Pixel Scroll 10/7/17 You Are In A Scroll Of Little Twisty Pixels, All Different

Your host is on the road to New Mexico where he will celebrate his mother’s 91st birthday.

So it’s up to you, Dear Reader, to add your wisdom in the comments, along with the links to what should have been in today’s Scroll.

(1) HOW WE SEE. Cora Buhlert finds a way to discuss “Cultural Differences and Some Baseless Speculation about Star Trek Discovery”.

So this is not a post about Star Trek Discovery nor one about The Orville, let alone a review of either show or a comparison (though I might do that, if I can bring myself to watch them). Instead, this is a post about deep-seated cultural assumptions and how they can influence what we write and how we write it, using Star Trek Discovery and some baseless speculation about the show as a basis.

… However, the Federation was not as good and utopian as they think they are even way back in the original series. I also thought of other versions of Star Trek. I remembered Commander Sisko sending his ex-lover to prison for smuggling, a classic victimless crime, in an early episode of Deep Space Nine and how it cause me to hate the character forever after because of that (in this house, we refer to Commander Sisko as Captain Arsehole and indeed I always have to look up his name, because to me he is Captain Arsehole). I remembered how in the first episode of Voyager, we meet Tom Paris in prison, forced to do slave labour for – well, I don’t remember for what, but it wasn’t a very serious crime (interestingly, someone at File 770 immediately remembered what the crime was, apparently it involved cooperating with the Maquis, the supposed anti-Federation terrorists I always felt had a point). I remembered how the Federation considered Data not a citizen but property and wanted to take him apart. I remembered how they were willing to let a whole planet full of sentient and clearly intelligent beings die, because rescuing them would violate their precious prime directive. I also remembered how I was always convinced that the Second Doctor’s rant about the cowardice of the Time Lords at the end of The War Games was in truth an accusation aimed across the Atlantic at Star Trek and the prime directive. I remembered how the Federation imposed Handmaid’s Tale type politics (every woman is forced to bear at least three children from three different men – they’re not even allowed to have stable monogamous relationships) on some poor colony instead of helping them refresh their gene pool, because reproducing via cloning is apparently unnatural, while treating women like walking wombs is totally okay. There were grisly Irish stereotypes in the same episode (Next Generation, not original series), too.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/17 Rishathra Ain’t Nothing But Love Mispronounced

(1) HELP COMING FOR INDIE AUTHORS. Brian Keene, in the August 17 episode of his podcast The Horror Show, mentioned a new resource for librarians. Dann explains:

Small press and indie authors face the double problems of getting bookstores to carry their books and getting local libraries to put them on their shelves.  According to horror author Brian Keene, those problems are significantly influenced by the fact that books from small presses and indie author are rarely reviewed by recognized resources such as Publishers Weekly.  Librarians, in particular, are reluctant to order books that have not been reviewed by another professional librarian.

There is a new magazine on the horizon that hopes to rectify that issue by focusing on reviews of works from small presses and indie authors. Indie Picks Magazine aims to become a librarian quality resource that focuses on works beyond those published by the Big 5 publishing houses.

The first issue is due out on November 1, 2017. Social media links —

(2) DON FORD. J.J. Jacobson, UC Riverside’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, says 1949 Worldcon chair Don Ford also left his photos to them.

It may also give you joy to know that we have a gift of several hundred similar photos from the family of Midwest fan and photographer Don Ford, some dating back to cons from the 1940s. Ultimately these will join the Klein photos on Calisphere.

(3) ROCKET EXPERIMENT. In “Can We Categorize Clipping?”, the Hugo Award Book Club tries to define a category a musical album can win that wouldn’t have to be called Best Musical Album.

Splendor and Misery from L.A.-based experimental hip hop group Clipping is an ambitious and challenging work that is an exemplar of this tradition. In the 2017 Hugo Awards, it became only the second such work to be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award (after the 1971 album Blows Against The Empire by Jefferson Starship, which finished in the voting below ‘No Award’). However, Splendor and Misery failed to generate much popular support among voters, placing last amongst other nominated works in the category and losing to Leviathan Wakes from the TV series The Expanse. While Leviathan Wakes is an awesome bit of television (and is the work that we voted for) it is kind of a shame that there isn’t a good category to recognize eclectic and unusual works in the Hugo Awards.

(4) ALIENS OF EARTH. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter considers “The Creatures We Base Aliens On”.

One of the interesting things about fictional aliens is that they’re almost never completely alien. We have no real idea what extra-terrestrials would look like, and it’s nigh impossible to imagine an entirely new species unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As such, we usually fall back on earthly species for inspiration, combining known elements to create strange new creatures. And we certainly have some bizarre real animals to choose from.

Last year I wrote about our penchant for basing aliens on cephalopods, but octopuses, cuttlefish and squids aren’t the only creatures that inspire us, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at a broader range of favourite sources…

(5) WONKS OF WESTEROS. The Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute will be hosting a Policy Forum about “The Politics of Game of Thrones” on Monday, August 28. It will be livestreamed.

Why is Westeros mired in 8,000 years of economic stagnation? Should Daenerys firebomb King’s Landing to prevent a longer war? The world of Game of Thrones is teeming with fascinating interactions between institutions, incentives, and power that creates a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga just begging to be theorized. An examination of these issues through the lens of economics, law, international relations, and power politics promises to be both instructive and entertaining. The day after the Season 7 finale airs, join the Cato Institute and the R Street Institute in an exploration of the intrigue and game theory (and inevitable analogies to our current political landscape) that pervade the world of ice and fire.

Featuring Ilya Somin (@IlyaSomin) Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) Co-founder and Executive Editor, Vox; Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) Senior Editor, Reason; Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg) Culture Columnist, Washington Post Opinions Section; moderated by Caleb Watney (@calebwatney), Tech Policy Analyst, R Street Institute.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can watch it live online at www.cato.org/live

(6) PASSING THE HAT. Time for the 2017 Strange Horizons fund drive.

We, Strange Horizons, are a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. We don’t do the whole advertising thing, and we have no corporate sponsors. It’s through your donations, and your donations alone, that we’re able to pay our contributors and publish a new issue 51 weeks of the year.

This year, we’re trying to raise US$16,000 to keep the good ship Strange Horizons chugging along at its current speed. If we manage to hit that level of funding, we’ve got a few new things planned, too. If that’s enough for you, then you can find out how to donate on our IndieGoGo page. And thank you!

But hey, maybe you’re not quite convinced yet. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly we’ve been up to and what we plan on getting up to next year. Read on—the answers you seek are below! …

(7) HUSH-A-BOOM. This is almost worthy of Galactic Journey — the BBC’s story about a Sixties Soviet superweapon: “The monster atomic bomb that was too big to use”.

Tsar Bomba was no ordinary nuclear bomb. It was the result of a feverish attempt by the USSR’s scientists to create the most powerful nuclear weapon yet, spurred on by Premier Nikita Khruschchev’s desire to make the world tremble at the might of Soviet technology. It was more than a metal monstrosity too big to fit inside even the largest aircraft – it was a city destroyer, a weapon of last resort.

The Tupolev, painted bright white in order to lessen the effects of the bomb’s flash, arrived at its target point. Novya Zemlya, a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea, above the frozen northern fringes of the USSR. The Tupolev’s pilot, Major Andrei Durnovtsev, brought the aircraft to Mityushikha Bay, a Soviet testing range, at a height of about 34,000ft (10km). A smaller, modified Tu-16 bomber flew beside, ready to film the ensuing blast and monitor air samples as it flew from the blast zone.

In order to give the two planes a chance to survive – and this was calculated as no more than a 50% chance – Tsar Bomba was deployed by a giant parachute weighing nearly a tonne. The bomb would slowly drift down to a predetermined height – 13,000ft (3,940m) – and then detonate. By then, the two bombers would be nearly 50km (30 miles) away. It should be far enough away for them to survive….

(8) GENTRIFICATION. Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is more dangerous than this. Hell’s Kitchen is no longer as shown in The Defenders: “Marvel Comics Meet Reality On The Not-So-Mean Streets Of Hell’s Kitchen”.

That’s when the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics moved to New York City — in the ’80s. Axel Alonso met me on West 54th St, and I asked him why this neighborhood is so important in the Marvel Universe. “In Marvel comic books, Hell’s Kitchen sort of functioned as Mean Street Central, the underbelly of society, the place where there are predators and prey.”

Today, those predators are more likely to be the people charging you $50 for a blowout, or $20 for an omelette at brunch. “We’re fudging the truth with Hell’s Kitchen right now, you know, as you and I walk the streets, we see the development and the cafes,” Alonso says.

The New York of an earlier time informed so many iconic comics. Alonso says fans would revolt if you moved characters deeply associated with New York to anyplace authentically grittier, like Detroit. Alonso adds that Luke Cage’s Harlem has been updated, much more so then Hell’s Kitchen. And the Marvel universe is making a point of weaving in stories about gentrification: In Netflix’s Daredevil, an evil real estate mogul kills tenement activists who will not move out of their rent-controlled apartments. He’s motivated only by greed.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Actually, it hasn’t been that gritty for some time; Penn and Teller were performing there in 1985, right next to a nice French restaurant, before moving to Broadway.”

(9) CELEBRITY BRUSH. I never met the late Brian Aldiss. Lou Antonelli did, sort of. “The time I stepped on Brian Aldiss”.

