Linda Nagata, A Star of MilSF

By Carl Slaughter: Linda Nagata writes hard science fiction. Her novel First Light, first in her Red series, was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to receive a Nebula award.  Her novelette “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. “The Bohr Maker,” first in her Nanotech Succession series, won the Locus Award for best first novel.  Her latest novel, “The Last Good Man,” is scheduled for release on June 20.

THE LAST GOOD MAN
by Linda Nagata
Mythic Island Press

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.  The Last Good Man is a powerful, complex, and very human tale.

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR THE LAST GOOD MAN

  • The Last Good Man is a compelling and subversive novel, told by unique characters, especially True Brighton: sympathetic, prickly, determined, all too human. Linda Nagata has impressive insights into technological advances and their potential effects. Not to mention some very cool invented AI critters…. It was a privilege to read TLGM before its publication.” —Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Vonda N. McIntyre, author of Dreamsnake, Starfarers, and The Moon and the Sun.
  • I asked to see an advanced copy of The Last Good Man: with the caveat that I was very busy and might not get to it. I was just going to glance at the first few pages but looked up to find myself halfway through the book in the wee hours of the morning. Only an early morning appointment kept me from reading on but I finished it the following evening.  Welcome to the future of war. Soldiers on the ground depend more on their augmented reality visors, net connections, and hosts of robotic allies, than their rifles, but as long as they tread in harm’s way, certain things do not change, including collateral damage, ethical challenges, and the grief of a mother, a warrior herself, when her son dies in action.  Set where war’s bleeding edge of technology slams into people’s lives, this is a very human story, brilliantly told. —Steven Gould, author of Jumper.

THE RED SERIES
by Linda Nagata
Publisher:  Saga

THE RED [originally published as The Red: First Light]

Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.

Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality TV show.

When an airstrike almost destroys their outpost, a plot begins to unravel that’s worthy of Crichton and Clancy’s best. The conflict soon involves rogue defense contractors, corrupt US politicians, and homegrown terrorists who possess nuclear bombs. Soon Shelley must accept that the helpful warnings in his head could be AI. But what is the cost of serving its agenda?

Read a sample of The Red: First Light.

PRAISE FOR THE RED: FIRST LIGHT

  • “…one of the best pieces of near future Mil-SF ever written. What’s so good about it? The action rocks and the characters are engaging as hell. But this isn’t just adventure fiction, it’s Mil-SF and very well done, straight out of DARPA’s dreambook, not somebody’s fantasy.”  —  Ernest Lilley, SFRevu
  • The Red delivers intense action, leavened by a genuinely sympathetic portrait of soldiers caught up in battles they never chose. Best of all are Nagata’s well-informed representations of future military tech. This is hard science fiction at its finest, full of devices like bionic limbs, exosuits, autonomous drones, and brain implants that are being developed in labs today. But you’ve never seen them like this, at play in a realistic field of battle, controlled by people you actually care about.”  —  Annalee Newitz, io9.com
  • The Red: First Light is a gripping exploration of the human and technological aspects of next-generation warfare. What sets the story apart is its ability to address the human level of what it is like for soldiers to live with the next generation of battlefield technology and to place it within an action-driven story…”  —  August Cole, co-author of Ghost Fleet
  • The Red: First Light is one fantastic speculative fiction novel, from a plotting, characterization, military sci-fi, and thematic standpoint.”   —Thea James, Kirkus
  • “If ever you hear someone say women can’t write military science fiction, please do me a favor and smack them over the head with this book […] Seriously, it doesn’t get more edge-of-your-seat than this near-future thriller, which seamlessly blends advanced technology and military action with political drama.”  —  The BiblioSanctum
  • “A big part of what I, and many people, enjoy about SFF is seeing familiar elements spun in a new way […] In The Red, Nagata manages one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and enthralling meldings in SF of [the] familiar and “new spin.” […] It is an excellent novel and will likely remain near the top of my list of favorite 2015 reads. Highly Recommended”  –  Rob H. Bedford, SFF World
  • “…there is a believably organic texture to the various hardware, software, and weapons. The meshing of humans with technology — leading, inevitably, to dangerous co-dependence — is seamlessly presented. And man oh man, it is exciting.”  —  Rich Rosell, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
  • “…an amazing novel… The Red: First Light is a dark, intelligent, cynical take on military SF. It’s an excellent novel that deserves a much larger audience.”  —  Stefan Raets, Tor.com
  • “…the same post-Vietnam sense of discontinuity that separates The Forever War from Starship Troopers, updated for the post-9/11 world.”  —  Russell Letson, Locus
  • “Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light begins like a shot and never lets you go. Well-written, thrilling, and thoughtful, The Red: First Light is science fiction at its best.”  —  Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo-award winner & USA Today bestselling author
  • “Remember the scare times of the Cold War, when President Eisenhower warned us of the power of the military-industrial complex? Don’t you wish we had listened? In The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata gives us an alarming glimpse of the day after tomorrow—on an Earth torn by wars fueled by defense contractors. It’s a thriller; it’s a convincing character novel; it’s a terrifying extrapolation—and it’s a hell of a fine read. But…”Don’t read this book if you don’t want to think squarely about what our world is coming to. Don’t read it if you don’t want to risk some sleepless nights. Don’t say you weren’t warned! Once you start it, you’re not going to stop.”  —  Jeffrey A. Carver, author of The Chaos Chronicles
  • “Military fiction and high-tech speculation, complex and edgy characters, a pinch of Eichmann in the plot, sly bits of Frankenstein in the setting, … make Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light compulsively readable.”  —  Vonda N. McIntyre, Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author of Dreamsnake, Starfarers, and The Moon and the Sun
  • The Red: First Light is a fast-paced, exciting story about soldiering in the near future. The characters are likeable and well-drawn, and the piece is infused with the kind of careful, thought-provoking attention to “how might this work, really?” that has always been one of Nagata’s particular strengths.”  —  Sean Stewart, author of the World Fantasy Award winner Galveston

THE TRIALS

Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is just one battlefield of many.

A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray. Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act. But are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? And with millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does the answer even matter?

Read a sample of The Trials

GOING DARK

In the third book in The Red Trilogy, former Army Lt. James Shelley becomes a black ops sniper working for the Red—a suspected rogue artificial intelligence that is ripped from today’s headlines.

James Shelley has left his lover, Delphi, and his companion-in-arms, Jayne Vasquez, with a fortune acquired from a fallen oligarch. They believe him to be dead, and he doesn’t try to set the record straight. His long-running question has been answered: There are other soldiers like him who have served the purposes of the Red—and he has accepted his place among them.

As a soldier of the Red he pursues covert missions designed to nudge history away from existential threats—but that doesn’t mean the world is growing more orderly. It’s only in the froth of a “managed chaos” that human potential can grow and thrive. Shelley’s missions eventually take him into orbit—and into conflict with those he loves—Delphi and Jaynie—who are determined to escape the influence of the Red.

Read a sample of Going Dark.

Pixel Scroll 4/27/17 The Pixel You Scroll, The Filer You Get

(1) MORE CORE. This time James Davis Nicoll lists “Twenty Core Military Speculative Fiction Books Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

Is there any overlap between your list and James’s?

(2) ENVELOPE PLEASE. Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has a winner — The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. The results were based on scores given by the reviewers at 10 different blogs.

All in all The Grey Bastards is a runaway winner and I must commend it to your attention.

2nd placed Path of Flames by Phil Tucker was favourite with three blogs and I’ve read it and can see why!

3rd placed Paternus by Dyrk Ashton was favourite with one blog.

All of these books were someone’s choice for finalist and they all scored 7+ with two or more bloggers, so check them out. You never know what will hit a chord with you.

Huge thanks to all ten bloggers/teams for their very considerable efforts and to Katharine of Ventureadlaxre for stepping in to fill a gap. The bloggers are the stars of this show so be sure to keep checking them out now we’re done.

Our most generous scorer this year was Fantasy-Faction, taking the crown from Bibliotropic last year. The Elitist Book Reviews remain the harshest scorer, though they were slightly kinder this year.

(3) FILE 770 TODAY, PBS TOMORROW! Masterpiece Theatre is broadcasting King Charles III  on May 14 with Tim Pigott-Smith as Charles. (Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the stage play here last month.)

(4) WORLD MAKER. Larry Correia provides a very interesting and expansive answer to a fan favorite question in “Ask Correia 18: World Building”.

Always Be Asking

Since I usually start with a basic plot idea, the first thing I do is think about what does my world need to have/allow for me to write this? Some are pretty obvious. Monster Hunter is our world but supernatural stuff exists in secret. Others ideas require something more complicated. For Son of the Black Sword I needed to figure out a world with brutal caste systems, where the low born are basically property.

Take those must haves, and then ask yourself if that’s how things have to work here, what else would change? Always be asking yourself how are those required things going to affect other things?  This doesn’t just make your setting stronger, but it supplies you with tons of great new story ideas.

Besides creative questioning, his other subtopics are: The Rule of Cool, Using Cultural Analogs, Nuts and Bolts, You Need To Know Everything but the Reader Doesn’t, How Much is too Much? and Have Fun.

(5) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. That’s why Trump’s election wrecked an author’s plans — ‘Sci-Fi Writer William Gibson Reimagines the World After the 2016 Election”.

But last fall, Mr. Gibson’s predictive abilities failed him. Like so many others, he never imagined that Donald J. Trump would prevail in the 2016 election. On Nov. 9, he woke up feeling as if he were living in an alternate reality. “It was a really weird and powerful sensation,” he said.

Most people who were stunned by the outcome managed to shake off the surreal feeling. But being a science fiction writer, Mr. Gibson, 69, decided to explore it.

The result is “Agency,” Mr. Gibson’s next novel, which Berkley will publish in January. The story unfolds in two timelines: San Francisco in 2017, in an alternate time track where Hillary Clinton won the election and Mr. Trump’s political ambitions were thwarted, and London in the 22nd century, after decades of cataclysmic events have killed 80 percent of humanity. In the present-day San Francisco setting, a shadowy start-up hires a young woman named Verity to test a new product: a “cross-platform personal avatar” that was developed by the military as a form of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, characters in the distant future are interfering with the events unfolding in 2017, through technological time travel that allows them to send digital communications to the past….

… “Every imaginary future ever written is about the time it was written in,” he said. “People talk about science fiction’s predictive possibilities, but that’s a byproduct. It’s all really about now.”

(6) REASONS TO BELIEVE. The Vulture interviews the evangelist of American Gods – the author: “The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman”.

Pony sushi?

