Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:

 

When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)

 

(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/20/17 Try A Little Pixelness

(1) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. GoodEReader reports “Audio Realms is out of business”.

Audio Realms has gone out of business and they have taken their main website and Facebook Page offline. They have provided no indication on what prompted their company to suspend operations. Some of their audiobook content remains available on Audible and Overdrive.

Some customers are irate who purchased Audio Realms content on Audiobooks.com. It seems that when the company want out of business all of the purchased content has disappeared from customers libraries and they have no way to access them.

The Horror Show podcast from November has info on how affected creators can stop further sales of their work (apparently AR was not paying creators what they were owed), around the 36:58 mark.

(2) GORN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Fifty years ago this week Captain Kirk dueled the Gorn.

The lumbering green guy appeared in the original series’ 18th episode, “Arena.” The episode was based on a short story written by Frederic Brown and published in Astounding magazine back in 1944.

In the memorable Star Trek version, Captain Kirk is transported to a rocky planet (aka California’s alien-appearing Vasquez Rocks) to duke it out to the death with the Gorn captain. We won’t give away the ending in case you’re saving all the original episodes for a rainy day or something, but let’s just say that there is not one thing about the Gorn that is not awesome…

(3) SFRA CALLS. The Science Fiction Research Association has put out a call for panel and presentation proposals for its SFRA Annual Conference, June 28 to July 1, 2017 at University of California, Riverside.

The conference theme will be Unknown Pasts / Unseen Futures and our keynote speaker is Nnedi Okorafor. This theme grows out of the 2016 conference, whose conversations reminded us that there is so much about the history of science fiction that has yet to be sufficiently addressed in scholarship, including marginalized or otherwise neglected bodies of work. The future of scholarship in the field can be opened up to new possibilities through this return to under examined elements in our genre’s past, opening it up to futures that are as-yet unanticipated in existing fictional and scholarly visions. This conference theme also reflects UCR’s commitment to science fiction scholarship that is focused on imagining and creating sustainable and inclusive futures. Thus our focus is equally on new voices in the field and the new kinds of futures that emerge from this broader sense of the field’s membership.

(4) BLINTZ BLITZ. Scott Edelman’s 27th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast features Ellen Datlow and Ukranian cuisine.

This first to be recorded this visit took place at the Ukranian restaurant Veselka, which turns out more than 3,000 pierogi each day, and has been around since 1954. My guest that afternoon was editor Ellen Datlow, who for more than 35 years has brought readers amazing stories in magazines such as Omni, on sites such as SCI FI Fiction, and in anthologies such as Fearful Symmetries, The Doll Collection, and more than 90 others.

We discussed why reading slush is relaxing, which editors she wanted to emulate when she began editing, how she winnows down her favorite stories for her Year’s Best anthologies, the complexities of navigating friendships when making editorial decisions, how Ed Bryant challenged her to become a better editor, and much more.

EllenDatlowVeselka-768x768

(5) FERRER OBIT. Actor Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017) died January 19. Geek Chocolate explains why you would know that famous sci-fi face:

In another shocking loss, we say goodbye to the actor who went from the helm of the USS Excelsior to the labs of OCP where RoboCop was built, from aiding Agent Dale Cooper in the town of Twin Peaks to Vice President of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

His first major role having been in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop, he also had roles in William Friedkin’s The Guardian, Jim Abrahams’ Hot Shots! Part Deux, and as a voice actor in Disney’s Mulan and Justice League: The New Frontier as Martian Manhunter, but it was on television that he created the roles for which he is most famous.

Other television roles included Magnum, P.I., T J Hooker, Miami Vice, Tales from the Crypt, David Lynch’s On the Air, Will & Grace, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Robot Chicken, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Lie to Me, Psych, Desperate Housewives and most recently a long-running role as Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles, and it has been confirmed that he will be seen again later this year as Albert Rosenfield when Twin Peaks returns this summer.

The son of singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV in David Lynch’s Dune, his cousin George is also in the acting business.

