Pixel Scroll 12/30/17 Happy Scrollidays To All Who Pixelate

(1) NEW BLACK SFF INITIATIVE. The Chicago Tribune reports — “Chicago collective puts black characters in fantasy, horror and sci-fi films”.

When Chris Adams was a teen growing up in the Far South Side’s Roseland area, he would often imagine himself living in space and existing alongside alien creatures such as those in “Star Wars.”

Or he would picture an alternate reality, where black people were served by robots and lived in houses filled with futuristic devices or battled enormous, prehistoric monsters.

“I’ve (long) been a big fan of fantasy films and horror and sci-fi,” he said. “But black people are underrepresented in those genres. When we are there, we’re the first to die.”

Hoping to bring fresh voices and perspectives to film, Adams recently launched a project with a collective of Chicago filmmakers that concentrates on producing short movies.

Rather than giving voice to the typical stories of violence, grief or family drama, these filmmakers want to showcase fantasy, horror and science fiction films with black characters as the focus.

Their effort comes at a time when there is an increasing appetite for films and television shows that present black lives from nuanced and nonstereotypical perspectives.

Still, Adams and his Paradigm Grey project are unusual because the independent films center on black characters but have very little to do with the realities African-Americans experience. All five of the filmmakers and production crews involved in the group hail from the Chicago region and shoot their projects here, yet they avoid narratives centered on poverty, joblessness, drug abuse, corruption or other topics often central to storylines involving black characters.

With their combined reputations, they hope to take their films from underground to a wider audience, Adams said.

“Nearly everyone who joined on to this project were frustrated with the current state of filming,” he said. “The actors were sick of playing drug dealers, prostitutes, gangbangers and the typical roles you see us in. We all wanted a chance to do something completely imaginative. So this project was like a breath of fresh air.”

(2) PULPFEST PROGRAM POSTED. PulpFest has announced its planned program for the convention to be held July 26 – 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh. Joe Lansdale will be PulpFest Guest of Honor. They’ll be honoring the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. They’ll also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Science Fiction Grand Master Philip José Farmer.

(3) NOMINATE FOR MUNSEY AWARD. Nominations for PulpFest’s 2018 Munsey Award are being accepted through May 1, 2018. Full details here.

All members of the pulp community are welcome to nominate someone for this year’s award. If you have someone in mind that you feel worthy to receive this prestigious award, please let us know.

All members of the pulp community — excepting past winners of the MunseyRusty, or Lamont Awards  — are eligible. Your nomination can be sent to PulpFest marketing and programming director Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com. You can also reach Mike at 2217 W. Fairview Street, Allentown, PA 18104-6542. You will need to provide the person’s name and an explanation describing why that person should be honored.

The award recipient will be chosen by a vote of all living Lamont, Munsey, and Rusty Award winners. The 2018 Munsey Award will be presented on Saturday evening, July 28,

(4) DECEMBER’S CHILDREN. (And Everybody’s): Jason lists the big hits of this month’s short web fiction in the “Summation of Online Fiction: December 2017” from Featured Futures.

Thinking about this month’s noted stories, I’m reminded of the rational Isaac Asimov’s comments on how numerology “works” because you can find patterns in anything. In this 12th month (1+2=3), threes and twos (and thus ones) are a recurring motif. This month, I recommend three SF stories (two of which come from Compelling – though the one from Nature really can’t be missed) and three fantasy stories (two of which come from Grievous Angel) and honorably mention three fantasy stories (two of which come from Uncanny). Which is, again, three sets: two of recommendations and just one of honorable mentions. Meaningless, but I’ll admit it is a weird coincidence. These nine tales were chosen, not from 32 stories of 123K words, but from forty December webzine stories of 162K words.

(5) GRAFTON OBIT. Sue Grafton, famed for her alphabet-titled mystery series about private eye Kinsey Millhone, died December 28 at the age of 77.

The first, A is for Alibi, was published in 1982 and the last, Y is for Yesterday, was published in August.

“As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” her daughter said in a statement posted to Facebook.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw the ghost of a mashup yet to come in Ziggy.

(7) APEX SUBMISSION WINDOW OPENS. Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Guidelines and information here.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

(8) LIKE LEGO AND EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE. Io9’s Andrew Liszewski says “You Can Beam Whatever You Want From My Wallet for These Custom Star Trek: TNG Minifigures”.

The eight-figure set isn’t officially produced by Lego, but each of the minifigures—including Wesley Crusher, Lt. Commander Data, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Cmdr. William Riker, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Counselor Deanna Troi, Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge, and Lieutenant Worf—are 100 percent compatible with your existing plastic brick collections.

(9) SOME BOOKSTORES DOOMED. A New York Times article about bookstore chains that have been forced to the brink or given up — “Bookstore Chains, Long in Decline, Are Undergoing a Final Shakeout”.

Here is one way to measure the upheaval in bookselling: Replacing Book World as the fourth-largest chain, Publishers Weekly says, will be a company that had no physical presence a few years ago. That would be Amazon, which having conquered the virtual world has opened or announced 15 bookshops, including at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

In a famous passage in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” a novel that Book World used to sell, a character is asked how he went bust. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

That more or less mirrors what happened to Book World and other bookstore chains.

(10) TWO HEARTS AND THIRTEEN LIONS. That’s fun – Camestros Felapton, in “Today’s Infographic: Doctor Where”, plots out the birthplaces of Doctor Who actors.

(11) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Fabrice Mathieu shared “STAR WARS 4.7: Skywalker vs Starkiller,”his new Star Wars Mashup, successor to “Darth by Darthwest” and “Raiders of the Lost Darth”.

