Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

https://twitter.com/HEIROFSLYTHERlN/status/649915885704970240

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 8/12 Scroll My Tears, the Policeman Said

Pompeii, Krakatoa, Sasquan — only one of them was a science fiction convention…

(1) Dilbert bypasses actual writing to work on social media marketing for his sci-fi novel.

Yes, sometimes there is a fine line between documentary and parody.

(2) SF Signal’s new Mind Meld “Exploring Fear in Fiction” poses this question to its participants:

How do you use the fears that fascinate you in your writing, and how do the things in those dark recesses and corners of your mind come to the fore? What authors evoke the fears lurking in your own head and how do they do it?

Rising to meet the challenge: Stina Leicht, Kendare Blake, Robert Jackson Bennett, David Annandale, Lisa Morton, Mercedes M. Yardley, Mark Yon, David Nickle, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Andrew Pyper, Kate Maruyama, Anna Yeatts, Tiemen Zwaan, K. V. Johansen.

(3) Camestros Felapton (Nick asks, is that your real name?) has produced a literal (did I use that word right CPaca?) map of the 2015 Puppy kerfuffle.

A map of the various websites and groupings involved in the on-going internet kerfuffle over the Hugo Awards. Most symbols don’t really mean anything. Groupings of bloggers under a heading in bold. Crossed swords represent places where a notable discussion/argument etc occurred. This may include Brad Torgersen explaining what he intended or some kind of deceleration of intent (e.g. a boycott) or somebody pointing out what somebody else had done.

Several people offered corrections and suggestions. The best is CPaca’s plaint, “What, you couldn’t have a little Tank driving off a cliff in Marmot Gulch?”

(4) Sarah A. Hoyt’s version of the past six months of Puppies, “The goat kicks back”, shuffles the cards and deals them in a way that makes sense to her. That generally means belittling critics, or treating them as if they don’t have agency.

Which brings up “I’ll walk with you.”

I like Vonda and read her long before I came here.  And I’m sure all she’s heard is the game of telephone in her circles, the same nonsense that convinced the dim bulb Irene Gallo that we’re all “right wing extremists.”  I’m just going to say she’s trying to be nice, and the reprehensible people in this equation are the ones who so “Othered” Sad Puppies as to convince her we’re some kind of bigots.

To borrow Mark’s description in a comment here: “It’s a whistlestop tour through puppy history, illustrated with out-of-context screen shots and bizarre conflations of different events, culminating in identifying a clearly satirical website as an attempt to trick potential puppies.”

(5) Chris Meadows sums up the Antonelli story for TeleRead and makes a reliable prediction:

This is really something in the nature of a pre-game show to the kerfuffle that will invariably follow the announcement of this year’s Hugo winners (or “No Award” votes, as the case might be). No matter who wins, or whether nobody wins, some people won’t be happy, and there will be plenty of ranting and grumbling from both sides. And the Puppies will emerge determined to do even better (or worse) next year—which they might well be able to do, since Worldcon bylaws mean that no change designed to rebalance the procedure can go into effect until two years after it was proposed.

I just keep thinking of the old aphorism about academic politics being so vicious because there is so little at stake. It occurs to me that could very easily describe the politicking over literary awards, too.

(6) Although Ann Somerville’s primary interest is rebutting selected statements by K. Tempest Bradford, in the process she distilled the latest kerfuffle into a few well-chosen, pungent words.

As letting Antonelli off the hook, this is simply bullshit. No one in the comments on that post is saying “Antonelli should be let off the hook or let’s wait and see or oh it was so long ago”. The only defenders of Antonelli I’ve heard about at all have been his Sad/Rabid Puppy fellow travellers. Even at the very start of this, when all we knew about Antonelli is what he’d done to Gerrold, his apology, and Gerrold’s acceptance, there were easily half of those commenting condemning him outright and saying the apology was self-serving. The others thought Gerrold had been generous and on the face of it, the apology matched the offence. The more information we have had about Antonelli’s behaviour, has meant those praising him for his apology have changed their minds, and more people have joined in to say the apologies are nothing but an abuser’s typical tactic.

No one is letting Antonelli off the hook, not even Sasquan. Whether he’s facing the full consequence of his behaviour is another matter. But the idea that he is being given a free pass is nonsense – and again Bradford knows this. She also knows the only reason Antonelli’s apology was given any consideration by serious people was because the only known (at the time) victim of his actions, accepted it.

