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 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Joe H., Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #8

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three

Best Series (Special Category)

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).

Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.

Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.

With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.

This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.

 

Best Novel

Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.

On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.

As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.

Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.

Best Novel

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.

Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).

His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.

Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.

 

 

Best Novel

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.

All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.

Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.

Best Novel

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.

Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.

Just consider the opening paragraph:

As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.

The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.

As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.

And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!

Pixel Scroll 12/27/16 I Want To Read Books Till I’m Out Of My Mind

(1) THE MORE BEST THE MERRIER. Gregory N. Hullender explains, “Now that three of the four big ‘Best of’ SFF anthologies have released their tables of contents, Rocket Stack Rank has produced a combined list, ranked according to which stories were included in the most anthologies or otherwise recommended.

“As usual, the table includes information on how to find/borrow/buy copies of the stories, as well as story descriptions and links to reviews.

“When Neal Clarke publishes the table of contents for his anthology, we’ll update the table to incorporate it.”

(2) NASFiC ’17. If you’re thinking about buying a membership in NorthAmeriCon ‘17, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, keep in mind that rates are going up on January 22.

(3) ICONIC MOVIE CASTING. Imagine Wil Wheaton as Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It could have happened.

So. For the five of you who don’t know, Peter Billingsley played Ralphie in A Christmas Story. We both auditioned for the role, and even went to final callbacks together. I wrote about it way back in 2001:

I think that A Christmas Story is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Each year, I watch it, over and over, on TNN or TNT or TBS, or whatever T-channel does that marathon, and I never, ever, get tired of it. Every year, when I watch it, I am reminded of the time, when I was about 10 or so, that I auditioned for it. The auditions were held on a cold, rainy day in late spring, down in some casting office in Venice, I think. I saw the same kids that I always saw on auditions: Sean Astin, Keith Coogan, this kid named “Scooter” who had a weird mom, and Peter Billingsley, who was very well known at the time, because he was “Messy Marvin” in those Hershey’s commercials. I sort of knew Peter, because we’d been on so many auditions together, but I was always a little star struck when I saw him. (One time, I saw Gary Coleman on an audition…now, this was HUGE for all of us kids who were there, because we’re talking 1982 or 83…and he was Arnold freakin’ Jackson, man…wow). [tangent] Whenever I see Sean Astin, I sob at him that he got to be in Goonies, and I didn’t, and he always says, “Hey, man, you got Stand By Me. I’d trade all my movies for that.” I haven’t seen him since he did Lord of the Rings…but something is telling me that he wouldn’t be so keen to trade that.

(4) CARRIE FISHER R.I.P. The actress passed away today. One of the most interesting tributes is this collection — “15 of Carrie Fisher’s Best, Most Honest Feminist Quotes” from NYMag.com.

“Oh! This’ll impress you – I’m actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I’m a PEZ dispenser and I’m in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?”

(5) RUBIN OBIT. Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, has died at the age of 88.

“It was Vera Rubin’s famous work in the 1970s that showed pretty much all spiral galaxies were spinning way too fast to be accounted for by the gravitational pull of the their ‘luminous’ matter (the stuff we see in a telescope). Rubin and others reasoned there had to be a giant sphere of invisible stuff surrounding the stars in these galaxies, tugging on them and speeding up their orbits around the galaxy’s center.”

(6) ADAMS OBIT. Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died Christmas Eve at the age of 96.

The novel, first published in 1972, became one of the best selling children’s books of all time and was made into an animated film in 1978.

Adams did not begin writing until 1966 when he was 52 and working for the civil service. While on a car trip with his daughters, he began telling them a story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 Peter Pan, the play, by James Barrie, opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first Howdy Doody show, under the title Puppet Playhouse, was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times in a flight that helped open the way for moon-landing missions.

(8) LONG JOURNEY AUTHOR. The Book Smugglers continue their personal holiday season with a guest post from a popular author — “A Happy Smugglivus with Becky Chambers”. Chambers discusses the movie Arrival and the book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal, among other things.

Smugglivus greetings from California! While most of my home state is badly in need of a drink, winter up here on the Redwood Coast means rain, and lots of it. It’s the sort of weather that lends itself well to hiding away with a good story or some old-fashioned book learnin’. Now, since most of my brainspace is used for writing sci-fi, I tend to reach for other stuff in my free time. I read a lot of non-fiction, I binge-watch with the best of them, and I love video games more than is reasonable. Happily, this year provided me with plenty to sustain me through these dark and soggy days.

2016 was also a gauntlet of suck in a great many ways, and I know I’m not the only one leaving it feeling ill at ease and overwhelmed. To that end, I’ve cherry-picked five of the best things I cozied up with in the past twelve months, things that filled me with curiosity and joy. In these times, we need those qualities more than ever. Whether you’re after some real-world science, mind-bending puzzles, or pure escapism, I’ve got you covered.

(9) SUBSTANTIAL CONVERSATION. Abigail Nussbaum reviews six books in “Recent Reading Roundup 42” at Asking the Wrong Questions (including The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee.).

Infomocracy by Malka Older – If nothing else, a reader turning the last page of Older’s debut novel has to tip their hat to her for her prescience.  Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that Older, while she was writing this book, had her finger on the pulse of issues and problems that have only recently come to dominate the conversation about how democracy in the 21st century functions, and of how it fails.  Set in a near-future, Infomocracy imagines a world in which the familiar geopolitical rules have been replaced by “micro-democracy”, with the world divided into “centenals”, each containing one hundred thousand residents who are free to vote for any government they wish, be it nationalistic, ideological, or corporate.  Different governments can thus have citizens all over the world, which can mean that neighboring streets can have different laws and government services.  Every ten years, the world holds an election, in which the governments try to win over new centenals in order to cement their power, and hopefully make a bid for the coveted “supermajority”. There are, obvious, some glaring problems with this system that Older never fully address–we don’t, for example, learn what the supermajority actually gives the government that holds it, and more importantly, it’s never made clear how this system supports itself economically.  But the focus of Infomocracy is less on these issues, and more on using its micro-democracy system to reflect on the problems of sustaining democracy in any form….

(10) WEST PACIFIC RIM. Reminds us of a Guillermo del Toro movie — “Giant Avatar-style robot takes first steps in South Korea”.

A giant South Korean-built manned robot that walks like a human but makes the ground shake under its weight has taken its first baby steps.

Designed by a veteran of science fiction blockbusters, the four-metre-tall (13-foot), 1.5 ton Method-2 towers over a room on the outskirts of Seoul.

“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected),” said company chairman Yang Jin-Ho.

While its enormous size has grabbed media attention, the creators of Method-2 say the project’s core achievement is the technology they developed and enhanced along the way.

“Everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real-world problems,” said designer Vitaly Bulgarov on his Facebook page.

He has previously worked on film series such as Transformers, Robocop and Terminator.

 

(11) A MODEST PODCAST PROPOSAL. Dann has compiled “The Indispensable Podcast Listing” for his blog Liberty At All Costs. He admits —

It isn’t really a list of indispensable podcasts, but what’s life without a little hype.  Given the number of SFF and writing-related podcasts mentioned, I thought it might be of some modest interest to you.

