Pixel Scroll 10/17/17 If I Have Scrolled Further Than Others, It Is Because I Stood On The Pixels Of Filers

(1) NOW YOU KNOW. Ron Howard says the movie will be called Solo: A Star Wars Story.

(2) ATOMIC AGE LORE. Tony Rothman kicks off his American Scientist article “The Forgotten Mystery of Inertia” with – of all things – a Worldcon anecdote.

In days of yore, at a World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, a Harvard graduate student polished his reputation as a brilliant mad scientist by roaming the convention halls, brandishing what at first glance appeared to be a rather peculiar steel bowling ball. Portholes perforated its surface, providing a glimpse of electronic hardware inside; tangled wires sprouted from the same holes, and a gear train surrounded the mysterious object’s equator.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

“It’s the gyro platform for an intercontinental ballistic missile,” he replied. “If you put it on a Titan rocket, it will fly to Kiev.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s an inertial guidance system, stupid. It knows where Kiev is.”

“I know how inertial guidance systems work, but how do you know it knows where Kiev is?”

“Oh, that. It was stamped on the box.”

This sorcerer’s apprentice had discovered that for $900 you could buy a surplus intercontinental ballistic missile, 10 years before the electronics were declassified. His Titan was delivered on two railway cars, “Kiev Titan Missile” stamped on the crates. He junked the body, donated the engines to an art museum, and saved the electronics for his research. A tall tale? Sounds like one, but the gyro platform was there for all to see.

That is the question. At what, exactly, is the gyroscope pointed? According to the law of inertia, objects tend to continue doing what they’ve been doing: If at rest, they remain at rest; if moving, they continue moving at the same speed in the same direction. The gyroscope also bends to inertia’s will, but in confounding ways. Touch it, and the gyro opposes you by veering in unexpected directions. If it is spinning extremely rapidly, the gyroscope remains rigidly locked in the direction it has been set, its sights fixed on…Kiev—hence the term inertial guidance systems. If a rocket veers off the gyro’s fixed course, a sensor detects the error, and a servomechanism realigns the missile with the gyroscope axis.

Was that Russell Seitz? When I first got into fandom that was the story going around about him, of which the following is one version:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(3) ED KRAMER BACK IN THE NEWS. Ed Kramer, Dragon Con founder and convicted sex offender, has sued the producers of The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, claiming they owe him for his work in creating and developing the program. The Huffington Post has the story: “Sex Offender Claims Responsibility For Natalee Holloway TV Series”.

Just when it seemed the Natalee Holloway case couldn’t get more peculiar, HuffPost has uncovered another twist in the teenager’s 2005 disappearance: A registered sex offender is claiming responsibility for a recent television series about the mystery.

Edward Kramer is suing producers of “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” a TV series that began in August on the Oxygen Network, alleging he is “co-owner, developer and writer,” according to his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California. Kramer wants unspecified “just compensation” for his work, plus punitive damages.

Kramer’s personal website claims:

Edward E. Kramer is the creator and developer of the six-part series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway for Brian Graden Media (BGM) and NBC Universal’s newly re-branded Oxygen Crime Network. This landmark series, featuring Dave Holloway and Private Investigators T. J. Ward, Kathy Wainscott, Trace Sargent and Eric Bryant, Detective Frank Karic and Forensic Scientist Jason Kolowski, which finally puts to rest the 2005 murder of Natalee Holloway.

The defendants in the lawsuit, Brian Graden Media and Lipstick Inc., filed an answer to the suit, denying they owe anything to Kramer.

He wasn’t “named as a writer, screenwriter, or co-creator,” they said, and was working as an “employee or agent of T.J. Ward,” a private investigator who appeared on the series with Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway.

Read a copy of the original lawsuit filing and the defendants’ answer here.

(4) MARVEL EXEC’S COMICS COLLECTION LOOTED. Marvel’s Joe Quesada is looking for help to recover or reacquire comics and other art stolen from his collection. He gives the background in a long public post on Facebook, leading up to recent discoveries of his artwork for sale, and the arrest of the culprit.

