Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/17 Strong Enough for a Scroll, But Made for a Pixel

(1) IN TIMES TO COME. Stephanie Lai’s eye-opening post about strategies for coping with microaggressions on panels and elsewhere at sff cons, “Continuum: First Aid for paper cuts”, is not merely advice, it may be a forecast of what will be happening at cons in the immediate future.

Interrupting micro aggressions in a social setting

Sometimes micro aggressions happen in a panel, but sometimes they occur in the bar or in a conversation or in passing. No Award recommends a few techniques. These are applicable to both the people being aggressed at, and those friends who want to have our backs.

For the extremely non-confrontational or when you just don’t have the patience, go the non-sequitur and change the subject: “Do you like cats? Would you like to look at pictures of mine? Please tell me in detail about your pets.” Always have your cat pictures ready to hand for quick whipping out. You can do this one, I believe in you.

A bit more confronting: “Gosh, I wouldn’t have said that.”

Really lean on in to it: “Wow, that’s an anecdote. How would you relate that to the topic we’re talking about?”

Go for it: “Wow, that’s racist.” “Wow, do you think that’s appropriate?” “Wow, don’t ever talk to me ever again.” GO FOR IT. Make it uncomfortable. They already have.

Please manage this institutionally

This note is specifically directed at my white friends who want to fix the thing. It is also applicable if you are some other sort of not-marginalised voice, such as if you are straight. When you find something that needs to be fixed, please understand that it cannot be fixed by my friend, it has to be fixed by the convention committee. It cannot be fixed by my friend because that’s not how institutional change works. And when we talk about micro aggressions, when I talk about micro aggressions, I’m talking about institutionalised racism.

It’s nice that I have your friendship — and I really value it — but what I really want is the promise of the institution, not the individual.

(2) SPUFFORD INTERVIEW. Gavin Edwards interviewed “Francis Spufford: The Benign Dictator” for Barnes & Noble Review. Spufford, has many sff devotees because of Red Plenty, and such a rich and entertaining discussion of long-ago Manhattan is well worth reading. Gavin Edwards is the New York Times-bestselling author of many books, most recently The Tao of Bill Murray.

BNR: So how did you end up writing about Manhattan in the 1740s?

FS: A random effect of visiting New York: suddenly realizing that once you got down below the grid, the southern tip was strangely like the city of London, down to the same street names. And like the city of London now, also burned down by great fires. So you’ve got a pre-modern net of lanes with enormous glass temples of international finance growing out of them. And I thought, heavens, this is still haunted by the city that was.

I got a photocopy of an eighteenth-century street map and tried to walk lower Manhattan to see if it was still there. And it kind of is, apart from the fact that the shoreline has gone outwards about a block all the way round. There’s nothing above ground level so far as I could see, apart from the tombs in Trinity Church and Bowling Green — which has the same railing around it, although the crowns were snipped off the top with the Revolution….

BNR: There’s a line in the musical Hamilton that New York City is “the greatest city in the world.” While that’s flattering to Broadway audiences, I don’t think most people in the eighteenth century thought of New York as the greatest city in the world.

FS: They didn’t. The strange thing is that it was urban in feeling, even though there was hardly any of it. But Philadelphia was the financial center; New York was this slightly provincial place that exported flour to slave plantations down in Barbados and Jamaica. And in return, turned sugar into rum. Not cosmopolitan. On the contrary, rather suspicious and narrow, Anglo and Dutch and African and very suspicious of the outside world, particularly if it spoke French.

In some ways, satisfyingly the opposite of everything you associate with New York City now. Very small rather than huge, ethnically exclusive rather than a vast melting pot. Very pious rather than being possibly one of the secular places on earth. Very closed and paranoid about the outside world rather than open and curious. And yet, to my fascination, I could still see a recognizable New York?ness in the New York of the 1740s. Even when you can walk end to end in ten minutes, even when everybody in it thinks they’re British or Dutch, there is still something about it as a deal-making city living on its wits, already sure that it’s the center of something, even if they don’t know what yet.

And at his own blog Gavin Edwards put up a bonus bit where he talks about why Red Plenty is appealing to sci-fi fans: “The Golden Age of Francis Spufford”.

(3) LOOKING BACK. Steve Mollmann of Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother reviews The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers” before moving on to the author’s Hugo-nominated sequel.

I also felt very uncomfortable with the way the majority of the crewmembers impose their moral views on one character and their way of life, in a book that was otherwise about celebrating the joys of multiculturalism and (what I guess you might call) multibiologism. I don’t think the book sufficiently made the case that a particular character was being exploited to justify what was done to them against their will.

(4) HALFWAY MARK. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog makes its picks of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2017 So Far”.

These 25 novels represent the finest SFF this still young year has to offer. They’re smart, scary, uplifting, terrifying, thrilling, prescient, unforgettable. At the bookstore, at least, it’s been a very good year…so far. Here’s looking at six months’ worth of the best science fiction & fantasy books of 2017.

One of them is –

Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty A locked-room mystery nestled comfortably inside a big-idea sci-fi premise, Lafferty’s latest is a interstellar page-turner, building a compelling future world of human clones and interstellar travel, and rewriting the rules of the crime novel accordingly. Societal and climate collapse drives humanity to send 2,000 cryo-frozen people to a distant, Earth-like planet on a ship crewed by six criminals who volunteer to be cloned again and again as they shepherd their precious cargo to its final destination. Every time the crew is cloned, they maintain their collective memories. When they wake up at the beginning of the novel, however, their former bodies are dead—brutally murdered in various ways; the ship is in shambles (gravity is off, the controlling artificial intelligence is offline, and they’re off-course); and their memories (and all other records) have been erased. The six have to clean up the mess—but they also have to figure out who killed them and why, and how to survive within a paranoid pressure-cooker of a ship. Lafferty steadily ramps up the tension from the jarring first pages to the nail-biting conclusion. We dare you to stop reading it. Read our review.

(5) SENSE8 NOT ENTIRELY DEAD. SciFiStorm reports Sense8 will return, at least temporarily…

After getting canceled by Netflix earlier this month with some things unresolved, Lana Wachowski, via the official Sense8 Twitter account, explained why she hasn’t said much, but also why she is talking now

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker was released.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 29, 1920 – Ray Harryhausen

Harryhausen receiving his Oscar:

(8) BEEP BEEP KA-CHING. The Associated Press, in “‘Star Wars’ R2-D2 Droid Sells for $2.76M at Auction”, reports that auctioneer Profiles in History sold an R2 D2 made from “parts” of droids used in the Star Wars films for $2.76 million.

A Darth Vader helmet and a Luke Skywalker lightsaber sold for lower sums says The Wrap:  

Other “Star Wars” items that were up for auction include Mark Hamill’s “Luke Skywalker lightsaber used in the first two films, which sold for around $450,000 and original concept art by Tom Jung that were used to inspire the movie posters. A Darth Vader helmet from the original film sold for $96,000.

(9) GENRE IN ASIA. In another post at No Award, Stephanie Lai contrasts Western and Asian horror writing in “Continuum: SFFH with Asian characteristics”.

We talked a lot about how horror is not considered a genre when you think about Asia, in large part because the things that are classified as horror in the west are actually just a daily part of life. The telling of ghost stories is very social. We talk about them all the time, like a description of the car that overtook us at the lights or the reason we rejected that house in the cul-de-sac, like the aunty who always compliments your hair.

Mia spoke about finding Australians and people in general less superstitious when she moved to Australia; nobody saying ‘excuse me’ to ant hills. She BEAUTIFULLY described ghost stories as being stories about neighbours you never acknowledge but you know are there. It’s true. I talk a lot about how the unspoken spirits and ghosts rule my family life (the ghosts of Alzheimer’s and accidents; the spirits of bankruptcy and the fire in the oven that never lights first try). It’s a bit like following superstitions just in case, which Mia, Devin and I all agreed we do; but it’s a bit like knowing the ghosts believe in you.

(10) 90 MINUTES LIVE. Videos of two author interviews from 1978 have been posted to YouTube.

Harlan Ellison

Kurt Vonnegut

(11) SF AUTHOR CARD GAMES. Darrah Chavey is here to introduce Filers to Buddyfight, a Japanese and English card game, of the general genre of Magic: The Gathering or (more accurately) Yu-Gi-Oh!.

What makes this card game more interesting to us is that several of the card characters are the last names of SF authors. So you could put together a game deck consisting of (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Ray) Bradbury, (Ursula) Le Guin, (Robert) Heinlein, (Brian) Aldiss, (Edgar Rice) Burroughs, (Andre) Norton, (Robert F.) Young, (James) Tiptree, (George Alec) Effinger, and (Alfred) Bester.

Each of the characters comes with a “flavor text”, which seems to play to the author. Tiptree is saying “Hehe, I wonder what I should write next…”, and Burroughs says “I’ll survive anywhere as long as I have this sword with me.”

At the following link are sample images of some of the author cards. The Bradbury and Effinger cards are shown below. I have no doubt George Alec Effinger would have been pleased to see himself represented as a figure in a deck of magic game cards.

(12) CHAMBERS. I don’t think I mentioned the announcement earlier this month of Becky Chambers’ next novel, coming out in 2018:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s Earl Grey Editing blog for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day clack.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/17 Buy Pixels At Half Price At Filedepository SF

(1) STICK IT TO ‘EM. There will be “Ten of Disney’s finest villains on new U.S. set”Linn’s Stamp News has the story.

The Disney Villains stamps will be issued in a pane of 20 July 15 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif. A 1:30 p.m. first-day ceremony is scheduled during the Disney fan event D23 Expo 2017.

…Each stamp in the set depicts a classic Disney villain set against a deep blue background. Each stamp includes text that identifies the film in which the villain appeared, and the villain’s name.

The 10 characters on the stamps are the Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Honest John (Pinocchio), Lady Tremaine (Cinderella), the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), Cruella De Vil (One Hundred and One Dalmatians), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), and Scar (The Lion King).

(2) SINGERS WHO ARE BAD. But not bad singers. This is the perfect place to drop in Peter Hollens’ new “Epic Disney Villains Medley” featuring Whitney Avalon.

(3) CLARION FUNDRAISER. The Clarion Write-A-Thon hopes to raise $15,000 for the workshop between June 25 and August 5. They’ve taken in $1,802 in the first two days.

Welcome to Clarion UCSD’s Eighth Annual Write-a-Thon! What is a write-a-thon, anyway? Think charity walk-a-thon. In a walk-a-thon, volunteers walk as far as they can in return for pledges from sponsors who make donations, usually based on the number of miles the volunteer walks. Our Write-a-Thon works like that too, but instead of walking, our volunteers write with a goal in mind. Their sponsors make donations to Clarion sometimes based on number of words written, sometimes based on other goals, or just to show support for the writer and Clarion.

People can sign up to write or support writers, and win prizes.

As always, we have prizes for our top Write-a-Thon earners. In addition, this year we have surprises as well as prizes!

