Pixel Scroll 7/19/17 By The Pixel Of Grayscroll!

(1) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. Adam-Troy Castro links to his post “This Community We Love is Infested With Toxic Spoiled Brats” with this comment: “The object of a fandom you don’t care about is not a deadly infection to be wiped out on general principle. Fandoms can cross-pollinate. Interests can cross-pollinate.The things you ‘don’t give a shit about’ are not invaders you need to exterminate. Most to the point, you can get through your day without being a dick.”

Ed Sheeran, who is a fan of Game of Thrones, who got cast because he openly begged the producers to give him a bit part and had a nice little scene written for him, a scene that added texture to the story and even you hated it took up only three minutes of your life, has had to shut down his twitter feed because Game of Thrones fans have invaded in force, showering him with abuse because they are irate that the focus of another fandom has invaded theirs. They accuse him of ruining the show and stress that they don’t give a shit about his music, which sucks anyway.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

This community we love is infested with toxic, spoiled brats.

(2) CLARKE ALLEGATIONS. Jason Sanford and Paul Cornell are among those tweeting a link to Vice’s article “We Asked People What Childhood Moment Shaped Them the Most” which contains a first-hand account of abuse by an unnamed science fiction writer in Sri Lanka who they (logically) identify as Clarke.

The teller of the story, Peter Troyer, today is a performer with Tinder Tales in Toronto. His section of the Vice article begins —

Peter Troyer

I grew up in Sri Lanka. My dad was doing some work for the Canadian government. There were a lot of expat kids in my area and we had free reign of the neighbourhood. Our parents mostly let us do what we wanted, but we were told to stay away—never go near—a large property that bordered my house. When we asked why the reasons were always vague.

There were some rumors that someone very famous or maybe powerful lived there. We all got the sense that he was …a danger in some way. One day I was home sick from school. My grandfather was visiting from Canada and he was assigned to watch me. I remember that I was in pajamas. We were in the backyard and my grandfather was painting peacocks. Out of our hedges this man appeared and approached us. I instantly knew it was the man from the property. …

(3) TWO OR MORE. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison include several “dream teams” among the authors of “Five SFF Books Written Collaboratively”, discussed at Tor.com.

The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.

(4) WHO KNEW? Apparently “ruining” Doctor Who is actually part of the show’s long and respected tradition. Steve J.  Wright explains in “Writ in Water, not Set in Stone: Doctor Who backstory”.

…Then William Hartnell became too infirm to continue with the series, and the big change happened, at the end of “The Tenth Planet”.  An exhausted First Doctor is found lying on the floor of the TARDIS, and when his companions flip him over onto his back (instead of sensibly leaving him in the recovery position), the TARDIS dematerialization SFX plays, and the Doctor’s face seems to brighten and glow… and the screen whites out, and instead of William Hartnell, there’s Patrick Troughton.

The regeneration is not really explained, at this point.  “It’s part of the TARDIS; without it, I couldn’t go on.”  The first Doctor’s ring with the blue stone no longer fits; is it some sort of prop that the Doctor no longer needs?  The Doctor initially appears confused and disoriented, but when he’s settled down, it’s apparent that this is not just a younger version, this is a whole different personality – more impish, more madcap, but also capable of great passion and commitment; the Second Doctor throws himself into situations with much more zeal and energy than the austere First.

He also becomes more obviously different.…

(5) CENTS AND SENSIBILITY. Don’t tell John C. Wright — “Author Jane Austen featured on new British 10-pound note”.

Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new 10-pound note featuring an image of one of England’s most revered authors has been unveiled – right where she was buried.

At the unveiling Tuesday of the new “tenner” at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the “universal appeal” of Austen’s work.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.

The new note, which is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14, is printed on polymer, not paper.

(6) SHADOW CLARKE PROCEEDINGS. Mark-kitteh sent these links with a note, “The essay by Kincaid (the second one) asks some genuinely interesting questions about the purpose of awards and the meaning of ‘best’, although he does feel the need to end it with the now-traditional bashing of Becky Chambers.”

