Cramer Asks Readercon to Investigate Age Discrimination Charge

Kathryn Cramer announced on Facebook that she has asked the Readercon board to investigate whether its program organizers engaged in age discrimination while culling their program participants list and violated the convention’s own Code of Conduct.

Several older white male writers who have been on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook that they were notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. The wording of the notice sparked resentment —

Allen Steele’s reaction was typical:

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

Whether writers/editors/artists who have been on a convention’s program in the past are owed the courtesy of being formally notified that they are not going to be on the current year’s program, or a con should let silence speak for itself, is worthy of discussion in its own right, however, Readercon made the former choice.

Even more important than the careless language of the letter (“PASTPRO”), some writers who received it say they suspect that Readercon’s effort to churn its roster of panelists has been done entirely at the expense of older writers.

A few days ago Jeffrey A. Carver added his name to the list of writers who have gotten the letter: “Readercon Says, ‘So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!’”

I worried I was getting old when I turned 50 and started getting mail from AARP. And then, when I wasn’t looking, I suddenly became eligible for senior discounts. (No, that can’t be right. My parents were seniors, not me!) And now…

Readercon, once one of my favorite conventions, has decided that—well, let’s let them tell it in their own words: “You won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29. We’re deeply grateful to you for your years of participation at Readercon… but…” But so long, and thanks for all the fish!

They go on to say that they’re making room for fresh, young writers—which, if I thought that were the real reason, would at least be understandable. The truth, of course, is that Readercon has always been welcoming to new writers. I was one myself once, and Readercon always gave me a place at the table, as they did others. In fact, one of the things I liked about it was the yeasty mix of writers of all kinds, all ages, genders, creeds, etc. It made for great conversations. I guess the newer team of organizers are aiming for a new shape for their demographics. Either that, or they think they’re comping too many memberships to program participants.

I’m not the only one to receive this letter, of course. A number of older, white male writers (including my friend Craig Shaw Gardner) have received the same email. I don’t know if any female writers have received it or not. I’d be interested in knowing. (Update: I’ve received a secondhand report that a woman-writer friend of mine, also in my age group, got a similar boot to the backside.)

Kathryn Cramer tried to bring the matter to a head and tweeted Readercon a question —

Cramer also criticized a comment left on FB by Readercon program chair Emily Wagner:

…Speaking as the widow of a Readercon 13 GoH, I take exception to your complaints about past program participants’ “longevity.” You may find this whole matter “hilarious” (as per screen shot). I do not. Readercon has a code of conduct. I suggest you read it. And if you still think it is hilarious that you have given offense to many of the writers you have written such things to, and if you still think other peoples’ impression that you are engaging in age discrimination is hilarious, then I suggest you politely submit your resignation to the Readercon committee and find another hobby.

(This page lists 150 program participants from the 2017 Readercon – how Wagner’s 700 figure relates to that is unclear.)

Cramer has made a public request that the Readercon Board get involved.

I have just sent the following letter to To the ReaderCon Board:

In light of letters from Emily Wagner, writing as program Chair, recently received by older writers and professionals disinviting them from future participation on the ReaderCon program based their “longevity”, offering a discount code of “pastpro,” I formally request that the Board open an inquiry into whether Emily Wagner has committed age discrimination and whether she has, in the process, violated ReaderCon’s published Code of Conduct as pertains to age. Since Emily Wagner also sits on the Board, it would be appropriate for her to recuse herself from this inquiry.

I further request that the ReaderCon board publicly release the age demographics of the list of people to whom such letters were sent. And further, should these demographics demonstrate that all or nearly all such letters were sent to writers over age 50, I request that Emily Wagner be removed as Program Chair of ReaderCon and removed from the ReaderCon Board.

Ms. Wagner has posted on Facebook that she finds these allegations of age discrimination on her part “hilarious.” Age discrimination is not hilarious.

Further, should the Board determine that age discrimination has, in fact, taken place – which is to say that all or almost all of those disinvited are over 50 – I request that the Board take appropriate action to remedy the situation.


Kathryn Cramer

Several other well-known writers have added their protests. Peter Watts ended a comment on the subject:

Readercon, you suck.

Barry Longyear chimed in:

So, the Readercon “Dump-the Old” program is still in effect. It makes me think there ought to be two new categories in the Hugo Awards at the World SF Con: Best Science Fiction Convention, and a booby prize for that convention committee deemed as “doing the absolute least to promote science fiction and fellowship surrounding the literature of science fiction.” Designs for the Fucktard Award are currently being solicited.

David Gerrold made a more substantial comment on Cramer’s announcement:

About ten years ago or so, the Writers Guild of America won a major lawsuit on age discrimination. The studios paid out $70 million, some of which was distributed to writers who had proven they had been discriminated against, the rest to establish protections for the future.

Age discrimination is real — it’s pernicious, it’s vile, and in venues where there are laws prohibiting it, it is illegal.

For it to occur in the science fiction community is appalling. This is a community that has prided itself on inclusion. The rule in fandom is that “the ceiling constitutes an introduction.” That is, we’re all in the same room, we’re all fans, we’re here to have fun celebrating what we love.

So for any convention to knowingly violate the trust of the community, to disinvite the experienced and respected members of that community — this doesn’t just punish the authors, it punishes the fans who want to hear from those authors.

