Pixel Scroll 6/11/17 To Your Scattered Pixels Scroll

(1) NATIVE AMERICAN COMICS STORE. Red Planet Books and Comics opened June 3 — “Unique Native American comic book store opens in Albuquerque”.

The idea for the store started in October.

“I kept walking by. I was like, is this shop being used at all? They’re like, no, and I was like, well maybe we might want to do something with that,” [owner Lee] Francis said.

He had already launched Native Realities to publish indigenous comic books.

Now, the company has a storefront for that work, along with other stories of Native American superheroes.

“Because we’re here in Albuquerque, we have such a high population of Native folks. My family’s from the Pueblo of Laguna,” he said.

Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers is one of Native Realties’ comics.

Based on the true stories of the Native American Code Talkers this incredible graphic novel features nine original stories by Native American artists and writers documenting the heroic tales of Code Talkers from World War I through Korea. The graphic novel also features a history of the Code Talkers and a lesson plan for teachers who wish to use the book to teach students about the struggle and accomplishments of these Native American heroes.

(2) STILES MEDICAL UPDATE. Fan artist Steve Stiles writes about his medical treatment: “The news is that I have a tumor in my right lung and that there’s a 70% chance (doctor’s words) that it’s cancer. I’m going in for a PET scan on the 14th and a biopsy on the 20th, probably followed by surgery shortly after that.”

Steve says, “I wouldn’t mind having friends know. I think they’ll have caught in time; it certainly came on me quickly.”

(3) INEXPLICABLY THEY ARE NOT DISCOURAGED. Variety asks “Poll: Which ‘Dark Universe’ Movie Are You Most Excited For?”

Though reviews for “The Mummy” have been unfavorable and box office tracking is far from through the roof, the studio hasn’t said it will slow down on its planned monster universe. The films will mine from Universal’s vault of monsters –Dracula, Frankenstein, Invisible Man, etc. — and reboot them for movies in the next few years.

Aside from “The Mummy,” “Bride of Frankenstein” is the only planned movie to be dated thus far, to be released on Feb. 14, 2019. “The Invisible Man” and “Frankenstein” have already nabbed stars in Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem, respectively. Angelina Jolie has been linked to the lead role in “Bride of Frankenstein,” but has yet to officially sign on. A new musical theme for the “Dark Universe,” composed by Danny Elfman, will debut in theaters ahead of “The Mummy.”

(4) IT’S ON THE COVER. I learned a bunch of things I didn’t know before about licensing cover art from Amanda S. Green’s column “Think before hitting enter” at Mad Genius Club.

If you go to Amazon and browse through the various genres, you will sooner or later come across covers that are the same or close to the same. This happens because most indies license their cover art elements from sites like Dreamstime or Adobe Stock. It’s a cheap way to find good art that fits the genre. The danger is you are only licensing the artwork and not buying it. That means others can license it as well.

(5) GREEN SCREEN. Luxury Daily comments on an unusual ad campaign: “Gucci unveils science fiction-flavored teaser for fall/winter 2017”. Will they clean up in the marketplace?

The designs are eclectic and strange

The “Clevercare” video series celebrated Earth Day April 22 with tips for how to maintain Stella McCartney clothes and ways to minimize a consumer’s carbon footprint. The six-part series takes an unconventional approach for most luxury brands by making the films highly comedic in nature (see story).

Gucci’s campaign, curious as it is, is evocative and stands out from typical high-fashion marketing. It taps into a wealth of imagery almost never aligned with luxury: the golden age of cheap ’50s science fiction movies.

“The risk of positioning an ad campaign with a surrealistic humorous bent, such as the new Gucci campaign, may find their current clientele and desired target audience consider it off brand and or too bizarre to waste time trying to figure out the message or how to relate,” Ms. Miller said. “Any strategy, if not well thought out against the DNA of a brand, may suffer if the subsequent intent is not executed well.

“Taking a stand of being different simply to be different may be a slippery slope. Viewers may be so distracted by the obscure that they remember neither the brand nor its intended message.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 11, 1982E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial released. “More legs than Harlan’s A Boy and His Dog,” says John King Tarpinian offering a unique viewpoint. So to speak.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 11 — John Mansfield

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian points to Bizarro artist Dan Piraro’s Batman eulogies. His weekly cartoon for June 11 is another.

John also recommends this baseball-themed sff reference from Steve Moore’s In The Bleachers.

(9) TBR THIS SUMMER. The Washington Post’s Summer Reading 2017 feature recommends Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

(10) BINGO. Here’s a robotic Tingle title mashup.

(11) SAY IT AIN’T SO. No Star Trek beyond Star Trek Beyond? “Star Trek: ‘no guarantee’ of another film says Zachary Quinto” at Den of Geek.

Even though Paramount Pictures got moving on a further Star Trek outing just as Star Trek Beyond was docking in cinemas last year, the incumbent Spock, Zachary Quinto, has played down just a little talk of a further film.

Star Trek Beyond ultimately grossed $343m in cinemas worldwide, over $100m down on the takings for Star Trek Into Darkness. Critically, it fared better, and Star Trek is heading back to the small screen in the next 12 months, with Star Trek Discovery.

But whilst we’d been promised another screen adventure, one that would bring Chris Hemsworth back alongside Chris Pine, there’s been not a great deal of progress since that was first mooted last July. And now Quinto, whilst confirming that a new film is being worked on, has suggested that it’s no certainty.

(12) HE’S ON THE FRONT. Francis Hamit, Managing Director of The Kit Marlowe Film Co. announces “We are offering new affinity products for our fans” in the Christopher Marlowe Shoppe — including the Kit Marlowe movie t-shirt.

(13) NOS4A2TV. The Verge reports “AMC is developing a series based on Joe Hill’s NOS4A2”.

AMC announced that it is opening writers’ rooms to develop three new shows, one of which is an adaptation of Joe Hill’s vampire novel NOS4A2. Jami O’Brien, who worked on the network’s Hell on Wheels and Fear the Walking Dead, will be the show’s executive producer.

According to Deadline, the network is skipping the typical pilot process, and working on a “detailed look at a potential first season,” before deciding whether or not to greenlight the show right out of the gate. AMC first announced that it was adapting the novel back in 2015, but word that Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is still under consideration is pretty exciting. Hill is the son of Stephen King, and he’s forged his own career as a horror author in recent years. This extremely creepy novel is one of his best to date. AMC is also developing a crime thriller, Pandora, and Silent History, about a group of children who are born without the ability to comprehend language, under the same arrangement.

Published in 2013, NOS4A2 follows a girl named Vic McQueen who has an ability to find lost objects by way of a mysterious bridge that transports her to wherever the object that she’s looking for is hiding.

(14) THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. NASA has a plan to touch the sun.

In 2018, NASA will send a probe to one of the locations in the solar system that it never has before: the sun. In a series of orbits, the spacecraft will come closer to our star than any space vehicle before it could possibly withstand, and the mission is expected to reveal things about the sun that researchers have long wondered. In a news conference today, NASA revealed a few key details about its plans to ‘touch the sun,’ including a new name for the daring probe that will make the journey.

(15) INACTION FIGURES. There is such a thing as the LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE. I’m just not sure why.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Steve Stiles, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/17 Pixel Packing Mama, Lay Your Pixel Down

(1) YOUNG AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll will be doing a Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF and asks — What short works published before 1980 would File 770 readers recommend?

(2) POTTERPOLOGY DAY. Following her tradition of apologizing for killing off a character on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted today —

And as Katherine Trendacosta astutely observed at io9:

See? She knows she’s stirring shit up and she does it anyway.

For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.

(3) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. May 6 is Free Comic Book Day when participating comic book shops give away special sample comics free to anyone who comes into their shops. There are a lot of different issues involved – see the catalog.

(4) BEAGLE SUIT. Peter S. Beagle isn’t as broke as people are making him out to be says Snopes’ David Emery in “The Trials of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle”.

Contrary to Internet rumor, the beloved science fiction and fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (perhaps best known for his classic 1968 novel The Last Unicorn) is neither destitute nor teetering on the brink of starvation.

A cry for immediate financial assistance went up shortly after the writer’s 78th birthday on 20 April 2017, in the form of tweets describing Beagle’s circumstances as “dire”:

Several posts repeated the claim that Beagle, who has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with his former manager since 2015, was having difficulty even meeting basic household expenses such as grocery bills. However, we spoke to Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen A. Hunt of El Cerrito, California, who told us that her client’s money woes, albeit chronic, are not as acute as they have been portrayed:

It’s true that he doesn’t have lots of money, but it’s not true that his living situation is dire. Peter does need the help and support of his friends and fans, but it is not the case that he’s in danger of being on the street.

We also spoke with Beagle himself, who said he considers himself a lot better off than the average writer:

It’s always dicey, but anybody who makes a living as a writer learns to cope with lean times. Compared to so many other people, I’m fortunate.

The impromptu fund drive nevertheless resulted in a welcome infusion of cash, not to mention an outpouring of love and support from Beagle’s many online fans. “The response was pretty phenomenal,” Hunt said.

The writer’s ongoing money woes are due in part to court costs from a 2015 lawsuit he filed against Connor Cochran, owner of Conlan Press, who had managed the author’s creative and business affairs for fourteen years…

Cochran filed a counterclaim denying the allegations, and posted a series of statements on his web site alleging that Beagle was being unduly influenced by individuals close to him who seek personal gain from the suit…

At present, Beagle says he feels fine and endeavors to write every day (with varying levels of success, he admits), focused mainly on a novel he envisions as a semi-sequel to Two Hearts, which itself he describes as “kind of a sequel to The Last Unicorn.” He will appear at BayCon, the annual San Francisco Bay Area science fiction convention, in May.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial in January 2018.

(5) RHETORICAL VIOLENCE. In The Guardian, Jessa Crispin challenges a popular narrative: “The Handmaid’s Tale is just like Trump’s America? Not so fast”.

…If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)…

(6) IN JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway reports:

On Monday’s Jeopardy! episode, the defending champion Alan Lin (“a software engineer from Santa Barbara, CA”) was asked by Alex Trebek about his writing. Lin replied that he writes SF short stories, but hasn’t sold one yet. But last summer he went to this writing workshop…. Checking the Clarion site, he’s listed as an alumnus. He’s doing well; as of the end of Monday’s show, he’s a six-time winner at $123,600 and still going. But on Monday’s show, he was beaten to the buzzer by another player on the clue in the category The Book of Verbs of “‘The Cat Who ____ Through Walls’ by Robert A. Heinlein”

(Jeopardy! will be doing an uncommon midyear online tryout test at the end of the month (three nights, May 30, 31, June 1) for those others who want to tryout. See Jeopardy.com for details)

(7) SEVEN TIME STOKER LOSER. Scott Edelman has a story:

Saturday night, I was up for my seventh Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, and emcee Jeff Strand took that opportunity to root for me … if you can call it rooting. Here’s what he had to say during his opening comments. Note that since the livestreamed video was so dark Jeff wasn’t even visible, I replaced that video with a photograph of me after I donned a new button once the results were announced in my category.

 

(8) DICK OBIT. Anne Dick died April 28 after surviving with congestive heart failure for many years. The former wife of Philip K. Dick published a biography about him in 2010, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

Tandy Ford, Anne Dick’s daughter and Philip Dick’s step-daughter, told a member of Facebook’s Philip K. Dick group, “She was still working away on her computer the night before her passing. She was a force of nature and her loss leaves a great void.”

In a 2010 profile by the New York Times’ Scott Timberg Anne Dick said:

“I think he’s what you might call a psychomorph,” Ms. Dick said recently, sitting in the boxy, modernist home she once shared with him. “He was quite different with each person. He had this enormous gift of empathy, and he used it to woo and please and control. I’m not saying he wasn’t a very nice person too; he was. He just had a very dark shadow.”

…After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, “everything changed,” she said.

“You see a person in the round,” she continued. “I started writing this after he died, because I was still so confused by what had happened.”

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. When screenwriter William Goldman first tried to get The Princess Bride made into a movie in the 1970s, he wanted the relatively unknown actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the role of Fezzik. By the time the film was made in 1987, Schwarzenegger was a too big star. The part instead when to former wrestler Andre the Giant.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 1933 — Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

(11) THEIR STEELY KNIVES. Mark Lawrence explains how his Stabby Award finally arrived after some difficulty, and treats fans to a photo gallery of all the daggers and double-headed axes his work has won:

And finally here they are with my growing collection of pointy literary awards, along with the books responsible. My quest to win the Fluffy Bunny award for Friendliest Fantasy continues in vain.

(12) VIVA MAX. I can’t stay away from “five things” posts any more than a dog can avoid noticing a squirrel. Today Max Florschutz blows the myths away in “Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing”.

1) Writing is a Lot of Hard Work This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear about writing. That it’s not work. That’s it’t not hard. That it’s not a “real” vocation (Yes, I hear all of these all the time).

This just plain isn’t true. Writing is a dedicated effort that takes hundreds, thousands of hours worth of both practice, planning, and devotion. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of it as something that does, because after all, they can write. They do it all the time! Text messages, letters, Facebook posts … they write all the time. How hard could it be to write a story?