In early June I was contacted by a longtime friend, he was looking at some comic art auctions and was curious as to why I was auctioning a piece that he knew was part of my personal collection and something I would never, ever sell. He sent me a link where I discovered 24 pieces in total from my private collection up for auction including pieces I did long before I was a working professional. While at the moment I’m not at liberty to give the details, investigating this further it turns out that the artwork that was up for auction was all originally purchased from a Mr. Francesco Bove.

Further investigation uncovered that, since the time he was thrown out of my house, at least 185 more pieces of my stolen art were sold at auction and all of it originally purchased directly from Mr. Bove. That’s 185 pieces, sold and gone! How much more was sold privately is unknown at the moment but I’m not feeling optimistic.

So why is this news breaking now? As the case was being investigated the Detective in charge discovered Mr. Bove had left the country and had gone to Italy. Upon his return he was arrested which brings us to right now. From what I know so far it’s believed that Mr. Bove has sold portions of my art to comic shops, dealers and collectors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, as well as parts of Long Island and New Jersey. It could be wider spread than that but I’m not at liberty to say.

And here’s the thing that keeps me up at night. These were pieces that I was never intending to sell, art that had deep personal meaning to every member of my family. There was an enormous collection of Archie art from various artists like Stan Goldberg, Harry Lucey, Sam Schwartz but the majority of it by Dan DeCarlo. There were also Laugh Comics pages by Bill Woggon, The Adventures Of Pipsqueak by Walt Lardner as well as Pat The Brat and Shrimpy by Joe Harold and a huge assortment of other artists from the 50s and 60s to today. I lost pages of my own professional art as well as art I purchased from dear and talented friends. But what stings the most is that Mr. Bove took artwork that I had discovered many years ago stored in my father’s home after he had passed away. Drawings and paintings I did in elementary school, high school and college. Practice sample pages I had done before ever seriously thinking I could be in comics. This was art I was leaving behind for my daughter just as my father had left it for me. It kills me to think that I’ll never get this stuff back now that it’s been scattered to the four winds perhaps bought and sold more times than I care to imagine… or possibly even destroyed. So yes, heartbreak after heartbreak. Not only was the thief someone who I trusted, allowed into my home and helped during rough times, but the items he stole in order to keep himself afloat once he realized he irreversibly burned his bridge with me were the ones most irreplaceable and of personal importance.

Now here’s the part where I could use your help.

While I’m hopeful that now in custody Mr. Bove may lead the Detectives to the people and locations where he sold the art, perhaps some of you reading this might be able to point the Sparta New Jersey Police Department in the right direction. If you’ve purchased any art from Mr. Francesco Bove and have it in your possession or know someone who does please contact

Det. Jeffrey McCarrick at (973) 726-4072

Or the Sparta New Jersey Police Department spartanj.org or on their FB page https://www.facebook.com/sparta.police/

You can also reach out to me here on FB as well. Please know that I understand completely that this was sold under false pretenses and I fault no one for not knowing that. All I want is to retrieve as much of the art as I possibly can especially the attached Dan DeCarlo cover for Archie #322 which means the world to me and my family. Unfortunately it has been sold at least twice over that I’m aware of but if you know where I can find it I will gladly purchase it back.

(5) BOOTS ON THE GROUND. The Planetary Society reports on the first meeting of the newly reconstituted National Space Council in “We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things”.

Returning to the Moon

The biggest news to come out of today’s meeting was [Vice President] Pence’s authoritative declaration that Americans will return to the lunar surface.

“We will return American astronauts to the Moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.

This wasn’t unexpected, considering prior statements by Pence, other administration officials, and the backgrounds of space council executive secretary Scott Pace, and NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine.

Very few details were given on how a return to the lunar surface would work, or when it would occur. Pence did not say whether the Americans on the surface would be government or commercially-employed astronauts. And the agency’s exploration goals already include a return to lunar space via the Deep Space Gateway, a small space station in lunar orbit, which would provide a test-bed for closed-loop life support, deep space maneuvering, and other technologies necessary for travel to Mars.

