Pixel Scroll 5/4/16 (Take Another) Piece Of My Artificial Heart

May the 4th be with you

(1) BREAKING THINGS. Wired studies the physics behind the destruction of a Super Star Destroyer in Star Wars.

The Mass of the Death Star

The real question remains—why is it moving so fast? There are three possible answers:

After rebels destroyed the bridge, the Super Star Destroyer veered out of control and used its thrusters to drive into the Death Star.

The Destroyer used its engines in some way to stay above the Death Star. The attack eliminated this ability, and the ship fell into the Death Star due to the gravitational interaction between the two objects.

The impact was the result of the engines and gravity.

For the purpose of this analysis, I am going to assume the collision was due only to the gravitational interaction. If that’s the case, I can use this to estimate the mass of the Death Star.

(2) ANATOMY OF A REWRITE. Mark Hamill confirmed the story: “It’s official: ‘The Force Awakens’ almost started with Luke’s severed hand”.

“I can tell you now, the original opening shot of [Episode] VII, the first thing that came into frame was a hand and a lightsaber, a severed hand,” Hamill reveals in a video Q&A with The Sun timed to May the 4th. “It enters the atmosphere [of the desert planet Jakku] and the hand burns away.”

The lightsaber landed in the sand, and an alien hand picked it up. Hamill says he doesn’t know if that alien was Maz Kanata, the castle owner who has the lightsaber in a trunk in the movie.

Then “the movie proceeds as you see it” — presumably meaning we’d cut from the alien hand to a Star Destroyer above Jakku as Stormtroopers depart in shuttles, then Max Von Sydow handing the all-important map with Luke’s whereabouts to Oscar Isaac.

(3) FOURTH WITH. Digg has a compilation of Star Wars related fan art.

The “Star Wars” fanbase has always been fantastically passionate and creative, so in honor of their greatest holiday, here’s a bunch of different kinds of fan art to represent every corner of the “Star Wars” universe.

(4) FASHION STATEMENT. Michael A. Burstein had a big day, and shared a photo with his Facebook readers.

Today, I was sworn in for my fifth term as a Brookline Library Trustee. In honor of Star Wars Day, I wore my Han Solo vest.

(5) EQUAL TIME. That other famous franchise is making news of its own. Canada Post will issue a set of Star Trek themed stamps to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary. Linn’s Stamp News ran an article about the stamp for Scotty.

The three previous Canada Post Star Trek designs have pictured William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk on a commemorative stamp similar to the Scotty design, the Starship Enterprise on a coil stamp, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, also in commemorative format. Full details of the set, and the planned issue date, have not been officially revealed by Canada Post, though information released with the “Scotty” stamp design added, “More stamps are to be revealed soon.”

And Canada Post has release several short videos previewing the series.

(6) YOU DID IT. Donors stepped up to support Rosarium Publishing’s Indiegogo appeal and Rick Riordan dropped $10,000 of matching funds in the pot. The appeal has now topped $40,000 in donations.

(7) J.K. ROWLING’S ANNUAL APOLOGY. On May 2, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling followed her tradition.

(8) FIRST FAN. Inverse knows this is the perfect day to dip into Craig Miller’s font of Star Wars anecdotes: “George Lucas’s Original Plans for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ and Boba Fett Revealed”.

Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s first fan relations officer, reveals the original plan for ‘Return of the Jedi.’

…“At first there was one film, and then George originally announced that it was one of 12, and there were going to be 12, and then that changed to, oh there was never 12, there was only 9, and he was going to make 9,” Miller said. “And then during all of it, George kind of lost interest in continuing it… While we were working on The Empire Strikes Back, George decided he was going to complete the first film trilogy and that would be it.

“And I remember sitting in a mixing room with George, working on Empire, and he told me he was just going to make the third movie, which didn’t have a title at that point, and then stop,” Miller continued. “He was going to retire from making big movies and make experimental movies. And that’s why the whole plot of the third movie, what became Return of the Jedi, completely changed.”

Lucas’s 15-year retirement from Star Wars didn’t do much to derail the enthusiasm amongst hardcore fans, who showed early on that they were very, very dedicated to the Galaxy far, far away. Miller remembers one of his better publicity coups, setting up an 800 number (1-800-521-1980, the film’s release date) that allowed fans to call in before Empire and hear little clues about the upcoming sequel, as recited by Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO and Darth Vader.

“There was no advertising; we talked about it at conventions, and Starlog ran a two paragraph announcement of it,” Miller recalled. “And with just that, we completely swamped the 800 system.”

AT&T forced Lucasfilm to buy more phone lines, cease their advertising (easy, since they weren’t doing any), and apologize to the public and other 800-number users. “That was great because now it was being carried all over the world that we were apologizing that Star Wars fans were so enthusiastic about seeing Empire that they swamped AT&T,” Miller said, laughing.

(9) MAKING THE SCENE. Cat Rambo shares some material from a class, that takes apart what having a scene gives you for purposes of making it into a story: “More From Moving from Idea to Draft”

What it is:

A scene is usually a moment in time that has come to you. It usually has strong visual elements, and something is usually happening, such as a battle, or has just happened in it (a battlefield after the fighting is done). It is probably something that would appear at a significant moment of a story and not be peripheral to it.

What it gives you:

  • Everything but the plot. But actually, that’s not true. What is the main source of tension in the scene, what is the conflict that is driving things? That is probably a version of the overall plot.
  • A scene gives you a strong slice of the world and all that is implicit in that, including history and culture.
  • If characters are included in your scene, they are usually doing or have just done something more purposeful than just milling about. You have some sense of their occupation, their economic circumstances, and often some nuances of their relationship.

(10) NED BROOKS. Part of the late Ned Brooks’ fanzine collection is on display at the University of Georgia, where his family donated it.

The university library’s blog has posted “To Infinity and Beyond! Selections from the Ned Brooks Fanzine Collection”.

