Pixel Scroll 9/13/17 Is That A Pixel On Your Screen, Or Are You Just Scrolled To See Me?

(1) YOU CAN ORBIT BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE. Alex Parker likes to think Cassini’s dive into Saturn is payback for the dinosaur extinction event. A thread explaining his complicated theory starts here:

(2) SFWA GALAKTIKA SETTLEMENT NAMES AFFECTED AUTHORS. There are further developments in a story reported here in July. Full information at the SFWA Blog: “Agreement Reached with Galaktika on Past Infringements”.

The Authors Guild and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced today that they collaboratively reached an agreement with a Hungarian science fiction magazine, Galaktika, which for years had been reprinting stories of American and British science fiction writers without their permission….

Part of the settlement between the magazine Galaktika and SFWA and the Authors Guild was that Galaktika would provide a complete list of authors whose work had been published without authorization by Galaktika. The list below was created from the spreadsheet that they provided, and, as far as SFWA can discover, it is accurate. This list includes authors or their representatives who have already come to agreements with Galaktika or are still in the process of negotiation. It is being made public to aid authors who may not know their work was published without authorization. Note that some of the works affected may be out of copyright in Hungary.

(3) BOOK SMUGGLERS KICKSTARTER. Thea James and Ana Grilo have launched The Book Smugglers: Level Up Kickstarter.

Ana and Thea

We celebrate our tenth anniversary next year and we would like to level up, so we finally decided to take the leap and create a Kickstarter of our own. We are trying to raise $16,500 which will go towards a new season of short stories (under the theme “Awakenings”) at a higher pay rate and ensuring we can hire freelancers to do production work for the ebooks. We would also love to get paid contributors to the blog on a weekly basis. If we raise more than the initial amount? The sky is the limit. All with a view to continue to publish and highlight diverse voices.

We donate our time to the Book Smugglers because we love the work that we do, which we hope to continue doing for another ten years.

To date their Kickstarter has raised 5,842 of its $16,500 goal.

(4) KEEP ON TICKING. Jim C. Hines reviews “The Tick, Season One”. BEWARE SPOILERS. In case that sort of thing worries you….

I didn’t need this to be a repeat of the animated show I loved. But it felt like it tried way too hard to be dark and gritty and edgy, at the cost of the heart and joy I was hoping for.

With all that said, I might still watch the next batch of six episodes when they come out. (I’m told that technically, this won’t be season two, but the second half of season one.) If they continue to improve the way they did in those last couple of episodes…

But for now, I’m rating this a solid disappointment.

(5) GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Anybody who’s watched the right episodes of the TV series Suits on the USA Network knows that lawyer Louis Litt is a Game of Thrones fan … at one point, he said, referring to himself, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” This clip from the most recent episode shows that watching aGoT may not always be good for your mental health:

(6) ACROSS THE ATLANTIC BY HOT AIR. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan blows the whistle on a pre-internet author of bogosity: “Edgar Allan Poe Wrote Fake News”.

In 1844 he was working for the New York Sun, and penned a front-page story for the April 13 issue trumpeting a new scientific wonder — the crossing of the Atlantic in three days by balloon. The story breathlessly related how a crew of eight men, including William Henson and Monck Mason, both well-known aeronauts, and famous British novelist Harrison Ainsworth, traveled in a powered balloon from England to Charleston, South Carolina, in 75 hours. The article went on to give various technical details.

(7) GETTING PAID, BUT NOT MUCH. Catherine Baab-Migura, in “Edgar Allan Poe Was A Broke-Ass Freelancer” on The Millions looks at how little money Poe made for his great works and how much time he had to hassle publishers to pay him. But now that you know his history with fake news, how broken up can you really feel?

A lot of fans know Edgar Allan Poe earned just $9 for “The Raven,” now one of the most popular poems of all time, read out loud by schoolteachers the world over. What most people don’t know is that, for his entire oeuvre—all his fiction, poetry, criticism, lectures—Poe earned only about $6,200 in his lifetime, or approximately $191,087 adjusted for inflation.

Maybe $191,087 seems like a lot of money. And sure, as book advances go, that’d be a generous one, the kind that fellow writers would whisper about. But what if $191,087 was all you got for 20 years of work and the stuff you wrote happened to be among the most enduring literature ever produced by anyone anywhere?

(8) AFTER THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION. Jennifer Brozek’s new project returns her to the BattleTech universe: “Award-winning author Jennifer Brozek slated to pen the first Young Adult BattleTech trilogy”.

Catalyst, licensors of the BattleTech tabletop game and Shadowrun roleplaying game, is taking the next step in creating a diverse BattleTech universe with a new young adult trilogy. Jennifer Brozek, award-winning author of BattleTech: The Nellus Academy Incident and Shadowrun: DocWagon 19, is developing a character-driven, action-filled story set after the Jihad, and exploring the tumultuous aftermath of the Age of Destruction. Currently scheduled for a Fall 2018 release date, it can’t come soon enough for BattleTech fans looking for brand new fiction set in the military science fictional universe.

(9) SADCOMS. The Guardian should warn readers they might need a tissue here: “In the golden age of TV, the existential-animation is king”

Why is a talking cartoon horse making me cry? It’s a question many of us might have asked ourselves as the new season of BoJack Horseman – an improbably moving Netflix cartoon about a version of Hollywood populated by talking animals – surfaced over the weekend.

The characters, led by BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett), make terrible decisions about sex and dating, sell themselves short, and generally end up miserable in the funniest possible ways. It’s a show at the forefront of a recent crop of animated TV series for adults that surpass most live-action shows this side of Twin Peaks in terms of sheer emotional ambition.

There’s BoJack, Adult Swim’s critically lauded sci-fi series Rick and Morty, the Duplass brothers’ Animals on HBO, and Archer, a workplace comedy about a spy agency that has gone crazily off the rails. In broad terms, TV is still embracing what critic Jenny Jaffe dubbed the “sadcom” – a show with an ostensibly comic outlook that trades in for pathos – but something special is happening in animation. With animated shows TV is able to flex different muscles.

(10) FROZEBUD. Citizen Lucas might go for this — “Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe” from ThinkGeek.

We’re going to be honest here: we squeed when we first unboxed this product. Our excitement might have drawn other employees over to look. There are SO many little details. “Oh look! Luke’s lightsaber is in the snow!” “I love how the ice of the cave starts on the inside of the globe and continues outside it.” “OMG. THERE’S A DEAD TAUNTAUN ON THE SIDE.” A Hoth snow globe just makes sense. And this Star Wars Wampa Cave Snow Globe created by our GeekLabs team is magnificent. It perfectly captures the tense atmosphere of the cave scene while still being a flippin’ snow globe. Watch the snow gently settle around Luke in what looks like a hopeless situation. And the Tauntaun isn’t gory so it’s appropriate for all ages. Stick it behind your little holiday village diorama as a reminder to the elves and reindeer not to wander out alone.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 13, 1965 Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster battled their way into theaters
  • September 13, 1974 Planet of the Apes TV version premiered.
  • September 13, 1977 — Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(12) TODAY’S CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANGER

  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl

(13) YOUR FAVORITE ICONOCLASTS. Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy declare “Chapters are cultural convention that we need not adhere to” at Camestros Felapton’s blog as they unleash (get it?) a new installment of their classic work.

“Well, well, well,” said McEdifice, “if it isn’t Commander Clench, my old nemesis. I thought I told you never to set foot again on the Grassland Planet of Steppe.”

“Well yes, you did but as I explained at the time, I’m free to go anywhere I like and also I outrank you and also I have an orbiting space-dreadnought directly above us that could wipe you off the face of the planet before you could even grimace at me in a way I didn’t like.” explained Commander Clench.

I don’t know, I thought this was quite readable…. Send help….

(14) EMPTY THE MAGAZINE. Bullets with the Monster Hunters International logo on sale for charity. Ten percent goes to the Houston Food Bank. They’ve already sold 60,000. Living in interesting times.

These are just bullets for handloading. This is not loaded ammunition. Also, be aware that this design is on the front of a 9mm bullet. It is VERY small and serves no purpose other than being really cool. Please do not expect anything magical or supernatural from them. They are just bullets with an awesome stamped logo. Though the lead we sourced does contain trace amounts of silver, it isn’t enough for serious hunting. They are to be used on nothing larger than a gnome.

(15) NZ CONREPORT. At Concatenation, Lee Murray, Dan Rabarts and Darian Smith discuss LexiCon 2017, New Zealand’s 38th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention – with a shout out to DUFF delegate Paul Weimer.

LM:  First up for me panel-wise was moderating a session on the language of science fiction and fantasy, with Swedish writer Emma Lindhagen, Cloud Ink Press’ Mark Johnson and local personality Jack Newhouse sharing the front table. One of the first panels of the con, it was too soon for convention goers to have succumbed to con crud, so the room was packed and it was a lively discussion covering topics such as conlanging, conlinging, inclusiveness, and Klingon. I also moderated a panel on Introducing new readers to SFF, but because the session was scheduled against Paul Mannering in conversation with Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire, there were only seventeen of the con’s attendees present. So we decided to pull the chairs into a circle and invite everyone to join in, which turned out to be a great idea as the input from the audience was terrific. I think that’s one of the advantages of our New Zealand conventions: because we are small and most of us know each other, we can be flexible and no one throws a hissy fit. The DUFF delegate, Paul Weimer from Minneapolis, made a comment to that effect in the ‘Australia and Us’ panel, saying he hadn’t realised before he came, just how close-knit our SF/F/H community is here, an aspect he felt might be unique to New Zealand.

