxMVg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Feel free to share the survey link with others that might have an interest.

(15) CHURCHILL’S LOST ESSAY ABOUT ALIENS. An unpublished essay by Winston Churchill about the possibility of life on other worlds is the subject of an article by Mario Livio in the latest issue of Nature. According to the BBC:

The document was uncovered in the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, by the institution’s new director Timothy Riley….

Churchill was a prolific writer: in the 1920s and 30s, he penned popular science essays on topics as diverse as evolution and fusion power. Mr Riley, director of the Churchill Museum, believes the essay on alien life was written at the former prime minister’s home in Chartwell in 1939, before World War II broke out.

It may have been informed by conversations with the wartime leader’s friend, Lindemann, who was a physicist, and might have been intended for publication in the News of the World newspaper.

It was also written soon after the 1938 US radio broadcast by Orson Welles dramatising The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. The radio programme sparked a panic when it was mistaken by some listeners for a real news report about the invasion of Earth by Martians.

Dr Livio told BBC News that there were no firm plans to publish the article because of issues surrounding the copyright. However, he said the Churchill Museum was working to resolve these.

(16) SAME BAT CHANNEL, NOT SAME BAT. Carl Slaughter sent a link to “The Evolution of Batman in Television and Film, 1943 – 2016.”

(17) THE GOOD STUFF. Aliette de Bodard has put up her awards eligibility and recommendations post.

I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?

Here is an excerpt from her recommendations.

Novelettes

I enjoyed Fran Wilde’s JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY: set in a universe where gems hold magic but can drive people mad, JEWEL concerns itself with the fall of that kingdom, and the desperate straits in which it leaves its princess and her companion. This is a heart wrenching tale of power, friendship, and two women’s struggle to survive.

Marjorie Liu’s “The Briar and the Rose” (which I suspect is a novelette, from Navah Wolfe’s and Dominik Parisien’s The Starlit Wood) is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a twist: a swordswoman falls in love with Rose–but Rose is only herself one day of the week, when the witch who occupies her body has to rest… I loved the characters and their relationship, and the quest undertaken by the swordswoman to free Rose.

Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay”: a weird Western with a lovely friendship at its core, a tale of the desert, magic, belonging, and the weight of the dead. Definitely sticks in the mind.

Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner is sword and muskets set in colonial Brazil, following the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara in a land filled with strange creatures. It’s a series of linked novelettes (with gorgeous cover art), and it’s great fun. Two volumes came out last year: A Torrential Complication and A Tumultuous Convergence.

(18) SIRI. In “The Voice (Siri)–a 48 hr film” on Vimeo, Yonatan Tal imagines what Siri would do if confronted with too many inane questions, including knock-knock jokes and “Where can I get some drugs?”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Joe H., Peter J, John M. Cowan, John King Tarpinian, Aaron, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/16 Use File 770; It Softens Your Pixels While You Read The Books. You’re Scrolling In it!

(1) OUR NEIGHBOR. It’s official —

A team of astronomers composed of P. Kervella (CNRS / U. de Chile / Paris Observatory / LESIA), F. Thévenin (Lagrande Laboratory, Côte d’Azur Observatory, France) and Christophe Lovis (Observatory of the University of Geneva, Switzerland) has demonstrated that Proxima, the nearest star to the Sun, is gravitationally bound to its neighbors Alpha Centauri A and B. The nearest stellar system to the Earth is therefore a triple star. Proxima is known to host the nearest exoplanet, a telluric planet orbiting in its habitable zone. This discovery implies that the four objects (Alpha Cen A, B, Proxima and Proxima b) share the same age of ~6 billion years.

 

Paul Gilster discusses the discovery at Centauri Dreams.

Now as to that orbit — 550,000 years for a single revolution — things get interesting. One reason it has been important to firm up Proxima’s orbit is that while a bound star would have affected the development of the entire system, the question has until now been unresolved. Was Proxima Centauri actually bound to Centauri A and B, or could it simply be passing by, associated with A and B only by happenstance?

(2) THE REPRESSION INHERENT IN THE SYSTEM. YouTube’s Nostalgia Critic demands to know “Where’s the Fair Use”?