(7) Lyda Morehouse in “Dirty Dogs, Old Tricks” on Bitter Empire pays David Gerrold several ironic compliments.

Amazingly, this so-called reaction to the way he thought he was being treated has resulted in… (drum roll, please)… zero consequences for Antonelli.

Yep, the way he’s been treated by his loyal opposition is well beyond fairly. A few more people know his name now, and, at worst, have crossed him off their to-be-read list. But, the folks running the Hugo Awards, the Sasaquan WorldCon Committee, have not banned him (though they really kind of wanted to). Guess why they didn’t?

Because David Gerrold asked them not to.

In fact, Gerrold has been calling for peace all over the internet and asking everyone to try to be more compassionate.

Wow, yeah, what a psychotic that Gerrold guy is.

Good thing the cops know to be on the alert. You wouldn’t want a raging wanker like Gerrold wrecking your party.

(8) Vox Day has his own notions about giving peace a chance:

As for Sasquan, we have no interest in disrupting it, but we do expect our attendees to be prepared for any SJWs inclined to violate the posted Sasquan harassment policy. That is why I encourage every VFM, Puppy, and Dread Ilk attending Sasquan to keep a recorder running at all times on your Android or iOS phone. If you’re subsequently subject to any verbal or physical harassment, you’ll have material evidence on hand to bring to the relevant authorities. More importantly, you’ll also have a strong defense to present against the inevitable SJW lies concerning your own behavior.

(9) Deb Geisler, chair of the 2004 Worldcon, puts in perspective what the 2015 committee is going through.

Today, there is a group of people who are starting their own week-long count-down to the World Science Fiction Convention. This one is in Spokane, Washington. Their convention has been fraught with difficulties. Many of their people are not laughing. They’re not even grinning.

They are still trying to build something special for fandom. They’re often not getting much satisfaction. In fact, some are sitting around right now, wishing they were somewhere else, dealing with something else. Perhaps at a villa in Tuscany…perhaps in Port-aux-Français (since that’s as far away as one can get from the Spokane Convention Center and still be on land) in the Kerguelen Islands (also known as the Desolation Islands – you can get to the irony of that on your own)….

What I will say is this: If you are going to the convention, say something nice to the people you meet with a “committee” or “staff” or “volunteer/gopher” ribbon. You don’t need to compliment them on things. Just say something nice. Or maybe something that will make them laugh. Or smile at them and say nothing at all. (This last works particularly well when you don’t much like them.)

For those of us who have slogged this slog, sometimes a smile from someone is better than a paycheck. Hell, it *IS* the paycheck.

(10) Anne Rice in a public comment on Facebook renews the argument that the limit on freedom of speech depends on a willingness to defend its least savory examples.

Signing off with thanks to all who have participated in our discussions of fiction writing today. I want to leave you with this thought: I think we are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness. There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who “has a right” to write about what. Some even advocate the out and out censorship of older works using words we now deem wholly unacceptable. Some are critical of novels involving rape. Some argue that white novelists have no right to write about people of color; and Christians should not write novels involving Jews or topics involving Jews. I think all this is dangerous. I think we have to stand up for the freedom of fiction writers to write what they want to write, no matter how offensive it might be to some one else. We must stand up for fiction as a place where transgressive behavior and ideas can be explored. We must stand up for freedom in the arts. I think we have to be willing to stand up for the despised. It is always a matter of personal choice whether one buys or reads a book. No one can make you do it. But internet campaigns to destroy authors accused of inappropriate subject matter or attitudes are dangerous to us all. That’s my take on it. Ignore what you find offensive. Or talk about it in a substantive way. But don’t set out to censor it, or destroy the career of the offending author.

(11) And here’s an unsavory example you can practice on: Tangent Online Special: Androgyny Destroys SF Review of Lightspeed.

Therefore, Tangent Online will show how the philosophy, the core defining predicates of androgyny can be applied to non-fiction as well as fiction and how in other ways it should be applied to areas of our real world lives. Thus, the table of contents for the August issue of Lightspeed below will contain only story titles—no author names; for revealing an author’s name would give immediate rise to the same conscious or unconscious bias we find in so much of our fiction. As well, the name of the reviewer is not mentioned for the same reason. Following the lead of the special Women and Queers Destroy SF issues of Lightspeed, you will find an essay following the review. Its author is also nameless, as it should be. It is the content of the words which truly matter and not who penned them. Content over author or editor is the only way to go in the Androgyny Revolution.

[Thanks to Mark and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]