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

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

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

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

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

And Jason Kimble comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantastical Felines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

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

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

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

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mercury 13

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

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/6/18 The Scroller You Tick, The Pixeler You File.

(1) ARGUMENT AGAINST COLORBLINDNESS. Chesya Burke now has set to “public” her analysis of the lack of diversity in anthologies generally, and in the horror genre particularly.

Some of the arguments I’ve seen mentioned excusing the exclusion of diverse writers:

  1. Editing is hard. Many anthos are put together as an “afterthought,” editors are forced to simply search out writers they “like.”

Putting together anthos as an afterthought is the first redflag. It’s shocking that anyone would think this is a good idea or will yield good results. An editor who does not have a strong grounding of current writers in the genre is a second. White editors who only choose writers they “like” is the final straw. You’re literally editing white boy escapism at that point. Let’s call it what it is.

  1. Just mentioning race is racist.

Since when is simply mentioning race racist? That’s absurd. Some people are white, some black and many others. There is nothing racist about pointing this out. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Ignoring someone’s racial identity is racist, because the default is white. There’s all kinds of research on this, it’s called colorblind racism.

  1. Editors just want the best stories, expecting them to publish writers who don’t deserve it is reverse-racist and sexist. Having black only or women only anthos is “cringy.”

There are LOTS of anthos with only white men writers filling the ToC, especially in the horror genre. It is irrelevant that they didn’t put out a call for only white men, because the outcome is the same. White men have, as we’ve seen, been the default. This is why claiming “I don’t read black or white writers, I just want good stories” upolds the status quo. But never once in the history of ever have you heard a white man writer say that he felt “cringed” because he was published because he was a white man, at the expense of writers of color and women. Because this is what happens, don’t fool yourself.

Burke launched a good discussion, both from people who unintentionally provided examples of the problems, and others talking about the work it takes to overcome them. Among the latter, The Dark Magazine’s Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

Silvia Moreno-Garcia Here’s some free advice for those who may be like but there’s nothing I can do to build diversity and I’m an editor. I funded Innsmouth Free Press paying a penny a word and managed to get POC and women to write in a very male dominated sub genre, Lovecraftiana and Weird fiction. I did this by actively recruiting writers and convincing them my efforts were worth. Writers who had their first credits with me include Daniel Jose Older, Nadia Bulking and Molly Tanzer. I worked out hard, talking about how women and POC were welcome, and then *showing* it. Over time people have come to understand I’m an editor who values work from women and POC, and they sub to me. Because I want to encourage more authors to submit, I just ran a successful Kickstarter for THE DARK, where I’m an editor. I’ve done this and more starting with a penny a word and my friend Paula to support me. Because I truly wanted to be a better editor and give a place to women and POC. And I’ll continue that with the help of The Dark, Sean Wallace and hopefully future authors reading this.

(2) BEEB. Jonathan Cowie of Concatenation did these links in dialect: “First (and forgive me if you’ve already covered) today in Brit Cit we have the start of a mini-series of Mielville’s The City and The City on B Beeb Ceeb 2.”

RadioTimes invites you to “Meet the cast of The City And The City”.

(3) PETER WATTS IN CONCATENATION. And Cowie also informs they have, “advance-posted (that is it is up but not yet on our index and what’s new pages) an article on SF author and biologist Peter Watts scientists that have inspired him. This is part of an on-going series with previous contributors including SF authors
and scientists (different disciplines) Paul Mc Auley, Ian Stewart, Andrew Bannister, and Tony Ballantine. Most people use .rss or the regularity of our seasonal postings to keep tabs on us. But a very few follow us on Twitter for advance alerts only (no chat). For this dedicated few we have just tweeted an advance alert:”

Peter Watts’ post begins:

It’s taken me nigh on two years to compile this list. Perhaps half that time was spent fuming over the demand that it be ten scientists long? I mean, what if I don’t find that many twentieth-century scientists inspirational? What if my pop-culture recognition of Fermi and Feynman doesn’t really rise to the level of inspiration, what if the scientists who did inspire me did so on a purely personal level, without achieving rock-star status? What if the people who inspired me aren’t even real scientists, huh?

Concatenation’s full summer issue is expected online April 15.

