Pixel Scroll 7/16/17 Doctor Whoa!

(1) SHE’S THE DOCTOR. The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor Who hit all the mainstream news outlets.

However, the reaction of some Daily Mail readers left a lot to be desired. But as they say, when you have lemons make lemonade. That’s what comedian Aaron C. M. Gillies did:

And just before the Whittaker announcement, this meme was getting a lot of play on Twitter.

(2) OH NOES! Matthew Foster has also been taking soundings and shared what he found with his Facebook readers.

Fun with sexism. So I just had to go looking to see what the dim set had to say about Doctor Who, and it is amusing. Most that I peaked in on want to keep their sexism on the down low, so while they always object to the Doctor being female, it is never due to her being female. No, no. That’s not the problem… exactly… So there’s lot’s of:

  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because that’s pandering. Yeah.
  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because it isn’t for a good story reason… You know, the way choosing a male for have been for a good story reason.

Plus 9 more…

(3) RIVER SONG. Radio Times reports actress Alex Kingston was given the news while onstage at a con in North Carolina: “Alex Kingston’s reaction to a female Doctor Who was SO River Song”.

“Jodie Whittaker? Oh my goodness!” the actress told the crowd, after making joke kissing noises. “God, I’m always the damn cradlesnatcher!

“Oh, that’s lovely. She’s a really great actress. She’s fantastic. Oh my God that’s so exciting! Ohhhh! How fabulous.

“Well, we’ve all discovered that together,” she concluded. “That’s marvellous.”

(4) THE FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR. Some argue there’s already been a woman Doctor Who. (Besides Doctor Donna, that is.) It happened in 1997.

Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) is The Doctor in a comedy sketch from The Lily Savage Show back in 1997. Features Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) as her companion and a classic impression of Liz McDonald from Coronation Street.

 

(5) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. My latest strategy for finding news is to hang around Camestros Felapton’s blog. He had a bunch of good links in this post: “Is the Kindle store broken?”

And far from living in vain, the scammers are running away with the store, according to David Gaughran: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples….

How Clickfarms Work

As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

(6) STAR WARS LAND. You can learn preliminary details about Disney’s forthcoming attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from The Verge.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each….

Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, revealed the official name of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are currently under construction at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, and shared details on the immersive experiences guests will be able to enjoy when the lands open in 2019!

 

(7) MARTIN LANDAU OBIT. He won an Oscar playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, but Martin Landau, who passed away today at the age of 89, was first seen by fans in Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (both the Sixties original and again in the Eighties relaunch). Having turned down an offer to play Spock in the original Star Trek series, the pinnacle of Landau’s science fictional success came while playing Commander John Koenig in Space:1999.

He worked constantly over the decades, and appeared in many genre productions — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1966), Mission: Impossible (76 episodes as “Rollin Hand”, 1966-69), Get Smart (one episode, 1969), The Fall of the House of Usher, Meteor (both 1979), The Return (1980), The Being (1983), The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Spider-Man (voice, 1995-96), The X-Files (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Frankenweenie (voice, 2012).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere flickered briefly through theatres.
  • July 16, 1955 — The TV serial Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe blasted into the popular consciousness.
  • July 16, 1958 — Audiences gasp for the first time at The Fly.
  • July 16, 1959The Alligator People was released.
  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to become the first manned space mission to land on the moon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(10) AND THEY’RE OFF. With Game of Thrones Season 7 starting, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gets its kicks by imagining how each character will die. First up —

Daenerys Targaryen

After finally saying goodbye to noted hellhole Meereen, Dany will be cut down in a tragic boating accident, lest her plot line advance. The tragedy will be of Titanic proportions, with Dany and Missandei struggling to share space on a door before both drowning. Varys will float by moments later and note there was plenty of room on the flotsam for both women. 

(11) TOP TEN. And The Daily Beast it getting its clicks by publishing the list of “‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin’s Top 10 Fantasy Films”.

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The frightening thing about Holy Grail is that it may very well be the best version of the Matter of Britain ever put on film. King Arthur has not been well served by the movies, I fear. Yes, yes, there’s John Boorman’s Excalibur, a flawed film with with some great parts. Beyond that and Holy Grail, what do we have? Knights of the Round Table (some gorgeous spectacle, but a ham-handed script–the Timpo toy knights issued as tie-ins to the film were better than the movie), Prince Valiant (I liked the Singing Sword, and those pigskins full of boiling oil, but it’s hard to get past Robert Wagner’s wig), First Knight (gag), King Arthur (yes, let’s just let all the Saxons through Hadrian’s Wall and fight them on the other side, what a clever tactic)…. I do have a certain fondness for the film version of Camelot, but only because I never got to see the stage play. But back to Holy Grail. Back to Brave Sir Robin. The Black Knight. The Knights Who Say Ni. The Frenchman on the ramparts. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Castle Anthrax. Coconuts. (They still sell coconuts at Castle Doune in Scotland, where much of Holy Grail was filmed). What more do I need to say? Let’s go to Camelot! Yes, it is a silly place, but that’s what I love about it.

