Pixel Scroll 6/21/17 Pay No Attention To That Scroll Behind The Pixel

Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…

(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.

…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.

And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.

But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?

Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….

(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.

Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.

Hey, we can all dream.

The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.

My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:

Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)

Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.

(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.

(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.

Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.

Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.

(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.

We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.

(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.

(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.

So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:

  1. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…

(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson”  at Warbler Books.

A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.

(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:

First, the site is a mess. It’s like a weird cross between Goodreads and MySpace. I know there’s a lot of people who love Goodreads, but sorry, that site is almost impossible to navigate. Way too much clutter, with the option you’re looking for hidden in some tiny link that doesn’t actually look like a link. Unless you’re a frequent user, you constantly feel like you’re lost. That’s Facebook now. It’s very unfriendly for new users, which I know is like me and ten people living in Yurts in Mongolia, but still. In terms of user-friendliness, it’s going the way of MySpace.

Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?

He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.

But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.

(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.

It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.

The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.

Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.

Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.

French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.

(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”

The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….

(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.

Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.

(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”

(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.

This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.

(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/17 Heigh-Ho, The Derry-O, A Pixel We Will Scroll

(1) CLARA COMING BACK? In a spoiler-filled post, “This ‘Doctor Who’ Companion Could Be About to Return for the Christmas Special “, Lewis Jeffries speculates about the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

On Twitter, it has been stated that Eddie’s Diner has been booked by BBC Doctor Who for two days of filming. Hardcore fans know that Eddie’s Diner is in fact Clara and Ashildr’s (Maisie Williams) TARDIS in disguise. So this can only mean one thing, the return of Clara Oswald and Ashildr.

(2) HELP WANTED. James Ciment, PhD, Acquisitions Editor for Popular Culture at ABC-CLIO, has an opening:

ABC-Clio, a reference and academic publisher based in Santa Barbara, California, is looking for an editor (or co-editors) for a reference book on aliens in popular American culture—popular literature, film, television, graphic fiction, and other genres and media. Book length and specific content will be determined by the editor in consultation with the publisher. The deadline for submission of the manuscript is flexible, within a range of 18 to 30 months. The book is intended for the college, public and academic high school library markets. Requirements for the editor are flexible as well but editor must have significant publishing history in the field of literary/film criticism, popular culture studies and/or related fields. Academic affiliation is recommended but not required. Reference editing experience helpful. Editor duties include developing a TOC, soliciting contributing writers, and editor manuscript for content. Publisher will provide administrative support and will be responsible for copy-editing and indexing.

Interested persons should send their CV to acquisitions editor James Ciment at: james.ciment@ca.rr.com

(3) LET THE APPERTAINMENT BEGIN. Steve Davidson knows that as often as I need to invite people to appertain themselves their favorite beverage (after spotting one of my typos), I probably need to order in bulk. And if I’m doing that, the bottles should have a house label – which he has supplied.

(4) DERRINGER AWARDS. The 2017 Derringer Awards winners, for short mystery fiction, have been announced. Unfortunately, Bruce D. Arthurs’ Derringer-nominated short story, “Beks and the Second Note,” did not get the nod. Here are the stories and authors that did:

2017 Derringer Award Results

BEST FLASH STORY (1 – 1,000 words)

  • Herschel Cozine for “The Phone Call” (Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer 2016)

Best Short Story (1,001 – 4,000 words)

  • Linda Barnes for “The Way They Do It in Boston” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016)

Best Long Story (4,001- 8,000 words)

  • Victoria Weisfeld for “Breadcrumbs” (Betty Fedora: Kickass Women In Crime Fiction, Issue 3, September 2016)

Best Novelette (8,000 to 20,000 words)

  • Terrie Farley Moran for “Inquiry and Assistance” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, January/February 2016)

Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer

  • Robert Randisi

(5) POD DRAMA. Tor Labs is a newly launched dramatic podcast imprint. Here’s an excerpt from Patty Garcia’s press release.

Tor Books, a leading global publisher of science fiction and fantasy, announced today that it is launching TOR LABS, a new imprint emphasizing experimental approaches to genre publishing, beginning with original dramatic podcasts.

Helmed by Senior Editor Marco Palmieri and Editor Jennifer Gunnels, Tor Labs will debut this summer with Steal the Stars, a science fiction audio drama which will be produced in partnership with Gideon Media and written by Mac Rogers, the award-winning writer of the global hit podcast thrillers, The Message and LifeAfter.

(6) TRAVEL FUNDING SOUGHT. Three Brazilian fans; Andressa Dreka, Mayara Teixeira Dos Santos, and Luis Alessio are crowdfunding to come to the UK for Lazlar Lyricon 3, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy funcon being run in Stoke on Trent in June.