Pony. Because Iceland, what it actually has a lot of, is ponies. And then I walk into the downtown tourist office, now closed, and they had a fantastic tabletop diorama basically showing the voyages of Leif Erikson. You start out in Iceland, you nip over to Greenland, you go down the coast in Newfoundland and have a little thing where you build your huts, and so forth. I looked at it and I thought, Y’know, I wonder if they brought their gods with them. And then I thought, I wonder if they left their gods behind when they came home. And it was like, all of a sudden, all of the things that I’d been thinking about, all of the things that had been circling my head about immigration, about America, about the House on the Rock, and this weird American thing where … In other places in the world, they might look at a fantastic cliff and go, “Ah, here we are in touch with the numinous! We will build a temple or we will build a shrine!” In America, you get a replica of the second-largest block of cheese in the world circa 1963. And people still go to visit it! As if it were a shrine! I wanted to put that in. And it was all there. I wrote an email to my agent and my editor saying, “This is the book,” and ending with, “The working title is going to be American Gods, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something better.”

(7) WHATEVER IT IS, IT’S EXPENSIVE. Carl Slaughter asks, “OK, one of you science geeks explain to me, what exactly is laser based energy transmission?” — “LaserMotive raises $1.5 million to boost innovations in laser power transmission”.

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering.  LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

(8) LORD OF THE (SATURNIAN) RINGS. NPR and BBC on Cassini’s successful pass (“shields up!”) inside the rings:

“Cassini Spacecraft Re-Establishes Contact After ‘Dive’ Between Saturn And Its Rings”.

NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn’s cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn’s rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.

“Cassini radio signal from Saturn picked up after dive”

The probe executed the daredevil manoeuvre on Wednesday – the first of 22 plunges planned over the next five months – while out of radio contact.

And the day before, a Google doodle showed Saturn “ready for its closeup”: “Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and its Rings!”

By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn’s rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant’s interior. And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini’s already stunning photo gallery. Cassini recently revealed some secrets of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus — including conditions friendly to life!  Who knows what marvels this hardy explorer will uncover in the final chapter of its mission?

(9) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Two long-time sff editors and SFWAns have become editors of an Eastern Maryland publication — “Peter Heck and Jane Jewell Named Chestertown Spy Co-Managing Editors”.

The Community Newspaper Project, the parent nonprofit organization of the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy, has announced the appointment of Peter Heck and Jane Jewell as co-managing editors of the Chestertown Spy, effective immediately.

While Peter has been best known locally for his many years as a reporter for the Kent County News, he has also written over 100 book reviews for such publications as the Kirkus Review and Newsday, as well as spending two years as editor at Berkley Publications. A native of Chestertown, with degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, Heck also has written ten novels, two of which were genre best sellers.  He is also an accomplished musician, playing guitar and banjo.

Jane, Peter’s wife, also comes to the Spy with a distinguished background in writing, editing, and photography. Since moving to Chestertown, Jane worked at Washington College in the computer department, then as the executive director of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She also has contributed photos to the Kent County News. Jane currently serves on the board of the National Music Festival and has been active as a coach with the Character Counts! program in the Kent County Public Schools.

(10) BIG DATA IS WATCHING. Tracking whether a driver was texting: “‘Textalyzer’ Aims To Curb Distracted Driving, But What About Privacy?”

If you’re one of the many who text, read email or view Facebook on your phone while driving, be warned: Police in your community may soon have a tool for catching you red-handed.

The new “textalyzer” technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.

Lawmakers in New York and a handful of other cities and states are considering allowing police to use the device to crack into phones because, they say, too many people get away with texting and driving and causing crashes.

(11) A FACE IN THE CROWD. Using face-recognition software at a soccer match: “Police to use facial recognition at Champions League final”.

Police in Wales plan to use facial recognition on fans during the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, according to a government contract posted online.

Faces will be scanned at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station.

They can then be matched against 500,000 “custody images” stored by local police forces.

South Wales Police confirmed the pilot and said it was a “unique opportunity”.

Chip Hitchcock sent this comment with the link: “It will be interesting to see how many false positives they fess up to and how many known troublemakers they miss; I have the impression that FR software is not ready for prime time.”

(12) ANOTHER COMMENT ON ODYSSEY CON. Bill Bodden also dropped off Odyssey Con programming, as he notes in “Timing Is Everything”.

Monica’s resignation as a guest went down on Monday. By the end of the week, all three Guests of Honor had withdrawn from the convention, and the harasser was no longer part of the convention committee. I myself tendered my withdrawal as attendee and panelist on Tuesday April 11, when it became clear that vocal members and friends of the Odyssey Con committee had taken it upon themselves, in a campaign of damage control, to try to spin the discussion to make Monica look bad. To my mind, Monica pulled out from an untenable situation, and while I’m deeply sorry it had to happen at all, I absolutely support her decision. I apologize in the unlikely event that anyone was coming to Odyssey Con specifically to see me.

Just the week before he’d gone 15 rounds with misogynistic trolls in “What the Hell Is Wrong With Gamers?”

Green Ronin Publishing recently put out an open call for female game designers for a specific project. I used to be one of the Ronin, and I was proud to see them doing something that everyone should have been doing years ago: forcing the issue to give women more of a chance to be game designers. Here’s the LINK so you can read it.

The outcry was immediate and vitriolic. I refuse to link to any of the trolls involved, but cries of discrimination against white men were on all the major gaming discussion boards, some gamers even suggesting that Green Ronin was destroying their company, alienating their fan base by committing such a heinous act against men….

Maybe those men who say they don’t behave that way really don’t, but I’ll bet they also don’t stand up — or even notice it — when other men do. Know how I know that? Because I had an experience over the last few years that proved to me how blind I was to this sort of thing. An individual was labeled harasser by a number of women, and I had a difficult time believing it was true because this person was a friend of mine in one of the circles with which I sometime engage, and I’d never seen him behaving that way. However, now being aware that it was an issue, the next time I saw him interacting with others, the harassment of women was clear, and obvious. It opened my eyes.

(13) FLYING FINISH. With the official Clarke Award shortlist coming out next week, the Shadow Clarke jury is pouring on the speed. Perhaps that explains their reluctance to break for a new paragraph?

Just over a third of the way through Christopher Priest’s The Gradual, the modernist composer, Alessandro Sussken, is told by Generalissima Flauuran, the dictator of the totalitarian Glaund Republic, that she wants him to compose a full orchestral piece celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Republic but ‘we do not want irony, subversion, subtlety, cryptic statements, cross references, allusions, knowing asides, quotations, hidden meanings.’ Instead, the stipulated requirements include a minimum of four movements, three major instrumental soloists, four operatic soloists, a mixed chorus of over three hundred voices, a sequence of peasant celebration, a triumphal march and ‘cannon effects in the climax’. It’s difficult not to see this – especially in the context of shadow Clarke discussions concerning the relationship between SF and the ambiguity of the modern condition – as a commentary on the ironies of being a writer torn between desiring the possibilities that the genre opens up for interrogating the limits of consensus reality while hating the conformist demand to meet certain expectations that it also embodies. It is as though Gollancz had said to Priest, ‘We’ll leave you alone to write your weird stories of alienation and separation, as long as you knock out a mass-market, three-act space opera with a world-weary hero, feisty heroine and cynical robot as the three main characters, and include alien sex, a heist sequence and a climactic space battle.’ Would Priest indignantly decline or take the money and run as Sussken does? The answer, based on the evidence of The Gradual, is not as obvious as one might think.

Time travel TV shows can be broadly divided into two categories based on whether they’re about conserving history or changing it. On the one hand, Legends of Tomorrow or Timeless are about characters from our present preserving the status quo of our past, no matter how many historical atrocities must be committed to make that happen. On the other hand, 12 Monkeys or Travelers are (generally better) shows about characters from our future attempting to change the status quo of their past: our present is the error they’re setting out to change. The first category is big on costumes and cliché historical settings. The second is usually about future dystopias that must be prevented by taking action in our present: depending on budget, we may see more or less of the future dystopia itself, which features its own set of clichés….

All historical fiction is alternate historical fiction, to a greater or lesser extent.

The setting is always other than it was; necessarily so, because we can only access the past through the imperfect lens of the present.   Our 21st century way of knowing the world may be intimately connected to the experiences of human beings one hundred, five hundred, even two thousand years ago, but it is also paradigmatically alien.  When we imagine, interpret and co-opt those experiences to tell stories we do so in the spirit of conjecture.  Which is not to say that historical fiction cannot strive for factual veracity, only that it can never be completely achieved. Speculation creeps in – in some cases more than others – and because of that historical fiction shares some essential qualities with science fiction: the will to imagine otherwise; the displacement of human experience in time; and the estrangement of the reader from the contemporary familiar.  The great historical fiction writers of the last century – Mary Renault, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Hilary Mantel – wrote (and write, in the last case, we hope and pray) with the ferocious enquiry that I also associate with great SF.  For which reason I have few qualms about the eligibility of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad – a book that harvests and reaps influences from both genres – for a science fiction award. I would have equally few about its eligibility for a historical fiction prize….

Before I get on with the review – feel free to skip ahead to the subheading at any point in what follows – I should note that my participation in this Clarke Award shadow jury has not progressed in the manner I anticipated. First an industry-standard biannual workplace restructuring took an unexpected detour into poorly-executed dystopian satire during March and, second, an unexpected family bereavement has wiped out the first half of April. I had anticipated being pretty much through reviewing my six titles by this stage and to be on the verge of subjecting unwitting readers to my own idiosyncratic analysis considering the wider issues of contemporary SF and the state of the novel today. However, as I still have four novels to write about, I have no choice but to try and weave any hot takes I might have gathered from the process in with the narrative analysis and close reading of the text in question. The time-honoured way of doing this for academics is to riff off the work of other academics and, therefore, I am going to consider a couple of points from fellow jurors.

(14) EMOTION PICTURES. In her latest column for Amazing Stories, Petréa Mitchell reviews installments of eight animé series: “Anime roundup 4/27/2017: The Strong Survive”.

The Eccentric Family 2 #2-3 – The magician Temmaya was a friend of the people who ate Yasabur?’s father, until he fell out of favor with Benten and/or her colleague Jur?jin. He’s also stolen something that belongs to the Nidaime. And to complicate things further, Benten’s back and doesn’t seem to be getting along with the Nidaime either. The old bit of tanuki wisdom about not getting involved in the affairs of tengu is sounding very wise about now; although none of them is strictly a tengu, three humans with serious magical powers having an argument looks bad enough for the supernatural society of Kyoto. Unfortunately, Yasabur? is already too entangled to extricate himself….