(6) SMITH OBIT. Renowned convention bookseller Larry Smith (1946-2017) died January 20 from a dissected aortic aneurysm.

SF Site News recapped his fannish resume:

Columbus book dealer Larry Smith (b.1946) died on January 20. Smith co-chaired the Columbus in 1976 Worldcon bid as well as chairing Marcons III-XII. He served as a vice-chair for Chicon IV in 1982. He also co-charied OVFF in 1998 and World Fantasy Con in 2010. In the early 1990s, he purchased Dick Spelman’s book business and, along with his wife, Sally Kobee, has sold books and most conventions in the Midwest and East Coast. He has managed the dealer’s room at numerous Worldcons and other conventions.

Smith and his friend Robert Hillis suffered repeated frustrations trying to get a WSFS convention for Columbus, OH – a city which was not very many fans’ idea of a tourist mecca. Later they did get to apply their talents to winning a 1982 Worldcon bid (led by Larry Propp and Ross Pavlac) for Chicago, a city fans would vote for.

In the past couple of decades Smith became an iconic convention bookseller, together with his wife Sally Kobee. If the business didn’t make them rich, just the same it did get them noticed by Forbes Magazine.

Larry Smith and Sally Kobee at Readercon 25.

Larry Smith and Sally Kobee at Readercon 25.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 20, 1936:  Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi face off in The Invisible Ray.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 20  — Nancy Kress

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 20, 1896  — George Burns, who once played God, is best known to fans as the actor who stood next to young Ray Bradbury in this photo.
George Burns and Ray Bradbury.

George Burns and Ray Bradbury.

  • Born January 20, 1926 – Harry Glyer
  • Born January 20, 1930 – Buzz Aldrin
  • Born January 20 – Jared Dashoff

(10) OH POOH. Five days left for you to bid on a drawing of Pooh and Piglet by the canonical illustrator. The minimum bid is $45,000.

Beautifully rendered watercolor and ink drawing of Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet by E.H. Shepard, the illustrator chosen by A.A. Milne to bring his literary characters to life. Here, Shepard draws Pooh and Piglet upon a letter to his agent, allowing the characters to express his feelings of gratitude and joy.

Pooh drawing

(11) RED PLANET, BLUE PLANET. NPR reviews Carrie Vaughn’s novel — “’Martians Abroad’ Is An Optimistic Glance Into Humanity’s Future”.

It’s perfect timing, then, for the publication of Martians Abroad. The novel is the latest from New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn, best known for her Kitty Norville urban fantasy series. But rather than involving werewolves in modern-day America, Martians Abroad sets its sights on the human-colonized solar system of tomorrow.

That said, most of Martians Abroad — as the title states — doesn’t take place on Mars at all. The majority of the action takes place on Earth. Polly Newton is a typical teenager — that is, a typical teenager living on Mars’ Colony One, where her mother is the director of operations. She sends Polly and her twin brother Charles to Earth to attend Galileo Academy, a prestigious school full of the scions of the most powerful families in the solar system. Polly and Charles are the first Martians to enroll at Galileo, partly because Mars is less wealthy and seen as a bit of a hick planet. (Not that Polly wants to go to Earth in the first place — she’s forced to abandon an upcoming internship as a starship pilot, something she desires more than anything.)

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with the gratuitous plea, “I hope they’re wrong about it being an homage to Podkayne of Mars, one of Heinlein’s more repellent books.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Christa Cook Sinclair, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP, who never gets woolly.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/16 Barkleby

AKA Dogless In The Arena

(1) WHERE NEXT TREK FITS IN. IGN reports

Birth.Movies.Death.’s sources are saying that the CBS All Access show will be set in the classic continuity, which is to say not in the J.J. Abrams reboot-verse. Additionally, Season 1 of the series will be set before the era of The Next Generation, but after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. That covers a lot of years, and BMD’s report is not specific beyond that, but essentially what this means is that the era that could be covered spanned the time of the Enterprise-B (the one captained initially by Cameron from Ferris Bueller!) and the Enterprise-C (the one that was destroyed defending a Klingon outpost, as we learned in the classic TNG episode ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’). Not that an Enterprise will figure into the show necessarily…

(2) THE CHECK STOPS HERE. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic with Andy Duncan, Episode 6 of the series, unfolds at the Princess Cafe in the same booth where Harry and Bess Truman had lunch one Father’s Day more than 60 years ago.