The truth is that it’s very hard to write a story. It requires a very different set of tools to writing a text message, copying down the minutes of a meeting, or writing someone a letter. These things are straightforward and simple because they’re personal. Writing a story, however, is very impersonal. It has to be written from a perspective outside the writer’s own, and convey it’s tale to a vast audience of varying talent, comprehension, and capability. Writers must figure out how to paint a picture in each and every reader’s mind—a challenge considering that all of them will be very different people, and yet the same words the author pens must in each case create the same vision.

(13) AMAZON AUTHOR. Amanda S. Green continues her Mad Genius Club series with a lesson in Amazon marketing — “It’s really a business, pt. 2”.

Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY FINISHES. Tomorrow the real Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist will be revealed. Today, the Shadow Clarke Jury issued its collective decision about who belongs on that list.

My final shortlistee is another popular novel among the Sharkes: the reality-bending investigation of light and perception, A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna. While Jonathan approves of its class consciousness in the form of a cynical satire of academia, Maureen is intrigued by the alt-Oxford setting and intricate unfolding of universes, while Nina finds it good for “bust[ing] wide open” the science fiction envelope. The Sharke reviews, so far, have demonstrated just how malleable and diaphanous this novel is.

…Too often in the past, we agreed, Clarke shortlists had tended to feel weighted towards two or at the most three contenders that immediately looked stronger than the others, with the remainder simply making up the numbers. We wanted to avoid that scenario if we could, to present a genuine six-horse race.

And so the discussion proper was soon underway. The first two slots were filled very quickly – indeed, I think we all came to the meeting in the knowledge that Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station? were scoring high marks with just about every juror. Paul Kincaid called The Underground Railroad ‘essential’, and even went so far as to say he would judge this year’s Clarke Award on whether or not the official shortlist included it. Those who read the comments on the Sharke reviews here will know that I am not The Underground Railroad’s strongest advocate myself – and if the book makes it through to the official shortlist I will do my best to write in greater detail about why that is – but as I said to my fellow Sharkes I wasn’t about to step in front of a juggernaut. And as for Central Station, I was only too happy to see this very special book go through, especially since if the Clarke made any sense Tidhar would have been shortlisted twice already in previous years, for Osama and for A Man Lies Dreaming.

With two down and four to go, the question was then asked of each Sharke: of all the novels on your personal shortlist, are there any that you would say, absolutely, should be in the Sharke Six…

(15) THE GHOST BRIGADIER WHO WALKS. So why is the first thing that pops into my mind The Phantom comic strip? It’s not as if John goes around punching people in the jaw. (But if he ever did!)

(16) EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOIN’ DOWN. Galactic Journey gets another letter of comment from 1962 — “[May 02, 1962] A Good Lie (Letter Column #2)” – by a writer who wonders what the heck the U.S. is doing in Indochina.

Anyway, I thought of something I didn’t write about in my first letter to you.  (Thanks for sending some back issues of your publication.) I see that you are aware that there is something going on in Indochina that involves the US (March 31, 1961), but now, a year later, yes, it is clear that we as a nation are involved in war, but are just being sort of secretive about it.

(17) SOMETHING FOR MOTHERS’ DAY. Now on eBay, it can be yours for $28,000 – Bride of Frankenstein Movie Novel Signed by Elsa Lanchester & Forrest J Ackerman”.

First Edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title by the film’s star, Elsa Lanchester, to Philip J. Riley, the editor of the book ‘The Bride of Frankenstein. Screenplay by William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston.  Introduction by Valerie Hobson. Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman’ which reprinted the film’s screenplay. Inscribed: “To Phil, From THE Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa Lanchester. With all my very best wishes.” Additionally signed and inscribed to Riley from Forrest J Ackerman on the front free endpaper: “Phil – Aunt Beeze is fine and here’s The Bride of Frankenstein. What else? Forry, at 59.” Ownership signature dated 1938 on the front pastedown…

(18) MIDNIGHT SEUSS. The Tennessean apprises locals of a chance to see “Dr. Seuss’ secret ‘Midnight Paintings’ at the Factory at Franklin”.

Presented by Ann Jackson Gallery (Roswell, Ga.), the exhibition on view May 5-7 charts the wider reaches of Geisel’s prolific artistic imagination, featuring nearly 100 limited edition reproductions of his work that have been largely unseen by the public. In addition to sketches, illustrations, and political cartoons he created during World War II, the major highlight of the exhibition are the selections from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that Geisel created late at night for his personal enjoyment.

… The paintings and drawings, detached from a narrative, are more formally sophisticated and experimental.

Though they depict familiar Seussian settings populated by flamboyant characters and animals rendered in the same waggish visual vernacular as his storybook illustrations, they are more detailed, diversely colored, and at times more wondrous.

His sculptures, which comprise their own sub-collection of his secret art called, “Unorthodox Taxidermy,” are also remarkable. Using plaster, metal, and taxidermied animal parts, Geisel sculpted what look like the heads of his own outlandish animal creations — a “Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast” or “The Carbonic Walrus” — and mounted them on wood like hunting trophies.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Tom Galloway, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/17 There Is A Scroll In Everything, That’s How The Pixel Gets In

(1) WISDOM. Chuck Wendig’s birthday gift to himself can also be shared with the universe — lucky us: “What I’ve Learned After 5 Years And 20 Books: 25 Lessons”. JJ’s favorite is #21. This is my pick —

  1. The Opposite Of ‘Kill Your Darlings’ Is ‘Know Which Hill To Die On’

Early on you learn to kill your darlings. Your work has these precious, preening peacocks who strut about for their own pomp and circumstance. These darlings are like chairs you can’t sit on, food you can’t eat — they’re just there to look pretty and take up space. So, you kill them. You learn to kill them. You get good at killing them. And then, one day, you realize maybe you got too good at it. Maybe you went too far. You started to think of everything as expendable, everything as negotiable. But it isn’t. It can’t be. I learned this writing Star Wars: yes, those books are not purely mine. They belong to the galaxy, not to me. Just the same? It’s my name on those books. If they fail, they fail on my watch. If there’s something in there you don’t like, it doesn’t matter if it’s something Mickey Mouse his-own-damn-self demanded I put in there: it lands on my doorstep. That’s when I saw the other side of the brutally execute your peacocks argument: some peacocks stay. Some peacocks are yours, and you put them there because that’s where you want them. Maybe they add something specific, maybe you’re just an asshole who demands that one lone peacock warbling and showing its stuff. But you own that. You have to see when there are battles to lose, and when there are wars to win. There are always hills to die on. It can’t be all of them. You want to die on every hill, then you’re dead for no reason and the book will suffer. But some things are yours and you have to know which ones to fight for, and why. You have to know why they matter and then you have to be prepared to burn the book to ash in order to let it stay.

(2) WRITE LIKE THE LIGHTNING. Too Like the Lightning author and Hugo nominee Ada Palmer is interviewed in the Chicago Maroon.

CM: Where’d your inspiration arise from, and what made you want to write a book with such an intersection of so many topics like philosophy, politics, science fiction?

AP: I mean, good science fiction is like that. Great science fiction is full of ideas, not just one, or two, or five ideas, but new ideas in every page. Also, I was inspired by reading pre-modern science fiction, which I do as a historian. We think of science fiction as a late 19th- and 20th-century genre, but Voltaire wrote a science fiction short story called “Micromegas,” in which aliens from another star and from Saturn come to the Earth. When they make first contact with people, the first thing they discuss is, “Is Plato or Descartes correct about how the soul and body connect to each other?” and “Is Thomas Aquinas’s discussion of Aristotle’s divisions of the parts of the soul true?” Voltaire’s society was obsessed with providence, so providence and the existence of God and the immaterial soul was what his people talked to aliens about, and it was as plausible to him as our science fiction works are to us.

So I wanted to write science fiction that used the amazingly sophisticated vocabulary of modern science fiction, all the great developments we’ve had in terms of thinking about AI and flying cars, but to ask questions like Voltaire would.

(3) GOT TO HAVE IT. A couple of other Hugo nominees woke up the internet.

Ditch Diggers has been nominated for a Hugo Award! You did it! Mur and Matt will go up against the likes of The Coode Street Podcast and Tea & Jeopardy in Helsinki for Best Fancast (even though we’re all professionals. Because there’s only one podcast category)! Thank you to all Ditch Diggers listeners who supported the show and don’t forget to vote for Mur and Matt for the Hugo itself!

(4) PROFESSIONALISM. Michi Trota reinforces the lessons of Odyssey Con in “Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons”.

…Being on the job at a con doesn’t have to ruin my fun–or anyone else’s for that matter–but you know what does? The dude with the grabby hands and eyes trained on my chest. The person who kills a conversation with their racist jokes. The gatekeeper who quizzes me on the X-Men then tries to play Gotcha! with a question about Legend of Zelda because obviously the brown Asian woman’s just playing at being a nerd. The asshole selling misogynistic art. A concom that selectively enforces their code of conduct and dismisses concerns I’ve expressed about my safety because “Stories about X’s behavior are just exaggerated.” Not only does that ruin any fun to be had, it also makes my job that much harder to do, potentially costs me opportunities as a creator, and makes me wonder how much of my investment that con is actually worth (Elise Matthesen had some excellent things to say about the real costs of harassment and who pays them).

This is where the argument that having things like rules, codes, and policies that attendees and organizers are expected to abide by also ruins everyone’s fun usually comes up. But it begs the question: just whose fun are we referring to here? Because let’s be real, con’s haven’t always been fun for everyone.

… The widespread adoption and implementation of anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct has made it a bit easier for people like me to be more involved in fandom. They don’t mean that I never run into problems, but it’s less likely those problems will outweigh the time and effort I invest in those cons. It’s because of my participation and attendance at cons as both a fan and a pro that I was able to meet people and find opportunities that helped me get to where I am now. Expectations of professionalism on the part of con organizers are not unreasonable simply because those organizers are volunteers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about professionals treating cons as a workplace (particularly if they’re guests who have been contracted by the con for their presence) and nothing preventing pros and fans from being friendly with each other. There’s nothing about running your con with a minimum of professional standards, practices, and behavior that excludes everyone also having fun.

If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.

As Deb Geisler says, “Never, ever, ever should “but we’re just volunteers” be an excuse not to do the finest job of which we are capable.”

(5) STUMBLING BLOCK QUESTIONS. Alyssa Wong says it in her own way in “Why ‘I’m a feminist, but –‘ isn’t enough”.

ii.

Incidents of sexual harassment in the SFF field are distressingly numerous. And it’s nothing new; Isaac Asimov was so well known to grope women that in 1961 he was asked to deliver a “pseudo lecture” on “the positive power of posterior pinching” (read the correspondence between Earl Kemp, chairman of Chicon III, and Asimov here).

But this isn’t 1961. SFF is more global, diverse and inclusive than ever, and much richer for it. Writers who challenge and explore systematic injustice and oppression through their work are myriad; their work can be found in bookstores, presses, and online across genres, across the world.

And yet we keep asking:

are you sure she didn’t just have a vendetta?

how could it be sexual harassment if he didn’t touch her?

why do we need to be so politically correct?

Why? Because real people are affected. Because both macro- and microaggressions are harmful.Because everyone deserves to feel safe in professional settings, and for writers and industry professionals, that is what conventions are. Moreover, Wiscon is a feminist SFF convention. If safe feminist space exists in genre, Wiscon should definitely be part of it.

What concerns me is the number of women and men who continue to stand up for known abusers. In this sense, it seems that Jim Frenkel is not alone.

(6) CARPENTRY. Cat Rambo also says it is “Time to Fix the Missing Stair”, in a multifaceted post that includes this allusion to a Superversive SF post, and highlights from a relevant panel at last weekend’s Norwescon.

…[Re: Monica Valentinelli’s departure as OdysseyCon guest] One manifestation of that is a brief statement asking why she hates women, declaring that her example will make conventions reluctant to invite any women in the future. Let’s unpack that one a little because the underpinnings seem ill-constructed to me.

There are many kinds of humans in the world. That means there’re also many kinds of women. The logic of the above statement says two things: 1) that it is wrong for people speak out about conditions that are uncomfortable, unprofessional, or sometimes even dangerous and 2) that only people with the strength to survive a gauntlet that can include being groped onstage, being mocked publicly, having their work denigrated for no reason other than having been produced by a woman, and a multitude of other forms of harassment deserve careers and the rest are out of luck. Does that really need to be demanded for someone to have a career? Writers are notoriously unstable mentally as it is. Serial harassment is a professional matter.

This was underscored for me on a Norwescon (a con that does a great job with selecting programming and volunteers and understands the issues) panel that I moderated last Friday, Standing Up to the Mob, with panelists Minim Calibre, Arinn Dembo, Mickey Schulz, and Torrey Stenmark. The description was:

How do you support female creators who are being harassed online by the ravening hordes of the unenlightened? Tips for voicing your support in ways that mean something.

Here are Arinn Dembo’s excellent notes on the panel overall.

(7) THEY’RE GONE. Would you like to bet this writer’s stance was a factor in today’s decision to retire the Lovecraft nominee pins?

(8) THE ONE-PERSON SALES FORCE. A lot of things affect an indie author’s sales and it isn’t easy to keep all of them in mind, as Amanda S. Green explains in “It really is a business” at Mad Genius Club.

