Amazon Keeps Freeze on Sales of Castalia’s “Corrosion”

Castalia House’s goon book The Corroding Empire keeps trying to come back from the dead, like a Universal Pictures monster. Amazon took the book down on its release day, March 20, because its title, author and cover were deemed misleading – each of those attributes having been made intentionally similar to John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire.

Castalia House publisher Vox Day promptly announced that the book would be back on Amazon with a new cover, title (Corrosion) and author name (Harry Seldon).

Instead, Vox Day got Amazon to restore The Corroding Empire page under the original pseudonym, but it’s not clear whether sales ever resumed and they are currently disabled (see screencap).

Day has been updating his “Back With A Vengeance” post at Vox Popoli after each go-round with Amazon.

Mr. Amazon SJW just blocked it again. Unsigned, of course. SJWs always double down.

We’re writing to let you know that readers have reported a problem in your book. The error significantly impacts the readability of your book. We have temporarily removed it from sale so that more readers don’t experience the same problem in your book

Error Category: Wrong_Content; Comments: The content of your book is a different edition than what the detail page indicates. Because this could be a serious issue for many customers, we have had to temporarily block your book from sale. Please correct the image so that we can make it available for sale again.

UPDATE: Another phone call and we’re back up again.

UPDATE: And blocked again, albeit this time UNDER REVIEW, not memory-holed.

UPDATE: Finally got to speak to a supervisor. She’s not only escalated the matter to legal, but has assured me that the book will be unblocked, stay unblocked, and that the matter will be fully investigated. It’s not just the three blocks, the culprit(s) also put the book on the Excluded list for Amazon Associates, which prevents others from being paid when someone buys the book.

Vox Day has also raised the spectre of “tortious interference”:

UPDATE: Since some people seem to want to go on the warpath, let me be perfectly clear here: Amazon is not to blame. I even suspect that it is entirely possible that Tor Books is not to blame either, based on a) when the book was pulled and b) the fact that the book has shown as Live for nearly 24 hours but still does not have a page on any Amazon site. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is a rogue low-level SJW employee, possibly two, in a specific department.

I have already spoken to the manager of one department and they have begun to investigate why Corrosion is Live but not available. They’ve done everything we asked and we have no problem with the way we have been treated.

While he has been arguing for scenarios involving misbehaving Amazon employees or interference by someone at Tor Books, it may be that customers using Amazon’s feedback system are having an impact – they may not have confined themselves to complaining about the one-star reviews left on Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire on its first day in release.

Former Amazon employee Greg Hullender also offered some insights in a comment on Camestros Felapton’s blog:

Having worked at Amazon and dealt with “bad merchants” I can tell you that Amazon keeps a list of “problem children.” After his previous two stunts (the Rape book and the Goodreads hack), I suspect Castalia House is on such a list. That would mean that it would require far fewer customer complaints to get a human involved that would normally be the case.

In this particular case, it almost looks as though VD had hoped to bamboozle a few Scalzi readers into buying his book by mistake. Given the way purchasing on Amazon works, I can’t see how that would happen in real life, but the appearance is bad. The company is extremely allergic to anything that looks like an attempt (however maladroit) to defraud its customers. (In other words, if it looks like you’re trying to rip people off, the fact that you’re using a method that could never work won’t cut any ice.) That could also explain the speed of Amazon’s reaction. (I’ll add that I personally think VD only wanted attention–I doubt he thought this would look like fraud.)….

However, a source disputes my description of Vox Day in yesterday’s Scroll as being “on thin ice” with Amazon. At this time the rest of Castalia House’s books are available for sale.

Update: Two hours after this post was published, Amazon had the book available for sale. I was able to order the sample sent to my Kindle. However, the page still displays the “item under review” box. // Further update: Now the review box is gone, too.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/17 Do Androids Dream Of Crottled Greeps?

(1) UNENDING DANGER. Jared takes a look back at Ellison’s never-published “The Last Dangerous Visions” at Pornokitsch.

The Last Dangerous Visions might be the most famous science fiction book to never exist. ‘TLDV’ was the long-mooted and nearly-almost-published sequel to Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) – two vastly important and influential publication in modern speculative fiction.

This ambitious anthology, seemingly intended to be the final word in contemporary SF, was delayed for numerous reasons, documented elsewhere by both Ellison and many others. The anticipation, the delays, and the numerous authors it affected made for, to put it mildly, a great deal of drama….

(2) THE BIRDMAN OF AL-LAWZ. John Ringo’s “The Raptor God Incident” has its rough spots but the last four lines are sweet. (This is an excerpt from the middle).

One day as I was preparing to come off night guard duty I noticed some big birds flying by. It was dawn (another pretty time) and there were three of them in a group just beginning to catch the thermals. They ended up going by right at eye level and no more than fifty meters away. I identified them as goshawks, large black and white raptors. They were involved in their annual migration from Africa up to Northern Europe.

I sat and watched as more and more of the groups came by. They were one of the first signs of beauty I’d seen in a long time. And it was clear the migration was just starting.

I thought about that for a while that day and I thought about how much I hated to be woken up at O Dark Thirty to go freeze my ass off in the shack.

So I made a deal with the other guys. I’d take ALL the day duty. Every day. Seven days a week. IF I didn’t have to take a night watch.

‘The Deal was made in Sinai, on a hot and cloudless day…’ (Hmmm… That even scans…)

(3) CARD TRICK. Cat Rambo advises pros about “Working Comic Conventions” at the SFWA Blog. First on the list —

Make sure you have a business card. This should have your contact information, your social media presence (you’ll see why in the at the convention tips) and at least one way to find your books. You will also use it for networking; make sure there is enough blank space on it for you to jot a note down on it before handing it to someone. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on cards but I would also suggest not cheaping out. The lowest rate cards are often flimsy and can look unprofessional….

(4) CAMPBELL AWARD ANTHOLOGY. Jonathan Edelstein, in a comment here, let everyone know that this year’s Campbell anthology, “heroically thrown together at the last minute” by Jake Kerr, is now available. It has stories from over six dozen writers, including Edelstein. Get the free download here.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is presented annually at WorldCon to an outstanding author whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the previous two years. This anthology includes over 75 authors and nearly 400,000 words of fiction. A resource of amazing new writers for both Hugo Award voters and those interested in seeing the brightest new lights of fantasy and science fiction, Event Horizon is exclusively available via this page until July 15, 2017.

(5) CONS THAT WISH THEY WERE FOR-PROFIT. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie posted about two more cons with financial problems.

Effectively, organizer Ben Fritzsching told the event’s guests that there was no money to pay them at the event. Fritzsching then, at several guests’ request, gave them written IOU’s with the promise that the money would be paid by the end of 2016. Agent Nery Nolan Lemus posted a copy of one of the IOUs to the group Rate that Comic Con on Facebook…

As it’s now March of 2017, and we’re writing about this, you can imagine how well those IOUs held up.

No reasons were given for the event’s cancellation beyond “complications with the facility,” though we can speculate it’s likely for the normal reasons any con cancels — no one is buying. Frankly, we’ve heard reports of sub par experiences from their 2016 event, so there’s been a distinct lack of surprise. The event organizers did go on to say in the comments that they were unsure of their plans for the con in 2018 as well.

(6) RESISTANCE RADIO. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the resistors separated from the transistors. “Amazon launched a fake radio station to promote ‘The Man in the High Castle.’ Angry Trump supporters thought it was real.” The Washington Post has the story.

An ad campaign for a dystopian television show has some Trump supporters seeing red.

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” loosely based on a Philip K. Dick novel, is ramping up for its third season. The thriller, set in 1962, imagines a world in which the Axis powers won World War II and America is controlled by fascist leaders. The East Coast belongs to Nazi Germany; the West Coast is in the clutches of Imperial Japan.

At SXSW in Austin last week, as part of a marketing campaign for “The Man in the High Castle,” Amazon launched “Resistance Radio,” a fake Internet-based radio station broadcast by the fictional American “Resistance” from the show.

“Hijacking the airwaves, a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive,” the website said. Click through, and an interactive image of an antique, dual-knob radio appears while mod tunes drift through your computer’s speakers. In between songs, DJs on three different stations speak about how to fight the “Reich” in America.

Soon #ResistanceRadio, the campaign’s sponsored hashtag, spread like wildfire on Twitter. Some Trump supporters seemingly mistook it for an anti-Trump radio station and expressed their displeasure. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

….It’s important to note that well before Amazon launched this campaign, #ResistanceRadio had been used, however sparingly, on social media while promoting certain anti-Trump podcasts.

 

(7) FAREWELL. Gardner Dozois, in a public Facebook post, told about Saturday’s memorial service for his wife, Susan Casper.

We had people who came in from New York City, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, and England, and celebrities in attendance included Samuel Delany, Michael Swanwick, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, artists Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Ginjer Bucanan, John Douglas, Moshe Feder, Tom Purdom, and Greg Frost. After the speaking part of the function, everyone fell on a huge fish-and-coldcuts platter from Famous Deli, one of the last traditional Jewish Delis left in the city, and devoured nearly all of it.

This half-hour video slideshow of Casper played in the background. (YouTube has muted its soundtrack, which contains copyrighted music.)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein was released, starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster and Bela Lugosi as Ygor.
  • March 13, 1969 The Love Bug, a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born March 13, 1855 — Percival Lowell (astronomer)
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(10) TODAY’S COINCIDENCE

  • March 13, 1930 — The discovery of Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet, was officially announced on this date, which was Percival Lowell’s birthday. Lowell was founder of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930.

(11) STUFF THEY DON’T KNOW YOU ALREADY KNOW. ScreenRant offers “Lord Of The Rings: 15 Things You Never Knew About Galadriel”. Titles like this are one of the recurring motifs of the internet, so don’t take offense when you find how many of these things you already know. I can say there were a couple I’d never thought about before.

  1. SHE’S MARRIED

It speaks to Galadriel’s significance that her husband hardly figures into the picture. Still, it’s important to acknowledge his existence, even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the overall story of Lord of the Rings. Galadriel actually rules over the land of Lothlórien alongside Celeborn. While all elves are relatively old, Galadriel is older than Celeborn. Galadriel was born before the first age began, and Celeborn was born in Doriath before it fell, which suggests that he’s at least 500 years younger than his wife.

While this age difference probably isn’t all that significant in the extended lives that elves live, it’s still interesting to consider, especially alongside the fact that Galadriel is much more well-known than her husband. He may not be as wise as his wife, but Celeborn is still considered one of the wisest elves in Middle Earth, and stayed in Middle Earth for a time into the Fourth Age before joining his wife in the Undying Lands.

(12) 2017 PRIX BOB MORANE. Locus Online has reported the winners of the 2017 Prix Bob Morane, awarded by a jury of French-speaking writers, journalists, critics, and collections directors.

