Pixel Scroll 5/5/18 By The Time You See This Pixel, You Will Have Been Scrolling In The Present Tense For As Long As You Can Recall

(1) CAMERON Q&A VIDEO. Wired headline: “James Cameron Answers Sci-Fi Questions From Twitter”.

A 7:46 video of director James Cameron using “the power of Twitter to answer some common questions about the science fiction genre.”

(2) JUNOT DIAZ. The Guardian reports “Junot Díaz withdraws from Sydney Writers’ festival following sexual harassment allegations”.

The Pulitzer prize-winning author was accused of sexual misconduct by author Zinzi Clemmons after revealing last month he had been raped as a child.

…The acclaimed Dominican American novelist Junot Díaz has been feted for his powerful literary expression of the pain of sexual violence. In 2008 he was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the story of a young boy growing up amid abuse in New Jersey, and last month he was widely applauded for writing a confessional essay about being raped when he was eight years old.

But this weekend Díaz has cancelled his scheduled appearances at the Sydney Writers’ festival following a public accusation of sexually inappropriate behaviour….

(3) DINO TAKEOFF. Robot Dinosuar Fiction! has launched —

ROBOT DINOSAURS! Over the summer, we will be publishing a flash fiction about robot dinosaurs each Friday (May 4th through August 31st 2018)….

First up – “Five Functions of Your Bionosaur” by Rachel K. Jones.

Your parents first activate your bionosaur when they bring you home from the hospital. The bionosaur was a baby shower gift from your mom’s favorite aunt. They were nervous about its size, the stainless steel maw, the retractable razorclaws inside its stubby little arms, but the aunt had insisted. She’d programmed it herself, covered its titanium-alloy skeleton in top-grade synthskin featherscales, and pre-loaded it with educational apps.

When your bionosaur’s eyes first flare to life, it scans tiny, squalling you and reaches out a stubby claw to rock you. When it starts humming a jazzy rendition of the Batman theme, you quiet down and sleep….

(4) DELINQUENT DAYS OF YORE. While Jane Sullivan in the Sydney Morning-Herald was sifting trash from the past in “Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents”, out popped a familiar name.

I’ve been having huge fun reading about JD fiction and looking at the outrageously titillating covers in Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats, an anthology edited by two Australians, Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette. What was once reviled as rubbishy reading is now collected, curated and revered as retro chic.

…Many of these books would make even Quentin Tarantino cringe, I suspect: they sound truly awful. But here and there I came across someone churning out quick books for cash who went on to make a more respectable name for himself. One was the science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who went undercover and joined a street gang as research for more than 100 stories and his 1958 debut novel.

He describes how he was later working as a reviewer and picked up a book from a box a publisher sent him. “It’s got this horrible, garish juvenile delinquent coming at you with a switchblade knife and it says Rumble. I thought ‘What is this piece of shit?’ and then I looked at the author and it was me.”

(5) TODAY’S TOY AD. Syfy Wire wants to tell you about “Stuff We Love: ThinkGeek’s plush Facehugger and Chestburster won’t ever want to let you go”.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like tightness and pain in your chest and possible heartburn, that may be because you absolutely need the Chestburster plush to explode into your life. 48 inches of alien protoplasm is going to love you so much that it will literally not be able to contain itself once it’s fully developed from feeding off your innards.

I guess they’re pretty used to this sort of thing around the ThinkGeek’s headquarters

(6) CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT SJW CREDENTIALS. Beware! “This AI Will Turn Your Dog Into a Cat”Motherboard tells how.

If there’s one thing the internet needs it’s more cat pictures, so researchers from Nvidia and Cornell University developed an algorithm that will turn pictures of dogs into pictures of cats.

This neural network—a type of computing architecture loosely modeled on the human brain—was developed by a few of the same researchers behind the algorithm that can turn winter into summer in any video and employs similar principles.

(7) VOLZ OBIT. German actor Wolfgang Völz died yesterday. He was in a lot of genre films and TV shows over the years. Cora Buhlert pays tribute to him in “Remembering Wolfgang Völz (1930 – 2018)”. This is just part of his resume —

Wolfgang Völz was a German TV legend. If you watched TV in Germany at some point in the past sixty years, you have seen Wolfgang Völz and you have definitely heard his voice, because Völz was also a prolific voice actor, lending his distinctive voice to Walter Matthau, Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk, Mel Brooks, Majestix, the Gallic chieftain from the Asterix and Obelix films, as well as dozens of puppet and cartoon characters. It’s certainly fitting that Wolfgang Völz’s last credited role was the voice of God in the 2012 movie Der Gründer (The Founder).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 5 – Catherynne M. Valente

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ finds an explanation of “The Nine Rs” at Incidental Comics.
  • Chip Hitchcock laughed at the doctor’s diagnosis in Bizarro.

(10) GENDER GAP IN BOOK PRICING. The Guardian ran an article about a sociological study which showed this result: “Books by women priced 45% lower, study finds”,

A study of more than 2m books has revealed that titles by female authors are on average sold at just over half the price of those written by men.

The research, by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, looked titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012. The authors analysed the gender of each author by matching names to lists of male and female names, and cross-referenced with information about price, genre and publication.

Books by women released by mainstream publishers, they found, were priced on average 45% lower than books by men….

Reddit followed up with a discussion about the gender pay disparity in publishing. Michael J. Sullivan popped in with some interesting facts; such as the smallest pay disparity is among self-published works.

(11) DON’T BE COCKY WITHOUT A LAWYER. Chuck Tingle sorted this crisis in no time and moved on to bigger challenges –

(12) MAY THE FOURTH LEFTOVERS. More from Dr. Janelle Shane: “Darth Net: Star Wars characters invented by neural network”.

…There were enough Darths in the list that at the very lowest-creativity settings, everyone was a Sith lord. Here are some of my favorites:

Darth Teen
Darth Tannin
Darth Ben
Darth Toes
Darth Teena
Darth Darth
Dorth Darth Darth
Mon Darth
Man Darth
Darth Sans
Darth Band
Darth Mall
Darth Tall
Grand Moff Darth Salt

I would like to see the costumes for some of these….

RedWombat got in on the act:

(13) REDWOMBAT SALES REPORT. And Ursula Vernon says her book sales are keeping the house warm —

(14) STAR WARS FANS GET THEIR BASEBALL FIX. From the MLBshop.com, available for every team.

(15) THE SCARIEST. Victoria Nelson’s picks for the “10 Scariest Horror Stories” were listed in Publishers Weekly. Number one is —

1. “The Trains” by Robert Aickman

Virtually unknown in the U.S. outside a small coterie of dedicated fans, the British writer Robert Aickman (he died in 1981) is a virtuoso of the sophisticated “strange story,” as he dubbed his tales. The scares in an Aickman story come not from gore or violence but from the way he perversely bends reality right before your startled eyes. Not just once but again and again—and still again, all in the same story. In this little masterpiece of Gothic indirection, two young women stranded on a walking trip in the north of England seek shelter in a remote Victorian mansion adjacent to a train track. There is a handsome host, a menacing servant, a mad aunt who died mysteriously, even a murder, but all this is beside the point. The real scares come from the trains that scream loudly past every few minutes on this “main, important line” in the middle of nowhere and their unseen engineers, who always wave at girls. Curiously, the trains pass by less often on the third floor than on the ground level. As a child, it should be noted, Aickman liked to invent imaginary kingdoms complete with meticulously constructed railroad schedules.

Number 10 is C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau.”

(16) SURVEY SAYS. Martin Armstrong at Statistia tells you all about “Yesterday’s World: the old tech that kids don’t know”.

For most people born before the 90’s, a “3 1/2 inch floppy” was once a crucial part of their technological lives; securing and transporting important files and data. Of course nowadays, the 1.44 MB storage space is far from adequate and no new computers come equipped with an appropriate drive for the disks. Little surprise then that the majority of children today have no idea what one is (despite the fact that ubiquitous software such as Word and Excel still use a floppy disk symbol for their ‘save’ buttons).

As a recent survey by YouGov has shown, 67 percent of the 6 to 18 year olds in the UK don’t know what a floppy disk is. Other essentially obsolete tech such as overhead projectors (once present in almost every classroom), and pagers were recognised even less….

(17) DID WE MENTION? Patton Oswalt’s Parks and Recreation appearance in 2015 is a Star Wars-fueled filibuster.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends “Seder-Masochism Trailer April 2018,” where animator Nina Paley previews her latest project, a look at the Book of Exodus.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Dann, Cat Eldridge, Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]

Cats Sleep on SFF: Space Opera

Lis Riba’s cat is really into books:

She may not understand prepositions, but Small (inherited from Stephanie Clarkson ) is definitely a diva. So, when she saw the title of my current read, she had to check it out.

Plus, a more posed photo so everyone can better admire her. 🙂


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

(1) NUMBERS RAMPED UP: WHY? Jason Sanford contends “Questionable sales surround Writers of the Future anthologies”. He analyzes Writers of the Future anthology sales over the years as reported by Bookscan.

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

There are numerous warnings being raised in the SF/F genre about connections between the Writers of the Future contest and Scientology. While these connections have been explored before, new concerns are being raised — such as by former WotF winner Keffy Kehrli and others like Vajra Chandrasekera — that the contest gives “legitimacy” with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices. For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.

These concerns should absolutely be listened to. The science fiction genre spawned Scientology and for far too long the SF/F genre has maintained a “look the other way” attitude to Scientology and its many documented abuses. The genre must now take the lead in ending this relationship and support.