DR:  In the way of all good cons, a good portion of the Con should have seen the bar buzzing with people rubbing shoulders and chinking glasses, and from time to time it was. Surprisingly, there was less of this than expected, mainly because so many of the attendees were going to panels, which in some cases came as a surprise even to them. So while there was less action in the bar than we are used to, the panels were humming and people were networking and fan fund delegates were hanging out and talking community-building while peddling raffle tickets and auction lots. I am not quite sure the Suncourt knew what they were letting themselves in for when they agreed to our booking the place out for a convention, but they were amazing hosts as well, and everything went off about as smoothly as we could have hoped.

(16) SCHRODINGER’S 7-11. Fast Company says “Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete”.

While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store–or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles–still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you’re bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer.

Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”

Cat Eldridge sent the link with a comment, “Interesting idea but expecting it to be viable in ethic communities where a bodega or the cultural equivalent is as much community centre as store is incredible culturally naive.”

Where Cat lives, “We have, other than gas stations that carry a range of stuff this plans on carrying, exactly one English language as first tongue convenience shop for the twenty thousand inhabitants of the peninsula. But there’s dozens of ethically based shops including Central American, Middle Eastern, African, Russian and at least one Armenian one.”

And to see the Bodega Cats, er, SJW Credentials mentioned in the above article, click here, Instagram has photos.

@whiskeygems

A post shared by Bodega Cats (@bodegacatsofinstagram) on

(17) BRIGHT. Will Smith in Bright available on Netflix starting December 22.

In an alternate present-day where magical creatures live among us, two L.A. cops become embroiled in a prophesied turf battle. Stars Will Smith.

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace

 

(18) LEAGUE OF GODS. Out on DVD.

Based on the 16th-century Chinese novel Feng Shen Yan Yi (The Investiture of the Gods), the story tells of how King Zhou of Shang becomes a tyrant due to the wiles of Daji, a vixen spirit who is disguised as one of his concubines.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was literally that much thought.

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

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

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

 

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not good for ratings.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartman explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/17 That Hideous Scroll

(1) EUROFANDOM. Fandom Rover launched today, a new blog focused on Polish sf conventions.

Hello, I’m Marcin, but my fandom nickname is Alqua. I created this blog to write about conventions and fandom in different countries. I live in Poland, so you will probably find a lot of posts about Polish conventions here, but you can expect some information about European fandom, too, as I try to attend cons in other countries as well.

The first post is “Understanding Polish conventions”

We have a lot of conventions. Depending on what events one will count, they may get numbers reaching even 100 per year. If you will be more picky about what you may call a convention, you will still have around 40 or 60 events every year. This means that there should be at least 1 convention per week (maximum 2 weeks). This is partially true, however, most of the conventions take place around summer months, and winter is much less popular for conrunners. Of course not all of the events are SF conventions – some are devoted to SF/F or to manga & anime, some are big LARPs, some are furry conventions and others are devoted to specific franchises (like Doctor Who or Star Wars).

(2) THE WATER WE SWIM IN. The Washington Post’s Zachary Pincus-Roth, in “Aliens as immigrants: How ‘Arrival’ became the latest political sci-fi film”, interviews Arrival producer Shawn Levy, District 9 screenwriter Terri Tatchell, and Tufts University political scientist Daniel Drezner, author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies, about the role politics plays in science fiction films.

“It’s turned out to be loaded with political commentary,” “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy says of the movie’s reflection of the immigration issue, “something our filmmaking team doesn’t regret, but this was largely unanticipated.”

The film’s political themes were intended to be more timeless. “The movie was always a commentary on a world that is often prone to fracturing,” Levy says. “It invests in the faith that cooperation among nations beyond borders can lead to global benefits.”

(3) GENERAL SEMANTICS AND SF. A panel on “Science Fiction, Language and General Semantics” will be hosted by the New York Society for General Semantics on March 1. Free to the public, but registration is required.

Science fiction has long been associated with spaceships, alien beings, futuristic technologies, and the like. But the genre has also provided an opportunity to speculate about the future of human consciousness, about modes of perception and communication, and about language and symbols.

Not surprisingly, general semantics, as a discipline based on applying a scientific approach to thought and action, has influenced science fiction in a number of ways. Science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert were familiar with general semantics and incorporated concepts learned from Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa into their novels and short stories. Through them, the influence of general semantics spread to the fiction of Philip K. Dick, and the films of George Lucas. Moreover, novelists William S. Burroughs and L. Ron Hubbard were students of general semantics, while a fictional (and less than flattering) version of the Institute of General Semantics appears in the Jean Luc-Godard film, Alphaville.

More generally, questions concerning language, meaning, and consciousness have been incorporated into science fiction narratives, for example the presence of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation in The Matrix, references to Julian Jaynes in HBO’s remake of Westworld, and in the problematic nature of translation in stories such as Samuel R. Delaney’s Babel-17, Stanslaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice, and the recent film, Arrival.

Clearly, this is a topic for discussion that is, in many ways, out of this world. so come join us for a panel featuring:

  • Marleen S. Barr, Science Fiction Critic and Novelist
  • Paul Levinson, Past President of the SFFWA and Novelist
  • Lance Strate, NYSGS President and Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
  • Ed Tywoniak, Editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics and Professor of Communication, Saint Mary’s College of California

(4) HOLE IN THEIR POCKETS. Jim C. Hines continues slicing and dicing his data in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 5: Miscellaneous Data”.

Who Lost Money in 2016?

One thing I found interesting — of the 371 people who provided gross income and expenses data, 63 ended up with a net loss in 2016. In other words, roughly one out of six published novelists lost money last year.

17 of these identified as full-time writers, with the other 46 being part-time. Looking at the overall number of full- and part-time respondents, the part-time authors were disproportionately more likely to end up in the red.

(5) BEEN THERE. An Apollo 11 Space-Flown U.S. Flag went for $25,623 (including buyer’s premium) in an auction by the Nate D. Sanders firm this week.

(6) USING THE OLD BEAN. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is honoring “Homer at the Bat” and ‘inducting’ Homer Simpson into Cooperstown. Cut4.com has the story.

The Hall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the episode on May 27 during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. Festivities will include appearances by Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith — both of whom guest-starred in the episode — at a discussion featuring members of The Simpsons team who put the episode together.

 

(7) PAXTON OBIT. Actor Bill Paxton died suddenly today due to complications of surgery. He was 61. Although better known for his non-genre performances in Titanic and Twister, his resume is studded with roles in high-profile sf movie and TV productions such as The Terminator, Aliens, Weird Science, Predator 2, Future Shock, Apollo 13 (as astronaut Fred Haise), Mighty Joe Young, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, The Colony, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as John Garrett), and Edge of Tomorrow.

(8) FINGLETON OBIT. Game of Thrones star Neil Fingleton has died at the age of 36. The story in The Guardian says —

Once named as Britain’s tallest man, the 7ft 7in star played Mag the Mighty in the fantasy series and also took on roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. According to reports, he passed away following heart failure on Saturday.

(9) WAPNER OBIT. Judge Joseph Wapner died February 26 reports the Washington Post. I was going to run this item anyway, but a check of IMDB revealed he actually has a genre credit. Wapner appeared in the pilot episode of Sliders in 1995.

Joseph A. Wapner, a retired California judge whose flinty-folksy style of resolving disputes on the show “The People’s Court” helped spawn an entire genre of courtroom-based reality television with no-nonsense jurists and often clueless litigants, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97….

Within a few years of its debut, the program regularly attracted 20 million viewers. One measure of its success was a Washington Post survey in 1989 that showed that 54 percent of Americans could identify Judge Wapner compared with 9 percent who could name the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist….

Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Tell A Fairy Tale Day is all about exploring myths and stories, old and new. From grim(m) tales to urban legends, tap the dark corners of your subconscious.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 26, 1963 — NASA announced that Venus is about 800 degrees F.
  • February 26, 2005 — The Razzies held their 25th annual ceremony at Hollywood’s historic Ivar Theatre. Making a surprise appearance was Halle Berry, an Oscar winner for Best Actress in Monster’s Ball (2001), who showed up to accept that year’s Razzie for Worst Actress for the title role in the poorly received action extravaganza Catwoman.

(12) NEATNESS COUNTS.

(13) PUB QUIZ. The Sci-Fi London Pub Quiz will happen Tuesday, May 2. The Clarke Award’s Tom Hunter explains —

[W]e’re again joining forces with the team at the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, and we’re aim to celebrate Sir Arthur’s centenary year and raise some money for two excellent causes in the best way we know how, with an EPIC PUB QUIZ.

Tickets are on sale now and already selling well, but we’ve plenty of tables left and we’re looking for teams to compete.

Tickets cost £5 per head (in a team of 6, that’s £30 a table!) and all proceeds go to two amazing charities.

Science Fiction fans, authors, artists, agents, publishers and enthused newbies, we want you all!

GET TICKETS >>

Here are the two great organisations we’re aiming to support with this year’s quiz:

STEMettes, who inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes. http://www.stemettes.org

Rebuilding Sri Lanka. The Asian tsunami on the 26th December 2004 killed over 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.Over a million people were left homeless. Thousands were destitute. Rebuilding Sri Lanka has been active since the day of the disaster and continues to provide support, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and shelter to those affected by the disaster. http://www.rebuildingsrilanka.org.uk

(14) LOOKING FOR IDEAS. Black Gate has compiled Rich Horton’s recent blog posts in “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2017”, including numerous recommendations in the fan categories which few people discuss.