Romans francophones (French Novels)

Manhattan Marilyn, Philippe Laguerre (Éditions Critic)

Romans traduits (Translated Novels)

Les enfermés [Lock In], John Scalzi, translated by Mikael Cabon (L’Atalante)

Nouvelles (Short Stories)

Il sera une fois, Southeast Jones (Éditions Séma)

Coup de coeur (Favorites)

L’exégèse de Philip K. Dick (J’ai Lu)

Rae Armantrout

(13) WELL VERSED. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination presents Entanglements: Rae Armantrout & the Poetry of Physics on April 13 at 6 p.m. in Atkinson Hall Auditorium on the UC San Diego campus. It is free to the public.

One of the favorite subjects of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout (Professor Emerita, UCSD) is physics–from the big ideas of cosmology to the infinitesimally small wonders of the quantum world. To celebrate the publication of Entanglements, a chapbook selection of her science-minded poems, Brian Keating (Astrophysics, UCSD) and the Clarke Center are hosting an evening with Rae Armantrout, who will read selections and discuss the creative process behind her work. Keating, along with Brandon Som (Creative Writing, UCSD) and Amelia Glaser (Literature, UCSD), will join her in a conversation about how these poems mix the personal with the scientific and speculative, the process of interdisciplinary creativity, and what her poetic engagement with physics can teach those working in the physical sciences.

(14) SOLVING FOR X. Melissa Leon’s really thoughtful and well-written review of Logan appears in The Daily Beast.

Logan, Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final outing as the Wolverine, is really a profoundly hopeful film. It loves and deeply understands its characters and the fraught, familial relationships between them. Its action scenes—brutal, bloody, and thrillingly inventive in a way comic book beat-em-ups rarely are—are as character-driven and impactful as its story. (Like, really impactful: You feel each punch, stab and dismemberment. Bless that R-rating.) This is a Western that happens to star superheroes; a road movie grounded in quiet, tender moments. It’s an elegy, wholly unconcerned with franchise-building or connecting distant universes. And with the introduction of Laura, a young mutant with powers similar to Wolverine’s, it becomes a portrait of makeshift families, empathy, and finding normalcy, too. That’s what the best X-Men stories are usually about. Turns out no one knows this better than her.

(15) TANGLED TECH. At SWSW, Disney showed plans to add AI to animatronics.

It’s rare that the company delves too far into how the “magic” – as they call it – works. Their logic is a magic trick doesn’t get better if you know how it’s done.

On Saturday, Disney – quite uncharacteristically – gave us a bit of an insight into how they plan to use technology to bring their much-loved brand of storytelling to new forms, by using robotics and artificial intelligence.

Jon Snoddy, the company’s senior Vice President for research and development, explained how soon you’ll be able to interact with story-telling robots at Disney parks.

“I think AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning is going to be very important for what we do,” he told the BBC.

“Things like characters that can move around among our guests. They’re going to need to understand where they’re going, have goals, and they’re going to have to know how to navigate in a world with humans….

During a panel discussion, the company shared footage – which unfortunately we’re not able to republish here – of a robotic Pascal, the cute lizard from 2010 movie Tangled.

It’s a terrific recreation of the digital character, but the real challenge for Disney will be to avoid the so-called “uncanny valley” – the theory that if something is very lifelike, but not exactly right, it can be slightly creepy or disturbing.

“Obviously we’re not the business of scaring kids!” Mr Snoddy said….

(16) THE PEN FROM OUTER SPACE. The perfect placeholder while you’re waiting to win your Hugo — the Astrograph.

….As you first encounter it, the Astrograph is an elongated teardrop, with window-like depressions picked out in black lacquer at the narrow end. The wider end has three curved metal elements ending in sharp points, and there’s a miniature ladder going up one side of the barrel that ends in a tiny door.

The door is actually a hidden lever that, when pulled, deploys those curved elements, which are the landing gear – and suddenly the pen is a miniature spaceship.

The spaceship illusion is underscored by touches like a red “thruster” at the pen’s base. The landing gear has actual working shock-absorbing struts, and with the gear down, the bottom half of the pen acts as a pen-holder.  The pen itself is housed in the upper half of the Astrograph, which you release simply by unscrewing it (it’s available either as a fountain pen or rollerball pen, but both work the same way)….

The Astrograph, in keeping with its philosophy of taking a toy to its logical extreme, also comes with, naturally, a tiny astronaut figurine with a magnet in its chest that lets you pretend the little guy’s climbing up or down the ladder, the better to explore strange new worlds; it also comes with a landing pad base that doubles as the pen’s box. Did you really expect anything less? I didn’t think so.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Jonathan Edelstein, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/17 Anachronism of Green Gables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mario Day

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

  • International Bagpipe Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/16 I Am the Pixel in the Darkness

(1) READERCONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall’s “#Readercon: Low Point & Lessons” rounds out an ongoing conversation about a panel at last weekend’s con.

For those who weren’t at Readercon—or who didn’t attend the Beyond Strong Female Characters panel—Sabrina Vourvoulias’ post lays out the panel I was going to write about as my low point for the weekend. I expect a certain amount of fail at sci fi conventions, and as failures go this wasn’t one of the majors for me. (Ellen Kushner has already apologized to me on Twitter, and I will be talking to her shortly after this post goes live. I accept the apology and this post isn’t really about Ellen so much as the phenomenon she was a part of at this particular panel.)….

Ultimately, cons are supposed to be fun. They’re a chance to meet people who love the same kinds of things that you do, a chance to geek out with them about whatever it is that you love. They are also a major part of networking in the industry. You can share a table with an agent, an editor, and your potential audience. Cons are important for fans, for authors, for the publishing industry as a whole.

Dissuading new authors and fans from con spaces this way won’t keep them out of publishing. It might make it more difficult, it might make for fewer amazing stories. But mostly it will make for the end of con culture. Maybe that’s the point. If the panels aren’t welcoming, if some con spaces feel closed, then as sad as it might be to lose con culture, maybe that’s for the best because endlessly fighting for space at the table is energy that can be used to build a new table.

(2) POLLBUSTERS. FiveThirtyEight uses Ghostbusters as a springboard to examine the problems with online ratings systems.

But this “Ghostbusters” thing? It lays bare so, so much of what we’re investigating when it comes to the provenance and reliability of internet ratings.1 Namely, they’re inconsistent, easily manipulated and probably not worth half the stock we put in them.2 Here are a few stats I collected early Thursday for the new “Ghostbusters” movie:

The movie isn’t even out in theaters as I’m writing this, but over 12,000 people have made their judgment. Male reviewers outnumber female reviewers nearly 5 to 1 and rate “Ghostbusters” 4 points lower, on average.

(3) STUDYING THE HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS. This week on James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SF the panel looks at Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”. Jamie comments —

I’ve actually read this one before, in a collection of Asimov stories. I had forgotten the details but knew what the big reveal was. Maybe because I read and liked the Foundation stories I don’t find the prose in this story so foreign. And foreign is the word for all these stories. They were clearly written by people who lived in a different time and place. People just don’t speak like that anymore and writers don’t write dialogue like that anymore.

The format is one that I’ve seen in other stories, a journalist chasing a story as a means to give the scientists someone to explain to. It’s a good trick, and kept the story moving.

(4) MANY AUTHORS NOTIFIED. Bence Pintér sent the link to the final article in his investigation of a Hungarian sf magazine – “Piracy by Galaktika: They Are Doing It Since 2004”.

Galaktika placed emphasis on reprinting stories by the grand masters of sci-fi, fantasy, horror genres dating back to even the 19th century. This can be witnessed from the very beginning when in the first edition in November 2004 authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley and Poul Anderson were included. We were able to reach the agencies of Poul Anderson, Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke, who stated that Galaktika magazine had no right to publish their clients’ work (not only in this case, but in all concerned cases). The agency representing the Asimov estate has only recently taken control and therefore was unable to give a statement.

When we last contacted the agency representing the Anderson estate (and fifteen other affected authors), they claimed that negotiations were underway with the publisher – more on that at the end of the article. The agency representing the Clarke estate stated that after our first article on this issue all previous debt was settled by the publisher. ?Copyright protection is essential to the survival of these stories and our industry, and we are very reassured to know that there is such a strong SF community in Hungary which is holding those like Galaktika to account for their actions? – stated that representative of the company towards Mandiner. We also inquired towards the books of Arthur C. Clarke reprinted by Galaktika. It turned out that besides the reprinted short stories, there was also at least one novel that needed to be discussed between the parties; but we have no further information about this issue. (Sources tell us that this novel may be 2001: A Space Odyssey reprinted last year.)

Coming back to the grand masters: besides Clarke, Anderson, and Baxter, the agencies of Terry Pratchett, George R. R. Martin, Robert J. Sawyer, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Nancy Kress, Jack Williamson, Michael Flynn, Kim Stanley Robinson, Hal Clement, Leigh Brackett, Cordwainer Smith, Philip José Farmer, Jack McDevitt, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Jack Vance and Richard Matheson also gave no permission for the reprinting of the authors’ works; similarly, Larry Niven was also not informed that his works were being reprinted. Vance’s agency later informed us that the two parties came to an agreement. A regularly occurring author was Michael Swanwick, winner of the Nebula Award and nominee for many others; he too was oblivious to his works being reprinted; neither were the successors of Philip K. Dick or Tanith Lee informed. These authors alone had a work reprinted nearly every year, all of which were illegal. This however is only the tip of the iceberg….

(5) AMAZON BITES. Mary Rosenblum’s guest post at the SFWA Blog, “Amazon Bites Author”, argues that a client’s receipt of a warning letter that they were about to suspend his Amazon account and stop selling his books shows writers can innocently run afoul of the online bookseller’s anti-fraud algorithims.

Meanwhile, I’ve been changing my client advice for career authors regarding Amazon.com. I no longer suggest going the Select/KU route. Clearly, Amazon is casting a net for scammers there and if you use book discounters and other promotions well, you may find yourself in Brad’s shoes. You can make your ebook free in other ways. Use the book discounters and free downloads to reach a lot of new readers and stay off the KU system. If your book is good and readers like the freebie, they’ll pay for the next book and become loyal fans.

Here are my new ‘rules’.  It’s a depressingly long list, isn’t it?

  • Never offer any kind of thank you gift, incentive, or what have you for a review.
  • Never post a free book offer on your Facebook page to solicit reviews.
  • Use only the email list you’ve acquired from your website (and this is why that list is SO important) to send an offer of an epub or mobi or pdf copy of the new book to those people and ask them to review the book when it’s out.
  • Never ask for a positive review, only ask for an honest review.
  • Never let family members review your book.
  • Never use a paid review service.
  • Use only honest book discounters such as Fussy Librarian and BookBub.
  • Never swap reviews with other authors.

(6) HARDY OBIT. Robin Hardy, director of the horror film The Wicker Man (1973), died July 1 at the age of 86.

