Pixel Scroll 5/11/17 I Got Two Pixels When I Scrolled The Bones

(1) THE ROARING 20. James Davis Nicoll continues his series of “core” lists with “Twenty Core Trader Speculative Fiction Works Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

(2) PRIME TIME LE GUIN. Rare video of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Guest of Honor Speech at Aussiecon (1975) has been uploaded to YouTube by Fanac.org.

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. Guest of Honor Ursula K. Le Guin gave an insightful and entertaining speech about the state of science fiction, and her part in it. There’s a real sense of community evident here, as well as a delightful sense of humor (look for the propeller beanie). Le Guin’s comments on the place of women in the field are particularly interesting. The bearded gentleman who introduces her is Robin Johnson, chairman of Aussiecon. Thanks to S.C.I.F.I. for digitizing, and to Elayne Pelz for providing us the footage.

 

(3) I FOUGHT THE LAW. Litigation begins: “Bookseller Suing California Over ‘Autograph Law'”. {Publishers Weekly has the story.

Last year, the California legislature broadened a set of civil code regulations focused on autographed collectibles to include “all autographed items” with a value over $5. Assembly Bill 1570 requires anyone selling autographed books to provide an extremely detailed “certificate of authenticity” with each book, describing the book, identifying the signer, noting witnesses of the book signing, insurance information, and other details. Per the new law, booksellers must keep the certificates for seven years or risk substantial damages, court fees, and a civil penalty if the autographed book gets questioned in court.

These new regulations took effect in January, prompting protests from around the state—including a Change.org petition with over 1,700 signatures urging the state legislature to repeal the bill. Petrocelli’s suit marks the first time a California bookseller has challenged the law in court.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit law firm defending “private property rights, individual liberty, free enterprise, [and] limited government,” mounted Petrocelli’s lawsuit free of charge, as it does for all its clients. “We spoke to booksellers up and down the coast,” said Anastasia Boden, one of the PLF attorneys representing Book Passage in the suit. “But Bill was the only one so far brave enough to join a constitutional lawsuit and act as a civil rights plaintiff.”

The lawsuit argues that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” By that argument, the regulations Assembly Bil 1570 places on booksellers violates a basic freedom accorded to all Americans by the Constitution.

According to the lawsuit, the new paperwork and penalties “significantly burdened and seriously threatened” Petrocelli’s efforts to sell books autographed by their authors. Book Passage hosts around 700 author events every year, as well as a “Signed First Editions Club” for dedicated members. These programs, under the new law, would generate thousands of pages of paperwork, as well as the potential for massive liabilities.

(4) POPCORN V. PROTEIN BARS. Yahoo! Beauty finds “Wonder Woman Fans Angry Over ‘ThinkThin’ Movie Promotion Deal”.

Wonder Woman is viewed as a strong and fearless female character in popular culture — and one would think that the production company about to debut a major feature film based on the character would align its marketing tools with the same profile.

Instead, Warner Bros. has partnered with the protein-focused nutrition company ThinkThin to promote the upcoming flick, and it’s causing quite a stir, as many users believe it sends the wrong message.

“We wanted to celebrate a hero film featuring a woman in the leading role,” Michele Kessler, the president of ThinkThin, said in a press release on the partnership. “We love that Wonder Woman has super strength, and we’re proud to offer delicious products that give women the everyday strength they need to power through their day.”

But despite ThinkThin’s belief that its variety of protein smoothie mixes and bars are fit for powerful women — the primary target the upcoming film is celebrating — fans still have a lot to say about the partnership. Many believe teaming up with the company sends the wrong message from the film.

There have proven to be two sides to the controversy — as this pair of tweets shows:

(5) OPEN DOORS. Bryan Thao Worra, President of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, told Specpo readers — “’Science Fiction is for Everyone’ Panel at LA Harbor College a success”.

On April 25th, the Cultural Equity Workgroup invited five science fiction authors and fans to LA Harbor College to discuss the subject “Science Fiction Is For Everyone,” for a room that was at times standing room only.

Held in Tech 110, I was presenting with Stephanie Brown, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Jaymee Goh, Gregg Castro and Steven Barnes. It was a great line-up with some touching comments that drew on diverse fields of knowledge and experience, from the work and influence of Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia Butler, to the way readers and writers have been brought into the world of science fiction not only in the US but around the world. There was a strong highlight on the appeal of steampunk and afrofuturism.

During my portion of the panel, I focused on a discussion of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and had the honor of previous SFPA president Deborah Kolodji in attendance as well as fellow SFPA member and community builder Denise Dumars facilitating the conversation. Overall, our audience was very engaged with our varied approaches to the speculative arts. I demonstrated that speculative poetry draws on a very extensive tradition back to the very roots of poetry itself. The work of Edgar Allan Poe was cited as one of the key efforts to develop a distinctive American voice in poetry that was distinct from what was found in Europe at the time.

(6) PROMETHEUS ONLINE. The Libertarian Futurist Society has launched a new blog devoted to science fiction, Prometheus Blog which replaces the society newsletter.

The new blog complements our main mission of awarding annual literary awards, the Prometheus Award and the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, along with periodic special awards and Hall of Fame awards for notable authors.

..We will be offering news about our organization’s awards and actions, and we’ll be publishing reviews of science fiction books and other artistic works of genre interest, and essays on science fiction.

The blog’s introductory post is “Freedom in the Future Tense: A Political History of SF” by Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and a longtime SF fan.