And Jason Kimble comments:

(2) LAWYER DAGGET, SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. “Stan Lee Sues Former Business Manager For Fraud, Elder Abuse — Including One Scheme To Sell His Blood”Deadline has the story:

Comic book industry legend Stan Lee is suing a former business manager for fraud and elder abuse in a suit that alleges such egregious claims of abuse as extracting and selling vials of the Marvel Comics icon’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas.

Lee, whom many consider the godfather of the modern-day superhero, was grieving the death of his wife of 70 years, Joan B. Lee, in late 2017 when he became the target of “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” who sought to take advantage of his despondency.

A suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Jerardo Olivarez is once such opportunist. A former business associate of Lee’s daughter, the suit claims Olivarez took control of Lee’s professional and financial affairs — and began enriching himself through various schemes and bogus enterprises….

…In one particularly ghoulish money-making scheme, Olivarez instructed a nurse to extract many containers of blood from Lee, which Hands of Respect later sold in Las Vegas for thousands of dollars, the suit contends.

“There are shops in Las Vegas selling Stan Lee’s blood,” said a family friend, Keya Morgan. “They’re stamping his blood inside the Black Panther comic books and they sell them for $500 each.”

(3) GENRE CATS. The New York Public Library is “Feline Good with Our Favorite Literary Cats”. Here’s an excerpt of their roundup:

Fantastical Felines

Catwings, in which Ursula LeGuin writes about the adventures of cats who were born with wings. I have no idea why this isn’t an animated series with plush dolls and t-shirts and fan cons with cosplay cat ears and wings. —Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay

What’s better than a cat who’s a celestial being with purple eyes and sassy attitude? My favorite cat is Faithful in In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce and then reappears again as Pounce in the Beka Cooper series Terrier, also by Pierce. —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher’s second foray into high fantasy, features a race of hyper-intelligent felines who serve the lords of the Spires. Or are they the lords? —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Ursula K. LeGuin’s No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters is a collection of the prolific author’s essays on a variety of topics like ageing, writing, our socio-political landscape, and culture. Any cat lover, though, will probably find themselves most delighted by the vivid, playful, and soulful stories of her cat Pard that are sprinkled throughout. —Beth Dukes, Enrichment Zones

My Cat Yugoslavia. Dating can be hard, especially when your boyfriend is a sexy, bigoted, and capricious cat who doesn’t get along with your free-range snake. In Pajtim Statovci’s novel he weaves in this fanciful story line while addressing immigration, Balkin weddings, and isolation. —Richard Dowe, Aguilar…

(4) HORROR GENTRIFIED? The Washington Post’s April Wolfe notes, in “With ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Get Out,’ horror is having a mainstream moment. Will that alienate fans?”, some films are now called “elevated horror,” but that people should realize that a lot of very good films (including “horror-adjacent” The Shape of Water, happen to be horror films, and that horror has given a lot of important actors and directors their start.

Adding “elevated” to a movie’s description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signaling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn’t a “slasher,” the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the aughts. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there’s a star attached. It’s one of the few places actors can get their start.

Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou,” pioneered what would become the industry-standard fog machine, which earned him a “technical achievement” Academy Award — where horror is most often honored.

(5) REPLAYING THE CLASSICS. Mike Allen says he believes in “Honoring National Poetry Month the lazy way” – by which he means it’s time for him to remind readers about his verse and media collection:

Operating under the theory that it’s become old enough to be new again, I present thirteen poems from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash, with illustrations, detailed explanatory notes and even audio of me reciting each poem (you’ll have to activate Flash plug-ins to listen to those). And below the links to the main show I’ve included a bonus, my concrete poem “Phase Shift” from which this blog gets its name. Originally published in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1997, “Phase Shift” appears in my collection Hungry Constellations, but this stunning visualization by artist Bob Freeman appears nowhere else but here.

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

I. “Defacing the Moon” (note about)
II. “Requited” (note about)
III. “A Curtain of Stars” (note about)
IV. “Bacchanal” (note about)
V. “Midnight Rendezvous, Boston” (note about)
VI. “Manifest Density” (note about)
VII. “Petals” (note about)
VIII. “Giving Back to the Muse” (note about)
IX. “Disaster at the BrainBank™ ATM” (note about)
X. “No One” (note about)
XI. “Sisyphus Walks” (note about)
XII. “The Strip Search” (note about)
XIII. “The Thirteenth Hell” (note about)

(6) CONCATENATION POSTED. The summer season edition of sff news aggregator Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is out today.

[The new issue] has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere.  And then there will be the news page’s science as well as science and SF interface section.  Additionally, there isanother in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century (so by-passing Darwin, Einstein etc). We also have a review of this year’s British Eastercon, plus our annual 12-month top box-office SF/F film chart, and annual whimsey from Gaia.  All this and some standalone SF/F/H and science & non-fiction book reviews.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

I’m one of today’s 10,000 – I had no idea that the concept had a name, or had originated from the LessWrong community. I approve of Bob’s response, not to mention XKCD’s variation (reference in the mouseover).

(7) LEFT HIGH AND DRY. SNL’s Shape of Water parody:

After retiring from acting, The Shape of Water’s Fish Man (Kyle Mooney) watches his friend (John Mulaney) succeed in his place.

 

(8) FUTURE HITS. The best is yet to come. Or is already here if you’re from the future.

(9) FAKE TROPE EXPOSED! They have a point. (The thread starts here.)

(10) GROUNDBREAKER. KPFA brings you “Bookwaves – February 15, 2018: Trina Robbins”:

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

A legend in comic book circles, an artist at a time when hardly any women drew comics, Trina Robbins discusses her latest book, a memoir, “Last Girl Standing,” which deals with her life as an artist, author, and clothing designer. She was the first woman to edit a comic book created by women, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the first woman to draw “Wonder Woman,” and the single most influential historian chronicling the women who created comics and cartoons.

In this interview, she also talks about her other recent books including a history of women drawing comics during World War II, a graphic novel version of a short story collection originally written by her father in Yiddish, and a graphic novel based on a work by British author Sax Rohmer. Trina Robbins was clothing designer for Los Angeles rock and roll bands in the 1960s and for the Warhol factory in New York. She also was a regular contributor to “Wimmens Comix,” a series of comic books created by women from the 1970s through 1990s.

An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

(11) LE GUIN QUOTES. Conext and great quotes together in “Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World” at Brain Pickings.

…Marine biologist Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the modern environmental movement and pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science, once asserted that “there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” More than half a century after Carson, Le Guin considers how poetry and science both humble us to that elemental aspect of our humanity and train us to be better stewards of the natural world to which we belong:

To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.

(12) PROSPECT. The Ars Technica profile makes me want to see this film: “Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away”.

Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or “kaboom!”), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

“$10,000?” she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. “That’s enough to cover the loan… and the pod lease?”

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they’re now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

…”We maybe were a bit naive in the conception of this, putting the entire film on the shoulders of a teenage girl,” Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, tells Ars. “But she killed it, and in many cases she saved our ass.”

“In another movie, you might get 12 takes, but we’re in helmets that are hard to breathe in—you get four takes,” adds Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer. “She nailed it.”

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

(13) IN THE RUNNING FOR NUMBER ONE. Andrew Liptak guarantees “Space Opera is the funniest science fiction novel I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at The Verge.

Many authors attempt comedy in science fiction, but few pull it off. Alongside very funny works like John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Terry Pratchett’s entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he travels across the universe. But Catherynne M. Valente’s new novel Space Opera might give it a run for its money, because it’s one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read.

Space Opera’s title is a pun. Valente said recently that the story came out of a dare on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly skewers long-standing science fiction tropes, driving home humor with every single sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living blissfully unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there’s a catch: humans have to prove their sentience in a talent show called the Megagalactic Grand Prix, instituted after a galaxy-wide conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If Earth comes in dead last, humanity will be wiped out, and the biosphere reseeded so the planet can try again later.

(14) THE MARCH TO ECBATAN. Rich Horton concludes yet another Hugo finalist is good-not-great: “Hugo Ballot Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie”.

…This new novel is set in the same universe, at roughly the same time, but outside the Radch. It is engaging and fun but frankly seems just a little thin next to the Ancillary series. There’s no crime in that – I think it’s a good thing when an author reaches the point where her readers are glad to read each of her books, and are satisfied by them – but also admit that they are not each equally as good (or progressively better). Solid and enjoyable work is nothing to sneeze at. That said, if I’m saying that, it probably means I don’t consider Provenance one of the best five or six SF novels of the year – and that’s true. But it doesn’t disgrace the award by its nomination either – and, indeed, it fits with all the nominees I’ve read so far, in being enjoyable and entertaining but not exceptional…

(15) COVERING THE MARKETPLACE. Pulp specialty website Pulps1st sells disks with galleries of old pulp covers, and other merchandise featuring cover images.

…No other company produces anything like the Pulp Image Library with thousands of pulp cover images on one disk!  No other company produces the different Pulp Image Cover T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, iPad covers, or Postal Stamps.

(16) THE COOLNESS. Wish you could do this? Thread starts here:

(17) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Jerry Beck introduces “Brad Bird’s Lost 1980 Pencil Test for ‘The Spirit’”.

Producer Steven Paul Leiva has posted a rare artifact to You Tube – a 1980 pencil test “trailer” for a proposed animated feature based on Will Eisner’s classic comic strip hero, The Spirit.

In 1980, Leiva became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two Star Wars movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on The Spirit”. In a 2008 piece in the L.A. Times (read it here) Leiva spoke of a pencil test “trailer” for the proposed film, made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time.

