Author and Editor Deborah Ross Interviewed by Carl Slaughter

By Carl Slaughter: Deborah Ross traces her career from her first encounter with Marion Zimmer Bradley to becoming an editor herself.

CARL SLAUGHTER: You’re best known for continuing Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, but you had already established a writing career before then. Tell us about your earlier work.

DEBORAH ROSS: I’ve been part of the sf/f community and SFWA for 35 years now. My first professional sale (under my previous name, Deborah Wheeler) was to Marion for the very first Sword and Sorceress anthology in 1982. Other sales of short fiction followed to F & SF, Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, and a slew other anthologies including Star Wars: Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Sisters of the Night, DAW 30th Anniversary Fantasy, and Bruce Coville’s Alien Visitors.

The real break came in 1991, when I lived in Lyons, France. A couple of months after I returned to the States, I sold my first novel, Jaydium, to DAW. The novel I’d written in France, Northlight, came out two years after that. And the novel inspired by living in the center of the French Resistance to the Nazi Occupation, Collaborators, was a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

Since I’ve taken over the Darkover series, I’ve continued my original work with an epic fantasy trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield, which had its origins in the “Azkhantian Tales” short fiction in various issues of Sword and Sorceress.

CS: How did you meet Marion Zimmer Bradley?

DR: Somewhere around 1980, I wrote Marion a fan letter. To my surprise and delight, she wrote back with three pages of single-spaced typewriting. At the time, she was on the Grievance Committee of SFWA and used the official stationery. I now appreciate the prudence of that step, knowing the volume of fan mail she received over the years and her experiences of theft and exploitation by people she’d reached out to. I’d been training in Chinese martial arts (t’ai chi chu’an and kung fu san soo) at that time, and we began a conversation about empowerment, women, and writing.

CS: What type of relationship did you have with her?

DR: Over the years, we became friends as well as colleagues. Toward the end of her life, hampered by a series of strokes, Marion worked with in collaboration several other writers. I was one of the writers she considered because she had watched me develop from a novice to an established professional. When she asked if I would like to work with her, I was just emerging from a particularly difficult time of my life and found myself a single working mom with a troubled adolescent still at home. Marion’s offer helped get me back on my feet again in terms of writing. She and I discussed the basic concept of our project by mail and then I drove up to see her. She’d been resting and was on oxygen, but she insisted on sitting up when I came in, and soon we were deep in discussion of plot ideas. I knew she had been very ill, but seeing her made her condition so much more vivid for me. One of my best memories of her was watching her “come alive” as we developed the characters and hatched plot points. Her eyes “glowed as if lit from within,” to use one of her favorite descriptions, and energy suffused her whole being. I asked question after question and then sat back as she spun out answers. It was as if she had opened a window into her imagination and invited me to peek inside. Her secretary told me that she talked for days afterwards about the visit and how excited she was about the project. We never got a second visit. She died a month later.

CS: How are you carrying on her work?

MR: Writing Darkover novels is very like writing historical fiction. I do research, using not only Marion’s published work, but her letters to me, The Darkover Concordance, and her articles in the old Darkover newsletters. Her Literary Trust and the folks at DAW have been invaluable as nit-pickers and sources of arcane details. I’d already written a number of stories for the Darkover anthologies, so I was familiar with the world not only as a reader but as a writer.

I try to create story lines that are true to Marion’s vision of Darkover and the themes that were meaningful to her. Fortunately, my natural literary voice is very close to Marion’s. Because I’m not trying to distort my own voice, I can then write from my heart. I trust that the footwork will lead me in the right direction and that I can flow with what comes to me.

CS: What was Bradley’s connection with Sword and Sorceress? What’s your connection?

DR: About the time I met Marion, the Friends of Darkover held periodic writing contests and published its own fanzine. I sent her a couple of stories and received encouraging comments (and, as I remember, an award for one of the stories and eventual fanzine publication of the other). When Marion began editing the first Sword and Sorceress for Don Wollheim at DAW, she suggested I submit a story for her. I was as elated by the invitation as if it had been a sale, and threw myself into writing the best story I could. It was a modest little story, but more than that, Marion showed me that I could take my writing professionally.

When I submitted a story for the second volume, Marion telephoned me. “Now Deborah,” she said (her typical way of opening an editorial conversation), “I’m going to take your story, but I’m sending it back to you for revision.” With that, I made the leap from all-or-nothing sale-or-rejection to working with an editor. My manuscript came back drenched in red ink, with comments like, “All thuds are dull!” and “Overwritten.” Don’t just fall in love with your words, she was saying, make them serve the story.

CS: How did you yourself become an editor?

DR: Like many other writers, I wondered what it was like “on the other side of the desk,” both in terms of the choice of stories and their evolution into final form. I have had the honor to work with some extraordinary editors; I knew just how helpful a sympathetic and insightful editor can be in bringing out the best in a story. In other words, an editor is — or can be, if allowed to edit and not simply push numbers around for a multinational conglomerate — a story midwife. I also have strong ideas of what works for me in a story, what touches my heart and stirs my spirit.

Around 2007, Vera Nazarian of Norilana Books approached me with the idea of editing an anthology. “Lace and Blade” is a term she coined for elegant, witty romantic fantasy that doesn’t sacrifice intelligence for swashbuckling action. This also gave me a chance to work with some of my favorite authors, including Tanith Lee, Mary Rosenblum, and Chaz Brenchley. (Editor’s joy: Mary’s story was a Nebula Finalist, and Chaz’s was reprinted in a “year’s best” anthology.) Since then, I’ve worked on subsequent volumes, as well as anthologies published by Book View Café (Beyond Grimm, with Phyllis Irene Radford; Mad Science Café, and Across the Spectrum, with Pati Nagle).

A few years ago, the Marion Zimmer Literary Trust decided to resume publication of the Darkover anthology series, and I edited Stars of Darkover (2014) with Elisabeth Waters, and subsequent volumes as solo editor. Since then, the Trust has put out annual volumes of both the Darkover series and Lace and Blade.

CS: Tell us a bit about your editorial approach to dealing with writers.

DR: Writing can be heart-wrenchingly lonely. It’s you and your doubts and the words that simply will not do what you want them to. When, finally, you have something that flows from your heart and you’re at the stage of submission, I think that calls for a special form of love. By this I mean respect for what both writer and editor are struggling to bring forth. We are partners and allies, not adversaries.

I’m very much a hands-on editor. I almost always ask for changes, but I’m quite open to hearing contrary opinions from my writers. (Thank you, Tanith, for drumming that principle into me!) Often that discussion clarifies where what’s on the page fails to fully evoke the author’s vision. Although I may make suggestions, I try not to tell the writer how to “fix” the problem. For one thing, I hate it when that happens to me. For another, the writer must be the final authority. I’m the second pair of educated eyes. If we come to an impasse, I have to decide if I can live with what the writer insists upon. Sometimes, then, it’s better to let the story go to another home, rather than carve the heart out of it.

CS: How does editing differ from writing fiction?

DR: Oh my goodness, everything is different — except perhaps the shared goal of the best possible creative work! As an themed-anthology editor, it’s my job to communicate my vision of the project to the writers, then cheer and encourage and appreciate. And ask for changes aimed at bringing the story more into itself, making it more effective at what the writer — not me — is trying to do. So it’s important for me to keep my ego out of the editing process. I must constantly keep in mind that these are not my stories.

CS: What’s in the future for you as an editor and a writer?

DR: As an editor, I’ll be working on annual volumes of the Darkover anthologies and Lace and Blade. And maybe more for Book View Cafe if inspiration strikes. As a writer, I have two major projects on my plate, plus a handful of shorter pieces. I’m now working on the next Darkover novel, The Laran Gambit, for DAW, and an on-spec YA astronomy-geek urban fantasy. I’d like to write more Darkover novels, including a series about the founding of each Tower. One of the joys of working with Book View Café is that I’m free to bring out my own work under my own control. So I expect I’ll continue to divide my time between the Darkover series, editing, and original fantasy and science fiction.