Best Fan Writer

The first thing I’ll do here is mention myself. I am a fan writer (at least my blog writing and my stuff for Black Gate qualifies, if perhaps not my work for Locus, which I guess is now officially professional). I would note in particular my reviews of old magazines at Black Gate, particularly Amazing and Fantastic in the Cele Goldsmith Lalli era, and my various reviews of Ace Doubles (and other SF) at Strange at Ecbatan (and often linked from Black Gate.) I would be greatly honored if anyone thought my work worthy of a Best Fan Writer nomination.

But of course there are many wonderful fan writers out there. For years I have been nominating Abigail Nussbaum, especially for her blog Asking the Wrong Questions, and I see no reason not to do so again this year. I will note in particular her review of Arrival, which captured beautifully the ways in which the movie falls short of the original story, but still acknowledges the movie’s strengths.

Another fan writer who has attracted my notice with some interesting posts is Camestros Felapton. Some of the most interesting work there regarded (alas) the Puppy Kerfuffles, and I was quite amused by this Map of the Puppy Kerfuffle. But the blog is much more than Puppy commentary – indeed, it’s much more than SF commentary. In the more traditional fanwriting area, I can point to the most recent entry (as I write), a well-done review of Greg Egan’s Diaspora.

Another possibility is Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank. The site is run by Greg along with his partner Eric Wong, and both deserve a lot of credit – I mention Greg in particular because of articles like his analysis of the effect of slate voting on the 2016 Hugos.

One of my favorite fan writers does a lot of his stuff in a place relatively few people see, but he has begun to review Amazing Stories for Galactic Journey. This is John Boston, and his work can be found here. The conceit at Galactic Journey is that magazines from 55 years ago are reviewed, with an attempt to make the reviews reflect only knowledge up to the point of publication of the magazine. (It will be obvious to anyone who reads my stuff at Black Gate that this sort of thing is right up my alley, and in particular that reviews of Amazing from the early ‘60s are of special interest, as I am (in a somewhat less disciplined fashion) trying to look at and write about as many issues of Amazing and Fantastic edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli as I can.)) A couple of years ago John (along with Damien Broderick) published a series of books reviewing every issue of New Worlds and Science Fantasy from the Carnell era, which gives another look at his credentials as a fan writer.

And finally I think there are a number of people at Black Gate worthy of a look. Too many to mention, perhaps, but one who definitely deserves recognition is the editor, John O’Neill, who also does a great deal of writing for the site.

(15) BACK TO MIDAMERICON II. Melanie Marttila continues her series of posts about programs at MidAmeriCon II with “WorldCon 2016: The dark side of fairy tales”.

Panellists: Ellen Datlow, Brooke Johnson, Erin Wilcox (moderator), Sandee Rodriguez, Dana Cameron

Joined in progress …

DC: Fairy tales are the intersection between the known and the unknown in a way that other stories aren’t.

BJ: Tone is the defining quality. It’s a sense of magic realism or normalized magic. I’m currently reading the Turnip Princess. It’s meant to be read. Oral storytelling. Fairy tales are mythic, grand and meaningful, larger-than-life, and yet the things that happen are everyday occurrences to the characters of the story.

SR: Folk tales have the element of reality. Fairy tales have no sense of history.

DC: Domesticity is addressed in fairy tales….

Find the rest of her series here.

(16) MARTIAN SCIENCE. At NPR, Jacqueline Miller and Thomas Max Roberts discuss “Science Is Cool In ‘The Martian.’ Can It Be Compelling In The Classroom, Too?”

Can learning science be as compelling as applying science is in the movie? Yes. Giving our science students frequent and ongoing opportunities to investigative and problem-solve in the classroom is a start. Students thrive when they are allowed to focus on a problem in depth, apply their learning to real-world situations, and experiment, transferring new knowledge to address a challenge or answer a question.

Reviewers have called “The Martian” a “love letter to science.” It should be required viewing for all middle and high school students, and it should serve as a call to action for improving science education.

How exciting would it be to hear your student, when confronted with a challenge in science, exclaim, “We’re going to have to science the s— out of this!”

(17) FELGERCARB! But in a new edition of The Martian nobody is sciencing the “s—“ out of anything. Bad language has been modified to make the book usable in schools: “Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover”.

After getting dozens of inquiries from teachers, Mr. Weir, who describes himself as “a lifelong space nerd,” asked his publisher, Crown, if they could release a cleaned-up edition of the book.

The novel was pretty easy to amend, by simply replacing the foul language with tamer words like “screwed,” “jerk” and “crap” (Mr. Weir said there were “occasional squabbles” when he tried to lobby the censors to keep some of the less offensive swear words in.) A kid-friendly version came out last year, and it is now being used to help teach science in classrooms around the country.

At Synergy Quantum Academy, a public charter high school in South Los Angeles, students are conducting experiments based on the novel. In physics class, students will build miniature solar-powered cars, and during astronomy next month, they will try to grow potatoes as Watney did, using a chamber modeled on NASA’s Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

(18) FUTURE SCIENCE. David Winnick looks ahead to technological predictions that haven’t happened yet at Quirk Books.

Penfield Wave Transmitter – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Depression and loneliness can be tough sometimes, even for Rick and Iran Deckard. While most people know Rick from Blade Runner, the famous Ridley Scott film adaption of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the original Rick Deckard is quite different. Deckard wakes up in the morning and dials in the emotion he wants for the day on his Penfield Wave Transmitter, a device which controls feelings. Unfortunately for Deckard, he and his wife, Iran, have different ideas about how he should be feeling.

As countless speculative fiction works have shown us, controlling emotions almost always gets people into sticky territory (we’re thinking of The Stepford Wives and shuddering). As useful as the Penfield Wave Transmitter could be, maybe it’s best to leave that tech idea on the shelf.

(19) STONE AGE MUSIC. “The Flintstones Variations for Piano Solo” performed by Ilan Rechtman.

(20) SPACE AGE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping is suggesting that their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery be submitted for a Hugo:

Even if voters take their subtle hint, Clipping would not be the first group to have a nominated music album. That was Jefferson Starship with Blows Against the Empire (1970). True, not many musical performances have made the Hugo ballot – the most recent was Rachel Bloom’s music video, F*** Me, Ray Bradbury (2010). And I don’t remember any in between.

According to the Wikipedia, Splendor & Misery

…follows the story of a person in outer space referred to as Cargo #2331. The musical instrumentations being a mix of futuristic and classical, tells the story of a slave in the future in outer space.

(21) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. George R.R. Martin is also beating a drum for some candidates in “Hugo Thoughts: Best Professional Editor, Long Form”.

JANE JOHNSON

Jane is the editor and publisher of HarperCollins Voyager, one of the leading publishers of SF and fantasy in the United Kingdom. British editors are eligible for the Hugo, just like their American counterparts, but they are NEVER nominated, no matter how great their accomplishments… and that’s bollocks, as the Brits might say. Jane is one of the towering figures in our field across the pond, yet she’s never been recognized, and it is bloody well time that she was.

It would be useful if Martin went back and added the titles of the 2016 books these editors worked on, as this is not a lifetime achievement award.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/17 The Pixelated Things Apply As Time Scrolls By

(1) MONEY MANAGEMENT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch counsels authors in “Business Musings: Writer Finances Versus The Paycheck World”.

Here’s a piece of advice you don’t hear very often:

Pay off your house.

Seriously, my writer friends. If you get a lump sum of money, pay off your house.

Or your car.

Definitely pay off your credit cards, and take them out of your wallet. Use them only when you travel to a conference or plan to make a big purchase.

If the indie writers who made a lot of money in 2012-2014 had followed that advice, they’d still be writing and publishing. Sure, their incomes would still be down, along with their sales, but their careers would continue.

How do I know they didn’t do that? Because they’re gone. Mark Coker commented on it in his year-end blog. Writers in the comment section on this blog have mentioned that they’re leaving the business. The Kindle Boards discuss all the writers no one hears from any more.

And if you go to writer website after writer website, many of them for successful indies, you’ll see sites that haven’t been updated for a year or two, or you won’t find any site at all.

What happened?

(2) COLLECTIBLES. The March WIRED has a photo essay called “Scene Stealers:  Inside The Deeply Nerdy–And Insanely Expensive–World of Hollywood Prop Collectors.” (Online here.)  This tells us that you don’t just want a phaser from the original Star Trek –you want a “hero phaser,” created by designer Wah Chang for close-ups, because only two were made.  But if you want the Aries 1 Translunar Shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ve been outbid by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who spent $344,000 on it for a museum the academy plans to open in 2018.

The 2006 Worldcon makes an appearance, because the hero blaster used by Rick Deckard in Blade Runner showed up there after most collectors thought this prop had been lost because no one had seen it for over two decades.

(3) READING THE TEA LEAVES. If you want to know “How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse”, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Emily Feng will tell you – it’s the internet.

Chen Qiufan, a sci-fi writer who has won the Milky Way Award and Xingyun Award, China’s equivalent of the Hugo, remembers life before the web changed everything. “All we could do was write in paperback books and magazines. We sent out our stories on paper by mail,” Chen told Foreign Policy. Sending them out and waiting for a response and feedback took a long time — sometimes forever.” But the early 2000s saw an explosion of dedicated online sci-fi forums that allowed writers and fans to mingle virtually, swapping stories, publishing serialized works, and exchanging intense feedback. Social media sites like Baidu Tieba, the arts and literature-focused site Douban, and college messaging boards hosted the most active online communities.

