At NYRSF Readings We Get Older and Older

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, March 7, 2017, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series offered a twist on its Family Night series-within-a-series by presenting siblings Malka Older and (the elder Older) Daniel José Older (and mercifully laying to rest jokes that for months have been getting older and older). The event, held at the Series’ venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Greater Downtown Brooklyn, was guest-hosted by former Series curator Amy Goldschlager.

The evening opened differently from usual, with a welcome from Goldschlager rather the Series’ Executive Curator, Jim Freund; he was, we were told, home dealing with basement flooding and would be arriving later. While Freund has been “flogging” the event with wordplays on “getting Older and Older,” she preferred to call it by the theme that united the two readers, “Inform and Resist.” She had long been a fan of Daniel’s work and Twitter feed (@djolder) and had subsequently become one of Malka’s, whose Infomocracy “scared the crap out of me.” The format too would be different, with both Olders reading in the first part of the evening, then sharing a discussion and Q-&-A.

Malka Older

Malka Older’s science fiction political thriller Infomocracy was named one of 2016’s best books by both Kirkus and BookRiot. Her reading was from its forthcoming (September) sequel, Null States. Providing background, the books, she explained, were set some 60 years in the future; the nation-state system has largely resolved into a system of “microdemocracy,” units of 100,000 people called “sentinels,” the whole overseen by a massive bureaucracy, Information. Her protagonist, Mishima, is on a secret mission to a formerly prominent sentinel called Heritage to bug its offices in the former headquarters of the UN in Geneva. (Bugging has suddenly become topical, it was remarked.) Her reading, we must note, was punctuated by the participation of her small and adorable daughter. Returning to the microphone, Goldschlager introduced the other Older.

Daniel J. Older

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the collection Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper, a New York Times Notable Book of 2015, which additionally won the International Latino Book Award, was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus Award and the Mythopoeic Award, and was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. (He was also active in the successful effort to retire H.P. Lovecraft’s caricatured likeness from the World Fantasy Award owing to his vigorous partaking of the racism of his times.) Taking his place at the mike, he quipped that he’d always suspected that his sister was a spy, and recalled that this Series was the first venue where he ever read. Reading from Battle Hill Bolero, the final installment of his Bone Street Rumba series, he warned about spoilers. His protagonist, Carlos, is a “halfie,” half-dead and half-alive, and a clean-up man for the Council of the Dead. He and his partner have been dispatched to the Manhattan Bridge to kill a giant river demon; however, many humorous lines later, he winds up sharing his life (or half-life) story about his ex-girl friend (the one who half-killed him) as they chummily share Malagueño cigars.

Amy Goldschlager

He then read a briefer excerpt about Chris, dead, invisible, on fire and rebelling against the Council. His reading style, observed Goldschlager, is “almost a musical experience.” (You may hear his music at danieljoseolder.net, on YouTube and @djolder on Twitter.) Spotting Freund, who had since arrived (dry), she cautioned the gathering that the readings were being Livestreamed.

Freund then announced upcoming events in the Series. On April 1st – which most think of as April Fool’s Day, but which, since 1967, he thinks of as Samuel R. Delany’s birthday – the Series would be hosting a 75th Birthday Party for Delany. On May 2nd, Goldschlager returns as guest-host for an evening with the Serial Box podcasters (Leah Withers, Max Gladstone, Joel Derfner, et al.). June 6th readers will be Sam J. Miller (whose first novel is being published in July) and Lara Elena Donnelly. Finally, he congratulated Barbara Krasnoff on her Nebula Award nomination (for “Sabbath Wine,” a story that she read here.)

During the intermission, a raffle for donors was held for copies of Infomocracy donated by Tor.com.

Resuming hosting, Goldschlager brought the Olders up to the stage to interview each other “because apparently they don’t know each other much.” He had come up with a game in which they guess each other’s literary influences from their favorite books and movies from childhood.  His guess for her was Anne of Green Gables and hers for him All the President’s Men. This soon evolved into a discussion of their favorite books and movies, not necessarily influences. She loved Lord of the Rings and McCaffrey; he didn’t care for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and she thought that the middle Narnia books were more interesting; he loved Sweet Valley Twins (but it didn’t influence him) and Catch-22; Blade Runner, Star Wars and Snow Crash were “huge” for both, and both loved Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October and Lord of Light. When he decided in 2009 to become a writer, he was watching a lot of animé (notably Cowboy Bebop). She never read horror “that much.”

The audience kind of being left out, a Q-&-A followed. One audience member called Malka’s debut novel, Infomocracy, one of the year’s best and said that it reminded him of Sterling’s Islands in the Net; it turns out, though, she’s never read it, but noted that Infomocracy had been called “post-cyberpunk” (adding that she didn’t regard cyberpunk as being ready for “post-”). The next questioner asked Daniel what percentage of his work was drawn directly from his experience with EMS (he’s had a decade-long career as a New York City paramedic). A lot, he said – the dealing with a bureaucracy (the FDNY), the banality. The next two questions to Malka were what had happened in her future with the military (her editor, she noted, had been curious about all the nukes) and about the economic instrument that allowed exchange between governments. The militaries formed military governments with their economies based on renting out their services to small sentinels, and that there was an electronically-based currency.

Changing gears, the following question from the audience wondered if sf writers now are better at extrapolation than the previous generation (Asimov, Clarke) was and if it’s “more integral.” Malka said that her books are less about prediction than saying something, and cited the adage that sf is less predictive (of the future) and more descriptive (of the present). Daniel was asked where his stationary bike monsters (the “ngk”) came from. He joked that it was a comment on gentrification, then replied that in his world of ghosts, he wanted something small, powerful and unkillable.

A question about the importance of setting to them both highlighted both what they had in common (their settings are “dynamic” and place has an important role in their books) and their differences. His experiences are rooted (he moved to NYC years ago, and, although most of his readers may not, he “cares where Bedford Avenue is”), while she has lived over the world, rarely in one place for long, and has a geopolitical perspective. Yet their work involves each in compassion; she has more than a decade of experience in humanitarian aid and development, whereas he’s been more hands-on as an EMT. Something else they have in common, asked how they plot out their books, if, for example, they use index cards, both responded that they don’t painstakingly plot out their books.

Capping the evening perfectly, and eradicating the pun for good, asked which Older is older, Malka pointed to her daughter and quipped that it was her – “she’s a little Older.”

The crowd of about 50 included Melissa C. Beckman, Richard Bowes, Rob Cameron (running tech), Lynn Cohen Koehler, Barbara Krasnoff (managing the door), John Kwok, Gordon Linzner, James Ryan, Terence Taylor. Afterward, people milled around, socialized and grabbed a bite (food, coffee, tea, beer, wine) at the Café. Owing to Freund’s delay, there was no Jenna Felice Freebie Table this month (though I had Lunacon 2017 flyers with me to distribute).

Pixel Scroll 1/8/17 There Is No Joy In Pixelville – Mighty Casey Has Scrolled Out

(1) MOORCOCK REMEMBERS CLARKE, In New Statesman Michael Moorcock writes a wide-ranging memoir of Arthur C. Clarke which the publication rather myopically captions “’Close to tears, he left at the intermission’: how Stanley Kubrick upset Arthur C Clarke” – although, of course, that is one of Moorcock’s anecdotes.

Based primarily on his short story “The Sentinel”, together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him. When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed that were later abandoned. In one version, the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don’t think Arthur ever did: Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J G Ballard and myself) to work on the film. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.

I guessed the problem was a difference in personality….

Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, Kubrick cut a huge amount of Arthur’s voice-over explanation during the final edit. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film’s success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner in his honour before the premiere, he spoke warmly of Kubrick, declaring that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, but he had yet to see the final cut.

My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn’t at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer’s “Star Child” ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner….

As it turned out, Arthur did not get to see the completed film until the US private premiere. He was shocked by the transformation. Almost every element of explanation had been removed. Reams of voice-over narration had been cut. Far from being a pseudo-documentary, the film was now elusive, ambiguous and thoroughly unclear.

Close to tears, he left at the intermission, having watched an 11-minute sequence in which an astronaut did nothing but jog around the centrifuge in a scene intended to show the boredom of space travel. This scene was considerably cut in the version put out on general release

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Pat Cadigan marks her ”Two-year Chemo-versary”.

