Pixel Scroll 8/10/17 Trailing Clouds Of Pixels Do We Come From Scrolls Which Are Our Home

(1) STILES MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Stiles had cancer surgery. His wife, Elaine, had good news for Facebook readers:

Thanks to everyone who expressed concern & well wishes. Steve came thru the op fine tho minus most of his right lung so they’d be sure to get all the cancer.

(2) AT THE CORE. James Davis Nicoll is determined to fill your shelves. Here’s a new list of must reads: “Twenty Core Young Adult Works of Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. The first three titles are –

  1. Aria by Kozue Amano
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
  3. Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant

(3) BUTLER ON TV? Vanity Fair says “Octavia Butler Is Finally Heading to TV, Thanks to Ava DuVernay”.

Ava DuVernay is ushering Octavia Butler’s work into a new era. The director is adapting Butler’s 1987 book Dawn for television, alongside director Victoria Mahoney (a Queen Sugar collaborator) and producer Charles D. King (Fences).

She confirmed the news on Twitter, writing that she is honored “to bring legend Octavia Butler’s stellar work to screen.”

Dawn is the first book in Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy. The futuristic sci-fi tale takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where nearly all humans are gone, and the remaining few have been whisked away by an alien race called the Oankali, who want to breed with them. The story follows Lilith Iyapo, a black woman who wakes up to a new world after being taken by the aliens.

(4) BEFORE INDEPENDENT’S DAY. Cat Rambo began a series of posts about SFWA with a perspective on the past — “SFWA and Independent Writers, Part One: History of the Organization”.

As part of a Twitter conversation, one of my favorite gamewriters, Ken St. Andre, suggested I write up something about SFWA and independent writers that goes into enough detail that people can understand why — or why not — they might want to join. This is part one of a multi-part series that will talk about some of the history behind the decision, and in this first part I want to talk about the organization prior to admitting independent writers. Part two will discuss how SFWA came to change membership criteria in order to make it possible for people to qualify for membership with indie sales in 2016, and some of the changes made as part of planning for that expansion. Part three will focus on how SFWA has changed in the intervening time, while part four will look at what I see as the changes that will continue as we move forward over the next decade. In all of this, I’m trying to provide something of an insider’s look that may or may not be useful, but certainly will be full of many words.

…. Initially SFWA was exactly what you would expect of a volunteer organization run by the most chaotic, capricious, and disorganized creatures possible: science fiction writers. Stories abound, including records getting lost because someone’s cat peed on them, Jerry Pournelle inviting Newt Gingrich to be the Nebulas toastmaster and a subsequent heated brouhaha that included some people walking out of the ceremony and Philip K. Dick agitating to get Stanislaw Lem expelled. My favorite remains Joe Haldeman’s account of the SFWA finances being somewhere in the realm of $2.67 when he became SFWA treasurer, so he bought the notebook to keep track of them out of his own pocket.

(5) UH-OH. Apparently you really can’t tell a book by its cover.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the movies, the identity of the Toxic Avenger before his unfortunate accident with toxic chemicals was janitor Melvin Ferd.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 10, 2003 – First Earth/space wedding. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, aboard the International Space Station, married Ekaterina Dmitriev, on Earth.
  • August 10, 2004 — Cartoon character Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(8) NOT TIRED OF WINNING. Adam-Troy Castro archly announces his newly-founded awards:

I am announcing the new Adam-Troy Castro Awards. These new Awards, trophies cast in the shape of Adam-Troy Castro, will be awarded only to Adam-Troy Castro. This is to correct the injustice of Adam-Troy Castro not getting certain other major genre awards. These will prove that all other writing awards suck and are the product of nefarious cabals. My own nefarious cabal of Adam-Troy Castro will make sure that only Adam-Troy Castro is eligible.

You think your alternate awards are sufficiently anti-diversity? Fie, I say on you! Fie! Mine are so non-diverse that they can only go to works by one person! They will not engage in favoritism. All works by Adam-Troy Castro will have the same chance as all other works by Adam-Troy Castro. This is fair! This is equitable! This is self-pleasuring of an order even higher than your awards!

(9) GIANT PLANET NEWS. He killed Pluto – can this make up for it? IEEE Spectrum asks, “Is There a Giant Planet Lurking Beyond Pluto?”

Michael E. Brown is often called “the guy who killed Pluto.” But he takes the moniker in stride. Sitting in his sunny Pasadena office at the California Institute of Technology, Brown jokes that Pluto, which was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, had it coming. The year before, Brown had discovered Eris, a frosty dwarf in the outer solar system more massive than Pluto and named, fittingly, for the Greek goddess of strife.

Brown now has good reason to hope that history will remember him not for the Eris-instigated demotion of Pluto but as codiscoverer of an as yet unseen, true ninth planet—a Neptune-size world so massive that it may have tipped the entire solar system a few degrees sideways.

I meet Brown in the late afternoon, shortly after his breakfast. The 52-year-old, sporting a week-old beard and Converse sneakers, is shifting his sleep schedule to spend the coming nights remotely babysitting a giant telescope as it scans the heavens from the snowy summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Calculations that Brown published last year with Konstantin Batygin, a former student of Brown’s who now occupies the faculty office next to his, suggest that Planet Nine is real. Somewhere out there, they are convinced, drifts a frozen world so distant from the sun—perhaps 5.5 light-days, or roughly 150 billion kilometers—that high noon on its surface is no brighter than a moonlit night on Earth.

(10) CARRIE FISHER. Tim Keneally in The Wrap says “Carrie Fisher Leaves Behind Estate Worth Nearly $7 Million” which reports that Carrie Fisher’s will is clearing probate and Billie Lourd is likely to be the primary recipient of the $7 million.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Traveling Through Brush and Ink is an animated journey on Vimeo through great classical Chinese paintings held by the National Palace Museum in Taiwan

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, Adam-Troy Castro, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/17 The Magic Fileaway Tree

(1) BESIDES CONFEDERATE. Deadline tells about another post-Civil War alternate history in development: “‘Black America’: Amazon Alt-History Drama From Will Packer & Aaron McGruder Envisions Post-Reparations America”.

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

(2) SPARE CHANGE. Everybody’s getting on the bandwagon: Smithsonian curators present historic coins representative of the noble houses of Westeros: “It’s not heads or tails in the ‘Game of Thrones'”.

House Targaryen: Fire and Blood

Daenerys Targaryen has spent the Game of Thrones saga making a name for herself—several, actually: the Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and more. She harnesses the power of fire and blood, renowned for her skills as dragonlord and evidenced in the sigil of her house, which depicts a red three-headed dragon on a black field. The silver-haired Targaryens are not alone in their veneration of dragons as ancestral symbols of power and prestige. This gold liang coin depicts a mighty and ferocious dragon flying through clouds toward the viewer, flames protruding from its mouth. The coin was minted under the Guangxu Emperor of the Qing dynasty, where the dragon would have been understood as a symbol for wisdom, power, nobility, and ambition. Such symbolism is literally used by Targaryens and their dragons to claim rule of the Seven Kingdoms.

(3) BOW WOW. The Washington Post’s Karen Bruillard, in “Dire wolves were real. Now someone is trying to resurrect them”, reports on Medford, Oregon dog breeder Lois Schwarz, whose Dire Wolf Project has been going on for thirty years but has gotten national attention with Game of Thrones.  Schwarz has been working on wolf-dog hybrids for decades (the term she likes is “American Alsatians”).

“‘Game of Thones’ has given demand a bump, but not in the way Schwarz likes,” Says Bruillard.  “The fiction-motivated customers are looking for dogs that resemble the characters Ghost or Nymeria,” while Schwartz wants to breed dogs that are smart and friendly.

Bruillard also interviewed palentologist Caitlin Brown, who did her dissertation on Canis dirus.  One quibble Brown has with Game of Thrones:  “The wolves of HBO usually lunge at their enemies’ heads, whereas wolves typically drag down their prey from their haunches.”

(4) NEW MCCCAFFREY. A little birdie told me WordFire released “The Jupiter Game (The Game of Stars Book 1)” by Todd McCaffrey (Kindle edition) on July 30. Not about dragons – but aliens.

