Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #8

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three

Best Series (Special Category)

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).

Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.

Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.

With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.

This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.

 

Best Novel

Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.

On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.

As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.

Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.

Best Novel

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.

Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).

His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.

Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.

 

 

Best Novel

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.

All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.

Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.

Best Novel

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.

Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.

Just consider the opening paragraph:

As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.

The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.

As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.

And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!

Pixel Scroll 2/9/17 Scroll-A-Post, Scroll-A-Post, Will You Do The Fendango?

(1) CON CRUNCH. Crunchyroll has announced it will launch a new anime convention called Crunchyroll Expo (CRX). The con will be held August 25-27 in Santa Clara, California at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Assuming CRX is repeated in 2018 on a comparable weekend, it would take place in Santa Clara on the weekend following Worldcon 76 in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on August 16-20, 2018.

It would be worse if CRX was going to precede the Worldcon (and far worse if it was on the same weekend), but there’s always a question of how much time and money fans in an area have to devote to conventions, and which one they’ll choose.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Paste Magazine names “6 Classic Sci-Fi Stories That Inspired This Week’s Supergirl.

  1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers Are your friends and loved ones acting strangely? Are they acting a bit too much like themselves? Are they too understanding, too calm, too patient, too willing to listen to you whine about how they’ve let you down without defending themselves? Bad news, my friend: They’ve been body snatched.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers franchise encompasses several movies, thematic connections to multiple authors—including Robert Heinlein, whose 1951 novel The Puppet Masters provided the loose inspiration for the film version—and even a Bugs Bunny cartoon. (It’s called Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers, and it’s perfect.) All revolve around the paranoia that the people we know could one day be replaced by identical alien life forms with no discernable difference. So when M’gann, Winn, and later Alex turn out to be white Martians in disguise, those feelings of uncertainty and paranoia come straight out of the Body Snatchers bag of tricks.

Originally meant as a metaphor for communism and the Cold War—and, really, when was anything not originally meant as a metaphor for communism and the Cold War—Supergirl ups the ante on Snatchers by taking a more personal route. It’s a horrifying idea: That you could be spilling your most difficult-to-process and embarrassing feelings to a person you think is your closest friend, only to find out that the person literally isn’t who you think he is. Try hard not to think about it the next time you’re talking to your crush.

(3) OUTSIDE THE MILSF BOMB BAY. “Military science fiction doesn’t have to just be about space battles and glory,” says the blurb. “It can examine why we, as a culture, choose to make war—and how we can change.” Elizabeth Bonesteel discusses “The Future of War, Peace, and Military Science Fiction” at Portalist.

…And paradoxically, when we define soldiers as bigger than life, it makes it easier for us to point fingers if something goes wrong. They’re trained. They should know better. It can’t possibly be our fault.

It is our fault. It’s always our fault. War is a choice. But the more we blunt our perception of the people we send to do this work, the easier it is for us to abdicate responsibility for how serious the decision really is.

Fiction of all types is a game of what-ifs. Military science fiction takes a particular angle: What if this was what a futuristic military force looked like? What if this is what it was used for? What is it like for the soldiers themselves? Even the most jingoistic military science fiction puts the reader in the mind of a soldier, and that in itself is a humanizing act.

But I think more than humanizing the soldiers themselves, military science fiction has a role to play in illuminating why we choose war. As with all speculative fiction, the power lies in being able to set up an impossible scenario, and ask concrete questions about it. Government and military can be structured in any way at all, or even be at odds with each other—weapons are, after all, a uniquely dispassionate way of upsetting the balance of power. Add to this a government with complex motives for choosing to deploy their defenses, and you can examine our current society through an infinite number of lenses.

(4) MORE ON WAR. David Brin and Catherine Asaro respond to the question “Can science fiction help prevent a nuclear war?” at PRI.

Long before David Brin became a scientist and author, he practiced duck-and-cover drills in his elementary school classroom. And because the threat of nuclear war hung over his childhood, it has become a big part of his fiction.

“The teacher would be talking away, and suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, say, ‘Drop!’” Brin recalled. “That’s how much time you’d have if you noticed the flash of a nuclear blast.” He was so conscious of nuclear risks that he wanted his own fallout shelter. “I wanted my mother to buy a used tanker car from the railroad, and bury it in our backyard.”

In a recent conversation with Catherine Asaro, a physicist and sci-fi writer, Brin said his most famous book, “The Postman,” brought about a kind of catharsis for him. “I used that book, deliberately, to discharge a lot of the stress of having grown up all my life, wondering — is this the day mushroom clouds appear on the horizon?” Brin said.

…“I don’t think that fear has gone away,” said Asaro, who has written many “hard science fiction” novels about space, technology and the military. In her opinion, readers today are even more aware of the dangers that society faces. But she believes the fear of catastrophe no longer centers on nuclear weapons.

“It’s increased, to the point where it’s not just nuclear winter anymore,” Asaro said. In recent years, many sci-fi writers have explored the dangers of climate change, cyberwarfare and advanced artificial intelligence.

(5) PRATCHETT SPECIAL AIRS SATURDAY. Boing Boing has the story — “The BBC will air a docudrama on Terry Pratchett’s life and his struggle with Alzheimer’s” .

Paul Kaye plays Pratchett in Back in Black, based on Pratchett’s unfinished autobiography; it will air on Saturday.

The doc covers the frustrations, discrimination and discouragement that Pratchett encountered as a working class pupil with a variety of speech impediments, and on what Neil Gaiman called Pratchett’s ‘quiet rage’, which fuelled him to literary stardom and enabled him to write seven novels even as Alzheimer’s stole his mind.

The irreverent trailer hints at a programme that will treat Pratchett with the kind of anger and compassion he brought to his own work and life.

 

(6) ASK HURLEY. Kameron Hurley participates in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session today at 8 p.m. EST, which will be over by the time you read this but the transcript will be online.

(7) JUST SAY KNOW. And Hurley has a new blog post – “Yes, You Can Say No to Your Editor(s)”. Well, if you’ve negotiated your contract correctly…

Listen. I’m going to tell you a secret, which you should already know if you’re a pro writer, but is especially useful for new writers to hear. Nobody tells you what to write in this business. They may say, “Hey, I’d like to see a space opera from you,” or “Hey, you know, the gay guy dies here and that’s not a great trope. Sure you want to do that?” but no one will make you change anything. I mean, if you really can’t come to an agreement, you can publish that shit up on Amazon tomorrow, easy peasy. I know writers who actually argue with their copyeditors in the manuscript comments, and this always makes me roll my eyes. Why are you arguing? You’re the author. It will say in your contract, if you and your agent are diligent, that no changes can me made to the manuscript which you don’t approve of. That’s a pretty standard clause that has been in all of my contracts. Now, if you’re like, “I totally want to load a bunch of typos in this book!” you could also, even, do that for stylistic reasons! I know, it’s amazing.

(8) CRAWFORD AWARD. Charlie Jane Anders has won the 2017 Crawford Award for All the Birds in the Sky.

The award will be presented at the 38th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts taking place March 22-26 in Orlando, Florida.

(9) DS9 REMEMBERED. The makers of a documentary about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are crowdfunding some production costs through Indiegogo. They’ve raised $114,777 of their $148,978 goal with a month to go.

Now, over twenty years later, fans all over the world are rediscovering Deep Space Nine and embracing the show with an enthusiasm rivaling the affection they feel for any other Star Trek series. Critics are even calling the show the Jewel in the Crown and the best of the Star Trek franchise. A devoted sci-fi fan might rightly ask themselves; “What the hell happened?”

Our documentary film, What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, will take a detailed look at this historic series and consider the reasons Deep Space Nine went from a family outcast to a Star Trek mainstay.  The film will also contain a “what if” segment in which the original writers brainstorm a theoretical 8th season of the show.

Spearheaded by original show-runner Ira Steven Behr, directed by Adam Nimoy (For the Love of Spock), and with a handful of key interviews already ‘in the bag,’ the #DS9Doc now needs YOUR HELP to reach completion by finishing filming, editing, and post-production.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Crack cultural researcher John King Tarpinian assures me this is Pizza Day. Quoting his source —

History of Pizza Day

You can say that Pizza Day started in the 10th century in Naples, Italy. This is when records first show the presence of pizza….

Pizza made its mark on America in 1905. In New York City, a pizzeria called Lombardi’s created the spark that would light hearts across the country from then until now — and with no conceivable end in sight! Amazingly, they are still in business! If you want to taste that first real pizza to hit American shores, head over to Little Italy in Manhattan and check them out.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • February 9, 1928 — Frank Frazetta

(12) FROM PHONE AGE TO STONE AGE. The BBC asks “What if the internet stopped working for a day?”. Sounds tempting to me… And I love that the name of the researcher is “Borg.”

…For a start, the impact to the economy may not be too severe. In 2008, the US Department of Homeland Security asked Borg to look into what might happen if the internet went down. Borg and his colleagues analysed the economic effects of computer and internet outages in the US from 2000 onwards. Looking at quarterly financial reports from the 20 companies that claimed to be most affected in each case, as well as more general economic statistics, they discovered that the financial impact of an outage was surprisingly insignificant – at least for outages that lasted no more than four days, which is all they studied.

“These were instances where enormous losses were being claimed– in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars,” Borg says. “But while some industries like hotels, airlines and brokerage firms suffered a bit, even they didn’t experience very big losses.”

(13) ENDLESS REPLAY. Be your own “grateful dead” concert. Nerdist reports “A Company Will Press Your Ashes into a Working Vinyl Album”. Sounds like something Connie Willis would list in that section of her GoH speech about things science fiction predicted (that everyone in the audience recognizes it didn’t.)

When the final track of your life finishes playing, how would you like to be remembered? Do you want to be buried and forgotten like a bad solo album? Or would you like to be encased for posterity like a big platinum record? Or maybe you hope to continue being heard, like a legendary musician that lives on forever. Well, if you hope to have your song play long after you’ve left the recording studio of life, there’s a way for that to happen–literally–by having your ashes pressed into a vinyl record.

(14) LATE SHOW SF NAME-DROPPING. While bantering with Paul Giamatti, Colbert reels off a library’s worth of his favorite sf writers – begins at the 6:28 mark in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS-TV). Authors mentioned include Asimov, de Camp, Dick, Ellison, Heinlein, Kuttner, Niven, Cordwainer Smith, Tolkien, Vance…

(15) BILL IS BACK. And Netflix has got him.

Bill Nye – science guy, educator, mechanical engineer, and curator of curiosity – returns with a new show. Each episode of Bill Nye Saves the World tackles a specific topic or concept through lively panel discussions, wide-ranging correspondent reports from a crackerjack team, and Bill’s very special blend of lab procedure and sly personality.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Petréa Mitchell, JJ, Standback, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/16 Your Pixels Too Small To Scroll With God

(1) FOR SOME VALUES OF CHIANG. Abigail Nussbaum gives Arrival a thorough analysis at Asking the Wrong Questions. Spoilers, naturally.

