Pixel Scroll 4/20/16 Through the Scrolling-Glass

(1) FARSCAPE ON BIG SCREEN. ComicBookMovie.com reports “Rockne O’Bannon Officially Confirms FASRSCAPE Movie”.

After years of rumours, Rockne O’Bannon has finally confirmed that a Farscape movie is actually happening. The show was cancelled back in 2003 and a mini-series titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was aired in 2004 to provide closure to the fans but it appears we shall be getting more Farscape in the near future. Confirmation comes from TV.com’s Ed Shrinker who had a friend that attended the Showrunners panel at Wondercon which O’Bannon was a part of.

(2) BEAGLE COMING TO BALTICON. Peter S. Beagle will be a Special Guest of Honor at Balticon 50, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore, MD.

“It’s Peter’s birthday, but the fans are getting the gift,” says Beagle’s attorney, Kathleen Hunt.

(3) AXANAR IS DOCKED. In “’Star Trek: Axanar’ Fan Film Docked After Copyright Suit from CBS/Paramount”, Elizabeth Howell gives Space.com readers a status report on the lawsuit.

… According to Peters, Winston & Strawn subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. CBS and Paramount responded, he said, by amending portions of the complaint. The new complaint alleges that copyrights were violated in matters such as the pointy ears and “distinctive eyebrows” of Vulcan, the gold-shirt uniforms of Federation officers, and the Klingon language, according to documents posted by The Hollywood Reporter on March 13.

New motion to dismiss

In the meantime, the production of “Axanar” is on hold pending the result of the lawsuit. If the lawsuit is resolved in the film’s favor, Peters said, production will still be delayed, as it would take a couple of months to organize everything, including coordinating the actors’ schedules and resuming work on elements such as the costumes.

Winston & Strawn filed a new motion to dismiss on March 28. CBS and Paramount have yet to file a response in court.

“The motion provides examples as to how CBS and Paramount overreach in what they claim are elements protected under copyright, and fail to be specific as to exactly which copyrights have been infringed upon; and, in the case of the potential feature film Axanar, claims of alleged copyright infringement cannot be made against a film that doesn’t yet exist,” read part of an Axanar statement on the motion to dismiss.

(4) A THOUSAND WORDS IS WORTH A PICTURE OF A CAT. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat has his claws out: “Ctrl-Alt-Delete – A Reviewing”.

[Timothy] No sarcasm. Don’t forget, this time I control the narrative. I can make you say anything. Say “I’m a poo-poo head”
[Camestros] I’m a poo-poo head.
[Timothy] OK say I’m a fish’s butt.
[Camestros] You are a fish’s butt.
[Timothy] Oops – forgot the speech marks. So back to the book – naturally you hated it?
[Camestros] You know I actually enjoyed quite a bit of it.

Despite what you might assume from this exchange, they spend most of their time reviewing books. But as today’s Top Level Poster I can quote whatever part I like.

(5) ICE FIVE. Theory: Game of Thrones is science fiction, not fantasy: “This Is the Most Insane and Compelling Theory for How the Wall in Game of Thrones Stands”. Esquire’s John Maher delves into the ideas advanced by vlogger Preston Jacobs.

Let’s go back to the Wall, a prime example in the case of Game of Thrones. Maybe there is some sort of magic keeping it up. “Or maybe,” Jacobs suggests, “there’s some sort of refrigeration unit.”

It seems farfetched, until you start digging deeper—and Jacobs, an auditor for the U.S. State Department by day, is an expert at doing just that. After re-reading the series a couple of years ago, he jumped right into reading the vast majority of Martin’s extant works, including every story that’s taken place in the author’s most frequently visited setting, a shared universe called the Thousand Worlds….

The Long Night itself seems to hint at the explanation for how this world—as Jacobs and other theorists do, let’s call it Planetos—became the way it was. A winter that lasts for a generation seems pretty hard to believe, even in a world with seasons as crazy as those on Planetos. In the first season of Game of Thrones, Tyrion discusses with Maester Aemon and Lord Commander Mormont the longest winter he’d ever lived through, and mentions it lasted three years. But as Jacobs points out, there is such a thing as a generation-long winter in the real world: a nuclear winter.

In the Thousand Worlds universe, humanity is at perpetual war with multiple hive-minded species—a form of life that pops up in A Song of Ice and Fire as well, and which Jacobs explores in detail in one of his theories. During this endless war, the hive-minded races typically destroy human worlds using nuclear weapons, wait a hundred years for the dust to settle, and then invade and enslave the survivors. And in the interim, something familiar happens, as it does on High Kavalaan, a planet in Martin’s first novel, Dying of the Light.

“I think the book that really made me think Westeros could be post-apocalyptic was Dying of the Light,” says Jacobs. “When he started writing about nuking people, with everybody hiding in mines and founding their own houses and holdfasts, it just occurred to me that the Long Night could be a nuclear winter.”

(6) HEINLEIN ON THE LINE. At the MidAmericCon II site, Toastmaster Pat Cadigan has blogged her fannish origin story.

Forty years ago, in the spring of 1976 in Lawrence, Kansas, the phone rang in the late afternoon, about an hour and a half before I had to go and teach a belly-dance class. When I picked up, a deep, warm-as-a-woolly-blanket man’s voice said, ‘Hello, Mrs. Cadigan. This is Robert Heinlein.’

And I freakin’ died.

Seriously; I died. This is my afterlife. Isn’t it great?

Okay, let me back up a little….

(7) HUGO TIME. It’s no coincidence that Hugo Administrator Dave McCarty and staff are doing a lot of work just about now:

First, on behalf of the Hugo administration staff and all the rest of the folks making preparations to run MidAmeriCon II, I want to thank all of the people who participated in our Hugo and Retro Hugo nomination processes. There were over 4,000 of you and that is a new record participation by quite a large margin.

There’s a large number of tasks we have to do to administer the Hugos. Identifying eligible nominators and voters, setting up servers and web pages to handle secure nominations and voting, answering hundreds of questions about the process for the members, making sure everyone’s nominations are counted appropriately even if they don’t use the same name for something they loved that all the other folks who loved it used or nominated it in the wrong category accidently, locating and contacting the potential finalists to get their acceptance and inform them of how the process works and what to expect, coordinating with convention events staff to run the awards ceremonies and pre-receptions, and numerous other tasks. The previous run on sentence would be staggeringly large if we tried to give a full accounting of everything the awards administration entails. It can be fun, it can be exhausting, and it can even sometimes be frustrating. When we do a good job, though, it’s very rewarding.

