Pixel Scroll 7/8/17 All Pixels Lead To Trantor, And There Is Where All Scrolls End

(1) WHO NEWS. Jenna Coleman will be part of the Doctor Who Christmas Special reports The Sun:

Showrunner Steven Moffatt will also depart the BBC show at the end of the year and new reports claim the “Time Lord will bid a final goodbye to Clara Oswald as well as Bill Potts”.

A source told the Mirror: “Jenna Coleman has agreed to film something new as Clara.

“It’s become a tradition now for the companions to reappear as the Doctor regenerates and Jenna isn’t letting the side down.

“It’ll help to give Peter the send-off he deserves after three years.”

Jenna’s comeback is in line with the other companions returning to say goodbye as Billie Piper returned as Rose Tyler for David Tennant’s exit in 2009 and Karen Gillan also came back for Matt Smith’s farewell in 2013.

(2) ARACHNOANTHEM. Here’s the first two stanzas of Camestros Felapton’s awesome review of Spider-Man: Homecoming done to the tune of that theme song.

Spider film, spider film
I just went to see a new spider film,
Was it good? Listen bub.
It didn’t recap the story of how he got radioactive blood.
Watch out, its a quite good spider film

Spider theme, spider theme,
Movie starts with the spider theme,
Yes, you know that classic song
But without the words to sing along
Watch out, earworm spider theme…

(3) SPIDER FAN. NPR also likes Spider-Man: “‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Finds Its Footing With A Less Confident Spidey”

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

…says no one. The new Spider-Man: Homecoming, which celebrates Peter Parker’s immigration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a headliner after his scene-stealing appearance in Captain America: Civil War last year, is, according to the most recent data available, the sixth big-screen Spidey flick since 2002. Who needs another?

Well, if they’re going to be as fizzy and funny and warmhearted as this, keep ’em coming.

(4) SWEARING FOR SCHOLARS. Yesterday’s Scroll item about stfnal swearing prompted David Langford to note in comments that the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s recently added its own article about “Swearing”.

…The tradition of swearing by God or a variety of gods has been sanitized and science-fictionalized in various ways, perhaps most famously by E E Smith in his Lensman sequence, whose spacefarers swear vigorously by the invented “space-gods” Noshabkeming and – especially – Klono. “By Klono’s TUNGSTEN TEETH and CURVING CARBALLOY CLAWS!” cries Kim Kinnison when surprised in Children of the Lens (November 1947-February 1948 Astounding; 1954); reference is elsewhere made to this entity’s golden gills, gadolinium guts, iridium intestines and so forth. Unusually, Kinnison in Gray Lensman (October 1939-January 1940 Astounding; 1951) offers a defence of such swearing by Klono to his wife-to-be (who thinks it rather silly):

He’s got so much stuff – teeth and whiskers, claws and horns, tail and everything – that he’s much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of. […] A man swears to keep from crying, a woman cries to keep from swearing. Both are sound psychology. Safety valves – means of blowing off excess pressure.

(5) ARISIA’S SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. The group that puts on Arisia also funds SMOFcon scholarships, $1000 to be divided among selected applicants. (They don’t just do a handy-dandy press release like the CanSMOF crew I publicized yesterday.) See Arisia’s application guidelines at the linked page.

(6) FORWARD THINKING. At Black Gate, Derek Künsken lists his choice of the “hardest” science fiction in “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” The late Robert L. Forward figures prominently:

I found out about Robert Forward, a NASA scientist, when reading Stephen Gillett’s World-Building and so ordered it. Forward has some clunky character work and I wouldn’t say his female characters published in 1980 age well, but he outsciences Clement. I have four of Forward’s novels.

(7) A WALKING HISTORY OF SF TV. Joshua Sky has just completed and published a new interview on Omni with the showrunner of The Expanse, Naren Shankar:

Naren Shankar has a long-running career in science fiction television. He’s written for such critically acclaimed series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, Farscape, and The Outer Limits. Naren has also been a showrunner for CSI and currently serves as a showrunner for SyFy’s The Expanse. Coming from a science-educated background, Naren has been able to help push real science in television shows. I had the opportunity to chat with him and get his perspective on the evolution of genre TV, his career, and all things The Expanse.

You have an amazing TV background. You’ve done so many different shows. Walk me through your origin story.

…After graduating, I decided to stay on in graduate school. I was in Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering; I had stayed on in Cornell. And one of my friends decided he was going to move out to Los Angeles and become a screenwriter. We always loved movies, we always loved television shows and that was always sort of part of late night TV watching in the fraternity. And my other friend was Ron Moore.

Ron was a political science major. About a year after our first friend went out to LA to try and become a screenwriter, he dragged Ron out there. Now, I had started college really early. I just turned 16 when I entered college. I was really young and was two years ahead of Ron, but we were the same age. I was several years into graduate school as I was working on my doctoral research. The way I describe it, I started feeling more and more like an expert on a smaller and smaller corner of the universe. And it felt kind of isolating. So what started happening is that I began taking courses in the arts, and history and literature again. Actually doing them, while I was doing my research. And what was happening was that I found that side of things extraordinarily fulfilling, and my lab rather lonely.

I actually remember the moment. I was walking back from this amazing lecture in a course that I was taking on the history of American foreign policy.  This yearlong course by a brilliant lecturer named Walter LaFeber. And I walked out of this lecture and I was heading to my lab and I was thinking, “Fuck, I can’t be an engineer.” (Laughter)

It was literally that kind of moment. But I had about a year and a half to go —and so, I gutted it out. I finished and got my degree. And then when I got out of school, I got a couple job offers and didn’t really like them. I almost got a job offer from Apple Computer, which I probably would’ve taken, as an engineering software evangelist, but I didn’t get it. It had come down to two people. So I didn’t get that and I didn’t really know what to do. Ron was out in LA and he was just starting to break into the business and get his first gig. He said, “Come and be a screenwriter!” And I was like, “… That sounds great!”

It was literally that much thought.

(8) JOAN LEE REMEMBRANCES. Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romano, in “Revisit Stan and Joan Lee’s Sweet X-Men: Apocalypse Cameo”, has a still from the X-Men movie and a tweet from Bryan Singer about Joan Lee’s passing.

Also, Marvel Entertainment has released a video clip of Stan Lee telling about meeting his future wife for the first time.

On April 14, 2017 Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, sat down with Stan Lee at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, Calif. The video below was originally planned to be part of a series from the event scheduled for release later this year. In remembrance of Joan Lee and her importance to Marvel and the history of comics as a whole, we felt it appropriate to release this now.

 

(9) ELLIS OBIT. Nelsan Ellis (1978-2017): American actor and playwright, died July 8, aged 39 (heart failure). Genre appearances in True Blood (81 episodes as ‘Lafayette Reynolds’, 2008-14), Gods Behaving Badly (2013).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 2011 — NASA launched its last space shuttle, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

(11) COMIC SECTION. John A Arkansawyer warns there may be Wonder Woman spoiler in this (quite funny) installment of Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

(12) HANDMAID’S AUDIENCE. Damien Walter makes a provocative joke. Or is it true?

I’m seeing two distinct groups of responses to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Men – this show is dull, nothing is happening, going to stop watching.

Women – this show is horrifying! Its my worst nightmare played out scene by scene! Going to stop watching.

Not good for ratings.

(13) FROM THE ANCIENT SEAS. BigThink’s 2016 article “Antikythera mechanism” includes a link to a YouTube video about a working reconstruction – made with Legos.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device.

The writing verifies the Antikythera mechanism’s capabilities, with a couple of new wrinkles added: The text refers to upcoming eclipses by color, which may mean they were viewed as having some kind of oracular meaning. Second, it appears the device was built by more than one person on the island of Rhodes, and that it probably wasn’t the only one of its kind. The ancient Greeks were apparently even further ahead in their astronomical understanding and mechanical know-how than we’d imagined.

 

(14) HELLS YES. Steve Davidson sees the Worldcon on the horizon and urges fans to ratify the Three-Stage Voting proposal (3SV) that received its first passage at 2016’s business meeting.

One week from today, voting closes on the fabulous Hugo Awards.  They’ll be handed out at Worldcon 75, being held in Helsinki, Finland, on August 12th, 2017.

The ballot this year is remarkably puppy free;  that doesn’t mean there aren’t any puppy noms on the final ballot, but there aren’t any puppy-dominated categories as there have been in years past.  It’s taken four-five years now, but WSFS (that’s the World Science Fiction Society, of which anyone who has joined this year’s con, or next year’s con, is a member.  That’s right, Worldcon attendees and supporters, you’re all members of a WORLD society, not just a science fiction convention), in its slow, sometimes frustrating yet inexorable manner, has responded to the assault on the awards effectively.

In fact, there’s only one more step (well, two if you add in my suggestion that follows) required for forever ending puppy sadness:  the ratification of 3SV.

Step 1:  Ratification of Three Stage Voting. While this will turn Hugo Awards voting into a three stage, as opposed to a two stage process, and doing so will add more work for administrators and shorten the time frames for each stage a bit, the advantages FAR outweigh this.

3SV, as it has come to be known, will allow all of the voters to take an advance look at what will be on the final ballot, and then vote again on whether or not they BELONG on the final ballot.  Finalists that receive above a certain number of “not on my Hugo Awards Final Ballot” will be removed and replaced by the next most eligible nominee(s)….

(15) SYNCOPATIC EQUATION. At Jed Hartman’s A + B = Awesome website, every time you refresh it you get an idea of the form “It’s A with/crossed with B with/in C.”

Tom Galloway says, “My favorite so far is ‘It’s Oliver Twist meets The Prisoner with dinosaurs,’ to which I came up with ‘Please sir, can I have some more information’ and a T Rex Rover.”

Hartman explains:

Renowned literary agent DongWon Song gave a great talk at this weekend’s SLF writing workshop, about how to pitch your work. One of the things he talked about is the idea of starting a pitch with the “A + B = Awesome” format, to suggest two other well-known works that your work is similar to in some way.

There was a lot more to the idea than that, but that part inspired me to put together a little pitchbot that provides suggestions for combining two works.

Note that this is intended entirely for entertainment purposes. (And it isn’t intended to criticize the “A + B = Awesome” paradigm, which is a far more useful pitching tool than I would have expected before hearing DongWon talk about it.)

A couple of writers who’ve seen this have said that it could also work as a writing-prompt generator.

(16) Q + P. Let’s play that game in real life – Tom Galloway introduces the next link:

In the grand tradition of Archie vs. The Punisher and Archie vs. Predator (Obj Dave Barry: I’m not making these up), come fall we’ll be getting Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica.

Entertainment Weekly reports “Gotham and Riverdale to collide in Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica”.

The series will be co-written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini, with art from Laura Braga. Dini originally created Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series, the show that also established the character’s flirty friendship with Poison Ivy. The new series will find them pitting their girl power against Riverdale’s most famous pair. When a proposal emerges to drain the wetlands between Gotham and Riverdale, Ivy sticks up for her beloved fauna by enlisting Harley to kidnap valuable heiress Veronica Lodge and her best friend, Betty. Chaos, you may assume, ensues.

Who wouldn’t pay to see that? (Raises hand.)

(17) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. First world problems.

(18) SHADOW CLARKE JURY MARCHES ON. In less than three weeks the winner of the Clarke Award will be known. The Shadow Clarke Jury is getting in its last licks – will the sf genre go down for the count?

This statement will not be popular among the Wayfarer’s legions of loyal fans and advocates, but I’m going to make it anyway because I believe it to be true: there is no real science fiction in A Closed and Common Orbit. In a climate where novels of so-called literary SF are often castigated by SFF commentators for using the trappings of science fiction to grant legitimacy and authenticity where none has been earned, when it comes to empty gestures the Wayfarer novels – clasped rapturously by fandom to its collective bosom – trump them all. I would not want to waste valuable time arguing over whether A Closed and Common Orbit is in fact eligible for the Clarke Award – the book is marketed as science fiction, there are AIs, aliens, distant planets, job done. Whether it deserves its place on the current shortlist is another matter entirely.

Organising and participating in this year’s shadow Clarke jury is turning out to be a pleasure on multiple levels, not least exchanging thoughts and opinions and discoveries with my fellow Sharkes. Speaking purely for myself though, the most significant effect of this experiment has been to make me question the very validity of ‘science fiction’ as a literary genre. In a literary landscape where everything is up for grabs, and where the tropes of science fiction – time travel, genetic and social engineering, apocalypse scenarios of every variety, artificial intelligence and mass surveillance – are increasingly becoming both core subject matter and metaphorical framing device for novelists of every nation and literary inheritance, can we usefully continue to argue for science fiction as a literature apart, worthy not just of separate study but of special pleading?

There are, in broad terms, two types of fiction. For convenience, although I am not happy with either term, I shall call them mode and genre. A genre work might include crime fiction, ghost stories, love stories and so on; they are identified by the type of story they tell. A war story would not count as a war story if war itself was not central to the story, if it did not include the familiar markers of battle, soldiers or any of the expected paraphernalia and effects of war. Modes, on the other hand, might include contemporary mainstream literature, historical fiction and science fiction. These are identified less by the the story told than by setting, style, affect, and other less readily defined characteristics. There is no specific type of story that must be told if a work is to count as historical fiction, it may be a love story or a war story or a story of political intrigue, but it must be set in the past.

I thought my feelings about this book were all sewn up. I actually began drafting this review with a hundred pages still to go, so secure did I feel in my opinion of After Atlas as the Clarke equivalent of His Bloody Project in last year’s Booker line-up: my hands-down favourite as a reading experience, though perhaps insufficiently innovative or controversial to justify its winning. And then came the ending, the unveiling of the central mystery, and I found myself thinking back to the autumn of 2015, when I went to see Guillermo del Toro’s lavishly over-produced haunted house movie Crimson Peak. I wasn’t expecting much from that movie, if anything, and so I spent the first hour and a half feeling excited at how wrong I’d been in my prejudgements. The film looked amazing, as predicted. Far more surprising was the conviction of the performances and – what’s this?? – a strongly scripted storyline I actually cared about. I began mentally drafting a blog post: how wrong I’d been about this film, how Del Toro had actually managed to square the circle and make a genuinely decent horror movie whilst operating within commercial constraints.

Since the 2013 all-male Clarke shortlist, it’s been assumed that Clarke jurors have been striving for gender parity of authors when constructing their shortlists, but more recently, through the data analysis of Nicola Griffith, we’ve become aware of the even greater problem of protagonist gender disparity: Apparently, genre readers and critics prefer to award books about males, regardless of author gender. I’ve often noticed that this is particularly true of the of the investigative-type police procedural mystery narratives, a modality SF writers often like try on, and exactly true of the police procedural selections on both the Clarke and Sharke lists.