  • The top fundraiser will receive a commemorative Clarion Write-a-Thon trophy celebrating their success.
  • Our top five fundraisers will each receive a critique from a well-known Clarion instructor or alumnus. We’ve lined up Terry Bisson, David Anthony Durham, Kenneth Schneyer, Judith Tarr, and Mary Turzillo to have a look at your golden prose. A roll of the dice decides who is paired with whom. (The authors have three months to complete their critiques, and the short story or chapters submitted must be 7,500 words or less.)
  • Our top ten fundraisers will each receive a $25 gift certificate of their choice from a selection of bookstores and stationers.
  • A few small but special surprises will be distributed randomly among everyone who raises $50 or more. Lucky winners will be decided by Write-a-Thon minions drawing names from Clara the Write-a-Thon Cat’s hat. These are such a surprise that even we don’t know what they are yet. We do know that certain of our minions will be visiting places like Paris and Mongolia this summer. Anything at all might turn up in their luggage. In addition, who knows what mystery items unnamed Clarionites might donate to the loot!

(4) ASSISTED VISION. Invisible 3, a collection of 18 essays and poems about representation in SF/F, edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj, was released today. As with the first two volumes in this series, all profits go to benefit Con or Bust.

Here’s what you’ll find inside (with links to two free reads):

  • Introduction by K. Tempest Bradford
  • Heroes and Monsters, by T. S. Bazelli
  • Notes from the Meat Cage, by Fran Wilde
  • What Color Are My Heroes? by Mari Kurisato
  • The Zeroth Law Of Sex in Science Fiction, by Jennifer Cross
  • Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities, by Alliah
  • Erasing Athena, Effacing Hestia, by Alex Conall
  • Not So Divergent After All, by Alyssa Hillary
  • Skins, by Chelsea Alejandro
  • The Doctor and I, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • My Family Isn’t Built By Blood, by Jaime O. Mayer
  • Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes, by Carrie Sessarego
  • Decolonise The Future, by Brandon O’Brien
  • Natives in Space, by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • I Would Fly With Dragons, by Sean Robinson
  • Adventures in Online Dating, by Jeremy Sim
  • Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
  • Shard of a Mirage, by MT O’Shaughnessy
  • Unseen, Unheard, by Jo Gerrard

(5) GODSTALKER. Jamie Beeching finds many things to compliment in “Hamish Steel’s Pantheon – ‘Because gods are people too…'” , a graphic novel reviewed at Pornokitsch.

In Pantheon, Hamish Steele tackles the Egyptian deities in a way described by Steele as “a faithful retelling of […] the battle between the gods Horus and Set for the throne of Egypt.”  Perhaps the most interesting word in that quote is ‘faithful’.  I’m no expert on Egyptian mythology, so I’ll have to take the author’s word on the majority of the facts but I somehow doubt that any of the gods referred to Set as “a notorious cock”.  It’s exactly this mixture of genuine mythological weirdness (and we’re talking totally batshit) and modern irreverence that creates Pantheon’s unique and very successful blend of humour.

(6) NINEFOX, TENFOX. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Yoon Ha Lee.

When did you notice or feel you had honed your voice? Was it before or after you made short story and poetry sales?

I think it developed during the process of learning to write. Early on, I aimed for a very clear, very transparent style in imitation of writers like Piers Anthony. Then I discovered Patricia McKillip and Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny, and they blew my head open in terms of how language can be used. Part of it was also subject matter. After reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game for the first time, I realized that what I wanted to write about, most of all, was military ethics. That was sometime in high school, and my writing shaped itself accordingly after that.

How has the overall reaction to Ninefox Gambit been from readers?

Very bimodal! From what I can tell, most people either love it or hate it. There were some narrative decisions I made that I knew would not be popular with some readers. For example, because the two main characters, Cheris and Jedao, are making command decisions from the very top, I chose to use throwaway viewpoint characters to depict the “boots on the ground” perspective and show the consequences of decisions that are abstract from a general’s perspective. Some readers really like to tunnel into a smaller number of characters and get close to them, and I knew that I would be losing people who like to read that way. For another, I used minimal exposition. I remember really enjoying C.J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun books because they’re told in a similar way, leading to this great sense of immersion, but some readers prefer to have the world spelled out for them. On the other hand, other readers liked those very things. There are always trade-offs.

(7) EU DROPS THE HAMMER ON GOOGLE. The Guardian reports “Google fined record €2.4bn by EU over search engine results”. However, huge civil penalties like that are really in the nature of an opening bid – Google will never pay that amount. But it makes for a stunning headline.

The European Union has handed Google a record-breaking €2.42bn (£2.14bn) fine for abusing its dominance of the search engine market in building its online shopping service, in a dramatic decision that has far-reaching implications for the company.

By artificially and illegally promoting its own price comparison service in searches, Google denied both its consumers real choice and rival firms the ability to compete on a level playing field, European regulators said.

The Silicon Valley giant has 90 days to stop its illegal activities and explain how it will reform its ways or face fines of up to €10.6m a day, which equates to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of its parent company Alphabet.

On the back of the finding that Google is the dominant player in the European search engine market, the EU regulator is further investigating how else the company may have abused its position, specifically in its provision of maps, images and information on local services.

…Google immediately rejected the commission’s findings, and signalled its intention to appeal, in an indication of the gruelling legal battle to come between the two sides.

(8) TREASURE MAP. The investor-pitch map of the first Magic Kingdom sold for a chest of gold.

An original map of the first Disneyland park has fetched £555,838 ($708,000) at an auction in California.

The 1953 drawing was used by Walt Disney to secure funding, after his own studio refused to fund the site.

The artist’s impression was given to an employee, and remained out of public view for more than 60 years.

The map was personally annotated by the creator of Mickey Mouse, and reveals a picture of Walt Disney’s vision for the theme park, built in 1955.

(9) AUDIOPUNK. Carl Slaughter says, “Via YouTube, listen to the complete BBC radio broadcast of Neuromancer, William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic brought to life in the form of a very well done radio drama.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 27, 1966 – J.J. Abrams

(11) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster commends this Dilbert strip full of timey-wimey-ness.

(12) SINCE SLICED BREAD. Marc Scott Zicree, Mr. Sci-Fi, explains why science fiction conventions are the greatest thing ever.

(13) PECULIAR SCI-FI BAR. The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis discovered “The real reason everyone’s standing in line for D.C.’s ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar”.

And this is what we want from our bars in 2017: an exhilarating escape from reality. Except instead of rides, we want photo ops.

“It’s purely for the Instagram,” said Lara Paek, 28, waiting with her sister in line outside the bar before it opened.

People who order “the tequila-and-grapefruit tonic ‘Shame,’ have the bartenders shout, ‘Shame! Shame!’ at them while everyone snaps photos for Snapchat.”

(14) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Geoffrey Thomas’ debut novel, The Wayward Astronomer, is set in the same fictional universe as the online anthropomorphic graphic novel series Dreamkeepers, by Dave and Liz Lillie. The book was released May 17.

THE WAYWARD ASTRONOMER

Hal Adhil and Miri Rodgers are best friends. They spend their days working at a small observatory in the Starfall Mountains beyond the metropolis of Anduruna.

Miri is the only person Hal trusts to understand a dangerous secret: Hal can see all wavelengths of light. Hal uses his superpower only when they are free from prying eyes that could report them to the authorities.

The lives of Hal and Miri quickly change one night, however, when a meteor crashes into the nearby mountains. When they set out to retrieve the fallen star, it quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. What appeared to be an ordinary meteor is in fact a strange power source that Hal and Miri are not the only ones looking for.

In order to rescue his closest companion, Hal must not only unravel a mystery that has eluded his people for ages, but also face unsavory characters from his own past. Can Hal, the Wayward Astronomer, harness his supernatural powers to rescue his friend before time runs out?

(15) HARD-TO-MISS MACROPODESTRIANS. A problem Down Under? Volvo’s driverless car can avoid most animals but is confused by kangaroos.

The Swedish car-maker’s 2017 S90 and XC90 models use its Large Animal Detection system to monitor the road for deer, elk and caribou.

But the way kangaroos move confuses it.

“We’ve noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight when it’s in the air, it actually looks like it’s further away, then it lands and it looks closer,” its Australia technical manager told ABC.

(16) ANT POWER. There’s a pilot project for buses that run on formic acid. (Easier to handle than hydrogen as it just sits there.)

Team Fast has found a way the acid can efficiently carry the ingredients needed for hydrogen fuel cells, used to power electric vehicles.

The fuel, which the team has dubbed hydrozine (not to be confused with hydrazine), is a liquid, which means you can transport it easily and refill vehicles quickly, as with conventional fuels.

The difference is that it is much cleaner.

“The tailpipe emissions are only CO2 and water,” explains Mr van Cappellen. “No other harmful gases like nitric oxides, soot or sulphuric oxides are emitted.”

(17) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the ATM in the UK – how many questions can you answer in this 10-part trivia quiz? “Cash machine quiz: Test your knowledge”.

I only got three right – you have to do better than that!

(18) GLOOP AVOIDANCE. Jason Heller reviews Karen Tidbeck’s novel for NPR — “In ‘Amatka,’ A Warped And Chilling Portrait Of Post-Truth Reality”.

Her 2012 short story collection, Jagganath, showcased her knack for sharp yet dreamlike tale-spinning. Tidbeck’s debut novel Amatka came out the same year, in Swedish only — and it’s seeing its first English translation now. Not a moment too soon, either: Despite being originally published five years ago, its surreal vision of deadly conspiracies, political oppression, and curtailed freedom couldn’t be more eerily timely.

Amatka takes place in one of the most audacious science-fiction settings since Bes?el/Ul Qoma from China Miéville’s The City and The City….

Tidbeck’s premise is almost comical, but her execution is anything but. Amatka teems with mysteries, and almost every innocuous detail — like the fact that the colony’s residents are vegan — winds up having head-spinning ramifications later on. As exquisitely constructed as her enigmas are, however, they’re atmospheric and deeply moving. Vanja is not an easy character to latch onto, but that sense of distance makes her ultimate choices and sacrifices — and what they say about loneliness and freedom — so much more poignant.

(19) UP IN THE AIR. Debut Tor novelist Robyn Bennis does sky military steampunk with a rookie female officer who has to overcome odds on all fronts.

THE GUNS ABOVE by Robyn Bennis (Tor)

Released May 2, 2017

In the tradition of Honor Harrington and the high-flying Temeraire series, Bennis’s THE GUNS ABOVE is an adventurous military fantasy debut about a nation’s first female airship captain.

They say it’s not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. Bernat’s own secret assignment is to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision.

So when the enemy makes an unprecedented move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself?