(3) PAYING TO VOLUNTEER. While it’s commonly expected at the conventions I’ve worked that volunteers will be members of the con, this is a new one on me – having to join a secondary group in order to volunteer. “Phoenix Comicon announces changes to volunteering; paid fan group membership required” reports An Engishman in San Diego.

Square Egg Entertainment, the organisation behind Phoenix Comicon, today announced a sizeable change to its practice of staffing – and pooling volunteers for – their three annual events:  Phoenix Comicon, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween. Square Egg will no longer be staffing these shows with hired hands, instead now filling those roles from the organising committee and paid membership of the Blue Ribbon Army (which originally started out as a fan group for PHXCC, and has subsequently become a social club with 501(c)(7) status).

Members of the Army have to be at least 18 years old and – here’s the kicker for a number of fiscally-minded volunteers – they also do have to become fully paid-up members of the fan group, with membership prices to join starting at $20 per year and going up to $100 per year. That’s right: you effectively have to now pay to become a Phoenix Comicon volunteer.

For what it’s worth, the Blue Ribbon Army leadership isn’t being compensated

Are your board members paid?

All Blue Ribbon Army board members are unpaid volunteers. All financial information, as required by law for a 501(c)7 organization, will be posted.

(4) BOTTOM OF THE GALACTIC BARREL. Love this article title — “15 Star Wars Characters Who Are Worthless At Their Jobs” from ScreenRant.

  1. Storm Troopers – Just Bad At Their Jobs

They just had to be here, as they’re cinematic legends when it comes to utterly failing at your job. Imperial Stormtroopers, as we’re told, are precise. The Empire has access to vast resources, so you’d think its military force would be well up to scratch. Stormtroopers even get a pretty good showing the first time we see them, managing to take over Princess Leia’s ship with only a few casualties. And then almost every time after that we see them, they’re getting destroyed like they put their helmets on backwards and their armor is made of tinfoil….

(5) BILLIONAIRE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Three of the “10 Books Elon Musk – ‘Tesla Founder and Billionaire’ wants you to read” are SFF, beginning with –

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Back when Elon Musk was a moody teen growing up in Pretoria, South Africa, he went looking for the meaning of life in the work of grumpy philosophers. It didn’t help. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which taught him that the hardest part was to properly phrase the question but that once this was done the answer was easy. It changed his whole perspective.

(6) A CRACKED THEORY. Cracked brings all its scholarly powers to bear in “Snow White is a LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory”.  

Mortal man Beren and elf maiden Luthien Tinuviel (of the New Jersey Tinuviels) are forebears of the kings of Numenor and Gondor. Seeing as how the love story of Beren and Luthien echoes through the millennia in their great-great-many-times-great-grandchildren, it comes as no surprise that a similar fate awaits Aragorn and Arwen’s descendant, Snow White.

The family resemblance would only be uncannier if Steven Tyler cast her in inappropriately weird videos during her early teens.

At this point you may be thinking that we’re smoking too much of that pipe with Gandalf, but have you noticed Snow White’s rapport with the birds and beasts of the wild? The way they listen and respond to her?

Doesn’t this suggest a deep connection with nature, as someone with Elvish blood would have?

(7) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Plenty of genre flicks on Film School Rejects’ “The 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017”.

…[Our] 52 Most Anticipated Movies list is always a big hit because it operates under a simple premise: if you’re going to see one movie for every week of the new year (and you should), these are the ones on which we’d stake a claim. Because we spend a great deal of time thinking about upcoming movies and an even sadder amount of time researching them, we’re exactly the kind of people who are qualified to give out said advice. Qualified enough to say, with confidence, that these 52 movies are likely to be worth your time. They may not all turn out to be great, but they will be worth seeing and discussing throughout the year….