(12) WAIT UP. io9’s Germain Lussier’s post “This Mysterious New Droid Is Rolling Around the Star Wars Section at D23 Expo” has photos, though apparently they weren’t easy to get.

Disney loves a good surprise, and fans at the D23 Expo in Anaheim got plenty of those over the weekend. One of the more subtle ones featured a brand new droid, rolling around the display for the new theme park additions called Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

The droid definitely resembles other Star Wars droids you know, kind of a R5 droid’s body with 2-1B arms. But, according to Walt Disney Imagineers in the area, it does not yet have an official Star Wars distinction. In fact, the may not even be part of Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. It’s just kind of an experiment at how droids and humans who are just mulling around can interact. And let me tell you, it’s not necessarily a smooth relationship.

The Imagineers call this guy “Jake” and he would not stand still for a photo. You’d set up to snap one, and he’d just start going the other way. Here’s what it’s like.

(13) CONTAINS SOME NUDITY. In fact, that’s what it mostly contains. Chip Hitchcock is convinced fans could break the record at Worldcon 75 if they put it on the program — “Finland naked swimmers bid for biggest skinny dip record”.

Hundreds of naked swimmers have taken to the water in Finland in a bid to break the world record for the biggest naked swim.

Some 789 people at a music festival in eastern Finland went skinny dipping on Saturday, organisers said, beating the previous record set in Australia by just three, reports said.

Organisers were waiting for Guinness World Records to confirm the record.

It is the third Finnish attempt at the record, Yle news website said.

(14) KING’S SECRET IDENTITY. Mental Floss remembers: “Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman”.

King’s cover endured for a surprisingly long period. But the 1985 release of Thinner would usher in fresh suspicion about Bachman. Unlike the other four novels, Thinner was contemporary King, a hardcover written with the knowledge it was a “Bachman book” and perhaps more self-conscious about its attempt at misdirection. And unlike early-period Bachman, which often featured nihilistic but grounded scenarios—a walking marathon that ends in death, or a game show where prisoners can earn their freedom—Thinner took on more of a horror trope, with a robust lawyer cursed to lose weight by a vengeful gypsy until he’s practically nothing but skin and bone.

When Stephen Brown obtained an advance copy at Olsson’s, he had an innate belief he was reading a King novel. To confirm his suspicions, he visited the Library of Congress to examine the copyrights for each Bachman title. All but one were registered to Kirby McCauley, King’s agent. The remaining title, Rage, was registered to King himself. It was the smoking gun.

(15) IN THE ARCHIVES. The Verge tells you where to find Galaxy —“One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online”.

If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. Archive.org is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

The collection contains 355 separate issues, ranging from 1950 through 1976. Open Culture notes that it’s not quite the entire run of the magazine, but it’s got plenty of material to keep fans occupied for years. It includes stories from science fiction legends such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. There are also some underappreciated authors who deserve re-discovery, such as Kris Neville, Alan E. Nourse, or John Christopher. (Sadly, like most publications of this era, female SF authors were underrepresented.)

(16) LAST-MINUTE VOTING. Spacefaring Kitten got in under the wire with a second set of Hugo recommendations.

(17) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Stan Lee is rebranding his Los Angeles convention. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Stan Lee Reintroduces His L.A. Convention: New Name, Even Greater Ambitions”.

Stan Lee is putting Los Angeles on the map in a new way.

The legendary comic book creator is not only getting a citywide day named in his honor (Oct. 28), he is also rebranding his popular pop culture convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and giving it a new name: Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con.

Comic book fans area rejoiced when Lee launched his convention in 2011, and for Lee, the name change makes sense when major cities from New York to San Diego have flagship conventions bearing their cities’ names.

“I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what Comikaze really meant or what it was. And I didn’t think we should hide under a bushel,” Lee tells Heat Vision of the con, which runs Oct. 28-30. “Los Angeles is, to me, the center of the world’s entertainment. It has to have a Comic Con.”

(18) FUNNY AND DIE. Reason TV is getting in on the new season, too, with Game of Thrones: Libertarian Edition.

As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license? Watch!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Colin Kuskie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

(1) CORTANA’S WRITERS. The Financial Times’ Emma Jacobs, in “Robots replacing our jobs? Microsoft’s Cortana is creating them”, interviewed Joanthan Foster, principal content publishing manager for Microsoft’s Cortana, who oversees a staff of 28 (including a children’s novelist and a playwright) tasked with giving this personal digital assistant a personality.

