Pixel Scroll 10/3/17 You Are Standing In An Open Field West Of A White House, With A Boarded Front Door. There Is A Small Scroll Here.

(1) HEARTLESS. The day after the worst of recent mass-shootings in American history I don’t want to click on Nerds of a Feather and find “Non-review: Destiny 2 by Bungie (developer)”, a post that begins:

Nameless Midnight is my favorite weapon. It’s a scout rifle with explosive rounds and decreased recoil. It’s good in PVP, but it’s amazing in PVE. Every shot is a bloom of damage numbers. With sixteen rounds, I can empty a room with it. Dump a whole magazine into an elite enemy and I’ve probably killed it. Since it’s a scout rifle, it’s second only to a sniper for range too, so I don’t even have to be close. It’s not even an exotic weapon, so I can still carry my Hard Light as a backup. They’re an amazing pair.

I just despair for fandom.

(2) NEW WAVES. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 has been announced, given to those who contributed to the observation of gravitational waves. Half of the award goes to Rainer Weiss (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) and Kip S. Thorne (LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration) “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

Gravitational waves finally captured

On 14 September 2015, the universe’s gravitational waves were observed for the very first time. The waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the LIGO detector in the USA.

The signal was extremely weak when it reached Earth, but is already promising a revolution in astrophysics. Gravitational waves are an entirely new way of observing the most violent events in space and testing the limits of our knowledge.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a collaborative project with over one thousand researchers from more than twenty countries. Together, they have realised a vision that is almost fifty years old. The 2017 Nobel Laureates have, with their enthusiasm and determination, each been invaluable to the success of LIGO. Pioneers Rainer Weiss and Kip S. Thorne, together with Barry C. Barish, the scientist and leader who brought the project to completion, ensured that four decades of effort led to gravitational waves finally being observed.

(3) BONESTELL DOCUMENTARY. In production, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future is a feature-length documentary on the life, works, and influence of sff artist Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986). The website is filled with interesting resources.

Long before satellites would journey to planets and deep-space telescopes would photograph distant galaxies, there was an artist whose dazzling visions of planets and stars would capture the imagination of all who beheld them. Before that, he was an architect working on projects like the Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. He would later become a matte painter in Hollywood working on films like “Citizen Kane” and “Destination Moon”. Who was this remarkable man? His name was Chesley Bonestell.

 

(4) FREE PICKERSGILL. David Langford keeps rolling in high gear: “With Ansible out of the way for another month, I’ve been overhauling the TAFF free ebooks page.” Here’s a new addition, Can’t Get Off the Island by Greg Pickersgill.

A selection of living legend Greg Pickersgill’s fanwriting edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, published to mark Greg’s Fan Guest of Honour role at Interaction, the 2005 Glasgow Worldcon. Autobiography, reviews, convention reports, musings on fandom, controversy … with sources ranging from 1970s fanzines to 2005 posts on private email lists. First published 2005; reissued as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site in October 2017. 76,000 words.

(5) PULPFEST. Seven recordings of program items at the most recent Pulpfest are available for listening:

Compliments of the Domino Lady

Long-time journalist and pop culture historian Michelle Nolan takes a look at a female pulp hero in “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch

Popular culture professor Garyn Roberts, who was received PulpFest’s Munsey Award in 2013, examines “100 Years With the Author of Psycho, Robert Bloch.”

Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner

Anthony Marks, winner of a 2009 Anthony Award, presents “Hard-Boiled and Dangerous: The Many Characters of Erle Stanley Gardner.”

Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine

Matt Moring, publisher at Altus Press, discuses “Hard-Boiled Dicks: A Look at Dime Detective Magazine.”

The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin

Will Murray, pulp historian and author of the new adventures of Doc Savage, Pat Savage, and Tarzan, discusses “The Dangerous Dames of Maxwell Grant: Myra Reldon, Margo Lane, and Carrie Cashin.

Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn

David Saunders, pulp art historian and son of pulp artist Norman Saunders, talks with PulpFest 2017 Guest of Honor Gloria Stoll Karn about her career as a pulp artist.

Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

California State University Sacramento professor Tom Krabacher and long-time pulp collector Walker Martin discuss “Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young.”

(6) DI FATE’S MAGICON SPEECH. Fanac.org has put on YouTube a video recording of 1992 Worldcon GoH Vincent Di Fate taking up the theme another artist addressed at the first Worldcon, “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” (46 minute video):

MagiCon, the 50th worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. As the 50th Worldcon, MagiCon recreated key parts of the first Worldcon program held in 1939. Guest of Honor Vincent Di Fate was asked to speak on the topic “Science Fiction, Spirit of Youth” as a nod to a talk of the same name by the first Worldcon Guest of Honor, Frank R. Paul. Here, Vincent Di Fate provides an engaging view of Frank R. Paul, and his impact on SF illustration. He also reflects on his own influences, on authors such as Robert Heinlein, and on some of the greats of early SF film. His love for science fiction is clear, and contagious.

 

(7) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will present James Patrick Kelly and Jennifer Marie Brissett at the next gathering of Fantastic Fiction at KGB on October 18.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publications are the novel Mother Go, an audiobook original from Audible and the career retrospective Masters of Science Fiction: James Patrick Kelly from Centipede Press. Forthcoming in November are the premier of his stage play Grouped, at the Paragon Science Fiction Play Festival in Chicago and in February a new story collection from Prime, The Promise of Space. He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and is on the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine.

Jennifer Marie Brissett

Jennifer Marie Brissett is the author of Elysium. She has been shortlisted for the Locus Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and has won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation. Her short stories can be found in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Lightspeed, Uncanny, The Future Fire, APB: Artists against Police Brutality, and other publications. And once in her life, a long time ago and for three and a half years, she owned and operated a Brooklyn indie bookstore called Indigo Café & Books. She is currently on the faculty at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop where she teaches Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing.

The readings begin 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 18, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York.

(8) DISCOVERY REVIEW. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Star Trek Discovery Episode 3”, wonders if he has the right address.

Or is this Star Trek: Black Ops? The third episode is full of promise for what could be a really good series. Once again, the broad strokes and characters are good but the plot details still need attention.

It is six months after the events of the first two episodes. Michael Burnham is on a shuttle transport amid some kind of space storm on her way with other prisoners to some space mines etc. Viewer alert: engage disbelief suspension system. Beep, beep, beep. Space opera mode engaged: disbelief suspended.

It’s Star Trek, it wants more fake realism than other SF properties but this is still a rubber headed alien universe with tribbles and space monsters. I resolved to give it some more slack when the hull of the shuttle gets infected with electricity eating bugs.

(9) VEGGIES MR. RICO. In Squashalypse!”, BookViewCafe’s Deborah J. Ross finds a way to avert terrestrial takeover by an aggressive nonsentient species.

Okay, we’ve all heard the warnings. In summer squash season, do not leave the window of your parked car down or you will find a 20 lb zucchini on the passenger seat. And every year we (as do many others) suffer a memory lapse and plant — well, too many squash plants. (This applies only to summer squashes like zucchini, pattypan, and crookneck; winter squashes like butternut, buttercup, and acorn aren’t a problem because they can be stored and enjoyed over the course of months.) However, we have devised several strategies for dealing the the bounty that do not involve breaking and entering our neighbors’ vehicles.

(10) ATTENTION TO ORDERS. Hie thee to Camestros Felapton’s blog where you are instructed to laugh at “McEdifice Returns! Chapter n+1”!

It was week 4 of intensive training for the new recruits of the Intergalactic Space Army. Trainee unit Alpha 57 consisted of Dweeble, Mush, Henumhein, Chuckowitz, Mertlebay, Shumpwinder, Scoot, Pumpwhistle, Pendlebee, Zorb, Feratu, and McEdifice.

“I HAVE NEVER SEEN, a more mangy, misbegotten, NO GOOD, bunch of FLEA INFESTED, scum-bag eating EXCUSES for recruits in all MY DAYS at Bootcamp 67!” Drill Sergeant Ernie (Earnest to his friends of which he had none) was professionally loud, cantankerous and had master degrees in bullying, verbal abuse, and counterproductive unfairness.

McEdifice narrowed his eyes. Sure, he understood the basic principle of psychologically breaking the recruits down so as to rebuild their personalities as a hardened unit of warriors but McEdifice couldn’t ignore his instincts and his instincts told him that the camp had been infiltrated by SPACE VAMPIRES. He didn’t know who the infiltrator was but he knew that he didn’t like Drill Sergeant Ernie.

(11) FOR YOUR NYCC VIEWING PLEASURE. Marvel will be streaming programming from this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

Marvel Entertainment invites you to experience the best of New York Comic Con 2017 LIVE from the heart of Manhattan! Starting Thursday, October 5, tune in to Marvel Entertainment’s live stream coverage of NYCC, starting at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT and get ready to be a part of one of the biggest fan events of the year!

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, viewers will be able to watch booth events and panels from the Javits Center, play games with their favorite Marvel comic and television talent, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings.

Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/NYCC2017Marvel’s YouTube channel or Marvel’s Facebook page. For the first time ever, you can watch Marvel LIVE! from all three platforms!

(12) FANHISTORY FOR SALE. A copy of the 1946 Worldcon program book is up for auction on eBay with some interesting autographs.

SIGNED 1946 WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION

with ORIGINAL UNCUT STICKER SHEET (see last two photos)

SIGNED By: Ray Bradbury, E Everett Evans, Charles A. Lucase, Dale Hart, Myrtle R. Douglas, Gus Willmorth and Russ

The Big Heart Award was originally named in memory of Evans. Myrtle R. Douglas is Morojo, now commemorated for helping originate convention cosplay.

(13) BEER SCIENCE. Tech of a new alcohol trend: “The Taming Of The Brew: How Sour Beer Is Driving A Microbial Gold Rush”.