In a statement, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said the agency has “highlighted a number of initiatives underway in this important area (cislunar space), including a study of an orbital gateway or outpost that could support a sustained cadence of robotic and human missions.” That implies the Deep Space Gateway is still on the table, and could theoretically fit within the broad plans outlined by Pence.

The fate of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule have been a perennial point of discussion among space advocates, particularly during the transition to this new, business-friendly administration. Though it wasn’t stated explicitly, today’s discussions seemed to assume the continuation of SLS and Orion, at least for now. The programs have always had strong congressional support, and were intended to be destination-agnostic, both by design and congressional directive. NASA can thus shift its focus without a drastic restructuring of its major hardware programs.

(6) TAKE A SHOWER. Space.com tells you — “Orionid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It”.

One of the year’s best sky shows will peak between Oct. 20 and 22, when the Orionid meteor shower reaches its best viewing. The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers, because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on.

The particles come from Comet 1P/Halley, better known as Halley’s Comet. This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as the icy comet makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris.

(7) NOTABLE SIGNATURES. Michael Burstein posted copies of some historic letters his grandfather received from Einstein, Teller and Isaac Asimov.

Among other things, my grandfather Rabbi Abraham Burstein was secretary of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences. One of his tasks was reaching out to various luminaries to see if they would be interested in joining the academy. Sometimes he reached out to people whom he knew were Jewish but who might not be very public about it; joining the academy was a way to express solidarity without becoming too public. From what I understand, the academy had annual meetings with speakers.

I do not know what was in the letters my grandfather sent out to these three recipients, but we can see what they said back.

The earliest letter is from Albert Einstein, dated June 7, 1936. The next letter is from Edward Teller, dated December 21, 1962. The last letter is from Isaac Asimov, dated October 21, 1965.

(8) HONOR AN AUSTRALIAN SFF CONTRIBUTOR. The A. Bertram Chandler Award is calling for nominations.

So why is a person awarded this honour?  It’s because the recipient has demonstrated over many years untiring commitment and selfless work within Australian fandom or the Aussie SF scene in general.  Work such as convention running, local club activities, publishing, writing of merit in the genre whether that be blogs, fanzines, short stories or novels, artistic endeavours such painting, graphics or other such forms.  The criteria is not limited to any one activity; but mostly it is for activities that are visible and evident to the Aussie SF community.

So, do you know someone who has made a significant contribution to Australian science fiction and/ or Australian fandom, not just over the last year, but year in, year out? Feel that they should be honoured / recognised for this work? Then why not nominate them for the A Bertram Chandler Award. It is really easy to do: just write to the ASFF and outline why you think that the person is deserving of the award.  No forms to fill out, no entrance fee, nothing but a simple few paragraphs outlining the person’s achievements.

For more information about the A Bertram Chandler Award and the Australian Science Fiction Foundation visit our website ( www.asff.org.au )

To nominate a worthy person, send to awards@asff.org.au

(9) EBOOK TIDE RECEDING? A Wall Street Journal blogger relates what publishers had to say at the Frankfurt Book Fair in “Book Publishers Go Back to Basics”.

Book publishers are giving an advance review of the industry’s future, and it looks a lot like the past. After a decade of technological upheaval and lackluster growth, executives at the top four U.S. consumer book publishers say they are done relying on newfangled formats to boost growth.

It has been nearly 10 years since Amazon.com Inc. introduced its Kindle e-book reader amid the financial crisis, destabilizing publishers and challenging their well-honed business models.

Now, e-book sales are on the decline, making up a fraction of publishers’ revenue, and traditional book sales are rising. The consumer books industry is enjoying steady growth in the U.S., with total revenue increasing about 5% from 2013 to 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Executives gathered in Frankfurt for the industry’s biggest trade fair said they are returning to fundamentals: buying and printing books that readers want to buy—and they are streamlining their businesses to get them out faster than ever before.

It is about “knowing what [readers] want,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Bertelsmann SE and Pearson PSO -1.91% PLC’s joint venture Penguin Random House, “to drive demand at scale.”