One: people whose basic political philosophy is flatly incompatible with libertarianism will continue to find the SF mainstream an uncomfortable place to be. Therefore, sporadic ideological revolts against the Campbellian model of SF will continue, probably about the established rate of one per decade. The Futurians, the New Wave, the cyberpunks, and “Radical Hard SF” were not the end of that story, because the larger political questions that motivated those insurrections are not yet resolved.

Two: all these revolts will fail in pretty much the same way. The genre will absorb or routinize their literary features and discard their political agendas. And SF will continue to puzzle observers who mistake its anti-political DNA for conservatism while missing its underlying radicalism.

And the blog’s coming attractions:

In the next few weeks, we will publish book reviews of all of the current nominees for the 2017 Prometheus Award. A survey of the works of Jack Vance will soon by published. Many other articles are in the pipeline.

(9) STATION INFESTATION. Here’s a rare opportunity to watch a monster movie within a stone’s throw of the locale they terrorized — “Off-Ramp Recommendation: Scientists needed! Giant ants invade Union Station Friday night!”

Let’s face it. Ants are nobody’s favorite. They ruin summer picnics, sneak under the door to steal your crumbs, and are… HUGE?! In 1954 sci-fi film “Them!” ants are gigantic, radioactive, flesh-eating, and coming directly for you!

Friday night, as part of the Metro Art series, Union Station is screening the second film in its “Sci-Fi at Union Station” series. It’s the 1954 sci-fi classic “Them!” LA Times entertainment reporter and classic Hollywood expert Susan King will provide a background on the film and its historical significance to both the sci-fi genre and LA.

Director Gordon Douglas helped created the nuclear monster genre with “Them!” and due to its campy horror, the movie has become a cult-classic. “Them!” follows the creation and subsequent terror of carnivorous insects and their pursuit of film stars James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Weldon. The film culminates in a battle scene set in our very own city, featuring shots of beautiful Union Station, LA’s neighborhoods, and storm drains.

And if that’s not enough – young Leonard Nimoy appears in the film (in a very minor role)!

(10) MORE FROM WJW. Flyover Fandom has Part 2 of its interview with Walter Jon Williams.

DAF: The Praxis is a very stratified society. What did you look at for inspiration, because at times you will have Peers engaged in almost comedy of manners escapades. At other times they engage in white collar crime. What did you pull from?

WJW: There are almost too many to mention. But certainly the books reflect class and class resentment in the 19th century British empire. Which became more class-based as the century went on, but in addition to the diehard imperialists out to conquer the world, they also produced Bertie Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

The social setting is based on Republican Rome, as that experience came down through Spain and the colonial experience in New Mexico where I live. There are certain practices common in Rome that are still common in New Mexico, such as the patron-client relationship exercised by the leading Spanish families and their descendants.

The underground movements of World War II are another great inspiration. At one point Sula is leading the an underground movement against an occupying army, and I gave her an alias taken from a real-life French resistance heroine, Lucie Aubrac.

(11) TODAY’S DAY

Twilight Zone Day

The Twilight Zone was created by acclaimed television producer Rod Serling in 1959, with the first episode premiering on October 2nd. At the time of its release, it was vastly different from anything else on TV, and it struggled a bit to carve out a niche for itself at the very beginning. In fact, Serling himself, though respected and adored by many, was famous for being one of Hollywood’s most controversial characters and was often call the “angry young man” of Hollywood for his numerous clashes with television executives and sponsors over issues such as censorship, racism, and war. However, his show soon gained a large, devoted audience. Terry Turner of the Chicago Daily News gave it a rave review, saying, “Twilight Zone is about the only show on the air that I actually look forward to seeing. It’s the one series that I will let interfere with other plans.” The Twilight Zone ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964.

(12) EXOPLANET STUDY. James Davis Nicoll calls this “more evidence we live in a Hal Clement universe” — “Primitive atmosphere discovered around ‘Warm Neptune'”.

A pioneering new study uncovering the ‘primitive atmosphere’ surrounding a distant world could provide a pivotal breakthrough in the search to how planets form and develop in far-flung galaxies.

A team of international researchers, co-lead by Hannah Wakeford from NASA and Professor David Sing from the University of Exeter, has carried out one of the most detailed studies to date of a ‘Warm Neptune’ – a planet that is similar in size to our own Neptune, but which orbits its sun more closely.

The study revealed that the exoplanet – found around 430 light years from Earth – has an atmosphere that composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with a relatively cloudless sky.

This primitive atmosphere suggests the planet most likely formed closer to its host star or later in its solar system development, or both, compared to the Ice Giants Neptune or Uranus.

Crucially, the discovery could also have wide implications for how scientists think about the birth and development of planetary systems in distant galaxies.

(13) CRY ME A RIVER. Break out your tissues – ScreenRant is ready to show you “Doctor Who: 15 Most Heartbreaking Moments”. (Boo Who!)

  1. River is saved in The Library

Entire books could be written on The Doctor and River Song and how their relationship is a mess of mixed up timelines. The Doctor’s first moment with her is River’s last with him and wrapping your head around that is a sadder thing than most. As the audience, our relationship with their story begins from The Doctor’s perspective and it’s not until later seasons do we realize just how lovely it really is.

River’s first appearance coincides with her death and it’s tough for us to watch, let alone for The Doctor to experience. She knows his true name, has his screwdriver, and is aware of every moment of their future together but–for the sake of spoilers–knows she can’t divulge too much.

In her dying moments, she talks about her last night with him and how beautiful it was before saying goodbye to the man she’s loved for years, knowing that he’s only just met her.

In a final and also first act of love–The Doctor realizes his future self had a plan and is able to restore River’s mind (saved in the sonic screwdriver) to a computer where she can, in a way, live on for eternity.