Jupiter!

The Russians and the Europeans got there first in their fusion ship Harmonie. At least, that’s what they thought.

Aliens!

“They’ve matched orbit with us!”

What do they want? What will they do?

Ooops…

“Ooops?” Jenkins echoed. “Aliens go ‘Ooops’?”

The Jupiter Game: A close encounter with aliens who watch Howdy Doody.

(5) HEVELIN COLLECTION Andrew Porter reports that it looks like the digitization of Rusty Hevelin’s fanzines has slowed dramatically.

The person in charge has left, leaving someone else in charge. Post on the blog 2 months ago, showing a flyer from the 1981 Worldcon about the Hugo Losers Party, shows how little the people in charge know about SF. “The year of the con?” Really?

“Hi Folks, I want to let you know that Laura Hampton, the librarian doing the actual digitization of Hevelin fanzines and who has masterfully displayed some of the Hevelin treasures here over the last two years, has moved on to a great job in Florida. We all wish her the very best and I am so grateful for all she’s accomplished. We’ll miss her.

“So, it’s just us chickens. And to begin my return to doing Hevelin Tumblr, I introduce this piece of fan art, done on a piece of hotel stationery from the Denver Hilton. Can anybody identify the artist? The year of the con? I’m going to post more mysteries like this so stay tuned.”

It says something that the person does not recognize references to the 1981 Worldcon – where Rusty Hevelin was the Fan Guest of Honor!

(6) BLACKOUT. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham has discovered “The path of the solar eclipse is already altering real-world behavior”.

The upcoming solar eclipse is poised to become the “most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,” in the words of one astronomer. Millions of people will watch it, potentially overwhelming the cities and towns along the eclipse’s path of totality.

According to Google, interest in the eclipse has exploded nationwide in the past few months, mirroring national media attention. The county-level search data above, provided by Google, paints a striking picture: Interest in the eclipse is concentrated in the path of totality that cuts through the middle of the country, receding sharply the farther you go from that path.

 

(7) SKLAR OBIT. Marty Sklar worked for Disney for 54 years and led the designing and creating most of the Disney rides during this period. He died July 27.

Los Angeles Times writers Daniel Miller and Richard Vernier marked his passing in “Marty Sklar, Pioneering Imagineer Who Channeled Walt Disney, Dies at 83”.

Long after his mentor’s death, Sklar recognized the treasure-trove of wisdom he had started compiling at Walt Disney’s elbow in the late 1950s. He distilled it all into “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” a widely circulated creed that remains a touchstone in the theme park industry.

The commandments were a cornerstone of Sklar’s own half-century career at Walt Disney Co., where he led the creative development of the Burbank company’s parks, attractions and resorts around the world, including its ventures in the cruise business, housing development and the redesign of Times Square in New York.

Sklar died Thursday in his Hollywood Hills home. No cause of death was given. He was 83.

His retirement in 2006 marked the end of an era: He was one of the last remaining executives to have worked alongside Walt Disney in shaping the company into a global powerhouse. Sklar, who last served as principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, the storied theme park design and development outfit, was so closely associated with the company’s namesake that he became known as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 1 opened.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says to check out today’s Moderately Confused.

(10) AUDIENCE BUILDING. Cat Rambo wrote a column about writers and self-promotion for Clarkesworld.

Whether opting for indie, traditional, or hybrid, publicity work on behalf of one’s output is less and less optional on the writer’s side of things for everyone except the top tier writers whose fan bases are so established that the publishers know their books are almost guaranteed to sell. Time and time again I have had writers come to me worried that they must create a social media presence because they’ve been told that they must by their agent or publisher. And it’s true that when acquiring books, some publishers look at a writer’s social media, believing that large followings will lead to greater sales.

You can see this pressure to publicize manifest in one form on Twitter, where writers work at projecting their brand as well as writing. It’s a weird balancing act, where they’re working at writing books people will want to read, but also working at attracting readers who might give them a try based on a quip or observation they’ve posted. Sometimes it feels sincere; other times less so. It is undeniable that a strong social media presence will affect sales, but its effect is generally overestimated, in my opinion. Creating consistently good work that brings readers back to look for more will always be the best strategy—although admittedly not one available immediately out of the authorial starting gate.

(11) A WORD FROM HER SPONSOR. Cat Rambo’s Patreon supporters got plenty of goodies from her in July. Here, let her draw you a picture –

(12) CLASS. And one of the items in her latest newsletter is her teaching schedule for August. See something you need? Sign up.

Plenty of Plunkett scholarships available. Please make use of them or pass the info to someone you know would benefit from the class but can’t afford it.

(13) YAKKITY-YAK. A corollary to the well-known joke about it being okay to talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer — “Chatbots develop own language: Facebook shuts down AI system…”.

Initially the AI agents used English to converse with each other but they later created a new language…

(14) AN UNCANNY EDITOR. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry tells Tor.com readers “I Built My Own Godd*mn Castle”.

I am seventeen when I meet Miles Vorkosigan. I’m not ready to meet him then. He startles me, I see myself in him and I don’t want to, because the common narrative told me being disabled was a weakness, not a strength. When I re-read him several years later, I find myself reveling in his glee, his reckless abandon. His energy.

I wish I’d been ready for him sooner. He is what tells me I deserve romance, that I deserve my own narrative. He is also still a boy. I have no women in fiction to guide me.

I am in my mid-twenties the first time the word “disabled” escapes my lips as a word to define myself. I’ve had a white cane for six years, yet I still don’t see myself as disabled, because no one else does.

When I discover it applies to me, it feels freeing.

I have mere days left in my twenties when I start writing a book about a disabled woman, a woman who shares my blindness, though not my conditions. It is rewarding, working through a story that feels right, the weight of the story, the sensory details all mine.

I’ve made a promise to myself, one that I haven’t shared yet. A promise to tell stories about disabled people as often as I can, as many varied stories as I can, because for me, I didn’t get enough of them when they were needed.

I am thirty-one when I take a job as an editor, creating a special issue for a Hugo award-winning magazine where I will, with other disabled people, destroy ableism like the kind that took me years to undo, and will take me more years to untangle and burn away.

That magazine is Uncanny. That issue is Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. That job is Guest Editor-in-Chief of Non-Fiction. Those disabled people are my co-workers, my co-editors, and the writers I will work with.

(15) BEST COMMERCIALS. Adweek says “5 Years Later, the Guardian’s ‘Three Little Pigs’ Still Blows the House Down”. Click on the link to see the video.

It’s been a good year for ads from newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times to the Atlantic. But you have to go back five years for a truly transcendent piece of advertising from a journalistic publication—the Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs” spot by BBH London.

Adweek chose “Three Little Pigs” as the single best ad of 2012. And now, Hill Holliday creative director Kevin Daley has included it among his favorite work of all time in Adweek’s latest “Best Ads Ever” video (see above).

(16) PLONK YOUR MAGIC TWANGERS. Hampus Eckerman says, “I demand that these people get to make the soundtrack of a fantasy movie. All of them.” — Khusugtun Takes Listeners To Mongolia | Asia’s Got Talent 2015 Ep 2.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Hampus Eckerman, Jonathan Edelstein, Paul Weimer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Jon Del Arroz, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Greg Hullender, Nigel, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/17 Hello Pixel My Old Friend, I’ve Come To Scroll With You Again

(1) SCORING WONDER WOMAN. Vox explains that Wonder Woman’s score/rating is 93% or 76%, depending on how you look at it, in “Why people are freaking out over Wonder Woman’s stellar Rotten Tomatoes score”

To be clear, a 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating doesn’t mean that critics scored the movie at 97 on a scale of 1 to 100, or that Wonder Woman is a perfect movie — rather, it signifies that an overwhelming majority of critics have given the movie a positive review. The average critical rating for the movie is around a 7.6 out of 10 according to Rotten Tomatoes, and a 76 according to Metacritic, both of which take into account any actual score, like a star rating or a letter grade, that a critic gave the movie.

(2) WORD PROBLEM. Or, for those of you who find a verbal response more helpful that a number, Gary Westfahl offers “A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman” at Locus Online.