(8) HUGO LOVE FROM WORDPRESS. Kevin Standlee’s The Hugo Awards website came in for recognition today —

(9) NEIL GAIMAN. Gaiman on mourning Pratchett — “Good Omens, Cheap Seats, and the Memorial”.

I haven’t blogged for a long time, but right now I’m on a train, and it feels like a good time to catch up. This morning I was interviewed by Charlie Russell for his documentary on Terry Pratchett. (Charlie made the previous BBC Terry Pratchett documentaries, Living With Alzheimer’s, Choosing to Die, and Facing Extinction.) We did it in a Chinese restaurant in Gerrard Street, because Terry and I had first met in a Chinese restaurant, in February 1985. It was easy and pleasant, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I was talking about the last time I’d seen Terry, and what we said, and I found myself crying uncontrollably, unable to talk. And then I pulled it together, and we carried on….

The memorial the other night was beautiful. I wore my mourning frock coat that Kambriel made for me, and I went out that afternoon and bought a white shirt and a black tie. (Actually, I bought four shirts, which, given how often I wear white shirts, should take me easily to the end of my lifetime.)

I read the introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, which I’d written for Terry while he was alive. I got sad at the end but that was fine. And I held it together just fine when Rob, Terry’s amazing right-hand man, presented me with a big black author’s hat Terry had left me. I couldn’t put it on, though. I wasn’t ready for that. (I tried it on later, in the dressing room. I looked, to my mind, like a rabbinical cowboy assassin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)…

(10) MORE LIKE INDIE FOR SMART PEOPLE. Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Going Indie For Dummies: You Lays Down Your Money” at Mad Genius Club, begins her survey of professional services available to indie authors with a warning –

I cannot emphasize enough that you should at all costs avoid paying money up front to have any of the necessary stuff done to your book.  Particularly if your indie ebook is a short story or a novella, it’s QUITE possible you’ll never see that money again….

Then she follows with a lot of practical experience. (And no, I am not picking this quote as a setup for predictable comments about Baen copyediting, but because writers in general suffer through this.)

b) Copy editing: even houses confuse this with “editing” and I’ll get a list of typos or repeated words from editors who are supposed to be doing high-grade structural.  It’s what most people think of as “editing.”

PLEASE make sure you get a copy editor who actually knows what he/she is doing.  Again it is too easy for a copy editor to screw with a book by making the wrong choices, and/or not getting what you’re trying to say.  (I recently had a copy edit that suggested changing “calloused hands” to “callous hands” — yes, her hands are cold and unfeeling.  What the actual F?)  so several steps:

1- look for a copy-editor with references and call/email those references where the copy-editor can’t hear/read and ask for the real skinny and how hard they are to work with.

2- ask them what manual of style they use.  If you get back “manual?” or “I just use sensible grammar” and this is a paid copy-editor it’s time to bail, ladies, gentlemen and fuzzy toys.  There are many ways of doing things including punctuation (unlike what your grammar teacher told you.)  I favor, for my own checking, Strunk and White which has a slightly British flavor.  Most publishing houses use Chicago Manual of Style.  Baen uses Words to Print (I think that’s the title.)  You want to make sure your books are consistent, so make sure your copyeditor uses a style you can live with.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

(12) TODAY’S OTHER HISTORY LESSON. Hmm. Good point.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 20, 1937 — George Takei, age 79 today.
  • Born April 20, 1964 – Andy Serkis

(14) IN BOOKS TO COME. “Andy Weir, Author of The Martian, Shares Details About His Next Novel” at The Smithsonian. Here’s a guy nobody will ever accuse of having SJW tendencies.

Your next book will have a woman as the central character. Given that “gender wars” in science fields is still a contentious topic, why did you decide to go with a lady lead? What kinds of challenges does your protagonist face, and does her gender play any role in those challenges?

I don’t take part in any political debates. So I’m certainly not trying to make a point by having a female lead. She’s just a character I came up with that I thought was cool, so she’s the lead.

The book is another scientifically accurate story. The main character is a low-level criminal in a city on the moon. Her challenges are a mix of technical/scientific problems, as well as juggling personal interactions—staying a step ahead of the local police, working with shady and dangerous people to do illegal things.

She doesn’t encounter any distinctly “female” challenges. There’s no love plot. And the story takes place in a future society where there is practically no sexism.

(15) NOT JUST TANG. The BBC discusses “Four ways NASA is teaching us how to live more sustainably”.

2. Clean water

In space, water is in short supply, so Nasa has developed an innovative way to filter waste water on the ISS using chemical and distillation processes. This lets it turn liquid from the air, sweat and even urine into drinkable H2O.

In fact, since 2008, more than 22,500 pounds of water have been recycled from urine alone on the ISS – something that would have cost more than $225m (£160m) to launch and deliver to the station from Earth.

“Most people are horrified when they see what we drink!” says Ms Coleman. “But the filtered water up there just tastes beautiful, it really is delicious.”

Nasa has since licensed the technology to companies on Earth, which have created portable filters for use in places where fresh drinking water is scarce.

Filters produced by US firm Water Security Corporation, for example, have been installed in villages across Mexico and Iraq, allowing residents to purify water from contaminated sources.

(16) RILEY INTERVIEWED. David Dubrow conducted an “Interview With David A Riley” after the author dropped off a Horror Writers of America award jury last week amidst controversy.

Why did you withdraw from the jury of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology?

Because, as I saw it, that was the best thing to do for the good of the HWA. There is nothing prestigious or glamorous about being a juror. It does involve a lot of unpaid, unseen, arduous work reading an enormous number of books by authors or publishers or, in the case of anthologies, editors, keen to have their books included amongst the finalists for the Stoker awards. Of course the juries cannot add more than a few books, but it does mean reading all those submitted, good, bad or indifferent. I know from when I was a juror for First Novels this can be a hell of a chore. Standing down, therefore, was easy – it saved me a lot of hard work, some of it far from enjoyable. I only put my name forward because the HWA sent out a last minute email appealing for volunteers from active members for this position. I thought I was helping the HWA by stepping forward, never realising the reaction stirred up by certain individuals, some of whom already had a personal grudge against the HWA and are not even members….

Are you still part of the UK National Front?

I resigned in 1983 and have not been involved since.

A lot of people have characterized you as a fascist. Would you say that’s a fair description of your politics?