 

(18) HISTORY UNBOUND. Via The Verge, this news about Mercury 13:

Mercury 13

Netflix has a new documentary coming up looking at the 13 female pilots who went through spaceflight tests around the same time the first men were planning to go up to space. While the 13 pilots never made it to space, their stories speak to the difficult and overlooked work women contributed to the US space program. It comes out April 20th.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Allen, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Mark Hepworth, and Michael Toman. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/18 But By God, Elliot, It Was A Pixel Scroll From Life!

(1) KINGFISHER. James Davis Nicoll turned the Young  People Read Old SFF panel loose on “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher.

Young People Read Old SFF has circled back to a modern work for the final time in the phase of the project. This time the modern author is Ursula Vernon, who also publishes as T. Kingfisher. To quote her Wikipedia entry,

Digger won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012 and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2013. She won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the WSFA Small Press Award for Jackalope Wives in 2015. Her story “The Tomato Thief” won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I’ve read a number of Vernon’s works but not, as it happens, any of those. I have read “Toad Words”, however, and it seemed an apt choice for a modern work given what the Young People have liked in the past. But I’ve been wrong before…

(2) DEADPOOL CHOW. Adweek describes how “Deadpool’s Newest Product Pitch Takes Us Inside His Dreams, Which Center on … Frozen Food?”

Brand partnerships with superhero movies are inevitable—let’s face it, most movies are superhero movies these days—but so many of them seem like an unnatural fit. Or a lazy one, at best. There’s a car chase in the movie? Let’s use that in a car commercial! Genius!

That might initially seem like the case with Deadpool’s Devour partnership. Why would Deadpool care about frozen food? Well, he doesn’t—and that’s what makes the new 30-second spot work.

 

(3) POTTER RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster watched “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” last night on the CW:

This was a BBC documentary tied to an exhibit that is currently at the British Library and will be coming to the New-York Historical Society this fall, although what I gather from the Pottermore website is that there will be two exhibits with some overlap between the British and American versions.

The special, narrated by Imelda Staunton, had several parts.  One was when actors from the movies (including Warwick Davis, Miriam Margoyles, and David Thewlis) read excerpts from the novels.  A second thread consisted of curators from the British Library showing off their magical treasures of books and stuff from their collections.  In addition, we saw some witches and eccentrics who had things to donate to the exhibit, including two gentlemen named Dusty Miller XIII and Dusty Miller XIV who said they had created 7,500 magic-filled wands from sticks they collected in the woods.  Finally, J.K. Rowling was extensively interviewed and got to look at a lot of the stuff the curators had unearhed.

Oh, and there was a lot of Harry Potter cosplay.

Rowling had done a lot of research in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as a seventeenth-century herbal written by the great botanist Nicholas Culpeper.  She said that she invented everything to do with wands.  She also named two sources that inspired her.  One was C.S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and if there are references to portals and libraries in that book those are the parts she found inspiring.  A second source came from an illustration Rowling made in1990 of Professor Sprout.  Rowling said that that night she was watching The Man Who Would Be King, a film with many Masonic symbols.  A simplified version of one masonic symbol was the source for the three-part symbol that denotes the Deathly Hallows in the novels.

Finally Rowling said, “I tied to steer clear of hallucinogenic drugs in Hogwarts.”  So if you’re writing fan fiction where Harry and the gang settle in for good times with some mushrooms, you should know that such scenes are NOT canonical.

(4) AUSTRALIAN CON SURVEY. Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor and Galactic Suburbia cohost Alisa Krasnostein tweeted

If you’ve attended an SF con or event in Australia in the last 5 years, please consider taking this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCGQB82

…The purpose of this survey is to investigate the degree of harassment being experienced at our SF conventions and events.

(5) WOTF. Vajra Chandrasekera discourages participation in the Writers of the Future Contest. His thread starts here —

(6) NEW PERSPECTIVES. Bogi Takacs has started writing a column for Tor.com about “QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics”.

…In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion.

…On the other hand, I also don’t want to pigeonhole QUILTBAG+ writers and only show interest in their work if it is about their specific marginalization. I want to see minority writers write whatever they want. If they (we) want to write about cephalopods in space, I am all for that! Therefore I opted to include work either by QUILTBAG+ authors (where this is known) or with QUILTBAG+ themes. Often these two coincide, but not necessarily so.

A specific difficulty is whether to include people with non-Western, culturally specific gender, sex or sexuality IDs. Often these people also use at least some Western terms to self-identify, but sometimes they don’t—especially Indigenous people. If someone has expressed a desire not to be included in Western terms, both umbrella or specific terms, I will of course respect that. But in the absence of explicitly opting out, and also if the authors use Western terms, I decided on the side of inclusion. One of my motivations in this is somewhat self-serving: I also have a culturally specific gender / sex (though I am not Indigenous, specifically) and I am interested in other people who do too!

I aim to discuss a new book every two weeks. I will begin next week with The Gilda Stories, the queer Black / Indigenous vampire classic by Jewelle Gomez, and then follow with The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, possibly the first SFF novel by an intersex author—which also draws a parallel between being intersex and sharing a mind with a giant whale.

(7) TRUTHINESS. Hear about “’That High Truth’: Lewis, Williams, Chesterton, and Ray Bradbury,” in this video of a lecture given at the Wade Center by Jonathan R. Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on April 9, 2018.

(8) PROGRAM IDEA. Amal El-Mohtar has a fresh angle for a panel discussion. Start the thread here:

(9) BECKETT OBIT. Alex Beckett (1982-2018): Welsh actor, death announced April 12, aged 35. His genre appearances include Spark Ark (2014), and The Aliens (two episodes, 2016).

(10) HEAR STAN LEE’S DENIAL. Io9 reports “In a New Video, Stan Lee Threatens to Sue Anyone Reporting on Claims of Alleged Elder Abuse”.

The Marvel mainstay came down with pneumonia in February and so his frequent convention appearances were understandably cut back. During this time, multiple reports emerged detailing how hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literal blood, were allegedly stolen from him. In a video sent to TMZ this week that’s copyrighted to Keya Morgan (Lee’s handler, who is currently in control of all of his communications), Lee says he’s prepared to take legal action against any and all media outlets that have reported on the claims that he’s being taken advantage of:

“Hi this is Stan Lee and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now, you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others. Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off when I get a chance.

You have been accusing me and my friends of doing things that are so unrealistic and unbelievable that I don’t know what to say. It’s as though you suddenly have a personal vendetta against me and against the people I work with. Well I want you to know I’m going to spend every penny I have to put a stop to this and to make you sorry that you’ve suddenly gone on a one man campaign against somebody with no proof, no evidence, no anything but you’ve decided that people were mistreating me and therefore you are going to publish those articles.

I’m going to get the best and most expensive lawyers I can and I want you to know if you don’t stop these articles and publish retractions, I am going to sue your ass off.”

The subject video was reportedly sent to TMZ and is marked on their website as being copyrighted by Keya Morgan. The linked TMZ article is headlined: “STAN LEE DENIES ELDER ABUSE … Leave Me and My Friends Alone!!!” This copy is on YouTube, though who knows for how long?

(11) HUGOS AT ECBATAN. Rich Horton check off another nominated book in “Hugo Ballot Review: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee”.

The novel is interesting reading throughout, with plenty of action (and some pretty cool battle scenes), some rather ghastly (in a good sense) comic bits, and lots of pain and angst. There is a continuing revelation of just how awful the Hexarchate is, with the only defense offered even by its supporters being “anything else would be worse”. There is genocide, lots of murders, lots of collateral damage. The resolution is well-planned and integral to the nature of this universe, with a good twist or two to boot. It’s a good strong novel that I enjoyed a lot.

(12) SERVICE TO SFF. Congratulations to 2018 Chandler Award winner Edwina Harvey! The award recognizes members of the Australian speculative fiction community, both professionals and fans.

Edwina Harvey is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

She was one of the founding members of Astrex, the Star Trek fan club of NSW, and regularly contributed fiction to the associated fanzine Beyond Antares as well as other SF fanzines from the mid 1970s onwards. She was also an active member of The Hitchers Club of Australia (Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fanclub) from approximately 1984 onwards contributing to the newsletter Australian Playbeing through articles and comments and assisting with the copying and distribution of some issues of the newsletter.  Known locally as the Fund Raising Queens, Edwina has worked with Karen Auhl on organising fundraiser events for Medtrek 4, Huttcon 90 and two Sydney Worldcon bids. (Late 1980s – mid 1990s)  Edwina has been a contributing member of FOLCC (the Friends of Linda Cox Chan) which was an informal group donating monies raised to Diabetes Charities in Australia.  Linda Cox Chan was a Sydney-based SF fan artist and writer who passed away in 1991. From 2012 to the present time, Edwina has also run a lucky-dip at Australian SF conventions to raise money for FFANZ.

(13) EUROVISION IN SPACE. Learn about the author’s new novel Space Opera at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente”.

My agent refers to it as the fastest deal in publishing. It was done and I was committed before I could catch a breath. As I was signing the contract, my fiance asked: “Does it really just say ‘Eurovision in space’? Do you actually have any idea how you’re gonna pull that off?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “And no, I don’t.”

And I didn’t. Part of me was terrified. How the hell do you even begin to write that? I mean, you can’t play it straight. It’s too absurd. It’s obviously a comedy. Ah, but if you try to write science fiction comedy, the ghost of Douglas Adams appears and asks you with a stern expression if that’s really necessary. And even if it was a comedy, the core of Eurovision is that political darkness and artistic light. You can’t play it totally camp, either. And given the politics all around me, I wasn’t sure I was actually up to singing it out just this minute. What had I agreed to?