“Why, for example, does Cortana have to have a favourite movie? ‘Because people are asking that,’ says Mr Foster.  For a while, her favourite film was ET (she skews to science fiction) but today it swings between Star Wars and Star Trek films.  Her favourite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Another sf reference:  Cortana’s name “is a reference to a buxom character clothed in a transparent sheath in the video game Halo.”

How to access this article – Look it up on Google and you will be able to click through to read it. If you use the link above directly, you will hit a paywall.

(2) ASTRONAUT FASHIONS. Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, in “A first look at the path NASA astronauts will walk when the U.S. launches humans into space again”, has an overview of activities at Cape Canaveral, with reports on activities by Boeing, Blue Origin, Moon Express, and SpaceX.  But the news here is about the Boeing spacesuits.

Then there’s the sleek new blue Boeing spacesuit that, at 20 pounds, weighs 10 pounds less than the one worn by shuttle astronauts. It comes with gloves that work on touch screens and lightweight boots designed by Reebok that feel like slippers. Instead of having a huge fishbowl bubble helmet, as the shuttle astronauts’ suits did, the new suit’s helmet slips over the head like a hood.

2017-boeing-blue-starliner-spacesuit-SUIT0117

(3) MOVING POSTERS. Disney released a collection of motion posters featuring the cast of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. UPI has the story.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On February 15 the hosts of the reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, will present Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann. Begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe NarratorThe Great Lover, Animal Money, The Wretch of the Sun, and a short story collection, Secret Hours.  His fiction has appeared in The WeirdLovecraft Unbound, and Black Wings (among others). His scholarly work has appeared in Lovecraft StudiesThe Weird Fiction ReviewIranian Studies, and Lovecraft and Influence. He lives and teaches in New York City.

Nicholas Kaufmann’s work has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, a Thriller Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Dying is My Business from St. Martin’s Press was selected for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Gift Guide, and the sequel, Die and Stay Dead, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. His latest novel is In the Shadow of the Axe, out now from Crossroad Press with an introduction by Laird Barron.

(5) STICK A FORK IN IT. Write On by Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at a Wattpad competitor, is closing down March 22, a year after leaving beta testing. Users have been advised:

Your Amazon.com account will not be affected by the closure of Write On. If you don’t have any content you wish to save, no further action is required on your part.

If you do have content you wish to save, we encourage you to download your posted and drafted stories by March 22.

(6) HURT OBIT. Actor John Hurt died January 25 at the age of 77. The Vanity Fair tribute listed some of his many genre credits –

The cause of death was not immediately reported; Hurt was diagnosed in 2015 with pancreatic cancer, but in October of that year announced that he was “thrilled” to have had his final scan, “and it‘s all gone brilliantly.”

… He earned his first BAFTA award in 1976, for playing gay author and ranconteur Quentin Crisp in the TV film The Naked Civil Servant; that same year, he played notorious Roman emperor Caligula in the TV film classic I, Claudius.

As a trained actor with a resonant voice and an unmistakable screen presence, Hurt could be a leading man—as in the 1984 version of George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man—but may be more familiar to audiences as a supporting player, from the first, unlucky victim of the chestburster in 1979’s Alien to 2016’s Jackie, in which he plays a priest who has the ear of a mourning Jacqueline Kennedy. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in 1979‘s Midnight Express, as a heroin addict doing time in a Turkish prison, and in The Elephant Man. He’ll also be remembered by a generation of children as the mysterious Mr. Ollivander, wand salesman, from the Harry Potter films. And thanks to a 2013 appearance as the War Doctor on Doctor Who, he will also forever belong to a legion of fans.

In the last decade of his career alone, Hurt worked with some of the world’s most fascinating directors, from Guillermo del Toro in the Hellboy series to Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Lars von Trier on Melancholia to Joon-ho Bong on Snowpiercer.

— To which we can add The War Doctor in Doctor Who, the voices of Aragorn and Hazel (the rabbit) in the animated Lord of the Rings and Watership Down respectively, and still be guilty of leaving some out.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

(7) GARRAY OBIT. Artist Pascal Garray (1965-2017), a prolific Smurfs creator, passed away January 17.

During his career of 26 years, he also participated in the creation of 17 albums of ‘The Smurfs’ (‘Les Schtroumpfs’), and was the lead artist on at least six albums since 2002. The other regular Smurfs artists are Ludo Borecki, Jeroen de Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso, while most of the writing is done by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. Garray had just finished drawing the 35th Smurfs album (‘Les Schtroumpfs et les Haricots Mauves’, about bad eating habits), when he passed away on 17 January 2017.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood (actor)

(9) RSR’S GUIDE TO SHORT FORM EDITORS. Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank introduces its recently-posted guide to those eligible for the Best Editor Hugo – Short Form category.