Of all the novels on my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground was the one I anticipated having most difficulty in writing about, partly because of its incredibly complex structure, but mostly because I wasn’t at all sure I actually had a critical language I could bring to bear on it in a way that might make sense to a reader. Back when I was compiling my personal shortlist of Shadow Clarke books, ploughing through the opening sections of each title on the submissions list, of all of the eighty-odd titles this was the one that felt ‘right’ to me. That is, this is the one that immediately held my attention, the one I would have sat down and read cover to cover right there and then if I had not had to send away for a copy.

I have been associated with science fiction awards ever since I was approached to administer the Hugo Awards for the 1987 Worldcon. In the years since then I have won and lost awards, I have administered them, judged them, handed them out, written about them, and even (in the case of the Clarke Award) helped to create them. Now, another first, I have taken part in a shadow jury. And the result of all that: I probably know less now about the purpose and function and value of awards than I ever did.

Well that’s not quite true. There are some awards, like the Tiptree which I helped to judge in 2009, that have a very specific remit: in the case of the Tiptree it is the exploration of issues of gender. I find it instructive that the Tiptree Award often identifies novels and stories that I, personally, consider to be among the best in the year; but choosing the best, as such, is not what the Tiptree Award is about.

For the vast majority of awards, however, that one word, “best”, explains all and explains nothing. “Best” is the prison cell that most awards have entered knowingly and from which they cannot escape.

In terms of a reading experience, the past six months has been unusual, to say the least. Between the publication of the Clarke submissions list in mid February, and the imminent announcement of the winner in late July, I have read and reviewed not only the titles on my personal shortlist and the official Clarke shortlist, but also as many of other Sharkes’ personal choices and interesting outliers as time has allowed. I don’t think I’ve ever consumed so much science fiction in a single stretch – a chastening experience in and of itself – and I have learned plenty along the way, not least how misguided some of my own initial choices turned out to be, how much we all – as readers, writers and critics – tend to fall back on untested assumptions. I have learned more than a little about the difficulties and compromises involved in serving on an award jury, how every argument provides a counter-argument, how every book selected will point to three that are lost, how it is impossible to arrive at a meaningful decision without reading or at least sampling every submission.

Most of all, I have been reminded of how multifarious and diverse is the art of criticism. When it comes to assessing works of literature, there is no universal standard for excellence, no unified ideological approach, no such thing as objectivity. We each come to the process heavily laden with baggage, some of which we cannot set aside because it is enshrined in who we are and where we come from, some of which we cling to out of habit. Part of our job as critics lies not so much in relinquishing our baggage but in acknowledging that it exists.

(7) THE EARLY NERD GETS THE WORM. Wil Wheaton is interviewed by Kevin Smith on a piece in IMDB called “How Wil Wheaton’s Star Trek Fandom Impacted The Next Generation”.  Wheaton, interviewed by Kevin Smith, talks about how he was a Star Trek nerd on the set of TNG and was ready to answer Trek questions on the set if cast members didn’t know what was going on.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, Adam-Troy Castro, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #7

By Chris M. Barkley:

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

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures, 116 minutes) Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the novella “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde.

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.

I have no doubt that some of the nominees on the BDP Long Form ballot that will probably be slam dunks:  Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond  and (fingers crossed) Stranger Things. I will not be nominating any of the aforementioned films because I know they have their fans and they’ll get plenty of support.

However, I will be nominating one movie I want to be on the final ballot, one that towers above all the rest: Arrival.

Arrival has the top spot on my ballot this year and in my heart as well. Based on the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella by Ted Chiang, it is expertly brought to life on the screen by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, director Denis Villeneuve and actors Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. It was honored by the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards with multiple nominations (and winning an Oscar for Sound Editing), it also serves as a brilliant textbook example of a successful adaptation from page to cinema.

The story of linguist Louise Banks (Adams) and her encounters with the mysterious aliens whose motives she’s trying to understand is not only intriguing, it’s also moving and full of love and empathy as well. As good as the other nominees in this category are, none of them can even approach Arrival, which will be considered a classic film in EVERY sense of the word in coming decades.

