Pixel Scroll 3/17/17 Nomination Street

(1) PATEL SURFACES, THEN SUBMERGES. A new Sunil Patel story that went online two days ago has been taken down. In its place, David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots (and the Long List Anthology) has posted “An Apology, Regarding Sunil Patel’s Story”.

On March 15th, I sent a story to Diabolical Plots publishing newsletter subscribers written by Sunil Patel. The story had been purchased and contracted in August 2016, before stories about Sunil’s abusive behavior surfaced (in October). I neglected to remove the story from the schedule and it went to the inbox of 182 subscribers of the newsletter.

This was not the right choice for me to make. Diabolical Plots is here to serve the SF publishing community, and I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I can’t unsend an email, but the story will be removed from the publishing lineup scheduled on the Diabolical Plots site (and replaced with a different story if I can work it out). If anyone wishes to provide further feedback, please feel free to email me at editor@diabolicalplots.com.

The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –

(2) SLICING UP THE PIE. New from Author Earnings, “February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”.

Greg Hullender says “This report just came out, and it’s fascinating. Although it doesn’t have the breakdown by genre (so probably not useful for File770 yet) it shows big-five publishers continuing to lose ground in e-book sales—mostly to small/medium publishers, not to independents.”

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

(3)  IN MEMORY YET GREEN. A St.Patrick’s Day coincidence? Cat Rambo has a new entry in her Lester Dent retrospective — “Reading Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre”.

Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and his footwear worthy of a J. Peterman catalog.

In this read, book eighteen of the series, we finally get to see another of Doc’s men, electrical engineer Long Tom. I do want to begin with a caveat that this book starts in Alexandria and initially features an Islamic villain, Pasha Bey; while I will call out some specific instances, this is the first of these where the racism is oozing all over the page and betrays so many things about the American popular conception of the Middle East. I just want to get that out of the way up front, because it is a big ol’ problem in the beginning of this text….

(4) DRIVING THE TRAINS OUT OF IRELAND. On the other hand, our favorite train driver James Bacon says explicitly that the new Journey Planet is “Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

This is our second issue looking at comic connections, in one way or another, to Ireland. I thought you would be interested, and hope you are.

Co-edited with ‘Pádraig Ó Méalóid and Michael Carrolll, this issue features an interview with Steve Dillon when he was living in Dublin, and an interview with Neil Bailey who co-edited The comic fanzine Sci Fi Adventures where Steve’s comic work began. We have an interview with Steve Moore about Ka-Pow the first British comic Fanzine and the first British Comic Con. We have and extended looks at the fan art of Paul Neary and fan and professional art of Steve Dillon and we reprint a piece about Steve Dillon that I wrote for Forbidden Planet.

This fanzine is all about histories, stories and in many respects is an oral history.  We have a lovely cover by co–editor Michael Carroll.

I’ve loved reading and writing about the comic connections, interesting, yet I feel historically significant happenings. The Fanzine connection, the Irish Connection, the comics connection. It is all connected and it is fascinating fun to find out about them. I am exceptionally graceful to Neil Bailey, Alan Moore, Paul Neary, Dez Skinn, Michael Carroll, Paul Sheridan, and of course to my co-editors Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Michael Carroll and Christopher J Garcia who have grafted very hard on this one. My thoughts are with those who mourn Steve Dillon and Steve Moore and I hope we remember them well here.

(5) FLEET OF FOOT. A scientific study from the University of Felapton Towers, “What Are Pixel Scrolls About?”, shows I haven’t been running nearly as much Bradbury material as I thought. So maybe I don’t really need the excuse of St. Patrick’s Day to plug in this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Irish story “The Anthem Sprinters.”

(6) AURORA AWARDS CALENDAR. The Aurora Awards calendar is up.

Nominations for the 2017 awards will open on March 31, 2017….

Online nominations must be submitted by 11:59:59 PM EDT on May 20th, 2017.

Voting will begin on July 15, 2017. Online votes must be submitted by 11:59:59 EDT on September 2nd.

The Aurora awards will be presented during at Hal-Con / Canvention 37 on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017 in Halifax.

(7) NEW MANDEL STORY. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in collaboration with Slate’s Future Tense channel, just published “Mr. Thursday,” a new short story by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) about time travel, determinism, and unrequited longing. Read it (free) here, along with a response essay, “Can We Really Travel Back in Time to Change History?” by Paul Davies, a theoretical physics professor at Arizona State University and author of the book How to Build a Time Machine.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 17, 1755 – The Transylvania Land Company bought what became the state of Kentucky for $50,000, from a Cherokee Indian chief.