One important lesson to learn seems obvious enough: since the DC superheroes first became popular because of their appearances in comic books, filmmakers should generally remain faithful to the contents and spirit of their original adventures. One of the irksome aspects of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was his willingness to tinker with Superman’s and Batman’s back stories and ignore facets of their established characters, so that one watches these films regularly thinking, “Superman would never do that,” or “Batman would never do that.” In contrast, though Snyder is co-credited with Wonder Woman‘s story, its other writers — Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs — must be primarily credited with a film that, with minor changes to be noted, is remarkably faithful to the longstanding traditions of Wonder Woman (even though she is never called Wonder Woman in the film), projecting a strong awareness and respect for the three aspects of the heroine that make her almost unique (and her gender, though relevant, is not the most significant issue).

(3) OMNI FOR SALE — BUT SHOULD IT BE? The entire run of Omni magazine is available for purchase from Amazon for $2.99/issue (or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.) — see Omni archive.

But SFWA President Cat Rambo points out there are unanswered questions about the rights to market the fiction in these issues:

Be aware that there’s some questions about those runs of Omni. While the nonfiction seems to have been often work for hire, I don’t believe that’s true of the fiction, and I also don’t think they’re paying the writers of that fiction. At least, they have not replied to repeated and increasingly pointed queries on my part about it. I’ve asked affected fiction writers to mail me if they know their work has been stolen by these folk.

(4) GET OUT THE KLEENEX. The New York Times debuted its feature New York Stories by getting some artists (including Tom Gauld) to draw header illustrations for selected articles.

First one I read was the lost dog story — “World (or at Least Brooklyn) Stops for Lost Dog” by reporter Andy Newman. Big tearjerker.

Bailey, a 2½-year-old goldendoodle, lived a placid, largely uneventful life on a block of handsome brownstones in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, until 7:15 on the morning of Oct. 24.

That was when her owner leashed her to a metal chair outside Henry’s Local, a coffee shop on Henry Street, and went in for an iced latte.

Another customer entered the cafe. Bailey, startled, jumped to the side. The chair crashed to the sidewalk. The noise spooked Bailey further.

She bolted — down Henry Street, dragging the clattering chair behind her, with her owner, Orna Le Pape, in pursuit, yelling: “Bailey, stop! No! No!”

The NYT allows ten free articles before you a paywall. But there are ways around that, as you probably know.

(5) HARRY POTTER FAN FILM. ScienceFiction.com interestingly reports, “Warner Bros. Okays ‘Harry Potter’ Fan Film ‘Voldemort: Origins Of The Heir’”. The spectacular-looking trailer was linked in the Scroll the other day — now it looks like the makers will be allowed to do their feature.

But considering that this borders on copyright infringement, this trend has caused studios much alarm and has even caused some to call in the lawyers. For example, CBS and Paramount went after a ’Star Trek’ fan film titled ‘Axanar’ and tied that production in litigation for over a year. Eventually, things settled down and the filmmakers were allowed to proceed with their project with certain conditions, but it set a precedent for studios and future fan films that have recently played out with Warner Bros. and a ‘Harry Potter’ fan film titled ‘Voldemort: Origins of the Heir’. Luckily, just as with the ‘Star Trek’ production, it would seem that the studio has given the fans their blessing to move forward with their labor of love.

While speaking with Polygon, ‘Origins of the Heir’ co-director Gianmaria Pezzato of Tryangle Films revealed that after WB had their Kickstarter campaign shut down in July 2016, the two parties came to some kind of agreement that would allow Pezzato, co-director Stefano Prestia, and the whole crew to continue their work. However, there were some conditions:

“We had a private and confidential discussion with Warner Bros who contacted us during the period of the crowdfunding campaign. The only thing we can say is that they let us proceed with the film, in a non profit way, obviously.”

With WB’s blessing, Tyrangle is back in business. It’s a good thing too because their film looks really awesome. I mean, when fans can create a House Elf as well as some of the best animators in the business, it would be a crime for a cease and desist to keep the movie from coming to fruition.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 3, 1965 — Astronaut Edward H. White II was the first American to perform a “spacewalk” when he stepped outside of his spacecraft

(7) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1950 Influential sci-fi film Rocketship X-M opens in theaters.
  • June 2, 1989 Nicolas Cage stars in horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss.

(8) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 2, 1915 — Lester del Rey

(9) WATCH FOR THE BLINK. Offering more participation than SETI@home: “Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An ‘Overexcited Planet'”.

“Maybe Mesklin is out there just waiting to be discovered,” comments Chip Hitchcock.

Professional astronomers have been turning to the public for help with their research. So far, these “citizen scientists” have helped characterize distant galaxies and discovered gravitation lenses.

Now you can add finding brown dwarfs to the list. An article just published in Astrophysical Journal Letters describes a brown dwarf discovered with the help of four volunteers through an online crowdsourced search.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. When NPR reported on it in February, the focus was on finding the planet that astronomers predict exists at the farthest reaches of the solar system.

(10) EARTH, THE FINAL FRONTIER. “This is exactly what Captain Kirk was portrayed as trying to do in the beginning scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” David Klaus points out. “I didn’t think it actually was physically possible to do, and the ability to make such a climb was part of the fictional Star Trek future.” — “‘Free solo’ climber conquers El Capitan without rope, safety gear”

Alex Honnold, a celebrated 31-year-old rock climber, on Saturday became the first person to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot granite wall, without using ropes or other safety gear, according to National Geographic

(11) DUFF DOINGS. Down Under Fan Fund delegate Paul Weimer tweets more highlights from the New Zealand leg of his trip.

(12) WISCON. In “That was Wiscon!”, Sigrid Ellis has both favorable things to say about the con, and some other specific observations bracketed by the following excerpts.

Wiscon still has room for improvement in areas of social justice, but this year was certainly better than five years ago. I think it helps that a number of people No Longer Feel Welcome at Wiscon and have decided to go to OddCon instead. Which, is sad for people who liked OddCon, but good for Wiscon.€¦

(A note on Not Feeling Welcome at Wiscon: If you no longer feel welcome at Wiscon because people criticize you and tell you you are saying and doing bigoted things, perhaps you should examine that in your heart. Listen. Read up on the topic. Challenge your views. Think on it a while. Perhaps, apologize. Perhaps grow as a person. Or, you know, clutch your bigotry to your chest and flounce away on a cloud of hurt privilege and drama. That’s a choice you can make, sure, why not.)

(12) TO SEE THE UNSEEN. The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer discusses how children’s book author Marissa Moss decided to make her memoir of her husband’s death, Last Things, a graphic novel in order to best convey her emotions about her husband’s death: “In graphic memoir, children’s author aims to show adults what they don’t see about death”.

…Part of the problem, Moss said, is that American culture isolates death from everyday life, cordoning off the messy experiences of illness and grief in hospital rooms and nursing homes. Most people don’t see the ill or bereaved until they become the mourner themselves.

With her memoir “Last Things,” published last month, Moss becomes one of a growing group of writers attempting to expose these hidden yet universal processes. From tell-all bloggers posting about every stage of sickness and death, to Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s “Option B” published after her husband’s untimely death, Moss joins in to illustrate grief — in her case, quite literally.

A prolific children’s book writer best known for her popular “Amelia’s Notebook” series, Moss has been telling stories through a mix of words and pictures for decades. But when she first sat down to create a memoir of Harvey’s illness, she only wrote prose.

Publishers balked. …

(13) CLUB MEETING. The Hugo Award Book Club takes up a popular sequel in “A Closed And Common Orbit — Book Club Review”.

Generic Space Setting

Becky Chambers’ strength is not world building. Both of her books so far feature fungible aliens from central casting, off-the-shelf worlds, and a feel-good interstellar society not dissimilar from the United Federation of Planets.

But this is actually not a bad thing, since digging into the world doesn’t detract from what’s important in the book: the relationships and the characters. Numerous novels in recent years have been marred by too much focus on the universe, and not enough focus on the characters.