A look at a fun collection examining all facets of science fiction fandom. Included are representative fanzine titles from the 17,000+ issues to be found in the Brooks zine collection. They represent a variety of times (including the zine some hold to be the earliest Science Fiction zine in the U.S., Planet #1, from July of 1930), a myriad of international locales, and a broad spectrum of specialized Fandom communities and their interests. Mementos from Brooks’ 38-year career with NASA’s Langley Research Center, along with a vintage typewriter and early reproduction equipment.

The exhibit, in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries, will be up through July.

(11) COOL SPACE PICTURES. Digg has “The Best Space Photos from April”.

Every day satellites are zooming through space, snapping incredible pictures of Earth, the solar system and outer space. Here are the highlights from April.

(12) YA AND AWARDS. Joe Sherry makes raises a point about YA in his post about “2016 Locus Award Finalists” at Adventures in Reading.

This is likely worth a longer discussion, but this year’s Locus Awards are pretty close to what the Hugo Awards should have looked like in the absence of the Rabid Puppy participants voting a slate in apparent lockstep….

Now, there are things we can argue with because it isn’t an awards list or a list of books at all if there isn’t something to argue with. For example, the YA category features five books written by men even though a huuuuuuge number of YA novels are written by women. Further, Navah Wolfe points out that the nominees in this category are, across the board, writers best known for adult science fiction and fantasy.

In terms of the Locus Awards, I think this is a bug rather than a feature. Locus (and it’s readers who voted / nominated), as a whole, is far more plugged into the adult SFF scene. Their nominees for Young Adult Book very strongly reflects this.

This isn’t to say that these finalists are bad, because they very much are not, but they are also not reflective of the YA field.

A committee has been looking at a proposed YA Hugo category for a couple of years. The Hugo voter demographic is probably similar to that of Locus voters. So if we make two assumptions – that the category had existed this year and was not affected by a slate – wouldn’t the shortlist have looked pretty much like the Locus Award YA novel category? And how does that affect people’s interest in having a YA Hugo category?


(14) ANOTHER SHOCK. Because that’s what popularly voted awards do?

(15) USE OF WEAPONS. Paul Weimer curated the latest SF Signal Mind Meld reading pleasure today, in which people talk about their favorite SF/F weapons.

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY. Norm Hollyn remembered on Facebook:

May 4 is the 19th anniversary of the death of Lou Stathis, one of my closest friends and major influences (I first heard the Mothers thanks to him). Hopefully you’re happily playing the kazoo wherever you are.

(17) HAY THERE. Signal boosting author Judith Tarr’s appeal to help feed her horses.

Right now I do not know how I’m going to feed the horses for the rest of the month. I have managed to scrape out enough to pay for the last load of hay (if that late check finally gets here), but once it’s eaten, which it will be in about ten days, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The farm will be gone by midsummer unless I find a steady source of sufficient income. I’ve been hustling like a hustling thing but so far with minimal results.

The market does not want either me or the horses. The horses are all old and therefore retired and unsalable, or else would require thousands of dollars’ worth of training and show fees to have any sale value. No one can take them. The market is saturated with unwanted horses and the rescues are overloaded. I am over 60, hearing impaired (ergo, unable to use the phone), and with chronic fatigue syndrome which makes office or minimum-wage work difficult to impossible. And minimum wage would not support the animals, let alone me. All my income streams from backlist books, editing, writing, etc. have shrunk to a trickle or dried up. No one has booked a Camp in over a year.

I have had a few small things come through, but as with everything else, they’ve fallen short or failed to produce. I continue to push, and with the fiction writing regaining its old fluidity, I may manage to make something happen there. I’ve been urged to try an Indiegogo for a short novel, and I am closing in on that. (Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, offers an option that pays even if the goal is not met. The goal would be enough to cover mortgage, horses, and utilities for a month.) Since for the first time in my life I’m able to write more than one project at a time, that means I can continue to meet my obligation to backers of last November’s Kickstarter for a science-fiction novel, and also write the novella (and short stories, too).

A friend suggested that I offer sponsorships for the horses. I feel weird about that, but they need to eat. What I would give in return is a little writeup about the horse being sponsored, with a digital album of pictures and a monthly update. And short fiction as it happens, if you are a reader with an interest….

Details and specific support levels at the site.

(18) MEMORY OF THINGS PAST. Katster once was “Dreaming of Rockets”

Of course things got derailed.  My cunning plan to eventually raise myself to a point where I’d get notice from the nominating body of Worldcon crashed hard with two factors — the rise of blogs and fancasts as well as the related fact that pros were getting nominated in the fan awards and, more importantly, my own demons.

I’d end up semi-GAFIAting (the acronym means Getting Away From It All, and covered anybody who’s dropped out of science fiction) and not being very enamored of fandom in general.  The break point came in 2013, with a completely different award.  Fanzine fandom recognizes its own in an award called the Fan Achievement Awards (FAAns) and I’d hoped a particular issue of my fanzine Rhyme and Paradox I’d poured my heart into might have a chance at Best Issue.  A friend of mine said he was nominating it, and I hesitantly nominated it myself, hoping in some way that it would end up on the shortlist.  It didn’t, and the award was won by somebody that was well known in fandom for a typical issue of his (once a year) fanzine.

The blow really came when I got ahold of the longlist and found how many votes my ‘zine had gotten.  It had gotten two, one from my friend and one from me.  It stung like hell.  Here I had poured my heart out writing that zine (I still think it’s some of my best writing ever) and it had sailed quietly in the night.  I know, it’s just an award, and all these things are popularity contests, but even now, I feel the hurt in that moment.

I wonder if it’s the same hurt that has fueled the slates.  The influence of failing to get an award did somewhat lead Larry Correia to start making slates.  As I’ve said before, the Hugos were vulnerable to this kind of attack, but it was explained to me pretty early in fandom that making slates was anathema in fandom, a policy only practiced by Scientologists.  Everybody knows where the rest of this story goes.