It’s been about four years since the movie adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” was announced, and during that period, every time I heard a piece of news about the film’s progress, there was always one question paramount in my mind: how?  How could you possibly take Chiang’s story, a trippy, challenging piece of writing whose ultimate conclusion needs to be carefully laid out for even the most attentive and game reader, and translate it into a mainstream movie, in a medium that isn’t normally permitted to spell out its themes and ideas the way written fiction is?  For me personally, there was an element of protectiveness to this wondering.  “Story of Your Life,” which I first read in my late teens, was an eye-opener for me.  In its focus on the “soft” science of linguistics, in its willingness to use relatively abstruse concepts from both linguistics and physics to build its premise, and in its foregrounding of a thoroughly unsentimental mother-daughter relationship, it expanded my ideas of what science fiction was capable of.  I couldn’t bear the thought of someone turning it into yet another alien invasion story.

And, to be fair to director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, that is not what Arrival is.  In fact, by the standards of Hollywood and what it tends to make of science fiction, Arrival is a remarkably thought-provoking and meditative movie, and its message of understanding and cooperation feels particularly relevant in our present moment.  But as regards to my question, how could Villeneuve and Heisserer take the implications of Chiang’s story and put them on screen, the answer is: they didn’t.  And in fact, it seems quite obvious that this was a deliberate choice.

(2) THE UR-TEXT. Ethan Mills goes back to the book in “Interrogating Ideas: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang”  at Examined Worlds.

Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others includes several excellent stories/novelettes/novellas (including “Story of Your Life,” which is the basis for the film Arrival).  In addition to the good ones, a few more are okay, and there’s one I didn’t care for.

Ted Chiang is the opposite of prolific, having only published about a dozen works of short fiction in the last 25 years, but he’s one of the best when it comes to using science fiction and fantasy to interrogate ideas.  There are nice little notes on each story in the back of the book in which Chiang tells you which ideas inspired the stories (sometimes it’s surprising).  It’s no wonder his work is a top pick for Eric Schwitzgebel’s list of philosophers’ favorite science fiction.

Here’s a bit on each work in this collection…

(3) NEBULA AWARD RECOMMENDATIONS. Lots of time to go, but who’s leading SFWA’s Nebula Award Recommendations novel category right now?

With nine recommendations each, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades ae at the head of the list.

(4) B&N BEST SFF. The B&N Sci-Fi &Fantasy Blog is at work on its own list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016”. The Anders book features there, too.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders Former io9.com editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help. Childhood friends Patricia and Laurance lose touch with one another as they grow up, their differing paths sending one of them to a secret school for magicians and the other to the best engineering programs on offer. Years later, they meet again, with the fate of the world at stake, and the forces of science and magic edging toward all-out war. Read our review.

(5) EUROPEAN WRITER OBITS. Europa SF reports two European authors have died:

  • French SF Writer Andre Ruellan (7 August 1922-15 November 2016)
  • Italian SF Writer Massimo Mongai (3 November 1950-1 November 2016)

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(7) WARRIORS WHO DON’T IMPRESS. Cracked ranks “9 Supposed Action Stars Who Clearly Couldn’t Fight”.

The funniest lines are about #7 –

Fred Williamson

People started calling Fred Williamson “The Hammer” during his professional football career, and when you think about how many gigantic men were trying to get that same nickname to stick, you’ll realize that this achievement is the closest thing a person can get to a Nobel Prize in Badassery. This is a man who has crippled dozens of offensive linemen and starred in three movies that have the N-word right in their titles. And yet despite how terrifying that is to me, I’m still choosing to say that a Fred Williamson fight scene looks like two people with cerebral palsy feeding each other.

There are several reasons for these bad action sequences. First of all, he had to hold back so much to not kill his co-stars. If he wanted, Fred Williamson could kick your ass so hard that nine months after you die, your wife would give birth to his foot.

However, it is our own Captain Kirk who head the list at #1 —

William Shatner

You knew the whole time there was no other choice for the top spot. Bill Shatner invented entirely new ways to look ridiculous while punching, and he did it all at one-quarter speed. He threw judo chops so slowly against space monsters that he was already on T.J. Hooker by the time they connected. They say the Gorn still roams the Vasquez Rocks, waiting for his cue to duck….

(8) FUNNY BUZZNESS. Vincent Price’s daughter spoke on fear, love and The Fly at the  Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College.

Victoria Price also stressed that humor is an excellent weapon against fear, and says one of the reasons her dad was popular for so long was that there was always a little humor in his horror work that “provided a release. And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”

And so, for fans of the original “The Fly,” she says, watch the absurd ending.

“My dad told me, that last scene they could not film. He said they all thought this is the most ridiculous thing, a fly talking, and they had to shoot it so many times. And they’re doubled over almost peeing their pants. So watch the last scene, and you will see that they are all just barely holding it together.”

(9) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Motherboard tells why “NASA’s New Satellite Is Going to Be a Game Changer for Weather Forecasts”.

The satellite will assist meteorologists by providing atmospheric measurements and a stream of high-definition images taken every 5 minutes over the Western Hemisphere with the ability to simultaneously zoom in on specific areas. From this data, GOES-R will help experts observe and predict severe weather events—thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, fog, etc.—and detect hazards like forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions. It will also be used for search and rescue, oceanography, and climate monitoring.

GOES-R is the 17th GOES spacecraft and is part of the $11 billion system upgrade. What makes the new satellite unique is that it is far more advanced—and five times faster—than the current system. The spacecraft is equipped with a high-resolution camera designed to see in 16 wavelengths, offering images with four time better resolution. In comparison, the satellite’s predecessor can only see in five wavelengths.

(10) BEAUTY JOINS HAN AND THE BEAST. StarWars.com announced that Emilia Clarke has joined the Han Solo stand-alone film.

Emilia Clarke is heading to a galaxy far, far away — and she’s going to meet Han and Chewie.

StarWars.com is excited to announce that Clarke, known for her stirring portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, will join the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie. Clarke’s role will round out a dynamic cast of characters that Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.

Clarke joins Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover — previously cast as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively — in the highly-anticipated film, which is set prior to the original Star Wars trilogy.

(11) LATER ARRIVAL. It won’t look like the movies – which probably surprises no one. “An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens” at Motherboard.

“I am so envious of Louise Banks because she gets to have a face to face with ET,” Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International president Douglas Vakoch told Motherboard. “But in the scenarios that SETI and METI folks deal with there’s no possibility of that. Our idea of a snappy exchange with extraterrestrials is a decade—and that only works if the nearest star is populated.”

(12) AND THE ROCK YOU RODE IN ON. NASA is going, but can ESA get its complementary mission funded? “Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid”.

NASA will be launching a probe called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will arrive at the asteroid (called 65803 Didymos) in late 2022 and then directly proceed to crash into the asteroid’s moon at 6 km/s (or about 13,400 mph). This impact would then be monitored by ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will have placed itself into orbit around the binary asteroid four months in advance of DART’s arrival.

The mission is designed so that NASA can go ahead with its DART portion of the mission whether or not ESA is able to get AIM funded, but for scientists around the world, not funding AIM would be a huge missed opportunity for planetary science and defense.

“If ESA doesn’t do AIM, DART can still go,” said Michel. “But it’s just half the mission. You wouldn’t get the initial conditions or outcomes in detail, but at least you are able to complete DART to test the capacity to autonomously guide a projectile to a very small target.”

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/16 Ancillary Mary Sue

(1) COSTUMES ON TRIAL. The Hollywood Reporter says “Supreme Court to Hear Fight Over Cheerleader Uniforms”, an issue that some argue can affect fans doing cosplay.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that is nominally about cheerleader uniforms, but could have some impact on Hollywood merchandising as well.

The eight black-robed justices will be reviewing an opinion handed down last August from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Varsity Brand to pursue copyright claims over similar cheerleader uniforms made by Star Athletica. The ruling held that the stripes, chevrons and color blocks incorporated into these uniforms were purely aesthetic.

…An amicus brief from Public Knowledge in this cheerleader costume case also spoke of the many people who cosplay at comic conventions.

“The multitude of contradictory separability tests that currently stand means that a costume replica may be non-infringing at a San Diego convention but infringing in New York,” stated that brief. “The situation is absurd, abstruse, and – owing to the historical lack of copyright protection for any article of clothing – functionally obfuscated from the people whom it stands to impact most.”

(2) TODAY IN FICTIONAL HISTORY

  • MAY 2 — ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS. With the help of the Harry Potter Wikia we salute the Unidentified fallen fifty:

They moved Voldemort’s body and laid it in a chamber off the Hall, away from the bodies of Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Colin Creevey, and fifty others who died fighting him.

—Description of the post-Battle

The unidentified fallen fifty of the Battle of Hogwarts (d. 2 May, 1998) were the unknown people who were killed fighting Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters in the final conflict of the Second Wizarding War. They did not die in vain as their cause had been won after their deaths. At the end of the battle, all of the bodies were placed together in the Great Hall.

(3) FROM PKD TO PHD. Be the Professor of Future Crimes! University College of London is hiring. I am not making this up.

The nature of the crime and security problems we face has transformed in recent years and continues to change rapidly. Most obviously, the digital revolution has created new challenges in the form of cybercrime and other cybersecurity threats, while developments such as the Dark Web and the Internet of Things are exposing new problems. But the issue is wider than digital technologies: developments, for example, in nanotechnology, robotics and cybernetics are creating new opportunities that can be exploited for criminal and terrorist purposes. And nor do the new threats solely involve technological developments: social changes associated with population growth, changing migration patterns, and climate change all have the potential to drive crime and insecurity in as yet largely unforeseen ways.

(4) AWESOME. Jim C. Hines launches a new series of posts with SF/F Being Awesome: Books for Kids.

For close to 20 years, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society have been raising money to provide books to kids — particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them — and to school libraries as well.

I spoke with Kelly Pierce, who’s been coordinating the Bobby Gear Memorial Charity Auction at Balticon since about 2002. The auction raises the bulk of the money for Books for Kids each year….

Since it all began, Balticon and BSFS has probably raised around $50,000 to provide books to libraries and kids in need, with the bulk of that money comes from the annual auction….

For more information:

(5) DROPPING THE PILOT. io9’s new editor Rob Bricken previews the future in “io9’s Mission Isn’t Over”.

Hello, I’m Rob Bricken. Some of you may know me as the guy who writes the FAQs, or the guy who hates everything, or a deluded SJW, or perhaps the person who will shortly be turning io9 into a garbage fire. I would like to present myself as something else—the new editor of io9.

Yes, I have been given the monumental, terrifying task of taking over here, a job that I can promise you I did not have designs on. Like all of you, I would have been content with Charlie Jane Anders running io9 until the heat death of the universe. As I told her as she said goodbye, she is io9. Always was. Always will be.

But as Charlie Jane herself wrote, io9 has a mission

(6) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo answers the question “Why Write Flash Fiction?” on Medium. She defines flash fiction, then gives writers reasons to try it.

At any rate, writing flash fiction is both a useful and productive exercise for writers. Anything that makes us practice writing is surely a good thing, and sitting down to write a flash piece fulfills that. Beyond that, it’s very satisfying to rise from the desk knowing you’ve written something in its entirety, as opposed to the tiresome nature of a novel, which swallows hours and hours of writing while swelling as slowly as ice accreting on a glacier.

You can use flash to try out new techniques. One of the exercises I often use in class draws on a piece I heard Gra Linnaea read at World Fantasy Con, written all in future tense, which I read to the class before challenging them to write their own pieces in future tense. Another draws on Randy Henderson’s most excellent THE MOST EPICLY AWESOMEST STORY! EVER!!, which I use to challenge the class to think about bad writing vs. good.