(14) MY VOTE. Is it too late to pick Hayley Atwell as the next Doctor Who? ScreenRant sells the idea.

If the series does decide to go for a female Doctor in season eleven, we’re looking pointedly in the direction of Marvel star Hayley Atwell. The British actress shot to fame as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, a role that eventually led to her own spin-off series, Marvel’s Agent Carter. Agent Carter was cancelled after two seasons, to the disappointment of its huge fan base, and Atwell went on to work on Conviction, which was cancelled after only a single season. Although we would have loved to see Atwell find success with the show, this leaves her in need of a new project – and what better than Doctor Who?

Atwell has everything that we are looking for in a new Doctor. She’s British, which is something of a requirement (it’s easier to envision a female Doctor than an American one, for most fans!), and she’s very used to dealing with a major role in a huge franchise, thanks to Marvel. Her role as Agent Carter also proved her ability to work with a sci-fi/fantasy role, and to get physical with a part. Peggy Carter is not afraid to do things her own way, or to get her hands dirty; and while the doctor isn’t as violent as Peggy has been, he certainly does his fair share of physical adventuring. She’s got a genius for comedy, which is a vital part of the show, and she’s mature enough and experienced enough to handle a character as complicated as the Doctor. She’s also much younger than Capaldi – and we’ve seen from past Doctors that the current fandom seems to connect more with younger regenerations. Although longtime fans loved Capaldi’s take on the character, there is no denying that some viewers did find him less appealing than the more boyishly charming Smith and David Tennant.

In addition to all of this, Atwell herself has said that she would like to take on the role. In a Twitter Q&A, the actress said “I’d like to BE Doctor Who”, setting the fandom alight when it happened in 2015. At the time, she was busy with Agent Carter, but now that she’s looking for a new project, we would be surprised if she doesn’t throw her hat in the ring with the BBC. Having a longtime fan join the franchise is always a good thing, as it means that the new star is approaching the role with an in-depth understanding of who, exactly, the Doctor really is.

(15) SCI-FI ORIGINS. This is as exciting as paleontologists finding a record-setting homonid fossil. Yesterday in comments, Bill pointed to a 2014 post by Fred Shapiro claiming an earlier origin for the term “sci-fi” than previously known:

There has been a fair amount of attention given to the question of what is the earliest use of the term “sci-fi.”  The OED’s first use is dated 1955.  The OED web site of science fiction citations has a December 1954 usage by Forrest J. Ackerman, who is often said to be the coiner.  A supposed usage by Robert A. Heinlein in 1949 has been shown to be erroneous.  The term looks very much like a Varietyism, and in fact I have now found an earlier occurrence in Variety:

1954 _Variety_ 17 Feb. 38 (ProQuest)  New Telepix Shows … The commercial possibilities are there as well since “Junior Science,” aside from its positive qualities, is a rewarding change of pace from the more thunderous sci-fi and spaceship packages.

(16) GRAPHIC STORY. Deadline: Hollywood displays the new SyFy logo.

For the first time since the NBCUniversal cable network changed its name from Sci Fi to Syfy in 2009, it is changing its logo, introducing a new identity brand refresh ahead of the channel’s 25th anniversary in September.

(17) SYFY REBOOT. io9 says the logo is a minor change in comparison to what will be happening to Syfy programming: “Syfy’s Plan to Save Itself: Harry Potter, Comic Books, and George R.R. Martin”.

Of course, all of that is window dressing compared what Syfy will actually put up on screens. McCumber said the goal was to go back to high-end, scripted television, with four focuses: space and scifi, fantasy, paranormal and supernatural, and superheroes and comics.

The Expanse and The Magicians are clearly the network’s flagship returning shows, mentioned many times and with pictures all over the presentations. For new projects, it was announced Tuesday night that Happy!, the adaptation of a Grant Morrison comic starring Christopher Meloni that was announced last year, will get a full season. Similarly, the Superman prequel Krypton has a full series order.

The only new project announced was the development of George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers, a scifi-horror novella he wrote in 1980, which was actually adapted into a movie in 1987.

(18) NEW GRRM TV PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter says “George R.R. Martin Novella ‘Nightflyers’ Headed for TV on Syfy”.

The ‘Game of Thrones’ creator is teaming with writer Jeff Buhler to develop the drama for the small screen.

Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin is expanding his TV footprint.

The author and exec producer of HBO’s fantasy drama is teaming with Syfy to adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers for the small screen, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Set in the future on the eve of Earth’s destruction, a crew of explorers journey on the most advanced ship in the galaxy, The Nightflyer, to intercept a mysterious alien spacecraft that might hold the key to their survival. As the crew nears their destination, they discover that the ship’s artificial intelligence and never-seen captain may be steering them into deadly and unspeakable horrors deep in the dark reaches of space.

(19) DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THIS. The editor of Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cirsova apparently is getting it from both sides.

Here’s an example from “his side.”

And I guess this is what provoked Cirsova’s comment. (Waves hello!)

(20) NODDING OFF. Did any SF writers think getting a good night’s sleep in space would be this difficult? “The quest to help astronauts sleep better”.

But getting a good night’s sleep in space is not easy. There are no beds or pillows – astronauts sleep strapped to the wall in sleeping bags. And that’s not all. “There’re probably several reasons they don’t sleep properly,” says Elmenhorst. “Isolation, a sunrise every 90 minutes and [with the ventilation system] it’s quite noisy in the ISS.” Often, astronauts have to work shifts to monitor experiments or capture visiting supply ships.