(19) ANTI. “’Ghostbusters’ Is the Most Disliked Movie Trailer in YouTube History” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not only does it have the most dislikes for a trailer on the social platform, but it also makes the top 25 most disliked videos overall.

Things are not boding well for director Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters based on the film’s first official trailer on YouTube.

Released March 3, the trailer, viewed 29.2 million times and counting, is the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history, according to “MyTop100Videos” channel’s “Most Disliked Videos” list that was last updated April 16. (Justin Bieber comes in at No. 1 with 5.99 million dislikes for “Baby.”)

Coming in at No. 23, the reboot — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth — has more than double the number of dislikes as likes (208,606)….

Although there has been controversy over the trailer, with many YouTube comments centered around the all-female cast, the video has been generating mostly positive reviews on Facebook with 1,186,569 positive reactions (like, love, haha and wow) and 32,589 negative reactions (sad, angry). The reactions add up to 97.3 percent positive sentiments on Facebook overall.

(20) BREAK THE PIGGY BANK. Coming August 16 in Blu-Ray/DVD — “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension [Collector’s Edition]”. (Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been reading the word “buckaroo” a lot this week?)

Expect the unexpected… he does.

Neurosurgeon. Physicist. Rock Star. Hero. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, Robocop) is a true 80s renaissance man. With the help of his uniquely qualified team, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo is ready to save the world on a moment’s notice. But after his successful test of the Oscillation Overthruster – a device that allows him to travel through solid matter – he unleashes the threat of “evil, pure and simple from the 8th Dimension”… the alien Red Lectroids.

Led by the deranged dictator Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow), the Lectroids steal the Overthruster with the intent of using it to return to their home of Planet 10 “real soon!” But no matter where you go, there Buckaroo Banzai is… ready to battle an interdimensional menace that could spell doom for the human race.

How can Buckaroo stop the Lectroids’ fiendish plots? Who is the mysterious Penny Priddy? Why is there a watermelon there? For the answers to these and other questions, you have to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, monkey boy!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, James Davis Nicoll, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

(1) MAN INTO SPACE. Wake up The Traveler – the thing sf fans have dreamed about just happened! “[April 12, 1961] Stargrazing (The Flight of Vostok)” at Galactic Journey.

The jangling of the telephone broke my slumber far too early.  Groggily, I paced to the handset, half concerned, half furious.  I picked it up, but before I could say a word, I heard a frantic voice.

“Turn on your radio right now!”

I blinked.  “Wha..” I managed.

“Really!” the voice urged.  I still didn’t even know who was calling.

Nevertheless, I went to the little maroon Zenith on my dresser and turned the knob.  The ‘phone was forgotten in my grip as I waited for the tubes to warm up.  10 seconds later, I heard the news.

It happened.  A man had been shot into orbit.  And it wasn’t one of ours.

(2) MAKING IT BETA. R. S. Belcher thanks “The League of Extraordinary Beta Readers” at Magical Words.

Stephen King says in On Writing, to write with the door closed and edit with the door open. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. Your beta readers get first dibs when you open that door, they are your test audience. I have worked with different beta readers on different projects and over time, you find the folks that are going to help you the most with getting the very best out of your writing. A few tips I’d offer that have worked for me.

1) Punctuality: If it takes your beta reader as long to read and get your MS back to you as it took you to write it, they may not be the person you need. By the same token, if you get it back the same day you sent it off to them to read, chances are they skimmed it, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

2) Consistency: If three of your beta-readers all pick up on the same thing, LOOK AT IT and consider their advice. I’ve found that that trait is a flag for readers who I can count on to be giving me good, consistent feedback on trouble spots in the book.

3) Objectivity: If all a friend, family member, or loved one can give you as feedback is how awesome every word is, that is great for the poor writer’s ego but not much help to the professional writer. By the same token, if all you get is negative feedback, you may need to take that advice with a grain of salt too.  Some beta readers are glass-half-full people and others are more glass-half-empty.

(3) STARTING LINES. Rachel Swirsky studies the first lines of her own stories, then others’.

“First lines Part I: Half a Dozen of My Recent Stories”.

I decided it might be interesting to look at some of the first lines of my stories. I’m grabbing a half-dozen first lines from some of my recent publications. I’m only looking at stories that are online, so if people want to see how the first line relates to the rest of the story, they can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a half-dozen from some of my favorite stories.If this proves interesting (to me or readers), I may do more another time.

Love Is Never Still” in Uncanny Magazine

“Through every moment of carving, I want her as one wants a woman.”

I’m happy with this–which is useful because I essentially just finished it (six months ago). The story begins as a retelling of the myth of Galatea, a statue who is wished to life when her sculptor falls in love. For people who are versed in Greek mythology, this should evoke Galatea as a possibility — carving, want, woman.

“First Lines Part II: from Some of My Favorite Stories”

The Evolution of Trickster Stories among the Dogs of North Park after the Change” by Kij Johson

“North Park is a backwater tucked into a loop of the Kaw River: pale dirt and baked grass, aging playground equipment, silver-leafed cottonwoods, underbrush, mosquitoes and gnats blackening the air at dusk.”

Obviously, this sentence is scene setting. Kij makes it beautiful with her specific details: “pale dirt,” “baked grass,” “aging playground equipment,” “silver-leafed cotton-woods,” “mosquitoes,” “gnats.” Almost all of the details evoke slow decay–“backwater,” “baked grass,” “aging.” Insects don’t gather in the air so much as dirty it–“blackening” the dusk. The evoked colors are washed out–pale, baked, silver–we can possibly also include the old metal and rust of the playground equipment. The silver-leafed cottonwoods are the exception here–the color is on the grey/black spectrum, yes, but the tree still sounds beautiful. This is decay, but not hopeless decay.