That year [2004] was the last where the members of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were inducted at the [Campbell] conference (the event has since moved to the sf museum in Seattle). The living inductees were Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. We arrived in Lawrence just in time for the dinner, and as I rushed into the student center – worried that we were running late – I saw a pair of old timers in tuxes heading for the door from the opposite direction. As I ran up, I realized they were Aldiss and Harrison. In a clumsy attempt to be a gentleman, I grabbed the door to hold it open for Aldiss, who was first. But as I walked around him, I stepped on the back of his shoe and gave him a “flat tire”. (My wife tried to make me feel better later by pointing out that Aldiss was wearing house shoes).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 21, 1920 — Christopher Robin Milne, A. A. Milne’s son who he modeled Christopher Robin after in the Winnie the Pooh stories.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 21, 1981 — John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London premieres in theaters.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian spotted Edgar Allan Poe in today’s Bliss.

(13) IN THE SQUARE. Kalimac, in “confederate statues”, adds cultural context to the monument controversy. Historical analysis precedes this excerpt:

…And I think it’s because of that acknowledgment that, up until now, Northerners have ignored the profusion of statues of Lee and Jackson and anonymous Confederate soldiers that festoon Southern town squares. After all, they were great generals and brave soldiers. Let the descendants have their pride.

Up until now. Not any longer. Because if that’s the history that we had that’s now being forgotten, there’s another history that the books I read had ignored that’s now being rediscovered. And that is that the ex-Confederates and their descendants have not been living up to their side of the bargain. And not just in the hard facts of racial oppression in the South for over a century and still echoing in ugly ways today, but also in the symbolism which is the subject of the consensus.

Those statues. They aren’t lovingly-crafted monuments erected in the echo of the loss, like the WW1 cenotaphs in every British town and college chapel. They’re cheap mass-produced knock-offs from Northern factories, put up later, in the Jim Crow era, not in memory of a loss but in defiance of that loss. (the evidence) Look at the capital letters in the term “Lost Cause” and read what’s been said about it. Its memorializers don’t acknowledge it was bad, they only regret that it was lost.

Nor do we notice who’s being honored. There’s Jackson, who died during the war (of the aftereffects of “friendly fire,” by the way), and thus had nothing to say afterwards. There’s Lee, who retired from public life and quietly became a college president. But where is the CSA’s third best general, James Longstreet? You don’t see many statues of him. After the war, he became a Republican and actively co-operated with the Union government. For that, he’s considered a shame in the white South. Confederate apologist historians retroactively blame him for Gettysburg, at best a dubiously tenable position, even hinting that he was secretly a traitor to his cause.

(14) THE TRILOGY FINALE. His Felaptoncy assays a new release: “Review: The Stone Sky by N.K.Jemisin” at Camestros Felapton.

The future world, the one in which most of the books is set, has descended further into physical disaster. The former community of Castrima is now a band of refugees heading towards an empty city in a brutal march which many won’t survive. In a different novel, this struggle would be an account of good and evil but Jemisin avoids treating even monstrous people as monsters. There is no character that appears in any one of the trilogy who is not granted some compassion by the writer – not Schaffa the murderous guardian, nor Jija the child murdering father. Yet this compassion is not at the expense of a strong moral centre to the story and a channelled anger at the use of hate to dehumanise and to brutalise a society

(15) IN RE DANMORE. Rose Embolism promised to boost the signal for this Medium post, which may appeal to the superscientific among you. I suppose it doesn’t hurt any that the piece begins with a Terry Pratchett quote.

PhD candidate Erin Giglio, who I know from metafilter, has done a response to James Danmore’s Google memo, using actual science. And by that I mean it’s an incredibly thorough, well researched paper on the current science on gender, that looks at and devestates Danmore’s s “scientific” arguments.

Aside from being a comprehensive rebuttle to Danmore’s memo, I find it a fascinating, if long and technical read about the current state of biological science.

“The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo”

(16) YOU ARE NO. 6 The Telegraph answers the question “How did The Prisoner ever get made?”

Fifty years ago, The Prisoner began serving time. McGoohan – its star, executive producer, and sometime writer-director, a hard-drinking, intransigent Irish-American actor with a sharp Olivier-like edge to his voice – became Number Six, a former secret agent who knew too much to be permitted his freedom. For 17 weeks, he struggled against the mysterious authorities of the Village, personified by Number Two – not an individual, but an office occupied by a shifting cast of guest stars. (Leo McKern, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde were memorable incumbents.) He resisted their mind-bending tricks and interrogation techniques, attempted to escape by land, sea and air, and strove to solve the defining mystery of the series – who is Number One?

(17) AT HELSINKI. Finished commenting on the Hugos, Cora Buhlert continues her Worldcon coverage with “WorldCon 75 Photos and a Report”.

All in all, I had a great time at WorldCon 75. I also think the convention staff did a great job, even if there were some hiccups. And indeed, when I still had some of the German candy I’d brought to Helsinki left over on the final day of the con (the chocolate was all gone by this point), I gave the final two bags to the program ops team, because they really deserved a thank you for all their hard work.

Coincidentally, my Mom enjoyed WorldCon a whole lot, too. She’s not a hardcore SFF fan – SFF is just something she enjoys watching and reading on occasion. However, she was very impressed by the sheer number and variety of people who’d been brought together at Messukeskus by their shared love for science fiction and fantasy. There were fans of all ages, shapes and sizes at WorldCon 75, from babies being carried in a sling at their mother’s chests to people in their eighties and beyond (Robert Silverberg, now 82, was the oldest person I recognised). It was a testament to what a welcoming place fandom is.

(18) PROMOTIONAL GIMMICK. NBC Sports’ Chris Calcaterra says a minor league team intentionally scheduled a game during the eclipse: “Minor league teams prepare for a ‘total eclipse of the park’”

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are a class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Today, the path of totality of the big solar eclipse we’re not supposed to look at will pass right through the ballpark in which they play. What’s better: the Volcanoes are playing a game against the Hillsboro Hops as it happens.

This was by design: the team’s owner requested this home game when the schedule was made up two years ago specifically to market the heck out of the eclipse. They’re starting the game at 9:30 this morning, Pacific time, in order to maximize the fun. Spectators will receive commemorative eclipse safety glasses to wear. The game will be delayed when the eclipse hits and a NASA scientist named Noah Petro, who is from the area, will talk to the crowd about what is going on.

(19) LIGHTS OUT. Chris Barkley shot this 9-minute video of his experience watching today’s total eclipse.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chuck Jones –The Evolution of an Artist, Tony Zhou looks at 35 Merrie Melodies to understand Chuck Jones’s genius as an animator.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, Dann, Chris Barkley, Mark-kitteh, Rose Embolism, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/17 (Isn’t It Good) Norwegian Groot

(1) WHAT A CONCEPT. ScienceFiction.com delivers the news in a very amusing way: “Is Jabba The Hutt In Line For His Own ‘Star Wars’ Anthology Film?”

Look out ’50 Shades’ and ‘Magic Mike’!  Some real sexy is about to hit the big screen!  Namely, a stand-alone ‘Jabba The Hutt’ movie.  Yes, following the now-in-production ‘Han Solo’ film, Disney is in some stage of development on additional films that focus on individual members of the vast ‘Star Wars’ mythology, including Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.  Now comes word that the space version of ‘The Godfather’ (who is just slightly slimmer than Marlon Brando later in his career) might also get similar treatment.

This news comes from a write-up by Variety about the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ movie and is just casually thrown out…

…As you probably know, Jabba doesn’t speak English.  This is something that helped protect C-3PO who he kept around (and intact) in order to translate for him.  American audiences rarely embrace foreign films.  Does Disney really think The Force is so strong with fans that they will turn out for a movie spoken entirely in a fake alien language?

(2) GALAXY QUEST. A new writer will help the beloved movie resume its trek to TV? Promises, promises!

Amazon’s Galaxy Quest TV revival is back on track. Writer-actor-comedian Paul Scheer of The League has been tapped to pen the script for the Paramount Television-produced series. Scheer takes over for the feature film’s original scribe, Robert Gordon, who was on board to pen the script for the Amazon reboot. The Amazon series is described as a new take on the cult movie that starred Tim Allen, the late Alan Rickman as well as Sigourney Weaver. The original 1999 movie centered on the cast of a since-canceled beloved sci-fi show that was forced to reunite to save the planet after aliens believe their show was real. Plans for the Amazon series were put on hold after Rickman’s passing.

 

(3) ECLIPSE GUILT. You tell ‘em.

(4) HEROIC EFFORT. Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte has posted packet coordinator Jo Van Ekeren’s deeply interesting “2017 Hugo Voter’s Packet Debrief”. Did we mention, this job is not that easy? Here’s the part about eligibility issues:

Eligibility Issues encountered: after consultation with the Hugo Admins, an explanation was sent to the Finalist of the issue and what the resolution was going to be, and the Finalists were all quite gracious about understanding:

  • Short Form Editor including stories they published but did not edit resolution: they resubmitted a document without those stories
  • Short Form Editor including a short Novel they edited resolution: the Novel was not included in the packet
  • Short Form Editor including an entire issue of a magazine in which they had an editorial published resolution: an extract with only the editorial was included in the packet
  • Professional Artist including two works from an non-eligible publication resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist requested inclusion of non-fiction work in the packet resolution: this was not included in the packet
  • Campbell Finalist including a story from a non-eligible market, and a poem resolution: these were not included in the packet
  • Fanzine creating an online web page with links to reviews of 2016 works which included a vast majority of reviews written in 2016, but a handful written in 2015 and 2017 resolution: let them know that I was going to let it slide, but that a future Packet Coordinator might not, and if there had been more of them, I wouldn’t have either, and suggested this might be something they wish to take into consideration in future as far as the timing of posting reviews
  • Explicit Content: The porn novelette was placed inside a subfolder which included “Note – Explicit Content” in the folder name. The Fan Writer whose work included cartoon nudity and explicit verbiage agreed to create an online page on their website, and a document with a link to that webpage was included in the packet (at my recommendation, this URL was added to their robots.txt file, so that it would not be indexed by search engines).
  • Editor Long Form: My original e-mail to the finalists referred to novels edited during the year, and it was called to my attention that the definition actually specifies novel-length works which were published during the eligibility year, and that those works could be either fiction or non-fiction. I sent a revised e-mail to the Editor Long Form Finalists to reflect these changes

(5) CAPTAIN AMERICA’S CREATOR. Mark Peters details “8 Ways Comic Book Legend Jack Kirby Fought Fascism” at Paste.