CS: What do you do when you’re not writing?

DR: Over the decades, I’ve also worked as a medical assistant to a cardiologist, resuscitated an elementary school library, studied Chinese martial arts, French, Hebrew, and yoga, lived in France, attended Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, advocated as the family member of a murder victim for the abolition of the death penalty, knit for charity, and have been active in the women’s martial arts network and local Quaker community. I’ve also gotten interested in canine body language and dog training, with my most recent project the social rehabilitation of a traumatized retired seeing eye dog.

DEBORAH ROSS BIO

My work has earned Honorable Mention in Year’s Best SF, Kirkus notable new release, the Locus Recommended Reading List, and James Tiptree, Jr. Award recommended list, Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and nominations for the National Fantasy Federation Speculative Fiction Award for Best Author, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award.

I served as Secretary of SFWA in 2004-05, and have taught writing and led writer’s workshops in various places. I’m a member and on the Board or Directors of the online writers’ collective, Book View Café, and on the current Philip K. Dick Award jury.

Pixel Scroll 4/5/16 If You Pixel Us, Do We Not Recommend? If You Scroll Us, Do We Not Read?

(1) NO MCKELLEN AUTOBIO AFTER ALL. In The Hollywood Reporter, “Ian McKellen Explains Why he Returned $1.4M Memoir Advance”.

“It was a bit painful — I didn’t want to go back into my life and imagine things that I hadn’t understood so far.”

The world isn’t going to get to read Sir Ian McKellen’s autobiography.

Last year it emerged that the celebrated and Oscar-nominated thespian would be penning his own memoir in a deal with publishers Hodder & Stoughton reported to be worth £1 million ($1.4 million). But earlier this month the 76-year-old stage and screen icon revealed that he’d pulled the plug on the contract.

(2) OVERFLOWING WITH VERSE. Poems that Make Grown Women Cry edited by Anthony and Ben Holden gets a plug at Book View Café . One of the contributors, Ursula K. Le Guin, explains her choice of a poem in the collection:

I chose Robinson Jeffers’ “Hurt Hawks” because it always makes me cry. I’ve never yet got through the last lines without choking up. Jeffers is an uneven poet, and this is an uneven pair of poems, intemperate and unreasonable. Jeffers casts off humanity too easily. But he was himself a kind of maimed, hurt hawk, and his identification with the birds is true compassion. He builds pain unendurably so that we can know release.

(3) KUZNIA MOVES UP. ”Job Moves” at Publishers Weekly reports “Yanni Kuznia, previously director of production, is being promoted to managing editor and COO at Subterranean Press.” SF Signal did an interview with Kuznia last year when she was still Director of Production.

AJ:  Subterranean Press has a pretty small staff, so everyone wears multiple hats. Can you tell us a little about what you do at Subterranean? What is a typical work week like for you?

YK: As Director of Production, it’s my job to keep titles moving through the production machine. I need to make sure every book is proofed, art is commissioned, signature sheets are designed and signed, ARCs are ordered and sent out, authors receive and return page proofs, and that everything is reviewed one last time before we go to press. Of course, I have help doing all of this. I have two wonderful people, Geralyn Lance and Kyle Brandon, who work under me in Production, overseeing the day-to-day of several titles each. We talk continuously throughout the process to make sure every milestone is hit on time.

(4) FAITH. Deborah J. Ross at Book View Café finds three ways out for writers forced to deal with their “Original Vision vs. Compromising With the Market”. Number two is – go indie.

If you believe in your work, how can you be sure but this is not infatuation with your own words but that your work truly is of high quality? Every writer I know goes through spasms of self-doubt. Writing requires a bizarre combination of megalomania and crushing self-doubt. We need the confidence to follow our flights of fancy, and at the same time, we need to regard our creations with a critical eye. Trusted readers, including workshops like Clarion and Clarion West, critique groups, fearless peers, and freelance editors can give us invaluable feedback on whether our work really is as good as we think it might be. Of course, they can be wrong. It may be that what we are trying to do falls so far outside conventional parameters that only we can judge its value. It may also be that we see on the page not what is actually there but what we imagined and hoped.

Assuming that we are writing from our hearts and that the product of our creative labors is indeed extraordinary, what are we to do when faced with closed doors and regretful rejection letters? As discouraging as this situation seems, we do have choices. We writers are no longer solely dependent upon traditional publishers. We live in an era where writers can become publishers, and can produce excellent quality books, both in digital form and Print On Demand.

However, not all of us are cut out to format, publish, and market our work. All of these activities require time in which to acquire skills and time to actually perform them. That’s time we have lost for writing. While becoming your own publisher is a valid choice, it is not right for everyone. Some of us would much rather write in the next book.

(5) YURI’S NIGHT WORLD SPACE PARTY IN SAN DIEGO. Down in San Diego on April 9, Yuri’s Night celebrations will include a movie will include an sf movie showing. They’ll show Contact free at 7:00 p.m. in Studio 106 (San Diego Reader Building, 2323 Broadway, 92102).

Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work.

Although it is free, please RSVP as seating is limited.

(6) GUESS WHO? The website for Innominate (“The Con with no name!”) is up.

Innominate is the 2017 Eastercon, the British National Science Fiction Convention. Eastercon’s have been held over the Easter weekend every year since 1955 and is a regular gathering place for science fiction fans from around the UK and elsewhere to celebrate the genre in all of its formats.

Eastercons stand in a long tradition which we intend to celebrate, while aiming to bring in new elements too. The convention will cover books, film, television, art and costume and the programme will include talks, discussions, exhibits, workshops and other entertainment.

(7) FIREFLY LESSONS. Tom Knighton points out what businesses can learn from his favorite TV series in “Loyalty, Firefly, and Captain Mal”.

From a management perspective, Mal may be an ideal leader to emulate.  Oh sure, there are others out there.  Real life examples exist.  I’ve been blessed to work with someone like that myself, but not everyone is exposed to that.  However, anyone can pop in a DVD and watch Mal and learn.

So why is Mal so ideal?

First, he is a hands-on leader.  In the pilot episode, Mal and Jayne are moving crates of their ill-gotten gains, stashing them where prying eyes won’t see.  He doesn’t relegate the task to anyone else, but instead works just as hard as his crew does.  When they don’t eat, he doesn’t eat.  When they work, he works.

This firmly establishes his belief that he’s not better than anyone, despite being captain.  Yes, he issues orders, but because he’s shown that he’ll do anything he asks others to do, his orders are followed.

Second, his top-down loyalty.  Mal doesn’t have to like a member of his crew to be loyal.  He doesn’t care for Simon, not in the least.  It’s obvious to everyone, especially Simon. However, he refused to leave a member of his crew behind, regardless of his personal feelings about the man.

(8) OTTO BINDER BIO. Bill Schelly’s Otto Binder, The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is coming back into print June 7 from North Atlantic Books (paperback, 320 pages, $19.95.) It has 28 new images, of which 14 are new photographs.

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature (“I, Robot,” published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov’s collection of the same name), Binder’s effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy’s dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first “Bizarro” storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder’s own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder’s professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder’s only daughter and his wife’s struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder’s spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.

(9) PENNED BY C. S. LEWIS. There are a couple dozen entries on Brenton Dickieson’s list of “Photographic Plates of C.S. Lewis’ Manuscripts and Letters”, and several illustrate the post.

A reader suggested I add to my collection of previously unpublished C.S. Lewis manuscripts (“The Lost-But-Found Works of C.S. Lewis“) by providing a list of manuscripts that show up in photographic plates in books and journals. I know that most of these are published by now, but this list is valuable for people who want to get to know C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.