I’ve always wanted to attend a Readercon. I’ve only heard good things about Readercon — but now I suspect that I am too old to be considered worthy to contribute to Readercon.

I hope that this is a momentary glitch that the Board of Directors will address quickly. Otherwise, Readercon’s good reputation will be soiled for a long time to come

Pixel Scroll 2/3/18 As God Is My Witness, I Thought Pixels Could Scroll!

(1) QUEEN OF PULP. Twitter’s Pulp Librarian today did a retrospective of illustrator Margaret Brundage, “the Queen of Pulp,” with lots of her Weird Tales covers from the 1930s. Jump on the thread here —

(2) ELLEN KLAGES DONATES CLARION WEST INSTRUCTORSHIP. Clarion West announced Karen Lord is the recipient of “The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship 2018”.

The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship will be awarded in 2018 in memory of Sally Klages, with love from her sister Ellen Klages….

Ellen Klages’ tribute begins —

Sally was a writer. I never heard her say that she wanted to be one; she simply proclaimed, proudly, that she was. She wrote every day in tiny, cramped cursive: working on her autobiography, lectures to her Invisible Friends, instructions about how life ought to be led.

Like many of us, she owned dozens of notebooks and countless pens, and was never without them. She once packed a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of pens and markers into her carry-on bag for a two-hour flight, “in case one runs out.” Writing was her joy, her recreation, her solace.

Sally was born with Down Syndrome. As far as she was concerned, that wasn’t a handicap — it was what made her special. And she was. She was Valedictorian of her class at Northeast Training Center, and an employee at Columbus State University for 17 years. She was one of the founding members of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO), she was on the board of the National Down Syndrome Conference, and was a featured speaker there in 1989. An active participant in the Special Olympics, she won more than three dozen medals in swimming, diving, track and field, bowling, and cross-country skiing….

[Via Locus Online.]

(3) PICACIO AT THE MIKE. In “Your 2018 Hugo Awards MC Is….” John Picacio tells why he is proud to be Worldcon 76’s choice.

Today, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention has announced me as the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s Hugo Awards in San Jose, CA, while also announcing that the Hugo Awards’ Nominations Period is now open! Having won two Hugos for Best Professional Artist, I know how much the Hugos mean to the sf/f field, and it’s a huge honor to serve this stage in front of my colleagues and heroes. Worldcon 76 asked me to be the 2018 Hugo MC last August so it’s been fun keeping that under wraps the last five months, even after being announced as this year’s Artist Guest of Honor.

There’s some history that comes along with this role.

  • I’m the first visual artist to ever be a Hugo Awards MC. I think this could perhaps be a harbinger of Hugo Ceremonies to come. Many of our best visual creators — such as Brom, Todd Lockwood, Ruth Sanderson, Gregory Manchess, and more — are becoming author / artist / storytellers, conjuring the words and pictures of their own bestselling books and media. Our next generation of illustrators are aspiring to tell their own stories, just as much as becoming hired guns. I suspect there will be more artists following through the Hugo MC door behind me, and they’ll likely come from this expanding universe of hybrid, contemporary artists.
  • I’m only the third Worldcon Guest of Honor to also serve as Hugo Awards MC at the same Worldcon. I believe Connie Willis and David Gerrold are the only others to do this in the con’s 76-year history. We must all be insane. ?.
  • I’m especially proud to be the first Mexicanx to ever serve as a Hugo Awards MC. I love being first, but the most important thing is that I’m not the last. With the daily assaults upon our DREAMers, villainizing of our culture by racists, and terroristic threats against our citizens, we’re living in an important moment for Mexicanx north and south of the border. I’m looking forward to sharing my spotlight with all of them.

(4) WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT. 2016 Clarke Award judge David Gullen discusses what the experience taught him about his own fiction writing: “Things I Learned Judging the Arthur C. Clarke Award” at Medium.

At some point during reading those 113 books it occurred to me what a difficult thing writers are trying to do and just how many different things each author is trying to get right. It’s not just character and plot and pace and tension, world-building, good dialogue, effective exposition, setting story questions and keeping story promises, it’s also trying to get that motivating vision in your head down onto the page. Even a pretty ordinary book takes a lot of effort. If you assume each of those books took 6 months to write?—?and many would have taken more?—?that is 57 years of effort, not far from the entire productive life of a single person.


(6) READERCON PRUNES PROGRAM INVITE LIST. Several older, white male writers who have participated on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook over the past month that they have been notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. There’s no reason they have to be happy about it, and understandable if it triggers a bit of insecurity and resentment. However, the whiff of controversy around this development is not completely unlike Jon Del Arroz’ certainty that politics were the real reason he was rotated off BayCon programming.

Allen Steele wrote on Facebook yesterday:

The other convention I’ve usually gone to in the past, but will no longer attend, is Readercon. I’ve been an invited guest since Readercon 2 (had to skip the first one because of a schedule conflict), and have attended most of the 36 previous conventions … and then last year, without any sort of notice or explanation, I wasn’t invited. I was recovering from last year’s pancreas operation, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to show up anyway, but I wondered why nonetheless.

This year, I have an explanation … just not a good one. It appears, in an effort to be fair to young new writers, Readercon has been sending out form email letters to older authors such as myself (everyone known to have received the letter is male and above age 50), telling them that they’ve been dropped from the program participant list and therefore will not be invited guests.