(4) CAMERON’S SF HISTORY. A Syfy Wire writer is impressed: “James Cameron joins Spielberg, Lucas for AMC’s ‘Story of Science Fiction’ series”. I’m still waiting to see some writers’ names on these lists:

How exhaustive is Cameron’s trip into the genre’s storied past?

“Throughout each episode of the six-part television series, [Cameron]… explores science fiction’s roots, futuristic vision, and our fascination with its ideas through interviews with A-list storytellers, stars, and others whose careers have defined the field,” says AMC, “including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, and Sigourney Weaver, among some 100 other series participants.”

Whoa — now that’s a lineup that definitely has our attention. To check out more video previews of the one-on-one talks Cameron will be sharing with some of the genre’s biggest luminaries, head on over AMC’s landing page.

(5) SNAPSHOT. Another cat snoozing in the vicinity of SFF:

(6) SFF ART WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Artists have until April 12 to apply for the two scholarships being offered to the Muddy Colors 2018 Illustration Master Class being held in Amherst, MA from June 11-17.

Arnie Fenner notes, “I think it’s something around $2800 to participate so it’s a pretty sweet give-away.”

The IMC is a 7 day workshop focused on making you a better artist with the help of some of the best illustrators and fine artists in the world. All disciplines (traditional or digital) and skill levels are welcome. Old or young. Novice or pro. Anyone may apply for this scholarship.

Full guidelines at the link.

(7) TAKAHATA OBIT. Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has died at the age of 82.

Mr Takahata was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya but is best known for his film Grave of the Fireflies.

He founded Studio Ghibli with iconic director Hayao Miyazaki in 1985.

It became a world-renowned animation studio, producing blockbusters such as Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Mr Takahata started his career in animation in 1959 at Japan’s Toei studio, where he met Mr Miyazaki, who is usually seen as the face of Studio Ghibli.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 6, 1967 Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever” first aired.
  • April 6, 1968 — Stanley’s Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey makes its debut in movie theaters.

(9) HAL ORNAMENT. And the anniversary makes this io9 story more timely than it would have been: “Hallmark Has a Talking, Glowing HAL 9000 Ornament Headed for Your Christmas Tree”.

Hallmark is continuing its celebration of the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey right to the end of 2018 with a new keepsake ornament that lets you hang a miniature version of the film’s HAL 9000 computer on your Christmas tree, complete with its menacing, glowing, red eye.

The ornament doesn’t exactly scream “happy holidays,” of course; HAL did kill most of Discovery One’s crew. But as bad guys go, the computer, with its perpetually calm voice, remains one of the most disturbing antagonists in film history, and that certainly earns him a branch on my Christmas tree.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY LANDO

  • Born April 6, 1937 – Billy Dee Williams

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered the Wizard of Id having a kind of entmeet….
  • JJ admits Incidental Comics’ “Stages of Work” isn’t genre. In case you have a strict rule about that sort of thing.

(12) LOST IN SPACE. It’s time to “Meet Dr. Smith.”

(13) GUARDING THE GUARDIANS. Karl Urban is back says The Hollywood Reporter:

Karl Urban is returning to the small screen.

The Star Trek and Lord of the Rings actor has landed the starring role in Amazon Studios’ straight-to-series superhero drama The Boys.

The Boys takes places in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame, and centers on a group of vigilantes known informally as “the boys” who set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty.

(14) PORTION CONTROL. Walking With Giants demos its “Mini Bacon and Eggs.” You might need to order seconds.

(15) HOW THE JURASSIC ERA WOULD REALLY END. Brandon Carbaugh’s thread breaks down how today’s social media would dispose of Jurassic Park.

Includes:

(16) THE BEES KNEES. Camestros Felapton showed me once more why he’s a Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee in his instant filk about the robot bees story linked in yesterday’s Scroll.

(13) To the tune of Yesterday

Robot bees, were tired of flying into trees,
Now they live were there ain’t no seas,
Oh Mars is fine for robot bees

Suddenly, the bees aren’t where they are supposed to be,
There at the poles digging furiously
Oh robot bees teraformingly

Why they had to fly
To the poles
And nearly freeze?

They found, something bad
Now I’m sad
For robot bees

Robot bees, fighting ancient martian zombie fleas
Trapped for eons in a polar freeze
Oh robot bees are hard to please

Monster fleas wiould conquer Earth quite easily
But they can’t defeat a robot bee
Our last defence is an apiary

Why they fight so tough
Is it enough,
To kill the fleas?

