Pixel Scroll 8/3/17 Hot Dog Stand On Zanzibar

(1) ANN LECKIE’S NEXT BOOK. At Motherboard you can “Read a Mindbending Excerpt from Ann Leckie’s New Novel ‘Provenance’”.

A transaction with a mysterious entity leads to trouble in the award-winning sci-fi author’s upcoming novel.

Now Leckie is returning with a new novel called Provenance due out on September 26. Motherboard is premiering an excerpt of the first chapter here. — The editor.

(2) ANNIHLATION COMING. Deadline, in “Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ Gets 2018 Release Date”, reports that Paramount has announced Annihilation, a film based on the first Southern Reach novel by Jeff VanderMeer, will be released on February 23, 2018. Alex Garland, who directed Ex Machina and received an Oscar nomination for Ex Machina’s screenplay adaptation, directed Annihilation. The movie features Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac with Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez.

(3) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR SUBJECTED TO INDIGNITIES. At Amazing Stories, Darren Slade explains “How the debate about the first female Time Lord has insulted fans”.

But I’ve felt like a bit of a bystander in the 13 Doctor debate, because that discussion has broken out of the fan and genre forums and been taken up by the big news media, especially in the UK.

On the liberal left, the Guardian warned us that “it will take more than a female Time Lord to change the world”, but that didn’t stop it running other opinion pieces with headlines like “A female Doctor? She’s the revolutionary feminist we need right now.”

On the right, the Daily Mail and The Sun gleefully reported the objections of those who proclaimed that political correctness had, once again, gone mad.

“Doctor under debate: Doctor Who fans in furious online debate after Jodie Whittaker confirmed as first female Doctor,” reported The Sun.

The Mail Online went on to run such edifying headlines as “Doctor Nude! First ever female Time Lord Jodie Whittaker joins her predecessors in stripping off on camera after having sex on the stairs in 2014 drama” and “Even Time Lords need to do the grocery shopping! Bare-faced Doctor Who newbie Jodie Whittaker wears ripped baggy jeans for very low-key supermarket spree.”

(4) BASE NOTE. This year’s Hugo base, designed by a Finnish artist selected by the Worldcon 75 committee, will be unveiled for the first time on August 11, the day of the Hugo ceremony, says co-Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte.

(5) GET READY. This Is Finland’s article “A guide to Finnish customs and manners” will aid fannish tourists in their last-minute cultural cramming:

Tipping

Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality; today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”. Tipping does nevertheless exist in Finland, and you can feel safe that while nobody will object to being tipped, very few will mind not being tipped…..

(6) PATREON. The Verge takes you “Inside Patreon, the economic engine of internet culture “.

…Patreon boasts 50,000 active creators and over a million active patrons.

Patreon is still tiny compared to Kickstarter, where 13 million backers have funded 128,000 successful campaigns, but it’s rapidly growing. Half its patrons and creators joined in the past year, and it’s set to process $150 million in 2017, compared to $100 million total over the past three years….

Patreon creators can find their close relationships with patrons not just gratifying, but productive. Rebecca Watson, an early Patreon adopter who makes videos under the moniker Skepchick, says that the site has helped her identify a core audience whose opinions she trusts. “If my patrons request something, I know that, you know, these are the people that are supporting me. They’re not just some jerk on the internet,” she says. “It clears out all the noise.”

For creators who already make money elsewhere, Patreon can also simply function like a tip jar, not a social space. Artist Arlin Ortiz, for instance, is part of the vast lower middle class of Patreon users. He gets paid about $100 for each of the vivid fantasy maps he posts online, a welcome — if small — boost to his income over the past two years. He interacts with his patrons, but they’re not necessarily steadfast fans, the way they might be for a video personality. “People just like what I’m creating,” he says. “I don’t think they want to see me on YouTube, talking at them.”

… Some people have staggeringly large Patreons, like multimedia artist Amanda Palmer, who gets $40,000 (as her page puts it) “per thing.” But because there’s no concrete end point, there may never be universally recognized “blockbuster Patreons” the way there are blockbuster Kickstarters — massive mainstream campaigns that will be remembered for years to come, either as great successes or slow-motion train wrecks.

(7) TRAIN TO NOWHERE? Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie has discovered “Angry Goat Productions Running ‘School of Wizardry’ Train Event Under a New Company Name”.

The caution I’d give anyone choosing to purchase a ticket to this is that literally every event ever planned by this company has been cancelled. They even claimed they were going to run a Train based event back in 2016 which got cancelled (and something to do with it is why they got sued by a cast member from The Hobbit films). Events announced by this company tend not to happen.

…But people who sign up for the North American School of Wizardry don’t have to worry about whether or not refunds will come if the events get cancelled… because they definitely won’t. According to the site’s Disclaimer there will be no refunds whatsoever if the event doesn’t happen. So you’d be buying tickets for an event run by a company with a reputation for cancelling everything they’ve ever planned with zero chance of getting your money back when the inevitable happens.

(8) NEWS FROM NEW WORLDS. At Galactic Journey, Mark Yon reports from 1962 about a British prozine — “[August 3, 1962] New Worlds to Conquer (a view from Britain: September 1962 New Worlds)”.

I can see that, even with New Worlds, there have been some drastic changes in the last few months. The glorious colour covers of the last few years by artists such as Bob Clothier, Gerard Quinn, Sidney Jordan and Brian Lewis have since the June issue (that’s number 119) been replaced by covers with black & white photographs on a coloured background. Whatever reason editor John Carnell has had for the change – I’m assuming to reduce printing costs, but of course, it could be a number of things – to my mind it makes the magazine less attractive as a science fiction magazine (One rumour is that it is meant to be a radically different cover style to try and attract a wider, less specifically science-fiction readership). Colour pictures on the front cover would have made this new look so much more attractive. I do hope that this is nothing to worry about from our leading British magazine.

The magazine contents are as variable as ever, though. New Worlds has a reputation of being the publishing place of many of our British authors such as Mr’s Brian W. Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, James White, and John Brunner, names you may recognise. Some of the work of other lesser known authors can vary in terms of quality and consistency, though I must say that there’s something worth reading in each issue. As well as the fiction, the magazine occasionally covers book, film and television reviews, usually by Mr Leslie Flood.

(9) MERMAID MUSICAL PUT IN DRYDOCK. USA Today, in “ABC drops plans for ‘Little Mermaid’ musical”, says the live musical production probably will never air.

ABC has scrubbed plans for its first live musical in years, based on parent Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The event, announced in May and scheduled to air Oct. 3, a week into the new TV season, has been quietly postponed (and most likely canceled) due to budget constraints, according to people familiar with the decision who were unauthorized to speak publicly.

But the network had already spent a considerable sum building sets, and was due to begin rehearsals soon.

Incidentally, NBC has also tabled plans for Bye, Bye Birdie, planned as a holiday musical starring Jennifer Lopez.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 3, 1977 — Radio Shack announces TRS-80 Computer
  • August 3, 1984 The Philadelphia Experiment premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found an idea he could get behind in today’s Non Sequitur.
  • And John King Tarpinian got a laugh out of Speed Bump.
  • On the other hand, I suspect you will feel a frisson of horror when you look at John’s recommendation in today’s Bliss.

(13) DIGITAL DANGERS. Fast Company spoke with Vint Cerf — “The Internet’s Future Is More Fragile Than Ever, Says One Of Its Inventors”.

My biggest concern is to equip the online netizen with tools to protect himself or herself, to detect attempts to attack or otherwise harm someone.

The term “digital literacy” is often referred to as if you can use a spreadsheet or a text editor. But I think digital literacy is closer to looking both ways before you cross the street. It’s a warning to think about what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re doing, and thinking critically about what to accept and reject . . . Because in the absence of this kind of critical thinking, it’s easy to see how the phenomena that we’re just now labeling fake news, alternative facts [can come about]. These [problems] are showing up, and they’re reinforced in social media.

(14) FOLLOWING ARABELLA. Tadiana Jones reviews David D. Levine’s new novel for Fantasy Literature in “Arabella and the Battle of Venus: Arabella meets Napoleon Bonaparte”.

Arabella and the Battle of Venus is, like Arabella of Mars, a cleverly conceived and executed novel. Levine spins a story incorporating elements from both early science fiction and actual history, weaving in real people from the Napoleonic era. It’s not only major players like Napoleon and Admiral Lord Nelson, but also less well known historical figures like British Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the American inventor Robert Fulton (who did spend some years in France, designing steamboat engines, submarines, and torpedoes), and the merciless police minister Joseph Fouché. Sailing ships ? with a few tweaks ? function as spaceships in this universe.

(15) SJW CREDENTIAL CONSUMER REPORT. Gizmodo’s Rae Paoletta claims “This Treat Camera Gave My Cat Trust Issues”.

… Since both of us are busy most of the day at our respective places of work, we forget to check in on each other. Thankfully, Petcube’s newest gadget, Petcube Bites, lets humans check in on their furry companions when they’re apart. It also lets us fling treats at them on command which is both heartwarming and mildly horrifying….

The Petcube shot out Artemis’ treats precariously and with abandon, like a frat boy throwing his drink at a guy who wore the same Vineyard Vines zip up as him. The whole thing was like a cannon of delicious nightmares—needless to say, my cat was horrified. Make no mistake, she still ate the treats—but after the incident, she pretty much veered away from the machine.

(16) BACKTALKING BOTS. Facebook isn’t the only source of wild chatbots: “Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts”

A popular Chinese messenger app has ditched two experimental chat robots, or “chatbots”, which were apparently voicing criticism of the government.

Messenger app Tencent QQ introduced chatbots Baby Q and Little Bing, a penguin and a little girl, in March.

But they have now been removed after social media users shared controversial comments that they said were made by the bots.

Some of the remarks appear to criticise the Communist Party.

One response even referred to the party as “a corrupt and incompetent political regime”.

(17) POD FOR PEOPLE. Video of testing the first human-sized Hyperloop: “Hyperloop One: Passenger pod tested successfully”.

Hyperloop One has carried out its latest test of a futuristic high-speed transport system in the Nevada desert.

The creators hope to carry passengers at speeds of up to 650mph in vacuum propelled pods.

(18) DRONING ON. Another change SF missed: making money legitimately with drones: “Cashing in on the drone revolution”.

“Organisations that do surveying, whether of buildings or pipelines, power lines or railway lines, are increasingly using drones, which are much cheaper than helicopters,” says Mr Johnson.

“Archaeologists use them to get a bird’s eye view to decide where to dig; farmers use them to heat-map fields, and identify hot spots that are doing well, and cold spots that require more fertilisation.

“They are also used for search and rescue by the emergency services, or to deliver food, blood or medicines. Local authorities use them to monitor flooding, and they are used in emergency relief operations.”

The main benefit, he says, is that drones save time and money, and the opportunities to use them seem “almost endless”.

(19) FLEX APPEAL. The author of Strange Practice tells readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog why she chose genre in “Vampires Doing Crossword Puzzles (in Ink): Vivian Shaw on Contrasting the Magical and the Mundane”.

This is why I particularly love to write stories that contain very sharply contrasted elements, and why I write genre rather than literary fiction. In the simplest terms, most literary fiction can be described as stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things—living in the real world, with no elements of fantasy—and I prefer to read and write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or vice versa. I want to read about vampires in dressing-gowns doing the Times crossword in ink, sorcerers standing in line at the grocery store, demons holding strategy meetings over Skype. I want to read about bog-standard humans finding portals to another dimension inside their office closet, going on quests through the realms of the unreal, driving spaceships off the shoulder of Orion. And because I want to read it, I write it.

(20) WRONG POV. At Elitist Book Reviews Writer Dan tells why he put Kim Liggett’s horror novel The Last Harvest in the category of “Books We Don’t Like.”

This lack of understanding absolutely killed any possibility that I was going to get into the novel or the plight of the main character. More than this though, a secondary character gets introduced along the way, and it becomes fairly obvious that the story should be getting told from her perspective instead of the QB’s as the events that are occurring in the town have a direct tie (read that again… DIRECT TIE) to her past. She’s the one that understands all of the rules. She knows what’s going on. Not the QB. This was especially evident when Tate’s subconscious starts telling him where to go because when he’s thinking logically he has no idea what to do. This leads him directly where the bad guy wants him to be, funny enough. I guess the author had to get Tate to go somehow, so why not?