With luck, this won’t be as controversial as it was last year. We’ve made it clearer that you’re supposed to use this data to vet a list of editors of works you’ve read—not to construct a slate of people whose publications you’ve never read (or even heard of).

Since people are more likely to know works than editors, we start by helping them find the editors who produced different publications. It’s a lot of work to figure out who’s qualified, so we’ve done that too.

Then, like last year, we show how much work each editor produced and how well that work was reviewed—both in terms of word count and percentage, which we encourage people to use to see how the editors in their list stack up.

New this year is a chart showing how much fiction from new writers each editor published, since this was the commonest thing people asked for last year. There are also sortable tables with the raw data so people don’t need to stare at charts to try to guess which editors were in the top four or five.

As ever, we’d love to hear ideas for what would make this easier to do.

(10) SEMIPROZINE HUGO. Neil Clarke’s Semiprozine.org announced last month they are “Currently updating directory”, which hopefully will happen soon because I need an authoritative answer to settle a difference of opinion!

We are currently updating the directory to reflect any changes in eligibility for the year ending December 31, 2016. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

(11) COACHING. George R.R. Martin reminds everyone how TV shows can be eligible for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo – Long Form, whether you want them to or not.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before… most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show… I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I’d nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there’s GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and “The Door” also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

(12) GREATEST ANIMATOR. Brian Phillips on MTV.com has an article called “The Little Gray Wolf Will Come”, a profile of Yuri Norstein, whose short films “Tale of Tales” and “Hedgehog in the Fog” are regarded as among the greatest pieces of Soviet animation but who has been stuck for 40 years working on a full-length version of Gogol’s The Overcoat that he may never finish.

Here he is, an old man, onstage at the Dom Kino. Cinephiles of Moscow, your evening’s entertainment: Yuri Norstein, 74, white-bearded, small, stout, urbane, rumpled, and mischievous. Sitting in front of a pale gold curtain, with a bump on his nose the size of a pistachio shell. Considered by many to be a great, if tragically self-defeating, Russian artist. Considered by many to be the finest animator in the world.

He did not move to Moscow last week; he knows what they say about him. How he sabotaged his own career at what should have been its peak. How he has not managed to release a new film in 37 years. How he made Hedgehog in the Fog, a movie every Russian child knows by heart, and then Tale of Tales, which international juries have more than once named the greatest animated picture ever made. How he threw it all away to chase an absurd, unattainable ideal, an animated adaptation of Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat” that he has toiled at for nearly 40 years and has never been able to finish. He takes questions at events like this, and the sequence is always the same. First a few respectful queries about his past work, his process, his inspirations. Then, when some brink of nerve has been crossed: When will you finish The Overcoat? Do you think you ever will?

(13) TIMEY-WIMEY STUFF. Science Alert says “Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals”.

First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.

But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.

Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.

But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.

Imagine it like jelly – when you tap it, it repeatedly jiggles. The same thing happens in time crystals, but the big difference here is that the motion occurs without any energy.

A time crystal is like constantly oscillating jelly in its natural, ground state, and that’s what makes it a whole new form of matter – non-equilibrium matter. It’s incapable of sitting still.

(14) WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS. David Tennant told The Last Leg viewers it’s all going to be okay:

[Thanks to Dawn Incoognito, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/2016 I Saw A Scroll Drinking A Pina Colada At Trader Vic’s, His Pixel Was Perfect

(1) APPRECIATION. At Fantasy Café, Stephanie Burgis thanks the women who blazed the trail into the fantasy genre.

I wanted to write a very important thank you note to the women who first showed me the way into this field…

I imagine the extra emotional hurdles I would have had to jump, if those women hadn’t taken the risk before me of letting the world know their gender when they published their books.

So: thank you, Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, Emma Bull, and Judith Tarr. I loved your books then, I love them now, and I’m so grateful that you took that risk for me and every other fantasy-loving girl reader/writer out there.

Thank you.

(2) FEMINIST COMICS. Corrina Lawson at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog recommends “9 Feminist Comics Everyone Should Read”. Apparently this doesn’t literally mean feminist, but anyway —

It’s a good time to be a reader interested in feminist comics. When I say “feminist,” I don’t necessarily mean “a book in which a women fights the patriarchy.” I don’t even require the story to be written by a woman.

What I mean by “feminist comics” is that they offer stories that include three-dimensional female characters. That’s it. I know, it seems like a low bar, but it’s surprising how often it isn’t done. And yes, many of them that do it are written by women—but not all.