They sting twice as hard
They’re battle scared
Those robot bee-ee-ee-ee-ees

Robot bees, fought on Mars apocalyptically
They went and saved humanity
Oh robot bees beat zombie fleas
robot bees beat zom-bie fleas….

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Stuart Gale, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Arnie Fenner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/18 You’re A Little Short For A Pixel Scroll, Aren’t You?

(1) STRACZYNSKI MEMOIR COMING. Harper Voyager US has acquired the imprint’s first memoir, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The book will be published in 2019.

Straczynski is one of the most successful writers of comics, TV, graphic novels, and movies in modern pop culture, and has emerged as one of the most respected voices in science fiction today, selling millions of comics, winning dozens of awards and working with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie and Kenneth Branagh. He is famed for his work on the recent Netflix hit Sense8, his work on Babylon 5, Changeling, World War Z, Thor, and a seven-year stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. But despite forty years of twelve-hour writing days, there’s one story Straczynski could never tell: his own. This memoir chronicles the author’s struggle growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The result is an inspiring account of how he wrote his way out of some of the most harrowing conditions.

(2) COINCIDENTAL PROPHET. Henry Farrell takes the measure of the author and this age in “Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” at Boston Review.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

(3) BLACK LIGHTNING. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Flenberg praised the new series: “‘Black Lightning’: TV Review”.

It could be argued that what The CW needs least is another superhero show, much less another murky superhero show.

The pleasant surprise, then, is that Black Lightning, based on yet another DC Comics property, is smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own. It takes its characters and their world seriously, but thus far doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, best of all, it’s ostensibly entirely separate from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, so the risk of time-consuming crossovers or key plot points delivered on a different show is currently nil.

(4) NINE IS TEN. This month io9 is celebrating its 10th anniversary, too. io9 and the File 770 blog started the same month and it’s easy to see which got the most mileage out of that decade. Congratulations io9! Here’s a video made by the founding alumni —  

(5) STARVING IN THE CITY OF THE FUTURE. Slate has published Charlie Jane Anders’ story of future hunger: “The Minnesota Diet”. The future isn’t that far away.

This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives—will publish a story on a new theme. The theme for January–March 2018: Home.

North American Transit Route No. 7 carves a path between tree silhouettes like wraiths, through blanched fields that yawn with the furrows of long-ago crops. Weaving in and out of the ancient routes of Interstates 29 and 35, this new highway has no need for rest stops or attempts to beautify the roadside, because none of the vehicles have a driver or any passengers. The trucks race from north to south, at speeds that would cause any human driver to fly off the road at the first curve. The sun goes down and they keep racing, with only a few thin beams to watch for obstacles. They don’t need to see the road to stay on the road. The trucks seem to hum to one another, tiny variations in their engine sounds making a kind of atonal music. Seen from above, they might look like the herds of mustangs that used to run across this same land, long ago….

(6) POLL. Uncanny Magazine has opened voting for readers to pick their three favorite original short stories from the works they published last year — “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2017”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2017. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 17 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(7) GENRE DESTRUCTION. Also, Uncanny is taking submissions to a special issue through February 15 — “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Guidelines”

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

(8) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WORDSMITH. L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t do it. andrew j. offutt couldn’t do it. So it’s up to Matthew Plunkett to tell you “How to Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day” (from McSweeney’s.)

Relationships

My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.

(9) GENTLER PACE. Concatenation has posted its “Newscast for the Spring 2018” – an aggregation of sff and pop cuture news issued at a not-quite-quarterly rate.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 17, 1982 – The Ray Bradbury-penned The Electric Grandmother premiered on television.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DARTH

  • Born January 17, 1931 – James Earl Jones

(12) BIAS AT WORK. Sarah Hollowell, who calls her blog “Sarah Hollowell, Fat Writer Girl and Her Fat Words”, was not added to the Midwest Writers Workshop’s organizational committee after her appearance was made an issue.

A week ago The Guardian covered the initial stages of the story in “Roxane Gay calls out writing group for ‘fatphobic’ treatment of Sarah Hollowell”.