Last year at this time, I was so…moved by the fact that I was going to live that it was a few weeks before I could think straight enough to get any work done. I think I was more affected by the news that I was going to live than I was by the news that I had terminal cancer. Even now––I mean, I’m getting things done but every so often I still have a sudden moment of clarity, of being surprised by joy.

(3) AWARD PICKERS. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton has named the members of HWA’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award Committee:

Ramsey Campbell

Erinn Kemper

Monica Kuebler

John Little (chair)

Joseph Nassise

The Committee will immediately begin discussions to determine 2016’s recipient(s).

(4) OLDER VISITS THE BAY AREA. Daniel Jose Older will do a reading and signing at the main San Francisco Public Library on January 24.

Author, Daniel Jose Older, will read from his second book, entitled Shadowshaper, about a young Afro-Latina girl named Sierra who discovers her family’s history of supernatural powers and her ability to interact with the spirit world.

(5) FINAL RESTING PLACE. I might not do it. You might not do it. All that matters is – WWCD? “Carrie Fisher’s ashes carried in Prozac-shaped urn”.

Carrie Fisher has been laid to rest alongside her mother Debbie Reynolds at a private service where her ashes were carried in an urn in the form of an outsize Prozac pill.

The US actress, best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, was frequently open about her experience of mental health issues.

“I felt it was where she would want to be,” her brother Todd Fisher said.

Following the joint funeral service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, Todd Fisher said the giant pill in the shape of the anti-depressant drug was chosen as the urn for his sister’s ashes because it was one of Carrie’s “favourite possessions”.

(6) IN TIMES TO COME. Entertainment Weekly writer Rachel DeSantis says these are the most anticipated movies of 2017:

Star Wars: Episode VIII, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien: Covenant topped Rotten Tomatoes’ survey of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Star Wars fans got an extra dose of the galaxy far, far away in 2016’s most anticipated movie, Rogue One, which has brought in more than $800 million at the worldwide box office following its Dec. 16 release. Episode VIII will serve as the follow-up to 2015’s smash hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That film will pick up where The Force Awakens left off and features Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, and the late Carrie Fisher, who completed filming before she died last month.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 8, 1958 — Teenage Monster, aka Meteor Monster, opens in theaters.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • January 8, 1935 – Elvis Presley
  • January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking. A thought for the day: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. ” — Stephen Hawking

(9) HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’VE MADE IT? W.E.B. Griffin gave a tagline to characters in his series The Corps: “The true test of another man’s intelligence is how much he agrees with you.”  When I read Brad R. Torgersen’s “What is ‘legitimate’ in the 21st century publishing environment?” I thought his answers were very intelligent…. Everyone would like Scalzi-size or even Milo-size book contracts, but that’s not a requirement of success.

My suggestion is to wholly ignore outside factors, and consider your specific situation alone. How much income — directly from prose writing — would it take to pay a single bill? How about several bills? The monthly rent, lease, or mortgage? Pay off the car loan? Wipe out college debt? Pay for a home remodel? Buy a new home entirely? These are scalable, individual goals which are within your individual grasp to quantify, and they don’t place you in competition with your peers. You are never keeping up with the Joneses, to use an old phrase. Your success is not determined by matching or “beating” anyone else in the business. It’s wholly dependent on how much progress you can make, and in what form, according to financial circumstances which are uniquely your own.

For example, I live in fly-over country. The cost of living, for my specific area of Utah, is rather modest. Especially compared to where I used to live in Seattle, Washington. It won’t take millions of dollars to pay off my home, or my auto loan, or to add a second floor onto my rambler, or to accomplish any other dozen things which I’d like to accomplish with my writing income. Better yet, these things can be accomplished without having to look at either Larry Correia to my northeast, or Brandon Sanderson to the south. I don’t have to “catch up” to feel like I am winning at the game of life. I am alone, on my own chess board, and I define my own conditions for victory. They can be reasonable. More importantly, they can be reachable. And I know for a fact that Larry, or Brandon, or any four dozen other successful Utah authors — we’ve got a lot of them out here — will understand completely. Because they’re all doing the same thing, too.

And so can you.

Once more, for emphasis: production, followed by readership, followed by income….

(10) SUCCESS BY ANYONE’S MEASURE. Adam Poots has a load of money he can to make the next edition of his game: “Board game raises over $10 million, becomes one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever”.

The crowdfunding campaign for Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 launched strong on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It set Kickstarter records by raising its first million in only 19 minutes , faster than any project ever before on the popular crowdfunding platform.

Currently, with more than $10 million raised and a bit over a day left in the campaign, the game is thefifth most funded project ever to run on Kickstarter. The other top ten highest earning products include Pebble smartwatches, the “coolest cooler,” a deluxe travel jacket and a tiny desk toy called a Fidget Cube.

New York City-based game designer and founder of Kingdom Death Adam Poots is, unsurprisingly, excited. …

Just don’t plan on playing it very soon. “Poots expects to be able to deliver all elements of the game by December 2020.”

(11) TRIBUTE ANTHOLOGY. If, on the other hand, you don’t need to get paid for your writing…. Zoetic Press is seeking fiction and nonfiction submissions for an anthology memorializing dead cultural icons.

We invite writers to eulogize the fallen icons who have profoundly shaped your relationship to yourself and your place in the world. We are more interested pieces which memorialize public figures who have recently passed, but all in memoriams submitted will be given equal attention.

We regret that we cannot consider In Memoriam pieces for Dearly Beloved which are not about public figures. We cannot consider pieces about family members, pets, friends, or figures that are not public for Dearly Beloved– this anthology is a memorial for the artists and public personalities that shape each of us differently.

(12) WE’RE A LITTLE LATE. From October, Alison Flood of The Guardian reports: “Stephen King pens children’s picture book about train that comes alive”.

Charlie the Choo-Choo, written under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, steams out out of the pages of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series and into bookshops – with a warning for Thomas fans

“As he looked down at the cover, Jake found that he did not trust the smile on Charlie the Choo-Choo’s face. You look happy, but I think that’s just the mask you wear, he thought. I don’t think you’re happy at all. And I don’t think Charlie’s your real name, either.”

Now, King has written a real-life version of Charlie the Choo-Choo: out on 22 November from Simon & Schuster, under the pseudonym Beryl Evans, and illustrated by Ned Dameron.

(13) THE COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian notes that online comic Brevity has a very amusing Star Trek reference today.

Meanwhile, Martin Morse Wooster points out that the latest installment of Pearls Before Swine might be seen as complementary to John Scalzi’s 10-point advice post linked in yesterdays Scroll.

(14) ANIMAL CINEMATOGRAPHY. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna looks at how Illumination Entertainment’s fomula of talking animals and many, many jokes has proven highly profitable, leading to the green-lighting of Despicable Me 3, The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.

Before 2016, Illumination had scored a modest hit with 2011’s “Hop” and, a year later, did well with “Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” But the studio had a single go-to franchise: 2010’s “Despicable Me” grossed $543 million globally — just about equal to Illumination’s total reported production budget to date — and spawned the monster hits “Despicable Me 2? in 2013 ($970.8 million worldwide) and 2015’s “Minions” ($1.159 billion). Add in the sales of all cute yellow Minion merchandising, and Illumination had one property it could bank on. (“Despicable Me 3? is set to land this June.)

But “Despicable Me” writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul then brought their deft skills with spinning family-friendly adventures to “The Secret Life of Pets,” which grossed more than $875 million worldwide last year — making it the highest-grossing non-Disney film in 2016 (no small feat).

(15) GRANDMASTER INTERVIEWS PAST MASTER. A rare interview with Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery) at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, conducted by James Gunn in 1970.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/16 The Manhunt Extended Across More Than One Hundred Pixels And Eight Box Tick Scrolls

(1) NAMING CALLS. Katie Rask announced that the YA Award Survey has had over 1,200 entries so far.

(2) THE SHIRT OFF YOUR BACK. The gift-giving season approaches, so it’s time to pay another visit to the Litographs store, where you can pick up something from The Princess Bride movie, or Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper, or quite a few other genre authors from Diana Gabaldon and Ellen Kushner to Kurt Vonnegut and H. P. Lovecraft.

princess-bride-t-shirtdaniel-jose-older-t-shirt

(3) LINGUISTICS IN SF. Rowan Hooper’s piece for New Scientist looks at the use of linguistics in Arrival to give a survey of how sf films have treated linguistics, with references to Contact and Interstellar — “The science behind the twisting alien linguistics of Arrival.