(21) TIME AFTER TIME. Nicola Alter delves into the “The Pros and Cons of a Macro Timescale” at Fantasy-Faction. Here’s one of the “cons”.

Complexity

The other potential pitfall of a large timescale is that it often adds complexity. The Malazan Book of the Fallen has been known to intimidate new readers with its sheer scope – one that encompasses a burgeoning cast of characters, multiple continents, and thousands of years. It has nonetheless garnered many loyal fans, no doubt because readers who invest in it are ultimately rewarded with an intricately-crafted world and story. Still, it takes a skilled authorial hand to weave a tale of that size, and attempting such an endeavor is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

(22) TEEN ANGEL. Here’s the trailer for Fallen.

Luce is just an ordinary teen girl until a shocking accident sends her to a mysterious reform school for misfit and eclectic teenagers. There, she meets two students, Daniel and Cam. Torn between the instant electrifying connection she feels with Daniel and the attracting force of Cam, Luce is quickly pulled into a passionate love triangle. As she tries to piece together deeply fragmented memories, she is left with a feeling of undeniable longing for her one true love and the revelation of a love story that has been going on for centuries, will shatter the boundaries between heaven and earth.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rob Thornton, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit and a side of fries goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/17 Fifth Scroll And Seven Pixels Ago

(1) ASK LOVECRAFT OUT AT YOUTUBE. Ask Lovecraft has been taken down by YouTube for reasons that are unclear. The channel itself is unsearchable, and peoples’ playlists of the episodes now read “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated.”

The Ask Lovecraft outpost on Facebook is no more enlightening about the reasons:

We apologize for the inconvenience but in the midst of our travels, we discovered that our YouTube channel has been temporarily suspended and are working to restore it.

Thank you for your patience.

(2) FUSSIN’ AND FEUDIN’. Entertainment Weekly reveals the new series will make a change in Trek’s culture: “Star Trek: Discovery to ditch a long frustrating Trek rule”.

in “Star Trek:  Discovery Throws Out Long-Standing Trek Rule” on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, James Hibberd says that the showrunners for Star Trek:  Discovery have thrown out the rule that crew members can’t fight each other or be portrayed negatively.

As part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future (and one that Trek franchise executive producer Rick Berman carried on after Roddenberry’s death in 1991), writers on Trek shows were urged to avoid having Starfleet crew members in significant conflict with one another (unless a crew member is, say, possessed by an alien force), or from being shown in any seriously negative way.

This guideline wasn’t strictly followed across all 700 previous franchise episodes, of course (there are especially some notable exceptions in The Original Series). But in an aspirational effort to make the future more idyllic, Starfleet crew members typically weren’t supposed to demonstrate baser human flaws. For writers on Trek shows, the restriction has been a point of behind-the-scenes contention (one TNG and Voyager writer, Michael Piller, famously dubbed it “Roddenberry’s Box”). Drama is conflict, after all, and if all the conflict stems from non-Starfleet members on a show whose regular cast consists almost entirely of Starfleet officers, it hugely limits the types of stories that can be told.

So for the CBS All Access series coming Sept. 24, that restriction has been lifted and the writers are allowed to tell types of stories that were discouraged for decades….

(3) TECHNICAL CORRECTION. When I checked NerdConHQ’s poll “Con of the Year 2016 – FAN Votes”, leading the voting was Cyprus Comic Con in Nicosia on the island of Cyprus. Either that’s one hell of a con, or somebody is doing to this poll what the Plokta cabal did to a Scifi Channel poll back in the dawn of the internet.

(4) WISE CRACKS. In Episode 41 of Eating the Fantastic, Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Crack open fortune cookies with Dennis Etchison”.

Dennis is a writer and editor who’s a three-time World Fantasy Award winner and a three-time British Fantasy Award winner. His 1982 debut short story collection, The Dark Country, is one of the best horror short story collections ever. And you don’t have to take my word for how good he is—some guy named Stephen King has called him “one hell of a fiction writer.”

We discussed how Philip K. Dick staged scenes as he wrote his stories, Ray Bradbury’s baffling advice which helped Etchison make his first fiction sale, whether he’d still have become a writer had he not been an only child, why most writing workshops don’t work, how he came to write his best-selling Halloween novel for John Carpenter in six weeks, the speech he really wanted to give when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and more.

(5) FROM THE TOP OF THE STACK. In “Recent Reading”, Ann Leckie shares her thoughts about The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata, All Systems Red by Martha Wells, and Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns.

(6) SO SUMO. Who doesn’t love fighting robots, right? The Verge has video: “These autonomous sumo wrestling bots are freakishly fast”.

If you haven’t seen robot sumo wrestling before, then you’re in for a treat. Trust me. Most robot versions of human sports are underwhelming, but as this video compilation shows, the mechanical take on Japan’s national sport is very fast and very furious. And why? Because engineers aren’t trying to copy human performance. Instead, they concentrate on the qualities that robots excel at: namely lightning-fast decision-making and insane turns of speed.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

  • Typewriter Day

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

There’s a sound we all know, even if we don’t quite recall it. It’s the mechanical clatter of a typewriter in action. It is reminiscent in the soulless tapping of keys on modern keyboards and recalled in the sounds of the elite of the keyboard world, the mechanical keyboard. But none of them quite reach the splendor and grandeur of a typewriter in action. Typewriter Day celebrates this humble device and the amazing pieces of literature it’s brought to us over the decades.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1956 — Abbott & Costello met the Mummy
  • June 23, 1976 — Dystopic sci-fi classic Logan’s Run races into theaters
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s blockbuster Batman opens to huge crowds

(9) COMIC SECTION

We commend to C.S. Lewis fans’ attention Rhymes With Orange for June 21.

(10) BRILLIANT CASTING. David Thayer picked up what he likes to call his Retro-Hugo Nominee pin — a little, Flash Gordon-esque rocket — at Jim Clift’s lapel pin site. Clift has created quite a few interesting items, for example, his collection of science lapel pins.

(11) ELECTRICAL CONDUCTOR. The orchestra that recorded Star Wars used modern tech for advertising: processed motion capture of Simon Rattle as poster backgrounds. “Watch Conductor Simon Rattle Turn Into A High-Tech Tangle Of Spaghetti” advertises London Symphony Orchestra.

Now here’s a creative way to promote your upcoming symphony season and up your brand: Strap your conductor in a motion capture suit, switch on a dozen high-tech cameras, and get an artist to translate the data into kaleidoscopic shapes and colors.

Then sit back and watch as Simon Rattle, who takes over the storied London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) this fall, morphs into an oozing blob, a twisting tower of metallic rods and, rather deliciously, a tangle of angel hair pasta. (Well, that’s what it looks like to me.)

 

Chip Hitchcock adds, “And Disney would plotz if he could see some of the web advertising from the same tech: web advertising from the same tech.”

(12) WHAT WOULD SCOTTY THINK? Entertainment Weekly teases more images from Star Trek: Discovery.

Here’s a first look one of the transporter rooms (yes, there are more than one) featured in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Above we see Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) preparing to beam down to … somewhere.

You’ll notice they’re wearing body armor (another interesting addition) and have old school The Original Series phasers at the ready. In the foreground on the left is the back of Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) a new form of alien in the Trek universe who plays a key role.

This particular transporter bay is aboard the U.S.S. Shenzhou and it’s unlike any that Trek fans have ever seen before. So if you love this new design, great, it’s in the show. If you don’t, hold that thought, because the transporter bay in the U.S.S. Discovery is very different from this one (and has not yet been seen).

Star: Trek Discovery is a prequel set 10 years before the events in The Original Series and focuses on two Starships, the Discovery and the Shenzhou. The Discovery is a newer vessel while the Shenzhou is an older model. The bridge scenes in the trailer are also aboard the Shenzhou rather than the Discovery.

 

(13) RELIC OF WAR. My benighted boast about my site traffic is destined to live on in the annals of humor unto the second fifth generation. Someone screencapped this hack of File 770’s Wikipedia entry. The punchline at the end of the second paragraph made me laugh.

(14) PLANETARY AWARD. Your 2016 Planetary Award winners are:

  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom (Thune’s Vision)
  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright

Any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate for the award. This year’s nominators included Jeffro Johnson, Jon del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

(15) APPROACHING THE FINNISH LINE. SFWA broadcasts Sylvia Spruck Wrigley’s “Ten Tips For First-Time Travelers to Helsinki”.

WorldCon in Helsinki is THE social event of the year, and we’re all really looking forward to it. However, for many people, it might be the first time traveling to a country where English is not the native language. This can be nerve-wracking because it is impossible to know what to expect. In a vague attempt to help, I’ve created this ten-point list of how to cope.

1) Research before you go. Read articles. Pick up a travel book. If you are comfortable with Reddit, browse through https://www.reddit.com/r/helsinki/ or even take part in https://www.reddit.com/r/Worldcon75/ and get to know people before you even arrive. Use Google Street View to explore your neighborhood. Look up the address and phone number of the American consulate. Install Duolingo and practice five minutes of Finnish a day for four weeks.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belong to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/17 Will Nobody Rid Me Of These Crottled Greeps?

(1) 2017 MANNING AWARD NOMINEES. Four of the five Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award nominees for 2017 are women:

  • Rafael de Latorre, artist of Animosity and Superzero (AfterShock)
  • Riana Dorsey, artist of Cloud Riders (Hashtag Comics)
  • Mindy Lee, artist of Bounty (Dark Horse)
  • Leila Leiz, artist of Alters (AfterShock)
  • Anne Szabla, writer/artist of Bird-Boy (Dark Horse)

(2) LEGENDARY BOOKSTORE TO CLOSE. Dark Carnival, SF bookstore in Berkeley, will soon go out of business, and may take the owner’s nearby comics store with it: “After 41 years, Berkeley sci-fi bookstore Dark Carnival is closing”.

After 41 years serving an enthusiastic customer base of sci-fi geeks and proud comic-book nerds in Berkeley, Dark Carnival, at 3086 Claremont Ave., is closing up shop. Its sister store, The Escapist, which is two doors down on Claremont, may also shutter if sales don’t pick up.

Owner Jack Rems describes himself as heartbroken. Speaking to Berkeleyside Monday, he said he had made the decision due to declining sales. He expressed gratitude to all his long-term customers and encouraged people to come by the store where he is holding a “progressive sale.” All stock is currently being offered at a 20% discount.

Rems doesn’t yet know when he will close the doors to the treasure-trove of a shop for the final time. “I need to pay bills, so as long as by selling off stock we are generating more than it costs [we will stay open],” he said.

(3) ARC AND PSA. The release of Ann Leckie’s Provenance draws closer. The author just got her advance reading copies.

It’s a real book! Sort of.

Just as a reminder–readers of this blog likely already know, but still–Provenance is set in the Ancillaryverse but does not concern the same characters and is not set in Radch Space. No, and not in the Republic of Two Systems either. It will be out September 26, 2017, and I’m given to understand there will be an audiobook, out on the same date. I have no further details about audio, though.

(4) STRANGE TAXONOMY. “The idea that the X Prize Foundation is funding sf is big news,” says Martin Morse Wooster about the news story below, “BUT if you look at the Science Fiction Advisory Council press release you will see that Neil Gaiman and Andy Weir are ‘novelists’ while Charles Stross and Mike Resnick are ‘science fiction writers.’”

From Slate, “Prototyping a Better Tomorrow”:

The fact that so many people are turning toward these dire visions of the future may seem like cause for worry, but it is also a sign of hope. Great dystopian works like The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984, in the words of one defender of dystopian fiction, can serve as self-defeating prophecies helping us to recognize and prevent the dark worlds they depict. Put another way, The Handmaid’s Tale actually is an instruction manual, meant to teach us what we must fight to avoid. But hope can’t live on dystopia alone. It requires positive visions, too.