An American writers’ workshop that has counted Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler among its faculty has been called out by Roxane Gay for “fatphobia”, after a writer’s appearance was criticised during a vote to give her a public-facing role.

Gay, who has herself been on the faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), turned to Twitter on Tuesday to lay out how the workshop’s organisers treated the writer Sarah Hollowell. According to Gay, Hollowell has worked for MWW for five years, and was voted to be on its organisational committee. But when her appointment was being discussed, “someone said ‘do we really want someone like her representing us?’ That person elaborated ‘someone so fat. It’s disgusting’,” claimed Gay.

Gay, the author of essay collection Bad Feminist and the memoir Hunger, said that only two people in the room defended Hollowell, and that the author was not then brought on to the committee. “This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did,” wrote Gay, calling on the workshop to issue a “public and genuine” apology to Hollowell, and forbidding it to use her name as a past faculty member in its promotional materials again. “I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you,” she wrote.

Hollowell herself said that “there are a lot of good people” at the MWW, but that “I have been hurt in a very real way and I don’t think it should be hidden”.

The workshop subsequently issued an apology to Hollowell on Wednesday, in which its director Jama Kehoe Bigger said: “We screwed up.”

The apology and offers to attempt to “make it right” have not panned out. Instead, here’s what’s happening —

Hollowell responded with a full thread, which includes these tweets —

(13) NOW YOU SEE IT. Nothing magical about this disappearing act — “Rare first edition Harry Potter worth £40,000 stolen”.

A hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worth about £40,000 was one of a number of rare books stolen during a burglary.

The book, J.K Rowling’s maiden novel of the globally successful series, was stolen from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, between 8 and 9 January….

The Harry Potter book was made even more “unique” by being in a custom red box, the force added.

(14) TRAIN TRICKS. The BBC reports a “Japanese train barks like a dog to prevent accidents” — it scares away deer who lick the tracks to get iron.

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that the combination of sounds is designed to scare deer away from the tracks in a bid to reduce the number of animal deaths on the railway.

Officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.

(15) EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. An interesting thread by Alex Acks who argues that maybe it’s not a conspiracy….

(16) WHAT DOESN’T PAY. And Shaun Duke has his own argument against the conspiracy theory.

(17) FILL ‘ER UP. This sounds like the beginning of a nice 1950s sf story —  “UK firm contracts to service satellites”.

Effective Space says its two servicing “Space Drones” will be built using manufacturing expertise in the UK and from across the rest of Europe.

The pair, which will each be sized about the same as a washing machine and weigh less than 400kg, are expected to launch on the same rocket sometime in 2020.

Once in orbit, they will separate and attach themselves to the two different geostationary telecommunications satellites that are almost out of fuel.

 

(18) HIRSUTE. Chip Hitchcock says, “As the proud possessor of a handle bar mustache, I’m pleased to see ’Moustached monkey is separate species’.”

A monkey from Ethiopia and Sudan with a “handlebar moustache” has been identified as a distinct species.

Scientists took a fresh look at the distribution and physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, confirming there were two species rather than one.

It was originally described as a separate species in 1862, but was later folded in – incorrectly – with other patas monkeys to form a single species.

(19) WHEN THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Brenton Dickieson has published an epic tool for scholars – “My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule” — at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write….

Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.

To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.

(20) HYPERBOREAN AGE. Black Gate’s Doug Ellis says it’s “Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Biography”, though “bibliography” may be the intended word. Either way — Ellis tells about a 1967 fanzine, The Brythunian Prints, published by some Toledo fans.

The most interesting content is two pages of poetry by Lin Carter, under the general heading “War Songs and Battle Cries,” apparently reprinted with Carter’s permission from The Wizard of Lemuria and Thongor of Lemuria. The remaining content is taken up with editorials, limericks by John Boardman (four of which were reprinted from Amra) and a book review of The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by de Camp. The back cover is Tolkien related, as it pictures “Baggins and Trinket” (the Ring).

(21) MORE PAST FUTURES. Let MovieWeb tell you “10 Back to the Future Facts You Never Knew”.

THE POTENTIAL DOC BROWNS

Christopher Lloyd, part of the ensemble of the TV series Taxi which ran from 1978 till 1983, seems irreplaceable as Doctor Emmett Brown in the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But before he landed the role, some other big names were considered for the part, including John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine those memes!

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]