Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

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

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

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

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

Catherynne M. Valente

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

Sunny Moraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here we are.

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

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

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

Images of the covers appear at the post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/14/17 Ain’t Any Ivory Soap Deal

(1) TOMORROW’S NEWS TODAY: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction will be Wikipedia’s featured article of the day on May 15. Thanks to Gordon Van Gelder for the hot tip.

And if you’d like to amaze your friends by predicting what the featured articles will be for some number of days into the future — just change the digits in the URL….

(2) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist completes its questioning in “Tad Williams Interview, part 2”.

With your wife Deborah, you have an in-house editor perusing everything you write. Then, at Daw Books you have Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert editing your novels. With that many editors having you under the microscope (and I reckon that your British editor also has something to say before anything goes into print), some would think that it could become a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. And yet, this approach obviously works well for you. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, I’m stubborn. As much as I love and respect all those folks, including my overseas editors, ultimately the complaints and/or suggestions have to make sense to me before I’ll make any large changes. I’ve been doing this writing gig for quite a while now and I don’t think you get to the point I have — making a living at it for decades — without trusting your own instincts. So if one person says they don’t like something, I’ll look at it and consider it but won’t necessarily change it unless the complaint strikes a chord for me. However, if all or at least several of them say that such and such a section is boring or confusing or whatever — well, I’m not stupid. On the other hand, because I have intelligent, skilled readers and editors like the three you mentioned, I also feel I can try new and unusual things and they are all clever enough to understand what I’m trying to do, which gives me a certain sense of freedom combined with the reassuring feeling that if I screw up too badly, they have my back and will help me fix it.

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER EXHIBIT AT THE HUNTINGTON. It would be commonplace to start an item like this, “I wonder if Octavia Butler would have been surprised to hear that one day she’d be the subject of an exhibit at the Huntington Library?” But after viewing some of the ambitious notes to herself shown in this article, I don’t think it would have surprised her that much. “At the Huntington, see the inspirational note black sci-fi writer Octavia Butler wrote to herself” in the LA Times.

Octavia E. Butler was a powerful and pioneering voice in science-fiction. The first black woman acclaimed as a master of the genre, she was known for vivid, expertly crafted tales that upended conventional ideas about race, gender and humanity.

Although her creations were bold, Butler, who grew up poor in Pasadena, was “a private, reflective person who struggled with shyness and self-doubt,” said Natalie Russell, curator of a new exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.

How such struggles influenced her life and art is one of the themes explored in “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories.” Russell said the show uses an invaluable resource — the author’s archive — to examine both her published work and “who she was as told through her personal papers.”

(4) CASE STUDY. Paul Linebarger may have written the military classic Psychological Warfare, but don’t assume he didn’t need some shrinkage himself — “Remembering Cordwainer Smith: Full-Time Sci-Fi Author, Part-Time Earthling” in The Atlantic.

One hot June day, probably in the late 1940s or early 1950s, psychoanalyst Dr. Robert Lindner received a phone call from a physician who wanted to refer a troubling case to him for treatment: “The fellow I’m calling you about is a man in his 30s, a research physicist with us out here. As far as I can tell, he’s perfectly normal in every way except for a lot of crazy ideas about living part of the time in another world—on another planet.”

This famous case study, which Lindner shared in his 1955 book The Fifty-Minute Hour, is now believed by some to be a real-life account of Paul Linebarger (1913-1966)—better known to science-fiction fans under the name of Cordwainer Smith, a writer who still retains a strong cult following in this year of his centenary. The accumulated evidence suggests that Smith, who published more than two dozen short stories and a single sci-fi novel during the 1950s and 1960s, may have drawn on his personal experiences, broadly defined, in crafting his peculiar and visionary tales of intergalactic life. Brian Aldiss first reported the possible linkage between Smith and Kirk Allen—the name used by Lindner for his patient—in 1973, and subsequent research by Alan Elms and Lee Weinstein has tended to substantiate, although not definitely prove, the connection.

(5) WONDER WOMAN HEALTH FOOD. Forget those protein bars —

Ahead of the release of the new Wonder Woman movie, Cold Stone Creamery is releasing a fierce new flavor. The promotional flavor is called Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, and the new Creation is called the Wonder Woman Berry Bold, which has the Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream plus chocolate shavings, raspberries, and gold glitter. And that’s not all. The ice cream shop is also releasing a new cupcake called Triple Berry Wonder, which has layers of moist Red Velvet Cake and Dark Chocolate Triple Berry Ice Cream, topped with chocolate frosting, gold glitter, and a Wonder Woman logoed Chocolate Medallion.

(6) FAN MAIL. Be part of Worldcon 75’s postcard exhibit –

(7) GOLDEN AGE. “Science fiction’s new golden age in China, what it says about social evolution and the future, and the stories writers want world to see” in the South China Morning Post.