But the deadline approached. And I sat down at a blank screen. I laughed nervously.

And then I stopped trying to worry about whether I could do this thing at all and wrote some shit about Enrico Fermi and I was off, and off at breakneck speed.

(14) I’M HOME! Glen Weldon creates a mythic dialogue. Jump on the thread here:

(15) DIRECT FROM INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Here is Amazon Prime’s trailer advertising new episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. [Via io9.]

The world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a comedy about two goofball friends who end up in harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. As their silly ambitions dovetail with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, they are set on a collision course with his notorious super spies Boris and Natasha.

 

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Errolwi, James Davis Nicoll, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWwombat.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/18 Scroll Miner’s Data

(1) READ FOR LIFE. Inc. tells “Why Reading Books Should be Your Priority, According to Science”.

People who read books live longer

That’s according to Yale researchers who studied 3,635 people older than 50 and found that those who read books for 30 minutes daily lived an average of 23 months longer than nonreaders or magazine readers. Apparently, the practice of reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things, including vocabulary, thinking skills, and concentration. It also can affect empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, the sum of which helps people stay on the planet longer.

(2) SOMTOW. The Thailand Tatler covers Somtow Sucharitkul’s fundraising concern for a U.S. orchestral tour: “Siam Sinfonietta Takes To The States”.

As the local music scene continues to thrive and as Thai musicians of all ages and styles gain increasing recognition both at home and abroad, the talented youths of Siam Sinfonietta are getting ready to play at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple for the third time this April as part of the New York International Music Festival.

Siam Sinfonietta is a scholarship orchestra that aims to provide local prodigies with the great opportunities to perform professionally, regardless of background or income. In order to ensure that all 70 musicians and orchestral staff can have a smooth tour of the States in April, Opera Siam is holding a series of fundraising events, such as a recent Star Wars-themed concert on March 15. Find out how you can still support them here.

Listen to the opening of their Star Wars marathon concert – and see his lightsaber conductor’s baton!

(3) SOCIETY PAGE. Congratulations to Catherynne Valente!

(In case it’s a bit obscure, the ultrasound pic is a clue.)

(4) ANOTHER CLUELESS ATTENDANT. Author Fran Wilde was lectured on a plane that her cane could be a weapon.

(5) BLUE MAN GROUP. Expedition 55 sets new standards in space fashion. Or as David Klaus ad libs, “Are we not Astromen? We are DEVO! Also, if you tailor those uniform coveralls to fit, you have the uniforms of the Starfleet of the NX-01 Starship Enterprise.”

(6) BRIAN ALDISS, CURMUDGEON. Kim Huett had to take a short hiatus from Doctor Strangemind which he is determined to make up with a new 3,400 word article “about a story that Brian Aldiss assures me is only 3300 words long. Still, is 3400 words too many for what Brian also assures me is the WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!”

You’ll have to read the article and decide for yourselves: “Brian Aldiss & the Worst Story Ever!!!”

It is my impression that Brian Wilson Aldiss was generally considered to be a stern but fair elder statesman until he passed away in 2017. I, on the other hand, considered him to be far more curmudgeonly than that (he would never have made a passable member of the Beach Boys for example). It also my opinion that Brian Aldiss adopted his curmudgeonly persona relatively early in his career. Oh, but Doctor Strangemind I hear you all cry, Brian Aldiss was never a curmudgeon, at least not until he was old enough to carry the title with a suitable level of gravitas! Ah ha, my poor innocent audience! You have fallen into my cunningly constructed audience trap and now while you lay squirming in the metaphorical mud at the bottom of the pit of unwarranted assumption I’ll just sit here on the lip above and tell you all about how in Australian Science Fiction Review #15 (published by John Bangsund in April 1968) that young curmudgeon, Brian Aldiss, did go so far as to accuse two fellow British authors of writing as he put it the, ‘WORST SCIENCE FICTION STORY EVER!!!’ To quote from Aldiss himself:

There was one story in particular in Authentic which, ever since I read it on its first appearance in 1954, had impressed me as reaching a really impressive level of badness. To my great delight, I found on reading it again that it has grown even worse over the intervening fourteen years. I therefore would like to nominate as the worst sf story ever published:

The Lava Seas Tunnel, by F.G. Rayer and E.R. James, (Authentic SF, edited by H.J. Campbell, Vol.1, no.43, March 1954.)

(7) BUJOLD AT RIVENDELL. The Rivendell Discussion Group of the Mythopoeic Society will host Lois McMaster Bujold at its April 7 meeting in Minneapolis.

(8) NEED SHARPER HEARING? Cnet says “Spock’s ‘Star Trek III’ ear tips can be yours”.

An iconic set of pointy ears worn by Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” are up for auction through Lelands.com and they look pretty funky when you see them up close. You’ll notice pits and wrinkles in the flesh-colored appliances. On film, they were artfully blended with make-up to match Nimoy’s own ears.

(9) CLARKE CENTER. A bonus podcast by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s associate director sharing his personal reminiscence on Stephen Hawking, who passed away on March 14, 2018. Viirre was the medical director for Hawking’s trip into weightlessness on a zero gravity flight in 2007.

Only last December, he accepted the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Lifetime Achievement (his citation and acceptance speech can be seen here), during which he said, “It is no small task to be judged as having met with what would have been Arthur’s expectations for intellectual rigor powered by imagination, insatiable curiosity, and concern for our planet and its inhabitants.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge sent along xkcd’s suggestion for multiplying internet outrage.
  • Mike Kennedy sent Non Sequitur’s not exactly funny theory about a trend in closing bookstores.

(12) PRISONER COMICS. First shown on Canadian and UK TV screens in 1967, The Prisoner was co-created, written, directed and starred Patrick McGoohan (Scanners, Braveheart). Titan’s new comic series is released for the 50th Anniversary of the first US broadcast in 1968.

Titan Comics are excited to announce that they are partnering with print and poster house Vice Press to create a Diamond UK exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1. This first-ever Vice Press exclusive cover for The Prisoner Issue #1 – designed by Star Wars movie concept artist, Chris Weston – is based on his original silk-screen poster created for Vice Press to mark the 50th Anniversary of The Prisoner hitting US TV screens.

Titan’s new The Prisoner comic series, licensed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, is set in the world of The Prisoner – based on the celebrated cult TV series – from writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, The Mummy) and artist Colin Lorimer (The Hunt, Harvest)…

“I’ve made no secret about how The Prisoner is my favourite television show of all time,” said Vice Press cover artist Chris Weston, “I have always wanted to create my own artistic tribute to The Prisoner. Fortuitously, my friends at Vice Press offered me the chance to fulfil my lifelong ambition to create a loving artistic homage, timed to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary.”

(13) OSCAR’S LOVECHILD C3PO. Joal Ryan, in “Let’s revisit the spacy ‘Star Wars’ Oscars from 40 years ago” at Yahoo! Entertainment, has several clips from the 1978 Oscars, in which Star Wars was the only film of this series to be nominated for Best Picture and when Bob Hope, in his last time as Oscars MC, made some groaning Star Wars jokes.

Bob Hope, as he had done 17 times before, hosted the ’78 Oscars. The icon was 74, and this would be his last show as emcee. But he was as quick as ever with the lecherous gag, and the rat-tat-tat monologue that had been punched up with current events. (“1977 will be known as the year of Star Wars, which has grossed over $200 million,” one Hope line began. “That’s more than even some baseball players make.”)

(14) PLATYPUS NEWS. If you thought milking a cow was dangerous…. “Platypus milk: How it could combat superbugs”

Platypus milk could help combat one of humanity’s looming problems, antibiotic resistance, scientists say.

The weird creatures have a duck’s beak, venomous feet and are one of only two mammals able to lay eggs.

Australian scientists discovered in 2010 that the semi-aquatic animal’s milk contains a potent protein able to fight superbugs.

They’ve now identified why, and say it could lead to the creation of a new type of antibiotic.

(15) ALEXA BASHING. Paris Martineau at The Outline says “Hey Alexa, shut up”. My question is: would Paris say that if it was a man’s voice?

Why do voice assistants need to talk so much? If you’ve ever used one of Amazon’s ridiculous, yet rather addictive (I have two) Echo products, you know what I’m talking about: Whether you’re setting a timer, or asking her to play a podcast, Alexa just won’t shut the fuck up. Even when you give it a relatively simple command (like, “Alexa, set an alarm for 6 a.m.,” or “Alexa, set timer for five minutes”) it always responds with either a partial or total repetition of your phrase (“Okay, alarm set for 6 a.m. tomorrow,” or “Timer set for five minutes”), which can be more than a little annoying when it’s two in the morning and you don’t exactly want a booming robot voice waking your roommates up a wall over.

(16) DRIVING WHILE BETAZOID. From Marina Sirtis’ appearance at Dublin Comic Con last year.

Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi) tells the hilarious story about driving the Enterprise as well as burning the bridge.

 

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, rcade, Brian Z., and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/18 The Man Who Scrolled The Moon

(1) PAIN FOR PLEASURE. The sheer, greedy click-seeking that fuels this kerfuffle is being paid for by the pain of the targeted family, as Foz Meadows makes clear in “A Personal Note”.

And it is an insult, regardless of Freer’s claims that he’s only saying what anyone might think. It is also uniquely hurtful – and again, I say this with no expectation that Freer himself cares for my feelings. Manifestly, he does not, and will doubtless rejoice to know that he’s upset me. Nonetheless, I am upset. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m not, but I am, and having admitted as much to myself, I feel no shame in admitting it here. Before all this, I’d never heard of Freer at all, and while I’m aware that the public nature of my life online means that I am, in a sense, accessible to strangers, there’s a great deal of difference between having someone object to my writing, and having them construct malicious falsehoods about my personal life.