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

I haven’t received the letter … but neither have I been invited. As I said, I wasn’t invited last year either, nor was I ever offered a reason why. To their program chair, I sent a polite letter calmly explaining why the letter is demeaning, insulting, and for the convention disastrously short-sighted; the response I got was a “so sorry you feel that way” blow-off. This pretty much confirms that I’ve been cast into the outer darkness for being … well, let’s not go there. And even if I’m not on the “past pro” list, I won’t come to a convention that would treat my friends and colleagues this way.

I mention this because I usually see at Readercon quite a few people who follow this page. Sometimes they bring copies of my books so I can sign them, and they need to know in advance not to use valuable suitcase-space. Sorry, guys … this year, it’s Boskone and the Hong Kong SF Forum only. At least those conventions still have respect for senior authors.

A month ago Ian Randall Strock said he got the letter and named two others who’d received it:

It seems Readercon has begun their apparently new tradition of uninviting past guests. Last year, it was Darrell Schweitzer. Today, I got the letter, as did Warren Lapine.

Anyone else get the email (under the subject line “Thank you for your service to Readercon”) starting out “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll be straightforward: you won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29.”?

Another thought occurs: are they only doing this to folks who are also dealers, thinking we’ll be there anyway? I’ll have to run the numbers to see if it’s worth attending.

Readercon 29 takes place July 12-15 in Quincy, MA.


  • February 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication.


  • Born February January 3, 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien [never mind….]


  • Mike Kennedy sends Pearls Before Swine with an observation that sounds just like the kind of dismal thing Kurt Vonnegut would come up with. So you’ll love it, right? (?)
  • John King Tarpinian discovered a horrific satirical cereal box in Off the Mark. (Was that a description or a pleonasm?)
  • JJ admires Grant Snider’s The Specter of Failure at Incidental Comics.
  • Via RedWombat –

(10) ARE YOU SURPRISED? Mental Floss tempts readers with “16 Surprising Facts About Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451”. Some are no more surprising than this —


A popular apocryphal story is that Bradbury hammered out Fahrenheit 451 in just over a week. That story is wrong: It was the 25,000-word “The Fireman” that he wrote in that time period. The author would later refer to the short story as “the first version” of the eventual novel. But over the years, he would often speak about “The Fireman” and Fahrenheit 451 interchangeably, which has caused some confusion.


Bradbury and wife Marguerite McClure had two children in 1950 and 1951, and he was in need of a quiet place to write but had no money for renting an office. In a 2005 interview, Bradbury said:

“I was wandering around the UCLA library and discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour. So I went and got a bag of dimes. The novel began that day, and nine days later it was finished. But my God, what a place to write that book! I ran up and down stairs and grabbed books off the shelf to find any kind of quote and ran back down and put it in the novel. The book wrote itself in nine days, because the library told me to do it.”


Bradbury’s nine days in the library cost him, by his own estimate, just under $10. That means he spent about 49 hours writing “The Fireman.”

(11) NOT YOUR TYPICAL FLORIDA MAN STORY. From Futurism, “Florida Man Becomes First Person to Live With Advanced Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm”.

Prosthetics have advanced drastically in recent years. The technology’s potential has even inspired many, like Elon Musk, to ask whether we may be living as “cyborgs” in the not-too-far future. For Johnny Matheny of Port Richey, Florida, that future is now. Matheny, who lost his arm to cancer in 2005, has recently become the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. He received the arm in December and will be spending the next year testing it out.

The arm was developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as part of their program Revolutionizing Prosthetics. The aim of the program, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to create prosthetics that are controlled by neural activity in the brain to restore motor function to where it feels entirely natural. The program is specifically working on prosthetics for upper-arm amputee patients. While this particular arm has been demoed before, Matheny will be the first person to actually live with the prosthesis. The program does hope to have more patients take the tech for a longterm test run, though.

(12) FROM SOMEWHERE BESIDES LAKE WOEBEGONE. Since the firing of Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion has a new host and a new name – Cat Eldridge reviews “Live from Here, the show formerly known as APHC, hosted by Chris Thile” at Green Man Review.

… Where Kellior was the sedate, downbeat host who wanted you to be part of the Lake Woebegon community, Thile is more than a bit manic, bouncing around in delight apparently as he gets to interact with musicians and other folk who he obviously admires a lot. APHC put me to sleep, LFH is definitely designed to keep me actively listening.

Shovel & Rope, a really good Americana couple, is dok good a bluesy travel song as I listen this moment. (By now I’d usually have decided to turn Kellior off.) Some minutes later, Gabby Moreno is playing a very lively (I think) a Tex-Mex song. Need I say Thile is really excited like her being on Live from Here?

… I’m an hour in and still not even close to tuning out though the comedy riff just now was meh but I’m not a fan of most such comedy anyways. That segued into a very nice and quite tasty bit of jazzy music by Snarky Puppy which is enhanced by the production team cleverly positioning mics in the audience which is more than a bit raucous all show long which they really demonstrate when Chris musically deconstructs  ‘I’ll Be There’ in words and music….