…Some 104 original sci-fi titles were published in China in 2016, compared to 75 the previous year, and 461 novelettes were released last year.

Author Regina Wang Kanyu, 27, a long-time sci-fi fan, has witnessed its growth in recent years. “It’s the golden age of Chinese science fiction,” she says.

Wang is a co-founder of AppleCore, a group of mostly university students who get together in Shanghai to read science fiction. It grew from an alliance of several university clubs into a community, and organises film screenings, visits to virtual reality labs and annual festivals.

She now works full time in the science fiction field – as a public relations manager for start-up Storycom by day and a sci-fi writer by night. Storycom purchases and publishes works by Chinese authors, and Wang’s task is to promote them in foreign markets. “We are not simply marketing the works owned by our company, but the entire genre of Chinese science fiction. We would like to increase its influence, outside China and especially beyond the field of literature, into arts and tourism.”

Last month, writers Regina Wang, Wang Yao and Hao Jingfang attended Melon Hong Kong, the city’s first science-fiction conference to bring together Chinese and Western writers….

Note that Wang Yao writes as “Xia Jia”. Regina Wang Kanyu is a contributor to Amazing Stories.

(8) TIME TRAVEL. A zoomable copy of Berenice Abbot’s photo “Newsstand, Southwest Corner of 32nd Street and Third Avenue, November 19, 1935” can be viewed at the Heritage Auctions site.

Travel back in time to the pulp era, when you could have bought a copy of Weird Tales Nov 1935, with a Conan story by R. E. Howard and a letter by Forrest Ackerman, for the original price!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

(10) THE VIEW FROM ECBATAN. Rich Horton carries on with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Short Story”.

My ballot will look like this:

1) “That Game We Played During the War“, by Carrie Vaughn

Easy pick for me. It was the only story on my nomination list to make the final ballot. (As I’ve noted before, that’s not unusual.) And it’s SF. More importantly, it’s really good. From my Locus review: “”That Game We Played During the War” is a moving piece about Calla, a woman who was a nurse for Enith during their war with the telepathic Gaant people. The war is over, and Calla is visiting Gaant, trying to meet and continue a game of chess she had been playing with Major Valk, whom she had encountered both in Enith and later after she was captured, in Gaant. This version of chess is unusual — because of the Gaantish telepathy — and it’s not so much the point — the point, of course, is how enemies can come to a peaceful meeting (and, too, how telepathy complicates that!)” So — a core SF idea used very well in service of a worthwhile moral point. With good writing and good characters. Works for me.

(11) BLASPHEMY. That’s what John King Tarpinian said when he spotted this LA Times headline: “So many books to help you get rid of stuff (like too many books)”. The related article, at least, does not single out books as targets of the de-cluttering process.

That stuff-to-happiness equation is at the heart of one of the hottest trends in publishing for the last few years. Publishers have been pumping out book after book celebrating the rewards of getting rid of stuff. Japanese author Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy” have sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and she’s got another coming next month: “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story” a graphic novel which casts Kondo as a kind of joy-sparking Sailor Moon who helps a disorganized young woman get her life in order.

(12)  OLD BLUE EYES. He passed away 19 years ago today. Read Steve Vertlieb’s “Sinatra All The Way” tribute at The Gull Cottage.

On the night of Thursday May 14th, 1998, America and the world lost the most iconic, beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. Sadly, it has been nineteen years since the passing of The Chairman Of The Board. William B. Williams assigned that name to Francis Albert Sinatra on his WNEW Radio program a half century ago, and it stuck. No performer either before or since has had the cultural impact of Sinatra. Singer, Actor, Director, Dancer, Painter, Producer, and Social Activist, Frank Sinatra remains the single most influential multi media artist in show business history. On the anniversary of his passage into both history and legend, we take a look back at his remarkable career and commemorate more than one hundred years, as well as one of The Greatest Stories Ever Told, with this retrospective and one hundredth birthday celebration of the life and times of Frank Sinatra.

(13) BROTHER GUY IN THE NEWS. Fan favorite Brother Guy Consolmagno got some ink this week — “The Vatican Is Looking for God in the Stars”.

If you think faith and science can’t share common ground, think again. Experts in both realms met last week at the Vatican Observatory to prove their theory that you can’t have one without the other. “If you have no faith in your faith, that is when you will fear science,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno the Vatican’s chief astronomer, whose works include such titles as “Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Brother Consolmagno led the three-day conference called Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Spacetime Singularities at the Vatican Observatory’s Castel Gandolfo labs outside of Rome, the former papal summer residence that is remote enough to allow for clear stargazing with minimal light pollution.