  1. He Scouted for the Army

When Kirby joined the army, his reputation as the co-creator of Captain America preceded him—but this talent didn’t get him a cushy job, like many luckier writers and artists. Rather, Kirby ended up serving as a scout, a thankless job that involved sneaking into enemy territory and drawing what he saw to help prepare future missions. This was extremely dangerous. As Kirby put it, “If somebody wants to kill you, they make you a scout.” Before setting off for duty, the auteur cranked out an increased flow of comics, stating that he wanted “to get enough work backlogged that I could go into the Army, kill Hitler, and get back before the readers missed us.”…

  1. He Was Ready to Fight Nazis Anywhere

Kirby, who grew up in Manhattan’s rough Lower East Side, knew how to throw a fist and didn’t back down from anyone—especially a Nazi. As Mark Evanier describes in his biography Kirby: King of Comics, “…Jack took a call. A voice on the other end said, ‘There are three of us down here in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comic book and show him what real Nazis would do to his Captain America’. To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. The callers, however, were gone by the time he arrived.” Based on everything we know about Kirby, these Nazi crank-yankers got lucky.

(6) THE WALKING SUITS. A billion dollars is at stake: “Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman Joins Lawusit Against AMC”. ComicsBeat has the story.

It’s a giant chess game out there in the entertainment world, with streaming giants and known content producers vying for the upper hand. Mark Millar signing with Netflix and Robert Kirkman going with Amazon made headlines on their own, but a new lawsuit makes the reason for Kirkman’s new home even more apparent.

On August 14, The Walking Dead’s series co-creator Robert Kirkman, joined producers Gale Anne Hurd, Glen Mazzara and David Alpert in a complaint filed against the AMC television network. The complaint alleges breach of contract, tortious interference, and unfair or fraudulent business acts under California business code. The damages being sought could exceed $1 Billion dollars.

Filed at Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit alleges that AMC “exploited their vertically integrated television structure” to keep “the lion’s share of the series’ profits for itself.” The Hollywood Reporter has provided a great breakdown of the major claims in the suit. The complaint alleges the network in effect reduced series profits using various means, thereby diminishing the percent owed to the named plaintiffs. One of the ways this was accomplished, the suit claims, is by AMC Network paying a lower than fair market licence value than the show is worth–a violation of the plaintiff’s signed agreements.

(7) HODGELL. On the Baen Free Radio Hour for August 18, P.C. Hodgell discusses The Gates of Tagmeth, her latest entry in the Kenycyrath Saga high fantasy series; and part thirteen of the complete audiobook serialization of Liaden Universe® novel Alliance of Equals by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 19, 1692 — Five hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts
  • August 19, 1983 Yor, the Hunter from the Future premiered

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 19, 1921 – Gene Roddenberry

(10) THE COLOR ORANGE.  The Horror Writers Association has opened its Halloween Pumpkin Recipe Contest.

(11) THE COLOR PINK. Safety first! “Bed and breakfast helps chickens cross street with high visibility vests”.

A bed and breakfast in Scotland fitted a group of chickens with high-visibility vests to help them cross a local road.

Glenshieling House shared video Friday of a pair of chickens wearing the bright pink vests as they strolled across the rainy street.

(12) PAINOPISTE. The fans who produced Worldcon 75’s newsletter will be happy to tell you how they did it.

A central feature in the preparation of the newsletter was two parallel concerns: we resolved to make the W75 newsletter as accessible to fans with dyslexia & other reading issues as possible; and we resolved to make the newsletter visually impressive and professional-looking.

The Design AH’s experience with several years of Finncons had led to the emergence of a Finncon “house style,” including preferred typefaces & colors, through which Design sought to present a unified visual identity for W75. Consequently Design was able to provide the newsletter with an adaptable, minimalist & clear template design including a custom masthead and footer. This template was produced using Adobe Indesign and some custom graphics.

For my part, I concentrated on the question of accessibility. Early in this process, I noted that while W75 had agreed to follow the SWFA’s document “Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces,” that document contained no discussion on the question of readability. Discussions between myself, the Design AH, the Design DH, and the Member Services DH Vanessa May, resulted in a number of recommendations which were incorporated into the final W75 newsletter. These recommendations were drawn from a combination of personal experience, systematic reviews in academic literature on readability, the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Style Guide, and the UK National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Campaign’s guidance on accessible printed materials.

(13) PRO TIP. There’s some truth in what she says –

(14) IN THE BEGINNING. James Cooray Smith, in “Starting Star Wars: How George Lucas came to create a galaxy” in New Statesman, has a lot of good information about how Star Wars came to be created, including how the first character Lucas created was Mace Windu and how much of Star Wars was filmed at EMI Elstree because the Harold Wilson government was trying to keep the facility open and one condition of studios filming there was that they had to bring in their own technicians, which suited Lucas fine.

The script development money gave Lucas enough to live on whilst he continued work on the screenplay. As he did so it changed again; a ‘Kiber Crystal’ was written in and then written out. Skywalker became Deak Starkiller’s overweight younger brother before becoming the farm boy familiar from the finished film. Characters swapped names and roles. A new character named Darth Vader – sometimes a rogue Jedi, sometimes a member of the rival ‘Knights of Sith’ – had his role expanded. Some drafts killed him during the explosion of the Death Star, others allowed him to survive; across subsequent drafts his role grew. Some previously major characters disappeared altogether, pushed into a “backstory”, Lucas choosing to develop the practically realisable aspects of his story.

This is an important clarification to the idea that Star Wars was “always” a part of a larger saga, one later incarnated in its sequels and prequels. That’s true, but not in an absolutely literal way. Star Wars itself isn’t an excerpted chunk of a vast plotline, the rest of which was then made over the next few decades. It’s a distillation of as much of a vast, abstract, unfinished epic as could be pitched as a fairly cheap film to be shot using the technology of the mid 1970s. And even then much of the equipment used to make the film would be literally invented by Lucas and his crew during production.

(15) ANALYZING WINNERS. Cora Buhlert has “Some More Words about the 2017 Hugo Awards”.

Last I said in my last Hugo post, I did not expect The Obelisk Gate to win, because it was the second book in a trilogy and those rarely win and also because it was competing in a very strong ballot. In fact, I suspected that All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders would win (which also wasn’t one of my three top picks), since it already won the Nebula and Locus Awards (in the end, it came in second). I’ve been wondering how my predictions for this category could have been so totally off and I suspect that we’re seeing an effect at work here we often see with awards of any kind, from genre awards via general literature prizes to the Oscars, namely that more serious works focussed on serious issues tends to trump lighter works. Now both All the Birds in the Sky and A Closed and Common Orbit are lighter and more hopeful works, even though they do tackle serious issues as well. Coincidentally, A Closed and Common Orbit addresses very similar issues as The Obelisk Gate, namely who is viewed as a person and who is viewed as a thing or tool, but it handles these issues in a very different way. And due to a general bias towards more serious works that can be found in pretty much all awards, a darker book like The Obelisk Gate trumped a lighter and more hopeful treatment of the same theme like A Closed and Common Orbit (or the equally lighter and more hopeful All the Birds in the Sky). It was always pretty obvious that Death’s End and Too Like the Lightning were not going to win, since both were love it or hate it books, which leaves Ninefox Gambit as the other darker and more serious work on the ballot.

(16) THE RETURNS. Steven J. Wright also pores over the order of finish in “Hugo Awards 2017: The Relentless Detail”. For most readers “gone are the days when everyone just voted for Langford and forgot about it” is a lighthearted jape about Best Fanwriter (medic!), while I found it easier to admire this turn of phrase about Best Fancast:

And a big (though genteel) yay from me for Tea and Jeopardy, there, easily my favourite among the podcasts. Not much to say about the vote, except that Ditch Diggers got gradually jostled down into its final place. Next one down the long list is Verity!, which has got to be more fun than The Rageaholic, if only because groin surgery is more fun than The Rageaholic, and yes, I am qualified to make that comparison.

(17) PSYCH. Alexandra Erin did an analysis of how professed beliefs can interact with internal worldviews to lead to apparently contradictory behavior. She used as an example Brad Torgersen and the Hugos. The thread begins here —

(18) DRAGON AWARDS RUNNERS. Rebecca Hill viewed the recording of last year’s Dragon Awards ceremony and noted the names of the organizers are, besides President Pat Henry, David Cody, Bill Fawcett, and Bev Kaodak. Of course, we reported last year that David Cody left a comment on Monster Hunter Nation on a thread, making sure people knew how to register.

(19) BETTER HUMOR. The death of a space-age “treat”: astronauts no longer have to eat freeze-dried ice cream: “The Best Item In An Astronaut’s Care Package? Definitely The Ice Cream”.

We all remember astronaut ice cream, those little dehydrated bricks of neopolitan.

The reason astronauts generally don’t have much access to the real stuff isn’t rocket science, but rather something we’ve all encountered: a lack of freezer space.