The sentence also establishes the academic tone. This is the kind of sentence assembled by someone speaking authoritatively about a subject, not describing their sensory impressions of the world. The phrasing is formal and complex, and the use of the colon an even more significant marker.

(4) BEYOND LIMITS. John Carlton’s “Generation Ships”, an interesting critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, focuses on the requirements for such a space mission. How many other stimulating observations might Carlton have made if he had read the book?

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a book recently apparently to show that interstellar travel is impossible….

It’s not possible to travel between the stars and even if we could, the missions would all fail.  Of course he also believes that utopia is possible as some sort of Socialist paradise.  Now that’s a fantasy….

As an engineer, I think that Mr. Robinson is clearly wrong. Or at least, he doesn’t understand the basic rules for setting mission parameters and designing to meet those parameters. Mr. Robison’s vessel failed because he wanted it to fail. But to extend that to saying that ALL such proposals would fail is more than a little egotistical. And wrong, really wrong.

Now I haven’t as yet read the book. Reading Greg Benford’s review left me going WTF, WTF, WTF, are you kidding? If you are going to write a book on pioneering could you at least set it up so that the pioneers are at least a little realistic. A ship without a captain or seemingly a crew? No community structure? What was it, a commune in space? Of course something like that is going to fail. That’s what happens to fragile structure and the commune is the most fragile of all. Just look at all the failed examples in the 19th Century. So that’s fail #1….

(5) GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has been following A.G. Carpenter’s reports about the Hungarian magazine that published numerous stories in translation without paying the original authors. Rambo wrote a post at her blog about receiving “Answers to Some Galaktika Magazine Questions”.

In the process of talking to people, I dropped Istvan Burger [editor in chief of Galaktika] a mail because I had these questions:

  1. Would all writers be paid, preferably without their having to contact Galaktika?
  2. Would all translators be paid? (my understanding was that the same lack of payment has happened with them.)
  3. For any online stories, would authors be able to request that the story be taken down?
  4. Would a process be put in place to ensure this never happens again?

Here’s the reply:

Dear Cat, I’m writing on behalf of Istvan Burger, editor in chief of Galaktika.

We’d like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members. mund.katalin@gmail.com

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works. As we wrote in our statement, there is no problem with novels, as all the rights of novels were paid by us in time.

Also let me emphasise again that all the translators were paid all the time!

You can quote my reply. Thank you for your help!

Best regards, Katalin Mund, Manager of Galaktika Magazine

(6) CARPENTER OPINES ON LATEST GALAKTIKA RESPONSE. Anna Grace Carpenter, who has been developing this story, commented on Burger’s answers to Rambo in “Galaktika Magazine: Legacy”.

Mr. Burger and Mr. Nemeth have offered vague explanations that are, quite frankly, not satisfactory given the number of years this theft has occurred. But whether it was ignorance or laziness or just the inclination that if they could get away with it, they would, something has to change drastically going forward.

I would really like to think that the offer to provide compensation for the authors whose work has been stolen indicates the problem has been resolved. Although requiring the individual authors be aware they’ve been stolen from and making them responsible for seeking payment does not seem a good faith step.

And there is the question that Cat Rambo raised regarding whether authors could or would be able to request their work withdrawn from Galaktika. She referenced a potential online edition (which is seems there is not one), but the response from Katalin Mund was as follows.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works.

As I mentioned earlier, a comment from a Hungarian reader promptly revealed the misrepresentation of that statement.

They state it, but this is a flat-out lie. Nearly ALL back issues are available for ordering on the publisher’s webshop, http://galaktikabolt.hu/. I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on mandiner.hu was about the magazine’s 2015 issues.) They’re not digital copies, the physical, paper-based issues are still sold.

At the very best, Mund and Galaktika are misrepresenting the situation regarding further sales of the pirated work. And this is key – they are selling that work.

(7) HEINLEIN SOCIETY SCHOLARSHIPS. The Heinlein Society is taking applications for three $1,000 scholarships for undergraduate students at accredited 4-year colleges and universities.

The “Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship” is dedicated to a female candidate majoring in engineering, math, or physical sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry). The other two scholarships may be awarded to either a male or female, and add “Science Fiction as literature” as an eligible field of study.

Applicants will need to submit a 500-1,000 word essay on one of several available topics.

Those interested should fill out the Scholarship Application 2016 [PDF file] and print or email. The deadline to apply is May 15. Winners will be announced on July 7.

(8) KEN LIU. At B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, Ken Liu describes “5 Chinese Mythological Creatures That Need to Appear in More SF/F”. You know it’s a winner, because five!


Usually depicted as a sort of winged lion—but with the wings folded to the sides of the body—the pixiu is said to be one of the nine children of the loong. Like the loong, it has antlers on its head (the male pixiu has two antlers and the female just one).

As one of the most auspicious Chinese mythological creatures, statues of the pixiu once stood at ancient city and palace gates as guardians. These days, the pixiu is more often seen in the form of small jade pendants dangling from rear-view mirrors or worn as jewelry for good luck. In this evolution lies a rather interesting tale.

In the oldest Chinese sources, the pixiu is depicted as a ferocious beast. The legendary Yellow Emperor recruited the fiercest animals into a special unit of his army in the war against the Yan Emperor, and the pixiu made the cut along with bears and tigers and similar apex predators (another interpretation of this passage is that the beasts were the totems of the tribes who followed the Yellow Emperor). In classical texts, the pixiu is thus often used as a metaphor for a powerful army.

But folklore also speaks of the pixiu violating the decorum of the heavenly court by pooping on the floor. To punish the creature, the Jade Emperor sealed the pixiu’s anus so that it could only eat but never defecate. The pixiu is supposed to go around devouring evil spirits and demons and convert their essence into gold and treasure, which it must hold in its belly forever. This explains the pixiu’s reputation as a bringer of wealth.

I like to think of the pixiu as a precursor for the modern military-industrial complex.