To investigate how this lack of sleep affects astronauts’ performance, Elmenhorst’s team has been subjecting groups of paid volunteers to sleep deprivation experiments. “We want to show how sleep loss affects cognitive function,” she says, “and how some people cope better than others.”

(21) SEE-THRU. “Scientists 3D-print transparent glass” – a video report. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “It will be interesting to see whether they ever make their goal of printing photographic lenses, which would require very fine control.”

(22) BUDDHISM AND SCIENCE. How did the religion gain its reputation for being less incompatible with science than many others? At NPR: “Buddhism, Science And The Western World”.

Of course, by its very nature religion, all religions, are changed by their encounters with new cultures. This is particularly true of Buddhism and its steady march eastward from its birth in India 2,500 years ago. Religions always have a way of outgrowing their own scriptural and ritual basis, while simultaneously holding on to them. As author Karen Armstrong has shown, practitioners in any age are always selecting out those parts of their religions that are meaningful to them while ignoring the parts that seem dated. She called the process “creative misreading.”

[Robert] Sharf has no problem with the creative misreading that allows Buddhist Modernism to share space with scientific worldviews. “My concern,” he told Tricycle, “is not with the selectivity of those who read Buddhism as a rationalist and scientific religion — it is perfectly understandable given the world in which we live. It is really not a question of misreading. It is a question of what gets lost in the process.”

(23) SITH REALITY. Cédric Delsaux has put an interesting spin on Star Wars by incorporating its imagery into real photos.

“Over the years, many artists have interpreted Star Wars in ways that extend well beyond anything we saw in the films. One of the most unique and intriguing interpretations that I have seen is in the work of Cedric Delsaux, who has cleverly integrated Star Wars characters and vehicles into stark urban, industrial – but unmistakably earthbound – environments. As novel and disruptive as his images are, they are also completely plausible.”

George Lucas

(24) WRITE A BIG CHECK. An early visualization of the idea for Disneyland will be auctioned soon, and it won’t go cheap — “Original Disneyland concept art shows park origins, growth”.

Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019.

Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first.

That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

(25) ANIMATION ROUNDUP. Financial Times writer James Mottram, in “Are animation movies growing up?”, gives an overview of current arthouse animation projects, including Tehran Taboo, Your Name, and the Oscar-nominated film which is My Life As A Zucchini in the US and My Life As A Courgette in the Uk.  He includes an interview with Michael Dudok de Wit, director of the Oscar-nomnated, Studio Ghibli-backedThe Red Turtle. (The link is to the Google cache file, which worked for me – I hope it will work for you!)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, rcade, Eli, Bill, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

A Speculative Kerfuffle

The Science Fiction Poetry Association is taking nominations from members for the Rhysling Awards until February 15. A.J. Odasso, Strange Horizons Senior Poetry Editor, nominated two poems published by Strange Horizons (which is within the rules) but originally one of them was rejected as insufficiently speculative. The nomination was soon restored – amid charges of racism against Rhysling Award decision makers,  and raking up the personal history of another SFPA volulnteer. And debate continues over the elusive definition of “speculative poetry.”

A.J. Odasso protested against the original decision in a January 14 tweet and followed up on January 17 with a blog post “Concern re: removal of a 2017 Rhysling Award nomination”.

Since nominations are currently open until February 15th for this year’s Rhysling Awards, I did what I usually do: nominate one short poem and one long poem, both of which happened to be poems that I and one of my co-editors had published in Strange Horizons during the course of 2016.  In addition to meeting the line-count requirements, both poems were published in the correct year, in a magazine of speculative literature.  There are rules against nominating your own work, but there are no rules against nominating work you’ve had a hand in publishing.  And it’s a good thing there aren’t, because reading submissions guarantees you’re at the front lines of reading the most exciting new work your community has to offer.

[The poem was selected for Strange Horizons by another poetry editor. Strange Horizons has four.] 

… While I was at Arisia this past weekend dashing from panel to panel, I received an upsetting message from the current Rhysling Anthology Chair [previous SFPA president David Kopaska-Merkel].  My nomination for the Short Poem category, Layla Al-Bedawi’s “Propagation,” had been accepted, but my Long Poem nomination, Tlotlo Tsamaase’s “I Will Be Your Grave,” had been rejected.  I was being asked to find a different long poem to nominate because Tlotlo’s piece was apparently not speculative enough.  First of all, I’d never heard of nominations being rejected; second of all, the nomination had already been made public on the website.  Poets had already been engaged in excitedly congratulating each other on their nominations for more than a week.  I was instantly outraged on Tlotlo’s behalf, as I can’t think of any universe in which publicly announcing a nomination and then deciding to revoke it after the fact isn’t bad form.  I spent a number of hours on email urging the [award] Chair to reconsider this decision in light of the fact that it would be deeply, deeply hurtful to the poet after they’d already seen their nomination, but Tlotlo’s piece was removed before the day was over.

… Mistake or not, this action is problematic for more reasons than I can reasonably delineate in one blog post.  At worst, it’s exclusionary and, yes, even racist to claim that a poem by a writer of color, published in a speculative magazine, is not speculative enough by white/Western standards to be worthy of nomination.  At best, it really is just a mistake, but even at that juncture, it had been publicly posted before being revoked.  It’s flat-out bad form to essentially tell someone, hey, congrats, you’ve earned this honor, and then say, oh, oops, sorry, our bad, it just didn’t conform to standards, we’ve got to pull it.  No matter which way you consider it (and, frankly, I consider it in both), Tlotlo’s owed an apology.

SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra responded the same day as the first tweet —

The same day that Odasso’s post was published, Lev Mirov took up the racial issue.