In compiling a list of feminist comics I think everyone should read, I looked beyond Marvel and DC Comics, because I wanted to spotlight work being done outside of the “Big Two,”  though I do love and applaud the work being done on Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, A-Force, Black CanaryBatwoman, and Gotham Academy. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list; rather, it’s a glimpse at a handful of the many comics out there with fascinating female characters. Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. (And to those wondering why Lumberjanes isn’t on this list, well, I sang the praises of that book in a previous article.)

First on the list is Monstress, story by Marjorie Liu, art/cover by Sana Takeda (for young adult readers)

(3) MORE CIVIL WARRIORS. SciFiNow breathlessly reveals “Captain America: Civil War adds two interesting last minute cast members”.

The first is the marvellous Jim Rash, best known to many as Dean Pelton from Community. The second is Alfre Woodard, who is particularly interesting seeing as she’s also set to appear in Netflix’s Luke Cage as Mariah Dillard. Does that mean Captain America: Civil War will become the first MCU film to cross over with Netflix’s series of Marvel shows?

Both Woodard and Rash’s involvement in Civil War seem to have been revealed by accident when both their names were included on a Disney list of cast members who will be attending the film’s upcoming premiere. Since the list was issued, sources have claimed that Woodard will play a small but pivotal part in Civil War as the mother of an American citizen who was killed during the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

(4) BRADBURY IN MUTTS. James H. Burns says, “One of my favrorite things in the world for many years now has been Patrick McDonnell’s comic strip, Mutts. McDonnell is simply one of the best, of our generation, and really, all time. You should like this installment!”

mutts, bee

 

(5) KINDLE SCOUT. Joan Marie Verba explains “How Kindle Scout Works” at the SFWA Blog.

Kindle Scout is a publishing option sponsored by Amazon.com. Writers can submit an unpublished manuscript of 50,000 words or more in the science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or romance genres. Kindle Scout then will put up a web page with the cover, summary, sample chapter, and author information. Potential readers then review the information, and if they have an Amazon.com account, they can nominate the work. At the end of 30 days, the Kindle Scout team reviews the statistics and the work. If they accept the work for publication, the author gets an advance against royalties and the work is published on Kindle Press….

One site I would highly recommend reading before, and especially during, one’s campaign is kboards—in particular, the “Kindle Scout Experiences, Anyone?” board. This board has authors who are in the midst of a Kindle Scout campaign as well as authors who have completed one (successfully or unsuccessfully). Some on that board assert that there are factors in addition to the number of nominations that Kindle Scout considers in order to make a selection, such as the author’s sales history and number of titles previously published.

(6) MOVIE SPACESHIPS. ScreenRant lists the “14 Most Iconic Ships To Ever Appear In Science Fiction Movies”. It’s true, I made noises while reading this article.

If you’re reading this list, chances are at some point in your life you’ve held a toy spaceship in your hands and steered it gracefully through the air, banking left and right, while making engine noises (“Kschchchch,” “Wrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaar!”) and laser noises (“Pfew, pfew,” “Tschew!”). That’s because ships in sci-fi movies can be so crazy cool. That’s part of the fun of watching them: seeing which new designs special effects teams have come up with, or what old favorites have been updated.

Most of these ships are spacecraft, but sci-fi ships can also go underwater or even inside the human body. There are malicious, invading alien crafts and benevolent alien ships; massive vessels that hold thousands of people, and little one-seaters. But they’re all awesome in their own way.

Okay trufen – before you peek, guess whether #1 on the list is from Star Wars or Star Trek!

(7) BAEN NEWS. Baen Books will now offer MVMedia ebooks on the Baen Ebooks website. MVMedia is an Atlanta-based publisher known for a wide range of science fiction and fantasy, notably for its Sword and Soul genre anthologies. Sword and Soul is epic fantasy adventure set in a mythological Africa featuring a sword-wielding black hero.

MVMedia at Baen Ebooks launches with The Dark Universe Anthology edited by Milton J. Davis and Gene Peterson, and From Here to Timbuktu, written by Milton J. Davis.

The Dark Universe anthology is a multi-author space opera in the high sense. It portrays the origin story of the Cassad Empire, from its ambitious beginning as a refuge and new home for a persecuted people to its evolution to the first great human Galactic Empire. Authors include Milton Davis, Gene Peterson, Balogun Ojetade, Penelope Flynn, Ronald Jones, Malon Edwards, K. Ceres Wright and DaVaun Sanders….

(8) GUSTAFSSON OBIT. Ahrvid Engholm pays tribute to the late Lars Gufstafsson (1936-2016) at Europa SF.

Lars Gustafsson was just awarded the International Zbigniew Herbert Prize in Poland, and was supposed to collect it May 17th in Warsaw, his 80th birthday.

But death intervened.

Lars Gustafsson, author, poet, philosopher, etc, passed away April 3rd. He was 79.