When Mr. Hardy, a television director, decided he wanted to make a horror film, he found an enthusiastic collaborator in Anthony Shaffer, who wrote the play “Sleuth” and the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock film “Frenzy.” Mr. Hardy and Shaffer, partners in a production company, were avid fans of the horror films made by Hammer Studios. Together they set about making a film that would take the Hammer approach in a new direction.

Shaffer, using the novel “Ritual” by David Pinner as a basis, came up with the story of a devout Christian policeman, Sergeant Neil Howie, who travels to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a girl. In Mr. Hardy’s hands, the island and its inhabitants — led by the priestlike Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee, took on a mystifying aura, with bizarre events unfolding….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 14, 1910 – William Hanna: The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Top Cat etc.

(8) ANIME. Petréa Mitchell runs down more than 20 stfnal anime premieres for Amazing Stories.

Gray-man HALLOW premiere – In Fairytale Britain, a villain called the Millennium Earl is creating demonic constructs and sending them out to take over the world or somesuch. Opposing him is a vaguely religious order armed with everything from magical powers to amped-up mundane weapons. At the center of it all is Allen Walker, a particularly talented exorcist, who is slowly being taken over by the personality of one of the Milliennium Earl’s former allies. There are people in the power structure moving against him, and something unfortunate is about to happen to his mentor.

While most of this episode is spent catching new viewers up, there’s still room for some supernatural monster-killing action. It does a decent job at both. All around, it’s a perfectly serviceable action-adventure.

The big caveat for a Western audience is that it takes the European setting and religious trappings and does very weird things with them. It operates at about the same level of fidelity in its depiction of Japanese culture as a typical Western cartoon.

(9) PUMPKIN IS THE NEW ORANGE. The Halloween Daily News urges one and all to sign a petition to make Ray Bradbury’s favorite day of the year a real holiday. (They don’t mention Ray, but we know it’s true.)

Have you ever wished that your favorite day of the year, Halloween was recognized as an actual federal Holiday like Christmas and Thanksgiving? Of course you are not alone, and one person is taking this request to the White House in the form of an online petition that needs at least 100,000 signatures by July 25 to be taken seriously. But we can do that, right?

(10) THE VOTE. Hugo ballot picks for Novella by Jonathan Edelstein.

I wasn’t able to put the best novella of 2015 on the top of my Hugo ballot, because that story, The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik, didn’t make the finals.  That said, I can’t complain too much about the choices I had: the novella can be an awkward length, but most of this year’s entries carried it off and some were very good indeed.

(11) TEMPERATURE RISING. Kate Paulk’s comments in “Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Short Story and Best Novelette” for once venture beyond indifference. There were some stories she even warmed up to.

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015) – Another cute piece, but with a liberal side of “hmm” that kept me thinking after I’d finished. This is one of my personal contenders for this category.

(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIEND. Teri Windling shares ancient knowledge in “Hedgies”.

“Aristotle says that hedgehogs can foretell a change of wind,” writes mythologist J.C. Cooper, “and accordingly shift the outlook of their earth-holes.”

Aristotle!

(13) SIDE OF HAM. Entertainment Weekly’s view is that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a movie about acting”.

For the moment, stuff the subtext: The Kobayashi Maru is a scene about the Enterprise crew – highly-skilled space-naval pioneer coworkers – putting on a show. They’re performing. And “performance” is both running plot point and underlying theme in Wrath of Khan. Khan fools Kirk with a performance, and Kirk fools Khan with three performances. In the second scene, Spock performs the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of…” etc. In the penultimate scene, Kirk quotes Dickens’ closing: “It is a far, far better…” etc.

(14) ABOUT FACE. Handimania supplies a recipe for the head in a jar prank.

The thing is to blend two pictures together in order to prepare flat image of a human head. Afterwards, the photo has to be laminated and placed in a jar filled with fluid to create the illusion of a decapitated head. This nasty prank was prepared by Instructables’ user, mikeasaurus, who advises to personalize the gag for the best effect.

(15) E.T. ON LINE 1. Listserve knows “10 Bizarre Ways Scientists Believe Aliens Will Contact Us”

  1. Flashing A Billion Stars

Astrophysicist Ragbir Bhathal works with SETI to scan the skies for possible communications from extraterrestrial intelligence. Unlike most SETI facilities, which look for radio signals, Bhathal’s facility looks for laser pulses at his lab. The pulses sweep a nearby volume of space—within about 100 light-years—to find laser bursts that come in regular patterns. Scientists are now capable of detecting signals as faint as a single photon of light every few fractions of a second.

Lasers can, in principle, help transmit messages over extraordinary distances. While scientists have monitored a large number of stars looking for alien laser signals—like the facilities at Harvard and Princeton that scanned more than 10,000 Sun-like stars for several years—no evidence for any alien communication has been found.

(16) RESPECT. In “Should Pokémon Go?”, Kim Stahl offers a defense of Pokémon Go at the Holocaust Museum.

Following the articles about the D.C. Holocaust museum’s reaction to Pokémon Go, it struck me how very differently game-theory people and other people react to what’s going on with this game. The spots in the museum have been targets in another game (Ingress) for a few years, apparently without incident. Hundreds of thousands of people play that game, and many have played it inside the museum. But Pokémon is a very different sort of game. It is much more popular, and appeals to younger people, and unlike a game that is essentially a game-ified version of Geocaching, Pokémon is lighthearted and people are excited about it because it is new….

But the important difference I’m seeing is that the challenge the museum is facing made me think “great! People are visiting a place with so much to teach them because of the game! Now, how should they take the next step to encourage appropriate behavior from those visitors?” In other words, “how could the museum gamify getting the behavior they want from visitors instead of the behavior they don’t?” Quiet, respectful behavior and attention to the exhibits presumably.

When I was in Milan, one of the official pamphlets from the Duomo had information for Ingress players about a mission there. One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, a historical wonder intended for silent, respectful contemplation of God, used a game to get more people to visit and to get them to see the best parts of the church. That surprised and impressed me, of all of the places I would expect to clamp down on frivolous things or modern things, instead they embraced the possibilities.

(17) GO FOR PARENTS. Matthew Johnson wrote “A Parents’ Guide to Pokémon Go” for MediaSmarts.

Over the last week our world has been invaded: cute cartoon creatures can now be found lurking in parks, restaurants, museums, and even people’s houses. If you haven’t seen them, it’s because they’re only visible on a smartphone screen, and only if you’re playing the new game “Pokémon Go”.

While most parents are probably at least a bit familiar with the thirty-year-old Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Go is something new: the first widely popular alternate reality game (ARG). These games use GPS and similar location-finding technologies to overlay a game onto the real world. As a result, both public spaces and news stories have filled up with people looking to “catch ‘em all.”

Although most people playing Pokémon Go are probably adults, Pokémon’s popularity among kids means that many of them will want to play it too. Here’s a quick rundown on what to consider if your kids ask if they can play: ….

(18) POKESONG. Then Matthew Johnson took a break and insta-filked a bit of Pokémon trivia.

Darren Garrison on July 14, 2016 at 5:50 am said: My son sez Mew is the rarest Pokémon.

Okay, somebody, quick–filk “Mew is the rarest Pokemon” to the tune of “One is the Loneliest Number” for Paul_A.

As you wish:

Mew, is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do
Mew is just the saddest one, he’s so lonely that they had to clone Mewtwo
It’s just no good anymore since Mew went away
I spent my time just catching Grimers yesterday
Pokémon Go is the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Because Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon
Mew is the loneliest Pokémon you’ll ever do

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/16 I See All Good Pixels Scroll Their Heads Each Day So Satisfied I’m On My Way

(1) WHAT’S A FEW MILLION BETWEEN GEEKS? Wizard World will be scaling back conventions after posting a $4.25M loss in 2015.

The comic convention franchise Wizard World is scaling back the number of conventions after filing a $4.25 million loss in 2015, according to ICv2. The company, which takes its name from the defunct magazine Wizard, held 25 events in 2015 for a combined revenue of $22.9m, which was less than 2014’s convention revenue of $23.1m despite only hosting 17 shows that year. Looking closer, Wizard World’s 2015 conventions earned on average $916,000 per show, as opposed to $1.36m in the year prior.

Additionally, Wizard World has sold all but 10% ownership of the fledging ConTV to Cinedigm. That venture was a $1.3m loss for WizardWorld in 2015.

WizardWorld has 19 conventions planned in 2016, with one being the new ‘con cruise’ venture.

(2) WISTFUL WATNEY. From The Martian Extended Edition, now on Digital HD, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.

Mark Watney marvels at Earth and contemplates on the reasons for his rescue from Hermes.

 

(3) LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER. Mark Gunnells wrote “A Love Letter to Joe R. Lansdale”.

Some of you may be saying, Who’s that?  And if you are, that makes me sad.  The man’s talents are so immense that he really should be a household name in my opinion.  His books never fail to impress and thrill me, and I’ll give a few reasons why I am such a fan.

One, simplicity.  The man’s language can be so lean and yet convey so much.  He doesn’t have to do a lot of literary acrobatics to get his point across, but can say so much with such economy of words.  It is something I aspire to.

Two, dialogue.  I’m a sticker for good dialogue, and Lansdale knows how to do it.  His characters talk in a way that is witty and fun but also believable and authentic.

Three, darkness of character.  But not just of the villains.  He isn’t afraid to infuse his protagonists with darkness too.  They aren’t all saintly and virtuous, but a mixture of good and bad, just like real people.

Four, diversity.  The man does westerns, mystery, horror, and a great deal of fiction that defies category.  I think that hurts him in some ways, since the industry (and many readers) like writers who are predictable, where they know what they’re getting going in.  That isn’t Lansdale, and I love him for it.  He is also equally adept at short stories, as well as novels and novellas.

(4) ROAD WARRIOR. “Letter From Terry Brooks: The Importance of Touring” at Suvudu.

…Chained to my computer and locked away for 8 to 10 months while writing, you tend to forget what it is you are writing for. You tend to forget how wonderful it feels to hear that your books mean so much to the readers. You forget that it gives you energy and inspiration for your work. But the book events remind you of all this, and they give you an unmistakable desire to go back and do more and to never, ever disappoint your readers by doing something that is less than your best work.

Love the families that come out. Sometimes four or five, all reading the books at once. Love the stories of how people came to read the books in the first place – frequently through another member of the family recommending them. Love the way the stories and characters have impacted people at times in their lives when things seemed a bit bleak. I am reminded of how we all escape into books to flee our own lives now and then, and when we do we inevitably return better able to get on with things. Love all the strange, wild tales of where people were and what they were doing when they read a particular book…..

(5) TWEETAGE OF THE LAMBS. Here’s a little-known fact about Amazon rankings.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 2006 — The animated feature film Cars, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, roars into theaters across the United States.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DUCK

  • Born June 9, 1934 — Donald Duck made his first screen appearance in “The Wise Little Hen.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS AND GIRLS

A time traveler, a pirate and a princess…

  • Born June 9, 1961 — Michael J. Fox
  • Born June 9, 1963  — Johnny Depp
  • Born June 9, 1981 — Natalie Portman

(9) WHITE HOUSE LOOT CRATE IN HEADLINES. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports “Obama gave Trudeau a signed copy of Star Wars script”.