No.  It’s an easy label to flash around, usually by those who are fascists themselves, particularly from the left. Fascists don’t believe in free speech and try to suppress it for their opponents. I have never in my life tried to do that. They are also prepared to use physical violence against their political opponents. I was never involved in anything like that. I would add that during the time I was involved in the party any member who associated with a neo-nazi group, either in Britain or overseas, faced expulsion. This, I can confirm, was enforced.

(17) EISNER AWARD MANGA. Brigid Alverson reviews six works in her post “This Year’s Eisner-Nominated Manga Shows What the Medium Can Do” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Nominees for the Eisner Awards, the top honors in the comics industry, were announced on April 19. This year’s nomnees in the manga category (technically, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia”) offer a range of different types of manga, from genre comedy to poignant literary works. As a former Eisner judge myself, I know how hard the choices are, and this year’s slate is exceptionally good. All these series are accessible to non-manga readers as well as longtime fans. Let’s dive in and take a look!

Assassination Classroom, by Yusei Matsui This was the surprise nominee, because it’s not exactly a highbrow series, though it is wickedly funny. The setup is totally over the top: a class of misfit high school students are assigned the job of killing their teacher, Koro-sensei, an octopus-shaped alien who has announced he will destroy the earth at the end of the school year. Armed with weapons that are harmless to humans but deadly to their teacher, they study his weaknesses and plot new attacks, and new assassins join the class as the series goes on. What makes it so fun (and so weird) is that Koro-sensei is actually a really good teacher, and he uses his superpowers to help his students as much as to evade their attacks. He’s quirky, overly fond of gossip, a bit self-indulgent, and he often finishes a face-off with an opponent by doing something silly like giving them a manicure. This is a series that shonen fans will particularly enjoy, as there are a lot of inside jokes about the conventions of the genre, but it’s also a fun action comedy for anyone willing to go all in on suspension of disbelief. There is a darker side to Koro-sensei, and occasionally he lets the jovial mask slip, adding a bit of edge. The judges nominated volumes 2-7 of this series for the award.

(18) STEM INTO STEAM. Wil Wheaton has posted “My speech to the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival”.

Which brings me to funding.

You’re never too young for science – getting children interested in the world around them, and asking them to try and figure out how things work is a fundamentally good idea. Curious children will naturally gravitate towards STEAM subjects. Let’s encourage that and make sure that a child who wants to explore that particular part of our world has everything she needs to get there, and keep learning about and making awesome things when she leaves. This is and will continue to be a challenge. Despite the clear and undeniable benefits of a comprehensive education, including science education, not only to individuals but to our entire society, we have allowed the funding of our schools to become part of the culture wars. This is as disgraceful as it is predictable. When so many of our poorly-named “leaders” deny scientific consensus on everything from climate change to vaccines, a scientifically literate and well-informed populace can be tremendously inconvenient to them and theiir corporate owners. Well … good. Let’s be inconvenient to them. Let’s educate and empower a generation who will be real leaders, and carry our nation into the future.

We all know that it’s possible to fund STEAM education. The money is there, it’s just being spent on other things. Making enough noise and applying enough sustained pressure to change this will not be easy. It will actually be quite hard. But when has America ever shied away from doing things that are hard? Everything worth doing is hard, and President Kennedy said as much when he challenged our nation to go to the moon. Right now, decades later, every single one of us has benefitted in some way from that commitment. Right now, a generation of future scientists can look to MARS and beyond, because nearly fifty years ago, we did whatever it took to go to the moon.

Why aren’t we doing that today? Because it’s hard?

 

(19) 2016 SPECULATIVE FICTION EDITORS. The Book Smugglers are already “Announcing the Editors of Speculative Fiction 2016 & Call for Submissions”.

In which we announce the editors for the 2016 edition of the award-winning collection Speculative Fiction

As you probably know by now, we are the new publishers of the ongoing editions of Speculative Fiction: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary – a collection that celebrates the best in online Science Fiction and Fantasy nonfiction. We are currently hard at work on the publication of SpecFic ’15 – edited by Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro – and we feel it is time to move on to the next very important step for next year: announcing the two new editors for 2016.

Since its inception in 2012, the Speculative Fiction collection has been envisioned as an annual publication, curated by a new pair of editors each year. Each incumbent pair is also given the weighty task of selecting the next year’s editors.

Today, we are extremely proud to finally announce the editors of Speculative Fiction 2016: Liz Bourke and Mahvesh Murad!

Apparently items for the 2015 collection needed to be submitted to the editors? Well, I didn’t send in anything from File 770, so that’s that.

(20) CELEBRITY VERSIONS OF BB-8 AUCTIONED. Til April 24 you can bid on a variety of BB-8 droids that have been kitted up by celebrities. 100%* of the proceeds from this auction will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, on behalf of Force For Change.

The Londonist ran an article and a gallery of photos.

We enjoyed the recent Star Wars film. But, like many, we couldn’t help thinking that BB-8 would look far more fetching dressed up as the globus cruciger from the Crown Jewels, or else painted in the colours of the Union Flag, tarted up like a teapot, or made to look like one of the Beatles.

Our wishes are fulfilled at a new exhibition and charity fundraiser. The cutesy droid has enjoyed a makeover from dozens of artists and celebrities, with the best efforts on show at White Rainbow Gallery (47 Mortimer Street) until 21 April.

Contributing celebrities include Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Simon Pegg (responsible for the Beatles droid, above), Paddy McGuinnes, Jonathan Ross, Nicola Adams and the band Years and Years. Each has daubed the droid with a design celebrating an element of British culture, from Robin Hood to the Sex Pistols.

bb8 auction

(21) LOOK UP IN THE SKY. Alastair Reynolds is in awe by the end of a session of starwatching (“Pattern Recognition”) —

The light I caught had travelled 25,000 years to reach my telescope. If there’s ever a day when that sort of thing doesn’t send a shiver down my spine, please feel free to shoot me.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Steven H Silver, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/16 It’s Better To Pixel Out, Than To Scroll Away

(1) WHILE YOU WERE WAITING. Ann Leckie must be wondering if any of us are paying attention.

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.

(2) JUST SAY THANKS. Joe Vasicek has some intriguing “Thoughts on series and perma-free”.

For the last five years, the conventional wisdom among most indie writers has been to write short books in sequential series and make the first book permanently free. It’s a strategy that works, to a certain extent. It’s what got me from making pizza money on my book sales to making a humble living at this gig. However, I’m starting to question that wisdom….