And it was, thanks to Dann’s introductory notes about each one.

(12) YEAR-END MISSES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is burning the winter solstice oil to make sure he doesn’t miss a single potential award-winner — of 1961. “[December 27, 1961] Double And Nothing (The Phantom Planet And Assignment: Outer Space)”.

Our effort at the Journey to curate every scrap of science fiction as it is released, in print and on film, leaves us little time for rest.  Even in the normally sleepy month of December (unless you’re battling Christmas shopping crowds, of course), this column’s staff is hard at work, either consuming or writing about said consumption….

The Phantom Planet is a typical first-slot filler movie.  Spaceships launched from the moon keep getting intercepted by a rogue asteroid.  Only one crewmember of the third flight survives, a beefcake of a man who shrinks to just six inches tall when exposed to the asteroid’s atmosphere.  What’s stunning is not the lack of science in this movie, but the assiduous determination to avoid any scientific accuracy in this movie.  However, I the sets are surprisingly nice…and familiar.  They look an awful lot like the sets from the short TV series Men in Space….

(13) THE YEAR 2016. Chuck Tingle captures what some people are feeling about the year gone by.

(14) NUTRITION NATURE’S WAY. Casse-Croute is a very short cartoon about brightly colored animals in the forest and all the shiny bugs they eat!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/16 Take a Pixel, Maria, Scroll It Up My Screen

(1) HARASSMENT CLAIMS ANOTHER CREATOR. Comics Beat’s Heidi MacDonald reports another woman comics creator abandoned Twitter because of abuse — “Bestselling author Chelsea Cain driven off Twitter by harassment from comcs ‘fans’”.

Mockingbird writer Chelsea Cain, the bestselling author of Heartsick and other thrillers, deleted her Twitter account today after receiving abusive tweets yesterday….

In a now vanished series of tweets (one screencapped above)  Cain noted that she was getting harassing tweets, presumably over the above Mockingbird cover and her work there in general. It’s possible that she was targeted from 4chan or Reddit as well. After saying she was considering pulling the plug…she did just that.

This ignited a firestorm of support on Twitter as well….

And a #standwithchelseacain hashtag was trending for quite a while and is still gaining steam. I doubt this is going to calm down any time soon.

I guess everyone feels a little burnt on social media at the mo, but the harassment problem isn’t a woman’s problem, it’s a MAN’S problem. The good men of comics and everywhere need to make it clear they do not support or tolerate hate, abuse and misogyny. This isn’t a borderline case. It’s clear, indisputable harassment. And that should not be part of the “comics conversation.”

The abuse against women in comics is equally clear and indisputable, and the abuse against women of color is even worse. And so on down the line. It’s toxic and inexcusable.

(2) TAKE THE LONGER WAY. Scifinow has an interview with Becky Chambers.

[CHAMBERS] So when they asked me, “What would you like to do next?” I was like, “Well, I don’t have anything for this crew, but Pepper and Lovelace, those two are, they’ve got stuff that I’d like to explore.” So that was just the thread I picked up and went with.

They’re such a great pairing! So they were the starting point?

Yeah, it really did happen by accident. That was one of the last things that I figured out in The Long Way. A lot of the stuff that happened in the book I’d scribbled down and imagined well before I actually sat down and wrote the thing, but I was a long way through the first draft before I knew where Lovelace was going to go after the first book. Somehow Pepper just sort of naturally took that spot.

It was one of those wonderful moments where something happens when you’re writing that you didn’t intend and it’s just like, “Oh, that actually works really well!” I started thinking about how these two women have vastly different backgrounds and life experiences but they actually have quite a bit in common, and it was fun playing with that. It was fun finding the similarities between two characters who, at first blush, don’t look like they could have anything similar at all and yet are walking such similar paths.

(3) THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joshua Sky interviewed Larry Niven for Omni.

JS: One of your goals as a writer is to continuously publish science fiction that is at the cutting edge of science. Is that still the case?

NIVEN: Yes, Fred (editor of If and Galaxy magazines at the time) gave me that goal, because I was already doing it, without quite making it a goal. He in fact suggested me writing stories and he finding scientists to write articles alongside the stories on the same subject, and we never got that far. I think he must’ve found that to be too much work.

JS: Is your process that you check the news, read the latest discoveries in science, and then write a story based on your findings?

NIVEN: That was my goal. In fact, I never really managed it.

JS: Is it difficult to keep track of the latest developments in science?

NIVEN: That’s easy. That’s a hobby. Doing your research for fun, and hoping it generates stories. Sometimes it does.

(4) WHAT I REALLY MEANT TO SAY. Here’s a Los Angeles Times article that will refresh your memory about the new California law requiring autographed memorabilia come with a certificate of authenticity —  “The high cost of an autograph”.

The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, faced with a firestorm of protest from booksellers, issued this letter that argues her legal language should not be interpreted in the draconian way people assume.

assemblywoman-letter-p-1

assemblywoman-letter-p-2

(5) VANISHING CULT. The LA Times’ Josh Rottenberg asks, “In an age of comic-book blockbusters and viral sensations, whatever happened to the cult movie?”

Those old video stores have virtually all disappeared now, of course, along with many of the independent movie theaters that, in decades past, drew steady crowds to such “midnight movies” – all of it swept away in the transition to a fully digital, on-demand world. And the cult movies themselves? It seems they’re in danger of going extinct as well.

In today’s fragmented, ever-churning pop culture ecosystem, the long tail of home video that once gave oddball movies a shot at a glorious cult afterlife has shortened to the point of vanishing. With even big-budget commercial films often struggling to break through the endless clutter of content, the challenge for smaller, quirkier fare is that much harder.

Even when a particular offbeat film – say, “The Babadook” or “It Follows” – manages to catch a viral wave, it is almost instantly overcome by the next fresh piece of “must-watch” entertainment that demands your already overtaxed attention. Instead of a long tail, we now have a collective case of incurable cultural ADHD.

(6) WRITER’S NOTEBOOK. In his latest post at This Way To Texas, Lou Antonelli shares an idea for a story – “The Revenge of the Internet” — inspired by this premise:

OK, the big problem with social media – which I think everyone recognizes – is that it allows you to attack or insult people with impunity. it unleashes our worst nature. We can get away with saying things to people we would never say to their face, or even on the phone, and we can do it across great distances….

(7) GENDER COUNTING. Juliet McKenna says this is what the numbers say about “Gender in Genre and the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016”.

When the only thing that counts is what readers make of the writing, the story really is all that matters.

The second thing I’m seeing here? Out of three hundred SPFBO [Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off] submissions this year, the field was 49% male, 33% female and 18 unknown as they were using initials. Can we assume those initials all belong to women? I’d say that’s a risky assumption – and even if that were the case, that still means only a third of the books were written by women prepared to raise a hand to be identified as such. What does that tell us?

