Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/17 All The King’s Centaurs

(1) TOP COMICS. NPR asked followers the name their favorite comics and graphic novels. Here are the results: “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels”.

We assembled an amazing team of critics and creators to help winnow down more than 7,000 nominations to this final list of 100 great comics for all ages and tastes, from early readers to adults-only.

This isn’t meant as a comprehensive list of the “best” or “most important” or “most influential” comics, of course. It’s a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you’ll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that’s awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).

Lots of good stuff on this list. Here’s an absolutely chosen-at-random example:

Astro City

by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

At once a sprawling adventure anthology and a witty metariff on the long, whimsical history of the superhero genre, Astro City offers a bracingly bright rejoinder to “grim-and-gritty” superhero storytelling. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson — with Alex Ross supplying character designs and painted covers — don’t merely people their fictional metropolis with analogues of notable heroes, though there are plenty of those on hand. The universe they’ve created pays loving homage to familiar characters and storylines even as it digs deep to continually invent new stories and feature new perspectives. Astro City is a hopeful place that dares to believe in heroes, sincerely and unabashedly; reading it, you will too.

(2) LAST YEAR’S HARDEST SF SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has a new post surveying “Hard SF in 2016”.

Greg Hullender explains, “We’d have done this earlier in the year, but we were experimenting with new features like place and time, and we ended up gradually going back through all 814 stories annotating them. Still, I think the result is of interest.

It has been eighteen months since we explored the Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction), so we’re overdue to take a look at 2016. This report divides into three sections:

(3) TZ REBOOT. Can this writer bring The Twilight Zone back to life? “Christine Lavaf to Pen ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot”.

Screenwriter Christine Lavaf is working on a reboot of The Twilight Zone.

Warner Bros has been trying to develop the new movie version of the hit horror since 2009 and a number of directors were lined up to helm the production, but each left the project before shooting could begin.

However, Warner Bros has now announced Christine will be working on the script despite a director having not yet been found to oversee the production, according to Variety.

The original plan for the movie was for it to be inspired by the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie horror, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and had four segments each with a different director. But the new movie will reportedly follow just one story, which will include elements of The Twilight Zone universe.

(4) DRAWING A BLANK. Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos told his Facebook readers “No Archibald joy this year.”

Last year his painting of Deng Adut was a runner-up for the Archibald Prize for portraits — awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia” – and the winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Stathopoulos is a long-time fan, 10-time winner of the Australian NatCon’s Ditmar Award, and a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee. He is frequently in contention for the annual Archibald awards.

(5) ARTISTS AT WORK. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. Natalie Eggert’s article “This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing An Alternative Model For Artists to Make A Living” for Artsy talks about how Meow Wolf has created 140 jobs with income coming from people who pay $20 to look at their “immersive installations.”

Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members.

One of the most popular attractions in Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return invites visitors into an elaborate Victorian house that is experiencing rifts in space-time. Open up the refrigerator or a closet door and get swept away into a new environment, each one designed by different artists of the Meow Wolf collective. There is no set route to follow and you can climb on, crawl through, and touch everything in sight. Tickets to enter the fun-house-like installation cost $20 for adults (on par with admission to a New York museum), with discounted rates available for New Mexico residents, children, senior citizens, and the military.

The installation’s sci-fi narrative, lawless abandon, and production quality have captured the imaginations of viewers, while its success has caught the art world’s attention. Could this be a sustainable, alternative avenue for artists to collaborate and make a living outside of traditional art world models?

(6) SENDAK BOOK MS. REDISCOVERED. Atlas Obscura reports: “Found: An Unpublished Manuscript by Maurice Sendak”.

Since the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak died in 2012, the foundation set up in his name has been working to collect and sort through his artwork and the records of his life. While working through some old files, Lynn Caponera, the president of the foundation, found the typewritten manuscript for a book. When she looked more closely at it, she realized it was story she didn’t remember, reports Publishers Weekly.

What she had found was the story for Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work that Sendak and collaborator Arthur Yorinks had worked on in the 1990s and never published. “In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks told Publishers Weekly.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 12, 2013  — Pacific Rim debuted.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 12, 1912 — Artist Joseph Mungaini, who illustrated the 1962 Oscar-nominated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright based on Ray Bradbury’s story.