Beauty and the Beast (March 17)

Neil Miller: If we’re being honest?—?and we are at all times?—?Disney’s live-action parade of remakes is actually turning out to be a better idea in practice than it was on paper. Both Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book gave us an interesting take on their respective stories. Neither was the disaster that many, perhaps out of a dedication to an anti-remake stance, had predicted. This is what gives us further hope for Beauty and the Beast, the success of which will rest mostly on the shoulders of Disney’s live-action effects teams and Emma Watson, both of which have proven track records. Six weeks ago, Disney released a trailer that showed off both of these things in action. The Beast effects that cover up Dan Stevens’ handsome mug look good and Emma Watson looks right at home as Belle. We’re still not sure of those CGI housewear items with anamorphic features, but we’ll see how that pans out in the final product.

(8) DUFF VOLUNTEER. Paul Weimer has announced his candidacy for the Down Under Fan Fund.

(9) REMEMBERING RICHARD ADAMS. In 1843 Magazine, Miranda Johnson, an environment correspondent for The Economist, discusses her grandfather Richard Adams, including how Adams’s experiences fighting in Operation Market Garden in World War II informed the battles in Watership Down, how her family all became characters in her grandfather’s novels, and what happened when Adams had lunch with Groucho Marx.

He also never forgot friends he made during his service. One in particular, Paddy Kavanagh, stuck with him for his fearless defence of the Oosterbeek perimeter as part of Operation Market Garden during September 1944. Paddy gave his life so that my grandpa’s platoon could escape. So my grandfather brought him back in the character of Bigwig in “Watership Down”, who stands alone to defend a tunnel in the rabbits’ new warren. Originally in the story, Bigwig also died. But my mother and aunt protested so much that my grandpa changed the tale. “We said nobody must die,” my aunt recalls, “except for Hazel, because it seemed an important part given his old age.”

(10) HOLLYWOOD MEMORIAL. ULTRAGOTHA found the story and JJ tracked down a photo —

Carrie Fisher doesn’t have a Star on the Walk of Fame, so fans appropriated a blank one and are leaving tributes. Including two cinnamon buns.

(11) WWCD 2017. Redbubble is selling merchandise with the WWCD art and giving the money to charity —

100% of the proceeds will be donated to bipolar disorder through the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: https://bbrfoundation.org/

what-would-carrie-do

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 30, 1816 — Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft were married.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 30, 1980 — Eliza Dushku
  • Born December 30, 1982 — Kristin Kreuk.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 30, 1865 – Rudyard Kipling

(15) PRINTS IN THE FORECOURT. Filmmaker Roger Corman, a former Worldcon GoH, has been immortalized in concrete at a slightly less well-known theater than you usually think of when it comes to this sort of thing —

Roger Corman may not be a household name, but among movie fans he’s a cult hero.

In October, a tribute was held at the Vista Theatre to celebrate his 62-year career.

The legendary filmmaker was immortalized October 12th in the cement of the Vista’s forecourt with a handprint ceremony, alongside those of Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid; James Bond girl Honor Blackman; special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Cassandra Peterson—also known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

“I think it’s kind of fun that [my handprints] will be out there forever,” said Corman before burying his hands deep in a patch of cement on the edge of Sunset Drive.

(16) MARS. Charles E. Gannon was part of a Dragon Con panel reported in Space.com“Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly”

Like in the Old West, the goal would be for the colony to become self-sustaining, the panel said. Once a colony could support itself, it would no longer need to rely on materials from Earth to survive. When asked if an organization on Earth could realistically hope to control what was happening on Mars, Davis said, “If they’re still getting their caloric intake from someplace else, yup, you can.” [Poll: Where Should Humanity Build Its First Space Colony?]

Gannon named the biggest challenge facing a colony that aimed to grow independent from the people back home: the supply of volatiles, particularly oxygen and water. The first explorers would need to find a way for colonists to harvest those on the new world, Gannon said.

“If you have to ship those to the colony, it will be both economically and physically dependent and probably never be profitable or really safe,” Gannon said.

Even if an underground colony relied on rocks to shield itself from deadly radiation, it would still need enough water for similar shielding during vehicular missions, he said, making ice harvesting crucial to the colony’s survival.

“There are plenty of other [challenges],” he said. “But this is the minimum ante for long-term self-supportability.”