Once again, it confirms something I’ve seen time and again since I started writing about inequalities in visibility in SF&F. Something I’ve had confirmed as an endemic problem in fields such as medicine, science, computing, literary criticism, history and the law. Women are still culturally conditioned to put themselves forward much less and to hold their own work to a far higher standard before offering it for publication. It’s a problem that frustrates and infuriates editors, from those working on academic journals, through fiction anthologies in all genres, to the commissioning editors in publishing houses. With the best will in the world, the best initiatives to improve diversity and representation can only work if those who’ve been historically excluded now step forward.

(8) BEFORE THERE WAS DYSTOPIA. In his article “We should remember HG Wells for his social predictions, not just his scientific ones” at The Conversation, Victorian fiction professor Simon John James notes that it’s H.G. Wells’s sesquicentennial, and gives back ground on Wells’s political achievements, including how Wells’s ideas inspired the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

Today, given the role that national identity continues to play in human beings’ efforts for greater self-determination, the prospect of Wells’s world state seems even less likely. One surprising legacy remains, however, from Wells’s forecasts of a better future for humankind. Letters from Wells to The Times led to the Sankey Committee for Human Rights and Wells’s 1940 Penguin Special The Rights of Man; Or What Are We Fighting For? (recently reissued with a preface by novelist Ali Smith). Wells argued that the only meaningful outcome for the war would be the declaration of an agreed set of universal human rights and an international court to enforce them.

Wells’s aspiration was the guaranteeing of the right to life, education, work, trade and property for every man and woman on Earth. (Surprisingly, given his earlier flirtation with positive eugenics, Wells also insisted on “freedom from any sort of mutilation or sterilisation” and from torture.) The influence of Wells’s work is clear in the United Nations 1948 Declaration of Universal Human Rights. These rights now have legal force if not universal existence: so are perhaps Wells’s most significant prophetic aim.

(9) JABBA’S JAZZ BAND ON THE TITANIC. I was amused by a sportswriter’s use of a Star Wars metaphor here. (There’s no reason to go read the whole article unless you want to know why a pro basketball team – the Philadelpha 76ers – has been tanking for years.)

Maduabum is not at the center of this story, but as a part of The Process he is known to the community of people who believe in it, roughly in the same way that the name of the lead singer in the band playing on Jabba the Hutt’s barge is known to your harder core Star Wars weirdos. Maduabum is a component part of a bigger story, in other words, and a peripheral cast member in that story’s expanded universe.

It’s a story that, as so often happens with things like this, is now being told by people with significantly more emotional investment in it than the original credited author. The person who came up with all this was, however idiosyncratically, trying to tell a compelling story successfully through to its conclusion, which is a complicated but prosaic thing. That story didn’t really come to life, and so cannot really have been said to work in any meaningful way, until it changed hands, as generally happens to stories that work the best. The story becomes the shared property of people who really care about it, who have more invested in it, for one, but also pursue it with both a more robust and a more authentic imagination than the story’s creator brought to it. The Process is no longer in Hinkie’s hands. It belongs, now, to the community of believers that keep it alive, and who care about it for reasons that go well beyond the stated goal of building a winning basketball team or attending some cramped and beery victory parade down Broad Street. ChuChu Maduabum is a peripheral part of that story, but he’s part of it. He’s Sy Snootles, yes, but he’s also a real guy. The Philadelphia 76ers owned his rights for six months, and then they traded them.

(10) DON’T SKIP OVER THIS. Steven Lovely picked “The 30 Best Science Fiction Books in the Universe” for Early Bird Books. You may think it’s only been ten minutes since you saw a list of sf/f greats, but this one includes a bunch of present day greats, too, like Ancillary Justice and Three-Body Problem.

(11) ORIGINAL TOURIST TERROR TOWER. In the October 27 Washington Post, John Kelly interviews Itsi Atkins, who probably invented the haunted house attraction in St. Mary’s County in 1971.  Atkins talks about how he came up with the idea and how much he enjoyed scaring people at “Blood Manor” in the 1970s: “He dreamed of screams: Meet the man behind the modern haunted house”.

With Halloween bearing down on us like an ax-wielding maniac, now’s a good time to remember Edwin “Itsi” Atkins, pioneer of fright.

“In all my research, I can’t find anybody who has a live-action haunted house before 1971,” Itsi told me when I rang him up in Georgia, where he lives now. Yes, people had “yard haunts” — elaborate decorations in their front yards — and Disneyland had its Haunted Mansion. But that was an amusement-park ride, which took safely seat-belted riders through a gently scary attraction.

What Itsi claims to have invented is the interactive experience of walking through a haunted house while being assaulted by scary actors amid frightful tableaux.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/16 The Pixel With The Ticks Will Be The Scroll That Is Droll

(1) IS IT DEAD JIM? BBC reports “Fears grow for European Schiaparelli Mars lander”, which arrived on Mars today.

There are growing fears a European probe that attempted to land on Mars on Wednesday has been lost.

Tracking of the Schiaparelli robot’s radio signals was dropped less than a minute before it was expected to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface.

Satellites at Mars have attempted to shed light on the probe’s status, so far without success.

One American satellite even called out to Schiaparelli to try to get it to respond.

The fear will be that the robot has crashed and been destroyed. The European Space Agency, however, is a long way from formally calling that outcome.

(2) CHAMBERS RETURNS. Becky Chambers’ new novel launched this week. Thea James from Book Smugglers gives it thumbs up.

….A Closed and Common Orbit picks up right after the final events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, with the once-Lovelace Artificial Intelligence, now reset and memory-less, finding a new life aboard a new body. Before, Lovelace had eyes everywhere and her task was to care for the health and wellbeing of the Wayfarer’s crew. Now, renamed Sidra, she finds herself in a new–and illegal–synthetic body, trying to cope with a limited, isolated, and physical existence that simply doesn’t seem enough.

(3) IT COMES IN PINTS? Emily Asher-Perrin undertakes a highly scientific thought experiment at Tor.com “How Much Beer Does it Take to Get a Hobbit Drunk?”

But how much can a hobbit actually drink?

There is a joke in the Lord of the Rings films that is not present in the books–while hanging around at The Prancing Pony, Merry comes back to the table with a great big tankard. and Pippin asks what he’s drinking:

“This, my friend, is a pint,” he says wickedly.

Pippin’s eyes widen. “It comes in pints?”

It makes sense that hobbits would veer toward smaller pours because they are smaller people–you wouldn’t give a five-year-old a pint glass of juice because they have smaller stomachs and the glass would be harder to manage in smaller hands. But even if the average hobbit goes from half-pint to half-pint, that doesn’t mean that their rates of consumption are low in the alcohol department.

(4) ALLUSION OR UNCITED SOURCE? At Electric Literature, Carmen Maria Machado, in “How to Suppress Women’s Criticism”, argues that Neil Gaiman’s jacket blurb for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life essentially did a disservice to Joanna Russ.

It was only then that I saw the lead blurb at the top of the dust jacket. Written by Neil Gaiman, it reads in part:

“Not just a terrific biography, but a remarkable act of reclamation: if there was ever a great writer of the twentieth century who fell victim to ‘How to Dismiss Women’s Fiction,’ it was Shirley Jackson.”