What limited refrigeration there is on the space station is given over to blood samples, urine samples, etc. — stuff you don’t really want next to your Moose Tracks.

Unlike previous cargo vehicles used by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule has the ability to return to Earth without burning up on re-entry.

That means it can bring stuff back. The spacecraft is equipped with freezers to transport medical and scientific samples back to Earth. And sometimes, those freezers are empty when they go up to the station — which leaves room for ice cream, Vickie Kloeris, manager of NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory, tells NPR.

Before the capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Monday, she says, NASA’s cold storage team packed it with a sweet array of frozen treats: 30 individual cups of Bluebell ice cream and some Snickers ice cream bars.

(20) HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN. NASA attacks a bigger worry than asteroid collisions: “NASA’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano”.

There are around 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, with major eruptions occurring on average once every 100,000 years. One of the greatest threats an eruption may pose is thought to be starvation, with a prolonged volcanic winter potentially prohibiting civilisation from having enough food for the current population. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that food reserves worldwide would last 74 days.

When Nasa scientists came to consider the problem, they found that the most logical solution could simply be to cool a supervolcano down. A volcano the size of Yellowstone is essentially a gigantic heat generator, equivalent to six industrial power plants. Yellowstone currently leaks about 60-70% of the heat coming up from below into the atmosphere, via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up inside the magma, enabling it to dissolve more and more volatile gases and surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.

But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt….

(21) NOW IN SESSION. A Chinese ‘cyber-court’ has been launched for online cases:

The Hangzhou Internet Court opened on Friday and heard its first case – a copyright infringement dispute between an online writer and a web company.

Legal agents in Hangzhou and Beijing accessed the court via their computers and the trial lasted 20 minutes.

The court’s focus will be civil cases, including online shopping disputes.

Judges were sworn in and the first case was presented on a large screen in the courtroom.

(22) BEAGLE SUIT. Cat Eldridge has made the latest filing by Peter S. Beagle’s attorney in his suit against his former manager Connor Cochran available here. The filing includes a brief history of the litigation, including the information that in 2016 the court awarded a firm representing Beagle’s attorney $24,000+ in attorneys fees.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/18/17 And Though She Thought Mike Knew The Answer, Well He Knew But He Would Not Say

(1) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY! Nicholas Whyte is back with “The Adminstrator’s Worldcon – part 2 of my 2017 Hugo memories”.

I almost didn’t make it to Worldcon 75. My taxi was 15 minutes late picking me up from home, and then encountered serious traffic en route to Zaventem airport. I was far too late to check my bag and brought it through security, where I almost came unstuck because of the Official Hugo Glue, which Dave McCarty had given me at Smofcon in December and I now needed to give back to him. (In fact we did not need it, as the artist who created the bases had engraved the winners’ plaques and attached them to the bases herself.) Five different security officials inspected the Official Hugo Glue Gun (which fortunately in Dutch is not a gun but a “lijmapparaat”, glue machine) before I was allowed to go on my way. The captain of my plane then scolded me, entirely fairly, for bringing “hand luggage” which was, in his words, “way too big”. But he did not throw me off, and I arrived in Helsinki.

Whyte includes a clear photo of the Hugo base by itself:

(2) ALL’S WELL. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted Renay’s tweets about the dismaying condition of Lady Business’ Hugo when it arrived. She told File 770 the problems were quickly resolved:

It turns out it was melted glue from where the felt was attached to the base (it’s hot here in Arkansas!). It’s been cleaned off with no problems and we’re looking into the proper type of glue to reattach the felt so disaster averted!! The bolt and washer were missing, too, but we’re going to pick a replacement up tomorrow. Nicholas Whyte from the Hugo team was super responsive. I’m also impressed everything arrived so fast. Those Worldcon 75 volunteers are ON IT.

(3) HUGO WINNER. The speech Ada Palmer was too overwhelmed to read at the Hugos is posted at her blog: “Campbell Award & Invisible Disability”.

Thank you very much. I have a speech here but I actually can’t see it. I can think of no higher honor than having a welcome like this to this community. This… we all work so hard on other worlds, on creating them, on reading them, and discussing them, and while we do so we’re also working equally hard on this world and making it the best world we possibly can. I have a list with me of people to thank, but I can’t read it. These tears are three quarters joy, but one quarter pain. This speech wasn’t supposed to be about invisible disability, but I’m afraid it really has to be now. I have been living with invisible disability for many years and… and there are very cruel people in the world for which reason I have been for more than ten years not public about this, and I’m terrified to be at this point, but at this point I have to. I also know that there are many many more kind and warm and wonderful people in this world who are part of the team and being excellent people, so, if anyone out there is living with disability or loves someone who has, please never let that make you give up doing what you want or working towards making life more good or making the world a more fabulous place.

(4) CONREPORT. Cora Buhlert shares her Worldcon experience in a short video, Cora’s Adventures at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki. Includes a shot of one of the File 770 meetups.

(5) CURBED ENTHUSIASM. Mark Ciocco weighs in on “Hugo Awards 2017: The Results”.

The 2017 Hugo Awards were announced on Friday, so it’s time for the requisite whining/celebration that peppers the steak of our blogging diet (that’s how food works, right?) Um, anyway, despite my formal participation in the awards process roughly coinciding with the Sad/Rabid Puppy era/debacle, this marks the fourth year wherein I’ve contributed to the results. This year’s awards were less directly impacted by those meddlesome puppies, but I feel like we’re still suffering through an indirect backlash and overcorrection. This isn’t exactly new, so let’s just get on with it. (For those who really want to geek out and see how instant-runoff voting works, the detailed final and nominating ballots are available.)

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin takes the rocket for Best Novel, making Jemisin just the third author to have back-to-back wins in this category (joining the ranks of Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold). She’s a good author, but damn, these books are not for me. Both were at the bottom of my ballot and while I can see why her novel won last year, this one is a little more baffling. It appears to have been a close race though, with All the Birds in the Sky only narrowly missing the win. I regret not putting it higher on my ballot, as it’s the only non-series finalist, and that’s something that’s becoming more and more of an issue… My preferred Ninefox Gambit came in third in the voting, which wound up being a theme for my first ranked works this year….

(6) PHOTO FINISH. Amal El-Mohtar coincidentally provides another clear photo of the Hugo base.

(7) WHAT THEATRICAL GENIUSES ARE READING. Broadway World delivers “Your 2017 Summer Reading List Courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda”, which includes a few genre works:

(8) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE READING. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll has sicced the panel on “By the Waters of Babylon”. (Wow – I first read that in a junior high school textbook, when I was a Young People myself!)

The second story in Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF is Stephen Vincent Benét’s 1937’s“By The Waters of Babylon”. He’s more obscure than he once was now—dying at age 44 didn’t help him stay in the spotlight—but you may have encountered his The Devil and Daniel Webster or Benét’s upbeat toe-tapper, Nightmare, with Angels, quoted in part in John Brunner’s disco-era The Jagged Orbit…

(9) ROWELL REUNITES RUNAWAYS. Marvel is bringing back Nico, Karolina, Molly, Chase, Old Lace and even Gert.

This fall, best-selling YA writer Rainbow Rowell (Carry On, Eleanor and Park), superstar artist Kris Anka (All-New X-Men, Star-Lord) and Eisner-winning colorist Matt Wilson (The Mighty Thor, Black Widow)  team up to bring the universe’s pluckiest team of super heroes back to where they belong: in the pages of a Marvel comic book.

“As a Runaways fan, it’s been such a thrill for me to see these characters together again,” said writer Rainbow Rowell. “I can’t wait to let everyone else into the party.”

“For years I batted other editors and creators back from the Runaways,” said Executive Editor Nick Lowe. “I was the last Editor to edit them and they are precious to me, so I didn’t want just ANYBODY to bring them back. So when my new favorite writer (Rainbow’s Eleanor & Park slayed me in the best way) said they were her favorites, I knew I had half of the lightning I needed. Kris [Anka] was the other missing link for the PERFECT RUNAWAYS creative team and I’m so excited to share them with the world!”

(10) NO CAPTAIN SULU. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, talks about an unproduced Trek series:

Star Trek and Deep Space Nine writer Marc Scott Zicree shares the entire Captain Sulu Star Trek pilot he and Emmy winner Michael Reaves wrote, and shares the untold story of why you never got to see that series — despite its Hugo and Nebula Award nominations!

 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 18, 1947 – Hewlett-Packard Co. is incorporated, nine years after William Hewlett and David Packard sold their first oscillators from a garage in Palo Alto, where they had set up shop with $538 in capital. Moving from oscillators, the first of which they sold to Disney for the movie Fantasia, the Stanford graduates built one of the world’s largest electronics companies
  • August 18, 2001Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies premieres in Japan.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 18, 1925 – Brian Aldiss

COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian approves of the monkey business on Brevity.

(13) INFRINGEMENT SUIT. In January the Arthur C. Clarke estate, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac to sue Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement. They charged that KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as ‘study guides’ intended for the elementary school set.”

Publishers Weekly has a progress report on the litigation in “Still No Opinion, but Judge’s Order Bans Distribution of ‘Infringing’ KinderGuides”.

Following a summary judgment ruling last month, a federal judge this week signed off on a permanent injunction immediately barring Moppet Books from distributing in the U.S. any versions of its KinderGuides series held to be infringing, until the works on which they are based enter the public domain. In addition, Moppet Books also agreed to destroy all current copies of the infringing works “in its possession or under its control” within 10 days.