Suddenly, anyone could be a writer; and writers could get instant, massive feedback on draft work. This development was particularly important for the heretofore much-ignored genre of sci-fi; a large portion of today’s most well known and decorated Chinese science fiction writers did not start inside the formal publishing and literary world.

… “In print publishing it was always difficult” for science fiction, said Michel Hock, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the author of a book on Chinese internet literature. “The state still owns most of the publishing houses, and state ideology is very ambivalent about literature that caters to mass taste.”

Hock noted that “the Communist Party represents the masses, but does not like the masses’ taste very much.”

(4) REGENERATIONS. At CBR.com, Charles Pau Hoffman asks, “Is Marvel Finally Embracing Legacy Characters with Generations?”

For decades, legacy heroes have been associated strongly with DC Comics rather than Marvel, and for understandable reasons. Apart from DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, most of its big name superheroes were reimagined into younger, more modern incarnations during the Silver Age. While DC’s creators eventually settled on the idea of the multiverse as the in-universe explanation for two radically-different Flashes or Green Lanterns, these stories helped to build an expectation among readers that as characters aged, they might be replaced.

The DC Universe is full of legacy heroes; there are now enough Green Lanterns to necessitate a whole Corps, nearly as many Flashes, and more Robins (and former Robins) than grains of sand on the beach. While the focus ebbs and flows between the iconic versions and their legacies, the idea of legacy heroes is so engrained in DC Comics that not even the New 52 could kill it.

While legacy heroes have traditionally been more associated with DC, in the past few years Marvel has leaned hard into the concept. Practically every major Marvel hero now has a legacy of one sort or another: Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster proved she was worthy of wielding Mjolnir, Miles Morales is swinging around New York with Peter Parker’s blessing, Kamala Khan has taken Ms. Marvel’s battle for justice to Jersey City, and even Nick Fury, Jr., is upping his spy game as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And that’s not even getting to Kate Bishop, Sam Alexander, Amadeus Cho, Laura Kinney, Riri Williams, Viv, the Original 5 X-Men, and an unending list of Young Avengers, New X-Men and Spider-Women…

Last week, Marvel released an incredible new piece of art by Alex Ross, accompanied by four simple words: “GENERATIONS – coming Summer 2017.” It is not clear yet whether “Generations” will be a new prestige miniseries, event, or line-wide rebranding a la Marvel NOW, but the name and image highly suggest whatever “Generations” is, it will focus on the idea of legacy heroes in the Marvel Universe.

(5) COMICS ART. Elle Collins curates a gallery of Silver Age sci-fi comic book covers at Comics Alliance.

While the Golden Age established comics as a medium, the Silver Age was when comic book art really came into its own. And it’s worth noting that comics’ Silver Age corresponded with a wider cultural fascination with science fiction. The actual Space Race was in full swing, and everybody was thinking about rocket ships, alien monsters, and the wonders of science.

In comics, it was science fiction that gave comics artists the freedom to go big. Giant monsters, futuristic technology, and huge-scale threats to the entire Earth became commonplace. And of course everyone had their own ideas about what aliens might look like, from the typical little green men with antennae to yellow giants with segmented eyes and butterfly wings for ears.

In assembling this Silver Age sci-fi gallery, I looked for covers that had more science fiction elements to them than just giant monsters, because while there’s overlap, I think giant monsters deserve their own gallery. I also avoided superheroes, because while so many of their stories are science fiction by nature, we understand superheroes as a different genre. Plus this whole gallery could easily be filled up with Fantastic Four and Green Lantern covers, but that would be a different thing. Sci-fi heroes like Adam Strange and Captain Comet were allowed, on the other hand.

(6) NANCY WILLARD OBIT. Black Gate reports the passing of author Nancy Willard, June 26, 1936 – February 19, 2017.

Nancy Willard was the author of more than 70 books, including more than 40 books for children, such as the Anatole trilogy, Firebrat (1988), East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989), and Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (1991), illustrated by the Dillons. She won the Newbery Award in 1982 for her book of poetry, William Blake’s Inn, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. It was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery.

Willard’s Things Invisible to See won the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for first fantasy book (1986).

The family obituary is here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY HOBBIT

  • Born February 25, 1971 – Sean Astin

(8) PATRON OF THE ARTS. Ray Bradbury was on the Chamber Symphony Society of California’s board of directors, as this 1973 clipping reminds us.

(9) HELLO, CENTRAL? In “The Coming Amnesia”, Geoff Manaugh explores a prediction made by Alistair Reynolds that if the universe keeps expanding, galaxies wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other and any interstellar civilizations would be unable to contact any other ones.

As the universe expands over hundreds of billions of years, Reynolds explained, there will be a point, in the very far future, at which all galaxies will be so far apart that they will no longer be visible from one another.

Upon reaching that moment, it will no longer be possible to understand the universe’s history—or perhaps even that it had one—as all evidence of a broader cosmos outside of one’s own galaxy will have forever disappeared. Cosmology itself will be impossible.

In such a radically expanded future universe, Reynolds continued, some of the most basic insights offered by today’s astronomy will be unavailable. After all, he points out, “you can’t measure the redshift of galaxies if you can’t see galaxies. And if you can’t see galaxies, how do you even know that the universe is expanding? How would you ever determine that the universe had had an origin?”

There would be no reason to theorize that other galaxies had ever existed in the first place. The universe, in effect, will have disappeared over its own horizon, into a state of irreversible amnesia.

…It is worth asking here, however briefly and with multiple grains of salt, if something similar has perhaps already occurred in the universe we think we know today—if something has not already disappeared beyond the horizon of cosmic amnesia—making even our most well-structured, observation-based theories obsolete. For example, could even the widely accepted conclusion that there was a Big Bang be just an ironic side-effect of having lost some other form of cosmic evidence that long ago slipped eternally away from view?

Remember that these future astronomers will not know anything is missing. They will merrily forge ahead with their own complicated, internally convincing new theories and tests. It is not out of the question, then, to ask if we might be in a similarly ignorant situation.

(10) THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Dave Langford reports that in addition to their 2017 TAFF ballot platforms, all three candidates have since posted campaign material online. Click on each name for more: Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, John Purcell.

(11) INTELLIGENT TALK. Kim Stanley Robinson and a non-genre author will be interviewed by Adam Roberts at Waterstones in London on April 3.

Waterstones Piccadilly is delighted to announce a very special event featuring three exceptional authors.  Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford will be discussing their work with critic and author Adam Roberts.

Kim Stanley Robinson is widely regarded as one of the foremost living writers of science-fiction. Author of the bestselling Mars trilogy as well as numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, he has won many awards over the years, including multiple Hugo and Nebula prizes.

Francis Spufford teaches writing at Goldsmiths University and has written 5 highly-acclaimed works of non-fiction. His first fiction title, Golden Hill, was a Waterstones Book of the Month and won the 2016 Costa Prize for First Novel.

Adam Roberts has written an extensive collection of works in both the fiction and critical genres. Author of some wonderfully original science-fiction and parody titles, Adam teaches English literature and writing at Royal Holloway University.

(13) NOT BEEN BERRY BERRY GOOD. The 2017 Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a. The Razzies, highlighting the “cinematic sludge” of the past year, were announced today.

WORST PICTURE

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTOR

Dinesh D’Souza in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST ACTRESS

The “Actress” Who Plays Hillary Clinton in Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kristen Wiig / Zoolander No. 2

WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jesse Eisenberg / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREEN COMBO

Ben Affleck & His BFF (Baddest Foe Forever) Henry Cavill / Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST DIRECTOR

Dinesh D’Souza & Bruce Schooley / Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF or SEQUEL

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

WORST SCREENPLAY

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

RAZZIE® REDEEMER AWARD

2014 Worst Supporting Actor nominee Mel Gibson, for his Oscar-nominated direction of Hacksaw Ridge

 

(14) HOW HARD IS YOUR SF? Futurism groks the fullness: “How Scientifically Accurate Is Your Favorite Sci-Fi Film?”

“Minority Report”

If you can look past the draconian dystopia of the world presented in the movie, you’ll find a lot of interesting scientific details “Minority Report” strived to get correct. Steven Spielberg consulted with computer engineers to come up with the now-iconic vision of the next gen computer systems. While our current touchscreen devices aren’t exactly what was depicted in the film, we are getting closer to gesture-based interfaces.

(15) INKSTAINED WRETCH. Jon Skovron, author of Hope and Red and Bane and Shadow, gives us an insight into how he writes, from first draft to the final book.

(16) THUG NOTES OF GENRE INTEREST. Selected by John King Tarpinian.

  • 1984

  • BRAVE NEW WORLD

  • FAHRENHEIT 451

  • A HANDMAID’S TALE

(17) SUMMER CAMP. Tor.com says “Shared Worlds is Now Open for Registration!” Shared Worlds is supported by co-director Jeff VanderMeer and Editor-in-Residence Ann VanderMeer.

Shared Worlds, a world-building summer camp for kids, is now open for registration. The program is open to rising 8th-12th graders, and will take place from July 16th-29th at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Registration will be open until April 1st so be sure to register soon!

The students work in small groups with an experienced “world-building coordinator” to design and build a world, spending a week building their worlds from the ground up: geography, population, religion and philosophy, legal systems—everything you’d need for a functional world. The second week is spent writing stories that can only occur in the worlds they’ve created. The program culminates in individual sessions between the students and the guest authors so the students get personalized feedback on their work. Finally, the students’ stories are published in the annual program anthology.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/16 I Never Thought I’d Be Playing The Straight Pixel To A Tin Scroll

(1) STORIES TO NAVIGATE BY. WIRED editor Scott Dadich introduces their first all-science-fiction issue: “Science Fiction Helps Make Sense of an Uncertain Future”.