The shift is a surprise reversal for an industry that experts just a decade ago predicted was facing radical change, if not a slow death, because of digitization and changing reading habits. Instead, e-book sales in the U.S. were down about 17% last year, according to the AAP industry group, while printed book revenue rose 4.5%.

…Mr. Murray blamed flagging e-book sales on “screen fatigue,” and said HarperCollins was upping investment in printed books, “the value anchor” for the entire business. Printed books are “more beautiful now,” he said. “You’ll see endpapers [and] a lot more design sensibility going into the print editions because we recognized that they can’t be throwaway.”

(10) IT’S THE PRICE. Amanda S. Green’s opinion about the above news is that trad publishers constantly talk around the real obstacle to e-book sales, which she identifies in “The delusions continue” at Mad Genius Club.

…Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy claims that nothing “went wrong” with e-books. It seems she believes people have gotten tired of reading on their screens. Again, a complete disconnect from reality. People don’t want to pay as much — or more — for an e-book as they will for a print copy. But the laugh out loud moment comes further down in the article when Reidy says she firmly believes “a new version of the book based on digital delivery will come eventually, though she does not know what it might look like.”

Blink.

Blink. Blink.

Hmm, wouldn’t that be an e-book? The bells and whistles might be a bit different, but it if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?

And what about her argument that e-book sales have leveled off because we are tired of reading on our screens?

It constantly amazes me the way these folks continue to tie themselves into knots trying to explain how e-books are bad, or are a passing fad or a way for writers not good enough for traditional publishing to get their works into the hands of readers. All I know is that the real numbers, the numbers that look at more than the Big 5 titles, tell a different tale. As a reader, I know I find myself picking up more and more books from indie authors because they are writing stories I want to read and they are doing it at prices that allow me to read two or three or more books for the price of a single Big 5 title. When is the point going to come where an accountant who isn’t afraid of rocking the boat says they can actually sell more — and make more money — if they lower their prices to something reasonable?

(11) SPLATTERPUNK AWARD SEEKS NOMINATIONS. As announced recently on Episode 136 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, the SplatterPunk awards are now taking nominations for works of horror.  The categories are:

  • BEST NOVEL (for works of more than 50,000 words)
  • BEST NOVELLA (for works from 15,000 to 50,000 words)
  • BEST SHORT STORY (for works from 500 to 14,000 words)
  • BEST COLLECTION (for single-author works over 50,000 words)
  • BEST ANTHOLOGY (for multiple-author collections over 50,000 words)

Anyone registered to attend next year’s KillerCon is eligible to nominate.  Early registration is $89.99 until the end of 2017.  Registration is capped at 250 attendees.

Dann sent the link along with an observation, “The nomination form is a little unusual in that there is only one space provided for a nomination.  The attendee is supposed to indicate the appropriate category in one box and the work being nominated in a second box.  It isn’t clear how an attendee is supposed to nominate works in more than one category.”

Guests of honor at next year’s Killer Con include Brian Keene, Edward Lee, and Lucy Taylor.  Special Guests include author Matt Shaw and freelance editor Monica J. O’Rourke.

The 2018 Splatterpunk Awards jurors are David J. Schow, Gerard Houarner, Monica J. O’Rourke, Mike Lombardo, and Tod Clark.

The Founders of the SplatterPunk Awards, Wrath James White and Brian Keene, will select the Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 17, 1937: Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born October 17, 1914 – Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
  • Born October 17 – Michael J. Walsh, publisher, Old Earth Books, and former Worldcon chair (1983)

(14) THE NEIGHBORS’ HALLOWEEN DISPLAY. That would be a two-story tall Star Wars Imperial Walker —  “‘The Force’ is strong in Parma as residents unveil towering Star Wars’ robot”.

Everyone wants to see Nick Meyer’s latest Halloween decoration.

“That is an imperial armored transporter from (‘Star Wars: Episode V – The) Empire Strikes Back,’” said Meyer.

Star Wars’ fans would know the official name for the towering rover: an AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport).