Many new writers are hungry for publications, and writing flash is a good strategy for garnering some. Flash markets, by their nature, consume a lot of pieces, and where a market that publishes one story each month is buying only that one story, a flash market is buying a much larger number. One of my favorites is Daily Science Fiction, which mails me a story every weekday. Every Day Fiction, as another example, runs a flash piece each day. The shorter a piece is, the easier it is on an editor’s budget.

(Cat Rambo’s full-length short story “Left Behind” was published in the May issue of Clarkesworld, which you can read online, or you hear read to you by Kate Baker.)

(7) RHINO RUNNER. Jim Mowatt has written about his transcendent experience running the London Marathon run for Save The Rhino.

“That last mile is absolutely amazing” she said, “and when you turn to go down the Mall it’s the most incredible experience that you could imagine.” I did try to imagine it and reckoned it would be akin to some of the feelings that I have previously experienced when I have finished a particularly gruelling run. The actuality was was nothing like that. It was a massive emotional assault on a astounding scale.

I shuffled along the Embankment in a world of pain and then turned right at the Palace of Westminster. Then I ran along Birdcage Walk curving around toward the Mall and Buckingham Palace. All the while the noise grew louder and louder until it became completely unbearable. There was a kind of mass hysteria going on all around me. I’d got a shop to print Jim on the Save The Rhino tee shirt so people could shout out my name and, in a way, join in with my run. What felt like thousands of people were shouting my name. Faces were looming out of the crowd telling me that I was awesome or amazing or incredible. It was absolutely terrifying but quite exciting too. My mind couldn’t cope with this assault and tried to shut down to get me through. I went with it for a while but realised that this was a very special moment and I had to savour it. I forced myself to engage again. I could hear everyone shouting and screaming, all caught up in this amazing event. I zoned in and out as we progressed further down the Mall trying not to break down and cry with the massive waves of emotion rolling over and around me. At the final turn I saw the finish line and focussed in on that, lurching forward until I crossed the mat with arms held aloft….

(8) IT’S ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. I have not previously reported the announcement made last November by BSFS and WSFA that the 2018 World Fantasy  Convention will be held in Baltimore. Nor does Google show that it has been picked up anywhere else. Let this be a placeholder ‘til more information comes out.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (bsfs.org) and Washington Science Fiction Association (wsfa.org) shall be hosting the 2018 World Fantasy Convention on November 1 – 4, 2018 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel (the location for next year’s 50th anniversary Balticon (balticon.org)). Many of us who were involved with the management of WFC 2014 are working on this exciting new project.

(9) AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CAT. Ursula K. Le Guin serves as amanuensis for “My Life So Far, by Pard” at Book View Café.

In the first place there were Mother and Sister and me with a mother and an aunty human who had a lot of kittens. Some tom humans came around now and then and either paid no attention to anybody but the queens, or were dangerous to kittens, pretty much like real toms. Mother and Sister and I kept out of their way and had no worries except sometimes the younger kitten humans, who will pull your tail as soon as their eyes are open. And some of the bigger ones played too rough, or tried to hug. Hugging, even when well meant, is horrible.

Life was often quite exciting in the first place, and we were happy together. I am hardly ever sad, but sometimes when I am going to sleep I hear purring around me that is not mine, and it seems that Mother and Sister and I are all curled up like one warm cat. And then I am happier than usual.

The kibbles there were all of one species, but there were plenty of them, except when there weren’t any of them. When the bowl had been empty for a while and then the kibbles were turned loose in it, Sister and I did a lot of growling and shoving to see who could get more first, but it wasn’t serious, it just made hunting and killing the kibbles more exciting….

(10) GRRM’S ANSWER. George R.R. Martin cleans off some of the mud that’s been hurled his way in “A Response To John C. Wright”.

…All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that “Guyal the Curator” was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I’m proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was “Guyal the Curator” one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on “The Last Castle” or “The Dragon Masters” or “Guyal of Sfere.” And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I’ll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year’s Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I’ve said. I did not read every word in every story on last year’s Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year’s ballot. He’s half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as “Guyal the Curator,” in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

(11) THE POWER OF FIVE. Does the title of John Scalzi’s post show that he’s tuned to our wavelength? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it — “Two New Books in 2016 That Have Me In Them. Well, Three. Actually, Five”.

So, to recap:

  • The Books That Changed My Life — already out.
  • Mash Up — out June 7.
  • Black Tide Rising — also out June 7.
  • The Dispatcher — scheduled for this year in audio.
  • Secret SubPress Project — also scheduled for this year (I think!).

And the mass market paperback of The End of All Things, out May 31st.

(12) MORE THOUGHTS. Mark Ciocco at Kaedrin comments: “The 2016 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts”.

Fortunately, at least part of the Puppy success this year was driven by the inclusion of works from mainstream authors on the lists. The Rabids had folks like Neal Stephenson , Neil Gaiman, Alastair Reynolds , and Lois McMaster Bujold on their slate, which, well, these are all people who don’t need any help getting nominated. In addition to those names, the Sads even included the likes of Ann Leckie, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, Naomi Novik, and Cat Valente, most of whom don’t seem to exactly fit the puppy mold if they aren’t actively hostile towards each other. I am, of course, not the first to mention this, but it does seem to have the effect of softening the impact such that the scortched-earth No Award response feels less likely this year. There are some who are calling these mainstream choices “shields” and coming up with elaborate conspiracy theories about their inclusion, but who knows? I mean, yeah, I could dig through the muck and try to figure out what the Rabid intentions really are, but jeeze, who wants to get into their head? I like a lot of these authors and hell, I even nominated some of them (completely independent of recommendation lists or slates, imagine that!). Of course, this has been my approach all along, but others, even strident opposition, seem to be getting on board that train.

(13) FLASH ROMANCE. The BBC reports there has been a preemptive protest about casting the movie version of The Flash — “Superhero fans rally to keep The Flash’s love interest black”.

The announcement that DC Comics and Warner Bros are to put comic book character The Flash on the big screen in two forthcoming movies was good news for many. There is already a successful TV series based on the character, and fans were expecting more of the same.

But some were alarmed by the suggestion that one of the supporting characters might undergo a transformation for the cinema version. Although full details of the film’s cast are yet to be announced, one blog reported “industry rumours” that the race of one of the characters may be changed.

The report suggests that a white actress, Imogen Poots, could be cast as Iris West Allen – a part played in the successful TV version by black actress Candice Patton.

Although the rumour remains unconfirmed, some fans began accusing Warner Bros of “whitewashing”, using the hashtag “Keep Iris Black”. The phrase has now appeared more than 7,000 times.

(14) HALLOWEEN AUCTION. Mark V. Ledenbach’s auction of vintage Halloween stuff runs through May 8. He is also blogging about some of the items, such as a tin noisemaker that went for $117.

This tin litho noisemaker, made by an unknown manufacturer during the 1930s, is very cleverly designed. I have my suspicions that it was made by Bugle Toy of Providence, Rhode Island, but they were disciplined about marking their tin litho items and this tin item has no mark. It has their characteristic clever design. Take a close look at it to see the almost Art Deco integration of four orange cat faces bordered by two bats and two owls.

Tin as a genre has been ice cold for years now. This was an aggressive ending price. Does this presage an upward movement for tin litho items?

(15) IN THEIR OWN WORDS. From the May issue of Smithsonian magazine, “An Oral History of ‘Star Trek’”.

The trail-blazing sci-fi series debuted 50 years ago and has taken countless fans where none had gone before…

In the teleplay for the first pilot, “The Cage,” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike, Roddenberry described the establishing shot in detail: “Obviously not a primitive ‘rocket ship’ but rather a true space vessel, suggesting unique arrangements and exciting capabilities. As CAMERA ZOOMS IN we first see tiny lettering ‘NCC 1701- U.S.S. ENTERPRISE.’”

Walter M. “Matt” Jefferies (production designer, “Star Trek”) I had collected a huge amount of design material from NASA and the defense industry which was used as an example of designs to avoid. We pinned all that material up on the wall and said, “That we will not do.” And also everything we could find on “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon” and said, “That we will not do.” Through a process of elimination, we came to the final design of the Enterprise.

Gene Roddenberry I’d been an Army bomber pilot and fascinated by the Navy and particularly the story of the Enterprise, which at Midway really turned the tide in the whole war in our favor. I’d always been proud of that ship and wanted to use the name.

Roddenberry’s attention to detail even extended to the ship’s computer at a time when computers were punch card–operated behemoths that filled entire rooms. In a memo on July 24, 1964, to production designer Pato Guzman, Roddenberry suggested, “More and more I see the need for some sort of interesting electronic computing machine designed into the USS Enterprise, perhaps on the bridge itself. It will be an information device out of which the crew can quickly extract information on the registry of other space vessels, spaceflight plans for other ships, information on individuals and planets and civilizations.”

Gene Roddenberry The ship’s transporters—which let the crew “beam” from place to place—really came out of a production need. I realized with this huge spaceship, I would blow the whole budget of the show just in landing the thing on a planet. And secondly, it would take a long time to get into our stories, so the transporter idea was conceived so we could get our people down to the planet fast and easy, and get our story going by Page 2.

Howard A. Anderson (visual effects artist, “Star Trek”) For the transporter effect, we added another element: a glitter effect in the dematerialization and rematerialization. We used aluminum dust falling through a beam of high-intensity light.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/16 Little Old Lady Got Nominated Late Last Night

(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.

Our spe­cial guest Craig Miller was the Pub­li­cist and Direc­tor of Fan Rela­tions for Lucas­film dur­ing the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever won­der how fans knew what was going on in fan­dom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awe­some stories.

 

episod116square Craig Miller

(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.

Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connect­ing things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.

I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.

(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.

I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)

Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.

First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.

Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.

(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.

He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.

(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.

In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.

Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.

Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!

(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.

Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.

As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.

There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.

(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.

After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.

In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”

(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?

(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.

Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?

Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.

I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.

Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.

Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.

This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

  • Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards.  To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath).  I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards.  More power to them.  Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.

Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.

–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.

(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:

Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.

(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…

In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.

Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.

Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —

This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.

 

(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.

The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.

 

(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.

Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ,and Soon Lee for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/16 I Want To Tell You About Texas Pixel And The Big Scroll

(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Iain Clarke’s image of astronaut Mae Jemison, created for the Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid, makes a great reminder that March 8 is International Women’s Day.

(2) THE FRANCHISE. And the BBC marked the occasion with its article “International Women’s Day: Why women can thrive in sci-fi”.

While the Star Wars expanded universe has a number of popular, female characters, the cultural impact of seeing a female Jedi’s hero journey on the silver screen can not be overstated. “For years we’ve been hearing that women couldn’t front a sci-fi/action film,” Jenna Busch, founder of Legion of Leia.

“The fallacious perception is that they just won’t sell. But, now we have Katniss, Furiosa, and Rey to prove that attitude wrong. There is something about seeing the box office numbers that might be a step in the right direction.”

(3) THERE IS ANOTHER. Last November, James H. Burns saw a van tricked out as the Mystery Machine on Long Island. Now, on the other side of the country, California authorities are seeking a different fan of the Scooby gang who’s been speeding around in her own version of those wheels — “Redding police: Suspect flees in ‘Scooby-Doo’ Mystery Machine”.

