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.

Refrigerator Monologues: Fantastic Fiction Readings Welcome in Summer with Valente and Moraine

Catherine M. Valente and Sunny Moraine

By Mark L. Blackman: On the first evening of summer – the longest night of the year – Wednesday, June 21, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series presented fantasy authors Catherynne M. Valente and Sunny Moraine at its longtime venue, the aptly-named Red Room of the second-floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. (Despite the throng, the room was pleasantly cool; must be the altitude.)

Series co-host Matthew Kressel greeted the crowd, acknowledged the Solstice, and offered a “big, huge, enormous thank-you to everyone who donated to” their fundraiser on Kickstarter to cover the Series’ expenses. (While the readings are always free and there’s no cover charge, it costs money to run; readers receive a small stipend and are treated to dinner afterward.) They raised over $9,700, more than double their goal, enough funds to keep the Series running for at least six more years. Rob Cameron (“Cam”) from Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers was given a minute or so to plug the Kickstarter for the second season of their podcast (kaleidocast.nyc). Kressel then announced upcoming readers:

  • July 19: Genevieve Valentine and Karen Heuler
  • August 16: Gregory Frost and Rajan Khanna
  • September 20: Katherine Vaz and Chris Sharp
  • October 18: James Patrick Kelly and Kai Ashante Wilson

All dates are the third Wednesday of the month. Additional details may be found at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.

Sunny Moraine

The first reader was Sunny Moraine, whose short fiction has appeared in multiple Year’s Best anthologies, her debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone (available from Undertow Publications). She shared two short stories, the first, “Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams,” “by chance” involved refrigerators, and ran last week on Tor.com. A dead girl climbs out of a refrigerator, followed by others; they swarm, spread out, terrorize (certainly intimidate), and soon infiltrate popular culture, from “reality” shows to Law and Order: SVU (“a different type of dead girl”).

Her second offering was the title story from Singing With All My Skin and Bone, which she had never read aloud before. It was, she said, “the most intensely personal story [she] ever published.” A young witch’s pain and scars awaken “flesh and blood magic.” The story was disturbingly captivating, a stunning contrast from her other story’s satiric absurdity. (“That was a brave thing to get up and read in public,” said one audience member.)

After an intermission, co-host Ellen Datlow opened the second half of the program by giving away two anthologies, exhorting us to thank the Bar by buying drinks, and introducing the next reader.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed). She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and has earned the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo Awards, and, just this week, the 2017 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (for “The Future is Blue”). (She tweeted: “OMG you guys I won the Sturgeon Award! I’m a real science fiction writer now!”)

“To continue the cold storage theme” of the evening, she read a selection from The Refrigerator Monologues, which she described as “The Vagina Monologues for superhero girlfriends.” Though she didn’t elaborate further, there is a distressing tendency in superhero comics for women – wives and girlfriends of superheroes and female heroes – to be victimized, assaulted, crippled or murdered as a plot point to motivate male superheroes so that their storyline may progress. The exemplar is Alexandra DeWitt, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend, who literally was “refrigerated,” killed and stuffed into a fridge by a supervillain. (The term “Women in Refrigerators” was coined by Gail Simone, and Valente co-dedicated the book to her.) Then there’s Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man (indeed, her fate in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 “pissed me off,” said Valente elsewhere, and inspired her to “throw art in its face”) and Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl (see The Killing Joke), and two words: Lois Lane. The Refrigerator Monologues is a series of six linked stories from the perspectives of these women – they call themselves the Hell Hath Club – who meet in the Underworld (in the sense of the Afterlife, not the criminal world), in the Lethe Café in Deadtown, and share their tales of woe.

In the selected story, alternately bitter and darkly humorous, failed actress Daisy Green, girlfriend of the Insomniac, a Ukrainian immigrant to Brighton Beach-Coney Island who received “a Christmas wish list of superpowers” at Chernobyl (one of which is apparently sucking up all of her luck), is victimized nightly by Miasma, a living nightmare who returns relentlessly from his defeats. Eventually, she flees back to Hollywood, adopting her own secret identity (complete at times with skintight outfit and mask), Delilah Daredevil, porn star, with, ultimately, a tragic ending.

At the back of the room, copies of The Refrigerator Monologues and Singing With All My Skin and Bone were for sale by the Word Bookstore of Greenpoint, Brooklyn (and also Jersey City).

Prior to the reading, Datlow, as usual, whirled through the room, taking pictures. Her photos of the event may be seen on her Flickr page, linked to the Series’ website.

Pixel Scroll 6/19/17 Have Scroll, Will Pixel Reads The File Of A Man

(1) DISCOVERY PREMIERE SET. SciFiNow.uk has the headline story: “Star Trek: Discovery air date confirmed, beaming down in September”.

The show will launch on Monday 25 September. Which is actually not that far away when you think about it, we can be patient.

Another important detail is that the 15 episode series is going to be split into two chunks. So we’ll get weekly episodes from 25 September through to 6 November. Then there will be a break until it returns in January 2018. So, there will be more patience required, but not too much.

“Star Trek, one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises, returns 50 years after it first premiered with STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY will follow the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new lifeforms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship, new characters and new missions, while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.”

(2) ON AN EVEN KEEL.  Adam-Troy Castro makes an important point about keeping things in perspective: “I Am Not Owed Awe”.

There’s a scene during the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, the same work that introduced Hannibal Lecter, filmed twice for the movies and once for the TV series, where the serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy tells a captive, “You owe me awe.” This is megalomania, and one way you know the speaker is fucking crazy.

Nobody except a madman or a total asshole thinks he’s owed awe. Oh, you can make a certain exception to someone who occupies a position where awe is expected: a President, a Pope, a King, a legendary musician. In many cases, though, even they know that they receive awe because of what they are, not so much because of who they are. Get elected President, and even if you’re a total piece of shit you will expect to be greeted by orchestras playing “Hail to the Chief.” It’s part of the job description. Write Game of Thrones and you will receive awe because people are rapt. But that is not awe for you, the being who took a shit and didn’t quite manage to fully clean his ass this morning. You are still a flawed being.

Artists can earn awe. Artists can come to expect awe. The sane don’t think they’re owed awe. And the sane don’t get upset, to the point of rallying legions of single-minded asshole fans, to run amuck harassing people for the sin of not treating them with awe. That’s crazy. That’s tunnel-vision of the most insipid sort.

I am not owed awe. You are not owed awe. Nobody is owed awe.

(3) SF COSTUMING FANHISTORY. The International Costumers Guild has released a video about 16 People Who Defined Masquerade Costuming.

These artists helped to shape the art of Masquerade Costuming, which has been recognized as a legitimate art form by 4 English speaking countries and Japan as of 2014. The images are being collected for preservation by the Library of Congress.

 

(4) BOLLYHORRORWOOD. The BBC begins with some contrarian career advice in “The benign menace of Bollywood’s cult ‘monster'”.

“Don’t do a horror film unless you’re the monster. Horror audiences come to see the villains, and they come back again when those villains are in the sequels,” wrote The Economist magazine, listing things an actor should never do.

In India, many of the best-known Indian “villains” got into cinema hoping to be the hero. Things didn’t go to plan and they spent their screen-time plotting fantastic heists and murders, eyeing the heroine and getting beaten up. With some notable exceptions, like Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha – villains turned heroes – this was the norm.

What about monsters then?