(10) RACHEL SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS FRAN WILDE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Fran Wilde, expert on man-made wings”.

3. Have you ever done skydiving or hang gliding or anything similar?

I haven’t! I’m a sailor. I have relatives who hang-glide, and I spent a lot of my childhood watching storms roll in on the cliffs of the Chesapeake Bay (it gets really windy), but in order to do the research for UPDRAFT, I wanted to feel the physics of being in a wind tunnel, and I wanted to make sure I was writing a flying book, not a sailing book turned sideways. So I went indoor skydiving, which was a hoot. And very spinny.

The wings in the book aren’t hang-gliding wings, they’re more like a cross between furlable wings and wing-suit wings, so I also watched a lot of wingsuit fliers on long-flights and also doing particularly dangerous things like flying through canyons. I researched about 2,000 years of man-made wings in history, and talked a lot with engineers who understand the physics of foils – aka: wings.

(11) YA REVIEWS YA. My favorite YA reader, Sierra Glyer, added a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas to her blog.

…It is about a 18 year old assassin named Celaena Sardothien. She is the most feared assassin on the continent but one day she gets caught. After she gets caught she is sent to a slave camp and this is where the book starts….

(12) WEIST ESTATE AUCTION. The catalog for this year’s Jerry Weist estate auction (to be held at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention April 22-24, 2016) is now available. Over 4,000 pulps, dime novels, men’s adventure magazines and other magazines. Here’s a link to the catalog  (19 pages).

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 5, 1908 – Bette Davis

Bette David fountain

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born April 5, 1916 — Gregory Peck. Among his many roles: Ahab in John Huston’s Moby Dick, scripted by Ray Bradbury.

Gregory Peck Moby Dick

  • Born April 5, 1933 — Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler on Batman and the bigoted half-whiteface, half-blackface alien Bele on an episode of Star Trek.

(15) THREE-BODY. Ethan Mills tackles the “Wobbly Relations of Past, Present, and Future: The Three-Body problem by Liu Cixin (Translated by Ken Liu) at Examined Worlds.

The Philosophy Report: Is Nature Uniform?  What to Expect from ETs?

Philosophy is mentioned several times, including the Chinese philosopher, Mozi, and the German philosopher, Leibniz, who are both characters in the game.  Aside from such small connections, two major issues are the uniformity of nature and the reaction to extraterrestrial intelligence.

In philosophy of science (and regular life for that matter) we all rely on what some philosophers have called the principle of the uniformity of nature.  This is usually discussed in (constant) conjunction with David Hume’s problem of induction.  Could we live as successfully in the world as we do, could we do science, if the laws of nature were not in some sense uniform across time and space?  If the laws of nature varied over time or between countries or planets, could we really get around?  Could we do science?  Or — closer to Hume’s point — whether this principle is really true or not, should we believe it?  Could we stop believing it even if it turned out to be unjustified?

But what if we had lived on a planet where as far as we could tell the laws of nature do sometimes change, where things are never the same over time, could we have evolved as we did and could we have developed science?  Those are some of the intriguing questions raised in The Three-Body Problem.

(16) HEARING MCCARTHY. TC McCarthy is not alone in his opinion:

(17) GETTING THE CAMEL’S NOSE UNDER THE TENT. A list of “11 sci-fi and fantasy books for people who don’t like sci-fi and fantasy” at Minnesota Public Radio News.

Sci-fi picks for people who don’t like sci-fi

So, you think you don’t like sci-fi. What turned you off?

Long descriptions of space ships and their alternative fuels? Too many alien names to keep straight? Just not into “nerd” stuff? Send your stereotypes packing to Planet Zurlong for a minute, and try one of these books that may offer you a new perspective on the genre.

For the record, most of these fall into the category of “soft” science fiction. “Hard” science fiction revels in technical details, whereas soft is not as focused on the specificity of its futuristic elements. Consider this a “soft landing” on your genre dive.

(But yes, sometimes descriptions of space ships can be fascinating.)

1) “The Wool Omnibus” by Hugh Howey

When Howey’s work first caught critics’ eyes in 2012, it was dubbed the “sci-fi version of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.'” That comparison is purely about how the book was published, not about the quantity of whips or handcuffs in it. Like “Shades,” it took off as a self-published Internet phenomenon.

Howey posted the first 60 pages of “The Wool Omnibus” online as a standalone short story in 2011, but within a year, that turned into a 500-plus page project that topped bestseller lists. The books take place in the Silo, a post-apocalyptic city built more than a hundred stories underground.

(18) DANIEL RADCLIFFE RETURNS. Swiss Army Man will be in theaters June 17.

There are 7 billion people on the planet. You might be lucky enough to bump into the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

 

(19) BFG OFFICIAL UK TRAILER 2.

From Director Steven Spielberg, “The BFG” is the exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/16 Hivers Against Humanity

(1) DRAGON HATCHERY. Naomi Novik is interviewed on NPR, “A Writer-Engineer’s Historical Fiction Hack: Add Dragons”.

Almost a decade after she first went online, she says she was working as a programmer for a computer game “and something about that whole process of building the structure of that game turned into a real kind of light-bulb moment for me as a writer.” At the time, her fan fiction at was inspired by swashbuckling adventure novels set in the Napoleonic era. But something started happening to her stories — they were getting longer and more complex.

“Then all of a sudden I sort of started to feel that I was constrained by the characters, as opposed to enjoying them,” she says. “And that remains for me to this day the line … where it’s like: OK, you’re not writing fan fiction anymore.”

She also had an idea she wanted to run with: “What could make the Napoleonic wars more exciting? Dragons!” And one dragon in particular: Temeraire. He’s central in her 9-book “Temeraire” series, which opens with the dragon becoming the responsibility of Will Laurence, a naval captain fighting for the British against Napoleon. Laurence is chivalrous with a keen sense of duty, but he embraces the 19th-century conventions that Novik paints in faithful detail — even some that are distasteful to 21st-century readers, like class hierarchies and the roles of women. Temeraire, on the other hand, is newly hatched; he provides a more critical, modern voice.

(2) SUIT & NERD & TIE. AnimeCon.org CEO Ryan Kopf sued Nerd & Tie blogger Trae Dorn in December, claiming Dorn had defamed him. Now Dorn has amended his suit to include Dorn’s podcast co-host Pher Sturz.

So many of you already know that in December AnimeCon.org CEO Ryan Kopf filed a lawsuit in the state of Iowa against me for articles I published here on Nerd & Tie about his organization. After I was served, I quickly went public — starting a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for my legal defense (because, y’know, lawyers are expensive).

Pher Sturz, who co-hosts the podcast with me (and came up with the name for it — which is where the name of this site comes from), was very vocal in his public support for me. Pher did this because he’s a good friend, and wasn’t really any more inflammatory (and in most cases significantly less so) than most other people sharing the link.

….To make this worse, Pher, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of money. And I know he won’t point this out himself, but he has a young daughter as well. Lawyers are really, really expensive and he needs to hire one fast. His original attempt to secure aid fell through, so now we’re reaching out to you — the Nerd & Tie readers.

Pher has launched a GoFundMe campaign (Titled ‘The Ryan Kopf is Suing Me Too! Fund‘) to try and get money together to hire someone, and I hope you’ll consider contributing. He’s asking for $3000 right now because (after fees) that’s effectively what he’ll need to get started.

(3) BITES THE DUST. SF Site News reports “Samhain Publishing Closing”.

Samhain Publishing has announced that they will be closing. According to Samhain, the main cause of their decision is changes with their terms with Amazon. They are planning a controlled shut down and will continue to pay royalties to their authors and will be returning rights on a schedule.

More here.

(4) OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE. Deborah J. Ross knows about “Rejection, Discouragement, and How a Few Loyal Readers Can Save an Author”.