Andy Duncan and Scott Edelman.

Andy Duncan and Scott Edelman.

Andy’s an award-winning writer many times over, having won a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, a Nebula Award, and three World Fantasy Awards. Plus he’s also been nominated for the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards. His collections include Beluthahatchie and Other Stories (which came out in 2000) and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories (published in 2011).

(3) BEHIND THE THRONES. Maureen Dowd interviewed Peter Dinklage for the New York Times “Dinklage and Dragons: Will Tyrion Win the ‘Game of Thrones’?” And blabbed a secret.

So now that the global hit — Season 6 starts in two weeks — has brought his character, the wily and louche “halfman” and “perverse little imp” Tyrion Lannister, into the sun-baked realm of Daenerys Targaryen, was it fun to act with the dragons? Or were they temperamental divas who chewed — or incinerated — the scenery?

“They’re not real,” he says, looking at me solemnly with his big, droopy blue eyes.

Whaaaaa? I am shocked, given the C.I.A.-level secrecy around the HBO show — which has sometimes confiscated extras’ cellphones and this year declined to provide the press with episodes in advance — that Dinklage would let such a huge spoiler slip out. (On a less top-secret note, HBO plans to make a comedy pilot inspired by my book “Are Men Necessary?”)

“The dragons are just a projection,” Dinklage says in his melodious baritone. “Ah, working with something that is not there. Sometimes I work with some actors who aren’t fully there. The guys in the visual effects department show you pre-visualizations, pre-vis. It used to be just storyboards, but now they’re really well done on computers, and you see the whole scene with you and the animated dragons before you do it, so you get that in your head. It’s neat. It’s cool. I like it.”

(4) A CENTURY OF FORRY. Monsterpalooza, April 22-24 at the Pasadena Convention Center, will feature a Forry Ackerman centennial panel on Sunday afternoon.

Forry 100th at MonsterPalooza

(5) TELEREAD COVERS HWA CONTROVERSY. Paul St. John Mackintosh, in “Horror Writers Association endures horrific meltdown over Bram Stoker Awards juror”, catches up on the David A. Riley story at TeleRead.

Riley, meanwhile, protested on his blog that: “It has been alleged by some people that I would be prejudiced against anything written or published or edited by non-white writers/publishers/editors. Utter twaddle. Yes, I am so prejudiced that I have paid for covers on two of the books I have published by Vincent Chong – one of my favourite artists. I am also in an advanced stage of negotiating with a black British writer to publish a collection of his stories.” Following that comment, the same Facebook respondent also posted: “That’s like saying I’m not racist I HAVE A BLACK FRIEND.”

Since I’ve found that my own past writings on the previous Riley controversy are being quoted in this context – as somehow “less negative than most” – I want to be quite clear where I stand on this go-round. Editorship of a revived horror anthology franchise is a totally different ball game to serving on a jury for a major award. Lisa Morton may say that “in specific regard to HWA’s Bram Stoker Award juries, the HWA will certainly act if/when a juror’s personal views have a provable impact/bias against a writer or his/her works,” but I can’t see how a juror’s potential bias can not be an issue when appointing them to an awards jury. Would some worthy candidates boycott the Awards simply because Riley is on the jury? It’s already happened. Would the Stokers be tarnished by association? Ditto.

(6) ON THE BOTTOM. The BBC has pictures: “Film’s lost Nessie monster prop found in Loch Ness”.

A 30ft (9m) model of the Loch Ness Monster built in 1969 for a Sherlock Holmes movie has been found almost 50 years after it sank in the loch.

The beast was created for the Billy Wilder-directed The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Sir Robert Stephens and Sir Christopher Lee.