(9) LUCY LIU. Rebecca Rubin in Variety says that Lucy Liu will direct the first episode of season 2 of Luke Cage coming in 2018.  She previously directed four episodes of Elementary.

(10) STAND BY FOR A NEW THEORY. NPR’s Glen Weldon says new Spider-Man wins because we see learning rather than origin: “Origin-al Sin: What Hollywood Must Learn From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'”.

Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses with his origin story completely, which is, at this point, a wise move. Given Spidey’s status as Marvel’s flagship character and his concurrent cultural saturation, it’s perhaps even inevitable, because: We know.

We get it. Spider-bite, spider powers, great responsibility. We’ve, all of us, been there.

And yet! Even without seeing precisely how and why Peter Parker gets from the here of normal life to the there of fantastic, thwippy powers, Tom Holland is eminently, achingly relatable. His Peter is someone in whom we easily see ourselves at our most excited and anxious. Which is the whole secret.

(11) THIS SUCKS. Using ROVs to scoop up invasive species: “Can a robot help solve the Atlantic’s lionfish problem?”. There’s a video report at the link.

Robots in Service of the Environment has designed an underwater robot to combat a growing problem in the Atlantic Ocean: the invasive lionfish.

(12) MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. A league of their own? Overwatch starts city-based videogaming league: “Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?”

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

(13) THEY’RE PINK. Adweek covers a parody of female-targeted products: “‘Cards Against Humanity for Her’ Is the Same Game, but the Box Is Pink and It Costs $5 More”.

In a savage parody of women-targeted products like Bic for Her pens, and Cosmo and Seat’s car for women, Cards Against Humanity has released Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s the exact same game as the original, but comes in a pink box and costs $5 more.

The press release is a gold mine of hilarity.

“We crunched the numbers, and to our surprise, we found that women buy more than 50 percent of games,” said Cards Against Humanity community director Jenn Bane. “We decided that hey, it’s 2017, it’s time for women to have a spot at the table, and nevertheless, she persisted. That’s why we made Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s trendy, stylish, and easy to understand. And it’s pink.”

Bane added: “Women love the color pink.”

The game is available for $30 on CardsAgainstHumanityForHer.com, which has all sorts of ridiculous photos and GIFs. The limited-edition version “is expected to sell out,” the brand said.

From the FAQ (where it’s in pink text).

When I inevitably purchase this without reading carefully and then find out it’s the same cards as the original Cards Against Humanity, can I return it and get my money back? That color looks great on you! No.

(14) SHARKE REPELLENT. Mark-kitteh sent these links (and the headline) to the latest posts by the Shadow Clarke jury. He adds, “Only two of these, but the Becky Chambers roundtable is likely to provide enough rises in blood-pressure on its own.”

The inclusion of A Closed and Common Orbit on this year’s Clarke shortlist follows hard on the heels of Chambers’s 2016 shortlisting for her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In a very short time, Chambers’s books have proven extraordinarily popular and drawn an enthusiastic fan response. Unsurprisingly, ACACO has also been shortlisted for the 2017 Hugo. The novel has also drawn praise from reviewers, such as Adam Roberts in the Guardian. However, despite the shadow Clarke jury being split fifty-fifty between those who found ACACO to be a compulsive read and those who struggled to find any interest in it whatsoever, this is also the novel that has come closest to unifying what is often a more diverse body of opinion than it might appear from the outside. We are unanimous in thinking that ACACO is not one of the six best SF novels of the year and, in contrast to the other five works on the list, there is nobody among us who would make any kind of case for its inclusion on the Clarke shortlist.

I am possibly not the right audience for this novel. I have read a number of stories by Yoon Ha Lee before this without being particularly impressed by any of them. The novel, Ninefox Gambit crystallized some of those discontents. In no particular order:

1: Yoon Ha Lee has read too much Iain M. Banks. The influence is everywhere and inescapable: the grotesque deaths, the over-elaborate weapons (including one I couldn’t help identifying as the Lazy Gun from Against a Dark Background), and, of course, the central conceit in which the mind of an ancient general is implanted in a younger person on a suicide mission is a straight lift from Look to Windward. But Banks’s humanity is missing. With Banks you always knew where the author stood, ethically and emotionally; not so with Lee, this is a cold book.