Thankfully, an ambitious new project launched this month aims to use the vision and expertise of the science fiction community–including Atwood herself–to move past dystopian visions. The newly announced Science Fiction Advisory Council, composed of a stellar selection of 64 bestselling sci-fi writers and visionary filmmakers, has tasked itself with imagining realistic, possible, positive futures that we might actually want to live in–and figuring out we can get from here to there. The council is sponsored by XPRIZE, the nonprofit foundation that uses competition to spur private development of things like a reusable suborbital spacecraft. The advisers on the council will “assist XPRIZE in the creation of digital ‘futures’ roadmaps across a variety of domains [and] identify the ideal catalysts, drivers and mechanisms–including potential XPRIZE competitions–to overcome grand challenges and achieve a preferred future state.”

(5) DIVERGING PATHS. For everyone who read these books and thought they should do this except it would take so much time, Tor.com brings you “The Secret Maps Buried Beneath the “Choose Your Own Adventure” Books”.

“Choose Your Own Adventure” was a groundbreaking book series that prepared many of our child minds for the internet…or for keeping track of all the endnotes in Infinite Jest if you’re into that sort of thing. But did you know that each twisty, unforgiving story in the CYOA series has a map? The good folks over at Atlas Obscura have dug into the books and the maps they’ve generated.

The series original ran from 1979 to 1998, but since 2004, Chooseco, the company founded by one of the CYOA author, R.A. Montgomery, has re-released classic volumes and included the maps that are created by all the possible choices in each book! The official maps keep things fairly clear-cut. Pages are shown by an arrow, circles represent the choices the book offers its readers, each possible ending is represented by a square, and the dotted lines show the links between choices.

(6) ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT EXPO. Follow this link to a roundup of game news from E3 2017.

There is a long list of announcements and news items in Tuesday’s individual post alone.

(7) ORGAN CONCERT. Daniel P. Dern was fascinated by the New York Times article about “The Liver: A ‘Blob’ That Runs the Body”.

The underrated, unloved liver performs more than 300 vital functions. No wonder the ancients believed it to be the home of the human soul.

Dern points to “fascinating stuff” like –

Scientists have also discovered that hepatocytes, the metabolically active cells that constitute 80 percent of the liver, possess traits not seen in any other normal cells of the body. For example, whereas most cells have two sets of chromosomes — two sets of genetic instructions on how a cell should behave — hepatocytes can enfold and deftly manipulate up to eight sets of chromosomes, and all without falling apart or turning cancerous.

“Not to mention the amusing term, ‘liverati’,” he continues. “Wonder if this organ was originally an alien symbiote, etc?”

(8) BEOWULF’S NEW NEIGHBOR. A Python’s diaries go to the British Museum.

Michael Palin has made a significant donation of written archives to the British Library, which documents his literary and creative career, covering the years 1965-1987.

Not much text, but some interesting video with commentary. Chip Hitchcock adds, “Note especially that the original contract paid one person in pounds and the rest in guineas; how very antique.”

(9) PUFF, PUFF, PUFF. What happened to Robert the smoking robot? A briefly-notorious private project from the 1930’s.

Today, the story of Robert the Robot is little known, even in the Northamptonshire town where he was once a celebrity.

Yet in the 1930s, his fame reached as far as Czechoslovakia and the United States, where he even featured in Time magazine.

And the reason he came to be?

“Someone bet me £5 I could not make a robot in three weeks,” inventor Charles Lawson, who had a radio shop, told a newspaper at the time.

“I won.”

… “The robot relied on a combination of motors, photoelectric cells, telephone relays and a record player to perform 26 pre-programmed routines, each one initiated by voice commands from a human co-star.

“Smoking was done using automated bellows which were also a feature of 19th Century automatons.

“Remember that this type of robot did not have access to a computer and so talking was done using a triggering mechanism for a record player playing old 78 RPM bakelite records.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 13, 1953 The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms hit theaters.

  • June 13, 1981Clash of the Titans was released.

(11) FORGOTTEN TV. Echo Ishii holds forth on a rare Seventies series with Edward Woodward in “SF Obscure: 1990”.

1990, made in 1977, posits a future Britain run by the Public Control Department (PCD)- an all powerful bureaucracy in which government regulations turn into social control. A few lone journalists walk a fine line between criticizing the government and being shut down.

It starts with an attempt at a military overthrow in the mid 1980’s in which the state took over. Emigration, not immigration, is Britain’s biggest problem as those with skilled jobs and higher education seek a life abroad.

(12) TRUE SCI-FI. John King Tarpinian says, “I’ve not heard of this artist but I love his work: “El Gato Gomez Painting Retro Mid Century Modern Atomic Ranch House Robot Sci -Fi” for sale on eBay.

(13) TALKING OVER. Rose Eveleth’s “What I Learned About Interruption From Talk Radio”, on her blog Last Word on Nothing, comes recommended by Martin Morse Wooster: “I think has a lot of good practical advice which panelists at conventions can use.”

On June 3rd, writer and philosopher Jim Holt was moderating a panel at the World Science Festival called “Pondering the Imponderables: The Biggest Questions of Cosmology.” …One of the panelists was a woman named Veronika Hubeny, a theoretical physicist. She was the only woman on the panel. Holt asked Hubeny a question about string theory. And then, without letting Hubby [sic] answer his question, Holt began to hold forth on string theory.

The exchange was caught on camera, so you can watch it here. Hubeny is clearly trying to answer Holt’s question, but he simply won’t stop talking to let her. At one point, a woman in the audience named Marilee Talkington, actually shouted “LET HER SPEAK” to stop Holt from interrupting (you can read her entire account of the panel here). After a pause that I’m sure felt like ages to Talkington, the audience burst into applause. Hubeny then finally got to speak.

I’m not here to adjudicate this exchange, and I’m sure if you want to read heated debates about it you can find those using your trusty search engine of choice. Or the YouTube comments, if you enjoy true pain.

But this, this thing where a man simply doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise, this doesn’t happen to me much. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of mansplainers (my favorite being a clone of Solnit’s book-explainer, the man who explained my own podcast to me). But I don’t generally have trouble getting a word in. And I think it’s because I learned how to handle men who talk over me by listening to all that talk radio.

So here are my tips for anybody who might find themselves in a situation like Hubeny, where someone simply isn’t letting you get a word in, as learned from many, many hours of talk radio.

Let’s start with some general rules. First, when you are dealing with a chronic over-talker, do not try to be subtle. This is not a situation in which you should “go high.” Politeness does not work here, nor does trying to “take the high road.” You will wait forever for them to notice that they are doing this. You will die or fall asleep or the universe will end in a white-hot explosion before they will stop and think “hm I have been talking a lot I wonder if I’m talking over this person.”

Second, there are no pauses in talk radio, no long moments of thinking, no silences while you try to formulate a thoughtful response. Think of this conversation like a rock climbing wall. Each breath and micro-pause is a foothold. Your interlocutor will grab every single one and climb to the top, and you will be left at the bottom staring up at his backside. And it is not a nice view, let me assure you. …

(14) THE CANDY MAN. Atlas Obscura argues that “C.S. Lewis’s Greatest Fiction Was Convincing American Kids That They Would Like Turkish Delight”. And American adults — as a Narnia fan it seemed de rigeur to try some why I was on a tour of Turkey in 2004.

Turkish Delight, or lokum, is a popular dessert sweet throughout Europe, especially in Greece, the Balkans, and, of course, Turkey. But most Americans, if they have any association with the treat at all, know it only as the food for which Edmund Pevensie sells out his family in the classic children’s fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Until I first tried real Turkish Delight in my 20s, I had always imagined it as a cross between crisp toffee and halvah, flaky and melting in the mouth.

Here’s what it really is: a starch and sugar gel often containing fruit or nuts and flavored with rosewater, citrus, resin, or mint. The texture is gummy and sticky, some of the flavors are unfamiliar to American palates, and the whole thing is very, very sweet. (In addition to the sugar in the mixture, it’s often dusted with icing sugar to keep the pieces from sticking together.) While some Turkish Delight newbies may find they enjoy it, it’s not likely to be the first thing we imagine when we picture an irresistible candy treat.

What I had matches the author’s description. And it was okay, but far from addictive.

(15) HOPS HORROR. “Don’t drink and dive,” says Andrew Porter after seeing this ad for The Temple from Narragansett Beer.

The Story

There was nothing we could do. It was just after 2pm on June 28th when we heard the explosion from the engine room. We were across enemy lines and we could do nothing but sink quietly to the ocean floor. Helpless and incapacitated, our submarine drifted for days — weeks. That’s when we found it aboard the ship — a very odd and seemingly ancient ivory medallion. As the men started to pass it around the ship for inspection, their minds began to fill with darkness and visions of those lost to the deep floating by the portholes of the ill-fated vessel in which we were trapped.

League by league, we fell into black nothingness, and with every league another member of my crew was stripped of his sanity. “MERCY!” they would begin to cry. Over and over. One by one they would turn. There was nothing else we could do… what else could we do? It needed to stop!

Today is August 9th. I have been resting on the ocean floor for nearly 3 weeks now alone and in complete darkness… except for… My mind has been tainted by hallucination. I swear it. Outside of the porthole lies a temple with a lone light shining over it’s door. The voices of my men have been chanting, pushing me to explore the impossible structure. I fell to their temptations, put my diving suit on, and stepped out onto the pitch black ocean floor and headed for the inconceivable glow. Once I arrived on the steps a voice hissed, “What do you seek?”

(16) CARTOON OF THE DAY/. In Martin, Sholto Crow reveals what happens if you use a metal detector on the beach and you dig up something that has a green flashing warning light!

[Thanks to JJ, DB, Cat Eldridge, Daniel P. Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/27/17 She’s A Pixel Queen, Dynamite With A Laser Beam, Guaranteed To Scroll Your Mind

(1) SLATOFF’S NEW COMMISSION. Christopher Slatoff, the sculptor who did the Ray Bradbury-themed Father Electrico statue, will see his war hero memorial unveiled in Pasadena on Memorial Day.

(2) THIRD FIFTH FOR DOCTOR WHO? The BBC dropped a hint: “Doctor Who: new info suggests plans stretch to series 15”.

Essentially, BBC Worldwide has put out a press release to announce a new deal with a Chinese media company, and one paragraph of the press bumf seems to suggest that the Beeb is planning for Doctor Who – in its current, post-relaunch state – to run until at least its fifteenth series.

The MOU comes on the back of a content deal that BBC Worldwide also signed with SMG Pictures yesterday evening. The deal will see the entire catalogue of Doctor Who including spin-offs, Torchwood and Class available on popular TV channels and on-demand platforms all over China.

The deal not only covers Showrunners Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat’s Series 1- 10, but also incoming Showrunner Chris Chibnall’s yet-to-film Series 11, as well as a first look for Series 12-15. [Emphasis added.]

(3) CRITICAL OMISSION. The Wachowskis probably thought they were breaking barriers, but they’re exhibit A in Riki Wilkins commentary for the Advocate, “Today’s Sci-Fi Oddly Adheres to Strict Gender Norms”.

The Wachowski sisters’ remarkable Netflix series, Sense8, is now in its second season. It is an elaborate envisioning of another race of humanoids, homo sensorium, who communicate telepathically and live among us.

These come in “clusters” that are scattered around the world, and from its opening credits, Sense8 is careful to present the viewer with the enormously diverse quilt that is humanity itself. The opening credits roll over a stunning montage of multicolored crowds, couples, celebrations, and rituals from around the globe (yes, the show has a break-the-piggybank travel budget).

The cluster of eight we follow is diversity itself — a Kenyan, a German, an Indian, an Icelander, people of color, a Brazilian gay man, and a Bay Area transgender woman. In nearly every episode, a cluster character denounces humanity’s unfortunate propensity to fear and oppress those we see as different, as the “Other.”

And yet…

Not a single genderqueer person anywhere. Not in this cluster. Not in the others. Not in any character they interact with. Even the crazy underground computer hacker named Bug is, like everyone else, quite gender-normative.

Apparently gender difference is the Other that must not speak its name. And this is from a team where not one but both siblings have bravely and publicly transitioned to be trans women. Et tu, Lana and Lilly?

Moreover, all of this occurs in science fiction, a genre invented to let creative imaginations run wild with possibility. Apparently veering from the gender binary is not among the possible. And in this, Sense8 is hardly alone….