The trio help run Obrigado Pelos Peixes (“Thanks for All the Fish”) an organization in Brazil that ran its own convention, Don’t PaniCon, last year, and plan another for 2017.

James Bacon notes:

A few special items were auctioned at the recent UK Eastercon to help raise money for the project. These included an official Hitchhiker’s quote towel from the 1980s and a pair of beer glasses with Hitchhiker inspired designs from the 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival. This raised GBP212 for the fund.

The crowdfunding is being carried out on a Catarse site, via https://www.catarse.me/OPPnoLazlarLyricon3.

As File 770 reported over the winter, Lazlar Lyricon 3 will take place June 9-11. Committee members include Stefan Lancaster, Emma J. King, David Haddock and Alan Sullivan.

The first two Lazlar Lyricons were part of a series of conventions in the 1980s, 90s and early 00s colloquially called ‘Fun Cons’, which also included the Incons, Dangercons, and several one-off conventions such as Year of the Wombat and Aliens Stole my Handbag.

(7) READING ALOUD. Cat Rambo says, “A lot of us have listened to SFWA’s Executive Director Kate Baker narrating podcasts over the years, but here’s someone narrating one of Kate’s pieces” — “Old Teacups and Kitchen Witches by Kate Baker” on Cast of Wonders.

This time the narrator is –

Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her short stories and poems appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, Swift for the Sun, will be available Spring 2017. Follow her online and on Twitter.

(8) EPISODE ONE. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Meghan Ball and Kelly Anderson recap “American Gods Episode One: ‘The Bone Orchard'”.

Our reactions

Kelly: Welp. This show knows how to make an entrance! Pilots are all about being memorable, and I think I can say from the get-go this one certainly succeeded on that level. They went for a combo of stark, Tarantino-esque visuals, husky-voiced, gritty storytelling, and a grimy ‘70s vibe, and it all blends together to create the perfect mood for this story. It’s surrealist noir, if such a genre exists—everything is slightly off-kilter, and even the scenery makes you look twice (that alligator bar! I gotta get me one of those!). It’s as if somebody went back in time and gave Magritte computer graphics and possibly some acid, and I love it.

Meghan: That was an astonishing trippy-as-hell hour of television. I never thought I’d see the day someone actually followed through with bringing this book to life, and certainly not in a way so savagely, monstrously beautiful. I especially loved the use of music. Whoever chose it deserves a raise. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” playing while Shadow stares mournfully at Laura’s grave? Absolute perfection. They also used “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups in the bar scene, which is also mentioned in the novel. That was especially cool. Everything about the premiere felt lush and organic, and utterly real as it was surreal. I’m a fan of Tarantino movies, and even I was gasping in shock during the opening Viking scenes, which completely set the tone.

(9) THE LONG HAUL. At Vox, there’s an overview by someone who’s seen the first four episodes.

If you’re like me and haven’t read Gaiman’s iconic source material, the TV series doesn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to catch you up. There will inevitably come a point when — as blood rains from the sky and some god or another intones an ominous missive about death — you’ll squint and realize you have no idea what’s happening.

But that’s okay by American Gods. Having seen four episodes, I think it’s safe to say that the mysteries being explored by the show’s first season are intricate, and that Fuller and Green are in no rush to give away their secrets. This will be frustrating for people watching from week to week, but American Gods is making the bet that you’ll be intrigued enough by what it teases to stick with it — and on that front, it’s probably right.

(10) INDEPENDENTS’ DAY. The Seattle Review of Books covers #independentbookstoreday celebration: “Our Independent Bookstore Day, in photos”.

(11) GLOWING GOO YOU CAN CHEW. Where to find it? Cat Rambo has a clue.

My most recent newsletter is up and includes class news and a link to a recipe for edible glow in the dark gel: “News and More Stuff from Chez Rambo”

(12) SAX AND VIOLENCE. Echo Ishii watches old TV: “SF Obscure: Night Man “.

What do you get when you cross light jazz, Taylor Dayne, and questionable costume choices? And then you throw in special guest appearances by Jerry Springer and Donald Trump? Why you get Night Man, a show that surprisingly stayed on air for two seasons.

Night Man(1997-1999) is the story of Johnny Domino, a professional saxophonist, who is struck by lightning and earns a telepathic ability to see evil. It’s loosely based on an original comic. He also teams up with some scientists on the run who provide him with a special suit that allows him to deflect bullets and fly. It actually took a few episodes to figure out exactly what the suit does vs. Johnny Domino’s own ability- and I have the sneaking suspicion it was not entirely developed well by the writers.

(13) BAD MIKE.

So the rest of you better hurry and get that reading done or I’ll take a bite out of you, too.