It has been seen for the first time in images captured by an underwater robot.

Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine said the shape, measurements and location pointed to the object being the prop.

The robot, operated by Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, is being used to investigate what lies in the depths of Loch Ness.

(7) INVENTED LANGUAGES. John Garth reviews A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages , edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, is published by HarperCollins, in “Teach yourself Dwarvish: behind Tolkien’s invented languages” at New Statesman.

It is only thanks to a talk that he gave in 1931 at his Oxford college, Pembroke, that we have his considered thoughts on language invention. From its title, “A Secret Vice”, onwards, he strikes a note of embarrassment: “I may be like an opium-smoker seeking a moral or medical or artistic defence for his habit.”

It was indeed a long-standing obsession. Although the editors of this new critical edition place his earliest inventions in his mid-teens, Tolkien told one interviewer that he began when he was eight or nine. His talk is a vigorous defence of the “hobby” and, with the support of the background commentaries provided by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, it becomes clear that the invention of languages has been a surprisingly widespread activity. A Secret Vice is a thoroughly engaging introduction for the outsider.

Tolkien describes hearing a fellow officer in a dull First World War army lecture exclaim dreamily, “Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix!” Whether or not this is Tolkien in fictional guise, the scene is nicely conjured. “How far he ever proceeded in his composition, I never heard. Probably he was blown to bits in the very moment of deciding upon some ravishing method of indicating the subjunctive. Wars are not favourable to delicate pleasures.”

(8) GUNN REVIEWED BY LETSON. Russell Letson reviews Transgalactic by James Gunn for Locus Online.

…On one hand, SF traditionally sees itself as celebrating New Things so new that they haven’t even happened yet. On the other hand, there are the alternate history and steampunk subgenres (the latter of which quite deliberately adapts SF motifs and grafts them onto historical settings), so there is clearly an audience for retro-flavored entertainments.

And in any case, SF has worked and reworked its core materials since before the genre even had a name. With space opera, work by, say, Neal Asher, Iain M. Banks, Nancy Kress, Linda Nagata, or Walter Jon Williams is part of a tradition that goes back to E.E. ‘‘Doc’’ Smith and extends through Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Poul Anderson, and Jack Vance. Its story-space is a galaxy populated by exotic alien species, containing one or more star-spanning polities, possibly with a dizzyingly deep history. It is a setting made for explorations, intrigues, alien encounters, and wars – arguably a futureward projection of the condition of an Earth that still had blank spaces on the map, unknown peoples and societies, and tramp steamers to visit them.

This brings me to Transgalactic, the sequel to James Gunn’s Transcendental (reviewed in December 2013), which maintains its predecessor’s backward looks at earlier genre motifs and atmospherics. Transcendental echoes Olaf Stapledon in its embedded pilgrim-tales of alien evolutionary paths and ends with scenery and action right out of the SF-pulp version of lost-city adventures. Transgalactic continues that latter line, interleaving images and gestures from earlier cycles of science-fictional storytelling with more contemporary devices and shaping the whole concoction into an old-fashioned interstellar odyssey. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 15, 1983 — New-wave sci-fi classic Liquid Sky debuts in theaters.

(10) POPCORN WILL BE SOLD. Film exhibitors were courted at CinemaCon. Variety has the details — “Warner Bros. Offers ‘Wonder Woman’ Footage, Touts ‘Expansive’ DC Comics Universe”.

Warner Bros. talked up the “expansive” nature of the DC Comics cinematic universe during a presentation to exhibitors at CinemaCon on Tuesday, while debuting footage from “Wonder Woman” that highlighted the Amazonian warrior princess beating up a platoon of World War I soldiers. There was also a brief glimpse of love interest Chris Pine atop a motorcycle, as well as Wonder Woman using her shield to deflect gunfire, and riding a horse, sword drawn and ready for action…

The DC presentation ended on a high note with an ebullient Will Smith and the cast of “Suicide Squad,” a film about a team of super villains, taking the stage.