In the past few days, at least one person has asked me if I’m really sure that Toby isn’t Camestros; that maybe he’s doing it all behind my back. Freer, Torgersen and Antonelli have laughed at the idea that, if Camestros isn’t Toby, then surely I must be grateful for their alerting me to the presence of a stalker-impersonator – as though they aren’t the ones rifling through my marriage in pursuit of a link that is not, was never, there.

(2) HELLBOY’S DRAWER. The Society of Illustrators presents “THE ART OF MIKE MIGNOLA: Hellboy and Other Curious Objects”, a selection of works from the comic artist and writer behind the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series Hellboy, from March 6 – April 21.

In this exhibit, the Society will feature highlights from his fan-favorite Hellboy series, as well as other spin-off titles including work from B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Witchfinder. The Society is also pleased to feature samples from his award-winning comic books including the Eisner Award winner The Amazing Screw-On Head (Dark Horse Comics) as well as Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra), co-written by best-selling author Christopher Golden. This special exhibit will include an array of comic pages, covers, and rarely seen original paintings by Mignola.

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, beginning at 6:30PM.

In addition, Mike Mignola will be a Guest of Honor at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival. This 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, draws over 8,000 attendees each year. Held on April 7 and 8, the Fest will include speaking engagements, book signings, and parties. Further scheduling for Mignola’s appearances including a panel talk and book signings will be available in future announcements.

(3) CONDENSED CREAM OF 2016. If they’re short stories, does that mean they don’t fluff up your Mt. TBR pile quite as much as book recommendations? Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing its 2016 catch-up posts:

Here’s our next-to-last article about 2016 short fiction. This one focuses on which publications were most likely to run stories that earned recommendations/awards/spots in year’s-best anthologies.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Publications”

The two tables of publication coverage are actually a very compact representation of almost all the raw data for this and the final article, which will focus on the sources of recommendations (i.e. awards, reviewers, and year’s-best anthologies).

(4) EXPANDED UNIVERSE: At Featured Futures, Jason recaps the first month of the new year, discussing some new zines and some (old) news in the January Summation.

Covering January short fiction was exciting (and busy), as Featured Futures added Analog, Ares, Asimov’s, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, F&SF, and Galaxy’s Edge to its roster, resulting in significantly more stories read than usual (86 of 455K words) and a similarly larger than usual recommended/mentioned list. In webzine news, and speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, I was going to add coverage of it as a print zine but, coincidentally, it returned to webzine status, once again making all its fiction available on the web. The categorized “List of Professional SF/F/H Magazines” (which doubles as a list of the markets Featured Futures covers as well as being a sort of index of reviews) has been updated to reflect this.

(5) TOWARDS CANONISATION. The advocates of sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien are calling for support of preliminary events, as well as the planned Tolkien Canonisaton Conference:

Please pray for the following intentions and dates for the upcoming Tolkien year in the lead up to the Tolkien Canonisation Conference in September 2018 in Oxford:…

  • Saturday 17th March – St Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Fundraiser 2018: raising funds for the Tolkien Canonisation Conference.
  • Friday April 13th – (provisional) Lecture on the Theology of the Body and J. R. R. Tolkien in London.
  • Saturday 1st September – Sunday 2nd September 2018 : Tolkien Canonisation Conference in Oxford.

(6) CHANGE AT TOR BOOKS. Publisher’s Lunch reports —

Liz Gorinsky is leaving her position as a senior editor at Tor Books on February 2. She will continue to handle some of her authors as a consulting editor at Tor and edit short fiction at Tor.com.

Gorinsky tweeted –

Catherynne M. Valente added –

(7) ROBERTS’ RECS. A thread by Adam Roberts is aimed at BSFA Award nominators but is interesting for everyone. Starts here —

(8) STORY SCRAPING AT LOCUS. Locus Online miraculously noticed the 2018 Darrell Award finalists today, one day after File 770 reported the story. Since Mark Kelly stopped doing the news posting there, Locus Online has become especially active scraping stories from File 770 without acknowledging where they got them. A little “hat tip” would be appropriate and appreciated.

(9) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PLANET. It’s time for any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” to nominate for the 2017 Planetary Awards. Click on the link to learn how to participate. The nomination deadline is February 14th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.

The Puppy-influenced Planetary Awards were given for the first time two years ago.  The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

The awards for 2016 work were posted in May 2017 –

  • Best Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C. Wright
  • Best Short Story: “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom

The awards are administered by the Planetary Defense Commander, whose identity is findable with a little effort, but there’s no harm in having a handle, right Lou Antonelli? (Wait, maybe I should ask somebody else…)

(10) MORE ON MORT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of the late Mort Walker, who he interviewed in 2010 and 2013: “‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker, 94, created laughter ‘nearly every day of his life’”.  Cavna notes that Walker was around so long that Beetle Bailey was personally greenlit by William Randolph Hearst, and notes Walker’s efforts to create the Reuben Award and bring in more women into the cartooning field.

He was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II, but within the world of Walker, even that sometimes turned comically absurd. He spent time at Camp Crowder, which he said inspired “Beetle Bailey’s” Camp Swampy. “I signed up to go into psychiatry,” he told me in 2013 of the Army’s specialized training program, “and I ended up studying engineering. It was typical Army reasoning.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1964 Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb premiered.

(12) VOTING BOOTH ABOUT TO OPEN. The official Hugo Awards website announced “2018/1943 Hugo Award Nominations Opening Soon”. (Date not specified.)

Worldcon 76 San Jose advises us that they will open nominations for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards within the next few days. They have been working with Worldcon 75 Helsinki and Worldcon 2018 Dublin to coordinate the combined membership information from all three Worldcons, and to do so within the limitations of the three countries’ data-protection laws. When testing of the online nomination form is complete, Worldcon 76 San Jose will release it on the Worldcon 76 web site and make an announcement. We’ll also announce the start of nominations here on The Hugo Awards web site. Paper ballots will also be distributed with Worldcon 76 Progress Report 2, which we understand is going to press in a few days and should mail to members of Worldcon 76 in February. Besides the online form, a PDF of the paper form will be available from Worldcon 76’s web site when it is ready for release.

(13) FAN HUGOS. Rich Horton, in “First Hugo Recommendations: Dramatic Presentation, Fan Writer, Fanzine”, is among the first to blog about prospective 2018 fan Hugo nominees. (Horton also covers the Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category.)

Best Fan Writer

The two fan writers I want to promote the most this year are a couple I mentioned last year as well: John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books….

Best Fanzine

As I did last year, I plan to nominate Black Gate, Galactic Journey, and Rocket Stack Rank for the Best Fanzine Hugo. I’m particularly partial in this context to Black Gate, primarily of course because I have been a contributor since the print days (issue #2 and most of the subsequent issues)….

I heartily agree with Horton’s interest in finding other fan publications than File 770 to put up for the Hugo (though he does have kind words for this site). It seemed a good opportunity to say so here.

(14) REAR VIEW MIRROR. Meanwhile, DB makes a start on the “Retro-Hugos for 1942” with a canvass of his favorite writers.

…Now for Lord Dunsany. In 1942 Dunsany published five stories, all very brief, and about a dozen poems, mostly in Punch. Most of the poems are hopeful gazes towards military victory, and a couple of them introduce the allegorical figure of Liberty, so they could technically be considered fantasy.

None of the stories are SF or fantasy, though the only one of them that’s worth reading could possibly squeeze in by courtesy. It’s a Jorkens story reprinted in The Fourth Book of Jorkens (1947), where it’s the shortest piece in the book. Jorkens is Dunsany’s long-running clubman character who’s prone to making outrageous claims or telling absurd stories which nobody can disprove. In this brief tale, “On the Other Side of the Sun,” that topic comes up – “I wonder what’s there?” – and Jorkens astonishes all by stating, “I have been there.” His regular patsy, Terbut, demands “When, may I ask?” At Jorkens’ reply, “Six months ago,” any red-blooded SF reader should know instantly how the story is going to end, but the penny doesn’t drop for the hapless Terbut until after he makes a large bet that Jorkens is lying…

(15) RETRO FANZINES. While Fanac.org marshals digital copies of 1942 fanzines in support of Worldcon 76’s Retro-Hugos, Robert Lichtman and Bill Burns have tracked down additional fanzines published in 1942 by Bob Tucker available elsewhere online – specifically, at the Internet Archive, which has scans of Tucker’s zine Le Zombie. Four 1942 are issues listed.

(16) SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. WIRED Magazine’s “Cantina Talk: Finally, a Complete Guide to All of The Last Jedi’s Easter Eggs” not only covers the story in the title, but this even more compelling news —

The Last Jedi Adds Some More Material (But Not Onscreen)

The Source: An official announcement from Lucasfilm

Probability of Accuracy: It’s totally legit.

The Real Deal: So apparently, there was more to Star Wars: The Last Jedi than appeared onscreen—but fortunately for fans, it’s not going to remain a secret. Writer/director Rian Johnson is working with novelist Jason Fry to create all-new scenes for the book’s forthcoming novelization, as well as rescuing deleted scenes from the cutting room floor, to firmly place them in the canon. Amongst the things audiences didn’t see in theaters but will read about: Han Solo’s funeral. Prepare your tissues for March 6; you’ll get to read all about it then.

(17) FUTURE IMAGINED. BBC interview with 2016 Hugo winner — “Hao Jingfang: China’s award-winning science fiction writer” (video).