While I wouldn’t be so hyperbolic as to say there is a deafening silence about female investigative protagonists, because there are a ton, but within SF, and especially within the SF book awards machine, the general perception of this mode is that it belongs in the masculine realm. The pragmatic, dogged, stiff upper lip investigator is a common, easy mold for authors to sink into, and although women protagonists could easily slip into that role, we readers, unfortunately, get more Mulders than Scullys.

Two novels that don’t appear to have anything in common, but are written by two powerhouses of opposing camps of the British literary community: Clarke winner and regular fan favorite, Tricia Sullivan, and Baileys Prize winner and regular contributor to various media on all things sci-fi, Naomi Alderman. Within the cloisters of British science fiction, these are two famous SF writers with a persistent presence in the field, yet neither has managed to vault over the high, imposing barbed walls of American commercial success.

It’s no secret that The Wayfarers series is written by someone whose writing is heavily influenced by the two-dimensional, wrap-it-all-up-before-the-credits, don’t-scare-off-the-advertisers format of television, so it’s no surprise to me that this book reads like a novelization of a TV/movie that has already been made. (No, I’m not talking about Firefly. This series is nothing like Firefly.) Fans and reviewers have been hooked by the low-risk palling around of characters, the exotic alien foods, and the explainy, back-and-forth dialogue that attempts to teach open-mindedness. It is Doctor Who without the danger and squirm; Farscape without the oppressive political foes, Friends without the humor and occasional cringe.

Of all the six Clarke-listed novels, The Underground Railroad best does what I think a Clarke-winning novel should do. It has Handmaid’s Potential: it employs the tools of science fiction (anachronistic technology and alternate settings and timelines) to examine and illuminate the present reality, and will make more sense to people of the future than it does right now because we are too embedded in the system that it critiques. It’s the only novel on the list that I think will be remembered and still considered important in twenty years.

Some might be surprised to see that I’ve ranked A Closed and Common Orbit above Occupy Me, but at least ACACO does what it sets out to do—which is very little—while Occupy Me just feels messy and careless, a frivolous taking on of experimentation and entertainment that achieves neither.

(19) SPIRITED CINEMA. NPR seems ambivalent about this strange film: “In ‘A Ghost Story,’ A House Is A Home For All Time”

Through much of A Ghost Story, Casey Affleck or a stand-in plays a dead soul, draped in a sheet with cut-out eye holes. This low-budget approach to the supernatural might suggest that writer-director David Lowery is playing a Halloween trick on movies that take the paranormal seriously. Except that he opens the tale with a line from “A Haunted House,” a story by Virginia Woolf, not Stephen King.

(20) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Meanwhile, the Mars project David Levine was on now has a cast of high schoolers: “To Prepare For Mars Settlement, Simulated Missions Explore Utah’s Desert”.

Victoria LaBarre was climbing out of a canyon and into a bright, vast, seemingly lifeless landscape when she started to experience an astronaut’s nightmare.

“Suddenly,” she said, “I couldn’t breathe.”

The symptoms were real — maybe from claustrophobia, or from exertion at high altitude. But LaBarre didn’t unlatch her helmet to get a breath of fresh air because, in this simulated Mars exercise in the Utah desert, she was supposed to be an astronaut. The canyon was standing in for Candor Chasma, a 5-mile-deep gash in the Red Planet’s surface. On Mars, there’s no oxygen in the air — you do not take off your helmet.

So, instead, LaBarre radioed for help from fellow members of Crew 177. The team of students and teachers from a Texas community college had applied together to live and work for a week this spring in a two-story metal cylinder at the privately run Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah.

(21) BOOS AND BOOZE. You’ll feel no fear (or much of anything else) after a few of these — Let’s Get Monster Smashed: Horror Movie Drinks for a Killer Time will be out in hardcover on August 28.

A horror movie inspired cocktail book with gross-looking but delicious party drinks, all wrapped up in an awesome ’80s VHS package. There are 55 recipes spread across 5 chapters (shots, gelatin, punches, special fx, and non-alcoholic) inspired by classic pulp horror movies of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with viewing recommendations. The movies may be weird, the drinks may look gross, but the elevated drink making techniques and unusually tasty recipes keep readers and their guests interested and coming back for more. Great for theme parties, Halloween festivals, movie fans, and retro enthusiasts.

[Thanks to Tom Galloway, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, David Langford, and John A Arkansawyer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/17 I Watched TBR Piles Grow In The Dark Near Tannhäuser’s Gate

(1) THE UGLY SPACEMAN. Adam Roberts tells New Scientist readers, “If I were a Martian, I’d start running now”.

Exploration has never been neutral, and it’s hard to believe that future exploration of the cosmos will be different. So: doesn’t SF have a duty to flavour its fantasies of boldly going with a smidgen of ideological honesty? “Exploration Fiction” is, after all, better placed than any other kind of literature to explore exploration itself.

(2) IN VINO VERITAS. The Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival takes place in Waukegan on June 3. The Chicago Tribune has the story —

Ray Bradbury wrote about the happiness machine in his iconic novel “Dandelion Wine,” published in 1957 and reminiscent of his early boyhood days exploring the ravines of Waukegan.

Sixty years later, the annual Dandelion Wine Fine Arts Festival in Bowen Park offers participants the chance to create pictures of their own “happiness machines” for the community art project….

“The festival is an important way to honor and pay tribute to Ray Bradbury and it’s a great time for everybody to finally get over winter — spring’s here — and it kicks off summer,” Rohrer said.

Bradbury served as the festival’s honorary chairman until his death in 2012. The festival tradition ensures his legacy will live forever in Waukegan. Typically more than 1,000 adults and children come to the festival each year, Rohrer said.

John King Tarpinian says of dandelion wine, “I am told it tastes like grass.”

(3) LITERARY TOURIST. Laura J. Miller’s “Dark Futures” adapts the age-old literature vs. science fiction dichotomy as a vehicle to administer a kick to Donald Trump from a different angle. However, that still forces her to discuss actual writers and books, a discussion she ends with this malediction:

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.

The article enraged a whole handful of sf writers, quoted by Jason Sanford in his rebuttal post, “Laura Miller, or what happens when a literary critic loathes genre fiction but knows that’s where the best stories are?”

So. Much. Fail. In. One. Essay. And before you believe I’m biased because I’m one of those lowly SF authors who need step aside for my literary betters, check out the reaction of other authors to Miller’s words:

Part of the problem with the essay, beyond Miller’s actual condescending words, is that she overlooks the ability of SF authors to write at the level of the authors she’s praising. She grudgingly gives William Gibson and Karen Joy Fowler minor props but ignores the stylistic and literary ability of SF masters like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe, N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis and so many others.

(4) TRAINING WHEELS. The Telegraph explains “Why Harry Potter fans will like the new Bank of Scotland £10 note”.

An image of the Glenfinnan Viaduct – part of the West Highland Railway Line that was made famous by the Harry Potter movies – will remain on the reverse of the design, but with the addition of a steam locomotive hauling a heritage tourist train.

(5) BINDING PLANS. Provided they don’t let the Doctor himself navigate, “A TARDIS-inspired shared library is coming to Woodbridge” this weekend.

Fans of Doctor Who will have a new destination to check out in Detroit. On Saturday, June 3 at noon, a TARDIS-inspired shared library will be installed at the corner of Vermont and Warren.

Dan Zemke has been a fan of Doctor Who and wanted to build a TARDIS (a Police Box time machine that stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space). It can transport a person anywhere in time and space, kind of like a great book. Inspired by his brother Jon, who rehabs houses in Woodbridge and had a large mural painted on one prominent home last year, Dan decided to create a practical use for it and build it into a library. With the help of his dad, the time machine/library is now ready to be installed.

It’s big — 10 feet tall and likely weighs a ton — and they’re seeking book donations since it can hold so many. Zemke says he’d like to include a large book where people can write and share their own stories.

The public is invited to the installation at noon on June 3. And if you have some books to contribute, feel free to bring them.

(6) FOURTH STAGE LENSMAN. Joe Vasicek experiences “What it’s like to write after a life interruption”. His post takes readers from Stage Zero through Four.

Stage 0: Procrastination

I guess I should write — but first, I should check my email. Also, there’s a couple of publishing tasks I need to do. I’m also kind of hungry, come to think of it.

Wow, those publishing tasks took a lot longer than I thought they would. I could start writing now, but I’d only have half an hour, and what can I possibly get done in that time? Maybe I should just relax for a bit and play this addictive online game…

Stage 1: BIC HOC

All right, no more excuses. It’s butt in chair, hands on keyboard time!

What’s wrong with my chair? Did someone put a magnet in it? It seems like my butt gets repulsed every time I try to sit down in it. I can knock off a couple of paragraphs, but then I have to get up and pace for a while. Or do some chores. Or–

No! I’ve got to focus. But man, it feels like I’m pulling teeth. The words just aren’t coming. It’s been more than an hour, and how much have I written? Holy crap, that’s pathetic.

Well, it’s the end of the day, and I only managed a few hundred words, but that’s better than nothing I guess.

(7) BACK FROM THE SHADOWS. Carl Slaughter observes:

NBC cancelled the Constantine live action series after only one season. CW’s Arrow series brought the Constantine character in for 2 episodes. Now CW is giving the Alan Moore-created comic book character another crack at a television series through animation. Constantine actor Matt Ryan will return to voice the animated version. Here’s a history of Constantine.

 

(8) BERKELEY OBIT. Makeup artist Ron Dursley Berkeley (1931-2017) died May 9.

His 50-year career included working on George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, and Star Trek. He won one Primetime Emmy, and was nominated four times altogether.

His non-genre work spanned The Manchurian Candidate, Anne of a Thousand Days, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the librarian humor in today’s Farcus.

(10) ADA PALMER. In May 2017, Ada Palmer came out with Seven Surrenders, the second in her Terra Ignota series. The Will to Battle comes out in December 2017.

 

SEVEN SURRENDERS

In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war — a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed locations, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

(11) MARVEL INVADES GOTHAM. You can find Marvel at BookCon 2017 starting tomorrow:

This weekend, Marvel returns to New York’s Javits Center for BookCon 2017, spotlighting how Marvel continues to branch out and bridge the divide between pop culture and book buyers, librarians, and book fans of all ages.

This Thursday, June 1st, join novelists Jason Reynolds (Miles Morales: Spider-Man), R. L. Stine (Man-Thing), and Margaret Stohl (Mighty Captain Marvel) as they are joined by some of the biggest names from the House of Ideas — as well as some surprise Mighty Marvel Guests! These blockbuster creators will discuss bringing their prose skills to Marvel’s graphic fiction, bringing Marvel characters into the prose world, and the exciting universal appeal of Marvel’s new wave of graphic novels.

Can’t make it to the convention? Follow along on Marvel.com and @Marvel on Twitter.

 

(12) SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. The passing of actor Roger Moore prompted Dwayne Day to consider the actor’s legacy as the face of the James Bond franchise in an article for The Space Review.

Roger Moore passed away on May 23 at the age of 89. Moore, who was born in London in 1927, was best known for playing James Bond in seven movies between 1973 and 1985, more Bond movies than any other actor. Moore’s Bond appearances included the 1979 film Moonraker, the highest-grossing Bond movie until Daniel Craig rebooted the franchise in the 2000s. Moonraker is one of several Bond movies with a space theme, but the only one where James Bond travels into space.

Moonraker often tops critics’ lists of the worst Bond movie made, although it sometimes ties for that dubious honor. Like most Bond films, it recycled a lot of over-used plot devices: the megalomaniacal billionaire bent on world destruction, lame double-entendres, blatant sexism, dumb quips Bond makes upon dispatching a bad guy, the amazing coincidence that Bond happens to possess exactly the right gizmo he needs at the moment of maximum peril, and the absurdity of a “spy”with brand name recognition whom everybody recognizes the second he walks through the door. But these were the franchise’s fault, not Moore’s…

Moonraker was made because producer Cubby Broccoli saw the box office returns from Star Wars and decided that his next Bond movie should be set in space. Broccoli was shameless, but his decision paid off handsomely, with a worldwide gross of $210 million in then-year dollars. Although Moonraker frequently rates among the worst Bond movies, it made more money than any other Bond film for the next 16 years. Moore reprised the role three more times.

(13) WHEN VENUS WAS A SOGGY MESS. A Bradbury story with sound effects — radio reinvented! “THE LONG RAIN, by Ray Bradbury, sound-designed & narrated by Alexander Rogers”.

THE LONG RAIN is my personal favorite short story from Ray Bradbury’s classic body of tales, The Illustrated Man. Written in 1950, it paints a deadly and seductive image of an interminably rainy planet of Venus. Admittedly, science now shows us Venus is more of a lead oven than a drenched rainscape, but let’s not take Venus literally in this sense. I’ve always felt that planets in sci-fi are more of a mental/spiritual arena in which to place relatable, earthly characters.

Bradbury’s writing here is so poetic and so visual, I just knew a vocal narration wasn’t enough. An audiobook like this deserves a rain soundtrack, complete with soggy footsteps and storms and rivers and shimmering things. May you enjoy the sound design as well as the characters!

(14) THE DOG DAYS. Once I read John Scalzi’s opening tweet I knew it was going to be a slow news day….

(15) REALLY FINICKY. Mashable has a funny video: “Cute kitty devastates the crew of the Nostromo in this recut trailer of ‘Aliens'”.

The spacecraft Nostromo has an unwanted guest wreaking havoc on the crew. No, it’s not a bloodthirsty Alien… but an adorable kitten? Watch what happens in this re-imagined trailer.

 

[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 11/6/16 The Sound Of One Pixel Scrolling

(1) UNREALITY CHECK. Damien G. Walter loves the Doctor Strange movie but he believes it’s time to explain again that Buddhism wont give you magic powers.

But can we please clear something up here? BUDDHISM IS NOT THE GATEWAY TO SECRET MAGICAL POWERS. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of hours you spend in meditation, you’ll never be able to summon power from other dimensions, conjure cool looking glowing sigils with wavy hand movements, or indulge in the joys of astral projection. Got it?

“Oh Damo!” I hear one of you sigh, “You’re just taking this all too seriously! Nobody believes Buddhism can REALLY give them magical powers. Any more than they believe they can really upload their mind into a computer to achieve immortality! Oh, wait, loads of people do actually believe that…” As, in fact, do many people really genuinely believe Buddhism will give them magic powers. And much as I would like to blame this on Hollywood, it’s a much, much older problem.

While I’m lucky not to have had my hands crushed in an automobile accident, my own life took me into the Himalayan mountains, to study at the Buddhist temples in Dharamsala. I’ve been a student of Buddhism for eight years now. I stepped out of a successful, creative career that was killing me incrementally and Buddhism was part of what helped me transition to a different kind of life. Now I live in Thailand, a Buddhist nation, to study Theravada Buddhism. In 2015 I travelled across India, to the capital of the Tibetan government in exile, and home of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, to study Mahayana Buddhism.