In India, the movie monster became a staple of horror films made by a group of brothers called, simply, the Ramsay Brothers. Five of the seven brothers are still around, and one of them, Shyam, is still quite active.

Between 1972, when they made their first proper movie Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, literally “six-feet under”, and 1994, when they made their last big movie, Mahakaal, the Ramsay brothers churned out movie after B-grade horror movie.

(5) LEIGHTON OBIT. Fanzine fan Rodney Leighton (1948-2017) died June 18. The SF Site News story says the Nova Scotia fan stayed with paperzines to the end. His titles included Life of Rodney, The Mail Carrier Brought It, and Rodney’s Fanac. His friends Steve George, and later Chuck Connor, put scans of these zines on eFanzines so he’d have some feedback from readers on the internet.

(6) BILL DANA OBIT. Comedian Bill Dana, famed for his Jose Jimenez character, died June 15 reports SF Site News. Dana was also a comedy writer – he created Don Adams’ “Would you believe…?” gags.

While Dana’s ethnic humor would not be accepted today, it was still in vogue sixty years ago. According to The Hollywood Reporter

The nation was introduced to Jimenez in a comedy sketch on [Steve] Allen’s variety show in November 1959. Struggling to speak English, Jimenez appeared in a Santa Claus outfit as an instructor at a school for wannabe Kris Kringles and interviewed by “Man on the Street” Pat Harrington Jr.

“I said, ‘My name … Jose Jimenez,’ and the [live] audience laughed,” Dana, a Massachusetts native of Hungarian-Jewish descent, recalled in a 2007 interview with the Archive of American Television. “I remember thinking, ‘This guy just said his name and everybody [went crazy] …’

…On Garry Moore’s variety program, Dana appeared as Jose the Astronaut, then recorded a comedy album with that material from a live show at the famed hungry i nightclub in San Francisco.

He sent a test pressing of the disc to the original seven Mercury astronauts — and they loved it. Alan Shepard took the code name “Jose,” and Jimenez became the astronauts’ “mascot,” Dana said. When they weren’t working, the pilots hung out at Dana’s house, and years later, he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. (Footage of him as Jimenez on The Ed Sullivan Show can be seen in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.)

…Though it seems hard to believe in this age of political correctness, Dana and his character were embraced by the Latino community. He was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition and worked, largely behind the scenes, as an activist. He gave up playing the character but later regretted that.

The José Jimenez character was also one of the figures who popped his head out the window watching Batman and Robin climb a building on Batman.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Garfield the Cat Day

Garfield The Cat Day is celebrated annually on 19th June. The day is set aside to honor all things related to the ginger feline. Garfield was famously created by cartoonist Jim Davis and appeared in a cartoon strip on 19th June 1978. Garfield’s owner: Jon Arbuckle and his dog friend; Odie, also appear in the cartoon strip.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 19, 1958 — Wham-O filed to register Hula Hoop trademark
  • June 19, 1992 Batman Returns hit theaters.

Batman Returns, released June 19, 1992, featured less kid- friendly characters than its predecessor. Gone was Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, and in his place were the grotesque Penguin (Danny DeVito) and a sexy Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose costume bore a striking resemblance to something that could be purchased at a BDSM shop.

These bold characters helped make the movie a classic, but also alienated corporations such as McDonald’s that had a newfound interest in the movie franchise business via promotional tie-ins – and complained loudly about the film’s darker tone.

(9) SINCE GAMERGATE. Keri Allan’s article “Fair play: How welcome are women in games design teams?”, in for Engineering & Technology, the on-line newsletter of the UK professional body, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, includes a quote from Brianna Wu and a mention of Rhianna Pratchett.

Sampat says it’s a mistake to believe that the furore of GamerGate ended sexism in the sector. “In a lot of ways it sucked being a female developer before GamerGate, and things are slowly getting worse because people treat ‘women in games’ as a solved problem – like GamerGate was a weird year-long blip and now sexism in our industry is gone. (But) the boots on the ground are still there being assholes to women.”

Having written about anonymous harassment of women in the industry during the height of GamerGate, Brianna Wu began to receive threats of her own. She believes there’s now a better sense of the issues out there, but policies aren’t necessarily changing in response. Feeling so strongly about equal treatment in the workplace, she’s now running for Congress.

“What makes me want to scream is that no one knows me for my engineering work, only my views on women’s equality. I’ve worked so hard to become an engineer, but the truth is you’re put in this impossible situation where you can smile, go along with the system and get fewer opportunities, or speak out and be put in this box. There’s a heightened awareness, but these congenital problems aren’t really solved. I believe women need to step up and run for office, and I hope to use my position to hold hearings on sexism in the tech industry.”

Other responses to GamerGate have included promoting the hashtag #OneReasonToBe. This was started by games narrative writer Rhianna Pratchett so women could share positive experiences about working in the industry and reasons why they love games. This has gone on to spawn a popular annual panel at the Games Developer Conference (GDC), highlighting great things the sector has to offer women.

(10) ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW. Catherynne M. Valente’s Refrigerator Monologues gets an 8/10 rating from Dina at SFF Book Reviews:

From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress….

Each gets to tell her story in turn and here’s where my love for this book begins. Because it may be fun figuring out which superhero you’re reading about, but it is even more fun how every woman tells her story in her own voice. Pretty Polly (the Harley Quinn of this universe) talks just like you’d imagine she would. Kind of sweet-ish and girly, with a fair bit of madness added to the mix. Blue Bayou sounds angry, Paige Embry is just totally endearing, and Julia Ash (whose villain’s is aptly named Retcon) felt kind of resigned. The voices always fit and the stories these women have to tell are engaging and intriguing for more than one reason. First of all, they’re just interesting stories. Secondly, they would have fit so beautifully into their respective universes – why isn’t there space in a Spider Man movie to show Gwen Stacy as more than just the hero’s girlfriend. She had a life before him and she had a life with him, just like all the others. Their demise was incredibly heartbreaking, although obviously we know from the start that they die and if you remember the original comic books how they die. To me, that’s just another sign of how amazing a writer Valente is. If you know what happens and how it happens, and all she does is give you a little background info, give the character who is about to die a little agency and personality, and it hits you deep in the guts anyway, then yeah… that’s a great writer!

(11) CYBERPUNK DAYS. Jesse at Speculiction looks back at Lewis Shiner’s 1984 novel Frontera.

As the title hints, Frontera is about a liminal zone.  Proverbially this would be between civilization and the wilds, but in the novel’s context, there are more specific terms.  One would certainly be between existent and breaking technology.  Another is locations possible to be inhabited by humanity; Mars can be altered for human life to survive, but it’s an unnatural existence.  And the last major frontier addressed is the personal.  Dislocated from home, the major characters on Mars all are dealing with existentialist angst.  Few, if any, live in a mental comfort zone.  Curtis, the colony leader, channels his uncertainty through rigid control in an attempt to mitigate his underlying fears.  Kane dreams wild dreams of Greek dramas by night and by day questions Pulsystems intents for him. (Given how strongly our solar system reflects contemporary civilization’s dependence on the Greeks, this is a nice parallel.)  Reese, the aging astronaut, can’t face up to certain realities, and takes comfort in drink.  And disaffected by the political scene, Marysia attempts to come to terms with her new life on Mars in balance with what she knew on Earth.

(12) STYLE MAVEN. Scott Edelman is preparing to make a fashion statement at the Worldcon.

(13) FROZEN DEITIES. Fantasy-Faction’s Laura M. Hughes praises The Blood-Tainted Winter by T.L. Greylock.