Elizabeth Barrette, in “Rhysling Award discrimination”, vigorously prosecuted the charges of racism and cultural insensitivity, beginning with an explanation of the African literary context of the poem, then launching into populist arguments against SFPA leadership.

…These perspectives are routinely excluded from white society and, especially, recognition such as awards. Often there’s no representation at all; when black people win awards, it tends to make the news because it doesn’t happen much. It’s usually not because the people rejecting them are the kind of racists who think black people are inferior. It’s because they think black ideas are uninteresting and irrelevant — in this case, “not speculative enough.” Not “good enough.” Not “really” speculative poetry. Not “worthy” of being permitted to compete at all. The awards typically go to things closer to the middle of the bell curve. Usually it’s because people don’t vote for black literature; the perspective shown by the award chairs and officers of the SFPA is common, though by no means universal. But sometimes it’s enforced from the top down, like this case when an African poem shows up to the literary lunch counter and is thrown out the door by organizational fiat. The member who nominated it is not permitted to have a voice regarding what speculative poetry “is,” the poem is not permitted to compete in the award despite meeting the technical standards, its author is excluded from the privileged circle of nominees, and the general membership is prevented from voicing our opinion about what is or is not “speculative enough” and “good enough” through our votes for the Rhysling Award. At the same time, this high-handed move directly blocks everyone else’s mindful efforts to promote diversity in speculative poetry by forcibly removing the option of voting for this poem. Our opinions and work don’t matter; we don’t get a choice. Someone else gets to decide that. Someone with more power. Someone more important. Someone who gets to say which poems and poets can sit at the literary lunch counter, or not. Institutionalized racism is difficult to fix precisely because of examples like this where someone in power can directly thwart other people’s hard work in solving the problem.

The Twitter exchange continued on January 17 –

Then, on January 18, this bluntly-worded tweet came out from the SFPA Twitter account.

And A.J. Odasso, in a comment added to the orignal post, asserted —

The SFPA is populated by a handful of people who really are as exclusionary as they appear to be, and they’ll go to any lengths to insist that they aren’t. And they don’t even seem to understand that a thing can still be racist even if they don’t intend it to be. Like we haven’t covered that enough?

In a further exchange of comments, Odasso laid the blame for the SFPA tweet at the feet of F.J. Bergmann, because SFPA’s webmaster had earlier tweeted an unsympathetic response from her personal account, and immediately dragged Bergmann’s WisCon controversies into the discussion.

However, Bergmann proved not to be the author of the SFPA tweet, that was SFPA officer Diane Severson:

I am Diane Severson, membership and communications chair of the SFPA, who tweets from @sfpoetry . It was not FJ Bergmann who made those blunders on Twitter, but me. I feel sick about this whole situation. I find it very difficult to respond to accusations such as had been made within the context of a tweet.

… We put our collective foot in it with Tlotlo Tsamaase’s poem. I hate that this sort of thing keeps happening to us. We are not evil. An unfortunate few (6 people) are tasked with running the organization. It is the desire of ALL of us to increase inclusivity and diversity within the organization and in our publications. I know that many feel it is not our job to police what is SpecPo. It has never been our intention to do so. With regard to early nominations, we had an unfortunate misunderstanding among those of us determining a nominated poem’s eligibility, which is not just whether it is Spec or not, since there are actual mistakes nominators make in regards to eligibility (year of publication, length, nominators membership, etc.). It was always our intention to ask the nominator for an “explanation” in the event the chair thought it didn’t seem speculative. It’s unclear to me whether that happened, AJ. Barring that we had intended that if only one of the officers thought it was “spec enough” it should be included. In this case, they were split in their impressions and the chair mistakenly thought we’d agreed it should be unanimous.

Odasso responded with an apology to Severson:

I’d like to apologize for my less tactful moments in all of this, too, up to and including assuming the identity of who made the tweets.

Severson continued:

It’s so hard to navigate these issues. No one gets the benefit of the doubt that missteps are unintentional and therefore one is always put in a defensive position. Instead of being informed of one’s errors and given a chance to rectify things, accusation and yes, intolerance is very often what’s led with. Like I said, I’m sick that this keeps happening, but I also have a hard time understanding why people don’t talk to us before tearing us a new one.

Severson also told Odasso that she actually owed the apology to Bergmann, but Odasso replied that Bergmann was deserving of her comments.

SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra made a public statement on January 19, to which he appended this unofficial comment showing he favored the restored nomination:

I always hope that we respect the premise that even if we don’t think of a particular poem as speculative by our personal definitions, at least one of our other members esteemed that poem enough to nominate for consideration. It stands, then, that we recognize those works as a professional courtesy, within reason. Or unreason, if that’s your thing.

The next day, on January 20, SFPA Secretary Shannon Connor Winward, gave her perspective in “Arbitrating Spec”.

….I’d like to share my thoughts, as both a writer and fan of speculative poetry as well as an SFPA officer with firsthand knowledge of the events that transpired.  I believe that, although it may be at times uncomfortable, this is one of those difficult conversations that needs to be had.

WHAT IS SPECULATIVE POETRY?

One of the first issues to appear on my radar as an elected officer of the SFPA was the fact that, even within an organization dedicated to speculative poetry, not everyone agrees on what “speculative” means.  While this may seem like a philosophical or semantic question, it’s also a practical one.  The SFPA exists to foster community among people who read and write speculative poetry.  Each year the SFPA publishes two award anthologies (the Rhysling and the Dwarf Stars) of speculative poetry, bestows the Elgin Award for chapbook and book-length speculative poetry manuscripts, and hosts a speculative poetry contest with cash prizes, with the express purpose of highlighting the very best speculative poetry being written today.  Without a clear, working consensus of what speculative poetry is, what’s the fucking point?