(2) STRANGE THOUGHTS. Paul Weimer shares some thoughts about the Doctor Strange movie.

Tell me if you recognize this story from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A brilliant, snarky, assholish rich person with amazingly skills strides through life blandly, confident that he knows everything, and often can back up his reputation with cold hard skills and knowledge. He is an endless deadpan snarker, always with a cutting jape or a quip for friend and rival alike. He has a long-suffering quasi love interest who clearly deserves better. We get to see him in his glory before an accident brings him low and nearly kills it. Worse, it doesn’t kill him, but gives him a permanent debility, changing his future plans forever. Said asshole learns to be better slowly and painfully in a period of retrenchment and regrowth, becoming a superhero in the process, and defrosting the heart of his love interest a bit whilst in the middle of battling the big baddie.

I could be describing Iron Man, but I am also describing Doctor Strange, and that is the core of one of the problems I found with the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe story.

(3) QUIZZING BUJOLD. Lois McMaster Bujold, who published a new novella this week, Penric’s Mission, is interviewed about her writing process (just in time for the National Novel Writing Month) — “Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three (Okay, Four) Questions about the Writing Process”.

MD: So, National Novel Writing Month is basically about creating a first draft of at least 50,000 words. What’s your favorite thing about writing the first draft?

LMB: Finishing it. (-:

Starting it runs a close second, true. Then, probably, those moments when a sticky knot gets suddenly undone by some neat idea or inspiration that I didn’t have — often couldn’t have had — earlier.

I do rolling revisions — correcting, rewriting, re-outlining, and dinking as I go — because if I don’t get my edits in pretty early, my prose sets up like concrete, and it takes a jackhammer to pry it open. Also, by the end I will be tired and frantic and in no state of mind for careful polishing, still less major surgery. Since I’m usually doing novels or novellas, there’s too much to face, not to mention wrangle and just find, if I save all that till the finish.

This is a shift from earlier decades, when my method was to complete each chapter, print it out, run it past my test readers, and then do little more than make notes on the pages till I circled around for the final run/s. (There’s never only one.) In the past few years I’ve finally gone paperless, so I do a lot more micro-editing along the way now.

(4) WORLDCON 75 NEWS. The Worldcon 75 International Film Festival is accepting entries.  

Worldcon 75 international film festival is now open for submissions! Please read the official rules and send in your entry form and film by email or snail mail by June 1st, 2017: WORLDCON 75 INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL PDF (633 kB).

(5) OPERATION GONDOR. The Angry Staff Officer says Tolkien exemplifies sound Army doctrine, in “Warfighter: Middle-Earth”.

When I think of the six warfighting functions I always think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

What, you don’t?

Let’s be honest, one does not immediately think of fantasy or science fiction when conversations turn to Army doctrine. Most vignettes that are used to make the subject understandable to the lowly minds of company grade officers are either historical or situational. And while there is nothing wrong with this technique, are we perhaps overlooking a missed opportunity for providing a broader understanding of our doctrine? …

Summary

Through utilizing the six warfighting functions, the Captains of the West were able to preserve their combat power, protect critical information nodes, deceive and confuse the enemy as to their true intentions, and finally mass key maneuver assets at critical points in the enemy lines. This led to an eventual tactical victory that reversed the course of ground operations in the War of the Ring.

Tolkien is assuredly cursing me profoundly in the afterlife.

(6) ON THE OTHER PAW. Rachel Neumeier decided that the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog’s recent list of 25 cats in sf/f needed answering, so she listed the “Top ten dogs in SFF”.

  1. Barbara Hambly’s wonderful THE BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD actually made me fall a little bit in love with Pekingese, not ordinarily my favorite breed (sorry, Pekingese lovers; just a personal preference). Do NOT be misled by the title, which is deliberately B-movie campy. The story is delightful and the three Pekingese are real characters, real dogs, and also btw capable of hunting demons if any should turn up.

(7) SIGHTS SEEN AND UNSEEN. After being feted at Utopiales, Ann Leckie’s travels took her to Paris, as she tells in her latest post, “Utopiales”.

I did some very touristy things–the day I had to myself in Paris, the weather was clear and just chilly enough for a good walk, and the map told me the Louvre was only a few kilometers from my hotel, so I figured I’d go on foot. It was a nice walk! And the Louvre is just as full of looted antiquities as ever. Every now and then I’d see a familiar object–oh, hello Etruscan couple I’ve seen photos of you all over the place! Oh, that round hat looks familiar, could it be Gudea, King of Lagash? Why, yes, it is! The Dendera Zodiac I didn’t stumble across, though, I was actually looking for it. (And found it.)

I didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa. No doubt she was surrounded the way the Venus de Milo was. I found that kind of fascinating–there were dozens of other wonderful statues in the room, but everyone was just looking at her, taking pictures, and selfies.

A remark that brings to mind Art Buchwald’s famous column, “The Six-Minute Louvre” which begins:

Any sportsman will tell you that the only three things to see in the Louvre are the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” the “Venus de Milo” and the “Mona Lisa.” The rest of the sculpture and paintings are just so much window dressing for the Big Three, and one hates to waste time in the Louvre when there is so much else to see in Paris….

(8) ANTIHARASSMENT ALLY PROJECT. Steven Saus has created #IWillBelieveYou, “An Ally Project To Support Those Affected by Sexual Harassment and Assault In Fandom and Elsewhere.”

As he explains in a post on his blog Ideatrash:

After the revelations last month (reference one, two), those of us with enough energy, privilege, and resources have to do something. Something that shows both that we will support those who have been harassed and that we do not accept harassment in the places we gather. So, building on the example of Take Back The Night, as well as #IllRideWithYou and #IllGoWithYou, I created #IWillBelieveYou.

(9) ROALD DAHL’S TV SHOW. Atlas Obscura remembers that “In 1961, Roald Dahl Hosted His Own Version of ‘The Twilight Zone’” called Way Out.

Under the gun, some enterprising producers at the network began dreaming up a creepy drama show to fill the time slot, and they went right to Dahl. While he is best remembered today for his timeless works of children’s literature like Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, for a good portion of his writing career, he was better known as an author of twisted, devilish fiction. As explained in an article originally published in Filmfax Magazine, Dahl jumped at the chance to develop the series, spurred on by the fact that the show’s time slot (9:30 p.m. on Fridays) fell right before another thematically similar little CBS show, The Twilight Zone.

The black-and-white show would begin with what became its signature image, a slow pan over a series of mist-shrouded, disembodied hands, before resting on one which would burst into flames at the title came onscreen. Then, flexing his dry British charm like a more cosmopolitan Vincent Price, Dahl would give a short intro to each episode. The bulk of the program consisted of the main tale, usually a short morality play with an ironic or surprising ending or element, which often dipped into the supernatural. Then Dahl would close out the show with another direct epilogue, much like the Cryptkeeper of the later Tales From the Crypt.

(10) HELLO, I LOVE YOU. A Vintage News story tells how “Abandoned in space in 1967, a US satellite has started transmitting again”.

In 2013 in North Cornwall, UK, an Amateur Radio Astronomer picked up a signal which he determined to be the LES1 that was built by MIT in 1965. The satellite never made it to its intended orbit and had been spinning out of control ever since.

Phil Williams, the amateur radio astronomer from near Bude, picked out the odd signal which was transmitting due to it tumbling end over end every four seconds as the solar panels became shadowed by the engine. “This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates,” Williams said.

It’s more than likely the onboard batteries have disintegrated, and something else caused its 237Mhz transmission to resume when it was in sunlight.

The LES1 is about the size of a small automobile and should not cause any issues more than any other piece of space junk in orbit.

This proves electronics built around 50 years ago, 12 years before Voyager 1, and far before microprocessors and integrated circuits are still capable of working in the hostile environs of space. Phil refers to his hobby as “Radio-Archaeology”.

(11) TREACHEROUS HOME APPLIANCES. It’s great that Sixties electronics are still working in space, but look out for latest tech in your own home: the internet of things is a fertile environment for hackers, who can turn even the most innocuous thing to their purposes: “Why Light Bulbs May Be The Next Hacker Target” in the New York Times.

Now here’s the bad news: Putting a bunch of wirelessly connected devices in one area could prove irresistible to hackers. Researchers report in a paper made public on Thursday that they have uncovered a flaw in a wireless technology that is often included in smart home devices like lights, switches, locks, thermostats and many of the components of the much-ballyhooed “smart home” of the future.

The researchers focused on the Philips Hue smart light bulb and found that the wireless flaw could allow hackers to take control of the light bulbs, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. That may not sound like a big deal. But imagine thousands or even hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices in close proximity.

Malware created by hackers could be spread like a pathogen among the devices by compromising just one of them.

And they wouldn’t have to have direct access to the devices to infect them: The researchers were able to spread infection in a network inside a building by driving a car 229 feet away.

The new risk comes from a little-known radio protocol called ZigBee. Created in the 1990s, ZigBee is a wireless standard widely used in home consumer devices. While it is supposed to be secure, it hasn’t been held up to the scrutiny of other security methods used around the internet. The researchers found that the ZigBee standard can be used to create a so-called computer worm to spread malicious software among internet-connected devices.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michaeline Duskova, Camestros Felapton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/16 Scroll Ain’t Nothin’ But Pixel Misspelled

(1) ACKERMAN SQUARE DEDICATION. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city did name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor.

The official dedication is November 17.

Come join the ceremony to honor Uncle Forry with commemorative plaques installed on all 4 corners of Franklin and Vermont where he spent so many happy decades visiting with fans and friends. The public is invited to meet at Franklin and Vermont (where the signs will be installed), southwest side, near House of Pies at 9:30 AM, November 17, 2016

(2) SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH. Gail Z. Martin explains “Why #HoldOnToTheLight Matters” at Magical Words.

The 100+ authors who agreed to write for #HoldOnToTheLight run the fame gamut. But all of us have fans and readers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, people who hold us and our books in some regard. And to those people, however many they might be, our opinion matters. Our story matters.

We lost so many people in Southern fandom at the beginning of this year. I got tired to saying ‘good-bye’ and being invited to wakes. It made me mad, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Then in April I saw the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign in Supernatural fandom and how the show’s stars used their fame and their connection to fans to do something really good.

And I wondered—what would happen if the authors whose books create the genre spoke out with their own stories about the impact of mental health issues on them, their characters, and their books?

We might not have the reach or following TV stars have, but we have some following. And when people in the public eye speak out and own taboo issues, the stigma lessens. We could encourage fans and stand in solidarity with the ones who are struggling and let them know that they are not alone.

Most of the blog posts are up now, with a few more straggling in. Life gets in the way, even of good intentions. I’m gobsmacked by the honesty, the willingness to share without flinching, the vulnerability revealed in the posts. You can read them here, as well as new ones when they post.

(3) HANDS OFF THE BRAND. Beset by internet thieves. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson calls out for “Help!”

Working in conjunction with our licensee – Futures Past Editions (a division of Digital Parchment Services, one of the original ebook publishers), we have been steadily producing a number of different publications.

These include – The Amazing Stories Best Of The Year anthologies –

Special “Anniversary” reprints –

Amazing Stories Classics novels –

and Authorized Replicas of individual issues of the magazine …

But there’s a fly in the ointment: lots and lots of other people seem to think they can willy-nilly use the Amazing Stories name to produce their own versions of the same things.  Right now, the bulk of Experimenter’s budget is being spent on intellectual property attorneys.  We’re pleased with their findings so far (but these kinds of things take a lot of time), but in the meantime – if you purchase a facsimile edition of an Amazing Stories issue (or a poster reprinting one of its fantastic covers) from anyone other than Futures Past Editions or this website, not a dime will be going to help fund this project.  It will instead go to people who obviously do not respect the history of the magazine (or the law).

(4) THE FOUNDATIONS OF UTOPIA. In the November 4 Guardian, China Mieville writes about Sir Thomas More’s Utopia on its 500th anniversary, explaining why the utopian impulse is still important in our cynical age.

If you know from where to set sail, with a friendly pilot offering expertise, it should not take you too long to reach Utopia. Since the first woman or man first yearned for a better place, dreamers have dreamed them at the tops of mountains and cradled in hidden valleys, above clouds and deep under the earth – but above all they have imagined them on islands.

… We don’t know much of the society that Utopus and his armies destroyed – that’s the nature of such forced forgetting – but we know its name. It’s mentioned en swaggering colonial passant, a hapax legomenon pilfered from Gnosticism: “for Abraxa was its first name”. We know the history of such encounters, too; that every brutalised, genocided and enslaved people in history have, like the Abraxans, been “rude and uncivilised” in the tracts of their invaders.

A start for any habitable utopia must be to overturn the ideological bullshit of empire and, unsentimentally but respectfully, to revisit the traduced and defamed cultures on the bones of which some conqueror’s utopian dreams were piled up. “Utopia” is to the political imaginary of betterness as “Rhodesia” is to Zimbabwe, “Gold Coast” to Ghana.

(5) FIFTH! Always remember the 5th of November. Preferably more than once.

Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605. But their assassination attempt was foiled the night before when Fawkes was discovered lurking in a cellar below the House of Lords next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. Londoners immediately began lighting bonfires in celebration that the plot had failed, and a few months later Parliament declared November 5 a public day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, has been around in one form or another ever since. Though originally anti-Catholic in tone, in recent times it has served mainly as an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink mulled wine and burn Guy Fawkes effigies (along with the effigies of current politicians and celebrities).

(6) ALLEGRO NON TROOPER. Ryan Britt reacts to news that “‘Starship Troopers’ Reboot Will Give Rico His Real Name Back” at Inverse.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico’s name was actually “Juan” Rico, but the 1997 film turned him into a white guy. Now, a new reboot of Starship Troopers will stick closer to the novel, which probably means Rico will be Filipino again.

Though the Paul Verhoeven take on Starship Troopers is considered something of a kitsch classic among sci-fi movie fans, it’s tone and characters differ enough from the Heinlein text warrant a totally new film adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter producer Neal H. Moritz is gearing up to make a new Starship Troopers for Columbia Pictures. The continuity of this film will have nothing to do with the 1997 film nor any of the direct-to-video sequels. It “is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take.” This means that even the intelligent alien insects — the Arachnids of Klendathu — might be completely reimagined, too.

(7) BABBITT OBIT.  Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016) died October 31.

Natalie Babbitt, the children’s author and illustrator who explored immortality in her acclaimed book “Tuck Everlasting,” has died in her Connecticut home. She was 84.

Natalie Babbitt poses with the cast of “Tuck Everlasting” on Broadway in April.

Babbitt’s husband, Samuel Babbitt, confirmed she died on Monday in Hamden, Connecticut. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was under hospice care at home when she died.