Praise for The Guns Above:

  • “Steampunky navy-in-the-air military tale full of sass and terrific characters. Great storytelling. Loved it.” ?Patricia Briggs
  • “Marvelous, witty, gory AF, action-packed steampunk with exquisite attention to detail. Bennis’s writing is incredible, her vocabulary impressive, and she honest to God made me believe you could build an airship from spare parts.”?New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Ann Aguirre
  • “The Guns Above is a sharp, witty Ruritanian adventure full of flintlock rifles, plumed shakos, brass buttons… and airships! Taking place in an alternate mid-nineteenth-century Europe where dirigibles ply the smoky air over battlefields and women have been grudgingly admitted to the air corps,The Guns Above takes a clear-eyed, even cynical view of the ‘glories’ of war, complete with blood, shit, shattered limbs, and petty squabbles among the nobility. The aerial combat is gut-clenchingly realistic, the two viewpoint characters are well-drawn and as different as can be, and the action never stops. Hard women learn compassion, soft men learn bravery, and the fate of a nation depends on one rickety airship and its stalwart crew. A winner!” ?David D. Levine, author of Arabella of Mars
  • “An engaging gunpowder adventure with a helping of witty Noel Coward dialogue and a touch of Joseph Heller.” ?Tina Connolly, Nebula Award-nominated author of Ironskin
  • “Wonderfully adventurous and laudably detailed. Bennis paints airship battles so clearly you’d swear they were from memory.” ?Becky Chambers, author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

(20) TONIGHT’S FINAL JEOPARDY! The Jeopardy! game show often makes references to sff. For example, in the Final Jeopardy answer for June 27 —

An homage to a 1953 novel, this number appears as an error code when a user tries to access a web page with censored content

Click here and scroll down past the ads to read the correct question.

(21) FAVES. At Open Culture, “Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books”. Here are the first five on his list:

  1. The Borrowers — Mary Norton
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Children of Noisy Village — Astrid Lindgren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robinson
  5. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome

(22) OVERDRAWN AT THE IDENTITY ACCOUNT. What Happened To Monday? stars Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, and Glen Close.

Set in a not so distant future burdened by overpopulation, with a global one child per family policy, seven identical sisters (portrayed by Noomi Rapace) live a cat-and-mouse existence pretending to be a single person to elude the Child Allocation Bureau.

 

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Hampus Eckerman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 11/17/16 The Pixel Opened A Blue Scroll And Winked At Him

(1) COZY HORROR? In the November 12 Financial Times, columnist Nilanjana Roy explains why she likes “Black Mirror” — “’Black Mirror’ and ghost stories of a digital dystopia”. (* Article is behind a paywall, but you can get to it by Googling the name of the columnist.)

Black Mirror starts by riffing on the modern fear of living in a digital, immersive world.  It’s ironic that fans will watch episodes where a young boy is surveilled through his webcam by unrevealed stalkers, with inevitable grim results, then take to their smartphones or Twitter to declare that they want to get away from their phones and get offline.

But, huddled in a razai quilt with the air purifier on full blast, with a cup of ginger tea by my side, I realize I don’t watch Black Mirror to have my worst fears confirmed.  I watch it to be reassured.”

(2) THE FANNISH INQUISITION. Smofcon 34 has asked existing and prospective Worldcon and NASFiC bidders to complete a questionnaire – some responses are already available online.

Seated

Bidding

Smofcon

(3) THE BOUNDARIES OF EMPATHY. Ann Leckie says there was really nothing special about Nazis — “On Monsters”.

Here’s the thing–the Nazis? Those concentration camp guards, the people who dug and filled in mass graves, led prisoners to gas chambers, all of that? They were not inhuman monsters. They were human beings, and they weren’t most of them that different from anyone you might meet on your morning walk, or in the grocery store.

I know it’s really super uncomfortable to look around you and realize that–that your neighbors, or even you, yourself, might, given circumstances, commit such atrocities. Your mind flinches from it, you don’t want to even think about it. It can’t be. You know that you’re a good person! Your neighbors and co-workers are so nice and polite and decent. You can’t even imagine it, so there must have been something special, something particularly different about the people who enthusiastically embraced Hitler.

I’m here to tell you there wasn’t.

(4) QUESTIONING AND COMMON GROUND. Cat Rambo inserts a page from Maslow in her response to recent events, and shares her plan for moving forward: “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Stay the Course”

One of the phenomena that led to the weirdness of the recent election is the use of binary thought, a basic Us vs. Them that does not allow for the fact that human beings are significantly more complicated than a single yes/no statement. I see it being embraced even more strongly now – by both the Left and the Right.

The world is more complicated than that. To fall into that trap is to let yourself be controlled by whoever wields the media around you the most effectively. You must think, you must question. You must figure out where your common ground is and how to use it. This is not the time to be silent. This is a time when how you live and act and speak is more important than it ever has been.

So. Here’s what I’m doing.

  • I’m listening to the voices that haven’t been listened to and amplifying their message wherever I can. Recommending a wide and interesting range of works for the SFWA Recommended Reading List. Reading across the board and making sure I look for new, interesting, diverse stuff – and then spreading the word of it. I’m nominating and voting for awards and taking the time to leave reviews when I can.
  • As a teacher, the most important thing I can do is try to show my students how an artist lives and works. Why it’s important to confront and acknowledge one’s own flaws so you understand them in others. How to be a good human, one that is responsible, ethical, open to the world. Feminism is more important now than ever, and being one publicly in a way that redeems the bizarre media stereotypes that have been imposed upon it is crucial to generations to come.

And there’s more!

(5) FIRST FEMALE ISS COMMANDER RETURNS TO SPACE. Astronaut Peggy Whitson wrote a few more entries in the history books this morning: “Watch the first female commander of the space station blast off today”.

Whitson became the first female commander of the International Space Station in 2007, and at 3:20 EST today, she’ll ride a Soyuz rocket alongside cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, to take her place as commander of Expedition 51 on the International Space Station. She’s also set to become the oldest woman in space, at 56 years of age.

In a CBS News interview from 2008, following an extremely hard reentry of Expedition 16, Whitson—today holding the title of NASA’s most experienced female astronaut, with nearly 377 days logged in space and six space walks totaling 39 hours 46 minutes—said of her many records that “no one should be counting,” but until we’re beyond the point of having to count, she’s happy to be a role model. “It seems odd to me to think of myself that way, but I hope that I can inspire someone to do something they maybe didn’t think they could.”

(6) SPOOLING OUT. The inaugural Rewind Con, a new celebrity convention held this month in Chicago, probably took a bath according to a Nerd & Tie report, “Rewind Con Was Apparently a Total Mess”.

We’ve been following this con behind the scenes for quite some time, mostly because they rescheduled the even from September to November earlier this year. The schedule change was due to a switch in venues, and originally they put out a statement which directly stated that it was because the convention had grown too much — although they would later take that back and put out a slightly more vague one blaming “multiple factors with the original venue.”

…We don’t have exact figures, but people present have estimated numbers anywhere between one and three thousand attendees. And while any of those would be a respectable number for a first year convention, when you consider Rewind Con had between fifty and sixty guests (most of whom likely asked for pretty sizable guarantees) this event must have been a massive financial disaster. The only way the organizers could have paid those guarantees is if the money came directly out of owner Jaymie Lashaway’s pocket.

We’ve also seen reports of people who paid for the $300 VIP Passes not receiving what was promised, tons of reports of staff mismanagement, issues with paid photo ops, and a complete inability to put on a good show.

(7) MIND MELD. Shana DuBois populated the latest Mind Meld with the editors and authors of the recently released anthology The Starlit Wood from Saga Press.They were asked “to chat about fairy tales and their influence on modern-day storytelling.” The participants are Navah Wolfe, Dominik Parisien, Margo Lanagan, Kat Howard, Stephen Graham Jones, Aliette de Bodard, Charlie Jane Anders, Jeffrey Ford, Theodora Goss, and Daryl Gregory.

(8) FULL FATHOM FIVE-SEVEN-FIVE. With two five-syllable verses, the traditional haiku is arguably a poetic form tailor-made for Filers. Therefore I want you all to know Fantasy Literature has kicked off its “Third Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. Leave entries in the comments. The rules don’t state a deadline for entering.

(9) BRADBURY’S NATIONAL BOOK AWARD MEDAL. Sixteen years ago this month Ray Bradbury gave an acceptance speech when the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation conferred its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on him.

This is incredible. This is quite amazing because who you’re honoring tonight is not only myself but the ghost of a lot of your favorite writers. And I wouldn’t be here except that they spoke to me in the library. The library’s been the center of my life. I never made it to college. I started going to the library when I graduated from high school. I went to the library every day for three or four days a week for 10 years and I graduated from the library when I was 28.

(10) UNDER THE HAMMER. Heritage Auctions published the top bids from its recently-completed Space Exploration Auction #6167.

We are proud to announce that, as of this writing, total sales are $744,923 with a 98% sell-through rate both by lot and value. Of 729 total bidders, 226 were successful in winning 515 lots. It’s interesting to note that 296 of these 515 lots were won by bidders on Heritage Live! If you’re not using this amazing online bidding platform, you should definitely check it out. Eight lots vied for the honor of top price realized:

  • Lot 50102 Apollo 13 Flown and Crew-Signed Checklist $42,500
  • Lot 50145 Skylab: Rare NASA Contractor’s Model, 1/48 Scale $42,500
  • Lot 50038 Alan Bean Original 1984 Painting “Test Drive” $42,500
  • Lot 50064 Apollo 11 Flown Quarantine Cover $40,000
  • Lot 50037 Alan Bean Original 2005 Painting “Our World At My Fingertips” $38,750
  • Lot 50119 Apollo 14 LM Flown and Surface Carried Tool $37,500
  • Lot 50132 Apollo 17 Flown Robbins Medal, Serial Number 62 $37,500
  • Lot 50065 Apollo 11 Flown Robbins Medal, Serial Number 64 $35,000

(11) SUNBURST SEEKS SHORTS. The Sunburst Awards, recognizing “Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic,” is looking for submissions to be considered in its short story award category. Short stories published in magazines, anthologies or collections, or online all qualify.

Canadian authors: It’s free to submit, and your publishers may not have already done so.

Publishers: If you have submitted a collection for the novel length award already, please send us a note to secretary@sunburstaward.org to let us know which of the stories included qualify (see below) for the short story award. You may submit stories which qualify from magazines or anthologies you have published as well. To submit these, please upload the individual story files from the link on our website.

The Sunburst Awards will consider short fiction (up to 7,500 words.) for the short story award. Submissions are made electronically using a submission system for short form works and must be in either Word document or pdf format only. You will be asked to provide details of where the work was originally published along with the date and story length. All works must have been previously published in 2016. *See additional criteria on our website.

*Please include only one story per upload file.

*Do not submit a complete magazine or anthology.

*Non paying markets qualify.

*Short stories have only one year of eligibility.

*There is no administrative fee for short form submissions.

*Deadline for submissions is Midnight Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.

(12) BYRON, SELL HIGH. At the SFWA Blog, Rosalind Moran talks about the appeal of broody men: “Brood For Thought: On The Enduring Appeal Of The Moody Male Lead”.