…And yet.  As an officer of the SFPA, it is my responsibility to help recruit, vet, and assist those people we appoint as Editors and Chairs of our organization’s endeavors.  This year’s Rhysling Chair, David Kopaska-Merkel, is a notable member of the SFPA and the wider speculative poetry community – a person with a breadth of experience and demonstrated ability.  We were thrilled to have him take the helm for this project, and to vest him with the responsibilities as well as the discretion required for the role.

I am deeply troubled by the accusations on social media that David acted irresponsibly in deeming certain poems ineligible, or that his actions were done with malice, with the intent of purposely excluding some voices.  As Rhysling Chair, it is David’s job to ensure that all nominated poems meet the criteria for eligibility, which by extension includes determining whether the poems count as speculative, even though there is not – as yet – any clear policy to guide him in this.  David’s solution was to bring each poem that he found questionable to the attention of the executive committee, seeking our input, before making his final determination.  His was a measured, conscientious approach.  And while I did not personally agree with each decision that he made, I was willing to support them.

Members of the SFPA and in the greater community have questioned the right of one person to decide what counts as speculative – and given that as a community we’ve yet to land on a universal definition, it’s a valid question.  It has been argued that the fact the nominated poem first appeared in one of the most celebrated speculative markets in the field should automatically qualify the poem as speculative, which is also an excellent point—I even suggested as much myself at one point during one of the many discussions in our list-serv, saying that any poem published in a speculative journal had already been vetted by an editor and should get an automatic pass.

But on the other hand, a point that I haven’t seen vocalized is the fact that magazine editors, too, exercise personal discretion.  They make decisions based on the same personally or culturally defined and often arbitrary standards and preferences and biases that we, as readers, exercise—and they have the right to do so, because of the task that has been entrusted to them.  Similarly, the Rhysling Chair is tasked with interpreting the organization’s guidelines to the best of his or her ability, which also implies a degree of individual, even arbitrary discretion—and that is what happened.  Without any clear guidance in the form of official policy, and with only the less-than-unanimous opinions of the executive committee (a microcosm of the larger spec community), he made a judgment call.

Personally, I am glad that “I Will Be Your Grave” was reinstated.  I believe that surrealism has a place in the speculative genre, and that poems like this are doing interesting things with language and imagery and genre tropes that should be recognized.  But as an officer, I believe the takeaway from this issue has less to do with righting a perceived injustice, and more to do with improving the Rhysling process.

I think, as a community, we need to look at the central issue –how do we define speculative, and, more importantly, who/how do we empower to apply that definition when it comes to featuring poems in our annual award programs—including our anthologies, which we hold up to the world as the best representatives of what speculative poetry is?

To accomplish this, we need to move away from the merry-go-round of debate (and name-calling) that is endemic in our social media and forums.  We need to work together to define clear and equitable guidelines for both the nomination process and the vetting system—assuming a vetting system for “speculative” should even exist….

It so happened that Winward had already opened a poll on her website asking people what is and isn’t “speculative.” Now the results are in — establishing that, much like the definition of “science fiction,” few can agree on what it is.

[Thanks to Robin A. Reid for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/17 Have Space Suit, Would Travel, But Ain’t Got No Visa

(1) SLOWER THAN EMPIRES AND HALF VAST. It all seems to obvious now. CheatSheet explains: “’Star Wars’: Why Delaying ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’ Was the Right Call”.

From there, the plan was to release Episode VIII  (now officially titled The Last Jedi) a quick five months later, with each subsequent sequel and spinoff releasing in May of their respective years. Recent events though have put that schedule in jeopardy, culminating in a massive seven-month delayOur first hint at this possibility came courtesy of Meet the Movie Press, with host Jeff Sneider reporting on rewrites for Rian Johnson’s script that pushed the beginning of production out to February (initial plans had production scheduled to begin in September 2015). Already under the gun with the minuscule five-month gap between Rogue One and Episode VIII, the call was made official by Lucasfilm: The sequel to The Force Awakens will now release December 17, 2017.

…More than anything, the May release of Episode VIII would have been a nightmare from the marketing side. The Force Awakens released its first teaser almost exactly a year before its premiere. To follow a similar plan, Episode VIII would need a teaser by May of this year, all while Rogue One tries to get itself heard above the din of the main trilogy ahead of its own December release. The end result would have drowned out Rogue One and kept everyone’s eyes fixed on May 2017. With a year of spacing now between the two films, Lucasfilm no longer runs the risk of making people feel inundated by a revived franchise that’s already permeating every facet of our pop culture.

(2) KICKSTARTER SUCCESSS. Matt Godwin’s crowdfunded Latin@ Rising gets favorable notice from a San Antonio news outlet — “Anthology gathers best Latino sci-fi stories” in MySA.com.

Matt Goodwin compares “Latin@ Rising,” the new anthology of science fiction from San Antonio’s Wings Press, to an eclectic literary mix tape or playlist “in which there is an ebb and flow as you move through the loud and the brash, the quiet and the thoughtful.”

The latter might be Carmen Maria Machado’s “Difficult at Parties,” a first-person, present-tense story told as if through a camera lens about a woman struggling to return to some semblance of normal life after a sexual assault. As tension builds, she discovers she has developed a disturbing new psychic power.