(9) A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS. Matt Wallace’s award suggestion rapidly morphed into a vision for a deadly cage match competition.

(10) PEWPEW. In Myke Cole’s interview by Patrick St.Denis the author does not hold back.

Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you’re selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I’m not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.

You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters’ team.

Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.

Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don’t know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer – Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying “manhunting” and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.

It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I’m most pleased that it’s a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.

(11) DIY CORNER. Charon Dunn knows a good interview helps publicize a book. But who, oh who, could she get to do the interview?

Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.

IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.

CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old….

II: Hard military science fiction, then?

CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.

And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.

I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.

That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.

The jacket copy is here. And Cora Buhlert ran the cover together with an excerpt from the book at Speculative Ficton Showcase. There’s even a photo of Charon with, as she calls it, “my humongous SJW credential.”

(12) THE CREATOR. With the impetus of the American Gods series, Neil Gaiman is becoming a television maven.

The comic book legend will develop projects from his library as well as original ideas.

Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.

The creator and exec producer of Starz’s upcoming American Gods has signed a first-look TV deal with FremantleMedia.

Under the multiple-year deal, Gaiman will be able to adapt any of his projects — from novels and short stories — as well as adapt other projects and original ideas.

“Working with my friends at FremantleMedia on shepherding American Gods to the screen has been exciting and a delightful way to spend the last three years,” Gaiman said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”

(13) ALL ABOARD! The Digital Antiquarian tells how Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley cooked up Railroad Tycoon.

The problem of reconciling the two halves of Railroad Tycoon might have seemed intractable to many a design team. Consider the question of time. The operational game would seemingly need to run on a scale of days and hours, as trains chug around the tracks picking up and delivering constant streams of cargo. Yet the high-level economic game needs to run on a scale of months and years. A full game of Railroad Tycoon lasts a full century, over the course of which Big Changes happen on a scale about a million miles removed from the progress of individual trains down the tracks: the economy booms and crashes and booms again; coal and oil deposits are discovered and exploited and exhausted; cities grow; new industries develop; the Age of Steam gives ways to the Age of Diesel; competitors rise and fall and rise again. “You can’t have a game that lasts a hundred years and be running individual trains,” thought Meier and Shelley initially. If they tried to run the whole thing at the natural scale of the operational game, they’d wind up with a game that took a year or two of real-world time to play and left the player so lost in the weeds of day-to-day railroad operations that the bigger economic picture would get lost entirely.

Meier’s audacious solution was to do the opposite, to run the game as a whole at the macro scale of the economic game. This means that, at the beginning of the game when locomotives are weak and slow, it might take six months for a train to go from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. What ought to be one day of train traffic takes two years in the game’s reckoning of time. As a simulation, it’s ridiculous, but if we’re willing to see each train driving on the map as an abstraction representing many individual trains — or, for that matter, if we’re willing to not think about it at all too closely — it works perfectly well. Meier understood that a game doesn’t need to be a literal simulation of its subject to evoke the spirit of its subject — that experiential gaming encompasses more than simulations. Railroad Tycoon is, to use the words of game designer Michael Bate, an “aesthetic simulation” of railroad history.

(14) CAT MAN DUE. Zoe Saldana enlists the help of Stephen Hawking to solve a quantum riddle in order to get Simon Pegg’s cat back in Quantum is Calling. Released by a CalTech production group in December 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, Cat Rambo, Joey Eschrich, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare

Arizona State University and several cooperating organizations have launched the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare, a pair of contests which challenge authors to write new fiction and nonfiction stories about creators and their creations, science and society, and monstrosity.

In June 1816, Mary Shelley and a group of fellow writers challenged each other to tell a scary story. In the wee hours of June 16, Mary was woken by a nightmare that became the foundation for Frankenstein, a novel that continues to shape perspectives on contemporary scientific breakthroughs. Today, the Frankenstein Bicentennial Dare competition will replicate that original challenge, inspiring amateur and professional writers to reflect on questions of science, ethics, creativity, and responsibility.

As the ASU website says: “Frankenstein writing contest seeks to reanimate the conversation of science and responsibility”.

Frankenstein emerged in a moment of great social and technological change,” said Ed Finn, co-director of ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project. “Today, via incredible scientific advances, we have the power to create and guide many kinds of life, from genetically engineered organisms to snarky chatbots. We need new, updated myths about creators, creations, and the responsibilities we share for the things we bring into the world.”