She tells the BBC a lot of her stories originate from thought experiments, and her latest novel imagines “a dark possibility for the future” where robots have replaced human’s jobs.

(18) THE MARKETPLACE OF THE INTERNET.  Kim Huett sent a link to “Boring Talks #02 – Book Pricing Algorithms” with a comment: “Those of you into buying books online (assuming some of you indeed are) might like to listen to the following cautionary tale brought to us by BBC radio. It will confirm everything you ever suspected about the practise…”

A book for $1.7 million? To a computer, it made sense. Sort of. Tracy King explains.

(19) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? If you play poker you may be interested in a new infographic, “Poker & AI: The Raise of Machines Against Humans”. It details insights and research about the evolution of poker-playing artificial intelligence.

But what about the poker industry? Surely there must be an AI capable of playing poker at high levels. The answer is yes, there is. This infographic will show you how the poker’s AI developed throughout the history, as well as where it is now. You can find a lot of interesting stats and information in this infographic, but if you are interested in reading more about poker related stuff, visit our website.

(20) WHERE THE BOYS ARE. This belongs in Connie Willis’ next satirical speech about things science fiction predicted (none of which ever were) — “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging”.

Strava says it has 27 million users around the world, including people who own widely available fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone, as well as people who directly subscribe to its mobile app. The map is not live — rather, it shows a pattern of accumulated activity between 2015 and September 2017.

Most parts of the United States and Europe, where millions of people use some type of fitness tracker, show up on the map as blazes of light because there is so much activity.

In war zones and deserts in countries such as Iraq and Syria, the heat map becomes almost entirely dark — except for scattered pinpricks of activity. Zooming in on those areas brings into focus the locations and outlines of known U.S. military bases, as well as of other unknown and potentially sensitive sites — presumably because American soldiers and other personnel are using fitness trackers as they move around.

Not just men, of course, but it made a good headline.

(21) OH NOES! Just think what a career he might have had, if he hadn’t been muted by the Guild!

(22) DISCOVERY SPOILERS. There, that should be enough warning about — “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Jason Isaacs Apologizes for Lying, Admits to Feeling Like a ‘Drunken Hippo’ When Fighting Michelle Yeoh”.

“I’ve done nothing but lie since September,” he said to IndieWire. “I knew, perfectly well, everything before we started. And that meant that every interview was a lie and every conversation I had with my friends… Actually, with quite a lot of my family, was a lie. Anybody on the street was a lie. Anybody in Toronto. So I apologize for all that, but that was the only way to tell the story well.”

(23) PEJORATIVE’S PROGRESS. Inverse’s Ryan Britt looks back on “How the Word “Terran” Became a Sci-Fi Slur”.

In the Mirror Universe of Star Trek, humans aren’t called humans. They’re called “Terrans.” The word “Terran” comes from the root Latin word “terra,” meaning “dry earth,” which is where we get the phrase “terra firma.” But the word “Terran” has been prevalent in science fiction long before it cropped up again on Star Trek: Discovery in 2018. As it turns out “Terran” has a long history of being a dirty word for “human.”

(24) BLACK PANTHER. Marvel Studios’ Black Panther – “Let’s Go” TV spot.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Kim Huett, Martin Morse Wooster, Standback, Jason, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 2018-01-02 The Scroll Awakens the Last Pixel

By JJ:

(1) INSPIRING THE RIGHT STUFF.  Space.com reports that American Girl’s latest entry in their doll line is an aspiring astronaut created with advice from NASA.

An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year.

Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a “distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side.” She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.

American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat “loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play.”

In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana’s story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic… [and] “Blast Off to Discovery,” an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game.

(2) RECRUITING THE RIGHT STUFF.  In honor of Nichelle Nichols’ birthday on December 28, NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi told a story of a past encounter with her: (click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread)

(3) BOOK SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Apex has announced that it is currently accepting submissions of Novels and Novellas.

Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Anything sent outside of this time period will be deleted unread.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

We only accept email submissions to apex.submission@gmail.com.

Additional details on the submission process can be found at the link.

(4) SHORT FICTION SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Kaleidotrope Magazine has announced that it is currently open to submissions of Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Artwork until April 1, 2018.

Kaleidotrope tends very heavily towards the speculative – towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror – but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore interested to read compelling work that blurs these lines, falls outside of neat genre categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves, and ghostly ax murderers alone, after all. We’d suggest looking through the archives to familiarize yourself with the zine, and/or checking out other work by our past contributors, to get a sense of what we’re looking for and what we like.

In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing.

We are also interested in publishing diverse writers. Kaleidotrope welcome writers of color and other groups, as well as work that represents the diversity of characters we want to see more of.

(5) SPOILER WARNING.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has Taken a hard-line on spoilers for The Last Jedi:

The following items have been carefully curated to provide interesting non-spoilery information on the movie, but click judiciously if you haven’t seen it yet.

(6) PLUS ÇA CHANGE.  In a piece at Critical Hit, Kate Willaert engages in some cultural archaeology to find out how fans reacted to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980: [WARNING: Spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back at the link]

Today the general consensus is that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.8/10 on IMDb, compared to A New Hope’s 96% and 8.7/10, respectively. These user scores weren’t generated until decades after the original trilogy was released, but it’s not like fan opinion could have shifted that much, right?

Thankfully, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog, so let’s take a look at issues #39-41. What were the fans saying?

As with The Last Jedi, fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Some felt it was better than the first one, some enjoyed it but had complaints, and some were disappointed. But what’s most interesting is how specific comments or criticisms mirror those of The Last Jedi…

(7) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING.  Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the linked blog post.)

I fucking loved it.

That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met

Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit – sometimes a lot – of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

But here’s the thing:

Stories can never be written for the fans.

Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing – it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.

The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.

Oh, it knows them.

It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.

And then the movie hits you with the porg.

Whap.

That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.

The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.

It’s just not going to meet them.

(8) IT’S A THEORY.  On Twitter, Amelia Rose explains why she thinks that the much-maligned Star Wars prequels contain a very nuanced story told very, very incompetently. (Click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread; there are no spoilers for The Last Jedi in the main thread, but after the “FIN” there may be some SPOILERS in commenters’ tweets.)

(9) PAYBACKS ARE SWELL.  The Hollywood Reporter says that gross revenues on the new editions of the Star Wars franchise have exceeded $4 Billion, eclipsing Disney’s price to acquire Lucasfilm.

Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.

Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5).

(10) EDITORIAL LICENSE.  On Facebook, Amanda Downs Champlin has taken artistic liberties with the newest character in the Star Wars franchise. [WARNING: NO SPOILERS, JUST TERMINAL CUTENESS]

(11) WITHERING HEIGHTS.  The Last Jedi has sparked widely-varying opinions on the appeal of Kylo Ren.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov, Author and Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor (Tor Books)
  • Born January 2, 1973 – Lucy Davis, Actor (Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman)
  • Born January 2, 1980 – David Gyasi, Actor (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises)

(13) CAUGHT IN THE ACT.  SFF author Jason Sanford reports on a newly-revealed case of genre plagiarism:

Jake Bible, author of the Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that Balogun Ojetade plagiarized his writing in Ojetade’s novel Scorpion Wine (Qiq, the Bounty Hunter). Bible released the image above showing extreme similarities between a section of Ojetade’s book (at left) and his own novel.

Bible said on Facebook that Ojetade’s novel “changed character names and the setting, but it is an almost word for word ripoff.”

Bible requested Amazon take down Ojetade’s novel, which it did. However, an entry for Scorpion Wine was still on Amazon as of this writing.

In a personal message Bible told me that because “bounty hunter is such a niche sub-genre that one of my readers found (the plagiarism) right away.” But Bible suggested other authors may want to examine Ojetade’s works for other possible cases of plagiarism.

(14) SHOPPING WHILE INTOXICATED.  SFF author Cherie Priest got a surprise delivery:

(15) TAKE THAT, COMCAST.  Motherboard explains how someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection:

As the FCC prepares to the destroy the US internet by rolling back net neutrality protections, it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for alternatives to their corporate internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs own all the cable that routes information through the internet, and trying to replace these networks with community-owned cable is a costly and challenging process.

Fortunately, a UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string.

It’s an old joke among network technicians that it’s possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it’s just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string…

Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection.

(16) DON’T LET THE CAT DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.  Never underestimate the power of an SJW credential, especially if it’s a reader. KRLD reports that a White Settlement, Texas, City Councilman lost his showdown with the library’s beloved cat.

Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer.

Browser got his job at the library when he was just a kitten. He was recruited from a local animal shelter as an inexpensive, effective method of pest control at the library.

In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal.

The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.

Browser got a reprieve following a world-wide backlash, and reports say there were still some hard feelings among council members after the cat fight.

Councilman Clements eventually ran out of his 9-lives after he was defeated in a landslide in November’s election.

(17) NEXT WEEK, SKYNET.  Artificial learning algorithms are developing in unexpected directions:

(18) ARCHIVE THIS.  A digital museum is seeking a DMCA exemption for “abandoned Online games”, to preserve defunct gaming titles from being lost.

Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery claims to be “the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games.”

The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer – City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example…

Supporters of the proposal had until December 18, 2017, to submit comments or evidence to the US Copyright Office. Opponents to the request now have until February 12, 2018, to present written arguments against it. Supporters will then be allowed a rebuttal period until March 14. The USCO will make its decision soon after the final rebuttals are read.