Don’t expect the shredders to fire up quite yet, however. While the ban on distribution is effective immediately, the injunction includes an automatic stay on the destruction of existing stock, pending the “final outcome” of the appeal process.

…On July 28, Judge Jed Rakoff issued a summary judgment for the plaintiffs, rejecting Moppet Books’ claims that the works, created by founders Frederik Colting and Melissa Medina for the company’s KinderGuides series, were protected by fair use. The ruling came just days after oral arguments were presented in the case, and without an accompanying memorandum by Rakoff explaining his decision, which the judge said would come “in due course.”

…Meanwhile, despite the ongoing legal battle, Moppet Books is moving ahead with plans to launch a new line of books in October, including a collection of KinderGuides based on public domain works, and two original nonfiction works.

(14) WHAT’S THAT, ROCKY? The New York Times, in “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth”, reports that new fossil discoveries show prehistoric “squirrels” glided through forests at least 160 million years ago.

In a study published on Wednesday, a team of paleontologists added some particularly fascinating new creatures to the Mesozoic Menagerie. These mammals did not lurk in the shadows of dinosaurs.

Instead, they glided far overhead, avoiding predatory dinosaurs on the ground — essentially flying squirrels of the Jurassic Period, from an extinct branch of mammals that probably still laid eggs.

(15) BRADBURY DRAMATIZED. Broadway World says a one-man Bradbury play will be part of a stage festival in New York next month.

Bill Oberst Jr. brings his award-winning solo performance, “Ray Bradbury‘s Pillar Of Fire,” one of Bradbury’s darkest tales, to Theatre Row on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 6:00pm. The NYC debut is part of the United Solo Theatre Festival.

Ray Bradbury has something to say to us at this exact moment in time;” said Oberst, “that we are citizens of the cosmos first, that the way we imagine our future determines our future, and that the most dangerous minds are those which cannot imagine themselves to be wrong.”

Oberst’s one-act adaptation uses Ray Bradbury‘s poetic prose to tell the story of William Lantry, a 400-year-old corpse who rises from the grave in the year 2349 to find himself the last dead man on Earth. Filled with hatred for a future world where superstition, gothic literature and human burials are all banned, Lantry decides to create an army of the dead. Bradbury later called the novella “a rehearsal for Fahrenheit 451.” He also famously said, “I don’t predict the future, I try to prevent it.”

(16) OLD HOME WEEK. Andrew Porter used to live in part of the historic Henry Siegel mansion, whose story was chronicled in the Daytonian in Manhattan blog yesterday.

…This is where I first published ALGOL, DEGLER! and then S.F. WEEKLY. It’s where I lived while I worked on the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3. I had numerous fan gatherings there, and have photos of Ted White and Arnie Katz in my room. This block of East 82nd Street is also the direct approach to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose fabled entrance stairs are visible directly down at the end of the block.

He wrote a long, fascinating comment there, including this genre tidbit –

In later years, part of the basement housed a toy store accessed by a stairway from the bookstore above. The proprietor told me that some of the toy soldiers he sold came from the collection of Donald A. Wollheim, a well-known collector and once publisher of DAW Books. And one of the buyers was George R.R. Martin, whose “Game of Thrones” (HBO) is so popular.

…For many years there was also a bookstore. In early 2017, Crawford Doyle Booksellers, which claimed to be there for 21 years, closed. However, there’d been a bookstore there since at least the late 1950s. I know, because as a teenager, I had a job delivering Womrath Library rental books to posh apartments around the area.

(17) IN THE FLOW. The Hugo Award Book Club discusses John Scalzi’s latest novel in “Review: The Collapsing Empire”.

Given John Scalzi’s track record, high profile, and vocal fan base, it seems likely that The Collapsing Empire will be given a fair amount of consideration on many 2018 Hugo nominators’ lists.

Based on how fun this book is at times, that consideration is probably warranted. The novel is set in an interstellar empire tied together by limited faster-than-light traderoutes known as ‘the Flow.’ This empire — The Interdependency — has lasted for millennia because of the economic dependence of its member worlds to each other. The key protagonists are the new Empress of the Interdependency, and the son of a scientist on a distant world whose father has spent decades discovering that the flow is going to collapse. The overaching plot — which has some parallels to Asimov’s Foundation— is expertly constructed and well-paced. Although the characters all seemed to speak with a similar voice, their motivations were clear, and the conflicts felt natural.

(18) THROWING SHADE. Solar-powered California prepares for the eclipse:

“We’re doing a lot of coordination, a lot of preparation,” says Deane Lyon, a manager at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages about 80 percent of the state’s electric grid. “It’s probably the most work this company has done to prepare for a three-hour event in our history.”

Solar power already comes with up and downs, in the form of clouds.

“So this was a particularly cloudy day,” says Jan Klube of Enphase, pulling up a graph showing the solar output from one California home. The Petaluma-based company monitors rooftop solar systems around the country day in and day out.

To show how a single cloud can make a difference, he points to the afternoon hours, when the output dips by about a third. “You see the big drop, so there’s a cloud coming and going,” he explains. “That’s why you see the zigzag.”

If your solar panels are in the path of totality during the eclipse, “it will go all the way to zero,” he says.

California isn’t squarely in the path, but the moon’s partial shadow will obscure 90 percent of the sun in the north, down to nearly 60 percent in the south. That’s more than enough to cause some anxiety for the people who have to keep California’s lights on.

(19) THE DARK SIDE. Scientists to study whether nature really goes crazy during an eclipse: “Will The Eclipse Make Crops And Animals Flip Out? Scientists Ask (Really)”.

With the help of elementary school students, University of Missouri biology professor Candi Galen is putting out microphones near beehives, in gardens and in a pumpkin patch to record buzzing activity.

“I don’t think it is really known the cues that bees use or don’t use when they are foraging that tell them to jump ship and go back their hives or stay put,” Galen says. “Bees depend upon the environment to regulate their temperature, and that may suggest that if indeed it does cool off a few degrees as the eclipse progresses, then they would get less active because they would be at a lower temperature physiologically.”

Researchers are also working with nearby cattle ranchers and even fishermen to monitor fish activity, Reinbott says.

(20) DNA EDITING. An NPR report is allowed to go “Inside The Lab Where Scientists Are Editing DNA In Human Embryos”.

Critics, however, pounced on the news. They fear editing DNA in human embryos is unsafe, unnecessary and could open the door to “designer babies” and possibly someday to genetically enhanced people who are considered superior by society.

As the debate raged last week, I asked Mitalipov if I could visit his lab to see the next round of his experiments. He wants to confirm his initial results and determine whether the method can be used to repair other mutations.

He agreed to a visit, and on Monday, I became the first journalist to see these scientists cross a line that, until recently, had been taboo.

Chip Hitchcock adds a historical note: “Readers of antique SF may remember Heinlein’s elaborate description of deductive sorting of ova in Beyond This Horizon; another infodump bites the dust.”

(21) PUNISHER. The Verge invites everyone to watch The Punisher teaser trailer:

The Defenders hits Netflix today, and with it comes a look at Marvel’s upcoming show The Punisher. Frank Castle was introduced in season 2 of Daredevil. He’s played by Jon Bernthal, who will reprise his role as the gun-toting Army vet out for revenge.

Various rips of the trailer are popping up all over YouTube…

 

(22) SAY HELLO. Amazon Prime video will stream The Tick on August 25.

From creator Ben Edlund comes the hero you’ve been waiting for. In a world where heroes and villains have existed for decades, a mild-mannered accountant named Arthur has his life turned upside down when he runs into a mysterious blue superhero, The Tick, who insists that Arthur become the brains to his brawn in a crime-fighting duo. Will Arthur resist the call of Destiny or join the fight?

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Karl-Johan Norén, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Filer Meetup #1 at Worldcon 75

Greg Hullender says of today’s Filer meetup at Worldcon 75, “It was a fun event, full of smiles and laughter.”

Eric Wong snapped these photos of the group:

Hampus Eckerman identified the group — going around clockwise:

  • Hampus Eckerman (who has his arms over his head in both photos)
  • My father Björn
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Heather Rose Jones
  • Chad Saxelid
  • Sylvia Sotomayor
  • Kendall
  • Greg Hullender
  • My brother Jonas
  • Greg Machlin
  • Ingvar

Greg Hullender identified people in the second photo:

  • Hampus Eckerman
  • His father Björn
  • Kendall
  • Heather Rose Jones
  • Chad Saxelid
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Sylvia Sotomayor
  • Greg Hullender
  • Jonas Eckerman (Hampus’s brother)
  • Greg Machlin
  • Ingvar
  • Rick Moen

Pixel Scroll 8/2/17 What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Tick-Boxed At Last, Scrolls Towards Bethlehem To Be Born?

(1) SOUNDS LEGIT. Newsweek’s Hannah Osborn reports “Nasa Is Hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to Save Earth from Aliens”. If you want to protect earth from space aliens and have the qualifications, NASA is hiring, on a three-year contract with pay from $124,000 to $187,000.

The headline is a little grandiose – here’s what the job is really about:

The role involves stopping astronauts and robots from getting contaminated with any organic and biological material during space travel.

“NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration” the job advert reads. “This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.”

Still want to apply? The USAJOBS listing is here.

(2) STATS. A snapshot of Worldcon 75 membership, with the convention a week away:

(3) HARVEST OF STORIES. Cora Buhlert went into overdrive last month: “The July Short Story Challenge 2017 – 32 Short Stories in 31 Days” . And this is the third consecutive year she’s written a story a day in July!