…That might seem like a lot of pressure to put on a blurb, especially because blurbs are an unavoidable part of a professional writer’s life. But Russ is dead. Jackson is dead. And in the thoughtless, uncredited, mangled deployment of that phrase —even in praise— Gaiman broke the chain between the two of them; a prominent, living male artist inserted between Russ’ ideas and Jackson’s reality. It would have been such a little, correct thing to keep that link alive — a gesture whose implications would have far outweighed its size. And yet, like so many tiny, seemingly insignificant cultural gestures — whose collective weight can buoy, or suffocate — it is a symptom of a larger condition.

(5) LOST LIGHT. James Davis Nicoll sent this link with the note, “Female blogger silenced.” After six years in the fight, wundergeek’s (Anna Kreider) game industry blog Go Make Me a Sandwich (how not to sell games to women) is signing off.

While it is undeniable that my blog has resulted in positive change in some parts of the games industry and community, that change has come at tremendous personal cost. First and foremost, it’s cost me my reputation; because of this blog, I will always be “controversial”. Go Make Me a Sandwich started as a personal project, something that I started as a hobby because I wanted to write about something that was a growing area of interest for me. By the time it took off, the damage was done; my Google Rank has inextricably tied my name to feminism forever, and that can be dangerous. It’s certainly translated into a level of difficulty in my meatspace life that I never anticipated before starting this blog.

Writing this blog has also taken a tremendous toll on my mental health. The backlash that I’ve faced because of what I do here has been terrifying…..

There are also those who know about the abuse and choose to believe that the abusers aren’t the problem. The real problem is me: my feelings about my experiences of marginalization and harassment and how I express them. There are many in our community who think that it’s a bigger problem that I’m not nice about my feelings toward my abusers than it is that I’m being abused. So instead of holding the abusers accountable for their abuse, which is known and well-documented, they instead decide to publicly castigate me for committing the womanly sin of having feelings about a thing incorrectly…..

…. MY WHOLE GODDAMN LIFE I’ve been told that I was “too much”. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too brash. Too arrogant. Too abrasive. Too bossy. My whole life, people have been trying to shove me into a box that I just don’t fit in, no matter how hard I try – the box of proper womanhood. This blog was my place where I could be ME. Unapologetically. Loudly. Defiantly! And walking away from that feels like walking away from part of myself.

It feels like climbing into the box voluntarily.

It feels like capitulation. Like surrender.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1953 Fahrenheit 451 published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 19, 1945 – John Lithgow, of Buckaroo Banzai and Third Rock from the Sun.

(8) IT BITES. Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley says you can pass on the local production of Zombie Prom.

That shine is missing in “Zombie Prom,” another campy 1990s off-Broadway musical getting its area premiere. Boy meet girl, boy loses girl, boy despairs and jumps into a vat of nuclear waste. He returns as a zombie — but can he still go the prom?

This is strictly for hardcore musical devotees who want to see what Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey wrote before their musicals “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick.” The Unexpected Stage Company, last seen showcasing Deb Margolin in “8 Stops,” isn’t giving buffs a particularly good look. Virtually the only number inspiring a grin is the 1950s-style girl-group ballad “Jonny Don’t Go” (“ . . . to the nuclear plant” is the rest of the plea), sung with nice comic understatement by Julia Klavans as the doomed Jonny’s girlfriend, Toffee. The rock-and-roll quartet tucked up onto a platform in a back corner of the stage tries to capture the feel of the 1950s sock-hop score but can’t quite swing it. Neither can much of the rest of the indifferently designed, unevenly performed show.

(9) REFILL. John King Tarpinian found an even better image of the Logan’s Rum reference on The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode.

logans-rum-2

(10) RURITANIA MISUNDERSTOOD. Since Ian Sales reads this blog, wouldn’t it be more efficient for him to engage the commenters here and clarify the misunderstanding?

And spare my tender feelings, please – the new LJ, indeed!

(11) BIRDS OF MANY FEATHERS. Publishers Weekly talked to Ursula K. Le Guin about her new collections that are releasing today: “Four Questions for…Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Your work is typically labeled “speculative fiction” or “science fiction” or “fantasy,” in spite of your protests. How do you think the typical demarcations of “mainstream,” “literary,” and “speculative” fiction have evolved since you began writing?

I’ve never protested when my science fiction and fantasy is called science fiction and fantasy—why should I, when that’s what it is? But a lot of it isn’t, and I do protest having all my work lumped into a genre that only some of it belongs to. I’ve written for decades in various genres including realism, SF, fantasy, kiddilit, and fable. I published poetry long before I sold a story, and am still publishing it. I’m no longer writing fiction. I don’t fit into any pigeonhole. I’m all kinds of birds. The walls between fictional genres that were constructed by critical prejudice and ignorance are going down fast, and I love to watch them go! [That being said], genre is a permanently useful idea when used rightly, to indicate actual difference in subject-matter, style, expectation. It’s sort of like dogs, isn’t it? Your basic dog is a mongrel. No one breed is “superior” to all others, and exclusive inbreeding results in monsters. But variety and adaptability are valuable traits in a species, and there are real differences between breeds. Long live the Chihuahua, the Elkhound, the Poodle, and the Mutt.

(12) RESEARCH. Sarah A. Hoyt shares her strategy for “Making it Real – How To do Targeted Research” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this is my method: if I am asked — as I was recently — to write something set in say the time of the revolution, the first thing I do is buy one or two general interest books, preferably ones well thought of.  Then I buy a biography or ten written by people of the time.  And then I outline the book and decide what targeted research I’ll need.  Will they sit down at table?  Will there be a tavern scene?  All of those have books written about them.  I find those and read them for the specific scenes I need.  At this time, too, to “soak in” the feel of things I start watching documentaries about that time and place.  This gives a “texture” to the book it would otherwise lack.

Of course, my books change as I write them, so sometimes I’ll find I have to write a scene that wasn’t in the outline, like horse shoeing or perhaps riding between two specific scenes.  At that time, I will put notes all over the book that say “look up x” — most people use something to bracket those, that isn’t used in normal writing, so that we can do a final look see and make sure we got them all.  I use curly brackets — and also, my monitor gets “porcupined” with sticky notes with things like “try to find book or website or reenactor who knows about x.” and “I’m almost sure the description of horse shoeing in the blah blah novel is wrong,” but it’s all I could find “so, replace it when you figure out the right one.” …

(13) NUMBER ONE. Castalia House again has topped an Amazon sales category with its latest release – a book that apparently was acquired at a bargain price:

Mike Cernovich’s new book, MAGA MINDSET: Making YOU and America Great Again, is the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s Politics & Social Sciences>Leadership category. That’s not surprising, as his prevous book, Gorilla Mindset, self-published in 2015, was also a bestseller

What is surprising, however, is that languishing behind the Donald Trump-supporting author’s latest bestseller is Stronger Together, a book published only last month, written by Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The Clinton-Kaine book, signed by Simon & Schuster to $14 million advance, currently sits at 5th place in the category…..

The new Cernovich bestseller, signed to an advance that was, according to Day, “pretty close to $14 million less than Clinton and Kaine got,”….

(14) ANCILLARY CUISINE. Lunchtime at Ann Leckie’s table earlier this week.

(15) INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. Are people still trying to find out?