(15) FROM PERKY TO UNBEATABLE. Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, in “Marvel’s New Warriors Sets Its Cast–Including Squirrel Girl”, says that the cast of this ten-episode series on Freeform has been set, and Milana Vayntrub, best known as the Perky Salesperson in 5,271,009 AT&T commercials, has been cast as Squirrel Girl.

Milana Vayntrub (This Is Us) has landed the breakout role of Squirrel Girl, while Baby Daddy grad Derek Theler will stay in business with Freeform after landing the role of Mister Immortal in Marvel’s first live-action scripted comedy.

The duo lead the ensemble cast in the 10-episode series about six young people learning to cope with their abilities in a world where bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates. Joining Vayntrub and Theler are Jeremy Tardy as Night Thrasher, Calum Worthy as Speedball, Matthew Moy as Microbe and Kate Comer as Debrii.

(16) ETCHED IN STONE. It’s been awhile since I checked in on Declan Finn, and I found one of his posts on Superversive SF that could lead to lively discussion.

In “Pius Rules for Writers”, Declan Finn’s advice comes from his viewpoint as a reader.

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

(17) NEWMAN’S NEXT. Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog has great news for Planetfall fans (and a cover reveal) in “Return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall Universe in Before Mars.

I still remember the feeling of closing the cover on a early, bound manuscript copy of Emma Newman’s Planetfall in 2015, sure I had read one of the finest science fiction novels of the year—even though it was only April (I wasn’t wrong).

Considering it’s a complete work, I was surprised—and very pleased—at the arrival of After Atlas, a standalone companion novel set in the same world—another book that, incidentally, turned out to rank with the best of its year (but don’t just take our word for it).

I just can quit being fascinated by this setting—a near future in which 3D printing technology has made resources plentiful, but post-scarcity living has not been evenly distributed, where missions to the stars only expose the dark secrets within the human heart—and it seems Newman can’t quite break away from it either: she’s writing at least two more books in the Planetfall series, and today,we’re showing off the cover of the third, Before Mars, arriving in April 2018 from Ace Books….

(18) NOT YOUR TYPICAL POLICE SHOOTING. Consenting cosplayers suffered a tragic interruption: “Police Shoot People Dressed As The Joker And Harley Quinn”.

Australian police shot a man and a woman dressed as comic book characters while they performed a sexual act at a nightclub early Saturday morning, news.com.au reported. The man and the woman were dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Dale Ewins, 35, was shot in the stomach by police. Authorities said they shot him because he pointed his toy gun at them and they believed it was a real weapon. However, club security said Ewins did not aim the gun at them.

Zita Sukys, 37, was shot in the leg. Both were attending the Saints & Sinners Ball, described as a party “for Australian swingers and those who are just curious.” Promotions for the party also said it has “a well-earned reputation as Australia’s, if not the world’s, raunchiest party.”

(19) FAN FASHION. The Dublin in 2019 bidders think you would look great in their logo shirt. Half-off sale!

(20 TOON FASHION. Why Cartoon Characters Wear Gloves is a video from Vox which goes back to 1900 to answer this question.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second paragraph of third section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

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

Arthur C. Clarke Award 2017 Shortlist

The Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature has announced its 2017 shortlist.

  • A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • After Atlas, Emma Newman (Roc)
  • Occupy Me, Tricia Sullivan (Gollancz)
  • Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead  (Fleet)

The judges selected these works from a list of 86 individual eligible submissions.

Award Director Tom Hunter commented:

The novels on our shortlist this year are fascinatingly diverse, deeply imaginative and a great tribute to the memory of Sir Arthur as we celebrate the centenary year of his birth in 2017.

The judges for the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2017 are:

  • Una McCormack, British Science Fiction Association
  • Shana Worthen, British Science Fiction Association
  • Paul March-Russell, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Andrew McKie, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Charles Christian, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

Andrew M. Butler represents the Arthur C. Clarke Award in a non-voting role as the Chair of the Judges.

The winner will be announced at a public award ceremony held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Thursday 27th July 2017. The winner will receive a prize of £2017.00 and the award itself, a commemorative engraved bookend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Be Asking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pony sushi?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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