According to ethics disclosures, Justin Trudeau was given a copy of “The Force Awakens” script – the seventh Star Wars movie, released last year – signed by writer/director J.J. Abrams. U.S. President Barack Obama gave Mr. Trudeau (a big fan of the sci-fi franchise) the gift, along with a sculpture, a photograph and toys for the children, during the state visit to Washington in March.

Mr. Trudeau and his family gave the Obamas a sculpture and indigenous clothing.

The personal touch of this particular gift is no doubt a sign of how close the two world leaders are. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama will see each other again at the end of the month, when the President comes to town for the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa on June 29. Mr. Obama is expected to address parliamentarians while he’s in town.

(10) BROOKS FANZINES. The University of Georgia (as reported last month) is displaying Ned Brooks’ fanzines in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries through July. Now there is also a companion online exhibit anchored by George Beahm’s tribute, “To Infinity and Beyond! The Fanzine Collection of Ned Brooks”.

(11) WILLIAMS SCORES AFI AWARD. Tonight John Williams picks up the 44th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. The ceremony will air on TNT on June 15.

John Williams’ storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest American films and television series of all time boasts over 150 credits across seven decades. Perhaps best known for his enduring collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, his scores are among the most iconic and recognizable in film history, from the edge-of-your-seat JAWS (1975) motif to the emotional swell of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) and the haunting elegies of SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993). Always epic in scale, his music has helped define over half a century of the motion picture medium. Three of Williams’ scores landed on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores — a list of the 25 greatest American film scores of all time — including the unforgettable STAR WARS (1977) soundtrack, at number one. With five Academy Award® wins and 49 nominations in total, Williams holds the record for the most Oscar® nominations of any living person.

(12) VAPORTECTURE. “Is a Comic-Con museum headed to Balboa Park?” asks the San Diego Union-Tribune. The answer is: not necessarily.

So far it’s undecided whether such an attraction would simply share space with the Hall of Champions or occupy nearly all of the 68,000-square-foot, memorabilia-filled venue next to the Starlight Bowl.

“I heard they might be interested in doing something, so I made contact and began a conversation, and it’s been going on for awhile,” said Hall of Champions board member Dan Shea. “We have a space that could be considered under-utilized for what we have. Comic-Con is an iconic community group, and we would love to see them stay here, so we thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a museum for them in our hometown. And that’s what we talk about when we get together now and then.”

But no deal has been reached, and it could be some time before a museum even materializes, Shea acknowledged.

“There’s no hurry to move it along,” he said.

Comic-Con International spokesman David Glanzer was equally vague about the prospects for a Balboa Park museum devoted to the popular arts icon, a San Diego presence since 1970. The four-day convention, which now draws more than 130,000 attendees, is contracted to stay in San Diego through 2018.

Asked about what the museum might showcase and how much space it might occupy, Glanzer responded, “We’re still in discussions. I’m sorry but we haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Shea said an announcement about the possibility of a museum was made, in part, to put to rest “silly things we were hearing about what people thought they knew about this.”

(13) SEVENEVES MOVIE MAYBE. “Skydance Reunites ‘Apollo 13’ Team For Neal Stephenson Sci-Fi Novel ‘Seveneves’”Deadline has the story.

EXCLUSIVE: Skydance has set the Apollo 13 team of writer Bill Broyles, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer for an adaptation of bestselling author Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Seveneves. Grazer and Howard’s Imagine Entertainment is producing the ambitious adaptation.

(14) KRAKEN, NOT STIRRED. Nerdist “Meet the GAME OF THRONES Brittle Star: Ophiohamus Georgemartini”.

The trend of naming new species after pop culture icons is on the rise, and we’re giving the latest addition to the list of nerdy namesakes our stamp of approval. A brittle star, found deep in the South Pacific, has been officially dubbed Ophiohamus georgemartini because of its likeness to the thorny crown found on the cover of book two in the Game of Thrones series, A Clash of Kings….

The George R.R. Martin-friendly specimen was found off the coast of New Caledonia, at a depth of 275 meters (902 ft), but you can find brittle stars in shallow waters as well, and even in rocky tide pools. “Brittle stars live everywhere,” explains the Echinoblog’s Dr. Christopher Mah. “Under rocks, in the mud, on corals, under corals … even on jellyfish. Many of them are tiny, tiny little critters that fit easily into cracks, crevices and nooks in rocks.”

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/16 Pixel Sally, Guess You Better Scroll That Pixel Down

(1) THE WAY TO LIVE IN FANDOM. In “A few post-Wiscon thoughts on being an ally” Sigrid Ellis covers several topics, and this segment speaks to fans far beyond the environs of WisCon.

Here’s the thing: if the fates are kind, all of us will one day be old in fandom. Two, three, four generations will pile in after us, building on what we have fostered. We, too, will be pushed to the margins and passed by.

Yet my heart and head are with the youth. With the future. I cannot bring myself to condemn change that spreads power among more people. I cannot argue against hearing more people tell their own stories. I cannot stand against representation, inclusion.

And yet, and yet, and yet …

What I want, what a crave, is for people to LISTEN to each other. To empathize. I want the young’ns to thank those who came before for their victories, however incremental. I want the founders and established folks to respect the anger and impatient demands for change. I want the next generation to not throw out everything just because it was done before. I want the previous generation to avoid “because we always do it this way” as a reason.

When I hear some Old Fart say something dismissive and intolerant, I wince. I want to prevent my respected elders from showing their ass in public, I want to cover for them, I want to protect them from being overheard.

When I hear some Young Turk calling to burn it all to the ground and start again, I wince. I want to run interference, I want to soften their demands, I want to compromise and meet them halfway.

(2) WHAT IT’S ABOUT. In a piece for Bloomberg, “’Star Wars’ Is Really About Feminism. And Jefferson. And Jesus”,  Cass Sunstein has excerpts from his book The World According to Star Wars.

….Like a great novel or poem, Star Wars doesn’t tell you what to think. You can understand it in different, even contradictory ways. Here are six of those ways.

Feminism

From the feminist point of view, is Star Wars awful and kind of embarrassing, or actually terrific and inspiring? No one can doubt that “The Force Awakens” strikes a strong blow for sex equality: Rey is the unambiguous hero (the new Luke!), and she gets to kick some Dark Side butt. Just look at the expression on her face when she has a go at Kylo Ren.

By contrast, the original trilogy and the prequels are easily taken as male fantasies about both men and women. The tough guys? The guys. When you feel the Force, you get stronger, and you get to choke people, and you can shoot or kill them, preferably with a lightsaber (which looks, well, more than a little phallic — the longer, the better).

But there’s another view. Leia is the leader of the rebellion. She’s a terrific fighter, and she knows what she’s doing. She’s brave, and she’s tough, and she’s good with a gun. By contrast, the men are a bit clueless. She does wear a skimpy costume, and she gets enslaved, kind of, by Jabba the Hutt. But isn’t everything redeemed, because she gets to strangle her captor with the very chain with which he bound her? Isn’t that the real redemption scene in the series?

(3) SISMAN OBIT. Publisher and novelist Robyn Sisman (1955-2016) died May 20 of cancer reports The Bookseller.

She began her career in publishing at Oxford University Press where she worked her way up to become an editor.

She later became an editorial director at J M Dent and created two publishing imprints – Everyman Fiction, a list of contemporary fiction; and a classic crime line, which included writers such as Nicholas Blake (Cecil Day-Lewis), Margery Allingham, and Kingsley Amis.

Malcolm Edwards believes she commissioned the first Interzone anthology at Dent.

Sisman then joined Hutchinson, part of the Random House group, via a stint at the newly established UK arm of Simon & Schuster.

She oversaw publication of Robert Harris’ wartime novel Fatherland, but also such books as Kim Newman’s The Night Mayor and Brian Stableford’s Empire of Fear brought to her attention by an sf advisor.

Sisman’s career as a writer began with her debut novel, Special Relationship, published in 1995 by Heinemann. She wrote five other romantic comedies, Just Friends (Penguin), Perfect Strangers (Penguin), Weekend in Paris (Penguin), A Hollywood Ending (Orion) and The Perfect Couple? (Orion).

She was married to author Adam Sisman.

(4) TOP DRONE. I don’t know what Luke will go shooting womp-rats with now – “The U.S. Air Force May Have Just Built Its Last Fighter Jet” reports The Daily Beast.

In the direst scenario, Air Force fighters simply won’t survive over enemy territory long enough to make any difference during a major war. In that case, the penetrating counterair system, or PCA, might not be a fighter jet as we currently understand it.

Instead, it could be a radar-evading drone whose main job is to slip undetected into enemy air space and use sophisticated sensors to detect enemy planes—and then pass that targeting data via satellite back to other U.S. forces. “A node in the network,” is how the strategy document describes the penetrating system’s main job.

The Air Force could start work on the penetrating counterair system in 2017, according to the new air-superiority plan. The document proposes that this possible stealth drone could team up with an “arsenal plane”—an old bomber or transport plane modified to carry potentially hundreds of long-range missiles

(5) AERIAL SNACKAGE. Richard Foss was up early to guest on a TV show called Food: Fact or Fiction and wrote a great post about his experiences.

One segment was about the history of food aboard commercial aircraft, the other about food in space, and each had their humorous moments. As part of one I had to eat some airline peanuts, and unfortunately they had brought the sweet kind that I detest. I managed to fake enjoyment when the camera was on, but must have made an interesting face as soon as it stopped, because the cameraman asked if I was choking. When I told him the situation, he complimented me on my acting, because he had thought I loved peanuts as long as the camera was on. The annoying part? They had to shoot the scene three times, so I ate a whole bag of the nasty things.

(6) UP THE AMAZON. John Scalzi delivered “A Tweet Spree on Amazon Authors and Envy” — 17 tweets and a kitten picture. Here’s number 6.

(7) AUGUST BRADBURY SHINDIG. Steven Paul Leiva signal boosted a call for submissions for this summer’s Ray Bradbury Read in LA.

On August 22, 2016, in celebration of the ninety-sixth anniversary of the birth of American and Angeleno literary great Ray Bradbury, the Ray Bradbury Read will take place in downtown Los Angeles from twelve noon to three p.m.

The Ray Bradbury Read will feature three hours of short readings from the works of Ray Bradbury; from his short stories, novels, poems, and essays…

The readers of Bradbury’s work will be members of the public selected by the process described below. There will also be guest celebrity readers….

To be considered as a reader you must submit a proposal for a reading of a five-minute-or-under excerpt from one of Bradbury’s many works. The excerpt can come from any of Ray’s published prose and verse writings and should have a central theme, coherence, and completeness about it. More than one excerpt or poem can be read, as long as their reading time does not exceed five minutes. Excerpts from plays and screenplays will not be accepted.