Science fiction thrillers usually send in gun-toting heroes like Will Smith or Tom Cruise to kick invading alien butt. Arrival is completely, wonderfully different: it sends in a linguist, played by Amy Adams.

“Language,” one character says, “is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.” The big question to ask the aliens: what is their purpose on Earth?

In Contact, the aliens used prime numbers as a Rosetta stone that could be used to decrypt their communication; in Close Encounters of the Third Kind they helpfully used five musical tones in a major scale, presumably because vibrating strings have the same harmonics in other parts of our galaxy.

(4) MR. SCI-FI NEEDS SPACE. Storage space, that is — anybody want to store a spaceship?

Writer-Director-Producer Marc Zicree needs your help! Part of the hero set of Space Command (half the floor) needs a free home! (The rest is in storage). He’s been working to get overhead down on costs such as rent, while he’s busy at work completing the two-hour pilot of Space Command and selling the show. Have some of your garage or yard free to give us some space for our spaceship floor? You can help!

 

(5) INTO THE WEST ONCE MORE. HBO has renewed Westworld reports the New York Times.

“Westworld,” an expensive sci-fi drama, had been sidetracked by development problems and its October debut was later than expected. Before it had its premiere, HBO executives were privately saying they were unsure if it would land with its audience. But landed it has. “Westworld” has regularly been the No.-3-highest-rated scripted TV show in cable, drawing nearly three million viewers each week. HBO said on Monday that after adding up additional metrics like DVR, HBO Go and HBO Now views, the show is averaging 11.7 million viewers per episode, a figure they said is higher than “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective” at similar points in their freshman seasons. And like the first season of “True Detective,” it has ignited a lot of commentary online.

(6) SERIES BASED ON ATWOOD NOVEL. Hulu is planning a 10-episode adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Taking a cue from Netflix, Hulu isn’t slowing down with its original programming. Today, the streaming service announced that it’s ordered a full series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s seminal sci-fi novel. It centers on a totalitarian society where the birth rate is falling, and fertile women are placed in sexual slavery as “handmaids” to help humanity repopulate. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) will star as Offred, a handmaid working in the home of a government official named The Commander. Her main goal? To find her daughter, all the while trying to deal with her low place in society.

(7) OUTRÉ LIMITS. Sheila Williams explains why the current issue of Asimov’s consists of all fantasy stories.

Welcome to our annual slightly spooky issue. The fall double issue is always long in the making. Throughout the year, we see stories that land a little outside Asimov’s, admittedly rather soft, parameters. While we do publish one or two stories in each issue that could be called fantasy, surreal fiction, or slipstream, our focus is primarily on science fiction. Of course I get a lot of traditional science fiction story submissions, but I see a lot of uncanny submissions, too. The average issue of Asimov’s rarely features ghosts, witches, or werewolves, so during the year I tend to set aside many of my favorite outré tales while I wait to lay out the October/November issue.

(8) I KNOW. The actress kept this news on ice for 40 years — “Carrie Fisher Reveals She Had an Affair With Harrison Ford on ‘Star Wars’: ‘It Was So Intense’”.

Carrie Fisher is finally going public with a secret she has guarded closely for 40 years: When she was 19, she and Harrison Ford, then a 33-year-old married father of two, had a whirlwind three-month affair while filming the original Star Wars in 1976.

“It was so intense,” the actress-author, 60, tells PEOPLE exclusively of the real-life romance die-hard fans of the franchise have wished for since Han Solo and Princess Leia captured hearts on-screen.

(9) POP CULTURE QUEST. The actor who convinced California to pass a law about authenticating collectibles now has turned his interest into a TV show — “Mark Hamill on Turning Professional Toy and Collectibles Explorer”.

Hamill has launched a new series, Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest, on the recently-launched Comic-Con HQ subscription service – you can watch the first episode right now via DC Comics’ YouTube channel.

On the series, Hamill — an avid toy and memorabilia collector himself — travels to see different notable collections, from classic Godzilla and other Japanese-created toys kept in a fan’s home to the iconic Batman comics and items on display at DC Comics’ headquarters. I spoke to Hamill about how the series came to be, what it’s like for him to interview the subjects, and more, including his own personal history as a collector….

IGN: As we’re doing an interview right now, I’m curious, doing this show, do you enjoy getting to be the interviewer, having been on the other side of it so many times?

Hamill: Oh yes, absolutely. That’s part of the fun. I thought, “Boy, I could really get used to this.” You’re right. It’s role reversal. One thing that I discovered… Because you look at the schedule and it’s like, “We’re going to do a show about a guy who collects shoes!?” That doesn’t really grab me, but then you meet the person and it’s really the shared trait that all collectors have that you relate to and then you hear the personal stories of how they got started on whatever collection they have and that’s the connective tissue. So that’s part of the fun. I don’t personally collect some of these things, but I love seeing other people who do.

(10) NAME CHANGE. Seattle’s EMP is now Museum of Pop Culture—MoPOP.

As of Saturday, November 19, EMP will officially be named Museum of Pop Culture—MoPOP. As you know, our museum encompasses so much more than music, and as we look toward the future, MoPOP reflects the entirety of the museum and where we are headed.

Spanning science fiction, fantasy, horror, fashion, sports, and video games, MoPOP reflects our vision for curating, exploring, and supporting the creative works that shape and inspire our lives. While the name of the museum is evolving, our mission remains the same: to bring genuine human experience and perspective to pop culture through our exhibits, programs, and events that invite exploration and inspire creativity.

We are so excited to showcase the breadth of the museum and celebrate pop culture in all its diversity with our Pop Culture Party, an all-day fest that is free to the public this Saturday. Admission includes entry to all MoPOP galleries—including Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds—and will feature live music, architectural tours, pop culture games, and more fun for guests of all ages.

(11) SUBSTANDARD DANCE. Cemetery Dance has been delisted by SFWA.

Please note that, as of November 1, 2016, Cemetery Dance is no longer a SFWA-qualifying market. In 2014, SFWA increased the standard of payment from 5¢/word to 6¢/word, and this publication has not increased its pay rate to keep pace. In addition, payment for stories is capped at $250, regardless of length. Cemetery Dance was alerted in September about the issue and their upcoming de-listing and has declined to raise its rates or change the story cap. Should the magazine change its policy to meet SFWA standards, it will be reinstated to our qualifying list.

(12) THE EXPLANATION. Charles Stross thinks there are no coincidences and all the disparate parts should fit together, rather like a Tim Powers novel played out in real life.

What happened last week is not just about America. It was one move—a very significant one, bishop-takes-queen maybe—in a long-drawn-out geopolitical chess game. It’s being fought around the world: Brexit was one move, the election and massacres of Dutarte in the Philippines were another, the post-coup crackdown in Turkey is a third. The possible election of Marine Le Pen (a no-shit out-of-the-closet fascist) as President of France next year is more of this stuff. The eldritch knot of connections between Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Da’esh in the wreckage of Syria is icing on top. It’s happening all over and I no longer think this is a coincidence.

Part of it is about the geopolitics of climate change (and mass migration and water wars). Part of it is about the jarring transition from an oil-based economy (opposed by the factions who sell oil and sponsor denial climate change, from Exxon-Mobil to the Kremlin) to a carbon-neutral one.

Part of it is the hellbrew of racism and resentment stirred up by loss of relative advantage, by the stagnation of wages in the west and the perception that other people somewhere else are stealing all the money—Chinese factories, Wall Street bankers, the faceless Other. (17M people in the UK have less than £100 in savings; by a weird coincidence, the number of people who voted for Brexit was around 17M. People who are impoverished become desperate and angry and have little investment in the status quo—a fancy way of saying they’ve got nothing to lose.)

But another big part of the picture I’m trying to draw is Russia’s long-drawn out revenge for the wild ride of misrule the neoconservatives inflicted on the former USSR in the 1990s.

(13) GRIM FAIRY TALE. Easier to understand is M.A.M.O.N. (Monitor Against Mexicans Over Nationwide), “a satirical fantasy sci-fi shortfilm that explores with black humor and lots of VFX the outrageous consequences of Donald Trump´s plan of banning immigration and building an enormous wall on the Mexico – US border.”