Extra: Here a link to an Entertainment Weekly feature on how Denis Villeneuve and Eric Heisserer worked on the screenplay.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

The Expanse – Season One (Penguin in a Parka, Approx 440 minutes, ten episodes), based on The Expanse novels by James S. A. Corey.  Written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, Robin Veith, Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck, Jason Ning, Naren Shankar and Dan Nowak. Produced by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Lynn Raynor, Ben Cook and Dan Novak.

Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams

The Expanse is based on series of novels by James S. A. Corey, the pseudonym of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also produce the show as well.

Spanning for a crowded Earth and Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and beyond, this sprawling and exciting space opera is the best sf show produced for television since the heydays of Firefly and Babylon 5. Two hundred years in the future, several fractions of humanity are struggling for control and political power in the solar system. Little do any of them know that a much larger game is being played and that humanity’s survival is hanging in the balance.

The Expanse (and other excellent shows of this length, like HBO’s Westworld) are practically advertising for a change in the WSFS rules to establish a Best Dramatic Series award. Just Sayin’, folks…

NPR’s Cosmos and Culture called The Expanse the “Best Science Fiction Show in a Decade”.

Best Related Work

William Schafer, Publisher – Subterranean Press, Burton, Michigan 48519

One of the things that I have been meaning to do over the past few years is to nominate William Schafer for a Hugo Award.

I should have done it while Subterranean Press Magazine was still being published on a regular basis. (It published its final issue in the summer of 2014). Since he cannot be nominated as an editor, I will do so in the Best Related Work category.

William Schafer does not merely reprint classics and contemporary books, he masterfully commissions and creates magnificent works of art which immediately become THE treasured collector’s item of anyone’s book collection.

I should know since I own several of his books, including the ultimate edition of Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories, The Jack Vance Treasury edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and Project Moonbase and Others, a collection of Robert Heinlein’s teleplays based on his own works.

Here is a list of the books published by Subterranean Press in 2016, which can be viewed on the SubPress website: http://subterraneanpress.com/

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds by Alastair Reynolds
  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
  • DJSTURBIA by David J Schow
  • Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers
  • Downfall of the Gods by K. J. Parker
  • Early Days: More Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg
  • Eternity’s Wheel by by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
  • Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
  • Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
  • Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
  • The Authentic William James by Stephen Gallagher
  • The Case of the Bleeding Wall by Joe R. Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale
  • The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu
  • The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan
  • The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P Blaylock
  • The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
  • This Census-Taker by China Mieville
  • This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons
  • White Night by Jim Butcher

Convincing, yes?

Best Related Work

The Fifty Year Mission: The First Twenty Five Years (June 2016) and The Next Twenty Five Years (August 2016) by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Thomas Dunn Books and St. Martin’s Press.

Many histories have been written about Star Trek, one of the most phenomenal, influential and culturally significant television shows of the 20th century. What makes Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’ oral history of Star Trek so significant is that for the first time, nearly ALL of the participants get to tell the inside story of how the series and movies were made from their point of view.

It is breathtaking to read directly from the creators, producers, actors, writers, artists and fans on what happened and how it happened. And none of the participants, deceased or otherwise, spare any detail on the triumphs, mistakes, tragedies and screw ups that made Star Trek what it is today.

It would be a marvelous to reward Mr. Altman and Gross with a Hugo nomination for collecting these anecdotes, memories and interviews over the past thirty years to bring us the inside dope on one of our favorite indulgences…

Excerpts:

Leonard Nimoy (actor, “Mr. Spock”) I went in to see Gene at Desilu Studios and he told me that he was preparing a pilot for a science fiction series to be called “Star Trek,” that he had in mind for me to play an alien character. I figured all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I might end up with a good job here. Gene told me that he was determined to have at least one extraterrestrial prominent on his starship. He’d like to have more, but making human actors into other life-forms was too expensive for television in those days. Pointed ears, skin color, plus some changes in eyebrows and hair style were all he felt he could afford, but he was certain that his Mr. Spock idea, properly handled and properly acted, could establish that we were in the 23rd century and that interplanetary travel was an established fact.