The moody male lead is widespread throughout all genres, but it can be difficult to see why anybody would want to spend time with him. He’s brooding, exceedingly individualistic, melancholic, and disposed to hanging around outdoors during thunderstorms for no good reason beyond cultivating his mystique. Furthermore, despite possessing attributes such as introspection, sophistication in some form, and intelligence, he is also typically rather unpleasant.

So what’s underpinning his enduring presence and appeal in fiction?

(13) A WRETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLANY…AND LOVE. Turns out Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford weren’t the only ones getting busy on the set of Star Wars. Stephen Colbert had a Star Wars affair, too

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/16 Scroll Ain’t Nothin’ But Pixel Misspelled

(1) ACKERMAN SQUARE DEDICATION. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city did name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor.

The official dedication is November 17.

Come join the ceremony to honor Uncle Forry with commemorative plaques installed on all 4 corners of Franklin and Vermont where he spent so many happy decades visiting with fans and friends. The public is invited to meet at Franklin and Vermont (where the signs will be installed), southwest side, near House of Pies at 9:30 AM, November 17, 2016

(2) SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH. Gail Z. Martin explains “Why #HoldOnToTheLight Matters” at Magical Words.

The 100+ authors who agreed to write for #HoldOnToTheLight run the fame gamut. But all of us have fans and readers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, people who hold us and our books in some regard. And to those people, however many they might be, our opinion matters. Our story matters.

We lost so many people in Southern fandom at the beginning of this year. I got tired to saying ‘good-bye’ and being invited to wakes. It made me mad, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Then in April I saw the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign in Supernatural fandom and how the show’s stars used their fame and their connection to fans to do something really good.

And I wondered—what would happen if the authors whose books create the genre spoke out with their own stories about the impact of mental health issues on them, their characters, and their books?

We might not have the reach or following TV stars have, but we have some following. And when people in the public eye speak out and own taboo issues, the stigma lessens. We could encourage fans and stand in solidarity with the ones who are struggling and let them know that they are not alone.

Most of the blog posts are up now, with a few more straggling in. Life gets in the way, even of good intentions. I’m gobsmacked by the honesty, the willingness to share without flinching, the vulnerability revealed in the posts. You can read them here, as well as new ones when they post.

(3) HANDS OFF THE BRAND. Beset by internet thieves. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson calls out for “Help!”

Working in conjunction with our licensee – Futures Past Editions (a division of Digital Parchment Services, one of the original ebook publishers), we have been steadily producing a number of different publications.

These include – The Amazing Stories Best Of The Year anthologies –

Special “Anniversary” reprints –

Amazing Stories Classics novels –

and Authorized Replicas of individual issues of the magazine …

But there’s a fly in the ointment: lots and lots of other people seem to think they can willy-nilly use the Amazing Stories name to produce their own versions of the same things.  Right now, the bulk of Experimenter’s budget is being spent on intellectual property attorneys.  We’re pleased with their findings so far (but these kinds of things take a lot of time), but in the meantime – if you purchase a facsimile edition of an Amazing Stories issue (or a poster reprinting one of its fantastic covers) from anyone other than Futures Past Editions or this website, not a dime will be going to help fund this project.  It will instead go to people who obviously do not respect the history of the magazine (or the law).

(4) THE FOUNDATIONS OF UTOPIA. In the November 4 Guardian, China Mieville writes about Sir Thomas More’s Utopia on its 500th anniversary, explaining why the utopian impulse is still important in our cynical age.

If you know from where to set sail, with a friendly pilot offering expertise, it should not take you too long to reach Utopia. Since the first woman or man first yearned for a better place, dreamers have dreamed them at the tops of mountains and cradled in hidden valleys, above clouds and deep under the earth – but above all they have imagined them on islands.

… We don’t know much of the society that Utopus and his armies destroyed – that’s the nature of such forced forgetting – but we know its name. It’s mentioned en swaggering colonial passant, a hapax legomenon pilfered from Gnosticism: “for Abraxa was its first name”. We know the history of such encounters, too; that every brutalised, genocided and enslaved people in history have, like the Abraxans, been “rude and uncivilised” in the tracts of their invaders.

A start for any habitable utopia must be to overturn the ideological bullshit of empire and, unsentimentally but respectfully, to revisit the traduced and defamed cultures on the bones of which some conqueror’s utopian dreams were piled up. “Utopia” is to the political imaginary of betterness as “Rhodesia” is to Zimbabwe, “Gold Coast” to Ghana.

(5) FIFTH! Always remember the 5th of November. Preferably more than once.

Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605. But their assassination attempt was foiled the night before when Fawkes was discovered lurking in a cellar below the House of Lords next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. Londoners immediately began lighting bonfires in celebration that the plot had failed, and a few months later Parliament declared November 5 a public day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, has been around in one form or another ever since. Though originally anti-Catholic in tone, in recent times it has served mainly as an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink mulled wine and burn Guy Fawkes effigies (along with the effigies of current politicians and celebrities).

(6) ALLEGRO NON TROOPER. Ryan Britt reacts to news that “‘Starship Troopers’ Reboot Will Give Rico His Real Name Back” at Inverse.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico’s name was actually “Juan” Rico, but the 1997 film turned him into a white guy. Now, a new reboot of Starship Troopers will stick closer to the novel, which probably means Rico will be Filipino again.

Though the Paul Verhoeven take on Starship Troopers is considered something of a kitsch classic among sci-fi movie fans, it’s tone and characters differ enough from the Heinlein text warrant a totally new film adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter producer Neal H. Moritz is gearing up to make a new Starship Troopers for Columbia Pictures. The continuity of this film will have nothing to do with the 1997 film nor any of the direct-to-video sequels. It “is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take.” This means that even the intelligent alien insects — the Arachnids of Klendathu — might be completely reimagined, too.

(7) BABBITT OBIT.  Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016) died October 31.

Natalie Babbitt, the children’s author and illustrator who explored immortality in her acclaimed book “Tuck Everlasting,” has died in her Connecticut home. She was 84.

Natalie Babbitt poses with the cast of “Tuck Everlasting” on Broadway in April.

Babbitt’s husband, Samuel Babbitt, confirmed she died on Monday in Hamden, Connecticut. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was under hospice care at home when she died.

Babbitt wrote or illustrated more than 20 books, but she is perhaps best known for tackling the complex subject of death in her novel “Tuck Everlasting.”

…In 1966, she collaborated with her husband on a children’s book called “The Forty-ninth Magician,” her first published work. While her husband, a university administrator, became too busy to continue writing, the book was only the beginning in Babbitt’s nearly 50-year career. Her last published work was “The Moon Over High Street” in 2012.

Babbitt received the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association’s Notable Book designations, and The New York Times’ Best Book designations, among other awards for her work.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY –- WELL, CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK

Cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, conceived of a day in fictitious Dogpatch, USA, when all unmarried ladies (including the character Sadie Hawkins) could pursue their men. If the men were caught, marriage was unavoidable. The idea took off in real life—and in November 1938, the first recorded “girls-ask-boys” Sadie Hawkins Day dance was held. Today, the observance is usually celebrated on a Saturday in early November.

(9) BULLISH ON TWINKIES. The official health food of sci-fi readers goes public: “Hostess Brands, Purveyor of Twinkies and Ho-Hos, Returning to Wall Street”.

Hostess Brands Inc. is expected to start trading as a public company on Monday, putting the snack business to its first broad test of investor appetite since it was bought out of liquidation almost four years ago.

The 86-year-old brand behind the famous Twinkies cakes is due to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market with the ticker symbol TWNK.

(10) MAKING OF A SELF-PROFESSED “NASTY WOMAN”. Melinda Snodgrass covers a lot of personal history to make a point in “What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says”.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

(11) CASH IN HAND. The Guardian previews the merchandise: “JK Rowling’s hand-drawn Tales of Beedle the Bard go up for auction”.

A handwritten copy of JK Rowling’s story collection The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which she made for the publisher who first accepted Harry Potter for publication, is set to fetch up to £500,000 when it is auctioned next month.

Rowling handwrote and illustrated six copies of her collection of fairytales set in the Harry Potter universe, giving them as presents to “those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books”. A seventh copy, which Rowling made to raise money for her charity Lumos, was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2007 for £1.95m.

(12) FOR A RAINY DAY. We may not have Damien Walter to kick around anymore, however, here’s one of his Guardian essays that appeared in August while I was out of action — “Bureaumancy: a genre for fantastic tales of the deeply ordinary”.

There’s nothing wrong with being a bureaucrat. So you’re a tiny cog in a machine made of abstract rules, paperwork, and the broken dreams of those who do not understand either. So what? You’re just misunderstood. Without you, nobody would know where to file their TPS reports. Nobody would even know what a TPS report is.

But writers understand. As species of personality go, the writer and the bureaucrat are closely related: they’re deskbound creatures who enjoy the comfortable certainties of Microsoft Office and dazzling us with wordcraft, be it small-print legalese or the impenetrable prose of literary fiction. Of course, Kafka understood the true power of the bureaucrat because he was one – and thus portrayed bureaucracy as a looming, all-powerful presence. The wonderful Douglas Adams imagined an entire planet faking the apocalypse just to get all its middle managers to evacuate in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, while in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, hell itself is one endless system of bureaucratic red tape, where doomed souls are made to sit through every last codicil and sub-paragraph of the rules pertaining to Health and Safety – all 40,000 volumes of them.

(13) KEVIN SMITH’S NEXT FLASH. He’s back — “The Flash: Kevin Smith’s ‘Killer Frost’ Episode Synopsis Revealed”.

Smith previously helmed the season 2 episode of The Flash, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ and is set to direct an episode of Supergirl’s second season as well. He has been teasing both episodes on social media; for The Flash, he promised more action than in ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’, revealed the ‘Killer Frost’ episode title, and confirmed the inclusion of Dr. Alchemy — who is proving to be a major antagonist in The Flash season 3. So, much of the ‘Killer Frost’ synopsis seems to confirm details we previously knew or could deduce.

As for Smith’s return behind the camera, since ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ was well received by critics and fans, it stands to reason ‘Killer Frost’ may be similarly received by viewers. Smith himself has earned plenty geek credit given his own status as a fan of comics, so it’s likely he brings a unique perspective to The Flash.

(14) UNBOUND WORLDS LAUNCHES. The Unbound Worlds SFF site is holding a book giveaway contest to attract readers’ attention.

“Unbound Worlds has officially launched, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re giving away a carefully curated library of TWENTY-THREE science fiction and fantasy titles! Enter below by November 18, 2016, at 11 PM EST for your chance to win.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano (who is not to blame for the dialect in the version used).]

Pixel Scroll 12/8 When Blogs Collide

(1) ROBOTS FLASH. At the Barnes & Noble blog they’re “Introducing the 12 Days of Robot Christmas” — 12 Days of Flash Fiction from Angry Robot Authors (plus eBook discounts). Posted so far —

Still to come — Adam Rakunas (12/9), Marianne de Pierres (12/10), Peter McLean (12/11) , Carrie Patel (12/14), Ferrett Steinmetz (12/15), Peter Tieryas (12/16), Rod Duncan (12/17), and Matthew De Abaitua (12/18)

Matt Hill’s installment “The New Tradition” begins with a strong hook –

Every Christmas Eve since the biological attack, they let me visit Nan to see what was left of her.