(14) FIRST ROBOTS. Jim Meadows writes:

A college radio station in my town is airing a student production adapted from the play “R.U.R.” by Karel Capek, credited for coining the word ‘robot’.

The play, “Airing Robots” is being broadcast today and tomorrow (Tuesday & Wednesday) on WPCD, 88.7 FM in Champaign, Illinois. The station streams at its website, http://wpcd.parkland.edu/index.html

The play aired today at 10 AM Central Time, and will repeat today at 6 PM and Wednesday at 12 PM and 8 PM.

The production is the culmination of two different Communications classes at Parkland College, a public community college in Champaign.

Here’s a link to an article in Parkland’s student newspaper, the Prospectus, which actually does a fair job of summarizing key elements of the play

One aspect of “Airing Robots” and its source material Geiken finds interesting is the type of robots featured: androids as opposed to cog-and-gear machines.

“[T]he robots of R.U.R are not your typical mechanical robots that you might imagine for this sort of early sci-fi story, but more akin to cyborgs or androids made from organic matter. The robots of R.U.R. are more like the ‘Cylons’ of the 2004 version of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ or the cyborgs of the ‘Terminator’ movie series,” he said.

?apek, who was a highly-political writer, wrote “R.U.R.” in 1920, when Europe was feeling the effects of the Russian civil war and the end of World War I. According to Czech writer and biographer Ivan Kilma, ?apek wrote the play in response to many of the societal and technocratic utopian ideas that were spreading around Central Europe at that time.

R.U.R. was first performed in 1921, Kilma states.

(15) ROSEWATER. Rosewater by Tade Thompson is a new release from Apex Publications. Thompson lives and works in the south of England. His first novel Making Wolf won the 2016 Kitschies Golden Tentacle award for best debut novel.

apex-rosewater-cover-final-v1-covercrop

Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro’s life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a women known as Bicycle Girl. And that’s just the beginning.

An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The cities of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn’t so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and comes to a realization about a horrifying future.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/16 Sevenfives

(1) TURING POPCORN TEST. “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense” promises Ars Technica, where it’s free to view.

Knowing that an AI wrote Sunspring makes the movie more fun to watch, especially once you know how the cast and crew put it together. Director Oscar Sharp made the movie for Sci-Fi London, an annual film festival that includes the 48-Hour Film Challenge, where contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. Sharp’s longtime collaborator, Ross Goodwin, is an AI researcher at New York University, and he supplied the movie’s AI writer, initially called Jetson. As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars. The actors interpreted the lines as they read, adding tone and body language, and the results are what you see in the movie. Somehow, a slightly garbled series of sentences became a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world. It even has its own musical interlude (performed by Andrew and Tiger), with a pop song Benjamin composed after learning from a corpus of 30,000 other pop songs.

After viewing, Pat Cadigan begged to differ, “Actually, it was neither hilarious nor intense. It was incoherent. And non-intense.”

(2) BAREFOOT CONTESTED. Aaron Pound reported “obnoxious and surly” behavior by hotel security at Balticon 50 including the now-famous “Shoe Cop” who was “enforcing their previously unannounced policy that shoes had to be worn at all times.”

Longtime fan Hobbit, whose preference is to go barefoot, was particularly upset.

I and a traveling companion were some of the first casualties … we only made through less than a day there before simply bailing out. While the barefoot issue was only about a third of what pushed me over my limit by the time we put it all in the rearview, I complained bitterly to Marriott’s customer-care department [as Renaissance is one of their brands] about the way we were treated.

Hobbit has posted the complaint letter and corporate replies.

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against your property at Renaissance HarborPlace, in Baltimore.  I was there for an event scheduled through this past Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 30 2016, to help with its technical setup and operations.  The event was a science fiction convention named Balticon, in fact its fiftieth year in existence, put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS). This was its first year at this particular hotel property, and may well be the last.

Within mere minutes of arriving to unload gear and begin building our technical infrastructure, I and several of my colleagues were harassed by the hotel security staff for not wearing shoes. Some number of my crew generally work without shoes for an extensive set of positive reasons, including but not limited to increased agility, comfort, *safety*, and situational awareness.  While perhaps a bit unusual in the relevant activities, it is our personal right and freedom to enjoy and presents no unacceptable risk or concern to either ourselves or the venues we occupy.  The many health *benefits* of going barefoot are also well known.  We accept full responsibility for our own care and safety, and at that level it is not up to any other entity to dictate to us about it either way.

The harassment continued and escalated through that evening, even after our staff offered a temporary compromise by confining our activities to our assigned function space and slipping on shoes to go elsewhere on the property. The only shoes I had with me were effectively light-duty slippers which would cause me to be significantly *less* surefooted and safe while working, and thus were not a viable option.  This was also true of our other staff, who only had open-toe sandals and other seasonally-appropriate footgear on hand.  Ultimately I was unable to continue working the convention setup, and wound up simply leaving the entire event prematurely because it seemed like the only reasonable option left open to me….

Hobbit also has barefoot advocacy information online.

In early 2016 I began to correspond with some of the other online barefoot advocates in my area, and participate in various group activities like hikes and dinner gatherings.  I viewed this as further support in my own journey, particularly with helping bring awareness and reason to typically stodgy organizations that harbored some unreasoned sixties-holdover fear and loathing for bare feet.  In keeping with my own personal tradition of advising any number of companies on best customer-facing practices in the online world, it seemed a short step to use those same techniques and reach out to them to discuss customer and client policy decisions about footwear in an escalated fashion.

While my past efforts to inform have met with an entire spectrum of successes and failures, I’ve chosen this point in time to start bringing it to the web and chronicle some of the major interactions

(3) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The Digital Antiquarian begins an opus about “god-game” development with “SimCity Part 1: Wil Wright’s City in a Box”.

This description subtly reveals something about the eventual SimCity that is too often misunderstood. The model of urban planning that underpins Wright’s simulation is grossly simplified and, often, grossly biased to match its author’s own preexisting political views. SimCity is far more defensible as an abstract exploration of system dynamics than as a concrete contribution to urban planning. All this talk about “stocks” and “flows” illustrates where Wright’s passion truly lay. In other words, for him the what that was being simulated was less interesting than the way it was being simulated. Wright:

I think the primary goal of this [SimCity] is to show people how intertwined such things can get. I’m not so concerned with predicting the future accurately as I am with showing which things have influence over which other things, sort of a chaos introduction, where the system is so complex that it can get very hard to predict the future ramifications of a decision or policy.

When SimCity was finally released, the public, including plenty of professionals in the field of urban planning who really should have known better, credited Wright’s experiment with an authority it most definitely didn’t earn. I’ll return to this point in my next article, in the course of which we’ll try to figure out what so many thought they were seeing in Wright’s simplistic take on urban planning.

After working on the idea for about six months, Wright brought a very primitive SimCity to Brøderbund, who were intrigued enough to sign him to a contract. But over the next year or so of work a disturbing trend manifested. Each time Wright would bring the latest version to Brøderbund, they’d nod approvingly as he showed all the latest features, only to ask, gently but persistently, a question Wright learned to loathe: when would he be making an actual game out of the simulation? You know, something with a winning state, perhaps with a computer opponent to play against?

(4) SEASONING. Life eventually taught Alma Alexander what her younger self had needed to know about “Madness and the Age of Innocence” (at Book View Café.)

Back when I was nineteen years old and steeped up to my innocent ingenue ears in the Matter of Britain, I dreamed up a story – technically a novel, I guess, seeing as it was over 40,000 words, but not much over. It was a solid chunk of writing, though, pretty much written over a year or so when I was about 18, and it told the story of Queen Guenevere….

Andre Brink, South Africa’s pre-eminent novelist, started his report thusly:

“This is an impressive piece of writing, especially if it is taken into account that it was written by a 19-year-old. I have no doubt that this young woman will be a major writer one day.”

But…

You heard the but coming, didn’t you?…

He went on to say that the story was too tame, especially given the subject matter of lust and adultery and multi-layered betrayals. There was plenty of drama, he said, but there was none of… oh, let me quote him again… “…it lacks what Kazantzakis calls ‘madness’.”