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. NPR tells us “Astronomers Seeking Planet 9 Hope To Soon Catch A Glimpse”.

On the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain Thursday, astronomers will point the large Subaru Telescope toward a patch of sky near the constellation of Orion, looking for an extremely faint object moving slowly through space.

If they find what they’re looking for, it will be one of the most important astronomical discoveries in more than a century: a new planet in our solar system.

Technically, a new planet hasn’t been discovered since Neptune was spotted in 1846. Pluto, discovered in 1930, was demoted to “dwarf planet” a decade ago. If a new planet is found, it will be the new Planet Nine.

(18) TRADING INSULTS. Huffington Post’s “Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word”  by Laurie Gough, “Award-winning author of three memoirs…a journalist and travel writer”, begins —

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

The rest of the article carries on in the same condescending tone which so aggravated Larry Correia that he stormed back from a self-imposed internet vacation to write a reply, “Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing” for Monster Hunter Nation. (Gough’s article is quoted in italics. Correia’s replies are bold. Of course they are…)

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers.

Nope. The problem with self-publishing is that there are so many competitors that the challenge is to differentiate yourself from the herd. Sure, lots of them are crap (I can say the same thing for tradpub too), but if you find a way to market yourself and get your quality product in front of the right market, then you can make quite a bit of money.  

From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature.

From what I’ve seen, I’d say the same thing about the Huffington Post.

As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

As an actual editor who gets paid for this stuff, that sentence reads like garbage.

I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.

Only you just described exactly how most real working bands got their start. Add a couple of kids with a guitar and drums, set up in your buddy’s garage, and start jamming. Eventually you will get good enough that you can book some local gigs, and if people like you, they will give you money for your stuff.

Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.

Nobody gives a crap about “validation”. Validation don’t pay the bills.

(19) MEDIA FAVES. It’s Aliette de Bodard’s turn to bestow Smugglivus year-end cheer at The Book Smugglers.

In media, the most striking thing I watched this year is actually from last year: it was the masterful Doctor Who episode “Heaven Sent”, a tour de force by Peter Capaldi that slowly starts making horrifying sense throughout its length (and that I actually paused and rewatched just to make sure it all hung together — it does and it’s even more impressive on a rewatch). I haven’t had time to consume things from this year: most of my watching has been old things, like Black  Orphan (I can’t believe it took me this long to find out about it, it’s so good, and Tatiana Maslany is just amazing playing all the clones), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, period mysteries featuring the awesome Phryne Fisher (and her amazing wardrobe).

(20) CATCHING UP WITH CAMESTROS. Doctor Who was on Camestros Felapton’s telly on Christmas — “Review: The Return of Doctor Misterio – 2016 Dr Who Christmas Special”.

In the 2016 Christmas Special, Moffat lays out a gentle Richard Curtis-like romantic comedy but about superheroes and alien brain parasites. No puzzles and an evil invasion plot from the bad guys that echoed both Watchmen and the Aliens of London episode from series 1 of the reboot. A wise choice that made for a funny and light episode.

The episode was not a deconstruction of the superhero genre but played the tropes simply and straight but also at a relatively shallow level. Primarily a play on the Clark Kent/Lois Lane, secret identity, romance angle but with an added play on romantic comedy trope of the woman who somehow can’t see the man she actually is looking for is standing right next to her.

(21) CAMESTROS IS A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT. Then he dashed out to see the new Star Wars movie – “Review: Rogue One”.

Well, that was fun in a Blake’s 7 sort of way.

What I liked about the film was it had a certain freedom to it. The story has one simple job: by the end of the plot, the plans for the Death Star have to be on a Rebel spaceship pursued by Darth Vader. How to get to point B is undetermined and indeed where point A is to start with nobody knows. Indeed, the film initially is a bit confused about where A is, flitting from one plane to another. However, after some initial rushing around the galaxy, the story comes together.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, captures a nice sense of both bravado and cynicism as the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. Her emotional journey isn’t complex but given the number of genre films in which people appear to act incomprehensibly it was nice to have a character whose motivations were personal and direct. Her shift from reluctant rebel to a leader of a commando force is shaped overtly and plausibly by plot events.