The next thing I looked at happened to be my product pages. Oh my, there is so much there we have to take into consideration and we don’t tend to. At least I don’t. Sure, I want to have the best possible cover to draw the reader’s eye. I want a snappy and interesting blurb to grab the reader and make them want to buy the book. But I don’t tend to check the product page on anything other than my laptop. I forget to look at it on my Kindle Fire or Mom’s iPad. I sure forget to look at it in my phone. Or, more accurately, I used to forget it. After the last few days, I won’t. What I learned is that the longer blurbs will work on a tablet or computer screen but, on a phone, they are a pain because you have to keep scrolling. Not good. Scrolling for a screen or two is one thing but for screen after screen after screen — nope. Not gonna happen. Fortunately, most of mine weren’t that bad and those that were happen to be on two titles I am going to withdraw because they were supposed to be short term promo titles initially.

(9) I’M A DOCTOR NOT A MILLIONAIRE. By the way, if you want to know how much the tricorder X Prize was worth, the Washington Post article says that Final Frontier Medical Devices, led by Dr. Basil Harris, won the $2.6 million first prize in this contest, with Dynamical Biomarkers Group got $1 million for second place.

(10) MAGAZINE LAUNCH. Anathema has published its first issue. The free, online tri-annual magazine publishes speculative fiction by queer people of color. The magazine was funded by a 2016 IndieGoGo campaign.

Exceptional art is a bruise: it leaves its mark on you. At its best it leaves us vulnerable and raw, transformed by the experience. At Anathema we’re interested in giving that exceptional work a home. Specifically the exceptional work of queer people of colour (POC). As practicing editors we’re keenly aware of the structural and institutional racism that makes it hard for the work of marginalized writers to find a home.

So Anathema: Spec from the Margins is a free, online tri-annual magazine publishing speculative fiction (SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more) by queer people of colour on every range of the LGBTQIA spectrum.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 18, 1938 – Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1. (Cover-dated June, but published in April.)

(12) TAFF. SF Site News reports John Purcell has won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race. Voting details at the link.

(13) CARTOON OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends The Bigger Picture, a cartoon by Daisy Jacobs done in the style of a painting about two brothers feuding over their ailing mother. It was a 2015 Academy Award nominee

(14) DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. In McSweeney’s, Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s “A Short Description of Cultural Appropriation for Non-Believers” supplies a wryly amusing 10-point illustration of the term.

(15) WINTER IS HERE. Dave Truesdale, who had a lot to say about “special snowflakes” at last year’s Worldcon, has been using an F&SF forum discussion to call into account Liz Bourke’s Tor.com post “Thoughts on the 2017 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

….Going back to 1993, women received the majority of the 15 Hugo short fiction nominations that year. Hardly discrimination by the entire SF field. And that was just shy of 25 years ago!

But now it’s not yay!, look how far we’ve come in a positive celebration for a year in which women and poc dominate several major awards ballots, it’s neener neener we dominated an award ballot and “This year is a historic one for the Hugo Awards in more ways than one. In addition to the changes to the awards process, this is the first year in which the Best Novel nominees have been so completely devoid in white men.” [[Link added]]

Why the F bring up white men I ask for the umpteenth time. Why not white straight women too, then, who have been on the ballot plenty over the past 40 or 50 years and have taken up plenty of slots that could have gone to poc, especially in the past decade or so (pick your starting point).

Why just white men? An unconscious bias perhaps? A conscious prejudice? Give me a sound reason why not just “white” people, or “men” were noted in the article, but “white men.” There’s something else going on here. The article doesn’t have to come right out and be the instigation of a flame war in its use of inflammatory language and tone to reveal certain things about the writer or her view of the situation. That she’s more subtle in doing it doesn’t give her a pass.

He came back again and added:

In the stuff-you-always-think-of-later department:

CJW wrote: “She noted the lack of white men on the Best Novel list, because there were no white men on the Best Novel list.”

There were also no black, brown, yellow, or red men on the list either. So why single out white men I ask again for the 3rd or 4th time? Subconscious prejudice bubbling to the surface because that is her default–that pesky white color? What could possibly be the reason she forgot non-white men? I mean, there has to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for her discriminatory statement.

Although other commenters weren’t interested in engaging with Truesdale’s complaint, they couldn’t resist dropping in another coin to see him go off again.

SHamm ended a reply —

P.S.: Dave, I am not quite sure from your phrasing: are you under the impression that Milo Yiannopoulos is a “straight white male”?

P.P.S.: Dave, I believe Best Novel nominee Liu Cixin qualifies as a “yellow man,” in your parlance, although I am told that particular descriptor is no longer much in vogue.

P.P.S.: Dave, does it have to be a “straw MAN”? Asking as a man.

Truesdale answered:

SHamm, of course Milo is gay, but he doesn’t agree with the party line and so is reviled and efforts are made to silence him.

Liu Cixin is a yellow man in historical terminology, which makes the essayists use of “white men” even more telling. Person of color=OK. White men not OK.

Straw man is just a phrase we are all familiar with. No need to make anything out of it.

Why bring Puppies into this? No Sad Puppy I know of is afraid of women/people of color/LGBTQ writers dominating the awards. Certainly not me. I’ve said it a hundred times, the more the merrier. The problem for me arises when these same people heralding diversity for their own benefit try to silence diversity of thought from everyone else. And if you dare speak out you suffer the consequences–inside and outside the SF field, witness Milo and others lately who have suffered similar fates while trying to express differing views on university campuses (though maybe not with the violence attendant at Milo’s cancelled talk). It’s the darker underside agenda of those rallying behind good causes such as diversity that puts the lie to their true agenda. And it’s hurting SF. Again, writers aren’t taking the kinds of chances in speaking of social or political issues they used to, for fear of various forms of reprisal from those waving the banner of diversity. Their diversity only runs in one way, and its killing free speech and controversial thought experiments in our stories. That Puppy crap still being thrown out is ridiculous and an intellectual dodge. Besides, there was no SP this year as far as I know, but every time this discussion comes up someone thinks that tossing in SP or RP is the answer to everything, when it is an excuse to honestly address the issue.

(16) MAKES SENSE. The head of Netflix isn’t worried about Amazon and HBO because, he says, they aren’t the competition.

But today, on Netflix’s Q1 earnings call, [Netflix CEO Reed] Hastings got a little more expansive, in a bong-rip-in-a-dorm-room way, if that’s still a thing. (Is that still a thing?) Here’s the answer he gave to an Amazon competition question; we join this one mid-response, right after he finished praising Amazon and Jeff Bezos:

They’re doing great programming, and they’ll continue to do that, but I’m not sure it will affect us very much. Because the market is just so vast. You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. You really — we’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time. And a way to see that numerically is that we’re a competitor to HBO, and yet over 10 years we’ve grown to 50 million, and they’ve continued modestly growing. They haven’t shrunk. And so if you think about it as, we’re not really affecting them, the is why — and that’s because we’re like two drops of water in the ocean, of both time and spending for people. And so Amazon could do great work, and it would be very hard for it to directly affect us. It’s just — home entertainment is not a zero-sum game. And again, HBO’s success, despite our tremendous success, is a good way to illustrate that.

(17) AND NOW FOR MORE SCIENCE. This unauthenticated video may date before the Ice Age. Or before breakfast today.

(18) INKLINGS NEWS. Inklings Abroad is developing an international registry of known Inklings groups.

(19) DANCE WITH ME. Believe it — Guardians of the Galaxy has a La La Land moment!

(20) THINK TWICE BEFORE GETTING THAT EXTRA LARGE SODA. In its own way, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 threatens to have as many endings as Return of the King. As ScienceFiction.com says — “Just To Outshine The Rest Of Marvel’s Movies, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2? Will Have 5 Post-Credit Scenes!”

Director James Gunn blew away expectations with his first foray into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and now he’s doing it again by adding five post-credit scenes at the end of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘! Originally it was being announced that he had four included from early press screenings and now Gunn himself took to clarify that it would be five. That’s one announcement he could make that would easily top his return to helm ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, ‘ but honestly, I think we were all hoping that was going to happen anyway.

This will set an all new record for the most post-credit scenes in a superhero movie, possibly of any genre.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo. and Kate Nepveu for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Schnookums Von Fancypants.]

Herding Puppies

his_masters_voice

Both the Sad and Rabid Puppies heard from leadership today.

Someone tried to run ahead of the Sad Puppy pack, compelling Amanda S. Green to swat him with a rolled-up internet – “Sad Puppies 5 and recommendation lists” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this morning, the BP rising bit came in the form of a private message from a friend of mine. We are in a number of groups together on Faceplant. In one of those groups, someone had posted a notice with the header of “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” Now, that got my eyes open real quick because the person posting it wasn’t Sarah [Hoyt] and, the last I heard – which was last night – Sarah was the one coordinating SP5. So, with coffee starting to brew, I figured I’d go see what I had missed overnight…

So, if you woke around 0630 CST to the sound of loud thumping, I apologize. That was me pounding my head against the wall. After reading the post my friend warned me about, I saw why. And I saw red. And I made the mistake of taking to Faceplant to write a response – still before coffee. I should have waited. Then I could have made a more detailed response, complete with link. As it was, it took a couple of posts and I’m still not sure I got my point across….

So, let’s be very clear. The New Year is here and with it comes the time when we need to start thinking about the books we read and whether we feel they are worthy of being nominated for any of the various awards being offered this year. Be it the Hugo, the Dragon, the Rita or whatever, it is something we need to keep in mind and, if we are so moved, we need to nominate them for the appropriate award(s).

It also means we are going to start seeing folks saying they are “making a little list”. Some will follow through with their lists and keep a running tally. Others will simply have a single post where you can add your comments. What they do is up to them – up to a point. However, when they start implying they are involved with something they aren’t, or when they seem to be stepping up and taking control of something they have not been involved in, then they have crossed the line.

To preempt further problems with overeager helpers before the new Sad Puppies 5 website goes up, Green has directed those interested to make their current recommendations in comments on a new post at the old site

Sad Puppies 5

In the near future, this site will be shut down and a new site for Sad Puppies 5 will go live. In the meantime, if you have any books, movies, etc., you think award-worthy, please list them in the comment section. Your recommendations will be migrated to the new site when it is ready.

As for Declan Finn’s “Sad Puppies 5 suggestions” at A Pius Geek, had he chosen any other headline the post would have been indistinguishable from the awards recommendations everyone else is writing this month in which their own books feature prominently.

However, Finn says he felt the need to add the following paragraph – not because of Amanda S. Green’s post, but in response to hearing privately from “770 morons.”

EDIT: FOR THE READING BEREFT — APPARENTLY, THE USUAL CROWD AT FILE 770 CAN’T READ — I MUST PUT IN AN EVEN BIGGER NOTE HERE. I’M NOT IN CHARGE OF SP5. THE FOLLOWING IS, IN PART, A GUIDE FOR MY RECOLLECTION, SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE VOTING,  AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO GUIDE MY VOTING. APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO STUPID TO HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT FROM THE BELOW. THAT IS ALL.

The Rabid Puppies also received marching orders today from Vox Day at Vox Popoli — “Rabid Puppies 2017”.

While I will certainly be making my 2017 recommendations soon – particularly for Best Series – I would NOT recommend anyone to register [for the Worldcon]. As the God-Emperor Ascendant [his nickname for Trump] demonstrated so masterfully, there is a time to press forward and there is a time to sit back and see how things play out. Now, obviously, those of us who are already registered can, and should, nominate, but there is no sense in wasting money that might be more effectively utilized elsewhere on Worldcon this year.

Let the SF-SJWs do their happy dances and celebrate the success of EPH, little realizing that in adopting it, they have done exactly what we intended in pursuit of our long term objective. Let’s face it, thinking through the logical consequences of their actions has never exactly been their strong suit. It’s bewildering that they genuinely appear to believe that we did not anticipate their changing the rules, even though I said right from the very start that they would have no choice but to do so if we were successful.

Even if Day’s readers refrain from joining Helsinki, those who were members of MidAmeriCon II or have joined the San Jose Worldcon (2018) by the end of this month are still eligible to nominate, so it is not unlikely the Rabid Puppies may exert their influence over the composition of this year’s final Hugo ballot. To what extent they can do so remains to be seen, depending on their own numbers and the impact of EPH rules changes in the first year of operation.

Pixel Scroll 1/3/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling – Rawhide!

(1) SPACE FLOWING PAST THE PORTS LIKE WINE FROM A PITCHER. Here’s a video excerpt from the class “To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie”, part of the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, in which Leckie discusses the basics of space opera and the definition of it provided by Brian Aldiss.

(2) BEARS DISCOVER MCGUIRE. Reading Omni’s “Best Emerging Fantasy Authors of 2016”, James Davis Nicoll snorted at one of the selections:

They’ve discovered Guy Gavriel Kay! Who they think is an emerging author. But it is not their fault.

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia brought the problem to the attention Omni and was given the brushoff.

Moreno-Garcia persisted – since this is just pixels on the internet and not carved in granite, Omni could do something about it even now.

JJ adds about another of Omni’s choices, “Given her 8-year career, 25 novels and 4 collections, 9 Hugo finalists plus 2 wins, and a Tiptree finalist, I don’t think Seanan McGuire can be considered “emerging”, either.”