Babbitt wrote or illustrated more than 20 books, but she is perhaps best known for tackling the complex subject of death in her novel “Tuck Everlasting.”

…In 1966, she collaborated with her husband on a children’s book called “The Forty-ninth Magician,” her first published work. While her husband, a university administrator, became too busy to continue writing, the book was only the beginning in Babbitt’s nearly 50-year career. Her last published work was “The Moon Over High Street” in 2012.

Babbitt received the Newbery Honor Medal, the American Library Association’s Notable Book designations, and The New York Times’ Best Book designations, among other awards for her work.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY –- WELL, CLOSE ENOUGH FOR GOVERNMENT WORK

Cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, conceived of a day in fictitious Dogpatch, USA, when all unmarried ladies (including the character Sadie Hawkins) could pursue their men. If the men were caught, marriage was unavoidable. The idea took off in real life—and in November 1938, the first recorded “girls-ask-boys” Sadie Hawkins Day dance was held. Today, the observance is usually celebrated on a Saturday in early November.

(9) BULLISH ON TWINKIES. The official health food of sci-fi readers goes public: “Hostess Brands, Purveyor of Twinkies and Ho-Hos, Returning to Wall Street”.

Hostess Brands Inc. is expected to start trading as a public company on Monday, putting the snack business to its first broad test of investor appetite since it was bought out of liquidation almost four years ago.

The 86-year-old brand behind the famous Twinkies cakes is due to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market with the ticker symbol TWNK.

(10) MAKING OF A SELF-PROFESSED “NASTY WOMAN”. Melinda Snodgrass covers a lot of personal history to make a point in “What Trump’s Misogyny Really Says”.

In due course and after a side trip to Austria to study opera I went on to graduate with a major in history, Magna cum laude, and a minor in music.  I enter law school.  I was part of the first really large wave of women entering law school and in the first week the male students made it very clear that they expected the women to type their papers for them.  Some of us refused.  Others didn’t, they knuckled under maybe to avoid being called fucking cunts.  The dean found out and to his credit it put a stop to that nonsense.

At the end of three years I graduate in the top 10% of my class, pass the bar and go looking for a job.  Eventually I end up in a corporate law firm.  Literally the first day I’m at work I’m in my small office in the back when I hear loud male voices in the outer office.  “I hear Charlie went and hired himself a girl!”  “Lets go see the girl.”   And then standing in the door of my office are six or seven men all staring at me.  I had that sick feeling I’d experienced back in college, but I was older and tougher so I made Oook oook noises and pretended to scratch under my arm like a chimpanzee in the zoo.  They got the message and vanished out of my doorway.

(11) CASH IN HAND. The Guardian previews the merchandise: “JK Rowling’s hand-drawn Tales of Beedle the Bard go up for auction”.

A handwritten copy of JK Rowling’s story collection The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which she made for the publisher who first accepted Harry Potter for publication, is set to fetch up to £500,000 when it is auctioned next month.

Rowling handwrote and illustrated six copies of her collection of fairytales set in the Harry Potter universe, giving them as presents to “those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books”. A seventh copy, which Rowling made to raise money for her charity Lumos, was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2007 for £1.95m.

(12) FOR A RAINY DAY. We may not have Damien Walter to kick around anymore, however, here’s one of his Guardian essays that appeared in August while I was out of action — “Bureaumancy: a genre for fantastic tales of the deeply ordinary”.

There’s nothing wrong with being a bureaucrat. So you’re a tiny cog in a machine made of abstract rules, paperwork, and the broken dreams of those who do not understand either. So what? You’re just misunderstood. Without you, nobody would know where to file their TPS reports. Nobody would even know what a TPS report is.

But writers understand. As species of personality go, the writer and the bureaucrat are closely related: they’re deskbound creatures who enjoy the comfortable certainties of Microsoft Office and dazzling us with wordcraft, be it small-print legalese or the impenetrable prose of literary fiction. Of course, Kafka understood the true power of the bureaucrat because he was one – and thus portrayed bureaucracy as a looming, all-powerful presence. The wonderful Douglas Adams imagined an entire planet faking the apocalypse just to get all its middle managers to evacuate in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, while in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, hell itself is one endless system of bureaucratic red tape, where doomed souls are made to sit through every last codicil and sub-paragraph of the rules pertaining to Health and Safety – all 40,000 volumes of them.

(13) KEVIN SMITH’S NEXT FLASH. He’s back — “The Flash: Kevin Smith’s ‘Killer Frost’ Episode Synopsis Revealed”.

Smith previously helmed the season 2 episode of The Flash, ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ and is set to direct an episode of Supergirl’s second season as well. He has been teasing both episodes on social media; for The Flash, he promised more action than in ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’, revealed the ‘Killer Frost’ episode title, and confirmed the inclusion of Dr. Alchemy — who is proving to be a major antagonist in The Flash season 3. So, much of the ‘Killer Frost’ synopsis seems to confirm details we previously knew or could deduce.

As for Smith’s return behind the camera, since ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’ was well received by critics and fans, it stands to reason ‘Killer Frost’ may be similarly received by viewers. Smith himself has earned plenty geek credit given his own status as a fan of comics, so it’s likely he brings a unique perspective to The Flash.

(14) UNBOUND WORLDS LAUNCHES. The Unbound Worlds SFF site is holding a book giveaway contest to attract readers’ attention.

“Unbound Worlds has officially launched, and to celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re giving away a carefully curated library of TWENTY-THREE science fiction and fantasy titles! Enter below by November 18, 2016, at 11 PM EST for your chance to win.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano (who is not to blame for the dialect in the version used).]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/16 I Have Promises To Keep, And Pixels To Scroll Before I Sleep

(1) IRON MAN. Gregg Van Eekhout was injured at “San Diego Cracked-it-Con 2016”. Before he was taken away on a cart he signed his fan’s books! Click the link for the whole story. The bottom line —

So, it’s going to be six weeks in a hard cast, and that’s my Comic-Con story. And I’d like to reiterate that I continued to autograph copies of my books even with a fractured fibula. That’s pretty metal, I feel.

(2) PROSECUTION FOR ONLINE THREATS. Ken White at Popehat reports on “A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry”.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California has sought and obtained an indictment against a young man named Stephen Cebula for sending online threats to Blizzard Entertainment, the freakishly successful powerhouse behind the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo games as well as many others. The case is notable because it’s so rare: there’s so much threatening behavior online, and so little of it is addressed by the criminal justice system.

Stephen Cebula seems overtly disturbed. The search warrant for his home and subsequent criminal complaint tell a tale of him engaging in bigoted trash talk with other players on the Blizzard game “Heroes of the Storm,” ranging from racial epithets to comments like “I will kill your family bitch” and fantasies about raping a child at Disneyland. Blizzard suspended Cebula’s ability to communicate with other players. Cebula — perhaps tutored in law and political theory on Reddit, or by Milo Yiannopoulos — saw this as an outrageous violation of his freedom. He used his Facebook account “tedbundyismygod1” to send two threatening messages to Blizzard:

Careful blizzard … I live in California and your headquarters is here in California …. You keep silencing me in Heroes of the STorm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK47 amongst some other “fun” tools.

You keep silencing people in heroes of the storm and someone who may live in California might be inclined to “cause a disturbance” at your headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other “opportunistic tools” …. It would be a shame to piss off the wrong person. Do you not agree blizzard?

(3) SITE SELECTION, COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Petréa Mitchell delivered vital data in a comment:

In crucial last-minute Worldcon voting news AND Pokemon Go news, New Orleans in 2018 has published a map of Pokestops and gyms near its proposed facility. (San Jose in 2018 has mentioned Pokestops nearby but only vaguely.)

(4) THE ENDLESS DELIGHT OF POKÉMON GO. The Week reported —

“A Georgia woman became trapped in a graveyard while playing Pokemon Go.  ‘The gate is f—ing closed,’ the indignant woman told a 911 dispatcher.  ‘This is not cool.'”

(5) THE NEXT SFWA CHAT HOUR. Coming Monday, August 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. — SFWA Chat Hour Episode #5: Selling Your Book at Conventions.

Join Cat Rambo as she hosts a lively discussion on how to sell your books at conventions, featuring Quincy J. Allen, Jennifer Brozek, David John Butler, and Michael Underwood.

RSVP the event to get a reminder when it’s about to start. Afterwards, it’ll go up on YouTube as usual.

(6) BANDERSNATCH. Musician Andrew Petersen discusses an influence on his decision to create The Rabbit Room“The Inklings, Diana Glyer, and the Art of Community”.

It’s easy for Americans like me, who are almost maddeningly intrigued by the romance of that famous fellowship, to idealize the Inklings—to imagine that the meetings were all chummy chortles and pipe smoke, pints of beer and chin-stroking, heady conversation and magical recitals of what are now classic works of literature. The Inklings were human, after all, and they lived in the same tired old world that we occupy, bearing the same weaknesses and wounds in varying degrees. The meetings were probably more sporadic and less inspired than we like to think. The story is a good one: Christians getting together in the name of friendship and good books. It piques an almost mythic longing in many of us. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall in one of those rooms? For that matter, who wouldn’t want to be a member of that inner ring?

Glyer’s thesis, contrary to some academic works that claim too much has been made of the Inklings’ influence on each other, is that the very nature of friendship, of nearness, of interaction, guarantees influence on their work. Like it or not, the famously grumpy and immovable Tolkien simply had to have been affected by his relationship with Lewis, and his work must have been affected, too. It was Glyer’s book where I first grasped the idea that The Lord of the Rings probably wouldn’t exist if not for C. S. Lewis. Yes, it was Tolkien’s God-given genius that wrote the masterpiece, but it was C. S. Lewis’s encouragement that nudged Tolkien along and convinced him that the public would care to read it. Friendship matters. Encouragement, resonance, accountability, and criticism were crucial ingredients that went into the feast of Middle-Earth.

One of the central tenets of the Rabbit Room is that art nourishes community, and community nourishes art. And to me the profound thing about that idea is that the friendships—the heart-shaping relationships, the Christ-centered community—will outlast the works themselves. Glyer’s book makes a strong case for the influence of the Inklings on one another, imperfect though it was. If you want to write good books, good songs, good poems, you need some talent, yes. You also need to work hard, practice a lot, cultivate self-discipline, and study the greats. But you also need good friends. You need fellowship. You need community…..

(7) HUTCHMOOT. And The Rabbit Room is planning a conference in October. Diana Pavlac Glyer will be the keynote speaker.

On October 6 – 9, the Rabbit Room will convene Hutchmoot 2016 at Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee. You’re invited to come and enjoy a weekend of live music, delicious food and conversation, and a series of discussions centered on art, faith, and the telling of great stories across a range of mediums.

Speakers, sessions, and special events will be announced as they are confirmed.

(8) VERTIGO. Flashbacks to the right of them, flashbacks to the left of them, volleyed and thundered.

https://twitter.com/damiengwalter/status/759051917993672704

(9) FILE WORTHY PUN.

(10) ON JEOPARDY! Steven H Silver says this was a Jeopardy entry —

Women Authors for $800.

?

?

“Nobody rang in,” said Silver.

(11) SUMMERTIME. “A summer book list like no other: Michael Dirda picks 11 hidden gems”, at the Washington Post.

One of the pleasures of summer holidays is choosing just the right books to pack along on the annual visit to the beach. I stress that word “books” because only the foolhardy would take an electronic device anywhere near sand, water, intense heat and — as one learns by experience — children predestined to spill their soda where it will do the most damage. Much better to pick one of the following recent titles in paperback or hardcover.

The Big Book of Science Fiction , edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage). How big is big? In this case, we’re talking nearly 1,200 double-columned pages, dozens of representative short classics of science fiction, and newly translated work from around the world. There are surprises, too: Did you know that W.E.B. Du Bois wrote sf? That’s just one indication that the VanderMeers hope to establish a more culturally diverse science fiction canon. Still, there are many old favorites here, some of mine being William Tenn’s “The Liberation of Earth,” J.G. Ballard’s “The Voices of Time,” Cordwainer Smith’s “The Game of Rat and Dragon” and Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed.”

(12) ARRIVAL. The Wikipedia tells us:

Arrival is an upcoming American science fiction drama film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. The film is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang. The film is scheduled for released on November 11, 2016 by Paramount Pictures.

Deadline Hollywood reported in June:

Paramount Pictures has set a November 11 wide release for Arrival, the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. This was the film that took the 2014 Cannes market by storm when the studio won a wild rights auction to the pic for a fest-record $20 million, earning it North American and China distribution rights.

(13) CLOUDY DAYS. Bob, Gordon, and Luis have been laid off from Sesame Street.

The changes keep on coming for Sesame Street. Last year, the controversial news broke that the show was packing its bags and moving on up to HBO from PBS—and now, most of the children’s show’s longtime (non-puppet) cast has been let go.

At Florida Supercon, original cast member Bob McGrath, known simply as “Bob” to his young audience, said that he and comrades for several decades Emilio Delgado (“Luis” on the show) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) have had their last hurrah on Sesame Street.

“As of this season, I completed my 45th season this year,” McGrath said. “And the show has done a major turnaround, going from an hour to a half hour. HBO has been involved also. And so they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka—who is still on the show, he is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us—and Chris Knowings, who is also young.”

(14) CLICKBAIT RATINGS. Entertainment Weekly rated all 13 Star Trek movies, offering its opinion of the good, the bad, and the why.

The same day, Rotten Tomatoes published “Every Star Trek Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best”. The Rotten Tomatoes list looked like this:

  1. STAR TREK (reboot)
  2. FIRST CONTACT
  3. THE WRATH OF KHAN
  4. INTO DARKNESS
  5. THE VOYAGE HOME
  6. BEYOND
  7. THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
  8. THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
  9. INSURRECTION
  10. GENERATIONS
  11. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
  12. NEMESIS
  13. THE FINAL FRONTIER

(15) ST:WTF! Adam Whitehead decided there was also clickbait potential in criticizing EW’s “gratuitous list”. And my linking only helps prove him right.

The point of Gratuitous Lists is that the things on it are not listed in order of excellence, but are just on there so people can talk about the shows/games in question rather than argue about the order, which is often arbitrary. But sometimes arguing about the order is just too much fun. After Entertainment Weekly issued a list of Star Trek movies ranked by quality that is simply objectively wrong (how high up is Nemesis?), here’s my riposte…

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 29, 1958 — The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • July 29, 2002 — M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.  Shyamalan cited The Birds, Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the influences for this film.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 29, 1972 – Wil Wheaton

(18) BELATED BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 28, 1866 — Beatrix Potter, British author/illustrator of the Peter Rabbit stories.

(19) FIRST TREK CON. Stu Hellinger announced he’ll be part of a fan panel at Star Trek Mission New York over the September 2-4 weekend.