Ray Bradbury Read 8 22

(8) WALK THROUGH MGM. Marc Scott Zicree, Mr. Sci-Fi, visits the former MGM, where Twilight Zone was shot.

(9) DO ANYTHING ELSE IF YOU CAN. William F. Nolan wrote on Facebook:

A major misconception: that all famous, successful writers find it easy to bring in vast amounts of money and have always enjoyed big bucks, right from the start of their fabled careers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Stephen King had his phone cut off for non-payment and had to use a gas station phone to receive calls while sweating for low pay in an industrial laundry. Ray Bradbury lived on tomato soup for years as his stories were rejected. Charles Beaumont had to hock his typewriter for food. Richard Matheson nearly starved trying to live on random, penny-a-word sales. Just a few examples from many. It takes talent, hard work and a LOT of years to “make it big” as a writer. And most writers never do. A tough game, people. Very, very tough indeed. Write if you must — but ONLY if you must.

(10) NOT A STRANGER. ScienceFiction.com shares “Strange Opinion: Bob Gale Of ‘Back To The Future’ Is Not Happy About ‘Doctor Strange’”.

In a recent interview with MoviePilot, Bob Gale let his opinion be known about Marvel’s upcoming ‘Doctor Strange’ movie, a film that he is not looking forward to. While you might think “Who the hell is Bob Gale?” and “Why does his opinion matter on this?” let me tell you, I had similar thoughts. I knew he was a writer/producer on the ‘Back to the Future‘ movies back in the 80?s (and has done little else since, except for ‘Back to the Future’ video games and promos, and the ride at Universal Studios), and I thought it was very strange that years later the man would pop up again with comments on a Marvel movie. However, Bob Gale having an opinion on the matter is not as strange as I originally thought, as it turns out that back in the 80s (at the height of his relevancy) the man wrote a screenplay for ‘Doctor Strange,’ which unfortunately never got made. Apparently Bob Gale is a huge ‘Doctor Strange’ fan and an expert on the character, which is why he tried to get his movie made, and also why he feels so strongly about Marvel’s upcoming film featuring the character.

Of course I’d listen to Bob Gale’s opinion. He majored in film at USC. More important, that’s how he happened to take me (a fellow USC student) to the first LASFS event I ever attended, the club’s 1970 anniversary dinner, where Harlan Ellison read aloud “Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.” He can say anything he likes about Doctor Strange as far as I’m concerned. 😉

(11) FANTASY TOURISM. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has “Rough Guides to Getting Around Single-Climate Planets”.

Ursa Beta Minor (The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams) Introduction: The Pleasure Planet Ursa Beta Minor was designed, manufactured, and terraformed to be the ultimate vacation destination. The planet is comprised completely of warm oceans and thin strips of beach front. It is always Saturday afternoon, and the bars are always open. In fact, as you read this, you’re wondering why anyone would travel to any other single-climate planet, and frankly we have to agree with you.

Where to Go: Aside from the beaches and the bars, there is only one other destination: Light City, the capital city. While in Light City, visit the headquarters of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which will be very disappointing, but afterwards you can stroll down Life Boulevard and walk past the shops that literally no one is wealthy enough to afford.

Getting There and Getting Around: You’ll need a ship equipped with some sort of Infinite Improbability Drive, or at least a Bistromatic Drive. Once in orbit, you can only arrive by air, as the owners really want you to see Light City from up there, or else the whole trip is a waste.

(12) APPERTAIN YOURSELF A LIBATION. Stoic Cynic in a comment:

Apropos of nothing in this thread (yet), and with apologies to Johnny Mandel, Mike Altman, the cast of MASH, and various posters toasting world peace:

Through early morning fog I see
Another troll post on the screen
Their words that are meant to rile me
I realize and I can see

That scrolling past is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

Games of trolls are a loss to play
Not gonna feed it today
That losing card I’ll some day lay
But right now though I have to say

That scrolling past is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

Their words are time we’ll not see again
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But engage and get all drawn in
The loss grows stronger, watch it grin

Scrolling past is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

Sea Lions once demanded me
To answer questions they thought key
Is it to be, or not to be?
And I replied, oh why ask me?

Scrolling past is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

And you can do the same thing
If you please

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Stoic Cynic, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/16 Scroll Sung Blue, Everybody Knows One

(1) D&D. Josh Kramer at the Washington Post created “An illustrated guide to why grown-ups are playing Dungeons & Dragons again”.

With a jolt of popularity from its latest edition and a larger pop cultural footprint, Dungeons & Dragons might be making a significant comeback. (A handbook for the game topped Amazon’s best-sellers list for several days in 2014.) The largest group of players are millennials, and more of the new devotees are female than you might have thought, too. As a freelance cartoonist, journalist and a game-player in D.C., I wanted to explore why D&D isn’t just a throwback.

There are 16 frames – this is the second.

d and d

(2) WHAT WRITERS GET PAID. Fynbospress at Mad Genius Club sounds the alert – “New Author Earnings Report Out!”

This report is in far greater depth – not only did they crawl the top 100 in subgenre, but print, audio, and also-boughts as well. It’s tracking over 1 million titles, to shine a light into the previously dark unknown of who and what isn’t on a bestseller list but is still selling, and how, and where. And the results – are impressive!

Where does the information in the “May 2016 Author Earnings Report” come from?

Our methodology employs a software spider that crawls across Amazon’s bestseller lists. The 200,000+ titles on those lists make up roughly 60% of Amazon’s daily sales. This leaves an appreciable number of titles and sales unaccounted for. There’s more elephant here to uncover! We’ve long heard this might be the case, as independent authors familiar with our data have claimed to be making a livable wage without a single one of their books appearing on any Amazon bestseller list. These are the truly invisible among the already difficult-to-discern. We wanted to see if they could be found.

So for this report, we went deeper. Instead of just looking at Amazon’s bestseller lists, we had our spider follow links to also-bought recommendations and also through each authors’ full catalog. This resulted in a million-title dataset, our most comprehensive and definitive look yet at author earnings. We were able to tally up precisely how many indie authors, Big Five authors, small/medium press authors, and Amazon-imprint authors are currently making enough from Amazon.com sales to land in a number of “tax brackets”.

The report has lots of graphs and interpretive text, and ends with this comment:

When we lowered the author earnings bar to $50,000 a year, we found 142 invisible authors that were earning that much or more on Amazon.com, without any of their titles appearing on any category best-seller lists. 105 of those 142 were self-published indies.

We live in exciting times. Today it’s possible to be a full-time professional author, quietly earning $50,000+ a year — even six figures a year — without ever sending a query letter to anyone. On Amazon alone, the data shows over a thousand indie authors earning a full-time living right now with their self-published titles.

The only gatekeepers that matter now are readers.

(3) BUT THE REAL MONEY’S IN THE FUNNIES. “Comic books buck trend as print and digital sales flourish” reports CNBC.

Digital disruption has upended virtually every corner of publishing, but in the world of comic books, something curious is happening: Print sales are thriving alongside the rise of their digital counterparts.

Print comic book revenues have been on the rise in recent years, even as digital comics’ sales boom. Print receipts have held up at a time when publishers have introduced all-you-can-download subscriptions that offer thousands of comics for a flat monthly or annual fee.

In 2014, digital comics revenues excluding unlimited subscriptions reached $100 million, according to ICv2, an online trade magazine that tracks comic sales and other trends. That was up from just $1 million seven years ago, when ICv2 started collecting data.

(4) RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY. While members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association have already received a copy, the public can buy from Amazon the 2016 Rhysling Poetry Anthology with the works nominated for this year’s award.

The anthology allows the members to easily review and consider all nominated works without the necessity of obtaining the diverse number of publications in which the nominated works first appeared and serves as a showcase of the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry of 2015. The Rhysling Anthology is available to anyone with an interest in this unique compilation of verse from some of the finest poets in the field of science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry.

(5) CLARION FUNDRAISER. Clarion UCSD’S Seventh Annual Write-a-Thon is looking for participants.

What is a write-a-thon, anyway? Think charity walk-a-thon. In a walk-a-thon, volunteers walk as far as they can in return for pledges from sponsors who make donations, usually based on the number of miles the volunteer walks. Our Write-a-Thon works like that too, but instead of walking, our volunteers write with a goal in mind. Their sponsors make donations to Clarion sometimes based on number of words written, sometimes based on other goals, or just to show support for the writer and Clarion.

And there are incentives.

As always, we have prizes for our top Write-a-Thon earners. In addition, this year we have surprises as well as prizes!

  • The top fundraiser will receive a commemorative 2016 Clarion Write-a-Thon trophy celebrating their success.
  • Our top five fundraisers will each receive a critique from a well-known Clarion instructor or alumnus. We’ve lined up Terry Bisson, David Anthony Durham, Kenneth Schneyer, Judith Tarr, and Mary Turzillo to have a look at your golden prose. A roll of the dice decides who is paired with whom. (The authors have three months to complete their critiques, and the short story or chapters submitted must be 7,500 words or less.)
  • Our top ten fundraisers will each receive a $25 gift certificate of their choice from a selection of bookstores and stationers.
  • A few small but special surprises will be distributed randomly among everyone who raises $50 or more. Lucky winners will be decided by Write-a-Thon minions drawing names from Clara the Write-a-Thon Cat’s hat. These are such a surprise that even we don’t know what they are yet. We do know that certain of our minions will be visiting places like Paris and Mongolia this summer. Anything at all might turn up in their luggage. In addition, who knows what mystery items unnamed Clarionites might donate to the loot!

(6) SECOND FIFTH. CheatSheet refuses to allow anyone to remain ignorant — “’Voltron’: 5 Things to Know About the Netflix Rebook”

For those who don’t know, the series was a top-rated syndicated children’s show during its original two-season run. Despite its initial success, previous attempts at bringing Voltron back haven’t worked out, and the show hasn’t returned to air in three decades. That’s all about to change now, thanks to Netflix. Here’s what we know about the company’s planned upcoming revival so far….

Here’s a trailer.

ROAR, created by the Voltron production team, is a special look inside Season 1 of the Netflix original series DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender, which reimagines one of the most popular fan-favorite shows of all time in an all-new comedic action-packed show from executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos (The Legend of Korra, Avatar: The Last Airbender) and co-executive producer Lauren Montgomery (The Legend of Korra).

 

(7) BRADBURY. The New Yorker published Ray Bradbury’s reminiscence “Take Me Home” the day before he died in 2012.

When I was seven or eight years old, I began to read the science-fiction magazines that were brought by guests into my grandparents’ boarding house, in Waukegan, Illinois. Those were the years when Hugo Gernsback was publishing Amazing Stories, with vivid, appallingly imaginative cover paintings that fed my hungry imagination. Soon after, the creative beast in me grew when Buck Rogers appeared, in 1928, and I think I went a trifle mad that autumn. It’s the only way to describe the intensity with which I devoured the stories. You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.