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 4/4/16 Do Not Scroll Gentle Into That Vile Hive

(1) HEAD OF THE CLASS. From Variety: “’Doctor Who’ Spinoff ‘Class’ Taps Katherine Kelly to Lead Ensemble Cast”.

“Happy Valley” alum Katherine Kelly has been tapped to lead an ensemble of newcomers in the “Doctor Who” spinoff “Class.”

Kelly will play a teacher at Coal Hill School, an institution that has been part of the “Doctor Who” universe since its inception in 1963. Students will be played by newbies Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed, Sophie Hopkins and Vivian Oparah.

Filming on “Class” begins this week. There’s no word yet on a target premiere date for the BBC Three/BBC America series created by Patrick Ness. “Doctor Who” and “Class” exec producer Steven Moffat likened the series to a British version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

(2) ROLL CALL. Sci-Fi Storm completes the roster – “BBC announces the Class of Class”.

Joining Kelly as students at the school are Greg Austin (Mr. Selfridge), Fady Elsayed (My Brother the Devil), Sophie Hopkins (The Meeting Place) and newcomer Vivian Oparah.

With the focus on the young adult audience, each of the students is described as having “hidden secrets and desires. They are facing their own worst fears, navigating a life of friends, parents, school work, sex, sorrow — and possibly the end of existence.”

(3) TWO MINUTE WARNING. Tickets for next year’s Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who-themed convention in LA, go on sale April 16.

As we prepare for Gallifrey One 2017 ticket sales to start, please remember: tickets to Gallifrey One 2016 sold out in less than two minutes. We mention this because we want to emphasize very strongly that you should be prepared to be ready to purchase your tickets shortly before the time announced above….

2017 Ticket Prices

Prices for tickets to our 2017 Gallifrey One convention are as follows:

$95.00 Adult Full Weekend

$50.00 Teen Full Weekend (Ages 12-16)

$20.00 Child Full Weekend (Ages 3-11)

…Please note that we have elected to discontinue single-day tickets for 2017 in order to adequately support our entire attendee base with a complete weekend full of programming. All tickets will allow entry into the 2017 convention at any time throughout the weekend, and attendee badges can be picked up from Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning.

(4) SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALL RIGHT FOR FIGHTIN’. Wall Street Journal’s “Speakeasy” blog covers Peter Dinklage’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.

There was the expected “GoT” parody (video above), which had Dinklage hosting an “HBO First Look” special on the upcoming sixth season. The gag here – other than Kate McKinnon‘s serviceable impression of Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) – was that there was a quite a bit of truth to Daenerys’s dragons being the show’s scene-stealers. As it turns out, the dragons’ camera-hogging is the result of Bobby Moynihan‘s obnoxious motion-capture actor.

Moynihan also showed up as the brains behind “GoT” – author George R.R. Martin – during Dinklage’s monologue.

NBC has video clips from the episode, including the Game of Thrones sneak peek.

(5) DRAFTING. Rachel Swirsky explores “The difference between draft 1 and draft 12ish of ‘Love Is Never Still’” with sample text and numerous bullet point comments.

I thought it might be interesting to look at a passage from my most recent story, “Love Is Never Still,” as it existed in the first and last drafts. By the time I actually publish a story, I’ve often forgotten what the first draft looked like exactly.

(6) RECOMMENDATION. Mark-kitteh wanted to point out Becky Chambers’ 2014 short story “Chrysalis” at Pornokitsch.  Make it so!

(7) PRE-TRIP REPORT. John Scalzi tells Whatever readers “What I’m Doing in Los Angeles Next Weekend”. He’s coming to LA for the LA Times’ Festival of Books, with other appearances on his schedule — one of the more out-of-the-ordinary is:

7 PM, Nerdmelt Showroom, 7522 Sunset Ave, Los Angeles: I’m one of the featured performers at The Objectively Hottest Authors On Earth LIVE!, which is being presented in association with the Festival of Books. During the show, hosted by artist and comedian Sara Benincasa, I, Maris Kreizman, Cecil Castellucci and Isaac Fitzgerald will be saying and/or doing funny things, and being interviewed by Sara. It’s going to be fantastic. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door, and if you want to show up, don’t wait — the room is, uh, not huge, as I understand it. I can’t say what anyone else has planned but I will be reading an recently-written funny piece that hasn’t been published anywhere yet (although I’ve read it in a couple of places and it killed), so the only place you’ll be able to enjoy it is live, and the only place I’m planning to read it live in the foreseeable future is here, at the Nerdmelt Showroom.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 4, 1930 — American Rocket Society founded
  • April 4, 1975 — Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
  • April 4, 1983 — The space shuttle Challenger lifted off on its inaugural mission.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • April 4, 1965 – Robert Downey Jr.

(10) THE MARGIN IS THE CUTTING EDGE. That seems to be Noah Berlatsky’s bottom line in his post, “Why Cutting-Edge Sci-Fi Is Often Penned By Marginalized Writers” at The Establishment. I wish he hadn’t spent half his wordage attacking somebody else’s paradigm, and just kept strengthening his case with more of the kind of enlightening analysis he provided about Delany and Le Guin.

“Great science fiction explores the philosophical possibilities of science’s impact on reality,” sci-fi writer James Wallace Harris declares at SF Signal. You take real science, you add brilliant philosophy, and you’ve got sci-fi. Right?

Actually, no. Harris’ article has been widely pilloried on social media because, in his tour of “cutting-edge science fiction,” he managed to make a list without citing a single piece of work by a woman or person of color. But what’s been less discussed is that his omissions are tied closely to the fact that his definition of cutting-edge science fiction is ludicrously limited.

(11) POC TOC. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction, funded by a Kickstarter appeal, will be another special issue of Lightspeed, guest-edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim, in partnership with section editors Nisi Shawl, Berit Ellingsen, Grace Dillon, and Sunil Patel, who are assembling a lineup of fiction, essays, and nonfiction from people of color.

The list of original short stories and flash fiction has been announced in the latest backer project update.

Original Short Stories/Novelettes (edited by Nalo Hopkinson & Kristine Ong Muslim)

  • A Good Home — Karin Lowachee
  • Firebird — Isha Karki
  • Fifty Shades of Grays — Steven Barnes
  • Depot 256 — Lisa Allen-Agostini
  • Digital Medicine — Brian K. Hudson
  • The Red Thread — Sofia Samatar
  • Salto Mortal — Nick T. Chan
  • Omoshango — Dayo Ntwari
  • Wilson’s Singularity — Terence Taylor
  • As Long As It Takes to Make the World — Gabriela Santiago

Original Flash Fiction (edited by Berit Ellingsen)

  • Binaries — S.B. Divya
  • Other Metamorphoses — Fabio Fernandes
  •  An Offertory to Our Drowned Gods — Teresa Naval
  • Morning Cravings — Nin Harris
  • Breathe Deep, Breathe Free — Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • The Peacemaker — T.S. Bazelli
  • Chocolate Milkshake Number 314 — Caroline M. Yoachim
  • A Handful Of Dal — Naru Dames Sundar
  • Hiranyagarbha — Kevin Jared Hosein
  • Four And Twenty Blackbirds — JY Yang

The appeal also funded horror and fantasy special issues, for which submissions are now being taken.