On September 2 – 4, at the Javits Center here in NYC, ReedPOP is running a 50th Anniversary Star Trek Convention called Star Trek: Mission New York.

One of the program items is titled: “The First Convention and How it Helped Resurrect Star Trek”.

The panel description: The first Star Trek Convention, in New York City, began as a crazy idea with a shoestring budget that created ripples all the way to the Klingon Empire and helped put the Enterprise back in space. A panel discussion with members of the original organizing committee.

The participants on this panel are Linda Deneroff, Devra Langsam, Elyse Rosenstein, Joyce Yasner and myself as the moderator.

We have not been informed, as yet, what date and time the panel will be, but I will post the information as soon as I know.

Join us to reminisce or to learn more about what we did that helped create the ongoing phenomena that is Star Trek.

(20) JEFF STURGEON. Fascinating work at “Welcome to the Art of Jeff Sturgeon”

After his long time friend and art collaborator artist Jeff Fennel  ( www.Jefffennel.com ) convinced him to try painting on aluminum Jeff left the game business behind and went to painting full time with aluminum his new canvas. Through the new millennium Jeff’s work became nationally known with increased appearances as a exhibitor,guest,panelist and guest of honor at conventions around the country and as a illustrator and cover artist. Jeff’s work is much sought after by art collectors whether one of his classic SF/ astronomical pieces or his beautiful renderings of the american west. Jeff’s newest project is Jeff Sturgeon’s last Cities of Earth as his much anticipated shared world project comes to fruition with an anthology with the top writers in the field, an art book of Jeff’s city paintings and concept art., other platforms are in negotiation to try and bring this amazing world Jeff has created to life. Jeff lives in great pacific NW with wife and artist Leslie Kreher and sons Duncan and Corwin.

(21) WALL OBIT. SF Site News has learned Canadian fan Alison Wall died on March 5. More information at the link.

(22) WILSON OBIT. SF Site News reports Toronto fan Ian Wilson, a past Ad Astra chair, died July 28.

(23) STRACZYNSKI TRIBUTE TO DOYLE. Babylon 5 Creator J. Michael Straczynski On the Death of Jerry Doyle” in Epic Times.

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

Despite our differences, when Jerry ran for congress as a Republican not long after Babylon 5 ended, I donated to his campaign. Not because I agreed with him, but because I respected him; because there was one area in which we agreed: the vital intersection between the arts of acting and storytelling. In that respect, Jerry was a consummate professional. Regardless of whatever was going on in his life, whether it was marital issues, a broken arm, forced couch-surfing with Bruce and Andreas or other problems, he never once pulled a prima donna on us; he showed up every day on time, knew his lines, and insisted that the guest cast live up to the standards of the main cast, to the point of roughing up one guest star who showed up not knowing his lines. Trust me when I say that after Jerry got done with him, every day he showed up, he knew his lines. And then some.

He was funny, and dangerous, and loyal, and a prankster, and a pain in the ass; he was gentle and cynical and hardened and insightful and sometimes as dense as a picket fence…and his passing is a profound loss to everyone who knew him, especially those of us who fought beside him in the trenches of Babylon 5. It is another loss in a string of losses that I cannot understand. Of the main cast, we have lost Richard Biggs, Michael O’Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Jeff Conaway, and now Jerry Doyle, and I’m goddamned tired of it.

So dear sweet universe, if you are paying attention in the vastness of interstellar space, take a moment from plotting the trajectory of comets and designing new DNA in farflung cosmos, and spare a thought for those who you have plucked so untimely from our ranks…and knock it off for a while.

Because this isn’t fair.

And Jerry Doyle would be the first person to tell you that. Right before he put a fist in your face. Which is what I imagine he’s doing right now, on the other side of the veil.

(24) PROFESSIONALISM. Amanda S. Green reminds readers “It is a business. . .” at Mad Genius Club. It’s a good point in its own right, and a lesson that can be expanded to apply to fan activities as well.

So treat it as one. Yesterday, as I was looking at FB, I came across a post from someone I respect a great deal. He also has one of the most unverifiable jobs there is in publishing. No, not reading the slush pile, although that is part of his job. He has taken it upon himself to do what so many publishers don’t do. He responds to those who send something in, letting them know whether or not their work has met the minimum threshold to be passed up the line for further consideration. Believe me, that is definitely more than a number of publishers do. Too many simply never get back to you unless they are interested.

What caught my eye with his post was how unprofessional someone had been in response to his email letting them know their story had not been passed up the line. Now, I know how it stings when you get a rejection. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. But it happens and we have to accept it with grace and move on. Yes, we can kick and scream and curse in public but you do not send a note back telling the editor how wrong they were. Nor do you tell them that the title has been published during the time the editor was considering it, especially if the editor has gotten back to you in less than half the time they say it normally takes.

And that is where this particular author screwed up. Not only did they send back an unprofessional note to the editor, insuring he will remember the author and not in a good way, but he went ahead and self-published the book without removing it first from consideration by the publishing house. That is two very big strikes and, in this case, the author doesn’t get a third strike before he’s out….

(25) WAGON TRAIN IN SPACE. BBC Radio 4’s “Caravans in Space” investigates space habitats and visits the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga. Stephen Baxter makes a brief comment in the program.

Is the Earth too perfect? The Moon too grey? Mars too dusty? Then how about setting up a human colony in the depths of space?

Richard Hollingham travels to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Chattanooga, Tennessee to meet scientists, engineers, doctors and anthropologists planning human colonies in space and spaceships that will take humanity to the stars.

These are not dreamers – although they all have an ambitious dream – but well qualified experts. Several work at Nasa, others have day jobs at universities and research institutes.

Richard hears of proposals to build giant space stations and worldships – vessels packed with the best of humanity. These caravans in space might be lifeboats to escape an approaching asteroid or perhaps the first step to colonising the galaxy.

The programme features conference chair and Technical Adviser to Nasa’s Advanced Concepts Office, Les Johnson. He is keen that any discussions about our interstellar future are rooted in reality, not Star Trek.

We also hear from John Lewis, Director of the Space Engineering Centre at the University of Arizona, who advocates mining asteroids and suggests the first space colonies would be like lawless frontier towns.

Other contributors include architect Rachel Armstrong, who is engineering soils for living, breathing organic spaceships and anthropologist Cameron Smith.

As the programme is recorded on location in Chattanooga, it would be remiss of us not to make some reference to trains. Fortunately, our spacefaring future is being discussed in a railroad-themed hotel and on the local tourist train passengers are surprisingly open to living life permanently away from Earth.

(26) STATE FAIR FOOD. When I saw that bacon-wrapped churros were among the semifinalists in the State Fair of Texas annual fried food contest, I hastened to bring this to John Scalzi’s attention. It wouldn’t have surprised me to be the five hundredth person to send him the news, but he said I was actually number seven.

If you read the entire list of semifinalists, you’ll understand why I’m tempted to run a set of brackets and let people pick which sounds most deadly.

Next to “Lollipop Fried Bacon Wrapped Quail Breast on a Stick,” a bacon-wrapped churro sounds like health food….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Michael O’Donnell, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/16 770 Sunset Scroll

(1) BREAKING IT DOWN. Damien G. Walter contemplates “Systems fiction: a novel way to think about the present” in The Guardian.

Weirdly enough, science fiction is not the best lens through which to examine science fiction. In the 80s, critic Tom LeClair came up with an alternative category for all the weird literary novels that veered into speculative territory: the systems novel. These books pick apart how the systems that keep society chugging along work: politics, economics, sex and gender dynamics, science, ideologies – all can be explored through fiction, especially experimental fiction. LeClair applied this tag specifically to Don DeLillo, but it can be expanded more widely: think Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan and Umberto Eco, among others….

“The future is here,” William Gibson famously said. “It’s just not evenly distributed.” And in these difficult times, the visionary possibilities of the systems novel can be comforting. When we’re in the capable hands of guides like Atwood, DeLillo and Robinson, these novels can be a profound reminder of human progress and potential. In the wake of the EU result, and ahead of the US elections, if you are feeling at all unsettled about the future – go read these books today.

(2) POST-BREXIT FASHION. Jim Mowatt’s FB page displayed a “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted Remain” t-shirt, and I made an idle joke that the marathon runner should really be wearing a different slogan – which Alison Scott immediately made available (or that’s the impression I got).

i voted rhino

(3) WHAT’S UP WITH SFWA. Episode 3 of the SFWA Chat Hour features SFWA Board Members Jennifer Brozek and Matthew Johnson, CFO Bud Sparhawk, and President Cat Rambo.

Includes discussion of what the criteria for game writers will be like and when they’ll go out (hint: soon!). Also the usual books we like, writing advice, reports on the Locus Weekend, Stokercon and Origins, and ice cream vs. sherbet, in which we unanimously vote for ice cream.

 

(4) CAMESTROS FELAPTON. When not busily engaged arm-wrestling with Vox Day about their IQs, Camestros turns his talents to the visual arts.

(5) HORROR PODCAST. The Horror Writers Association recommends the Scary Out There podcast. The latest installment offers a dialog with Kaitlin Ward, the author of Bleeding Earth (Adaptive Books, February 2016). Listen to the episode here.

Hello Horror Fanatics! Today Scary Out There is sitting down with Kaitlin Ward, the author of Bleeding Earth (Adaptive Books, February 2016). Listen as Kaitlin discusses how she came up with the idea for Bleeding Earth, why it’s important for children and teens to read horror, what scary books she recommends, and more.

Kaitlin Ward grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe, New Hampshire, the same town where she lives today with her husband and son. Before settling back in her hometown, Kaitlin studied animal science at Cornell University. She co-founded the well-known blog, YA Highway, and by day she works at a company that sells coins. Bleeding Earth is her debut novel. Kaitlin’s new book, The Farm, will be released by Scholastic in 2017. Keep up with Kaitlin at kaitlin-ward.com and follow her on Twitter @Kaitlin_Ward.

Kaitlin recommends the following horror titles: Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics (Harlequin Teen, September 2016); Relic by Gretchen McNeil (HarperCollins/EpicReads Impulse, March 2016)

(6) FANS WHO SNORT. In the July/August Fantasy & Science Fiction, David Gerrold has a novelette called “The Thing on the Shelf” that begins as a report on the 2013 World Horror Convention, which hands out the Bram Stoker Award.

“The World Horror Convention was one of the better conventions I attended. Horror fans are clean, well-dressed, intelligent, polite, and enthusiastic. I have no idea why this is so. (Although I have to admit I was a little put off by the beautiful woman who came up to me and said she wanted to lick my Stoker. I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, and I’m not up on this year’s crop of new slang terms.)”

He adds the following:

“At one con, a young fan saw my badge had the ‘Pro’ ribbon attached, so he leaned forward and read my name.  ‘I never heard of you,’ he said. ‘What did you write?’

I replied, “I wrote the novelization of Battle of the Planet of the Apes. I said it with deadpan pride.

He snorted and walked off, his way of showing how unimportant I was.”

(7) DININ’ GAIJIN. Liz Braswell tells the readers of Eating Authors about a memorable meal in Japan. The best part follows this excerpt.

My husband, my crazy-blond toddler, my sister Sabrina and I were in Japan for work and fun — the vacation of a lifetime. One night Scott took the baby and a colleague of his took Sabrina and me for a night out on the town. Mutsumi asked us where we wanted to go and of course we answered someplace super obscure no Americans have been to Japanese only please we’ll behave.

She very nicely obliged and led us through the labyrinth of streets, around and around and deeper and deeper into Tokyo. Most of the city doesn’t follow a grid system and buildings are addressed by age rather than specific location; were my sister and I by ourselves we never would have found our way in or out of the tiny neighborhood we eventually wound up in. And forget about stumbling upon the tiny, unmarked, second-floor restaurant where we were, indeed, the only gaijin.

Everything about the place was perfect: from the rustic tables and wooden shutters to the little button one presses to ring for a waiter—otherwise diners are left in perfect privacy. The sake came in hand-thrown cups, Mutsumi ordered for us, we behaved.

We wanted to stop drinking at one point, but apparently that would not have been behaving, so we continued….

(8) EXIT POLL. Nicholas Whyte ranks his Retro and regular Hugo picks in “My Hugo and #RetroHugos1941 votes: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)”. In second place on his Retro Hugo ballot —

2) The Adventures of Superman: “The Baby from Krypton”

The only radio play in the mix (as opposed to two years ago, when we had four radio plays and a TV play than nobody had seen), it’s the origin story of Superman, and does what it says on the tin perfectly competently. Lara, Kal-El’s mother, is played by Agnes Moorehead, later Endora in Bewitched.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • June 27, 1927 — “Captain Kangaroo” Bob Keeshan
  • June 27, 1966 — J.J. Abrams

(10) SKIFFY AND FANTY. I tend not to cover podcasts — even with hearing aids I’m not able to listen to them effectively. I will say the blurb for this episode of The Skiffy and Fanty Show makes it sound pretty irresistible: 298. Sphere (1998) — A Torture Cinema “Adventure”.

Eggs, squid, and bad dreams, oh my!  Our latest listener-directed Torture Cinema episode has finally arrived.  This time, we discuss the infamous adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Sphere starring Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, and more!  At least two of us have a bit of a rant about this movie, so you should expect some pure, unadulterated Skiffy and Fanty rage in this episode!

(11) AND SOMETHING BUT THE TRUTH. Alexandra Erin is right on the money about “Sad Boner Confessionals”.

You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when the language suggests a high wire act where the author is trying to achieve some delicate balance between “I’m a sensitive man” and “BUT I’M A MAN” and wants you to sympathize with the contortions he puts himself through as  a result. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is describing the worst trauma of a woman’s life purely in terms of what it means about him. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is telling you everything he’s learned from the mistakes he’s made but none of those things are accountability or personal responsibility. You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when all admissions of past sins have a sheen of humblebragging about them.

(12) LABYRINTH. The BBC article “Why Labyrinth is so memorable” talks about the advantages of real-time puppetry over computer animation. Chip Hitchcock comments, “They don’t discuss how/if the gap has been narrowed by motion capture; would be interesting to see discussion of this — or any input by Mary Robinette Kowal, who has done fascinating convention talks about the practice of puppetry and the theory behind it.”

Jim Henson’s beloved 1986 movie musical Labyrinth, one of only two non-Muppets films the legendary puppeteer directed, is famous for several reasons.

Fans of David Bowie will recall visions of the late musician wearing extremely tight trousers that fail to obscure an enormously large codpiece. Bowie wrote and performed all the songs, including the iconic Dance Magic Dance. He plays a nefarious, all-singing, all-dancing king of a fantasy world of goblins, castles and all manner of strange colourful creatures.

One of Labyrinth’s best-known scenes is a sensational finale that takes place on a set modelled on Escher staircases. It is also the production that brought a then-unknown, then-15-year-old Jennifer Connelly to the public’s attention.