William Shatner Captain Kirk and I melded. It may have been only out of the technical necessity; the thrust of doing a television show every week is such that you can’t hide behind too many disguises. You’re so tired that you can’t stop to try other interpretations of a line, you can only hope that this take is good, because you’ve got five more pages to shoot. You have to rely on the hope that what you’re doing as yourself will be acceptable. Captain Kirk is me. I don’t know about the other way around.

David Gerrold (writer, “The Trouble With Tribbles”) The problems with Shatner and Nimoy really began during the first season when Saturday Review did this article about “Trek” which stated that Spock was much more interesting than Kirk, and that Spock should be captain. Well, nobody was near Shatner for days. He was furious. All of a sudden, the writers are writing all this great stuff for Spock, and Spock, who’s supposed to be a subordinate character, suddenly starts becoming the equal of Kirk.

PHILIP KAUFMAN (Writer-Director: Planet of the Titans) I still remember the night when it was getting very close. I was then writing and I stayed up all night, but I knew I had a great story. I remember how shaky I was trying to stand up from my writing table and I called Rose, my wife, and I said “I’ve got it, I really know this story,” and right then the phone rang. It was Jerry Isenberg saying the project’s been cancelled. And I said, “What do you mean?” and he said, “They said there’s no future in science fiction,” which is the greatest line: there is no future in science fiction.

Excerpted from The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years © Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 2016

Best Novella

Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling, November 2016, Tachyon Press.

I am ashamed to admit that even though I work in a bookstore, my knowledge of the yearly offerings of short fiction is woefully inadequate. Annually, I depend on recommendation sites, word of mouth and the actual nomination lists to catch up.

BUT, this year, I have at least one recommendation: Bruce Sterling’s darkly comic novella, Pirate Utopia.

Set in a small Italian town of Fiume off the Adriatic coast after the First World War, a disparate group of artists, veterans, scientists, criminals and various political fanatics have come together to form the Free State of Carnaro which has dedicated itself to explore and exploit every form of libertine and social excess in every shape and form.

Based on a true story of a similar city that actually existed between 1920 and 1924, Sterling takes a small piece of obscure history and turned it into a brilliantly funny and by turns, grotesque piece of alternative-diesel punk history.

Among the cast of characters who are part of the action are Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio), Benito Mussolini (as a newspaper editor!), Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft (as American spies?), and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (as innocent bystanders?).  The crazy quilt of a plot is just barely on the sane side of satire and is always twisting and turning in unexpected directions. Bruce Sterling deserves a lot of credit for turning many of the tropes of the genre of its head to make the story work.

Finally, a word about the artwork; all of the marvelous and madcap illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who also wrote an entertaining essay about how his work in the book  was influenced by Futurist artists of the period.

There a LOT packed into this little volume and it is quite a triumph for Bruce Sterling and Tachyon Press.

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

💛 💛 💛 #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

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

 

Bruce Sterling Receives Urania D’Argento Award

Trieste Science Plus Fiction presented Bruce Sterling with the Urania D’Argento award for lifetime achievement on November 6 reports Europa SF.

He is famous for Mirrorshades, a collection of short science fiction stories published in 1986 that helped to define the cyberpunk subculture, and is a very shrewd in his understanding of advanced technology and new media. Amongst his greatest works are Schismatrix (1985), Islands in the Net (1988) and The Difference Engine (1990), which he wrote with William Gibson. This year he has released Utopia Pirata (published by Urania), another collection of short stories set in Italy, under the pseudonym Bruno Argento.

Sterling has been living in Italy since 2007.

Not To Be Missed

Yes, there is a world outside the Sad Puppies controversy — and here are a pair of  good posts to remind you.

(1) In “Business Musings: Hidden Treasures”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch takes as her starting point the declining awareness of Andre Norton’s work, and spins it into a historical analysis of the changing availability of books to readers over the past four decades, with implications for bookstores, publishers, and libraries.

What happened with Andre Norton happened in a variety of ways to other older writers or writers’ estates. Copyright issues, draconian contracts, inept families running once-valuable estates, the impossibility of selling a book (for some of these writers) in the last two decades of the century caused a lot of beloved works to simply vanish.

If a writer’s work is impossible to get, then it’s impossible to become loved by a new generation.