Seven years ago, Meyer and his family started the tradition of building a Halloween display in the front yard.

“I love it, I encourage it,” said Nick’s wife Becky Meyer.

It gets bigger every year.

“I liked the clowns we did one year. Last year we did ‘Friday the 13th’ cabin, that was one of my favorites,” Becky said. “Last year was pretty awesome, and he topped it,” said next door neighbor, Amber Johnson.

One would think some neighbors might not want to stare at a two-story Star Wars robot for a few weeks, you’d be wrong.

“No, this is our fourth year living next door to them, and we love it,” Johnson said.

(15) IN MEMORY YET GRAY. Lawrence Schoen asks the inevitable question of Vivian Shaw, author of Strange Practice, in “Eating Authors: Vivian Shaw”.

LMS: Welcome, Vivian. What’s your most memorable meal?

VS: If you’d asked me this two years ago, I would have had no difficulty whatsoever in coming up with the best meal I’d ever eaten. That was in 2004, in Chicago, the same day I met Scott McNeil and George Romero: I was at a Transformers convention and decided to take myself to an actual steakhouse for an actual steak, and I can still so clearly remember the gorgeous rich mineral taste of that first-ever filet mignon, the way it almost dissolved in my mouth. The vivid greenness of the two asparagus spears on the plate, the peppery kick of the Shiraz that accompanied it — even thirteen years later it’s incredibly easy to recall.

(The most memorable, however, was the time on British Airways in the 1990s where for reasons known only to themselves somebody had decided to add bits of squid to the fruit salad. Memorable doesn’t equal pleasant.)

(16) LECKIE’S PROVENANCE Camestros Felapton reviews the new novel Provenance by Ann Leckie.

The people of Hwae (or at least the high-ranking ones) obsess over social status in a way that the Radch obsesses over rank (and tea). Central to this cult-like obsession is the veneration of ‘vestiges’ – artifacts that demonstrate the age of a family and possible connections to historical events. Vestiges can be anything from physical objects to letters and postcards or ticket stubs.

When we first meet Ingray she is off planet, embroiled in a scheme that is within her cognitive capacity to execute but for which she is not temperamentally prepared. As events unfold, a prison break, stolen spaceships, a murder of foreign dignitary and an invasion plot unfold around Ingray in a story that has elements of a mad-cap caper along side space-opera and Leckie’s trademark examination of the potential variety of human culture.

Above all Ingray is an honest person caught in a story in which most people she meets (both the good and the bad) are liars. This is such a clever trick by Leckie, as she manages to encapsulate Ingray very quickly as a character very early in the book, while giving her a backstory that gives her reasons to attempt a devious scheme (returning a notorious exiled criminal/disgraced vestige keeper to Hwae to embarrass her parent’s political rival). Ingray’s basic niceness wins her some useful allies and her naturally bravery pushes her further into the events.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Andrew Finch tells the inspiration for his short film Others Will Follow.

But Why?

Thanks for watching, Others Will Follow was inspired by this speech written for President Nixon to deliver in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the moon. Fortunately they never used it, so I figured I would. NASA has parked its space ships in museums in the decades since the contingency speech was written. Most humans alive today didn’t exist the last time humanity left low earth orbit. I wanted to make something that would outline the importance of human space flight by imagining a brute-force mission to Mars in the early 2000s that, despite disastrous circumstances still manages to pass the torch of inspiration. I spent 4.5 years making this short and attempted to do every aspect of its creation myself, from pyrotechnics to music composition. Many of the disciplines were completely new to me like designing and building the space ship and constructing the space suit, others like VFX and cinematography I had a background in.

The lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration.

Making of: Others Will Follow

VFX Breakdowns and funny funny stuff from the set of Others Will Follow

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Dann, Michael J. Walsh, Steve Davidson, Cat Eldridge, Andrew, and Rose Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brad J.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/27/16 I Want To Read Books Till I’m Out Of My Mind

(1) THE MORE BEST THE MERRIER. Gregory N. Hullender explains, “Now that three of the four big ‘Best of’ SFF anthologies have released their tables of contents, Rocket Stack Rank has produced a combined list, ranked according to which stories were included in the most anthologies or otherwise recommended.