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation. In one case, googling a research question for one story, namely whether there it’s actually legal to shoot looters after a massive disaster (it’s not, though there have been cases where law enforcement personnel was given carte blanche, with predictably terrible results) led me to the story of a man who bragged that he had shot more than thirty alleged looters after Hurricane Katrina (thankfully, it seems he was lying or at least massively exaggerating) and who amazingly was not arrested as a serial killer. This made me actively angry, so I wrote a post-apocalyptic story where a shooter of looters gets his comeuppance.

(4) CRIME BLOTTER. Alison Flood and Sian Cain of The Guardian, in “Beatrix Potter-pinching and Žižekian swipes: the strange world of book thefts”, look at who is stealing books from British bookstores. The sf connection is that at Blackwell’s in Oxford, Tolkien, Pratchett, Jordan, and Martin are among the top authors stolen, Also, “an 80-year-old woman with a Zimmer frame” heisted Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind from Drake the Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees.

Paul Sweetman of City Books in Hove believes shoplifters appear to have dumbed down over the years. “In the 1980s, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac were the most likely to go missing, The Bell Jar and On the Road competing for being the least profitable books in the shop. We are now forced to keep Asterix, Tintin, Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss behind the counter.”

(5) ALEX, I’LL TAKE LA ARCHITECTURE FOR $100. The answer is: Ray Bradbury. The question is: “Why Does Los Angeles Have a Mall Based on the Babylon Set From the 1916 Film Intolerance?”.

If you’ve been to the Hollywood & Highland Center and have a working knowledge of silent film history, you may have noticed that the hulking mall’s design has been lifted with mixed success from the Babylon set in DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance. (An influential and ruinously expensive feat of filmmaking in which Griffith calls out critics of his previous film, The Birth of a Nation, as the real racists; it interweaves tales of intolerance from ancient Babylon, the life of Christ, Renaissance France, and then-modern America). That’s pretty weird, right? What kind of mind came up with that? In a posthumous essay just published at the Paris Review, late science fiction author Ray Bradbury says it was his idea….

Intolerance flopped. There was no money left to dismantle the set, and for a few years it became an actual ruin in the middle of Los Angeles. It was finally torn down in 1919….

In his essay at the Paris Review, Bradbury—who led a campaign in the early 1960s to build a monorail system in Los Angeles—writes about his career as an “accidental architect,” influencing designs for the 1964 World’s Fair, EPCOT, and, strangely enough, the Glendale Galleria…..

Eventually, a group came to him “looking at ways to rebuilt Hollywood”:

I told them that somewhere in the city, they had to build the set from the 1916 film Intolerance by D. W. Griffith. The set, with its massive, wonderful pillars and beautiful white elephants on top, now stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland avenues. People from all over the world come to visit, all because I told them to build it. I hope at some time in the future, they will call it the Bradbury Pavilion.

The Hollywood & Highland Center opened in late 2001, at the beginning of what has become a wildly successful rebirth for Hollywood. EE&K designed the complex, with a grand stairway leading up to a “Babylon Court” with a replica Intolerance gate (which frames the Hollywood Sign in the distance) and, of course, a few elephants…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 2, 1971 — Zombies in sunglasses: The Omega Man (Charlton Heston’s version) premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 2, 1939 — Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven born.

(8) POTTER CAST TRANSPLANTS. Variety’s Gordon Cox, in “Meet the Wizards of Broadway’s ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, reports seven members of the London cast are going to be in the Broadway production, scheduled to open in April.

Seven members of the West End company of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will open the Broadway production in the spring, including Olivier winners Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle.

That trio and four other British actors will lead the cast of one of the most hotly anticipated productions of the Broadway season. The newest chapter in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” saga wowed both audiences and critics when it opened last summer, and went on to win a record nine Oliviers, including the trophies for Parker (as a grown-up Harry), Dumezwani (as Hermione) and Boyle, who plays Scorpius, the son of Harry’s old nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

On Broadway, Sam Clemmett will reprise his role as Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, alongside Paul Thornley (Ron), Poppy Miller (Ginny), and Alex Price (Draco). Byron Jennings, Kathryn Meisle and David Abeles are among the new actors joining the hefty cast of 28.

(9) X NEXT. Yahoo! says “There’s A Reason You Should Care About The Next X-Men Movie, And That Reason Is Jessica Chastain”.

On her Instagram page, the actress shared an image of her and James McAvoy – who plays Professor Charles Xavier in the films – and writes that she’s off to join the cast in Montreal.

Hey @jamesmcavoyrealdeal you ready for me up in Montreal? Im gonna make you cry so hard 😈 #xmen @simondavidkinberg

A post shared by Jessica Chastain (@jessicachastain) on

The actress also captioned the photo “I’m gonna make you cry so hard”, which could give us a hint as to who she’s playing.

Rumours have stated that the filmmakers were looking to cast Chastain as Princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, and while she hasn’t confirmed this, it’s looking likely.

In the comics (and nineties animated series) Charles and Lilandra are in love, but their duties and very long distance gets in the way of their relationship – hence her comment about making Charles cry.

(10) COMPILATION. Lela E. Buis announces her “Review Project: Greater Inclusion of SFF Worldviews”.

During a recent discussion here at the blog, I was asked to provide examples of underrepresented minority views. I’m now starting a project to review works like this from 2017. I have several candidates lined up, but I’d also be happy to have suggestions on likely candidates. I’m especially looking for Native American and LatinX worldviews, as this group has been pretty scarce in the recent SFF awards cycles, even though Native American and LatinX persons make up about 1/5 of the US population. I’m also interested in other underrepresented worldviews within the SFF community, and I may ask a few people to do guest reviews or articles as the project goes along.

I should probably define what I mean by “worldview.” I’m not looking for just diversity of race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or national origin in the authors here; I’m looking for authors writing from within their own authentic worldview instead of just replaying Western stereotypes.

(11) ART CORNUCOPIA. Digital Arts Online tells where to find the motherlode: “The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download”.

The British Library’s collection of images on Flickr are taken from books it has its collection from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century – so well out of copyright – and are vaguely arranged by theme: such as book covers, cycling, illustrated lettering, comic art, ships or children’s book illustration. There’s also a collection of ‘Highlights‘ that’s a good place to start if you just want a general browse.

(12) I’M MELTING! Riffing on a fannish enthusiasm: is vanilla ice cream on its way out? “Is time up for plain vanilla flavour ice creams?”

But for many years, flavours from the big international brands remained stubbornly conservative, dominated by chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Now though, thanks to migration, long-haul travel, and the internet, consumers are becoming more adventurous and manufacturers are taking note.

Parlours have sprung up across the US offering Persian-style saffron, orange blossom, and rosewater ice cream, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey; and Indian-inspired flavours such as masala chai, pineapple, and kulfi.

(13) NOT EXACTLY WESTWORLD. Film fans recreated the final set of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (technically not sf-related, but this is a story of fan-level enthusiasm): “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly location reborn in Spain”.

But in 2014, a group of local people decided to restore the site to its former glory. They called themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association and after locating the exact cemetery spot, with the help of photographs from the film’s final scene, in 2015 they set about the painstaking process of excavating the site.

“At the start it seemed like it was going to be impossible, but bit by bit people from other provinces of Spain, other towns, and even other countries, came to help us rebuild the cemetery and it snowballed,” says David Alba, the 35-year-old president of the association. Aficionados could help finance the project by paying €15 (£13; $18) to have their name painted onto one of the wooden crosses.

Mr Alba remembers a key moment early in the excavation.

“We were digging in the ground and we saw that underneath the earth were the original stones of the central circle of the site, the place where all the actors, the director and all the technicians had walked across during the filming,” he says. “It was like digging in the ground and finding treasure.”

(14) THE BUZZER. Fun for conspiracy theorists: “The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run” (and several other strange radio stations)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

(15) ANOTHER HACKING OPPORTUNITY. More on implantable microchips: one has already been used to infect the system that read it.

Hacking and security concerns, however, are less easily hand-waved away. RFID chips can only carry a minuscule 1 kilobyte or so of data, but one researcher at Reading University’s School of Systems Engineering, Mark Gasson, demonstrated that they are vulnerable to malware.

Gasson had an RFID tag implanted in his left hand in 2009, and tweaked it a year later so that it would pass on a computer virus. The experiment uploaded a web address to the computer connected to the reader, which would cause it to download some malware if it was online.

“It was actually a surprisingly violating experience,” says Gasson. “I became a danger to the building’s systems.”

(16) DEPT. OF WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? A “Chicago Library Seeks Help Transcribing Magical Manuscripts”  —

The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period, a time of sweeping social, political, and cultural change spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would have scandalized the religious establishment. These texts deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits—and the Newberry is asking for help translating and transcribing them.

As Tatiana Walk-Morris reports for Atlas Obscura, digital scans of three magical manuscripts are accessible through Transcribing Faith, an online portal that functions much like Wikipedia. Anyone with a working knowledge of Latin or English is invited to peruse the documents and contribute translations, transcriptions, and corrections to other users’ work.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Lex Berman, Chip Hitchcock, Lurkertype, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/17 Little Pixels Made Of Ticky Tacky All In A Row

(1) HOW POWERFUL IS SF? When their joint book tour brought them to San Francisco, Goodreads members had a chance to quiz this dynamic duo: “The Authors@Goodreads Interview with John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow”.

GR: Goodreads member Lissa says, “When I read the description of Walkaway, I was wondering ‘Will he have written the book we need to wake us up and get us to pay attention, or the book we need to prepare us for what he thinks might be coming?'”