Today, I know of this madness. I understand it from within. I take no issue with his comments, not from this side of the bridge of time, because he was probably right – my story was one of innocence rather than guilt and machinations, my Queen was a child caught up in an adult world, much as I was at the time. But when he wrote this report, I had yet to read Kazantzakis. I had heard of Zorba the Greek, but I had not read the book, nor seen the movie at that time.

(5) DEPRESSION ART. MD Jackson reminds you of everything you’ve forgotten (or never knew) to answer the loaded question: “Why was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? (Part 1)”, at Amazing Stories.

A friend of mine recently asked why it is that the artwork in comic books has gone from being so crude and rudimentary in the beginning to being so much more photo-realistic today. Well, I thought that was a good question, so I am setting out to answer it. And although the question seems simple, the answer is not, and it will take more than one post to fully cover.

Were the early comic book artists untalented hacks? Or did the early limitations of printing technology hamper their creative expression? The answer, in my view, boils down to: a bit of both.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak

(9) DINO DUDES. Den of Geek has “Jurassic Park 4: new concept art from lost film”.

Artist Carlos Huante recently shared concept art from a much earlier take on Jurassic Park 4…

If you Frankensteinized the DNA of the Hulk, Wolfman and a velociraptor in a petri dish, you’d get Raptorman. He was due to appear in a Jurassic Park film, but ltimately it wasn’t meant to be.

Raptorman was part of a screenplay envisions by John Sayles and William Monahan when they were penning an earlier take on Jurassic Park 4, featuring genetically enhanced soldier-o-saurus reptiles created by a corporation to be mercenaries that are supposed to wrangle the rogue dinos trampling North America.

(10) DELANY. From Shelf Awareness: Image of the Day: NYS Writers Hall of Fame.

NYS Hall of fame COMP

Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell

For the seventh year, the Empire State Center for the Book inducted a group of diverse writers into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Honorees Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell (pictured, l.-r.) attended the June 7 event at New York City’s 3 West Club, where Maya Angelou, Jean Craighead George, Grace Paley and Don Marquis were recognized posthumously. Stephen Sondheim was not able to attend due to illness. In his acceptance remarks, science fiction writer Delany told of his fondness of fellow inductee Don Marquis’s famed characters Archy and Mehitabel.

(11) INDIEGOGO. Scholar Kenneth James wants to raise $60,000 of support for his work on “Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany”.

Currently I am compiling and editing Delany’s personal journals.  The journals will be published by Wesleyan University Press in what is projected to be a series of at least five volumes, with each volume covering approximately one decade’s worth of material.  I have recently completed the first volume, In Search of Silence; this volume is now in the final stages of production at Wesleyan and is slated to appear at the end of this year. It covers the period from Delany’s teenage years in the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s, during which time Delany established himself as a major figure in what came to be called New Wave science fiction.  The second volume, Autumnal City, will present Delany’s journals from the 1970s, during which time he wrote the bulk of what many consider the pivotal work of his career, Dhalgren (1975), as well as Trouble on Triton (1976), the first volume of the Nevèrÿon tetralogy (Tales of Nevèrÿon [1979]), and many works of criticism.

In this campaign I am seeking funding to produce the second volume.  If I secure this funding, the project – which involves researching, compiling, transcribing, editing, and annotating the text – will take two years to complete.  The total amount I am seeking, for two years of full-time work on the project, is $60,000.

There has been $1,355 pledged to date, and the appeal has 2 months to run.

(12) JOURNAL EYEWITNESS. Matthew Cheney enthsiastically endorses the project.

I’m just back from spending a few days at the Delany archive at Boston University, and I’ve looked through a few of the 1970s journals. They’re truly thrilling for anybody interested not only in Delany the writer, but in the writing and thinking process in general. They’re especially interesting for those of us who think that after 1969, Delany’s work only got more brilliant. They are working journals, not really diaries as we generally think of them, and they clarify a lot of questions of when particular things were written, and why, and how. That makes them, if nothing else, of immense scholarly value. But they’ve also got material in them that just flat-out makes for good reading.

(13) ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE SF. “Sharman Apt Russell Guest Post–‘BFF: Science Fiction and the Environmental Movement’” at Locus Online.

In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted an impoverished Earth with “shattered surface,” “climatic excesses,” and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

In his own way, Marsh was an early science fiction writer.

(14) DO YOU WANT TO GET PAID? Peter Grant’s Mad Genius Club post “Writing your passion…or not?”  makes an argument for avoiding saturated markets. The commenters overall favored passion-directed writing.

In the same way, I see authors trying to ‘break in’ to the market in a particular genre and getting discouraged.  That may be because it’s a crowded genre (e.g. romance and/or erotica) where there are already lots of books and authors and it’s hard to get noticed;  or it’s a field where there are relatively few readers in relation to the overall book market (e.g. those interested in the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot!);  or it’s a moribund genre which hasn’t attracted interest or support from either publishers or big-name authors for some time (e.g. Westerns).  To authors facing such challenges, my advice is:  Why not try to write in a genre where you will be noticed, and where you can offer a quality product that will attract reader interest?  You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

(15) OLDERS Q&A. “Malka Older and Daniel José Older Discuss Infomocracy, Cyberpunk, and the Future!” — Leah Schnelbach covered the event for Tor.com.

There was already a nice crowd gathered for the concatenation of Olders at Greenlight Bookstore, and by the time the reading began, the seats were full, and many people already had copies of Malka Older’s debut novel, Infomocracy. The novel takes us into the near-future, twenty years after Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, guided the world in a shift from a fractious collection of nation-states to global micro-democracy. Now the world is entering another election year, and idealists, policy wonks, spies, and rabble-rousers are all struggling to see which democracies will come out on top.

Older read, and then her brother, Bone Street Rumba series author Daniel José Older, joined her in front of the crowd for a lively interview and Q&A. You can read the highlights from their conversation below!

(16) SILENT MOVIE. Here’s a video documenting what Mystery and Imagination Bookshop looked like on June 9, 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 5/19/16 I Am Not In The Scroll Of Common Men

(1) DATA AND YAR AT TANAGRA. Seattle’s EMP Museum is opening Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds to the public on May 21. Tickets required.

Plus, be among the first to visit Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds and get an up-close look at more than 100 artifacts and props from the five Star Trek television series, spin-offs, and films, including set pieces from the original series like Captain Kirk’s command chair and the navigation console (on display for the first time to the public); Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy original series costumes; and the 6-foot U.S.S. Enterprise filming model from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Opening day is also when Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) and Brent Spiner (Data) will appear – additional charge for photos and autographs, naturally.

(2) OMAZE WINNER. SFWA’s Director of Operations Kate Baker learned during the Nebula conference that she was the Omaze winner, and will join Chris Pratt on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 set.

Tired and sweaty after hours of work, I sat down to check my phone as we planned to grab something to eat. There in my Twitter feed was a message from a new follower; Omaze. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, they partner with a celebrity and charity, design a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a random donor, (and here is the most important part) — raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for deserving charities around the world….

I quickly followed them back and responded. That’s when I found out that I was a finalist for the grand prize and to satisfy their partners and sponsors, they wanted to do a short Skype interview that evening.

Unable to contain my excitement, I rushed around my room, curling my hair, refreshing make-up, doing cartwheels, moving furniture, opening blinds, you know — normal things.

As 6:00 CST hit, I took a deep breath and answered the call….. That’s when they sprung the surprise.

 

(3) CLARKE AHEAD. Award Director Tom Hunter has posted at Medium “14 ways I’m thinking about the future of the Arthur C. Clarke Award”.

8. Governance & succession planning

As mentioned in my section on charitable status, the Clarke Award is currently administered by just 3 volunteers. Could we do more if we had more people involved?

A fair few people have promoted themselves to me as viable candidates over the years, but while many have been keen to have a say in the running of the award (or just like telling me they could do a better job with it) right now one of the reasons the award has weathered its troubles so well has been because of our ability to move faster on key decisions than a continual vote by committee model would likely have allowed us.

Still, as I look to the future again, there are many potential advantages to be gained from our increasing our board membership, not least the fact that when I first took this role a decade ago I only planned to stay for 5 years.

I changed my mind back then because of the need to build a new financial resilience into the award to keep it going, but one day sooner or later I intend to step down after I’ve recruited my replacement.