(3) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION YESTERDAY. Mayim Bialik celebrated #NationalScienceFictionDay on January 2 by showing her readers this historic tome –

Here’s me with the book that inspired GrokNation, Heinlein’s Sci Fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land! For more info on what “grok” means, check this out: http://groknation.com/faq/

 

mayim-bialik-nat-sf-day

(4) BIOLOGY LESSON. An educational graphic the young’uns can study.

(5) BEFORE PALPATINECARE. Motherboard’s Sarah Jeong asks “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?”

Padme Never Goes to a OB/GYN

Prenatal visits never happen in Episode III, not even offscreen. Despite Anakin’s spiraling paranoia about Padme’s health, doctors or hospitals are bizarrely never mentioned. And the evidence says that Padme never got an ultrasound.

When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie—shortly before giving birth—she refers to “our child,” rather than “our children.” It doesn’t make sense for her to be hiding the ball here, she’s making one last emotional appeal to the father of her children, to try to bring him back to the light side. Rather, Padme simply doesn’t know that she’s about to give birth to twins.

(6) DISSENTING VOICE. “Vera Rubin Didn’t Discover Dark Matter” avers Richard Panek at Scientific American.

Vera Rubin didn’t discover dark matter.

Rubin died last weekend, at the age of 88. Headlines have repeatedly identified her as having “discovered” dark matter or having “proved” the existence of dark matter. Even the Carnegie Institution’s press release announcing her death—she had worked as a staff astronomer at Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., for half a century before her recent retirement—said that she “confirmed the existence of dark matter.” Rubin would have said she did no such thing. I know, because she did say that, to me, on several occasions.

One could make the argument that the correct formulation of her achievement is that she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, and while Rubin likely would have acquiesced to that construction, she would have found it incomplete, perhaps even misleading. She would have said that while she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, you shouldn’t infer from that statement that dark matter actually exists.

The distinction wasn’t merely a matter of semantics. It was, to her, a matter of philosophy, of integrity—a matter of how science works.

(7) JPL ANNIVERSARY. Thanks to SciFi4me we know “Jet Propulsion Laboratory Celebrates 80 Years With Free 2017 Calendar”.

As part of their 80th anniversary, JPL has released a free 2017 calendar you can download, filled with photos from both JPL and NASA, and including anniversaries and events. They also have an interactive timeline of JPL’s biggest moments. You can access both of these, as well as more history of JPL, over on the JPL website. JPL has regular open houses, and I hope to attend one myself one day now that I’m in Los Angeles.

Download calendar (PDF 28 MB)

(8) GETTING THE WORD OUT. A Tom Gauld strip —

(9) NEW PODCAST. The Blastoff Podcast has been launched this week by Jud Meyers and Scott Tipton, creators of Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood.

In the premiere episode, Scott explains the difference between the golden and silver ages of comic books. Then, Jud muses on the child-like wonder of stepping inside a brick and mortar comic shop.

blastoff-podcast-825x383

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 3, 1924 – King Tut’s sarcophagus was uncovered.
  • January 3, 2004 — Spirit rover landed on Mars.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 3, 1892 – J. R. R. Tolkien

(12)ESCAPING THE SHADOW. Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R., tells how WWI inspired Lord of the Rings (and his own very modest career).

My grandfather, JRR Tolkien, died when I was 14. He remains vivid to me but through child-like impressions – velvet waistcoats and pipe smoke; word games played on rainy afternoons in the lounge of a seaside hotel or standing on the windy beach down below, skipping flat black pebbles out across the grey waves; a box of matches that he had thrown up in the air to amuse me, rising and falling as if in slow motion through the branches of a horse chestnut tree.

These memories did nothing to illuminate who my grandfather was or how he thought beyond a sense of wise benevolence arching over me like that tree. Nothing except for his religion: I remember the emotion in his voice when he recited prayers with me in the evening – not just the Hail Mary and the Our Father but others too – and the embarrassment I felt at church on Sundays when he insisted on kneeling while everyone else stood, and loudly uttering responses in Latin when everyone else spoke in English.

(13) GOOD FAKES. Timothy Anderson’s online gallery includes a set of clever faux vintage Star Wars paperback covers. They start with The Purloined Plans, second row down, toward the right.

(14) SHUTTERED. Crawford Doyle Booksellers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is closing. Andrew Porter remembers —

The store, at 1082 Madison Ave, New York (between 81st and 82nd), was a bookstore long before 21 years ago. I used to live above it, at 24 East 82nd Street, and when I was a teenager in the early 1960s, and delivered Womrath Library books to subscribers in the neighborhood.

Downstairs, reached by a staircase from the store, there was an antique toy store. At one time, they sold military miniatures, including soldier figures from Donald A. Wollheim’s collection. An occasional visitor, I was told, was a collector by the name of George R.R. Martin. Another small part of my history disappearing into oblivion…

(15) CLIPPING SERVICE. Some of you might like this assortment of topical clips more than Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green did.

Next up, we have yet another call to have a year of publishing nothing but women. Yep, you read that right. Kamila Shamshie has called for 2018 to be the year of publishing only women. Now, I know what you’re going to say. Look at the source of the article. It’s the Guardian. I know. I know. Another bastion of, well, drivel. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such calls, or something similar. Have you forgotten the calls for readers to give up on reading books by men — or non-people of color or other so-called marginalized groups — for a year?

One of the best responses I’ve seen to the Shamshie article comes from Dacry Conroy. These three paragraphs completely dismantle Shamshie’s argument:

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication. This seems to be particularly so of literary writers (a group to which I do not pretend to belong) who appear to have been convinced that even though they are the keepers of the “artistic flame,” they would not have an audience at all without the festivals, the reviewers and the awards the publishing houses so carefully close to all but their own.

Surely the lesson from the independent presses of the 70s isn’t to plead for someone else to start a press and offer better opportunities, it’s to stand up, use the technology available and become our own publishers. Many of us are already doing that.

(16) THE YEAR IN RPG. Shannon Appelcline, respected RPG industry watcher, delivers a big gaming roundup in “Advanced Designers & Dragons #10: 2016: The Year in Review”.

The Continued Rise of Indies. For several years now, I’ve been talking about the rise of indie games, as several once-indie companies have become major players in the industry. In 2016 a few of them started collecting together other games, turning themselves into publishing houses that go beyond just the particular ideas of their owners.

Evil Hat* was the most notable, with their expansion occurring thanks to the success of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (2017?)*. They’ve hired a few people on as full-time employees, which is a luxury in today’s roleplaying industry, let alone the indie industry. Meanwhile, they’re printing and distributing a few successful Kickstarters: Blades in the Dark (2017?)* and Karthun: Lands of Conflict (2017?).

Burning Wheel strikes me as a smaller, more casual organization, but they similarly picked up the publishing and distribution of a few indie games: Dungeon World (2012) and Jared Sorsensen’s Parsely games (2009-2010). This also seems like a more casual partnership, mainly amounting to Burning Wheel HQ, Sage Kobold, and Memento Mori combining forces, like in the Gen Con Forge booth of days gone by, but between Burning Wheel (2002), Torchbearer (2013), and Dungeon World (2012), you have three of the most notable indie fantasy RPGs, all under one roof!

Last year also offered one more example of the indie movement growing and maturing: the blockbuster Apocalypse World (2010) got a second edition (2016).

The Inevitable Kickstarter Report. As in recent years, I’m going to end this review with a look at Kickstarter. And, I think the only description of Kickstarter this year is: wow. I mean, it’s been good for the industry for years, but in 2016 it notched up a higher level of success than ever before.

To start with, we suddenly had 26 pure RPG Kickstarters that raised more than $100,000 in 2016, after years of hovering below 20. Most notably, 7th Sea raised $1.3 million! That’s almost double the previous high, which was Deluxe Exalted 3e, which raised $684,755 in 2013. 7th Sea’s 11,483 backers also beat out the 10,103 backers for Evil Hat’s Fate Core from 2012-2013, a number that I thought might be unassailable.

(17) BEST NEW WRITERS. Rocket Stack Rank has put together a list of stories from Campbell-eligible authors. Greg Hullender explains:

As usual, the entry for each story has a spoiler-free blurb plus a link to a more detailed review. People who have already done their reading for the year and just need to be reminded of which story was which will probably find both of those useful. For people still looking for things to read, we’ve indicated which stories were recommended by us or any of the reviewers we track, and there are links to places to read stories for free (where possible) and otherwise there’s info on how to buy or borrow them.

The graph shows that Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies were the most friendly venues for new authors. Original anthologies are the least.

(18) GROOVY, MAN. @70sscifiart on Twitter shares retro sf covers and art.

(19) SUPERFINE. Melville House has a story about a very overdue library book.

Gillett came across the 1,000-page tome when, after her husband’s death, she was sorting through a collection of 6,000 books. Finding the HCS library stamp on the inside cover, she realized the extraordinary truth, and decided to return the book to the school along with a note reading: “I am sorry to inform you that one of your former pupils, Prof AE Boycott FRS, appears to have stolen the enclosed. I can’t imagine how the school has managed without it!”

Perhaps this book helped inspire the Professor’s future career. The little boy once obsessed with snails now has his own portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Based on the rate at Hereford library, the fine could have been charged at 17 pence a day, over 120 years, totalling around £7,446.

(20) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT AT LOSCON. Courtesy of Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink we have a photo of the Rotsler Award Exhibit from Loscon 2016 featuring the art of Ditmar.

rotsler-loscon-exhibit-foto_no_exif-min

(21) SCAVENGERS. This is an animated short film about astronauts who were stranded on a planet a long time ago, long enough that they’ve learned a great deal about the planet’s biological organisms and the interactions between the native flora and fauna.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Bruce Baugh, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]

Pixel Scroll 11/22/16 Scrollhood’s End

(1) DOGGONE IT. Once upon a time Republicans obeyed the Eleventh Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” – and I thought that Sad Puppies followed the same philosophy until I read J. C. Carlton chastising Kate Paulk in “The Sad Puppies Should Have Done Better” at The Arts Mechanical.

What Happened To The Sad Puppies? In 2015 the Sad Puppies were a presence in SF and in culture in general.  In 2016 the Sad Puppies became almost a nonentity.  All through the year it was the Rabids that drove the show and that hurt both the Sad Puppies And possibly the future of Sf in the long term.

I think that the problem is that Kate Paulk, when she took over leadership didn’t understand what she was getting herself into. I think that she thought that if she had a more moderate approach that the kind of beating around that the Sad Puppies got in 2015 would be moderated.  I’m not sure what led her to believe that, but there was.

Then there was the launch of the Sad Puppies site, the nominations and then, nothing.  For months no reviews, no blog entries, nothing. It’s not as if she was off line either.  Yet for months she left the stage empty except for the Puppy Kickers and Vox.   I’m not sure why but it may be that she was hoping to avoid conflict.  Or she just got busy and could not give Sad Puppies the attention it deserved.  Yet there weren’t even any blog posts on either the Sad Puppies blog or the Mad Genius Club…..

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

Observant as Carlton is about some things, he’s completely in denial about others.

As far as this goes, the Hugos are dead, The Puppies didn’t kill them, they were dead when Larry started the Puppies. The Hugos were dead because nobody cared anymore.

The Puppies provoked a surge in support for the Hugos – the voter turnout for 2015 was 65% more than it was the previous year. The final statistics showed only a fraction supported Torgersen’s Sad Puppy or Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy slates.

(2) DEFENDING KATE. Amanda S. Green was incensed over Carlton’s post. She penned a scalding response – “Really?” – for Mad Genius Club. (But she follows a common MGC trope of refusing to use the name of the person being held in contempt, referring to Carlton throughout as OP.)

OP then spends time, after saying Kate didn’t give us reviews, etc., quoting others who take issue with her reviews of the Hugo nominees. Kate did more than most who were telling people who to vote for. She read everything in the Hugo packet and gave her honest opinions. But that obviously isn’t enough, especially since OP quotes notoriously anti-puppy sites to back his stance.

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

OMFG. I don’t know whether to beat my head against the wall or the OP’s. That statement is not that much removed from that of the other side telling SPs they had to denounce Vox or it proved we were all cut from the same cloth. One thing those of us closely involved with the Sad Puppy movement learned in 2015 is that there is nothing anyone can do to rein in Vox. We would have had Raptor Butt no matter what. Vox will do what he wants, when he wants and he doesn’t give a flying fuck who he bumps against in the process.

The problem is that if there any desire to keep the Hugo Awards as anything other than a pissing contest between the vilest people in SF, we Puppies failed miserably.  The Rapids dominated the noms and the Kickers “No Awarded” every thing in sight, again. Both sides followed by crowing victory, when in fact everybody lost.

See, here is the biggest problem with OP’s post. He thinks that Sad Puppies is about saving the Hugos. It isn’t. I’m not sure it ever was. It was about showing how the Awards have been manipulated and ruled over by a very small group of Fans, folks who don’t want the unwashed masses joining in their little club. The Hugos were effectively dead, at least to most fans, long before Larry started Sad Puppies. It is in its death throes now. Don’t believe it? Look at the rules changes that are being proposed and those that have been passed. Fans with a capital “F” want to to make sure they continue to control the awards. Most real fans aren’t going to pay the price of even an associate membership just to vote. Why should they when they can buy a number of books for the same price?