(23) CAN’T END TOO SOON. By then the year 2016 was just about done – and Camestros designed the most suitable container for its farewell journey.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Michael J. Walsh, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]  

Pixel Scroll 11/17 How to win friends and influence pixels

(1) Star Wars is causing a great disturbance in the toy aisles:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other retailers have loaded up on plastic lightsabers, robotic Yodas and other toys tied to the coming movie, crowding out shelf space and inventory dollars elsewhere in the toy section. The big bets are pushing orders for toy makers, such as Mattel Inc., closer to the holidays and squeezing some smaller competitors in the $22 billion U.S. toy industry.

One property hit hard: “Peanuts.”

Iconix Brand Group Inc., which controls the license to the newest animated Charlie Brown movie, this month cut its sales outlook from “Peanuts” licenses by $24 million for the year largely because it miscalculated how many Snoopy dolls and other “Peanuts” products retailers would buy.

(2) Sean Wallace advised on Facebook:

Authors: always make sure that a year’s best allowance is in your short story contracts. If you need to see an example of what I mean, Tor.com’s contracts are pretty good on this score: “The Author will not, without written permission from the Publisher, publish or permit publication of the Work or any material based upon the Work in any form or medium until one year after the date of first publication of the Work by the Publisher. Anthologies of the year’s best science fiction or fantasy shall be exempted from the one-year restriction set forth in this paragraph.”

(3) Aliette de Bodard’s guest post on Over The Effing Rainbow deals with “Science-fiction, fantasy, and all the things in between”.

I used to be quite rigid about genre separation: in particular, though I read both fantasy and science fiction, I wasn’t very keen on “merging” them together. In recent years, I’ve found myself being more and more elastic with my definition of genre, and in particular with my definition of “science fiction”.

Partly, it’s because expectations are such a double-edged sword: they are a helpful guide, but like any guide, they can become a cage. It’s very easy–and a very slippery slope–to go from “readers expect this” to “I shouldn’t deviate from this”. Much as I like being aware of what is done and why, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the (over)splitting into genres and subgenres: I found that tropes, used too many times and without the infusion of freshness from an outside source, calcified into books that were…. ok, but not good, or not great. Books that I read to pass the time (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but that I felt were missing something. Part of the reason why I read is to find new things, new ideas; and I wasn’t finding that in books that adhered too rigidly to expectations. Ie, a little rulebreaking from time to time never hurt anyone! (also, if you’re going to break a rule, break it good and hard. My personal motto *grin*)

The second thing that made me uncomfortable was becoming aware of the way “science fiction” was used to elevate certain works, and dismiss others altogether…

(4) Walter Jon Williams says Taos Toolbox must move its location, but is still on for 2016.

Taos Toolbox logo

Yes, there will be a Taos Toolbox next year! I’ve had to delay the announcement due to our losing our lodging, and to the fact that there will be massive construction in the Ski Valley next year.

The master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy will be held July 17-30, 2016, at Angel Fire, NM, just a short distance from Taos.

Teaching will be Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, indiepub guru Emily Mah Tippetts, and James S.A. Corey, author of The Expanse.

(5) When his bike was stolen and he was without transportation to his two jobs many miles from home, conrunner Adam Beaton turned to GoFundMe.

That’s why the money will be used for a scooter. I don’t need anything fancy, and I’m not looking for a car because I’d rather not have another bill for insurance on my plate right now. A simple scooter doesn’t require a motorcycle license and also doesn’t require insurance. It’s also far less expensive than buying a car, even a used one, which is why I’ve tried to keep the target goal as low as possible. Honestly I just need simple transportation that I can use to get me to-and-from work so I can continue being a productive member of society and not lose my jobs.

The community came through with the $600 he needed.

Wow. In less than two days, the goal was made. I’m very blessed to have such great friends and family. Especially some of you who I know are also facing some difficult times and still helped me out anyway. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If you’d still like to contribute, it’ll definitely help in getting a scooter that’s say, a bit less used.

(6) Today In History

  • November 17, 2008Twilight, the movie that launched a global teenage vampire romance phenomenon, premiered in Los Angeles.