….Also, when you have a book that’s permanently free, it tends to accumulate a lot of negative reviews. It’s strange, but some people seem to feel more entitled to XYZ when they get it for free, as opposed to paying for it. Or maybe these are the people who try to go through life without actually paying for anything? Who hoard everything, even the stuff that they hate, so long as they can get it for free? I don’t know.

Certainly, that’s not true of everyone who reads free books. But when you have a perma-free book, it tends to accumulate more of the barely-coherent “dis buk sux” kinds of reviews from people who probably weren’t in the target audience to begin with. And over time, that tends to weigh the book’s overall rating down, which unfortunately can be a turn-off for people who are in the book’s audience.

(3) TIPTREE AUCTION. Here’s an advance look at an item in the Tiptree Auction at WisCon.

On Saturday, May 28, fans of the Tiptree Award will have the opportunity to bid on a genuine blaster that was once the sidearm of Space Babe, a legendary feminist superhero. (Blaster is modeled here by a Space Babe impersonator). This rare item will be part of the annual Tiptree Award Auction, to be held at at WisCon in Madison Wisconsin….

 

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

(4) MANCUNICON. Starburst brings you Ed Fortune’s 2016 Eastercon report.

Event highlights included interviews with the Guest of Honour John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Aliette de Bodard, Hugo Award-winning author Ian McDonald, British Fantasy Award-winning creator Sarah Pinborough, and noted astrophysicist David L. Clement. Each drew a huge crowd, and coloured the event in their own unique way. Notably, Clement spearheaded a science-heavy approach to many of the panel items, and many of the talks centred on science and Manchester’s iconic research centre, Jodrell Bank. The iconic building, which has inspired many works of science fiction throughout its history, was thoroughly explored in many talks and lectures.

(5) NUMBER FIVE. Nina Munteanu, at Amazing Stories, continues the series — “The Writer-Editor Relationship, Part 2: Five Things Writers Wish Editors Knew – and Followed”.

  1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue

Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.

A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback….

(6) KELLY LINK. Marion Deeds picked the right day to post a review of a Kelly Link story from Get in Trouble at Fantasy Literature.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2016, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her that one of the summer families is coming up early and she needs to get the house ready. However, that family isn’t the only group of summer people that Fran “does for,” and this is the point of Link’s exquisite, melancholy tale.

(7) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. While Doctor Who can travel to anyplace and nearly any point in time, he invariably ends up in London. The Traveler at Galactic Journey seems likewise constrained always to arrive at the same opinion of John W. Campbell, although his fellow fans voted Analog a Hugo for this year’s work — “[April 18, 1961] Starting on the wrong foot”.

Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation.  Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer.  He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon’s primacy.  This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth’s finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories…

…if he wants to be published in Analog, anyway.

(8) ON MILITARY SF. SFFWorld interviews Christopher Nuttall.

Christopher Nuttall’s Their Darkest Hour has just been released as part of the Empire at War collection where four British Science Fiction authors have joined forces to show the world that British Military Science Fiction is a force to be reckoned with….

So what is different with British Military SF? Obviously in Their Darkest Hour you have the UK setting that probably will be more familiar to a Europeans than Americans, but do you also think there are other aspects where British authors are able to bring something different and unique to military SF? 

I think that’s a hard question to answer.

There is, if you will, a cultural difference between American MIL-SF (and military in general) and British MIL-SF.  Many American military characters (in, say, John Ringo’s work) are very forward, very blunt … I’d go so far as to say that most of them are thoroughly bombastic.  Think a Drill Instructor screaming in your face.  While a great many British characters are often calm, competent and basically just get the job done.  We’re not as outwardly enthusiastic as the Americans; we’re more gritty endurance, stiff upper lip and just keep going until we win.

To some extent, I think that comes from our differing experiences.  The Americans are staggeringly rich and, even as early as their civil war, had little trouble keeping their troops supplied.  Britain, particularly in the years after 1919, had very real problems making ends meet, let alone keeping the troops supplied.  We operate on a shoestring and know it.  The Falklands was our most successful war in years, yet it was a very close run thing.  We simply cannot afford to be as blatant as the Americans.

I think that is reflected in our SF too.  Independence Day was followed by Invasion: Earth, a six-episode TV series set in Britain.  Independence Day is blatant; the enemy is clearly visible, merely overwhelmingly powerful.  Invasion: Earth has an enemy who hides in the shadows, at least up until the final episode.  They both represent, too, a very different set of fears.

(9) OVER THE EDGE OF HISTORY. Jeff Somers considers “6 Historical Fiction Novels That Are Almost Fantasy” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith Set in the so-called “Dark Ages,” after Rome abandoned Britain but before the squabbling kingdoms and tribes were unified under one crown, Griffith’s novel tells the true story of the Christian saint Hild, who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, patron saint of learning. In 7th century Britain, she is the 6-year old niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, and becomes his seer and mystic upon arrival at his court. The reality of otherworldly forces is taken for granted as real in this brutal, violent land, and Griffith plays with the concept expertly as Hild becomes increasingly masterful at sniffing out plots and advising her uncle in ways that often seem magical. Anyone who has been awed by a brilliant mind’s ability to perceive what most cannot will witness that superpower at work in Hild, one of the most complex and deeply-drawn characters to ever appear in a novel—historical, fantasy, or otherwise.

(10) AN OP-ED. David Dubrow, in “David A Riley and the HWA”, criticizes how Horror Writers of America handled the recent controversy. And he’s announced he’ll be publishing an interview with Riley about it.

At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.

In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.

When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination….

Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell….

(11) THE FIRST RULE OF CHICXULUB. According to the BBC, this is “What really happened when the ‘dino killer’ asteroid struck”.

Where armies of trees once stretched skywards, seemingly escaping from the thickets of ferns and shrubs that clawed at their roots, only scorched trunks remain. Instead of the incessant hum of insect chatter blotting out the sound of ponderous giant dinosaurs, only the occasional flurry of wind pierces the silence. Darkness rules: the rich blues and greens, and occasional yellows and reds that danced in the Sun’s rays have all been wiped out.

This is Earth after a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into it 66 million years ago.

“In the course of minutes to hours it went from this lush, vibrant world to just absolute silence and nothing,” says Daniel Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “Especially in the thousands of square miles around the impact site, the slate was just wiped clean.”