… Sad Puppies 1 – 3 beautifully pointed out, and proved, the pettiness in Fandom. Sad Puppies 4 continued what Brad started with Sad Puppies 3, the ourtreach to those fans who didn’t understand what was going on. Fans who had been drawn in by the outrageous rhetoric from the other side started looking closer at Sad Puppies when Brad and his family were attacked. They started listening closer when Kate engaged only when she was forced to. So explain how, when Kate reached out and made connections with people how had never before considered backing the Sad Puppies, she failed in her job?

There is more to this battle than whipping out your dick and proving it is bigger than the other guy’s. Kate understood that. We should be thanking her for taking on the job instead of condemning her because she didn’t do “the job” the way someone else wanted her to.

(3) PUPPY SEASON APPROACHING? And in a comment on the previous post, Amanda S. Green predicts we will hear very soon what’s coming next.

George, there will be an announcement about this year’s effort within the next 24 hours, or so I’ve been assured.

(4) I WONDER WHO THEY MEAN. For another example of an MGC columnist refusing to use someone’s name, last week Kate Paulk, in “The Good Kind of Othering”, never mentioned N.K. Jemisin by name but everyone in the comments section knew exactly who she was dissing.

In an attempt to stay well away from the toxic soup of political matters, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week doing Other Stuff. This, I promise you, is a Good Thing, because my snark-o-matic was maxed out and the uber-cynical button stuck in the ‘on’ position.

While I’m quite sure there are those who enjoyed the results, it’s tiring and kind of draining when it lasts long enough: I’m the kind of extreme introvert who needs plenty of down time to recover from bouts of mega-snark.

Which means that I really, really shouldn’t go near the rather sad rant of a certain award-winning author who managed to let slip that she knows she’s a token winner but still thinks that’s okay because those who disagree are ___ist.

(5) EVERYTHING BUT PUPPIES. Once upon a time there was Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip. The anthropomorphized animals in the strip inspired Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, assisted by Vince Clarke, Chuck Harris, and James White, to produce a 1952 fanzine called Fen Crittur Comical Books [PDF file] – which is now available online at Fanac.org.

The cast of Fen Critturs includes Pogo Hoffum, Harlan Owl “an organsing genius”, and Birdbury “a vile pro.”

(6) THEY MAKE A DESERT, AND CALL IT A MINISERIES. Frank Herbert’s Dune has been optioned for possible TV and film projects reports Variety.

Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights from the Frank Herbert estate for his iconic novel “Dune,” granting the production entity the film and television motion picture rights to the work.

The agreement calls for the development and production of possible film and TV projects for a global audience. The projects would be produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, with Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.

(7) HINES STARTS FUNDRAISER AUCTIONS. Today Jim C. Hines posted the first of a bunch of SF/F auctions he’s doing as a fundraiser. Going under the hammer are two autographed Star Wars novels from Chuck Wendig.

Welcome to the first of 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions.

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

We begin the fundraiser with autographed copies of the Star Wars novels AFTERMATH (paperback) and AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT (hardcover), by Chuck Wendig.

(8) AMAZON’S BEST SFF OF 2016. Now it’s Amazon’s turn to tell you its selections as the best science fiction and fantasy of 2016. Twenty titles, mostly familiar, but including a couple I don’t remember seeing anyone here discuss before.

(9) REFINING YOUR GOLDEN WORDS. Cat Rambo based this post on a day-long workshop she just taught at Clarion West: “For Writers: Re-visioning, Rewriting, and Other Forms of Fine-Tuning Your Fiction”.

Stage II of the Revision Process: You marked all over the printout, making changes and then incorporated them. Here I print out a fresh copy, because unfortunately my process is not particularly eco-conscious.

Now you’re looking at a finer level than the first pass. Stage I was coarse sandpaper; now you’re moving to a finer grade. This is the point where I look hard at paragraphing, splitting up overly long paragraphs, using single sentence paragraphs for an occasional punch, and making sure the first and last paragraph of every scene works, creating a transition that doesn’t allow the reader to escape the story.

I have an unfortunate propensity for scattering scene breaks through my work; this is the place where I remove a lot of them, because I know that every time one occurs, it bumps the reader out of the story and reminds them that they’re reading. I also remove a lot of unnecessary speech tags at this point. I make sure the speaker is identified every third or fourth speech act in two people dialogue so the reader never has to count back in order to figure out who is talking at any point.

I’m also looking at sentence length. Here is an exercise that may be useful: take a page of your prose and go through counting how many words are in each sentence. If they are all around the same length, it creates a sense of monotony. Split things up. Short sentences have punch; long sentences full of polysyllabic words create a languorous, dreamy feel that may be desirable to your narrative yet radically slows things down on the page. (Did you catch what I did there?)

(10) SPACE NEIGHBORS. If E.T. phones your home, Stephen Hawking’s advice is – don’t answer.

Hawking’s comments are motivated by a fear of what the aliens would do to us if they find us. In his mind, the aliens are the Spanish Conquistador Cortez and we are the Aztecs he made contact with in central America.

Tribal warfare, genocide and ethnic cleansing have been part of our history for thousands of years. Hawking’s fear is a fear of what we have done to ourselves.

Would advanced alien civilisations be as barbaric as we are? Are our genocidal tendencies at all representative of advanced alien civilisations? Maybe.

Hawking says he worries that any aliens “will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria”.

(11) PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. A programming pioneer: “Margaret Hamilton, Apollo Software Engineer, Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom”.

The very first contract NASA issued for the Apollo program (in August 1961) was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. Hamilton, a computer programmer, would wind up leading the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now Draper Labs). Computer science, as we now know it, was just coming into existence at the time. Hamilton led the team that developed the building blocks of software engineering – a term that she coined herself. Her systems approach to the Apollo software development and insistence on rigorous testing was critical to the success of Apollo. As she noted, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.”

Her approach proved itself on July 20, 1969, when minutes before Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, the software overrode a command to switch the flight computer’s priority system to a radar system. The override was announced by a “1202 alarm” which let everyone know that the guidance computer was shedding less important tasks (like rendezvous radar) to focus on steering the descent engine and providing landing information to the crew. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, rather than aborting the approach due to computer problems. In fact, the Apollo guidance software was so robust that no software bugs were found on any crewed Apollo missions, and it was adapted for use in Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the first digital fly-by-wire systems in aircraft. Hamilton was honored by NASA in 2003, when she was presented a special award recognizing the value of her innovations in the Apollo software development. The award included the largest financial award that NASA had ever presented to any individual up to that point.

Today, Margaret Hamilton is being honored again – this time at the White House. President Obama has selected her as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The highest civilian award of the United States, it is awarded to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

(13) TOM HANKS GOES TO THE WHITE HOUSE…AGAIN. Actor Tom Hanks also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. The news reminded John King Tarpinian of a favorite anecdote:

Here is another cute story that is not specifically about Ray but at a Ray event.  As you know, if a library called Ray would come, even libraries that did not need financial help.  The last time, and I mean very last time, Ray was guest of honor for the Beverly Hills library he basically held court for the rich and famous.  Even the docents for the library were people of note.

A table was setup for Ray to chat with people and sign books, most of them personalized.  The library had pre-sold books or was given books by patrons who could not attend.  A docent would bring out half a dozen books at a time.  I’d take the books, open them to the signature page, then pass them to Ray for signing.

Ray’s caregiver was standing on the other side of Ray when the first batch of books were brought out.  He looks at the docent and says to him, “Have people ever told you that you look like a younger Tom Hanks?”  The response from the docent was, “Yes, I have been told that before.”  I have a big grin on my face as he looks over to me and gives an all knowing wink.  The docent was Colin Hanks.

This came to mind because Tom Hanks received the Medal of Freedom from the president today.

(14) MY FAVORITE HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Sith Gets Real: Lucasfilm Releases New ‘Rogue One’ Stills With Clear Look At Darth Vader” — from ScienceFictin.com.

(15) YADA YODA. Gamespot leads us to this clip from Stephen Colbert’s Late Night show — “Carrie Fisher Reveals More (Fake) Star Wars Secrets”:

There were a lot of pranks on set. One time we cut off Mark Hamill’s hand and they decided to keep it in the movie.

 

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/16 Talkin ‘Bout My Pixelation

(1) BEVERAGE APPERTAINED. John King Tarpinian is insanely tickled by this visual reference from the latest Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode, since Logan’s Run was co-authored by his late buddy George Clayton Johnson.

logans-rum

(2) SOUND OFF. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 2 Kickstarter successfully funded all the fiction but did not reach audiobook stretch goal. Steffen announced the stories will appear in this order:

Table of Contents

  • “Damage” by David D. Levine
  • “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “The Women You Didn’t See” by Nicola Griffith (a letter from Letters to Tiptree)
  • “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey
  • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Neat Things” by Seanan McGuire (a letter from Letters To Tiptree)
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir
  • “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” by Rose Lemberg
  • “Another Word For World” by Ann Leckie
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
  • “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” by Kai Ashante Wilson

(3) THE MCFLY FAMILY CHRONICLE In “Computer Solves a Major Time Travel Problem” by Cathal O’Connell at Cosmos Magazine, the “grandfather paradox” has allegedly been solved by a supercomputer and the research of Israeli physicist Doron Friedman (i.e. you can go back in time, kill your father, and sire another father).

The computer’s second solution is more interesting. The snag is it only works if the father also has the ability to travel in time.

The story goes like this.

In 1954 Marty’s father George travels forward in time one year to 1955, when he impregnates Marty’s mother Lorraine before immediately returning back to 1954 – just as his future son, Marty, arrives and kills him.

Because George’s quick foray into the future allowed him to already conceive his son, the paradox disappears.

(4) TROPE TURNOVERS. Apex Publications’ Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology, funded by a Kickstarter reported here, is receiving critical praise. They sent backers this update:

I wanted to mention that you may recall we sent out a few ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) in anticipation that we would be releasing this anthology in December. We are pleased to share that Publisher’s Weekly has given our anthology a starred review! Thank you SO much for making this anthology happen, and we hope you enjoy the stories. Huzzah!

(5) ROBBER BARONS. Amanda S. Green has criticized publishers for the past decade for overpricing ebooks, and tells her Mad Genius Club readers there’s no sign it’s going to change. In fact, if they can think of a way, publishers will make the arrangement even more exploitative….

As readers, it means we will have to continue to choose between buying one traditionally published e-book from publishers like Randy Penguin (at $12.99 or more) or buying two or three — or more — indie or small press published e-books. It means choosing to buy e-books from indies or publishers like Baen, sources that don’t add DRM, or buying fro publishers who aren’t afraid to say they think their customers are thieves and that is why they add the DRM. After all, they don’t trust us not to pirate their books or — gasp — resell them after we’re done with them. As readers, it also means we need to be smart and start backing up our e-books to places not connected with our e-readers, etc. Because, as sure as I’m sitting here typing this this morning, I guaran-damn-tee you there is some bean counter sitting in an ivory tower in the publishing industry who is trying to figure out a way to limit the number of times we can read an e-book before we have to buy a new license or something equally as silly. Don’t believe me? Remember, these are the same publishers that put a limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out at a library before the library has to buy — at an inflated rate — the e-book again.

(6) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Bladerunner film score composer Vangelis has released a new space-themed opera — “From Composer Vangelis, A True Story Set In outer Space”. You can listen on YouTube.

Rosetta is a concept album, inspired by the European Space Agency mission of the same name. It successfully landed a probe on a comet in 2014 and completed its mission — by total coincidence — within a week of the album’s release.

“I imagine myself being in the position of Rosetta, and going there,” Vangelis says. “It’s something amazing.” Amazing — and disorienting. “You have to go through, sometimes, total dark,” Vangelis says. “You can imagine like a child sometimes.”

 

(7) TAKE ONE DOWN AND PASS IT AROUND. Motherboard says “This Guy Is Replicating ‘Blade Runner’ Shot-for-Shot in MS Paint”. And I say, keep appertaining beverages for yourself until you’re drunk enough to know why this needs to be reported by File 770.

So when we discovered David MacGowan’s tumblr MSP Blade Runner, our response was one of collective awe and fascination. MacGowan is quite literally going through Blade Runner shot-by-shot and illustrating each in MS Paint. The drawings aren’t perfect in terms of artistry—it is MS Paint, after all—and they’re not 100 percent complete in detail. But each moment is instantly recognizable even to someone with only a passing familiarity with the film. And MacGowan has nailed that elusive, pitch-perfect Internet Ugly aesthetic so many of us try and fail to, well, replicate.

(8) SKIPPING THE AUTHENTICITY. Dwayne A. Day lays waste to a TV show in “O, full of scorpions is my mind” at Space Review.

Every few years a major entertainment program has focused on a human spaceflight theme, and usually the results have been pretty bad. In 2007, Law & Order: Criminal Intent did an episode that was based upon astronaut Lisa Nowak’s arrest for attempted murder (another one of their “ripped from the headlines” stories.) Because it was set in New York City, they portrayed the “National Space Agency” as based in New York. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit did another astronaut-based episode in 2008. In 2011, the cable spy drama Covert Affairs aired an episode about a terrorist spy working at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC (see “Tinker, Tailor, NASA, Spy,” The Space Review, July 11, 2011) In 2010, CSI: Miami had an episode dealing with a murder aboard a commercial orbiting spaceplane that operated out of Miami. (See “Space cops,” The Space Review, March 1, 2010)

Normally this is the point in this article where I would make some kind of semi-clever quip about how bad all these shows were. But they were at least watchable. The CSI: Miami episode was probably the best of the bunch, demonstrating at least a passable knowledge of commercial spaceflight. But in retrospect, all of them now look like 2001: A Space Odyssey compared to last week’s episode of the CBS drama Scorpion which featured a character being accidentally blasted into space. It was bad.