Why fiction? Glad you asked. We live in uncertain times. One of this publication’s most important jobs is to see the big trends, spot important business models, and chronicle landmark innovations that show us where we’re going. But right now, that is hard to do. In this rapidly changing, aggressively agitated moment, it’s very difficult to discern what the future holds.

So we decided to consider things a little more obliquely. Sometimes to get a clearer sense of reality, you have to take some time to dream.

To this end, we reached out to a number of our favorite fiction authors and gave them a simple mission: Pick a plausible innovation or change in the world and spin out a near-term scenario. Don’t stick to the current moment. See where your mind goes. Imagine. Have fun.

That’s not to say the stories themselves are all about fun. Many are quite dystopic. N. K. Jemisin—whose novel The Fifth Season won the 2016 Hugo award—spins a cautionary tale about resource depletion and interplanetary relations. The duo that goes by the pen name James S. A. Corey, creators of The Expanse, imagines a world with a universal basic income—and what we are left wanting. Charles Yu, who writes for HBO’s Westworld, examines what life will be like when machines can read our thoughts. Etgar Keret, the celebrated Israeli fiction author, writes about … well, just read it. And in his refreshing “review,” Glen David Gold, the author of Carter Beats the Devil, shows us what we will have to endure in the movie theater someday in the future.

(2) DOWN WITH FAKE NEWS, Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, has donated $1 million to The Poynter Institute. The gift will support a five-year program at Poynter that focuses on verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism.

The Craig Newmark Foundation, the charitable organization established by Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, is giving Poynter $1 million to fund a faculty chair in journalism ethics.

The gift will support a five-year program at Poynter that focuses on verification, fact-checking and accountability in journalism. It’s the largest donation Poynter’s ever received from an individual foundation.

The Newmark Chair will expand on Poynter’s teaching in journalism ethics and develop certification programs for journalists that commit to ethical decision-making practices. The faculty member will also organize an annual conference on ethics issues at Poynter and be a regular contributor to Poynter.org.

Poynter will begin accepting applications for the job in January.

“I want to stand up for trustworthy journalism, and I want to stand against deceptive and fake news,” Newmark, founder of Craigslist and the Craig Newmark Foundation, said in a statement. “And I want to help news organizations stand and work together to protect themselves and the public against deception by the fake media. Poynter’s the right place to do this work because the Institute has long been very serious about trustworthy news and committed to both training journalists and holding media organizations accountable.”

(3) THIS IS, APPARENTLY, REAL NEWS. Blastr’s Cher Martinetti scoffs at the UN stripping Wonder Woman of her honorary title.

Wonder Woman’s role as an honorary ambassador to the UN has come to an abrupt end less than two months after receiving the designation, due to the backlash the appointment received. Some felt that the character’s sexualization was sending the “wrong message” to young girls, and in a move that was every bit the opposite of empowerment, protested and petitioned the character as a symbol for gender equality. Because nothing says women are equal and empowered more than other women slut-shaming them.

The 45,000 signatures that signed the petition against Wonder Woman’s honorary title, and those who protested the event a couple months back, are a sobering reminder of how we, as women, can’t get out of our own way when it comes to equality and progress. We’re taught at a young age to be shameful of our bodies, that our sexuality should be oppressed, and that other women are our competition and, at times, the enemy. We’re trained to look for the flaws in other females first and weaponize them to take them down. For those 45,000-plus people, of course their only focus was the imagined over-sexualization of a character who was so progressive that she graced the cover of the very first issue of Ms. magazine. You know, since Gloria Steinem is wont to praise women who aren’t empowered….

(4) HE BLINDED US WITH SCIENCE. Camestros Felapton has invented the tool we’ve all been waiting for – “The Thermodynamic Model for Distinguishing Fictional Science from Fictional Magic”.

Oh, the age old problem! Any sufficiently fictional technology is indistinguishable from fictional magic. Faster than light drives? Going really fast magic! Psychic powers? Mind magic with a sciency name. Teleportation? Vanishing magic! Robots? Golems! Viral zombies? Actual zombies!

Well a crack team has been working on this problem here at Felapton Towers and we’ve come up with the Thermodynamic Model for Distinguishing Fictional Science from Fictional Magic.

(5) MIND TRICKS FOR THE EYES. The Washington Post has a review by David Betancourt of Pablo Hidalgo’s “Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy.” It’s a book of propaganda posters for both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance and is really good commercial art. The publisher is Harper Design.

“Propaganda” takes key incidents from “Star Wars” and politicizes them through art. Turning these pages, you’ll see appeals to creatures of the Dark Side and to disciples of the Force. Every opinion on the battle is represented. Some of these posters want you to believe the Death Star is the worst thing ever; others claim those pesky Jedi are the real menace.

Guided by the words of official Star Wars expert Pablo Hidalgo, “Propaganda” is a galactic history lesson, offering even the most devoted fans a deep dive into corners of the George Lucas films they may not have known.

starwarspropaganda%20hc%20c-wdp

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke, of Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang fame.

(7) RAVE ABOUT YOUR FAVE. RedStarReviews has named its favorite book of 2016. Don’t be fooled by the graphical structure of the post, Ancillary Justice is not that book. It is —

Jeffrey Alan Love for his book: Notes From The Shadowed City!

This book is AMAZING! It is an illustrated tale of a man who has forgotten who he is while finding himself inside a magical city filled with dark and dangerous wonder. I love the artwork and was completely captivated by the story. This is a book to fire up the imaginations of the readers! A fantasy that introduces you to some of the lessor known magical swords hidden away within the Shadowed City. This beat Passage At Arms, The Incorruptibles, Children Of Fire and all others to carry away the award this year!

(8) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #15. The fifteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of Lyda Morehouse’s Resurrection Code. She’ll be sending a copy to each of the top three bidders, which is pretty cool.

Today’s auction is a little different. Lyda Morehouse will be sending an autographed trade paperback of her book RESURRECTION CODE to the top three bidders! That’s right, we have three copies to give away, which means triple the chances to win!

About the Book:

Where were you the day the Aswan dams broke? It’s the question that defines my generation. Me, I was stuck in British School al-Rehab hundreds of kilometers from the destruction that plunged North Africa into darkness and drowned twenty million people as massive floods reclaimed the ancient Nile valley. We watched the privileged and the sane abandon Egypt to the criminals, prostitutes, and a mysterious murderous cult of Osiris known as the Deadboys. Not much of the capitol remained, and my life really went to hell.

But that’s not where my story really starts.

My story starts the day I, Christian El-Aref, distinguished myself from the thousands of Cairo street rats and became the Mouse. And I had that dead UN soldier whose body that I, quite literally, stumbled over to thank for it all. Now, if only I can keep myself from getting murdered…

Also included: Morehouse’s AngeLINK-related short story, “ishtartu,” from the Lambda Award-nominated collection Periphery.

(9) BEWARE, GOD-SPOILERS! Fletcher Vredenburgh praises P.C Hodgell’s work at Black Gate – “Last of a Series… For Now: The Sea of Time by P.C. Hodgell”

Lastly, all those things I called out Hodgell for including, they’re all good — I wanted more pages, not less stuff. The Kencyrath and Rathilien are two of the most developed creations in any fantasy books I’ve ever read. For over a thousand pages now, Hodgell has been exploring the whys and wherefores of Kencyrath society and beliefs. The same thing goes for Rathilien. Each book has raised new questions and she’s never seen fit to leave them unaddressed. Doing that, she’s made her invented world and its inhabitants come to life, invested with brio and never seeming untrue.

Here are links to his previous reviews — God Stalk, Dark of the Moon, Seeker’s Mask, To Ride a Rathorn, Bound in Blood, and Honor’s Paradox.

(10) SEQUEL STALK! He also reminds us that author Hodgell says Baen will bring out the next book in her series in July 2017.

A couple of readers have asked me about this, and I just realized that I hadn’t generally announced it:  Baen tells me that The Gates of Tagmeth is due out next July.  At that point they will have had the ms in their hands for 14 months.  Why the delay?  I don’t know.  Sorry about that. My agent is working on a contract for the return to Tai-tastigon novel.  I’m a bit nervous about revisiting the city after all of these years.  For one thing, my style has changed a lot since God Stalk.  I think that, technically, I’m a better writer now.  However, I don’t think I still have the youthful bounce that made GS so much fun.  After all, for me it’s been 30+ years.  It will be different for Jame too.  A lot has happened in her life too although it’s only been about 4 years.  That will be an issue:  how much has she changed?  Then too, the city is in a bit of a mess.  So we’ll see.  I’ve carried this extended story in my mind for a long, long time.

(11) GAMERS AND SFWA. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has posted an update to its game-writing membership qualifications.

After long deliberation, the Board has voted to change the qualifications, and the motion has passed. I welcome feedback on this iteration; I consider these things something that changes and adapts on an ongoing basis as the publishing world changes.

The complaints we heard were about the exclusion of salaried writers, the limit on number of collaborators, since collaboration in games is a different model than stories or novels, and the exclusion of game mechanics.

Here are the new qualifications:

Games in any medium may be used for qualification so long as the game has a narrative element, is in English, and in the science fiction, fantasy, horror or related genres.