When I look back now, I realize what a trial I must have been to my friends and relatives. It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon.

(8) MORE BANG FOR THE BILLION. The news is filled with speculation about the Rogue One reshoots – which may involve literal shooting judging by the latest hire.

Veteran stunt coordinator and second unit director Simon Crane has been tapped to assist with the lengthy reshoots for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Rogue One, being directed by Gareth Edwards, will undergo significant additional filming this summer, it was revealed earlier this week. Disney and Lucasfilm are hoping to accomplish several goals with the reshoots, including working on the tone of what has been described by sources as a “war movie.” The lightening of the feel of the film is meant to broaden its appeal.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/2/16 Scroll Songs of an Old Pixel

(1) WHO NEXT. From The Guardian, “Doctor Who showrunner says there was going to be a black Doctor”.

The starring role in BBC1’s Doctor Who was offered to a black actor but it “didn’t work out” according to the series showrunner, Steven Moffat.

Moffat said it would be “amazing” to have two non-white leads after Pearl Mackie, whose father is from the West Indies, was cast as the Doctor’s companion earlier this year.

He said the producers took a conscious decision to cast a non-white actor as the companion “because we need to do better on that. We just have to”.

Moffat said the show had tried to go one further by casting the first non-white Doctor, but the choice later fell through….

Moffat said Doctor Who had “no excuse” not to feature a diverse cast of black, Asian and minority ethnic actors. “Sometimes the nature of a particular show – historical dramas, for instance – makes diversity more of a challenge, but Doctor Who has absolutely nowhere to hide on this,” he said.

“Young people watching have to know that they have a place in the future. That really matters. You have to care profoundly what children’s shows in particular say about where you’re going to be.

“And we’ve kind of got to tell a lie: we’ll go back into history and there will be black people where, historically, there wouldn’t have been, and we won’t dwell on that. We’ll say, ‘To hell with it, this is the imaginary, better version of the world. By believing in it, we’ll summon it forth.’

“And, outside of the fiction, it’s about anyone feeling that they can be involved in this industry as an actor, a director, a writer … It’s hugely important, and it’s not good when we fail on that. We must do better.”

(2) ‘MASS EFFECT. Mark-kitteh is excited that “Quatermass will return to television in a new series on BBC America”.

Quatermass is returning to television – over a decade since the character last visited the small-screen.

Created by legendary writer Nigel Kneale, Professor Bernard Quatermass is a genius scientist who battles alien forces.

First appearing in the BBC’s 1953 serial The Quatermass Experiment, the character has gone on to feature in numerous TV and film projects.

Now, BBC America is revisiting the character for a new series written by The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson, reports Variety.

(3) TEA AND JOCULARITY. Rachel Swirsky did an interview with Ann Leckie, or rather a “Silly Interview with Anncillary Leckie, Yes I said That, I’ll Be Here All Night”. Includes photos of Leckie’s bead jewelry.

RS: I’ve been reading your Raadchai stories for eleven years now (Yeah, eleven years. Let that sink in.) and I know the gloves and tea were in them by the time I started reading. Were they part of the initial germ of the Raadch, or if not, how did they evolve?

They weren’t part of the initial germ, but they got into the mix pretty soon after that. And I’m not sure where they came from or why they stuck–it just kind of worked for me somehow.

Which is how a lot of things are when I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll see someone say, like, “Oh, and this detail here, this is obviously Leckie doing this profound intentional thematic thing” and I’m like, no, actually, it was shiny, or else it made the story work the way I wanted it to, but I am  not going to speak up and spoil the impression that I was actually doing this very sophisticated thing!

(4) SILLY SYMPHONIES. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra features LACO @ the Movies, an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies on Saturday, June 4 @ 7 pm The Orpheum Theatre.

Experience movie magic! Conducted by six-time Emmy® Award-winning conductor and composer Mark Watters, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra performs the score live for an evening of Disney Silly Symphonies. These classic shorts, Walt Disney’s earliest experiments in animation, set timeless fables and fantastical scenes against a backdrop of lively classical music. With LACO providing the accompaniment live in the theatre, it’s an evening that’s sure to exhilarate your senses!

There’s no better setting for this night of classic cartoons than The Orpheum Theatre, one of LA’s most opulent and lovingly restored movie palaces in the historic downtown Broadway District. Bring the whole family and enjoy the show.

projecting on the silver screen a curated selection of landmark animated shorts including the first commercial short produced in Technicolor and five Academy Award winners!

  • The Skeleton Dance (1929)
  • Flowers and Trees (1932)
  • Three Little Pigs (1933)
  • The Old Mill (1937)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1939)
  • The Country Cousin (1936)
  • Music Land (1935)

(5) A SPAGHETTI EASTERN. Aaron Pound reports on Balticon 50 in The Tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Shoe-Cop.

The Good: There was a lot that went right at Balticon 50. This was a unique event, as Balticon invited all of its previous guests of honor back to celebrate the fiftieth time this convention had been held. As a result, the lineup of guests was quite impressive for a relatively small regional convention, and a similar event is probably not going to happen outside of a Worldcon for at least a few years….

The Bad: Balticon 50 had a lot of issues. Some were beyond the control of the convention staff. The following problems, however, are pretty much squarely on them.

One glaring problem was that programming was a mess, and apparently so from the beginning of the convention. Balticon provided both a large convention book containing a schedule and a pocket guide that also had a schedule. The first problem was that these schedules were incompatible with one another, each listing events at different times – they diverged by a half an hour, which unsurprisingly served to make it difficult to figure out when an event was supposed to take place. The second problem was that many program participants had schedules that were, as Mur Lafferty described it, “temporally impossible”, with many participants double-booked for two events at one time, or booked with back-to-back events separated by several hotel floors…..

And the Shoe-Cop story? I musn’t lift all of Aaron’s material. Go read the post.

(6) LAW WEST OF THE AMAZON. “Amazon sues sellers for buying fake reviews”: TechCrunch has the story.

As part of its effort to combat fake reviews on its platform, Amazon sued three of its sellers today for using sock puppet accounts to post fake reviews about their products. Amazon has been aggressively pursuing reviewers it does not consider genuine over the last year, often using lawsuits to discourage the buying and selling of reviews, but this is the first time it has sued the sellers themselves.

Today’s suits are against sellers who Amazon claims used fake accounts to leave positive reviews on their own products. The fake reviews spanned from 30 to 45 percent of the sellers’ total reviews. The defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania, and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

(7) BYRON PREISS BACK IN THE NEWS. The late publisher’s clues have yet to be fully deciphered, as Vice explains in “The 35-Year Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author’s Hidden Treasure”.

There is a treasure buried somewhere in Milwaukee. Not just in Milwaukee, but in nine other North American locations, including (possibly) New York, San Francisco, and Montreal. And it’s not so much “treasure” as hunks of ceramic encased in Plexiglas. But one man’s trash is another man’s marketing strategy.

The treasures were hidden in 1981 by publisher Byron Preiss, as part of his plan to promote his new book, The Secret. Preiss’s fantasy paperback (which predated the identically titled self-help book by a quarter of a century) included a series of puzzles in the form of cryptic verses with matching images. If solved, they’d lead readers to a real-life ceramic bin, or “casque,” containing a key to a safe-deposit box, which held a gem worth roughly $1,000….

The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.

To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.

Preiss died in a 2005 car crash at age 52, and never disclosed the locations of the remaining casques. His publishing house went bankrupt and was acquired by a rival press. Many people viewed the sale as the last chance to redeem the gems, suggesting now, there may only be empty bins.

But 35 years later, people are still searching….

As for the gems, which were believed to be confiscated in bankruptcy proceeding after Preiss’s death, Preiss’s widow Sandi Mendelson told VICE they’re safely in her possession and will be available to the first people to recover the remaining casques.

“If somebody would find something, yes,” said Mendelson. “I haven’t done anything with them, so they’re still around.”

(8) FAN WRITER. Kate Paulk resumes her study – “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fan Writer”.  She frankly concludes, “At least one of the nominees probably should be there…”

(9) HEMSTREET’S WAVE. Ray McKenzie reviews The God Wave at Fantasy Literature.

Like The Martian before it, it is the science in The God Wave that makes for such an engrossing and convincing tale. The story feels utterly believable and meticulously researched, whilst not being overbearing; the novel will please hard- and soft-sci-fi fans alike. Hemstreet uses plenty of familiar tropes throughout, and you’ll recognise scenes reminiscent of Alien and Star Trek.

(10) VICTORIAN GAZING DRAGON. Hampus Eckerman said, “Seeing the nice posable dragon in the last pixel scroll reminded me of this dragon illusion.”

Hollow Face Illusion Dragon

Ever seen those illusions where there is a face that seems to turn toward you? I’ve seen it in theme parks and museums like the Exploratorium, and the Disneyland Haunted House thing. But, now you can make your own. All you need is a printer and some scissors!

 

(11) SEEING REALITY. Kameron Hurley asks “Is Living Worth It?”.

Being that close to death all the time changes the way you think about life. It’s why I feel such an affinity for other people who’ve been through it, or who are going through it. My spouse is a cancer survivor. He had just finished the last of his radiation a few months before we met. We understood life in a way that only people who’ve stared at death really do.  You appreciate the little things a lot more. You constantly feel like you’re running on borrowed time.

Most of all, you get how precious life is, and you do your damnedest to hold onto it.

In reading this post from Steven Spohn over at Wendig’s site, I was reminded of this again. I may have all the appearances of being able-bodied, but when people talk about tossing out people for being defective, I can tell you that somewhere on there, no matter how far down, I am on that list. I know that because before I got sick, I put people like me on that list. I believed in “survival of the fittest.” What I didn’t realize is that “fittest” is a lie. The “fittest” don’t survive. There are some truly ridiculous animals out there (pandas??? Narwhales??). Those who survive are the most adapted to their particular niche. That is all. They are not stronger or smarter or cooler or better built or more logical.

(12) THE DARK SIDE. Smash Dragons  interviews horror writer Hank Schwaeble.

What is it about horror and dark fiction that appeals to you the most? 

The peek behind the curtain.  Not necessarily a peek at something real, but a peek at the sort of things that we might wonder about that we don’t understand.  Few of us believe there really are goblins in the shadows, but what if there were?   That’s the nature of shadows—you don’t really know what’s in there.  What we do know, however, is that there is a dark side to life, to human nature.  Horrors and atrocities are real, so exploring them in fictional ways allows us to deal with them intellectually and philosophically.  I don’t believe it’s just morbid curiosity, either.  Our brains are wired to sense things about the world, about our environment.  We are driven to explore, to discover, to learn.  We enjoy so many creature comforts, so many sources of entertainment, so many colors and sights and recreations, I think many of us are drawn to seek out the opposite as a way of reminding ourselves of how good things can be.  It’s like listening to the blues.  People don’t play Muddy Waters to be depressed, they listen to him to be reminded of struggles, of adversity, of our common humanity.  People like me, I believe, like dark fiction because a part of ourselves like to swim in deep waters, to be reminded that we can be afraid, intrigued, mystified.  When we lift ourselves from the pages, the world seems a much brighter place.