Speaking of gods: no doubt you’ll recognise a few of the names mentioned throughout this story. Odin, of course; Loki, too, as well as others such as Heimdall and the Valkyries. The Blood-Tainted Winter isn’t self-conscious of itself as a Norse fantasy, yet Raef’s tale evokes a vivid sense of place and time that thoroughly immerses the reader in a land of gods, battle and betrayal. Greylock doesn’t force the Norseness so much as nurture it, weaving familiar aspects of the mythology into the book in a way that doesn’t dominate or overshadow the story being told.

You could argue that the book’s beginning is a little too leisurely; however, I enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know the protagonist a little better – and to feel pleasantly surprised and intrigued when the following chapters have him reacting in a most unexpected manner. I will say that Greylock does a wonderful job of patiently unfolding the story through the eyes of its protagonist. Raef is distant and, at times, unfathomable (though not unlikeable), functioning more as a window onto events than as someone the reader can sympathise with or live vicariously through.

(14) EARL GREY TIME. Elizabeth Fitzgerald has her Australian National Convention report up – Continuum 13.

In keeping with the natures of the protagonists, Seanan had two different kinds of cake from Cake and Madness. One was a traditional cupcake with glittery frosting. And the other… well, the other was a bit disturbing.

Watching it be eaten was a little like finding myself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

She also has Storyfied the panels she livetweeted.

And to wrap up the night, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff discussed 1001 ways to die in space. They left the room crying with laughter, thanks to their morbid senses of humour.+

(15) BOTS. The BBC gets a JPL spokesman to tell about “Five robots that are changing everything”.

From robot simians that can clean up nuclear accidents, to powered exoskeletons that enable you to lift huge objects, robotic technologies are developing incredibly quickly. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, chief engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks us through five robots that are changing the world.

(16) FUNNY COMMERCIAL. Sometimes people see an item and ask “Why’s that on File 770?” I have carefully searched this video without detecting any science fictional references. So when somebody asks that question, I am going to need to quickly change the subject.

Maybe I can change it with the help of an anecdote Cat Eldridge sent along with the link, about his own Coca-Cola experience.

True story. Well mostly. Once upon a time in a country where we had no intelligence assets I had a medical officer who insisted it was safer to drink coke than it was to drink the water, even the water hotels insisted had been boiled. This was the high octane stuff, full of real sugar. Drank at least three bottles a day while I was in country.

Now that the two female staffers who decided to mix and eat a salad and not soak it in iodine had a very unpleasant outcome when they discovered most explosively that it was grown in night soil… Need I tell you what night soil is? There’s a good reason the Viet Cong dipped their pungee sticks in it…

(17) NEW MEDIA CON. At VikingsCon, “Meet the cast of the History show Vikings”. They promise Amy Bailey (“Kwenthrith”) and Alexander Ludwig (“Bjorn”) will be on hand October 21-22 at the site in Maryland.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Bill Burns, Cat Eldridge, David K.M. Klaus, Lex Berman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Valente Wins 2017 Sturgeon Award

Catherynne M. Valente’s “The Future is Blue” has won the 2017 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Her story was published in Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

The Sturgeon Award recognizes the best science fiction short story of each year.

The winner was announced during the Campbell Conference Awards Banquet on June 16.

The members of the award jury were Elizabeth Bear, Andy Duncan James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Nöel Sturgeon, Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Estate.

Pixel Scroll 6/6/17 Scrolltime For Pixels

(1) RABID DRAGONS. Vox Day has posted his picks for “Dragon Awards 2017”. Castalia House and John C. Wright are well represented, along with other things he likes. But poor Declan Finn — he’s not on the list.

(2) BOOZY BARBARIANS. Fritz Hahn, in a Washington Post piece called “A ‘Game of Thrones’ pop-up bar where you can drink Dothraquiris on the Iron Throne”, reviews the Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar, which will be open throughout the summer and where you can drink The North Remembers from a horn as well as all the Ommegang Game of Thrones beers. But don’t take any broadswords there or the bouncers will confiscate them!

After pop-up bars dedicated to Christmas, “Stranger Things,” cherry blossoms and Super Mario, the Drink Company team is turning the former Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich spaces into five settings evoking George R.R. Martin’s novels. (Doors open June 21, just a few weeks before Season 7 premieres on HBO.) Immersive rooms include the House of Black and White (where you’ll find a Wall of Faces made of molds of employees and friends of the bar) and the Red Keep, where you can pose for a photo as House Bolton’s flayed man. There will be dragons and house banners, of course, though the real centerpiece will most likely be a full-size replica of the Iron Throne, which co-founder Derek Brown says “is going to be totally ridiculous.”

(3) OCTAVIA BUTLER SET TO MUSIC. A theatrical concert based on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower is coming to Chapel Hill, NC in November.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Toshi Reagon is a celebration of all that’s progressive and uplifting in American music. Written by Toshi in collaboration with her mother — iconic singer, scholar and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon — this powerful theatrical concert brings together 200 years of African American song traditions to give life to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel, with revealing insights on gender, race and the future of human civilization.

 

(4) SPECIAL NASFIC OBSERVATORY TRIP. NorthAmeriCon ‘17 members have a chance to join guest of honor Brother Guy Consolmagno, the “Pope’s Astronomer,” on a special tour of the Arecibo Observatory. Find out how at the link.

There are 25 spaces available for the VIP tour, which includes the visitor’s center as well as a 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour in small groups. Since we anticipate that demand for the VIP tour may exceed supply, we are creating a lottery to allocate these spaces. An additional 25 spaces will be available on the bus for the Visitor’s Center only.

The lottery will close at 10 pm ET on Monday, June 12. So as long as you request a spot by then you have an equal opportunity to be picked.

Also, the convention room rate for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino ends on June 12. Reserve your rooms at the this link.

(5) WHETHER OR NOT YOU WISH. “This is really a neat piece, about the universe where a fantasy princess became a warrior general,” notes JJ, quite rightly. Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable by Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin.

Spoilers ahead for the Wonder Woman film.

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987.

The princess bride in question was played by a twenty-year-old Robin Wright….

(6) HENRY HIGGINS ASKS. In “Why Can’t Wonder Woman Be Wonder Woman?” on National Review Online, editor Rich Lowry says that conservatives will find much to like in the new Wonder Woman movie. He also addresses the mighty controversy about whether the film is feminist because Gal Gadot has no armpit hair in the movie…

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB READING SERIES. On June 21, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Catherynne M. Valente & Sunny Moraine. The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 books of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, The Refrigerator Monologues, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, three cats, six chickens, and a small army of tulips.

Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine’s short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies, among other places. They are also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies and their debut short fiction collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone is available from Undertow Publications. In addition to time spent authoring, Sunny is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a sometime college instructor. They unfortunately live just outside Washington, DC, in a creepy house with two cats and a very long-suffering husband.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.). Remember to donate to their Kickstarter. Readings are always free.

(8) THE FIELD OF MARS. Esquire explains “Why Wonder Woman Has the Most Powerful Opening Scene In Comic Movie History”.

The opening scene in Wonder Woman is a stunning statement: On the enchanted island, the Amazonian women prepare for the day the god of war Ares finds them and tries to wipe them out. To prepare for the god of war is to prepare for war. The camera swoops through the training ground, capturing the Amazonian warriors as they practice wrestling, hand-to-hand combat, archery, and horsemanship. They clash, fists to skin, on a lofted pedestal. They flip from their horses in slow motion, and they smash each other to the ground, all gleaming armor and sinewy muscle as they whirl through the air, braids whipping and breastplates glinting.