(9) MAGAZINE TO SUSPEND PUBLISHING. Interfictions Online is going on hiatus after the November 2016 issue. The editors have posted this letter:

Dear Friends of Interfictions,

With your support, we have run a marvelous magazine for three years.

At this point, Interfictions needs to take a break to allow the Interstitial Arts Foundation to figure out how to best support us. Our archives will remain available and free, but as of December 2016, the magazine will be on indefinite hiatus.

We will be ending this round of the magazine with a fantastic fall issue in November 2016. We’re going to solicit material for it, so there won’t be an open submissions period. We promise it will thrill and inspire you!

Thank you for participating in this project as artists, writers, readers, and listeners.

Sincerely, The Editors

(10) AFTER YOU SELL THE SERIES. Women in Animation’s Professional Development program will present a panel on Tuesday, April 26 – “They Said Yes! Now What?”

A follow-up to last year’s highly successful panel, “Who Says Yes? And Why?”. This panel will cover what someone who has created or developed an animated series does once they get a positive response, the legal and business issues of the actual deal, and what you can expect after the studio or network says yes, including the development process from this point forward (What? You thought you were done developing it  when you sold it?) and just how much you can expect to be involved with or in charge of the series.

Free for WiA members. $15 for non-members. Panelists include Jennifer Dodge (SVP, Development, Nickelodeon Preschool), Cort Lane (SVP, Animation & Family Entertainment, Marvel Televsion), Annette van Duren (agent), Donna Ebbs (producer, former exec at The Hub and Disney), and Craig Miller (writer-producer)

(11) STORY OF YOUR LIFE. A Paramount movie based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life” is expected to open in the fall of 2016. Amy Adams will play the linguist Dr. Louise Banks, Jeremy Renner will play the theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, and Forest Whitaker plays a military figure (Colonel Weber). An extended segment of the film was screened at CinemaCon, a trade show for theater owners.

io9 has the news:

A linguist and a theoretical physicist are the stars of the latest movie from the director of Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner 2. The movie is Story Of Your Life, based on the short story by Ted Chiang, and this Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner movie looks awesome.

Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at the film as part of CinemaCon, a trade show in which movie studios show their upcoming films to theater owners. Paramount showcased Ninja Turtles 2, Ben Hur, Jack Reacher 2 and plenty of other upcoming releases (not including Star Trek Beyond, for some reason.) But the highlight was Story Of Your Life, which has no release date yet but is expected to open this fall.

(12) VOLCANIC ENDINGS. Leah Schnelbach, writing at length about “Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano” at Tor.com, implicitly argues that this Tom Hanks movie is worth the fine-toothed-comb study she gives it.

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

The plot of JVtV is simple: sad sack learns he has a terminal illness. Sad sack is wasting away, broke and depressed on Staten Island, when an eccentric billionaire offers him a chance to jump into a volcano. Caught between a lonely demise in an Outer Borough and a noble (if lava-y) death, sad sack chooses the volcano. (Wouldn’t you?) Along the way he encounters three women: his coworker DeDe, and the billionaire’s two daughters, Angelica and Patricia. All three are played by Meg Ryan. The closer he gets to the volcano the more wackiness ensues, and the film culminates on the island of Waponi-Wu, where the Big Wu bubbles with lava and destiny. Will he jump? Will he chicken out? Will love conquer all? The trailer outlines the entire plot of the film, so that the only surprise awaiting theatergoers was…well, the film’s soul, which is nowhere to be seen here…

(13) HOW MANY STICKY QUARTERS IS THAT? A Frank R. Paul cover from the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff is currently up for auction. The owner of “Where Eternity Ends”, a pulp magazine cover from the June 1939 issue of Science Fiction, is looking for an opening bid of $6,000.

Here’s how the piece looked when published. The original art can be seen at the auction link.

(14) YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. The Hugo results are in!

(15) VIRGIN AMERICA HUMOR. Jeb Kinnison writes, “Friend Steve Freitag works as a gate agent at Virgin and often comes up with fun comments on the status sign. Since they’re being bought by Alaska and probably won’t be free to have such fun soon, he put up a selection of the best…”

Here’s a sample – click to see the full gallery.

For Back to the Future Day

(16) THE ART OF THE DICE. David Malki (Wondermark) posted a new batch of Roll-a-Sketch artwork.

I just got back from the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and here are a few favorites of the many Roll-a-Sketch drawings I made for folks there!

Roll-a-Sketch, as longtime readers know, is something I do at conventions and other appearances: folks can roll some dice to select random words from a list, and then I have the task of combining those words into a creature! …


 [Thanks to Jeb Kinnison, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


episod116square Craig Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15 Mother Pixel’s Littul Scrolls

(1) STAR WARS PREMIERE. Photographer Al Ortega has posted 105 photos taken at last night’s Hollywood premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Facebook.

And Craig Miller has an account of attending the premiere on Facebook too. Both are public.

(2) ON THE CARPET. CNN has Big Media’s coverage of celebrities’ responses to seeing the movie. I didn’t spot any spoilers, but caveat emptor.

Finally, the most hilarious comment comes from Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Talking about how much he possibly enjoys red carpet events, he remarked: “I can’t think of anything better to do! I do these in my backyard on Wednesdays.”

(3) WINDING UP THE REWATCH. Michael J. Martinez completed his Star Wars rewatch in the nick of time — Star Wars wayback machine: Return of the Jedi.

I think the Luke/Vader scenes work much better, especially when the Emperor is in the mix. Ian McDiarmid plays Palpatine with relish and Evil and it’s pretty awesome. Luke’s character goes through the wringer, and the performance is pretty damn good. And of course, we see Vader return to the Light. That wasn’t too horribly predictable going into the movie, and it worked. The one thing that the prequels did well (or didn’t mess up) was to show the beginning of Vader’s arc and how he ended up tossing the Emperor down a well and being the good guy he always wanted to be.