(14) WE’RE HERE. At The Bearded Trio Paul Gibbs studies the only Name of the Game episode anybody still cares about: “L.A. 2017: A look back at Steven Spielberg’s Early Sci-Fi Time Travel Movie”.

When I first [heard] two years ago that Steven Spielberg had directed a science fiction TV movie called L.A. 2017, I was puzzled. How could I not know about this? I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of Spielberg’s work, and even on the relative completeness of my personal collection (when people try to catch me by asking if the collection includes Duel, I smirk and reply it even includes the far lesser known Something Evil.). How could i not be aware of this one?

(15) TOY TIME. Forbes writer Ollie Barder is excited: “Bandai Unveils Its Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon Model Kit And It Is No Hunk Of Junk”.

For Star Wars fans, Bandai is now the go to resource for the best toys and model kits for the entire franchise. Its latest offering though is all kinds of epic; a massive 1/72 scale Perfect Grade Millennium Falcon kit.

If you are not familiar with the term “Perfect Grade“ that comes from Bandai’s Gundam model kit, or gunpla, line. It’s the highest grade in terms of complexity, gimmicks, detailing, scale and price. The results are usually incredibly though and I have availed myself of a few of these kits over the years, so I speak from experience here.

In this instance, the Millennium Falcon matches the same 1/72 scale as its X-Wing and TIE Fighter kits, so you can totally do a huge nerdy diorama if you so wish.

The size thing is a big point here, as this kit is massive. It’s also gimmick ridden and full of lights and a removable cockpit cover.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, Joe H., Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/17 Pixels Scrolled Separately

(1) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. James Davis Nicoll decided, “Just because an organization never got around to the logical step of commissioning an anthology does not mean I won’t review it anyway.”

So in “All I Have To Do Is Dream” he assembles his own edition of Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winners.

Starmaker (excerpt) by Olaf Stapledon, 2001 winner

Accompanied by like-minded companions, a star-farer explores a diverse array of inhabited worlds. He observes some common themes.

Comments

Like the novel from which it is drawn, this excerpt is less concerned with plot and much more concerned with drawing a vast yet detailed picture of the universe.

(2) KNOW YOUR GRANDMASTERS. SFWA President Cat Rambo reports “We (SFWA, not royal we) have added a bunch of playlists devoted to the various SFWA Grandmasters to the SFWA Youtube channel here. They are courtesy of SFWA volunteers K.T. Bryski, who put them together, and Juliette Wade, who got them put up.”

These are curated playlists consisting in large part of videos discussing the authors’ works. Over three dozen have been created so far. Here’s one of the videos included in the Alfred Bester playlist:

(3) THE GETAWAY. James Somers of The Atlantic will have you feeling sorry for Google by the time you finish “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria”. “And I didn’t know that was possible,” as Ben Bradlee said about H.R. Haldeman. The biggest intellectual property grab in history, or a boon to humanity? You decide!

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

…On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster….

… In August 2010, Google put out a blog post announcing that there were 129,864,880 books in the world. The company said they were going to scan them all.

Of course, it didn’t quite turn out that way. This particular moonshot fell about a hundred-million books short of the moon. What happened was complicated but how it started was simple: Google did that thing where you ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and forgiveness was not forthcoming. Upon hearing that Google was taking millions of books out of libraries, scanning them, and returning them as if nothing had happened, authors and publishers filed suit against the company, alleging, as the authors put it simply in their initial complaint, “massive copyright infringement.”….

(4) MISTAKES WERE MADE. John Scalzi, in “Diversity, Appropriation, Canada (and Me)”, gives a convincing analysis of what Hal Niedzviecki set out to do, despite starting a Canadian kerfuffle:

As I’ve been reading this, I think I have a reasonably good idea of what was going on in the mind of Niedzviecki. I suspect it was something along the line of, “Hey, in this special edition of this magazine featuring voices my magazine’s reading audience of mostly white writers doesn’t see enough of, I want to encourage the writing of a diversity of characters even among my readership of mostly white writers, and I want to say it in a clever, punchy way that will really drive the message home.”

Which seems laudable enough! And indeed, in and of itself, encouraging white, middle-class writers out of their comfort zones in terms of writing characters different from them and their lived experience is a perfectly fine goal. I encourage it. Other people I know encourage it. There’s more to life than middle-class white people, and writing can and should reflect that.

But it wasn’t “in and of itself,” and here’s where Niedviecki screwed up, as far as I can see…

Then he talks about his own experiences —

Now, related but slightly set apart (which is why I’ve separated this part off with asterisks), let me address this issue of diversity of characters in writing, using myself as an example, and moving on from there….

(5) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. Two more entries in the Doctor Who replacement sweepstakes:

Radio Times is reporting that Luke Treadaway (Fortitude) and Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist) are now in consideration for the role. Treadaway has been a mainstay of British TV, so fits the Who modus operandi. Dhawan, meanwhile, would become the first actor of color to secure the role, an exciting prospect for many. He’s also quite eager for the gig. When asked about playing the character, he had this to say:

“Oh my God, I’d absolutely love to. I SO would love to.”

(6) STAPLEDON WARS. There’s no agreement in the science fiction community on the best science fiction novel, but Mike Resnick claims there’s no debate on the most influential science fiction novel.

A few days ago, someone on Facebook asked the question: what was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? There wasn’t much agreement (nor should there have been). I think the first hundred respondents named perhaps eighty-five titles.

When it came my turn, I answered that I didn’t know who did the best novel, but there was no question that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker was the most important, since ninety percent of all science fiction since it appeared stole knowingly—or far more often, unknowingly—from it.

So of course I got over one hundred e-mails in the next few days asking who Olaf Stapleton was, and why would I make such a claim about a book no one seems to have heard about.

It occurs to me that some of our readers may share that curiosity, so let me tell you about this remarkable thinker.

The wild part is that not only don’t most fans know his name, but most pros who have used his notions as a springboard for their own stories and novels haven’t even read him. His ideas have been so thoroughly poached and borrowed and extrapolated from and built upon that writers are now borrowing five and six times removed from the source.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 13, 1955 The aquatic monster is back – in Revenge of the Creature.

(8) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian discovered Dick Tracy has been busy stopping crime at a Comic Con.

(9) AS YOU KNOW BOB. A Robert A. Heinlein letter archive is being offered on eBay for $17,500:

Here is a vintage archive of letters from May 1941 to January 1942, during Heinlein’s early days as a pulp writer before beginning his World War II engineering work for the Navy.  It was during this period that he was Guest of Honor at the Denver Worldcon & hosted informal gatherings of science fiction authors at his home on Lookout Mountain Avenue in the Hollywood Hills under the name of The Manana Literary Society.  Basic listing is: five TLS, one ALS, one TLS from Leslyn, two ALS from Leslyn, many with some crossouts & corrections, plus a later catching-up TLS from 1956.  Shown are a few samples.  Further details available for serious enquiries.

(10) A CONCRETE HOBBIT HOLE. Here’s a material I don’t usually associate with Hobbits, used by a couple to build “A Gorgeous Real World Hobbit House In Scotland”.

Reddit user KahlumG shared photos of this amazing hobbit-style home located outside of Tomach village in Scotland – this incredible residence is the result of tireless effort by a husband and wife team who salvage, craft, sew, and carve to create their own magical mind-bending wonderland from the objects they can find in the wilderness around them. While the verdant exterior of the home is certainly breathtaking on its own, the rustic interior is filled to the rafters with even more one-of-a-kind delights to explore and enjoy. Would you ever adopt a magical retreat like this one to be your full-time residence?

The exterior of the main building is constructed almost entirely of concrete, allowing a variety of gorgeous vines and mosses to take root all over. Concrete’s ability to weather quickly will lend the home even more character and charisma as the years go by.

Wouldn’t Bilbo find this a little too much like a cell on Alcatraz?

(11) DO YOU SEE WHAT I’M SAYING? Cnet traces “How 138 years of sci-fi video phones led to the Echo Show”.

The latest Alexa device from Bezos and friends will finally give us video calling the way decades of movies predicted it would look. What took so long? Here’s a timeline.

… By the time actual moving pictures became easier to record and play back for an audience (real-time transmission was still a long way off, of course), early sci-fi films quickly got to work solidifying the video phone of the future as a recurring trope.