Everything about this show is still top-notch. Kyoto feels like a living, complicated city, practically a character itself among the complicated individuals populating it, from Temmaya to Yasabur?’s grandmother the venerated sage. This is going to be a real treat.

(15) STREET ARTISTS. It’s a paradox — “In Hollywood, superheroes and villains delight crowds – and sleep on the streets”. The Guardian tells why.

In a parking lot off Hollywood Boulevard, Christopher Dennis recently changed into a Superman outfit, complete with a muscle suit and calf-high red boots. He headed out through the crowds, a habit he was resuming after a forced absence.

“You look like you’ve come out of the movie screen, man!” said a parking attendant.

“Man, you’re back!” said a street vendor selling imitation flowers.

Many people who frequent the boulevard – not least the other superhero impersonators, who pose for tourists for tips – know the reason Dennis was gone. For about seven months he was homeless, and lived in a tent and under tarps in different places in the city.

Among the characters showboating in front of the Chinese Theater and parading in their regalia along the Walk of Fame, his situation is not unprecedented. There is a Darth Vader who has spent nights sleeping on the sidewalk with a costume in a backpack, and a Joker whose survival strategy sometimes involved trying to stay awake when it was dark out….

(16) E-TICKET RIDE. A little bonus for the tourists on Tuesday – not an imitator, but the real guy — “Johnny Depp Appears as Captain Jack Sparrow on Pirates of the Caribbean Ride in Disneyland”

It’s not the rum, Disneyland visitors — that was Johnny Depp in the flesh!

Riders on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, got a special surprise on Wednesday night: Depp transformed back into Captain Jack Sparrow and greeted those who visited the inspiration behind the film franchise.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Hidden Anthologies

By Carl Slaughter: There have now been two hidden history anthologies, published with this goal —

  • We want to provide solidly grounded historical fiction to modern readers, who may have only encountered myths, fragments, or garbled notions of how marginalized people lived (and died) in past times—or may never have learned anything about those people at all.
  • By foregrounding marginalized people from the past, we hope to amplify marginalized voices in the present. Every story will make a statement that these voices deserve to be heard, and these stories are worth telling and reading.

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older, funded through a successful Kickstarter, was released in 2014.

In 1514 Hungary, peasants who rose up against the nobility rise again – from the grave. In 1633 Al-Shouf, a mother keeps demons at bay with the combined power of grief and music. In 1775 Paris, as social tensions come to a boil, a courtesan tries to save the woman she loves. In 1838 Georgia, a pregnant woman’s desperate escape from slavery comes with a terrible price. In 1900 Ilocos Norte, a forest spirit helps a young girl defend her land from American occupiers.

These gripping stories have been passed down through the generations, hidden between the lines of journal entries and love letters. Now 27 of today’s finest authors reveal the people whose lives have been pushed to the margins of history.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Sofia Samatar – “Ogres of East Africa”
  • Thoraiya Dyer – “The Oud”
  • Tananarive Due – “Free Jim’s Mine”
  • S. Lynn – “Ffydd (Faith)”
  • Sunny Moraine – “Across the Seam”
  • Rion Amilcar Scott – “Numbers”
  • Meg Jayanth – “Each Part Without Mercy”
  • Claire Humphrey – “The Witch of Tarup”
  • L.S. Johnson – “Marigolds”
  • Robert William Iveniuk – “Diyu”
  • Jamey Hatley – “Collected Likenesses”
  • Michael Janairo – “Angela and the Scar”
  • Benjamin Parzybok – “The Colts”
  • Kima Jones – “Nine”
  • Christina Lynch – “The Heart and the Feather”
  • Troy L. Wiggins – “A Score of Roses”
  • Nghi Vo – “Neither Witch Nor Fairy”
  • David Fuller – “A Deeper Echo”
  • Ken Liu – “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring”
  • Kemba Banton – “Jooni”
  • Sarah Pinsker – “There Will Be One Vacant Chair”
  • Nnedi Okorafor – “It’s War”
  • Shanaé Brown – “Find Me Unafraid”
  • Nicolette Barischoff – “A Wedding in Hungry Days”
  • Lisa Bolekaja – “Medu”
  • Victor LaValle – “Lone Women”
  • Sabrina Vourvoulias – “The Dance of the White Demons”

Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke, was published in 2016.

In 1862, a teenaged engineer fights murderous traitors with steam-powered war machines for the sake of the Union. In 1750 Poland, a police officer picks a fight with the wrong bagel vendor. In 1874, a young clerk investigating the use of Chinese laborers in Cuba finds herself working for the dead as much as for the living.

The sequel to the World Fantasy and Locus Award-nominated anthology Long Hidden, Hidden Youth focuses on children: underage protagonists marginalized in their time. 22 excellent stories ranging across nearly 2,400 years and spanning the globe, Hidden Youth reveals the stories of young people whose lives have been pushed to the margins of history.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Jessi Cole Jackson – “Throwaway Children”
  • Jaymee Goh – “A Name to Ashes”
  • K.T. Katzmann – “The Bread-Thing in the Basket”
  • Momtaza Mehri – “The Jinn’s Only Son”
  • Daniel Brewer – “Not a Witch”
  • Sioban Krzywicki – “Trenches”
  • A.J. Odasso – “Feet of Clay”
  • Alec Austin – “The Paper Sword”
  • Michael Ezell – “Genius Jones and the Rolling Rifle”
  • Warren Bull – “The Girl, the Devil & the Coal Mine”
  • Erik Jensen – “How I Saved Athens from the Stone Monsters”
  • JM Templet – “The Ostrich Egg Girl”
  • Imani Josey – “North”
  • Peter Medeiros – “Acclimating Fever”
  • Thom Dunn – “An Baile na mBan”
  • E.C. Myers – “In His Own Image”
  • Kate McCane – “Nelly”
  • Nitra Wisdom – “Purple Wings”
  • J.S. Hawthorne – “The Promised Land”
  • P. Djèlí Clark – “The Mouser of Peter the Great”
  • Camilla Zhang – “The Ship that Brings You Home”
  • De Ana Jones – “Fear of the Dark”
  • Cover art by Julie Dillon

Pixel Scroll 4/25/17 If All You Have Is A Pixel, Every Problem Looks Like A Scroll.

(1) POTTER SCROLLS. I made a mistake about the lead item in yesterday’s Scroll. The people behind Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are not going to sit in the Sixth & I synagogue for 199 weeks talking about Harry Potter. They’re doing a 199-episode podcast – matching the total number of chapters in the seven Harry Potter books – and the Sixth & I appearance is one of many live shows on a country-wide tour. (Specifically — Washington DC Tuesday July 18th @ 7pm — Sixth & I.)

The presenters also have several sample videos on their YouTube channel that demonstrate the lessons they illustrate with Rowling’s stories.

(2) WRITER UPDATE. When we last heard from Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, she had just come out with ”Strange Monsters”, (which Carl Slaughter discussed at Amazing Stories).  Since then, she has been nominated for a Nebula for “The Orangery” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies;  won the Grand Prize in the Wattpad/Syfy The Magicians #BattletheBeast contest, which means her story will be turned into a digital short for the TV show The Magicians;  sold ”Needle Mouth” to Podcastle;  and sold “Maneaters” and “Something Deadly, Something Dark” to Black Static.

(3) WHEN IN VROME. John King Tarpinian and I joined the throngs at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena tonight to hear the wisdom and humor of John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, and get them to sign copies of their new novels The Collapsing Empire and Walkaway.

A bonus arriving with the expected duo was Amber Benson, once part of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, now a novelist and comics writer, who also voiced the audiobook of Scalzi’s Lock-In.

Amber Benson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow.

Amber Benson, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow. Photos by John King Tarpinian.

(4) GAME CHANGER. Hard to imagine the sff field without her, but apparently it might have happened: Rewire tells “Why Mary Robinette Kowal Traded in Puppets for Science Fiction”

A “catastrophic puppeteer injury” wouldn’t mean the beginning of an award-winning career for most people—but Mary Robinette Kowal is a different sort of someone.

… Thus began 25 years as a professional puppeteer. Kowal toured the country with a number of shows, including another production of “Little Shop of Horrors” (she’s been a puppeteer for seven “Little Shop” productions). While helping again to bring killer plant Audrey II to life, Kowal popped a ligament in her right wrist.

For most, a bum wrist is an annoyance. But for a puppeteer, it’s a catastrophic career interruption.

(5) THE CHOW OF YOUR DREAMS. Scott Edelman is back with a new Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Actually, this one’s going up a little early. I’d normally have posted it Friday — but since I’ll be at StokerCon then, where I will either win my first Bram Stoker Award or lose my seventh, thereby becoming the Susan Lucci of the HWA — I figured I’d better get it live now so I had no distractions while aboard the Queen Mary.

In Episode 35 you’re invited to “Eat one of George R. R. Martin’s dragon eggs with K. M. Szpara”.

K. M. Szpara

I was glad to be able to return for a meal with K.M. Szpara, who has published short fiction in Lightspeed, Shimmer, Glittership, and other magazines, and has recently completed his first novel. He edited the acclaimed anthology Transcendant: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, about which Kirkus wrote that it “challenges readers’ expectations in ways that few have managed to do before.”

Listen in and learn about his formative years writing Hanson and Harry Potter fanfic, which darlings he had to kill to complete his first novel, why rewrites are like giving a floofy poodle a haircut, what he didn’t know about short stories when he began to write them, the many ways conventions are like big sleepovers, the reason he was able to eat one of George R. R. Martin’s dragon eggs, and more.

(6) SCRATCHED. Like the rest of America you probably weren’t watching, so you won’t need to start now – SciFi Storm has the story: “Powerless indeed – NBC pulls show from schedule”.

From the “never a good sign” department, NBC has abruptly pulled the DC comics-tinged comedy series Powerless from the prime-time schedule, without any word on when the remaining episodes may air. The show, which starred Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Christina Kirk, struggled to find an audience from the start, despite the success of comics-based series of late.

(7) I WAKE UP STREAMING. Although NBC is shoveling a DC flop off its schedule, Warner Bros. is launching an entire service built around DC Comics properties.