Being discouraged is part and parcel of a working writer’s life. Negative reviews, ditto. Some of us are naturally more thick-skinned about them than others, and most of us develop coping strategies over the years. This is where networking with other writers can be very helpful.

…. Reviews, ah reviews, and in this category I include feedback from critique groups and beta readers. So much has already been said about the power of a caustic review or harsh feedback of a work in progress that I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say that the natural human desire for praise (for our creative “children”) leaves us vulnerable to interpreting criticism of the work with condemnation of ourselves. Or, having torn off our emotional armor to write from the heart, we’ve also ripped off any defenses against sarcasm, etc. I’m among those who, having received scathing feedback, went home, and cried. I never considered giving up (although on more than one occasion, I contemplated getting even and thankfully resisted the temptation). But some writers have.

Negative feedback, if consistent and prolonged, can have a devastating effect on a writer’s self-confidence and ability to work. Support and encouragement from our fellow writers can be our greatest asset in setting aside the nasty things people have written about our stories. A hiatus from reading reviews is highly recommended.

(5) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Since Steve Davidson found a stash of mimeographed File 770’s on a freebie table at Boskone he’s been thinking how Ye Olden Times in fandom compare with Today. Steve distills those thoughts in “Ode to File 770 (and a note on our changing culture)”:

File 770 what kind of people cover wade gilbreath CROP

I then met Mike in person for the first (and last) time at Iguanacon in 1978.  Where I had the disappointing task of having to inform him that the only part of Contact:SF (which by then had gone semi-pro) that I could show him was a tear sheet of the cover.  (American Airlines lost every single copy I was shipping to the con, which ended up financially killing it.)  Mike had offered to spread the news within the pages of his own (eventual Hugo Award winning) zine (after having a look of course) and I had been looking forward to a rapid climb within the world of fanzine fandom.  A Hugo award was not that far away in my mind at the time.  (Still isn’t, but I’ve got a warped sense of time.)

(6) MAGAZINE KICKSTARTER. Three days left in Richard Thomas’ Kickstarter appeal to fund “Gamut Magazine: Neo-noir, speculative, literary fiction”. It’s raised $45,764 of its $52,000 goal to date.

Gamut will be a website (and eBook) with a wide range of voices—genre-bending stories utilizing the best of genre and literary fiction….

So I’m open to:

  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction
  • Horror
  • Neo-noir, crime, mystery, thrillers
  • Magical realism
  • Transgressive
  • Southern gothic
  • Literary fiction
  • Weird / bizarro
  • Poetry

Anything done with innovation, heart and emotion—that’s what I want. Everything I enjoy reading and writing typically leans toward the dark side, but I have been known to embrace lighter work, and humor, now and then.

(7) GOING VIRAL. Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech sounds intriguing. It’s available on Amazon.

AZTECH

High Aztech takes place in 21st century Mexico, Tenochtitlán, the metropolis formerly known as Mexico City, is the most exciting place on Earth. Stainless steel pyramids pierce the smoggy sky. Human sacrifice is coming back into fashion, especially on the new Aztechan TV channels, and everyone wants an artificial heart. Xolotl Zapata, celebrated poet, skeptic and journalist, starts receiving death threats from a cult he’s lampooned in a comic book. But soon he will have much worse problems and be running for his life. The government, the Mafia, street gangs, cults, terrorists, even garbage collectors will be after him. Why? He has been infected with a technological development that will changing human life as we know it Zapata is carrying a virus that can download religious beliefs into the human brain – a highly contagious virus that is converting everyone he meets, and everyone they meet, to the Aztec religion. This is Witnessing with a PUNCH! Since he’s a virulent carrier he infects a large part of the city all by himself, and the masses, filled with visions and portents, await the End of the World.

Decide how it sounds to you – Hogan’s reading of the first chapter can be heard on this video:

(8) HOMELESS GNOMES. NPR reports “Popular Gnomes Seek New Home”

Officials at Little Buffalo State Park in Pennsylvania decided that dozens of tiny gnome homes tucked in trees around the park were a nuisance. The gnome homes were too popular, so they were evicted.

….Steve Hoke, with permission from the park, crafted teeny-weeny doors on hollow logs and built pint-size cottages on mossy tree stumps to the delight of children in the area, not to mention the families who drove hours to see them. The idea was to get kids out of the house, away from the electronics and go for a walk, Mr. Hoke told the media. But with so many visitors, state officials declared the itsy-bitsy abodes a nuisance and ordered them banished. So earlier this week, Steve Hoke carted off his Lilliputian village in his garden wagon. The evictions have angered many, hundreds have signed petitions to bring back the magic, and it appears there has been a reprieve for the homeless elves. Two neighboring towns have offered to take in the gnomes and their homes.

Full story in the New York Times

gnomes3-blog427

Little Buffalo told Mr. Hoke he had until Monday to clear out the gnome houses. Four days ago, he went to the park with a wagon and collected the dwellings scattered along about two and a half miles of trails.

“It was very emotional,” he said.

As he was leaving, he encountered a man and his daughter. They told him the girl had just finished her final round of chemotherapy and that her father had asked her what she wanted to do.

She said she wanted to go see the gnome houses.

“If I wasn’t so cold and wet, I probably would have stood there and wept,” Mr. Hoke said.

“That’s the part that the people who made this decision don’t get to see,” he added. “It was a mystery for the kids. It was magical.”

(9) THE CUSTOMERS MUST BE CRAZY. Gods Of Egypt received the not-especially-coveted “I’ve seen worse” rating from this reviewer at Birth. Movies. Death.

The most surprising thing about Gods Of Egypt was that I didn’t outright hate it. I have already seen worse movies this year, and I may yet see something even more abominable in the near future. The conceptual insanity of the movie could be the one selling point to it all, but the truth is unless you haven’t played a modern action-adventure game in the past ten years or so, this overbearing maelstrom of CGI bombast is rote and played out. I felt neither disdain nor schadenfreude during it, only boredom and a slight headache afterwards. I can’t even recommend “hate watching” this or checking it out for the morbid curiosity, since instead of being mesmerized by cinematic atrocity, you’ll be constantly reminded of fonder experiences you’ve had with other games and movies.

(10) SOME SATURN AWARDS COVERAGE. Blastr had this comment

As usual, the Saturns are so expansive and inclusive that we have to wonder at some of the nominees — like financial drama 99 Homes

India media reacts: “Baahubali to compete with Hollywood biggies” at Wishesh.

It is really a proud moment for the Indian movie audience, to know that even Baahubali was part of the nominations of these awards, that too in five categories – Best Fantasy Film, Best Supporting Actress (Tamannaah), Best Music (Keeravani), Best Production Design (Sabu Cyril) and Best Costume Design (Rama Rajamouli and Prashanthi Tipirineni).

India’s proudest epic and blockbuster, Baahubali-The beginning will compete with the popular Hollywood big films like Jurrasic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

On the other side, Baahubali – The conclusion, is currently in the shooting stage and aiming the next Sankranthi release. After that, the makers are even planning for Baahubali 3, which does not include Prabhas, Satya Raj and most of the key cast of Baahubali 1 and 2 parts, as declared earlier.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15 Mother Pixel’s Littul Scrolls

(1) STAR WARS PREMIERE. Photographer Al Ortega has posted 105 photos taken at last night’s Hollywood premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Facebook.

And Craig Miller has an account of attending the premiere on Facebook too. Both are public.

(2) ON THE CARPET. CNN has Big Media’s coverage of celebrities’ responses to seeing the movie. I didn’t spot any spoilers, but caveat emptor.

Finally, the most hilarious comment comes from Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Talking about how much he possibly enjoys red carpet events, he remarked: “I can’t think of anything better to do! I do these in my backyard on Wednesdays.”

(3) WINDING UP THE REWATCH. Michael J. Martinez completed his Star Wars rewatch in the nick of time — Star Wars wayback machine: Return of the Jedi.