Lars Gustafsson was a heavyweight in Swedish literature and culture. The biggest swedish morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had seven (!) pages about Gustafsson’s death.

And he was a big fan of science fiction and fantastic literature! It began when he as a young boy steadily read the then sf pulp magazine Jules Verne Magasinet (1940-47). He even visited our local SF conventions occasionally.

(9) DRAGON AWARDS REACTIONS. Here are samples from the range of reactions to Dragon Con’s new SF awards.

(10) THE WINNER HAS YET TO ENTER THE RING. Lela E. Buis awards a technical knockout to the Dragon Awards simply for being announced, in “Upheaval in the awards system”.

Contrast this attendance figure with WorldCon that gives out the Hugo Awards. Wikipedia lists 4,644 attendees and 10,350 who bought memberships to vote the 2015 Hugo Awards, which was a record for numbers. With DragonCon moving into the awards game, I’m thinking the Hugo’s are officially undermined. The Puppy scandal has not only disrupted the voting system, but it seems to have led to an inspection of the Hugo process where works are winnowed through a narrow review and recommendation system and onto the ballot.

(11) DUKING IT OUT ABOUT PC. Matthew M. Foster and L. Jagi Lamplighter overflowed Facebook with their recent discussion of Political Correctness, each writing a supplemental blog post.

Foster’s post is, “They Took My Job!”

Political Correctness threatens people’s jobs.

OK. How? The example from that other thread is that researchers who disagree with climate change are afraid to speak up due to fear of losing their job. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good example for it brings up an obvious alternative—that is that researches who do not do a good job fear losing their job. Which they should. If 99 researchers do an experiment and get X, and 1 guy does it and gets Y, then the most likely reason is because 1 guy did it poorly. And that’s what we have in climate change research. But lets get past that and make this more general, to take out the notion that the employee is bad at his job while keeping in mind the nearly meaningless nature of the term “PC.”

So, how can someone lose their job due to political correctness?

  1. He could say something that is offensive to other employees or the boss thus damaging productivity.
  2. He could say things that are offensive to the general public
  3. He could say something that indicates his disagreement with the boss.

….Or they can just say whatever they want, and accept the consequences. Because that’s not political correctness. That’s life. I believe the phrase is, freedom isn’t free. Yelling “political correctness” doesn’t get you out of life. It doesn’t excuse you from consequences, and if you think it does, you are an idiot whose views of society would create the totalitarian state you claim to abhor—if you were consistent anyway.

Which all comes down to, no one is losing their job due to political correctness nor should they fear doing so. They are losing their jobs because they are rude and insulting, or because they are inconsiderate by disrupting the company, or because they are causing the company to lose sales, or because they are personally upsetting their boss, or because they won’t follow their boss’s lead, or because they are bad at their jobs. That’s how jobs work. Don’t want to lose your job? Don’t do those things. Political correctness has nothing to do with it.

L. Jagi Lamplighter wrote, “Political Correctness vs. The Search for Happiness”.

I am a strong supporter of the great dialogue that is civilization. Were it up to me, nothing would ever interfere with it.

Political correctness quenches this conversation. Here are some of the reasons I say that:

* It replaces discussion and debate with Puritan-style disapproval.

You don’t explain to someone why you disagree with them. You speak so as to shut them down as quickly as possible.

* It keeps people from sharing politically correct views in a way that might convince.

Because of this, if the person who favors the politically correct position has a good reason for their opinions, the other person will not know, because debate has been silenced.

*It keeps people from sharing any other view.

If the person who does not favor the politically correct position has a good reasons for supporting their position—the person favoring the politically correct reason will never hear it, because he shut down the debate before he had a chance to hear the reasons…..

(12) CARD HOLDS THUMBS DOWN. “Will this election doom America? ‘Ender’s Game’ author holds dim view in light of current politics” reports the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

America has no hope.

That could be the summation of an hour-long talk science fiction writer Orson Scott Card offered last week Wednesday at Ripon College.

Couching his comments in the concept that a good science-fiction writer must understand history, Card explained that history now suggests the United States is not at a crossroads, but already too far down the wrong path to seek a solution.

“There is no winning hand in this election. There is no vote you can now cast that will save us from potential disaster, and that’s never really been true in American history before. Sometimes we’ve elected the worst guy, nevertheless the worst guy was never as bad as the choices we have now,” said Card, who wrote the popular book “Ender’s Game,” and which he turned into a screenplay for a Hollywood movie. “So we can look at empires, we can look at them as I do as a science fiction writer, and try to find how they rise and fall, what rules apply …

“The problem is, we’re all making this situation up together, and we’re all stuck with whatever answers we come up with. And if history’s taught us one thing, it’s all empires fall, and they all fall at inconvenient times.”