Deadline.com says DC Digital will launch with a Titans series from the guy who does the shows on The CW and a Young Justice animated series: “DC Digital Service To Launch With ‘Titans’ Series From Greg Berlanti & Akiva Goldsman And ‘Young Justice: Outsiders’”

The DC-branded direct-to-consumer digital platform, in the works for the past several months, marks the second major new service launched by Warner Bros Digital Networks — the division started last year with the mandate of building WB-owned digital and OTT video services — following the recently introduced animation-driven Boomerang. The DC-branded platform is expected to offer more than a traditional OTT service; it is designed as an immersive experience with fan interaction and will encompass comics as well as TV series.

(8) SUSPENDED ANIMATION. Digital Trends sums up “‘Star Trek: Discovery’ 2017 CBS TV series: Everything we know so far”. What we know is nobody can say when it’s going to air.

The first episode of Star Trek premiered 50 years ago, and the beloved sci-fi franchise is now scheduled to return to television in 2017 with a new series on Netflix and CBS — or more specifically, on CBS All Access, the network’s new stand-alone streaming service.

CBS unveiled the first teaser for its new Star Trek series in early 2016, and the show’s official title was revealed to be Star Trek: Discovery during Comic-Con International in San Diego in summer 2016. With the latest movie (Star Trek Beyond) in theaters this past summer, many Star Trek fans are wondering exactly how the television series from executive producer Bryan Fuller (HannibalPushing Daisies) and showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (Pushing Daisies) will fit into the framework of the sci-fi franchise as it exists now.

Star Trek: Discovery was originally slated for a January release, but the network subsequently pushed the premiere date back to an unspecified date in mid- or late 2017. Here’s everything else we know about the series so far….

(9) IT TOOK AWHILE. Disney’s Gemini Man may be emerging from development hell says OnScreen in “Ang Lee to helm sci-fi actioner Gemini Man”.

Acclaimed director Ang Lee has entered negotiations to helm the long in-development sci-fi action thriller, Gemini Man.

First developed by Disney back in the nineties, the story sees an assassin forced into battle with his ultimate opponent: a younger clone of himself. Tony Scott was previously set to helm Disney’s take, based on a pitch by Darren Lemke. Several writers have taken a pass at the project over the years, including David Benioff, Brian Helgeland, and Andrew Niccol.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 25, 1940 — Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker debuted in Batman #1, published 77 years ago today.
  • April 25, 1950 — The board game Scrabble trademark was registered.

(11) LEFT ON. The London Review of Books’ Russian Revolution book review includes China Miéville: “What’s Left?”

…That person, as it turns out, is China Miéville, best known as a science fiction man of leftist sympathies whose fiction is self-described as ‘weird’. Miéville is not a historian, though he has done his homework, and his October is not at all weird, but elegantly constructed and unexpectedly moving. What he sets out to do, and admirably succeeds in doing, is to write an exciting story of 1917 for those who are sympathetically inclined to revolution in general and to the Bolsheviks’ revolution in particular. To be sure, Miéville, like everyone else, concedes that it all ended in tears because, given the failure of revolution elsewhere and the prematurity of Russia’s revolution, the historical outcome was ‘Stalinism: a police state of paranoia, cruelty, murder and kitsch’. But that hasn’t made him give up on revolutions, even if his hopes are expressed in extremely qualified form. The world’s first socialist revolution deserves celebration, he writes, because ‘things changed once, and they might do so again’ (how’s that for a really minimal claim?). ‘Liberty’s dim light’ shone briefly, even if ‘what might have been a sunrise [turned out to be] a sunset.’ But it could have been otherwise with the Russian Revolution, and ‘if its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them.’

(12) ALT-MARKETING. Most of you know that two weeks ago Monica Valentinelli refused to continue as Odyssey Con GoH after discovering the committee not only still included a harasser she’d encountered before (their Guest Liaison!), but she was going to be scheduled together with him on a panel, and then, when she raised these issues, the first response she received from someone on the committee was a defense of the man involved. The con’s other two GoHs endorsed her decision and followed her out the door.

Normal people responded to that sad situation by commiserating with the ex-GoHs, and mourning Odyssey Con’s confused loyalties. Jon Del Arroz set to work turning it into a book marketing opportunity.

First, Del Arroz discarded any inconvenient facts that didn’t suit his narrative:

A couple of weeks ago, an invited headlining guest flaked on a convention, OdysseyCon. No notice was given, no accommodations were asked for, simply bailing two weeks before it happened, leaving the fans without an honored guest. The Con responded professionally and nicely, trying to work things out as much as possible, but that wasn’t enough for this person who took to social media, and got a cabal of angry virtue signallers to start swearing, berating and attacking anyone they could.

Then he showed his empathy by arranging a book bundle with the works of Nick Cole, Declan Finn, Marina Fontaine, Robert Kroese, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John C. Wright (“nominated for more Hugo Awards in one year than any person alive”), himself, plus the Forbidden Thoughts anthology, Flyers will be handed to attendees at next weekend’s con telling them how to access the books.

Because Jon evidently feels someone needs to be punished for the unprofessionalism of that guest. After the fans at Odyssey Con read those books, they can tell us who they think he punished.

(13) RUN BUCCO RUN. Major League baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates have a huge new scoreboard and an interactive video game to go with it.

After the fifth inning, the team debuted a new feature on PNC Park’s renovated digital scoreboard, which runs the length of the Clemente Wall in right field: “Super Bucco Run.”

Inspired by the hit mobile game, the Pirates had one of their fans running and “bashing” blocks while “collecting” coins and items on the scoreboard. Keeping with the tradition, the flag went up the pole at the end of the segment when the fan completed the challenge….

It was a genius bit of mid-game entertainment that the Pirates plan to rotate with more videoboard games throughout the 2017 season. Over the offseason, they updated the old scoreboard with an 11-foot high and 136-foot long LED board with features like this in mind….

 

(14) ROCKET MAN. More on the Fargo Hugo, the story that keeps on giving.

And here is Genevieve Burgess’ post for Pajiba.

The silver rocket on a base follows the exact specifications laid out for the Hugo award trophies which means that someone did their research on how to fake a Hugo. However, it does not MATCH any of the Hugo Award trophies that actually exist, which means someone did even more research to make sure they weren’t exactly copying one.

(15) FACTS ON PARADE. Yahoo! Style has a gallery of the best signs from the March for Science.

[Thanks to JJ, rcade, Stephen Burridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/17 Let Us Sit Upon The Ground And Scroll Sad Pixels

(1) UNORTHODOX APPROACH. Beginning July 18, a weekly podcast will be hosted by Sixth & I in Washington DC — “Harry Potter and The Sacred Text”.

What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast the reads Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text.

Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah, and Muslims read the Quran, Harvard chaplains Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile embark on a 199 ­episode journey (one chapter per week) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have in store.

The chaplains read the beloved series through the lens of instructive and inspirational text and extract lessons that can be applied to our own lives.

At the end of 199 weeks will something more emerge from these readings?

(2) JUSTICE IS BLIND. At Sharps & Flatirons, Peter Alexander says blind orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field — “Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News” .

First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.

The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.

The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.

… In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.

(3) CON OR BUST AUCTION. The Con or Bust annual fundraising auction has begun and runs until May 7 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions.

The available items include a signed galley of Ann Leckie’s next novel Provenance (to be published in October.) When I last looked, bidding was already up to $120.

Here are a few examples of the wide variety of auction items –

The whole list of auction tags is here.

(4) EMOJI CODE. There are four summaries, and I didn’t understand even one. Your turn! “Can you guess the Doctor Who episodes told in emojis?”

Test your Doctor Who knowledge by deciphering these emoji plots and guessing the episode!

If you’re stuck, answers are at the bottom of the page…

(5) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY. Talk about timing! Carl Slaughter referenced Larry Page in the other day’s flying car roundup, and today the news is “Larry Page’s flying car will be available to buy before the end of the year”

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is an electric aircraft that, in its current version, looks a bit like a flying Jet Ski. Cimeron Morrissey, who test flew the aircraft, wrote in a review that the final version would look quite different from the prototype, which doesn’t look all that practical.

A New York Times profile of the Flyer describes it as “something Luke Skywalker would have built out of spare parts.” The vehicle weighs about 100 kilograms and, according to Morrissey, can travel up to 25 mph. She likened the Flyer to “a toy helicopter.”

(6) PETER S. BEAGLE. Initially Barry Deutsch was signal-boosting an appeal for funds — “Peter S Beagle, author of ‘The Last Unicorn,’ is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help.” However, Beagle’s fans immediately came through on the short-term goal, which still leaves two longer-term needs:

LONG-TERM:

Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.

BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!

Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.

To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.

(7) UNGRADED HATE MAIL. Margaret Atwood answers Patt Morrison’s questions in the LA Times.

I can imagine your fan mail. I can’t imagine your hate mail.

I’ve gotten lots of hate mail over the years. I’ll probably get more once the television series comes out. But I’m not advocating for one thing or the other. I’m saying that what kind of laws you pass — those laws will have certain kinds of results. So you should think carefully about whether you want to have those results or not.

If you’re going to ban birth control, if you’re going to ban information about reproduction, if you’re going to defund all of those things, there will be consequences. Do you want those consequences or not? Are you willing to pay for them or not?

Listen to the “Patt Morrison Asks” podcast and read the full interview at here.

(8) WHO’S THAT SHOUTING? Two writers here for the LA Festival of Books indulge in shenanigans. (Hm, just discovered my spellchecker has a different opinion of how shenanigans is spelled than I have – dang, it did it again!)

(9) CITIZEN SCIENCE. And they call the wind aurora whatever-it-is… Steve? “Aurora photographers find new night sky lights and call them Steve”

Relatively little else is known about the big purple light as yet but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field.

There are reports that the group called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children’s film, Over the Hedge, where the characters give the name to a creature they have not seen before.

Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity.

“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. “It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.”

(10) A CERTAIN GLOW ABOUT THEM. If you don’t already know this story, you should: “Dark Lives Of ‘The Radium Girls’ Left A Bright Legacy For Workers, Science”,an interview with the book’s author Kate Moore.

In the early days of the 20th century, the United States Radium Corporation had factories in New Jersey and Illinois, where they employed mostly women to paint watch and clock faces with their luminous radium paint. The paint got everywhere — hair, hands, clothes, and mouths.

They were called the shining girls, because they quite literally glowed in the dark. And they were dying.

Kate Moore’s new book The Radium Girls is about the young women who were poisoned by the radium paint — and the five who sued United States Radium in a case that led to labor safety standards and workers’ rights advances.

(11) WHILE YOU WERE OUT: One big step for…. “Astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks new space record”.

Peggy Whitson has broken the record for most days in space by a US astronaut.