“What if Superman decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House and grab the president right out of the Oval Office,” a character asks in the extended trailer shown to the audience, setting up the film’s stakes. “Who would stop him?” The answer was a rag-tag group of amoral avengers, brought together by shadowy government operatives looking for an edge in a world of metahumans.

Smith promised that “Suicide Squad” will “fill those theaters up real thick,” while director and writer David Ayer pledged that “thirsty, hungry people are going to show up.”

(11) BYE KITTY. Rachel Swirsky bids “Farewell to Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series about a werewolf named Kitty”.

Poor Kitty Norville. Everyone always laughs at the werewolf named Kitty, even though, as she points out, she had the name first.

I’ve read every single one of Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series staring a werewolf named Kitty. So, of course, just like Mary Robinette’s Glamourist Histories and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Carrie’s books ended last year.

The best one is book four. It packs a hell of a punch…

(12) STAR PROJECT. SFWA’s latest Star Project is By the Silver Wind by Jess E. Owen.

Fair winds to you!

If you’re already a member of the Gryfon Pride, please, make yourself comfortable, find a mossy rock to lounge, or go explore the amazing rewards for this, the campaign to fund the final volume of the Summer King Chronicles.

To those who are new, welcome! You’ve entered the world of the Silver Isles, where gryfons rule, dragons roam, ravens riddle, and wolves sing. I hope you’ll stay and become a member of the Pride!

The SFWA Blog explains:

This is a model Kickstarter for all self-published professionals. Congratulations!

SFWA makes small, targeted pledges to worthy Kickstarter projects by non-members, designating them  “SFWA Star Projects.” Projects are selected by the Self Publishing Committee, with coordination by volunteer Rob Balder. Selections are based on the project’s resonance with SFWA’s exempt purposes, and special preference is given to book-publishing projects in appropriate genres.

Funds for these pledges come from the SFWA Givers Fund. When pledges result in receiving donor rewards (such as signed books), these items will be auctioned off at fundraising events, to help replenish the Givers Fund.

The project has 10 days left in its campaign. All support is appreciated.

(13) 55 YEARS AGO IN THE UK. Galactic Journey’s overseas corresponded Ashley Pollard delivers “[April 15, 1961] London Calling (A Peek At UK Fandom)”.

Now a Red star has risen in the East — Vostok — aboard the ship is the first human in space: Major Yuri Gagarin, who is now a Hero of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and by extension a hero for all mankind.  The local prestige of our former wartime allies had plunged due to the recent discovery and capture of the Portland Spy Ring, causing ripples of concern over secrets lost, so having Major Gagarin take over the headlines has been welcome change — if only from one kind of paranoia to another: Reds with atomic secrets versus Reds in Space!  And because it turns my liking for all things to do with rocketry into a respectable talking point at parties.

Certainly, Thursday nights conversation at The London Circle, a meeting of like minded science fiction fans, was of nothing else.  (The London Circle was the basis for Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart.  I will not be drawn into the recent fan feud that has split the group because I attend for the absence of the pub and the chance to have a G&T with ice and a slice. How very non-fannish of me.)

Of course, this being Britain, we had to draw comparisons to Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass Experiment and the British Experimental Rocket Group and what happened to the hapless astronaut to leaven the concerns of those who see Soviet dominance in space as threat to World Peace.

As you can well imagine our conversations were more along the lines of aliens returning to Earth with Major Gagarin, and what would the Russian counter-part of Bernard Quatermass do?

(14) CHARITABLE COSPLAY. Will R. writes, “There seems to be a real thing over here–maybe it’s true in the States too–of people cosplaying for good (not to say cosplaying isn’t good for its own sake, I just mean explicitly to help others). We watched a doc one night on Star Wars cosplayers, who invest thousands in being Boba Fett or whatever, and do a lot of charity events in costume. It’s cool. Real heroes, you ask me.”

BelfastLive reports on one example — “Batman swoops into Northern Ireland Hospice to make patient’s dream come true”.

Batman swooped in from Gotham City to make a super fan’s dream come true – and share some crime-fighting secrets.