Much like putting in all the edge pieces of a jigsaw, scientists have outlined the lasting impacts of the meteor strike. It claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. The most famous casualties were the dinosaurs – although in fact many of them survived in the form of birds….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 18, 1976 — Melissa Joan Hart. She’s not a teenaged witch anymore.

(13) THE STARLOST. Created then disowned by Harlan Ellison, the 1970s series The Starlost can be seen here on YouTube. The link takes you to the entire series for Starlost (16 episodes plus the “sales pitch.”)

Complaining about how the show was dumbed down from the original concept, Ellison took his name off the credits and substituted his Writers Guild alias Cordwainer Bird.

(14) DUTCH TREATS. Wim Crusio reminisces about conversations with writers at the 1990 Worldcon, in “Writing science, writing fiction (I)”.

Synopsis: Whether writing a good novel or a killer scientific article, the process is much the same: What scientists can learn from science fiction authors…

Many years ago, back in 1990, I attended my first Science Fiction Worldcon, called “ConFiction“, in The Hague. An interesting feature that year was the “Dutch Treat”. One could sign up with a group of about 10 people and invite a science fiction writer for lunch and talk with them in that small circle. To me, these “treats” were the highlights of that particular meeting. I did as many of them as I could and have fond memories of speaking with John Brunner, Harry Harrison (a Guest of Honor, accompanied by his charming wife, Joan), Fred Pohl, Brian Aldiss, and Bob Shaw (I think that’s all of them, but I am writing this from memory, so I may have forgotten one). Of course, these conversations spanned many topics and I was not the only participant, but at some point or another I managed to pose the same question to each of them, namely: how do you write a story (be it a short story or a novel in multiple parts). Do you just start, do you write some parts first and only continue when you’re completely done with revising them, or something else entirely?

(15) REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to writers!

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized…..

(16) STRICTLY ROMANCE. The first romance-only bookstore starts in LA. (Strictly speaking, The Ripped Bodice is in Culver City.)

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, vastly outselling science fiction, mystery and literary books.

And there’s only one rule for writing a romance – it has to have a happy ending.

Yet the romance genre has long been dismissed as smut or trashy by many in, and out, of the publishing world – a fact that mystifies sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who last month opened the US’s first exclusively romantic fiction bookstore.

Their shop in Los Angeles is called The Ripped Bodice, and the store’s motto is “smart girls read romance”.

(17) DEFINING X. They say it’s the intersection of politics and Marvel comics: “A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 9: The Mutant Metaphor (Part I)” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A lot of people have discussed the manifold ways in which the “mutant metaphor” is problematic, but what I’m going to argue in this issue is that a big part of the problem with the “mutant metaphor” is that it wasn’t clearly defined from the outset, in part because it wasn’t anywhere close to the dominant thread of X-Men comics.[i] While always an element of the original run, as much time was spent on fighting giant Kirby robots or stopping the likes of Count Nefaria from encasing Washington D.C in a giant crystal bubble. And this was always problematic, because in the shared Marvel Universe, you need to explain why it is that the X-Men are “feared and hated” and must hide beneath the façade of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, whereas the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were treated as celebrities and could live openly on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, respectively.

So what did the “mutant” metaphor mean initially?

One of the best ways to understand how the “mutant metaphor” was originally understood is to look at depictions of anti-mutant prejudice. In the early Lee and Kirby run, anti-mutant prejudice is described almost entirely as a mass phenomenon, a collective hysteria that takes hold of large groups of people. You can see this especially in the way that crowds of humans descend into violence in contexts that you wouldn’t normally expect them. Like sports events:…

(18) SKYWALKERED BACK. J. J. Abrams made a little mistake…. CinemaBlend has the story: “Star Wars: J.J. Abrams Backtracks Statement About Rey’s Parents”.

Earlier, J.J. Abrams sat down with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the director’s work in television and film. During the Q&A segment, a young fan asked the identity of Rey’s parents and Abrams said “they aren’t in Episode VII.” This implies that just about every fan theory is wrong, but Entertainment Weekly caught up with Abrams after the show and he was able to clarify his statement:

What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.

So, Rey’s parents could be somewhere in The Force Awakens as opposed to not being in it at all. That’s a pretty serious backtrack, but it opens the floor back up for fans to come up with theories on the heroine’s lineage. This potentially limits the amount of suspects, but most theories were already focused on Force Awakens characters. There are a few contenders that have risen above the rest, each with there own amount of logic and speculation.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/16 Barkleby

AKA Dogless In The Arena

(1) WHERE NEXT TREK FITS IN. IGN reports

Birth.Movies.Death.’s sources are saying that the CBS All Access show will be set in the classic continuity, which is to say not in the J.J. Abrams reboot-verse. Additionally, Season 1 of the series will be set before the era of The Next Generation, but after the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. That covers a lot of years, and BMD’s report is not specific beyond that, but essentially what this means is that the era that could be covered spanned the time of the Enterprise-B (the one captained initially by Cameron from Ferris Bueller!) and the Enterprise-C (the one that was destroyed defending a Klingon outpost, as we learned in the classic TNG episode ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’). Not that an Enterprise will figure into the show necessarily…

(2) THE CHECK STOPS HERE. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic with Andy Duncan, Episode 6 of the series, unfolds at the Princess Cafe in the same booth where Harry and Bess Truman had lunch one Father’s Day more than 60 years ago.

Andy Duncan and Scott Edelman.

Andy Duncan and Scott Edelman.

Andy’s an award-winning writer many times over, having won a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, a Nebula Award, and three World Fantasy Awards. Plus he’s also been nominated for the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards. His collections include Beluthahatchie and Other Stories (which came out in 2000) and The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories (published in 2011).

(3) BEHIND THE THRONES. Maureen Dowd interviewed Peter Dinklage for the New York Times “Dinklage and Dragons: Will Tyrion Win the ‘Game of Thrones’?” And blabbed a secret.

So now that the global hit — Season 6 starts in two weeks — has brought his character, the wily and louche “halfman” and “perverse little imp” Tyrion Lannister, into the sun-baked realm of Daenerys Targaryen, was it fun to act with the dragons? Or were they temperamental divas who chewed — or incinerated — the scenery?

“They’re not real,” he says, looking at me solemnly with his big, droopy blue eyes.

Whaaaaa? I am shocked, given the C.I.A.-level secrecy around the HBO show — which has sometimes confiscated extras’ cellphones and this year declined to provide the press with episodes in advance — that Dinklage would let such a huge spoiler slip out. (On a less top-secret note, HBO plans to make a comedy pilot inspired by my book “Are Men Necessary?”)