Dr Whitson already holds records for the most spacewalks carried out by a woman astronaut and is the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) twice.

Now she’s beaten the record previously set by Jeff Williams, who had a total of 534 days in space.

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka have called Dr Whitson to congratulate her.

(12) AN EYEFUL. Forbes has a gallery of “The Top Cosplayers From Silicon Valley Comic Con”.

This weekend the second Silicon Valley Comic Con took place, featuring robotics, virtual reality and a wax statue of Steve Wozniak. But everyone knows that Comic Con is really about one thing, and that’s the jaw dropping cosplay. From menacing Jokers to an adorable Hatsune Miku costume, enjoy this roundup of some of the most eye-catching costumes at the show…

 

My cape means business 😬😎

A post shared by Melanie Rafferty (@songbird3685) on

(13) DOC WEIR AWARD. British Eastercon members voted the 2017 Doc Weir Award to Serena Culfeather and John Wilson.

The Doc Weir Award was set up in 1963 in memory of fan Arthur Rose (Doc) Weir, who had died two years previously. Weir was a relative newcomer to fandom, he discovered it late in life – but in the short time of his involvement he was active in a number of fannish areas. In recognition of this, the Award is sometimes seen as the “Good Guy” Award; something for “The Unsung Heroes”.

(14) SCIENCE QUESTION. I thought you could only get hit by a meteorite? (Unless it’s being smacked by a wet echinoderm he’s worried about.)

(15) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 24, 1184 B.C. – Traditional date of the Fall of Troy, calculated by Eratosthenes.
  • April 24, 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope launched.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SCHLOCK MEISTER

  • Born April 24, 1914 – Filmmaker William Castle

(17) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Cat City” by Victoria Vincent on Vimeo explains what happens when a cat runs away from home to become a hairdresser and drinks too much!

(18) WILL WORK FOR CLICKS. Camestros Felapton renders another much-needed public service: “See how your favourite Games of Thrones Characters are related”. Go there to see the family trees.

(19) NOVELLA INITIATIVE. The Book Smugglers published the first 2017 entry in their Novella Initiative last week, Dianna Gunn’s novella Keeper of the Dawn.

In Keeper of the Dawn, the first novella from Book Smugglers Publishing, author Dianna Gunn introduces readers to strong-willed Lai. All her life she has dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and becoming a priestess in service to her beloved goddesses. But even after lifelong preparation, she fails trials and her next instinct is to run away.

Off in the north kingdom of Alanum, as she works to recalibrate her future, Lai becomes the bodyguard of a wealthy merchant, who is impressed by her strength and bravery. One night she hears stories about a mountain city where they worship the same goddesses she does. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple and do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn, rich with female empowerment, is a multi-layered LGBTQIA YA Fantasy story about fate, forgiving yourself, and the endurance of hope.

Gunn also wrote a post about her inspirations and influences.

In many ways Lai’s story also mirrors the story of my own career. I’ve dreamed about being an author since the age of eight, and as a child I stubbornly believed I would have my first novel published before my eighteenth birthday.

Well, my eighteenth birthday came and went some years ago, and only now is my first book coming out. But I have already been a working writer for six years, writing marketing materials for many different companies and non-profits. More importantly, my dream still came true—just a few years later than planned.

(20) CLARKE AWARD CONTENDERS. A couple of Shadow Clarke jurors take their turn discussing what have proven to be group favorites, while another visits less familiar ground.

Part of the way it reworks things is that it’s not about the Up and Out, but the ups and downs. The rigors of life are always present: people make decisions, those decisions impact life, and they rarely have anything to do with that giant monstrosity towering from the south that hurls people into outer space. The Central Station of Central Station is a mere landmark, an economic hub and cultural icon, but as Maureen K. Speller points out in her review, “…even in science fiction, that so-called literature of the future, nothing lasts forever. The symbolic tropes – space ships, robots, AIs – will all eventually be absorbed and become part of the scenery.” The Central Station of the future is the airport of today: not that big of a deal.

This is a difficult, intractable, Gordian knot of a novel, the kind you recommend to like-minded friends more out of curiosity to see what they’ll make of it than from any reasonable belief that they’ll enjoy the book. Whether this novel – formally and stylistically perfect though it is, a rare gem of a debut that hints at that rare beast, a writer who knows precisely where he’s going and what he wants – can be enjoyed on anything other than a purely intellectual level is a debatable point; whether it can be enjoyed as science fiction still more so.

The Underground Railroad is about as significant a novel as American literary culture is capable of producing in the first quarter of the 21st century.

If you care enough about books to be reading this kind of essay then chances are that you have either purchased or taken an interest in this novel. Far from being organic and spontaneous, your decision to purchase Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is the result of almost every facet of American literary culture coming into alignment and choosing to imbue a single work with as much cultural significance as those institutions can conceivably muster. Already a winner of many prestigious literary awards and a beneficiary of both the Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Colson Whitehead has now seen his sixth novel celebrated not only by Pulitzer and National Book Award judges but also by the – arguably more influential and economically important – face of Oprah’s Book Club.

(21) DOCTOR TINGLE AI. Applied Digital Studies Project uses a twitter bot to form new titles based on novels by Dr. Chuck Tingle. Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of butt and pounding in these titles. Still, some of them are funny.

(22) MYTHIC FIGURE. Today Chuck Tingle is busy burnishing his legend.

(23) READERCON. Tracy Townsend announced she will be at Readercon in Quincy, MA from July 13-16.

Guests of Honor:

Naomi Novik & Nnedi Okorafor

Memorial Guest of Honor:

Tanith Lee

Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” there is no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word….

(24) MOVIE RESTORATION. The Verge says those who have heard of it should be pleased — “Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic Stalker is getting an HD restoration”. And those like me, who haven’t, will be intrigued.

Cinephiles, rejoice! Criterion Collection will be adding a major science-fiction classic to its roster this summer: a restored version of Stalker, directed by Solaris filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Based off the 1971 Russian science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Stalker was originally released in 1979. The film follows a man known as “the Stalker” as he leads an expedition into a mysterious, forbidden area known as “The Zone.” In the book, the mysterious Zone is the location of an alien visitation decades before the story, littered with fantastic pieces of technology and dangers; in the film, its origins are more obscure. But in both cases, reality there is distorted, and somewhere inside is a room that will grant visitors’ innermost desires. The journey to get there is physically and philosophically arduous, and it tests the trio of men traveling there.

(25) SUBTITLES IN I KNOW NOT WHAT LANGUAGE. The Justice League Official International Trailer dropped today.

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

(26) A VISIT TO MARVEL. SlashFilm leads readers on a “Marvel Studios Offices Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look”. (Photos at the site.)

The Marvel Studios offices are located on the second floor of the Frank G. Wells Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot. When you exit the elevators, you are greeted by a wall-to-wall mural featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a big Marvel Studios logo.

Marvel Studios began in a tiny office in Santa Monica that they shared with a kite factory. After that, the company moved to an office above a Mercedes dealership in Beverly Hills. They were based out of Manhattan Beach Studios for a few years before Disney asked them to move onto the Burbank lot in 2014. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Marvel fully decorated their offices….

(27) BOMBS AWAY. A new record for a domino toppling specialty was set in March.

A group of domino builders in Michigan created the world’s largest “circle bomb” using nearly 80,000 dominoes.

The Incredible Science Machine team broke the Guinness World Record for “Most dominoes toppled in a circle bomb/circle field” by creating a series of 76,017 dominoes that toppled from the center of a circle to its outer edge.

“The Incredible Science Machine Team is very passionate about domino art and sharing it with an audience to amaze and inspire them,” team leader Steve Price, 22, said.

A total of 18 builders from the United States, Canada, Germany and Austria spent 10 days constructing the domino formation at the Incredible Science Machine’s annual event in Westland, Mich.

 

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

Kelli Fitzpatrick, Breakthrough Author

Kelli Fitzpatrick

By Carl Slaughter: Remember Dean Wesley Smith’s Star Trek anthology series?  It’s back, minus Smith, and not coincidentally on the 50th anniversary.  New author and Michigan creative writing teacher Kelli Fitzpatrick broke in through Simon & Schuster’s Strange New Worlds contest.  Her story, “Sunwalkers,” is based on a Season 7 of Next Generation and is about Dr. Crusher dealing with the departure of her son while simultaneously responding to a medical crisis on an alien world.  Fitzpatrick followed this by writing a review of the Season 3 episode “Ensigns of Command” for the forthcoming Outside In anthology.

Carl Slaughter:  How did you get interested in Star Trek?

Kelli Fitzpatrick:  I grew up watching Voyager with my Dad. He also had boxes of Star Trek books which I loved reading (and still do). As an adult, I once went camping just so I could read Star Trek novels for three days straight, uninterrupted.

CS:  How did you get interested in writing science fiction?

KF:  Science fiction was the genre that captured my imagination when I was scouring libraries for reading material as a teen. There’s something inherently optimistic—and important—about looking to the future of our world and envisioning what might be. I enjoy inhabiting that creative space.

CS:  How did you find out about the Strange New Worlds contest?

KF:  I found out about Strange New Worlds by searching for writing contests online (I participate in quite a few of them). When I saw it was a Star Trek related contest from the official publisher of the franchise, I was in.

CS:  What were the submissions guidelines?

KF:  The submission guidelines were essentially to submit a story between 7,000 and 10,000 words based on any of the Star Trek TV series or films (minus the animated series and the new alternate timeline films). The contest encouraged creative, engaging stories that fill gaps in the existing narrative, that might easily fit into the universe as untold episodes.

CS:  What’s the gist of “The Sunwalkers”?

KF:  My winning story, “The Sunwalkers,” is set in late Season 7 of The Next Generation, picking up right after “Journey’s End.” At the end of that episode, Doctor Crusher must suddenly say goodbye to her son, Wesley, and I wanted to have her explore the emotional fallout from such a loss, which is never really dealt with in the series. In my story, she must also simultaneously deal with a medical crisis on an alien world. There’s some action and some touching moments—overall I really like the way the story turned out.

CS:  Didn’t Dean Wesley Smith do Strange New Worlds anthologies for a while?  Wasn’t that discontinued?  Is there a connection?

KF:  Yes, there were ten volumes of the Strange New Worlds anthologies issued by Pocket Books prior to this one. I own all ten of them—there are some fantastic stories from very talented writers in those pages, including my good friend Derek Attico who is featured in SNW 8 as well as in the current edition. The reason to relaunch the contest with slightly different guidelines was not specified by the publisher, although the release did coincide with Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

CS:  What is Outside In: The Next Generation?