(13) FAR SIDE OF THE KERFUFFLE. Most of the post is more abuse, so won’t be excerpted here, but Vox Day hastened to say Foz Meadows won’t be getting an apology from him: “I’ll take ‘things that will never happen’”. He adds —

Third, Dave Freer didn’t sic me on anyone about anything. I don’t recall having any communication with him in years. I just checked my email and I haven’t received even a single email from him since I set up my current machine in April 2016. Nor have I spoken to him.

(I’m not creating an Internet Archive page for this one so people can somehow feel okay about insisting on reading the insults.)

(14) COUGH IT UP. Add this contraption to the list of things science fiction never predicted: “When The Flu Hits Campus, The Gesundheit Machine Will Be Ready”.

Those sick enough will get sent around the corner to a room with a crazy-looking, Rube-Goldberg-like contraption known as the Gesundheit machine.

For half an hour, the student sits in the machine. As the student breathes, the machine collects whatever virus they’ve got from the droplets in their breath.

The researchers will then use the student’s contacts to try to figure out how infections spread from person to person: “roommates, study buddies, girlfriends and boyfriends,” Milton says. “We’re going to swab them every day for a week to see if they get infected.”

If the student’s contacts get infected, researchers will try to pin down whether they got the bug from the original subject or someone else.

“We’re going to deep sequence the genetic code of the agent to see if it was really exactly the same thing,” Milton explains. He’s aware that confirming that your roommate gave you a horrible flu could ruin some perfectly nice relationships, but it’s for science.

(15) MELTING, MELTING. BBC tells how “Space lasers to track Earth’s ice”.

Ice is the “climate canary”. The loss, and the rate of that loss, tell us something about how global warming is progressing.

In the Arctic, the most visible sign is the decline of sea-ice, which, measured at its minimum extent over the ocean in September, is reducing by about 14% per decade.

At the other pole, the marine floes look much the same as they did in the earliest satellite imagery from the 1960s, but land ice is in a negative phase.

Something on the order of 160 billion tonnes are being lost annually, with most of that mass going from the west of the White Continent.

(16) STAR WARS MEETS PETER RABBIT. Daisy Ridley is still a rebel. And a rabbit.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Bill, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Picacio, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, Chris Garcia, Will R., Vox Day, StephenfromOttawa, Christopher Rowe, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Balticon 50 Opening Ceremonies

Last night’s opening ceremonies for Balticon 50, photographed by Sean Kirk. Pictured are the past and present Guests Of Honors in attendance for the convention’s 50th anniversary.

From left to right: George R. R. Martin, Jo Walton, Joe Halderman, Jody Lynn Nye, Charles Stross, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, Peter S. Beagle, Steve Barnes, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Kaja Foglio, Phil Foglio, Harry Turtledove, Allen Steele, Donald Kingsbury, and Nancy Springer.

Pixel Scroll 12/20 Grandma Got Run Over By a Filer

(1) HARRY POTTER ON STAGE. The lead roles in Harry Potter and The Cursed Child have been cast: Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger, and Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley.

(2) BABY FACE. Mark Zuckerberg seems just as excited about the launch of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” this week as everybody else — judging by the two new pictures he posted on his personal Facebook page.

First of all, he dressed up his daughter Max as a jedi, surrounded by Star Wars related plushy toys, on December 17 with just a one line caption — “The force is strong with this one”

On December 18, Zuckerberg then posted a picture of his Puli, a type of Hungarian sheepdog, Beast dressed as a Sith (basically a baddie). The picture was accompanied by just one line too — “Meanwhile, Beast turned to the dark side”

(3) NO ANIME CONJI 2016. The “Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation” has canceled Anime Conji 2016, which had been scheduled for March 25-27 in Anaheim, CA.

We have collectively decided to focus on expanding and improving each of our events, bringing a level of quality seen in our larger shows to our smaller events. Unfortunately to meet this goal, Anime Conji will have to take a small break.

Refund information at the web page.

(4) EXPANDED COVERAGE. Frequent File 770 contributor James H. Burns set up the Sunday New York Times article “Incredible Bulk at a Comic Book Warehouse in Brooklyn” about Joe Koch’s comics and science fiction book warehouse — a big injection of publicity for the once-“Secret” Bookstore he wrote about here last month.

“There’s two neat things to know,” says Jim. “One is that Corey Kilgannon is a terrific writer; we first met when he did a story about WFAN, New York’s sports -talk radio station — the only time I made a cover-story in a New York paper, either as a writer, or in this case, a participant/interviewee!  The second is that after File 770 ran the story about Joe’s place, just after Thanksgiving, several of the File 770 faithful made their way to Brooklyn!” The Times story begins:

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas in Joseph Koch’s Comic Book Warehouse.

In classic Koch style, a Christmas tree was suspended from the ceiling, with a bloody, severed ghoul’s head hanging (by the eyelids, of course) from the side.

This passes as mistletoe for customers entering Mr. Koch’s world: a cavernous second-floor space that he has run for the past 30 years, in an industrial section of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

It houses one of the largest collections of comic books in the country. Also on offer are memorabilia, action figures, books, records, posters and the like.

It is a back issue browsing paradise, with comics filling long white cardboard boxes, placed on shelves extending high overhead.