Martinez says, “I’ll be seeing the new one Thursday night, and will post a non-spoiler review on Friday. Thanks yet again for having me on File 770!”

(4) TAKE NO CHANCES. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader claims “This Chrome Extension Will Protect You from Seeing Star Wars Spoilers”.

And that’s why I’m thrilled I found Force Block. This simple Chrome extension saves me from seeing any unwanted spoilers. After it’s installed, any webpage that reveals details about the new Star Wars movie will look like this screenshot from movies.com…

(5) HO HO HO. Reason thinks Star Wars I-VI needs a parody collection of trigger warnings.

(6) MAGNUM OPUS. Whereas The Slipper works for its audience share with a rundown on how the original movies were handled in comics — “Something about that Space Wars thing everyone’s talking about”.

The Slipper knows how to leave them wanting more, as it ends by reproducing a series of Bloom County strips about Star Wars from the late Nineties.

(7) REEPICHEEP’S TAILOR? A Calgary metal artist crafts suits of armor for mice and cats.

Tiny helmets, shields and weapons could (theoretically) protect rodents and felines in battle…

It takes anywhere from 10 to 40 hours for de Boer to complete one suit of mouse armour. Cat armour takes much longer — 50 to 500 hours per piece

The link leads to a photo gallery of his work.

(8) LIVING COLOR. At Harry Bell – Fine Artist you can see glorious work like his oil painting of the London Millennium Bridge.

London Millennium Bridge by Harry Bell

Harry is a past Hugo nominee (1979), Rotsler Award winner (2004), and two-time FAAn Award winner (1977, 2014).

(9) ADDITIONAL NOTES. Deborah J. Ross tells more about “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings” in today’s installment at Book View Café.


When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released, I bought the easy piano/voice version of “The Song of the Lonely Mountain,” from the closing credits of the movie. By this time, I was on my own, without my teacher, but the piece was comfortably within my skill level. I knew how to drill fiddly fingering passages and such like. The key as written was a little low for my voice, but manageable. I even figured out how to use paper clips to grab on to so I could turn the pages without breaking the flow of the song.

Of course, I wanted more. The song was so much fun, how I could I not want more? But I also wanted to challenge myself.

(10) MAKING SPACE. John Dodd’s talks about letting go (how un-collector-like!) in “The Great Collection in the Sky” for Amazing Stories.

But, after wiping away the tears, I moved on. Later, my massive collection of comics and graphic novels had to go – sold at rock bottom price to a comics shop. There had been mint first editions in there, I thought, how dare he insult me with that price? But in the end, I relented. The collection was holding me back from moving on (quite literally – the new place wasn’t big enough for all that paper and cardboard).

So, do I regret the letting go? Actually no, I don’t. I made space for some truly amazing new things in my life…less “things” and more “experiences”.

(11) RAIN OBITUARY. Author David Rain, who wrote sf as Tom Arden, died December 15 reports Locus Online.

Arden is best known for the five-book Orokon epic fantasy series, beginning with The Harlequin’s Dance (1997). He also wrote standalone novels Shadow Black (2002) and The Translation of Bastian Test (2005), as well as Doctor Who novella Nightdreamers (2002), and numerous stories, reviews, and critical articles. As David Rains he published The Heat of the Sun (2012)….

(12) 3…2…1…BOOM! On December 15, 1960 The Traveler at Galactic Journey witnessed the nadir of America’s space program, a fourth consecutive disaster — “Booby Prize (Pioneer Atlas Able #4)”.

Today, NASA made a record–just not one it wanted to.

For the first time, a space program has been a complete failure.  Sure, we’ve had explosions and flopniks and rockets that veered too high or too low.  We’ve had capsules that popped their tops and capsules that got lost in the snow.  But never has there been a clean streak of bad missions.

(13) APPENDIX N. Jeffro Johnson closes out his series with “Appendix N Matters”, a summary of his views about fantasy and its readers.

The retiring of Lovecraft’s bust from the World Fantasy Awards is therefore not so much reminiscent of statues of Stalin being pulled down in post-Soviet Russia. It’s more a reflection of the Berlin wall… going up. It used to be that reading centuries old books was almost universally considered to be a very good thing, to the point of being the very definition of an education. Now, looking into works that are merely decades old are increasingly beyond the pale. People with this attitude will even go so far as to object to having to read Ovid at university– and college administrators– far from standing up to this– seem instead to be on the lookout to accommodate this sort of thing.

In the not too distant past, though, the “dangerous visions” of the day could be enjoyed side by side with classic fiction by Lord Dunsany and A. Merritt. Professionals with highly divergent views on politics and religion could coexist within the pages of the same magazines. And people that were keen on challenging every imaginable taboo could get on within the same market where more traditional approaches to science fiction and fantasy were still practiced. People were free then in a way that’s hard to even imagine now. Political correctness and its legions of freelance thought police were only just beginning to gain a foothold, and remnants old ways and attitudes could be taken for granted.

The Appendix N list preserves therefore not just a list of books that are of especial interests to fans of classic Dungeons & Dragons. It’s also a snapshot of what fantasy fandom was into in the seventies. And don’t let anyone tell you different. While the list is not without its idiosyncrasies, it is nevertheless a representative sample of the authors that would have been translated into foreign languages when other countries finally got around to importing the fantasy and science fiction phenomenon for themselves.

(14) ABIGAIL ON ANCILLARY. Abigail Nussbaum’s review Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie” does a lot of what used to be called “praising with faint damns.”

For example:

That Ancillary Justice is as much fun as it is feels all the more remarkable when you consider that it is, essentially, a book-long infodump.