(19) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, REALLY.  SFF author Catherynne M. Valente, explaining the contents of boxes of fannish detritus to her fiance as they unpack in their new home:

(20) DEEP IMPACT.  Geologists from the Birkbeck University of London have discovered mineral forms never before reported on Earth on the Isle of Skye:

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye got more than they bargained for when examining volcanic rocks on the Scottish site, finding mineral forms from a pre-historic meteorite impact that have never before been found on Earth.

The team, including members of Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andy Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca, discovered evidence of a previously unknown, 60 million-year-old meteorite impact.

They had been examining a thick layer at the base of a 60 million-year-old lava flow, which they at first thought was a volcanic flow deposit called ignimbrite. After putting it under an electron microprobe, they discovered that it, in fact, contained rare minerals from outer-space…

These mineral forms – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite – have never before been reported on Earth, only collected in space dust on a prior NASA mission.

The Isle of Skye has been well explored by geologists, and the scientists were surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before. The first site of discovery, Drake explained, was steep, rough and very boggy, which may have deterred previous researchers from exploring the layer.

(21) QUICK THINKING.  A DungeonMaster recounts a player’s narrow escape on his “yourplayersaidwhat” Tumblr blog:

http://sword-wielding-fallen-angel.tumblr.com/post/169171999771/yourplayersaidwhat-dm-to-our-bard-the-six

(22) HELPFUL RESOURCE.  To assist award nominators, SFF Author A. C. Wise is maintaining an aggregated list of eligibility post links, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

(23) GALACTIC POSITIONING SYSTEM.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has installed a new kinetic sculpture to assist spacefarers in their travels:

[Thanks to Substitute Editor of the Day JJ for pilfering all of these stories from friends, acquaintances, and randos on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Credit for spelling and grammar goes to Copyeditor of the Day JJ. Blame for spelling and grammar mistakes goes to Scapegoat of the Day Camestros Felapton. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ. Any complaints should be directed to – oh, who are we kidding? complaints will be ignored.]

Patreon Cancels Fee Changes, Will Find A Different Fix

Patreon’s Jack Conte has walked back the controversial new fee structure that was scheduled to go into effect later this month, with the implied promise the company will find a solution to its problems that doesn’t hurt creators.

Conte’s statement, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change”, says in part —

Creators and Patrons,

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

  • The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
  • Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
  • Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes….

Although Patreon folded on their proposed fee changes, the damage to creators’ income has already been done. One author offered this analogy to describe the moral effect of today’s announcement:

Webcomic artist Zack Morrison voiced what must be a lingering concern for many creators:

Here are some reactions tweeted by people in the sff field:

  • Kameron Hurley

  • Catherynne Valente

  • Seanan McGuire

  • M.C.A. Hogarth

  • Kevin Sonney

  • Patrick Rothfuss

  • Aidan Moher

  • Fireside Fiction Company

[Thanks to Dann and Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/7/17 Pixel, It’s Scrolled Outside

(1) SOCIETY PAGE. Cat Valente and Heath Miller shared their news on Twitter. Jump onto the thread about the romantic proposal here —

Part of the announcement:

(2) A GOOD COUNTRY FOR OLD MAN. Deadline started with an Exclusive story, but now we all know — “Netflix Grabs Hold Of John Scalzi’s Sci-Fi Novel ‘Old Man’s War’ For Jon Shestack, Madhouse”.

Netflix has acquired John Scalzi’s modern sci-fi classic Old Man’s War to develop as an original film. The novel is the first in a bestselling six-book series and is considered to be one of the best of the genre over the past two decades, nominated for a Hugo Award. Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment will produce.

John Scalzi goes into a little more detail in his FAQ about the news: “Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix”.

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

(3) GODSTALKER. James Davis Nicoll brings you his list of “Twenty Core Works of Religious Speculative Fiction Every True SF Fan Should Have on Their Shelves”. Here are four examples –

  • High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

(4) ROWLING CHALLENGED ON SUPPORT OF DEPP. Amy Zimmerman of The Daily Beast calls it “J.K. Rowling’s Cowardly Defense of Alleged Abuser Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”.

… In May 2016, actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, declaring at the time, “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me…I endured excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” In the wake of these explosive allegations, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote a piece titled “Amber Heard Says Johnny Depp Beat Her. It Will Ruin His Career. Just Kidding!”, in which he argued that Depp, like so many accused A-listers before him, was destined to emerge from this scandal professionally unscathed.

…On the one hand, Rowling has inarguably found herself in a difficult position, and it’s hard to watch as female creators are asked to answer for the alleged misconduct and immorality of their male collaborators. In her statement, Rowling acknowledges the seriousness of the allegations against Depp, and appears to have taken the pressure to potentially recast seriously. But, make no mistake: she is supporting and defending Johnny Depp. And, in doing so, she is calling his accuser’s testimony into question.

The most damning sentence here is when Rowling cites “our understanding of the circumstances” to justify the fact that she is “genuinely happy” with Depp’s starring role; it sounds like she’s implying that, if we knew what she knew, we would feel comfortable dismissing Heard’s story too. Rowling is, finally, saying “I believe you”—but the person she’s acknowledging in this scenario is Johnny Depp, not Amber Heard

Here is J.K. Rowling’s complete statement on “Grindelwald casting”:

When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.

The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected.  Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.

I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’. I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.

(5) QUICK SIP SHORT FIC RECS. I think I missed Charles Payseur’s “Quick Sip Reviews 2017 Recommended Reading List”, posted last month.

This comes courtesy of my monthly recommendation column, The Monthly Round. The rules are fairly easy, in that the stories must come from publications I regularly read. It’s the single greatest limiting factor for the list, because I do not read everything, but this prevents me from essentially cherry-picking stories from other publications. So there are my favorite stories published at the places I read regularly and have reviewed. There’s a whole wide world of other stories out there, but I did dearly love these. So I hope that, even with that limitation in mind, the list is helpful for finding some truly awesome short SFF. If you want more info on any of the stories, there are links to each or you can do a search of this blog to find my more in-depth reviews.

(6) BLACK SF HONORED. The Root has named “The 16 Best Books of the Year by Black Authors”. Three of these books are of genre interest.

  • #1 — Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, which Amazon currently lists as the top-selling book in Magical Realism.
  • #4 — Akata Warrior by World Fantasy/Hugo/Nebula Award winner Nnedi Okorafor.
  • #9 — What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a debut short-story collection from an award-winning Nigerian-American writer whose short stories hit fantasy, magical realism, science fiction, and horror.

(7) THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD EQUATIONS. RedWombat mashes up a classic poem with a Hall of Fame story. The first tweet in response by Tim Chase is brilliant, too,

(8) JOIN THE VAMPIRE LODGE. An io9 exclusive! “Vampire Veronica Descends on Riverdale in a New Archie Horror Series”.

Between Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the recent addition of Jughead: The Hunger, Archie Comics’ horror imprint is flying higher than Sabrina’s broomstick ever thought possible. But there’s already another series coming to Archie Horror, and it’s got a bit of a bite to it….

Veronica Lodge, Riverdale’s socialite encounters a centuries-old creature of the night, who transforms her into a bloodthirsty vampire. Now she must descend on her unsuspecting hometown to quench her newfound hunger. Veronica now has to contend with this new transformation However, she is still the Veronica we all know and love.

(9) GULP FICTION. Fainting cloths have been in much demand since news broke that “Quentin Tarantino Might Direct a Star Trek Movie”io9 has the story.

Apparently Tarantino recently pitched an idea for a Trek movie to producer J.J. Abrams, who loved it, and they’ll soon begin to assembling a writer’s room to flesh it out. If everything falls into place, Tarantino could be interested in directing with Abrams producing.

This isn’t something that’ll be happening soon, though. Next up for the iconic director is his still-untitled 1969-set movie, which Sony Pictures just picked up. That already has a release date of August 9, 2019, so there’s no doubt that’s next for him. That leaves almost two years of time for a script to get written that could woo Tarantino into doing several things he’s never done before.

He’s never directed a feature he didn’t write. He’s never done a scifi film. He’s never done a major franchise film.

(10) EARLY BIRDS. Worldcon 76 and Dublin 2019 announced their Retro Hugo plans a few days ago and the Hugo Awards Book Club wasted no time coming up with the first set of recommendations: “Retro Hugos 1943: Novels”

It was with no small degree of excitement that we greeted the news that there would be Retro Hugo awards presented at next summer’s Worldcon. Just on principle, we love Retro Hugos, and will take any opportunity to do a deep dive into the science fiction published in a particular year. The Hugo year of 1943 (which would cover works published in 1942) has some excellent novels to choose from. We will explore other fiction categories for these awards in later posts.

Legendary science fiction pioneer Olaf Stapledon has never been nominated for a Hugo

Award in any category. The author of Last and First Men, Star Maker, and Odd John had published most of his major works prior to the first Worldcon, so even with Retro Hugos, there hasn’t been much opportunity to honour his works with the genre’s top award. Although Darkness And The Light is not one of his most well-remembered works, and although it has some flaws, it is still one that should be considered for the award.

(11) CRIDER IN HOSPICE. Crime fiction writer Bill Crider, who also won a 2015 Sidewise Award for his story “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” has entered hospice care. He signed off from his blog saying –

Things could change, but I suspect this will be my final post on the blog. I met with some doctors at M. D. Anderson today, and they suggested that I enter hospice care. A few weeks, a few months is about all I have left. The blog has been a tremendous source of pleasure to me over the years, and I’ve made a lot of friends here. My only regret is that I have several unreviewed books, including Lawrence Block’ fine new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, and Max Allan Collins’ latest collaboration with Mickey Spillane, The Last Stand, which is a collection of two novellas, “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” an early Spillane manuscript with an interesting history, and “The Last Stand,” the last thing that Spillane completed. It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.*

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 7, 1972 — The crew of Apollo 17, while on their way to the Moon, took a photo of Earth from about 28,000 miles.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born December 7, 1915 — Leigh Brackett, well-known sf author and screenwriter. George Lucas hired Brackett to write the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, which she completed shortly before she died in March of 1978.