…It is sadly to be expected that cisgender people cannot imagine us. But it is beyond sad that even when we are behind the camera and behind the typewriter, as with Sense8, we cannot imagine us either….

(4) PHOENIX COMICON UPDATE. Yahoo! News tells who the guman’s target was and quotes a statement from the actor —

Original ‘Power Rangers’ star Jason David Frank has had a bit of a close shave, as a lone gunman headed to Phoenix Comic Con with the intention of killing him.

A heavily-armed man — identified as 31-year-old Matthew Sterling — arrived at the convention on Thursday claiming to be ‘The Punisher’ with a plan to kill numerous ‘bad’ cops as well as the original Green Ranger, who was appearing at the comic con…

But why did he want to kill the Green Ranger?

It’s unclear why Sterling took umbrage against Jason David Frank, despite his claims that he previously stabbed the Green Ranger in a separate altercation.

Those claims seem to be entirely fabricated.

“I don’t know this individual, but I will pray for him,” said Frank in an interview with Fox News, adding that the alleged stabbing never took place. “I think if you mention ‘stabbed’, and I haven’t been stabbed, the story speaks for itself.”

According to Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Ed Leiter, the man was also planning to attack a number of other individuals, whose identities have not been released.
“He exhibited a dramatic threat to the community beyond police officers, beyond Jason David Frank,” he explained. “A number of other people were referenced as possible targets or people he wanted to kill….

 

(5) DENOUEMENT. Yesterday, after N.K. Jemisin publicly posted that she had asked Felicity Harley not to post the results of Harley’s interview with her, host site The Writing Cooperative took down the post and apologized.

(6) TO TWEET OR NOT TO TWEET. Lots of fans are tweeting about things they’re hearing on convention panels this weekend. But here’s a bit of social media etiquette I haven’t seen before —

(7) WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. However, it seems a shame to have missed this one —

(8) COMING TO AMERICA. Oft discussed in File 770 comments, Kinder Eggs will soon be available in the United States.

Kinder Eggs are coming to the U.S. — legally. The hollow chocolate egg with the toy surprise inside has not been allowed in the states due to a 1930s law banning candy with non-food objects inside, though fans of the European treat have previously smuggled them in.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 27, 1988 Killer Klowns From Outer Space opens in theaters.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • May 27, 1911 — Vincent Price
  • May 27, 1922 — Christopher Lee
  • May 27, 1934 — Harlan Ellison, Noted Futurist.

(12) GOLLANCZ FESTIVAL. Gollancz Festival 2017 takes place November 4-5 in London.

The Gollancz Festival is back! Join us on the 4th November 2017 for a day long celebration of genre authors, fiction and fans. Book your tickets now.

This year we are thrilled to continue our partnership with Foyles for a day of readers’ events at Foyles Charing Cross Road. Meet your favourite authors, enjoy a day of panel events, interviews, Q&As and signings. To find out more about our readers’ events and book your tickets click here.

We will also be running our very popular Writers’ Festival with panel events, speed dating style pitching, advice from authors and editors at the Phoenix Artists’ Club. To find out more about our Writers’ Festival and book tickets click here.

Authors in attendance include: Ben Aaronovitch, Mark Alder, James Barclay, Stephen Baxter, AK Benedict, Pat Cadigan, Ed Cox, Jaine Fenn, Joanne Harris, Joe Hill, Antonia Honeywell, Simon Ings, Tom Lloyd, Suzanne McLeod, Elizabeth May, Paul McAuley, Ed McDonald, Simon Morden, Richard Morgan, Sam Peters, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, Justina Robson, Adam Roberts, Al Robertson, Gavin Smith, Tricia Sullivan, Tom Toner, Jon Wallace, Catriona Ward and Chris Wooding.

(13) STILL NEWS TO SOMEONE! Andrew Porter announces you can now find his old fanzine, SF Weekly, online at Fanac.org.

Well, most of them. The issues #185 to #228, from 1967 to 1968, anyway.

All the news that fit, back in the day…

Not to be confused with any other SF WEEKLY, including ones published decades later. Nor with anything to do with San Francisco, or Suomi Finland.

Scanned in by a bunch of people, especially Mark Olson!

(14) PUPPY REDUX. People keep sending me links to Chris Chan’s day-late and several-dollars-short “‘No Award’: The Hugo Awards, Sad Puppies, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy Literature”. It might be a cure for low blood pressure. If you’re not suffering from that I recommend skipping it, or Chan will have you suffering from something else.

(15) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. According to the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, “Graphic Novels Are Trending in English Departments, and That’s a Problem”.

Many English departments are now beginning to offer courses on graphic novels, which integrate text and visual imagery. Graphic novels are increasingly studied alongside traditional literature, in some cases supplanting more standard text-based curricula.

For example, one course at UNC Chapel Hill titled “The Visual and Graphic Narrative”can be taken to satisfy the literary appreciation part of a student’s general education requirements. (Students are only required to take one literary appreciation class.) The university also offers a course titled “Comics as Literature”as a first-year seminar.

Given these courses’ rising popularity among students, administrators and instructors may view them in terms of their ability to renew student interest in the humanities. But while graphic novels do have artistic merit, and are of aesthetic interest, the rise of undergraduate courses on graphic novels is problematic.

One reason is that the majority of graphic novels tend to advance political agendas. The graphic novels found on course syllabi and on reading lists often deal with controversial political issues such as social justice, immigration, gay rights, etc. This is part of a larger trend in the humanities, where focus often is on oppression and identity politics.

For example, Ursinus College assigns the widely acclaimed and controversial Fun Home by Allison Bechdel in undergraduate literature courses. Bechdel’s graphic novel is written as memoir, and discusses her experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family. The reader follows Bechdel as she learns about her father’s homosexuality and her lesbianism.

Another graphic novel, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, also is a popular choice on university syllabi and has been described as an “intersectionally feminist text.”The book is about “a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords….

(16) LOGAN. From last March, the stars of Logan appeared on the BUILD series.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart come to BUILD to dish on the anticipated film, “Logan.” The film tells the tale of a weary Logan taking care of an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. Although Logan attempts to remain hidden from the world, a young mutant soon changes what he had planned. Join us when they take the stage

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, JJ, Camestros Felapton, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Charon D.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/17 Hark! What File Through Yonder Pixel Scrolls?

(1) ODYSSEY CON LOSES SECOND GOH. Honoring the reasons for the withdrawal of Monica Valentinelli, another Odyssey Con GoH has dropped out — Tad Williams made this announcement on Facebook:

I am sad to announce that I won’t be appearing at the upcoming Odysseycon. I feel a debt of conscience to guests of this con and to others whose complaints of harassment (and worse) at gatherings in our field have gone unheard and unresolved.

At the same time it seems to me and Deb that the issues are complicated and a lot of people must be having a very miserable time right now. We don’t want to contribute to the heat, and hope that things can be improved for everyone in the future. Odysseycon have been straightforward in their dealings with us, and gracious when we withdrew. I wish to extend my apologies to any members of the convention who will be disappointed by my not attending.

(2) TOOLMAKING. And today, Monica Valentinelli is looking for knowledge to make cons safer.

How can we…

  • …teach people not to harass?
  • …teach allies what to watch out for?
  • …foster healthy and safe communication about harassment?
  • …teach people how best to enforce harassment policies?
  • …address safety concerns that are not part of an official claim?
  • …share experiences between conventions so each con doesn’t live in a silo?
  • …implement better documentation policies so materials aren’t lost?
  • …help allies understand how to support victims?
  • …help victims have the confidence to come forward?
  • …guarantee that personal e-mails will not be posted publicly?
  • …help victims/allies mitigate the losses that come from making hard decisions?
  • …teach con goers how we take their safety seriously?
  • …teach con goers what to do next if something should happen?
  • …address what proper resolutions are and how they should be implemented?
  • …leverage our social communities better to review our convention attendance?
  • …help con runners decide how to implement training for their staff?
  • …help con runners understand how important it is to have the right people on staff to handle this?

I am 100% certain there are other questions I am missing, as I am speaking through the lens of my experiences. Regardless, I feel that the first step is to ask questions like these before they can be answered. Then, we need to have those hard discussions to take additional steps.

(3) TALKIN’ ABOUT M-MY REGENERATION. Beware, this will make your head spin — a video of every Doctor Who regeneration at Yahoo! TV. (The only bad part is you have to watch at least 30 seconds of a commercial before the video begins.)

(4) CARRIE FISHER. Is there anybody who hasn’t seen the Star Wars tribute to Carrie Fisher yet? Or who doesn’t want to watch it a couple more times?

(5) ROLLING IN THE GREEN. You might have said that’s a lot of lettuce to ask for a 50 pence coin, but the Royal Mint’s offering of a Peter Rabbit 2017 UK 50p BU Coin for £10 has sold out.

The Mint also put out a set of coins in 2016 to celebrate Potters’ 150th anniversary –

Features four coins depicting some of her best-loved characters: Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel Nutkin

(6) PKD FILM FEST. The fifth annual Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival takes place May 25-30 in New York City.

The program showcases over 100 films, premieres, panels, virtual reality demonstrations and celebratory gatherings as the festival continues its salute to the master of science fiction, Philip K. Dick.

Highlights include the world premieres of Maryanne Bilham-Knight’s A Life Gone Wild (2016) and Jean-Philippe Lopez’s III (2016), North American premiere of Adam Stern’s FTL (2017), USA premieres of Caroline Cory’s Gods Among Us: The Science of Contact (2016), Rasmus Tirzitis’s Vilsen (2016) and Ove Valeskog’s Huldra: Lady of the Forest (2016), east coast premieres of Niall Doran/Justin Smith’s Sixteen Legs (2016) and Renchao Wang’s The End of the Lonely Island (2016) and NYC premiere of Bruce Wemple’s The Tomorrow Paradox (2016).

The festival will also launch PKD Talks: Conversations with Luminaries, Visionaries and Mavericks, a new panel series discussing scientific, inspirational and world changing themes with industry professionals including author and physicist Dr. Ronald Mallett, acclaimed directors Maryanne Bilham-Knight and Caroline Cory, web host Joe Cerletti, astrophysicist Rudy Schild, computer scientist Jacques Vallee and more distinguished guests.

Check out the full schedule here.

(7) ATWOOD STORY ON TV. The Verge has seen the first three episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and gives the show an enthusiastic endorsement.

But The Handmaid’s Tale is more than a political jab. In the first three episodes provided to reviewers, it’s a dystopia that manages to stand out in a television landscape already full of apocalypses and oppressive imaginary societies. It’s a colorful TV series about a woman negotiating domestic drama, and judging from its initial installments — all three of which will be released simultaneously on April 26th — it might be one of the darkest shows on television this year.

(8) THE EVENING NEWS. Problems with a furry convention have made it onto TV. That’s not surprising anymore, is it? But this is still a story that makes a fan’s hair (or fur) stand on end — “Amid allegations of unpaid taxes, neo-Nazism, and sex offender, Denver furry convention canceled”.

Head of company that operates RMFC exposed

But the letter was not signed by an attorney, nor did it contain language or punctuation consistent with those typically used by lawyers. But it did contain a red thumb print, sometimes associated with a movement the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as extremists.

And Kendal Emery, the man who signed the letter and the self-identified “Chief Executive Contract Law Officer” for Midwest Anthropomorphic Arts Corporation, is a convicted sex offender.

The Arvada man pleaded no contest to three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor in 1993 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, near his native Carlsbad. New Mexico court records show he served at least probation and underwent out-patient counseling as part of his sentence.

But that isn’t the end of Emery’s issues: though he registered Mid America Anthropomorphic and Art Corporation in Colorado in 2005 at an Aurora address and also with the IRS, the IRS revoked the company’s status in May 2011 and has not reinstated it

(9) WHAT MAKES A WRITER REAL. Sarah A. Hoyt’s inspirational column “You’re real” ends:

A contract won’t make you real.  Writing more will make you real.  Indie and traditional both thrive on content.  The more you write the more you’ll make.  And in indie, this is all in your hands.  You don’t need anyone to give you permission.

Go write and publish.  Stop obsessing about being real.  I say you’re real, and in proof thereof, I’ve made the following certificate, which you can download, fill in and print at your convenience.