SHORT FICTION CONTEST. Entries will be “short and scary tales about unexpected consequences and unintended monstrosities.”

Almost anything that we create can become monstrous: a misinterpreted piece of architecture; a song whose meaning has been misappropriated; a big, but misunderstood idea; or, of course, an actual creature. And in Frankenstein, Shelley teaches us that monstrous does not always mean evil – in fact, creators can prove to be more destructive and inhuman than the things they bring into being

Tell us your story in 1,000 – 1,800 words on Medium.com and use the hashtag #Frankenstein200. Read other #Frankenstein200 stories, and use the recommend button at the bottom of each post for the stories you like. Winners in the short fiction contest will receive personal feedback from Hugo and Sturgeon Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Elizabeth Bear, as well as a curated selection of classic and contemporary science fiction books and  Frankenstein goodies, courtesy of the NaNoWriMo team.

One submission per author. Submissions must be in English and between 1,000 to 1,800 words. You must follow all Medium Terms of Service, including the Rules.

All entries submitted and tagged as #Frankenstein200 and in compliance with the rules will be considered.

The deadline is July 31, 2016.

Three winners will be selected at random on August 1, 2016.

Each winner receives the following prize package including:

Additionally, one of the three winners, chosen at random, will receive written coaching/feedback from Elizabeth Bear on his or her entry.

Select stories will be featured on Frankenscape, a public geo-storytelling project hosted by ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project. Stories may also be featured in National Novel Writing Month communications and social media platforms.

Presented by NaNoWriMo and the Chabot Space and Science Center.

ESSAY CONTEST. The nonfiction competition summons authors to “document true stories about the evolving relationships between humanity and technology.”

Essays must be vivid and dramatic; they should combine a strong and compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element and reach beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or deeper meaning. We’re open to a broad range of interpretations of the “Frankenstein” theme, with the understanding that all works submitted must tell true stories and be factually accurate. Above all, we’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice.

Creative Nonfiction editors and a judge (to be announced) will award $10,000 and publication for Best Essay and two $2,500 prizes and publication for runners-up. All essays submitted will be considered. Winners will be announced in mid-2017, and winning essays will be included in the winter 2018 issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine.

Deadline for submissions: March 20, 2017. For complete guidelines: www.creativenonfiction.org/submissions

FRANKENSTEIN BICENTENNIAL PROJECT. Launched by Drs. David Guston and Ed Finn in 2013, the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project is a global celebration of the bicentennial of the writing and publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from 2016-2018.

The project uses Frankenstein as a lens to examine the complex relationships between science, technology, ethics, and society. Arizona State University will act as a global hub for a vast array of activities at a wide range of venues, including film festivals, scientific demonstrations, writing and artistic competitions, museum exhibits, scholarly workshops, new books, special issues of magazines and journals, and other cross-platform media experiences.

This video about the Dare was shot in Geneva just miles from where Shelley originally came up with the story.

Hieroglyph Conference Report

By Martin Morse Wooster: Futurama writer and producer Patric Verrone surveyed the crowd of 200 that gathered at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington on October 2 and thought it very familiar.

“I’m looking out at this room and I see a lot of nerds,” Verrone said. “This is the closest I’ll ever come to Comic-Con.”

The crowd seemed to me to be half suits and half fans. No one wore garb or costumes.  But they were all there to discuss the stories and ideas in Hieroglyph, a new anthology of science-based sf stories.

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson

The idea for Hieroglyph came from Neal Stephenson, who has, for several years, complained that science fiction has long abandoned its task of thinking up innovative and positive ideas about what the future should be like. He connected with Arizona State University, whose Center for Science and Imagination helps sf writers link to scientists coming up with cutting-edge innovations. As part of the center’s work, they decided to create an original anthology of hard sf devoted to positive stories about tomorrow.

Stephenson set the ground rules. There would be no stories about “hackers, hyperspace, and holocaust.” In other words, no stories about cyberspace, magical futures based on technology not possible today, or futures where the world was bleak because of atomic attack, global warming, or the collapse of capitalism. In an opening speech, Stephenson said that he didn’t have any problem getting positive stories based on plausible scientific developments, but he had a hard time getting authors to stop thinking about computers. Stephenson, however, while he wrote one novelette and a preface, did not edit the book; the editors are Arizona State media studies professor Ed Fass and experienced editor Kathryn Cramer.