(13) POTTER EVENT RESCHEDULED FOR GEEZERS. The City of Perth Library postponed its Harry Potter event, aimed at teens aged 12-18 and their parents, to accommodate adults who complained they felt left out.

Library staff attempted to explain that the event was curated by its Youth Services faculty and the events were specifically targeted at teens….

Despite this explanation, many fans lamented over the idea that they would miss out on their chance to learn about owls or take a “potions class” from local experts so the library decided to postpone the event indefinitely.

“We want to be able to provide a magical experience for all Library patrons,” they wrote on Facebook. “As such the Harry Potter event has been postponed and we are looking at how we can accommodate many more witches, wizards, muggles and their families.”

(14) RIDLEY RAPS. “Daisy Ridley Rapping Is the Greatest ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Bonus Feature Yet!” at YouTube.

(15) WHAT A WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW. Soon Lee’s instant classic started life as a humble comment before being enshrined in the canon of English literature a few minutes later.

The Writer

On a cool Autumn’s eve
At a Worldcon bound for nowhere
I met up with the writer
We were both too tired to sleep

So we took turns a-starin’
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us,
And she began to speak

She said, “Child, I’ve made a life
Out of writin’ people’s stories
Knowin’ what the plots were
By the way they held their tropes

So if you don’t mind me sayin’
I can see you’re out of ideas
For a taste of your Oolong
I’ll give you some advice”

So I handed her my China
And she drank down my last swallow
Then she bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light

And the night got deathly quiet
And her face lost all expression
She said, “If you’re gonna play the game, child
You gotta learn to write it right

You’ve got to know when to show ’em
Know when to tell ’em
Know when to passive voice
And to gerund

You never check your wordcount
When you’re typin’ at the keyboard
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the writin’s done

Every writer knows
That the secret to good writin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep

‘Cause every book’s a winner
And every book’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to Fail
Better next

And when she finished speakin’
She turned back toward the window
Crushed out her cigarette
And faded off to sleep

And somewhere in the darkness
The writer she dreamt stories
But in her final words
I found advice that I could keep

You’ve got to know when to show ’em
Know when to tell ’em
Know when to passive voice
And to gerund

You never check your wordcount
When you’re typin’ at the keyboard
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the writin’s done

Repeat to fade

(Starring Badass Raadchai Ann Leckie as the writer. With apologies to Kenny Rogers)

[Thanks to Will R., JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

There Will Be War, Volumes II, III and IV Now Available

Three more volumes of Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War have been republished for the Amazon Kindle by Castalia House this summer.

TWBWv2_256

There Will Be War, Volume II (originally titled Men of War), edited by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, has 19 stories, articles, and poems. Notable entries are —

  • Eric Frank Russell’s “Allamagoosa,” winner of the 1955 Best Short Story Hugo.
  • “Superiority,” by Arthur C. Clarke, first published in 1951, depicts an arms race and shows how the side which is more technologically advanced can be defeated. The story once was required reading for an industrial design course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • “Code-Name Feirefitz” by David Drake is a Hammer’s Slammers story.

375 pages, no DRM. Can be purchased from Amazon and Castalia House.

TWBWv3_256

There Will Be War, Volume III (originally titled Blood and Iron), edited by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, and features 16 stories, articles, and poems. Notable entries are —

  • “The Spectre General” by Theodore Cogswell was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the finest novellas prior to the introduction of the Nebula Awards in 1965 and included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two anthology.
  • “The Miracle-Workers” by Jack Vance was a nominee for the 1959 Best Novelette Hugo.
  • Arthur C. Clarke’s oft-reprinted “Hide and Seek” tells the story of a single armed man pitted against a space cruiser, and succeeding.
  • “Silent Leges” by Jerry Pournelle is a Falkenberg’s Legion story.

382 pages, no DRM. It is available at Amazon and Castalia House.

TWBWv4_256

There Will Be War, Volume IV (originally titled Day of the Tyrant), edited by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr, features 21 stories, articles, and poems. Notable entries are —

  • “The Cloak and the Staff” by Gordon R. Dickson, winner of the 1981 Best Novelette Hugo.
  • “No Truce With Kings” by Poul Anderson, winner of the 1964 Best Short Fiction Hugo.
  • “Interim Justice” by William F. Wu.

378 pages, no DRM. It is available at Amazon and Castalia House.

Jerry Pournelle also wrote me a note about working with Castalia House —

I recently read your nice April piece about it nice April piece about [the reprints] and also read the comments which I don’t usually do. There seems to be some question about why Castalia is the publisher. It’s simple, really: they made the best offer. My first inclination for the whole series was to have my agent publish the whole series, but she was reluctant to do the bookkeeping and royalty payments to 20+ contributors per book for ten books; she hasn’t the office staff for that nor the computer skills to automate it.