(14) ALL BRADBURY. Courtesy of Cora Buhlert, here’s a brief clip from a German cultural TV program  presenting a new illustrated German edition of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. (Video.)

(15) THE GOLD RUSH IS OVER. In “Business Musings: Sustainability”, Kristine Katherine Rusch argues that the market for independently published books has “matured” and that authors should expect much slower growth and lower incomes from here on.

I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

What does that mean, exactly?

In business, markets respond to things in similar ways, whether we’re talking markets for shoes or markets for books.

When something is new, everyone wants it. When something is new, the growth is usually exponential. We see that in all kinds of new markets over the years, from desktop computers twenty-five years ago to smart phones ten years ago. There’s always something cool, and consumers flock to it, sometimes in very large numbers.

In publishing, we went through a shift, from traditional only to anyone-can-do-it indie, because of the rise of the neat-o ereader, the Kindle, from Amazon, which gave that ereader a platform and an ecosystem.

Year to year, the number of people who joined the new ecosystem was huge. Other players created viable ereaders and ebook ecosystems. You didn’t just have to use Amazon to publish a book. You could do it on other platforms.

(16) SEVENTIES SF RARITY. The British Film Institute tells “How lost British TV sci-fi Thwum was rediscovered”.

On 16 December 2017, BFI Southbank is offering the first opportunity for over 40 years to see Thwum, a sci-fi-themed 1970s rarity that had long been thought lost forever – and Pete Postlethwaite’s first TV appearance with it.

At the time of Thwum’s broadcast in 1975, it was still common practice for TV companies to wipe much of their output, meaning that many television programmes from the era are now sadly missing. Since 1993, it’s been the mission of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative to track down and screen material long AWOL from the official TV archives. Finds over the years have included material from television programmes such as The Avengers, Till Death Us Do Part, Dad’s Army, Armchair Theatre and Top of the Pops.

The case of Thwum provides an interesting example of how missing UK TV material can be recovered….

(17) THE KING IS DEAD. Google’s general-purpose AI beats chess specialist: “Google’s ‘superhuman’ DeepMind AI claims chess crown”. It won or drew 100 games 4 hours after being given the rules of chess.

Even so, one human chess grandmaster was still hugely impressed by DeepMind’s victory.

“I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they played chess,” Peter Heine Nielsen told the BBC.

“Now I know.”

(18) WHERE YOUR PIZZA DELIVERS ITSELF. There are limits: “San Francisco to restrict goods delivery robots”.

Opponents are concerned about the safety of pedestrians, particularly elderly people and children.

Walk San Francisco, a group that campaigns for pedestrian safety, wanted a complete ban.

A range of companies have begun trialling small robots that can deliver food and other goods.

They use sensors and lasers in a similar way to self-driving cars in order to navigate their routes.

(19) ON A HOLE FAR AWAY. BBC tells where “Farthest monster black hole found”.

The matter-munching sinkhole is a whopping 13 billion light-years away, so far that we see it as it was a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang.

But at about 800 million times the mass of our Sun, it managed to grow to a surprisingly large size in just a short time after the origin of the Universe.

The find is described in the journal Nature.

The newly discovered black hole is busily devouring material at the centre of a galaxy – marking it out as a so-called quasar.

(20) PETRIFEYED. They say it may not be possible to find one any earlier: “Researchers find ‘oldest ever eye’ in fossil”.

An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

(21) FTFY. They’re not riotously funny, though some are clever or wonderfully bitter: “These Parody Book Covers Of Famous Classics Will Make Any True Literary Nerd Laugh Out Loud”. Here’s a sample:

(22) SHOULD THAT BE PETREON? Another Patreon critic heard from.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, Paul Weimer, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, rcade, Greg Hullender, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, Chip Hitchccock, Darrah Chavey, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

A Festive Evening of Music and Comedy (But No Readings) at NYRSF Readings – With Valente, Pinsker and Miller

By Mark L. Blackman: On the rainy late autumn evening of Tuesday, December 5, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series closed the first half of its 27th anniversary season at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café (in the most wonderful Borough of Brooklyn) with a special Holidays event of “SFF: Singing Friends Festival,” featuring Sarah Pinsker in concert, and Catherynne M. Valente with her game show, “It Was a Dark and Stormy Mic,” hosted by Heath Miller.

Longtime attendees of these readings know that, for over a decade, it’s been a tradition to present “Family Night,” featuring its “official holiday family,” Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner; however, they are currently sojourning in Paris and le Métro doesn’t stop at Atlantic Avenue.  In their place, the Series offered a “really, really festive variety show,” an evening of music and games from two sf/fantasy stars.

Jim Freund, producer/executive curator of the Series and host of the long-running live radio program on WBAI-FM, Hour of the Wolf (broadcast and streamed every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 a.m.) welcomed the audience, cautioning us as he customarily does that we were on camera and Livestreaming (visit Livestream.com), so to be mindful of what we say and next to whom we’re sitting.  (Just ask Billy Bush.)  He thanked contributors (the event is free, with a suggested donation of $7), his crew and the Café, and reported on upcoming readings:

  • Jan. 9: Sunny Moraine and Brooke Bolander
  • Feb. 6: “Welcome to Dystopia,” with Gordon Van Gelder (who started the Series)
  • Mar. 6: Alisa Kwitney and Nicholas Kaufmann
  • Apr. 3: Chandler Klang Smith and Chris Claremont

He concluded by introducing the opening act of the evening.

Sarah Pinsker performing

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Theodore Sturgeon Award winning novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” She is also, as we saw, a singer/songwriter who has toured nationally behind three albums on various independent labels, with, punned Freund, “a fourth fourthcoming.”  Pinsker’s guitar and vocals were accompanied by Karen Osborne (who is also a writer, having sold her first story) on fiddle.  “I’ve never opened for myself before,” she said.

Her first song, “Everything Bounces,” alluded to Road Runner/Coyote cartoons’ idiosyncratic physics, while her second, “Water Wings,” was about a 19th-century couple “out for a row” who’ve gotten hopelessly lost and have to swim for it … “positivity in the midst of adversity.”  “Cave Drawing” was inspired by a documentary on homeless people living in subway tunnels yet creating in graffiti “amazing art on the walls.”  Her next, as yet untitled, was “about unrequited love in a circus sideshow” (aren’t most songs?), and was followed by “Wingspan” (not, she enunciated, “Waistband”).  Most of her songs, she said, were about the ocean, her “weird dreams” or something she heard on NPR, and her big finish, took us back to the ocean.

Sarah Pinsker accompanied by Karen Osborne

During the intermission, a raffle was held for contributors.  The prizes were a copy of Black Feathers, a horror anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, and a copy of the first rebirth issue of Omni; and a “so, so unbound” galley of Valente’s new space opera.  Freund then introduced Valente.

Catherynne Valente and Heath Miller

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, DeathlessRadiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it), and the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo Awards; she has as well been a finalist for the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards.  She in turn introduced Heath Miller, “actor extraordinaire” from Perth and “man of a thousand voices” (several without an Aussie accent), who would be hosting their game show, and they were joined on panel by Pinsker.

Versions of the game show, explained Miller to those unfamiliar with it, have been performed at Readercon and Windycon, and now it was in Brooklyn, where “most of history happened here.”  It was, not to mince words, a rollicking laugh riot, with all three convulsing the audience throughout as they proceeded through a series of rounds or “games.”  Asked to name holiday-themed books that Santa might leave under the tree, Valente and Pinsker buzzed in (yes, each had a buzzer) with Rendezvous With Ramadan, Manger in a Mange Land, and A Few Good Menorah.  In a round called “Oscar Wildely Incorrect” (the other title option was “George Bernard Unsure”), they finished quotations (including Wilde’s “The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young …”  “Instagram everything,” said Pinsker).  In “Gregorian Chants,” they replaced songs’ pronouns with “Greg,” hence Valente sang “Greg Will Survive” and Pinsker “Thank Greg for Being a Friend.”

Game Show: Catherynne Valente, Heath Miller and Sarah Pinsker

“Intellectual Property Values” asked them to increase or decrease titles; in lightning succession they fired off Justice Little League, Social Justice League, The One Body Problem, Murder on the Orient Local, and The Penultimate Jedi.  “Lexiconfusion” was what we used to call “Daffynitions,” alternative definitions (for example, “Concave: the Javits Center”).  Next they sang song lyrics to other songs’ tunes:  Pinsker sang “Folsom Prison Blues” to “I Had a Little Dreidel” (I hear the rabbi plotzin’), and Valente and Miller in a duet sang “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to “Where the Wild Roses Grow.”  It’s impossible to do the event justice; to experience it more fully and vividly, visit Livestream.com.

As traditional, the Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered giveaway books.  Additionally, Pinsker’s CDs were for sale and autograph.  The crowd of about 60 (probably most of whom walked in front of my camera) included Melissa C. Beckman, Madeline Flieger (running camera and operations), Amy Goldschlager, (house manager/ticket-taker) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Kevin J. Maroney (publisher of The New York Review of Science Fiction) and (Technical Director) Terence Taylor.  Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite at the Café, which has excellent food, a coffee bar, beer and wine.

Happy Holidays.