It’s a purely physical display of beauty and strength. In a brief minute of film, these women redefine what it means to be a fighter, setting the tone for the rest of the movie: This is going to be two hours of a woman who was raised by women charging straight into the bloody fray of war. You just don’t ever see this bodily type of combat training with women in a movie, and it is enough to make you giddy with anticipation of whatever graceful punishment the Amazonian women will dish out against a real enemy.

(9) BLUE MAN GROUP. I guess they are not playing around. “21st Century Fox’s FoxNext Acquires Mobile Game Studio Group Developing ‘Avatar’ Title”Variety has the story.

FoxNext, the recently formed gaming, virtual reality and theme parks division of 21st Century Fox, is sinking its teeth into the $40 billion mobile games market.

FoxNext has acquired mobile-game developer Aftershock, the entity spun off from Kabam after South Korean gaming company NetMarble acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio and other assets last December in a deal reportedly worth up to $800 million.

Aftershock — which has studios in L.A. and San Francisco — currently has three titles in development. The only one that’s been publicly announced is a massively multiplayer mobile strategy game for James Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise, in partnership with Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox.

(10) WHEN HE’S WRONG. ComicMix’s John Ostrander has a bone to pick with Bill Maher. (And it’s not the one I expected.)

Maher is very attack orientated and each week he winds up his hour with a rant on a given topic., Usually, I find him really funny and incisive but Maher does have his blind spots. He is anti-religion — Islam in particular. He thinks the majority of American voters to be morons and says so, which I find to be a broad generalization, counter-productive and not true.

His past two shows featured rants that gored a pair of my oxen. One was on space exploration, such as terraforming and colonizing Mars, and the other was a screed against super-hero movies.

Maher argued (ranted) that we should not be exploring space or even think of colonizing Mars so long as we have so many problems here at home. Neal DeGrasse Tyson rebutted Bill the following week when he pointed out that any technology that could terraform Mars could also terraform the Earth and restore what has been ravaged. I would add that a lot of our technological advances are a result of space exploration. That computer you carry in your pocket? That’s a result of the need to reduce the size of computers while making them faster and stronger to be of use to astronauts in space. Sorry, Bill, you didn’t think this through.

Then on his most recent show, Maher was quite disdainful about superhero movies in general.

He said there were too many superhero shows on TV and too many superhero movies at the cineplex and blamed the genre for the rise of Donald Trump. He said they “promote the mindset that we are not masters of our own destiny and the best we can do is sit back and wait for Star-Lord and a f*cking raccoon to sweep in and save our sorry asses. Forget hard work, government institutions, diplomacy, investments — we just need a hero to rise, so we put out the Bat Signal for one man who can step in and solve all of our problems.”

(11) BEESE OBIT. Conrunner Bob Beese suffered an aortic aneurysm and passed away on Friday, June 2. He is survived by his wife Pat “PJ” Beese. Both were past Marcon guests of honor.

Bob Beese worked on Chicon IV (1982) and other Chicago cons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 6, 1933 — The first drive-in movie theater of the United States opened in New Jersey.
  • June 6, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. I may have to run this again in two days — many sources, including the Wikipedia, say it was published on June 8. The correct date has probably been lost down the Memory Hole.

(13) NEW MIDDLE GRADE FICTION PRIZE. Joan Aiken’s estate and the A.M. Heath Literary Agency have announced the creation of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize.

A.M. Heath and Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, are launching a competition to find a standout new voice in middle grade children’s fiction.

Joan Aiken was the prizewinning writer of over a hundred books for young readers and adults and is recognized as one of the classic authors of the twentieth century. Her best-known series was ‘The Wolves Chronicles’, of which the first book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was awarded the Lewis Carroll prize. On its publication TIME magazine called it: ‘One genuine small masterpiece.’€¯ Both that and Black Hearts in Battersea have been made into films. Joan’s books are internationally acclaimed and she received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the United States as well as the Guardian Award for Fiction in the UK for The Whispering Mountain. Joan Aiken was decorated with an MBE for her services to children’s books.

The Prize will be judged by Julia Churchill, children’s book agent at A.M. Heath, and Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken and curator of her Estate. The winner will receive £1,000 and a full set of ‘The Wolves Chronicles’.

A shortlist of five will be announced on August 28, and the winner will be announced on September 14. [Via Locus Online and SF Site News. See guys, giving a hat tip doesn’t hurt at all!]

(14) SMALL BALTICON REPORT. Investigative fan journalist Martin Morse Wooster gives File 770 readers the benefit of his latest discovery:

I learned from the Balticon fan lounge that there was Mythbusters slash fiction. No one knew, though, whether in these stories Jamie and Adam did it before, after, or during the explosions (because as we all know, the four best words in Mythbusters are “Fire in the hole!”

I’ll probably have to forfeit one of my Hugos for reporting that.

(15) STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mark Kaedrin takes a stylistic cue from his subject — “Hugo Awards: Too Like the Lightning”.

You will criticize me, reader, for writing this review of Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning in the style that the book itself notes is six hundred years removed from the events it describes (though only two hundred years removed for myself). But it is the style of the Enlightenment and this book tells the story of a world shaped by those ideals.

I must apologize, reader, for I am about to commit the sin of a plot summary, but I beg you to give me your trust for just a few paragraphs longer. There are two main threads to this novel. One concerns a young boy named Bridger who has the ability to make inanimate objects come to life. Being young and having a few wise adult supervisors, he practices these miracles mostly on toys. Such is the way they try to understand his powers while hiding from the authorities, who would surely attempt to exploit the young child ruthlessly.

(16) INNATE OR OUTATE. Shelf Awareness interviews John Kessel about “Sex (and Pianos) on the Moon.”

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and the story collections Meeting in Infinity, The Pure Product and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. His fiction has received the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award for fiction dealing with gender issues. He teaches American literature and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, the novelist Therese Anne Fowler. Kessel’s new novel, The Moon and the Other (reviewed below), recently published by Saga Press, is set on the moon in the 22nd century and tells two love stories, in two politically opposed lunar colonies–the patriarchal Persepolis and the matriarchal Society of Cousins.

What was the genesis of The Moon and the Other?

When my daughter was little, I’d take her to daycare and watch her on the playground with other kids. There was a difference in the way that the girls and the boys played. The boys would run around, often doing solitary things. The girls would sit in a sandbox doing things together. So I began to wonder: To what degree is gendered behavior innate, and to what degree is it learned? I read up about primate behavior, including chimpanzees and bonobos, both related to human beings, but with different cultures. That started me wondering whether there are other ways society could be organized. I didn’t see myself as advocating anything, but I did consider how the world might be organized differently.

(17) THE SHARKES CONTINUING DELIBERATIONS. The Shadow Clarke Jury keeps its reviews coming.

Of the six novels on my personal shortlist, Emma Geen’s The Many Selves of Katherine North is the one that disappointed me most when I came to read it. I originally picked it partly because there was a slight buzz about it online, and I am always curious about novels that provoke online chatter. I chose it too because I’d gained an impression, mostly erroneous as it turned out, that the main character would spend a considerable amount of her time as a fox (and indeed, the novel’s cover art rather implies that this will be the main thrust of the novel), and I’m oddly fascinated by the human preoccupation with vulpine transformations (also, I happen to like foxes a good deal). When I initially wrote about my choices, I invoked David Garnett’s odd little novel of transformation, Lady Into Fox, but having read Many Selves and reread Lady Into Fox, I can see now that I was wrong, except perhaps for one thing, which I’ll come to in due course. Instead, as I read on I found myself thinking more about T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. Again, I’ll come back to that shortly.