… One of the first creatures she encounters in the Goblin King’s fantastical world is a dwarf named Hoggle: a morally dubious, Sméagol-esque character whose motives and allegiances are unclear. With a huge lumpy nose, spurts of shoulder-length white hair and a crinkled, finely detailed face, Hoggle is an amazing puppet, at once both magical and realistic.

His seemingly effortless facial and body movements required the collaboration of six people working in real time. The character’s large face contained 18 motors, which were manipulated off-frame by four crew members using remote controls. Diminutive actor Shari Weiser controlled Hoggle’s body and Brian Henson, Jim’s son, provided his voice.

(13) STOPWATCH. Are you worried about how long Suicide Squad will run? ScreenRant is going to tell you anyway.

Collider has heard from their sources that Suicide Squad runs approximately 130 minutes with credits. Its DCEU predecessors were both in the range of 2.5 hours, meaning Suicide Squad will be about 20 minutes shorter than either Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice. Considering the sheer amount of characters Ayer is working with, some may be concerned that Squad is actually too short, but a shade over two hours gives him plenty of time to flesh everything out. After all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a lot on its plate and accomplished it all in 136 minutes.

(14) A DIFFERENT DICTIONARY. John G. Hartness, in Magical Words’ “Making Money Mondays” post, uses a commercial definition of “Fans v. True Fans”.

Now on to our main topic – fans. Now I’m not ever going to bash fans, because I love my fans. Hell, I love everybody’s fans, because I’m a fan myself. But what we want to talk about today is the concept of the True Fan, what they are, how best to interact with them, how to find them, how to keep them. Looking at that, it’s going to take more than one post, so this week we’ll talk about what a True Fan is, then later on ee’ll look at how to cultivate them, how to deal with them, and how to convert a Lesser Fan into a True Fan.

For the record, exactly ZERO of this material is anything I came up with. The concept of 1,000 True Fans was first put forth by Kevin Kelly in 2008 on his blog post here. He later references a couple of other folks who had similar ideas a little earlier, unbeknownst to him, but his site, with a tip of the hat to Seth Godin, who wrote the blog post that first turned me on to Kevin’s work.

Kelly postulates that any independent artist, that is any artist outside the big machine of superstar entertainment, needs to cultivate only 1,000 True Fans to survive. BTW, this whole blog post came out of a late-night conversation with AJ Hartley, where I claimed the number was 100. I’m bad at math. He defines a True Fan as someone who spends $100 per year on your work, and those thousand people then contribute to a $100,000 annual income, which is a pretty comfortable living in most places. At least that’s the rumor. I’m a writer, I don’t make anywhere near that kind of money.

So what’s a True Fan, and how do I get their hundred bucks? I assume that’s what you’re all asking. In this case, it’s usually a lot easier to show you than tell you….

(15) DON’T BE ALARMED. George R.R. Martin expressed gratitude about winning a Locus Award together with Gardner Dozois, and he couldn’t resist adding a punchline.

All kidding aside, I am very proud of OLD VENUS, and I know Gardner is as well. There are some terrific stories in there, and one that in any normal year would have been a surefire Hugo finalist. This is the third year in a row that one of the original anthologies that I’ve done with Gardner has won the Locus Award, and I can’t tell you how gratifying that is. Gardner and I both began our careers (a long time ago) with short fiction, and it pleases me no end to be able to provide a showcase for some of the extraordinary short stories, novelettes, and novellas still being written in this age of the series and the meganovel. If you don’t read anthologies, friends, you are missing out on some great stuff.

Oh, and before the crazy internet rumors start flying, I had better say that I was only kidding about OLD URANUS….

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/16 Bark Side Of the Moon

(1) RELEASE THE MONSTER BALLOT. Jo Lindsay Walton is pleased with the flood of Sputnik Award ballots, and is at least not horrified by one of the suggestions.

Btw: I’ve received some really touching enthusiasm, warmth and wise counsels and offers of support, as well as a pretty significant amount of “eh?” “baroo?” “mph?” “wha-?”, which tbh is also kinda gratifying. One thing I’d love to hear more of is unwise counsel. The best I’ve heard so far is the suggestion that we do the Dungeons of Democracy for real.

Just imagine, ripping it from the Excel and into the streets, playing out the entire vote as a vast LARP, cosplaying Daleky Phoenixes and Hedgehoggy Thing Itselves . . .

(2) WINDLING. Remember, Terri Windling lectures on fantasy at Oxford on Thursday, May 26.

I will be delivering the 4th Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford University this Thursday at 6:30 pm. The Pembroke Fantasy lecture series “explores the history and current state of fantasy literature, in honour of JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings during his twenty years at the college.”

The lecture I’ll be giving is Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era. Admission is free, but you need to register for a ticket and space is limited. Go here for further details.

(3) LUCAS MUSEUM. Mark Guarino’s Washington Post article “George Lucas’s dream of a Chicago lakefront museum faces choppy waters” even-handedly covers the battle to bring the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Chicago, showing the strengths – the vast art collection, and the architecture — and the minuses, chiefly that it will be partially paid with hotel taxes, which raises a question about whether George Lucas really needs to be subsidized by Illinois and Chicago taxpayers.

The Lucases had two real requirements: One, it would be in a prominent location and, two, that it would be near other museums,” he says. “The Lucases are not going to go to another site.”

A new plan approved by Lucas involves reconfiguring an aging extension of the McCormick Place convention center that sits on the lake and partially replacing it with the museum, 12 new acres of parkland, in addition to new convention space. That multipurpose site is more complicated because it involves borrowing nearly $1.2 billion and extending five taxes on hotels and more. Because it is co-owned by the state, approval from Springfield is required. With Illinois in a budget deadlock that is nearing a full year, and the state ranked at the bottom of those with underfunded pensions, the timing could not be worse. Koch says the selling point is long-term revenue in taxes and tourism dollars, as well as that it would add to Chicago’s “meaningful group of museums and cultural assets” that make it globally competitive.

This is both an enormous opportunity to update and modernize McCormick Place,” he says. “It has this element of Lucas, but they are two separate things that would happen to be tied together financially.”

Talks are on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rules on a city petition that asks for the lawsuit to be thrown out. Meanwhile, Hobson released a statement calling Friends of the Park “a small special interest group” that has “co-opted and hijacked” the process. “It saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer,” she says.

She added that she and her husband “are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he would welcome the museum in his city.

If the Lucases leave Chicago, it will ultimately discredit the couple’s statements about wanting to help the children there, park advocates say.

“They keep saying how committed they are to the city, but they’re not committed enough to build anywhere but the lakefront,” [Friends of the Park executive director Juanita] Irizarry says.

(4) THIS HAPPENED. N.K. Jemisin started a Patreon campaign less than a week ago and it’s been so successful she can give up her day job.

So, internets. Big changes in Noraland. For the few of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and FB, I Did A Thing. Specifically, last Friday I started a Patreon campaign with the specific goal of breaking free of the 9 to 5 life. I launched it officially at 5:35 pm on Friday afternoon, thinking nobody would much care since Friday News Dump, and thinking that would give me time to fix bugs and work out any kinks in the campaign over the weekend. Instead, to my absolute shock, I hit my baseline goal within 24 hours, and my stretch goal within 48. And it’s still going. People really, really want me to have a retirement plan, apparently.

(5) BEVERLEY OBIT. Jo Beverley passed away on May 23 at the age of 68. Though best known as a romance writer, she also wrote romances with fantasy and magic in them, was a Writers of the Future contest finalist (1988), and published in Songs of Love and Death (2010) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

(6) HEARTWARMING WOOKIEE. In “Star Wars’ Favourite Wookiee Goes Back to School”, Lee Costello of the BBC’s Northern Ireland service reports on Chewbacca’s visit to a school in County Kerry.

Chewbacca, Star Wars’ world-famous wookiee, has left pupils at a Republic of Ireland primary school star struck after landing for a visit.

The star is filming the newest instalment of the blockbuster series in County Kerry.

He took a break from the set to visit Scoil Fheirtearaigh National School in Ballyferriter on Monday.

The visit was arranged after some pupils sent impressive artwork to director Rian Johnson.

(7) AND HIS MOM. Meanwhile, Hollywood summoned a viral video maker for 15 more minutes of fame — “J.J. Abrams Surprises Chewbacca Mom”.

Candace Payne, also known as the Chewbacca Mom, took over the Internet this weekend with her Chewbacca mask and infectious laugh. In the video, Candace is sitting in her car, super excited about a purchase she just made: a Star Wars Chewbacca mask with sound. The next few minutes are her trying to contain her infectious laughter. The video broke the all-time total for most views on Facebook Live, and everyone has been talking about the joyful mom from Texas.

James Corden brought Candace out to Los Angeles to appear on The Late Late Show and surprised her with a visit from J.J. Abrams. The trio took a ride in a car, where Abrams gives Candace some notes on how to play Chewbacca, but the best part was her reaction outside of the car when J.J. first surprised her.

Video at the link.

(8) START SPREADING THE NEWS. Looks like this will be no problem in Ireland, but for everyone else IFL Science contemplates “How Do We Tell The World That We’ve Found Alien Life?”

…That’s a topic discussed in a paper from astronomers Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz from the University of St Andrews in Scotland (hat tip to Cosmos Magazine for picking it up). They have examined the protocols that are already in place, and have suggested ways that those involved in the discovery should prepare for the media onslaught that would accompany a tentative detection.

“A critical concern for scientists pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the reaction of the world to the knowledge that humans are not the only technological civilization in the universe,” they write. They suggest that the “culture shock” of such a discovery will put SETI scientists under intense scrutiny, which they must be prepared for…..

“SETI scientists must be prepared to not simply announce a detection via press release, but to be a trusted voice in the global conversation that will begin after the initial announcement,” the authors write. “This will require both pre-search and post-detection protocols to be implemented.”

(9) AWARD JUDGES. In Australia, the 2016 Aurealis Awards judging panels have been selected.

There’s a panel for every category – which means a lot of judges. Scroll down to see the judges’ bios.

(10) TRUER GRIT. Damien Walter believes Dune Deserves A New Film Adaptation”.

Dune’s cinematic qualities have made it a natural target for Hollywood adaptations. But the Lynchian weirdness, followed by a lacklustre mini-series, have left the franchise in a televisual limbo for most of the last two decades. Herbert’s own sequels, while conceptually interesting and widely loved by established fans, lack the storytelling muscle displayed in the first book. A risible series of cash-in prequels have dragged the Dune universe down to the bargain basement of pulp fiction. It’s a sad legacy for such a significant work of fiction.

(11) TROLL HOIST. Death and Taxes did an overview of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo nomination that ends with this paragraph:

Luckily these goons didn’t know who they were dealing with. This is Chuck Tingle, leading author of gay dinosaur erotica, licensed massage therapist, and outspoken enthusiast of hardness and love. Nobody nominates him for a prestigious award and gets away with it.

(12) ANOTHER FINE MESS. There’s reason to be interested in Charlie Jane Anders’ impressions about the field, despite the post ignoring the copious documentation available to answer its strawman question: “One way of looking at the Hugo Awards mess”.

So we’re once again having Hugo Awards drama. It’s confusing, because the people who packed the ballot with their choices have a bunch of vague explanations about why they’re upset. (Ranging from “OMG SJWs” and “affirmative action” to “we just want fun stories.”) They generally keep their grievances vague and nebulous (no pun intended), and it’s hard to pin down what they’re upset about. And this year, they changed tactics slightly, putting more “mainstream” choices on the ballot except for some of the short fiction categories.

So I figure one useful way to look at this issue is to ask: What’s changed? If there’s a group of people who are upset, what recent changes could possibly account for their being upset? Here are a few things that occur to me….

(13) AT WISCON. I see a lot of tweets promoting people’s panel appearances, but rarely one so artistic.

(14) THE SIGN OF THE Z. John Z. Upjohn joined Twitter today. The cause was soon revealed.

Alexandra Erin explained in a GoFundMe appeal update:

And because you all pitched in enough to cover airfare for WorldCon before I head off to my current con, Mr. John Z. Upjohn will be providing live twitter commentary of the event [WisCon]…

Erin also delivered another Sad Puppies Review Books installment once the fundraiser hit $300 (it’s now at $775) – Upjohn’s take on The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the HatThe protagonist of the book is a cat who develops games, games that are fun (like all games should be), and who wants nothing but to share them with children who are bored. Not so fast, cat! There is a game critic in the house, a fish who is clearly used to thinking of himself as a big fish in a small pond.

I almost threw this book across the room at one point, because the cat is playing a game and he is clearly having a lot of fun, but the fish says, “NO! THIS ISN’T FUN!” Imagine hating fun so much that you lie about what’s fun in order to ruin a game for everyone else….

(15) PRONOUN STICKERS. WisCon 40 registration will have pronoun stickers available.

Hihi!  I want to take a minute to talk to you about an exciting option we’re offering at Registration this year: pronoun stickers!

We offered them last year and got a lot of reaction, so here’s the explanation:

Pronoun stickers are totally optional to wear. You don’t have to declare anything to anyone. You don’t have to wear the same sticker all weekend. These exist to make it easier for all of us to treat each other respectfully.

If someone IS wearing a pronoun sticker, we expect you will use that pronoun for them. Part of our social contract is kind and respectful treatment of each other, and there are few things that feel as terrible as being misgendered ON PURPOSE. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on…..

 

Options. God bless WisCon. #WisCon

A post shared by Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) on

(16) TOMORROW IS TOWEL DAY. The annual tribute to Douglas Adams, Towel Day, takes place on May 25.

Naturally there are dedicated social media sites– a Facebook page or a Flickr group, and a way to tag videos on YouTube.

There are also hybrid events with in-person and internet components like Lofty Pursuits’ Vogon Poetry Slam. You have only a few hours left to enter online.

If you are in Tallahassee, please come and enter the International Vogon Poetry Slam. It is a contest for the worst possible poem. It happens at 8pm on May 25th as part of our Towel Day celebrations. If you are coming in person DO NOT ENTER ON-LINE. You will get to read your own poem live in front of your victims. The rules are the same….

The Vogon Poetry contest. Rules: The worst original poem will win as judged by us. No appeal is possible.

Sent to vogon@pd.net to be considered for this contest. We must get the poems by midnight on the 24th, Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). Late entries will go to the spam folder.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1686 — Polish inventor Gabriel Fahrenheit

(18) NAMING CALLS. Rachel Swirsky considers short story titles in “What should I have titled this essay? (Thoughts on John Joseph Adams’ ‘Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling’”).

Titles That Come From the Text

John starts the article by noting several titles that he suggested to authors that he’s published in his magazines and anthologies. He discovered these titles “right there in the text of the stories themselves. When I’m reading or editing a story, I frequently highlight evocative phrases I come across that I can later suggest to the author as a possible alternate title. Sometimes the phrasing isn’t quite right for the title, but it’s something that can be massaged, or combined together with another phrase from elsewhere in the story, that somehow captures the essence of what the story is about.”