On Sunday, March 5, the Redding Police Department was alerted by Shasta County Probation Department about a subject who had allegedly violated their probation around 12:50 p.m. The subject was identified as Sharon Kay Turman, 51, Sgt. Ron Icely said in a news release.

According to the report, officers spotted Turman in the Mystery Machine, a 1994 Chrysler Town and Country minivan, at California and Shasta streets. Turman fled when officers tried to pull her over, traveling at high speeds. A CHP helicopter and Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputies joined the pursuit. Turman is reported to have reached speeds of over 100 m.p.h.

(4) FAKE FAN. A fake GalaxyQuest fan site, created to promote the movie, can still be viewed via the Wayback Machine. One of its features is ”Travis Latke’s” interview with Gwen DeMarco, replete with fannish typos. (I think Travis learned copyediting from me).

TL: How do you do it? How d you deliver one blockbusting performance after another?

GDM: It’s all about the craft. As an actor I try put myself inside the head of my character. Since I sgtarted acting, I always try to become the charactere, that sometimes is very trying. For instance I once played Medea in summerstock in the Hamptons and, gosh, for weeks I hadthey nauseating feeling of having done all the bad things Medea does in the Euripides play.

With Galaxy I delved into scientific research that by the time the show was cancelled I knew enough for a PhD in astrophysics. I mean, it’s a fascianting subject. I made some great friends at the Pasadena Jet Prupolsion Lab who I still consult whenever I have a question aboput quassars and wormholes.

(5) WINE PRESS. To this day, fake fans are still being used to promote things. Hats off to Trae Dorn, who’s been drilling to the bottom of “Wine Country Comic Con’s Bizarre Litany of Lies” at Nerd & Tie. There is no end to it!

Last week we published a piece on Wine Country Comic Con. A first year convention currently scheduled for April 23-24 in Santa Rosa, CA, we were alarmed to find they were using a fake Facebook account to spam groups and talk with potential attendees.

But the more we looked into this event, the more we discovered that this story went further than just the fictional “Frida Avila.” Wine Country Comic Con organizer Uriel Brena has constructed a complex charade of lies, fake staffers, and a whole bunch of weirdness.

This rabbit hole runs deep.

A Full Complement of Fake Staffers

The first thing we found out was that “Frida Avila” wasn’t the only weirdly complex fake staffer created by Wine Country Comic Con. Thanks to some email tips (and a bit of our own digging) we found several more:….

(6) A ROBOT WITH KEANE EYESIGHT. Kirsty Styles at TNW News says “Aido is pretty much the robot they promised everyone back in the 1950s”.

Aido will be friends with your weird kid, act as a security guard, remember your schedule and project movies onto the wall to help with anything from cooking to plumbing.

This is the robot to kill all robots. With kindness.

 

(7) ROWLING ON NORTH AMERICAN MAGIC. Will there be anything left to say about this topic by the time I post it to the Scroll? We’ll find out. Today Pottermore ran the first installment of J. K. Rowling’s revelations about wizardry in the New World.

The first piece of writing from ‘History of Magic in North America’ by J.K. Rowling is here, and we can also give you a taster of what’s to come this week.

Today’s piece goes back through the centuries to reveal the beginnings of the North American magical community and how witches and wizards used magic before they adopted wands.

Wednesday’s piece will divulge more about the dangers faced by witches and wizards in the New World, and on Thursday you’ll discover why the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) took steps to move the magical community deeper underground.

The last piece will take us right up to the Roaring Twenties, when the magical community in North America was under the watchful eye of MACUSA President, Madam Seraphina Picquery – played by Carmen Ejogo in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

These stories will give you some idea of how the wizarding world on this continent evolved over the years, and of the names and events that lay the foundation for the arrival of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November.

(8) TROPE TRIPE. Arguing over Rowling should put everyone in the mood for Mark J. Turner’s post at Smash Dragons, “Five Fantasy Tropes That Should Be Consigned to History”.

2. The Chosen One

In fantasy books the protagonist often begins life as Mr A.N.Other, minding his own business in some nowhere village doing nothing in particular. Then we discover that he is the son of a king or a powerful wizard or warrior, and suddenly he is able to take on the world, no training required. Or if there is training, the author presses the fast forward button on the process, and our protagonist learns in a year what it would take others a lifetime to master.

And the transformation in our hero doesn’t end there. He has spent his formative years as a farm boy or a swineherd, yet for some reason that has prepared him perfectly for the demands of running a kingdom. When he rises to the throne, everyone lives happily ever after. There seems to be a sub-text in these books that in order to stop the world slipping into chaos, all you have to do is put the “right” person in charge. It’s as if the natural order is somehow disturbed if there isn’t a man or a woman ruling everything. Whereas in reality we don’t have to look too far in our own world for examples of where putting all the power in the hands of one person isn’t necessarily a good idea.

(9) ON STAGE. James Bacon reviews The Ghost Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at Forbidden Planet. The play features segments written by authors Christopher Fowler, Stephen Gallagher, Kim Newman, Robert Shearman, Lynda E. Rucker and Lisa Tuttle, alongside a wraparound story by director Sean Hogan.

The writing is hilarious, within moments of our travellers sitting down and their unpleasantness becoming clear, the audience are laughing at dark contemporary humour, riffing off recent well-known scandals, while smart language and profanity reflect more closely the mores and morals of modern society. Using traditional ideas of what we consider horror monsters, the authors skilfully show what monsters really are, that nothing is as monstrous as humanity, and the writers with their sharp razor-like ability to find angles in people, left the audience contemplating where the horror truly lies and what being a monster really is….

The framing worked well – a fancy dress party, as one’s favourite monster on a vintage steam train, a very nice little conceit to create the right atmosphere for the portmanteau of stories. Strobe lights, sudden intrusions, the chimey tinkley creepy music as the stage went dark for the changes, the sound effects and stage work, props and masks/costumes all were just right, adding the perfect amount of tangibility for a lively suspension of belief….

(10) OVER THERE. Larry Correia’s next tour stop is —

(11) SAVE GAME OF THRONES FAVORITES. George R.R. Martin’s characters face “Danger! Peril! Death!” Only this time, it’s not because he’s writing scenes for them in his next novel.

Suvudu is doing another one of their Cage Match tournaments. This time the theme is Dynamic Duos. Jaime (one-handed) and Brienne have been paired together. In the first round they are facing Garth Nix’s Sabriel… and a pussycat.

http://suvudu.com/2016/03/cage-match-2016-round-1-jaime-lannister-and-brienne-of-tarth-vs-sabriel-and-mogget.html

In the first Cage Match, lo these many years ago, Jaime defeated Cthulhu (with a little help from Tyrion). Surely he cannot lose to a fluffy little ball o’ fur (and fleas). Not with the mighty maid of Tarth by his side.

(12) TYSON HOSTS DEBATE. Panelists for the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate will engage the question: “Is the Universe a Simulation?”

What may have started as a science fiction speculation—that perhaps the universe as we know it is actually a computer simulation—has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers. Join host and moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson and his panel of experts for a lively discussion and debate about the merits and shortcomings of this provocative and revolutionary idea.

The Asimov Debate panelists are: David Chalmers, Professor of philosophy, New York University; Zohreh Davoudi, Theoretical physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Gates, Theoretical physicist, University of Maryland; Lisa Randall, Theoretical physicist, Harvard University; and Max Tegmark, Cosmologist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The debate takes place April 5 at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. Check the website for tickets. The debate also will be livestreamed via <amnh.org/live>.

(13) BOOKS SCIENTISTS LOVE. Charlie Jane Anders at io9 pointed to a forum in reddit’s Print SF Resources where scientists talk about their favorite books and the scientific problems they find in SF. Filer Greg Hullender makes an appearance there.

(14) STEAMPUNK RULES WHERE STEAMBOATS DOCKED. The Riverfront Times was there when “The Science Center Went Steampunk on Friday – and Everyone Had a Victorian Good Time”.

The St. Louis Science Center takes Fridays very seriously, with a themed evening of special events the first Friday of each month. Last Friday was no exception, as the Science Center hosted a night entirely devoted to steampunk science. The event drew everyone from families to costumed fanatics. All enjoyed a night of demonstrations (did someone say “escape artist”?), activities (where else can you try a steampunk shooting range?), films and more devoted to this take on Victorian-era science fiction.

(15) HYPNOTIC SCULPTURES. Everybody with a quarter-of-a-million spare dollars is going to want one of these.

(16) SUPERGIRL WILL BE BACK. The Mary Sue has deduced Supergirl will get a second season.

While technically nothing official’s been announced, while speaking at Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, CBS President Les Moonves pretty much stated that Supergirl is getting another season. Well, specifically he said:

We have about five new shows on this year. Of those five, I believe all five of them will be renewed, and we own four of them.

[Via Nerd & Tie.]

(17) A NEW SUIT. Another Comic Con is being sued for trademark infringement – but the mark involved is not “Comic Con,” as the Houston Chronicle explains — “Convention bureau sues comic convention over ‘Space City’ trademark”

Houston’s convention bureau is suing the operators of a popular local convention over the use of “Space City” in its name, claiming it infringes on a 12-year-old trademark.

The convention in question, Space City Comic Con, also happens to compete with a similar event that is half-owned by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau itself. The bureau acquired a 50 percent stake in the more established Comicpalooza last September, spokesman A.J. Mistretta said….

Houston has billed itself “Space City,” a boastful nod to its founding role in U.S. space exploration, since the 1960s. Over the decades, dozens of local companies from plumbers to construction outfits to tattoo parlors have used the moniker as part of their name. But they are not affected by the trademark registered by the convention bureau in 2004, said Charles S. Baker, an intellectual property lawyer with Locke Lord in Houston who is representing the bureau in its lawsuit.

The trademark is narrowly constructed and applies solely to efforts that promote tourism, business and conventions in the greater Houston area, Baker said.

(18) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1913 – The Internal Revenue Service began to levy and collect income taxes in the United States. (Go ahead, ask me what that has to do with sf. They’re raising money for the space program, okay?)

(18b) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

Born March 8, 1967 — Tasha Turner

(19) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson makes an ingenious comparison in “The 7 Levels of Recommending”.

Maimonides, a Jewish scholar and Rabbi (which are pretty much the same things: he was an astronomer too…) once developed a “hierarchy of charitable giving”.  He essentially analyzed the different kinds of charity that people extended and attempted to define the different types and then ordered them from least to most selfless.  He ended up with 8 different levels of giving.  The lowest form of charity is giving grudgingly – forced to hand over a dollar to the street bum because he’s blocking your path.  The highest form is giving before it is even needed (my father thought that included my allowance….).

I mention this because, as a result of all of the discussion regarding slates vs recommended readings lists, I thought that a similar hierarchy of the levels of recommending might be instructive.