Prospective members working on games may qualify by showing a sale or income in one of three ways:

  1. By making at least one paid sale of a minimum of 40,000 words to a qualified market, or three paid sales to qualified markets totaling at least 10,000 words. Game publishers may be designated as qualified markets using the already established process and criteria used to qualify fiction markets.
  2. By showing they have earned a net income of at least $3,000 from a game that includes at least 40,000 words of text over the course of a 12-month period since January 1, 2013. Income can be in the form of advance, royalties, or some combination of the three.
  3. If no word count is possible, such as work done for a video game, prospective members can qualify based on one professionally produced full-length game for which they were paid at least $3,000.

Money from crowd-funding campaigns can be used as part or all of the required income once the game has been delivered to backers, but the amount that can be claimed cannot be more than the net income from the number of games produced and delivered to backers (calculated by the number of backers multiplied by the minimum tier which receives a copy of the game.)

(12) UPROAR OF THE DAY. Yes, there are so many tweetstorms a reader can’t even tell which one triggered this comment:

(13) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. Quick, somebody write this. Oh, somebody already has? But Kepler data says it’s happening in real life — “Scientists think they’ve found a planet with weather so hot, its clouds are vaporized jewels”.

But on a planet as hot as HAT-P-7b, clouds are likely made of materials that have a much higher melting and boiling point; at those temperatures, most compounds would be permanently in their gaseous states. “Something that has the right sort properties is called corundum,” says Armstrong. On Earth, where temperatures are much lower, corundum is found in rocks—the mineral, when combined with the right elements, forms rubies and sapphires. On HAT-P-7b, the mineral might be forming clouds. “It’s a very good possibility that these clouds are made of corundum, and we’re seeing essentially big condensed clouds of minerals being blown across the planet,” says Armstrong.

Scientists can’t tell for sure that these are gem-based clouds because they’re making observations from billions of miles away; they’d need a sample to analyze to confirm.

(14) EVIL IS LOVE SPELLED WRONG. David Ayer and Margot Robbie will be working together again on the all-female DC villains movie Gotham City Sirens.

David Ayer is back in the business of DC comics villains.

The filmmaker, who directed Warner Bros.’ all-bad guy comic book movie Suicide Squad, is reuniting with that film’s star, Margot Robbie, for Gotham City Sirens, a feature project that will showcase the top female villains from the DC stable, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Ayer will direct and produce the project with Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn, the part-time girlfriend of the Joker who is currently DC’s most popular female character. Robbie is also executive producing.

Sirens was a recent comic series from DC that focused on the popular villainesses from Batman’s rogue gallery. Among them were Quinn, Catwoman, Batman’s sometime love interest, and Poison Ivy, who uses plants and their toxins to get what she wants.

(15) BUGS, MR. POTTER! A newly-discovered spider said to resemble the Sorting Hat has been given a Harry Potter-esque nameeriovixa gryffindori.

There the scientists, along with colleague Sumukha J. N., found their own “fantastic beasts,” including one spider that looked like a lady bug and another tiny arachnid that brought their love for Harry Potter full circle.

It was shaded brown, triangular shaped and, Ahmed and Khalep agreed, looked identical to Rowling’s mischievous Sorting Hat.

The hat is a staple at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry Potter and his pals spend most of their time throughout the seven books. Brown and tattered, it is placed on the head of each first year student and, through a slit in the aged brim folds, shouts out the child’s house assignment after a period of pondering.

As you’ll recall, Godric Gryffindor was the original owner of the Sorting Hat.

(16) MARTIAN BLAME GAME. The Washington Post has an interview by Vicky Hallett of Stephen Petranek, whose 2015 book How We’ll Live Life on Mars is the basis for the National Geographic Channel series Mars.  In “Are we really going to land and live on Mars?”, Petranek talks about how he tried to make the TV miniseries as factually accurate as possible and how we had the capacity to go to Mars for 25 years if we hadn’t burned so much money on the space shuttle.

Q: Why has going to Mars seemed so impossible to the public?

A: Part of it is because we didn’t continue to be a space-exploring species after Apollo. There was no particularly good reason to go to the moon. We proved we could do it. Then we didn’t do anything after that. In the 1970s, scientist Wernher von Braun was running around the halls of Congress saying, “I can get humans on Mars.” For at least 30 years, we’ve had the technology. All we did was fly 135 space shuttle missions with nowhere to go. We built the International Space Station, but we weren’t significantly exploring space. People got bored. The only time people paid attention to the space shuttle is when it killed a whole crew. It was supposed to be cheap and reusable, but it cost $1.4 billion every time it went up. We spent $150 billion. If we had one-fourth of that money, we would have had a viable outpost on Mars, and we would have had it for a while.

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

Complaint About Term “Neo-Nazi” Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories

Black Gate published Foz Meadows’ analytical essay “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” (archived version) on December 7.

As it originally appeared, the post included these lines  —

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day, who was not named in Meadows’ piece but is the subject of the linked We Hunted the Mammoth article, immediately published an objection to her “neo-Nazi” characterization, and asked Black Gate to remove it.

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

On December 11, Black Gate truncated its version of Meadows’ post. What remains now are two introductory paragraphs and a link indicating the rest can be read at Amazing Stories. (The link is not yet operative, for reasons outlined below.)

Foz Meadows explained for File 770 the steps that led to her essay originally appearing on Black Gate:

I pitched John a piece about the relationship between politics and SFF back on November 14th; he expressed an interest, and I turned it in to him on December 8th. He read, approved and posted it to the site himself.

The day after it appeared, O’Neill wrote to Meadows discussing reaction to the post.

Checking my email, I found two missives from John on the subject. The first warned me that there was some ugliness about insults and doxing me in VD’s comment thread; he said he’d been getting threats from VD’s readers, that VD himself had sent a lengthy email demanding a retraction, and to let him know if I started getting harassed.

The second email was longer: as VD lives in the EU where there are laws about Nazi affiliations, John said, he (VD) was concerned that being called a neo-Nazi could have adverse legal consequences for him, and though John expressed his agreement with and support of what I’d written, he nonetheless didn’t want to risk Black Gate being the source of an actual legal difficulty for someone else. As such, he asked if I’d consider changing my wording as a personal favour to him. I didn’t want to do that for a number of reasons, not least because we’re at a point in history where refusing to acknowledge the neo-Nazism of the alt-right, with which VD is openly affiliated, is a major contributing factor to its normalisation. To me, this was a statement worth defending. VD denies being a misogynist while saying that women shouldn’t have the right to vote, denies being racist while spouting white supremacist dogma, and denies being homophobic while defining queerness as a defect and a moral failing: that he would additionally deny being a neo-Nazi while defending anti-Semitism and espousing xenophobic, ableist and ultranationalist views, among others, fits the established pattern of his behaviour. His dislike of the label doesn’t moot its applicability, and as I pointed out to John, I’m hardly the first person to call him one, whether online or off. John agreed again, but reiterated his preference that Black Gate not risk responsibility for getting someone else in legal trouble, however hypothetically.

O’Neill proposed several ideas for removing the controversy from Black Gate.

Initially, it was suggested that I could either change my wording in the piece and write a footnote explaining why, or else move it to my own blog with a link remaining at Black Gate. However, John also mentioned that Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories had contacted him in support of what I’d written and was willing to back me up on it, and would I consider transferring the unaltered piece to his site? After a further back and forth with both Steve and John, I agreed to that. However, owing to various emails getting caught in spam filters, there was a miscommunication about timing between Steve and John: Steve wanted to research and write a footnote of his own before posting the piece to Amazing Stories, while John assumed it was good to go. Hence the current state of affairs where the truncated version is up at Black Gate, but linking to a URL that hasn’t yet posted the rest.

Essentially, then the issue is this: a man who happily uses feminazi as an insult, gives commenters who think Nazis are preferable to feminists a space on his blog, and who has publicly said that people have a right to be anti-Semitic, thinks my calling him a neo-Nazi is both inaccurate to the point of being libelous and concrete enough to potentially get him in trouble. Rather ironic, really.

Meadows’ expects the essay to reappear before long at Amazing Stories.

Black Gate’s O’Neill published the essay without having committed to keep it online when the inevitable objection came. That one would be coming could be predicted based on Vox Day’s success in extracting apologies from Tor Books’ Tom Doherty and Irene Gallo  after Gallo referenced the Rabid Puppies as a neo-nazi group on Facebook in 2015.

Pixel Scroll 12/10/16 The Scroll’s My Destination

(1) WIRE TOWN. The UK’s Daily Mail ran a photo gallery, “A city balancing on The Wire: Eerie pictures capture the lonely beauty of Baltimore’s Street corners at night revealing another side to its crime-ravaged neighborhoods”, and contrary to what you might expect from a collection with that title, the first picture is of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society clubhouse.

(2) MY LUNGS REMEMBER SASQUAN. The Darwin Award candidates responsible for the wildfires during Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon, have been sentenced. “Vancouver men who started wildfire ordered to pay state $2.3 million” reports The Oregonian.

Three Vancouver men responsible for setting fire to 110 acres of forest in southwestern Washington have been ordered to pay the state more than $2.3 million in firefighting costs.

The Daily News reports Nathan Taylor was sentenced Monday and all three defendants were ordered to pay damages the state Department of Natural Resources.

Court documents say the fire started July 19, 2015 after Taylor, his brother Adrian Taylor and Michael Estrada Cardenas used propane tanks and soda cans for target practice near Woodland.

(3) ESCAPE FROM SAN QUENTIN. The Public Domain Review has “Astral Travels With Jack London”, a lengthy discussion of Jack London’s great 1914 sf novel The Star Rover. Jack London died in November 1916.