(7) “New LEGO Slippers Will Spare Parents The Unique Pain They Know All Too Well” says Huffington Post.

Now the LEGO brand has teamed up with French advertising agency Brand Station to create some slippers with extra padding that will protect parents from this tortuous sensation.

 

Lego slippers

(8) Another inventor has come up with the “Prosthetic Tentacle”.

A student designer has created a prosthetic tentacle as an alternative to artificial human limbs,

Kaylene Kau from Taipei made the remarkable invention as part of a design school project.

The limb would be able to grip many different objects by curling up with the help of a simple motor.

It’s actually a pretty simple invention. The controls on the limb tell the motor to curl or uncurl, and there is no ‘hardwire’ link to the nervous system, as seen in some of the most advanced robotic or artificial limbs in development.

 

Prosthetic Tentacle

(9) Daniel Dern sends links to the SF-themed comic strips he’s seen so far this week.

(10) Famous Monsters #283 sports a Star Wars-themed “variant newsstand cover” by artist Rob Prior. The issue includes interviews with Mark Hamill on Star Wars, Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead, and Sam J. Jones on Flash Gordon.

FM 283 cover SW

(11) “Yorick: A Unique Life-Size Skull Carved From a Crystallized Gibeon Meteorite” at Junk Culture:

A rare and singular combination of natural history and modern art, Lee Downey’s “Yorick.” is a life-size skull carved from a large Gibeon meteorite that crashed in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia a thousand years ago. An artist who is known for selecting exotic materials with which to work, Downey acid-etched the carving to uncover the Gibeon meteorite’s singular, lattice-like pattern. “A symbol of death, of eternity, of immortality, of demise and rebirth.” he explains, “Of any material I could think of to fashion an accurate human skull out of, this Gibeon meteorite best embodies the ‘mystery’ most acutely.”

 

skull2The skull will be auctioned by Bonhams on November 24, perhaps for as much as $400,000. The auction webpage explains the origin story of this type of meteorite.

ABOUT GIBEON

  • Gibeon is iron-based and one of the rarest forms of meteorite.
  • It originated billions of years ago from an unstable planet that existed briefly between Jupiter and Mars.
  • When the planet broke apart, a section of its core traveled through space for four billion years.
  • Only the vacuum of space – which provides no surrounding molecules through which heat can be conducted away from the meteorite – allows the prolonged period of intense heat necessary for the alloys of iron meteorites to crystallize.
  • During its journey, the meteorite’s alloys crystallized to form an octahedral crystalline structure that cannot be recreated on earth.
  • When it met the earth’s atmosphere, about 1000 years ago, it exploded over the Kalahari Desert.
  • The iron rain formed a meteorite field in Great Namaqualand, Namibia, which was first discovered by the local Nama people.
  • A 48,000 gram block was cut out of the heart of a complete, 280 kg iron meteorite, which Downey then painstakingly carved down to the carving’s 21,070 grams.
  • Radiometric dating estimates the age of crystallization of Gibeon’s metal at approximately 4 billion years.

(12) The Doc Dave Winiewicz Frazetta Collection will be auctioned by Profiles in History on Friday, December 11 at 11:00 a.m. PST. Catalog and flipbook at the link.

(13) Winiewicz holds forth on “The Essence of Frazetta” in this YouTube video.

(14) The previous pair of news items come from John Holbo’s discussion of fantasy art and “Men wearing a military helmet and nothing else in Western Art” in “Frazetta Auction – and French Academic Art” at Crooked Timber. The post begins with a revelation about Frazetta’s source for images of fallen warriors in two of his works.

(15) Shelf Awareness editor Marilyn Dahl plugs Larry Correia’s latest book tour and adds some career history.