I think the Luke/Vader scenes work much better, especially when the Emperor is in the mix. Ian McDiarmid plays Palpatine with relish and Evil and it’s pretty awesome. Luke’s character goes through the wringer, and the performance is pretty damn good. And of course, we see Vader return to the Light. That wasn’t too horribly predictable going into the movie, and it worked. The one thing that the prequels did well (or didn’t mess up) was to show the beginning of Vader’s arc and how he ended up tossing the Emperor down a well and being the good guy he always wanted to be.

Martinez says, “I’ll be seeing the new one Thursday night, and will post a non-spoiler review on Friday. Thanks yet again for having me on File 770!”

(4) TAKE NO CHANCES. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader claims “This Chrome Extension Will Protect You from Seeing Star Wars Spoilers”.

And that’s why I’m thrilled I found Force Block. This simple Chrome extension saves me from seeing any unwanted spoilers. After it’s installed, any webpage that reveals details about the new Star Wars movie will look like this screenshot from movies.com…

(5) HO HO HO. Reason thinks Star Wars I-VI needs a parody collection of trigger warnings.

(6) MAGNUM OPUS. Whereas The Slipper works for its audience share with a rundown on how the original movies were handled in comics — “Something about that Space Wars thing everyone’s talking about”.

The Slipper knows how to leave them wanting more, as it ends by reproducing a series of Bloom County strips about Star Wars from the late Nineties.

(7) REEPICHEEP’S TAILOR? A Calgary metal artist crafts suits of armor for mice and cats.

Tiny helmets, shields and weapons could (theoretically) protect rodents and felines in battle…

It takes anywhere from 10 to 40 hours for de Boer to complete one suit of mouse armour. Cat armour takes much longer — 50 to 500 hours per piece

The link leads to a photo gallery of his work.

(8) LIVING COLOR. At Harry Bell – Fine Artist you can see glorious work like his oil painting of the London Millennium Bridge.

London Millennium Bridge by Harry Bell

Harry is a past Hugo nominee (1979), Rotsler Award winner (2004), and two-time FAAn Award winner (1977, 2014).

(9) ADDITIONAL NOTES. Deborah J. Ross tells more about “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings” in today’s installment at Book View Café.

Playing

When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released, I bought the easy piano/voice version of “The Song of the Lonely Mountain,” from the closing credits of the movie. By this time, I was on my own, without my teacher, but the piece was comfortably within my skill level. I knew how to drill fiddly fingering passages and such like. The key as written was a little low for my voice, but manageable. I even figured out how to use paper clips to grab on to so I could turn the pages without breaking the flow of the song.

Of course, I wanted more. The song was so much fun, how I could I not want more? But I also wanted to challenge myself.

(10) MAKING SPACE. John Dodd’s talks about letting go (how un-collector-like!) in “The Great Collection in the Sky” for Amazing Stories.

But, after wiping away the tears, I moved on. Later, my massive collection of comics and graphic novels had to go – sold at rock bottom price to a comics shop. There had been mint first editions in there, I thought, how dare he insult me with that price? But in the end, I relented. The collection was holding me back from moving on (quite literally – the new place wasn’t big enough for all that paper and cardboard).

So, do I regret the letting go? Actually no, I don’t. I made space for some truly amazing new things in my life…less “things” and more “experiences”.

(11) RAIN OBITUARY. Author David Rain, who wrote sf as Tom Arden, died December 15 reports Locus Online.

Arden is best known for the five-book Orokon epic fantasy series, beginning with The Harlequin’s Dance (1997). He also wrote standalone novels Shadow Black (2002) and The Translation of Bastian Test (2005), as well as Doctor Who novella Nightdreamers (2002), and numerous stories, reviews, and critical articles. As David Rains he published The Heat of the Sun (2012)….

(12) 3…2…1…BOOM! On December 15, 1960 The Traveler at Galactic Journey witnessed the nadir of America’s space program, a fourth consecutive disaster — “Booby Prize (Pioneer Atlas Able #4)”.

Today, NASA made a record–just not one it wanted to.

For the first time, a space program has been a complete failure.  Sure, we’ve had explosions and flopniks and rockets that veered too high or too low.  We’ve had capsules that popped their tops and capsules that got lost in the snow.  But never has there been a clean streak of bad missions.

(13) APPENDIX N. Jeffro Johnson closes out his series with “Appendix N Matters”, a summary of his views about fantasy and its readers.

The retiring of Lovecraft’s bust from the World Fantasy Awards is therefore not so much reminiscent of statues of Stalin being pulled down in post-Soviet Russia. It’s more a reflection of the Berlin wall… going up. It used to be that reading centuries old books was almost universally considered to be a very good thing, to the point of being the very definition of an education. Now, looking into works that are merely decades old are increasingly beyond the pale. People with this attitude will even go so far as to object to having to read Ovid at university– and college administrators– far from standing up to this– seem instead to be on the lookout to accommodate this sort of thing.

In the not too distant past, though, the “dangerous visions” of the day could be enjoyed side by side with classic fiction by Lord Dunsany and A. Merritt. Professionals with highly divergent views on politics and religion could coexist within the pages of the same magazines. And people that were keen on challenging every imaginable taboo could get on within the same market where more traditional approaches to science fiction and fantasy were still practiced. People were free then in a way that’s hard to even imagine now. Political correctness and its legions of freelance thought police were only just beginning to gain a foothold, and remnants old ways and attitudes could be taken for granted.

The Appendix N list preserves therefore not just a list of books that are of especial interests to fans of classic Dungeons & Dragons. It’s also a snapshot of what fantasy fandom was into in the seventies. And don’t let anyone tell you different. While the list is not without its idiosyncrasies, it is nevertheless a representative sample of the authors that would have been translated into foreign languages when other countries finally got around to importing the fantasy and science fiction phenomenon for themselves.

(14) ABIGAIL ON ANCILLARY. Abigail Nussbaum’s review Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie” does a lot of what used to be called “praising with faint damns.”

For example:

That Ancillary Justice is as much fun as it is feels all the more remarkable when you consider that it is, essentially, a book-long infodump.

Or:

…By this point, we’ve learned enough about the Radch and its stratified, class-conscious society to view the popularity of these kinds of stories with distrust–their narrative of virtue triumphing over social convention is intended to paper over the real issues of class prejudice that hinder most capable lower class citizens from climbing the social ladder (or the pitfalls that trip them up even once they’ve achieved a higher status, as in the case of Lieutenant Awn).  It’s less clear whether we’re meant to notice that Ancillary Justice is also one of these stories–Breq isn’t just lower class, by the standards of the Radchaai she isn’t even human, and yet by the end of the novel her courage and devotion to Lieutenant Awn have not only gained her the respect of several high-ranking Radch officials, but she has been granted citizenship and the command of her own ship.  All that’s missing is the love story with a high-born Radchaai (and I’m betting rather heavily on that for the sequels).  Is it even possible to question the very idea of empire through what is essentially a Horatio Hornblower story?

(15) CORREIA. Don’t just ask any professional, “Ask Correia #18: Creating ‘Offensive’ Characters” at Monster Hunter Nation.

That whole Bechdel Test thing? Where they ask are there two females in a scene who talk about something other than a man? Okay, first off, you shouldn’t have to “test” your story for anything beyond is it readable and entertaining enough to sell it to somebody, but second WHO CARES? (well, a legion of Twitter feminists and gender studies professors obviously) Right off the bat most of the mega-selling romance genre fails the test, and most of those books are written by female authors for a female audience (and the romance genre makes serious bank compared to the rest of us).

There isn’t some arbitrary test that if you pass you’re good, and if you fail you’re sexist. Because you see what they call me, and I wrote Grimnoir, where the single most important, pivotal, critical, essential dialog scene in the entire trilogy was two young women talking about origami on top of a blimp. Test passed, and I’m the International Lord of Hate.