I used to do the large majority of my titling this way until I started my MFA program at Mills, where the teacher told me what John Joseph Adams brings up next: “I should note that some writing professors—including notable literary giants—advise against this practice, largely because, they say, doing this puts too much emphasis and meaning on the eponymous phrase when the reader comes across it in the story.”

(19) DON’T CALL ME ISHMAEL. “Moby goes where Brian Eno, and his ancestor Herman Melville, went before” at the LA Times.

As a famously brainy electronic musician — and a descendant of literary royalty — Moby had plenty of lodestars he might have looked to while writing his first book.

There was, for instance, Brian Eno, the pop experimentalist who reflected on his work with U2 and David Bowie in his 1996 volume “A Year With Swollen Appendices.” And the distant ancestor from whom Moby got his nickname: “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville.

In reality, the DJ and producer best known for 1999’s multi-platinum “Play” album took inspiration from a more unlikely source: Duff McKagan, the tattooed bassist in Guns N’ Roses.

“Honestly, I’d never given much thought to the guy before I read his memoir,” Moby said on a recent morning at home in Los Feliz, referring to “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” in which McKagan writes frankly about the excess and the illusions of show business. “But he wrote a book that’s good enough that it transcends the fact that I wasn’t interested in him.”

(20) BLAME OF THRONES. Juliet McKenna has her own tangle of pop culture references to work through — “Sansa Stark’s joined the X-Men? Thoughts on popcultural cross contamination”

I’ve yet to see the X-Men Apocalypse movie, so I can’t comment on Sophie Turner’s performance. Her work on Game of Thrones – especially at the moment (NO spoilers in comments please!) – gives me every reason to expect she’ll do a thoroughly good job.

The thing is, though, this is becoming A Thing for me. An amusement at the moment, rather than a distraction, but definitely A Thing.

I caught a trailer for A Knight’s Tale on the TV last week, which is one of my favourite movies. Now though? That’s the one where Robert Baratheon makes The Joker’s armour while The Vision bigs him up to the crowd…

(21) DISCO SCI-FI. Thomas A. Foster looks back at the Seventies in “Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut” on Pop Matters.

…Another key to understanding the sci-fi of the era: the shrunken profile of space exploration. In the ‘60s, NASA was perhaps the most popular Federal project, partly because fallen leader John F. Kennedy was associated with the “space race”. Television covered every moment leading up to the first moon walk in 1969, and Hollywood pitched in with movies and TV shows (I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the made-in-England 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Jetsons had a dog named Astro, and Houston chose the same name for its new baseball team, which played, of course, in the Astrodome.

As our radio-alarm-clocks flipped to the ‘70s soundtrack, however, the Apollo Program was curtailed by budget cuts and sharply declining interest. The scientific idealism of the ‘60s was victim to chronic civil unrest, distrust of authority, and general exhaustion, as Americans turned to self-improvement (meditation, back-to-the-land/find-your-roots trends); hedonism (swinging, cocaine, disco); and all things para- (the paranormal, paranoia), including persistent rumors that the moon landings had been faked. In keeping with the zeitgeist, most of our TV astronauts of the decade would be lost, passive, or grounded….

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/16 Griefer Madness

(1) GENRE RECAPITULATES ONTOLOGY. Damien Walter divides the audience into “The 8 Tribes of Sci-Fi”.

Calling sci-fi a genre in 2016 is about as accurate as calling the United States one nation. In principle it’s true, but in practice things don’t work that way. While crime, romance and thrillers all remain as coherent genres of fiction, it’s been decades since sci-fi could be comfortably understood by any shared generic criteria. What do Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Seas trilogy, the fiction of Silva Moreno Garcia and the erotic sci-fi of Chuck Tingle actually have in common, beyond being nominated for major sci-fi book awards this year?

The answer is they all belong to one of the eight tribes of sci-fi…..

The Weirds Most writers at some point play around with the effects that can be induced by engineering stories with internal inconsistencies, mashing together disparate metaphors, or simply being weird for weirds sake. The weirds take this as an end in itself. With China Mieville as their reigning king they were riding high for a while. However, with newer voices like Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion coming through, the American ‘bizarro fiction’ movement, and with authors including Joe Hill and Josh Mallerman rejuvenating the traditional horror genre, the Weirds are still among the most creatively interesting of the eight tribes.

(2) SILENT THING. According to Digiday, “85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound”.

Facebook might be hosting upwards of 8 billion views per day on its platform, but a wide majority of that viewership is happening in silence.

As much as 85 percent of video views happen with the sound off, according to multiple publishers. Take, for instance, feel-good site LittleThings, which is averaging 150 million monthly views on Facebook so far this year. Eighty-five percent of its viewership is occurring without users turning the sound on. Similarly, millennial news site Mic, which is also averaging 150 million monthly Facebook views, said 85 percent of its 30-second views are without sound. PopSugar said its silent video views range between 50 and 80 percent.

(3) YAKKITY CAT. Steve Davidson says an interview with Timothy the Talking Cat will appear on Amazing Stories this Thursday. I’m running neck and neck with Steve in pursuit of interviews with the hottest new talents in the field — he won this round!

(4) JENCEVICE OBIT. SF Site News carries word that Chicago conrunner and club fan Mike Jencevice died May 16.

Chicago fan Mike Jencevice (b.1955) died on May 16. Jencevice entered fandom in 1978, publishing the fanzine Trilevel and serving as the long-time president of Queen to Queen’s Three, a media fan club. He ran the dealers room at Windycon for more than 30 years and served on the ISFiC Board for much of that time. He was one of two associate chairs for Chicon 2000.

(5) VR. BBC News explores “How will virtual reality change our lives?”

Four experts, including Mark Bolas – former tutor of Palmer Luckey, who recently hand-delivered the first VR handset made by his company Oculus Rift – talked to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme about the future of VR.

Mark Bolas: Out of the lab

Mark Bolas is a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts and a researcher at the Institute for Creative Technologies. He has been working in virtual reality since 1988.

VR hits on so many levels. It’s a real out-of-body experience, and yet completely grounded in your body. …

To find a way to make it low cost and still retain that field of view, we harnessed the power of mobile phones – the screens, tracking and processing – and we figured out a lens design that was extremely inexpensive.

It’s been really fun playing all these years, but there’s something more important now, which is making it a space that allows us to harness our emotions, our desire to connect with people.

I’m worried by our current computer interfaces. I watch people walking around like zombies with cell phones in their hands, and I have to manoeuvre a mouse to fill out little boxes on web forms in a horribly frustrating way. I think VR will allow us to transcend this.

I don’t worry so much about where VR is going, I worry about where we currently are.

(6) SHEER WEIR. By the Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach: “Andy Weir, author of ‘The Martian,’ aims his pen at the moon”

Lots of people who are interested in going to Mars have been gathering this week at George Washington University for the annual Humans to Mars Summit, and the star attraction this morning was Andy Weir. He’s the author of the novel “The Martian,” which has sold 3 million copies, been translated into something like 45 languages and served as the basis of the blockbuster movie by the same name, directed by the legendary Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. So, yes, that book did well — remarkably so given that he originally published it in chapters on his website and later as an electronic book that could be downloaded for free.

Weir, whom I interviewed on stage in the summit’s opening session (you can probably find the video here), was scheduled to pop by The Post for today’s “Transformers” event and then visit Capitol Hill to testify before the House subcommittee on space. Busy day! He said he was going to talk about how an interplanetary spacecraft, such as one going from Earth to Mars, can be designed to spin to create artificial gravity. That’s a potential way to moderate the severe physical effects of weightlessness on the human body. Without artificial gravity, the first astronauts on Mars would likely spend many days just trying to recover from all those months in zero-g conditions.

But he’s also working on another novel, this one about a city on the Earth’s moon that features a female protagonist who is something of a criminal but still lovable, according to Weir.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born May 18, 1931 — Mad magazine cartoonist Don Martin
  • Born May 18, 1930 — Fred Saberhagen

(8) THE REAL-LIFE GRINGOTT’S. The BBC tells where the gold is kept.

The largest by far lies in the Bank of England. It holds three-quarters of the gold in London, or 5,134 tonnes. Most of the gold is stored as standard bars weighing 400 troy ounces (12.4 kg or 438.9 ounces) – there are about 500,000 of them, each worth in the region of £350,000.

But the official reserves of the UK Treasury account for less than a tenth of this.

“Just 310 tonnes of the gold in the Bank of England is from the UK Treasury, the rest is mostly commercial,” says Adrian Ash of BullionVault.com.

The gold is held in a system of eight vaults over two floors under Threadneedle Street in the City. This is to spread the weight and prevent the vaults from sinking into the London clay beneath the bank.

“So no maze of caves bored into rock,” says Chip Hitchcock, sounding a little disappointed.

(9) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART ONE. Steven Saus relays “Reports of Harassment at MarCon 2016, including ‘The Chainmail Guy’ who harassed people at CONTEXT” at Ideatrash. (To refresh your memory, see File 770’s post about Context.)

Sadly, I’m hearing from friends who attended MarCon this year that the stance about Chainmail Guy’s harassment – the one that some members of the board decided to destroy the con over rather than censure a buddy who was harassing people – was completely justified.

According to multiple accounts, he was very visible in the main corridor, apparently with a table displaying some chain mail. (Which is exactly the setup that spawned problems at Context.) Sure, he wasn’t a volunteer, but had a very prominent bit of real estate. And, much like the complaints at Context, kept inserting himself into private conversations, just as he did before.

Unlike Context, he was in the main hall – and therefore much harder to avoid.

As one person put it, “if you heard about the stuff about Context, you’d get the very clear opinion that MarCon was okay with all that.”

Sadly, this might just be the case.

There were reports (and these were forwarded to the con chair) of another guy suggesting he should “frisk” a young woman after earlier reaching out to touch her without consent.

A corset vendor walked the line between creepy and harassment by insisting their corset fit perfectly, and any impression otherwise was due to the person’s “body issues”. He told another person that “he needed to see me try on one of the corsets and not in a friendly way…in front of my kids.”

And this is just what’s managed to cross my awareness.

(10) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART TWO. Saus also published “A (Good) Response From One of the Security Team From MarCon about Harassment”. It is signed by JP Withers.

As a fan I really hate it when our community is damaged by harassing behavior. Inclusion is kind of the point of our thing to me.

Our security and operations folks need help making our space better for everyone, and that help is reporting stuff when it happens. I know there can be a lot of reasons someone might not report behavior, but if one of those reasons is a feeling we won’t take it seriously I can tell you that isn’t the case for anyone on my team….

(11) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART THREE. Ferrett Steinmetz, immediately after Marcon, published these generalized comments calling into question how some apply the principle that “A Person Is Innocent Until Proven Guilty By Law”.

…And all the complexity comes to a boil when we’re discussing how to handle missing stairs in a community – potentially dangerous people who have gossip swirling about them, but no definitive proof. (Because most consent violators are smart enough not to do terrible stuff in public with witnesses.) And what do you do to keep your parties free of dangerous players when the only proof you have is the equivalent of “She said Phil didn’t pay her back”? Do you ban people on someone’s word?

Maybe you think the court’s standards are worthy for any institution, which is a noble goal. There is a strong case to be made for “I will hold the people who would spread rumors to the highest of standards,” because yeah, the ugly truth is that there are corrupt cops and there are people who’ll trash folks they don’t like. Having standards for evidence is good, and though there’s no single True goal, having high standards when the penalty is “Banning someone from a party” is not necessarily a bad thing.

But stop extending that to the idiotic argument of “If something someone says has not been proven in a court of law, it is automatically untrue.” No. If that happens, you are adopting the court’s standard of, “We would rather have someone guilty attending our parties than risk ejecting an innocent person.”…

(12) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART FOUR. Reddit ran its own recap of the latest episode, the essence of which is —

But now a different Ohio convention, MarCon, has had a problem with a harasser… and it’s the SAME GUY:

It’s the same stuff different day syndrome at its worst. There is no way for cons in general to keep these people out since conventions don’t have any kind of shared governance… so even when “missing stairs” are dealt with at one con, they aren’t at another. 🙁

(13) UNPAID MINIONS. The Seattlish has screencaps of the legal papers — “Someone Is Suing Emerald City Comicon for Not paying Volunteers”.

A class action lawsuit has been filed by a former Emerald City Comicon volunteer—the organization calls them “minions”—alleging that the convention violates labor laws by treating their volunteers like employees, but failing to pay them.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court on May 16 by plaintiff Jerry Brooks and naming ECCC and three members of the Demonakos family as defendants, alleges that as many as 250 people may be among the class.

According to the suit, the volunteers are expected to work essentially as paid workers would—performing functions necessary to the operation of the convention—but aren’t required to be paid for their labor or their overtime due to their volunteer status.

This suit could be hard to prove; the volunteers not only willingly enter into an agreement stating that they’ll work for free, but the culture of the convention fosters a competitiveness for the volunteer positions. A lot of people really like volunteering. In a blog post from 2013, a minion wrote that it “isn’t the  kind of thing you do for money.”

(14) STORYBUNDLE. The Story Collection StoryBundle is available for another 15 days. Readers can choose to donate part of each purchase to SFWA. Curator Lisa Mason tells how the bundle was assembled here.

As always at StoryBundle, you the reader name your price—whatever you feel the books are worth. You may designate a portion of the proceeds to go to a charity. For the Story Collection StoryBundle, that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (“SFWA”). SFWA champions writers’ rights, sponsors the Nebula Award for excellence in science fiction, and promotes numerous literacy groups.

The initial titles in the Story Collection StoryBundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Green Leopard Plague by Walter Jon Williams. Two stories in this collection won the Nebula Award.
  • Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner. This extensive and multi-genre collection was prepared as an ebook for StoryBundle.
  • Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand.

Those who pay more than the bonus price of $12 get all three regular titles, plus five more:

  • Women Up to No Good by Pat Murphy. Two stories in the collection were nominated for the Nebula Award.
  • Strange Ladies: 7 Stories by Lisa Mason Six Stories by Kathe Koja. The collection was created by the author for StoryBundle.
  • What I Didn’t See: Stories by Karen Fowler. The collection won the World Fantasy Award and the title story won the Nebula.
  • Wild Things by C.C. Finlay. The collection was prepared as an ebook for StoryBundle and has a brand-new Afterword. Finlay is the editor of F&SF.

(15) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has vivid memories of “Nebula Conference 2016, Chicago”.