The 1927 classic “Metropolis” features a videophone, as does Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and 1935’s “Transatlantic Tunnel.”

(12) GORDO COOPER AND THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. James Oberg tells about the Discovery series “Cooper’s Treasure in “The magic MacGuffin of Mercury 9” at The Space Review.

As any film buff can tell you, a “MacGuffin” is a plot device that is the focus of the drama and action of the story. It’s often a physical object, such as a codebook, or treasure map, that the protagonists are seeking.

For the Discovery Channel and its latest series, “Cooper’s Treasure,” there is indeed a treasure map, already in possession of a veteran “treasure hunter.” What makes this map unique, according to the program promos, is that it came from outer space.

Supposedly, Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper made the map based on observations he made during his MA-9 orbital flight in May 1963. Near the end of his life, he shared the map and the research he’s been doing with a friend, Darrell Miklos, who vowed to complete Cooper’s search for shipwrecks full of gold.

Specifically, reports Miklos, Cooper told him he found the potential treasure spots using a secret military sensor that had been installed on the spacecraft originally to hunt for Soviet nuclear missile bases hidden in the area of Cuba—where a major international crisis involving such missiles had occurred only a few months before the flight….

(13) STATE OF THE ART 1989. Leslie Turek, editor of classic fanzine Mad 3 Party, thanked Tim Szczesuil and Mark Olson for completing their project to put the entire run of the fanzine online at Fanac.org.

Writes Mark Olson:

You really want to take a look at these! The first ten issues were Boston in ’89 bid zines edited by Laurie and then by Pat Vandenberg, and they’re worth reading, but it’s the issues 11-38 edited by Leslie Turek which provide an amazing view into the nuts and bolts of building a Worldcon, especially starting with #14.

If you have never been involved at a senior level in a Worldcon and think you might want to be one day, read these! (And it’s good reading even if you don’t l/u/s/t/ f/o/r/ p/o/w/e/r/ hope to run one. Leslie’s work won a Hugo! And you can easily see why.)

(And I’ll add that reading through them reminded me of many things — mostly good — that I’d forgotten. And reminded me what an energetic, competent group who really works together can accomplish.)

(14) IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU REVIEW. At Galactic Journey, John Boston relives the things that make fans scream — “[May 15, 1962] RUMBLING (the June 1962 Amazing)”.

Oh groan.  The lead story in the June 1962 Amazing is Thunder in Space by Lester del Rey.  He’s been at this for 25 years and well knows that in space, no one can hear—oh, never mind.  I know, it’s a metaphor—but’s it’s dumb in context and cliched regardless of context.  Quickly turning the page, I’m slightly mollified, seeing that the story is about Cold War politics.  My favorite!

(15) PUSHES ALL MY BUTTONS. “‘Unearthed’: Read the first chapter of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s upcoming novel” at Yahoo! News.

Love Indiana Jones but wish it were set in space? Well, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Unearthed has you covered.

Their latest Y.A. novel sees scholar Jules Addison team up with scavenger Amelia Radcliffe, when Earth intercepts a message from the Undying, a long-extinct alien race whose technology might be the key to undoing all the environmental damage the planet has sustained over the years….

Free excerpt at the link. But if you get hooked, you still have to wait til the book comes out next year.

(16) SUMMER OF FANLOVE. The over the air nostalgia channel MeTV is adding ALF, Outer Limits and the classic Battlestar Galactica to its summer schedule.

Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night and Red Eye Sci-Fi have added two science fiction classics to The Summer of Me. The last vestige of humanity fights for survival on Battlestar Galactica, Saturdays at 7PM | 6C. Stay up late for fantastic tales from The Outer Limits, Saturdays at 1AM | 12C.

 [Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, 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 Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/17 Heigh-Ho, The Derry-O, A Pixel We Will Scroll

(1) CLARA COMING BACK? In a spoiler-filled post, “This ‘Doctor Who’ Companion Could Be About to Return for the Christmas Special “, Lewis Jeffries speculates about the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

On Twitter, it has been stated that Eddie’s Diner has been booked by BBC Doctor Who for two days of filming. Hardcore fans know that Eddie’s Diner is in fact Clara and Ashildr’s (Maisie Williams) TARDIS in disguise. So this can only mean one thing, the return of Clara Oswald and Ashildr.

(2) HELP WANTED. James Ciment, PhD, Acquisitions Editor for Popular Culture at ABC-CLIO, has an opening:

ABC-Clio, a reference and academic publisher based in Santa Barbara, California, is looking for an editor (or co-editors) for a reference book on aliens in popular American culture—popular literature, film, television, graphic fiction, and other genres and media. Book length and specific content will be determined by the editor in consultation with the publisher. The deadline for submission of the manuscript is flexible, within a range of 18 to 30 months. The book is intended for the college, public and academic high school library markets. Requirements for the editor are flexible as well but editor must have significant publishing history in the field of literary/film criticism, popular culture studies and/or related fields. Academic affiliation is recommended but not required. Reference editing experience helpful. Editor duties include developing a TOC, soliciting contributing writers, and editor manuscript for content. Publisher will provide administrative support and will be responsible for copy-editing and indexing.

Interested persons should send their CV to acquisitions editor James Ciment at: james.ciment@ca.rr.com

(3) LET THE APPERTAINMENT BEGIN. Steve Davidson knows that as often as I need to invite people to appertain themselves their favorite beverage (after spotting one of my typos), I probably need to order in bulk. And if I’m doing that, the bottles should have a house label – which he has supplied.

(4) DERRINGER AWARDS. The 2017 Derringer Awards winners, for short mystery fiction, have been announced. Unfortunately, Bruce D. Arthurs’ Derringer-nominated short story, “Beks and the Second Note,” did not get the nod. Here are the stories and authors that did:

2017 Derringer Award Results

BEST FLASH STORY (1 – 1,000 words)

  • Herschel Cozine for “The Phone Call” (Flash Bang Mysteries, Summer 2016)

Best Short Story (1,001 – 4,000 words)

  • Linda Barnes for “The Way They Do It in Boston” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, September/October 2016)

Best Long Story (4,001- 8,000 words)

  • Victoria Weisfeld for “Breadcrumbs” (Betty Fedora: Kickass Women In Crime Fiction, Issue 3, September 2016)

Best Novelette (8,000 to 20,000 words)

  • Terrie Farley Moran for “Inquiry and Assistance” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, January/February 2016)

Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer

  • Robert Randisi

(5) POD DRAMA. Tor Labs is a newly launched dramatic podcast imprint. Here’s an excerpt from Patty Garcia’s press release.

Tor Books, a leading global publisher of science fiction and fantasy, announced today that it is launching TOR LABS, a new imprint emphasizing experimental approaches to genre publishing, beginning with original dramatic podcasts.

Helmed by Senior Editor Marco Palmieri and Editor Jennifer Gunnels, Tor Labs will debut this summer with Steal the Stars, a science fiction audio drama which will be produced in partnership with Gideon Media and written by Mac Rogers, the award-winning writer of the global hit podcast thrillers, The Message and LifeAfter.

(6) TRAVEL FUNDING SOUGHT. Three Brazilian fans; Andressa Dreka, Mayara Teixeira Dos Santos, and Luis Alessio are crowdfunding to come to the UK for Lazlar Lyricon 3, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy funcon being run in Stoke on Trent in June.

The trio help run Obrigado Pelos Peixes (“Thanks for All the Fish”) an organization in Brazil that ran its own convention, Don’t PaniCon, last year, and plan another for 2017.

James Bacon notes:

A few special items were auctioned at the recent UK Eastercon to help raise money for the project. These included an official Hitchhiker’s quote towel from the 1980s and a pair of beer glasses with Hitchhiker inspired designs from the 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival. This raised GBP212 for the fund.

The crowdfunding is being carried out on a Catarse site, via https://www.catarse.me/OPPnoLazlarLyricon3.

As File 770 reported over the winter, Lazlar Lyricon 3 will take place June 9-11. Committee members include Stefan Lancaster, Emma J. King, David Haddock and Alan Sullivan.