“The dragons are just a projection,” Dinklage says in his melodious baritone. “Ah, working with something that is not there. Sometimes I work with some actors who aren’t fully there. The guys in the visual effects department show you pre-visualizations, pre-vis. It used to be just storyboards, but now they’re really well done on computers, and you see the whole scene with you and the animated dragons before you do it, so you get that in your head. It’s neat. It’s cool. I like it.”

(4) A CENTURY OF FORRY. Monsterpalooza, April 22-24 at the Pasadena Convention Center, will feature a Forry Ackerman centennial panel on Sunday afternoon.

Forry 100th at MonsterPalooza

(5) TELEREAD COVERS HWA CONTROVERSY. Paul St. John Mackintosh, in “Horror Writers Association endures horrific meltdown over Bram Stoker Awards juror”, catches up on the David A. Riley story at TeleRead.

Riley, meanwhile, protested on his blog that: “It has been alleged by some people that I would be prejudiced against anything written or published or edited by non-white writers/publishers/editors. Utter twaddle. Yes, I am so prejudiced that I have paid for covers on two of the books I have published by Vincent Chong – one of my favourite artists. I am also in an advanced stage of negotiating with a black British writer to publish a collection of his stories.” Following that comment, the same Facebook respondent also posted: “That’s like saying I’m not racist I HAVE A BLACK FRIEND.”

Since I’ve found that my own past writings on the previous Riley controversy are being quoted in this context – as somehow “less negative than most” – I want to be quite clear where I stand on this go-round. Editorship of a revived horror anthology franchise is a totally different ball game to serving on a jury for a major award. Lisa Morton may say that “in specific regard to HWA’s Bram Stoker Award juries, the HWA will certainly act if/when a juror’s personal views have a provable impact/bias against a writer or his/her works,” but I can’t see how a juror’s potential bias can not be an issue when appointing them to an awards jury. Would some worthy candidates boycott the Awards simply because Riley is on the jury? It’s already happened. Would the Stokers be tarnished by association? Ditto.

(6) ON THE BOTTOM. The BBC has pictures: “Film’s lost Nessie monster prop found in Loch Ness”.

A 30ft (9m) model of the Loch Ness Monster built in 1969 for a Sherlock Holmes movie has been found almost 50 years after it sank in the loch.

The beast was created for the Billy Wilder-directed The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Sir Robert Stephens and Sir Christopher Lee.

It has been seen for the first time in images captured by an underwater robot.

Loch Ness expert Adrian Shine said the shape, measurements and location pointed to the object being the prop.

The robot, operated by Norwegian company Kongsberg Maritime, is being used to investigate what lies in the depths of Loch Ness.

(7) INVENTED LANGUAGES. John Garth reviews A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages , edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, is published by HarperCollins, in “Teach yourself Dwarvish: behind Tolkien’s invented languages” at New Statesman.

It is only thanks to a talk that he gave in 1931 at his Oxford college, Pembroke, that we have his considered thoughts on language invention. From its title, “A Secret Vice”, onwards, he strikes a note of embarrassment: “I may be like an opium-smoker seeking a moral or medical or artistic defence for his habit.”

It was indeed a long-standing obsession. Although the editors of this new critical edition place his earliest inventions in his mid-teens, Tolkien told one interviewer that he began when he was eight or nine. His talk is a vigorous defence of the “hobby” and, with the support of the background commentaries provided by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, it becomes clear that the invention of languages has been a surprisingly widespread activity. A Secret Vice is a thoroughly engaging introduction for the outsider.

Tolkien describes hearing a fellow officer in a dull First World War army lecture exclaim dreamily, “Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix!” Whether or not this is Tolkien in fictional guise, the scene is nicely conjured. “How far he ever proceeded in his composition, I never heard. Probably he was blown to bits in the very moment of deciding upon some ravishing method of indicating the subjunctive. Wars are not favourable to delicate pleasures.”

(8) GUNN REVIEWED BY LETSON. Russell Letson reviews Transgalactic by James Gunn for Locus Online.

…On one hand, SF traditionally sees itself as celebrating New Things so new that they haven’t even happened yet. On the other hand, there are the alternate history and steampunk subgenres (the latter of which quite deliberately adapts SF motifs and grafts them onto historical settings), so there is clearly an audience for retro-flavored entertainments.

And in any case, SF has worked and reworked its core materials since before the genre even had a name. With space opera, work by, say, Neal Asher, Iain M. Banks, Nancy Kress, Linda Nagata, or Walter Jon Williams is part of a tradition that goes back to E.E. ‘‘Doc’’ Smith and extends through Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Poul Anderson, and Jack Vance. Its story-space is a galaxy populated by exotic alien species, containing one or more star-spanning polities, possibly with a dizzyingly deep history. It is a setting made for explorations, intrigues, alien encounters, and wars – arguably a futureward projection of the condition of an Earth that still had blank spaces on the map, unknown peoples and societies, and tramp steamers to visit them.

This brings me to Transgalactic, the sequel to James Gunn’s Transcendental (reviewed in December 2013), which maintains its predecessor’s backward looks at earlier genre motifs and atmospherics. Transcendental echoes Olaf Stapledon in its embedded pilgrim-tales of alien evolutionary paths and ends with scenery and action right out of the SF-pulp version of lost-city adventures. Transgalactic continues that latter line, interleaving images and gestures from earlier cycles of science-fictional storytelling with more contemporary devices and shaping the whole concoction into an old-fashioned interstellar odyssey. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 15, 1983 — New-wave sci-fi classic Liquid Sky debuts in theaters.

(10) POPCORN WILL BE SOLD. Film exhibitors were courted at CinemaCon. Variety has the details — “Warner Bros. Offers ‘Wonder Woman’ Footage, Touts ‘Expansive’ DC Comics Universe”.

Warner Bros. talked up the “expansive” nature of the DC Comics cinematic universe during a presentation to exhibitors at CinemaCon on Tuesday, while debuting footage from “Wonder Woman” that highlighted the Amazonian warrior princess beating up a platoon of World War I soldiers. There was also a brief glimpse of love interest Chris Pine atop a motorcycle, as well as Wonder Woman using her shield to deflect gunfire, and riding a horse, sword drawn and ready for action…

The DC presentation ended on a high note with an ebullient Will Smith and the cast of “Suicide Squad,” a film about a team of super villains, taking the stage.