Trial and error abounds. “We’ve worked with 54 different species from 24 genera,” Bochman says, to find five yeasts capable of souring beers. Nevertheless, each new microbe — whether isolated from the microbiome of the Jamestown historical site, or some guy’s beard — expands sour beers’ flavor palette and allows craft brewers to work with entirely new compounds.

Note especially:

Bochman, for example, uses sour brewing as a “rubber bullet” to train students who’ll transfer their skills to isolating pathogens. “If they drop a sample on the floor, or ruin an experiment, it’s not $2,000 down the drain. You’re not screwing up some cancer cell line. You just spilled a beer.”

(14) UNCANNY DESTROY STRETCH GOAL FUNDS. Not only did the “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine” Kickstarter fund Uncanny’s fourth year and the special SF issue, it also met the stretch goal for an additional Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue.

[Thanks to Dave Langford, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At last: A Spider-Man movie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was literally that much thought.

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

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

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

 

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not good for ratings.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartman explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/17 Pixeldimethylaminotickaldescroll

(1) PREMIO MINOTAURO. Nieve en Marte (Snow on Mars), a science fiction novel written by Pablo Tébar, is the winner of the 2017 Minotauro Award, Spain’s literary award for the best unpublished SF, fantasy or horror novel. The prize is worth 6,000 Euros.

The novel earned the unanimous vote of the Minotauro Award Jury, this year composed of writers Javier Sierra and Manel Loureiro, the Director of the Sitges – International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, Ángel Sala, movie producer Adrián Guerra and the editor in chief of Ediciones Minotauro publishing house, Marcela Serras.

This is the fourteenth year that the International Fantastic and Science Fiction Literature Award has been presented by Ediciones Minotauro. (Hat tip to Europa SF.)

(2) AT THE LANGUAGE FOUNDRY. Editor Joe Stech says from now on he’s calling what his magazine publishes “Plausible Science Fiction”.

I was at convention yesterday and heard a panel discussion about the old “hard vs. soft” science fiction debate. I realized while listening that there is a huge amount of baggage that people associate with the term “hard science fiction,” and that by using it when I describe the focus of Compelling Science Fiction I may be conveying something different than intended. Because of this, I’m going to start using a different term when talking about what sub-genre Compelling Science Fiction focuses on: “plausible science fiction.” The word “plausible” is still ambiguous, but I believe it doesn’t have all the semantic cruft that has built up over the decades around “hard.” We will no longer reference “hard science fiction” when describing our magazine, even though what we look for in stories is not changing.

“Plausible science fiction,” in this context, means “science fiction that tries not to disrupt suspension of disbelief for people that have knowledge of science and engineering.” This can mean not blatantly contradicting our current knowledge of the universe, and it can also mean not blatantly ignoring how humans generally behave. It also means internal self-consistency….

(3) STORY TIME. LeVar Burton reads to you — in the intro he says he’ll pick short stories from a lot of genres, including his favorite, science fiction — on the Levar Burton podcast.

LeVar Burton is an Actor, Director, Educator & Cofounder of the award-winning Skybrary App, host and Executive Producer of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and lifelong children’s literacy advocate.

(4) COMPLETELY MAD,  I TELL YOU. Dorothy Grant at Mad Genius Club lets a “friend” explain the best strategies for not selling books in  “How to Successfully not Market your Book: Or Doing it All Wrong (Almost) By Alma Boykin”

Alma Boykin here. I have been successfully getting in my own way and not marketing (fiction) books since December 2012. In the process, I’ve managed to make pretty much every mistake you can do as an indie author, bar one. Dorothy Grant, Cedar Sanderson, and others have written a lot about how to market your books and stories. So here’s a quick guide on how to successfully not market your book, thus ensuring that only the most selective, discriminating, or lucky readers will ever find it. …

  1. No social media presence ever. I did give in and start a blog, Cat Rotator’s Quarterly,(Alma! I added the blog name and link! You should promote it! -Ed.) in February 2014, but I have no Twitter, Facebook, G+, LiveJournal, Snapchat, Pinterest, or whatever other social media platforms are out there. This is another great way not to tell people about your books. What they don’t know about, then can’t find. HOWEVER! If used properly, social media can help not-sell your work. Some of the best ways are to overload anyone who follows you with near-daily announcements about “Only three years, two months, and a day and a half until the release of [book]!” or “Hey, boy my book! Buy my book!” The more often you remind people to buy your work, the more they will drop your feed and flee the company of your works. Think of it as the electronic version of the whiney 5-year-old in the back seat asking “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I gotta go. Are we there yet?”

(5) SUMMER READING. The Verge says “Here are 16 books coming out this month that you should also check out”, beginning with —

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

Greg Egan is known for some spectacular science fiction novels in recent years, and his latest looks pretty out there. It’s set in a strange universe where light can’t travel in every direction. Its inhabitants can only face and travel in one direction: east. Otherwise, they’ll get distorted across the landscape. A surveyor named Seth joins an expedition to the edge of inhabitable space, where they discover an unimaginable fissure in the world — one that will stop the ongoing migration of its inhabitants. The only way forward is down, to try and find a way to save everyone.

(6) THE WORST FORM OF GOVERNMENT, AFTER ALL THE REST. David Langford has made a belated addition to the July Ansible – a copy of “the tasty General Election campaign flyer from a candidate in our area.” Well worth a look.

(7) COME TO THE FAIR. Also thieved from Ansible, this item about Ken McLeod’s slate of events at the Edinburgh International Book Fair.

  • On Tuesday 15 August at 6:30 I’ll be talking with Stephen Baxter about his new novel The Massacre of Mankind,
  • On Wednesday 16 August 2017 at 7.15pm I’ll be chairing a discussion with Charles Stross and Jo Walton on ‘End Times, Crazy Years’, to ask: what happens when reality outdoes dystopia, let alone satire?
  • My own work comes up for discussion on Thursday 17 August at 2.30 pm, when I’m on with Charlie Fletcher, who, like me, has just completed a trilogy.
  • I’ve long been a proponent of the argument, which I first encountered in the work of Gary Westfahl, that informed and engaged criticism by active readers has shaped the SF genre perhaps more than any other, from the letter columns of Amazing Stories onward. Who better to test this contention with than two outstanding critics who are also outstanding writers? That’s what’s on offer on Thursday 17 August at 5.30 pm, when I chair a discussion between Adam Roberts and Jo Walton.
  • For this final event in the strand, Rockets to Utopia? on Friday 18 August at 6.30 pm, we have two truly exceptional writers. Nalo Hopkinson is a Guest of Honour at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, …Ada Palmer is a historian, who burst on the SF scene only last year with her acclaimed, complex novel Too Like the Lighting …Nalo and Ada are joined by me and Charlie, and we’re chaired by Pippa Goldschmidt. Pippa writes close to the edge of SF, has previously featured at the Book Festival, and in an earlier life held the Civil Service title ‘Chair of Outer Space’, so should have no difficulty chairing a panel.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

  • History of World UFO Day

World UFO Day was organized by WorldUFODay.com in 2001, and was put together to bring together enthusiasts of UFO’s and the evidence they’ve all gathered to support their existence. …Many of them believe they already have arrived, and anyone who knows anything about UFO’s is aware of the stories of abductions and what is seen as the seminal event in UFO history, the crash at Roswell. While they believe that the governments of the world are presently hiding this information from the populace, this in no way discourages believers from continuing to search for the truth they’re certain is out there.

(9) TALKING FOR DOLLARS. The truth may be out there, but the number of people looking for it seems to be declining. Consider this report from The Register, cleaning up after the latest mess: “Shock: NASA denies secret child sex slave cannibal colony on Mars”.

NASA has not enslaved a colony of children on Mars nor is it using them for vile orgies on the Red Planet nor feasting on them to harvest their precious bone marrow, officials have told The Register….

On Thursday, one of President Trump’s favorite talking heads, Alex Jones, interviewed ex-CIA officer Robert David Steele during his radio show. Steele made some astonishing – think nuttier than squirrel crap – allegations of NASA covering up that humankind already has an outpost on the Mars. And that the alien world was red not just with oxidized iron dust but with the spilled blood of innocent youngsters snatched off the street and shipped into outer space.

“We actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony,” Steele claimed. How exactly they are still children after 20 years of space travel wasn’t, funnily enough, explained.

…”There are no humans on Mars yet,” NASA spokesman Guy Webster told El Reg last night, presumably restraining himself from adding” “I can’t believe I have to answer this kind of stuff.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 2, 1959 – Premiered on this date, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
  • July 2, 1992 — Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking breaks British publishing records on this day. His book A Brief History of Time has been on the nonfiction bestseller list for three and a half years, selling more than 3 million copies in 22 languages.

(11) SAVE THE BOOKS. History will be rewritten – if it’s not destroyed first. See The Guardian’s book review, “The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English review – how precious manuscripts were saved”.

For African historians, the realisation during the late 1990s of the full scale of Timbuktu’s intellectual heritage was the equivalent of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for scholars of Judaism in the 1950s. When the African American academic Henry Louis Gates Jr visited Timbuktu in 1997 he actually burst into tears at the discovery of the extraordinary literary riches. He had always taught his Harvard students that “there was no written history in Africa, that it was all oral. Now that he had seen these manuscripts, everything had changed.”

Yet with the coming of al-Qaida, there was now a widespread fear that this huge treasure trove, the study of which had only just begun, could go the way of the Baghdad, Kabul or Palmyra museums, or the Bamiyan Buddhas. Before long, efforts began to smuggle the most important of the manuscripts out of Timbuktu and to somehow get them to safety in Bamako, the capital of Mali. The story of how this was done forms the narrative backbone of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu, which consequently reads like a sort of Schindler’s list for medieval African manuscripts, “a modern day folk tale that proved irresistible, with such resonant, universal themes of good versus evil, books versus guns, fanatics versus moderates”.