Even before it was published, The Underground Railroad enjoyed a spectacular amount of pre-buzz. I came to it with a certain amount of apprehension — could any book possibly survive the weight of so much hype? — but expecting to admire it nonetheless. Colson Whitehead is a writer with a notable track record in literary innovation — he gave the zombie novel the full Franzen, after all — and has always been a better-than-solid craftsman. Yet in spite of judging it a perfectly decent book — it’s a thoroughly professional, smoothly executed, highly readable novel on an important subject — I found myself distinctly underwhelmed. Where The Underground Railroad is concerned and in spite of wishing I liked it better than I do, I remain in a condition of some bemusement: I simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

It is hard to think of a work that does a better job of articulating the artistic tensions at work within contemporary literary science fiction than Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. Set in the same universe as many of the shorter works that Lee has produced since first entering the field in 1999, his first novel speaks to what science fiction must become whilst paying excessive lip-service to what some would have it remain.

Some thoughts. If anyone has ever read my blog they will, I hope, see that most of the implicit criticism is aimed at myself, though obviously some of what follows touches on various discussions on the Shadow Clarke board.

Subjective taste and critical practise depend on so many factors, thus any reading will privilege certain aspects — close reading, theoretical base, genre knowledge, life experiences, political orientation. Once you remind yourself of that basic idea, it becomes almost impossible to defend the rhetoric and moralism that goes into a special pleading for this book or that. I like a bit of rhetoric and I like a bit of hyperbole — it’s fun. BUT my head would not have exploded if The Power had won this year now would it? It will be hard to stop but I probably should. Moreover, I CAN understand why Priest, Mieville, MacInnes, Kavenna or ANY novel didn’t make it on to the shortlist. The idea that there is some objective truth or taste out there that says differently now seems to me entirely bogus. Even amongst those with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the SF megatext there is no agreement or consensus about the books this year or any year.

There is legitimate concern that by labeling The Underground Railroad as science fiction, readers might dismiss the horrors presented in this geographically and chronologically distorted history, thus relegating it all to whimsical fiction. Yet the SFnal device is there for a reason, and Whitehead’s manipulations of time and space are critical to that purpose: as unnerving as The Handmaid’s Tale, as destabilizing as The Man in the High Castle, as cognitively demonstrative as Viriconium, and as psychologically resonant as The Dark Tower€”all works that utilize alt universe devices to bring sociopolitical and literary concerns into powerful, stark relief. Whitehead’s use of this device is complex and brilliant, although I was unable to grasp just how complex and brilliant it is until this project, which has forced me into the tedious and meaningless position of having to argue for its place in science fiction.

But here we are.

(18) PERN RECOVERED. Book Riot reports: “Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy Gets New Covers”.

Del Rey Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a publisher of quality science fiction and fantasy novels. Among those titles are the three books that make up Anne McCaffrey’s original Dragonriders of Pern trilogy and the more than 20 novels that have come since. And now, they’re getting a new look.

After August 1, readers will be able to purchase the trilogy, Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon, with shiny new covers.

Images of the covers appear at the post.

(19) SUNSTROKED. The BBC knows about “A planet ‘hotter than most stars'”.

Scientists have found a hellish world where the “surface” of the planet is over 4,000C – almost as hot as our Sun.

In part, that’s because KELT-9b’s host star is itself very hot, but also because this alien world resides so close to the furnace.

KELT-9b takes just two days to complete one orbit of the star.

Being so close means the planet cannot exist for very long – the gases in its atmosphere are being blasted with radiation and lost to space.

Researchers say it may look a little like a comet as it circles the star from pole to pole – another strange aspect of this discovery.

(20) STORYTELLING. It’s great to listen to authors reading — if they’re any good at it. Book View Cafe’s Madeleine E. Robins advises how to do it well in “Modulation: The Art of Reading to an Audience”.

You’re telling a story. When you’re among friends telling the anecdote about that time in Marrakesh with the nun, the waffles, and the chicken, do you tell it in a monotone? Not so much. Reading in a monotone does not give your material dignity–it flattens it. So read as if you’re talking to your friends. On the other hand, unless you’re a really gifted actor, you don’t have to act it out. No, really.

And dialogue? Speak it as you hear it in your head, as if your characters were saying it. Use the emphases you hear them using. Pause when they do. (Maybe I’m overselling this, but when I write I hear the dialogue, so that’s how I read it. Your mileage may vary.)

(21) THE PHOTON OF YOUTH. Golden Oldies on Vimeo starts at a Fifties sock hop, then explains the horrible things that happen when the music stops!

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Alan Maurer, Mark-kitteh, Ellen Datlow, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall, who may not have realized what he was doing at the time.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/17 P.S. I Love You

(1) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Rowling’s Potter postcard was probably worth more than the jewels that were taken at the same time — “J.K. Rowling begs fans not to buy stolen ‘Harry Potter’ prequel”.

An extremely rare “Harry Potter” prequel idea, handwritten by bestselling author J.K. Rowling, has been stolen. And the author is pleading with fans not to purchase it on the black market.

According to England’s West Midlands Police, the 800-word story was handwritten on the front and back of an A5 postcard. It was stolen during a robbery in central England, sometime between April 13 and April 24.

Rowling hand wrote the story to raise money for English Pen, an organization that promotes literature. It sold at a charity auction for £25,000 or approximately $32,000, in 2008.

(2) ROCK OF AGES. National Geographic has a piece on one of the best preserved dinosaurs ever found. “The Amazing Dinosaur Found (Accidentally) by Miners in Canada”.

The cavernous warehouse swells with the hum of ventilation and the buzz of technicians scraping rock from bone with needle-tipped tools resembling miniature jackhammers. But my focus rests on a 2,500-pound mass of stone in the corner.

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips….

(3) VAS YOU DERE SHARLY? The biggest bangers of them all make clear any dissent from the prevailing theory is unwelcome — “Big Bang or Big Bounce? Stephen Hawking and Others Pen Angry Letter about How the Universe Began”.

Stephen Hawking and 32 of his fellow scientists have written an angry letter responding to a recent Scientific American article about how the universe began. In it, they declare their “categorical disagreement” with several of the statements made, and explain why the theory of inflation is still one of the best models for the origin of the cosmos.

The article in question was published in February. Titled “Pop Goes the Universe,” physicists Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt, Abraham Loeb examine the latest measurements from the European Space Agency relating to cosmic microwave background (CMB).

CMB is the oldest light in the universe—light emitted just after the Big Bang around 13.7 billion years ago. In 2013, a map of the CMB appeared to show how the universe inflated extremely fast, before settling down to become the universe we see today. This, many experts said, backed up models relating to inflation theories, where the universe expanded exponentially fast a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

However, Ijjas, Steinhardt and Loeb disagreed with this interpretation. “If anything, the Planck data disfavored the simplest inflation models and exacerbated long-standing foundational problems with the theory, providing new reasons to consider competing ideas about the origin and evolution of the universe,” they write.