Padawans wanted. Apply here.

(4) ANTIQUE ZINE. This APA-L cover by Bea Barrio glowed in the dark when it was originally made – in the 1970s. Wonder if it still does?

https://twitter.com/highly_nice/status/732782065591160833

(5) MASKED MEN. Comic Book Resources boosts the signal: “Dynamite Announces ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice”.

What is the connection between the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet? Dynamite Entertainment’s new “The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice” series has the answer. CBR can exclusively reveal that writer Michael Uslan and artist Giovanni Timpano are reuniting for the new series, a crossover 80 years in the making.

According to an official series description,

The first chapter, entitled “Return With Us Now,” creates a world of carefully researched alternative history in 1936. Readers will learn whatever happened to The Lone Ranger and discover his familial link to the emergence of a man who is a modern day urban version of The Lone Ranger himself. What is the blood connection of The Green Hornet to The Lone Ranger? What is the link of Olympic runner Jesse Owens to The Green Hornet? What role does Bat Masterson play in The Lone Ranger’s New York adventure? What intense rift tears a family apart just when America desperately needs a great champion of justice? The shocking answers lie in the landmark new series ‘The Lone Ranger Meets the Green Hornet: Champions of Justice!’

(6) DEARLY BELOVED. Lit Brick has done a comic about “If you were a dinosaur, my love”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 19, 1944 — Before Peter Mayhew was Chewy he was Minaton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, his first role.

Peter Mayhew in character

(8) FLORSCHUTZ OUT. Max Florschutz explains why he pulled his book from a contest: Unusual Events Has Been Removed From SPFBO 2016”.

All right, guys, it’s official. I just heard back from Mark Lawrence, the head of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and now that the competition has begun, my book could not be moved to another reviewer, so instead, I’ve elected to withdraw my entry from the competition (for the reasons for doing so, see this post here). It’s sad that it had to be done, but I feel my reasons were sound.

Florschutz outlined reasons for asking for his book to be reassigned in a previous post, “When Did Ethnicity and Sex Become the Most Important Thing?”

Bear with me for a moment, and take a look at these few excerpts from a book review I read this morning, posted on a fantasy review blog (which you can find here, though I’m loathe to give them a link after perusing the site since it’s a little messed up). I’d been poking around the place since they are a participating member of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, a contest between 300 different self-published fantasy books, and Unusual Events is one of those titles. This site is the one that will be handling Unusual Events review.

I’m not sure how I feel about that now. In fact, I may request to have it passed to another site, since I’m pretty sure I can already see how its going to go. Because I’ve been reading their other reviews, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Let’s look at some quotes:

Otherbound is that last sort of book.

I’m fairly certain I discovered it on Tumblr, recommended by one of those blogs which include lists of books that are commendable for their diversity.

Okay, that’s … interesting. A little background on the title. I guess that’s important? Let’s see what happens if we go further.

… fantasy novels are written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.

Uh-oh. Okay. Sensing a theme here, but—

As I said, it’s an incredible story, and honestly, I’d probably have loved the book even if both of the leads were white and straight.

Wait, what?

So they’re saying that it’s also likely that they wouldn’t have liked the book had the main characters been, to use their own words “white and straight”? The book would be inferior simply because of the color of the main character’s skin or their sexual orientation?

….Now, to get back to something I said earlier, I’m considering contacting the SPFBO 2016 ringleaders and asking to have my book moved to another reviewer. And no, it’s not because my book is “… written by and about (and quite possibly for) white men who like running around with swords saving the world.” because it isn’t. But more because now I know that there’s a very high chance that that fact is what the reviewer is going to fixate on regardless. My sex, and my ethnic heritage, as well as that of the characters I wrote, is going to matter to her more than the rest of what’s inside the book’s pages. More than the stories those characters experience, the trials that they undergo.

(9) TEACHING WRITING. “’Between Utter Chaos and Total Brilliance.’ Daniel José Older Talks About Teaching Writing in the Prison System” – a set of Older’s tweets curated by Leah Schnelbach at Tor.com.

(10) PURSUED. David M. Perry profiles Older at Pacific Standard “Daniel José Older and Progressive Science Fiction After Gamergate”.

The Internet trolls picked a bad week to call Daniel José Older “irrelevant.” As we meet in the opulent lobby of the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, his young-adult book Shadowshaper is sitting on a New York Times bestseller list. He’s in town because the book was been nominated for the Andre Norton Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America, which is holding its annual Nebula conference in Chicago. Best of all, he’s just signed a contract for two sequels. There’s also his well-reviewed adult fiction, the “Bone Street Rumba” series. By no standard of publishing is this person irrelevant.

So why the trolls? They’re coming after Older for the same reason that he’s succeeding as a writer?—?his urban fantasy novels actually look like urban America (including the ghosts) and he’s got no patience for the bros who want to keep their fantasy worlds white.

(11) DAMN BREAK. Kameron Hurley charts the history of hydraulic pressure in sf: “The Establishment Has Always Hated The New Kids”.

…Though there has been momentum building for some time, a backlash against the backlash, I’d say it wasn’t until about 2013 when publishing started to catch up. Ann Leckie wrote a space opera (a woman wrote a space opera! With women in it! AND PEOPLE BOUGHT IT SHOCKING I KNOW AS IF NO ONE HAD BOUGHT LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS OR ANYTHING BY CJ CHERRYH OR OCTAVIA BUTLER), and it swept the awards. We Need Diverse Books was able to organize the conversation about the overwhelming whiteness of publishing, bringing together disparate voices into one voice crying out for change in who writes, edits, and publishes books, while the first Muslim Ms. Marvel comic book (written by a Muslim, even!) broke sales records.

The water has been building up behind the damn for a long time, and it’s finally burst.

Watching the pushback to this new wave of writers finally breaking out from the margins to the mainstream has been especially amusing for me, as I spent my early 20’s doing a lot of old-school SF reading, including reading SFF history (I will always think of Justine Larbalestier as the author of The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction). I was, of course, especially interested in the history of feminist science fiction. Women have always written SFF, of course, but the New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s brought with it an influx of women writers of all races and men of color that was unprecedented in the field (if still small compared to the overall general population of said writers in America). This was the age of Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Sam Delany, and nutty young upstarts like Harlan Ellison. These writers brought a much needed and refreshing new perspective into the field. They raised the bar for what science fiction was. And so the writing got better. The politics and social mores being dissected got more interesting and varied, as one would expect when you introduce a great wave of writers into a field that was happy to award the same handful of folks year after year. They shook up the field. They changed science fiction forever. The established pros had to write their hearts out to catch up….

(12) KEN LIU’S OPINION OF HOGWARTS. Rachel Swirsky did a “Silly Interview with Ken Liu who HAS THE SCHEMATICS for a Time Turner!”

RS: Speaking of Harry Potter, if you could send your kids to Hogwarts, would you?

KL: I’d have to ask my kids. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sending them away to boarding school because I want to spend more time with them. Parents get so little time with their children as is… But if they really want to go and learn magic, I’ll support them. And I hope they work hard to challenge the rather authoritarian system at Hogwarts and engage in campus activism.

(13) THERE WILL BE WALRUS. Steve Davidson did a silly interview of his own — with Timothy the Talking Cat, at Amazing Stories.

ASM: What kind of cat are you (alley, purebred,,,?), or is that kind of inquiry offensive?  Do cats themselves make such distinctions?

TTTC: I’m glad you asked. Some people have claimed that I am a British Shorthair cat. However, my cousin had a DNA test and apparently my family are actually the rare French Chartreux breed. This is an important distinction and finally shows what liars those people are who have accused me of being a Francophobe, ‘anti-French’ and/or in some way prejudiced against France, the French and anything remotely Gallic. People need to understand that when I point out that France is a looming danger to all right thinking people in America and other countries as well, like maybe Scotland or Japan. I really can’t stress this enough – the French-Squirrel axis is real and it is plotting against us all. This why Britain needs to leave the European Union right now. I have zero tolerance for those who say we should wait for the referendum – that is just playing into their hands. But understand I am not anti-French as my DNA proves. Squirrels like to say ‘Timothy you are such a Francophobe’ as if that was a dialectical argument against my well thought out positions. They have no answer when I point out that I am MORE French than Charles DeGaulle. Squirrels just can’t think straight about these things. Notice that if you even try and type ‘Francophobe’ your computer will try to turn it into ‘Francophone’ – that is how deep the Franco-Squirrel conspiracy goes. Squirrel convergence happens at high levels in IT companies these days – that is how I lost my verification tick on Twitter.