(20) SHUT UP, PLEASE. Max Florschutz uses “The Loud Neighbor” as a social media analogy. I found his argument appealing until he decloaked his attack —

And this is where a lot of “social” groups these days get it wrong. A lot of what’s being touted online and in social circles these days is the act of calling the landlord to complain about noise, while being just as loud on one’s own, but giving one’s self a free pass to be loud because you have the “right.” It’s wanting the freedom to do what you want, produce as much friction as you want, while not being willing to extend that same courtesy to others. It’s the kind of mentality that leads to things like “safe spaces” where only individuals of one sex or skin tone are allowed entry. Freedom to produce as much friction as possible while denying others the same freedom. One group is allowed to be “loud” while simultaneously “calling the landlord” to complain that the other group needs to be silent.

Is it a perfect allegory? No. But it still holds. We can’t be as loud as we want and expect that no one else be given the same treatment. We need to extend the courtesy that we give ourselves to others. If we don’t do that, then what are we doing but putting ourselves on a pedestal and pushing those around us down?

(21) IS THIS A GOOD THING? You can now pre-order 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush, edited by Kevin J. Anderson and John McFetridge, at various places including Amazon. (My header, there, is just a joke. A message board I used to follow had a devoted Rush fan, and yanking his chain about it was an indirect way of expressing affection.)

Ron Collins drew my attention to the book in a promotional e-mail —

I’m super-thrilled to announce that you can now pre-order copies of 2113, an anthology of stories inspired by Rush songs that includes my work “A Patch of Blue.” I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this one. I’ve spent a lot of good times listening to those guys. [grin]

My story is one inspired by Rush’s “Natural Science,” which is a monstrous work in three acts that’s just cool as all get-out. It was a total blast to write, partially because I got to put it on endless loop while I did it–so, yeah, the song is pretty much indelibly inked onto my brain now.

(22) ENERGIZE – THEN DIE! This is freaking alarming — The Trouble with Transporters.

(23) RAVEN MANIAC. From Amoxtli, the poetic masterwork of the day.

A sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore:

Lenora Rose, people are bound to confuse us, given the name similarity (or not notice that our names were autocorrected to the other version, as my computer tried to do to your name just now).

As I was on the File a-tapping on my keyboard, posts o’erlapping
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
Suddenly there came a fwapping: “The Rose and Jones are not for swapping.”
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
When the accurs’d hour tolls our doom, shall we mistake the name Lenore?”
Said the Filers, “Fear no more.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, David K.M. Klaus, James Bacon, Martin Morse Wooster, and Kendall for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/2016 I Saw The Best Scrolls Of My Generation Destroyed By Pixels, Filing Hysterical Numbered

(1) THE FINNISH. Finland hosts the World Science Fiction Convention in 2017 — but if you can’t make it to Helsinki, hit the library: more and more Finnish speculative fiction authors are getting English translations, as NPR reports in “Finnish Authors Heat Up The Speculative Fiction World”.

In the middle of Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun, the reader is interrupted by an ad. It’s for Fresh Scent, a personal fragrance available from the State Cosmetics Corporation of Finland. It’s marketed to woman, although “marketed” is an understatement. In Sinisalo’s nightmarish, alternate-reality vision of her homeland, a tyrannical patriarchy splits women into two classes — docile “eloi” and undesirable “morlocks,” terms cheekily drawn from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine — as part of an oppressive national health scheme that crosses insidiously over into eugenics.

The ad for Fresh Scent is just one of the novel’s many fragmentary asides. In additional to its more conventional narrative, which centers on Vanna, a woman with an addiction to chili peppers (it makes sense a skewed sort of sense, really), The Core of the Sun is made up of epistolary passages, dictionary entries, article excerpts, transcripts of hearings, scripts for instructional films, homework assignments, folk songs, and even fairytales that exist only in Sinisalo’s twisted version of the world. Chillingly, one passage concerning the social benefits of human sterilization is taken from a real-world source, a Finnish magazine article from 1935.

There’s a streak of scathing satire to the book’s fragmentary science fiction, and in that sense it sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut — but Sinisalo crafts a funny, unsettling, emotionally charged apparition of the present that’s all her own.

(2) SPEAKING OF COLD PLACES. The New York Times captioned this tweet “A Wookie Chills in Washington (Not Hoth)”

(3) AN ALARMING INSIGHT.

(4) DEATH OF A GOLDEN AGE. Saladin Ahmed’s Buzzfeed article argues “Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics”.

In the 1940s, comic books were often feminist, diverse, and bold. Then the reactionary Comics Code Authority changed the trajectory of comic book culture for good.

The comics themselves exhibited wild stylistic variety. A single issue of Keen Detective Funnies could contain one story with gorgeous Art Nouveau-ish illustration, and another with glorified stick figures. The comic books of the Golden Age were also significantly more diverse in terms of genre than today’s comics. On newsstands across America — in an era when the newsstand was an urban hub and an economic juggernaut — comic books told tales of True Crime, Weird Fantasy and Cowboy Love, Negro Romance, and Mystery Men. And Americans bought them.

Even as Amazing-Man and Blue Beetle were rescuing helpless, infantilized women, badass superheroines like the Lady in Red, the Spider Queen, and Lady Satan were stabbing Nazis and punching out meddlesome, sexist cops.

(5) NOW THAT SHE HAS OUR ATTENTION. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s post “Business Musings: Poor Poor Pitiful Me Is Not A Business Model” actually is not a rant telling writers to buck up, it’s a discussion of the true levers of culture change. But it begins with a rant….

Granted, in the recent past, the major publishing companies were the only game in town. But they are no longer the only game in town. A major bestselling writer can—and should—walk from any deal that does not meet her contractual and business needs.

Hell, every writer should do that.

But of course most writers won’t. Instead, an entire group of them beg for scraps from the Big All-Powerful Evil Publishers, proving to the publishers that writers are idiots and publishers hold all the cards.

I already bludgeoned the Authors Guild letter last week, so why am I going back to the same trough? Because this poor-poor-pitiful-me attitude has become the norm in the publishing industry right now, and I’m really tired of it.

The big battles of 2014 and 2015, from all of the fighting over the meaning of Amazon in the past few years to the in-genre squabbling over the Hugo awards that science fiction indulged in last year to the hue and cry indie writers have treated us to over the various changes in Kindle Unlimited since its inauguration have all had the same basic complaint.

Someone—be it a publisher (that Amazon is Evil argument) or a writer (the rest of it)—believes they’re entitled to something, and when they don’t get that something, they complain loudly, on social media or in traditional media or via group letter or through (in sf’s case) hateful spiteful posts about the opposing parties.

Only a handful of people take responsibility for the situation they’re in—if, indeed, they are responsible. Only a few actually analyze why the situation exists.

(6) HIGH PRAISE. The first line in David Barnett’s review of Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds is —

Imagine that Diana Wynne Jones, Douglas Coupland and Neil Gaiman walk into a bar and through some weird fusion of magic and science have a baby. That offspring is Charlie Jane Anders’ lyrical debut novel All The Birds In The Sky.

Do you think that’s a lot to live up to?

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 24, 1888 — Typewriter “copy” ribbon patented by Jacob L. Wortman. Harlan Ellison still uses one.
  • January 25, 1984 – Apple’s Macintosh computer went on sale. Price tag: $2,495.

(8) TRI ROBOT. Mickey Zucker Reichert, the author of To Preserve, is a working physician and the author of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot Trilogy (To Protect, To Obey, To Preserve). The third book will be published in hardcover by Roc in February.

Nate, has been Manhattan Hasbro Hospital’s resident robot for more than twenty years. Nate’s very existence terrified most people, leaving the robot utilized for menial tasks and generally ignored. Until one of the hospital’s physicians is found murdered with Nate standing over the corpse.

As programmer of Nate’s brain, Lawrence Robertson is responsible for his creation and arrested for the crime. Susan Calvin knows the Three Laws of Robotics make it impossible for Nate to harm a human. But maybe someone manipulated the laws to commit murder.

(9) DOUGH-REY. Kip W. pays tribute to characters from that billion-dollar movie The Force Awakens.

Poe, a flier; a fast male flier
Rey, who scavenges a bit,
Maz, a host who knows the most,
Finn, a white shirt drone who quit,
Snoke, a hologram quite tall,
Ren, a very angry joe,
Beeb, a droid head on a ball,
Which will bring us back to Poe. Poe, Rey, Maz, Finn, Snoke, Ren, Beeb, Poe!

(10) FLEXIBILITY. Nick Osment analyzes the benefits of reading science fiction in “What We Can Learn From a Time Lord: Doctor Who and a New Enlightened Perspective” at Black Gate.

If tomorrow you stepped inside a time machine and found yourself standing in the yard of this man who is separated from being your neighbor only by the passage of a century, then suddenly his opinions would become somewhat more relevant because now you would actually have to interact with him. But they would not become any more credible to you just because you were now hearing them face-to-face. You would still hear them from the vantage of having come from the future.

Now imagine your life today not as if you were living in your own time but as if you were visiting from a hundred years in the future. The weight given by proximity, i.e., these people are my neighbors, is leveled off, much the way that visiting that long-dead neighbor would be. Detach yourself from all the noise of the television and the Internet and your workplace, your college, your local pub. See it from a more objective position — of not being of this time, with the knowledge that this time, too, will pass, and all these people who are speaking right now; they all, too, will be dead and most of them forgotten.

(11) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. 11.22.63, the eight-part event series based on Stephen King’s 2011 novel, premieres Presidents Day, February 15 on Hulu.

11.22.63 is a thriller in which high school English teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — but his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, falling in love and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed

 

(12) LONG TAIL OF SALES. Fynbospress summarizes the impact of streaming on the music business, and explains the parallels in book publishing to Mad Genius Club readers in “The Importance of Being Backlist”.

In summary, if publishing continues to mirror music, then streaming will continue to increase, but frontlist sales may continue to fall, and it become harder and harder to get discovered in the initial release period. However, backlist volume is growing, and people are discovering their way through the things that have been out there a while. So, while you can and should do some promotion of your latest release – if it fails to take off, don’t despair. Instead, write the next book, the greatest book you’ve written yet. Sometimes you make your money on the initial release surge, and sometimes, it’ll come in having a lot of things out there all bringing in an unsteady trickle.

(13) TWO COMIC CONS MAY SETTLE. A settlement may be at hand in the San Diego Comic-Con’s suit against the Salt Lake Comic Con for for trademark-infringement. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that on Thursday, attorneys for both conventions asked the judge to extend a procedural deadline so that they could work “diligently” on a settlement. The conventions have scheduled a meeting with Adler on Wednesday in San Diego.

Drafts of the agreement have been exchanged,” according to the Thursday court filing requesting the extension, “and the parties hope to soon reach agreement as to all terms.”

San Diego Comic-Con is a trademarked name, and lawyers have argued that the similarity of “Comic Con” in the name of the Salt Lake City event has confused people into thinking the event is somehow associated with San Diego’s convention.

As Salt Lake’s organizers have seen it, the legal battle isn’t just between them and the flagship convention; it’s a threat to the dozens of other comic book conventions around the world that also use “comic con” in their names. Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and chief marketing officer Bryan Brandenburg previously asserted that if San Diego wins the case, the precedent will allow it to do this to other organizations.

(14) RING OF POWER. Jim C. Hines snapped this photo at Confusion:

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Henley.]

Pixel Scroll 11/30 The Doom That Came to File770

(1) TOLKIEN AT THE PLATE. Pitchers’ faces turn almost gargoyle-like at the moment they deliver the baseball. Major league baseball blog Cut4  decided it would be amusing to match those expressions with melodramatic quotes from Lord of the Rings.