Mr. Koch, 66, refers to the place as his “Warehouse of Wonders,” with a vast inventory that he calls “The Avalanche.” It consists of “the largest assemblage of sci-fi, comics and fantasy genre-related ephemera on the planet,” according to Mr. Koch, whose trove nevertheless remains relatively obscure outside the world of hard-core comics lovers.

(5) MAGIC NUMBER. “Paul Weimer’s Top 5 Reads Of 2015” at Helen Lowe…on anything really.

2015 has been a bumper crop of books for me to devour. I’ve enjoyed the end of series of old favorites, the start of new series by beloved authors, and eagerly tried some debut authors too. Limiting myself to five was difficult, but here are my favorite five books of the year….

(6) MANATEE SEASON. Larry Correia renews a Christmas tradition with “Christmas Noun 8: Too Noun Much Adjective” at Monster Hunter Nation.

“’Sup, nerds,” John Ringo said as he came back into the room. He adjusted his kilt and sat down. “Sorry my fine Cuban cigar lit by hundred dollar bills break took so long, but I got spun up and wrote another bestselling novel during it. What did I miss? Hey, who ate all the Cheetos?”


“Cthulhu showed up because Correia pissed off the DM again.”

“I have an eighteen in charisma. I try to seduce Cthulhu!” Brad exclaimed, because every game night has that guy.

And that’s just the scene about him trying to think up an idea for the post. The actual story has 12 parts and an epilog.

(7) SUPPORTING (DIE) CAST. Brad R. Torgersen was so pleased to have lines he wrote his own “A Christmas Noun: The Unauthorized Spinoff – teaser trailer”, though it’s his comment at Monster Hunter Nation that deserves a blue ribbon.

I . . . I have been given a significant speaking role in this year’s CHRISTMAS NOUN episode. And it’s an accurate speaking role! They say only Audie Murphy could play Audie Murphy, but all I have to say is, Audie Murphy, eat your heart out, son. Meanwhile, do I roll ten-sided dice for skill performance? Or is that a 20-sider, minus half a dozen penalties for cursed afflictions assigned via the six-sider cursed afflictions table? What? Wait, I don’t get it. That was the previous universe?? Yeah, shut up, I know I missed two Writer Nerd Games Nights in a row! For hell’s sake, what game are we playing now? Dude, I didn’t even bring the right character sheets. Screw it, I will just act like I know what’s going on, and go with whatever Steve Diamond says. Steve always has pity for me…

(8) RED NOSED DRONE. In “The Christmas Edit” video by Ascending Technologies, a modified AscTec Falcon UAS drone creates Christmas-themed light paintings in the sky.

(9) WHERE REAL WRITERS WORK. An Allen Steele profile published in October, “When the books take over; Walls of shelves dominate sci-fi writer Allen Steele’s Whately workspace”.

Hanging from the railing of the upstairs loft is an enormous yellow banner with black and red lettering spelling out “Robert A. Heinlein Centennial” and bearing the date 2007 beside a black-and-white photo of Heinlein. It’s from a science fiction convention, but it’s a declaration of sorts. There are lots of branches of science fiction these days, with subgenres that include things like steampunk, urban fantasy, soft science fiction, space opera and many more. But Heinlein represents old-school science fiction, often called “hard SF,” the kind that filled Astounding and Galaxy and other seminal magazines and was focused on future events that were mostly plausible and based on real science.

Steele’s work manages a deft trick: It reads, in many ways, like that brand of old-school SF, but it feels quite current, too. The interstellar voyage he portrays in one of his best-known works, “Coyote,” seems as if, given sufficient financial backing, it could well happen in a few decades.

(10) CHEAP SHOT. Writer Beware blogger Victoria Strauss reports she received a nasty bit of payback in “Almond Press Redux: Revenge-Rating A Critic”.

Case in point: Almond Press, whose short story competition I featured here last July. Essentially, the competition was a way for Almond to gather free material for an anthology–the competition winner received a cash prize but none of the other entrants received any payment other than “exposure.”…

Well, Almond Press was not happy with that assessment, which is understandable. But did they change the competition rules? Did they decide to compensate all their authors? Did they contact me to discuss my post or even to threaten me with legal action? No. Nothing that mature. Last week I was checking my books on Goodreads, which I do sometimes to see if there’ve been any new reviews (yes, yes. I know). I noticed a brand-new one-star rating on one of them, from…could it be? Almond Press! …

(11) DEAR MAC. Kate Paulk sent an “Email to MidAmericon II Programming” with a modest suggestion:

In view of the extraordinary levels of hostility and controversy surrounding the Sad Puppies campaigns and the 2015 Hugo Awards, I would like to offer to host one or more panels on the history and goals of the Sad Puppies campaigns.

As one of the organizers of Sad Puppies 4 and an attendee at MidAmericon II, I can offer a factual perspective that has been lacking in a number of circles, leading to a number of people making statements so ill-informed they bordered on actionable libel and slander….

(12) TRAILER PARK. Sychronicity, which its makers compare to Blade Runner, Gattaca and Memento, is coming to theaters January 22

Daring physicist Jim Beale has invented a machine that can fold space-time and ruthless corporate tycoon Klaus Meisner will stop at nothing to get it. When Jim uses the machine to tear open the fabric of the universe, a rare Dahlia appears from the future. But in order to keep the rights to his invention he must prove that it works by finding the flower’s identical match in the present. Jim soon discovers that the Dahlia lies in the hands of the mysterious Abby, who seduces him into revealing his secrets. Convinced that she is in league with Klaus to take ownership of his life’s work, Jim travels back in time to stop the conspiracy before it can happen. But once in the past, Jim uncovers a surprising truth about Abby, the machine, and his own uncertain future.