Young Jedi Luke Skywalker and his trusty companion R2-D2 pilot their battle worn X-wing fighter into a massive black hole, propelling them 30 years into the future.  They find themselves engaged in the mighty rebel attack against the New Order’s fierce machine known as the Starkiller Base.

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jason, Francis Hamit, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Jason Sizemore, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Giant Panda.]

Borderlands Books Goes Under, Then Resurfaces

Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s Borderlands Books, a favorite of sf, fantasy and horror readers, is now reconsidering its plans to close. The store had announced at the beginning of the month it could not continue in business, an economic casualty of a new law raising the minimum wage in the city. However, strong support shown by customers may translate into enough funds to bridge the gap.

The original February 1 announcement said:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.

What changed? Borderlands Books held a public meeting February 12 and, to the booksellers’ surprise, some workable ideas were brought forward. One is their newly announced plan to offer paid sponsorships of the store —

Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year.  If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015.

The Plan
Our goal is to gather enough paid sponsors to cover the projected short-fall in income that will be the result of the minimum wage increase in San Francisco.  At the beginning of next year we will again solicit sponsors.  If next year we again reach our goal by March 31st, we will remain open through 2016.  This process will continue each year until we close, either because of a lack of sponsorship or for other reasons.

That will be enough to cover their projected $25,000 shortfall, provide a cash reserve — and convince ownership the necessary level of support is really there.

If you’re down with The Plan (John Scalzi has already tweeted it to the four corners of the internet) here is how to sign up:

To pay in person, just come into the store anytime between noon and eight and inquire at the counter.  To pay by credit card, please call 415 824-8203 or toll-free at 888 893-4008 during the same hours (please be patient if you get a busy signal as we only have two phone lines).  To pay by check, please send the check to – Borderlands Books, Sponsorships, 866 Valencia St.  SF  CA 94110 and make sure to include your phone number, email address, and mailing address.

Other ideas Borderlands Books will pursue are: offering a monthly book subscription program; reaching out to local companies to see if they would be interested in hosting Google-style book talks; investigating the possibilities of starting a non-profit organization to help support either Borderlands specifically or San Francisco bookstores in general; and using the local political process to address some of the challenges facing smaller, local retailers.

[Thanks to Gregory Benford and D. Geordie Howe for the story.]

Flying Dragon Bookshop Makes Shortlist

Flying Dragon Bookstore logo.

Congratulations to Toronto’s Flying Dragon Bookshop, one of three Specialty bookstores on the 2011 Canadian Booksellers Association CBA Libris Awards shortlist.

Flying Dragon arguably has more than one specialty. While some characterize it as a children’s bookstore, it’s also where people connect with the latest YA fantasy and general fantasy novels.

The store has often been in the news since it opened in 2005. Last year Quill and Quire praised its window display for Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book, Under Heaven:

As you can see, the display includes not only Under Heaven, but other mythologically minded or otherwise thematically linked titles. A new Kay tome lifts all boats, after all.

The CBA Libris Awards will be presented on May 14 in Toronto. The full list of categories and nominees is here [PDF file].

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Jane Yolen at Flying Dragon Bookshop.

Is Borders Circling the Drain?

Borders Group Inc. shares dropped more than 15 percent overnight on December 30 in response to reports that America’s second-largest bookseller has delayed payments to some of its vendors in order to conserve cash while struggling to refinance its debt.

Borders has been reporting losses for years, but its results worsened in recent quarters with heightened competition from Barnes & Noble and larger merchants including Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. The growing electronic book market is another challenge, although Borders has jumped into that realm, launching its e-bookstore over the summer and adding services to its website during the third quarter.

Borders is closing 16 stories. There is no assurance that any refinancing will come through. Borders has announced that it could violate terms of its debt in the first quarter of 2011 and “experience a liquidity shortfall.”

Which reminds me of Bob Shaw’s line about a company trying to market a ship that took “unplanned depth excursions.”

[Thanks to John Mansfield and David Klaus for the story.]

Update 12/31/2010: While out driving I realized I could use Google Ngram to test whether Bob made up that expression or appropriated it. The answer: a bit of both.  “Depth excursion” has been a term of art for underwater exploration since the 1960s, but Ngram returned zero hits for “unplanned depth excursion.”

Steal This Book

Famous radical Abbie Hoffman had a bestseller in 1971 named Steal This Book. It was a bestseller in spite of its title, doubtless because obeying the command at the time meant concealing a physical book and walking out of a store past watchful clerks. But today? Well, isn’t the purpose of technology to make everything easier?

Publishers Weekly assures us technology is making book theft much easier. According to a recent report:

Publishers could be losing out on as much as $3 billion to online book piracy, a new report released today by Attributor estimates. Attributor, whose FairShare Guardian service monitors the Web for illegally posted content, tracked 913 books in 14 subjects in the final quarter of 2009 and estimated that more than 9 million copies of books were illegally downloaded from the 25 sites it tracked.

The Four Horsemen of digital downloading — 4shared.com, scribd.com, wattpad.com, and docstoc.com — account for an estimated one-third of all book piracy.

Nonfiction professional and academic works are the most common targets, but the survey also counted plenty of pirated fiction, like Angels and Demons (7,951 illegal downloads) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (1,604 downloads).

It seems online theft parallels print popularity to an extent. I wonder if some science fiction authors will feel both relieved and a little disappointed to find they register a smaller blip on the e-crime stat sheet than Dan Brown. After all, I once heard Robert Silverberg wistfully remark about the lack of pirated print editions of his work in an Iron Curtain country, saying: “The East Germans were too German to steal.”

The Attributor survey shows that what everybody suspects is true. “None of this is really surprising,” comments Francis Hamit. “One of the virtues of print publication is that you can only sell one copy at a time.”

Or steal.

[Thanks to Francis Hamit for the story.]