(12) JUST THE FACTS. How well will you do on the Guardian’s twentieth anniversary “Harry Potter quiz: 20 years, 20 questions”?

It’s exactly two decades since the first of JK Rowling’s books was published. Try our Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test to see how much you have learned since then.

I got 8/20, which is better than I usually do on internet quizzes.

(13) NO JUSTICE. There’s a reason CBS never greenlighted its Justice League series, even if it did include the Green Lantern. ScreenRant says, actually, there are fifteen reaons why…. “15 Things The Unseen Justice League TV Pilot Got Wrong”.

You’d be hard pressed to find a comics or cinema fan not aware of the highly anticipated Justice League film due this November. What many of these fans might not know is that this is actually the second attempt at adapting DC Comics premiere super team – with the feature-length pilot for a CBS Justice League of America TV series pre-dating it by a whole decade!

The reason why most people are oblivious when it comes to the Justice League pilot is simple: it never aired in the United States (although it did see the light of day on some international networks). The rationale behind the CBS executives’ decision to bury the pilot is even simpler: it’s… uh, not very good (like, at all).

The worst of all was its –

  1. Mockumentary-style Interviews

Another “surprisingly ahead of its time” aspect of the Justice League pilot gone horribly wrong is its inclusion of mockumentary-style, to-camera interviews intercut through the episode.

Ever since The Office popularized the mockumentary format in TV comedy, there have been plenty of imitators with little interest in accurately simulating its “real-world” mechanics (looking at you, Modern Family). But way before any of these – heck, before The Office itself! – the Justice League pilot was completely throwing any sense of verisimilitude out the window entirely!

Think about it: who is filming these interviews? How come they know our heroes secret identities? Why isn’t the rest of the show shot like a documentary? These questions and more immediately come to mind as soon as the first interview cut-away rolls around, but those looking for answers shouldn’t get their hopes up.

(14) EVERY VOTE A SURPRISE. Tpi’s Reading Diary shares “My Hugo award votes 2017 part 1: novellas” and says Seanan McGuire’s story is in first place on his ballot.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire Young teenagers, mostly girls, have gone to alternative worlds where they felt at home. The alternative worlds are mostly different, some are fantasy lands, others are based on logic, some are based on some kind of horror motive, and so on. In the most cases, the youths felt at home on those worlds. For some reason, some of them have been cast out. Time has moved at a different rate for them in many cases. It might have been years in our world and their parents assumed that their children had been abducted/run out and are most likely dead. The relationships between the children and their parents are usually very strained – and usually they were strained even before the youths went away. The victims are gathered to a special school, which is run by an old woman who herself had the same fate as a teenager. She looks middle-aged but is possibly much older. A young girl goes to the school. Soon other pupils start to die – gruesomely. The other pupils naturally first have some suspicion toward the new pupil, especially as she comes from a world where death himself is an important figure. A pretty good story with a new look at what Alice in Wonderland and Narnia (according to the novella, Lewis didn’t really know anything, he just used stories he had heard – badly) might actually mean. A nice and interesting story, with unusual characters and excellent writing.

(15) WHATEVER. Two tweets make a post – is that a metric thing? John Scalzi and Dan Wells make merry on the last day of a con — “In Which I Trespass Against Dan Wells at Denver Comic Con, and He Exacts His Fitting Revenge, a Tale Told in Two Tweets”.

(16) BAD TO THE BONE. BBC Trending gleefully explains “Why coders are battling to be the… worst”

Why have computer programmers on Reddit been battling it out to make volume control as bad as possible?

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cheryl S., John King Tarpinian, Joe Stech, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 7/1/17 When A Scroll Loves A Pixel

(1) THE FANS CANNA STAND THE STRAIN. The show’s not on the air yet and they’re already bumping off beloved characters? Here’s what io9 is reporting: Game of Thrones Inspired Star Trek: Discovery to Kill More Main Characters”.

So, which characters are most likely to attend the Red Shirt Wedding? Some online speculation suggests that Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca will be the first to go, possibly after turning on his crew; below-the-line comments for almost any article on the show are full of fans betting on Lorca’s death. Even Vanity Fair has come out and said the dude is probably a dead man walking.

Didn’t this actually start with The Sopranos? 

(2) REBOOT AND REVIVAL. SyFy Wire reports two Jetsons projects are in the works, one animated, one live-action.

Following on the heels of the announcement that The Jetsons was orbiting Warner Bros.’ creative platter as a new animated feature film comes new info that the futuristic family will soon grace the small-screen airwaves in a fresh live-action adaptation.

It’d definitely be interesting to check out a live-action version of the sparkly shiny future of Astro City, and we look forward to seeing how this project develops. According to the announcement, this fresh take on The Jetsons will be set 100 years from now and will have a comedic edge similar to the classic ’60s cartoon.

Sources have confirmed that Warners has enlisted the assistance of Family Guy executive producer Gary Janetti to put the polish on this reboot and will start shopping the project around to interested broadcast stations and major cable networks next month. Janetti will also serve as an executive producer, with Forest Gump’s Robert Zemeckis and Castaway’s Jack Rapke.

(3) SHATNER. In The Truth Is in the Stars, William Shatner “sits down with scientists, innovators and celebrities to discuss how the optimism of ‘Star Trek’ influenced multiple generations.” The show is available on Netflix, and was aired a few months ago in Canada.

(4) SAN DIEGO HOLDS ONTO CON FOUR MORE YEARS. “Comic-Con is here to stay — through 2021” – the San Diego Union-Tribune has the story.

Despite dashed hopes for an expanded convention center, Comic-Con International has agreed to a new three-year contract that will keep the always sold-out pop culture gathering in San Diego through 2021.

The new three-year deal, announced Friday morning by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, hinged, as it has in previous contracts, on persuading local hotels to keep a lid on room rates over the term of the contract. The current contract, which will expire after next year’s show, covered two years and also included provisions for controlling what are always high room rates during the four-day July convention….

As much as hotel rates matter, so too does diminishing space for the Con, said Comic-Con International spokesman David Glanzer, noting that negotiations for the contract extension had been ongoing for a year.

“We have had to cap our attendance for many, many years so our income level is different and we have to be aware of that,” he said during a morning news conference outside the center. “But again, with the efforts of the mayor, the Tourism Authority, the hoteliers, we’re able to make what we have work.”

Glanzer, though, wasn’t willing to guarantee that the convention will always remain in San Diego.

“We’ve made it very, very clear we would love to stay here, but the truth of the matter is we have operated shows in Oakland, in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and in Anaheim,” he said. “If the worst thing were to happen, and that is we had to leave, we all can still live in San Diego and the convention can be in another city. That’s not what we want. And I’m glad we’re calling San Diego home for another three years.”

(5) THE BOOK OF TAFF. David Langford announces  TAFF Trip Report Anthology (unfinished reports) is available as a free download —

I’m rather pleased to have published this ebook at last on the TAFF freebies page, 130,000 words of chapters/fragments from abandoned TAFF reports and teaser chapters from several still in progress.

And at the TAFF freebies page you’ll also find some completed trip reports, as well as other items of a fanhistorical or mischievous bent.

(6) VISI-PHONE CALL FOR YOU. The Traveler from Galactic Journey will be calling from 1962 again on July 29, this time to discuss the Hugo Awards: “Take Two!  (Vote for the 1962 Hugos at the Galactic Journey Tele-Conference)”. Sign up so you can listen in and participate.

The 20th Annual WorldCon is coming, Labor Day Weekend, 1962.  Every year, attendees of this, the most prestigious science fiction convention, gather to choose the worthy creations of the prior year that will win the Hugo Award.

But if you can’t make it to Chicago, don’t worry.  You still get to vote.

Galactic Journey is putting on its second live Tele-Conference via Visi-Phone for the purpose of gathering as many fellow travelers together in one virtual place.  Our mission – to select the best novels, stories, films, etc. of 1961.  Maybe they’ll make the official World Con ballot, maybe they won’t.  Who cares?  It’s what we like that matters.  And if you’re not completely up on all the works of last year, check out our Galactic Stars nominations for 1961.

To participate in the Tele-Conference, send in your RSVP …and you’ll receive a ballot.  Then sit tight, and on July 29, 1962 at 11am, tune in to the broadcast.

(7) SIMULATING MARS. On July 20, Moon landing day, KPCC will host “Red-hot real estate —Living on Mars” in Pasadena.

How will humans survive on Mars? No food, no free oxygen and no stepping outside to enjoy the view without a spacesuit. Mars makes Antarctica look like a tropical resort. Nevertheless, scientists have found water below the surface, where life might be hiding. Engineers and scientists are seeking solutions that will enable people to visit the red planet as soon as the 2030s. Will a permanent station or colony follow? Or should Mars be off limits to all but robots?

Join Planetary Radio Live host Mat Kaplan for a fascinating conversation with Mars experts as the Planetary Society returns to KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum. We’ll also visit with the crew of the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), a group of men and women who are simulating an eight-month Mars excursion on a Hawaiian mountainside. Their experience is one more step toward turning Earthlings into Martians.

(8) PADDINGTON BEGINS. Radio Times in its June 28 issue reprints “Michael Bond: how Paddington Bear came to be”, which originally appeared when the movie Paddington came out in 2014.  He discusses how he started as a writer, how Paddington is really a refugee and how his parents would have dealt with refugees, and how an American told him, “I’m so used to Paddington being the name of a bear, it seems a funny name for a railway station.”

At the time I was a television cameraman with the BBC, so my writing had to be squeezed into days when I was off-duty. One such day found me sitting with a blank sheet of paper in my typewriter and not an idea in my head, only too well aware that the ball was in my court. Nobody else was going to put any words down for me.