(13) CRIMINAL HAS HIS PRINTS TAKEN BY FBI.“When ‘Return of the Jedi’ Was Stolen at Gunpoint”  at Mental_Floss.

Larry Dewayne Riddick, Jr. had no way of knowing there would someday be an easier way of doing this. In just a few years, pirating feature films for profit—or just for the sake of undermining huge corporations—would be as effortless as clicking a mouse.

But this was 1983. And if Riddick wanted his own personal print of Return of the Jedi to peddle on the black market, he’d have to resort to more crude methods. He’d have to take it by force.

Riddick, 18, stood in the parking lot of the Glenwood Theaters in Overland Park, Kans. and watched as John J. Smith exited the building. Smith was the projectionist; Jedi was finishing its sixth week as the most popular film attraction in the country. It was after midnight. As Smith walked to his car, Riddick came up beside him and flashed a gun. He had come for the movie….

(14) ANNUAL REVIEW. 2015 was a great year for Ann Leckie.

Other things that happened this year: Ancillary Sword won the BSFA! That was super exciting, actually. I figured most voters, no matter how much they liked Sword, would figure I got more than enough recognition last year. And to be entirely honest, that’s a completely valid position to hold. I was super chuffed at the nomination. And that wasn’t all–Sword was nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo as well! And the Hugo nom–well, that was in circumstances that made it clear that a flattering number of readers had a very high opinion of it. So I got to enjoy the Nebs and the Hugos in a very low-stress way–I was pretty sure my book wasn’t going to win–and to happily applaud the results of both.

(15) CAR WARS. On the other hand, it’s been a tough year for law enforcement. The Fulshear, Texas police pulled over this odd crew and got their police car stolen.

[Thanks to Will R., John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, Eylat Poliner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28 Trolling Down the Moon

(1) The Galactic Journey blog is written as the day-to-day experiences of an sf fan living 55 years ago. Last week The Traveler covered the final Nixon-Kennedy debate and the first episode of The Twilight Zone’s second season.

Today’s post is inspired by a Mack Reynolds story in the “current” November 1960 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Really well done.

Science fiction is not prediction.  It is extrapolation.  No one can see the future, but a gifted writer can show you, dramatically, what will happen “if this goes on.”

It’s no surprise that science fiction writing has enjoyed a boom since 1950.  Never has our world been on the brink of so many exciting and dangerous potentialities.  On the positive side: space travel, automation by computers and robots, atomic energy.  On the negative side: pollution, global warming, and atomic annihilation….

On the other side of the coin, we have Mack Reynolds’ Russkies Go Home!, which appeared in this month’s (November 1960) Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Mr. Reynolds reportedly just returned from a trip behind the Iron Curtain, which explains the multitude of Russia-related stories he’s recently turned out.  Clearly, the trip impressed the writer, as the stories all posit a Soviet Union that fulfills Senator Kennedy’s nightmare prophecies by surpassing the United States in prosperity by 1970.

(2) StoryBundle’s 2015 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle includes Book View Café’s own Brewing Fine Fiction anthology, and two additional guides by BVC members: Writing Horses by Judith Tarr and Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan.

  • The 2015 NaNoWriMo Writing Tools Bundle contains 13 new books on all aspects of writing, from craft, to productivity, to business, to career advice, to specific areas of expertise, designed for novices or experts alike.
  • A second-tier bonus: If you beat the total of $25, you can get 25 total books, all put together by curator and bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson.
  • When you purchase a bundle you can choose to donate to NaNoWriMo itself.

(3) ‘Tis the season. “Witch wins protective order against warlock in Salem court”.

A judge granted a protective order against a warlock on Wednesday, spelling relief for the Salem witch who accused him of harassment.

The two squared off in court before a Salem District Court judge, who granted the protective order to witch priestess Lori Sforza. She had accused self-proclaimed warlock Christian Day of harassing her over the phone and on social media over the past three years.

(4) Sarah A. Hoyt’s “Swallowing A Fly — #2 How to plot” is useful for NaNoWriMo or any of the other 11 months.

To not lose the plot, I invite you to contemplate the little old lady who swallowed a fly.

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, she swallowed a bird to catch the spider, she swallowed a cat to catch the bird etc.  Note that starting with the original problem (It might help to know that in regency slang at least to swallow a spider was to go deep into debt you can’t escape) she swallows each animal to catch the last — i.e. to try to solve her problem.  And each time her problem gets worse.

Your character, in the same way, starting with a problem on which they act in what has to be a somewhat rational manner (unless it’s one of my refinishing mysteries) and where the result backfires horribly, must engage in attempting ever bigger solutions (to bigger problems) and having them blow up even bigger.

(5) Allen Steele has a comeback for Nancy Fulda’s “What To Expect When You Start An Internet Kerfuffle” at the SFWA Blog.

There is a solution to all this: don’t blog.