The pitch face. Completely uninhibited, wholly pure. Every pitcher has one. It takes a lot of effort to throw a pitch 90-plus mph, after all, and pitchers can’t exactly worry about what arrangement their features make while trying to hit their spots. And so, the pitch face is one of baseball’s most totally human elements.

Below, some of the best we saw this year. And to explain their greatness, we captioned them with quotes from the only movies as epic as these faces: The Lord of the Rings trilogy….

“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”

pitcher

(2) SWEDISH SF ART. A fine gallery accompanies a brief interview with the artist in The Huffington Post’s, “Sci-Fi Painter Simon Stålenhag Turns The Everyday Into Dystopia”.

One artist working actively to infuse visions of the future into scenes from the present is Simon Stålenhag, whose narrative paintings have recently been collected into a book, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The paintings in Tales from the Loop show children and adolescents traipsing across gray plains, energetic in spite of their glum surroundings. Power lines and radio towers dot the skyline, alongside foreign machines, hefty and ominous.

That Stålenhag’s imagined robots stand beside clusters of desktop computers, scoreboards and hatchbacks makes their existence that much more believable. “Look what we’ve created,” he seems to suggest. “Imagine what else we can create.”

staylenhag art

(3) FERMI PARADOX REDUX. A long time ago there was a famous commercial for a hamburger chain that mainly consisted of an elderly woman interrupting a rival’s ad copy, shouting “Where’s the beef?” The Fermi Paradox has a similar effect on speculations about intelligent life in the universe – and Jim Henley’s new post puts a dent in a favorite corollary — “Fermi Conundrum Redux: The Singularity as Great Big Zero?”

Half the objections come from transhumanist types saying that “We’ll just send our robots” or “mind-uploading” or “frozen genetic material raised by AI nannies” or self-replicating Von Neumann machines etc. – the whole LessWrong kitbag of secular eschatons.

But it occurs to me that all that does is bring those notions into the orbit of the Fermi Conundrum, née Fermi Paradox*. The Conundrum, as we all know, runs, “Where is everybody?” That is, we should see evidence of intelligent life Out There or right here or, if you’re especially cynical, should have been wiped out by another civilization before we even evolved this far, just to be on the safe side. The answer, “Maybe there just aren’t any other intelligent civilizations,” almost has to count as the most probable answer to the conundrum at this point.

(4) NEWITZ BIDS GOODBYE. Today was Annalee Newitz’ last day at io9 and Gizmodo. Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders co-founded io9 in 2008. In “I’m Heading Out to the Black. Farewell, io9 and Gizmodo!” at io9, Newitz announced:

And this is where my path diverges from io9 and Gizmodo. This past year managing both sites taught me that I’m not actually interested in being a manager. I want to write. That’s why I got into the writing business, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I’ve accepted a position as tech culture editor at Ars Technica, where I’m excited to be devoting all my time to writing about the cultural impact of technology and science.

Did I mention that change is scary? Actually, it’s terrifying. And amazing. And a fundamental, banal part of being trapped in linear time. Anyone who loves the future, or who looks forward to a tomorrow that’s different from today, has to accept the uncertainties of change. Your Utopian vision might lead you straight to the shithole. But sometimes, your one-year speculative experiment grows into a giant robot that saves humanity from giant monsters. You won’t know until you actually veer off the road you were on, and steal a little plutonium to fuel your dreams.

Newitz says Katie Drummond will carry on Gizmodo.

(5) NaNoWriMo PROGRESS. Misty Massey asks “Did You Win NaNo?”  at Magical Words,

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, a gloriously insane thirty-days of writing like your head is on fire and your booty is catching. I’ve participated for a whole lot of years now, although I never win, because this kind of writing is just not what I do. Despite having been told time and again that I should just write it all down and fix it later, I can’t. It needs to be as perfect and wonderful as I can manage the first time, so my writing style is Eeyore-slow.  But I still sign on for NaNo every year, just in case.  I managed about 9,000 words. Which, for me, is a stunning achievement.

(6) FAVES. Stephanie Burgis lists her “Favorite MG Novels of 2015”. And lo and behold, Ursula Vernon, you are Number Six…

  1. Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon, is a wickedly funny fantasy novel with a fabulous heroine, and it turned me into a huge Ursula Vernon fan. You can read my full review here.

(7) JESSICA REVIEW. Jim Henley’s post “Jessica Jones (And Her Amazing Friends): A Netflix Original Series” sounds like he’s going to keep watching, if you ask me.

(8) BANGING ON. Larry Correia notifies his readers “JP Enterprises is now offering MHI [Monster Hunter International] and MCB logo AR-15 lower receivers” – a logo etching on a gun part.

I just had a fun thought. While certain other bestselling novelists are writing sanctimonious ignorant tweets bleating for more gun control, Larry Correia offers you custom rifles. 🙂

JP-MHI-1024x867

(9) THE RACK IS BACK. Lou Antonelli made sf and fantasy the dominant genres sold at the Dollar General store in Mount Pleasant, TX, as he explains in “Help the spin rack make a comeback!”

In talking about publishing original fiction [in a 2008 article by Antonelli], [Tom] Doherty mentioned that those paperback spin racks we used to see in stores and pharmacies were often a point of entry for people to the s-f and fantasy genres.

They used to be ubiquitous – those tall, vertical wire racks that you could spin around to see all four sides loaded up with mass market paperbacks. Doherty noted how the consolidation of book distribution had all but eliminated them. He said he hoped the fiction published by Tor.com would serve the same function as a point of entry for new readers in the digital age.

…Now, fast forward two and half years, to the summer of 2011. I was scheduled as a panelist at ArmadilloCon in Austin, and one of the panels was on “Secret History”. The Thursday before the convention I stopped at a local Dollar General in Mount Pleasant to pick up some groceries on the way home from work, and while standing in line, I caught sight of a spin rack.

Yes, Dollar General still believes in the spin rack. I walked over and saw that among the books was a copy of Steven Brust’s “The Paths of the Dead”. While I don’t read high fantasy, I bought the book because Brust was on the panel with me.

The following Sunday afternoon, as the panel on Secret History broke up, I stopped and pulled the book out. I told Steve “you know you are a best-selling author when you’re on the spin rack in the Dollar General in Mount Pleasant, Texas! That means your books are sold EVERYWHERE!”

(10) OUT WITH THE OLD. Jeff Duntemann’s photo of “Samples from the Box of No Return” is like a fannish time capsule.

I’m packing my office closet, and realized that The Box of No Return was overflowing. So in order to exercise my tesselation superpower on it, I had to upend it on my office floor and repack it from scratch.

I hadn’t done that in a very long time.

You may have a Box of No Return. It’s downstairs from the Midwestern Junk Drawer, hidden behind the Jar of Loose Change. It’s for stuff you know damned well you’ll never use again, but simply can’t bring yourself to throw away. A lot of it may be mementos. Some of it is just cool. Most of it could be dumped if you were a braver (and less sentimental) man than I….

There follows a descriptive paragraph of the treasures discovered. And things less that treasured.

I tossed a couple of things, like my SFWA membership badge. SFWA wanted to get rid of me for years for not publishing often enough; I saved them the trouble. Rot in irrelevancy, you dorks; I’m an indie now, and making significant money. Some promo buttons were for products I couldn’t even recall, and they went in the cause of making room. But most of it will go back in the (small) box, and it will all fit, with room to spare for artifacts not yet imagined, much less acquired.

(11) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 30, 1835 – Mark Twain

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Director Ridley Scott

(12) ONE STARS. Scalzi, Leckie, Rothfuss and others reading various one star reviews out loud.

(13) ABRAMS INTERVIEW. “J.J. Abrams Is Excited for Mothers and Daughters To See Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens director stopped by Good Morning America on Monday to talk about the upcoming release, and how he’s hoping it won’t just be a “boy’s thing.”

Star Wars was always a boy’s thing,” Abrams said. “I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.”

In the interview, Abrams also confirmed that he at first refused the offer to direct the new Star Wars film, saying that it was a franchise he so revered that he “thought it would be better just to go the theater and see it like everyone else.” After talking to producer producer Kathy Kennedy, however, Abrams said the opportunity was “too delicious and too exciting to pass up.”

Video of the GMA interview is at the link.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg.]

Update 12/01/2015: Corrected the link to Jim Henley’s review of Jessica Jones.

Pixel Scroll 10/30 The Stainless Steel Hedgehog Has A Harsh Mistress, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

(1) Larry Smith is out of the hospital reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook.

Please forgive the lack of recent updates. As they say, no news is good news. Larry is back out of the hospital, and appears to be doing well. He was finally able to attend a convention last weekend, and held up remarkably well. At this point, he is hoping to make all of his November commitments. Clearly, he is not exactly on top of his game, and has had to make some adjustments to his activity level and routine, but he is improving.

Larry and Sally asked me to try to convey the enormous gratitude they feel to everyone who has come to their aid through this very trying time. I say *try* to convey, because there just are not enough words to adequately express how thankful and humbled they feel. And let me just add my thanks as well. These are some very special people, and my heart swells when I see this wonderful family that we call fandom come together to help them like you have.

They are currently still trying to find a replacement van. The one they had was a 15 passenger model, with a long wheelbase and extra suspension to handle the weight of the books. They have found a couple of possibilities (of course, none local), so they hope to find one soon. Give yourselves a much – deserved pat on the back for making this possible for them. Please share this update on any list or social media that you have available to you

(2) David Langford proudly displayed his “Sausage Maker To Fandom” badge ribbon in the new issue of Ansible.  It was given to him at LonCon 3.

(3) Thursday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert had Seth MacFarlane and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as guests. Stephen is convinced that star KIC 8462852 is evidence of the alien life predicted in one of his favorite books. In the final interview segment, Colbert goes off on a seriously detailed Ringworld rant, including crediting Larry Niven.

“Just because you don’t understand what you’re lookin’ at doesn’t mean it’s alien,” countered Tyson…

In this YouTube clip, the Ringworld bit starts just after the 1:50 mark.

(4) CNN reports “Orbiting bacteria: Space Station may need some tidying up”.

The next time NASA picks an astronaut to live in the International Space Station, it might want to send Mr. Clean. That’s because scientists using a kind of high-tech white glove test found something in the space dust there.

The astronauts are not alone, it turns out. They share tight quarters with some previously undetected, opportunistic bacterial pathogens.

Nothing unusual here. The Sasquan guest of honor left his hotel room in the same condition as every other fan at this year’s Worldcon. A generous tip ordinarily covers these things. In this case, two or three million dollars should do it…

(5) Grantland, ESPN’s pop culture site founded by Bill Simmons, is shutting down. I’ll miss genre-themed coverage like Brian Phillips’ ”50 Scenes That Do Not Appear in the Fox ‘X-Files’ Revival”.

  1. It does not, at any point, transpire that Assistant FBI Director Walter Skinner joins Kickstarter to seek funding for his “elegantly bound novelization” of Infocom’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
  2. The word “copyleft” — that doesn’t get thrown around a lot.
  3. Jonathan, who is not making churros, does not tell Scully that “it’s about the cinnamon” and then gasp, “I’ve said too much,” and then get shot in the head by a sniper from Venus.