He challenged astronomers, cosmologists. and other experts in the field who also believe in God to “come out” and talk about the intersection of faith and fact. What he ended up with are talks like, “The Internal Structure of Spinning Black Holes” and “The Big Bang and its Dark-Matter Content: Whence, Whither, and Wherefore.” Not once in the whole program does the word “God” or “religion” even appear, which is rare for a conference sponsored by the Vatican.

(14) A SCRIBE IN KALAMAZOO. Heather Rose Jones has posted her extensive and fascinating notes about the paper sessions she attended at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo. For example –

What Did it Mean to Be a Magician in al-Baqillani’s Baghdad? The Social Implications of the Discourse on Magic – Mushegh Asatryan, Univ. of Calgary

(could not be present due to immigration status concerns, but sent paper to be read)

11th c Baghdad, implications of magical practice. Book concerns difference between saintly miracles, tirckery, soothsaying, magic, and ??.  Works to distinguish and offers examples. Clear case where theological speculation is informed by social context of author. Life experiences that led the author to compose the work. “Prophetic miracles” (only prophets can perform) vs. “saintly miracles”.

Miracles: something only God can perform, and not others including supernatural creatures. Breaks the usual custom of events. E.g., flying through the air, moving mountains. One test is claim of prophecy. If someone claims to be a prophet and can still perform the action, it’s a miracle not a trick/magic.

Tricks are manipulation of people’s perceptions.

Magic is considered to be real, and is otherwise similar to miracles in breaking the usual course of events.

The author considers these categories in the context of determinism and atomism. Things are considered magic/miracles only because their break the apparent habit of what God wills, but they are still in alignment with God’s will. A magician cannot effect change in an object but any change is due to God’s action. So a magician can’t prove his actions to be proof of prophecy., as God won’t coincidentally break his habits to create the appearance of the effectiveness of his actions. Unless he’s a prophet and they are actual miracles. So if a magician makes a false claim of prophecy, either he must be punished, or the apparent miracle must be made into a natural law (i.e., a habit of God).

While the author condemns Muslim magicians for this reason, he does not do so for Christian or Jewish magicians,. They post no threat to the Islamic power structure of Baghdad, while Muslim magicians did. Internal political conflicts may have been relevant, e.g., Shi’ites were associated with claims of magical powers. (There is discussion of the authority structure with regard to scriptural interpretation.) The author defends the concept/acceptability of magic in order to counter Shi’a magical claims.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Bill Mullins, Cat Eldridge, Steve Vertlieb, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Raymond Chandler, with an assist from John A Arkansawyer.]

Brother Guy Consolmagno Appointed Director of Vatican Observatory

Pope Francis addresses participants in a Vatican Observatory symposium.

Pope Francis addresses participants in a Vatican Observatory symposium.

Pope Francis has named Brother Guy Consolmagno the new director of the Vatican Observatory.

The same day that the Vatican announced Brother Consolmagno’s appointment, Pope Francis met with the observatory staff and guests who were taking part in a special symposium sponsored by the papal astronomers.

“The church urgently needs religious who dedicate their lives to being on the very frontiers between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science,” the pope told the group.

He also recognized the importance of communicating with the rest of the world how the church and its priests “embrace, encourage and promote authentic science,” adding that it was “very important” his papal astronomers keep sharing their scientific knowledge with others, “freely giving that which you freely have received.”

Brother Guy was a program participant at Sasquan –

At Sasquan he delivered his acceptance talk for the 2014 Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientists to the general public, as recognized by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences.

He also has been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions, including DucKon in 2000, ConFusion in 2002, Boskone in 2007, and ConClave in 2009.

[Via SF Site News.]

Consolmagno To Give Sagan Acceptance Speech at Sasquan

Brother Guy J. Consolmagno

Brother Guy J. Consolmagno

Brother Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, will give an acceptance speech for the Carl Sagan Medal at Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. The award is given annually by the American Astronomical Society.

Brother Guy, an active fan and a member of the MIT Science Fiction Society, will give this speech at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday evening of the convention.

Brother Guy will also be interviewing Guest of Honor Leslie Turek, also a MITSFS member, later in the convention.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Brother Guy Wins Sagan Medal

Guy J ConsolmagnoBrother Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican astronomer with many links to fandom, has been named by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences as the 2014 winner of the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientists to the general public.

The citation reads:

Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Right at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.

Brother Guy has been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions, including DucKon in 2000, ConFusion in 2002, Boskone in 2007, and ConClave in 2009.

[Via SF Site News.]

Brother from Another Planet

Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden are interviewed in the May issue of Locus. Amidst the congratulations at their blog Making Light, as Bill Higgins kindly points out, Patrick has added a link to this meditation, ultimately concerning a fanzine, by Brother Guy Consolmagno — “A letter to me at age 20”.

(Anticipatory endnote — MITSFS = MIT’s science fiction club.)