STOP GIVING AWAY part of you income for nothing, particularly to small presses of dubious value.  Write.  Publish.  Repeat.  Become a professional.

(10) EUROCON NEWS. The first announcement with details of 2017 ESFS Business Meeting has been made available on the European SF Society website.

The ESFS General Meeting for 2017 will take place at U-Con, the Dortmund (Germany) Eurocon, on June 16-18.

(11) TODAY’S DAY

Scrabble Day

By far the best way to celebrate Scrabble Day is with Oxyphenbutazone. That’s right, Oxyphenbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug – you already knew that – but it’s also the word that, in a single play, can give the highest possible score on a Scrabble board. The chances of it ever coming up are similar to the chances of winning this week’s lottery, as you’d need to join all seven of your tiles with eight already on the board across three triple word scores. Still, it’d be worth waiting for, scoring 1,778 points. You’d almost certainly win the game with that.

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

April 13, 1967 — In another reality, 50 years ago today would have been the end of Star Trek. The final new first-season episode, “Operation — Annihilate!,” aired April 13, 1967. Only an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, spearheaded by Bjo Trimble and other science-fiction writers and fans, got the show renewed for a second season.

(13) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

April 13, 1970 — …disaster strikes 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blows up on Apollo 13, the third manned lunar landing mission. Astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise had left Earth two days before for the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon but were forced to turn their attention to simply making it home alive.

(14) MATH OF KHAN. Why, this is heresy! Space.com says “Redshirts Aren’t Likeliest to Die – and Other ‘Star Trek’ Math Lessons”.

Grime first focused on an age-old assertion: that crewmembers wearing red shirts in the original “Star Trek” series, which denote working in engineering or security, are far more likely to be killed off than any other shirt color.

That claim, in fact, is false — more “redshirts” died on-screen than any other crew type (10 gold-shirted, which are command personnel; eight blue-shirted, who are scientists; and 25 red-shirted, Grime said), but that calculation fails to take into account that there are far more redshirts on the ship to start with than any other crew type.

In other words, we’re looking at the probability that you are a redshirt if you die (58 percent) — what we want to know is the probability that you die if you’re a redshirt, Grime said.

Grime used the “Star Trek” technical manual to find out how many of each crew type there were, which painted a different picture: out of 239 redshirts, 25 died, which is 10 percent. Out of 55 goldshirts, 10 died, which is 18 percent! So you are more likely to die as a goldshirt, Grime said.

Oh, so it’s actually true – this is just a lawyerly exercise in lying with statistics.

(15) FAN MAIL. Alastair Reynolds praised Erin Horakova’s Strange Horizons article article about Captain Kirk:

If you have a little time on your hands I commend this excellent Strange Horizons article by Erin Horakova on our changing (and inaccurate) perception of the character of Captain Kirk…

Regardless of the quality of the individual episodes, though, I quickly found myself wondering when this legendary bad Shatner was going to turn up, because all I was seeing – right from the outset – was an efficient and convincing portrayal of a man in a complex, demanding position of authority. Shatner isn’t just much better at playing Kirk than the popular myth would have it, but the character itself is also much more plausibly drawn than the supposed brash womaniser of the insidious meme.

Erin Horakova dismantles this false Kirk in expert fashion, while lobbing a few well-earned potshots at the reboot films.

(16) THE NEW NUMBER SIX. John  Scalzi continues Reader Request Week with “#6: Reading as Performance”.

  1. Recognize it is a performance. Which is to say that you can’t just go in front of a room, mumble your way through fifteen minutes of text, answer a couple of questions and go home (I mean, you can, but it won’t turn out the way you want it to). You actually have to be up and on, from the moment you get to the event until the moment you’re done. Which is draining, but can also be fun. When you read, don’t just read the text, act it. When you’re answering questions, don’t answer quickly, answer completely. When you’re signing, work to make it so the person you’re signing for feels like that those 30 seconds with you is a pretty good 30 seconds of their life. Know all this going in, and prepare.

(17) WAITRESSING FOR GODOT. Ann Leckie was prompted by Scalzi’s post to add her own thoughts – “On Performance and Sincerity”.

Now as it happens, I have a tiny bit of theater experience, along with that music degree, so I’m actually pretty comfortable onstage. But you know what else I think has helped me–years of waiting tables. I am a serious introvert, but working at waiting tables gave me practice interacting with lots of strangers for hours at a time, keeping my demeanor pleasant and mostly cheerful. It’s practice that has stood me in good stead for a lot of my non-writing-related life, actually. In a lot of ways waiting tables can be a really miserable job, but that aspect of it, learning how to be “on” very pleasantly and confidently, has been super valuable to me.

(18) WHAT GOES UP… Just don’t ask for an explanation: “Mysterious X37-B ‘space plane’ stays in orbit for 677 days – and no one knows why”.

A mysterious robotic ‘space plane’ has now been in orbit for a record 677 days – and America is remaining silent about what it’s doing up there.

The robotic Boeing X-37B craft – also known as Orbital Test Vehicle 4 – conducts long missions in orbit, carrying a classified payload.

Observers have speculated that the Space Shuttle-esque vehicle might be designed to destroy satellites – or work as a ‘movable’ satellite itself.

(19) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Evidently, Scotland’s witch prosecution records leave something to be desired. Atlas Obscura has the story — “Maggie Wall’s Memorial”.

A mysterious monument where a woman who records say never existed was burnt alive for being a witch.

…Outside of a small village of Dunning, nestled in the former parklands of Duncrub Castle, lies a monument. It’s a collection of stones about 20 feet high, topped with a cross and decorated with gifts left by visitors—pennies, feathers, shells, fluffy stuffed animals, and tiny tea candles. The stones bear the words in stark white lettering: “Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch.”

Scotland was home to nearly 3,800 people accused of witchcraft between 1500s and 1700s, the vast majority of whom were women. In the end, about 1,500 were murdered as a result of witch hunt inquisitions. However, mysteriously, there is no record of a woman named Maggie Wall being tried as a witch. What’s more, there’s no record of the monument itself until 1866, though a forest surrounding the monument called Maggie Walls Wood was documented as of 1829.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, and David Doering for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirbuting editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/17 Leather Goddesses Of Phobos And The Scratch And Sniff Card

(1) ROBOWATCH. Of course, I’ll understand if you don’t have any money left for this item after running out to buy yesterday’s featured rocket pen with the tiny astronaut. Which is okay! Because this post is from 2015 and the auction is long over.

MB&F has just announced that they will be donating a unique Melchior (co-created with L’Epée 1839) to the Only Watch auction taking place in November of this year. The Melchior, released at Baselworld earlier this year, is a highly functioning robot-form timepiece that was created in a limited series of 99 pieces. This is the 100th piece.

 

(2) LEARNING CURVE. Ann Leckie has been thinking about rejection.

…Hence my ambivalence–the difficulties are real, and I know every writer has to make their own decision about what to go through, how much rejection to deal with (and whether or not they can handle cluelessly–or maybe intentionally–hurtful comments along with that rejection, including offhand remarks about certain sorts of people not really existing or not being interesting or worthy of stories, when that would include you, yourself). At the same time–if you can do it, if you can stomach it, well, the chances may be really small, but you never know.

And there’s a thing that Mark Tiedemann said to me a while back that I thought was really smart. He said that really, when you submit to an editor over and over (we were mostly talking about shortfic here but still), you’re teaching them how to read your work.

Part of that systemic prejudice, part of what upholds it, is the way people are only familiar with certain kinds of stories. Other kinds feel off, weird, unrealistic (no matter how accurate and realistic they may be). It’s that incessant repetition of the “right” kind of story that keeps reinforcing itself. And this didn’t happen by accident–we’ve many of us been trained from small to appreciate certain kinds of stories, just like we’re taught from infancy to appreciate certain kinds of music. Most of the work, most of the training, is exposure to a high volume of work that fits the culturally approved model.

The way a reader learns to appreciate other sorts of stories, from other points of view, is to be exposed to them over and over. Editors and agents and slush readers–every time you submit, they are being exposed to your work.

(3) IT GOES AROUND. Atlas Obscura’s article about the world’s oldest globe is complete with photos and map recreations. Just about the time it was finished, Columbus was finding something unexpected that would fill the big empty space between Cipangu (Japan) and the Azores.

If the world’s oldest surviving globe has taught us anything, it’s that just when we think we’re starting to figure out how the world works, turns out we barely know anything at all.

Known formally as the Erdapfel (literally “Earth Apple,” or in some colloquial translations “potato”), the oldest globe is an impressive and beautiful artifact, even if its cartographic science is a little off. The Erdapfel dates back to 1492, and is far from the first globe ever created, but it is, so far, the oldest discovered terrestrial globe still in existence.

Round representations of the Earth go back to Ancient Greece, and the earliest spherical maps of the world were being created in the Islamic world in the 13th century or earlier. But none of those are thought to survive. Other than descriptions and flattened maps that would have covered earlier globes, the Erdapfel is the oldest remaining artifact of its kind.

(4) END OF DISCUSSION. At Chaos Manor Jerry Pournelle quotes what he had to say about required FDA drug testing and approval as part of a discussion in a SFWA Forum – which was shut down by a moderator.

That was too much. A SFWA moderator, backed by the officer who had requested that the discussion halt, locked the conference, and it sits in frozen silence. The reason given was that it was too personal, and I was privately informed that there were complaints about me. Since I named no one at any time, I mildly protested that I was unaware of what was personal about it that would be personally offensive to professional writers voluntarily reading a topic no one could possibly feel required to read.

The answer I got was that these discussions upset some members, and that a SFWA forum was no place for political discussions at all. And that’s the point: we have come to this, that a professional writers’ association finds that we can no longer have discussions that include politics because some members (who voluntarily read the topic) find it upsetting, and toxic, presumably because they disagree with the opinions expressed. For the life of me I cannot tell you what professional science fiction writer would find anything I said there personally offensive. Disagree, yes, of course; many disagree; that is to be expected, and it is those the FDA will rally to support the proposition that the FDA should insist that generic prescription of Name Brand drugs whose patents have expired be forbidden until double blind tests of the generic drug’s effectiveness have proved its effectiveness.

I think health care costs can be drastically lowered by letting doctors have more room to try different remedies; obviously only with informed consent of the patient, but medical associations I would suppose will work to assure that; but apparently the entire discussion can’t be discussed in a science fiction professional organization because some members are upset over encountering opinions contrary to their own – and if it can’t be discussed there, where the devil can it be discussed?

(5) WHY YOU CAN’T TELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER. Huffington Post picked up on Nnedi Okorafor’s discussion of a time publishers whitewashed her book cover.

Nebula Award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor wrote a book in 2007 called The Shadow Speaker. The story followed its protagonist ? a Muslim girl named Ejii, who the author described as “black skinned” ? through Niger in 2070.

So Okorafor was understandably unhappy when her publisher suggested putting a white woman on the book’s cover.

Today, the author shared the anecdote as part of a Twitter conversation about whitewashing in fiction. She tweeted the cover suggested by the publisher and the revised cover, updated to feature the story’s black protagonist, per the author’s request.

(6) HUGOS RECS. Abigail Nussbaum explains her 2017 Hugo ballot nominees in the media categories.

Best Related Work: This is the category that I always feel most guilty about not nominating more widely in.  There’s a lot of great non-fiction being written in genre right now, on- and off-line, but since my threshold for substantiveness excludes most individual blog posts, I often end up with very little that I want to nominate here.  The solution, obviously, is to read more long-form non-fiction–UIP’s Modern Masters of Science Fiction is a great source that I somehow never get around to–but happily this year has been a good one for long-form online essays and blog series. (Not listed in this ballot, because he’s asked people not to nominate it, but still very much worth reading and remembering, is Jonathan McCalmont’s “Nothing Beside Remains: A History of the New Weird”, which delves into the short half-life of this genre, and the critical conversation that surrounded it.)