Really, you don’t need to do so, regardless of the current conventional wisdom that says a writer must relentlessly promote himself on the web. Quite a few well-established writers don’t, and their literary careers are just fine, thank you. If you visit the bookstore, you won’t find THE COLLECTED BLOGS OF MARK TWAIN or DUNE BLOGGER by Frank Herbert or ASIMOV BLOGS AGAIN, and there may be a reason for this.

And if getting yourself in trouble for your internet posts isn’t reason enough, then consider this: over the years, I’ve noticed that — with very few exceptions — an author’s literary output decreases in inverse proportion with the amount of time and energy he or she spends on the Internet. And no one is going to pay you for what you post on your blog or even care a month or so later…unless it’s something that may adversely effect your literary career.

The Internet is not your friend. So don’t blog.

(6) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born October 28, 1951 – Joe R. Lansdale, 10-time Bram Stoker Award winner.

(7) Motherboard airs its outrage that “Someone in Alabama sold a priceless lunar rover for scrap metal”.

During the Apollo missions, NASA only made a handful of lunar rovers. Three of them are still sitting on the surface of the moon. One of them is at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. And another was recently smashed into bits in an Alabama junkyard.

According to documents acquired by Motherboard as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, a priceless lunar rover prototype designed for the Apollo missions was sold to a junkyard in Alabama for scrap metal sometime last year. Specific names and details are redacted in the documents, which include internal emails and reports by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency responsible for investigating and recovering lost and stolen NASA property.

(8) “He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I’m gonna dismiss this charge”, a made-up quote, headlines Eugene Volokh’s latest installment of “The Volokh Conspiracy” for the Washington Post. Kentucky jurisprudence is notorious inside the Beltway, therefore it’s surprising Volokh reaches the end of his column without having made much legal headway against the fellow who shot down a drone flying through his property.

(9) Via Bayou Renaissance Man, another article on model masculinity —

According to Country Life magazine in the UK, a gentleman’s traits include such gems as:

  • Is aware that facial hair is temporary, but a tattoo is permanent
  • Possesses at least one well-made dark suit, one tweed suit and a dinner jacket
  • Avoids lilac socks and polishes his shoes
  • Breaks a relationship face to face
  • Arrives at a meeting five minutes before the agreed time
  • Knows the difference between Glenfiddich and Glenda Jackson
  • Would never own a Chihuahua
  • Can tie his own bow tie
  • Demonstrates that making love is neither a race nor a competition

(10) James H. Burns found a YouTube video of film footage from the costume contest at Phil Seuling’s 1973 Comic Convention, at the Commodore Hotel, in New York. He identified many science fiction friends in the proceedings.

There are just audience shots for the first two minutes, and then footage of the costumed revelers gathered together. That’s the legendary Joan Winston in the midriff baring dress and the star-spangled cape–Joan was the CBS and ABC executive key to helping run the early STAR TREK conventions, who later became an author (and an agent), and also helped contribute to MANY science fiction events. Thomas Anderson, chairman of a Lunacon or two, and a World Fantasy Convention (and another original Trek Con veteran),appears with his girlfriend (were they married yet?) Dana L. Friese (soon to have more fame in fandom as Dana L.F. Anderson) as Elric.  Costume con favorite Angelique Trouvere (aka “Destiny”) is there as Vampirella (with Heidi Saha as the young Vampi).  Long time film actor, and science fiction fan, Teel James Glenn is there as Flash Gordon (and is that Cortland Hull as Ming?) Soon-to-be-veteran comics pro Jack Harris is Two-Face, Patrick Daniel O’Neill hams it up as Captain Marvel Jr…. (Amazngly, Dave Burd,  future cast member the cult TV comedy program THE UNCLE FLOYD SHOW, is also in attendance, as THE T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS’ Dynamo.) The sound kicks in at about 4:05, and then suddenly one is back in July, 1973!  I find this particularly amazing, because I would become friends with many of these folks, just two-and-a-half years later!  (Heck, I’d be helping to run the programming at some of these comic cons, just a little while after that!)  Although I couldn’t spot any familiar faces in the audience, some among the File 770 faithful might be able to recognize someone–and it’s still a great record of just what a comic con crowd often looked like, even during the next d=few seasons.  (The Andersons, and Joanie, perform a skit, at around 10:10.)  It would be interesting who else can identified here, among the costumed cohorts!


(11) I’ve heard of The 39 Steps, but this is the first time I have heard of The 75 Steps, although I’ve seen The Exorcist.

For Andrew Huff, lover of horror films, the 75 steps in Washington, D.C., where Father Karras plummets to his death in “The Exorcist” are his Lincoln Memorial. “I go to the steps all the time,” he said, “and when visitors come to Washington, I always take them there.”

All that was missing was a special tourist designation. And on Friday, largely through Mr. Huff’s efforts, that oversight will be rectified. The eerie stairway will be commemorated with an official city plaque — even signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser — declaring them “The Exorcist Steps.”

I wonder where you go in that neighborhood for a nice bowl of pea soup.

(12) Ray Bradbury manuscripts going under the hammer! And some nice artwork. You have until tomorrow to bid on these items in the latest Nate D. Sanders auction.