The first two Lazlar Lyricons were part of a series of conventions in the 1980s, 90s and early 00s colloquially called ‘Fun Cons’, which also included the Incons, Dangercons, and several one-off conventions such as Year of the Wombat and Aliens Stole my Handbag.

(7) READING ALOUD. Cat Rambo says, “A lot of us have listened to SFWA’s Executive Director Kate Baker narrating podcasts over the years, but here’s someone narrating one of Kate’s pieces” — “Old Teacups and Kitchen Witches by Kate Baker” on Cast of Wonders.

This time the narrator is –

Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her short stories and poems appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, Swift for the Sun, will be available Spring 2017. Follow her online and on Twitter.

(8) EPISODE ONE. At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Meghan Ball and Kelly Anderson recap “American Gods Episode One: ‘The Bone Orchard'”.

Our reactions

Kelly: Welp. This show knows how to make an entrance! Pilots are all about being memorable, and I think I can say from the get-go this one certainly succeeded on that level. They went for a combo of stark, Tarantino-esque visuals, husky-voiced, gritty storytelling, and a grimy ‘70s vibe, and it all blends together to create the perfect mood for this story. It’s surrealist noir, if such a genre exists—everything is slightly off-kilter, and even the scenery makes you look twice (that alligator bar! I gotta get me one of those!). It’s as if somebody went back in time and gave Magritte computer graphics and possibly some acid, and I love it.

Meghan: That was an astonishing trippy-as-hell hour of television. I never thought I’d see the day someone actually followed through with bringing this book to life, and certainly not in a way so savagely, monstrously beautiful. I especially loved the use of music. Whoever chose it deserves a raise. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” playing while Shadow stares mournfully at Laura’s grave? Absolute perfection. They also used “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups in the bar scene, which is also mentioned in the novel. That was especially cool. Everything about the premiere felt lush and organic, and utterly real as it was surreal. I’m a fan of Tarantino movies, and even I was gasping in shock during the opening Viking scenes, which completely set the tone.

(9) THE LONG HAUL. At Vox, there’s an overview by someone who’s seen the first four episodes.

If you’re like me and haven’t read Gaiman’s iconic source material, the TV series doesn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to catch you up. There will inevitably come a point when — as blood rains from the sky and some god or another intones an ominous missive about death — you’ll squint and realize you have no idea what’s happening.

But that’s okay by American Gods. Having seen four episodes, I think it’s safe to say that the mysteries being explored by the show’s first season are intricate, and that Fuller and Green are in no rush to give away their secrets. This will be frustrating for people watching from week to week, but American Gods is making the bet that you’ll be intrigued enough by what it teases to stick with it — and on that front, it’s probably right.

(10) INDEPENDENTS’ DAY. The Seattle Review of Books covers #independentbookstoreday celebration: “Our Independent Bookstore Day, in photos”.

(11) GLOWING GOO YOU CAN CHEW. Where to find it? Cat Rambo has a clue.

My most recent newsletter is up and includes class news and a link to a recipe for edible glow in the dark gel: “News and More Stuff from Chez Rambo”

(12) SAX AND VIOLENCE. Echo Ishii watches old TV: “SF Obscure: Night Man “.

What do you get when you cross light jazz, Taylor Dayne, and questionable costume choices? And then you throw in special guest appearances by Jerry Springer and Donald Trump? Why you get Night Man, a show that surprisingly stayed on air for two seasons.

Night Man(1997-1999) is the story of Johnny Domino, a professional saxophonist, who is struck by lightning and earns a telepathic ability to see evil. It’s loosely based on an original comic. He also teams up with some scientists on the run who provide him with a special suit that allows him to deflect bullets and fly. It actually took a few episodes to figure out exactly what the suit does vs. Johnny Domino’s own ability- and I have the sneaking suspicion it was not entirely developed well by the writers.

(13) BAD MIKE.

So the rest of you better hurry and get that reading done or I’ll take a bite out of you, too.

(Or – and this was the point — you could wait to fling poo at the Hugo shortlist ‘til you’ve read it, something that never occurred to C. and Matt.)

(14) PURITY OF ESSENCE. Can penguins be forced to bark? Jay Maynard wants to “Make Penguincon Great Again” —  by kicking out everything he doesn’t like.

Still, I’d promised this year’s con chair that she’d get a fair chance to address my concerns, so I came back one more time. Guess what? More hard-left GoHs — the odious Coraline Ada Ehmke, she of the Contributor Covenant that prohibits project members from being politically incorrect any time, anywhere, in any venue, on pain of expulsion (who had to cancel due to an emergency); Sumana Harihareswara, who I found out the hard way was a hard-core feminist as well; and Cory Doctorow, well-known left-wing author — more politically correct panels, 15 of them on such topics as “Queering Your Fiction” and “Let’s Get the Taste of 2016 Out of Our Mouths” and “Exploring Themes in Zen Cho’s Work” (with “Intersectionality, diaspora and immigration, the culture of British education, and queer relationships also appear in Cho’s stories over and over” in the description). When I was asked to submit lists of panel topics, I was instructed not to be controversial, but it seems the Left has no such admonition.

This was further borne out by the very first thing that happened at Opening Ceremonies: right after the con chair took the mic, she introduced one member of the convention committee, who proceeded to name 8 or 9 American Indian tribes that had lived in Southeast Michigan in the past and said that “we are their guests here”. That bit of virtue signaling came straight out of the political correctness playbook.

The con’s expanded harassment policy is also of the same stripe; it basically allows anyone to complain that they are being harassed on the flimsiest of excuses, and the con can then eject the subject of the complaint summarily with no recourse and no refund. This is the kind of policy that has routinely been used against those who are merely politically incorrect at other cons, most notably the Worldcon in Kansas City.

There were exactly two panels on topics that the Left would not approve of, both relating to firearms. In fairness, I will also point out that the con did, for the first time, officially sponsor and pay for the Geeks with Guns event. Still, the overall feel is that of overpowering political correctness.

All of this adds up to one inescapable conclusion, for me: those who oppose the politically correct orthodoxy are not Penguicon’s kind of people. Oh, sure, they’ll happily take our money, but we’re not “one of them”.

I go to cons to escape the culture wars, not to get hit over the head with how much of a nasty, eeeeevil person I am for being a white male. We are all, first and foremost, SF fans and computer geeks. People should leave their politics at the door and celebrate SF and open source computing for their own sakes. For the first decade, at least, Penguicon did. It doesn’t any more.

Jer Lance disagrees with the diagnosis: “On the Need to Make Great Things Great Again”

Among my plans for the day, today, was to put together a quick writeup congratulating the staff of Penguincon for throwing an undeniably successful convention—the 15th in a series! Instead, I’d like to take a moment to respond to a long-time attendee’s paen to modern divisive politics; a blog post with the snappy title “Make Penguincon Great Again.” In his post, Jay “Tron Guy” Maynard makes the assertion that Penguincon has fallen to the “leftists” and resulting event is no longer one that is comfortable for people like him.

…Instead, I would like to focus on Jay’s proposed solution. Tron Guy—an attendee since the very first event—would “return the con explicitly to being nonpolitical.” Maynard yearns for the days when we focused on apolitical topics like Geeks with Guns – Societal & Political (year 1), Hidden Totalitarian Assumptions in ‘I, Robot’ (year 3), Don’t Be Evil: The Google Books Settlement (year 9), Technology as Legislation (year 5), and of course the keynote address from the very first Penguincon by Eric S. Raymond (on whose blog this Make Penguincon Great Again concept was born) which discussed “open source, the hacker culture, and the second amendment.” As Archie Bunker sang, those were the days!

In case my point was too subtle, Penguicon has never been any more apolitical than science fiction itself, despite claims to the contrary.

….I came to my first Penguincon in 2006 during its 4th year. I came for the tech conference side of the house and actively disdained the “comicon, nerd shit.” Over the ensuing 11 years, I have attributed a tremendous amount of my personal growth to my having been repeatedly and relentlessly exposed to things outside of my comfort zone through the convention. My hardline libertarian stance has softened to that of a moderate conservative through immersion in concepts that were foreign to me until such time as it was easier to understand them than repel them.