Glancing round in search of inspiration my gaze came to rest on Paddington, who gave me a hard stare from the mantelpiece, and the muse struck, along with what was destined to become the equivalent of a literary catchphrase. Suppose a real live bear ended up at Paddington station? Where might it have sprung from, and why? If it had any sense it would find a quiet spot near the Lost Property Office and hope for the best.

I knew exactly how my own parents would react if they saw it, particularly if it had a label round its neck, like a refugee in the last war. There are few things sadder in life than a refugee. My mother wouldn’t have hesitated to give it a home, while my father, who was a civil servant to his fingertips, would have been less enthusiastic in case he was doing something against the law.

(9) SANDERS OBIT. William Sanders (1942-2017), an sf writer and former senior editor of the now defunct online magazine Helix SF, died June 30 reports Lawrence Watt-Evans.

He published several dozen short stories of which the most famous was “The Undiscovered” (Asimov’s Mar 1997), shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon awards, and winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. A second story, “Empire”, also won the Sidewise Award.

About his books the Wikipedia Wikipedia says:

Sanders has written several novels, including Journey to Fusang (1988), The Wild Blue and the Gray (1991) and The Ballad of Billy Badass & the Rose of Turkestan (1999). The first two are alternate histories with a humorous bent while the last is a fantasy novel.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 1, 1930 Halloween producer Moustapha Al Akkad is born in Aleppo, Syria

(11) WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU. Facebook drone in successful test flight.

Facebook has completed a second test of a solar-powered drone designed to bring internet access to remote parts of the world.

The drone – dubbed Aquila – flew for one hour and 46 minutes in Arizona.

On Aquila’s maiden voyage last summer, the autopilot system was confused by heavy wind and crash-landed.

This time, the drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, a long way from Facebook’s intended 60,000ft goal.

(12) WEAPONS HISTORY. Visiting Peenemünde: “The German village that changed the war”.

Peenemünde looks out across the mouth of the River Peene where it drifts into the Baltic Sea. In 1935, engineer Wernher von Braun pinpointed the village, which offered a 400km testing range off the German coast, as the perfect, secret place to develop and test rockets.

Frantic building work began on the world’s largest and most modern rearmament centre. About 12,000 people worked on the first-ever cruise missiles and fully functioning large-scale rockets at the site, which spanned an area of 25 sq km. The research and development carried out in Peenemünde was not only crucial to the course of the biggest war in history, but impacted the future of weapons of mass destruction, as well as space travel.

(13) FAKED NEWS. Spotting patch jobs: “The hidden signs that can reveal a fake photo”.

Research suggests that regardless of what you might think about your own abilities to spot a hoax, most of us are pretty bad at it. Farid, however, looks at photographs in a different way to most people. As a leading expert in digital forensics and image analysis, he scrutinises them for the almost imperceptible signs that suggest an image has been manipulated.

One trick he has picked up over time is to check the points of light in people’s eyes. “If you have two people standing next to each other in a photograph, then we will often see the reflection of the light source (such as the Sun or a camera flash) in their eyes,” he explains. “The location, size, and colour of this reflection tells us about the location, size, and colour of the light source. If these properties of the light source are not consistent, then the photo may be a composite.”

(14) WU CAMPAIGN. Hugo-winner Frank Wu endorses a candidate for Congress. And the cost of winning will not be insignificant.

My wife, Brianna, is running for US Congress.

Election night on 2016 was a disaster, bringing many of our worst fears to life. My wife Brianna Wu decided to take a stand. She’d worked her whole life to build a software company, but it all felt hollow with Trump in the White House. Marching wasn’t enough.  Protesting wasn’t enough. So, she decided to run for US Congress in Massachusetts District 8. I know it will be hard on our family, but I believe in her. Our country will not survive on its current path.

 

(15) THE SMOKING LAMP IS LIT. Alexandra Erin wrote a series of tweets about Anita Sarkeesian’s handling of YouTube harasser Carl Benjamin at VidCon. Click this tweet it and it will take you to the thread. Here are some excerpts:

(16) TODAY’S PRO HEALTH TIP. From John Scalzi at the Denver Comic Con.

(17) ADVANCE LOOK AT WESTERCON. If you want to get an early start on Westercon 70, happening next week in Tempe, AZ, the souvenir book is already available as a print-on-demand publication through Amazon. The “Look Inside” feature also lets you peek at random pages – I got an eyeful of the filk program schedule, for example. (I hope that’s curable.)

(18) DIMMER SWITCH. And the country goes eclipse-crazy…. NPR says “A Total Eclipse Will Sweep The U.S. In August, And People Are Going Nuts For It”.

The mayor of Hopkinsville, Ky., says his town has spent more than half a million dollars preparing for the event since learning 10 years ago that the area would be in the path of totality.

The town even has an eclipse coordinator.

“It’ll look like twilight outside. You’ll be able to see stars. Four planets will be visible — Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. You’ll notice the temperature drop about 5 to 10 degrees,” the coordinator, Brooke Jung, told the AP. “You’ll notice that animals will get a little disoriented. Birds will think that it’s nighttime and go in to roost. Some of the flowers and plants that close up at night will close up.”

“If it’s cloudy, then we’ll just have to deal with that reality as best we can and help people get to other locations,” Mayor Carter Hendricks told the AP. “But, if somehow we overprepare and we’re underwhelmed by the crowd size, that’s a big concern for me.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Frank Wu, Cat Eldridge, David Langford, Danny Sichel, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the mellifluous Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/17 The Ones That Mike Rates As A 5 Get Used Twice

(1) APRIL FOOL. First in our cavalcade of April Fools stunts is George R.R. Martin’s announcement “WILD CARDS Comes to Broadway!!”

Perhaps most critically, Lin-Manuel and I are still looking for our Jetboy… or should be it be Jetgirl? No, we haven’t made that change yet, but it is under serious consideration… along with the notion of replacing the JB-1 with a jetpack… but why don’t we let you folks decide? Let us know: which Jet-person would you prefer to see on stage?

(2) APRIL NON-FOOL. Did Mary Robinette Kowal plan to confess she is Chuck Tingle today? She says she ran out of time to execute her planned joke, despite having cleared it with Tingle —

I even wrote to him to ask if it were okay for me to pretend to be him. (Because otherwise, I would be taking credit for someone else’s work, which is something only devilmen would do.) He said, “hello TRUE BUCKAROO name of mary, you make books real you make books kiss the sky! this is a good way for all who like to read and i am happy that you write with love. this funny prank (HAHAHAHAHA) is a WAY of love and that is okay”

So there you go. Groundwork laid. Time non-existent. I guess you could say that my plans were pounded in the butt by my own scheduling conflicts.

(3) APRIL PRIMARY FOOL. The Daily Buzz ran a story today about George Takei’s plan to establish residency and run against a pro-Trump congressman.

(4) WHATEVER THE OPPOSITE OF COMIC RELIEF IS. Lou Antonelli is yukking it up today, too, in “Strange Bedfellows”.

I am proud to announce that, as a result of a long period of reconciliation as well as a practical need on the part of a distinguished author, I am collaborating with David Gerrold on a Star Trek tie-in original novel, “The Tribbles of Texas”…

(5) A VOX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES. Meantime, the editor of Cirsova marked the day by declaring “I Disavow Everyone”.

Alt-Furry, the Pulp Revolution, Vox Day, the Sad Puppies, the Rabid Puppies, our readers and subscribers, all them. I disavow everyone.

2018 will feature both a special Elves issue and an Engineers Troubleshooting Spaceship Circuitry issue, so get writing!

Details forthcoming in a File770 exclusive.

(6) ROBOSCREED. Harking back to Camestros Felapton’s cover generator (linked by Whatever as its April Fools celebration), and someone’s suggestion there needs to be a complementary text generator, Steve Wright said in comments he suddenly remembered one already exists

Actually, now I think on, there’s always this thing of Langford’s which actually will write something approximating SF (or whatever else you plug into it)…

Amazingly, A.I.Q. can still be persuaded to work on my Win10 laptop, albeit with many, many security popups.

A sample of its output is included in his comment. He closed by saying —

Camestros? Have Timothy’s people call Langford’s people. I’m thinking at least six Dragon Awards for this one….

(7) THE PROCRAPSING EMPIRE. Meanwhile, E. Reagan Wright, another Scalzi detractor, has been trying to jump onto the gravy train with his 6,400-word lump The Prolapsing Empire: An On-Schedule Story. It’s on Amazon, but oops, I forgot to include a link.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 1, 1883 – Lon Chaney, Sr., “Man of a Thousand Faces”
  • Born April 1, 1978 — Fred & George Weasley, characters in the Harry Potter series.

(9) SHOULD BE AN APRIL FOOL BUT ISN’T. A publisher with far more inflated ideas about the value of its editions is Routledge, which is offering J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Stuart Lee for $1,485, which works out to be about a buck a page.

J.R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. His popularity began with the publication in 1937 of The Hobbit, and was cemented by the appearance of The Lord of the Rings in the early 1950s. However, engagement with his work was until relatively recently sidelined by literary and other scholars. Consequently, many foundational analyses of his fiction, and his work as a medievalist, are dispersed in hard-to-find monographs and obscure journals (often produced by dedicated amateurs). In contrast, over the last decade or so, academic interest in Tolkien has risen dramatically. Indeed, interpretative and critical commentary is now being generated on a bewildering scale, in part aided by the continuing posthumous publication of his work (most recently, his Beowulf translation which appeared in 2014). The dizzying quantity—and variable quality—of this later criticism makes it difficult to discriminate the useful from the tendentious, superficial, and otiose.

(10) FOOD FOR THOUGHT. John King Tarpinian asks, “Can you even imagine how long the CarFax report is on the Batmobile?”

(11) COSMOLOGY AND THEOLOGY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in Episode 5 of its Into the Impossible podcast looks at “The Limits of Understanding.”