KF:  Outside In: The Next Generation is a forthcoming print anthology of episode reviews from ATB Publishing that will contain a review of every single episode of TNG, each written by a different writer. The reviews can be creative in format (such as recipes or log entries), with many being humorous, and all are meant to illuminate some significant or thought-provoking aspect of the episode. One of ATB’s previous volumes—Outside In Boldly Goes—which reviewed all episodes of TOS, was extremely fascinating to read and included contributors such as Larry Nemecek and Robert Greenberger.

CS:  What’s the gist of “Not Lost in Translation: The Ensigns of Command”?

KF:  I was honored to be invited to contribute to the Outside In: TNG anthology, and I chose to review the Season 3 episode “The Ensigns of Command,” in which Data must convince a group of human colonists to evacuate Tau Cygna V before the Sheliak arrive and take their planet back by force. The angle of my review focuses on analyzing the language theme of the episode, which manifests in several unexpected ways.

CS:  Do you write a lot of Star Trek fan fiction?

KF:  No. I loved writing my Strange New Worlds story, and hope to write more Trek stories in the future, but I would prefer to do so through officially licensed opportunities. In the meantime, I’m hard at work on original fiction and poetry.

CS:  What other type of Star Trek fan activity do you participate in?

KF:  I’m fairly active in online circles of Star Trek writers and commentators, who happen to be some of the most amazing, hilarious, kind-hearted professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and learning from. I regularly attend conventions like ComicCon, and have just been scheduled as an Author Guest for Shore Leave 39.

CS:  How do you use Star Trek to teach writing to high school students?

KF:  Star Trek has informed and inspired my teaching in two capacities: providing great role models, and instilling in me an unquenchable thirst for exploration, which I strive to pass on to my students. Captain Janeway has always been a role model of mine in that she is a force to be reckoned with in her professionalism and drive, yet also has a big heart and a fiercely firm conscience. That is very much a description of how I run my classroom. Doctor Crusher inspired me to learn to work well under pressure, and to go above and beyond to help those in my care, which I believe is a necessary trait of any good educator. Learning is all about exploring unknown ideas, and there is no frontier so vast and teeming with new discoveries as the stars, or the blank page; that’s why my classroom library is space themed, with Hubble images hanging over my walls of books. I want my English students and the students in my writing club to yearn for understanding—of themselves and of the universe—and that is the core wonder Star Trek is built around.

CS:  Do you write any type of science fiction other than Star Trek?

KF:  Yes! I have written several science fiction short stories and flash fiction pieces, one of which—“To Stick a Star”—took 4th place in the international NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge this year. Several of my stories are currently under submission to sci-fi magazines, and I’m working on several more, as well as novels in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, and YA. While I have written in almost every genre imaginable, sci-fi will always be my first love, and I’m proud to have joined the ranks of writers who help shape the way humanity views our future and our place in the cosmos.

KELLI FITZPATRICK SOCIAL MEDIA

 

 

Your Flying Car

By Carl Slaughter:  (1) Larry Page’s secret flying car project: “Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying-Car Factories”.

In the handful of news articles that ensued, all the startup would say was that it wasn’t affiliated with Google or any other technology company. Then it stopped answering media inquiries altogether. Employees say they were even given wallet-size cards with instructions on how to deflect questions from reporters. After that, the only information that trickled out came from amateur pilots, who occasionally posted pictures of a strange-looking plane taking off from a nearby airport.

Turns out, Zee.Aero doesn’t belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. It belongs to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. Page has personally funded Zee.Aero since its launch in 2010 while demanding that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to 10 people with intimate knowledge of the company. Zee.Aero, however, is just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalized air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.

Previously known patents registered by Zee.Aero show a craft that matches this description, with a thin central fuselage and twin rows of propellors like outriggers. The patent, filed in 2012, says the aircraft is capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and is described as a “safe, quiet, easy to control, efficient and compact aircraft.” Not quite a flying car, then, but certainly a vision of personal aviation.

The other startup Page has been investing in, Kitty Hawk, has reportedly been building its own craft “that resembles a giant version of a quadcopter drone,” according to Bloomberg‘s sources. The startup is smaller than Zee.Aero, and kept separate from its older rival. Some of its engineers come from AeroVelo — a firm that previously won the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize in 2013 for building a human-powered helicopter that can stay aloft for more than a minute (see the video below). And Kitty Hawk wouldn’t be the first firm to design a quadcopter-inspired aircraft; similar concepts have been floated by Chinese firm Ehang and even built by lone engineers.

(2) Uber hires NASA engineer to develop flying car — “Uber hires NASA veteran to help it figure out flying cars”.

Mark Moore, a 30-year veteran of NASA, has left the aeronautics agency for a seemingly more terrestrial business: ride-hailing giant Uber. But Moore won’t be working on anything as boring as expanding Uber’s ground operation. According to Bloomberg, he will be working on the company’s nascent on-demand aviation service, also known as Uber’s flying car project.

To be sure, Moore won’t be building a flying car for Uber — at least not yet. Last October, the company released a white paper that envisioned a flying taxi service as a network of lightweight, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically from preexisting urban heliports and skyscraper rooftops. These VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing, pronounced vee-tol) aircraft would operate using fixed wings with tilt prop-rotors.

(3) Europeans take flight in cars. “Flying cars take off on French Riviera”.

Bratislava-based Aeromobil, whose first prototype presented two years ago suffered an accident, is back with a “new generation” of flying vehicle named after the firm which makes it.

“We are taking reservations from today for deliveries expected in 2020, after the process of (regulatory) approvals is completed,” the Slovak firm’s spokesman Stefan Vadocz told AFP.

The Aeromobil vehicle, six metres long and with a fully-deployed span of nine metres, is a normal four-wheeled car which can unfold its wings to transform itself into a plane able to fly two passengers at a cruising speed of 260 km/h for up to 750 kilometres.

Flying cars, that perennial dream for futurists that always seem to be at least five years away, may be a little closer to reality than we realize. A lot of prototypes have been showcased recently, and a lot of money is being tossed around. More people than ever seem to buy into the crazy notion that in the near future we’ll be buzzing between rooftops in private, autonomous drones. Today, Munich-based Lilium Aviation announced an important milestone: the first test flight of its all-electric, two-seater, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) prototype.

In a video provided by the Munich-based startup, the aircraft can be seen taking off vertically like a helicopter, and then accelerating into forward flight using wing-borne lift.

 

(4) China does passenger drones. “Passenger-Carrying EHang 184 Drone Unveiled At CES”

Imagine dressing for work, grabbing your lunch, and then hopping in a drone for your commute.

That is what Chinese company EHang imagines life could be like with its man-sized drone — although the company is light so far on evidence that it can actually pull it off.

(5) Forget flying cars, passenger drones are the future. “Forget Flying Cars: Passenger Drones May Be Hovering Soon at a Location Near You”

At first blush, human-carrying drones sound no more realistic than flying cars. Until recently inventors had never been able to marry automobiles and aircraft in a practical way. Yet a few companies have kept at it: Woburn, Mass.–based Terrafugia, for example, has since 2006 been developing Transition, a “roadable aircraft” that resembles a small airplane that can fold its wings and drive on roads. A personal flying car in every garage has proved to be a tough sell, however, and there are serious safety concerns about asking the average commuter to train for a pilot’s license and take to the skies.

Passenger drones, by contrast, would operate autonomously and leave the “roadable” part behind in favor of larger versions of aircraft that already exist. Chinese start-up EHANG last month announced it would debut its passenger drone service in Dubai in July. The EHANG184 autonomous aerial vehicle resembles an overgrown quadcopter with a passenger cab perched on top. Last October ride-hailing service Uber publicized its Elevate program for urban air transportation and announced support for companies building vehicles similar to the 184. Uber recently bolstered its plans by hiring Mark Moore, an aircraft engineer at NASA Langley Research Center and pioneer in vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft designs. Several other companies, including Joby Aviation and Silicon Valley start-ups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk—the latter two backed by Google co-founder Larry Page—are racing to develop electric-powered VTOL aircraft that could help make Elevate a reality. Terrafugia likewise plans to eventually offer a VTOL flying vehicle—the TF-X—in addition to the Transition.

(6) Hover golf cart.  See a video report — “The Amazing Hovering Golf Cart of the Future”.

(7) Yes, but will it come with a parachute? “Flying cars may be poised to take off, but survey shows Americans want a parachute “.

As for takeoff and landing, most respondents — 83% — would prefer vertical launch to taking flight runway-style. (The survey didn’t ask, but earth-bound cars and truck drivers may feel even more strongly about it.)

Nearly 80% said a parachute would be “very” or “extremely” important.

Last Friday, the AeroMobil 3.0 prototype, recently featured in Popular Science’s 2015 Invention Awards, crashed during a flight test in Slovakia. When the flying car ran into trouble, its pilot, company co-founder Štefan Klein, deployed a whole-aircraft parachute, which slowed the descent and saved Klein’s life. But the impact on the ground seems to have destroyed the craft itself.

(8) Yes, but does it meet FAA standards? “FAA Gives Flying Car Prototype the Go-Ahead as a Light Sport Aircraft”.

The Terrafugia Transition is a prototype automobile-aircraft that is about the closest thing to a flying car that we have. It’s street legal and it can fly, and now the FAA has granted the Woburn, Massachusetts-based company exemption from weight and stall-speed limits so the Transition flying car can be certified as a light sport aircraft (LSA), according to Aviation Week.

(9) Never happen. “Man will never walk on the Moon.”  “Man will never have flying taxis.” “Uber’s Flying Car Ambitions Are Lofty And Ridiculous”.

So Uber is mostly skipping the car part, instead making a plane that takes off and lands like a helicopter, and designing it to fly from helipads. Helicopters–an existing, proven technology–already meet most of the needs for Uber’s planned flying machine, but they’re too slow for the commuter flights of 20 minutes or less that Uber wants from urban hubs to residential suburbs (or the downtown hubs of suburban areas). To meet this, Uber wants an aircraft that can fly between 150 mph and 200 mph. That’s speedier than all but the most cutting edge military helicopters, but within the range of VTOL aircraft–which is why Uber wants it to switch to flying like a plane once it’s off the ground. On top of all that, the company wants the vehicle to be all-electric, to keep down noise and emissions.