London’s sole foray into the realm of science fiction and fantasy is simultaneously a hard-bitten, minimalist monologue about life in solitary confinement and an exuberant tour of the universe. The book’s narrator, Darrell Standing, moves disarmingly from the agony of his confinement in a strait-jacket to his travel amidst the stars equipped with a glass wand that allows him to access an infinity of past lives, including a fourth-century hermit, a shipwrecked seal-hunter, a medieval swordsman, and a confidant of Pontius Pilate. It is a novel about sensory deprivation in a shared reality, and sensory overload in a private one.

This is a deeply eclectic book. It borrows liberally from the forebears of the fantasy genre: fairy stories, Norse legend, Greek myths. But it also manages to include feuding UC Berkeley scientists, “dope fiends,” Neolithic hunter-gatherers, kimchi, and a journalistic exposé of the modern prison system. The bizarre multiplicity is precisely the point. London’s narrative does many things, but it always seems to circle back to the question of how the worlds encompassed within a single consciousness can interfere with the shared reality of modern society. As we hurtle towards a near future of immersive virtual reality and unceasing digital connectedness, The Star Rover has much to tell us.

(4) NEIL GAIMAN IS THE PRIZE. A reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” by Neil Gaiman is a Worldbuilders Fundraising Reward.

The Worldbuilders charity passed its stretch goal of a million dollars, so I lit a whole bunch of candles, put on a coat once worn by a dead brother in the Stardust movie, and I read Edgar Allan Poe’s poem THE RAVEN by candlelight. You can donate to Worldbuilders at worldbuilders.org. And you should.

 

(5) NUMBER FIVE. The Traveler at Galactic Journey marvels at the recent development of radio astronomy in “[Dec. 10, 1961] By Jove! (Jupiter, the Fifth Planet)”.

In the last ten years or so, a brand new way of looking at Jupiter has been developed.  Light comes in a wide range of wavelengths, only a very small spectrum of which can be detected by the human eye.  Radio waves are actually a form of light, just with wavelengths much longer than we can see.  Not only can radio be used to communicate over long distances, but sensitive receivers can tell a lot about the universe.  It turns out all sorts of celestial objects emit radio waves.

Jupiter is one of those sources.  After this discovery, in 1955, astronomers began tracking the planet’s sporadic clicks and hisses.  It is a hard target because of all of the local interference, from the sun, our ionosphere, and man-made radio sources.  Still, scientists have managed to learn that Jupiter has an ionosphere, too, as well as a strong magnetic field with broad “Van Allen Belts.”  It also appears to be the only planet that broadcasts on the radio band.

Using radio, we will be able to learn much about King Jove long before the first spacecraft probes it (perhaps by 1970 or so).  It’s always good to remember that Space Age research can be done from home as well as in the black beyond.  While I am as guilty as the next fellow of focusing on satellite spectaculars, the bulk of astronomy is done with sounding rockets and ground-based telescopes – not to mention the inglorious drudgery of calculations and report-writing, universal to every science.

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #14. The fourteenth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed coy of Impulse by Steven Gould.

Today’s auction comes from award-winning author and former SFWA president Steven Gould, who’s offering an autographed first edition hardcover copy of his novel IMPULSE, which is currently being developed for a pilot on YouTube Red.

About the Book:

Steven Gould returns to the world of his classic novel Jumper in Impulse.

Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation, with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport, and from the government agencies who want to use his talent. Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. She’s teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her mother and father, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never been in danger.

Until the day when she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time.

(7) TOBLER’S PICKS. The Book Smugglers continue their year-end theme: “Smugglivus 2016: Books That Surprised Me (In a Good Way) by E. Catherine Tobler”. They published Tobler’s short story “The Indigo Mantis” earlier this year.

Bloodline, Claudia Gray

I did not expect to read another Star Wars novel in my lifetime; the expanded universe of books was never wholly my thing. I liked the Han Solo novels (A.C. Crispin) well enough, but could not get into the Thrawn books, or anything tackling Leia. And then, Bloodline showed up. Bloodline spends some time with Leia after Jedi and before The Force Awakens and let me say, I never realized how much I missed not seeing Leia be allowed to grieve over the loss of Alderran. Gray gives us that and much more, unpacking and exploring Leia’s marriage with Han Solo, and yes, her relationship to Darth Vader. Such a satisfying read.

(8) DEBRIS WHACKER. Finally somebody’s cleaning up space. From NPR, “Japan Sends Long Electric Whip Into Orbit, To Tame Space Junk”

A cable that’s as long as six football fields has been launched into orbit — and when it’s deployed, it’ll test an idea to knock out orbital debris. Japan’s space agency sent the electrodynamic tether into space along with supplies for the International Space Station.

Reels aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori 6 craft will deploy the 700-meter (2,296 feet) tether, essentially unspooling a clothesline in space that could help clean up the roughly 20,000 pieces of potentially hazardous space debris that are tracked by systems on Earth.

Those pieces of junk are dangerous enough on their own — but they can also generate thousands more smaller pieces of debris if they collide, creating even more risk to the space station and satellites orbiting the Earth.

With the official acronym of EDT (for electrodynamic tether), the Kounotori’s cable “is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost,” JAXA says.

(9) ONE THOUSAND AND ONE IRAQI DAYS. At NPR, Amal El-Mohtar reviews the Iraqi SF anthology: “’Iraq + 100’ Is Painful, But Don’t Look Away”.

Though a few of the stories — Alhaboby’s “Baghdad Syndrome,” Hassan’s “The Here and Now Prison,” and Ibrahim al-Marashi’s “Najufa” — are warm and hopeful, focused on love, family, and friendship, overall the collection hurts. Underlying these pieces are exhaustion, disgust, contempt, disillusionment, all of which Western readers of speculative fiction will no doubt find alienating; built into our narrative of fiction’s usefulness is a sense of healing, catharsis, nourishment that this collection resists. Thoughts of the future are rooted in the recent past and present, leeching poison from its earth, and what grows can’t be separated from that soil, as when Alhaboby writes “I knew that soon my vision would start to go the way the lights once did over Baghdad all those years ago … You see, if you’re a sufferer of Baghdad Syndrome, you know that nothing has ever driven us, or our ancestors, quite as much as the syndrome of loving Baghdad.”

(10) THE LONG WATCH. Former LASFS President, now thriving commercial actor, Ed Green appears in this spot beginning at :14 —

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 10, 2009 Avatar makes its world premiere.

(12) ALDRIN LEAVES NEW ZEALAND. He’s recovered from what ailed him at the South Pole — “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin heads home after stay in Christchurch hospital”.

Mr Aldrin’s manager, Christina Korp, tweeted a photo of him on the flight home, saying they hoped to return again.

“But next time for vacation and not evacuation,” she wrote.

Mr Aldrin began showing signs of altitude sickness, including low oxygen levels and congestion in his lungs, after reaching the South Pole.

“Once I was at sea level I began to feel much better,” he said last Sunday.

(13) ENGLISH EVOLVING BEFORE YOUR EYES. Thanks to everyone at work in the File 770 comment laboratory….

(14) HIGHEST BIDDER. Black Gate says the sale happened Friday on eBay — “Original Woodgrain Edition Dungeons and Dragons Box Set Sells For $22,100”.

(15) CHRISTMAS HORROR AND SHATNER – TOGETHER! Hampus Eckerman, inspired by a link in the last Pixel Scroll, decided to check online for more Christmas Horror movies. And he found the most horrific of al – one starring William Shatner(!)

In A Christmas Horror Story, Shatner is the DJ who sets the scene —

Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.

christmas-horror-story

(16) STAR TREK CHRISTMAS. Here’s how the franchise paid tribute to the Christmas season.

  • Captain Sisko & the DS9 Ensemble sing “Wonderful Deep Space Nine”

In the grand tradition of Star Trek captains singing holiday standards, for your consideration: “Wonderful Deep Space Nine” sung by Captain Sisko, Major Kira, Constable Odo, Lieutenant Commander Worf, Chief O’Brien, Congenial Barkeep Quark, Plain Simple Garak, and the rest of the Star Trek: DS9 ensemble. Special appearances by Morn, Martok, Moogie, and Vorta Iggy Pop.

 

  • Star Trek Voyager – Christmas 2008

The Voyager crew give their take on the 12 days of Christmas.

 

(17) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. The Jimmy Kimmel Show ran videos in which “Pets React to Star Wars Rogue One Trailer.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]

Pixel Scroll 11/16/16 I’ve Filed Through The Desert On A Scroll With No Name

(1) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Professor Hawking did not say it’s time for us to start looking for the next planet to ruin, but that would be one way of looking at his prediction – “Stephen Hawking Puts An Expiry Date On Humanity”.

Stephen Hawking believes that humanity has less than a thousand years on Earth before a mass extinction occurs, the leading theoretical physicist said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, U.K.

According to Hawking, the only way humans can avoid the possibility of extinction was to find another planet to inhabit. At the talk, Hawking gave a one-hour speech on man’s understanding of the origin of the universe from primordial creation myths to the most cutting-edge predictions made by “M-theory,” which presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe.

“We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1000 without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old predicted that technology would lead Earth to a virtually inevitable global cataclysm.

“We face a number of threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses,” he said in January. “The number is likely to increase in the future, with the development of new technologies, and new ways things can go wrong. Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time.”

(2) HEINLEIN IN DEVELOPMENT. Entertainment Weekly says Stranger in a Strange Land could become a TV series:

Valentine Michael Smith is heading to Earth — and now maybe to television.

Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Stranger in a Strange Land into a TV series on Syfy, the companies announced Tuesday. Robert Heinlein’s novel will be adapted by Mythology Entertainment, Scott Rudin Productions, and Vecchio Entertainment.

Ed Gross’ version of the news story includes this fascinating bit of Hollywood history:

A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein’s novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns’ Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery, which was for Paramount Pictures

The 1995 vintage Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 and seems to me too old for Valentine Michael Smith, though the Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks could have been a good pick. Connery, I assume, was destined to play Jubal Harshaw.

(3) GOING BI-BI. “Analog and Asimov’s Go Bimonthly” reports Locus Online.

SF magazines Analog and Asimov’s are switching to a bimonthly schedule beginning in January 2017. Both currently publish ten issues per year, with eight regular issues and two “double” issues.

Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams explains in a forthcoming editorial that the magazines will now publish “six 208-page double issues” per year, a 16-page increase over current double issues….

(4) LIGHTENING THE MOOD. John DeNardo recommends that we “Relieve Holiday Stress with One of These Lighter Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads”. Sure, Death and Hell – what could be jollier than that?

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

If you think your job is soul-sucking, don’t tell Charlie Dawson. He’s one of the ferrymen who’s been ushering dead people into the afterlife for hundreds of years in Colin Gigl’s supernatural adventure The Ferryman Institute. Let’s face it: centuries of drudge work tends to wear down one’s motivation. That’s certainly what happened to Charlie.  Despite his long history of success, he’s ready to hang up his robe. Charlie had given up all hope of escaping his boring existence until he did something unexpected: he saved Alice Spiegel from committing suicide. Let me tell you, something like that does not sit well with the department of Internal Affairs at The Ferryman Institute, and it especially does not make IA’s Inspector Javrouche happy at all. Charlie stands by his decision to save Alice and chooses to fight the system, even though that may put an end to the existence of mankind.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984. Joss Whedon has cited this film as a big influence for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • November 16, 2001 – First Harry Potter film opens.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN

  • Born November 16, 1907 – Burgess Meredith

(6) TODAY’S WRITER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 16, 1952 – Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Born November 16, 1976 — Lavie Tidhar

(7) TODAY’S GUEST APPERTAINER. Don’t blame Carl, it was my mistake. I was just trying for a cute post title. Fixed now….

(8) WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LIVING A TROPE. Saladin Ahmed hoped this would work:

(9) AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE. In the end, Black Gate managing editor Howard Andrew Jones couldn’t help himself — “Seeking Solace”.

When assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened….

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Auston Habershaw was inspired by events to write a primer on “Empires and Rebellions”.

(Looks out window) Whoah. Looking pretty ugly out there in the real world. Politics just got a bit scary, and a lot of people are pretty convinced a lot of bad things are about to happen. In this time of fear and anxiety, what is a person to do if they are expected to maintain their sanity in the face of catastrophe?

Well, that’s what fiction is for! Curl up with a good book or throw on the TV and try to escape for a few hours.

Of course, then you’re probably going to see or read something about empires. Or rebellions. Or both. …

…Now, opposed to [the Empire] you have the Rebellion. The Rebellion is the out-group – those bereft of power or wealth or (frequently) culture. They exist on the fringes or between the cracks of the Empire. If Empire is a force for stability and stasis, the Rebellion is a force for change. Their goal is to upset or subvert the social order. They are your outlaws, your ne’er do-wells, your poor, your vagabonds and wanderers. Your freaks and weirdos. The instinct, in the case of Rebellion, is one of sympathy. We have all felt marginalized in one sense or another in our lives, and our frequent desire is to see those who are harmed by the in-group find a way to subvert the power structure and have justice be served. This, of course, is not always the case: we revile rebels as often as we laud them. Take, by way of real-life example, global terrorism or ISIS. They are, by all measures, the out-group. We are not inspired by their underdog struggle to subvert the power of Empire (i.e. us) because we do not share their goals or morals. They are the barbarous hordes, not the inspiring resistance (even though, by the account of at least one CIA interrogator, they view themselves in this way).

Stories told with the Rebellion as heroic tend to emphasize the overthrow of dictatorial regimes through noble struggle and self-sacrifice. They value the individuality of their followers, they emphasize freedom and self-reliance over safety and wealth. When Han Solo tells his commanding officer on Hoth that he has to leave, the general gives him a handshake and a pat on the back, but when Captain Needa apologizes to Lord Vader, he is strangled to death for his efforts. Such is the narrative of the heroic Rebellion: we will save you from your oppressors. Look at any list of quotable lines from Firefly and you’ll see this sentiment played out in exhaustive detail. They might be filthy and rowdy and quirky and poor, but the crew of Serenity are the plucky underdogs we love and the Alliance are the soulless Imperial types we loathe.

(11) USING CLARKE’S LAW TO WRITE FANTASY. Bishop O’Connell has a guest post at Serious Reading  — “Quantum Magic”.

To me, this was an open door to a new kind of magic. I knew very early on that I wanted my main character, Wraith [in The Forgotten], to be a homeless teenager. After learning about the double-slit experiment, I decided to also make her a mathematical genius, and use that genius to perform her magic. But how? Well, the aforementioned experiment shows that observing can change the outcome. What if it was the observer, rather than just the act of observing, that caused this? That would mean that we’re actually, unconsciously, altering reality. The next logical question was: could someone do so consciously, and to what extent? And if they could, how would this be distinguishable from magic? After all, can’t every magical effect be explained scientifically? Teleportation? There is already teleportation on the quantum level, and on the macro level Einstein-Rosen Bridges (worm holes) are becoming increasingly common in science fiction. Throwing fireballs? Well fire is just an effect that happens when particles reach an energy level that generates sufficient heat to combust a fuel. Moving things with magic (telekinesis)? Electromagnetism is used all over the world to move trains without any physical contact. It’s all theoretically possible, or rather not theoretically impossible. Sure, some of those effects require vast amounts of energy, more than we can dream of generating. But there are unimaginable amounts of energy all around us; the gravitational force of dark matter, and dark energy for example. We just don’t know how to utilize them…yet.

I decided Wraith would see the waves of probability all around us in the form of equations and symbols (the quantum information of reality).

(12) CHARACTERIZATION. Sarah A. Hoyt tells why you should “Hang A Lantern on It — More Real Than Real” in a helpful column at Mad Genius Club.

This can also be used for stuff that you know is true, but which the reader will think is otherwise, because of books or — shudder — movies that portrayed the event wrong.  Or, of course, when you’re writing in someone else’s world and about to kick their world in the nadders.  I had to do this with Dumas, because in a picaresque adventure it’s perfectly fine to have a stupid character, but in mysteries I couldn’t have Porthos be dumb.  So I made him like my younger kid at the time, a visual/tactile thinker, who had issues with words.  To sell it, I hung a lantern on it.  I explained something like “Many people thought Porthos was a simpleton, but his friends knew better.  Indeed, none of them would be friends with an idiot.  The problem was that Porthos thought through his eyes and through his hands, and words often came lagging and contradictory to his lips.”  I did this at least once per book, but mostly when I was in his head.  Because people “know” Porthos is dumb.

(13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES. Forbes writer Luke Y.Thompson falls in love — Star Trek: The Animated Series Beams Down To Blu-ray, Worth Any Sci-Fi Fan’s Time”.

If you’re familiar at all with TV animation, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably know Filmation as the producers of He-Man, She-Ra, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and any number of other slightly goofy-looking Saturday morning cartoons known for “limited” animating techniques that involve lots of re-use of cels and work-arounds to keep from having to draw and paint more than was affordable. It’s a bit like the way old horror movies kept the monster hidden in shadows because they didn’t have the special effects to create a good creature, except that those movies frequently won praise for leaving much to the imagination, while Filmation gets mocked for being sub-Hanna Barbera technical quality. As a kid raised on Disney, I frequently rejected shows that evinced such obvious cheats and workarounds, and often, it’s true, the writing isn’t great either (I love He-Man more than most, primarily for the toys, but I cannot defend it as any kind of masterpiece)….

Star Trek wound up being the only Filmation show to air for two consecutive, full seasons on NBC, and won the first Emmy for both Filmation and the Star Trek franchise, which bought it six extra episodes, though NBC ultimately decided it wasn’t kid-oriented enough, and passed on an additional year. They’re right: as seen in the new Blu-ray boxed set, these episodes may be crudely animated, but the stories are true, cerebral sci-fi. Mostly (there are Tribbles). And airing almost exactly halfway between the end of the original live-action series and the first movie, the animated episodes kept the property alive–yet because of the stigma of Filmation cartoons being formulaic and cheesy, there are a whole lot of fans today who haven’t seen them.

The new Blu-ray set, released today, is remastered in 1080p high definition with a 5.1 DTS-HD audio, which is arguably both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s the best version of every element available, but it’s so restored, and from cheap elements, that you can blatantly spot cels being pulled across the screen, see scratches and dust on the original material, and hear that the voice cast often sound like they’re in different rooms. A documentary featurette mentions the whole cast recording in the same studio for the first time, but it seems possible, if not likely, that this was not the case on many of the subsequent episodes. And if the limited animation weren’t already limited enough, one of Filmation’s directors was color blind, which is why the Tribbles are now pink. But it’s not like Trek fans are necessarily put off by such things–the original series, after all, is full of bad make-up jobs and obvious soundstages, but it doesn’t really affect our affection for them. Story-wise, they hold up, favoring clever reversals and moral dilemmas rather than the typical Saturday morning adventure schlock.

(14) DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. John Scalzi is not one to settle for success in just one field.

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