DOCTOROW: I think…we overestimate the likelihood of things we can vividly imagine and spend a lot of time worrying about our kids getting snatched by strangers and not nearly enough time worried about them getting killed by food poisoning or car accidents. We have this giant war on terror but no war on listeria despite the fact that inadequate refrigeration kills a lot more Americans than terrorism does. It has to do with how vividly we can imagine those things…..

GR: Are the worlds you create the kind of worlds you want to live in?

SCALZI: No! I write terrible universes where horrible things are happening, I like where ‘m living now. Some years are better than others, but altogether ‘m OK with who I am and where I am in the world.

(2) NEED IT RIGHT AWAY. What’s the next thing collectors absolutely must have? Could it be — “Pint Size Heroes”! (They remind me a lot of the Pet Shop pets my daughter used to love, except completely different, of course.)

This series features characters from some of your favorite science fiction movies and television! Including Martian from Mars Attacks, Neo from The Matrix, Leeloo from The Fifth Element, Predator and many more! Collect them all this Summer!

(3) TIME ENOUGH FOR CHEESECAKE LOVE. Here’s what Neil Gaiman will do for half a million dollars — that isn’t even for him. Let Yahoo! News set the scene:

The Cheesecake Factory‘s menu is the In Search of Lost Time of the restaurant industry, in that it is far too long and probably includes a madeleine or two.

Neil Gaiman is a very famous author (American Gods, Stardust, Coraline) with a notably soothing British accent, who has nothing to do with the Cheesecake Factory but has been dared to read its convoluted bill of fare anyway.

How’d this happen?

It all began with writer/comedian Sara Benincasa, a self-professed cheesecake addict…

She has secured Gaiman’s agreement and has launched a fundraiser at Crowdwise. — “Neil Gaiman Will Do A Reading Of The Cheesecake Factory Menu If We Raise $500K For Refugees”.

Will the appeal be strong enough for the fund to meet its goal? Only $2,321 has been pledged as of this afternoon.

(4) IT NEEDED SAVING? In the opinion of the Chicago Tribune “Novelist Timothy Zahn is the man who saved ‘Star Wars,’ according to fans”. There’s no doubt they’ve been good for each other.

Timothy Zahn, who is 65 and bald and carries an ever-so-slight air of social anxiety, is nobody’s image of a superstar. And yet as he sat behind table No. 26 and waited for fans, he did not wait long. The doors to the convention hall at McCormick Place opened at 10 a.m., and by 10:10 a.m. the line of people to meet Zahn was the second-longest at C2E2, the massive Chicago comic book convention held each spring. Only Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, could boast longer lines. This was a few weeks ago, just as “Thrawn,” Zahn’s latest “Star Wars” novel, was debuting at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

(5) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Tyrannosaurus rex is still nature’s most-feared predator: “Woman In T-Rex Costume Charged With Scaring Horses”.

Growling at carriage horses while wearing a full-body Tyrannosaurus Rex suit is illegal, a South Carolina woman has learned.

As two horses pulled a carriage of tourists through Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday evening, the horses came face to face with an unfamiliar animal: a six-foot, orange dinosaur. The extinct beast, however, was actually a person in an inflatable T-Rex suit. And when the person allegedly growled at the carriage, the horses became startled, backing the carriage into a parked car, unseating the carriage driver, and running over his leg.

Though multiple onlookers captured photos and video of the incident, the agitator’s face was concealed inside the dinosaur suit, leaving police without a suspect until 26-year-old Nicole Wells turned herself into police Friday night. She was charged with disorderly conduct and wearing a mask or disguise.

Wearing a mask is illegal in South Carolina, and Charleston has particularly strict anti-mask ordinances. City residents over the age of 16 are prohibited from wearing masks in public places, even on Halloween. And after Wells allegedly spooked the carriage horses, locals placed a bounty on her T-Rex head.

(6) THIS WON’T BE DIRT CHEAP. A sack of gold dust wouldn’t bring as much as this NASA artifact is predicted to fetch at auction.

A small white pouch marked “Lunar Sample Return,” which Nancy Lee Carlson bought two years ago for $995, is expected to fetch as much as $4 million at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. That’s because it’s sprinkled with moon dust.

Astronaut Neil Armstrong filled the bag with rocks from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during his historic trip to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. He turned the bag over to a Houston lab, which emptied it of the rocks and then lost track of it. It eventually turned up on a U.S. Marshals auction website.

Enter Carlson, a Chicago-area attorney. She bought the pouch — along with some other items, in a kind of space-memento grab bag — for $995 and sent it off to NASA for testing. NASA claimed the bag belonged to the agency, and wouldn’t return it until after a long court battle. You’d think Carlson was asking for the moon.

The bag is expected to go for such a sky-high price because NASA doesn’t allow anyone to own any bit of the moon –except for the bag.

Sotheby’s senior specialist Cassandra Hatton called the auction of the “modest bag” her “Mona Lisa moment.”

(7) TAKE THE TEST. The Guardian will let you audition: “Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?” Looks like I won’t be working for FB anytime soon — I only matched their decision 9 out of 16 times.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

History of Goth Day

The history of Goth Day stretches back in odd and meandering paths to history. Musically it can be traced back to 1967 when someone referred to the music of the Doors as “Gothic Rock.” This term was soon being bandied about, used to describe music like Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, and Siouxsie and the Banshee’s described as one of “Goth Rocks Architects”.

But why “Gothic”? It’s an odd term considering that it originally referred to the Visigoths whose claim to fame was sacking Rome. So how did Goths become Goths? Well, we can trace the term back a bit further to 1764, where Horace Walpole wrote a story called “The Castle of Otranto”, granted the subtitled “A Gothic Story” during its second printing. So what is Gothic in this context? It describes a “pleasing sort of horror”, and was seen to be a natural extension of Romantic literature. This, of course, implies a sort of romance with the darker side of life, something that can be said to describe the little blossoms of gloom described at the beginning.

Goth Day celebrates all these souls, and the part of them that celebrates the darkness within us all through music, art, and media.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 22, 1859 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

(10) HIGH FRONTIER CULTURE. The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Kaufman describes the Washington Ballet’s forthcoming, space-themed production — “For a Washington Ballet premiere: Dancers, spacesuits and Velcro. Lots of Velcro. “.

“Frontier” will have its world premiere May 25, with performances continuing through May 27 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. It tells the story of a group of ASCANS –the NASA acronym for astronaut candidates –and flight technicians preparing for a mission, and the stage effects include a rocket launch and travel to a distant planet.

Just 25 minutes long, the ballet is a big event for everyone involved, but especially for Stiefel, the retired American Ballet Theatre star who is unveiling his first major commission as a choreographer, and for Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent, who asked Stiefel, her friend and former dance partner, to tie his ballet to the Kennedy Center’s John F. Kennedy centennial celebration. That’s where the space theme came from, reflecting the former president’s expansion of the space program.

(11) SHADOW CLARKE. Another pair of reviews from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The other day, when I was reviewing Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, I noted that it was one of two books I still had to write about from my initial list that hadn’t made either the Sharke Six or the official Clarke Award shortlist. I then proceeded to detail why I thought the Brooks-Dalton hadn’t made the lists (it’s not really very good science fiction).

This is the second, and the reasons The Gradual didn’t make either list are, well, I don’t know.

One of the most common accusations levelled at genre fiction is that it is… generic: a typical police procedural will see a detective with a troubled home life win out over bureaucratic incompetence to catch a killer, a standard romance will see two seemingly ill-matched individuals coming together across geographical and social divides to reach a perfect understanding, and we’ve all watched horror movies where we spend the first half of the film yelling at the characters not to go into the house. The reason we still enjoy such stories is often related to their very predictability — we find a formula that works for us, where each new iteration is a pleasure that is doubled in its anticipation, like slipping back into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I would suggest there is something folkloric in such archetypes, something of the mythical, and what genre’s detractors often fail to notice about archetypes is how flexible they are, how ripe for re-imagining and subversion…

(12) BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT. Last year’s Clarke Award winner begins a multi-part rundown of this year’s shortlisted works.

Because I didn’t get the chance to do a Clarkeslist post last year, for what I hope are excusable reasons, I was denied the opportunity to laud Chambers’ first outing, A Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet. This book was one of the ones I would have been happiest to lose to. It was also the subject of a mixed bag of reviews, which may be because it’s SF about, not the space beyond our atmosphere but the space between people (which €˜people’ very emphatically includes nonhuman sentience).

(13) DIVERSE AWARDS COMMENTARY. Cora Buhlert has “A few words on the 2016 Nebula Awards, the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the Shadow Clarkes”.

…In other awards news, the shortlist for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced as well. It’s a pretty good shortlist, consisting of a Hugo and Nebula Award nominee (Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee), a Hugo nominee, sequel to one of last year’s Clarke Award nominees (A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers), this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction and the literary speculative fiction novel of the year (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead), a new novel by a former Clarke Award winner (Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan), a new work by an author nominated for multiple BSFA, British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards (Central Station by Lavie Tidhar) and a Locus Award nominated novel by an established and talented, but somewhat overlooked writer (After Atlas by Emma Newman). It’s also a nicely diverse shortlist, ranging from space opera and military SF via dystopian fiction to alternate history. The writer demographics are diverse as well — after the debacle of the all male, all white shortlist in 2013, in spite of a jury consisting of several women — and include three men and three women, two writers of colour, at least two LGBT writers and one international writer. At the Guardian, David Barnett also reports on the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist and praises its diversity

(14) NONREADERS DIGEST. At Lady Business, Ira and Anna try to help readers evaluate one of the nominees for the Best Series Hugo by presenting “The Vorkosigan Saga in 5 Books”.