(2) LANSDALE. Joe R. Lansdale will be honored with the 2015 Raymond Chandler Award at Courmayeur during the Noir in Festival to be held December 8-13.

With over forty novels and hundreds of stories to his credit, Lansdale is perhaps the most prolific and brilliant writer working in the noir genre today. With models such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mark Twain and Jack London, but also the science fiction of Ray Bradbury and Fredric Brown, as well as comic strips, B movies and “pulp” fiction, Lansdale´s novels are a blend of his jaded sense of humor, unbridled imagination and an unsparing description of reality in its most ruthless, violent and absurd incarnations. His books include The Drive-In and The Drive-In 2, Mucho Mojo, Two-Bear Mambo, Bad Chili, Rumble Tumble, Edge of Dark Water, Devil Red, The Bottoms (winner of an Edgar Award in 2001), Bubba Ho-Tep, and Hap & Leonard.

At Courmayeur, Lansdale will be presenting his latest novel, Honky Tonk Samurai (published in Italian by Einaudi): a new investigative romp featuring the popular characters Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

The Raymond Chandler Award is a lifetime achievement award. Past winners include sf/f/h writer J.G. Ballard (1995), and Michael Connelly, Scott Turow and John le Carré,

(3) COMPANION ISSUES. James Whitbrook tells how he deals with post-traumatic television series stress in his confessional “The Exact Moment When Doctor Who Taught Me to Never Trust Television Again” at io9.

And being an idiot teen, it was shocking enough to basically make myself vow to never be hurt by television again. Oh, teen James. TV drama basically exists to hurt us on an emotional level, you silly fool. But it kickstarted a habit I still have to this day—if I’m invested in a television series, be it Doctor Who or anything else, I keep up with all the behind the scenes info I can. I go as far as to hunt out spoilers, just to see what’s happening or if people are leaving a show, so I can prepare myself. If I’m binge-watching a show and find myself liking a certain character, I absent-mindedly Google them on my phone to find out if they inevitably die or leave the series before it ends. It infuriates my friends and family, but it’s a force of habit for myself now.

(4) Alamo Drafthouse will host a movie-watching endurance contest in Austin — Star Wars : The Marathon Awakens.

Starting promptly at 4 AM, December 17th, the seven pre-selected fans will take their seats at Alamo’s South Lamar venue to view the first six STAR WARS films in sequential order. Following the close of the initial marathon they will then participate in an endless, round-the-clock screening of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS until one final fan is left to claim their mantle of inter-galactic super fan supremacy….

For a chance to be chosen as one of the seven lucky participants in STAR WARS: THE MARATHON AWAKENS, fans need to show the Alamo Drafthouse their Jedi devotion on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the #AlamoJedi hashtag. Tattoos, toy collections, cosplay, Hoth haiku — whatever he or she feels shows their ultimate dedication to STAR WARS should be posted to sway the votes of the Alamo’s Jedi Council.

Rules are a requirement for every budding Jedi and STAR WARS: THE MARATHON AWAKENS is no exception. Participants will be given breaks between movies to stretch their legs and channel their inner Force. Sleeping, illegal drugs and talking & texting during the movies (of course) will result in disqualification and a swift trip to the Sarlacc Pit. However, for those strong enough to persevere, intergalactic immortality awaits.

(5) EDELMAN REVISITS 1974. Scott Edelman’s first Worldcon was Discon II in 1974. He has posted scans of the event schedule.

So which of these programming items did I choose to attend?

Well, there was no way I was going to miss Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison hurling insults at each other across a crowded ballroom, or the screening of a rough cut of A Boy and His Dog, or Roger Zelazny’s Guest of Honor speech, or the Hugo banquet and ceremony. Or endless wandering through the dealers room, where I picked up several items I still own to this day.

Sadly, of many panels I remember little. A women in science fiction panel featuring Susan Wood, Katherine Kurtz, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro? A panel on the problems facing today’s (well, 1974’s) science fiction magazines, with Jim Baen, Ben Bova, Ed Ferman, and Ted White? How I wish there was audio or video of those for us to relive those presentations today!

(6) TRAILER FORECAST. ScreenRant has learned the Star Trek Beyond trailer will premiere with Star Wars 7.

THR is reporting that Star Trek Beyond‘s first trailer will be attached to The Force Awakens in theaters – though, of course, it’s far from the only 2016 tentpole that is expected to hitch a ride aboard the Star Wars train. Indeed, both the recently-unveiled Captain America: Civil War teaser trailer and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s third theatrical preview are both likely candidates to be shown before The Force Awakens. Furthermore, it’s been reported in the past that the first X-Men: Apocalypse trailer will make its debut on the big screen with co-writer/director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars feature, as might also be true for another 20th Century Fox project – Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.

(7) SCULL ANALYZES TOLKIEN BIOS. Christina Scull assays the field in “Tolkien Biographies Continued, Part One” on Too Many Books and Never Enough.

Christina writes: In the Reader’s Guide volume of our J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide Wayne and I devoted nearly seven pages to a review of biographies of Tolkien which had appeared to date (2006). Carpenter’s of course was, and remains, the standard life, and the source upon which most subsequent biographers of Tolkien have relied to a great extent. The major exceptions, in terms of new research, are John Garth in Tolkien and the Great War and ourselves in the Companion and Guide, but a few others have made notable contributions to the literature. Diana Pavlac Glyer in The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community (2007) has a worthwhile discussion of the importance of the Inklings to Tolkien. Andrew H. Morton has produced two studies (the first in association with John Hayes) centred on Tolkien’s Aunt Jane Neave: Tolkien’s Gedling 1914: The Birth of a Legend (2008) and Tolkien’s Bag End: Threshold to Adventure (2009). Phil Mathison has filled in some details about Tolkien’s life during the First World War in Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917–1918 (2012). And Arne Zettersten in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Double Worlds and Creative Process: Language and Life by Arne Zettersten (2011, previously published in Swedish in 2008) recalls his meetings and conversations with Tolkien in the latter’s final years (although Zettersten refers to correspondence, no quotations are given) and usefully discusses Tolkien’s academic work on the ‘AB language’.

(8) A ROAD NOT TAKEN. The actor’s daughter told the Guardian that “Toshiro Mifune turned down Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader Roles” when George Lucas was casting the original Star Wars movie.

The star of Rashomon and Seven Samurai was approached by George Lucas to appear in his 1977 sci-fi adventure, but the two couldn’t strike a deal, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style,” said Mika.

The plot of Star Wars was loosely based on The Hidden Fortress, a 1958 film that Mifune starred in for director and frequent collaborator Akira Kurosawa.

“At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride,” Mika said. “So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too.”

Other actors who turned down roles in the film include Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, Robert De Niro and James Caan.

(9) BRACKETT SMACK. Christopher M. Chupik volunteers his previously unsuspected ability to identify deserving feminist icons in “To Tower Against The Sky”.

Despite being an inspiration to such writers as Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock and E. C. Tubb, Brackett seems to have fallen into a curious limbo. Feminists like to invoke her name in lists of female SF authors, but there seems to be a curious reluctance to speak of the woman or her work. A female writer who held her own in a male-dominated field long before the women’s liberation movement would seem to be the kind of role model modern feminists would want to celebrate, right?

Wrong. Nowadays, she’s mostly known for having written the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, very little of which made it to the screen. And this is often portrayed as the crowning achievement of her career….

And here, I suspect, we come to the real reason the feminists have marginalized Brackett: she was a conservative.

I had to dig a bit to confirm this. I had a suspicion based on her work that her opinions were not quite in tune with modern leftist orthodoxy. Brackett, along with her husband Edmond Hamilton, were signatories to the pro-Vietnam War petition that appeared in the June 1968 issue of Galaxy. Combine that with her disinterest in feminism, and it becomes very clear why Brackett has been allowed to drift towards obscurity

(10) THEY TOLD DISNEY NO THANKS. The Hollywood Reporter says “Plans for Unfinished Disney Park in St. Louis Up for Auction”  — by Profiles in History, on Thursday.

In the 1960s, Disney drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning attention to Florida.

Imagine packing up the kids and heading for that dream vacation to a Disney theme park … in St. Louis.

It almost happened a half-century ago when Disney drew up plans for an indoor theme park in downtown St. Louis before giving up in a dispute over money and turning its attention to Florida. St. Louis’ loss was the Orlando area’s gain: Walt Disney World became one of the world’s top tourist attractions.

St. Louis can only lament what might have been….

On Thursday, one of the few remnants of the park goes on the auction block — 13 pages of 1963 blueprints spelling out plans for “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square” in St. Louis. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company Profiles in History is offering up the blueprints as part of its “Animation and Disneyana” auction

(11) CANDIDATES FOR MST3K. Now that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has successfully crowdfunded a string of new episodes, the crew will have to pick some bad flicks to abuse. CNET’s Danny Gallagher helpfully names “7 movie turkeys the new MST3K needs to tackle”.

Any movie buff knows there are still plenty of bad movies out there that deserve to get the MST3K treatment. Here are seven of those stinkers.

  1. “Yor, the Hunter from the Future”

…The people who made this dud don’t seem sure what genre they want it to be. “Yor” starts as a prehistoric adventure movie, but it morphs into science fiction when UFOs and technological warfare are shoved into the plot. They should have called this one, “Yor, the Warrior from…Squirrel!”

(12) A POLITICAL COMMENT. Apparently having a nose isn’t enough to recommend him — J.K. Rowling tweeted Tuesday that Donald Trump is worse than Lord Voldemort.

Rowling’s tweet came after Trump called for preventing all Muslims from entering the United States.

(13) FOUNDING A CON. Lou J. Berger and Quincy J. Allen’s We Are ALL Science Fiction theme will be embodied by a convention bearing the same name, to be held November 4-6, 2016 in Ocean Shores, WA.

Put on by an all-fan, all-volunteer, non-profit group made up of fans with decades of experience in con running and attending (from all over the globe), our first annual convention will feature award-winning authors Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Jody Lynn Nye, and many others, including Hugo nominee Jennifer Brozek, Anna Korra’ti, Raven Oak, with other guests such as Scott Hungerford (Games), Marvel comic artist (and fine artist) Jeffrey Veregge, Musical guest Dara Korra’ti of Crime & the Forces of Evil, Tor editor Beth Meacham, and actor Drew Hobson (Voice of Marcus, State of Decay).  We hope to be an international fan destination as we add more speakers and guests in the coming months!

An Indiegogo appeal to pay the expenses has raised $25 of its $9,000 goal in the first 23 hours.