In that understanding, I’ve earned empathy….

(15) IT’S A THEORY. K.B. Wagers argues the change is happening: “The Rise of the Unlikable Woman”

There have always been unlikable characters in fiction, though the idea of the anti-hero?—?brooding, self-centered, wholly unredeemable?—?has long been considered a man’s territory. From crotchety but lovable Han Solo to the downright dangerous Riddick, no one complains that these characters aren’t people you’d trust to watch your house, let alone have a cup of tea with.

Women in fiction, by contrast, can only be unlikable if they are redeemable in some fashion or another?—?or if they’re ultimately punished. Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is struggling for redemption (and turned into a nursemaid for the Big Guy as a result). Were she still unrepentant about the death she’s dealt?—?as Loki is?—?she would find less compassion from the audience. Emma Bovary, in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, receives her punishment (in the form of her death) at the end of the novel as a result of her sexual desires.

But now, women characters are rising up from the ashes of these expectations….

(16) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. On Planetary Post, March for Science participants joined host Robert Picardo in support of space science and exploration in Washington, D.C.

(17) CLARKE CENTER. Episode 7 of Into the Impossible, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s podcast, takes you to ”New Spaces”.

We’re looking at new spaces in space, speaking with Drs. Yvonne Cagle (astronaut and physician) and Adam Burgasser (astrophysicist). We talk about why we send humans into space, the discovery of potentially habitable worlds at TRAPPIST-1 and how we imagine them, the role of interstellar art, the evolution of human physiology in zero-g, why the scariest thing about being an astronaut might be finding yourself on stage at the Oscars with Dr. Katherine Johnson, subject of the film Hidden Figures, and how important it is that we remain vigilant in our embrace of diversity across disciplines.

(18) BAT EXCLUSIVITY. ScreenRant claims there are “15 Things Batman Can Do (That No One Else Can)”.

Given his intensive combat training and genius-level sleuthing skills, the Dark Knight Detective is one of the most formidable heroes in the DCU (or the world of comics in general), giving him a skill-set that dwarfs many of his superpowered peers.

  1. He Has Contingency Plans to Take Down Enemies…and His Friends

As we stated earlier, Batman prepares for everything. And we mean everything. In addition to strategizing on how to take down all of his arch-enemies and other deadly threats, he does what some might see as a betrayal–he creates contingency plans against every one of his fellow Justice League team members (in Grant Morrison’s 2000 Justice League: Tower of Babel storyline).

Using his genius intellect, he develops brutally efficient ways to neutralize his teammates’ powers: he binds Green Lantern with his own power ring, makes Aquaman terrified of water, uses fire against Martian Manhunter, liquid nitrogen to subdue Plastic Man, virtual reality against Wonder Woman, and he even creates a weapon to give The Flash seizures.

His strategizing backfires, however, when Ra’s al Ghul steals his plans and takes down his allies. Needless to say, his fellow Justice League members were none too pleased with this, and they  subsequently had his membership revoked. It’s not easy for Batman to have friends.

(19) BATMAN & BILL. Hulu is releasing Batman & Bill on May 6, which is a documentary about Bill Finger’s contributions to the Batman mythos. FirstShowing.net explains the “Official Trailer for Hulu Doc ‘Batman & Bill’ About a Batman Creator”

“The most mysterious man in Gotham City wasn’t in a mask and cape.” Hulu has released an official trailer for a documentary titled Batman & Bill, which will premiere exclusively on Hulu starting early May. The documentary “unmasks” one of the greatest secrets in the comic industry – that Batman wasn’t created by Bob Kane alone, it was primarily Bill Finger who created the iconic superhero. This seems like a fascinating doc with plenty to offer for comic book fans, including inside stories and excellent art from the early days of Batman. It’s cool to see a doc like this that actually looks worth watching on Hulu.

 

(20) BATMAN & BOB. Offered on eBay and now marked down from $1,500 to $1,050, a signed first edition of Bob Kane’s autobiography Batman & Me with original signed ink Batman drawing by Kane.

Batman & Me. Forestville: Eclipse Books, 1989. First Edition. Copy number 144 of 1000 numbered copies signed by Bob Kane with an original ink drawing of Batman by Kane. The autobiography of the artist who created the immortal comic book character Batman in 1939. Extensively illustrated. Fine in slipcase.

(21) THE FIRST HALF OF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a 1968 Worldcon comics panel with Marv Wolfman and Harry Harrison. I guess a few things  have happened since then:

Baycon, the 26th WorldCon, was held in Oakland, California in 1968. This very entertaining panel features a discussion about contemporary comics by the then relative newcomer, Marvin Wolfman, and a plethora of engaging stories by Harry Harrision. Harry talks about Bill Gaines (EC Comics) and working with Wally Wood. The stories are funny, the context and history of the field are priceless. Moderated by Paul Moslander, this excellent recording is courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, James Bacon, and Bruce D. Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/28/17 Never Mind the Scrollocks, Here’s the Sex Pixels

(1) FARGO/HUGO. On Fargo, the Hugo Award-look-alike turned out to be a “Golden Planet” won by Thaddeus Mobley. Observer’s episode roundup covers it at the end:

But Gloria is on to…something, definitely, something strange. At least as strange as the title Space Elephants Never Forget, one of many cheap pulp-fiction paperbacks written by a Thaddeus Mobley that Gloria found in a safe inside her murdered father-in-law’s house. Or were Thaddeus Mobley and Ennis Stussy one and the same? It appears so, just another way specters from the past–be it a former life as a famed sci-fi writer, or a murderous Cossack with the name Yuri Gulka–continue to materialize in, of all places, Minnesota. But I guess that makes Gloria Burgle uniquely qualified to take this case on; if you’re fighting the past, you may as well employ someone who is stuck there.

Mobley’s books were shown:

  • The Planet Wyh
  • The Dungeon Lurk
  • Space Elephants Never Forget
  • Toronto Cain Psychic Ranger
  • Organ Fish of Kleus-9
  • The Plague Monkeys
  • A Quantum Vark

(2) I WONDER. Syfy asks “Where is the Wonder Woman movie advertising?” — and starts me wondering is the movie is being “John Carter-ed”?

Wonder Woman finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life.

We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League‘s six. Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Supes both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal, General Mills? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.

It’s been pretty quiet out there, regardless of the fact that people have reacted positively to the little advertising that’s been released. The few trailers Wonder Woman has have garnered close to 60 million views. Imagine what would happen if the trailer were embedded on major entertainment sites and there were stories out there about the film?

(3) DOC OF THE BAY. Cat Rambo doubles back to cover a book in the series she missed — “Reading Doc Savage: Land of Always-Night”:

The man menacing poor Beery, who Beery calls Ool, is odd in many ways, including being skeleton thin and having enormous, pale eyes. He wants something back, something Beery has stolen to take to Doc Savage and is currently carrying on a money belt around his waist

Beery is standing in front of a candy store; when the inevitable happens, he reels back and smashes into the plate glass. After a struggle, he dies, “becoming as inert as the chocolate creams crushed beneath him.”

Ool takes his possession back from Beery, which turns out to be a peculiar pair of goggles with black glass lenses. He tastes one of the scattered chocolates, smacks his lips, and gathers as many chocolates as he can into his hat. As he departs, he eats the candy “avidly, as if it were some exquisite delicacy with which he had just become acquainted.”

(4) THE CULTURE ON RADIO. Available for the next 28 days: a BBC audio adaptation of Iain Banks’s story “State of the Art”, adapted by Paul Cornell.

The Culture ship Arbitrary arrives on Earth in 1977 and finds a planet obsessed with alien concepts like ‘property’ and ‘money’ and on the edge of self-destruction. When Agent Dervley Linter, decides to go native can Diziet Sma change his mind?

(5) GUARDIANS REVIEW. BBC reviewer Caryn James says too many explosions in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…The film’s spindly plot is just an excuse, a peg on which to hang action scenes. When the team is hired to retrieve some valuable battery-sized energy sources, Rocket slips a few in his pocket. Soon the Guardians are being pursued all over the cartoonish universe.