(Or – and this was the point — you could wait to fling poo at the Hugo shortlist ‘til you’ve read it, something that never occurred to C. and Matt.)

(14) PURITY OF ESSENCE. Can penguins be forced to bark? Jay Maynard wants to “Make Penguincon Great Again” —  by kicking out everything he doesn’t like.

Still, I’d promised this year’s con chair that she’d get a fair chance to address my concerns, so I came back one more time. Guess what? More hard-left GoHs — the odious Coraline Ada Ehmke, she of the Contributor Covenant that prohibits project members from being politically incorrect any time, anywhere, in any venue, on pain of expulsion (who had to cancel due to an emergency); Sumana Harihareswara, who I found out the hard way was a hard-core feminist as well; and Cory Doctorow, well-known left-wing author — more politically correct panels, 15 of them on such topics as “Queering Your Fiction” and “Let’s Get the Taste of 2016 Out of Our Mouths” and “Exploring Themes in Zen Cho’s Work” (with “Intersectionality, diaspora and immigration, the culture of British education, and queer relationships also appear in Cho’s stories over and over” in the description). When I was asked to submit lists of panel topics, I was instructed not to be controversial, but it seems the Left has no such admonition.

This was further borne out by the very first thing that happened at Opening Ceremonies: right after the con chair took the mic, she introduced one member of the convention committee, who proceeded to name 8 or 9 American Indian tribes that had lived in Southeast Michigan in the past and said that “we are their guests here”. That bit of virtue signaling came straight out of the political correctness playbook.

The con’s expanded harassment policy is also of the same stripe; it basically allows anyone to complain that they are being harassed on the flimsiest of excuses, and the con can then eject the subject of the complaint summarily with no recourse and no refund. This is the kind of policy that has routinely been used against those who are merely politically incorrect at other cons, most notably the Worldcon in Kansas City.

There were exactly two panels on topics that the Left would not approve of, both relating to firearms. In fairness, I will also point out that the con did, for the first time, officially sponsor and pay for the Geeks with Guns event. Still, the overall feel is that of overpowering political correctness.

All of this adds up to one inescapable conclusion, for me: those who oppose the politically correct orthodoxy are not Penguicon’s kind of people. Oh, sure, they’ll happily take our money, but we’re not “one of them”.

I go to cons to escape the culture wars, not to get hit over the head with how much of a nasty, eeeeevil person I am for being a white male. We are all, first and foremost, SF fans and computer geeks. People should leave their politics at the door and celebrate SF and open source computing for their own sakes. For the first decade, at least, Penguicon did. It doesn’t any more.

Jer Lance disagrees with the diagnosis: “On the Need to Make Great Things Great Again”

Among my plans for the day, today, was to put together a quick writeup congratulating the staff of Penguincon for throwing an undeniably successful convention—the 15th in a series! Instead, I’d like to take a moment to respond to a long-time attendee’s paen to modern divisive politics; a blog post with the snappy title “Make Penguincon Great Again.” In his post, Jay “Tron Guy” Maynard makes the assertion that Penguincon has fallen to the “leftists” and resulting event is no longer one that is comfortable for people like him.

…Instead, I would like to focus on Jay’s proposed solution. Tron Guy—an attendee since the very first event—would “return the con explicitly to being nonpolitical.” Maynard yearns for the days when we focused on apolitical topics like Geeks with Guns – Societal & Political (year 1), Hidden Totalitarian Assumptions in ‘I, Robot’ (year 3), Don’t Be Evil: The Google Books Settlement (year 9), Technology as Legislation (year 5), and of course the keynote address from the very first Penguincon by Eric S. Raymond (on whose blog this Make Penguincon Great Again concept was born) which discussed “open source, the hacker culture, and the second amendment.” As Archie Bunker sang, those were the days!

In case my point was too subtle, Penguicon has never been any more apolitical than science fiction itself, despite claims to the contrary.

….I came to my first Penguincon in 2006 during its 4th year. I came for the tech conference side of the house and actively disdained the “comicon, nerd shit.” Over the ensuing 11 years, I have attributed a tremendous amount of my personal growth to my having been repeatedly and relentlessly exposed to things outside of my comfort zone through the convention. My hardline libertarian stance has softened to that of a moderate conservative through immersion in concepts that were foreign to me until such time as it was easier to understand them than repel them.

In that understanding, I’ve earned empathy….

(15) IT’S A THEORY. K.B. Wagers argues the change is happening: “The Rise of the Unlikable Woman”

There have always been unlikable characters in fiction, though the idea of the anti-hero?—?brooding, self-centered, wholly unredeemable?—?has long been considered a man’s territory. From crotchety but lovable Han Solo to the downright dangerous Riddick, no one complains that these characters aren’t people you’d trust to watch your house, let alone have a cup of tea with.