…By this point, we’ve learned enough about the Radch and its stratified, class-conscious society to view the popularity of these kinds of stories with distrust–their narrative of virtue triumphing over social convention is intended to paper over the real issues of class prejudice that hinder most capable lower class citizens from climbing the social ladder (or the pitfalls that trip them up even once they’ve achieved a higher status, as in the case of Lieutenant Awn).  It’s less clear whether we’re meant to notice that Ancillary Justice is also one of these stories–Breq isn’t just lower class, by the standards of the Radchaai she isn’t even human, and yet by the end of the novel her courage and devotion to Lieutenant Awn have not only gained her the respect of several high-ranking Radch officials, but she has been granted citizenship and the command of her own ship.  All that’s missing is the love story with a high-born Radchaai (and I’m betting rather heavily on that for the sequels).  Is it even possible to question the very idea of empire through what is essentially a Horatio Hornblower story?

(15) CORREIA. Don’t just ask any professional, “Ask Correia #18: Creating ‘Offensive’ Characters” at Monster Hunter Nation.

That whole Bechdel Test thing? Where they ask are there two females in a scene who talk about something other than a man? Okay, first off, you shouldn’t have to “test” your story for anything beyond is it readable and entertaining enough to sell it to somebody, but second WHO CARES? (well, a legion of Twitter feminists and gender studies professors obviously) Right off the bat most of the mega-selling romance genre fails the test, and most of those books are written by female authors for a female audience (and the romance genre makes serious bank compared to the rest of us).

There isn’t some arbitrary test that if you pass you’re good, and if you fail you’re sexist. Because you see what they call me, and I wrote Grimnoir, where the single most important, pivotal, critical, essential dialog scene in the entire trilogy was two young women talking about origami on top of a blimp. Test passed, and I’m the International Lord of Hate.

The real test for every scene should be asking yourself, is this scene good? Is this entertaining? Does this advance the story? Does this scene expand the characters or the universe? But that should be every scene, not just the one with two female characters in it.

(16) EMPATHY. I wonder if Larry knows the subject in the neverbeenmad comic ”2015 Voight Kampff Empathy Test”?

(17) Today In History

Peter Boyle Young Frankenstein

  • December 15, 1974Young Frankenstein was released.
  • December 15, 1978Superman with Christopher Reeve premiered.

(18) BRIN REMEMBERS CLARKE. Coinciding with the Syfy show’s premiere, David Brin has penned a tribute “Childhood’s End and Remembering Arthur C. Clarke”.

And yet, what most intrigues me about Arthur’s work is something else – his ongoing fascination with human destiny – a term seemingly at odds with the scientific worldview.

True, a great many of his stories have focused on problem-solving, in the face of some intractable riddle. His characters, confronted with something mysterious, aren’t daunted. They gather resources, pool knowledge, argue, experiment, and then – often – transform the enigmatic into something that’s wondrously known. This part of the human adventure has always shown us at our best. Peeling away layers. Penetrating darkness. Looking back at the wizard, standing behind the curtain.


“Table of Contents: The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 Edited by Neil Clarke” (31 stories)


“Table of Contents: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 Edited by Rich Horton” (30 stories).

Somebody with more time than I have just now should see if there is any overlap…

(20) WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. James Bacon took “A Superhero Stroll Around New York City” when he was in town, and wrote it up on Forbidden Planet. Lots of photos too!

Paul Lepelletier is our guide for this superhero walk around New York City, and at two pm he gathers us all outside. This is a friendly group, and soon we all know where everyone is from, four from England, four from Boston, two locals from Manhattan, two from Scotland, two from New Jersey, and four other New Yorkers, it is a decent crowd..

Paul has worked for DC comics; he drew comics at one stage of his varied career, worked in the licensing division, and indeed, is an award winning graphic designer and marketer, but his love of comics, and his appreciation for having been involved with them, is quite clear.

His knowledge is strong, and soon we are hearing about Fleicher’s Rotoscope technique and additions they made to the Superman ouevre, such as the famous Phone Booth as we stand outside their offices.

Soon we are on Park Avenue, looking at a building that housed Will Eisner’s studio, and hearing about the relationship between Will Eisner and Bob Kane, about how Batman was sold, and how Bob Kane’s own career developed and again looking at the building that housed his studio back in the day.

Paul’s knowledge of comic characters and their history, especially on TV and Radio, is new ground to me. As well as Batman, he talks about the rise of marvel in the 1960s, the old movie serials and the germination of TV series.

(21) HWA LA SIGNING. On January 16, 2016 members of the Horror Writers Association LA will sign Winter Horror Days edited by David Lucarelli at a Burbank bookstore.

Winter Horror Days COMP

Join us Sunday January 10th 2-4 pm as members of HWA LA sign Winter Horror Days at Dark Delicacies, 3512 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Bacon, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]

Craig Miller’s Middle Eastern Project

Majid Kids TV is a new channel from the United Arab Emirates, and Craig Miller has developed two animated series for them, supervising the writing, and he wrote a half-hour special they used to announce the channel.

A sample video from Majid, about a teenage boy who travels around the world and solves mysteries, has been posted to YouTube.

It begins with a montage of scenes from scripts by Shaene Siders and Jeremiah Smith, and a full episode written by Genny Dazzo.

All the dialog is in Arabic.

A Martian Potato

Martian potato

Craig Miller’s postman just delivered his promotional tie-in potato from The Martian.

To promote the movie “The Martian”, 20th-Century Fox made a deal with Mail a Spud (an actual company, surprisingly) to send out potatoes.

With notes written on them — “Potatoes from Mars! And you thought only candy came from there.”

And because you can now print personalized postage stamps, the stamp on the potato (yes, stuck directly on the potato, just as the message is written in Sharpie-style marker directly on the spud) shows a photo of Matt Damon in costume as Mark Watney overlaid with the words “Bring Him Home”.

The Mail A Spud website is appropriately tongue-in-cheek:

  • Why would I spend $10 on a stinkin potato? Can’t I do this myself for half the price?