“What if Superman decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House and grab the president right out of the Oval Office,” a character asks in the extended trailer shown to the audience, setting up the film’s stakes. “Who would stop him?” The answer was a rag-tag group of amoral avengers, brought together by shadowy government operatives looking for an edge in a world of metahumans.

Smith promised that “Suicide Squad” will “fill those theaters up real thick,” while director and writer David Ayer pledged that “thirsty, hungry people are going to show up.”

(11) BYE KITTY. Rachel Swirsky bids “Farewell to Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series about a werewolf named Kitty”.

Poor Kitty Norville. Everyone always laughs at the werewolf named Kitty, even though, as she points out, she had the name first.

I’ve read every single one of Carrie Vaughn’s urban fantasy series staring a werewolf named Kitty. So, of course, just like Mary Robinette’s Glamourist Histories and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Carrie’s books ended last year.

The best one is book four. It packs a hell of a punch…

(12) STAR PROJECT. SFWA’s latest Star Project is By the Silver Wind by Jess E. Owen.

Fair winds to you!

If you’re already a member of the Gryfon Pride, please, make yourself comfortable, find a mossy rock to lounge, or go explore the amazing rewards for this, the campaign to fund the final volume of the Summer King Chronicles.

To those who are new, welcome! You’ve entered the world of the Silver Isles, where gryfons rule, dragons roam, ravens riddle, and wolves sing. I hope you’ll stay and become a member of the Pride!

The SFWA Blog explains:

This is a model Kickstarter for all self-published professionals. Congratulations!

SFWA makes small, targeted pledges to worthy Kickstarter projects by non-members, designating them  “SFWA Star Projects.” Projects are selected by the Self Publishing Committee, with coordination by volunteer Rob Balder. Selections are based on the project’s resonance with SFWA’s exempt purposes, and special preference is given to book-publishing projects in appropriate genres.

Funds for these pledges come from the SFWA Givers Fund. When pledges result in receiving donor rewards (such as signed books), these items will be auctioned off at fundraising events, to help replenish the Givers Fund.

The project has 10 days left in its campaign. All support is appreciated.

(13) 55 YEARS AGO IN THE UK. Galactic Journey’s overseas corresponded Ashley Pollard delivers “[April 15, 1961] London Calling (A Peek At UK Fandom)”.

Now a Red star has risen in the East — Vostok — aboard the ship is the first human in space: Major Yuri Gagarin, who is now a Hero of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and by extension a hero for all mankind.  The local prestige of our former wartime allies had plunged due to the recent discovery and capture of the Portland Spy Ring, causing ripples of concern over secrets lost, so having Major Gagarin take over the headlines has been welcome change — if only from one kind of paranoia to another: Reds with atomic secrets versus Reds in Space!  And because it turns my liking for all things to do with rocketry into a respectable talking point at parties.

Certainly, Thursday nights conversation at The London Circle, a meeting of like minded science fiction fans, was of nothing else.  (The London Circle was the basis for Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales from the White Hart.  I will not be drawn into the recent fan feud that has split the group because I attend for the absence of the pub and the chance to have a G&T with ice and a slice. How very non-fannish of me.)

Of course, this being Britain, we had to draw comparisons to Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass Experiment and the British Experimental Rocket Group and what happened to the hapless astronaut to leaven the concerns of those who see Soviet dominance in space as threat to World Peace.

As you can well imagine our conversations were more along the lines of aliens returning to Earth with Major Gagarin, and what would the Russian counter-part of Bernard Quatermass do?

(14) CHARITABLE COSPLAY. Will R. writes, “There seems to be a real thing over here–maybe it’s true in the States too–of people cosplaying for good (not to say cosplaying isn’t good for its own sake, I just mean explicitly to help others). We watched a doc one night on Star Wars cosplayers, who invest thousands in being Boba Fett or whatever, and do a lot of charity events in costume. It’s cool. Real heroes, you ask me.”

BelfastLive reports on one example — “Batman swoops into Northern Ireland Hospice to make patient’s dream come true”.

Batman swooped in from Gotham City to make a super fan’s dream come true – and share some crime-fighting secrets.

Northern Ireland Hospice patient Gary Owen – a self-confessed Dark Knight fanatic – received a very special visit from his hero today.

Gary, who is 28 and comes from Newcastle Co Down, chatted for more than an hour with the man in black, discussing movies, comics, Batman gadgets, and how to deal with villains.

The caped crusader brought special gifts from Forbidden Planet Belfast and exclusive Batman vs Superman merchandise – before Gary and his family watched The Dark Knight Rises movie.

A spokesman for Northern Ireland Hospice told Belfast Live: “Gary’s passion for Batman and super-heroes was obvious to Northern Ireland Hospice nursing staff and inspired them to create a special memory for him and his loving family.

“We created a cinema in the Day Hospice for Gary and family to watch the Dark Knight Rises, and Batman came in with gifts and comics.

“He and Gary chatted as if they had known each other for a long time. It is occasions like this that make lasting memories for families….”

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Will R. and Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Riley Off HWA Award Jury

Horror Writers of America President Lisa Morton announced on HWA’s Facebook page that David A. Riley is now off the award jury he’d been appointed to.

In regards to the situation involving David Riley, who announced on his blog that he would be serving on the Anthology jury: We’ve reached out to Mr. Riley, and both Mr. Riley and the HWA have agreed that it’s in the best interest of all for him to step down. Mr. Riley will be replaced on the jury immediately by Nicole Cushing. The HWA thanks Nicole for stepping up, and we would also like to thank everyone who has shared their opinion on this matter.

HWA on Bram Stoker Award Jury Controversy

Horror Writers of America President Lisa Morton responded on Facebook to the public controversy about a Bram Stoker Award jury member’s political views.

I have asked both HWA’s Board of Trustees and the chair of our Diverse Works Inclusion Committee to advise on a recent situation surrounding a member who is serving on a Bram Stoker Award jury who holds certain political views. After considerable discussion and research, here is the official response:

The HWA does not support discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on political views. Not only is this form of discrimination specifically illegal in a number of U.S. states, HWA’s Board of Trustees also does not believe it’s in keeping with our principle of supporting and practicing freedom of expression. In specific regard to HWA’s Bram Stoker Award juries, the HWA will certainly act if/when a juror’s personal views have a provable impact/bias against a writer or his/her works.

Thank you to everyone who has voiced concern over this issue, especially those who have taken the time to contact me privately.

David A. Riley announced on his blog last week that he had joined the Bram Stoker Award Jury for anthologies. Some colleagues took issue, asserting Riley is a white supremacist who was once part of the UK’s National Front.