That black hole, caused by the changes in bookselling and libraries from about 1979-2000 caused two generations to miss out on classic works of the genre. Not old moldy stuff that no one cares about, but really really good fiction that the readers would love if they only could get their hands on it.

It’s now up to us, the readers who grew up with some of this fiction, to revive it for a new generation. We need to ask for it. We need to get libraries to order it or make it available. We need to make websites devoted to older works. We need to give copies to younger readers.

The new world of publishing makes it possible for readers to find these works again. Readers just have to know these works exist and have to ask for them.

Then, when a publisher actually reprints some of these older works, we need to buy those works and give them to friends and family, and recommend those works on all of the reader sites.

We went through a few business cycles which caused an actual Dark Ages in literature. If we’re not careful, we will lose a part of our heritage that shouldn’t have gotten lost.

(2) On nerds of a feather, flock together, check out this two-part “Cyberpunks on the State of Science Fiction, Then and Now” with Rudy Rucker, Paul Di Filippo, Bruce Sterling and Pat Cadigan.

Part 1

Rudy Rucker

Another angle for changing SF from within is to start writing about a set of ideas that haven’t really been touched upon yet. That’s a true and hardcore kind of SF endeavor. It’s not easy. You have to get yourself to look at the present day world with new eyes—as if you’re a Martian. You pretty much want to forget about all the SF plots and futurist-type prognostications. In the same sense that your characters shouldn’t mirror characters in existing works, your ideas shouldn’t mirror futurist ideas that you might read in magazines.

A good rule of thumb here is that if most people believe something—then it’s wrong. Consider: a hundred years ago, the human race pretty much didn’t know jack shit about science or modern technology. A hundred years from now, just about every single bit of tech that we’re using today is going to be gone.What’s going to replace it? Anything you want. Make up the weirdest shit you can think of. Be optimistic. Why not a new force of nature? Why not aliens from the subdimensions? Why not telepathy with every single object that you see?

Pile on the bullshit and keep a straight face. As the immortal David Lee Roth said, “It’s not who wins or loses—it’s how good you look.” If you and your friends can make your books fun and quirky, then maybe the soggy, stodgy SF ship of state will change its course.

Paul Di Filippo

Rudy does a magnificent job of addressing this viewpoint. He speaks of self-publishing, slipping under the radar of mainstream, creating ezines, etc. I would also mention the great resource of the internet allowing writers to research and communicate beyond anything that has gone before. Imagine how the cyberpunk movement was conducted with paper fanzines! But he does not mention a few of the factors that are making the life of the SF writer so difficult. How to tackle these trends and issues is not something I have an easy answer to.

First is the very lack of gatekeepers and healthy elitist attitudes. The internet has “disintermediated” the hell out of a system that worked, in however flawed and biased a way, to produce the incredible canon of SF that we all cherish. It took Frank Herbert over twenty rejections to get Dune published. Would Herbert’s career have taken off better if he had self-pubbed it with no hassle? Maybe, maybe not (see below). The self-publishing movement, however valid and worthy in some cases, has also opened up the floodgates to a tsunami of crap. Amateurs ruin everything, I’m sorry. When asked if writing workshops discouraged fledgling writers, Flannery O’Connor said, “Not enough.” It’s just Gresham’s Law as applied to SF: bad fiction drives out the good. When presented by Amazon with a hundred new ebooks, 90% of which are shit, and one of which is Rudy’s and nine others of which are good stuff too, guess what the odds are of a random reader buying Rudy’s book, or one of the other nine?

Part 2

Bruce Sterling

I don’t think it’s “transgressive thinking” that solves your alleged problem there. Actually science fiction doesn’t have “inertia” now. It’s not stuck in place, it’s crumbling, disintegrating, like print media and book retail in general in most parts of the world.

Rigorous speculation isn’t in fashion now because science isn’t in fashion. You’re not gonna get a lot of “science” fiction when science is on the back foot in mass culture. People like product-development now, they don’t much like science — they like “technology,” by which they mostly mean commercialized digital technology.

Pat Cadigan

“Transgressive”?