  • POC Destroy Horror! will publish in October, as a special issue of Nightmare Magazine, from guest editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia. The submissions portal for the issue is now open, so if you’re a POC writer, and you’d like to write something, by all means please do so and submit your story! Submissions are open now and close May 15, 2016. Just visit submissions.johnjosephadams.com/poc-destroy-horror to read the guidelines and to submit.
  • POC Destroy Fantasy! will publish in December, as a special issue of Fantasy Magazine, from guest editor Daniel José Older. The submissions portal for the issue will be open May 1 – June 15. Visit submissions.johnjosephadams.com/poc-destroy-fantasy to read the guidelines.

(12) KEY TO CHARACTERIZATION. “Why Character Agency is So Important” by Jadah McCoy at Fantasy Book Critic.

What the frick frack does character “agency” really even mean in relation to the wonderful world of book writin’? Character agency is such an integral part of writing believable characters, and it’s something that many people don’t really notice at all when reading.

Chuck Wendig puts it eloquently by saying, “Character agency is…a demonstration of the character’s ability to make decisions and affect the story. This character has motivations all her own. She is active more than she is reactive.”

In other words, the story responds to the character’s actions, not the other way around. Too many times I’ve sat in bed screaming at a character for their stupidity, for their inability to control anything around them, including themselves. Too many times these characters have done the Incredibly Stupid Thing because only the Incredibly Stupid Thing would move the plot forward, and it’s only at the expense of that character’s credibility. Just because isn’t good enough.

When decisions are taken away from the character, they become merely a pawn in a contrived chess game—one where all the moves are already planned out, and no matter where the pawn goes, the results will end up the same.

Characters are living things, like you and I. They think, they speak, they love and hate, they have desires and ideas, and they rebel (and often I can’t even control mine, they just commandeer whatever attempted plot I had penned out).  They are three dimensional. They are people on paper, and people have reasons for what they choose to do. They have thought processes, which sometimes they care to share and sometimes they don’t (not even with their own author).

(13) SEQUELS. “They’re Coming Back” is the title of a TV commercial for Independence Day: Resurgence, coming to theaters June 24.

Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.

 

(14) REMAKES. While you’re waiting for the Independence Day sequel, you can practice throwing stones at mere remakes. CheatSheet pontificates on “8 of the Worst Sci-Fi Movie Remakes Ever”.

Since science fiction typically rely on special effects more than most other types of films, it would seem that older films in this genre would generally benefit from being updated with the latest moviemaking technologies. Unfortunately, it seems that in many cases any improvement that a remake offers in the area of special effects is canceled out by bad scripts or poor casting decisions. For this reason, there are many science fiction films that are several decades old, but still manage to hold up better than remakes that were made only a few years ago.

It’s a tough audience! #7 is Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake.

(15) FUTURE TECH. “The future if literature was to be believed” – an infographic from the Red Candy blog.

Literature has always been a vehicle for predictions about future technology, which turns out to become a reality. Who knows you might well see some of these items in the near future!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Bonnie McDaniel, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/16 The Transatlantic Taste Gap – Hurrah!

(1) GUILLERMO DEL TORO. The Pacific Rim director admires this fan art:

Del toro tweet 2 CROPDel toro tweet 2 5 CROPDel Toro tweet 3 CROPDel Toro tweet 3 5 CROP

(2) SHEIKH DJIBOUTI. I always wondered what he looked like.

Heinlein stamp

(3) WORLDCON STAMPS. And for the next few days “Mars & Lunar Colony Postage Stamp Sheets for 11th Worldcon (Philcon II) 1953” are up for auction on eBay.

Unused collection of Interplanetary Postage Stamps in very good condition. The two different stamps were designed by Russell Swanson for the 1953 11th World Science Fiction Convention (PhilCon II) in Philadelphia, PA.  One stamp is marked “Luna Colony Postage; First Moon Rocket – 1965; a $5 blue horizontal. The other stamp is a $10 red vertical, “Mars Postage; First Mars Expedition, 1974, and depicted “Preparing the Atmosphere Rocket”. In 1953, these were sold in sheets of 40  for 50 cents by the PhilCon II Committee for publicity and revenue.

 

s-l1600

(4) I PITY THE FOOL. Will R. can’t get rid of the haunting feeling that he’s been fooled twice by Gmail’s “mic drop” button. Will says —

Though the laugh may still be on me, just so you know: the retraction followed the announcement, and there are actual comments out there (not just the questionable Twitter grabs) from people who seem to confirm that the button was real for at least a while. I admit, though, that it feels a bit phildickian trying to pin it down now, that it would indeed be a clever metaprank if the button never were real, that I’m certainly never long from playing the fool again, and that I hope whatever joke there ever was here is now wrung out.

Really, only meant to apologise if I had steered someone toward a harmful link. No joke!

(5) SPACE PARTY. Yuri’s Night is the World Space Party, celebrated at events on and around April 12.

Yuri-wp-be-human-2015-logo

Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, and the inaugural launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981.

“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty — not destroy it!” — Yuri Gagarin, 1st human in space….

Since 2001, Yuri’s Night has:

  • Featured talks and presentations by Ray Bradbury, Will Wright, George Takei, Richard Garriott, Anousheh Ansari, and many others
  • Been celebrated at the South Pole, Hayden Planetarium, and in orbit on the International Space Station
  • Planted hundreds of “moon trees” around the world in collaboration with American Forests
  • Received the “Best Presentation of Space” award from the Space Frontier Foundation
  • Trained the next generation of space leaders for organizations such as the National Space Society, Virgin Galactic, and Space Florida

Anyone can start a Yuri’s Night event, and it’s completely free.

(6) LA EDITION. Find out about Yuri’s Night in LA, April 9 at the California Science Center, on Facebook.

Join with 100+ events around the world in celebrating the 1st human mission to orbit the Earth and all space can make possible for us. Come to the pre-party, make your own space hero trader card, listen to Samantha Cristoforetti talk about her 199 days on ISS last year. Apollo 11 moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, and Star Trek’s Lt Uhura, Nichelle Nichols will also be there. Your best playa wear or space costume is encourged. DJ Dynamix will be spinning till midnight! Don’t wait, event has sold out every year!

(7) SWIRSKY RECOMMENDS. There was no foolishness in Rachel Swirsky’s April 1 “Friday Fiction Recommendation: ‘One Paper Airplane Graffito Love Note’ by Will McIntosh”

Will McIntosh is an exceptional writer whose work deserves more recognition than it gets. He won the Hugo Award several years ago for the excellent short story “Bridesicle,” but I wish people had paid more attention to his following novels and short stories. He does aliens really, really well.

However, this story has no aliens. It has dreamy magical realism instead.

The full 2007 McIntosh story is a free read at Strange Horizons.

(8) MORE ACCOLADES FOR BECKY CHAMBERS. While musing about the Hugos (“Hugo nominations for novels: And the final nomination list will be…”) Rachel Neumeier added a paean of praise for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which certainly would have been on my ballot if it had been eligible.