Many antics ensue, but like so many other space movies this is essentially a father-son story. As the last film ended, Peter learned he was only half-human, on his mother’s side. The sequel adds a vivid new character, Peter’s long-lost father. He is played by Kurt Russell with a twinkle in his eye and a swagger that reveals where his son got that roguish attitude.

(6) SILVER CHAIR. ScienceFiction.com has a progress report on the next C.S. Lewis movie adaptation – “Joe Johnston To Helm ‘Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair’”.

Director Joe Johnston (‘Jurassic Park III’,’The Wolfman’) sure likes shields! Having worked with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ he now has a more fantasy based movie to helm where characters will wield shields in in ‘Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair.’ Disney and Fox were only able to bring three of the novels to the big screen previously, and now we’re getting a fresh look into the iconic C.S. Lewis classics through Sony. Apparently, the studio wants to make sure someone with blockbuster experience to bring this film to life.

While Johnston hasn’t been too busy since working with Steve Rogers, the type of work he’s done in films ranging from this to ‘Jumanji’ to ‘The Rocketeer’ seem perfect for the action-adventure portion of this epic fantasy.

As ‘The Silver Chair’ doesn’t follow the original Pevensie children but their cousin Eustace Scrubb it is the perfect way for them to reboot the universe and not have to really dwell on the first movies and move forward at the same time.

(7) THE FEDERALIST POOPERS. Bill Nye was a big hit at the March for Science.  Not surprisingly, The Federalist came out with a dissenting view of Nye a few days later — “Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive”.

Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a keynote speaker.

“We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity has blossomed, despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors

(8) ACTRESS PRAISED. A Yahoo! Movies critic recognizes “Alexis Bledel As Ofglen in The Handmaid’s Tale Is the Role She Was Born to Play”.

In the Handmaid’s pilot, Bledel’s character, Ofglen, makes a 180 in the eyes of Elisabeth Moss’s Offred. The two characters, who shop together but are the de facto property of two different men, suspect each other of being enthusiastic participants in Gilead’s totalitarian state. “I sincerely believe that Ofglen is a pious little shit with a broomstick up her ass,” Offred says in voice-over as she approaches her companion with a smile. “She’s my spy and I’m hers.” With Bledel as Ofglen, you instinctively believe Offred’s assessment. Hasn’t she always seemed too perfect? Too brittle? Too willing to be a snitch? (Or was that Rory Gilmore?)

(9) MORE OF OFFRED’S VOICE. Refinery interviews Elizabeth Moss about Handmaid’s Tale, feminism, and the Trump election — “Elisabeth Moss Talks The Handmaid’s Tale — & How It’s Definitely A Feminist Show”.

“I welcome any time feminism enters a conversation. I would firstly say, obviously, it is a feminist work. This is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve been filming it for six months, I’ve been involved with it for a year, I’ve read the book nine million times. It is a feminist show, it is a feminist book, and as a card-carrying feminist, I am proud of that. [Regarding the controversy at the TriBeca Film Festival panel], I think there is a very important word, which is ‘also.’ I think that it is a feminist work, and it is also a humanist work, which is what I believe Margaret says as well, so I’ll defer to the author of the book on that one.  Women’s rights are human rights, hence how it becomes a humanist work.”

(10) THE FUTURE IN A BAG. The Verge reports: “An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next”. There are lots of “don’t celebrate yet” caveats, but many fans say it sounds like an important first step towards the “uterine replicators” in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy. But it’s important not to get ahead of the data, says Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study. “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there,” he says.

(11) STAR POWER. An interview with the Astronomer Royal tests his ability to envision the limits of the universe: “Astronomer Royal Martin Rees on aliens, parallel universes and the biggest threats to mankind”.

Q: How big is the universe … and is it the only one?

Our cosmic horizons have grown enormously over the last century, but there is a definite limit to the size of the observable universe. It contains all the things from which light has been able to reach us since the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago. But the new realisation is that the observable universe may not be all of reality. There may be more beyond the horizon, just as there’s more beyond the horizon when you’re observing the ocean from a boat.

What’s more, the galaxies are likely to go on and on beyond this horizon, but more interestingly, there is a possibility that our Big Bang was not the only one. There may have been others, spawning other universes, disconnected from ours and therefore not observable, and possibly even governed by different physical laws. Physical reality on this vast scale could therefore be much more varied and interesting than what we can observe.

(12) BAXENDALE OBIT. Passing of a famed comic-strip maker: “Leo Baxendale: Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx comic legend dies”

He was regarded by aficionados as one of Britain’s greatest and most influential cartoonists.

His creations also included The Three Bears, Little Plum and the comic Wham!.

Baxendale’s son Martin, also a cartoonist, said his father died at the age of 86 after a long fight with cancer.

(13) SUSAN WOOD REMEMBERED. Carleton University is still awarding the Susan Joan Wood Memorial Scholarship.

Awarded annually on the recommendation of the Department of English Language and Literature. Preference will be given to a student proceeding from the Third to Fourth year of an Honours program in English with an emphasis on Canadian literature. Donor: Friends and colleagues of Susan Joan Wood. Endowed 1982.

Andrew Porter recalls, “It was folded into Carleton’s general scholarship funds, after an initial funding period during which I and many other individuals and conventions provided funds.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 28, 1930 — Best known as Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones is born in Texas.

(15) STREAKING ACROSS THE STORIED SKY: Webwatcher Jason of Featured Futures reports on the brightest lights seen this month with the “Summation of Online Fiction: April 2017”:

I thought ralan.com might have been hasty in declaring Terraform dead but I’m calling it, too. Leaving aside comic strips, after four stories in January, there’ve only been two in each of February and March and none in April. The remaining dozen prozines brought us forty-two stories of 199K words.

In one of Dozois’ Annuals (I forget which) he says something about the industry going in streaks with some years producing no anthologies about wombats and others producing ten of them. The same is true of webzines on a monthly basis. As March was Horror and Tor/Nightmare Month, so April was Fantasy, BCS/Lightspeed, and Novella Month….

(16) LONG HIDDEN CONTRIBUTOR’S FIRST NOVEL. Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey was a 2016 release from Thomas Dunne.

In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.

When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother’s magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa’s door.

Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he’s already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.

Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.

  • Bio: Claire Humphrey’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ”Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot” appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story “The Witch Of Tarup” was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.

(17) DON’T BLAME DIVERSITY. Martin Wisse responds pungently to the question: “Is diversity killing Marvel sales?”

Short answer: no. Long answer:

 

Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different….

(18) DIAGNOSIS MARVEL. ComicsBeat has a few ideas to add: “Tilting at Windmills #259: What the hell is wrong with Marvel Comics anyway?!?!”

The harder you make it to collect “Marvel comics”, the fewer people will do so. And that audience fracturing has finally come home to roost.

One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”. Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.

Sell-through is, thus, what matters for retailers as a class, and it is virtually impossible to sell comics profitably if your initial orders are so low. Even a book like “Amazing Spider-Man”, we now are down to a bare eleven preorders, and we’re selling just three or four more additional rack copies of current issues. There’s no room to “go long” here – I really only have a two copy tolerance for unsold goods before what should be a flagship book of the line becomes an issue-by-issue break-even proposition, at best. It’s just math.

(19) MORE RESOURCES. Here are some of the news reports that set the Marvel discussion in motion.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.”

“I don’t see much evidence of a sales slump at all,” Millers says. “In fact, the comics industry has seen its best stretch it’s seen in many decades over these last five years — we’ve seen five consecutive years of growth in the comics shop market.”

(20) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Drunk gets into fight with a Knightscope robot on the copany’s premises: “Silicon Valley security robot attacked by drunk man – police”.

One local man told ABC News it was not a fair fight.

“I think this is a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn’t even have any arms.”

(21) ONLINE INTERNATIONAL. Around the world, lots of connectivity used for play: “Unlocking the potential of technology”. A captioned photo gallery at the link.

[Thanks to rcade, Cat Rambo, amk, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Bruce D. Arthurs, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Clack and Bonnie McDaniel, and alternate universe contributing editor Kip. W because he actually said it a month earlier.]