Ira

Friends! One of my favourite things made of words ever is up for the Best Series Hugo this year! That is correct, The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold is a Hugo Finalist. And I am here with the lovely frequent Lady Business guest poster forestofglory (Anna), a fellow Vorkosigan fan, to present you with two ways to skim the highlights of this series in 5 books each.

Anna

Five books is kind of an arbitrary cutoff, but it’s a lot fewer than 17!

Ira

Isn’t that right!

Now, you may have seen that your Hugo packet includes Borders of Infinity as the sole representative of the Vorkosigan Saga. This is a collection of novellas/short stories with some interstitial material that constitutes its own (very) short story. If Baen, the publisher, had to pick ONE book, this is not a bad choice, as it gives several interesting adventures and tones from this series. However, Anna and I think it doesn’t really cover the breadth of the series, and we’re here to fix that.

This post is intended for two audiences: (1) People who have never encountered a Vorkosigan book in their life, or maybe have read one or two but don’t really know the full series, so we can suggest a subset of the series that is readable by the Hugo voting deadline; and (2) Fans of the series so they can come argue with us about our picks. BOTH ARE SO WELCOME….

(15) PALATE CLEANSER. Need a change of pace before diving back into the Hugo Voter Packet? Maybe Short Story Squee & Snark can help. “The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley is their latest discussion pick.

“The Thule Stowaway,” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Novelette. Published in Uncanny Jan/Feb 2017.

Suggested by Mark Hepworth:

I love “secret history” style stories, which this combines with a carefully crafted nest of narratives.

This one has reactions all over the map, which should make for some interesting discussion!

Charles Payseur echoes our recommendation: “This story is something of a Master’s course in nested narratives, unfolding like a puzzlebox that defies reality and is much larger on the inside than it appears.”

Tangent Online reviewer Herbert M. Shaw calls it “overlong and burdensome,” and “a rejected plot from the Doctor Who storyboards, featuring Edgar Allan Poe.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lovestreams by Sean Buckalew on Vimeo explains what happens when two people who have only “met” through IM messages step through a portal to “meet” in cyberspace.

[Thanks to Sam Long, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

Si Logan ang bahala sa'yo! Haha #1stLocation #Unit2 #langitlupa #kapamilya

A post shared by Pj 🇵🇭 (@peeej05) on

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/17 Nomination Street

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

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

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

The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II: Hard military science fiction, then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/16 I Know Why The Crottled Greep Pings

Art by Camestros Felapton.

Art by Camestros Felapton.

(1) TALKING ABOUT “DESTROY” OR “DIG” COLLECTIONS? Neil Clarke, editor of Clarkesworld, raises the question of whether special collections for underrepresented communities is a good idea.

(2) THE ELDER CLODS. The Huffington Post continues to cover the full horror of this year’s presidential election: “Stephen King Compares Donald Trump To Cthulhu; Cthulhu Issues Angry Denial”.

(3) NEXT FROM LIU CIXIN. Death’s End, the last book in Liu Cixin’s trilogy which started with The Three-Body Problem, will be released September 20. A preview can be read here on the Tor/Forge Blog.

And the author’s next translated novel is announced in a tweet from Ken Liu.

(4) AUTHOR LIFE. What is Joe Hill doing today?

So we’re doing #authorlife today. Okay. I’ll play. I’ll try to write 1500 words on a new novella (the last in a book of four), working longhand in an oversize National Brand account book. If it goes badly, I’ll accept 1000 words and hope for better tomorrow. When I’m done (1 PM? 2?) I’ll have a salad and read forty pages of A MAN LIES DREAMING, the current book (starring Adolf Hitler, PI, no, really). The afternoon is for office chores and email. If I can I’ll write a snail mail letter to a friend. Because I like doing that. At some point I’ll also listen to a chapter of the current audio book (PRINCE CASPIAN). Over the course of the day I’ll have four cups of tea. Three black, no cream, no sugar. The last is green and has honey and lemon. It all sounds very exciting, doesn’t it? Living life on the edge, that’s me. I’d like to be more physical but haven’t been on any kind of regular exercise schedule since before THE FIREMAN book tour. Hummmm. I also started playing piano this year for the first time since I was 13, and come evening I like to practice for a half hour. But I won’t today cos one of my fingers is f’d up. Maybe I’ll have an episode of THE AMERICANS. Then it’ll be 10PM and I’ll go to bed, like an old person. Shit. I think I’m an old person.

(5) I’VE HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE. Cora Buhlert’s “The Three Fractions of Speculative Fiction” jumps off from a Nathaniel Givens article recently linked in the Scroll, analyzing the sources of complaints about Hugo Award winners, then goes back to 2013 when Sad Puppies had barely begun for an eye-opening comparison of Hugo complaints then being made by fan critics and iconoclasts totally unrelated to the Puppies. Extra points to Buhlert for remembering what those other voices were saying.

Nonetheless, I did remember that there was a controversy involving the 2013 Hugos at the time, a controversy I chronicled in several posts here, here and here.

Interestingly, most “The Hugos are broken” complaints that year came not from the puppy side (though Larry Correia waded into the fray, being his usual charming self) but from overwhelmingly British critics, who complained about the alleged lack of sophistication of the nominees. For examples, check out these posts by Justin Landon, Aidan Moher, Adam Callaway and Jonathan McCalmont.

The critics who wrote those posts are not puppies. Quite the contrary, they are probably the polar opposite. Where the puppies complain that the Hugos aren’t populist enough and reward obscure literary works, these critics complain that the Hugos are too populist and not sophisticated enough. However, if you read through those posts (and particularly Justin Landon’s remains a marvel of condescension) you’ll notice that their criticisms of the Hugos eerily mirror those made by the sad and rabid puppies a few years later: The Hugos are broken, they are dominated by a small and incestous clique of aging babyboomers who have been attending WorldCon for decades and/or an equally incestous clique of livejournal posters voting for their friends, those cliques are hostile to outsiders and disregard everybody who doesn’t attend cons as “not a real fan”, only works that appeal to that clique of insiders are nominated and the books/authors the critics like are never nominated. So the Hugos should be burned to the ground or reformed to represent all of fandom or maybe a new award should be established to better represent what’s best in SFF. And as if the puppy parallels weren’t striking enough, many of those posts also contain some bonus condescension towards women writers and writers of colour. Oh yes, and they all agree that Redshirts is an unworthy nominee. Ditto for Lois McMaster Bujold and Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire. Opinions are divided on Saladin Ahmed.

So what is going on here? Why do two seemingly diametrically opposed groups make so very similar points? …

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 13, 1977 – Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror is published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 13, 1916 — Roald Dahl
  • Born September 13, 1939 — Richard Kiel

(8) NOT ALL CATS ARE SJW CREDENTIALS. L. Jagi Lamplighter, in “The Bifrost Between Calico and Gingham”, explains the difference between Sad Puppies and those who are satisfied with the Hugos, using “Cat Pictures Please” as an illustration [BEWARE SPOILERS].

I have been asked what the Puppies—Sad and Rabid alike—are objecting to? If they are not racist or homophobes—ie, if it is not the author’s identity that they object to—why do they think that so many of the stories that have been winning the Hugo and the Nebula are receiving their awards for the wrong reasons?

I think I can explain. I will use, for my example, the short story that won the Hugo in 2016: “Cat Pictures Please.” ….

So, to Left-Leaning readers, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, but perhaps new-to-them, SF premise, which also reinforces their idea of truth about the world and comes to a delightfully-satisfying conclusion.

The mixture of the simple SF premise, the wit, and the satisfying political leaning make it a very delightful story indeed.

To anyone who is Right-Leaning, “Cat Pictures Please” is a witty story with a common, and perhaps not-so-new-to-them, SF premise, which is full of concepts and moral choices that grate on them the wrong way, and the end is, while a bit amusing, rather unpleasant.

The first group says, “This is a great story!

The second group says, “Look, I’ll be fair and overlook all the pokes in the eye, but as I am regarding the story through my blurry, now-painful eyes, I want to see some really fantastic science fiction. Something that wows me so much that I am going to think it is worth putting next to “Nightfall” or “Harrison Bergeron.” And I just don’t see it.

 “Your stuff is not new. If you take today’s problems and put them in space, that’s not science fiction. You need the new, the controversial, to be SF. 

“Where is the stuff that’s going to shake my world and make me think, the way the Hugo winners of years gone by, such as “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, did?

(9) HOW HUGO VOTING CHANGES MAY WORK. Cheryl Morgan wrote an analytical post after watching the MACII Business Meeting videos – “WSFS Has Spoken – What Does It Mean?” —  which I just got a chance to read today. I found Cheryl’s speculation about the impact of the changes to the Hugo voting rules very interesting, indeed. Here’s just one brief excerpt:

So I have no objection to the detection of “natural slates”. Politically, however, I suspect it will be a minefield. If, next year, when EPH is used on the actual voting, people who are not on the Puppy slates get eliminated by it, I think that there will be an outcry. Fandom at large is expecting EPH to get rid of all of the Puppies, and no one else. It will not do either. People are not going to be happy.

Another potential issue here is the effect that EPH will have on Helsinki in particular. Finnish fans will presumably want to vote for Finnish works. Because there are a lot fewer Finnish writers than non-Finnish ones, there will be much less diversity in their nominations. I suspect that EPH will see the Finnish votes as a slate and kick some of the nominees off. That too will make some people unhappy, including me.

(10) JEOPARDY! Another science fiction question on Jeopardy! This one was worth $800 in Numerical Literature. Steven H Silver sent a long a screencap, and confirmed “They got it right.”

jeopardy-que

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven Silver, Rose Embolism, Mark-kitteh, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]