The three physicists argue that since the 2013 map was produced, more precise data has been gathered. And this data, they say, adds more evidence to the argument that the Big Bang and inflation do not adequately explain how the universe started. “Yet even now the cosmology community has not taken a cold, honest look at the big bang inflationary theory or paid significant attention to critics who question whether inflation happened,” they say….

(4) BICENTENNIAL SPACEWALK. It wasn’t without its problems — “U.S. spacewalkers overcome glitch on 200th station outing”.

Two U.S. astronauts overcame an early equipment glitch to complete an abbreviated spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Friday, accomplishing all the major tasks initially planned for a longer excursion in four hours, NASA said.

Station commander Peggy Whitson and rookie flier Jack Fischer began what was expected to be a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk more than an hour late, after a cable supplying power and cooling water to Fischer’s spacesuit developed a leak.

The spacewalk was the 200th outing in support of station assembly and maintenance since construction of the $100 billion laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, began in 1998.

And the news item inspired David K.M. Klaus to share his theory why the International Space Station doesn’t run as smoothly as the Starship Enterprise.

The largest department on any version of the ENTERPRISE in STAR TREK had to have been Engineering and Ship’s Services — the redshirts — because of the constant amount of maintenance required to keep the ship running smoothly; we don’t have that kind of balance because the crews aren’t large enough — we have a command structure in theory but not used in reality, and everyone doing both science and engineering / maintenance, so neither science nor maintenance get the full attention they demand.  Only because there are also engineers on the ground in close communication can the work be accomplished.

(5) AMA PATTERSON OBIT. SF Site News reports author and Clarion grad Ama Patterson (1961-2017) died May 1.

[Patterson] helped found the Beyon’ Dusa writing group and the Carl Brandon Society. She served as a judge for the 2001 Tiptree Award and her short fiction appeared in Dark Matter, Scarab, and 80! Memories and Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 12, 1989 — The aquatic monster is back – in The Return of Swamp Thing.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 12, 1935 — Actor, archivist, and legendary monster kid Bob Burns.

(8) MILLIONAIRE BASH. Dick and Jane must be doing a lot more than just seeing Spot run for kindergarteners to be making these numbers — “This Kindergarten Class Threw A ‘Millionaire Bash’ To Celebrate Reading 1 Million Words In A Year”.

Breyden’s mom, Denetta Suragh, told BuzzFeed News the school estimated 1 million words was equal to 250 books, which they kept track of with reading logs.

This year, the entire class met the goal, Suragh said.

“Breyden was really on me about it,” she said. “He was like, ‘I want a limousine ride so we have to turn in all our reading logs!’ It encourages every child to want to read even more.”

(9) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. The ultimate collision of science and science fiction. Hear Neil deGrasse Tyson and William Shatner on Star Talk.

Captain on the bridge: Neil deGrasse Tyson invites Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, to discuss Star Trek and the enduring power of science fiction. Joined by comic co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist Charles Liu, we hit warp speed as we explore the ins and outs of the Star Trek universe. You’ll hear how William landed the iconic role as Captain Kirk and about his memorable role in The Twilight Zone. Charles breaks down why Star Trek: The Original Series was more popular in syndication than during its original on-air run. You’ll also hear William reflect on Star Trek episodes “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboots, the design of the bridge, and his fascination with the science fiction genre. William also gets a chance to ask Neil questions about the universe, igniting a wonder-infused conversation about spacetime, photons, relativity, and the speed of light. NASA Aerospace Technologist David Batchelor stops by to discuss his article “The Science of Star Trek” and weighs in on what technology from the show could soon become reality. All that, plus, fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on the disappearance of the sun, distant galaxies, neutron stars and we check in with Bill Nye as he shares his appreciation for Star Trek’s optimistic views of the future.

(10) EQUAL TIME. Cirsova editor P. Alexander’s only printable tweet in reply to the  discussion here yesterday:

It’s not impossible to
-have friends & readers who were SPs
-support some writers on SP
-have a broadly different view on fiction from SPs

(11) WAVE BYE-BYE. Real cases of the wave in “Wave Rider”, and studies of what makes them happen: “Terrifying 20m-tall rogue waves are actually real”.

However, what really turned the field upside down was a wave that crashed into the Draupner oil platform off the coast of Norway shortly after 3.20pm on New Year’s Day 1995. Hurricane winds were blowing and 39ft (12m) waves were hitting the rig, so the workers had been ordered indoors. No-one saw the wave, but it was recorded by a laser-based rangefinder and measured 85ft (26m) from trough to peak. The significant wave height was 35.4ft (10.8m). According to existing assumptions, such a wave was possible only once every 10,000 years.

The Draupner giant brought with it a new chapter in the science of giant waves. When scientists from the European Union’s MAXWAVE project analysed 30,000 satellite images covering a three-week period during 2003, they found 10 waves around the globe had reached 25 metres or more.

(12) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. “Superbugs ‘Crawled Out’ Of The Ocean 450 Million Years Ago” —  and had lucky genes.

About 450 million years, animals made one of the most important decisions in Earth’s history: They left the wet, nourishing seas and started living on the dry, desolate land.

At that moment, humanity’s problems with superbugs probably began.

Scientists at the Broad Institute have found evidence that an important group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are as old as terrestrial animals themselves.

(13) NOT-SO-SPECIAL. NPR thinks there are too many effects in Arthur: Legend of the Sword; is this a pattern? “‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’: An Edgy Script, Dulled By CGI”.

Note especially the caption on the lead photo.

(14) SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE. Atlas Obscura drops in on the world’s oldest bookshop.

It has changed hands and locations several times and has been renamed 11 different things. But for 285 years, the Livraria Bertrand, as it is known today, has served Lisbon’s bibliophiles and been a space for intellectual and cultural conversations. Opened in 1732, it holds the Guinness record as the world’s oldest bookstore still in operation.

(15) WHEELBARROW BARDS. I don’t know how long this meme will run, but here’s the first three I spotted:

(16) TIMOTHY IN THE OVAL OFFICE. I laughed so much that I was sorely tempted to gank the picture and all of Camestros Felapton’s setup. But fair is fair – go look at the set-up and the payoff post on Camestros’ blog.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, and Ryan H. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/16 “You’ll scroll your eye out, kid!”

(1) NEW BOOK REVEAL: The Refrigerator Monologues – basically it’s The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. Catherynne M. Valente tells the book’s origin story at The Mary Sue.

My partner answered, “Sweetheart, you know you can’t fix Gwen Stacy dying. She was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing.”

And I said, “YES I CAN. I’m going to write something and it’s going to be called The Refrigerator Monologues and it’s going to be The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. I’m going to fix it. Hold my drink. Don’t believe me? Just watch!”

It’s not like I didn’t know Gwen Stacy was going to die. As has been noted, she always dies. But the way the movie was paced, I kind of thought they’d keep that for the third movie, because the Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield chemistry was kind of all that iteration had going for it. So, it blindsided me in a way that Gwen Stacy taking her dive should never blindside anyone born after 1970, and it was a sucker punch, because more or less the last thing Emma Stone does before she quite literally flounces off to meet her doom is snit, “Nobody makes my decisions for me, nobody! This is my choice. Mine.”

I can make my own decisions! Boom. Splat. Death. Girl down.

It felt like such a harsh slap in the face. People so often think of iconic characters as organic things that proceed semi-autonomously while the writer just records their actions, but someone chose to give her those words. They made it through many rounds of editing and screen-testing. Someone chose to have her say that right before it all goes to hell. To make those powerful words the punchline to a sad joke about female agency by punishing her for them, by making sure that no matter how modern and independent the new Gwen might seem, everything is just as it has always been. That old, familiar message slides into our brains with the warm familiarity of a father’s hug: when women make their own choices, disaster results.