(14) THE FOUNDERS’ CODE. The We Are ALL Science Fiction Code of Conduct announced by Lou J. Berger and Quincy J. Allen is:

#WeAreALLSF is open to all comers, no exceptions, no exclusions, and in this place we treat everyone with respect, even if we disagree with them.

There is one rule: If you don’t have something nice to say, then say it someplace else. Lou and I will be rather draconian in removing those who can’t follow such a simple rule.

That is our one code of conduct.

(15) THE PAST THROUGH PHOTOSHOP. artworkofarmies’ collection “Images may not be historically accurate” improves WWII-era photos by adding science fictional references.

View post on imgur.com

(16) RETRO MOVES FORWARD. Von Dimpleheimer, our correspondent from 1940, has made progress with his due diligence for Volume 5 of Retro-Hugo eligible stories.

I went back and double and triple checked all the previous stories and the ones that would be in Volume Five and I found another mistake. In 1950, Nelson Bond made a fix-up novel of the Lancelot Biggs stories and did renew the copyright of that book in 1977. I removed “Lancelot Biggs Cooks a Pirate” from Volume One and uploaded the new version. I actually knew about the book and remember checking for a renewal, but just missed it somehow.

I cut the Lancelot Biggs stories from Volume Five and I am sure the remaining stories are public domain, but I’ll quintuple check them before I send you the links later this week.

On the plus side, all this checking led me to the fact that “Russell Storm” was actually Robert Moore Williams and I now have two more of his stories for future volumes.

(16) FAVORITE 2015 FANTASY. Stephanie Bugis’ list of “Favorite Fantasy Novels from 2015” leads off with a book by Aliette de Bodard.

 

  1. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard. Rich, immersive, gorgeous dark fantasy with fallen angels and Vietnamese Immortals, set in a magically post-apocalyptic version of twentieth-century Paris. I read the whole thing on my overnight plane ride back from America to the UK this summer and was so absorbed, I didn’t even mind the lost sleep! You can read my full Goodreads review here.

(17) STOCK THE SHELVES. Melissa Gilbert’s post “Read Like a Writer” at Magical Words takes inspiration from several Stephen King quotes.

I am going to start with the first quotation: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

I cannot express how much truth there is to these statements. Writing is hard work, contrary to the romanticized ideal of a guy with a beret sitting in a Parisian coffee shop daydreaming about the next bestseller. Being a writer is sitting at the keyboard and pushing keys in rapid succession trying to convey into words the sometimes jumbled picture that is floating around in your brain. It’s living off Snickers bars for a while because you have a deadline and no time to cook actual food. It’s reading in the bathroom instead of Facebooking because you need to finish that next chapter. It’s lugging a book or forty with you in your suitcase when you go on vacation so that you don’t run out of things to read. It’s typing with your thumbs on your smartphone while waiting for the elevator or while commuting on the train so you can get your thousand words in that day. It’s talking to people when you get stuck. It’s staring at the blank page in abject fear that no ideas will come. Writing isn’t easy. Okay, maybe it is. Let me rephrase. GOOD writing isn’t easy. But some things (like reading) can help to make it pleasurable.

(18) ONE’S THE LIMIT. Madeleine E. Robins advocates limiting a character’s advantages over others in “A Rule of One” at Book View Café.

I have this theory. Or maybe it’s just an idea. It’s about the advantages you give your characters. And how many advantages you can give them without distracting from the story or making them unbearable.

Advantages? Beauty is one, and very common; but there’s also intelligence, skill, charm, grace, wit, fortune, discernment, athletic ability, good birth, kind parents, a person who encourages them to follow their dreams, etc. All of these things are wonderful. But most people don’t get to have them all. And if you write a character who does get them all, it’s sort of cheating.

This is particularly important in writing historical fiction, or fantasy set in an historically inspired context (it works for SF too, but to keep things simple I’m limiting my scope). It is easy, and tempting, to create a character who is ahead of her/his time: “You fools, feudalism is doomed! Let us storm the castle and demand the birth of democracy!” A reader may want to sympathize with a character who partakes of our sensibilities more than he does of those of his time, but some writers leave out any clue as to where that vision came from.

(19) RED MARS. According to io9, a live-action adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars is coming to Spike TV.

J. Michael Straczinski and Game of Throne’s Vince Gerardis are executive producing, and believe it or not, Spike TV has ordered it “straight-to-series” without a pilot.

(20) SELDES OBIT. Editor and literary agent Timothy Seldes died December 5 reports Newsday. He was 88.

Raised in New York City and a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Seldes grew up around words, ideas and the performing arts. He was the brother of Tony-winning actress Marian Seldes, son of the drama critic and author Gilbert Seldes and nephew of the pioneering press critic George Seldes. He spent much of his editing career at the Doubleday house, where he rose to managing editor and authors included [Richard] Wright and Isaac Asimov.

(21) TWITTER. Your tweetage may vary. Ann Leckie’s certainly does, as she explains in “Me and Twitter”.

Now, I do look at my mentions, and not infrequently reply to those in some way. I do enjoy doing that. But every now and then, someone will turn up in my mentions in some way that’s very clearly designed to get my attention in a particular way–the tweeter wants me to notice their book, or asks explicitly that I follow them back (and they’re not someone I already know). I’m going to be honest, this irritates me. No offense, right? They’re obviously using Twitter as a promotional tool, where I’m using it to hang with people. This is mostly fine with me, in the abstract, I’ve got no problem with publicity or promotion. In the concrete and specific, I’d suggest that approaching promotion on Twitter as largely a question of amassing a lot of followers who you can then tweet to about your book is, perhaps, not as effective as you imagine it might be. I’ll also suggest that, if you want to engage the interest of someone with a lot of twitter followers, whose retweets or conversations with you might bring you the visibility you’re after, you might want to do your research about who that person is and why they have those followers, and not try to engage them with generic questions, let alone passive-aggressive tweets meant to guilt or provoke that person into replying or following back. But, you know, it’s your call, your life, your Twitter feed. And I’m totally okay with using the block and mute buttons whenever it seems convenient. (That would be the way the “react badly” mentioned in the tweets above usually manifests itself.)

(22) DRAWING TO A PAIR OF VONNEGUTS. Ginger Strand’s biography The Brothers Vonnegut is receiving mixed reviews, though all the critics say it’s interesting.

Katy Waldman on Slate finds some of connections discovered by the author “immensely satisfying.”

The Brothers Vonnegut, with its perfect-storm-of-concepts subtitle “Science and Fiction in the House of Magic,” focuses on Bernard and Kurt Vonnegut during the late ’40s and ’50s, when both were involved in the glittering ascent of General Electric during the postwar prosperity boom. Bernard, an MIT graduate and model elder son, researches at the company’s prestigious science lab. Kurt, having survived the Western Front (where he saw the firebombing of Dresden firsthand), takes a job as a PR flack, issuing zingy press releases about GE’s latest innovations.

Ben Jackson at the Guardian concludes:

[Kurt] didn’t hold out much hope for us: in Fates Worse than Death he wrote: “My guess is that … we really will blow up everything by and by”. No doubt Strand is right to locate the origin of many of his concerns in his time at GE, and there is certainly a lot to be said for her interesting book, but Kurt Vonnegut had more on his mind than the weather.

Jeff Milo at Paste Magazine is the most enthusiastic:

The benefits of The Brothers Vonnegut are threefold, starting with Strand’s insights into the professional and domestic lives of these two brothers, both equally strong-willed in their works despite their fields being worlds apart. Strand also draws attention to the vital support these brothers received from their wives, Lois Bowler with Bernard and Jane Marie Cox (Kurt’s first wife). More than that, though, these women are able to substantially enter into the narrative’s insightful spotlight, rather than being merely supportive backdrops for the brothers.

(23) RAMPAGE ON RECORD. Jim Mowatt’s run to Save the Rhino made the Cambridge News.

Mowatt in Cambridge News

(24) PLUTO ON CAMERA. NASA has released a video composed of the sharpest views of Pluto obtained by its New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby in July.

[Thanks to Von Dimpleheimer, Alan Baumler, David K.M. Klaus, JJ, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 11/18 Count Hero

(1) John Picacio’s thoughts about “The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next”.

  1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

(2) Many others continue to discuss what it should look like, including Charles Vess on Facebook (in a public post).

Ari Berk (friend & folklorist) suggested this idea. Going back to the original story that it seems all cultures around the world share: the hand print on the cave wall. “I am here and this is my story”.

vess wfa idea

(3) Frequent commenter Lis Carey is looking for financial help. Her GoFundMe appeal asks for $3,000, of which $400 has been donated so far.

I’m in a major fix. I don’t have an income right now, but I do have some major expenses. The tenant’s apartment has no heat, and a leaky kitchen sink, and needs a plumber. I have outstanding gas,and electric bills, and water bills for both apartments. I’m looking for work and trying to hold things together, but I’m desperate and need some breathing space. Help!

(4) Sarah Avery delves into some reasons for the success of multi-volume fantasy in “The Series Series: Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? I Can Explain!” at Black Gate. It’s a really good article but not easy to excerpt because it is (unsurprisingly!) long. This will give you a taste, anyway:

I love an ensemble cast. Reading, writing, watching, whatever. In my imaginative life as in my personal life, I’m an extrovert. The struggles of a main character connect with me best when that main character is part of a community. The solution to the existential horror Lovecraft’s protagonists face had always seemed so obvious to me that I’d never articulated it fully, even to myself. The cosmos as a whole doesn’t prefer you over its other components? Of course not. Unimaginably vast forces that would crack your mind open if you let yourself understand them are destroying your world, and you are entirely beneath their notice? Well, that would explain a lot. So what do you do?

You take comfort in the people you love, you go down swinging in their defense, and you live your mammalian values of compassion and connection intensely, as long as it does any good — and then longer, to the last breath, if only in reproof of whatever in the universe stands opposed to them.

Or maybe that isn’t obvious. But I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

For whatever reason, Lovecraft was not a person, or an author, who could go there.

But the man could write a shorter story than I could. I’ll go to school on anyone who knows something I don’t, including authors who stretch me beyond the bounds of easy sympathy. What could the thing that appeared to me to be a malady in Lovecraft teach me about the gap in my craftsmanship?

First, I tried sharpening the distinction between the main character and the secondary characters. Simplifying the supporting cast, making my protagonist the only one who got to be as vivid and three-dimensional as I prefer for every significant character to be, got me out of novella territory. I could get my stories down to about 10,000 words and still feel that my work hit my own sweet spots.

What about getting the count lower? Magazine editors tend to set their cutoffs at 4,000 words or 7,000 words. What kind of cast size can you fit into that length, and what can you do with it?

I really don’t think you can squeeze in much of a supporting cast, unless those secondary characters are functioning more as props than as people. At most, you can have two realized characters, but that second can only be squeezed in if you’ve got serious writing chops. More characters than that, and you’re down to tricks that, as Elizabeth Bear likes to put it, hack the reader’s neurology: one telling detail that leads the reader to do all the work filling in a character around it. Okay, that’s a cool skill, one worth having, especially if you can do it so that the reader forgets s/he did all the work and remembers the story as if you’d written the character s/he filled in for you. I think I’ve pulled that trick off exactly once. Man, that was strenuous, and not in the ways I find exhilarating.