Neither do I. I haven’t time for all that work and I wouldn’t be reliable or dependable — and it’s the contributors’ money, not mine. I don’t need and can’t do all that work, and I won’t take on the obligation, and no other publisher seemed interested. Then Castalia wanted to publish the 25 year old series, and when I said only if you do the bookkeeping and banking, they said yes; they thought it a prestigious series and they would do that.

When TOR published the original series, I paid the royalties to the contributors, and though John Carr was invaluable help, it was my obligation and I did it; even wrote a computer program to make it easier. Alas, that program is long gone, and if it weren’t I still would not take on the obligation.

Castalia contracted to do all that as publisher. Royalties are coming in, and Castalia is paying them, and I don’t have to do much but collect my share, as it should be.

Baen To Kindle More Sales?

Baen, a pioneer in ebook marketing, is about to relent and begin selling ebooks outside their own store – presumably through Amazon, predicts Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader.

Some of the early clues, says Hoffelder, were the shrinking Baen Free Library, and a request made to one webmaster to stop offering files of Baen books once given away free in CD format because of an imminent “new ebook distribution deal with an ‘unnamed third-party’.”

[Via Andrew Porter and Paul Di Filippo.]

Distributors Feud Over DC Graphic Novels

Paper editions of DC Comics’ graphic novels won’t be sold in Barnes & Noble bookstores while Amazon has exclusive rights to distribute the digital versions reports the LA Times:

DC Comics’ efforts to expand digital distribution of its graphic novels has gotten it caught in a battle between two book-selling giants.

Barnes & Noble said Friday it will not stock physical copies of 100 of DC’s graphic novels that the Warner Bros.-owned unit is making available exclusively on competitor Amazon.com’s Kindle platform, including the upcoming Kindle Fire tablet.

DC agreed to give Amazon exclusive digital distribution rights for the books, which include “Watchmen” and graphic novels featuring Batman and Superman, for four months starting with the launch of the Kindle Fire on Nov. 15.

F&SF on Kindle

Kindle customers who subscribe can receive all of F&SF’s editorial content and one short story at no cost. This includes editor’s recommendations, “Curiosities” (odd books of enduring interest), film reviews, book reviews, cartoons and humor, and “Coming Attractions” (highlights of each issue).

The complete content of each issue is available for $12 a year — with everything in the digest edition plus several additional short stories and novelettes. Individual issues of the extended edition are available for $2.99. F&SF publishes six times a year.

Stephen King, in his capacity as a long-time fan of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, applauded the arrangement: “This is the best fiction magazine in America. Kindle readers are in luck.”

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the link.]

Cheap E-books, Boon or Bane?

Or both?

Discussing 99-cent e-books here the other day, Michael Walsh concluded YMMV.

Author Jeff Carlson tells readers of the SFWA Blog he is getting high mileage — he has sold 13,000 copies of his novella “The Frozen Sky”. To celebrate he’s giving away freebies of his other short story collections as Mobi or ePub files.  

However, users of the Amazon Kindle are being forced onto 40 miles of bad road warns the Globe and Mail, because there’s “Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing”:

Spam has hit the Kindle, clogging the online bookstore of the top-selling eReader with material that is far from being book worthy and threatening to undermine Amazon.com Inc’s publishing foray.

Thousands of digital books, called ebooks, are being published through Amazon’s self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

Instead, they are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.

These ebooks are listed for sale – often at 99 cents – alongside more traditional books on Amazon’s website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want.

Casting this as a crisis may be the smart play for the Globe and Mail‘s news editor, but who is really doing any plowing? As a rule people don’t browse Amazon’s zillions of titles at random. Forcing Amazon’s search engine to sort through more titles is not my idea of a public emergency.

Independent Publishing and the Kindle

Nancy Fulda offers interesting and persuasive advice about self-publishing in “Kindle Starter Kit” on the SFWA Blog.

Fulda analyzes the impact of content (yes, quality writing matters – shock!), covers, reviews, the blurb, Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought” algorithim, promotion and pricing.

For example, she makes a provocative argument in favor of setting a low price:

That purchasing urge gets stronger the lower the price goes. Get down into the $0.99 range, and you are in Happy Impulse Purchase Land. People won’t think twice about buying; if the book looks remotely interesting, they’re likely to just toss it in the shopping cart.

Here’s something I didn’t know a month ago: The kindle market is not primarily populated by early adopters and techno-geeks. The Cheap Book Crowd — the customers who never even made it onto most publishers’ radar because they go to libraries and shop in used book stores — has fallen in love with kindle. Buyers have been known to spend up to $200 per month on $0.99 books.

Price matters.