(6) Charle Jane Anders acknowledges “The Difference Between a Great Story and a Shitty Story Is Often Really Tiny” at io9.

To some extent this is a “Devil in the details” thing: It’s the little details that will trip you up. Small inconsistencies can make your world feel flimsy. But, too, tiny character moments and little bits of emotional resonance, in between the big incidents, can do a ton to make people buy stock in your world and its people.

The difference between a shitty story and a great story is often just one of clarity, also. A great story sets up its premises early on, then builds on them and deepens them, until finally you reach some kind of crisis. Going back to the topic of movies, I’ve been amazed by how many movies I’ve seen lately where the first 20 or 30 minutes are compelling and fascinating (the “first act”) and then what follows is a dull morass. It’s like the “building and deepening” part of the recipe just got thrown out.

(7) That lunar rover that went to the junkyard?

“Although Mr. Clueless opted to dispose of the moonlander for scrap, not so the junkyard owner!” reports David Doering.

Motherboard has an interview with the anonymous buyer.

Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there’s a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition.

The scrap dealer spoke to Motherboard on the condition of anonymity because he says he wants to speak to his lawyer about his next steps, but he did send me the recent photo of the buggy above to confirm it’s in his possession. The rover matches a historical NASA image we believed to be the rover in question. It also matches the description given by NASA in its investigatory documents.

“The man who originally bought it, from my understanding, he bought it at an auction. He was a road conditioner [in Alabama],” the junkyard owner told me. “I can’t confirm this is true, but he bought it at a NASA auction many years ago. NASA just discarded a lot of that stuff back then. When it was brought to my scrap facility, I set it aside because I knew what it was. The unit does exist today. It is not scrapped. I have that unit in storage.”

“I’ve done quite a lot of research on the unit and it’s an artifact that needs to be saved,” he added.

David Doering says, “Sure looks like an easy cut-and-dried Kickstarter campaign to buy the rover!”

(8) Speaking of space exploring antiques, NASA needs a programmer fluent in 60-year-old computer programming languages to keep the Voyager 1 and 2 crafts going. The new hire has to know FORTRAN and assembly languages.

(9) Although written before the revised WFC 2015 harassment policy came out, Alasdsair Stuart’s post on the issue remains revelant for making points like these:

In the last two years I’ve been part of a team asked to deal with a single incident. I saw my colleagues treat the individual who had been harassed with compassion, patience and respect. I saw them be given the space they needed to collect themselves and make decisions rather than be pressured into a choice they might later regret. I have rarely been prouder of the teams of volunteers I’ve worked with over the last few years than I was on that day.

And that’s why the mealy mouthed legal tapdance WFC’15 was throwing up wasn’t just bullshit, it was and still is actively harmful. This event, that proudly lays claim to being the definitive convention for industry professionals, was not bothering to do something that events with a tenth its status and a hundredth its reach have baked into their procedures. The obvious defense here is of course the tiny size of the community and ‘we’ choosing to deal with it ‘in house’.

That’s not even in the same time zone as ‘good enough’.

No one on Earth WANTS to have a harassment policy. Even in building one you’re forced to imagine the absolute worst of the people around you, and in doing so, work out how to minimize the damage they may cause. These people have to, by definition, include your friends and colleagues. It’s an inherently cautious, inherently cynical piece of work that codifies the worst potential human behaviour and how to deal with it. No one wants that, least of all members of a community that likes to pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. But we all need it precisely because of that inclusion and diversity.

(10) John Holyoke reviews Stephen King’s new short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams in the Bangor Daily News.

bazaar of bad dreams cover COMP

For loyal King fans who devour anything the author produces, these collections are tiny desserts: sweet morsels that can be consumed rapidly, without guilt. Like some? Fine. Love ’em all? Better. Hate a few? Oh, well — move on. Take a bite out of another.

For those who are new to King and unsure whether they’ll like what they find, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” provides a tasty sampler that, like his other short story collections, showcases the master’s array of talents.

King said a year ago that he was confident he could still “write stories that are sleep-with-the-lights-on scary.” And he can. (Try his novel “Revival” on for size, if you’re in doubt.)

But “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” is a collection of a different flavor and seems to reflect the maturing — and aging — of a writer who likely has left far more tales in his rear view mirror then he has remaining in front of his headlights. Recurring themes this time around include aging, dealing with aging and death itself.

And while that isn’t surprising in itself — there’s often a hefty helping of dying going on in a King book or story — the tone is different, almost melancholy at times, as characters face their mortality and battle with questions like the age-old unanswerable: What’s next?

(11) Lisa Morton, Horror Writers Association president, tells the true, highly commercial origins of today’s Halloween holiday.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that Halloween is a ghoulish tradition that goes back to Druid priests practicing pagan rituals, tell them that companies like Hershey, Coors and Dennison had a lot more to do with the modern Halloween we revere than the Celts from 2,000 years ago.

And that’s a good thing, because these companies have largely created the holiday we now love.

While it is likely that Halloween owes much of its macabre character to the Irish Celtic harvest celebration, Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), there’s no proof whatsoever to suggest that the Celts dressed in costumes, begged candy from neighbors or staged elaborate haunted scares (although they probably did hold major feasts complete with alcohol).

(12) The Horror Writers Association website has a fine array of posts about the holiday by its members. Today’s entry is “Halloween Haunts: Souled” by Tonya Hurley.

We almost drove past it until I noticed the line snaking around the side of the nondescript-looking Dutch Colonial house on the canal. It hardly looked like the scene of any crime let alone that crime — The Amityville Horror. “112 Ocean Avenue.  That’s it!” I shouted with half excitement and equal parts guilt. The latest family to own the house was moving out and this was hyped as a yard sale guaranteed to top them all.  Shoppers and rubberneckers from miles around gathered to land a piece of horror history, joking with each other, retelling tall tales, mixing myths with fact about the house and the crime like a demonic game of telephone as they waited. A quick walk through the home yielded little contents owned by the DeFeo family, the original owners, who were famously murdered there…

(13) Amy Wallace has updated her Wired article “Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul”.

It is August 2015, and things are looking up for Team Humanity. Or are they? A record 11,700-plus people have bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners are soon to be announced. A record number have also forked over dues of at least $40 in time to be allowed to vote, and almost 6,000 cast ballots, 65 percent more than ever before.

But are the new voters Puppies? Or are they, in the words of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, “gathering to defend the integrity of the Hugos”? Just before 8 pm on August 22, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail, and the like, one question is on most attendee’s minds: Will the Puppies prevail?

The evening begins with an appearance by a fan cosplaying as the Grim Reaper, and that turns out to be an omen for the Puppies. By evening’s end, not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate takes home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editors for Short and Long Form—voters choose “No Award.”

Earlier, Beale explained to me that his plan was a “Xanatos gambit”—“that’s where you set it up so that no matter what your enemy does, he loses and you win.” No surprise then, that in an email he sends after the awards ceremony, Beale is crowing. “The scorched-earth strategy being pursued by the SJWs in science fiction is evidence that we hold the initiative and we are winning,” he writes. The number of major categories in which no awards are given “demon­strates the extent to which science fiction has been politi­cized and degraded by their far left politics.”

Quotes from pro writers only – Kloos, Bellet, Correia, Torgersen, Vox Day, George R.R. Martin, N.K. Jemisin.

Zero quotes from fans, who merely run and vote for the awards. Yet Brad R. Torgersen is outraged that still another pro, Sarah A. Hoyt, wasn’t interviewed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh,Tom Galloway, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

The Wind’s Hind Quarters 6/30

aka Quit Zoomin’ Those Paws Through The Air

Starring in today’s roundup: Charlie Jane Anders, Jon F. Zeigler, Arianne, Melina D, Paul Kincaid, Martin Wisse, Justin Howe, Lou Antonelli, Doctor Strangelove, Terry Weyna, Spacefaring Kitten, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, Grac and embrodski. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Richard Brandt and Daniel Dern.)

Charlie Jane Anders on io9

“Eight Books You Need To Know About To Understand The Hugo Awards Snafu” – June 30

about books

But all the discussions about the Puppies, pro and con, tend to bog down in generalizations. So let’s get specific. Here are eight books that can help illuminate this mess. Because this is about books, or it’s about nothing at all.

[Anders takes a highly interesting approach, contrasting what reviewers and Sad/Rabid Puppies advocates have to say about these eight sf works:]

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
  • Blackout by Mira Grant
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • The Book of Feasts and Seasons by John C. Wright
  • Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

 

 

Jon F. Zeigler on Sharrukin’s Palace

“The Hugo Dispute: An Assessment” – June 30

[Thorough article. This is just an excerpt of two of the topics:]

Over at Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson recently blogged about possible fan responses to this mess. Some of his suggestions strike me as either impractical or actively harmful, but I think he’s on the right track with at least one item:

“First, the crafting of a formal statement that articulates the position that Fandom and Fans (which includes authors, artists, editors, podcasters, bloggers, fan writers, fan artists and everyone) do not game awards (or other fannish institutions) for personal, political or financial gain. Further, that individuals who may be eligible for awards state formally that they do not grant permission for third parties to include them or their works in voting campaigns or slates or organized voting blocs and that if their names or works are found on such, it is without their express permission.”

As a purely voluntary principle for creators in this space, I think that’s well worth considering. So here’s my line in the sand, to be repeated if and when it becomes fully relevant.

I won’t participate in organizing a slate for any industry award. If and when I publish something that’s eligible, I will not give my permission for that work to be included on any slate. If someone includes my work on a slate without my permission, and that work reaches the ballot, I will withdraw it from consideration. If that means the award becomes irrelevant to my success as an author, so be it.

I can succeed without having to chase fan politics. I can do that by pursuing the work I love: writing and selling stories. If that isn’t enough, I don’t intend to waste my time stewing over might-have-beens.

Now, as it happens, the argument above assumes that the rules of the awards process aren’t going to change. If they do change to make slate voting more costly or difficult, that mitigates the problem. There are multiple ways to get that result, some of which admittedly constitute a cure worse than the disease.

Fortunately, there’s a proposed rule change that will be considered at the WSFS business meeting this year, and that seems very promising. That’s the so-called E Pluribus Hugo proposal, a modification of the procedure for counting nomination votes.

I’ve spent some time looking at the EPH proposal. In fact, while I don’t claim to be an expert, the comparative study of election systems is familiar to me (my professional background is in mathematics and computer science). Thus far I’m quite impressed.

 

Melina D on Subversive Reader

“Hugos 2015 – Where to now?” – July 1

So what do I do next?

I was talking to my sister about the Hugos the other night. My sister is not in the community (though she does read and watch speculative media), but she’s worked in politics, so she understands a lot about the political process and it was relatively easy to explain how the slate dominated the awards this year. She helped me clarify some of my thoughts and then asked the question:

“So what are you going to do about it?”

Funnily enough, I’d been turning this question over in my head for a few days. What was I going to do to make my voice heard? How was I going to stand up and say ‘I want the best writing – the absolute best – to be nominated for and win Hugos Awards.’ I want writing which makes me feel something, writing which makes me stay up late reading, writing which makes me want to tell everyone about what I just read.