On this episode, we’re touching up against the outer limits of cosmology, and through that bringing up questions of limits on the imagination, the role of theology, and the end (and ends) of the universe. First, we’ll hear Paul Steinhardt on developing the inflationary model of the universe—and then casting that model aside in favor of the radically different cyclic model that replaces the Big Bang with a neverending series of Big Bounces. Then David Brin, science fiction author and futurist, shares his perspective on understanding religion, enabling discussion, and how nice it would be if we were all reborn in computronium as the universe collapses in on itself.

(12) A NEW COMPANION. Now the Good Doctor has a companion, Who, you ask? Aaron Pound tells all about it in his review of An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald E. Palumbo at Dreaming of Other Worlds.

Full review: An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries is, for the most part, a reference work. The bulk of its length is taken up with what amounts to an encyclopedia covering essentially every notable character, location, object, and event found in Isaac Asimov’s extended metaseries (and pretty much every non-notable character, location,, object, and event as well). Every entry gives a brief description of the subject, offering at least a sentence or two outlining who or what the entry is, and an explanation of how the subject fits into the larger body of Asimov’s work. These entries are informative, but like Asimov’s actual writing, have a tendency to be a little dry.

(13) BRING IN THE PANEL. Stephen King treated Guardian readers to a an interview of six fictional Trump voters to help understand how he became President: “Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’”.

…Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.

I decided to convene six Trump voters to discover how and why all this happened. Because I selected them from the scores of make-believe people always bouncing around in my head (sometimes their chatter is enough to drive me bugshit), I felt perfectly OK feeding them powerful truth serum before officially convening the round table. And because they are fictional – my creatures – they all agreed to this. They gulped the serum down in Snapple iced tea, and half an hour later we began.

(14) BATGIRL ORIGINS. Graeme McMillan, in a Hollywood Reporter article called “Where Should Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ Find Inspiration?”, looks at all the version of Batgirl that DC has used, beginning with the original appearance of Barbara Gordon in Detective Comics 359 (which the comics did after the TV show announced plans to add Batgirl) to her role as a hacker in the 1980s to today’s version as “Batgirl From Burnside,” as a graduate student living in Gotham City;s hipster suburb.

Barbara Gordon took on the role in 1967’s Detective Comics No. 359, in a story called “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” The cover for the issue made a big deal of her debut; she ran toward the reader in the center of the page while excited cover lines read “Meet the new Batgirl! Is she heroine or villainess? What is her startling secret identity?” The reason for this push wasn’t just an attempt to introduce a comic book character — plans were already afoot to introduce this second Batgirl into the popular Adam West TV show in its third season. She was played by Yvonne Craig.

The new Batgirl was a hit, graduating into her own stories in the back of Detective Comics as well as appearances across the DC line, including Superman, Justice League of America and World’s Finest Comics. She’d form temporary teams with both Robin — “the Dynamite Duo!” — and Supergirl and enjoy a loyal fan following throughout her crime-fighting career until it was cut short in the mid-80s by the combination of the Joker and writer Alan Moore.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, rcade, Johan P., Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peter J.]

Pixel Scroll 10/11/16 When An Unscrollable Pixel Meets An Irretickable File

(1) THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Dave Langford recalls his experiences at the Milford (UK) writers workshop three decades ago in “Mr Langford’s Milfords”

My Milford attendance record was nothing to write home about, let alone pad out to a six-volume fantasy trilogy.  All “my” Milfords were in the early though not the earliest days at the Compton Hotel, Milford-on-Sea. The Langford era ran from 1977 to 1984, skipping 1979 because that year’s UK Worldcon led to Milford being cancelled, and missing the 1983 event as a personal decision after long and painful study of my credit card statement.

Dave also heartily recommends Christopher Priest’s July post, “The Prequels”:

The misbehaviour of those middle-aged writers at Milford was in fact more or less as described, although I did leave out the bit where one of the most famous writers stormed out in a rage, where two others went for a midnight swim but afterwards couldn’t remember where they’d left their clothes … and when someone suddenly appeared at dinner dressed only in a black plastic bin-liner. No, that was another year.

(2) TYPO IN BRONZE. The Heinlein Society reports a typo was discovered on the dedication plaque of Robert Heinlein’s bust in the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a corrected plaque has now been installed.

(3) CONVERGENCE. Pukeko tries to relate his notions about political reality to Stross’ creation the Laundry Files, and Stross’ own politics, in “The turning is progressing as expected” at Dark Brightness.

The Laundry, on one level, is a horror urban fantasy. On another level, a spy story, And on the third, it has become a satire of the pretensions of the British Civil Service. The British Civil Service still is a good reason to move to than Antipodes.

But there is a tide in the seasons of man, and his neo-liberal political model — which he hates — is becoming one with the Soviet and Tyre. The Luddites he despises are on the flood. And the organisations he writes about, supports, and have his loyalty are converging, which means they are becoming unreliable, without utility, and forked….

Stross and I are of an age. Our youth was the time of Thatcher, Gorbachev, Clinton and brush wars in failing states. Our leaders became neo conservatives, including the converged leftist ones, and broke the social contract of the welfare state. We remember the welfare state. And we remember the Christmas strikes.

But that world has gone, along with the rules that made our society decent, functional, and allowed us to align with those who did not have the same religion, politics or lifestyle. The current social justice cadre instead demand we all double down and quackspeak.

My fear is that Stross will do this. I would much rather he pull the plot off, as he did when he introduced vampirism into the world. He moved too far into the uncanny valley with the last book. I want his cynical, but believable, Bob back. He is too good a writer to quack. And he does not deserve to go down with this death dealing elite.

(4) KEEP THAT RED NOSE UNDER COVER. McDonald’s downplays Ronald McDonald while ‘creepy clown’ sightings spread, reports the Los Angeles Times.

(5) SPACE TOURISM. Carl Slaughter points out —

Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: Vulcan
by Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward

Plan your next trip to the planet Vulcan! Find restaurants that serve the best fried sandworms and Vulcan port. Take a trip to the Fire Plains or experience spring break at the Voroth Sea. Learn all about the native Vulcan people and their unusual customs. Discover how to correctly perform the traditional Vulcan salutation (you really don’t want to get this wrong). Learn key Vulcan phrases such as Nam-tor puyan-tvi-shal wilat: “Where is your restroom?” Find out what to do if you suddenly find yourself host to a katra—a Vulcan’s living spirit—at an inconvenient moment. All this and more can be found within the pages of this essential travel guide to one of the most popular—and logical—destinations in the known universe.

This Hidden Universe travel guide draws on 50 years of Star Trek TV shows, films, and novels to present a comprehensive guide to Spock’s iconic home world. Modeled after real-world travel guides, the book will explore every significant region on Vulcan with fascinating historical, geographical, and cultural insights that bring the planet to life like never before. Also featuring a dynamic mixture of classic Star Trek imagery and original illustrations created exclusively for the book, Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Star Trek: Vulcan is the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek and will thrill pop culture fans and hardcore Star Trek fans alike.

(6) HOLD ON TO THE LIGHT. Cat Rambo has posted her contribution to the HoldOnToTheLight campaign, “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Be Kind to Yourself”.

I’ve found that writers excel at angst and guilt, at worrying at 2 am over whether or not they stuck their foot in their mouth (human nature being what it is, the answer is sometimes yes), at being anxious and projecting futures far out of proportion to actuality in their horror.

They’re also tough on themselves, holding themselves to sometimes impossible standards. It involves being willing to forgive yourself and the illness you live with, to not just know yourself but be comfortable with yourself.

(7) IN THE BEGINNING. EverydayFangirl interviewed Lois McMaster Bujold on her early fannish life:

When do you realize you were a Fangirl?

LMB:

Before the term “fangirl” was invented. I started reading science fiction for grownups at about age nine, because my father, an engineering professor, used to buy the magazines and books to read on the plane when he went on consulting trips, and they fell to me. Got my first subscription to Analog Magazine at age 13. So when Star Trek came along in 1966, when I was in high school, the seed fell on already-fertile ground; it was an addition, not a revelation. At last, SF on TV that was almost as good as what I was reading, a miracle! I would have just called myself a fan then, or a reader, ungendered terms I note.

In my entire high school of 1,800 students, there was only one other genre reader I knew of (later we expanded to 4 or 6), my best friend Lillian, and she only because we traded interests; I got history from her, she got F&SF from me. So there was no one to be fans with, for the first while.

(8) GHOST OF HALLOWEENS PAST. The Los Angeles Times invites readers to “See what’s killing haunted houses and other independent Halloween attractions”

For every success like Carbone’s, there are several mom-and-pop haunted attractions that have been killed off by mounting insurance and other expenses, as well as extensive government regulations…

“It’s getting so expensive that unless you have $100,000 to put into it and $30,000 into the marketing, you are not going to make it,” said Jeff Schiefelbein, chief executive of Sinister Pointe Productions, and Orange County company that builds haunted attractions for theme parks and individual entrepreneurs.

(9) KAIJU IN THEATERS THIS WEEK. Shin Godzilla, the latest addition to the mythos, is having a limited theatrical run with subtitles right now in the US and Canada.

Make way for the ultimate homage to one of the most enduring legends of the big screen—Godzilla! The King of the Monsters is back in Tokyo for a city-crushing crusade that speaks to the very roots of the world-renowned franchise.

It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. As the government scrambles to save the citizens, a rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.

(10) UNDERRATING INDIES. Amanda S. Green gives a Passive Voice columnist a stern talking to about his short-selling indie authors in “Oh my, are they protesting too much” at Mad Genius Club.

Yesterday, when I started looking for something to blog about, I made my way over to The Passive Voice. TPV is an excellent source of information for every author out there, traditionally published or indie. One post in particular caught my eye. It asks the question we have heard asked so many times over the last few years: Are self-published books inferior to professionally published books?