I’ve been transgressive my whole life, not because I wanted to get in someone’s face but because there was always someone objecting to my being who I was in whatever context: e.g., a cyberpunk; a woman in a male-dominated field. Hell, in high school, I was the only girl in my physics class. That was 1970. I spent the first half of the school year just defending myself–and the teacher was the biggest jerk of all.

Free Read: Dead Media Ebook

All the posts from Bruce Sterling’s Dead Media project of 20 years ago have been collected and released as a free 921-page ebook.

Back in 1995 Sterling offered a “crisp fifty-dollar bill” to the first person to write and publish a project he and Richard Kadrey had dreamed up — a handbook “about media that have died on the barbed wire of technological advance, media that didn’t make it, martyred media, dead media…”

Such as: the phenakistoscope. The teleharmonium. The Edison wax cylinder. The stereopticon. The Panorama. Early 20th century electric searchlight spectacles. Morton Heilig’s early virtual reality. Telefon Hirmondo. The various species of magic lantern. The pneumatic transfer tubes that once riddled the underground of Chicago. Was the Antikythera Device a medium? How about the Big Character Poster Democracy Wall in Peking in the early 80s?

But somebody else would have to do it, explained Sterling, because “[we], after all, are just science fiction writers who spend most of our time watching Chinese videos, reading fanzines and making up weird crap.”

When nobody stepped forward (big surprise) Sterling appealed for help collecting stories and notes about dead media. These were hosted at Deadmedia.org and eFanzines’ Bill Burns was one of the participants. Burns described an example of dead media in USA Today’s 1997 story about the website:

The notes illustrate something often lost in today’s relentless barrage of technological hype: Innovations that were once the latest and greatest can vanish without a trace.

Who remembers the Regina players that once filled homes, bars and hotels with music? A cross between a record player and a music box, they were 20-inch metal disks that interacted with tiny sprockets that in turn twanged small tone bars. The players required no electricity, merely a good strong arm to crank them up.

“They lasted from the 1890s to about 1912,” says Bill Burns, an engineer on Long Island who collects them. “All the popular tunes of the day came out on these stamped steel or zinc disks. It was an entire industry.” Gone without a ripple, in the wake of the phonograph.

Download the book free at Amazon and at itunes.

[Thanks to Bill Burns for the story.]

The Shrinking Worldcon?

Emily Mah, an sf and fantasy writer (who’s also published as E. M. Tippetts) found Denvention 3 a cause for mourning, for a couple of reasons:

And sadly, WorldCon seems to be shrinking. This one in Denver was notably smaller than any other I’ve seen. Some think that WorldCon is slowly being cannibalized by ComiCon, and that’s definitely a possibility. Perhaps the saddest thing was how few of the Hugo nominees and winners came. The ceremony was dominated by other people reading acceptance speeches of little slips of paper.

What saddens me about all this isn’t so much that Denvention wasn’t the nonstop party that WorldCon usually is, though that too was a bummer. It’s hard to watch the community dissipating. One of the most interesting things about SF, that I learned coming out of Clarion West, was how interconnected everyone was. I.e. Connie Willis tells a story about turning down an offer to cowrite with David Brin, getting chocolates from him, losing said chocolates, and having Bruce Sterling help her find them again. Connie Willis, David Brin, and Bruce Sterling write in rather different styles, yet they all knew each other socially and artistically.

Best Novel nominees Sawyer, Scalzi and Stross all attended — if the voters wanted a winner to accept in person they only had to back one of them. Truly, I’d say the combination of (1) major sf/fantasy writers coming from all the largest English-language countries, and (2) Worldcons happening around the globe in places they can’t all afford to go, practically guarantees there will always be several proxies accepting others’ Hugos.

But Mah’s observation about the diminishing focus on the Worldcon for a closely-connected community of sf writers sounds like it may hold some truth. I don’t feel that way because Denvention wasn’t a large Worldcon, that may just coincide with the fading of the Boomer generation, which may be the real cause.

Update 8/21/2008: Cheryl Morgan points out that Ian McDonald (Brasyl) was at Denvention, too, so the only absent Best Novel nominee was the winner…