Jennifer Brozek: Author, Editor, Stoker Nominee

By Carl Slaughter: Jennifer Brozek is a busy person.  Writing stories, attending conventions, volunteering for professional writing associations.  Oh, and wading through flood waters.  All of this while managing a small press.  Catch up with her at StokerCon on April 27, CryptiCon and the Nebulas in May, and GenCon in August.

Carl Slaughter:  How did you get into anthology editing?

Jennifer Brozek:  It wasn’t something I decided on specifically. I never thought, “I want to edit an anthology now.”  My first anthology, Grants Pass, was simply a project I wanted to do that happened to be anthology and I needed to be the editor of it. I went into the project blind and learned a lot along the way. After doing the first one, I got bit by the bug of what an anthology is and could be. I got hooked. I enjoy creating something that is more than the sum of its parts—which is what an anthology is.

Jennifer Brozek

CS:  What type of anthologies do you edit?

JB:  Mostly I do dark speculative fiction and science fiction. Occasionally, I will do non-fiction, but my love is with the supernatural dark and scary.

CS:  What authors have your worked with?  Give us some examples of your experience with authors. 

JB:  I’ve been so fortunate. I’ve worked with some of my childhood heroes like Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon, Glen Cook, Mike Resnick, and Jody Lynn Nye. I’ve also worked with some top writers in the field like Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Jay Lake, Lucy A. Snyder, and Laird Barron.

The thing I’ve noticed—by and large—the more experienced the author, the easier they are to work with. They understand when writing for themed anthologies, the editor has something specific in mind, and don’t resent revision requests. They understand what is needed in a professional sense.

CS:  Who’s lined up for Maximum Velocity and what are some of the plotlines?

JB: Maximum Velocity is a reprint anthology where we’ve taken the best set of stories from the Full-Throttle Space Tales anthologies and put them in one book. Each editor got to pick their favorite stories. Authors include Dayton Ward, Shannon Page, Mike Resnick, and Jean Johnson. Plotlines include refugees making the best of their terrible situation, clones being abandoned to the vagaries of a hostile society, and a lonely ship captain dealing with a mysterious stowaway.

CS:  How did you get into science fiction/horror?

JB:  Blame it on my mom. She always has books around. Going to the library was a treat. I read voraciously as a child. Herbert, Heinlein, Cooper, Asimov, Perry, Koontz, King, Kress… all of them were available for me to read. If I didn’t understand something, I tended to ignore it and get on with the story. Probably why I wasn’t scarred by some of Heinlein’s more adult themes I shouldn’t have been reading at such a young age.

CS:  Do you write the same type of stories that you select for anthologies?

JB:  Not exactly. Every story in an anthology needs to match with every other story. I have to love the story and to keep thinking about it long after I’ve read it. The stories I write tend to be inspired by something that interests me. So, in that regard, they are the same. But, overall, I select the stories that match the anthology and I write the stories I want to read.

CS:  How did you get into RPGs, what type of RPGs have you been involved in, and what exactly is your role?

JB:  I’ve been playing table-top and LARP RPGs since the 1990s. I started writing for table-top RPGs in 2004, then videogames / MMOs in 2010. I wrote everything from the fluff to the crunch. Background, stats, world building, history. Whatever was needed. These days, I mostly write tie-in fiction for RPGs. This means I write a story/novella/novel that matches the theme, tone, history, and genre of the RPG while expanding it in a way to enhance the RPG experience for those who play and to draw in new fans for those who don’t.

CS:  I’ve never played an RPG, so I’m curious, how much of a storytelling element is involved, and what’s the speculative fiction crossover appeal for players as well as developers?

JB: It all depends on the games you play. Some of them are tightly controlled by the gamemaster. They lead the players through the story. Some of them are cooperatively run and told by every player in the game. The appeal is another way to learn how stories are built, told, and consumed. Game writers tend to know a LOT about the world they are writing in — original or tie-in — whether or not it comes into play in the story. Gaming teaches the writer what the player/reader finds important. It helps the writer learn what to highlight versus what to hint at. It also teaches them how to write in a way that makes the story feel bigger than it is and that it exists in a fully-formed universe.

CS:  What do you do at Apocalyptic Ink Productions?

JB:  As the Creative Director I read slush, accept/reject novels/novellas, manage the publication schedule, commission cover art, edit everything, hire proofers, proof everything, manage PR (or hire someone to do that) and generally be the face of the company. All the business stuff (contracts, royalties, formatting books, etc) goes to my husband. We’ve been doing this for five years now. Of course, when we go to conventions, we sell our books and talk with prospective authors.

CS:  Apocalyptic does dark horror.  Define dark.  Like, Lovecraft dark?

JB:  Dark… I tend to think of the horror I write as extraordinary supernatural events happening to ordinary people who then have to deal with it in one way or another. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they don’t.

CS:  Is a typical apocalyptic story a individual nightmare scenario or a fate of the world scenario?

JB:  For me, I bring the story in small. The apocalypse may be happening to the entire world, but I focus in on individual people and their personal struggles. I think that makes the sense of horror, fear, and doom more effective, more relatable. They say one death is a tragedy while a million deaths is a statistic.

CS:  What exactly does a Director-at-Large do for the SFWA?

JB:  Being on the board of SFWA is a job that involves a lot of details, paperwork, research, and forward thinking. We are always trying to make the organization better for our members as well as for all writers. Each director takes on specific projects and shepherds them through completion. For example, the SFWA Speaker’s Bureau.

CS:  What happened at the Rainforest Writing Retreat?

JB:  The Rainforest Writers Retreat is one that is held on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. It’s run by Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press. Every year, the weather by Lake Quinalt is a mixed bag of sun, rain, or snow. I’ve seen it all. This year, the lake flooded and cut off a couple of the cabins from the rest of the resort. Author J.A. Pitts was in the other cabin that got cut off. Undaunted, we moved my car out of the flood zone and I asked the resort owners if they had any waders I could borrow. They did indeed. I spent a good portion of the retreat wading to and fro from cabin to food and presentations.

CS: What can we expect at Crypticon Seattle?

JB:  For Crypticon Seattle, I’m only a dealer in the dealers room this year. I suspect with George Romero as one of the GoHs, there will be a LOT of zombie fans. This is good. Because I’ll have my Bram Stoker nominated YA zombie novel, The Last Days of Salton Academy, on hand.

CS:  What can we expect at StokerCon?

JB:  Not much other than me being a nervous wreck. I’m flying in for the Bram Stoker Awards banquet and ceremony where I will win or lose the award (I’m up against some stiff competition). I’ll probably spend some time with my agent to talk about the new series. I’m not sure what else will happen.

CS:  What can we expect at Gen Con?

JB:  I’m part of Authors Avenue in the Gen Con where Apocalypse Ink Productions will be releasing Famished: The Gentlemen Ghouls omnibus by Ivan Ewert and the Cross Cutting trilogy omnibus by Wendy Hammer. Both are fantastic books with never before published stories in both universes.

Otherwise, I’ll be attending panels, parties, and generally having a good time. It’s Gen Con’s 50th anniversary. If I’m lucky, the secret project I’ve just finished working on will have copies of the book there. Still can’t say what it is, yet. Soon, I hope. This is a good convention for people to come say hello to me.

CS:  Who are you rooting for at the Nebulas?

JB:  Not going to make this easy, are you? There was so much good work on the ballot that it is hard to choose.

Novel: Borderline, Mishell Baker or The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin.

Novella: Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire has my heart.

Novelette: I literally listed all but one in my favorites. I don’t know.

Short story: I’m going to go with either “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong or “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station?Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0”, Caroline M. Yoachim.

Bradbury: Arrival and Rogue One. Both were so good in different ways.

Norton: It’s a tossup. I have no favorites in this category.

CS:  What’s on the horizon for Jennifer Brozek?

JB:  On the original writing front, I’m working on a brand new YA suspense/horror series called Fever County. I’m about halfway through the first book.  I’ve also just turned in a tie-in story that should be out at the end of the year. Forthcoming, I have a new tie-in novella due out in the latter half of 2017 and a Shadowrun novel called Makeda Red due to come out in 2018.  There’s always more coming up. Best to look at my bibliography.

On the editing front, I’m editing an anthology based on Jeff’s Sturgeon’s Last Cities of Earth artwork. I’m also co-editing the Architects of Wonder anthology, SFWA’s celebration of the first 50 years of the Nebula Award short story winners.

JENNIFER BROZEK BIO

Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award nominated editor and a Bram Stoker nominated author. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fifteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, Industry Talk, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, and the acclaimed Melissa Allen series, she has more than seventy published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Jennifer is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the award winning YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO, Aion, and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.

When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. Read more about her at www.jenniferbrozek.com or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.

JENNIFER BROZEK BIBLIOGRAPHY

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/bibfiction.html

CONVENTION APPEARANCES

http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/conventions.html

http://www.gencon.com/

http://www.crypticonseattle.com/

APOCALYPTIC INK WEBSITE

http://www.apocalypse-ink.com/

 

They Blinded Me With Science News

By Carl Slaughter: (1) We are rapidly approaching a new singularity.  Not a singularity in which the universe collapses under its own gravity.  Not a singularity in which the progress of AIs outpaces the input of their creators.  But a singularity in which scientists bring inventions out of the lab faster than science fiction writers can imagine them or craft stories about them, faster than patent attorneys can file claims for them.  Only a few years ago, Pacific Rim depicted giant, piloted robots used for military purposes.  This prototype bears a striking resemblance.  The Pentagon is planning to use them to patrol the border of North Korea.  I’m sure there’s no shortage of American warriors willing to climb into one of these mechanical beasts and adopt Idris Elba-esque.

“This giant manned robot might patrol the North Korean border” says BGR reporter Mike Wehner:

Robots can be terrifying all on their own, but stick a human being inside and give them control of the mechanical muscles that provide superhuman strength and you’ve got a recipe for a horror movie. South Korean robotics firm Hankook Mirae Technology has done exactly that, and its Method-2 robot just took its first steps towards world domination this week.

(2) It’s not (just) rocket science. The key to a successful, manned mission to Mars is the “invisible tool” of biotechnology.  So says Maxx Chatsko, editor of Syn Bio Data, in “Boeing and SpaceX Aren’t Going Anywhere Without Biotechnology” for The Motley Fool.  I would say, forget biotechnology for now.  Instead, develop robotics, AI, and data analysis technology.  Let androids pave the way for humans.

Radiation is far from the only threat to our health during interplanetary travel. Eighty percent of astronauts who participate on long-duration missions in space return to Earth with permanently altered vision. The condition was first recognized in astronaut John Phillips, who left Earth with 20/20 vision and returned with 20/100 vision after a six-month stay on the International Space Station. Doctors discovered that the shape of his eyes changed during his mission, which was shorter than a trip to Mars, because of pressure imbalances in the skull.