There are few words to describe how amazingly bad it was, so here are a lot of them….

Scorpion’s producers don’t really seem to care about accuracy or believability or logic or continuity or consistency. Despite spending what must be huge gobs of money on the episodes, it is amazing how slipshod some of it is—not just the writing, but the production values seemed to demonstrate that nobody had any real interest in making any of it look good.

(9) RED PLANET CRITIQUE. Mars chronicler Kim Stanley Robinson declines to take Musk’s plan at face value in “Why Elon Musk’s Mars Vision Needs ‘Some Real Imagination’” on Bloomberg.

It’s 2024. Musk figures everything out and gets funding. He builds his rocket, and 100 people take off. Several months later, they land (somehow) and have to get to work remaking a planet.

I have to note, first, that this scenario is not believable, which makes it a hard exercise to think about further. Mars will never be a single-person or single-company effort. It will be multi-national and take lots of money and lots of years.

Musk’s plan is sort of the 1920s science-fiction cliché of the boy who builds a rocket to the moon in his backyard, combined with the Wernher von Braun plan, as described in the Disney TV programs of the 1950s. A fun, new story.

(10) BEHIND BARS. In the latest installment of “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters in Prison”, Barrett Brown, jailed for decades because of his hacking, answers questions Filers will hopefully never need to ask:  if you’re in prison, how do you teach other prisoners how to play role-playing games?  And how do you make the dice?

We began the campaign with our party having just entered a mysterious cavern that appeared to be inhabited. The gamemaster drew out a map for us as our crude little character tokens advanced down the dark, cliché-ridden passages. Coming upon a fountain in which jewels could be seen lying under the surface of the water, our Hispanic gangster/minotaur barbarian proposed to grab some. The team veteran and meth dealer/elven ranger stopped him, dipped in his flask, and, as our gamemaster informed us, watched as it sizzled and melted, the “water” having been acid.

“Whoa,” said the gangster/minotaur, awed at how close he’d just come to losing his forearm. He was beginning to understand that this wasn’t the relatively straightforward world of street-level dope dealing anymore; this was Dungeons and Dragons. Presumably the feds had never attempted to trick him into incinerating his own arm. But then some of these guys had been targeted by the ATF, so you never know.

(11) MAMATAS. At Locus Online, “Tim Pratt Reviews Nick Mamatas”.

His latest novel, I Am Providence, should be of particular interest to our readers for at least a couple of reasons. For one, it’s a murder mystery set at a genre convention: the Summer Tentacular, devoted to H.P, Lovecraft and his Mythos, held appropriately enough in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence RI. (The book’s title is taken from Lovecraft’s famous epitaph.) Given how prevalent discussions of Lovecraft’s influence and his problematic qualities have been in our field lately, it’s an astonishingly timely book. If the convention angle doesn’t make it SFnal enough for you, there’s a bona fide speculative element: half the novel is narrated in first person by the murder victim as he lies cooling on a morgue slab.

The murder-mystery-at-a-convention is a venerable subgenre (think Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA or Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun). The best of them combine solid mystery stories anyone can enjoy with a dash of in-jokes, cameos, and thinly veiled versions of figures in the field to amuse those in the know. I Am Providence is among those best.

(12) THE HORSE, OF COURSE. Rosalind Moran reminds SFWAns, “Horses Are Not Machines: On Writing the Steeds of Fantasy Fiction”.

  1. Nobody Learns In A Day

No amount of natural talent can make a horseman in a day. If one’s horse is tolerant, one may be able to hold on over flat terrain after a few hours in the saddle. Nevertheless, there’s a big difference between not sliding off immediately, and being able to ride competently. It can take months – even years – before one is truly balanced enough to cope with a horse moving at various gaits, and occasionally acting up. Yet it’s not uncommon in fantasy novels for characters to pick up the handy skill of horse-riding in one day.

Furthermore, handling horses on the ground is also a skill requiring time. When one first begins working with horses, one can’t read their body language; flicking ears, shifting legs, squeals and snorts. The initial reaction when faced with a horse also tends to be one of intimidation – they’re big animals. So for your protagonist to be confident catching horses, feeding them, tacking them up… that all takes time and experience. You don’t need to devote pages to your character learning relatively mundane skills, but you should acknowledge that these are skills which they are learning, or which they have somehow acquired at another point in time.

Additional note: horses aren’t domesticated in a day either. Worth remembering next time you chance upon a handy herd in the wilderness – sorry.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/16 When An Unscrollable Pixel Meets An Irretickable File

(1) THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Dave Langford recalls his experiences at the Milford (UK) writers workshop three decades ago in “Mr Langford’s Milfords”

My Milford attendance record was nothing to write home about, let alone pad out to a six-volume fantasy trilogy.  All “my” Milfords were in the early though not the earliest days at the Compton Hotel, Milford-on-Sea. The Langford era ran from 1977 to 1984, skipping 1979 because that year’s UK Worldcon led to Milford being cancelled, and missing the 1983 event as a personal decision after long and painful study of my credit card statement.

Dave also heartily recommends Christopher Priest’s July post, “The Prequels”:

The misbehaviour of those middle-aged writers at Milford was in fact more or less as described, although I did leave out the bit where one of the most famous writers stormed out in a rage, where two others went for a midnight swim but afterwards couldn’t remember where they’d left their clothes … and when someone suddenly appeared at dinner dressed only in a black plastic bin-liner. No, that was another year.

(2) TYPO IN BRONZE. The Heinlein Society reports a typo was discovered on the dedication plaque of Robert Heinlein’s bust in the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a corrected plaque has now been installed.

(3) CONVERGENCE. Pukeko tries to relate his notions about political reality to Stross’ creation the Laundry Files, and Stross’ own politics, in “The turning is progressing as expected” at Dark Brightness.

The Laundry, on one level, is a horror urban fantasy. On another level, a spy story, And on the third, it has become a satire of the pretensions of the British Civil Service. The British Civil Service still is a good reason to move to than Antipodes.

But there is a tide in the seasons of man, and his neo-liberal political model — which he hates — is becoming one with the Soviet and Tyre. The Luddites he despises are on the flood. And the organisations he writes about, supports, and have his loyalty are converging, which means they are becoming unreliable, without utility, and forked….

Stross and I are of an age. Our youth was the time of Thatcher, Gorbachev, Clinton and brush wars in failing states. Our leaders became neo conservatives, including the converged leftist ones, and broke the social contract of the welfare state. We remember the welfare state. And we remember the Christmas strikes.

But that world has gone, along with the rules that made our society decent, functional, and allowed us to align with those who did not have the same religion, politics or lifestyle. The current social justice cadre instead demand we all double down and quackspeak.

My fear is that Stross will do this. I would much rather he pull the plot off, as he did when he introduced vampirism into the world. He moved too far into the uncanny valley with the last book. I want his cynical, but believable, Bob back. He is too good a writer to quack. And he does not deserve to go down with this death dealing elite.

(4) KEEP THAT RED NOSE UNDER COVER. McDonald’s downplays Ronald McDonald while ‘creepy clown’ sightings spread, reports the Los Angeles Times.

(5) SPACE TOURISM. Carl Slaughter points out —

Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: Vulcan
by Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward

Plan your next trip to the planet Vulcan! Find restaurants that serve the best fried sandworms and Vulcan port. Take a trip to the Fire Plains or experience spring break at the Voroth Sea. Learn all about the native Vulcan people and their unusual customs. Discover how to correctly perform the traditional Vulcan salutation (you really don’t want to get this wrong). Learn key Vulcan phrases such as Nam-tor puyan-tvi-shal wilat: “Where is your restroom?” Find out what to do if you suddenly find yourself host to a katra—a Vulcan’s living spirit—at an inconvenient moment. All this and more can be found within the pages of this essential travel guide to one of the most popular—and logical—destinations in the known universe.

This Hidden Universe travel guide draws on 50 years of Star Trek TV shows, films, and novels to present a comprehensive guide to Spock’s iconic home world. Modeled after real-world travel guides, the book will explore every significant region on Vulcan with fascinating historical, geographical, and cultural insights that bring the planet to life like never before. Also featuring a dynamic mixture of classic Star Trek imagery and original illustrations created exclusively for the book, Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Star Trek: Vulcan is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek and will thrill pop culture fans and hardcore Star Trek fans alike.

(6) HOLD ON TO THE LIGHT. Cat Rambo has posted her contribution to the HoldOnToTheLight campaign, “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Be Kind to Yourself”.

I’ve found that writers excel at angst and guilt, at worrying at 2 am over whether or not they stuck their foot in their mouth (human nature being what it is, the answer is sometimes yes), at being anxious and projecting futures far out of proportion to actuality in their horror.

They’re also tough on themselves, holding themselves to sometimes impossible standards. It involves being willing to forgive yourself and the illness you live with, to not just know yourself but be comfortable with yourself.

(7) IN THE BEGINNING. EverydayFangirl interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold on her early fannish life:

When do you realize you were a Fangirl?

LMB:

Before the term “fangirl” was invented. I started reading science fiction for grownups at about age nine, because my father, an engineering professor, used to buy the magazines and books to read on the plane when he went on consulting trips, and they fell to me. Got my first subscription to Analog Magazine at age 13. So when Star Trek came along in 1966, when I was in high school, the seed fell on already-fertile ground; it was an addition, not a revelation. At last, SF on TV that was almost as good as what I was reading, a miracle! I would have just called myself a fan then, or a reader, ungendered terms I note.

In my entire high school of 1,800 students, there was only one other genre reader I knew of (later we expanded to 4 or 6), my best friend Lillian, and she only because we traded interests; I got history from her, she got F&SF from me. So there was no one to be fans with, for the first while.

(8) GHOST OF HALLOWEENS PAST. The Los Angeles Times invites readers to “See what’s killing haunted houses and other independent Halloween attractions”

For every success like Carbone’s, there are several mom-and-pop haunted attractions that have been killed off by mounting insurance and other expenses, as well as extensive government regulations…

“It’s getting so expensive that unless you have $100,000 to put into it and $30,000 into the marketing, you are not going to make it,” said Jeff Schiefelbein, chief executive of Sinister Pointe Productions, and Orange County company that builds haunted attractions for theme parks and individual entrepreneurs.

(9) KAIJU IN THEATERS THIS WEEK. Shin Godzilla, the latest addition to the mythos, is having a limited theatrical run with subtitles right now in the US and Canada.

Make way for the ultimate homage to one of the most enduring legends of the big screen—Godzilla! The King of the Monsters is back in Tokyo for a city-crushing crusade that speaks to the very roots of the world-renowned franchise.

It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. As the government scrambles to save the citizens, a rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.

(10) UNDERRATING INDIES. Amanda S. Green gives a Passive Voice columnist a stern talking to about his short-selling indie authors in “Oh my, are they protesting too much” at Mad Genius Club.

Yesterday, when I started looking for something to blog about, I made my way over to The Passive Voice. TPV is an excellent source of information for every author out there, traditionally published or indie. One post in particular caught my eye. It asks the question we have heard asked so many times over the last few years: Are self-published books inferior to professionally published books?

Now, without even reading the article, I knew I wasn’t going to like the post TPV had linked to. The title of the article itself shows a bias, not by TPV but by the author of the article TPV linked to. It assumes that self-published books, what we call indies, aren’t professionally published. Take that one step further. By phrasing the headline the way it did, the author of the article signals from the beginning that indies aren’t as professional or as good as traditionally published books. Otherwise, why not rephrase the title of the article as “are self-published books inferior to traditionally published books?”

So, without even reading the underlying article, my back is up. I can’t speak for anyone except myself but I am a professional writer. I make money from writing, enough to pay my bills. I simply chose not to take the traditional publishing route. That does not make me any less of a professional than any other writer who has chosen to try to find an agent, get a contract and publish with one of the Big 5 publishers.

(11) ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING. Jim C. Hines adds his observations about the Weingart/Worldcon 75 controversy.

The Beale Effect: I’m bemused at how effectively Theodore Beale managed to unite Worldcon and Weingart, both of whom came together as if to say, “Oh hell no. F**k that guy.” As soon as Beale jumped in, Weingart pulled his posts, Worldcon called Weingart to apologize, then posted their public apology. It pretty much ended the public dispute right there.

Tuesday-Afternoon Quarterbacking: I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. But as I understand it, Weingart notified the staff from the beginning that the other individual had set boundaries about not wanting to interact or work with him. Bringing Weingart on but restricting his interactions seems like a solution destined to cause problems. If this other individual was already working for the con, my hindsight solution would be to simply not bring Weingart on staff. Yeah, it might mean losing a good volunteer in Weingart, but it would have more effectively respected the other individual’s boundaries, and would have avoided the mess that eventually followed.

(12) PLUTO’S NEW PAL ISN’T GOOFY. The discovery-by-software of another dwarf planet: “A Friend For Pluto: Astronomers Find New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System”.

Scientists in Michigan have found a new dwarf planet in our solar system.