(2) WRITER HOSPITALIZED. Peter David’s wife, Kathleen, reports “Yes, Peter is in the hospital. No, we are not entirely sure why”.

Well this time it is not a stroke or a heart attack. Right now we are eliminating things rather than getting a diagnosis because every time we think we know what is going on, we get another curve that sets us back to figuring out what is going on.

What we do know that Peter is in the hospital with severe leg weakness. He can’t walk and even standing is dicey.

(3) BEST TV. SciFiNow ranks the “20 Best TV Shows of 2016”. At the top of the polls is —

1) Stranger Things

We bet Netflix wished all of their shows delivered like this. Stranger Things became a phenomenon almost instantly, and it’s easy to see why. The Duffer Brothers created a show that was a love-letter to all of our favourite horror and fantasy films and books from the 80s (hands up who started re-reading Stephen King’s IT after finishing the last episode), while remaining thrilling, scary and accessible to a wider audience. It’s perfectly paced (going for eight episodes instead of 13 was a great decision), it’s both sharp and sensitive, and it is perfectly cast. There’s a reason why everyone went nuts over the Stranger Things kids, and why we were just as invested in Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) as we were in Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). There’s no weak link in the ensemble, and there is nothing about the show that lets it down. From the awesome opening credits to the teasers for the second season, we love everything about this show.

(4) BEST HORROR FILMS. Lower on the same page SciFiNow also picks the 16 Best Horror Films of 2016. And what movie was the most horrific?

  1. The Witch

Now that Black Phillip is a bona fide cultural icon, what’s left to say about Robert Eggers’ The Witch? Well, perhaps the most important thing is that it’s still, after repeat viewings, a truly chilling experience. It doesn’t get less powerful, it just gets more interesting. Eggers’ much-publicised attention to detail creates a film that really does immerse in you in the cold, uncaring wilderness with this broken family that’s wondering why God has decided to abandon them, and it is a very scary place to be. There’s nothing about the film that isn’t perfect, from the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke to the score by Mark Korven, and the cast is amazing, with Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson bringing a heartbreaking tragedy to their Puritan pilgrims and Anya Taylor-Joy providing a complex emotional anchor. There are moments when it definitely establishes itself as a genre film, but it’s the harsh reality of that life and the fear of God that really drive the horror of The Witch. It’s the horror film of the year and we can’t wait to watch it again.

(5) CURIOSITY. The child in me wants to know what story Lou Antonelli created to go with his title “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love”.

Looks like I will have one last publication before the end of the year. Gallery of Curiosities is slated to podcast my story “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love” as part of a double bill on Dec. 28. Mark your calendars!

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #23. The twenty-third of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed book and an album from Seanan McGuire.

Our final auction comes from award-winning and bestselling author, filker, and all-around talented person Seanan McGuire. Today’s winner will receive an autographed hardcover of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, as well as a copy of McGuire’s album WICKED GIRLS.

About the Book:

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

(7) A 3M REVIEW. James Davis Nicoll has posted a review of Heather Rose Jones’ The Mystic Marriage “Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood”.

2015’s The Mystic Marriage is the second volume in Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series.

Antuniet Chazillen has lost everything: her foolish brother has been executed for treason and her mother is dead by her own hand. Antuniet has been stripped of her aristocratic rank. Determined to restore the family honour, Antuniet flees Alpennia for Austria, there to use her alchemical skills to win back for her family the respect and position her brother cost it.

In Austria she finds a treasure of rare value, a treasure others are determined to wrest from her. She escapes from Vienna to Heidelberg, but her enemies are still close on her heels. She sees no choice but to trade her virtue for transportation to safety.

Which means returning to Alpennia…

(8) SHORT BEER. Beer’d Brewing in Connecticut has a beer called Hobbit Juice. Martin Morse Wooster asks, “Is this what hobbits drink when they are tired of being small and want to ‘get juiced?’”

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(9) A VINTAGE YEAR IN SPACE. Robert Picardo hosts another installment of the Planetary Society’s video series The Planetary Post – “2016: A Magnificent Year for Space Exploration”

Greetings, fellow space fan! Robert Picardo here. As 2016 comes to a close, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year’s highlights in space science and exploration (and a few of the best bloopers from yours truly).

 

(10) BSFA AWARDS SUGGESTION DEADLINE. Members of the British Science Fiction Association – remember that December 31 is the deadline to suggest works for the BSFA Awards. The categories are — Best Novel, Best Short fiction, Best Artwork, Best work of Non-Fiction. Use the online form. Members will have the month of January to vote for the works that belong on the shortlist.

(11) WHEN SCOTTY INVADED NORMANDY. War History Online tells how  “Star Trek star shot two snipers on D-Day and was shot seven times in WWII”.

The beach was so thick with Canadians the later arrivals could not advance. As darkness fell, there was a risk they would end up shooting at each other – which was exactly what happened; not just at Juno Beach, but also at the other landing sites.

At about 11:20 that evening, Doohan finished a cigarette and patted the silver cigarette case he kept in his breast pocket. It had been given to him by his brother as a good luck charm… and a good thing, too.

Some ten minutes later, he was walking back to his command post when he was shot. Six times. By a Bren Gun. The first four bullets slammed into his leg, the fourth whacked him in the chest, while the sixth took off his right middle finger.

It was not a German sniper.  He had been shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Canadian sentry. Fortunately, the cigarette case stopped the bullet aimed at his chest. Doohan later joked it was the only time being a smoker saved his life.

(12) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. “The Twelve Days of Christmas:  A Tale of Avian Misery” is a cartoon on Vimeo about what happens when a British woman living in a small flat gets ALL the presents from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jim C. Hines for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

(1) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. Dennis Mathis tells how he learned to understand “the reader” in “The Future Began on a Tuesday” at the SFWA Blog.

The future was twenty-five years old and not getting any younger when I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the legendary (even then) graduate program for writers. Kurt Vonnegut, who had taught there, said, “Picture Harvard Law School if only one out of ten graduates actually becomes a lawyer.” Dedicated to the principle that the last thing you’d want happening in a classroom is teaching, the Workshop strove to be the opposite of academic, and more or less succeeded. Zipping their lips about how writing should be done, the staff was restricted to role-modeling the lifestyle of a writer: mostly competitive drinking, womanizing, wrestling, and snorting at weaklings; the Viking concept of higher education. Despite being a weakling myself, I did the best writing of my life.

And then in my second year, a last-minute substitute on the Workshop staff. A guy named Frank Conroy, author of only one book, and it wasn’t even fiction — who writes a memoir in their twenties? — who’d taught creative writing only once before, at (get this) M.I.T.

He specified we were to read the worksheets (someone’s delicate work-in-progress cast into the lion’s den) pen-in-hand, poised to mark any point in the text where we felt a “bump,” no matter how vague. In class, we went through the worksheets sentence-by-sentence, hashing-out whether some reader’s bump was an idiosyncratic misreading or an actual problem. They always turned out to be problems. If a reader misreads, Conroy taught us, it’s always the writer’s fault…..

(2) CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard has the story: ”China’s Newly Launched Space Station Will Receive Its First Crew Next Month” .

China successfully launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit on Thursday at 10:04 AM EDT, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. It will soon be an orbiting home to two taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts).