Now, without even reading the article, I knew I wasn’t going to like the post TPV had linked to. The title of the article itself shows a bias, not by TPV but by the author of the article TPV linked to. It assumes that self-published books, what we call indies, aren’t professionally published. Take that one step further. By phrasing the headline the way it did, the author of the article signals from the beginning that indies aren’t as professional or as good as traditionally published books. Otherwise, why not rephrase the title of the article as “are self-published books inferior to traditionally published books?”

So, without even reading the underlying article, my back is up. I can’t speak for anyone except myself but I am a professional writer. I make money from writing, enough to pay my bills. I simply chose not to take the traditional publishing route. That does not make me any less of a professional than any other writer who has chosen to try to find an agent, get a contract and publish with one of the Big 5 publishers.

(11) ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING. Jim C. Hines adds his observations about the Weingart/Worldcon 75 controversy.

The Beale Effect: I’m bemused at how effectively Theodore Beale managed to unite Worldcon and Weingart, both of whom came together as if to say, “Oh hell no. F**k that guy.” As soon as Beale jumped in, Weingart pulled his posts, Worldcon called Weingart to apologize, then posted their public apology. It pretty much ended the public dispute right there.

Tuesday-Afternoon Quarterbacking: I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. But as I understand it, Weingart notified the staff from the beginning that the other individual had set boundaries about not wanting to interact or work with him. Bringing Weingart on but restricting his interactions seems like a solution destined to cause problems. If this other individual was already working for the con, my hindsight solution would be to simply not bring Weingart on staff. Yeah, it might mean losing a good volunteer in Weingart, but it would have more effectively respected the other individual’s boundaries, and would have avoided the mess that eventually followed.

(12) PLUTO’S NEW PAL ISN’T GOOFY. The discovery-by-software of another dwarf planet: “A Friend For Pluto: Astronomers Find New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System”.

Scientists in Michigan have found a new dwarf planet in our solar system.

It’s about 330 miles across and some 8.5 billion miles from the sun. It takes 1,100 years to complete one orbit.

But one of the most interesting things about the new object, known for the time being as 2014 UZ224, is the way astronomers found it.

David Gerdes of the University of Michigan led the team that found the new dwarf planet. Gerdes describes himself as “an adult-onset astronomer,” having started his scientific career as a particle physicist.

He helped develop a special camera called the Dark Energy Camera that the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned to make a map of distant galaxies.

A few years ago, Gerdes had some undergraduates visiting him for the summer. He decided to give them a project: He asked them if they could find some solar system objects lurking in the galaxy map.

Chip Hitchcock joked, “Clyde Tombaugh is spinning in his grave and grumbling ‘You punks don’t know how easy you have it these days!’”

(13) X MARKS THE SPOTS. “Why Are There X’s In The Desert?” In the first place, you probably never knew there were. But for the high-tech answer, you need to search back to the Cold War.

We step out in the searing heat and into a desolate landscape — just cactus and tumbleweed.

“Middle of nowhere,” Penson says.

We walk toward the base of a small mountain range, and that’s when we see it: four 25-foot slabs of concrete inlaid in the desert floor that form a giant “X.”

Penson kneels down to brush off the sand covering a tarnished brass plate at the very center. The engraving reads: “$250 fine or imprisonment for disturbing this marker — Corps of Engineers – U.S. Army.”

That’s who Penson and Owen contacted to get their answer.

These X’s were once part of a top-secret government program called CORONA — the nation’s first reconnaissance satellite program.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh and Petréa Mitchell for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Heather Rose Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/16 Filers, Scrollers, Pixelmen, Lend Me Your Ears; I Come To Bury Hugo, Not To Praise Him

(1) HARRY AND THE PIRATES. Your average author can only wish they got this level of service. Reuters has the story — “Defense Against the Dark Arts: UK spies guarded against Harry Potter leak”.

Usually concerned with top secret matters affecting national security, Britain’s eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ was also on the lookout for leaks of a yet-to-be-published Harry Potter book, its publisher has revealed.

Shortly before the publication of one of the volumes in J.K. Rowling’s seven-part wizarding saga, with millions of fans worldwide at a fever pitch of anticipation, publisher Nigel Newton received an unexpected phone call.

“I remember the British spy eavesdropping station GCHQ rang me up and said ‘we’ve detected an early copy of this book on the Internet’,” Newton told Australia’s ABC Radio in an interview last week that gained attention in Britain on Sunday.

“I got him to read a page to our editor and she said ‘no, that’s a fake’,” said Newton, founder and chief executive of Potter publishing house Bloomsbury, describing the spies as “good guys”.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “We do not comment on our defense against the dark arts.”

(2) MORE EAVESDROPPING. R. A. MacAvoy lets us listen in on her “Conversations with People Who Aren’t There”.

The reason I was convinced my imaginary conversations were universal to the human condition was simply my embarrassment knowing that, since I had constructed my verbal respondents, when we had a difference of opinion – a necessarily frequent happening – I always won the debate.  This, in itself, was so much a stacking of the deck, or loading of the dice of the disagreement, I would hate for anyone to know I was doing it.  It was so much like playing chess with one’s self and cheating.  And I assumed everyone else on the planet felt as I did about it, and so, from an attempt not to appear the scoundrel I was, I kept my mouth shut (for once) about the existence of this wild and crazy inner life.  I was certain any other person would do the same.  So I have continued, for approximately sixty years, to live this way, mumbling to myself or to the non-human creatures about me, or even the furniture. And thinking every other soul did also.

It was only perhaps a week ago I asked Ron whether he did not spend his hours as I did.  I expected him to answer “Of course,” or simply smile knowingly and shrug.  Instead he looked at me intently and said “No. Not so often.”

This was quite a surprise.  It was, in fact, a re-set of my expectations.  The human condition was not entirely as I had thought it was.  Not for all these years.

So I must re-evaluate my life of inner debate.  I have not just been rigging the game of internal conversation.  It seems I invented the game before I rigged it.  My ego-centricity is far more overwhelming than I thought.  I am not proud of myself.

Nonetheless, there have been some interesting conversations over the years.  If I must take the blame for doing the thing, I can at least describe how I have done it.

The most common repeated dialogue I have is with any film or television actor who pronounces words in a way I disagree with.  Of course I am arguing with the character, not the real actor, but as no one is there, it doesn’t matter.

(3) CAPCLAVE 2017. WSFA has announced that Ken Liu will be a Capclave GoH in 2017.

(4) LOVELY ROOM, SLIGHT DRAFT. Supposedly this happened — “Tim Peake Leaves TripAdvisor Review For The International Space Statuion’s New ‘Space Hotel’” — although neither Steven H Silver nor I have been able to find it on the actual TripAdvisor site.

Bigelow Aerospace is trialling a new “space hotel” this week, attaching their new inflatable hotel room to the side of the International Space Station to test the possibility of having a holiday resort in Earth’s orbit.

The inflatable “BEAM” module is made of a top secret material that may make holidaying in space a reality, but first it’s being tested aboard the ISS.

Not one to ignore a chance at giving his two cents to the people on terra firma, British astronaut Tim Peake has left a review for the “space hotel” on TripAdvisor.

(5) KEPLER IN TROUBLE? From NASA — “Mission Manager Update: Kepler Spacecraft in Emergency Mode”.

During a scheduled contact on Thursday, April 7, mission operations engineers discovered that the Kepler spacecraft was in Emergency Mode (EM). EM is the lowest operational mode and is fuel intensive. Recovering from EM is the team’s priority at this time.

The mission has declared a spacecraft emergency, which provides priority access to ground-based communications at the agency’s Deep Space Network.

Initial indications are that Kepler entered EM approximately 36 hours ago, before mission operations began the maneuver to orient the spacecraft to point toward the center of the Milky Way for the K2 mission’s microlensing observing campaign.

The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was on April. 4.  The spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected.

(6) HOW MUCH IS THAT NOVEL IN THE WINDOW? Fynbospress has an intriguing post about indie book pricing at Mad Genius Club – “Know your reader demographics: Pricing”

2. The discount crowd ($0.99 – $5.99) Believe it or not, this is a different group from the Free Crowd. There’s plenty of overlap, but it’s a different crowd. Unlike the hardcore free-only, the 99 cent crowd will buy books cheap. If they’re long-term broke, they’re likely to use some of the tools to track your sales and only buy when the price drops. These are the people who keep all the used bookstores in business. At this price point, you’re competing with used paperbacks from McKay’s Powell’s, Amazon… you are NOT competing with new books from B&N or Book a Million.

How big is this market? I don’t know if there’s a way to tell – certainly it hasn’t been measured. But it’s been large enough to support thousands of used book stores across the US alone (much less the charity shops in the UK), and to propel low-pricing indie authors into millions sold.

You can develop fans here. If you stay in this price range, they’ll buy everything you put out the moment they discover it. (Not the same thing as the moment you release it, and that’s why a mailing list / social media presence / targeted advertising is a good thing.) You can also use this range to tempt people into impulse buying your works, in conjunction with targeted advertising.

(7) TO THE FINNISH. Today’s book review on NPR: “Frodo, Bilbo, Kullervo: Tolkien’s Finnish Adventure”.

In 1913, the 21-year-old Ronald Tolkien should have been studying for his exams. He was halfway through his Classics degree — the subject all the best students did at Oxford in those days. Getting admitted to Oxford on a scholarship was a great opportunity for young Ronald, an orphan who had always struggled to stay out of poverty. A Classics degree would have set him up for almost any career he chose. But he wasn’t studying. Instead, he was trying to teach himself Finnish.

Why would a brilliant student with so much at stake let himself go astray at such a crucial time? There were two reasons: love and the Kalevala.

Tolkien’s twin obsessions at the time were his future wife, Edith Bratt, and the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland.

(8) CLASSIC ZINE BIDS FAREWELL. Steven H Silver is retiring his fanzine Argentus, a three-time Hugo nominee.