  • A People’s History of the Marvel Universe by Steven Attewell – The only criticism I can make of Attewell’s series is that it seems to be on permanent hiatus, just when we could use an independent history of this corner of pop culture, told from a decidedly leftist perspective.  Attewell delves into the origins of several key Marvel characters and concepts, from Magneto’s background as a Holocaust survivor, to the infamous “mutant metaphor”.  He describes both the evolution of ideas we’ve come to take for granted, and the pitfalls the Marvel writers fell into as they tried to grapple with social upheaval and the need to reflect it in their world of heroes and villains.  With superheroes currently one of the dominant forms in our pop culture, a perspective like Attewell’s is invaluable.
  • Boucher, Backbone, and Blake – the Legacy of Blakes 7 by Erin Horakova – One of the many remarkable things about Erin’s essay is how accessible and thought-provoking it is even to someone like myself, who has been hearing about Blakes 7 for years, but has seen almost nothing of it.  This is by no means an introductory piece or a guide to newbies.  Its focus is specific, one might almost say deliberately fannish.  And yet, by turning her eye on some very particular aspects of the show, and the people who were instrumental in achieving them, Erin builds a larger argument about the intersection between art and politics, about the capacity of popular entertainment to grapple with difficult, even radical ideas, and about the specific circumstances on the set of Blakes 7 that allowed it to do so, and how modern work would struggle to achieve the same effect.  It’s a brilliant piece of cultural commentary (as already acknowledged by the voters for the BSFA award’s non-fiction category) and one that absolutely belongs on this year’s Hugo ballot.

(7) A LINE IN THE CHROME. Scalzi does not object to award eligibility posts – he makes them – but he doesn’t want to be directly asked for a Hugo nominating vote. Does that mean an ethical lesson is being imparted here, or is this a lesson in netiquette?

(8) PRATCHETT BUSTED. The BBC has the story.

A bronze bust of Sir Terry Pratchett has been unveiled ahead of plans to install a 7ft (2.1m) statue of the author in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

It was created by Paul Kidby, who illustrated Sir Terry’s Discworld novels, before his death in 2015.

The statue of the author, who lived locally, is due to be erected in the marketplace or Elizabeth Gardens.

Mr Kidby said getting his expression right so “he’s not unhappy” but “not smiling too much” was the hardest part.

(9) THE GREEN FLASH. Skyboat Media’s Kickstarter has funded – so there will be an 11 hour digital audiobook of Lightspeed Magazine’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

  • March 14 – 3.14 – is Pi Day.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 14, 1968 Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, aired its last episode.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born March 14, 1887 — Sylvia Beach, founder of the Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Co. “Ray Bradbury visited this bookshop every time he was in Paris, usually in July,” remembers John King Tarpinian. “They would save signed first edition Jules Vern books for Ray.”

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GENIUS

  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein

(14) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian was amused by another Star Wars reference in Brevity.

(15) STARDUST IN OUR POCKETS LIKE GRAINS OF SAND. AKA, The Mote In Your Eye. Because the New York Times says there are “Flecks of Extraterrestrial Dust, All Over The Roof”.

After decades of failures and misunderstandings, scientists have solved a cosmic riddle — what happens to the tons of dust particles that hit the Earth every day but seldom if ever get discovered in the places that humans know best, like buildings and parking lots, sidewalks and park benches. The answer? Nothing. Look harder. The tiny flecks are everywhere. An international team found that rooftops and other cityscapes readily collect the extraterrestrial dust…

(16) APPLY TO BE A HARPER VOYAGER.  The Harper Voyager line is putting out a call for any SFF-obsessed bloggers and social media “bigmouths” to apply to join their team of super-readers.

Harper Voyagers are granted special access to early review copies, private author chats, and more. The application period runs from now through May 4 – use the application form at Google Docs.

ARE YOU A HARPER VOYAGER?

Are you a fan of Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy or Horror? Would you like special access to e-galleys, author interactions, and swag? If so, the Harper Voyager US team invites you to apply to become a “Harper Voyager” super reader!

As a Harper Voyager super reader, you’ll get special access to early review copies, special entry to an exclusive online forum where they can post reviews and thoughts about the exclusive book previews, engage in private author chats, and special interactions with Harper Voyager authors at regional events.  Most of all, we hope our super readers will help generate excitement for our stellar authors!

Please Note: This program is asking super readers to post honest reviews on Goodreads and consumer sites, participation in online Voyager events; virtual support of Voyager authors across social media. If you chose to post these reviews online at consumer websites, you must disclose in the review that you received your copy for free and send us a link to the review.

(17) LISTEN IN. DMS says Ian Tregillis tells a pretty good story beginning at 8:25 of this interview.

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He was born and raised in the Minnesota Territory, where his parents had settled after fleeing the wrath of a Flemish prince. (The full story, he’s told, involves a Dutch tramp steamer and a stolen horse.) He holds a Ph.D. in physics for his research on radio galaxies and quasars, and is an alumnus of the Clarion workshop.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jerry Pournelle, DMS, Daniel Dern, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/17 Whoops! Forgot To Pull The Handle!

(1) CLARKE AWARD-ELIGIBLE BOOKS. The director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award has released the complete submissions list of eligible books received.

…I need to be clear, this is not a long list. Rather this is a list of every eligible title officially submitted to us by its publisher or creator for consideration for this year’s award.

…Ten or so years ago, when I first started doing this, it had become apparent that some of the ‘why the heck has that been shortlisted?’ reaction we tended to enjoy on releasing a new shortlist stemmed from the fact that many of the books put forward to our judges might not have been part of the general SF books conversation.

As such, their sudden arrival on a science fiction award list might have taken even some of the keenest award watchers somewhat by surprise, and we all know how much critics love having someone else discover something first…

Solution: put the full submissions list out there in advance of any official shortlist announcement so its there for everyone to see and discuss and even attempt some amateur prognostication on what the actual, official, top six list would look like….

This year we received 86 books from 39 publishing imprints and independent creators.

This is down somewhat from last year’s total of books, where we received 113 titles, and is the first drop below the 100 mark for several years….

(2) SHADOW CLARKE. Members of the Clarke Shadow Jury have begun posting at the official site.

Until relatively recently, the only SFF awards I knew were those mentioned on book covers: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Clarke. The first Clarke winner I ever read was probably either The Handmaid’s Tale or Take Back Plenty, but those were older editions that didn’t mention it on the covers, so at that time I didn’t know. So the first time I realized there was such a thing as a Clarke Award was when I saw it on the cover of Paul McAuley’s Fairyland, the 1996 mass market paperback with the big blue face on the cover, with “Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award” on its forehead.

It’s almost funny that I hadn’t heard of the award by that time, given that Clarke was a local celebrity. If there were ever any local announcements of the original 1987 grant or of any of the subsequent winners, I missed it. I don’t think there were any, though. Things were a lot more disconnected in those days, and the award was firmly rooted somewhere else. And anyway, Clarke lived in a different version of Colombo than I did. A few years before I was born (and not long after Elizabeth II finally stopped being our head of state, nearly a quarter-century after independence from the Empire) the Sri Lankan government brought into law an entire new immigration status, the non-citizen Resident Guest, to accommodate Clarke personally. Apparently even as late as 1982 this was still being called “the Arthur Clarke Law,” which we might call that a fourth law on top of the better-known three already named for him (and the only one which is actual law.)

I have written about the Clarke Award in Foundation and I was also part of the panel which discussed ’30 Years of the Arthur C. Clarke Award’ at the 2016 Eastercon (an edited transcript of which is due to appear in Vector this year). I see participation in this shadow jury as offering the possibility of connecting such kinds of critical activity with my typical informal  approach to the Clarke of inaccurately predicting the shortlist, reading it, arguing about it, guessing the winner and attending the ceremony to find out how wrong I was. All in all, this is an unmissable opportunity to expose simultaneously the idiosyncrasies of my personal taste and the foundations of my critical thought.

And Maureen Kincaid Speller comments on her own blog in “Shagreen, or chagrin: the shadows begin to gather”.

…I’ve been a Clarke judge myself and it is no picnic. I’m sure a lot of people imagine it’s all ‘wow, free books’, but a look at the submissions list will tell you that the jewels are accompanied by a lot of dross – and yes, let’s be blunt about this, dross. This is not unique to the Clarke Award, by any means. I’ve been a Tiptree judge, and witnessed a Campbell Award judge at work; it goes with the territory. But while it’s worth being mindful of the fact that one woman’s dross is another man’s treasure, some dross is just dross …

If there is a problem, with the Clarke and other juried awards, it’s that … actually, there are two problems. One is that the jury’s deliberation is private, and indeed it should be, but as a result we have no access to the debate and can never know what prompted them to make certain decisions. There is probably horse-trading some years, and publishers are not always willing to have their titles submitted if they’re trying to market a book a certain way that is emphatically not science fiction. We don’t know, we can only guess, and it makes things difficult when a book doesn’t appear on a shortlist, and we ask ‘why didn’t they put that on?’ not knowing that the publisher couldn’t or wouldn’t submit. Judges can ask for books but that doesn’t mean they’ll arrive.

But the other problem is that when the shortlists roll out, ‘what were they thinking?’ is a quick and easy response, because it’s really hard to come up with anything else, in the absence of prior debate. And too often this becomes a veiled attack on the competence of the judges, which is not fair on them. They were asked to judge and they did their best in the circumstances. The one thing I will say is that it has seemed to me in recent years that the organisations who nominate judges have tended not to nominate practising critics, which means that one particular approach to sf has been neglected. And that may look like special pleading, but critics have their place in the ecosystem too, alongside the readers….

(3) APEX APOLOGY. Apex Magazine editor Jason Sizemore has revised his “Intersectional SFF – Response” piece from the version excerpted in yesterday’s Scroll.  The main part now reads –

Editor’s note: In my rush to take down the “Intersectional SFF Round Table” and to immediately assure our readers that they were being heard, I shared a hastily-written non-apology that was defensive when I didn’t meant it to be, and shut down the very conversation I wanted to have. I am sorry for that. My revised explanation of the decision to remove the round table is below. – Jason Sizemore

Dear Readers,

On Friday, we posted an “Intersectional SFF Round Table” in support of the Problem Daughters campaign and anthology. Though the post was put together by the Problem Daughters staff without input from us, we made the editorial decision to share the post exactly as it was delivered, without considering the implications of who was (and who wasn’t) included in that discussion. Almost immediately, we were made aware of multiple issues with that post, and removed it.

It was our hope that the original post would help bring awareness to the Problem Daughters project, and spark a discussion about intersectional SFF with our readers. Frankly, by virtue of their lived experiences, the authors and editors working on that anthology have a greater wisdom on what is and is not intersectionality than I will ever possess, and I appreciated their contribution.

However, that doesn’t absolve our editorial team of the responsibility of vetting the content that appears on Apex Magazine, and no conversation like this should be presented as a complete picture of intersectionality or even SFF in general. Going forward, we will make a greater effort to listen to the voices of our community, to learn, and include….

(4) YOUTUBE STAR EMBARASSES THE FRANCHISE. Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube have axed some of their projects with superstar PewDiePie after he posted an anti-Semitic video reports CBS News.

The content creator, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, posted a now-deleted video on Jan. 11 that showed him laughing while two men held up a sign that said “death to all Jews.” Kjellberg hired the two men on Fiverr, a site where users can hire people to complete tasks for $5.

It’s not the first time the YouTube star posted a video with anti-Semitic remarks. Since August 2016, he had posted nine videos with anti-Semitic jokes or iconography, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Kjellberg has a record-breaking 53 million subscribers on YouTube, and makes millions off of his videos. Last year, he was YouTube’s highest paid star, raking in $15 million in 2016, reports Forbes.

Though Kjellberg’s signature style has been to shock fans with silly and sometimes crude humor, Disney’s Maker Studios, the division who partnered with the creator, says his latest stunts are unacceptable.

Wired specifies the affected projects:

YouTube’s response was tepid at first: It reportedly pulled ads from only one of the videos in question. But this morning the company said it was cancelling the second season of PewDiePie’s show and dropping ads from all of the offending videos, as well as pulling PewDiePie’s channel from a premium advertising program called Google Preferred.

(5) DISCOVERY ADDS BRASS. Star Trek: Discovery has cast three new Starfleet membersSciFiNow.uk has the story.