The mission is regarded as a key stepping stone towards the nation’s larger spaceflight ambitions, which include sending taikonauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars….

This second generation spacecraft, whose name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will conduct some initial tests before boosting itself even higher to an altitude of 393 kilometers, roughly on par with the International Space Station (ISS).

If all goes according to plan, the tubular orbital laboratory will receive its first taikonauts in late October on a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11. Though the names of the two crew members have not been released, they are both men, and they are expected to spend 30 days aboard Tiangong-2, according to Xinhua News. If successful, it will be the longest manned Chinese space mission to date.

In terms of specs, the new station is almost identical to its precursor, Tiangong-1, which operated in space from September 2011 until March 2016, and is on track to deorbit and immolate in the atmosphere next year.

(3) COMIC ART EXPLORED. Superheroes have taken over the Huntsville Museum of Art in the Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama.

“My Hero: Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is the name of the show running through December 11.

For decades popular culture has been fascinated by superheroes — their superhuman capabilities, their desire for truth and justice, and their ability to save the day. Their storylines have captivated many, and their images have become contemporary idols throughout the world. My Hero presents a rich array of work by over 50 international artists, including painting, illustration, photography, sculpture, mixed media and video, that celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes.

(4) ROOTS OF THE GENRE. Atlas Obscura writes about Margaret Cavendish. “One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s by a Duchess”.

No one could get into philosophical argument with Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and walk away unchanged. Born in 1623, Cavendish was an outspoken aristocrat who traveled in circles of scientific thinkers, and broke ground on proto-feminism, natural philosophy (the 17th century term for science), and social politics.

In her lifetime, she published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction. In 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

In the story, a woman is kidnapped by a lovesick merchant sailor, and forced to join him at sea. After a windstorm sends the ship north and kills the men, the woman walks through a portal at the North Pole into a new world: one with stars so bright, midnight could be mistaken for midday. A parallel universe where creatures are sentient, and worm-men, ape-men, fish-men, bird-men and lice-men populate the planet. They speak one language, they worship one god, and they have no wars. She becomes their Empress, and with her otherworldly subjects, she explores natural wonders and questions their observations using science.

(5) MEMBERSHIP IN THE GUARDIAN. The Guardian is going through a financial squeeze.

According to the Huffington Post:

The Guardian is scaling back its U.S. operation through a staff reduction of 30 percent, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper and global news site, has struggled financially as print revenue and circulation collapsed throughout the industry. Earlier this year, The Guardian announced plans to cut costs by 20 percent over three years, and nearly 270 employees in the U.K. operation took buyouts in June.

Now the U.S. operation, which was launched in 2011, is grappling with what Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel described Thursday in a staff meeting as a “course correction.” Guardian US chief Eamonn Store informed staff the company was facing a $4.4 million budget shortfall, thereby necessitating major cuts.

(6) PRIDE OF STARFLEET. Nalo Hopkinson went to her first sf convention in 1978 outfitted as Lt. Uhura.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1966  — Fahrenheit 451 premiered in theaters.

(8) THE BEST WAY TO ATTEND THE WORLDCON. Mike Headley reports on his first Worldcon – “Hugo Awards – a (Belated) Retrospective”. Many things underscored his feeling of being an outside until —

Things changed when I volunteered; I ended up hauling ice and stocking drinks for the hospitality suite. I was only there for a couple hours, but I got to glimpse this community at its best. I saw MIMO crew helping set up plates of vegetables, people who brought their whole family to volunteer. People who talked about how this was there 10th, 20th, or more convention. They weren’t writers, or publishers, they were just sincere fans. On top of that the con staff were so grateful I helped out in a pinch, and there sincerity stunned me. It made me feel like I had made a difference, however small, and I like that I got to give back, even a tiny bit.

That’s when I saw this wasn’t a community of writers talking about writerly things. This was a community of fans, of people pitching in to make sure that this worked. They helped each other, and they did it to make the best experience they could for everyone.

The second major turning point was during the Hugo ceremony itself. At one point they did a retrospective of all the members who had died in the previous year. And as I watched this somber stream of names scrolling up, I noticed that yes there were several creators, screen-writers, and editors. There was also plenty of people listed as just “fan” or “volunteer.” The fact that the organization took time to recognize these people, some of whom were just and only fans, showed just how deeply some people cared about this community.

(9) TWEETER’S DIGEST. It’s a commonplace that not everything people want to say will fit in a 140-character tweet. And yet here’s someone who has summarized every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

(10) NOT ONLY A MESSAGE. Those who are allergic to political messages in sf may break out in hives by the time they’ve made it through “The G’s List of Mind-Bending/Expanding SF/F Novels” at Nerds of a Feather.

In my case I don’t have a political message to convey *with* my list, but rather have chosen a list of books that either have political messages or which made me think about the world in different terms. Even that was too big, so I decided to further limit myself to books that are either science fiction or transgress the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, horror and mimetic fiction. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means–I probably could have done one with 50 entries or more. But 21 is a snazzy number, isn’t it? 1. Aldiss, Brian. Non-Stop [Faber and Faber, 1958]

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries, which turn their universe upside-down… (GoodReads) The best #GenerationStarship novel I’ve ever read. Thought-provoking, with an ending that still manages to unsettle many years later. Also make rats utterly terrifying. (G)

(11) NERDCON APPROACHES. NerdCon: Stories will soon return, and several leading sf/f writers will be in the mix — Mary Robinette Kowal, Mikki Kendall, Wesley Chu, Patrick Rothfuss, Paolo Bacigaulpi, and Saladin Ahmed. (And who knows, maybe more if I’d kept scrolling…..)

(12) ORSINIA. The Paris Review has posted an excerpt from the introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Library of America editions — Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (Library of America, 2016).

LOA jacket template

Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.

At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me. I remember when this idea came: in our small co-op dorm at Radcliffe, Everett House, in the dining room, where you could study and typewrite late without disturbing sleepers. I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. (The Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1947–48 had been the first event to rouse the political spirit in me.) A land not too far from Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but let’s not worry about borders. Not one of the partly Islamized nations—more Western-oriented … Like Rumania, maybe, with a Slavic-influenced but Latin-descended language? Aha!

I begin to feel I’m coming close. I begin to hear the names. Orsenya—in Latin and English, Orsinia. I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Saint Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name … I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it.

And so I did.

(13) THIS JUST IN 17 YEARS AGO. J. K. Rowling sounds a little exasperated here.

(14) DINNER BELL. Scott Edelman has released Episode 18 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast where you are invited to  “Dig into a lobster roll with F. Brett Cox”.

fbrettcoxeatingthefantastic-768x768

Now it’s time to say farewell to Readercon with a visit to The Lobster Stop in Quincy, Massachusetts for (what else?) lobster rolls … and F. Brett Cox.

Brett co-edited (with former Eating the Fantastic guest Andy Duncan) Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (which featured a story about Randy Newman by yours truly!), and has had fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews appear in Eclipse Online, War Stories, Century, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and many other venues. He’s also hard at work on a book-length study of Roger Zelazny for the University of Illinois Press.

(15) MEMORABLE TV THEMES. Catherynne Valente asks:

I don’t know what she’d pick as the best theme for a dramatic series – for me it’s the theme from Hawaii 5-0. I’m also a fan of the Mission: Impossible theme, and have a real soft spot for the full rendition of The Virginian theme.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Stuckinhistory, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]