I’ve decided that Argentus is no longer being published.  I had planned on doing an issue last year (and didn’t) and then wrapping it up this year, but with chairing three conventions in 11 months, Worldcon programming, surgery, and life in general, I don’t see it happening this year either.  If I do another fanzine, it will be a different creature.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953: Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered in NYC:  House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • April 10, 1929: One of the all-time greats, Max von Sydow, is born in Sweden.
  • Born April 10, 19?? — James H. Burns, prolific File 770 columnist.
  • Born April 10, 1953 — David Langford, Ansible editor.

(12) DISTILLED WRITING ADVICE. Lit Reactor has compiled “22 of the Best Single Sentences on Writing”. The most contrarian comes from G. K. Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

(13) FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books wrapped up on Sunday.

Mercedes Lackey was on hand.

Not sf, but I’m a fan!

A Sabaa Tahir quote —

(14) AWESOME ANIMATION. Official music video for Jane Bordeaux’s ‘Ma’agalim’. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time.

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

Langford Essay Collection Reissued as Ebook

up-starsDavid Langford’s Ansible Editions has published his nonfiction collection Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002 as an ebook for the first time.

The collection originally appeared in 2003. The ebook has all of that content, plus five additional pieces from the 1980-2002 period, and the expanded, improved 2004 version of Langford’s humorous introduction from Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature. The book contains over 137,000 words.

Adam Roberts’ review of the 2003 edition said:

Some statistics: I read this collection right through in one [1] go. I nodded sagely in agreement eighty-four [84] times. I shook my head in disagreement five [5] times. I laughed out loud forty four [44] times, and smiled or smirked scores [20s] of times more. I took off my hat once [1], at the end, in tribute to Langford’s excellence as a critic. Actually, I’m making these figures up; but they give a ball-park sense of my response. This is a marvellous book. No reader of sf should miss it.

The Table of Contents follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 3/17/16 The Weirdscroll of Puppygeddon

(1) SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS WHO WERE NEVER DRUNK ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY. Here are a few of the genre’s known teetotalers – doubtless there are others…

Asimov was a teetotaler in later life, mainly because in all of his experiences with drinking alcoholic beverages, just one or two drinks were sufficient to get him drunk. On the day he passed the oral examination for his Ph.D., he drank five Manhattans in celebration, and his friends had to carry him back to school and try to sober him up. His wife told him that he spent that entire night in bed giggling every once in a while and saying “Doctor Asimov”.

(2) OB IRISH. For a more substantial tribute to St. Patrick’s Day, we recommend James H. Burns’ tribute to Disney’s Darby O’Gill movie — “And A Moonbeam To Charm You”.

(3) FANHISTORY OF GREATER IRELAND. David Langford (coincidentally) chose St. Patrick’s Day to trumpet the forthcoming update of Rob Hansen’s history of UK fandom.

Wearing my Ansible Editions hat, I’ve been copyediting the final sections of Rob Hansen’s expanded (though not, as he says, extended), corrected and source-noted THEN: A HISTORY OF UK FANDOM 1930-1980. The final word count is around 211,000, about 20% more than the original. Our planned trade paperback is up to 410 pages, which will grow a bit more when the awaited 1970s fan mugshots go in (dread chore). To be published … Summer 2016?

(4) RECOMMENDED GREEN READING. At the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, “5 Fantasy Novels That Go Full Emerald Isle” not only gives you Ireland but the magic number 5!

Ireland isn’t just a country, it’s a repository of myth and legend that has been mined by genre writers for decades. Even today, Ireland seems to be bursting with magical energies that other countries couldn’t hope to match—I mean, who would imagine an epic fantasy set in the wilds of New Jersey? Naturally, that means that not only have some of the best works of fantasy ever written taken inspiration from Irish history, but several are explicitly in Ireland. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are a five fantasy novels exploring the Emerald Isle.

The Book of Kells, by R.A. MacAvoy As with all of MacAvoy’s novels, The Book of Kells is difficult to pin down. Time travel, ancient Ireland, Viking invasions, and a saint or goddess meddling in mortal affairs? You’ll find all of it here, as an accidental confluence of ancient music and the tracing of an ages-old pattern by a modern-day artist transports first a screaming young woman from the past into the artist’s bedroom, then the woman, the artist, and a companion back in time a thousand years, into a medieval Ireland grounded in historical fact—which doesn’t lessen the fantastical nature of the ensuing adventures. It might lack wizards and dragons, but that doesn’t make it any less fun, and part of that is down to exploring a raw, roiling Ireland of old, populated by characters who act intelligently, considering (one even nips back to the modern day in order to convert all his cash into material that would be valuable in the tenth century)…

(5) MOVIE MAKING TECHNOLOGY. Lucid Dreams of Time is a short from Disney’s Zurich research division (and yes, Disney has an alliance with the Gnomes of Zurich) which is a time travel story but also a way of showcasing new Disney technologies.

The film portrays a moment of transition, from life to afterlife, with the story being told from three different perspectives – a mother, her son, and the messenger who can alter time. Simona and her son Gabriel travel through three realms – a present moment, supernatural world and a lucid dream – to discover purpose after a series of events change their lives forever. Through an afterlife mirror, Simona views the last few minutes of life with her son. Later, as Gabriel falls asleep, Simona receives a small gift from the Messenger – to talk to her son for exactly one minute. As the sands of time quickly run out, she appears to Gabriel in his dream to deliver a message that he will never forget.

(6) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY.

(7) SILICON VALLEY COMIC CON. Steve Wozniak has brought a Comi Con to Silicon Valley reports smofnews. The Los Angeles Times previews his plans in “Silicon Valley Comic Con comes with an extra dose of tech”.

Kicking off Friday at the San Jose Convention Center, the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con will bring the internationally recognized comic, science fiction, fantasy and video gaming convention to the Bay Area.

Although the event will be smaller than the flagship San Diego Comic-Con, which last year drew nearly 170,000 attendees (the three-day Silicon Valley event is expected to draw 30,000 per day, with many attendees attending multiple days), Steve Wozniak, the event’s host and pioneer of the personal computer, said it would be for the same audience.

“It’s for people who are local who haven’t been able to get to the San Diego one,” said Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs. “It’ll be a full Comic Con in terms of the sorts and booths, presentations and celebrities that we have.”

The key difference? There will be more technology — the kind that “carries over into pop culture,” Wozniak said — and a greater focus on science fiction.

The convention will have a dedicated virtual reality zone where attendees will be able to play with the latest VR gadgets, and there will also be science-driven panels, such as one about whether artificial intelligence or “super babies” will be the greatest threat to humankind.

But Wozniak made clear that Silicon Valley Comic Con is “not just a tech conference.”

The event will also feature a “Back to the Future” cast reunion, a presentation by actor William Shatner, appearances by “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage and science fiction authors and artists.

“I wanted to be a part of Silicon Valley Comic Con because for me this show highlights what the Valley has meant to science, technology and innovation and encapsulates what ‘Back to the Future’ is about,” said Christopher Lloyd, one of the film’s stars.

(8) ERIN ON HUGOS. If you want to know what Alexandra Erin’s thinking about Hugo nominating season, check out Blue Author Is About To Write.

I haven’t been talking about the Sad and Rabid Puppies much this year because the Hugo Awards are going to happen every year and I don’t want that to be my life, but I understand they’re still at it, still spinning the same narratives, still spreading the same propaganda, still appealing to the biases and suspicions of the biased and the suspicious. I don’t know how much impact they’ll have.

For nominations, there are three possibilities: they’ll have another walk in the park, their machinations will be shut out entirely, or they’ll have some impact but not be able to seize as total control as they did last year. I think if everybody who was mobilized to get involved and vote on conscience and merits rather than politics stays involved, their ability to unduly influence the process will be nullified, but that depends on a big if.

My name has come up in a few circles as a possible nominee. By that I mean, I know that some people have nominated me, but that’s not the same as making it onto the ballot, even without any puppies piddling in the box. In truth, it is an honor just to be nominated, even if I don’t make the short list. It is an honor to have my name being mentioned in conjunction with some of the giants of the field…..

(9) THE EARLY RETURNS. Here are some reactions to the Sad Puppies 4 list, which was posted today.

The G at Nerds of a Feather

Given last year’s caustic battle over the Hugo Awards, as well as the generally caustic nature of U.S. politics in 2016, you might be forgiven for assuming that the 2016 Hugo Awards would be yet another battleground in the never-ending (and endlessly tiresome) culture wars. Only it isn’t looking that way, in part because the Sad Puppies have followed up last year’s politically partisan and highly divisive slate with a longlist of recommendations that…isn’t partisan or divisive at all.

Rachael Acks

Eric Franklin

Brian Niemeier

Cirsova

It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close.  Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha!  Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played.  That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.

Without the synergy between Sads & Rabids this year, I think we’ll see less of a direct impact this time around, but I think that it gives a pretty good look at how the Hugo noms would’ve shaken out with or without the Puppies. Plus, it may give the statisticians out there a better look at just how much pull Vox has.  There was a lot of talk last year that there were actually only a handful of Sad Puppies and the 500 or so Vile Faceless Minions were the deciding factor.

And where the list was posted, Mad Genius Club commenters have been submitting a large number of copyedits and arithmetic corrections.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 10/30 The Stainless Steel Hedgehog Has A Harsh Mistress, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

(1) Larry Smith is out of the hospital reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook.

Please forgive the lack of recent updates. As they say, no news is good news. Larry is back out of the hospital, and appears to be doing well. He was finally able to attend a convention last weekend, and held up remarkably well. At this point, he is hoping to make all of his November commitments. Clearly, he is not exactly on top of his game, and has had to make some adjustments to his activity level and routine, but he is improving.