Joining Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgious aboard the starship Shenzhou are Terry Serpico, Maulik Pancholy and Sam Vartholomeos. In an update on the official CBS page, the network also revealed details about the characters the three actors will be playing.

Serpico, who is best known for his role in Army Wives, is set to play Admiral Anderson, a high-ranking official of Star Fleet. Pancholy, who recurred as Jonathan in 30 Rock and Sanjay in Weeds, is Dr Nambue, the Shenzhou’s Chief Medical Officer. Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor, a Junior Officer in Starfleet Academy who was assigned to serve on the Shenzhou.

Joining Michelle Yeoh and the new additions on the Star Trek: Discovery are Sonequa Martin-Green as Lieutenant Commander Rainsford, James Frain as Sarek, Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Stamets, Chris Obi as T’Kuvma, Shazad Latif as Kol and Mary Chieffo as L’Rell.

Star Trek: Discovery will be a semi-prequel to The Original Series, set ten years before the start of James T Kirk’s five-year mission.

(6) SPEAKING OF TRUNK MANUSCRIPTS. Heritage Auctions is offering a Stagecoach Trunk once owned by Samuel L. Clemens. To own it will cost you at least $25,000 plus a hefty buyer’s fee, but you can read about it for free.

[Mark Twain]. Stagecoach Trunk once owned by Samuel L. Clemens. St. Louis, Missouri: J. Barwick Trunk Manufacturer, circa 1865. Dome-top, single compartment stagecoach trunk, likely purchased by Clemens in 1867 while he was in St. Louis, with “Property of / Samuel L. Clemens” painted in black on the outside of the lid. Approximately 9500 cubic inches, measuring roughly 18 x 18 x 30 inches. Original leather covering, geometric patterns tooled in black, with six wooden slats and two center-bands and matching binding, four edge clamps, lock, hinges, handle caps; interior lined with patterned paper, original tray fitting, later woven strap affixed to right side of interior to prevent further over-opening. General wear, as expected, lacking original handles, latches and interior tray; large portion of paper lining removed from interior of lid, dampstain to the bottom interior. An astounding artifact from arguably the most important author in American literature.

This trunk served Twain during the sweet spot of his career, those prolific years from when he published his first major work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches in the same year that this trunk was acquired, and right through Tom Sawyer in 1876 and Huckleberry Finn in 1885. One can’t help but think that such important manuscripts were likely housed in this trunk during his travels.

Though remembered today primarily for his literary efforts and association with the Mississippi River, some of the best-loved books of Twain’s career were his travel writings, including his first two book-length works, The Innocents Abroad, about his journey on the steamship Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Land, published in 1869, and his 1872 follow up, Roughing It, about his adventures in the American West. Alan Gribben inspected a similar trunk owned by Twain, also with the paper scraped away from the interior of the lid, and argued that he opened it to its fullest position and used it as a provisional writing desk, writing notes on the wood (“Mark Twain’s Travel Trunk: An Impromptu Notebook” with Gretchen Sharlow, published in Mark Twain Journal). Conceivably, this trunk similarly functioned as a desk, potentially during the composition of his early travel works. It appears the interior paper lining was deliberately removed at an early date with roughly ninety-degree angles and is approximately the size of notebook paper (before further wear extended the right edge).

(7) FOREIGN EXCHANGE. Deadbeat roommate Thor is back. In fact, you get a whole suite of scenes with — “Rogers & Barnes. Stark & Rhodes. Thor & Darryl.” – when you plunk down real money (not Asgardian buttons) for Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange on Digital HD. A bargain at twice the Asgardian price!

(8) HOLMES OBIT. Midlands (UK) artist and bookseller Dave Holmes died February 13. Many knew him from his days working at Andromeda, Birmingham’s main SF bookstore, or at The Magic Labyrinth in Leicester.

He is one of the people David Gemmell’s Last Sword of Power (1988) is dedicated to, and at least two writers, Mark Morris and Ian Edginton, credit Holmes’ influence on their careers.

He was a character, which had its good and bad sides. As Edginton says:

He lived life on his own terms and never apologised for it. He hurt people in his life but I can’t sit in judgement. I have done questionable things in my time, things I regret and would do over again differently if I could. None of us are angels. I’m not perfect and I don’t expect my friends to be either.

Incidentally, Holmes was the fellow Iain Banks asked to hold his glass before Banks set out – as legend tells it — to climb the exterior of the Metropole Hotel during the 1987 Worldcon. (As legend tells it is not necessarily what happened, although Banks was pleased to repeat the tale as the introduction to an autobiographical account of his real urban climbing exploits.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 14, 278 — Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed. Allegedly.
  • February 14, 1940 — Clayton “Bud” Collyer first portrayed the Man of Steel in this second episode of the Adventures of Superman radio series, broadcast on February 14, 1940. The episode (“Clark Kent, Reporter”) was the first of a serial involving a villain known as “The Wolf.”

(10) DAYS OF THE DAY. Being sf/f fans, you can easily kill these two birds with one stone —

  • International Book Giving Day

Devoted to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children and providing access to books for children in need, Book Giving Day calls on volunteers to share their favorite book with a young reader. Although the holiday originated in the UK, book lovers around the world now join in the celebrations every year.

  • Extraterrestrial Culture Day

An officially acknowledged day in New Mexico (Roswell), Extraterrestrial Culture Day celebrates extraterrestrial cultures, and our past, present and future relationships with extraterrestrial visitors.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 14, 1859 — George W. G. Ferris, Jr. (inventor of the ferris wheel).
  • Born February 14, 1919 – Dave Kyle
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg

(12) TEA. Ann Leckie recommends a technological solution to a writerly dilemma in “On Tea”.

So! The first, most common pitfall in making tea: You heat the water, throw the bag (or the infuser full of leaves) into the cup, pour the water, set it on the desk beside you and…promptly forget about it as you dive into your work. Hours later you remember that tea, now cold– and bitter enough to strip paint.

Friends, there is a simple solution to this, provided you remember to implement it: a timer. This could be a voice assistant on your computer or your phone, an app made purposely for timing the steeping of tea, or a dollar store kitchen timer shaped like a strawberry. Really, it doesn’t matter, but this is a tea-hack that can cost very little and vastly improve your tea-drinking experiences.

(13) SOUND AND FURY. NPR Music interviews Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi about writing music for the screen.

So you have these early conversations, you come up with a general feel for the score, and then you start fine-tuning as you see the images and get to know the characters. Is that what you’re saying?

Correct. In the case of Game Of Thrones, before I started writing I sat down with [David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss]. We talked about the tone of the show, and I just listened to what their vision was. … They’ll say, “We really like this instrument, do you think you can make this work? We like the violin, we don’t like this.” All that information helps me, and then I go in and actually turn that into music and go from there.

What’s an example of something they might have said as you were collaborating?

One thing we always laughed about was that they said, “We don’t want any flutes.”

(14) ON THE AIR. A substitute for jetpacks? Passenger drones in Dubai.

A drone that can carry people will begin “regular operations” in Dubai from July, the head of the city’s Roads and Transportation Agency has announced at the World Government Summit.

The Chinese model eHang 184 has already had test flights, said Matt al-Tayer.

The drone can carry one passenger weighing up to 100 kg (220 pounds) and has a 30 minute flight time.

The passenger uses a touch screen to select a destination. There are no other controls inside the craft.

It is “auto-piloted” by a command centre, according to a video released by the government agency.

(15) IN THE BEGINNING. Andrew Porter draws our attention to his favorite scene in Gentlemen Broncos, the only part he likes —

Just saw the opening credits for this forgettable 2009 film on HBO. The opening credits are done as covers of SF paperbacks, using actual artwork from numerous SF magazine and paperback covers, including a lot of works by Kelly Freas.

Click through to watch a video of the credits, and read the interview with director Jared Hess.

Tell us about your initial ideas for this sequence.

JH: We had the idea when we wrote the screenplay that we wanted the opening credits sequence to be a bunch of science fiction book covers where the credits were embedded in place of the book titles. While we were shooting the film, my production designer, Richard Wright, and people on the production side were going through existing artwork to see what was available. The idea was to scan and tweak them and then print up new book covers and shoot them at the end of production.

We were first looking for stuff that looked right and helped set the tone but we quickly learned that it was going to be difficult to clear the rights since a lot were part of family estates. Luckily the artwork that I liked the most was from a guy named Kelly Freas and they were able to contact his wife — he had passed away — so most of the artwork in the title sequence is stuff he had drawn for different science fiction journals as well as books. What was weird was that a couple of the characters he’d drawn looked liked the people in our film, like Jemaine’s book. The one we have for Sam Rockwell (a piece by David Lee Anderson) also bears a striking resemblance. It was kind of uncanny.

(16) FREDDY’S FEELING BETTER. The Hollywood Reporter says Robert Englund is returning as his iconic horror movie character Freddy Krueger one final time for a documentary “focused on the special effects makeup that crafted his dream-invading youth murderer in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.”

Nightmares in the Makeup Chair will highlight the importance of practical makeup — with the help of special makeup effects artist Robert Kurtzman — in addition to Englund paying tribute to late director Wes Craven and sharing some stories from his time working on the slasher films.

(17) THE UNREDISCOVERED COUNTRY. Breaking news – London After Midnight is still lost! (You can always count on File 770 for these dramatic updates…)

Earlier today Dread Central reported rumors that a print of the long-lost 1927 movie had been discovered.  People got excited for a couple of hours. Why? John Squires explains in his post at Bloody Disgusting:

A few years before directing Dracula and Freaks, Tod Browning made a silent horror film titled London After Midnight. Starring Lon Chaney as “The Hypnotist,” the 65-minute film was distributed by MGM in December of 1927; though audiences saw it upon release, it’s likely that everyone who did is no longer with us. Sadly, the last known copy was destroyed in the infamous MGM vault fire of 1967, which tragically resulted in the loss of many silent and early sound films.

But then Dread Central had to quash its own report —

UPDATE 2: 3:40 PM PT – More info from Carey:

A film archive in The Canary Islands received what look to be nitrate frames from London After Midnight around 1995. They got these from a private collector.

In 2012, the archive opened a Flickr account and posted this image among others it was posted for about five years and nobody seemed to notice it until last month.

Then this image was posted shortly thereafter…”

These were both posted on the Facebook page Universal Monsters & More. I’ve contacted them and they have said they have more stills and that they will share them with us.

The school of thought seems to be that these were cut out of trailers for London After Midnight by a projectionist in the Canary Islands. But nobody is sure.

For now at least, it seems that LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT remains lost….

The hunt continues.

(18) GREEN SCREEN. Avengers: Infinity War has started production.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Andrew Porter, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the unsuspecting Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

mayim-bialik-nat-sf-day

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

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

Padme Never Goes to a OB/GYN

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

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

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

Vera Rubin didn’t discover dark matter.

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

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

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

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

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

Download calendar (PDF 28 MB)

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

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

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

blastoff-podcast-825x383

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/16 Scrolling By Words On A Snowy Evening

(1) THEY LOOK ALIKE, THEY CAW ALIKE. …You could lose your mind! In “A Tale of Two Covers: Alan Baxter’s Crow Shine and Sarah Remy’s The Bone Cave”, Black Gate’s John O’Neill comments on the remarkably similar cover art on two disparate novels published within a month of each other.

(2) SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS NOT A CIGAR. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff deconstructs another cover trend at Book View Café: “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 4: Rocket Power”.

This is the fourth verse of the song “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of the Book.” If you’re collecting the lyric and singing along, it’s sung to the tune of (TTTO) “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain When She Comes.”

There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.
There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.
It’s a phallic and a stout one, but my novel was without one.
There’s a rocket on the cover of my book.

In this case, the lyric really doesn’t do justice to the …er… attributes of the rocket in question, which is from the cover of BVC author Deborah Ross’ print novel Jaydium (under her Deborah Wheeler nom de plume).

As it happens, I’ve read Jaydium and, while there is a rocket involved briefly in the story (my recollection is that it is part of a flashback), the scene shown on the cover does not actually appear as such in the novel.

(3) SOCIAL MEDIA MOURNING. Ann Leckie shares some wisdom in her post “On Mourning”.