I don’t talk to other cats these days. Frankly many of them are idiots….

(14) HENRY AND ERROL. The editors of Galactic Journey and File 770. Two handsome dudes – but ornery.

(15) CRITERIA. Dann collects his thoughts about “That Good Story” at Liberty At All Costs.

In a conversation I am having at File 770, I was asked to define what makes a science fiction/fantasy book “great” for me.  Rather than losing these radiant pearls of wisdom to the effluence of teh intertoobery, I thought I would cement them here in my personal record….

Stay Away From Check Boxes Whoo boy.  I can smell trouble burning at the other end of the wire already.

“Check box” fiction really undermines the quality of my reading experience.  What is “check box” fiction?  It is a story that includes elements indicating diversity in the cast of characters that has zero impact on the the story.

In a reverse of the above, I’d like to suggest N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season” as a good example of not doing “check box” fiction.  One cluster of protagonists included a character that is straight, one that is seemingly bi-sexual, and one that is decidedly homosexual.  They have a three-way.

And while the more patently descriptive passages of those events didn’t do much for me, the fact that their respective sexuality helped inform their motivations and moved the story forward made the effort in describing their sexuality worthwhile reading.  She also did a reasonable job at expressing how physical appearances differed based on regionalism.  [There were one or two other moments that could be considered “check box(es)”, but for the most part it wasn’t a factor in this book.]

IMHO, including a character that is “different” without having that difference impact the story is at the very least a waste of time that detracts from the story and at the very worst insultingly dismissive of the people that possess the same characters.

(16) IT AIN’T ME BABE. The Guardian got some clickbait from speculating about the identity of Chuck Tingle. Vox Day denies it’s him. Zoë Quinn doesn’t know who it is. The reporter, despite taking 2,000 words of interview notes, also is none the wiser.

Theories abound online: is Tingle Lemony Snicket? The South Park boys? Some sort of performance artist – perhaps the “Banksy of self-published dinosaur erotica” as someone once called him on Twitter? Last year, Jon Tingle – apparently the son of Chuck – appeared on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread to share unsettling insights into his father: “Yes, my father is very real. He is an autistic savant, but also suffers from schizophrenia. To make it very clear, my father is one of the gentlest, sweetest people you could ever meet and is not at all dangerous, although he does have a history of SELF harm … I would not let him be the butt of some worldwide joke if I didn’t have faith that he was in on it in some way. Regardless, writing and self-publishing brings him a lot of joy.” If this is all a joke, it’s hard to know where it starts or where to laugh….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/16 A Spoonful Of Pixels Helps The Medicine Scroll Down

(1) ALTERNATIVE FUTURISM AT UCR. Despite everything else that’s happened to sf studies there, the sun still rose over Riverside this morning and the University of California Riverside announced new events in its continuing Alternative Futurisms Series. The series is funded by a $175,000 Sawyer Seminar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Authors Daniel José Older and Walter Mosley will speak on Wednesday, Feb. 3, followed on March 3 by a panel of award-winning authors discussing the expectations of science fiction and fantasy produced by Caribbean writers….

“Throughout 2015-2016, the Sawyer Seminar on Alternative Futurisms is helping to build bridges amongst the various zones of scholarship and creation in people-of-color futurisms and fantastical narratives,” said Nalo Hopkinson, co-organizer of the yearlong seminar, a professor of creative writing and an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. “Following a successful fall quarter, which included a conference, film screenings and panel discussions, the winter quarter is focusing on creators of people-of-color science fiction and fantasy.”

… “The Sawyer Seminar has brought together faculty, students and the larger community around the important question of imagining a diverse future,” said Milagros Peña, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS). “I am proud of CHASS’s continuing commitment to science fiction studies.”

Events scheduled this month and in the spring include:

Thursday, March 3, 3:30 p.m. Interdisciplinary 1113 – Panel discussion on Caribbean science fiction and fantasy. Panelists are: with Karen Lord, an award-winning Barbadian author (“Redemption in Indigo,” “The Best of All Possible Worlds”) and research consultant; Karin Lowachee, an award-winning author (“Warchild,” “Cagebird”) who was born in South America, grew up in Canada, and worked in the Arctic; Nalo Hopkinson, award-winning author (“Midnight Robber,” “Falling in Love With Hominids”) who was born in Jamaica and teaches creative writing at UCR with a focus on the literatures of the fantastic such as science fiction, fantasy and magical realism; and Tobias Buckell, a best-selling author who grew up in Grenada and whose work (the “Xenowealth” series, “Hurricane Fever”) has been nominated for numerous awards.

Monday, April 11, 4 p.m. (location tbd) – Readings by Ted Chiang, whose work (“Tower of Babylon,” “Exhalation,” “The Lifecycle of Software Objects”) has won numerous awards; and Charles Yu, whose debut novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” was a runner-up for the Campbell Memorial Award.

(2) EARTHSEA OF GREEN. The Kickstarter appeal for Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin raised its target amount of $80,000 on the very first day. A total of $83,268 has been pledged by 1,164 backers as of this writing.

(3) RABID PUPPIES. Vox Day’s daily slate revelation was “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Fan Artist”, with picks Karezoid, rgus, Matthew Callahan, Disse86, and Darkcloud013.

(4) DAY VERSUS DAVIDSON. Vox Day also reacted to Steve Davidson’s attempt to get Andy Weir to repudiate slates: “SJW attempts to block Weir nomination”.

As for why I did not recommend Mr. Weir as Best New Writer last year, it was for a very simple and straightforward reason. I had not read his novel. Unlike so many of the SJWs, I do not recommend novels I have not read, writers whose books I have not read, or artists whose work I have not seen. Those who have not brought their works to my attention have only themselves, and their publishers to blame, if I remain unfamiliar with them. I am but a mere superintelligence, I am not omniscient.

It is perhaps worth noting, again, that I do not care in the least what a writer or an artist happens to think about being recommended; die Gedanken sind frei. People can recuse themselves, publicly repudiate, or virtue-signal, or perform interpretive dance to express the depth of their feelings about Rabid Puppies. It makes no difference to me.

That being said, it appears Marc Miller is not eligible for Best New Writer despite having published his debut novel in 2015. I shall have to revisit that category at a later date.

Although it really doesn’t have any implications for the current discussion, it’s an interesting bit of trivia that Bryan Thomas Schmidt, who was on both the Sad and Rabid slates last year as a short fiction editor, was the person who edited Weir’s novel The Martian.

(5) BIGGER ISSUE. David J. Peterson argues that Puppy drama is overshadowing a really important issue – the lack of a YA Hugo.

No, to my mind the real injustice in the Hugo Awards is the lack of a separate award for YA fiction. More than anywhere else, YA is drawing new readers to science-fiction and fantasy. Yes, right now HBO’s Game of Thrones is huge, and it’s based on a very adult series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, but beyond, what else is big—and I mean big big—in SFF? A few series come to mind: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments. I’m sure you can think of others (oh, duh, Twilight, whatever you think of it). All of these are very successful YA series (all by female authors, incidentally), and all of them have been made into movies that range from moderately successful, to wildly, outrageously successful. Generally, though, unless it’s world-shatteringly successful, YA novels don’t stand a chance of being nominated for a Hugo, let alone winning (of all the books listed above, only two were nominated for best novel—Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—with the latter winning)….

Writing YA fiction is a different endeavor than writing adult fiction. There are different rules in play; a different audience to consider. It’s a different approach altogether. Different. Not better. Not worse. But different. Think of your favorite YA novel and your favorite adult novel (two that jump to mind immediately for me are Matilda and The Great Gatsby). Can you rank one over the other? I can’t. It’s not because I can’t decide which one is better: It’s because they’re not even playing by the same rules….

And that’s my point with YA and the Hugos. YA is underrepresented, but it’s not because readers are ignoring it or anything like that: It’s because it’s competing in a category it shouldn’t be. Right now, enormous YA works are grabbing new readers by the truckload and essentially delivering them into SFF fandom, but they don’t have a seat at the table. This is an issue that has been raised before, but I think the whole Sad Puppy thing has really shoved it to the side, and that, to me, is a real shame.