(13) SPEND MORE MONEY. Disney and Lucasfilm are getting their prop makers into the retail business.

Propshop, in collaboration with Lucasfilm, is now making official prop replicas of its work from The Force Awakens available to collectors in a new line called Star Wars Collectibles: Ultimate Studio Edition. Wave one is a treasure trove of memorable gear from the film: FN-2187 (i.e., Finn) Stormtrooper Helmet (with blood streaks!), Kylo Ren Helmet, Poe Dameron X-wing Helmet, Darth Vader Helmet (Melted), Rey Staff, Chewbacca Bowcaster, Kylo Ren Lightsaber Hilt, and Rey Lightsaber Hilt. Propshop is making them the same exact way it made the original props: 3D prints of the final output made for the film, all hand-painted by the original prop makers.

For example, the melted Darth Vader helmet (a limited edition of 500) goes for $3,750.

(14) IS LONGER BETTER? There will be an R-rated extended edition of Batman v. Superman available for digital purchase on June 28 and on disc July 19 says CinemaBlend.

Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was especially intense for a PG-13 movie, the “Ultimate Edition” is including extended or brand new action scenes that are more comfortable nestled in rated-R territory. So if you liked the original version’s fights, get ready for even more bombastic throw-downs. Along with these sequences, this cut is also including 30 minutes worth of scenes cut from the theatrical release, taking the runtime to over three hours. This includes one (or several) featuring Hunger Games star Jena Malone. Several months ago, it was rumored that she was playing Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl/Oracle. However, in this trailer, she’s seen with blonde hair and looks like she’s working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s still not Barbara. Maybe this version dyed her hair and took a job at the Planet to separate herself from the Bat-Family. Still, this is peculiar.

 

(15) HOWDY STRANGER. The Space Between Us comes to theaters August 19.

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing.

While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa. When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere.

Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doctor Science.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/16 The Seven Pixel Scrollution

(1) JEOPARDY! Funny how fandom has gone from being the contestants to being the answers…. On the May 3 episode of Jeopardy! one of the answers was —

In A Storm of Swords, he acknowledged “Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in it.”

The correct question would be “Who is George R.R. Martin?” But the clue is Phyllis Eisenstein.

Martin discussed this on a panel at Chicon 7 in 2012.

The dragons were one aspect that I did consider not including. Very early in the process, I was debating, should I do this just as like historical fiction about fake history, and have no actually overt magic or magical elements, but — my friend Phyllis Eisenstein, a wonderful fantasy writer who lives here in Chicago, I happened to be talking to her at very early stage in the process. Phyllis has written some great fantasies herself. She said, “Nah, you have to have dragons. It’s a fantasy, you know!” And I dedicated A Storm of Swords to Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in, and I think that was the right thing to do.

(2) TERMS OF UNDEARMENT. Kukuruyo’s image of Ms. Marvel has been pulled from DeviantArt. And on his own site, the Project Wonderful ads have been pulled on the page that displays the image. Did he violate the Terms Of Service?

(3) OFF THE CHARTS. The map found in illustrator Pauline Baynes’ copy of The Lord of the Rings has a new home reports The Guardian — “Tolkien annotated map of Middle-earth acquired by Bodleian library”.

Here be dragons – and wolves, bears, witches, camels, elephants, orcs, elves and hobbits.

A map of Middle-earth, which to generations of fans remains the greatest fantasy world ever created, heavily annotated by JRR Tolkien, has been acquired by the Bodleian library in Oxford to add to the largest collection in the world of material relating to his work, including the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The annotations, in green ink and pencil, demonstrate how real his creation was in Tolkien’s mind: “Hobbiton is assumed to be approx at latitude of Oxford,” he wrote.

(4) CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN. BBC News has a story about a a member of the 501st climbing England’s highest mountain. A Star Wars fan who walked to the tops of Snowdon and Ben Nevis while dressed as a stormtrooper plans to tackle England’s tallest mountain.

Ashley Broomhall hopes to make the trek on Wednesday, the date of which – May the fourth- is often linked to the Star Wars phrase “May the force…”

He will wear his stormtrooper armour for the walk up 3,208ft (978m) Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

(5) AMAZONIAN TOSSER. Heather Rose Jones “tosses a little numbers-geekery” at the question of what it means for a book to have only really really good reviews on Amazon. (Spoiler: She says it means your book isn’t getting out enough.)

You know who has spent a very long time in the top 10 books sold in Historical Fantasy? Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Do you know how many one-star reviews Outlander has on Amazon? 749. Seven hundred and forty-fucking-nine one-star reviews (4% of the total). No book is universally beloved.

(6) CHINA BOUND. Martin L. Shoemaker posted his good news on Facebook:

Now that the contract has been signed, I am very honored to announce that “Today I Am Paul” will appear in Science Fiction World, the Chinese science fiction magazine, as part of their new series of Hugo/Nebula nominees.

(7) CROWDFUNDING AEROSPACE HISTORIAN. You can support Dr. Jim Busby by helping fund his travel to Spacefest VII.

Help Us Keep Our Aerospace Heritage Alive

From June 9 – 12 2016 Spacefest VII , a reunion of legendary NASA astronauts, engineers, famous space scientists, authors, astronomers, space artists, and fans produced by Novaspace, will be held in Tucson, AZ.

Dr. Jim Busby Aerospace Historian, educator and board member of Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF) in Downey, CA has been invited to be a guest lecturer and to do a memorabilia display. Unfortunately, ALF being a small non-profit organization cannot afford to send Dr. Busby, his wife and other members of the organization to Tucson. That is why we are turning to aerospace enthusiasts to help fund this trip. Dr. Jim Busby’s extensive knowledge of aerospace history has educated many over the years. In 1978 he helped create the world’s first Apollo lunar reenactments and worked at the California Science center for 19 years.

“I enjoy educating children and adults in our long fascination with space exploration,” Busby commented. “Inspiring children when I talk about Apollo lunar exploration is an experience beyond words.”

The GoFundMe has raised $645 of its $2,500 goal at this writing.

(7) JURY DUTY. Mary Anne Mohanraj announced on Facebook that jurors are needed to review grant applications for Speculative Literature Foundation.

JURORS NEEDED: The Speculative Literature Foundation is looking for ten volunteer jurors willing to read applications (a few pages each, including a writing sample) over the space of about a month for our Diverse Writers Grant and our Diverse Worlds Grant. The grant deadline is at the end of July, so you would need to have time available in August to read and discuss. In order to be considered, potential jurors should be writers, editors, teachers, or readers with broad knowledge of the genre, who are capable of judging literary quality in a work.

If interested, please send a brief note to our director, Mary Anne Mohanraj, mohanraj@uic.edu, with the subject line: JUROR. Include a few lines on what your qualifying background would be for serving as a juror. Thank you for your interest, and for your support of science fiction and fantasy!

More information about the Diverse Writers and Diverse Workds grants at the link.

(8) SOUND RETREAT. John C. Wright takes “A Polite Retreat from Combat”.

Mr. George R.R. Martin here (http://grrm.livejournal.com/485124.html) has taken the time out of his busy writing schedule to rebut my comment where I rebuked him for characterizing the Sad Puppies reading list of last year as ‘right-wing’ and ‘weak’, a statement published in the Guardian newspaper.

My reply, humbly enough, was that my work was unweak enough to have sold at least one example to him. He responds by chiding me for being insufficiently humble: as if making a sale to George R.R. Martin were not indeed a matter for pride.

He and I (or so I thought) had an agreement to smooth over our puppy-related sadness.

In the spirit of that agreement, I plead nolo contendere to his allegations, in the hope that if I say nothing but this in reply, he will return to his writing, and tell me and his other fans the final fate of Westeros.

The years fly like autumn leaves, and life too short for such fare. Winter is coming.

(9) RITUALLY UNCLEAN. Sami Sundell calls it “Overemphasizing the Taint”.

…I’ve also seen some more dire messages. For example, Steve Davidson listed nominations sans puppy taint. Matthew M. Foster had an even stricter stance and called the awards Vox Awards. And that’s what really hit my nerve….

So who cares if one of the nominees is Ann Leckie‘s Ancillary Mercy, the final part of the trilogy that started with Hugo winner Ancillary Justice – a book that has been much reviled by the Puppies. Mercy was on Sad Puppies recommendation lists so it’s tainted. Same apparently goes for Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

And Vox Day, apparently all by himself, decided Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is worthy of a Hugo nomination. You know, the multiple award winner Neal Stephenson? And a book that was pre-emptively put into mind blowing science fiction list of io9 in January 2015? Expectations were high, and I’ve seen plenty of reviews saying those expectations were met, and then some.

Same goes for Alastair Reynolds’ Slow Bullets and Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Penric’s Demon. McMaster Bujold has won or been nominated for Hugos more times than I have fingers. Is it really so hard to believe she would write yet another masterpiece?

…No. Saying Day made some OK choices is not surrender. That blog entry is surrender. It gives all the power to Vox Day, it ignores the quality of works, and it claims fans had no say in the nominations. That sounds awfully lot like the arguments we’ve heard from Puppies for several years….

(10) TROLLFIGHTING SPACE KITTEN. Spacefaring Kitten would deal with the ballot this way — “On Fighting Trolls and Going to Have to Ask Kevin Standlee”.

Rule changes are slow, however, so they don’t help in the current situation — where we indeed have a hostile takeover by trolls who have stated explicitly that their intention is to destroy the award. Among the Hugo finalists, there are works that include blatant hate-speech, fat-shaming, misogyny et cetera. Overall, it’s more horrible than last year, when the voters had to mostly just stomach bad writing (this year, the level of writing is probably much higher).

The works I’m referring to here are of course the short story “If You Were an Award, My Love” and the related works SJWs Always Lie, “The Story of Moira Greyland” and “Safe Space as Rape Room” (and maybe the work of the fan artist “Kukuruyo”). These are ugly works manufactured to harass individual members of the SFF community or groups of people that the Rabid Puppies contingency happens to love harassing (women, LGBTI community and so on).

So, what could be done about them? Unfortunately, not much.

After reading the WSFS constitution, I came up with only two things. If I was running the Worldcon (which I’m not, of course), I would:

  1. Not include them in the Hugo voter packet. (There are zero rules about the voter packet, so it would be completely possible for the Worldcon to exclude the works mentioned above.)
  2. Insert onto the online voting form a statement that says “Midamericon II condemns the hate-speech/whatever featured in Finalist X”.