“As usual, the table includes information on how to find/borrow/buy copies of the stories, as well as story descriptions and links to reviews.

“When Neal Clarke publishes the table of contents for his anthology, we’ll update the table to incorporate it.”

(2) NASFiC ’17. If you’re thinking about buying a membership in NorthAmeriCon ‘17, to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, keep in mind that rates are going up on January 22.

(3) ICONIC MOVIE CASTING. Imagine Wil Wheaton as Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It could have happened.

So. For the five of you who don’t know, Peter Billingsley played Ralphie in A Christmas Story. We both auditioned for the role, and even went to final callbacks together. I wrote about it way back in 2001:

I think that A Christmas Story is the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Each year, I watch it, over and over, on TNN or TNT or TBS, or whatever T-channel does that marathon, and I never, ever, get tired of it. Every year, when I watch it, I am reminded of the time, when I was about 10 or so, that I auditioned for it. The auditions were held on a cold, rainy day in late spring, down in some casting office in Venice, I think. I saw the same kids that I always saw on auditions: Sean Astin, Keith Coogan, this kid named “Scooter” who had a weird mom, and Peter Billingsley, who was very well known at the time, because he was “Messy Marvin” in those Hershey’s commercials. I sort of knew Peter, because we’d been on so many auditions together, but I was always a little star struck when I saw him. (One time, I saw Gary Coleman on an audition…now, this was HUGE for all of us kids who were there, because we’re talking 1982 or 83…and he was Arnold freakin’ Jackson, man…wow). [tangent] Whenever I see Sean Astin, I sob at him that he got to be in Goonies, and I didn’t, and he always says, “Hey, man, you got Stand By Me. I’d trade all my movies for that.” I haven’t seen him since he did Lord of the Rings…but something is telling me that he wouldn’t be so keen to trade that.

(4) CARRIE FISHER R.I.P. The actress passed away today. One of the most interesting tributes is this collection — “15 of Carrie Fisher’s Best, Most Honest Feminist Quotes” from NYMag.com.

“Oh! This’ll impress you – I’m actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I’m a PEZ dispenser and I’m in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?”

(5) RUBIN OBIT. Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, has died at the age of 88.

“It was Vera Rubin’s famous work in the 1970s that showed pretty much all spiral galaxies were spinning way too fast to be accounted for by the gravitational pull of the their ‘luminous’ matter (the stuff we see in a telescope). Rubin and others reasoned there had to be a giant sphere of invisible stuff surrounding the stars in these galaxies, tugging on them and speeding up their orbits around the galaxy’s center.”

(6) ADAMS OBIT. Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, died Christmas Eve at the age of 96.

The novel, first published in 1972, became one of the best selling children’s books of all time and was made into an animated film in 1978.

Adams did not begin writing until 1966 when he was 52 and working for the civil service. While on a car trip with his daughters, he began telling them a story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 Peter Pan, the play, by James Barrie, opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first Howdy Doody show, under the title Puppet Playhouse, was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times in a flight that helped open the way for moon-landing missions.

(8) LONG JOURNEY AUTHOR. The Book Smugglers continue their personal holiday season with a guest post from a popular author — “A Happy Smugglivus with Becky Chambers”. Chambers discusses the movie Arrival and the book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal, among other things.

Smugglivus greetings from California! While most of my home state is badly in need of a drink, winter up here on the Redwood Coast means rain, and lots of it. It’s the sort of weather that lends itself well to hiding away with a good story or some old-fashioned book learnin’. Now, since most of my brainspace is used for writing sci-fi, I tend to reach for other stuff in my free time. I read a lot of non-fiction, I binge-watch with the best of them, and I love video games more than is reasonable. Happily, this year provided me with plenty to sustain me through these dark and soggy days.