Larry and Sally asked me to try to convey the enormous gratitude they feel to everyone who has come to their aid through this very trying time. I say *try* to convey, because there just are not enough words to adequately express how thankful and humbled they feel. And let me just add my thanks as well. These are some very special people, and my heart swells when I see this wonderful family that we call fandom come together to help them like you have.

They are currently still trying to find a replacement van. The one they had was a 15 passenger model, with a long wheelbase and extra suspension to handle the weight of the books. They have found a couple of possibilities (of course, none local), so they hope to find one soon. Give yourselves a much – deserved pat on the back for making this possible for them. Please share this update on any list or social media that you have available to you

(2) David Langford proudly displayed his “Sausage Maker To Fandom” badge ribbon in the new issue of Ansible.  It was given to him at LonCon 3.

(3) Thursday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert had Seth MacFarlane and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as guests. Stephen is convinced that star KIC 8462852 is evidence of the alien life predicted in one of his favorite books. In the final interview segment, Colbert goes off on a seriously detailed Ringworld rant, including crediting Larry Niven.

“Just because you don’t understand what you’re lookin’ at doesn’t mean it’s alien,” countered Tyson…

In this YouTube clip, the Ringworld bit starts just after the 1:50 mark.

(4) CNN reports “Orbiting bacteria: Space Station may need some tidying up”.

The next time NASA picks an astronaut to live in the International Space Station, it might want to send Mr. Clean. That’s because scientists using a kind of high-tech white glove test found something in the space dust there.

The astronauts are not alone, it turns out. They share tight quarters with some previously undetected, opportunistic bacterial pathogens.

Nothing unusual here. The Sasquan guest of honor left his hotel room in the same condition as every other fan at this year’s Worldcon. A generous tip ordinarily covers these things. In this case, two or three million dollars should do it…

(5) Grantland, ESPN’s pop culture site founded by Bill Simmons, is shutting down. I’ll miss genre-themed coverage like Brian Phillips’ ”50 Scenes That Do Not Appear in the Fox ‘X-Files’ Revival”.

  1. It does not, at any point, transpire that Assistant FBI Director Walter Skinner joins Kickstarter to seek funding for his “elegantly bound novelization” of Infocom’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
  2. The word “copyleft” — that doesn’t get thrown around a lot.
  3. Jonathan, who is not making churros, does not tell Scully that “it’s about the cinnamon” and then gasp, “I’ve said too much,” and then get shot in the head by a sniper from Venus.

(6) Charle Jane Anders acknowledges “The Difference Between a Great Story and a Shitty Story Is Often Really Tiny” at io9.

To some extent this is a “Devil in the details” thing: It’s the little details that will trip you up. Small inconsistencies can make your world feel flimsy. But, too, tiny character moments and little bits of emotional resonance, in between the big incidents, can do a ton to make people buy stock in your world and its people.

The difference between a shitty story and a great story is often just one of clarity, also. A great story sets up its premises early on, then builds on them and deepens them, until finally you reach some kind of crisis. Going back to the topic of movies, I’ve been amazed by how many movies I’ve seen lately where the first 20 or 30 minutes are compelling and fascinating (the “first act”) and then what follows is a dull morass. It’s like the “building and deepening” part of the recipe just got thrown out.

(7) That lunar rover that went to the junkyard?

“Although Mr. Clueless opted to dispose of the moonlander for scrap, not so the junkyard owner!” reports David Doering.

Motherboard has an interview with the anonymous buyer.

Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there’s a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition.

The scrap dealer spoke to Motherboard on the condition of anonymity because he says he wants to speak to his lawyer about his next steps, but he did send me the recent photo of the buggy above to confirm it’s in his possession. The rover matches a historical NASA image we believed to be the rover in question. It also matches the description given by NASA in its investigatory documents.

“The man who originally bought it, from my understanding, he bought it at an auction. He was a road conditioner [in Alabama],” the junkyard owner told me. “I can’t confirm this is true, but he bought it at a NASA auction many years ago. NASA just discarded a lot of that stuff back then. When it was brought to my scrap facility, I set it aside because I knew what it was. The unit does exist today. It is not scrapped. I have that unit in storage.”

“I’ve done quite a lot of research on the unit and it’s an artifact that needs to be saved,” he added.

David Doering says, “Sure looks like an easy cut-and-dried Kickstarter campaign to buy the rover!”

(8) Speaking of space exploring antiques, NASA needs a programmer fluent in 60-year-old computer programming languages to keep the Voyager 1 and 2 crafts going. The new hire has to know FORTRAN and assembly languages.

(9) Although written before the revised WFC 2015 harassment policy came out, Alasdsair Stuart’s post on the issue remains revelant for making points like these:

In the last two years I’ve been part of a team asked to deal with a single incident. I saw my colleagues treat the individual who had been harassed with compassion, patience and respect. I saw them be given the space they needed to collect themselves and make decisions rather than be pressured into a choice they might later regret. I have rarely been prouder of the teams of volunteers I’ve worked with over the last few years than I was on that day.

And that’s why the mealy mouthed legal tapdance WFC’15 was throwing up wasn’t just bullshit, it was and still is actively harmful. This event, that proudly lays claim to being the definitive convention for industry professionals, was not bothering to do something that events with a tenth its status and a hundredth its reach have baked into their procedures. The obvious defense here is of course the tiny size of the community and ‘we’ choosing to deal with it ‘in house’.

That’s not even in the same time zone as ‘good enough’.

No one on Earth WANTS to have a harassment policy. Even in building one you’re forced to imagine the absolute worst of the people around you, and in doing so, work out how to minimize the damage they may cause. These people have to, by definition, include your friends and colleagues. It’s an inherently cautious, inherently cynical piece of work that codifies the worst potential human behaviour and how to deal with it. No one wants that, least of all members of a community that likes to pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. But we all need it precisely because of that inclusion and diversity.

(10) John Holyoke reviews Stephen King’s new short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams in the Bangor Daily News.

bazaar of bad dreams cover COMP

For loyal King fans who devour anything the author produces, these collections are tiny desserts: sweet morsels that can be consumed rapidly, without guilt. Like some? Fine. Love ’em all? Better. Hate a few? Oh, well — move on. Take a bite out of another.

For those who are new to King and unsure whether they’ll like what they find, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” provides a tasty sampler that, like his other short story collections, showcases the master’s array of talents.

King said a year ago that he was confident he could still “write stories that are sleep-with-the-lights-on scary.” And he can. (Try his novel “Revival” on for size, if you’re in doubt.)

But “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” is a collection of a different flavor and seems to reflect the maturing — and aging — of a writer who likely has left far more tales in his rear view mirror then he has remaining in front of his headlights. Recurring themes this time around include aging, dealing with aging and death itself.

And while that isn’t surprising in itself — there’s often a hefty helping of dying going on in a King book or story — the tone is different, almost melancholy at times, as characters face their mortality and battle with questions like the age-old unanswerable: What’s next?

(11) Lisa Morton, Horror Writers Association president, tells the true, highly commercial origins of today’s Halloween holiday.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that Halloween is a ghoulish tradition that goes back to Druid priests practicing pagan rituals, tell them that companies like Hershey, Coors and Dennison had a lot more to do with the modern Halloween we revere than the Celts from 2,000 years ago.

And that’s a good thing, because these companies have largely created the holiday we now love.

While it is likely that Halloween owes much of its macabre character to the Irish Celtic harvest celebration, Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), there’s no proof whatsoever to suggest that the Celts dressed in costumes, begged candy from neighbors or staged elaborate haunted scares (although they probably did hold major feasts complete with alcohol).

(12) The Horror Writers Association website has a fine array of posts about the holiday by its members. Today’s entry is “Halloween Haunts: Souled” by Tonya Hurley.

We almost drove past it until I noticed the line snaking around the side of the nondescript-looking Dutch Colonial house on the canal. It hardly looked like the scene of any crime let alone that crime — The Amityville Horror. “112 Ocean Avenue.  That’s it!” I shouted with half excitement and equal parts guilt. The latest family to own the house was moving out and this was hyped as a yard sale guaranteed to top them all.  Shoppers and rubberneckers from miles around gathered to land a piece of horror history, joking with each other, retelling tall tales, mixing myths with fact about the house and the crime like a demonic game of telephone as they waited. A quick walk through the home yielded little contents owned by the DeFeo family, the original owners, who were famously murdered there…

(13) Amy Wallace has updated her Wired article “Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul”.

It is August 2015, and things are looking up for Team Humanity. Or are they? A record 11,700-plus people have bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners are soon to be announced. A record number have also forked over dues of at least $40 in time to be allowed to vote, and almost 6,000 cast ballots, 65 percent more than ever before.

But are the new voters Puppies? Or are they, in the words of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, “gathering to defend the integrity of the Hugos”? Just before 8 pm on August 22, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail, and the like, one question is on most attendee’s minds: Will the Puppies prevail?

The evening begins with an appearance by a fan cosplaying as the Grim Reaper, and that turns out to be an omen for the Puppies. By evening’s end, not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate takes home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editors for Short and Long Form—voters choose “No Award.”

Earlier, Beale explained to me that his plan was a “Xanatos gambit”—“that’s where you set it up so that no matter what your enemy does, he loses and you win.” No surprise then, that in an email he sends after the awards ceremony, Beale is crowing. “The scorched-earth strategy being pursued by the SJWs in science fiction is evidence that we hold the initiative and we are winning,” he writes. The number of major categories in which no awards are given “demon­strates the extent to which science fiction has been politi­cized and degraded by their far left politics.”

Quotes from pro writers only – Kloos, Bellet, Correia, Torgersen, Vox Day, George R.R. Martin, N.K. Jemisin.

Zero quotes from fans, who merely run and vote for the awards. Yet Brad R. Torgersen is outraged that still another pro, Sarah A. Hoyt, wasn’t interviewed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh,Tom Galloway, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]