It’s about 330 miles across and some 8.5 billion miles from the sun. It takes 1,100 years to complete one orbit.

But one of the most interesting things about the new object, known for the time being as 2014 UZ224, is the way astronomers found it.

David Gerdes of the University of Michigan led the team that found the new dwarf planet. Gerdes describes himself as “an adult-onset astronomer,” having started his scientific career as a particle physicist.

He helped develop a special camera called the Dark Energy Camera that the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned to make a map of distant galaxies.

A few years ago, Gerdes had some undergraduates visiting him for the summer. He decided to give them a project: He asked them if they could find some solar system objects lurking in the galaxy map.

Chip Hitchcock joked, “Clyde Tombaugh is spinning in his grave and grumbling ‘You punks don’t know how easy you have it these days!’”

(13) X MARKS THE SPOTS. “Why Are There X’s In The Desert?” In the first place, you probably never knew there were. But for the high-tech answer, you need to search back to the Cold War.

We step out in the searing heat and into a desolate landscape — just cactus and tumbleweed.

“Middle of nowhere,” Penson says.

We walk toward the base of a small mountain range, and that’s when we see it: four 25-foot slabs of concrete inlaid in the desert floor that form a giant “X.”

Penson kneels down to brush off the sand covering a tarnished brass plate at the very center. The engraving reads: “$250 fine or imprisonment for disturbing this marker — Corps of Engineers – U.S. Army.”

That’s who Penson and Owen contacted to get their answer.

These X’s were once part of a top-secret government program called CORONA — the nation’s first reconnaissance satellite program.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Heather Rose Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/16 Grow Scrolled Along With Me, The Pixel Is Yet To Be

(1) SUMMER IN ORCUS HAS LAUNCHED.  A certain T. Kingfisher has released the first chapter of a new serial, Summer in Orcus. Also known as Ursula Vernon, and RedWombat, Kingfisher filled readers in on the schedule…:

I will be posting links here as they go live, never fear! It will be up Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we’re going to try bonus content on Sundays–little snippets about the world of Orcus and so forth–once we’ve had a few weeks to settle in, and I’ll do my best to get an RSS feed working as well for people who don’t check back here frequently. Long-time readers will recognize the start of the story–“Hey! It’s the one with Baba Yaga!”–as having been posted here. Yup, that’s the one, and I finally finished it… I’m all nervous and stuff. This is such a weird little book and I’m still not sure if anyone will like it or if they will throw tomatoes, but by god, I wrote it anyway, and thanks to the awesome people on Patreon, I can offer it free to the world.

And the number of chapters

(Incidentally, I think there will be 34 chapters.)

Each chapter is supposed to run around 2500 words, but there’s a fair amount of fluctuation, just because I didn’t want to break some things off in mid-sentence. So there’s a few short ones and a few reeeeeally long ones. But I suppose we’ll make do.

The story begins this way:

Once upon a time there was a girl named Summer, whose mother loved her very very very much.

Her mother loved her so much that she was not allowed to play outside where someone might grab her, nor go away on sleepovers where there might be an accident or suspicious food. She was not allowed to go away to camp, where she might be squashed by a horse or bitten by diseased mosquitoes, and she most certainly was not allowed to go on the Ferris Wheel at the carnival because (her mother said) the people who maintain the machinery are lazy and not very educated and might get drunk and forget to put a bolt back on and the entire thing could come loose at any moment and fall down and kill everyone inside, and they should probably leave the carnival immediately before it happened….

(2) KICKSTARTER MEETS GOAL. The Kickstarter appeal for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! passed its $20,000 target. The Seuss/Star Trek parody mashup will be written by David Gerrold, with art by Ty Templeton. File 770 is celebrating by posting this image from the project, courtesy of editor Glenn Hauman.

oh-the-places-tribbles

(3) BUCK ROGERS IN THE 21-AND-A-HALF CENTURY. Two families who once owned the rights to Buck Rogers are involved in a lawsuit over a pitch one made to Syfy, despite it being generally believed the rights are now in the public domain, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Some believe that the fictional space explorer Buck Rogers, created in the 1920s by author Philip Francis Nowlan, is in the public domain. Notwithstanding this fact, Nowlan’s heirs are now on the defensive in a lawsuit that accuses them of breaching contact and diluting trademarks by pitching a “Buck Rogers” pilot to the Syfy Network.

Buck Rogers first appeared in Nowlan’s 1929 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D and became a popular character in comic strips, radio programs and a motion picture series. Nowlan was under contract with John F. Dille’s National Newspaper Service, and when the author died in 1940, his wife fought Dille over intellectual property ownership. In 1942, the lawsuit was settled with Nowlan releasing claims and rights to Dille in exchange for $1,750.

Last year, producer Don Murphy (TransformersNatural Born Killers, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) wanted to make a film based on Armageddon 2419 A.D, and after receiving an objection from the licensing representative of the Dille Family Trust, he went to court to establish that “Buck Rogers” was in the public domain thanks to a failure to renew the copyright registration. But a Pennsylvania judge decided in March not to entertain the case due to a lack of “actual controversy.”

Meanwhile, the Dille Family Trust is suing the Nowlan Family Trust.

According to the lawsuit, an agent of the Nowlan family met with Syfy representatives this past December. As part of a pitch for a “Buck Rogers” series, the Nowlans provided a “series bible” setting forth characters and descriptions for potential use.

The Dille Family Trust claims that the pitch breached the 1942 agreement, and on Friday, a judge rejected a motion to dismiss the claim on the argument that the release of rights applied only to Nowlan’s late wife.

(4) YOUR BUSINESS. Amanda S. Green’s “It’s A Business” at Mad Genius Club is a good admonition for new writers who still have stars in their eyes about the money they imagine will be rolling in.

But, Amanda, you get those huge advances and you don’t have to work any longer.

Wrong.

And this is where you have to remember that this is a business. Most advances, especially for “new” authors fall in the four-digit range. Yes, some new authors get more but they are the except and not the rule. You don’t get the advance all at one time and you aren’t going to see any more money from the publisher until you have earned out the advance and, believe me, that doesn’t happen very often. How can it when publishers use Bookscan to determine how many books are sold instead of a simple inventory tracker program?

That means you have to make sure you have a way to pay your bills between advances. This is why the vast majority of writers aren’t full-time writers. They have families to feed and are like me. They like having a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. Even if your first book is a success, you don’t know that the second book will be. More importantly, if you are publishing traditionally, you have no guarantee that the readers will remember you two years or more after your first book by the time the second book comes out. Remember, when you publish traditionally, you have no control over when your book is released and you are just one of many the publisher is having to slot into a finite number of slots per month.

(5) VOTE BOTH. Ryk E. Spoor, who has both self-pubbed and been published by Baen, warns about “The False Dichotomies of Publishing”.

Thus, while there are indeed two divisions of publishing, it’s not really a simple matter of choice in deciding which one you want. The only people for whom it is such a choice are those who are so successful that they know that anything they write can be sold to a traditional publisher – people like Stephen King, for example. Such people know that they can even write “niche” books and get them published by a big publishing house because their other, more popular books will pay for these occasional low-profit ventures. Most of us, however, are not and will never be in that category.

Another common false dichotomy is “have no control over your manuscript, or have complete freedom with self-publishing”. While there have been, and probably still are, some publishers with really, really bad editors that will take apart manuscripts for their own entertainment, for the most part publishers aren’t there to dictate how you should write your stuff; after all, if they dictate it all to you, why not just write it themselves? As I have discussed before, the purpose of having editors is to make your work better but still in essence yours.

This points to the falsity on the flip side as well. Sure, you can have complete control of your work, write it and throw it right up on Amazon without anyone saying a word against it. But that’s almost certainly doing your work a terrible disservice. There may, possibly, be a few people who are so very good at separating themselves from their own work that they can honestly and dispassionately examine and edit that work. But I have never met someone like that. You need exterior views, and preferably a viewpoint that doesn’t have a vested interest in agreeing with you that your work is perfect.

(6) MORE WRITING CAREER ADVICE. Here are some tips for getting your novel published during a Skeleton Apocalypse.

(7) ROCKET TO THE MORGUE MOON. So that’s what happened to all the pizza boxes we stuffed in the time machine. Click here.

(8) THE HERMIONE GRANGER BOOKS. Sarah Gailey writes a fascinating analysis of “Hermione Granger: More Than a Sidekick” at Tor.com.

This is something that the Harry Potter fan community has been discussing for years: Hermione drives the story because she has her own story. No one in their right mind would trust 13-year-old Harry Potter with a Time Turner, but Hermione gets one and she deserves it. She dates a celebrity, and she outsmarts Rita Skeeter, and she does those things in the background of Harry’s story. She convinces Harry to be a figurehead in the fight against Voldemort, and she creates Dumbledore’s Army. She schedules the DA meetings, she creates the consequences for DA defectors, she creates the galleons that allow the DA to communicate in code. She researches horcruxes and how to destroy them. She rereads all of Hogwarts: A History. She shows up with the tools and the knowledge and prevents Harry and Ron from standing around looking perplexed while the world ends around them. She saves everyone’s bacon all the time by being smarter and better-prepared than anyone else. Those two boys would be dead a thousand times over without her intervention.

She gets her own story, if you know how to look for it. She has her own narrative that’s completely separate from Harry’s. But does that make her a hero?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin

(10) PUPPIES SUBTRACTED. Aaron doesn’t have his own alternate trophies to give out, nevertheless he offers his ”Random Thought – 2016 ‘What Could Have Been’ Hugo Finalists” at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Location: An alternate, better reality.

Comments: At the outset I want to make clear that this post is not an evaluation of what the 2016 list of Hugo finalists would have been had the E Pluribus Hugo system been in effect for the nomination process. I’ll be posting about that at a later date. What this post is is an attempt to figure out what the 2016 list of Hugo finalists would have looked like had the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns never existed. It is, quite simply, an attempt to expunge those votes attributable to the Sad and Rabid Puppy nominators to see who would have been Hugo finalists in their absence. This post is also an attempt to assess the impact Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns once that information is at hand.

(11) NOWHERESVILLE. The article “Solitude, Space Junk and Sea Monsters: the Eeriness of Point Nemo” begins with an attention-getting question:

Q: What do sci fi pioneer Jules Verne, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and the Russian space programme have in common?

A: Their overlapping interest in an inhospitable corner of the South Pacific, only recently identified as the remotest part of the world’s oceans – Point Nemo.

Nowhere in the world can you find a place further from dry land than Point Nemo. This oceanic pole of inaccessibility (1) is located at 48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W…..

Decades before Point Nemo was named, and before satellites started raining down, H.P. Lovecraft used these lonely waters as the setting for R’lyeh, a “nightmare corpse city (…) built in measureless eons beyond history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars”.

In The Call of Cthulhu (1928), R’lyeh is described as “a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror … loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours”.

The sunken city is the prison of the giant monster Cthulhu, part octopus, part human, part dragon: “There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults”. His followers pray for his regeneration, repeating the phrase: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn (“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming”).

(12) LET’S KEEP IT REAL. There’s yet one more thing against the law in California. “Gov. Brown signs law that cracks down on fake celebrity autographs”.  In a way, you might have expected Gov. Schwarzenegger to have applied his autograph to such a law first….

An autographed collectible sold in California will need to come with a certificate that verifies it’s not a forgery under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown signed the bill Friday to crack down on selling items with fake celebrity signatures.

The proposal won the support of actor Mark Hamill earlier this year.

Best known for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” films, Hamill often uses his Twitter account to sort out whether something has his genuine signature on it or has been forged.

(13) ORIGIN OF BOOKS. Inspired by the current competition between digital and paper books, the BBC looks back to the mysterious origin of the book.

The evidence is sparse but telling: archaeologists have discovered a few key scraps of papyrus whose text unexpectedly continues from the front to the back, and whose neat margins one might expect to find in a paged book. And that is exactly what these fragments are: they are leaves from the first paged books the world had ever seen. We know that the Romans called this new kind of book the codex (from caudex or tree trunk, because of its similarity to their wooden writing tablets), but how the codex came to be in the first place is shrouded in mystery. The first written mention of the codex appears in the words of a Roman poet named Martial, who encouraged his readers to buy his books in this new, paged format:

“You who long for my little books to be with you everywhere and want to have companions for a long journey, buy these ones which parchment confines within small pages: give your scroll-cases to the great authors – one hand can hold me.”

Written between 84 and 86 CE, Martial’s sales pitch tells us not only that paged books were known of in the First Century CE but also that some of them, at least, were made from a new material called parchment.

(14) ABSTRACT DISNEY. This video by user “2veinte” called Disney Classics 1 is a recreation of classic Disney scenes just done with geometric shapes. It was done for the Disney Channel.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Johan P, John King Tarpinian, iphinome, Hampus Eckerman, Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/16 O You Who Turn The Wheel And Look To Scrollward, Consider Pixel, Who Was Once Handsome And Tall As You

(1) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. My daughter went to the midnight Cursed Child book launch at her local store. She’d keep buying Potter novels if Rowling would keep writing them, but that is not in the works — “J.K. Rowling Says ‘Cursed Child’ Is the Last Harry Potter Story: ‘Harry Is Done Now’”.

The author, 51, spoke at the opening night of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play in London’s West End theatre district on Saturday, July 30, where she told fans that she’s finished with the series.