2016 was also a gauntlet of suck in a great many ways, and I know I’m not the only one leaving it feeling ill at ease and overwhelmed. To that end, I’ve cherry-picked five of the best things I cozied up with in the past twelve months, things that filled me with curiosity and joy. In these times, we need those qualities more than ever. Whether you’re after some real-world science, mind-bending puzzles, or pure escapism, I’ve got you covered.

(9) SUBSTANTIAL CONVERSATION. Abigail Nussbaum reviews six books in “Recent Reading Roundup 42” at Asking the Wrong Questions (including The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee.).

Infomocracy by Malka Older – If nothing else, a reader turning the last page of Older’s debut novel has to tip their hat to her for her prescience.  Or perhaps a better way of putting it is that Older, while she was writing this book, had her finger on the pulse of issues and problems that have only recently come to dominate the conversation about how democracy in the 21st century functions, and of how it fails.  Set in a near-future, Infomocracy imagines a world in which the familiar geopolitical rules have been replaced by “micro-democracy”, with the world divided into “centenals”, each containing one hundred thousand residents who are free to vote for any government they wish, be it nationalistic, ideological, or corporate.  Different governments can thus have citizens all over the world, which can mean that neighboring streets can have different laws and government services.  Every ten years, the world holds an election, in which the governments try to win over new centenals in order to cement their power, and hopefully make a bid for the coveted “supermajority”. There are, obvious, some glaring problems with this system that Older never fully address–we don’t, for example, learn what the supermajority actually gives the government that holds it, and more importantly, it’s never made clear how this system supports itself economically.  But the focus of Infomocracy is less on these issues, and more on using its micro-democracy system to reflect on the problems of sustaining democracy in any form….

(10) WEST PACIFIC RIM. Reminds us of a Guillermo del Toro movie — “Giant Avatar-style robot takes first steps in South Korea”.

A giant South Korean-built manned robot that walks like a human but makes the ground shake under its weight has taken its first baby steps.

Designed by a veteran of science fiction blockbusters, the four-metre-tall (13-foot), 1.5 ton Method-2 towers over a room on the outskirts of Seoul.

“Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected),” said company chairman Yang Jin-Ho.

While its enormous size has grabbed media attention, the creators of Method-2 say the project’s core achievement is the technology they developed and enhanced along the way.

“Everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real-world problems,” said designer Vitaly Bulgarov on his Facebook page.

He has previously worked on film series such as Transformers, Robocop and Terminator.

 

(11) A MODEST PODCAST PROPOSAL. Dann has compiled “The Indispensable Podcast Listing” for his blog Liberty At All Costs. He admits —

It isn’t really a list of indispensable podcasts, but what’s life without a little hype.  Given the number of SFF and writing-related podcasts mentioned, I thought it might be of some modest interest to you.

And it was, thanks to Dann’s introductory notes about each one.

(12) YEAR-END MISSES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is burning the winter solstice oil to make sure he doesn’t miss a single potential award-winner — of 1961. “[December 27, 1961] Double And Nothing (The Phantom Planet And Assignment: Outer Space)”.

Our effort at the Journey to curate every scrap of science fiction as it is released, in print and on film, leaves us little time for rest.  Even in the normally sleepy month of December (unless you’re battling Christmas shopping crowds, of course), this column’s staff is hard at work, either consuming or writing about said consumption….

The Phantom Planet is a typical first-slot filler movie.  Spaceships launched from the moon keep getting intercepted by a rogue asteroid.  Only one crewmember of the third flight survives, a beefcake of a man who shrinks to just six inches tall when exposed to the asteroid’s atmosphere.  What’s stunning is not the lack of science in this movie, but the assiduous determination to avoid any scientific accuracy in this movie.  However, I the sets are surprisingly nice…and familiar.  They look an awful lot like the sets from the short TV series Men in Space….

(13) THE YEAR 2016. Chuck Tingle captures what some people are feeling about the year gone by.

(14) NUTRITION NATURE’S WAY. Casse-Croute is a very short cartoon about brightly colored animals in the forest and all the shiny bugs they eat!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Taral, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Sylvia Sotomayor.]

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.]