This was recommended to me by Linda S, who was right — I loved it. I was trusting her when I didn’t quite have time to finish the book before nominations closed, which worked out fine because I liked the resolution quite a bit. But I notice one File 770 commenter said it might not be eligible. I don’t know why, but if not, too bad! I guess I should have nominated Bryony and Roses instead. Well, at least Ursula Vernon’s story “Wooden Feathers” was on a lot of lists; I was glad to see that.

Anyway, I have not had time to write a review of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, obviously, but I nominated it because it is a really fun SF space opera with a cluttered Star-Trek-Federation type of setting — I haven’t seen anybody tackle a setting like that for a long time. Actually, the closest background I can think of in recent SFF is in Tanya Huff’s Valor series.

I had quibbles here and there with the worldbuilding and story, but OMG did I ever love Kizzy, one of the Best! Characters! Ever! Chambers must have had so much fun writing her, seriously. I have a new ambition: to write a wild impulsive uninhibited extrovert who is as much fun as Kizzy. Wonderful character building through dialogue. I wound up becoming quite attached to all the characters, including the ones who were thoroughly unsympathetic at the beginning. I also liked the rather intimate feel of the story against the very wide-scale background, which Chambers pulled off despite frequently switching the pov. And as I say, I liked the resolution. There are sad things about the ending, but it is not a downer.

(9) INDIE. Today’s Brevity cartoon has a kind word for writers from Middle-Earth.

(10) ANNIHILATION CASTING. Uproxx reports Ex Machina’s Oscar Isaac and Alex Garland are teaming up with Natalie Portman“’Annihilation’ Becomes A ‘Star Wars’ Party As Oscar Isaac Joins Natalie Portman”.

Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, the story follows a team of female scientists exploring “Area X,” a supposed environmental disaster zone in a future America. Portman’s character, never identified by name in the book, has the ulterior motive of looking for her husband, who was lost on an expedition. In the grand tradition of environmental disaster areas with creepy pedigrees, things get weird pronto for the expedition as Things Are Not What They Seem, but Portman is unlikely to stumble across a little green dude with a strange grasp of sentence structure.

(11) COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT. Jonathan McCalmont was dubious about being quoted in yesterday’s Pixel Scroll:

The correct context of yesterday’s tweet may not have been Puppies, but rather McCalmont’s general policy, tweeted today –

(12) DROP EVERYTHING. AWOL announces “Tasmania Is Currently Looking For A ‘Chief Wombat Cuddler’”

OK I know what you’re thinking, what even is a Chief Wombat Cuddler? Well, you’ll be the chief… of… wombat cuddlng at Tassie’s Flinders Island. Makes perfect sense.

Apparently over the past few weeks, a cheeky wombat from our southernmost state has been getting quite a bit of attention online thanks to a real cute YouTube video. Derek the wombat – great wombat name, by the way – lives out on Flinders Island, and because the Internet is all but obsessed with him, the folk over on the island have decided he needs a little company….

All you have to do is fill out the application form here before 10pm on April 16. Entrants must be over the age of 18 and of course, love cuddling wombats. What are you waiting for!?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, Will R., and Kyra for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Cora.]

2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is one of 20 books longlisted for the £30,000 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Guardian begins its coverage with two paragraphs about Chambers’ accomplishment:

Four years ago, technical writer Becky Chambers had run out of paying work, and turned to crowdfunding to raise the $2,500 (£1,750) she needed to finish writing her debut novel. Now her space opera has been longlisted for the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, alongside works by some of the most garlanded names writing today, from Anne Enright to Kate Atkinson.

In 2012, the American writer had asked Kickstarter for the money she needed, to give her “two months of mornings dedicated to finishing” The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. “I found myself in a jam. I was out of paying work until June, and I didn’t know how I was going to make a book happen without losing sanity and shelter in the process,” she wrote at the time. She secured the funds and initially self-published the novel, in which a ship of wormhole builders travels the galaxy, making holes in space. She went on to land a deal with Hodder & Stoughton.

Chambers’ novel is the only sf/f genre work in contention, going by my review of Amazon’s one-paragraph summaries of these titles.

  • Kate Atkinson: A God in Ruins
  • Shirley Barrett: Rush Oh!
  • Cynthia Bond: Ruby
  • Geraldine Brooks: The Secret Chord
  • Becky Chambers: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
  • Jackie Copleton: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding
  • Rachel Elliott: Whispers Through a Megaphone
  • Anne Enright: The Green Road
  • Petina Gappah: The Book of Memory
  • Vesna Goldsworthy: Gorsky
  • Clio Gray: The Anatomist’s Dream
  • Melissa Harrison: At Hawthorn Time
  • Attica Locke: Pleasantville
  • Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies
  • Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen
  • Sara Novi?: Girl at War
  • Julia Rochester: The House at the Edge of the World
  • Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love
  • Elizabeth Strout: My Name is Lucy Barton
  • Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life

The judges’ six-title shortlist, to be revealed April 11. The winner will be announced June 8.

Pixel Scroll 12/27 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fifths

(1) ORPHAN BLACK TEASER. BBC America says Orphan Black Season 4 has started production and will be shooting in Toronto through March.

Tatiana Maslany returns to her Emmy®-nominated role as multiple clones in 10 new episodes in Spring 2016.

Season 4 of the drama will see leader-of-the-pack, Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

 

(2) UNDERSTANDING CONTRACTS. Fynbospress provides a wide-ranging introduction to contracts for creators in “When do you need a contract?” at Mad Genius Club, a post that does much more than merely answer the title question.

This isn’t just for court; this is when you’ve submitted a rough draft to a copyeditor and found out they only did the first third of the book and the last chapter , or when you paid a cover artist $500 and they returned one proof of concept, then stopped answering emails. This is for when the small press gives you a horrid cover, no release press, and you have some real doubts about your royalty statements. This is for when you’ve agreed to turn in a sequel, and you find out your spouse has cancer, and nothing’s going to get done that’s not medically related. It’s for when you get the avian flu and aren’t going to make your slot with your editor, and aren’t sure you could make a pushback date, either, or the house washes away in a flood and you weren’t even thinking about when your cover artist finished her painting and wants paid.

(3) NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Lela E. Buis in “Safe spaces and personal self defense” conflates safe spaces with the convention antiharassment policies of which she disapproves.

Reading through the proposed convention policies, safe spaces apparently mean that no one can annoy you. When some evil lowlife approaches and says something that disturbs or upsets you, then you should be able to just say “no, go away” and they are required to do so. It means that you can cruise through the convention experience without worrying about anything. If anyone fails to do what you ask, then all you have to do is complain to management and they’ll take care of the lowlife who’s bothering you, pitching him/her out on the street. This is really an ideal situation, where nobody ever has to hear things they don’t want to hear, or deal with situations they don’t want to be in.

However, when you always depend on management to protect you, then you’re not taking personal responsibility for your own well-being. You end up with no self-defense skills….

(4) CHROMIUM SÍ IN AMERICA. “Here’s How Captain Phasma Got Her Silver Armor” explains Andrew Liptak in an intro to a video at io9.