The real test for every scene should be asking yourself, is this scene good? Is this entertaining? Does this advance the story? Does this scene expand the characters or the universe? But that should be every scene, not just the one with two female characters in it.

(16) EMPATHY. I wonder if Larry knows the subject in the neverbeenmad comic ”2015 Voight Kampff Empathy Test”?

(17) Today In History

Peter Boyle Young Frankenstein

  • December 15, 1974Young Frankenstein was released.
  • December 15, 1978Superman with Christopher Reeve premiered.

(18) BRIN REMEMBERS CLARKE. Coinciding with the Syfy show’s premiere, David Brin has penned a tribute “Childhood’s End and Remembering Arthur C. Clarke”.

And yet, what most intrigues me about Arthur’s work is something else – his ongoing fascination with human destiny – a term seemingly at odds with the scientific worldview.

True, a great many of his stories have focused on problem-solving, in the face of some intractable riddle. His characters, confronted with something mysterious, aren’t daunted. They gather resources, pool knowledge, argue, experiment, and then – often – transform the enigmatic into something that’s wondrously known. This part of the human adventure has always shown us at our best. Peeling away layers. Penetrating darkness. Looking back at the wizard, standing behind the curtain.

(19) WHAT WILL BE IN TWO YEAR’S BEST COLLECTIONS . Through SF Signal I found

“Table of Contents: The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 Edited by Neil Clarke” (31 stories)

and

“Table of Contents: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 Edited by Rich Horton” (30 stories).

Somebody with more time than I have just now should see if there is any overlap…

(20) WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. James Bacon took “A Superhero Stroll Around New York City” when he was in town, and wrote it up on Forbidden Planet. Lots of photos too!

Paul Lepelletier is our guide for this superhero walk around New York City, and at two pm he gathers us all outside. This is a friendly group, and soon we all know where everyone is from, four from England, four from Boston, two locals from Manhattan, two from Scotland, two from New Jersey, and four other New Yorkers, it is a decent crowd..

Paul has worked for DC comics; he drew comics at one stage of his varied career, worked in the licensing division, and indeed, is an award winning graphic designer and marketer, but his love of comics, and his appreciation for having been involved with them, is quite clear.

His knowledge is strong, and soon we are hearing about Fleicher’s Rotoscope technique and additions they made to the Superman ouevre, such as the famous Phone Booth as we stand outside their offices.

Soon we are on Park Avenue, looking at a building that housed Will Eisner’s studio, and hearing about the relationship between Will Eisner and Bob Kane, about how Batman was sold, and how Bob Kane’s own career developed and again looking at the building that housed his studio back in the day.

Paul’s knowledge of comic characters and their history, especially on TV and Radio, is new ground to me. As well as Batman, he talks about the rise of marvel in the 1960s, the old movie serials and the germination of TV series.

(21) HWA LA SIGNING. On January 16, 2016 members of the Horror Writers Association LA will sign Winter Horror Days edited by David Lucarelli at a Burbank bookstore.

Winter Horror Days COMP

Join us Sunday January 10th 2-4 pm as members of HWA LA sign Winter Horror Days at Dark Delicacies, 3512 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Bacon, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29 Scroll to my pixel, click inside and read by the light of the moon

(1) SITH PACK. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in “Star Wars wayback machine: Revenge of the Sith”

It’s the final piece of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and, if I may be a touch heretical, on a par with Return of the Jedi. It very much echoes what made the original trilogy special, despite having many of the problems that plagued the other prequels.

(2) DIY STORMTROOPER. At io9 Andrew Liptak reports progress on making his own Stormtrooper armor in “So You Want To Join The Empire: Finishing Touches”. Some of the lingo is a bit specialized…

Greebles

I ended up trimming down the greeble on the abs plate – I didn’t trim it down enough the first time. The paint was also slightly off color after it dried, so I ended up picking up the correct shades,

(3) BARRIS FUNERAL. “I was wondering why there were so many cool cars in Glendale yesterday,” remarked John King Tarpinian. The answer: Batmobile designer George Barris was being laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Barris passed away November 5 at the age of 89 — click on the link to see Comic Book Resources photo of Barris’ casket, which features an airbrushed ’66 Batmobile on its side and specially-made fins on top, in honor of the creator’s work.

(4) DOCTOR STRANGE. Did they really want to work together? “Clea-ing The Air: Neil Gaiman And Guillermo del Toro Have Differing Memories Of Their Nixed ‘Doctor Strange’ Movie” at ScienceFiction.com.

What if… Neil Gaiman wrote a ‘Doctor Strange’ movie and Guillermo del Toro directed it?  Sadly, that’s one tale that will never be told, but could it have been?  Well, at least according to one of the creators involved, Gaiman, who tweeted a lament, expressing:

“I still wish Marvel had been interested in a [Guillermo del Toro] & me Dr Strange movie, because I wanted to write Clea so badly after 1602.”

(5) SEED BOMBAST. RedWombat cut loose with a mighty rant about the seed bombs entry in yesterday’s Scroll that is too good to be missed, so I am repeating it in today’s Scroll….

Part I: Okay. Seed Bombs. *clears throat*

Seed bombing is super-duper popular with “guerrilla gardeners,” with Girl Scout troops, civic-minded crafters, basically with all sorts of well-meaning folks who think that you can turn a vacant urban lot into Eden by throwing a ball of clay full of seeds over the fence and walking off with the warm glow that you have given nature a helping hand.

Except they don’t work.

There’s a couple factors at work here. #1, very rarely do people research the plants–like those wildflower meadow mixes in a can, they’re often dumping invasive weeds or short-lived annuals…because those are the only things that might survive under those conditions.

Which leads us to #2 — even assuming the seeds germinate (a big if, as we’ll see below) they will be packed in incredibly tight in the seed bomb, compete with each other for root space, the ones that die will rot intertwined with the others, etc. There’s a reason we thin seedlings. Your only survivors are going to be the hardy souls who can stand intense root competition, and frankly, those plants don’t need your help moving around…

…because #4, there is a massive seedbank in the soil already. Billions and billions! Japanese stilt grass seeds can survive up to seven years in dirt, waiting for the moment to strike. Wind, water, animals…there are seeds there already. If humanity vanished tomorrow, half our cities would be forests before the decade was out. So if nothing is growing in that vacant lot, the reason is probably…

#5 – Compacted soil is shit soil. I have been fighting for years with a hillside where the builders ran earthmoving equipment over it, and Nothing Grows. Not even weeds. Not even kudzu or stiltgrass or Japanese honeysuckle. It is hardpan. It is dead clay. Nature could fix it, but in a century or two. There are no worms, no microbes, no LIFE.

I’ve made great inroads, but not with plants. I had to fix SOIL. I tried seeds first, and what self-respecting seed would grow there? I dug in plants by hand, grimly. Most died. A few lived, but the toughest clay-busters nature can provide could not do more than occupy one small, hard-won clump.

I brought in dirt, compost, raked in leaves–not much, just an inch or two over the clay and that was enough. There are worms and microbes and the layer keeps the dead stuff moist and slowly it gets dug through and aerated by roots. It felt more like terraforming than gardening. A seed bomb on compacted soil is useless, unless you can find the very toughest pioneer species, the sort that are first to grow in abandoned quarries, and those don’t need help from guerrilla gardeners.

And even if you DID get the right seeds, it won’t matter because #6–seed bomb construction is desperately flawed. (Can’t speak to the one above, this is just the standard method.) The standard method is to pack seeds in damp clay, let them dry, and then throw them. Congratulations, you have killed a bunch of seeds!

The vast majority of seeds germinate when moist. A dry seed is a live seed, unless it gets wet, then it is a growing seed. If you dry it out immediately, you have killed that seed. You get one shot at germination if you’re a seed. No do-overs. Seeds can live in the pyramids and be viable, seeds can live in the fridge and be fine, seeds that get wet are done unless planted pronto. (Exceptions: those that require other, more specific triggers–fire, animal digestion, cold stratification, etc, and some few plant species adapted specifically to floodplains.)