Northern Ireland Hospice patient Gary Owen – a self-confessed Dark Knight fanatic – received a very special visit from his hero today.

Gary, who is 28 and comes from Newcastle Co Down, chatted for more than an hour with the man in black, discussing movies, comics, Batman gadgets, and how to deal with villains.

The caped crusader brought special gifts from Forbidden Planet Belfast and exclusive Batman vs Superman merchandise – before Gary and his family watched The Dark Knight Rises movie.

A spokesman for Northern Ireland Hospice told Belfast Live: “Gary’s passion for Batman and super-heroes was obvious to Northern Ireland Hospice nursing staff and inspired them to create a special memory for him and his loving family.

“We created a cinema in the Day Hospice for Gary and family to watch the Dark Knight Rises, and Batman came in with gifts and comics.

“He and Gary chatted as if they had known each other for a long time. It is occasions like this that make lasting memories for families….”

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Will R. and Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Apply For 2015 Taos Toolbox

A few openings remain for writers who want to attend 2015 Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in sf and fantasy to be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special lecturer Carrie Vaughn.

They caution this is not a workshop for beginners. It is recommended for those who have sold a few stories, or already been to Clarion or Odyssey. It’s also (though not exclusively) oriented to novel-writing.

Participants will spend most of their time reading, writing, and offering critiques. They’ll also hear lectures and engage in activities revolving around:

  • the art of worldbuilding
  • plotting a novel
  • pacing a novel
  • crafting a character
  • preparing a package to sell your work, including crafting an outline
  • how magic works (in fiction)
  • the art of rewriting
  • how to read a literary contract
  • what to do when Hollywood calls

The workshop takes place June 28-July 11, 2015 in Taos, NM.

2012 Williamson Lectureship

Daniel Abraham and Carrie Vaughn will be the guests of honor at the 36th annual Jack Williamson Lecture, to be held March 29-30 at Eastern New Mexico University. This year’s theme is Urban Fantasy. All events except the luncheon are free.

Daniel Abraham writes epic fantasy set on other worlds (The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin series) and as “MLN Hanover” he writes urban fantasy set in something very like our world (The Black Sun’s Daughter series.)

Carrie Vaughn is the New York Times bestselling author of the “Kitty Norville” series (the 10th novel, Kitty Steals the Show is due Spring 2012).

Connie Willis, Misstress of Ceremonies for the event, is herself fresh from winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for the newest novel in her Oxford time travel series (published as two volumes: Blackout and All Clear).

See the schedule and full press release following the jump.

Still available from Haffner Press is Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship, a collection of transcribed speeches and presentations by a variety of Lectureship guests since its beginning.

[Thanks to Stephen Haffner for the story.]

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Shape of Capclaves to Come

Capclave, a Washington D.C. area sf & fantasy con, has announced its Guests of Honor for both 2011 and 2012.

At Capclave 2011 the GoHs will be author Carrie Vaughn, known for her Kitty Norville series; and author, poet, and editor Catherynne Valente, author of the Hugo-nominee Palimpsest and Deathless.

The 2012 GoHs will be John Scalzi, SFWA President, proprietor of the renowned blog, Whatever, and author of the Old Man’s War series; and Nick Mamatas, editor of Viz Media’s line of translated Japanese novels and author of Move Under Ground and Northern Gothic

Capclave 2011 will take place at Washington DC North Hilton in Gaithersburg, Maryland on October 14- 16, 2011. Two signed limited edition WSFA Press books by 2011’s Guests of Honor Carrie Vaughn and Catherynne Valente will be available at the con. Straying from the Path by Carrie Vaughn will collect ten of her favorite hard-to-classify stories covering the full range of speculative fiction. Jay Lake is providing the introduction. Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente takes on the folklore of artificial intelligence. A limited run of 500 signed copies will go on sale for $20 each.

Members of Capclave 2011 can pre-order the books for $20 at www.capclave.org from the Registration tab. After the convention, remaining books will be available to the general public for $25. 

The full press release follows the jump.

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