Stephenson is doing his part for optimism. In his next novel, due to be published in May 2015, Stephenson said is a near-future space opera that he hoped would be so entertaining that kids would, after reading it, give up stories about magic schools or dystopias and go back to reading science-fiction novels based on real science.

Kathryn Cramer

Kathryn Cramer

Kathryn Cramer, in an interview, said the stories in Hieroglyph were “Gernsbackian fiction for the 21st century,” although she noted that Gernsback would have been oblivious to the high literary quality of the stories in the book.

The conference in Washington, co-sponsored by the New America Foundation, Arizona State, and Slate, was the most elaborate of the book stops on the tour, which included not only bookstores but also the corporate headquarters of Google and Tumblr. The tour concluded in the first weekend in October at Can-Con in Ottawa.

Authors who appeared on panels at the conference included Elizabeth Bear, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Lee Konstantinou, Karl Schroeder, and Vandana Singh, as well as editor Cramer and Ted Chiang, who did not have a story in the book. Special notice should be given to Canadian author Madeline Ashby. I never heard of Ashby before and have never read anything by her, but she came across as smart, funny, and quirky and I would like to know more about her fiction.

Although the conference looked to the future, with panels on drones, surveillance, and technology, it also looked to the past. Panelists told stories about Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

SyFy Channel co-founder Lauren Silvers said that when she was launching the network in 1989, she had a meeting with Isaac Asimov. Asimov liked the idea of the channel, because it might help teach non-readers the virtues of good science fiction. He went with Silvers to many meetings with potential investor and advertisers in the New York City area, and also provided help for Hollywood by giving her 20 signed copies of his novels, each one with a different phrase. Silvers gave out the books to important people in Hollywood, all of whom were grateful for a collectible Asimov freebie. Because of Asimov, Silvers recalled, a lot of doors opened for the SyFy Channel that might have stayed firmly shut.

Neal Stephenson explained that like many Baby Boomers, he read a lot of Robert A. Heinlein. He noted that the small details that made Heinlein an author of the first rank. He recalled Tunnel in the Sky, where teenagers teleport to rugged planets and struggle to survive. At the end of the novel, the surviving teenagers, back on Earth, are about to be interviewed on television. Just before the interview, a cameraman appears to accidentally brush their faces — with war paint, so that TV viewers would think they were savages

It was little details like this, Stephenson said, which ensure Heinlein’s greatness.

Woodrow Wilson Center scholar David Rejeski said that in 2000 he contacted all federal departments to see how they were planning for the future. Most agencies did little or no forecasting. When he got to NASA, however, the person in charge, a top aide to the NASA administrator, said, “Oh, do you want our 200-year-plan?” The person was author Yoji Kondo, and for a few years Kondo and Rejeski brought in Charles Sheffield and Greg Bear as consultants to help provide NASA with long-range visions. Sir Arthur C. Clarke also participated by a satellite uplink.

Conference-goers learned that some federal agencies are taking the future seriously. NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said that she was a second-generation NASA employee who was proud that she attended her first launch when she was four and that she met Carl Sagan at a Viking launch when she was a small child. She explained that she has been an avid sf reader, who enjoyed Dune as a teenager and who was currently reading Andrew Weir’s The Martian.

According to Stofan, sf has more influence at NASA than you might think. On the International Space Station, for example, there’s a set of floating devices called “spheres.” Stofan didn’t give a clear explanation of what the spheres did, but she gave the reason why they’re there:  they’re supposed to be the equivalent of the device that Luke Skywalker trained on when he was taking Lightsaber 101.

NASA even has a grant-making program for far-out but plausible ideas. Come up with good ones and NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program will give you a nine-month, $100,000 contract, potentially renewable as a two-year, $500,000 deal. The most recent batch of contracts, issued in June, include a plan for having a submarine sail on Titan and having a way of capturing potentially dangerous asteroids.

Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, explained that the administration was committed to long-term goals through a series of “grand challenges.” Among these “21st-century moonshots”:  manned space travel to Mars and making solar power “as cheap as coal.” In June, the White House hosted its first Maker Faire, with the South Lawn filled with entrepreneurs and the gadgets they made.

Science fiction has been a shrinking share of the sf and fantasy field for decades. But the Hieroglyph conference showed that science-based science fiction — the sort preferred by Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell — may be, at last, making a comeback.