(6) SEEKS LOVE. Meantime, James Troughton just cuts to the chase —

(7) FINDS LOVE. Congratulations Laura Resnick on the film option offered on one of your romance novels!

The deposit has cleared, which means it’s time to announce: I’ve been offered a film option deal for my romance novel, FALLEN FROM GRACE. This means I’ve licensed the right for a filmmaker to apply for development money from (of all things) the National Film Board in South Africa (where the story would be relocated and the movie made, if it’s made). It’s a multi-stage process and may never get beyond this point (or may never get beyond the next point, “development,” etc.), but I’m still excited. I’ve had an initial approach 2-3 times before about film adaptations (though not for this book), but no one has ever before pursued it beyond the initial “are these rights available?”

(8) BLUE TWO. The New Zealand Herald reports “First Avatar sequel to start shooting in NZ this April”.

The follow-up to the blockbuster hit Avatar will start production in New Zealand this year.

Director James Cameron is set to start filming the first of three Avatar sequels in April, which are scheduled to be released one year after the other.

The first sequel was supposed to come out in cinemas later this year, but delays have forced the release date to the end of 2017.

According to My Entertainment World, the film will start shooting in California’s Manhattan Beach and New Zealand.

The website also reveals the premise for the film, saying “Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) permanently transfers his consciousness to his Na’vi avatar and begins a new life with Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) after they defeat the human colonisers.”

(9) DRAWERS IN A MANUSCRIPT. M. Harold Page recommends a book about period costumes at Black Gate: “Pulp-era Gumshoes and Queen Victoria’s Underwear: Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear by Lucy Addlington”.

It puts us in the shoes (and unmentionables) of the people we read about — the Pulp-era gumshoes and flappers, the Victorian Steam Punk inventors, the swashbuckling musketeers. They all feel a bit more real when we know how they dress in the morning, how they manage the call of nature, what fashion bloopers they worry about, how their clothes force them to walk or sit.

It also helps us decode some of the nuances. For example, men’s shirts were actually regarded as underwear until well past the Victorian period. If you took off your jacket, you’d immediately don a dressing gown. To be in your shirtsleeves was to be not entirely decent. The color of your shirt reflected your class and… and it’s a rabbit hole of nuance and snobbery. You just have to read it.

(10) X-FILES. If you’re in the market for a spoiler-filled recap of the latest X-Files episode, click Mashable’s “’The X-Files’ Episode 3 was a silly hour of TV that couldn’t have been better”.

(11) TOO MUCH LAVA. Open Culture today highlighted this eight-minute animation of the destruction of Pompeii from 2013. Well worth the eight minutes.

A good disaster story never fails to fascinate — and, given that it actually happened, the story of Pompeii especially so. Buried and thus frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, the ancient Roman town of 11,000 has provided an object of great historical interest ever since its rediscovery in 1599. Baths, houses, tools and other possessions (including plenty of wine bottles), frescoes, graffiti, an ampitheater, an aqueduct, the “Villa of the Mysteries“: Pompeii has it all, as far as the stuff of first-century Roman life goes.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 commenter of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/16 By Grabthar’s Hammer, You Shall Be Scrolled!

Schedule note: There will not be a Scroll on January 16 – I will be away at a meeting and won’t have time to prepare one. I’ll still moderate comments, since I can do that by using my Kindle to check in periodically.

(1) DOWN THESE MEAN FOOTPATHS. Peter McLean, author of Drake, explains some of his work in a post at Black Gate, “On Writing Modern Noir Fantasy”.

A Noir world.

So what’s that? Noir needs to be dark, by definition, but I don’t think it has to be tied to any particular time period. The classic Hollywood Noir is set in LA or New York in the 1940s but it can work equally well in the backstreets of ancient Rome or the mean cantinas of Mos Eisley, or even in modern South London for that matter.

Noir implies bitter, cynical black-and-white men in hats and beautiful, dangerous women with secrets to hide, but it doesn’t have to be that either. You could have a hard-bitten battle-scarred female veteran of an alien war as your main character and still be writing Noir.

It’s about the feel and the vibe rather than the place or even the people who occupy that place. Noir is about dark thoughts and dark motives, deep introspection followed by double-crosses in back alleys and brief moments of sudden, brutal violence.

But there is a certain aesthetic as well, and I think that’s important. To understand the visual motif you only have to look at how the old movies play with light and shadow, the half-seen faces and the way sunbeams stream through the slats of a blind into the air of a smoky room.

(2) LISTEN IN. Leah Schnelbach of Tor.com was there for – “Race, Publishing, and H.P. Lovecraft: A Conversation With Daniel José Older and Victor LaValle”.

Earlier this week, a large and enthusiastic crowd packed Greenlight Bookstore in defiance of freezing temperature and threats of snow. Greenlight hosted a launch party for Midnight Taxi Tango, Daniel José Older’s second novel in the Bone Street Rumba series. But rather than the usual reading-and-wine-soaked-light-conversation that is the centerpiece of most literary events, this party soon became a lively and wide-ranging conversation about race, publishing, and the true legacy of H.P. Lovecraft. Older’s reading was fantastic, but it was his discussion with Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver and the forthcoming The Ballad of Black Tom, that turned the event into one of the best literary nights I’ve ever attended.

(3) FREAKY FRIDAY. Washington Post writer Peter Marks reports the Disney Theatrical Group and Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia are producing a musical version of Freaky Friday, which will receive its premiere this fall. The musical will be composed by Tom Kitt with lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

In a deal that rockets Signature Theatre into a whole new producing orbit, the Arlington company will team up this fall with the Walt Disney Co. to present a world-premiere musical version of “Freaky Friday,” with a score by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team behind “Next to Normal.”

(4) BEAR NECESSITIES. Adam Rowe’s “The Taxonomy of Crazy Fantasy Art: A Visual History of 1970s Polar Bear-Drawn Sleighs” at the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, a glorious post idea in its own right, includes this insightful quote —

As one blogger at the Ragged Claws Network puts it, “Chaykin’s attempt to supply Urlik Skarsol’s polar bear team with a semi-plausible harness […] actually diminishes rather than enhances Frazetta’s gloriously silly original concept by drawing undue attention to the mundane question of how, exactly, the fantasy hero’s cool mode of transportation could be made to work in the real world and whether Chaykin’s design is, in fact, a viable solution.”

(5) NOT HAPPY DAYS. Geek Art Gallery shows what forces would have been awakened if these new heroes and villains had met while attending Star Wars High School.

(6) YODA YOU CAN TALK LIKE. Infogram by Grammarly.

Star-Wars-Grammar-By-Yoda

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Alan Baumler.]

World Fantasy Award To Abandon Lovecraft Bust

World Fantasy Award

World Fantasy Award

David Hartwell announced at the World Fantasy Award ceremony on November 8 that this will be the last year that the award trophy will be in the form of the traditional — and controversial — H.P. Lovecraft bust designed by Gahan Wilson.

Last year Daniel Jose Older collected over 2,500 signatures on a petition calling for the replacement of “avowed racist and a terrible wordsmith” H.P. Lovecraft on the World Fantasy Award.

The Guardian reported last September that the “board of the World Fantasy awards has said that it is ‘in discussion’ about its winners’ statuette”.

When Sofia Samatar won in 2014, she made a statement about the controversy in her acceptance speech, which she later expanded into a blog post —

  1. The Elephant in the Room I think I used those words. I think I said “I can’t sit down without addressing the elephant in the room, which is the controversy surrounding the image that represents this award.” I said it was awkward to accept the award as a writer of color. (See this post by Nnedi Okorafor, the 2011 winner, if you are confused about why.) I also thanked the board for taking the issue seriously, because at the beginning of the ceremony, Gordon van Gelder stood up and made an announcement to that effect: “The board is taking the issue very seriously, but there is no decision yet.” I just wanted them to know that here I was in a terribly awkward position, unable to be 100% thrilled, as I should be, by winning this award, and that many other people would feel the same, and so they were right to think about changing it.

In May, File 770 reached out to the WFC Board about the status of the Lovecraft image but received no acknowledgement.