Avery’s subtopics include “Is It Enough to Call a Novel Community-Driven When It Sprawls across Two Continents, Seven Kingdoms, Three Collapsed Empires, a Passel of Free Cities, and Two Migrating Anarchic Proto-Nations?” Her short answer is, “Nope.”

(5) Mary Robinette Kowal seeks to lock in real progress to keep pace with conversation since the World Fantasy Con with the “SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge”.

Over the last few years, there have been numerous instances of SF/F conventions failing to provide an accessible experience for their members with disabilities. Though accessibility is the right thing to do, and there are legal reasons for providing it in the US thanks to the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, many conventions continue to have no trained accessibility staff, policies, contact information, or procedures for accommodating their members with disabilities. As Congress said in the opening of the ADA, these “forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.”

…We the undersigned are making a pledge. Starting in 2017, to give conventions time to fit this into their planning, the following will be required for us to be participants, panelists, or Guests of Honor at a convention:

  1. The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.
  2. The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)
  3. The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)

Many people have co-signed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden also observed, “…When you put in the work on these issues, you find out how many people out there have been staying home.”

(6) Michael Kurland’s autobiographical essay “My Life as a Pejorative” is featured on Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine.

At fourteen I discovered mystery stories and couldn’t decide whether I was Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers or Dashiel Hammett. Or maybe Simon Templar. Not Leslie Charteris, but Simon Templar. How debonaire, how quick-witted, how good looking.

I was 21 when I got out of the Army, enrolled at Columbia University and began hanging out in Greenwich Village. There I fell into bad company: Randall Garrett, Phil Klass (William Tenn), Don Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Bob Silverberg, and assorted other sf and mystery writers. This was my downfall, the start of my slide into genre fiction. I wrote a science fiction novel, Ten Years to Doomsday, with Chester Anderson, a brilliant poet and prose stylist who taught me much of what I know about writing, and followed that up with The Unicorn Girl, a sequel to Chester’s The Butterfly Kid, a pair of fantasy novels in which the two main characters were ourselves, Chester Anderson and Michael Kurland. These books, and The Probability Pad, a continuation written by my buddy Tom Waters, have become cult classics, known collectively as the Greenwich Village Trilogy, or sometimes The Buttercorn Pad.

(7) Today In History

  • November 18, 1963 – Push-button telephones made their debut.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boys and Girls

  • Born November 18, 1928: Mickey Mouse
  • Born November 18, 1939: Margaret Atwood
  • Born November 18, 1962: Sarah A. Hoyt

(9) John Scalzi makes “An Announcement Regarding Award Consideration for 2015 Work of Mine”. He asks people not to nominate him, and in comments indicates he will decline nominations that come his way.

But this year, when it comes to awards, I want to take a break and celebrate the excellent work that other people are doing, and who deserve attention for that work. My year’s already been, well, pretty good, hasn’t it. I’ve had more than enough good fortune from 2015 and I don’t feel like I need right now to ask for another helping…

But for work that was put out in 2015, please look past me. Find the other writers whose work deserves the spotlight you can put on them with your attention, nomination and vote. Find the works that move your heart and your mind. Find the writers whose work you love and who you feel a nomination can help in their careers and their lives. Look past your usual suspects — including me! — and find someone new to you whose stories and effort you can champion to others. Put those people and works on your ballots. 2015 has been genuinely great year for science fiction and fantasy; it won’t be difficult to find deserving work and people for your consideration.

(10) Bigger than your average bomb shelter. “Czech out the Oppidum, the ultimate apocalypse hideaway” at Treehugger.

We do go on about the importance of resilient design, the ability of our buildings to survive in changing times and climates. We are big on repurposing, finding new uses for old buildings. And if the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, then surely the greenest bomb shelter is the one that’s already in the ground. That’s why the Oppidum is such an exciting opportunity; it’s a conversion of a classified secret facility built in 1984 by what were then the governments of Czechoslovakia and The Soviet Union. Now, it is available for use as the ultimate getaway, deep in a valley in the Czech Republic. The developer notes that they don’t make’em like they used to:…

It has a lovely above-grade modestly sized 30,000 square foot residence, which is connected via secret corridor to the two-storey, 77,000 square foot bunker below, which has been stylishly subdivided into one large apartment and six smaller ones for friends, family and staff, all stocked with ten years of supplies.

(11) Former child actor Charles Herbert died October 31 at the age of 66. The New York Times obit lists his well-known roles in movies like The Fly and 13 Ghosts.

Mr. Herbert was supporting his parents by the time he was 5. He appeared in more than 20 films and 50 television episodes, in which he fended off all kinds of adversaries, from a robot to a human fly.

He shared the limelight with Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and James Cagney. He played a blind boy in a memorable episode of “Science Fiction Theater” in 1956, and appeared in a 1962 “Twilight Zone” episode in which a widowed father takes his children to choose an android grandmother.

(12) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld, curated by Rob H. Bedford, asks Andrew Leon Hudson, Stephenie Sheung (The BiblioSanctum), Richard Shealy, Michael R. Fletcher, Mark Yon, and Erin Lindsey

Q: Who is your favorite animal companion (pet, familiar, etc) in SFF?

A significant number of genre stories features character’s pets or animal companions. From Loiosh of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books to Snuff from Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October to Hedwig from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, animals can be companions, pets, or near equals to their “owners.” Who is/are your favorite(s)?

(13) Bruce Gillespie invites fans to download SF Commentary 90, November 2015 — over 100 contributors and 70,000 words.

(14) A Christopher Reeve-worn Superman costume is available for bid until November 19 at 5 p.m. Pacific in a Nate D. Sanders auction.

Superman lot COMP

(15) Heritage Auctions reports a menu from the Titanic fetched a high price in a recently closed auction.

Ironically, the top two lots related to a major disaster and a national tragedy. The first was a first class dinner menu from the last supper on the R.M.S. Titanic, the evening of April 14, 1912. Five salesmen and retailers shared a meal, each signing a menu with their place of residence. Of the five, all but one managed to survive the sinking which occurred in the wee morning hours. We believe this to be the only signed example and the only one from the “last supper”. It sold for $118,750.

The second lot was the license plates from the limo President Kennedy was in when he was shot — which went for $100,000.

(16) And this weekend, Heritage Auctions will take bids on Neal Adams’ original cover art for Green Lantern #76, “one of the most important and influential comic books ever published,” as part of the company’s Nov. 19-21 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction where it is expected to bring $300,000+.

Adams’ iconic cover is striking and symbolic. This issue broke more than just the lantern on the cover! Adding Arrow’s name to the title and logo of the book was genius. It created the first “buddy book” in the comic industry… the equivalent to the “buddy movie” genre. It also allowed writer Denny O’Neil to launch into a 13 issue run that dove into political and sociological themes like no comic had before.

 

Green lanter green arrow

(17) Lovecraft’s mug has already been saved from awards obscurity (or permanently guaranteed it, depending on your view) by the administrators of the Counter Currents and the administrators of its H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature. (Which can also be reached using this handy Donotlink link.)

Last year, we at Counter-Currents saw this coming. Thus we have created the Counter-Currents H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature, to be awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness. Our first laureate is novelist Tito Perdue, who received the award at a banquet in Atlanta on March 7, 2015.

The prize bust is by world-famous porcelain artist Charles Krafft, whose own defiance of political correctness has just led to the cancellation of an exhibition in London.

Wikipedia has an entry on Tito Perdue.

More details about Krafft’s exhibit being pulled by a Whitechapel art gallery from Jewish News:

A fashionable Whitechapel art gallery has pulled the plug on an exhibition by an artist who has been described as a “Holocaust denier” and a “white supremacist,” after complaints and threats were made.

Charles Krafft, who denies both charges, was due to show his work at StolenSpace for the second time, but gallery bosses said they pulled out after receiving “both physical and verbal threats”.

Krafft’s controversial ceramics include busts of Hitler, swastika perfume bottles with the word “forgiveness” emblazoned upon them and plates covered in drawings of Nazi bombings. His work and attributed comments has led to him being labelled a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathiser and a Holocaust denier.

(18) Triple-threat interview with Ken Liu, Lauren Beukes and Tobias S. Buckell at SFFWorld.

Ecotones are the points of transition that occur when two different environments come into contact, and almost inevitably conflict. Can you describe for us an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?

Ken Liu: We’re at a point in our technological evolution where the role played by machines in our cognition is about to change qualitatively. Rather than just acting as “bicycles for the mind,” computers, transformed by ubiquitous networking and presence, will replace important cognitive functions for us at an ever accelerating pace. Much of our memory has already been outsourced to our phones and other devices—and I already see indications that machines will be doing more of our thinking for us. Not since the invention of writing has technology promised to change how we learn and think to such an extent.

The transition between the environment we used to live in and the environment we’re about to live in is going to be exciting as well as threatening, and we’re witnessing one of the greatest transformations in human history.

Tobias Buckell: Last year a deer walked on down through Main Street and then jumped through the window of the local downtown bar. They got it on security camera.

Lauren Beukes: The shared reality of overlapping worlds I live through every day – the schism in experience between rich and poor where everything works differently, from criminal justice to the food you eat, how you get to work, schooling, the day-to-day you have to navigate.

I saw this most clearly and devastatingly when I tried to help my cleaning lady get justice for the scumbag who fatally assaulted her daughter. The cops didn’t care. The hospital put it down as “natural causes”. The prosecutor had to throw the case out because there was so little evidence. This compared to an incident when a friend’s motorbike was stolen at night in the nice suburbs and five cops ended up on his balcony drinking tea, having recovered the vehicle.

(19) Sarah Chorn at Bookworm Blues wonders if her conflict of interest should bar her from reviewing two books.

I feel pretty weird about doing this, but I also think it has to be done. This year I was a beta reader for two books that are currently published (a few more that have upcoming publication dates). I have struggled a little bit with how to approach these novels. While I feel obligated to review them (and I want to review them), I feel like being a beta reader for them takes my objectivity out of it, which is a problem for me. Is it really a review if I can’t objectively judge it?

Am I pondering my navel?

I’m surprised her desire to ask the question didn’t lead to a built-in answer.

(20) The Ant-Man Gag Reel has a few bloopers, though it’s not all that funny.

(21) Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 2 premieres January 5 on ABC.

[Thanks to Kate Savage, Will R., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22

An auction, eight stories and a tease in today’s Scroll.

(1) Attention collectors! Somebody’s flipping Ray Bradbury’s original caricature from the Brown Derby Restaurant today on eBay. Jack Lane’s portrait once hung on the wall at the famed Hollywood & Vine tourist trap with hundreds more of the artist’s sketches of Hollywood stars.

Ray Bradbury by Jack Lane. Once displayed at the Brown Derby.