Those paper cards with seeds in the paper, plant them, yay earth? Dead. Seeds are mixed with slurry pulp, get damp, dried out. Unless they pick the seeds very carefully, it’s just feel-good crap.

And now I have to go to breakfast, so part two: Why It Looks Like A Seed Bomb Worked will have to wait for a bit.

Part II: Ok, so Round Two!

“But RedWombat!” you say. “I made a seed bomb and stuff grew! Also there is no #3 in your rant!”

To which I say “shut up and let us troubleshoot your miracle.”

If you made a bomb and ran out the same day and flung it, the seeds didn’t dry out. If you threw it on soil that didn’t completely suck, that was not already overgrown with weeds, that was then gently watered by either moist ground or rainfall, if your seed bomb was not too densely packed or was a variety that tolerates close competition, then you may indeed have successfully grown a plant. If you picked your seeds carefully, there is even a chance that it’s not a corn poppy or some other short lived annual. This is basically why stuff sprouts under the birdfeeder.

Alternately, if you don’t specifically recognize the seeds you planted, then it was quite possibly stuff already in the soil bank and you’re taking credit for its hard work.

Now, nature is a mutha, and some seeds will survive terrible treatment through dumb luck or a tiny pocket of dryness or are a floodplain species or whatever. Or they land in the one tiny pocket of hard pan along the fence that’s loose because of the post-hole digger, and it rains at the right moment or whatever. But a seed would have ended up there ANYWAY. You could get the same effect dumping safflower over the fence, as above, except that the safflower has a far better chance of sprouting.

So, in conclusion, this is feel-good crap that lets nice but wrong people and smug Eco-bros feel like They’re Helping, when they aren’t, and there’s a dozen things you could do that DO help, but most of those are work and also don’t pay extra for the cards with seeds in them. If you’re going to green the world, there are very few quick fixes.

The end.

And there’s extra credit reading about working with hardpan soil in RedWombat’s third installment!

(6) RING MUSIC. Deborah J. Ross confesses “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings”.

When at long last it was my time to embark upon piano lessons, as a first-time older adult student, I grabbed a copy of the easy piano versions of The Lord of the Rings music. My goal was to play “Into the West.” I was one of those folks in the theater with tears down my cheeks as the song ended. But I was just starting out, I had zero self-confidence, and I wanted to make sure I had the skill to play it well. My teacher and I selected “In Dreams” (which is also the leitmotif for the hobbits) as one of my early pieces. Even in the easy version, it was a challenge. And it had words, words in a key within my limited vocal range.

Like others of my generation, I got caught in the folk scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even taught myself a few chords on the guitar. Although I enjoyed singing in a group, I had become convinced I had a terrible voice. I remember being told as a child that I couldn’t sing. So of course, my voice was strained, thin, unreliable in pitch. With the piano to support my voice, however, along with lots of practice when no one else was in the house, not to mention having an encouraging teacher, I learned how to breathe more deeply and relax my throat. The higher notes became easier and more clear. I added other songs and vocal exercises, which helped my confidence. “Wow,” my teacher said after one class, “who knew you had such a voice?”

(7) Today In History

  • November 29, 1972Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

We’re still not sold on Turkish Delight, but thank you for Puddleglum and Mr. Tumnus, Mr. Lewis!

(9) Today’s Birthday Girl

Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.

(10) STAMOS OR SCALZI. John Scalzi’s poll “Does Teenage John Scalzi Look Like Teenage John Stamos?” crowdsources the answer to a question that has plagued John since he was a high schooler with a rock idol haircut.

In comments, David P. provides disturbing evidence that young Scalzi looked more like Snot from American Dad.

I can only hope David P. isn’t out there researching my look-alike….

(11) STARFLEET. At Future War Stories, a blog devoted to explaining the world of military science fiction — “Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET”.

Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well…not if you are Riker).

(12) JESSICA JONES SPOILER WARNING. “The 13 Most Epic Marvel Easter Eggs in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’” at Yahoo! TV. The first Easter egg should be okay to quote, it’s not very spoiler-y.

  1. “And Then There’s the Matter of Your Bill”: Right off the bat, you know showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones team are going to provide plenty for comic fans to geek out over. One of the first scenes of the series is a shot-for-shot recreation of Jessica’s introduction in Alias #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos.

(13) X-MEN SPOILER WARNING. From ScienceFiction.com, “James McAvoy Hints At How Professor X Loses His Hair In ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’”. If you don’t want to know, don’t read! If you do want to know, well, I’m not sure this is really going to help…

But in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, McAvoy’s appearance will bring him more in line with Stewart’s.  Back in May, the actor tweeted a picture of himself having his head shaved for the film, indicating that even though he is a younger Xavier, he will actually go bald to more closely resemble his comic book counterpart.

How does this come about?  Well, as is the norm, details about this super hero flick are being kept tightly under wraps.  But while promoting his new movie ‘Victor Frankenstein’, McAvoy appeared on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ and did spill a tease about his character’s follicle metamorphosis:

“He ends up going through something so horrible and physically painful that he literally half pulls his hair out/half it falls out. Maybe, or maybe not…I just shit myself because I know Fox Studios who own me might be angry with me for sharing that.”

(14) CHARLIE BROWN. Since it’s a big favorite of mine, I hesitate to think about the Bizarro Charlie Brown special contemplated by the original producers. From “It’s your 50th television anniversary (and your 50th TV Christmas), Charlie Brown”.

Imagine “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with a laugh track and with adult actors providing the children’s voices. Now imagine it without Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy music and without Linus quoting the Bible, telling Charlie Brown what “Christmas is all about.”

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? There goes the charm. There goes the magic. And, perhaps, there go all of the animated Peanuts specials that followed this first one, including “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

But if even some of the producers’ early suggestions and the network’s preferences had been followed, the version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that first aired on Dec. 9, 1965, wouldn’t have become a cherished classic. And, good grief, it would have been an hour special, rather than a half-hour

[Thanks to Michael J. Martinez, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome .]

Pixel Scroll 9/23 Pixel Exigente!

(1) Today in History —

1846 – Eighth planet discovered — “German astronomer Johann Gottfriend Galle discovers the planet Neptune at the Berlin Observatory”.

Neptune, generally the eighth planet from the sun, was postulated by the French astronomer Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who calculated the approximate location of the planet by studying gravity-induced disturbances in the motions of Uranus. On September 23, 1846, Le Verrier informed Galle of his findings, and the same night Galle and his assistant Heinrich Louis d’Arrest identified Neptune at their observatory in Berlin. Noting its movement relative to background stars over 24 hours confirmed that it was a planet.

(2) A judge checked in with the Salt Lake Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con folks this week, who assured him they are working on a settlement:

Settlement talks are under way between San Diego Comic-Con and Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the words “comic con,” FOX 13 is told.

Lawyers for both conventions met with a federal judge in San Diego on Tuesday to update the status of the lawsuit. Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg said both sides were working to reach an agreement.

“The judge wanted us to check in to see if progress had been made in the settlement. We reported the parties are still working out an agreement, but that we haven’t reached settlement, at least not yet,” he told FOX 13.

Brandenburg would not reveal any details about a possible settlement. The judge scheduled another hearing next month.

(3) Forbes writer Scott Mendelson theorizes a trailer will help draw people to theaters when The Martian opens this weekend in “’X-Men: Apocalypse’ Trailer Is Hyping ‘The Martian’”

If the rumor mill is to be believed, and in this case it makes sense, 20th Century Fox will be debuting the first much-anticipated teaser for X-Men: Apocalypse over the next week alongside the theatrical debut of Ridley Scott’s The Martian….