Of course you can! We’re here for the people who love the idea but don’t feel like going through the hassle of mailing it themselves. Mailing a potato isn’t so cheap either. Postage can come in at over 4 dollars per spud.

  • How much do the potatoes weigh?

Our Russet potatoes vary in weight but expect them to come in at around 10 – 12 ounces.

  • Can I eat the potato when it gets here?

We do not recommend you consume the potato after it has traveled across the country inside of trucks, planes, and postal service bags. It has touched a lot of germs by the time it arrives to the recipient.

  • Aren’t you wasting food?

No! Well yes, but each spud shipped is bringing more awareness to the beauty of the potato.

Time to rewrite the filksong —

Martian potatos, Martian potatos

Will you send a Martian potato to me….

Evil Signs

Craig Miller was invited to speak at the Animayo Animation & VFX Festival on the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands earlier this month on the subject of Star Wars. Craig worked for Lucasfilm in the 1970s as Director of Fan Relations and started the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

When he got back Craig repeated several anecdotes from his talk for Facebook friends.

One of the things I was prompted to mention during my talk was that, if, during the years I was at Lucasfilm, someone wrote to us asking for an autographed photo of James Earl Jones or David Prowse, the letter went to the actors (or their reps). If they asked for Darth Vader’s autograph, the photo came to me and *I* signed Darth Vader’s name on the photos. So, of course, some of the people who came up for an autograph, asked me to sign both my name and Darth’s. It took me a few moments to remember what “Darth’s” signature looked like but after I did, I’d sign that, too.

That struck me as funny, and it also set me to thinking about people who collect the signatures of famous fictional villains rather than the actors who play them.

Well, of course they do. Didn’t my daughter collect all the autographs of the Disney princesses? Same thing. Except evil, of course.

Naturally, Google has a lot of examples of Darth Vader photos autographed by Jones, who performed Darth’s lines, and Prowse, who did the physical acting.

There are also a bunch of websites with unrelated Vader autographs, many obtained by people in their childhood from random actors making “personal appearances” in costume at shopping malls.

Next I wondered, does somebody sign for Sauron, too?

The actor who played Sauron (while he still had a body) in head-to-toe armor in the first Lord of the Rings movie by Peter Jackson, Sala Baker, has signed his share of trading cards.

Sala Baker as Sauron

And now I like to think that fans who write directly to Sauron at the studio (and not to the actor) have their requests filled by Craig Miller’s counterpart, who has practiced signing the Dark Lord’s name with a flourish.

Today’s Birthday Boy 9/24

Born September 24, 1936: Jim Henson

Jim Henson was the beloved creator of the Muppets. However, an entirely different universe and collection of characters led him to attend his first World Science Fiction Convention.

The Dark Crystal, which Henson co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, was released in 1982. The movie’s creatures and characters were based on the conceptual artwork of Brian Froud.

Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz promoted the film at Chicon IV, the Worldcon held in Chicago in September 1982.

Curiously, what is misidentified on The Dark Crystal “Making of” page as a photo from the 1982 Worldcon (below), actually is from a 1983 ceremony in France. Craig Miller, who worked on the film’s convention PR, verified that Froud did not attend Chicon IV. The correct identification (repeated below) comes from an entry at Jim Henson’s Red Book.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson, Brian Froud, a French official, and Gary Kurtz at the “Exposition de Cristaux Geants” in Paris, 1983. Between the official and Kurtz is a Skeksis, a creature from The Dark Crystal.

Also released in 1982 was The Dark Crystal computer game by Sierra Online — a re-creation is available for free play here.

(And Taral will appreciate it if I mention that his beloved Fraggle Rock, another Henson project, started shooting that same year in Toronto.)

Henson came to the Worldcon again in 1983, when it was held in Baltimore. Henson made a presentation about The Muppets Take Manhattan, then fielded questions about the Muppets and the world of The Dark Crystal. Henson spent some time wandering around the convention afterwards.

Although Henson did not come to the 1984 Worldcon, his presence was still felt. Two entries in the L.A.Con II masquerade re-created characters from The Dark Crystal. The following year, a participant had the chance to show him a folio documenting the presentations, and got back a nice letter about them.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

A Dark Crystal-themed masquerade entry from L.A.con II.

Just like those costumers, many creative people were and continue to be inspired by Henson’s artistic vision.

Photos of 1981 NYC Party for James White

Peter de Jong recently found a set of 27 photos taken at a 1981 party for LunaCon GoH James White, the Irish sf writer, and has posted them here.

The party, organized by Moshe Feder, was held at de Jong’s apartment in midtown Manhattan. Feder says he does not know who took the pictures.

James White wears his famous Saint Fantony blazer in photo #1.

Fans identified in the photographs are: Norma Auer Adams, Larry Carmody, Ross Chamberlain, Alina Chu, Eli Cohen, Genny Dazzo, Peter de Jong, Moshe Feder, Chip Hitchcock, Lenny Kaye, Hope Leibowitz, Craig Miller, Andrew Porter, Stu Shiffman, James White, Jonathan White, Peggy White, and Ben Yalow.

(There is also an unnamed fan in photo #4 I recognize. She occasionally looks at this blog and I will happily add her name to this article if she grants permission.)

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Andrew Porter for the story.]

Jane Yolen on YA Hugo Possibility

Fans are divided over the proposal to add a Hugo category for YA books. No matter your opinion, it’s worth hearing what a leading YA author thinks about the idea.

Jane Yolen has enjoyed success in many literary categories and is renowned among YA audiences. Craig Miller had an opportunity to ask for her views. Here’s what she said about adding a YA book category to the Hugos:

All the YA and children’s book writers I know who do sf and fantasy WANT a Hugo within a designated category and don’t feel it would ghettoize the award at all. It will also make it much easier to “sell” sf/fantasy books to the teachers and librarians. They LOVE to see award stickers and lists of award winners and buy from those lists. It would make a huge difference.

[Thanks to Craig Miller for the story.]