Larry Correia took a somewhat unexpected journey on his way to becoming a bestselling author. He self-published his first book, Monster Hunter International, when he was an accountant and a gun dealer, and discovered how fundamental handselling is, along with a bit of luck. Don Blyly of Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, Minn., asked for a copy, read it and finished it in one night. He purchased a large number of POD (print on demand) copies for the store and handsold them. Then fate appeared. The week Uncle Hugo’s began selling the book, Entertainment Weekly ran the store’s bestseller list, with Monster Hunter International at #3. Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen Books, speedily signed Larry to a one-book deal, which turned into 16 in less than six years. In addition, while promoting his POD edition, Correia traveled throughout the Mid- and Southwest, becoming a bookseller favorite. He’s launching Son of the Black Sword with a tour that started in New England, continued to the Pacific Northwest, then traveled down the West Coast and across the desert, wrapping up in Scottsdale, Ariz.

(16) Stuart Starosta of Fantasy Literature scored an interview with Cixin Liu.

What was it like when The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best SF novel and was nominated for the 2014 Nebula Award? Is it exciting to discover so much interest in your works overseas? When you first wrote the series, was it intended mainly for Chinese readers or did you imagine there would be English readers as well?

I was in Chicago for the Nebula Awards in June but was too busy to attend the Hugo Awards ceremony. Yet The Three-Body Problem was awarded the Hugo Award so I was disappointed that I missed this opportunity. But I am delighted that the translator, Ken Liu, was able to receive the award. His excellent translation played a very important role in earning the award so I have always believed that we won the award together. I am of course very happy that my own work is so successful outside China. The genre of science fiction was introduced to China during the end of the Qing Dynasty by Westerners. One century later, China’s science fiction work is finally being published and recognized in the West. But from another perspective, science fiction novels are the most global type of literature compared to other translated works. These works often involve many aspects of Chinese culture that may be foreign to Westerners so science fiction in translation should be easier for a Western audience to understand.

(17) And Sasquan, in the interests of promoting peace and world brotherhood… no, cancel that story. David D’Antonio, 2015 Hugo Ceremony Director, is still chasing after people to give them souvenir asterisks.

The 2015 Hugo Ceremony is over, and we’re reminded that not every nominee could be present. During the Pre-Hugo Reception we offered all present their own 2015 Hugo Asterisk to commemorate an extraordinary year and signify the several records set (including the record number of Hugo voters). Should any of those nominees who couldn’t be present desire one, we do have extras and will be happy to send one along. Please contact us at hugoceremony@sasquan.org at your earliest convenience. Unfortunately, that email list will be closed after two (2) months so we regret that we will not be able to fulfill requests after that time.

Sasquan attendees could get their own asterisk during the convention for a suggested donation to Sir Terry Pratchett’s* favorite charity, The Orangutan Foundation. $2800 was raised and has been sent to help orangutans at Leakey Center.

 

Sasquan asterisk

(18) A photographer imagines the daily, mundane life of Darth Vader at Mashable.

Vader brushing teeth

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, JJ, Alan T. Baumler, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, and Paul Weimer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Clarkesworld Kickstarter To Fund Publication of Chinese SF in Translation

Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of his magazine. He’s launched a Kickstarter appeal to pay the authors and defray some related expenses.

Each month, Storycom’s team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I’ll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They’ll be paid too.)

He wants to raise $7,500 by October 8. As this is written $3,074 has already been pledged.

The array of premiums started with three Tuckerizations – the donor’s name in the author’s next story for Clarkesword – and a pair provided by Kij Johnson and Aliette de Bodard have already been claimed. The opportunity remains for someone to give $275 and have his or her name appear in a Catherynne M. Valente story — but for how long?

Clarke says the recommendation team he’s working with at Storycom includes:

  • Liu Cixin: the most-famous science fiction writer in China and author of the Three Body Trilogy;
  • Yao Haijun: Editor-in-Chief of Science Fiction World;
  • Zhang Zhilu: Scriptwriter at the China Film Group Corporation and one of the pioneering scriptwriters of science fiction movies in China;
  • Wu Yan: a Doctoral Supervisor for the Science Fiction Literature major at Beijing Normal University and President of World Chinese Science Fiction Association;
  • Ken Liu: Award-winning American science fiction writer and translator.

Funds from the Kickstarter will underwrite this feature for the first year, long enough to make the project self-sustaining through subscriptions and other sources of revenue.