The HWA appointment became news at a point when questions were already being asked of Riley due to his involvement in the relaunch of Weirdbook. Riley reportedly answered in a no-longer-available Facebook thread. The davidandrewrileyisafascist Tumblr hosts a screeshot of the comment, which says in part:

I think I need to put the record straight. Yes, I was in the National Front for ten year from 1973 to the middle of 1983. During that time I never regarded the party as fascist, though it did have minority elements within it that undoubtedly were. …I have never regarded myself as a fascist, and certainly not a nazi. The term ‘white supremacist’ is one I don’t recognise and certainly repudiate. If you saw me associating with my ethnically diverse neighbours in Bulgaria you would not level that at me then. I know this will not convince some people, and, quite honestly, I accept that….

The relationship between Riley’s past political views and organizing activity, and his current views, and whether he should be serving on a HWA awards jury, are now subjects of intense discussion. HWA President Morton’s statement indicates no action will be taken unless “a juror’s personal views have a provable impact/bias against a writer or his/her works.”

Paul St. John Mackintosh’s take on Riley is less negative than most — “The other current genre controversy: The David A. Riley Feud” at TeleRead.

I chose some words carefully there because, as may be obvious, I think the most charitable interpretation that can be put on this is that Riley must have been exceptionally naive to conclude that the NF wasn’t racist or fascistic in its tendencies from the start. I certainly had no such illusions growing up in the UK in the 1970s. Even if there was definite infiltration by more extreme neo-Nazis during the 1970s, the party was founded with the aid of such delightful people as the Racial Preservation Society to oppose immigration and multiculturalism in Britain.

That said, Riley left the NF and is no longer associated with it – to my knowledge at least – or to any active right-wing group, and again, as far as I know, doesn’t project significantly racist views in his current work, even to whatever degree H.P. Lovecraft did in his. (Although for some possible past concerns, see here.) Quite a few significant writers of impeccable left-wing pedigree, including Samuel R. Delany and Charles Stross, are still his friends on Facebook. Maybe they’ll change their minds now, but we’ll see. I’m one too, for now, partly to keep track of what’s going on, but also because after what happened, I feel like making a stand on the issue of personal conscience here….

Plus, if Riley can’t turn around and repent his past follies, what hope is there for any of us? Maybe he hasn’t – but quite enough people seem to have concluded that once a fascist always a fascist, and damned him eternally. And Riley’s verdict on his own past may have been less than 100 percent convincing, but others obviously didn’t wait to read that before condemning him. And for opponents of virulent racism and poisonous attitudes, there are enough all-too-live and current targets to go after, without dredging up moribund and past ones.

Nick Mamatas classifies Riley as a fascist and contends he should be removed from the awards jury.

Some notes on the recent drama in the Horror Writers Association (of which I am no longer a member) and their appointment of fascist David A Riley to the award jury. This is a public post. My FB is not normally public….

1a. Liberals confuse this idea with a broader idea that unpleasant people are unpleasant and thus should be excluded from pleasant activities. This is the core of the slippery slope arguments around no-platforming. If the answer to “Where does it end?” isn’t “Where it begins; with fascism”, the argument to no-platform will never be consistently won, especially in groups like HWA, which have intrinsic and correct allegiances to freedom of expression and diversity of thought. The sad fact of this political juncture is that neither the mainstream liberal or conservative factions are interested in free expression—only the smarter elements of the far left and the less stupid bits of the libertarian right are. Fascism is a particular and singular exception, and even then, the state should not be involved in limiting speech—it’s up to activists to militantly defend creative milieux against fascism….

3. What’s the harm? Editors and publishers submit work to the jury. One need not be HWA members to submit work. I’ve submitted stories by Japanese authors, and my Japanese anthologies as a whole, in past years. Why would I do that if I know that one of the members considers Asians to be necessarily inferior? I was also published in an anthology called CALEDONIA DREAMIN’ with a theme of celebrating the Scots language, a few years ago—why submit work from that book to a juror who belongs to a group that believes that Scottish independence is a trick by EU “string-pullers” and “traitors” in Westminster, and that the Scots language is illegitimate? Fascists make bad jury members for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who ever noticed names like, oh, “Klein” on their bookshelves.

(Mamatas also feels people who quote his post should oblige by plugging his book The Last Weekend: A Novel of Zombies, Booze, and Power Tools.)

Many writers have commented on Lisa Morton’s open Facebook thread. Usman Tanveer Malik and Kate Jonez thoughtfully expressed divergent viewpoints.

Usman Tanveer Malik:

The HWA is a supposedly professional For Writers entity, correct? How can an organization that professes non-discrimination ascertain that a person with a history of fascism will not be biased when it comes to making selections from works of potential merit? Like Nick Mamatas points out, why should I as a writer or editor submit my work to a jury that has doubled down on including and retaining a known white supremacist–esp. when any psychologist will tell you bias and human error creep into every operative system? The bigger the bias, the more unstable the operation and the more suspect the results. Moreover, by excusing the past history of a supremacist/fascist and allowing them a position of power, the message we’re sending is quite clear: we the organization are condoning such behavior and actors of such behavior.

Kate Jonez:

I am just a member so my opinion is just that. I am on the diversity committee and have volunteered for other jobs in the HWA I encourage others to join and work for what you think the organization should be. I would very much like to see a documented racist removed from the jury. I just don’t see how to do it.

Free speech is tricky territory. It always has been. To believe in it, a person has to hear a lot of crap that he or she would rather not. As a private organization the HWA could remove any member or juror they choose. As an HWA member I would very much like that all racists be out of the organization. I’d really like them to be removed from the US… the world.

Like many other organizations the HWA has chosen to support free speech. This forces them to accept situations that many members would prefer not to accept. The HWA can and has removed jurors who can be documented as instigating violence or making threats, but vetting jurors’ political background is outside the scope of a writers’ organization. Who else should be removed? Should the HWA remove people who’ve spoken out against Syrian refugees, anyone who has a negative position on Affirmative Action, anyone been accused or convicted of domestic violence, anyone who has voted against gay marriage? I personally would be happy never to hear opinions from people holding these views. I don’t think people who think this way are capable of making informed decisions any more that white supremacist/fascists are. I believe many HWA members feel the same way. Unfortunately, that’s not how free speech works. How do you get rid of abhorrent ideas and maintain intellectual freedom? I truly would like an answer to this.