I have two main powers as a supporting member – I can nominate and I can vote. There is a third power though – I can write about it. I can write about the stories and books I read and why I love them or why they don’t quite work for me and why other people should go to read them. I can write about the nominees and why I would vote for one or the other. The power of the internet means that I can put my voice out there.

I can also read more. This Hugo ‘season’ has allowed me to find a lot of new places to find short fiction and I’ve already started reading some from the first half of the year. I’m reading more blogs and online magazines and looking at their book reviews and announcements. I’ve made sure that I’m putting more time into reading – even if it’s just a short story before bed.

There’s a few places I can go to find 2015 stories and media, but I’d also like to open it here. What new fiction or nonfiction are you consuming? What have you really enjoyed? What would you like to share with others? Leave a comment, tell me about it. I might go on to read and review it, I might not, but it gives me new places to explore and new things to try. I might find a new author I absolutely love, or find myself reading a new type of story I’d never even thought about before.

With more reading, I’m going to feel more confident nominating. And by sharing my reading, I hope I can encourage others to read and nominate their favourite stories of the year. Maybe it won’t be enough to negate the slate, but at least I’m doing something positive.

 

Paul Kincaid on BestScienceFictionBooks.com

“A Reply to Kevin Standlee on the Hugos”  – June 30

[Excerpt is first of four points.]

1: No, I do not want a “Strong Leader”, and that is not what I said. What I want is a more responsive organisation. Every award that I know of has a mechanism in place that would allow for a change in the rules between one award presentation and the next. Some of these amount to a strong leader, most do not. None of them takes at least two years to put in place any rule change.

Situations change, and in our modern digital age they change very rapidly indeed. It surely makes sense that awards should be able to respond just as rapidly. As it is, whatever might be proposed at the next WSFS meeting cannot take effect until after it is ratified at the following WSFS meeting in 2016, which means it will be the 2017 awards before there is any actual change. If the Sad and Rabid Puppies behaved within the rules this year, as indeed they did, then they have free rein to do exactly the same next year. That does not strike me as an award process that is fit for purpose.

Here’s is a proposal to make the award more responsive without a “Strong Leader”, (it may not be the only possibility or the best, but it is at least a notion that could be considered): I have seen a number of proposals online for possible changes to the Hugo rules. Why not provide a venue online where these proposals can be thoroughly debated by all interested parties, so that when the next WSFS meeting comes along all that is needed is for the proposal to be ratified or not by the meeting, and lo, the rule change is made, there and then, within the year? As it is, whatever debate has gone on previously, the proposal can only formally be made at the next WSFS meeting, by those who can attend the Worldcon (an expensive commitment, especially if it is on a different continent), and will then only be ratified by those attending the next WSFS meeting at the next Worldcon (yet another expense). By moving the debate online and making the WSFS meeting a ratification body, I think you would actually make the Hugos more democratic, not less.

So no, Kevin, I do not want a strong leader.

 

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“If you want to change the Hugos, understand their history” – June 30

Okay, I don’t want to begrudge anybody their Hugo rant — ghu knows I’ve written enough and in fact I’d agree with quite a bit of this criticism:…

The Hugos are the way they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses because they’re the result of a decades long specific democratic process and the 2015 categories and rules are the fossilised remains of this process. You cannot understand the Hugos properly unless you not only know that the Best Semi-prozine category was created to shield all other fanzines from the Locus juggernaut, but also that the same sort of thing happened with the Best podcast category, the long struggle to get comics recognised properly and why there are two editorial categories and what went before that.

And not only that, you need to know the process and rules under which these changes are made, like the proposers of E Pluribus Hugo frex do seem to. You need to understand how the business meetings work as well as why and how it was established, even without Kevin Standlee to prompt you. You need to be a bit of a process nerd to be honest. (You also need to realise that much of this was designed by Americans, who seem to have a national weakness for over complicated voting systems with huge barriers to entry…)

This bone deep understanding and awareness of what is and isn’t possible given the history and current structure of WSFS and the Hugos is likely why people like Kevin Standlee might be a bit dismissive of such criticsm as well as looking overly lawyerly. That’s the risk of being an insider, you have a much better grasp on the mechanism of the system and less of an idea of what it looks like from the outside

But what you should also realise is that knowning this history and being familiar with the whole process more than likely also gives you an overwhelming sense of how fragile the whole structure is, how easy it is for a well intended proposal or rules change to damage or destroy WSFS. I see a deep fear and wariness behind that “slow and prone to complexify process, a desire to err on the side of caution, knowning how close it has come to all going kablooey.

 

Justin Howe on 10 Bad Habits

“Caring is Meaningless” – June 30

This is a thing I wrote in response to some SFF fandom bullshit going on. If you’re reading this and don’t know what the Sad/Rabid Puppies are, well, I envy you. Stay unaware. Don’t google it. Google prehistoric squirrels or Steven Universe conspiracy theories instead. It’ll be time better spent. For the rest of us poor bastards who have eaten of the Fruit of Bullshit from the Tree of Train Wreck, this post is for us.

When someone says, “Well, at least I care!” all they’re saying is, “Well, at least I have an opinion!” I’ve read this from one of the Sad Pup ringleaders, and couldn’t help but read the bit about “caring” as the foot-stomp of the petulant, self-righteous child. Caring is meaningless. Caring can be split so many ways and made to mean anything. You can carry it down into all kinds of Godwin Law absurdity. Mussolini cared about train schedules. Custer cared about the Sioux. You can’t say they didn’t. They certainly cared enough to have opinions about them. To state so sternly that you’re justified in your actions, because “you cared” is simply a sleight of hand attempt to raise feelings up to the level of values, because you’re not wise or self-aware enough to process your feelings without making noises.

 

Lou Antonelli on This Way To Texas

“Puppies in the heartland” – June 30

The Puppy Kickers cite well-known authors who are known conservatives – Mike Resnick and Larry Niven are two – but they came up through the ranks years ago. People like Larry Corriea and Brad Torgersen have entered the field in the past ten years, and have seen and felt first-hand the snubs and insults of the snobs. Both were nominated for the Campbell Award for Best new writer in their first year of eligibility. They didn’t win. Now, that award allows you two years of eligibility, and over the years many writers have has two shots at winning – but neither Larry nor Brad were even nominated in their second years of eligibility.

The Puppy Kickers would assert it’s because as people got to know them better, they realized they sucked as authors. I suspect it’s more likely they were shunted aside because they do not conceal their Mormon faith.

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f  literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation? It’s almost a human rights issue – “you can’t say that about one of my coreligionists.

I doubt most of the Puppy Kickers have any Christian friends, and certainly no Mormons. But here in Middle America there are plenty of Christians, Mormons, and even – as Jay Lake used to say – “low church atheists” – people who don’t believe in the supernatural, but, like Jay, didn’t mind if you needed a faith.

I remember when Jay said the source of so much ill feeling were the “high church atheists” – people who didn’t believe in God, and wanted to stamp out your religion, too. Jay was a smart man and a nice guy.

As I have made the convention circuit, I have been heartened by the many people who have been kind and supportive of my work, and either supportive or tolerant of the Sad Puppies effort. It reminds me that most people are thoughtful and considerate human beings, and the internet is a tool that is – like the machinery left behind by the Krel as depicted in the s-f classic movie “Forbidden Planet” – letting the darkest and worst innermost aspects of human nature loose upon the land.

 

Doctor Strangelove on Strangelove for Science Fiction

“Attention seeking troll puppies” – June 30

The various Puppy leaders, it turns out, have little to say, and their arguments implode into insignificance. They don’t think a literary award, the Hugos, should go to literary fiction. They don’t think science fiction should contain messages, or be socially progressive. Their voting slates, of course, contain attempts at literary fiction and message fiction. If we set aside their arguments, all we are left with is noise. Their attention-seeking trolling of the Hugo nomination process in essence says “look at me, look at me!” That is sad, indeed.

 

Terry Weyna on Fantasy Literature

“Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Short Stories 2014”

[Reviews all five nominees.]

The short stories nominated for the Hugo Award this year are a disappointing lot. I read a great many stories in 2014 that were far better than at least four of these tales.

 

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“Jeffro ‘GURPS-disadvantaged people ruin SFF’ Johnson” – June 30

Reading Jeffro Johnson was an interesting and even SFFnal experience. I mean, one of the most enjoyable aspects of science fiction and fantasy is that it has the capacity to offer alien experiences and viewpoints.

Most likely I disagree with Jeffro Johnson on a wide range of topics, but unlike the three Mad Genius Club bloggers who are competing with him for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, Johnson makes a better job at explaining his views. He is also mainly interested in science fiction and fantasy instead of waging a culture war against “social justice warriors” which is more than a welcome change after wading through the polemics of Dave Freer, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda S. Green…..

 

Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog

“Hugo Reading – Fan Writer” – June 30

[Reviews all five nominees.]

Johnson is the clear winner here, since he seems to be the only one that really fits what I think of as the category. I might put Mixon on the ballot as well, but that is a difficult choice. Both of them are going below “No Award” I think. The other three do not deserve awards for the writing in their packets. In fact, they really shouldn’t have been nominated at all. My guess is that all three must have been on the slates, since I do not believe they could have been nominated by the merits of the writings they provided.

If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I’m feeling bitter… How can people who clearly hate fandoms not their own be nominated for a Hugo Award? My concept of fandom is a big umbrella under which all of us can hang out and do our own thing in a non-judgmental setting. To read screeds against other fans is depressing. To see those screeds nominated for awards? Gah. Seriously, did any of the people voting on the slates actually read these works and say, “Yes, this is the best writing about fandom I saw in 2014.” and, if so, why? How? How can writing that rips someone apart be the best? Why all the hate?

 

Grac on Grac’s Never-Ending TBR Pile of Doom

“The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin” – June 30

… I gave this book 3 because of the clunky/heavy part midway through, which almost made me give up. I can see why some people loved it, but I wasn’t one of them – it may well still end up winning this year’s Hugo but I don’t think it’s better than my vote (The Goblin Emperor, in case anyone is interested!). I prefer my science fiction a bit more people-oriented, to be perfectly honest, and the characterisation of many folks in this novel left something to be desired, even as the background of the Cultural Revolution and modern-day China added to its interest.

 

embrodski on Death Is Bad

“Amazing Man” – June 22

I dashed off a little short story, inspired by the Sad Puppies Hugo Fiasco. I had fun writing it, I hope someone finds it enjoyable to read. :)…

….“So all of this…” Paula gestured around herself to indicate the Presidential Palace, the Liberty Legions, and presumably the entire Liberated States of America. “All of this was because you felt snubbed by a group of people you don’t even like?”

Amazing ripped the glasses from his face and crushed them in his fist. His responding roar was super-human, shattering all the glass in the Palace and leaving Paula with mild, but permanent, hearing loss.

“It’s about ethics in journalism!”

Emilio won a Pulitzer that year, as well as a Peabody, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Dobby, and a Tony Award; all purely on merit and not for any other reason at all. Amazing Man won the Nobel Peace Prize. That last one raised a few eyebrows, but it was pointed out that the Peace Prize had previously been awarded to people with a much higher body count than Amazing Man had managed, and wouldn’t it be better to keep it that way? It was hard to argue with that logic.

Miss Perry was released, because Amazing Man was above petty things like personal revenge. She is now happily employed as a Field Hand in the Angola Liberty Farm.