Ray Bradbury by Jack Lane. Once displayed at the Brown Derby.

(2) The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will hold three special events next month celebrate Ray Bradbury’s 95th birthday, which is on August 22.

From Aug. 3 to 28, the center will present a free exhibit, “Miracles of Rare Device: Treasures of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies,” in the Cultural Arts Gallery on the first floor of the IUPUI Campus Center…. The exhibit will feature art, artifacts, books and rare magazines from Bradbury’s own collection, gifted to the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI in 2013 by the Bradbury Estate and by Donn Albright, Bradbury’s close friend and bibliographer.

Two related public events will coincide with the exhibition’s run.

On August 19, Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies will deliver the Second Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture in the Riley Meeting Room at Indianapolis Public Library’s Central Library.

The lecture, “Ray Bradbury’s October Country,” reveals the timeless creativity and somewhat controversial publishing history of one of Bradbury’s most popular story collections on the 60th anniversary of its original publication.

On August 27, the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies will host a reception followed by another Eller lecture, on the collection’s amazing journey from California to IUPUI and the importance of Bradbury’s legacy in the 21st century. Both the lecture and reception are free and open to the public.

(3) James Artimus Owen is offering for sale his illustrations for Diana Pavlac Glyer’s forthcoming book about the Inklings, Bandersnatch, and has posted the images on Facebook. [Note: Despite being set to “Public”, the material can only be viewed if you have a Facebook account.]

Each illustration is drawn on 11″ x 14″ Bristol board, and includes an appearance by the Bandersnatch somewhere in the picture. Prices are as listed, ranging from $450 to $750, although I am willing to entertain offers from people I like. First request, first choice. Message me to reserve your favorite and to arrange payment and shipping.

Sharkado 3

(4) Everybody knows Sharknado 3 airs today on SyFy. But it came as a surprise for me to read that George R.R. Martin plans to show the movie at his Jean Cocteau Theatre in August.

“Check it out,” writes Martin. “Next year’s Hugo favorite, for sure.”

William Reichard says in honor of that crack, the movie should be renamed, “Snarknado 3.”

(5) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld proposes this interesting premise —

A recent Guardian article about Tokyo awarding Japanese Citzenship to Godzilla got me to wondering: If you could pick a genre fictional character, from any media, and offer them honorary citizenship and residence in your city, county, state, country, who would it be, and why?

Responses from — Kelly Robson, Jenny Goloboy, Galen Dara, Anne Leonard, Patrick Tomlinson, Julie Czerneda, Alyx Dellamonica, Django Wexler, Jesse Willis, Diana Pharoah Francis, Mikaela Lind, Rhonda Eudaly, Gillian Philip, Ardi Alspach, and Laura Anne Gilman.

(6) Interested in stories read aloud? Open Culture has found another seam of the motherlode, 88 hours of free audio fiction original aired on Wisconsin public radio.

Listen to enough episodes of Mind Webs, and you may get hooked on the voice and reading style of its host Michael Hanson, a fixture on Wisconsin public radio for something like forty years. Back in 2001, just after wrapping up his career in that sector, Hanson wrote in to the New York Times lamenting the state of public radio, especially its program directors turned into “sycophantic bean counters” and a “pronounced dumbing down of program content.” Mind Webs, which kept on going from the 70s through the 90s, came from a time before all that, and now its smart storytelling has come available for all of us to enjoy.

The playlist above will let you stream all of the stories — roughly 88 hours worth — from start to finish. Or you can access the audio at Archive.org here.

(7) Of course they knew those comic books were stolen! The Verge has the goods on the great Texas comic book heist.

Whoever was after the Sub-Mariners and All Star Comics at the Heritage Auction wasn’t a collector. Their bids were too erratic, they didn’t know the market, and chances were, they weren’t terribly smart. It was also clear that they had a lot of money on their hands — too much money, maybe — and they were eager to spend it. Through months of interviews and hundreds of pages of public documents, The Verge reconstructed what they were seeing: a multi-million-dollar embezzlement scheme that would ensnare a crooked lawyer, a multinational corporation, and some of the most sought-out comics in the world….

$40,000 split between nine checks. The investigator said he was going through a nasty divorce, and was worried his ex-wife might raise trouble over any checks for more than $10,000.

But what about that foxing? When the buyers took their comics home, they noticed something strange: the All Star #3 that had sold in February had the same imperfections. In fact, it was the same book. But that book was slabbed — it had a barcode and provenance, sold to a private buyer who wouldn’t have deslabbed it without a reason. Had they bought stolen property?

It was worse. They had bought stolen evidence. The book had come direct from Chiofalo’s storage unit, smuggled out under the nose of the Harris County DA — and according to prosecutors, Blevins and Deutsch worked together to smuggle them out. More than $150,000 in comics had disappeared from the storage unit, and Blevins had spent the summer selling them at comics conventions across the country. The books were deslabbed to throw investigators off the trail, but even without the barcode, the cover gave it away. Collectors search for flawless comics, but it’s the imperfections that give them an identity, and this imperfection placed Blevins at the scene of a crime.

(8) Did Tolkien visit the Bouzincourt caves while on Army service during the Battle of the Somme?

In 1916, a 24-year-old British soldier named J.R.R. Tolkien went off to fight in World War I. He was stationed near the village of Bouzincourt, took part in the nearby Battle of the Somme and writes about the area in his diaries.

Jeff Gusky, an explorer and photographer who maintains a site called “The Hidden World of World War I,” believes Tolkien may have visited Bouzincourt’s caves, places where hundreds of soldiers took refuge during the Somme — and that some of his impressions ended up in “The Lord of the Rings.”

“I feel that this is the place,” Gusky said. “It’s so raw and unchanged from a hundred years ago.”

Tolkien scholar John Garth isn’t so sure.

“On the Somme, he certainly spent time in deep trench dugouts, and he would have been aware of the subterranean world of the army tunnelers — all of which would, I believe, have given his descriptions of Moria and other Middle-earth underworlds some of their vitality,” Garth, the author of “Tolkien and the Great War,” wrote in an email….

Regardless of whether Tolkien knew of the caves, there’s no question that the author’s experience at the Somme influenced “The Lord of the Rings.”

“The Dead marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme,” he wrote in a letter, according to a story on the Green Books portion of TheOneRing.net.

(9) “Stick a fork in the pup’s Tor boycott because their hushpuppy is done” says Jason Sanford.

Earlier this month I tracked the sales of a sample of ten book titles published by Tor Books. My desire was to see if the puppies’ boycott of Tor was having any effect on the publisher’s sales.

You can see the titles I tracked, and how I tracked the sales, in my original post or by looking at the endnote below.

But the flaw in my analysis was that I could only present two weeks of sales data since the boycott began on June 19. As a result, some people rightly said it was too early to tell if the boycott was failing or succeeding.

After examining two additional weeks of sales data it appears my initial analysis was correct. This new data shows that for the five weeks prior to the boycott starting on June 19, the weekly sales average for these Tor titles was 1652 books sold per week. For those same Tor titles, their weekly average sales for the last four weeks of the boycott has been 1679 books sold per week.

So on average, Tor’s sales for these titles are up slightly since the boycott started.

(10) Vox Day’s “Hugo Recommendations: Best Professional Artist” post is up. Don’t try and kid me, you know you want to read it.

[Thanks for these stories goes out to Dave Doering, Michael J. Walsh, William Reichard, Jim Meadows and John King Tarpinian as the Beaver.]

Morris Everett Auction Features Genre Lobby Cards

A variety of highly interesting sf/fantasy memorabilia pieces from the collection of Morris Everett will be auctioned by Invaluable.com and Profiles in History on June 29 and 30.

Over 1,400 lots will go under the hammer on Day 1 and Day 2. These can be viewed online, or in the downloadable catalog. Here are four examples:

Lot 24 Metropolis

Lot 24: Metropolis lobby card, Estimated Price: $20,000 – $30,000

Metropolis lobby card. (UFA, 1927) Color lobby card for Metropolis. Thematically one of the best cards in the set, featuring fantastic Paramount color and design. To the best of our knowledge, this is believed to be the only existing example of this card. Virtually unhandled. The original German poster for this film has twice sold privately, for well in excess of 1 million dollars. In very fine condition.

Lot 416 Frankenstein

Lot 416: Frankenstein lobby card, Estimated Price: $10,000 – $15,000

Boris Karloff lobby card for Frankenstein. (Universal, 1931) Color lobby card for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. One of the best cards in the set. Professionally cleaned with marginal repairs. Now presents as fine condition.

Lot464 King Kong

Lot 464: A rare color lobby card for King Kong, Estimated Price: $6,000 – $8,000

King Kong Empire State Building lobby card. (RKO, 1933) Color lobby card for King Kong. Widely considered the best in the set and one of the most highly desired horror lobby cards in existence. In very fine unrestored condition.

Lot491 Wizard of Oz

Lot 491: The Wizard of Oz lobby card Estimated Price: $6,000 – $8,000

The Wizard of Oz title-lobby card. (MGM, 1939) Color title-lobby card for The Wizard of Oz. Moderate retouching to correct corner pinholes and other minor handling. Now presents as very fine.

Lomberg’s Cosmos Archive To Auction

Art for Cosmos by Jon Lomberg.

Art for Cosmos by Jon Lomberg.

Artist Jon Lomberg enjoyed a 25-year collaboration with the late Carl Sagan, illustrating The Cosmic Connection (1973) and providing work for Cosmos, Broca’s Brain (1979), and the cover for Sagan’s novel, Contact (1985). And Lomberg’s Cosmos Archive will go under the hammer at Heritage Auction’s Rare Books Signature Auction on April 8-9 in New York.

A long descriptive article about the art can be read at the link.

This incredible archive includes sixty-two original signed paintings, drawings, and sketches; forty-seven signed one-of-a-kind prints of special effect paintings used in the series, four signed retouched photos from the series, thirteen sheets of signed storyboards (including dozens of drawings), approximately twenty documents and notes related to the series, production photos, and one stereoscopic viewer with slides testing dimensionality of the “Milky Way Approach” sequence from the series.

On the other hand, some of Lomberg’s best-known work can never go to auction because it’s already left the solar system.

His work also includes designing artwork and material for various NASA interstellar exploratory missions, including artwork for the famous “Voyager Golden Records,” the gold-plated copper record albums that were mounted in both Voyager spacecraft, each launched by NASA in 1977. It is just possible (though, admittedly, not very likely) that the first images of Earth and Mankind seen by an extraterrestrial civilization will be those done by Lomberg.

Fortunately, his incredible Galaxy Garden is no farther away than Hawaii. It models the Milky Way to scale with a garden of living things:

A fountain in the middle of the garden marks the “gravity well” with a bimodal jet so water is going both directions. Out on the galactic arm corresponding to the position of our solar system, the place where the Sun would be is marked by a tiny jewel on a leaf. Driving home the scale involved, Lomberg says all the stars we can see with the naked eye are either on that same leaf or an adjoining leaf!

galaxygarden2