Bradbury lot COMP

Ray Bradbury Original Typed Manuscripts For “The Women” And “The Shape Of Things” – Also With Letter Signed By Bradbury From 1964

Ray Bradbury typed letter signed, plus two original typed manuscripts, given by Bradbury to Fracisco Porrua, who edited Bradbury’s works for the Spanish language population. Accompanying the typed manuscripts for ”The Women” and ”The Shape of Things”, Bradbury writes to Porrua on 3 March 1964 on his personal stationery: ”…I have no secretary, which means that hundreds of letters which come in during each month must be funneled through my own inadequate hands and sometimes I fall far behind with my correspondence. Forgive me. To help you in your search for stories for R IS FOR ROCKET, I enclose the following science-fantasy stories and weird-fantasy stories…” Bradbury goes on to list 10 stories, including ”The Women” and ”The Shape of Things” and then continues, ”…I believe these stories would give you much to juggle with in reshaping your various titles in the various books…” Bradbury continues, regarding the introduction for ”R Is for Rocket” and writes, ”…I am happy to hear you will soon be making an offer on MACHINERIES OF JOY and THE ANTHEM SPRINTERS…[signed] Ray Bradbury”. Both manuscripts are typed on thin tracing paper which was placed behind regular sheets of paper. ”The Women” is 16 pages and ”The Shape of Things” is 26 pages. Manuscripts and letter measure 8.5” x 11”. Lot is in very good condition.

Minimum Bid: $1,000.


Ink and Watercolor Drawing by E.H. Shepard of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet

Beautifully rendered watercolor and ink drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet by E.H. Shepard, the illustrator chosen by A.A. Milne to bring his literary characters to life. Here, Shepard draws Pooh and Piglet upon a letter to his agent, allowing the characters to express his feelings of gratitude and joy. In the autograph letter signed, dated 29 February 1932, Shepard thanks his agent for a letter, writing that he has ”done splendidly” and that ”this view is shared by others”. To emphasize his feelings, Shepard draws Winnie-the-Pooh reaching up and Piglet excitedly jumping at his side. Shepard must have been very pleased with his agent, as he very seldom drew his most famous characters; this drawing, done early in the illustrator’s career and just a few years after the Pooh series, is a rare exception. Single page is written from Long Meadow, Guildford. Light uniform toning and mounted to card. Overall in very good to near fine condition. With provenance from Sotheby’s.

Minimum Bid: $50,000

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, David Doering, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Clarke Center Lifts Off With Public Events

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will launch this month with a series of free events on the UC San Diego campus. 

May 1 through 31, 2013

“Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1-5 p.m., “Visions of the Future”
An afternoon of conversations and presentations featuring Clarke Center affiliates on their visions of science and culture 33 years into the future (in honor of Clarke’s imagining of 2001 in 1968).
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego

7 p.m., “The Literary Imagination”
A conversation between authors Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson presented by the Helen Edison Lecture Series, UC San Diego Extension and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination
Price Center West Ballroom, UC San Diego

Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21 and 22, 2013

“Starship Century Symposium”
A two-day event devoted to an ongoing exploration of the development of a starship in the next 100 years. Scientists will address the challenges and opportunities for our long?term future in space, with possibilities envisioned by Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin. Science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Allen Steele, Joe Haldeman, Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis and David Brin will discuss the implications that these trajectories of exploration might have upon our development as individuals and as a civilization.
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego
Note: Seating is limited, but the two-day event will be offered via live streaming video at

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reception 6-8 p.m., “Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Also screening of documentary film, “Arthur C. Clarke: The Man Who Saw the Future,” a BBC/NVC ARTS Co-Production in association with RAI Thematic Channels, 1997. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Created by UCSD and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, the Clarke Center “will honor the late author and innovator through activities that will focus on cultural, scientific and medical transformations that can occur as we increase our understanding of the phenomena of imagination and become more effective at harnessing and incorporating our imaginations in our research and daily lives.”

UCSD’s Sheldon Brown, professor of computing in the arts in the department of visual arts, is the director of the center. The center’s associate director is David Kirsh, professor and former chair of the department of cognitive science.

In addition to drawing upon a wide range of disciplines and collaborations, the Clarke Center will engage the creative worlds of media, the arts and literature to help with discovery. UC San Diego’s unique relationship with speculative fiction and science fiction authors, including Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, Nancy Holder, Greg Benford, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear and Aimee Bender, will allow the center to dismantle traditional boundaries and forge new ways of thinking about the future.

Benford in Reason Magazine

Gregory Benford came back from the 100 Year Starship Symposium agitated about sf’s diminishing attention to near future exploration of our own solar system. He voiced his concerns in Reason Magazine, and the essay is also on his blog.

The beleaguered community of scientists and dreamers working to make space travel reality can’t look to NASA for a vision, but there is still a handful of writers thinking about humanity’s first steps off this planet:

Science fiction writers didn’t predict the fade-out of NASA’s manned space operations, and they weren’t prepared with alternative routes to space when that decline became undeniable. Allen Steele, a journalist who once covered NASA and now writes award-winning stories and novels about it, remarks: “Those who equate NASA with space exploration can’t see any other options. They got scared away from writing about space, or else became cynical about the whole thing and claimed that space exploration is a failure.” This leaves us, Steele says, with a “small number of writers who foresaw NASA’s twilight and who have long advocated private space exploration.”

[Thanks to Dave Locke and Andrew Porter for the link.]