The only known treatment involves spinal taps or drilling holes into a patient’s skull and must be conducted at the onset, meaning in the zero-gravity environment of space. Aside from the logistical hurdles of performing invasive procedures in space, astronauts and future colonists — SpaceX and Boeing customers — would probably prefer a biological solution.

(3) Russian Terminator prototype. “Stay calm, citizens: Russia’s gun-wielding robot is definitely ‘not Terminator’”.

When it comes to fears of robots taking over the world, mental images inspired by Terminator immediately spring to mind. But if robots really were going to wage war against their creators some day, they wouldn’t be walking around with guns, would they? Thanks to Russia’s new military robot, a future filled with armed humanoid machines might actually be in the cards.

(4) World’s largest X-ray laser. “Milestone on way to switching on world’s biggest X-ray laser”.

Scientists say they’ve reached a milestone on the way to switching on the world’s biggest X-ray laser, designed to capture images of structures and processes at the atomic level.

The DESY research center near Hamburg, Germany, said Wednesday it successfully fired electrons through a 2.1 kilometer (1.3 mile) particle accelerator.

(5) First glimpse of dark matter.  “Scientists Created the First Composite Image of Dark Matter” at Yahoo! News.

Dark matter, which apparently looks at least a little like a ghost face, doesn’t absorb or reflect light, which makes it impossible to spot through traditional means. The only way to detect it is through gravity.

(6) Asia commercial space programs. “SpaceX doesn’t scare Asia’s space players” according to Yahoo! Finance.

The commercial space industry is dominated by Western heavyweights, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos ‘ Blue Origin. But players in Asia say they aren’t worried about that competition.

As corporate spending eclipses government activity throughout the global space sector, Japan ‘s PD Aerospace and China ‘s Kuang-Chi Science are among Asia’s homegrown private firms planning to offer spaceflight services to civilians.

Shuji Ogawa, CEO of PD Aerospace, acknowledges that it’s unlikely Asian companies can rival SpaceX , Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin , but he said there’s more than enough demand to go around.

(7) Asteroid Hits Ocean, Humans Sleep Sound. A USA Today video shows “No, an asteroid hitting the ocean wouldn’t cause waves of destruction”.

Simulations show that unless an asteroid hit really close to the shore, humans would probably be safe.

(8) The game of alien life. “Gamers help scientists find exoplanets and maybe even extraterrestials”, a Newsweek interview with Michael Mayor, who made the first exoplanet discovery in 1995.

EVE Online’s fans are quick to remind you that it isn’t just a video game, it’s a hobby. You control a spaceship, mine asteroids and engage in massive space battles or old-fashioned piracy. But you don’t control your character in real time, instead setting up spreadsheets and codes that let the game play itself. EVE requires an analytical mind and is played by people who love numbers; computer programmers, software coders and even a NASA scientist or two.

Scott Seegert, Creator of Kelvin Klosmo and Vordak the Incomprehensible

By Carl Slaughter: A new character, a new universe, and hopefully a new series from Scott Seegert, author of Vordak the Incomprehensible, an illustrated series that was popular with kids and their parents and that received almost entirely 5-star reviews.

SCI-FI JUNIOR HIGH

Kelvin Klosmo isn’t just the new kid at school – he’s the new kid in the galaxy! Welcome to Sci-Fi Junior High: an inter-galactic space station with students of all shapes, sizes, smells, and… slime content. As the son of Earth’s two most famous geniuses, Kelvin isn’t just the smartest kid in the world….he’s the smartest kid in the UNIVERSE. At least, that’s what everybody at Sci-Fi Junior High thinks.

So, maybe Kelvin lied a little about being a genius to fit in. And maybe a mad scientist is about to take over the universe unless Kelvin can stop him. Maybe everyone is doomed.

Well, at least Kelvin won’t have to worry about math homework anymore.

Sci-Fi Junior High is an out-of-this-world story about friendship, accepting our differences, and the fight against evil… bunnies. Yes, evil bunnies – don’t ask.

HOW TO GROW UP AND RULE THE WORLD

Slip on your acid-free gloves, make sure you have a duplicate copy of How to Grow Up and Rule the World (just in case something should happen to this one) and try to follow along as the incomparable, superior-in-all-ways Vordak the Incomprehensible teaches you a thing or two about villainy.  Now you, too, can try (and fail) to attain Vordak’s level of infamy.

From selecting the most dastardly name, to choosing the ideal henchmen, to engaging in witty repartee with disgustingly chipper superheroes, experienced supervillain Vordak the Incomprehensible guides readers step-by-step toward the ultimate goal of world domination (from his parents’ basement in Trenton, New Jersey).

With chapter titles like “Bringing Out the Evil” and “Building a Top-Notch Evil Organization,” numerous bold illustrations, and detailed quizzes to assess your level of dastardliness, this book provides everything necessary to rise above the masses, and then rub your ascent in their faces.

In return for this wealth of knowledge, Vordak requests nothing more than an honored place in the evil regime of he who achieves control of the world. (And, of course, the opportunity to assume command, should things not work out.)

RULE THE SCHOOL

Greetings, goobers! After my latest experiment worked a little too well—transforming my rather fetching figure into something significantly smaller—I’ve been forced to return to those halls of horror better known as . . . school. But going back to junior high may be my greatest opportunity for mayhem in many a month! Try to keep up as I:

  • Dramatically defeat the daily dangers of schooldom—even though everyone is against me.
  • Strive to win the junior high presidential election by alerting my fellow students to the wonderfulness of Vordak the Incomprehensible, as well as the yuck-ness of my opponent, Marlena Lurchburger.
  • Mastermind a catastrophic career day, where that disgusting do-gooder Commander Virtue will finally, fiendishly be foiled.

Fortunately for you, I have recorded every mischievous moment within these carefully crafted covers so that you may bask in my brilliance as I plot to RULE THE SCHOOL . . . and, eventually, THE WORLD! MUAHAHAHAHA!!!

DOUBLE TROUBLE

“I, the brilliant and handsome Evil Mastermind Vordak the Incomprehensible, clone a younger version of myself as part of my master plan to win first prize at the annual Supervillain and Son picnic. Unfortunately, my youthful self turns out to be . . . good. Will my extreme evilosity suppress all strains of sincerity or will I (shudder) learn to play . . . nice?

Chronicled between the luminous leafs of my latest magnificent masterpiece, I’ll relate every moment as I face the greatest battle between good and evil ever known in the existence of this puny planet–the battle with myself.”

TIME TRVEL TROUBLE

Why must you always ask what my latest opus is about? Shouldn’t the fact that I wrote it be enough to convince you to buy billions of copies of my blisteringly brilliant book? Do I need to release my canbot army on you . . . again?

“Well if you want us to sell your book effectively, we should probably know what happens in it.

Great gassy goblins! You really are insanely insufferable!

I’ve had a minion put together a quick line, though it hardly does my genius justice:

After having yet another evil plan to rule the world foiled by Commander Virtue, Vordak travels back in time in an attempt to defeat his archnemesis at the point of his greatest vulnerability — his childhood.

PRAISE FOR HOW TO GROW UP AND RULE THE WORLD

  • Writing as the ultra-evil Vordak the Incomprehensible, Seegert offers a comical step-by-step guide world domination.  With a hyperbolically inflated self-image and no shortage of bathroom humor, Vordak guides readers through such topics as how to choose a costume (“the more flamboyant the better”), build a lair, and acquire enough minions to build a top-notch evil organization (“At times they can be difficult to control, but at their best they can be a relentless plague upon civilization”), all of which are paired with Martin’s appropriately cartoonish artwork.  Seegert gives Vordak a voice so magnetic and absurd that readers, especially young male ones, are going to soak up his warped wisdom like a sponge and circulate it at recess, even as Vordak insults them with admonishments like, “You are just a sniveling, whiny little goober, after all.”  No one is going to rule the world after Vordak’s farcical directives, but readers will have a grand time turning pages to see what outlandish thing he’ll say or suggest next, while perfecting their own villainous laughs.  Muahahahaha!  Ages 8-up.  –  Publishers Weekly
  • Gr 4-8–Evil mastermind Vordak the Incomprehensible shares his “evilosity” with aspiring supervillains in this hilarious spoof on superheroes. His comical narration features over-the-top self-congratulation matched by supreme contempt for readers and everyone else. He applies that bravado with great comic effect, sharing evil insights on everything from “choosing the lair that’s right for you” to the four basic options for costume color: “dark black, black, light black, and dark dark dark dark gray.” Each section goes beyond obvious jokes to explore all possible angles of satire. The “Bringing Out the EVIL” chapter, for instance, includes evil laughter tips, evil manners, “three ways to make your little brother look like an idiot,” and a description of Santa Claus as an evil genius. Comical black-and-white cartoons on nearly every page extend the humor. Many, like the “lemon-based-beverage” stand, work as stand-alone jokes. Vordak’s distinctive voice, peppered with alliteration typical of the genre, remains fresh and funny throughout. Pop-culture references and varied elements of grossness are sprinkled in regularly, along with 15 “commandments of incomprehensibility” and repeated references to “diabolically clever yet slow-acting death traps,” which get funnier each time. So does the ironic fact that despite his egotistical rants, Vordak is actually a completely unsuccessful supervillain. The humor, subject matter, and visual appeal should make this a top choice for fans of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid (Abrams) and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants (Scholastic) as well as any readers who enjoy superheroes without taking them too seriously.  –  School Library Journal
  • Crude and irreverent, this fictionalized self-help manual calls on kids to embrace their inner evil and go after those stupid, morally upstanding jerks in power (adults). Amplifying the cheeky fun are instructions, advice, anecdotes, rhymes, charts, and cartoon illustrations for destroying the planet and putting together a deadly organization capable of wreaking havoc on humanity. This is really the same scenario over and over, but many middle-schoolers will enjoy that they can open up to any page and find lots of discussion about vomit, farts, boogers, and poop, as well as coverage of elaborate assassination apparatus, described with wordplay and alliteration: instructions for tying a victim to a conveyor belt include the phrase, gaze gleefully as he glides towards his grisly good-bye, for instance. Puns are frequent: Hal Itosis, Aunty Social. And some of them are sure to offend: Special Ed. But whether it is the ad for putting up a little brother for adoption or the fantasy of punishing those in authority, the over-the top parodies tap into kids’ wild fantasies.  –  Booklist