On the other hand, Giannina Braschi’s “Death of a Businessman” is the cacophonous opening to a novel titled “The United States of Banana,” which is the author’s response to 9/11: “I saw the wife of the businessman enter the shop of Stanley, the cobbler, with a pink ticket in her hand. The wife had come to claim the shoes of the businessman. After all, they had found the feet, and she wanted to bury the feet with the shoes.”

(3) BOYCOTT WHEN CONVENIENT. Charles Stross says he’s canceling GoH appearance at Fencon XIV and won’t be making any other US appearances after that — “Policy change: future US visits”. However, he’s not cancelling a business trip to New York or attendance at Boskone because that would cost him money.

…Consequently I’m revising my plans for future visits to the United States.

I’ll be in New York and Boston for business meetings and Boskone in mid-February (I unwisely booked non-refundable flights and hotel nights before the election), but I am cancelling all subsequent visits for now. In particular, this means that I will no longer be appearing as guest of honor at Fencon XIV in Texas in September.

…As for why I’m cancelling this appearance … I have two fears.

Firstly, at this point it is clear that things are going to get worse. The Muslim ban is only the start; in view of the Administration’s actions on Holocaust Memorial Day and the anti-semitism of his base, I think it highly likely that Jews and Lefists will be in his sights as well. (As a foreign national of Jewish extraction and a member of a left wing political party, that’s me in that corner.)

Secondly, I don’t want to do anything that might be appear to be an endorsement of any actions the Trump administration might take between now and September. While it’s possible that there won’t be any more bad things between now and then (in which case I will apologize again to the Fencon committee), I find that hard to believe; equally possibly, there might well be a fresh outrage of even larger dimensions right before my trip, in which case my presence would be seen by onlookers as tacit acceptance or even collaboration.

As for my worst case nightmare scenario? Given the reshuffle on the National Security Council and the prominence of white supremacists and neo-nazis in this Administration I can’t help wondering if the ground isn’t being laid for a Reichstag Fire by way of something like Operation Northwoods. In which case, for me to continue to plan to travel to the United States in eight months time would be as unwise as it would have been to plan in February 1933 to travel to Germany in September of that year: it might be survivable, but it would nevertheless be hazardous….

(4) DICKINSON OBIT. Andrew Porter reports —

Originally from Leeds, England, fan Mike Dickinson, 69, died from cancer on January 20th. He had been in poor health for a year since being hit by a car, and then was diagnosed with lung cancer.

With David Pringle, he co-chaired Yorcon, the 1979 Eastercon, in Leeds, and was toastmaster of Yorcon II in 1981..

Among fanzines he published were the one-off fanzine Adsum in 1978; with Alan Dorey the one-off Sirius; three issues of Bar Trek with Lee Montgomerie; in 1979, the 95-97th issue of Vector for the British SF Association; and, in 1984, Spaghetti Junction.

David Pringle writes, “He was a mainstay of the Leeds SF group which met every Friday evening from some time in 1974 onwards, initially in a pub called The Victoria and later in one called the West Riding. That petered out in the 1980s — after I’d left Leeds in 1982, and after Mike and his partner Jackie went abroad for a couple of years, teaching English as a foreign language in Italy.”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1924 — Carl Taylor’s ice cream cone-rolling machine patented.
  • January 29, 1964 Stanley Kubrck’s timeless Dr. Strangelove opens simultaneously in the UK and USA. It was James Earl Jones’ first movie role.

(6) QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~ George Orwell

(7) ALL THE ROAD RAGE. My daughter liked playing on Wii, but I drove off the road so many times in one of those Mario Bros. games I would never be the kind of customer for this platform that this collector is — “Guy completes entire Wii library, and it’s massive”

Your stack of old Wii games pales in comparison to this guy’s collection. Nintendo Age forum user Aaron Norton, who goes by Nintendo Twizer, has posted pictures of his entire Wii library collection, and it’s ridiculous.

According to Norton, the Wii had 1,262 game releases in North America. His collection doesn’t include variants, like different cover arts, collector’s editions, or Nintendo Selects, which were discounted re-releases of popular games. It also doesn’t include demo discs or games that were released in two-packs later on, like the Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy bundle.

(8) JUST DROPPING IN. What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? NASA’s video “A Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto” simulates the ride down.

This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.

To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.

After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are.

 

(9) RHYME AND REASON. The Science Fiction Poetry Association has started a blog, SPECPO, with a flurry of interesting posts. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra introduced it on Facebook:

Some of you may have noticed we had a soft-launch of the new blog for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, SPECPO. This will be where we hope to share and archive more member news, interviews, reviews, readings, announcements, and shareable items with one another in a more timely and entertaining way.

To keep it clear: From an organization standpoint, SPECPO does NOT replace Star*Line as the official newsletter of the SFPA for more formal matters that require members atte…ntion, such as voting or other issues outlined in our bylaws and constitution. But SPECPO can serve as a space to post reminders and clarifying commentary and frequently unofficial viewpoints, particularly from guest posters (which will be clearly marked as such when appropriate).

The hope is that this will facilitate conversations on speculative poetry for those who aren’t actively on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, and to provide diverse content that’s reasonably easy to search back for, given the often overwhelming flurry of items that can come up on our list-serv and other forums. This is a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy what we’re putting together and that many of you will volunteer to be guest contributors! 🙂

Keep inspired and keep creating!

(10) DEFINE SPECULATIVE. Just like defining science fiction gives rise to controversies, so does the effort to define speculative poetry. SFPA’s Shannon Connor Winward asked people what is and isn’t “speculative” in a poll on her website. Now the results are in.