Women in fiction, by contrast, can only be unlikable if they are redeemable in some fashion or another?—?or if they’re ultimately punished. Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is struggling for redemption (and turned into a nursemaid for the Big Guy as a result). Were she still unrepentant about the death she’s dealt?—?as Loki is?—?she would find less compassion from the audience. Emma Bovary, in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, receives her punishment (in the form of her death) at the end of the novel as a result of her sexual desires.

But now, women characters are rising up from the ashes of these expectations….

(16) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. On Planetary Post, March for Science participants joined host Robert Picardo in support of space science and exploration in Washington, D.C.

(17) CLARKE CENTER. Episode 7 of Into the Impossible, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s podcast, takes you to ”New Spaces”.

We’re looking at new spaces in space, speaking with Drs. Yvonne Cagle (astronaut and physician) and Adam Burgasser (astrophysicist). We talk about why we send humans into space, the discovery of potentially habitable worlds at TRAPPIST-1 and how we imagine them, the role of interstellar art, the evolution of human physiology in zero-g, why the scariest thing about being an astronaut might be finding yourself on stage at the Oscars with Dr. Katherine Johnson, subject of the film Hidden Figures, and how important it is that we remain vigilant in our embrace of diversity across disciplines.

(18) BAT EXCLUSIVITY. ScreenRant claims there are “15 Things Batman Can Do (That No One Else Can)”.

Given his intensive combat training and genius-level sleuthing skills, the Dark Knight Detective is one of the most formidable heroes in the DCU (or the world of comics in general), giving him a skill-set that dwarfs many of his superpowered peers.

  1. He Has Contingency Plans to Take Down Enemies…and His Friends

As we stated earlier, Batman prepares for everything. And we mean everything. In addition to strategizing on how to take down all of his arch-enemies and other deadly threats, he does what some might see as a betrayal–he creates contingency plans against every one of his fellow Justice League team members (in Grant Morrison’s 2000 Justice League: Tower of Babel storyline).

Using his genius intellect, he develops brutally efficient ways to neutralize his teammates’ powers: he binds Green Lantern with his own power ring, makes Aquaman terrified of water, uses fire against Martian Manhunter, liquid nitrogen to subdue Plastic Man, virtual reality against Wonder Woman, and he even creates a weapon to give The Flash seizures.

His strategizing backfires, however, when Ra’s al Ghul steals his plans and takes down his allies. Needless to say, his fellow Justice League members were none too pleased with this, and they  subsequently had his membership revoked. It’s not easy for Batman to have friends.

(19) BATMAN & BILL. Hulu is releasing Batman & Bill on May 6, which is a documentary about Bill Finger’s contributions to the Batman mythos. FirstShowing.net explains the “Official Trailer for Hulu Doc ‘Batman & Bill’ About a Batman Creator”

“The most mysterious man in Gotham City wasn’t in a mask and cape.” Hulu has released an official trailer for a documentary titled Batman & Bill, which will premiere exclusively on Hulu starting early May. The documentary “unmasks” one of the greatest secrets in the comic industry – that Batman wasn’t created by Bob Kane alone, it was primarily Bill Finger who created the iconic superhero. This seems like a fascinating doc with plenty to offer for comic book fans, including inside stories and excellent art from the early days of Batman. It’s cool to see a doc like this that actually looks worth watching on Hulu.

 

(20) BATMAN & BOB. Offered on eBay and now marked down from $1,500 to $1,050, a signed first edition of Bob Kane’s autobiography Batman & Me with original signed ink Batman drawing by Kane.

Batman & Me. Forestville: Eclipse Books, 1989. First Edition. Copy number 144 of 1000 numbered copies signed by Bob Kane with an original ink drawing of Batman by Kane. The autobiography of the artist who created the immortal comic book character Batman in 1939. Extensively illustrated. Fine in slipcase.

(21) THE FIRST HALF OF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a 1968 Worldcon comics panel with Marv Wolfman and Harry Harrison. I guess a few things  have happened since then:

Baycon, the 26th WorldCon, was held in Oakland, California in 1968. This very entertaining panel features a discussion about contemporary comics by the then relative newcomer, Marvin Wolfman, and a plethora of engaging stories by Harry Harrision. Harry talks about Bill Gaines (EC Comics) and working with Wally Wood. The stories are funny, the context and history of the field are priceless. Moderated by Paul Moslander, this excellent recording is courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, James Bacon, and Bruce D. Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

American Gods Teaser Trailer

American Gods brought its “dream team” and cast to the San Diego Comic-Con.

The teaser trailer was shown to fans at SDCC. American Gods will premiere on Starz in January 2017.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]