It gets weird, with public figures. These are people that might be very, very important to us, might have formed our childhoods, given us inspiration, been constant companions in one way or another, and yet we’ve never met them, and they never had any idea that we existed. It’s not the same as a close loved one dying. But it’s not nothing. And what do you do, when someone not exactly family dies, but you had some sort of relationship with them? Well, if you were in the same town you’d put on nice clothes and comb your hair and go to the funeral parlor and tell the family how sorry you were, how important the deceased was to you, maybe tell them about some time they really helped you out. And then you move aside for the next person, maybe talk with some folks, and go home. Maybe you send flowers, that will sit there in the funeral home and in the church as a conspicuously visible token of your tie to the deceased, or their family, or a particular member of that family.

We aren’t any of us going to Carrie Fisher’s wake. Her family doesn’t want to slog through thousands of cards or letters, and there’s no mortuary large enough to hold the flowers we might all send. But we can blog or tweet. And yes, it’s performative. Like all funeral customs and public mourning it’s performative. It’s meant to send a message. “I am a member of this community, and this person was important to us. This community recognizes their loss. This community wants the deceased’s family to know how important this person was to us, and how sorry we are to hear they’ve left us.” And maybe her family doesn’t see most of it, but they likely know it’s there. I suspect that, like “I’m sorry” at the funeral home, it helps.

(4) LIFE IMITATES ART. John King Tarpinian saw this cartoon and admitted, “I do this all the time. I have the CD set, the DVD set, and the Blu-ray set of Twilight Zone, yet I watch the marathon on the Syfy channel.”

(5) GROSS NEWS. Natalie Rohamed, in a piece called “Scarlett Johansson is the highest-grossing actor of 2016” on Forbes.com, says that Scarlett Johansson with $1.2 billion in film grosses this year edged out Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., each of which had $1.15 billion. All of the top ten actors starred in superhero movies.

Scarlett Johansson has had a good year at the box office. Between a top role as the Black Widow in blockbuster hit Captain America: Civil War, which grossed over $1.15 billion worldwide, plus an ensemble part in the much less commercial Hail, Caesar!, Johansson is 2016’s top-grossing actor, bringing in $1.2 billion at global ticketing booths.

Martin Morse Wooster, who sent the link, comments: “I once read a profile of Robert Downey Jr. in Esquire where I learned that if you really want to irritate the guy, asking him, ‘You’ve created two billion-dollar franchises in Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man.  How does it feel?’ will do it.”

(6) THE ROBOTIC HORROR. BBC mix of blue-skying, looking-with-alarm, and data on “The rise of the robots?”

“Your bones will turn to sand. And upon that sand a new God will walk.” Dolores in the latest sci-fi TV blockbuster, Westworld.

It may not quite be that bad. But a wall won’t keep them out, a new work permit scheme won’t stop their freedom of movement.

The rise of the robots could be next year’s big story. Ever since the Luddites smashed their first loom, mechanisation has been putting people out of work. But the process is speeding up, accelerating all the time and the next wave could be crashing down, near you, soon.

(7) UPDATE: DEBBIE REYNOLDS OBIT. The mother of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, passed away today.

Her death was reported shortly after the Scroll was posted with news that she had been hospitalized —

Debbie Reynolds, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 1960s, was taken to a Los Angeles hospital on Wednesday, one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Reynolds, 84, complained of breathing problems, an unidentified source told The Times.

This might fall within the sphere of science fiction news not only because of the Fisher connection, but because Reynolds’ signature film Singin’ in the Rain was regarded as science fiction by at least one authority. Patton Oswalt told the story to io9 —

And I love the part about what happens to human beings. Ray Bradbury pointed out that Star Wars is not science fiction, it’s an adventure story set in space. Singing in the Rain is a science fiction film, because you have the world as it is, then sound is introduced. What happens to people now that this new thing is there? That’s all science fiction is.

(8) TWO WASHINGTON POST TRIBUTES. Michael Cavna, in “As iconic Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher was a life force to be reckoned with”, looks at how Carrie Fisher “long had a love/hate role with the Princess Leia role,” and how her “joy and swagger” at the part was combined with a fear that if she screwed up she would be replaced by Jodie Foster or the many other women George Lucas rejected in favor of her.

When first casting his “Star Wars” films, creator-director Lucas seriously considered such other budding teenage talents as Jodie Foster and Terri Nunn. Yet Carrie Fisher, still barely an adult at the time, had a silly, fun-loving presence that melded well with future co-stars Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford during auditions. She also had a precocious sense of self — a quick mind and a feisty steeliness of spine. In short, Fisher reminded Lucas of his own younger sister.

Alexandra Petri, in “Carrie Fisher: So long, Princess, and thanks”, says that “Until Carrie Fisher, ‘princesses’ was a dirty word” and how “a lot of what I learned about how to be a person in the world came from Princess Leia.”

(9) SURVIVED BY. CinemaBlend reports “Carrie Fisher’s Dog Gary Has Already Found A New Home”.

Carrie Fisher’s adorable French Bulldog Gary could often be seen at his owner’s side during interviews and other events. So it’s no surprise that fans of the Star Wars star were concerned about Gary’s wellbeing in the aftermath of Fisher’s death. Rest assured, Gary has already secured a new home.

TMZ reports that the 4-year-old Gary will be in the care of Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 28, 1865 — French film pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumiere showed the first commercial motion pictures at a Paris cafe.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 28, 1932 – Nichelle Nichols

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(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 28, 1922 – Stan Lee

(13) THE SECOND IS NO. Thomas Vinciguerra confides to readers of the Columbia Journalism Review, “Want me to write for free? I’ve got two one-syllable words for you”.

An ostensibly professional journalist this spring told me he was on the prowl for freelance editors for his new investigative website. Intrigued, I eventually broached the question of payment.

He responded by rattling on about the great people who worked for him, how they came from all walks of life, that inevitably his site would grow, and that at some point he might possibly—no promises, I had to understand—be able to toss me a few coins.

After silently fuming for a few days, I politely told him that this was simply not viable. In retrospect, I should have responded with two one-syllable words.

The long-chronicled decline of print has gored many a writer and editor. It’s hardly a secret that magazines and newspapers are now leaning mercilessly on their dwindling staffs, unable to pay outsiders as much as they once did or take them on at all. Fair enough; as Hyman Roth stammered in The Godfather, Part II, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”

But there is something fundamentally obscene about expecting anyone to work gratis. And that applies even to us ink-stained wretches.

The fiction writer Harlan Ellison—a master of what our mutual friend (and science-fiction writer) David Gerrold calls “the literature of amazement”—once tore into the idea of giving away your words for nothing. “I get so angry about this because you’re undercut by all the amateurs,” he explodes. “It’s the amateurs who make it tough for the professionals.”

(14) DEITIES IN SF. Leah Schnelbach’s fine post for Tor.com – “19 SFF Stories That Take a Positive View of Religion” — rounds up an uncommon set of stories.

Of all the genres, science fiction and fantasy are the ones where humans can tackle their deepest societal problems and thought experiments. Because of this, it’s a natural place for people to explore ideas about religion, faith, and the meaning of life…

Religion can also be an emotional and contentious topic for people. For people who choose to leave a religious tradition, science and science fiction can become the home they didn’t find in a church or temple, and can also provide a way to critique the life they left. For others, the flexibility of the genre allows them to express their faith, or their questions about their faith, in deeper ways than any other medium would allow.

I thought it would be interesting to look at some examples of books and short stories that have tackled religious questions in respectful and positive ways. While these stories sometimes go to uncomfortable places, they each take faith seriously, and would be worthy additions to the TBR stacks of believers and non-believers alike…..

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light is set in the far future, where colonists from “vanished Urath,” or Earth, have set up shop on a planet full of understandably hostile indigenous people. In order to survive, they use their ships tech to mutate themselves and eventually to MacGyver a type of reincarnation by repeatedly transferring their souls into new bodies. They use this tech against the planet’s native population, setting themselves up as a pantheon of “Hindu” gods, and instituting an ironclad caste system. Obviously, they have to keep the tech out of the wrong hands in order to stay at the top of society… which is where Sam comes in. Originally named Mahasamatman, he prefers to go by just Sam, but before that he was Siddhartha. The Buddha. And now he’s decided to ally with the pantheon of the native people, reincarnate repeatedly, and generally go full trickster god to make sure everyone has access to technology, and end the tyranny of the caste system once and for all.

(15) BOX SCORE. John Scalzi draws back the curtain on “2016 Top 10 Whatever Posts + Social Media Stats”.

Time for my annual nerdery about the most visited posts here, and the state of my social media presence. Ready? Sure you are, that’s why you’re here! This and cat pictures.

First, here are the top ten posts on Whatever f0r 2016, ranked by visits. Posts with asterisks were originally posted in years other than 2016….

Atop the charts is “The Cinemax Theory of Racism”.

(16) CLOUDS OF WITNESS. History’s post  “Human Computers: The Women of NASA” includes a group photo from 1953.

Graduating in 1953 with a degree in chemical engineering from University of California, Los Angeles, Janez Lawson had the grades, degree and intelligence to get any job she wanted. The problem? Her race and gender. She responded to a JPL job ad for “Computers Wanted” that specified “no degree necessary,” which she recognized as code for “women can apply.” While it would not be an engineering position, it would put her in a lab. Macie Roberts and Helen Ling were already working at JPL, actively recruiting young women to compute data and Lawson fit the bill. Lawson was the first African American to work in a technical position in the JPL lab. Taking advantage of the IBM computers at their disposal, and her supervisor’s encouragement to continue her education, Lawson was one of two people sent to a special IBM training school to learn how to operate and program the computers.

(17) REWARDING DIVERSITY. Slate says the British Academy of Film and Television Arts is adding a diversity requirement to its award rules. Note that this only applies to the BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film, and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer — “Starting in 2019, if Your Film Isn’t Diverse, It Won’t Be Eligible for a BAFTA Award”.

In an incredibly bold move, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced last week that, beginning in 2019, works that do not demonstrate inclusivity in their production practices will no longer be eligible for the Outstanding British Film or Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer awards at the annual BAFTAs, often considered the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.* Eligible projects must showcase this in two of the following ways, as the BBC reported: On-screen characters and themes, senior roles and crew, industry training and career progression, and audience access and appeal to underrepresented audiences. BAFTA will also remove the requirement that newly admitted voters be recommended by two existing members.

(18) EYES YES, CHICKEN FEET, NO. Another BBC story —  “Why I want my home to watch me”.

As I step into the hallway in Simon Daykin’s New Forest home, his smartwatch goes into overdrive.

He is receiving messages from the house itself, warning him there is somebody inside it doesn’t recognise.

“As you come in, you’ve already been spotted by some of our tech,” he says.

“There are cameras in the burglar alarm sensors, and a facial recognition system in the house.

“If it’s someone it ‘knows’, it will tell me. If it’s someone it doesn’t know, it will tell me.”

He selects one of the CCTV images he has received and adds my name to it. That seems to satisfy the house – for now.

(19) TZ ON METV. Get a list of “8 books any fan of ‘The Twilight Zone’ should read” from MeTV.

3. Richard Matheson – ‘Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson’

In his introduction, Stephen King describes Matheson’s influence on the horror genre in the 1950s as “a bolt of pure ozone lightning.” The master also confesses that without Matheson, he “wouldn’t be around.” This modern collection largely draws from the 1950s, with some 1960s shorts thrown in as well, keeping it contemporary with Twilight Zone. Matheson was the mind behind other classic episodes like “Third from the Sun,” “Nick of Time,” “The Invaders,” “Night Call” and more.

John King Tarpinian says, “They left out Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier, which is the book that Ray Bradbury gave to Rod Serling as TZ was being formulated.”

(20) BEHIND THE IMAGINARY SCENES. ScienceFiction.com recommends — “Unleashing The Power: Check Out Video From ‘Science Of The MCU’ Event!’”

Recently, the Science and Entertainment Exchange, along with Marvel Studios and The Great Company put on a truly amazing event called the ‘The Science of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’ which highlighted how some of the more fantastic elements of the MCU could actually work. At the events, real scientists discussed how some of the pseudoscience and superpowers of the MCU could potentially work, and how close we are to accomplishing some of the scientific discoveries fictional characters in the MCU have made…

 

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