“[Harry] goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done,” Rowling told Reuters on Saturday night. “This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

(2) BEAM ME – OH, NEVER MIND. Steven Murphy of ScienceFiction.com canna stand the strain – of Star Trek’s inconsistent and underimaginative use of the transporter. He makes his case in “Star Trek and the Optimization of the Transporter”.

Does it bother anyone else that the characters of ‘Star Trek’ regularly overlook the obvious solution? They’re not stupid. I’d understand if they were stupid. They are among the smartest collection of people in fiction. They just have a huge blindspot: the power of teleportation.

In ‘Star Trek,’ transporters can dematerialize people or things in one location and rematerialize them elsewhere. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that the functionality of the technology maddening varies based on the requirements of the plot.

Murphy develops three main themes:

  • The Federation Should Weaponize Transporters
  • The Federation Should Use Transporters Defensively
  • Transporters Should Be Used As A Warp-Alternative

(3) POLITICAL SF/F. Ilya Somin recommends “7 Fantasy/Science Fiction Epics That Can Inform You about the Real-World-Political Scene” at Learn Liberty.

Battlestar Galactica

The original 1970s TV series was remade in the 2000s. Both versions focus on the survivors of twelve human colony worlds that have been devastated by an attack by the Cylons, and both feature many of the same characters. Yet the original series and the remake are otherwise fundamentally different.

The former reflects a conservative response to the Cold War: the humans fall victim to a Cylon surprise attack because they were influenced by gullible peaceniks; the survivors’ military leader, Commander Adama, is almost always far wiser than the feckless civilian politicians who question his judgment. Concerns about civil liberties and due process in wartime are raised, but usually dismissed as overblown.

By contrast, the new series reflects the left-wing reaction to the War on Terror: the Cylon attack is at least partly the result of “blowback” caused by the humans’ own wrongdoing. The series stresses the importance of democracy and civilian leadership, and condemns what it regards as dangerous demonization and mistreatment of the enemy—even one that commits genocide and mass murder.

Both the original series and the new one have many interesting political nuances, and both have blind spots characteristic of the ideologies they exemplify. The sharp contrast between the two makes them more interesting considered in combination than either might be alone. They effectively exemplify how widely divergent lessons can be drawn from the same basic story line.

(4) DEL TORO COLLECTION. The Los Angeles County Art Museum exhibit “Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters” opens August 1.

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Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters Guillermo del Toro (b. 1964) is one of the most inventive filmmakers of his generation. Beginning with Cronos (1993) and continuing through The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015), among many other film, television, and book projects, del Toro has reinvented the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Working with a team of craftsmen, artists, and actors—and referencing a wide range of cinematic, pop-culture, and art-historical sources—del Toro recreates the lucid dreams he experienced as a child in Guadalajara, Mexico. He now works internationally, with a cherished home base he calls “Bleak House” in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Taking inspiration from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination, the exhibition reveals his creative process through his collection of paintings, drawings, maquettes, artifacts, and concept film art. Rather than a traditional chronology or filmography, the exhibition is organized thematically, beginning with visions of death and the afterlife; continuing through explorations of magic, occultism, horror, and monsters; and concluding with representations of innocence and redemption.

(5) SOMETHING MORE TO VOTE ON. Still on that adrenaline high after voting for the Hugos? You can help James Davis Nicoll – he’s looking for readers’ opinions about the books he should review. He explains, “That specific set of reviews is of books I read as a teen, so between 1974 and 1981.” Register your choices in a “non-binding” poll” at More Words, Deeper Hole.

(6) AN IMPONDERABLES REVIEW. Dave Feldman enjoyed playing Letter Tycoon.

Once you get started, game play is remarkably fast and hassle-free. Letter Tycoon is a combination word game and stock market game. You form words using your own letters combined with three “community cards.” The longer the words you form, the more assets (in the form of cash and stocks) you earn. If you accumulate enough cash, you can buy patents in the letter(s) you have used to form your words. These patents function like houses and hotels in Monopoly; you get paid every time another player forms a word using “your” patented letters. As you’d expect, it costs more to buy a patent on the most frequently-used letters, but some more obscure letters possess special powers that can make them valuable.

(7) TOOLS THAT CHANGE THE TOOL USER. Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Track Changes, asserts “Technology changes how authors write, but the big impact isn’t on their style”.

“Our writing instruments are also working on our thoughts.” Nietzsche wrote, or more precisely typed, this sentence on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a wondrous strange contraption that looks a little like a koosh ball cast in brass and studded with typewriter keys. Depressing a key plunged a lever with the typeface downward onto the paper clutched in the underbelly.

It’s well-known that Nietzsche acquired the Writing Ball to compensate for his failing eyesight. Working by touch, he used it to compose terse, aphoristic phrasings exactly like that oft-quoted pronouncement. Our writing instruments, he suggested, are not just conveniences or contrivances for the expression of ideas; they actively shape the limits and expanse of what we have to say. Not only do we write differently with a fountain pen than with a crayon because they each feel different in our hands, we write (and think) different kinds of things.

But what can writing tools and writing machines really tell us about writing? Having just published my book “Track Changes” on the literary history of word processing, I found such questions were much on my mind. Every interviewer I spoke with wanted to know how computers had changed literary style. Sometimes they meant style for an individual author; sometimes they seemed to want me to pronounce upon the literary establishment (whatever that is) in its entirety.

(8) LOCUS POLL COMMENTS. At Locus Online you can read voters’ Comments from the 2016 Locus Poll and Survey. For example:

I actually read a couple of first novels I liked, which surprised me! I don’t read those very often these days, but these were strongly urged on me and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been reading e-books for about a year now and they’re starting to form a large chunk of my “book” buying in general, though I still buy more genre in print form than e-book. I’m buying a lot of the old classics in e-book (i.e., Ye Olde Deade Whyte Guys, like Twain, Shakespeare, Mary Shelley (;)) and some of the older sf/f/h titles as well. The “Great Distemper of 2015” left me with a dull ache behind my eyes and reminded me why I ducked out of the fannish aspects of SF 20 years ago or so. I fervently hope it goes away soon. I read more and liked more of what I read last year. There must be something wrong with me! (innocentlookicon) I’m trying very hard to work up my inner “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” attitude about the state of SF, but I can’t.

(9) FINAL CHAPTER. A Los Angeles Daily News story about several LA-area bookstores facing closure.

Adryan Russ slips behind the counter at Bookfellows/Mystery & Imagination in Glendale to say goodbye to co-owner Christine Bell, who recently announced that her long-standing used bookstore will be closing at the end of August.

With a hug, the longtime customer wishes her well.

“To see this store have to follow the trends of today’s world, where we won’t be holding books much longer, you can see the sadness in her eyes about it,” says Russ, a musical theater lyricist based in Glendale. “It’s like a whole era is fading.”

The shuttering of Bookfellows comes as economic pressures from an increasingly competitive online marketplace, rising rents and dwindling walk-in traffic make it hard for some Southern California independent used booksellers to keep their large storefronts.

(10) ONE NY BOOKSTORE IS STICKING AROUND. The New York Times found a bookstore with an edge on the competition — “Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books? First, the Quiz”.

As Jennifer Lobaugh arrived at the Strand Book Store to apply for a job this spring, she remembered feeling jittery. It wasn’t only because she badly wanted a job at the fabled bookstore in Greenwich Village, her first in New York City, but also because at the end of the application, there was a quiz — a book quiz.

She rode the elevator to the third floor, sat down at a long table and scanned the quiz: a list of titles and a list of authors. She matched “The Second Sex” with Simone de Beauvoir right away. But then she had doubts. “I thought I would have no trouble,” said Ms. Lobaugh, 27, who has an M.F.A. in creative writing and a background in French and Russian literature. “But I got nervous.”

The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field. It moves 2.5 million books a year and has around 200 employees. While its competitors have closed by the dozens, it has survived on castaways — from publishers, reviewers, the public and even other booksellers.

For nearly a century, the huge downtown bookstore has symbolized not only inexpensive books, but something just as valuable: full-time work for those whose arcane knowledge outweighs their practical skills.

Can you pass the Strand’s literary quiz? Match each book with its author. Test Your Book Smarts.

With a score of 33/50, I probably won’t be working at Strand until they start hiring folks whose specialty is asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

It was the first time humans had experience driving on another world, and by all accounts, the LRV was awesome.

The LRV was used mainly to extend the astronauts’ travel range up to a few miles from the landing site (for Apollo 15, the LRV traveled more than 17 miles in total). This allowed the science-focused missions of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 far more reach than hoofing it around the moon’s surface.

Jerry Seinfeld also had something to say about driving on the moon:

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 31, 1965 – J. K. Rowling

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born July 31, 1980 — Harry Potter

(14) GIANT ROBOTS. Kevin Melrose of Comic Book Resources thinks “Glorious ‘Transformers’ fan film is better than any of Michael Bay’s”.

Called “Generation 1 Hero,” it’s directed by Lior Molcho and stars members of Arizona Autobots, a group of Transformers cosplayers who create their own costumes. “Y’know, it was a lot of fun having them punch each other,” Molcho said in a behind-the-scenes video. “It’s a boy’s dream come true, y’know: giant robots punching each other! This is pretty awesome!”

 

(15) AN EDITOR’S ADVICE. Amanda S. Green’s post “It is a business”, quoted here the other day, attracted comment from the publisher of Castalia House, Vox Day in “Submissions and so forth”. His counsel begins —

  1. Most of the stuff that is submitted isn’t anywhere near ready. Seriously, we’re talking “WTF were you thinking” territory. Don’t submit just to submit, practice, then file it away if it’s not genuinely on par with what the publisher publishes and move on to the next work.
  2. You have VERY little time to impress the slush reader, who is wading through large quantities of writing that ranges from barely literate to mediocre. Make it count.
  3. Keep the cover letter short and to the point. No one is going to be impressed by how BADLY you want to be published or HOW MUCH you want to work with the publishing house. What you want has nothing to do with how good your book is.

(16) LARPOLOGY. The thirtieth installment of Marie Brennan’s Dice Tales column for Book View Café has the irresistible headline: “Every Title I Can Think of for This Post Sounds Like Spam”.

When you introduce a new character to an ongoing campaign, narrative integration is only one of the problems you face. The longer the game has been underway, the more you need to think about mechanical balance.

(17) LAST DAY OF VOTING. Peter J. Enyeart makes a fascinating assessment of Neal Stephenson while explaining how he ranked the nominees in the Best Novel category, but here’s who he thought should win —

  1. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie In the closing novel of the trilogy, Breq faces ever greater challenges as she finds herself a high-value target in the Radchaai civil war. I feel a little bad about picking this one for the top spot, since it’s a sequel to a book that won two years ago, but it was definitely my favorite. It’s the only nominee I had read before the nominations were announced, and the only nominee that I actually nominated. I read the whole thing in about 24 hours, the week it came out. It even makes me feel more charitable towards the second installment in the series, which I liked less, because it serves as a nice set up for this satisfying conclusion. Breq is one of my favorite characters in fiction. So cold, aloof, detached, and calculating, and yet so empathetic, observant, devoted, and inspiring. It’s a tall order for a writer to pull off that combination, but she did it. Breq provides a model for leadership that seems like something a person like me could aspire to, and I’m very appreciative. (I like the Presger Translators a lot, too.) Well done, Ann Leckie.

(18) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. Charon Dunn, on the other hand, put Stephenson’s novel first on her 2016 Hugo Ballot.

Seveneves

Earnestly focusing on books as they linearly progress from beginning to end is for noobs and editors and people like that. Sometimes you just want to dive into a ballpit of words and mosh around. Seveneves is one of those, hard science flavored, where humanity reaches the mostly dead state before seven intrepid spacewomen start cranking out babies, thus founding seven distinct races, each one bioengineered per their founding mother’s will. Setting the scene for future highjinks.

Many of the reviews I have read make a pointed effort at informing readers that the bioengineering in Seveneves is hogwash. A lot of my generation feels the same way about bioengineering that the Victorians did about sex, which makes it a fun taboo to read and write about. Sure it’s hogwash, so are Death Stars, who cares. The science in Seveneves follows this soothing cycle of looming disaster; implement solution; new looming disaster. I’m a fan of this method of plot organization.

(19) A NEW LEAF. And if you assumed that someone writing for a blog called Books & Tea would pick the book by the tea-loving Leckie, then Christina Vasilevski will surprise you with her choice, in “What I’m Voting for in the 2016 Hugo Awards”.

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin — As I mentioned when I read and reviewed this book last yearThe Fifth Season blew me away. I’m so glad this one ended up on the ballot. Jemisin’s writing is lyrical and her willingness to put her politics front and centre in her stories is great.

(20) FAN ARTISTS. Doctor Science posted an overview of the Fan Artist nominees. Earlier, the Good Doctor covered Pro Artist.

(21) HOW DO YOU GET THIS OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Forbes’ infographic contrasts Star Trek’s warp drive with what scientists are working on today.

If you want to experience the thrill of travelling faster than the speed of light, all you need to do is hitch a ride on the Starship Enterprise and engage the ‘warp drive’. You’ll be able to enjoy a cup of hot Earl Grey while visiting countless worlds through interstellar travel, all thanks to the power of warp drive! Easy peasy.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Leckie.]