Gwendoline Christie has certainly made her mark in the Star Wars universe as the silver-armored Captain Phasma. This short video shows where that armor came from, and it’s hilarious.

(5) NO SPOILERS. Joe Vasicek’s spoiler-free first impressions of the new Star Wars movie at One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Was it campy? Yep. Was it rife with scientific inaccuracies? Oh heck, yes! Were parts of it over the top? Yeah, probably. But these were all true of the original Star Wars, too. The stuff that really mattered was all there: good writing, solid plot, believable characters, awesome music, and that grand sense of wonder that drew us all into Science Fiction in the first place.

(6) SPOILERY AND FUNNY. Emma Barrie’s “The Confused Notes of a Star Wars Newbie Who Felt Compelled to See The Force Awakens” is a high comedy journal of watching The Force Awakens.  Paragraph two only spoils the original Star Wars trilogy, so that’s safe to quote….

Even as a member of the uninitiated minority, I did know some basic stuff about Star Wars, because how could I not? My birthday is May 4, so there’s that. I knew Darth Vader is bad and has the voice of Mufasa. I knew Han Solo is a person (though I thought it was Hans Solo). I could definitely pick Chewbacca out of a lineup. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher (whom I primarily associate with hating that wagon-wheel table in When Harry Met Sally). She has those Cinnabon hair swirls and at some point wore a gold bikini (info gleaned from Friends). Lightsabers are kind of like fancy swords. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.

(7) SPOILERY AND SERIOUS. David Brin was greatly relieved to find things to complain about in “J.J. Abrams Awakens the Force” at Contrary Brin.

Okay we saw it.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SW:TFA), on Christmas Eve.  And although I am lead author — and “prosecuting attorney” — of the book Star Wars on Trial, and hence a leading critic of the series, I must admit that:

(1) The newest installment of the franchise — directed by J.J. Abrams under Disney management — has none of the deeply objectionable traits of Episodes I, II, III and VI that I denounced in that controversial tome. Abrams and Disney shrugged off the lunacies George Lucas compulsively preached in those vividly colorful-yet-wretched flicks….

(8) SPOILERY TROLLING. Nick Mamatas is like one of those basketball players who in the parlance can create his own shot. If there was nothing in The Force Awakens to complain about, Nick would not be inconvenienced in the slightest. His review is at Nihilistic Kid.

Like any Star Wars film, it makes little sense. I’m not even talking about the inexplicable political economy of the galaxy that has both intelligent robots and people hanging out in tents with dirt floors, or the horrifying reactionary theme of an entire galaxy being held a prisoner of fate by about a dozen closely related individuals.

Is that last part so unrealistic, Nick? Think of Queen Victoria’s family ties.

(9) A FAN OF PEACE. I thought Hank Green was a science fiction fan (among other things) yet he exhibits a practically unfannish lack of interest in quarrelling with his fellow fans about Important Genre Definitions.

(10) FIVE IS ALIVE. At The Book Smugglers, “Jared Shurin’s Five Terrific 2015 Titles That’ll Tie Awards in Knots”  actually contains seven titles. Did he think nobody would count? Or was he worried File 770 wouldn’t link to his post without a “fifth” reference? Never fear, Jared, your praise for “A Small, Angry Planet” deserves to be shared.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

It lurked (and won The Kitschies) as a self-published work at the start of 2015, but as far as the ‘stablishment is concerned, this utterly glorious, brilliantly progressive and undeniably joyous space opera didn’t exist until the UK release in February and the US release soon after. It has been on multiple ‘Best Of’ lists (Waterstones, Guardian, Barnes & Noble), and hopefully that translates to even more well-deserved recognition. The awards scene is dominated by a) Americans and b) traditional publishing, so this book’s… er… long way… to market should hopefully pay off with further acclaim.

(11) SMACKIN’ WITH THE PUPPIES. George R.R. Martin finally froze comments on “Puppies at Christmas” after two days spent duking it out with trolls. Martin’s last entry in the discussion might also be taken as a reply to the coverage here the other day:

When people behave badly (in fandom or out of it), or do things that I find immoral or unethical, I reserve the right to speak out about it, as I did about Sad Puppies 3 last year.

When, on the other hand, I see behavior I regard as positive, I am also going to speak out about that… regardless of whether my words are going to be “spun” to suit someone else’s narrative. So far, what I am seeing on the Sad Puppies 4 boards is a step in the right direction… a spirited literary discussion that includes everyone from Wright and Williamson to Leckie and Jemisin. That’s good.

If it turns into something else later, well, I’ll revise my opinion or raise objections. But I am not going to deal in hypotheticals. Right now what I see is people talking books.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904Peter Pan by James Barrie opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first “Howdy Doody” show, under the title “Puppet Playhouse,” was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — The Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times.

(13) RESTATE OF THE ART. “How Weinstein Co. Distribution Chief Erik Lomis Rescued 70MM Cinema For Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’” at Deadline Hollywood.

Lomis had an 18-month lead before Hateful Eight would hit the screen, and he promptly began scouring eBay and interfacing with film warehouses and antique collectors across the country “pulling the equipment, checking it and Frankenstein-ing it together. Configuring the lens took six months alone. They needed to be adjusted to today’s stadium auditoriums, which from the booth to the screen have a shorter throw versus the lens on the older machines which had a longer throw due to the sloping floor auditoriums,” explains Lomis. For the first six months, Lomis was picking up 70MM projectors at affordable prices, but once word slipped out that it was for a Tarantino film, collectors tripled and quadrupled their asks.  Essentially, to make three solid working projectors, one needed to pull parts from as many as five projectors.  Gears, shafts, bearings and rollers were the typical replacements. At times, these parts were manufactured from scratch off original blueprints. On average, Schneider Optics made a lens a day during production to restore this antiquated technology.

(14) SIR TERRY. Rhianna Pratchett  in The Guardian“Sir Terry Pratchett remembered by his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett”.

…The reaper came for my father much earlier in his life in the form of Death from his world-famous and much-loved Discworld novels. Death was a towering, cloaked and scythe-wielding skeleton who had a penchant for curries, a love of cats and TALKED LIKE THIS. We got a number of tear-inducing letters from fans who were nearing the end of their lives and took great comfort in imagining that the death that came for them would be riding a white horse called Binky. Dad had done something with more success than anyone else – he made Death friendly.

For me, as for many of his fans, it was his gift for characterisations like this that made his books pure narrative gold. Dad was a great observer of people. And when he ran out of actual people, he was a great imaginer of them. Both his grannies come through in his witch characters, while there’s a fair chunk of me in Tiffany Aching and Susan Sto Helit, Death’s adoptive granddaughter. …

(15) THE JAVA AWAKENS. “Designers Create Star Wars-Themed Coffee Concept” at Comicbook.com.

Graphic designer Spencer Davis and product designer Scott Schenone have come up with “Dark Brew Coffee House,” a concept that imagines what a Star Wars-themed coffee shop would look like.

(Lots more thematic imagery displayed at Dark Brew Coffee House.)

Dark Side coffee

(16) DARK OUTSIDE. Then could we change this to the Darthburger?

[Thanks to DLS,and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Shao Ping.]