In November 2016, the SFPA officers published an informal online survey entitled “What Is Speculative Poetry”. The main purpose of this survey was to determine whether there is an overall consensus among the membership regarding what genres or sub-genres of poetry belong under the heading “speculative”, assuming no other genre elements are present. The results are posted below.

Survey Results

As indicated in the graph and table below, the results of the “What Is Speculative Poetry” survey represent a wide spectrum of opinion regarding what counts as “speculative”.  On the upper end of consensus, we find categories that are understood across the literary landscape as falling within the speculative umbrella, including Science Fiction, Space science & exploration, Fantasy, Magic, Supernatural Horror, Myth and Folklore, Fairy Tales, Alternative History, SF&F pop culture, Superheroes, Surrealism, Slipstream, Fabulism, and Weird and “What If”.

Genres that fell more towards the middle of the spectrum—that is, those receiving support by 40-65%  of responders, included Science (physics, chemistry, biology, etc), Domestic Fabulism, Dinosaurs, “Interstitial” works, biographies of speculative poets, and poems in which traditional SF&F tropes as literary device (analogy, simile).

On the lower end of the spectrum—those genres that are most controversial, according to responders—we find Bizzaro, SF&F tropes as metaphor (bit of inconsistency there), biographies of scientists and (non-speculative) poets, Mundane Horror, Nature, Religion, Gender, Real history, Cowboy & Western, and Romance.

… Based on the results, the answer to that question is clear as mud–yes, there is consensus, and no, there really isn’t.  Are we surprised? Not really!

Nevertheless, it is the consensus of the SFPA executive committee that this survey was, at least, an interesting experiment.  We feel that you, our members and colleagues, will also find it interesting, and that, in regards to eligibility for our awards and publications, this survey can also be a useful tool to future SFPA editors and award Chairs, who are tasked with answering the practical question, “What is speculative poetry?

(11) HOUSE DIVIDED. Shannon Connor Winward has also released the results of a poll about a more specific question – “SFPA ‘Rhysling Maximum Length’ Survey Report” . Despite the narrower question, there was even sharper division.

One such discussion pertained to the Rhysling award “Long Poem” category – specifically, what, if anything, should be done with especially long poems that are nominated for the award.  Several members voiced concerns that poems above a certain length might strain the budget for the Rhysling anthology by adding in extra pages and printing costs.  Others expressed the idea that particularly long poems might be better considered as a distinct genre, rather than competing against poems of a more easily-consumed length.

In response to these concerns, the SFPA officers published an online survey entitled “Rhysling Maximum Length”, in November 2016.

Question #1: Should there be an upper line limit to long length Rhysling nominated poems?

While not every participant responded to all six questions; this fundamental question received exactly 100 responses, revealing a pure 50/50 split in member opinion:

No – 50 (50%)

Yes – 50 (50%)

Question #2: If yes, what should the upper limit be?

Assuming the membership voted in favor of an upper line limit for poems in the “Long Poem” Rhysling category, it would be necessary to define said limit.

The first option, “9 pages / 5K words / 500 lines” was designed to dovetail upper length limit for Rhysling “Long Poems” with the minimum length requirements for the SFPA’s Elgin Award for book-length works.  Out of 51 responses, this option received a majority vote.

9 pages / 5K words / 500 lines – 30 (59%)

Other – 21 (41%)

(12) TRADING PRICES. If you already ordered this Gauntlet Press at the original $150 price you saved $50. Maybe more

When we priced the lettered edition of John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead we were told that George Romero would not be signing the lettered edition (even though we had a preface he wrote). Now Romero has agreed to sign that edition. His signing makes this an event book, therefore we are increasing the price of the lettered edition to $200. The only reason we would increase the price of a book is if we had someone sign our lettered edition we hadn’t expected; someone truly collectible. The good news is that anyone who has already purchased the lettered edition for $150 won’t have to pay a penny more. We don’t believe we should make those who pre-ordered a book pay more if we increase its price. Those who pre-ordered get the same lettered edition, signed by Russo and Romero, as anyone who orders now. And, a word to the wise…we are trying to get other major names to sign the book so the price might increase again. Order now and you get the book for $200 regardless whomever else we get to sign.

(13) MARTIAN CHRONICLER. In 2009, Ray Bradbury made his last visit to JPL to celebrate the success of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

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

2016 Elgin and Dwarf Star Awards

The Science Fiction Poetry Association announced the winners of the Elgin Awards and the Dwarf Stars Award today.

ELGIN AWARDS

Elgin Award: Book-Length Category

  • Crowned, by Mary Soon Lee

crowned-mary-soon-lee

In second and third place were:

  • 2nd — The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  • 3rd — Dark Energies, by Ann K. Schwader

Elgin Award: Chapbook Category

  • Undoing Winter, by Shannon Connor Winward

undoing-winder

In second and third place were:

  • 2nd — Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town, John Philip Johnson
  • 3rd — A Guide for the Practical Abductee, E. Kristin Anderson

DWARF STARS AWARD

  • “We Begin This Way”, Stacey Balkun

dwarf-stars-2016

In second and third place were:

  • 2nd – (three-way tie)
    • “untitled” (‘at the barre’) Julie Bloss Kelsey
    • “The Doorman”, F. J. Bergmann
    • “The Weathering”, Sandi Leibowitz
  • 3rd — “Alice was chasing white rabbits out of a black hole”, John C. Mannone

The Dwarf Stars Award is given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association to recognize the best speculative poem of 1–10 lines published in the previous year.

OTHER SFPA NEWS

The staff and executive committee of the SFPA announced that the organization’s current Treasurer, Bryan Thao Worra, has been chosen as the next President.