For me, so much of the weekend was a reaffirmation of joy in our genre and the worlds that we love, worlds created by some of the best and brightest. Opportunity to talk with so many talented, kind, and outstanding members of the industry. A chance to stand by one of my heroes, someone whose work I’ve read most of my life and who has been one of my role models, and see her body of work recognized. A chance to be in a place where people treated each other with respect as peers and took pride in each other’s accomplishments, where there weren’t the sort of pettinesses that belong on the playground rather than among fellow professionals. A chance to tell people some of what SFWA’s been working hard at in the past year, and some of what’s coming down the pike.

And Liz Argall is still buzzing about Henry Lien’s Radio SFWA.

(16) CONVERT MADE. Say what you like about Seveneves, Bill Gates wrote on his website that it’s got him back reading sf.

“What Bill Gates says: “I hadn’t read any science fiction for a decade when a friend recommended this novel. I’m glad she did. The plot gets going in the first sentence, when the moon blows up. People figure out that in two years a cataclysmic meteor shower will wipe out all life on Earth, so the world unites on a plan to keep humanity going by launching as many spacecraft as possible into orbit.

“You might lose patience with all the information you’ll get about space flight—Stephenson, who lives in Seattle, has clearly done his research—but I loved the technical details. Seveneves inspired me to rekindle my sci-fi habit.””

(17) STAY INVESTED IN THE FUTURE. Helen Sharman speaks out — “First UK Astronaut calls for more Brits in space”.

Britain’s first astronaut has said the UK risks becoming a “backward nation” if the government does not pay to send more people into space.

Helen Sharman believes the country would lose many of the benefits of Tim Peake’s mission if a commitment to more flights is not made very soon.

Ms Sharman said that this was the UK’s “last chance” to be involved “in the future of the human race”.

She spoke to BBC News on the eve of the 25th anniversary of her spaceflight.

The government has effectively paid for one spaceflight, Tim Peake’s, according to Ms Sharman. After he returns to Earth in June, it is unlikely there will be more UK astronauts in space unless the nation makes a further commitment of funds at a ministerial meeting of European Space Agency (Esa) member states later this year.

(18) MR. ROBOT SEASON 2 TRAILER. The Hollywood Reporter summarized the preview video.

“This is what revolution looks like,” the text of the trailer reads. “Control is an illusion.”

Although they were successful in their hack, fsociety will face more obstacles in season two. “They need to know we haven’t given up,” Darlene (Carly Chaiken) says. “That we meant what we said about changing the world.”

However, the most worrisome image in the clip is Mr. Robot himself (Slater) as he puts a gun to Elliot’s head. “Our revolution needs a leader,” he tells Elliot.

 

(19) NEWS FOR HITCHHIKERS. “Towel Day” is coming on May 25, and Nerdist reports a candy store is readying its supply of babelfish.

The fandom of Douglas Adams and his writing is intense, to say the least, and has even resulted in a holiday to honor the late author. Every May 25th, fans around the world celebrate “Towel Day” which itself is a reference to what Adams thought to be the most important item you could have with you through your galactic travels.

As a way of showing their love of everything Hitchhiker’s, a candy shop in Florida that specializes in nerdy confections decided to celebrate by creating some Babel fish of their very own. Using an antique 19th-century drop candy roller, the folks at Public Displays Of Confection rolled out a serendipitous 42 bags of these fish shaped candies just in time for Towel Day, and we can only assume that they went with piña colada flavor because it’s just too hard to perfect the essence of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Steve Davidson, Tracy Benton, Darren Garrison, Steven Saus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/16 There and Gernsback Again

(1) I WONDER WHAT THE KING IS DOING TONIGHT. Kameron Hurley observes that fame and fortune don’t go hand-in-hand: “Dancing for Dinner: Fame, Publishing, and Breakout Books”.

In my own life, I find I have to remind people often that I have a day job. I actually had a client email me after a conference call one time and ask, “Are you THE Kameron Hurley?” and I had to admit that I was. I had to have a conversation with my boss about online harassment, and how the release of my upcoming essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, might create some pushback at my job, and how we should handle that should it happen. The whiplash you get in going to an event where people literally scream with happiness when you walk into a room and back to private life where you’re just another cog is really weird (to be truthful, I greatly enjoy my anonymity in Ohio, and don’t want it another way, but the dissonance is weird).

Yet this balancing act between public and private life, or public personae and private day job, is something that many thousands of other writers and artists struggle with every day. I was reading that Joe Abercrombie kept his day job for a lot longer than you might have thought (and even then, picked up freelancing jobs until a few years ago), and Gene Wolfe has had a day job his whole career. Most of us have to do this. It’s just… increasingly awkward to find that the fame part comes so much faster than the money part (if the money comes at all). There’s this strange assumption that by being an artist, you have traded away your private life in exchange for money. But what about those of us who never have the money to keep ourselves safe from the fame?

(2) HILL’S DARKSIDE. Coming in October from IDW, “Joe Hill’s Terrifying Scripts For Tales From The Darkside Collected”.

Originally planned as a reboot for the storied series, Hill’s scripts for these never-broadcast television episodes allow the New York Times bestselling author to stretch his creative muscles, his effortless mastery of the twisted subject matter injecting new terrors into this silver screen legend.

Joining Hill in resurrecting this classic is Charles Paul Wilson III, known to many Joe Hill fans as the artist responsible for the nightmare vision made real in their most recent collaboration…

“When I was offered a chance to reinvent Tales from the Darkside, I leapt,” said Hill. “This was a landmark show for my generation: our Twilight Zone, our Outer Limits. Right away, I wanted to do something that honored the spirit of the original Darkside… and at the same time I wanted to go bigger, to do something fresh, something with scope. In the end I wrote three scripts and sketched a vision for a whole Darkside universe. I envisioned a series of individual horror stories that would, ultimately, turn out to be connected by a single mythology. I really wanted to do something with the scale of Locke & Key. TV is tough and in the end we didn’t quite make it to the little screen. But it’s a delight and a thrill to share the scripts alongside Charles Paul Wilson’s beautifully sick illustrations. Here’s the show that could’ve been, now playing in your imagination.”

Tales From The Darkside was created by George A. Romero.

(3) MONSTER CENSUS. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #3”, answers the question “Do I Need Fantastic Creatures in My Fantasy?”

No, actually.

All right, let me explain a bit more. Usually when we think of fantasy we think of fantastic creatures: Beings like dragons, unicorns, monstrous beasts, etc. Such creatures fill the realm of myth and legend the world over, and are a common sight in fantasy stories. But do you need one in your story?

Well, no. There are plenty of stories out there where the fantastic and the incredible happen without any sort of mythical, shocking, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary beasts and creatures entering the narrative. A lot of stories are about human interaction, no beasts needed. You can still write a fantastic fantasy without any indication or even mention of fantastic beasts, and there are plenty of fantasy books that prove this as well. For example, take the success of GRRM’s Game of Thrones books. Granted, they pull in dragons and other fantastic beasts as the series moves on, but such elements only, if I recall correctly, appear right at the end of the first book—the rest of that introduction to the series draws more on the characters and the goings-on of a political kingdom to keep you reading (as well as lots of incest and other elements, which is why I only ever read that first book and didn’t care to move on).

My disinterest in the series aside, the first title in the series shows that your fantasy doesn’t need to have fantastical beasts in order to be gripping. You can write a fantastic amount of drama, magic, and excitement without ever needing a fantastical creature.

(4) STRAW WARS. Bence Pintér, editor-in-chief of the Hungaran SF portal Mandiner.sci-fi, recommends a funny video from Hungary. Public workers created Star Wars sculptures from bales of straw in Tiszaigar, a small village in the Great Hungarian Plain.

(5) PLANETARY SOCIETY. Robert Picardo’s Planetary Post, “A Visit to JPL.”

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Planetary Post, our monthly newsletter from Robert Picardo featuring the most notable space happenings. This month we head to JPL for a tour with two young friends.

 

(6) LONGLIST. Aaron Pound is gathering data for “The Hugo Longlist Project” at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

As I noted a few days ago, it does not appear that anyone is tracking the nominees on the Hugo longlist. There are plausible reasons for this, the most important of which is that it is entirely informal and unofficial. The Hugo administrators usually do not even bother to determine if a particular nominee is eligible in the category they have been nominated in unless it makes the list of finalists. This does not mean, however, that this data is not without value. Thus far, however, it has not been compiled into a coherent whole. This project is intended to fill in this gap by compiling all of the Hugo longlist data into a series of posts so it is all accessible in one location. Some notes:

  1. Though the Hugo statistical data that is released concerning the top fifteen nominees lists the total number of nominations each work received and ranks them accordingly, they are presented here in alphabetical order. Perusing the statistics, it is not uncommon for a work to receive the most nominations in the nominating round, but not win the Hugo award in the award selection round. This indicates to me that the raw number of nominations is not a worthwhile guide to whether one work is “better” than another in the eyes of the Hugo voters.

(7) NEBULA TRIP REPORT. Zak Zyz filled in readers about “My trip to the Nebulas, Installment 1: Cry Havoc and let slip the Blogs of War”.

I was sick as hell on Thursday but made a point to get out to see at least @MikeRUnderwood’s sales panel. Very valuable info, he first went into an explanation of a few retail-style presentation techniques useful for displaying books when working a booth at a con.

Two presentation points I plan to implement:

  1. Have bookstands, a tablecloth, and ideally a banner or a sign that complement your brand
  2. Have a stack of books underneath yours, so people know they aren’t taking your last copy.

Mike Underwood has a lot of sales and retail experience and it shows. He talked about a flowchart method to his sales pitch, favoring a soft-sell approach with a lot of emphasis on gauging the comfort and interest level of a prospective buyer. He talked about the importance of genre familiarity, knowing what’s popular for comparison not just to your own genre, but to build bridges to people who aren’t necessarily SFF readers (or even big readers at all) in larger conventions with a more diverse crowd. A final tip was offering people who were interested but not willing to commit to a sale a chance to join your email list.

This was a valuable panel that taught me a few things that will make it easier to sell books in person. He also fielded my question about selling books to independent stores, with some great advice about talking to book buyers. Just the information in this one panel was worth the price of admission to me.

I should also note Mike has an active Kickstarter going for Genrenauts.

(8) CAMERA ARTISTE. John Scalzi announced on Whatever that he posted an exquisite set of photos of the Nebula Awards banquet in this Flickr album.

(9) ZERO YOBS. Nigel battled Damien Walter on Twitter.

I don’t think Walter is actually wrong. Those looking for WSFS rules permitting an action should try the thought experiment of looking instead for rules that will prevent that action. The WSFS rules give great latitude to the committee in all matters that aren’t specifically addressed in the WSFS constitution. The necessary ingredient is for the corporate entity running the con to have the political will to act — I have no idea whether MACII has even discussed the idea. Also, it would cost money to refund memberships — don’t underestimate that issue.

(10) S.H.I.E.L.D. TRAVELS IN TIME. Comic Book Resources reports “ABC Bumps ‘Agents of SHIELD to New Timeslot”.

When “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns to ABC this fall, the show will air in a new timeslot: Tuesday nights at 10 pm EST. This pushes the show back an hour from its original 9 pm slot, which will now be filled by “Fresh Off the Boat” and “The Real O’Neals.”

The news follows the cancellation of “Agent Carter,” which aired during “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” past two winter hiatuses, and ABC’s decision not to move forward with the Mockingbird-centric “Marvel’s Most Wanted” spinoff.

(11) INNOVATION. The Valley Forge in 2017 NASFiC bid has posted a new progress report on Facebook.

We’re pleased to announce the Valley Forge 2017 Mobie Fund!

Mobie Fund Mission: The Mobie Fund will provide monetary assistance to those fans who have difficulty attending NASFIC due to the financial burden of mobility scooter rental. We will seek donations from all who want to help make NASFiC accessible. Valley Forge 2017 will match donations to the fund, up to $500.

After the site selection vote at MidAmeriCon II, the 2016 WorldCon, we will accept donations in cash or through Paypal via our website. At the same time, those who wish to apply for financial assistance for mobility scooter rental can contact us through our website.

Please note: The Mobie Fund is first-come, first-serve. We will confirm that your spot is available, but it won’t be secured until we receive your registration for the con. Upon arrival at the hotel, you can pick up your pre-paid mobie at the mobie rental spot. If, at the end of the con, the Mobie Fund still has a balance, we will reimburse that money among the other mobie riders at the con.

(12) SUICIDE SPINOFF. According to Yahoo! Movies, “Margot Robbie Spearheads Proposed Harley Quinn Movie With More Female DC Comics Characters”.

Months ahead of the opening of Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. is already contemplating a spin-off for the DC Entertainment anti-heroine, Harley Quinn.

Margot Robbie, who stars as the villainess in Suicide Squad, is attached to reprise the character and would also produce the untitled spin-off, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

But in an interesting twist, the project is not a Quinn solo movie. Rather, it would focus on several of DC’s female heroes and villains.

Details are being closely guarded but names such as Batgirl and Birds of Prey have surfaced, although in what capacity, it’s not clear. Warner Bros. isn’t commenting.

There is also a scribe penning the script but those details, too, are being kept secret, although it is known that the writer is female.

(13) STANISLAW LEM HONORED. A Kraków Science Festival will be named after Stanislaw Lem says Radio Poland.

Late science-fiction writer, philosopher and futurologist, Stanislaw Lem, is the patron of the 16th edition of the Science Festival, which begins in Kraków, southern Poland, on Thursday.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Lem’s death. The slogan of this year’s festival is “Time and Space”. “Lem’s work strongly refers to the concept of time and space, which are also the domain of science,” the chairman of the festival’s organising committee, prof. Robert Stawarz, said.

(14) OLDIE BUT GOODIE. Just discovered this 2011 Robot Chicken video today: “Aliens Acid Blood.“

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.

A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.

That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…

I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….

At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”

(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.

There’s a Jemisin and Le Guin too. In fact, Nerdlacquer has named its products after all kinds of sf/f references, from Octarine to General Effing Leia.

(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”

Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.

The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….

And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.

“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.

(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.

In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).

According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….

(5) KALDON CLARION SCHOLARSHIP. SF author Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon passed away on April 20. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to create a Dr. Phil Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion workshop.

Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.

The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.

(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…

This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….

(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.

(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.

Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.

  • Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
  • CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
  • Director at Large: Justina Ireland
  • Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen

(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.

…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.

“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”

That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.

But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.

Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”

(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen.  It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.

Costume-Con 37
Salem, MA
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016

(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø

(12) DARLEY OBIT. Dick Darley, who directed Space Patrol, died April 21 at the age of 92. He also directed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.

Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.

(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.

Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.

Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.

Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.

The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.

And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.

Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….

(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.

On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:

  • Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
  • Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
  • Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
  • It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.

(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.

The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.

The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.

If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….

In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.

(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.

I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.

And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.

Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.

(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.

Although the Indiegogo did not reach its goal, Waverly Labs appeas to be going ahead with production — the preorder campaign is scheduled to launch May 25.

1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.

The rest of the FAQ is here.

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