(11) SUTHERLAND CONTINUES. Meanwhile, Doris V. Sutherland is still working on her category-by-category discussion of last year’s results in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: What Could Have Been, Part 1” at Women Write About Comics.

So, let me restate that the works on these longlists are the works that received the highest number of votes during the Hugo nomination process without being on either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates. I have seen no evidence to justify suspicion of any conspiracy or wrongdoing on the part of George R. R. Martin or anyone else involved.

That said, I also have to question the claim made by certain Sad Puppies opponents that these longlists show us exactly what the Hugo ballot would been had the Sad Puppies campaign never existed. This interpretation ignores the fact that some of the Puppy picks could quite conceivably have made the final ballot even without the aid of the campaign. Nevertheless, a look at the longlist will at least give us a good idea of how the ballot would have looked without Puppy slating—and an idea is all we can have.

Best Short Story

“Jackalope Wives,” by Ursula Vernon

One of the 2014 nominees in this category was Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories are for Losers,” which riffed on the folkloric motif of the animal bride. Interestingly enough, one of the contenders for the 2015 award plays with the same theme—albeit with very different results.

Ursula Vernon constructs her pseudo-folkloric story from specifically American materials, lending it a folksy tall-tale feel. It takes place in a world where young men periodically go out and hunt for jackalopes—which, in Vernon’s conception, are more than just antlered bunnies. Once they remove their fur, they take on their true forms as beautiful, unearthly women. As per animal bride tradition, any prospective suitor must steal a jackalope’s fur before he can win her as a bride, and burn it to prevent her from changing back and escaping.

So far, so conventional. But while folktales of this type are often told from the point of view of the man, with the bride’s disappearance seen as a sad occurrence, Vernon sheds light on how rotten the scenario must be for the woman. The protagonist of “Jackalope Wives” learns the ugly truth behind the legend when he tries to burn a jackalope’s fur; her resulting screams of pain cause him to have second thoughts, inadvertently leaving the woman trapped halfway between human and animal. The manic pixie dream girl has had her wings cut off.

“Jackalope Wives” is true to its folkloric roots while simultaneously offering a contemporary spin on the age-old material. A deserving contender for Best Short Story.

Sutherland also drew a “salute” to GamerGate Life.

(12) AGAINST HATRED. Jon Tully at GeeksOut tells “How Hatred Is Hurting the Hugos”.

…This year, the Rabid puppies doubled their votes and succeeded in nominating 62 out of 80 stories that they backed. And are these stories that reflect where our culture is headed? Are they stories about inclusivity, empathy, and reflection?

No. They are stories such as “SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police” a story about “social justice warriors” (penned by Beale himself), “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris, (a direct spoof on the gay-affirming “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”),  “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (published by Castalia House) and, my personal (sarcastic) favorite, Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle, which has all the literary merit the title suggests.

If the judges were willing to deny awards in five categories last year, what is it going to look like this year? Will any awards be given? Will authors begin to gravitate away from the Hugos towards the Nebula or the Locus Awards?

Will this be the death of an institution I love?

As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And while these oft-repeated words can seem passé (and a little too gender-specific), there is, of course, a core of truth. The reason that we’re in this situation is because the various Puppies were able to rally enough hate to their side to be heard.

But the fact that sours my stomach is not that small-minded children were able to throw a tantrum and get their way, it’s that, by doing so, they’re hijacking the narrative of our era. Metaphorically speaking, the Rabid Puppies are wedging their intolerance into a time capsule that future generations will open, and societies not yet born will see and be ashamed of.

(13) WORD BALLOONS. At this link you will find what seems to be popularly regarded as “the best superhero story ever.” And at minimum it’s pretty funny: http://imgur.com/a/czaDD

(14) FLIGHT TO THE FINNISH. Zen Cho can’t resist temptation.

(15) FRED POHL IS HERE. The Traveler from Galactic Journey has the latest ancient prozine news: “[May 3, 1961] Passing the Torch (June 1961, Galaxy, 2nd Half)”.

Fred Pohl came on last year.  He was not officially billed as the editor, but it was common knowledge that he’d taken over the reigns.  Pohl is an agent and author, a fan from the way-back.  I understand his plan has been to raise author rates again and bring back quality.  While he waits for the great stories to come back, he leavens the magazines with old stories from the “slush pile” that happen not to be awful.  In this way, Galaxy showcases promising new authors while keeping the quality of the magazine consistent.

The June 1961 Galaxy is the first success story of this new strategy.

Last issue, I talked about how Galaxy was becoming a milquetoast mag, afraid to take risks or deviate far from mediocrity.  This month’s issue, the first that lists Pohl as the “Managing Editor,” is almost the second coming of old Galaxy — daring, innovative, and with one exception, excellent.

Take Cordwainer Smith’s Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, in which an interplanetary ring of thieves tries to steal from the richest, and best defended planet, in the galaxy.  Smith has always been a master, slightly off-center in his style; his rich, literary writing is of the type more usually seen in Fantasy and Science FictionKittons is ultimately a mystery, the nature of the unique (in name and nature) “kittons” remaining unknown until the last.  A brutal, fascinating story, and an unique take on the future.  Five stars.

(16) DABBLING IN THE DEBACLE. Amanda S. Green asks “What do you want?” at Mad Genius Club.

…the Hugo debacle. Yes, debacle. There is no other way to describe it. Whether you support the idea that the Hugos are a fan award (which I do since you buy a membership to WorldCon in order to vote and anyone with the money can do so) or a “literary” award (which, to mean, would require it to be a juried award in some fashion), I think we all can — or at least should — agree that Hugo should not be exclusionary. If you can afford the money for the membership, you should be able to vote and your vote should have the same weight as the next person’s. Until the rules are changed, that is how it should be.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was looking through Facebook and came across a post from one of the puppy-kickers — and I am looking straight at you, Mr. Amazing Stories — saying that the committee should go in and look at all the ballots. Any ballot cast by a puppy should be thrown out. (And he even adds to his comment “screw privacy”, which had been one of the concerns last year’s committee had when they were asked to release the voting data.). But that’s not enough for him. He advocates never letting a “puppy” buy a membership to WorldCon again. There’s more but you can go look for yourself — assuming the post is still there. It is dated April 26th and was posted at 7:24 pm.

Needless to say, when I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laughter because these sorts of comments show the hypocrisy of those who are “fighting the good fight” against those evil Sad and Rabid Puppies. We are called all sorts of names because, as they claim, we want to exclude message and “marginalized” people from the genre. Yet here one of their most vocal supporters is doing exactly what they claim we are doing. He is saying we should not be allowed into the same room with the Hugos. Note, he is not only saying that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote for their beloved award but tat we should not be allowed to attend WorldCon.

Sounds pretty exclusionary to me. How about you?

(17) HE’S EXCITED. More from Shamus Young about his Hugo nomination in a podcast on his site. The show notes say:

01:08 Shamus is up for a Hugo Award

Here I talk about the fact that I’ve been nominated for a Hugo, and I briefly mention the controversy the Hugos have been having for the past two years. I don’t want to talk about the controversy here. In fact, the no politics post was written specifically in anticipation of this discussion.

If you’re looking for more information: On WIRED there’s this post entitled Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul, which seems to be the one everyone links when trying to bring people up to speed on this. However, like a lot of Wired articles this one feels like the author was paid by the word. It’s long on anecdotes, it takes forever to get to the point, it’s broad and hyperbolic, and for all the words it spends it never feels like it gets down to details.

I found this one much more useful: A Detailed Explanation by Matthew David Surridge, explaining why he declined his Hugo nomination last year. It is also long – I’m afraid you can’t really do the topic justice in a couple of paragraphs – but instead of spending its word count on stories, he just takes up one side and argues for it. In the process he kind of maps out a good deal of both sides[1].

I’m excited to be nominated for a Hugo. I’m excited that videogames are being recognized and encouraged in their pursuit of sci-fi stories. I’m dreading dealing with people who don’t respect my no politics rule and are just looking for an opportunity to unleash the anger they’re hauling around. I think accepting the nomination is the most diplomatic thing to do, and win or lose I’m grateful for everyone who thinks my work has merit.

(18) COUNTING TO ZERO. The Locus Awards navigated around the worst rocks and shoals of the puppy lists only to incur criticism about the composition of the YA Novel finalists.

(19) NEW POPULAR FICTION MFA. Emerson College in Boston is starting a new Masters of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing in Fall 2016. It will be a fully online program designed for students who want to pursue a career as a writer of novels in the genres of fantasy, science-fiction, horror, mystery, thriller, or young adult.

The program will enroll a cohort of 12 students in order to provide individual attention and coaching. The two-year accredited MFA program will be housed in Emerson’s nationally known Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing.

The MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing is one of the first online writing programs to prepare students to write professional-level stories and novels in a variety of fictional genres and provides an opportunity for students to read deeply, think critically, and discuss popular fiction with peers. Students will have the experience of participating in creative workshops and literature courses that focus on the history of various popular genres. Additionally, hands-on publishing courses will teach students how to turn a completed manuscript into a polished, publishable work. Emerson’s publishing faculty will offer insights on the avenues available for students to publish their work, from finding and working with literary agents to self-publishing to reaching a wide readership through trade publishers.

For more information, visit the MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing web page or contact John Rodzvilla, graduate program director, at john_rodzilla@emerson.edu or 617-824-3717.

(20) PUPPY DISAMBIGUATION. Don’t miss the rollover in Trae’s cartoon “The inevitable outcome”.

(21) UNKNOWN TRAILER. The first trailer for Approaching the Unknown has been released, a movie starring Mark Strong and Luke Wilson.

(22) TOLKIEN TALK. Terri Windling will lecture about Tolkien in Oxford on May 26.

Pembroke Tolkien lecture

(23) PAYING BACKWARD. Rachel Swirsky has a plan for getting through these parlous times which she shares in “Making Lemons into Jokes: ‘If You Were a Butt, My Butt”.

In my family, humor has always been a way of putting crap into perspective. When life hands you lemons, make jokes. And then possibly lemonade, too. It is coming up on summer.

In that spirit, I’m trying a self-publishing experiment. And that experiment’s name is “If You Were a Butt, My Butt.”

If my Patreon reaches $100 by the end of the month, I will write and send “If You Were a Butt, My Butt” to everyone who subscribes. If things go well, I’ve got some stretch goals, too, like an audio version.

I will be donating the first month’s Patreon funds to Lyon-Martin health services. Lyon-Martin is one of the only providers that focuses on caring for the Quiltbag community, especially low-income lesbian, bisexual, and trans people. They provide services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

pablo-1

[And that’s the end! Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James David Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, Dawn Sabados, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Mike O’Donnell, Glenn Hauman, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Amazonian Experiences

Betsy Phillips, after reading Diana Pavlac Glyer’s explanation why her book’s publication date doesn’t correspond with what’s on Amazon, wrote a series of tweets about the problem in general.

Phillips also blogs about sf/f (and many other interests) at Tiny Cat Pants.