Back in the old days, you attached an important trailer to a big movie so that lots of people would see that big movie. Or at least you attached the trailer for your next big movie before your current big movie. That of course still happens, was we’ve seen from Universal/Comcast Corp. all summer long (Furious 7 trailers Straight Outta Compton or Fifty Shades of Grey trailers Crimson Peak)….

But here is a situation where the presence of a trailer for an upcoming blockbuster acts as major marketing not just for the movie in question but for the current (and arguably less commercial by default) release. At this point, a X-Men trailer helps The Martain more than it helps X-Men: Apocalypse. None of this is problematic in any real way, it just amused me.

(4) SF Signal’s new “MIND MELD: The Translated Books and Why We Love Them”, curated by James Aquilone, discusses the favorite translated sf of Aidan Doyle, Justin Howe (10badhabits.com), Tiemen Zwaan , Rachel S. Cordasco (facebook.com/bookishlywitty), Anatoly Belilovsky (http://loldoc.net), Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Amy Sisson, and Matthew Johnson (www.irregularverbs.ca).

(5) I tend to be interested in what Mad Genius Club columnists say specifically about the craft of writing,such as Sarah A. Hoyt’s advice about revisions.

[First of eight points.]

1- when polishing a story limit yourself to three passes: sense, wording and typos.  Chances are if you go on (and boy, could you go on) you’ll take all the flavor and individuality out of the piece.  Flavor and individuality is why we read your story, rather than someone else’s.  Yes, I know it’s not perfect. Let it go.  No story is ever perfect.

(6) In her post “Harassment: What do we do?” dated August 20, Lydy Nickerson took Sasquan’s recent experience as a starting point to analyze the handling of harassment at conventions.

The thing that’s most recently caught my attention has been Lou Antonelli and Sasquan. For those of you who haven’t been making a hobby of the Great Puppygate Train Wreck, the extremely short version is that some guy, in this case Lou Antonelli, sent a letter to the Spokane police alleging that David Gerrold, one of the GoH for Sasquan, was dangerously mentally unbalanced and might incite violence. He then bragged about it on a podcast. There was a round of shock, awe, and horror; an apology to Gerrold from Antonelli; and other things. Sasquan was notified, as is proper. David Gerrold accepted Lou Antonelli’s apology. Sasquan issued a statement saying, very roughly, that Antonelli had violated the Code of Conduct, but for Reasons, including a request from Gerrold, they’ve decided not to ban him.

So, then there’s a bunch of Monday morning quarterbacking from just about everybody. Which is fine by me, I like detailed analysis, outrage, and train wrecks. But I’m paying special attention, because on a much smaller scale, this could be me. A lot of people were very upset, and there were two things that caught my eye. The first was a demand for consistent application of the rules, and the second was for transparency. There’s a lot of variation on those two themes, but those were the two I am currently noodling on. Consistent application was often equated with zero tolerance.

So, let’s start with the actual, root problem. People who feel vulnerable to harassment at science fiction conventions do not trust those conventions to fairly and justly administer the rules. I cannot come close to doing justice to how very reasonable it is for them to feel that way. That distrust? We’ve built it, brick and mortar, over years. It’s not just well deserved, it’s hugely massively utterly deserved. Harassment policies have been non-existent, or poorly explained or hugely badly enforced. We have multiple known cases of people being allowed to fuck up because they were well connected, or because the concom didn’t want to be arsed, or because concoms just didn’t think there was a problem….

(7) Paul Weimer on “Orwellian unpersoning on the Sad/Rabid Puppies Part” at Blog, Jvstin Style.

You know, its rich that Sad Rabid Puppies would go so far as to unperson someone they accused of being a “Social Justice Warrior”

http://leogrin.com/CimmerianBlog/your-cimmerian-bloggers/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/09/leo-grin-grins-when-he-slays/

Sure, freedom of association and all that…but this looks awfully…Orwellian?

The actual thing that caused this seems to be that one of the former bloggers said something bad about someone and their association with super genius Theodore Beale.

(8) John Scalzi in “eBook Sales and Author Incomes and All That Jazz” at Whatever.

I’ve noted before that I think in general there are three kinds of authors: Dinosaurs, mammals and cockroaches, where the dinosaurs are authors tied to an existing publishing model and are threatened when it is diminished or goes away, mammals are the authors who rise to success with a new publishing model (but who then risk becoming dinosaurs at a later date), and cockroaches are the authors who survive regardless of era, because they adapt to how the market is, rather than how they want it to be. Right now, I think publishing might be top-heavy with dinosaurs, and we’re seeing that reflected in that Author’s Guild survey.

What we’re missing — or at least what I haven’t seen — is reliable data showing that the mammals — indie/self-publishing folks, in this case — are doing any better on average. If these writers are doing significantly better on average, then that would be huge. It’s worth knowing.

(9) Deborah J. Ross in “Gossip and Controversy”

I have refrained from any commentary on the Hugo Awards and all the events that led up to them. This does not mean I have not had opinions. Excuse me, Opinions. Only that I saw no point in adding gasoline to the burgeoning wildfires. Now various voices are urging everyone to play nice, to not harbor grudges. To get on with the business of writing (and reading) the best stories we can. Here’s a post I composed a few years ago on the subject of gossip. I should add that I am not entirely innocent, and I have been on the receiving end of some vile accusations, as have folks I care about. It is helpful to me to consider my own behavior (both passing on gossip and being appalled by it) in a larger — and hopefully, more compassionate — context:…

A huge piece of the problem, in my experience, is that we are inundated with role models of gossipers. We are told overtly and covertly that it is not only acceptable but enjoyable to speak ill of others and to relish their misfortune. If they have no discernible misfortune to begin with, well then we will create some! If media portray the pain of those who are gossiped about, it is often to glorify retaliation in kind. Almost never are we taught what to do when we speak badly. Saying “I’m sorry,” or “Shake hands and make up,” (as we’re forced to do as small children) does not make amends.

Certainly, we must begin by looking fearlessly at what we have done or said (or left undone and unsaid), but we must also be willing to accept that there is no justification for our behavior. It doesn’t matter if what we said was true or not if it harmed someone. It doesn’t matter if we were hurting or grieving or too Hungry-Angry-Lonely-Tired.

What we have done does not make us unworthy, unlovable, inadequate, or anything except wrong. Good people can be wrong. Good people, when wrong, strive to make things right.

(10) Ruth A. Johnston, author of Re-Modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance, was interviewed by L. Jagi Lamplighter at Superversive SF about the psychology of science fiction. In “The SF Culture War Posts – Part Two” Johnston applies her theory to characters in John C. Wright’s Night Land stories.

Part Two of our multi-part look at the psychology of Science Fiction, as explained by Ruth Johnston, author of Re-Modeling the Mind, a new book that takes a fresh look at Jung’s work on personalities…

Q: Let’s talk about the ideas you share in your new book. What light can they shed either on the original Night Lands or on John and his version?

Science fiction fans are usually personalities in which Intuition is a very strong part, often the strongest and most dominant. When it’s Extroverted, the universe seems full of possibilities waiting to be connected. Under every rock or behind every star could be a great invention or cure. When it’s Introverted, the personality usually has an innate feeling of knowing the truth of the world, so that exploring ideas is a matter of looking inward, following an inborn map of meaning. It’s also a bit more pessimistic and idealistic: under every rock there might be a rattlesnake, not a cure for cancer. But the rocks do need to be turned over, because it’s terribly important to find truth and roll away anything that covers and hides.

William Hope Hodgson’s original story seems full of Extroverted Intuition to me. Technology keeps mankind alive and there’s no real downside. His dark world is filled with evil spirits and creatures, but mankind’s ability to solve problems keeps one step ahead so that they can build a good way of life. The optimism of his Intuition feels so powerful in the story that I believe he probably had this kind of Intuition in his personality. It creates a sort of worldview.

I think this is some of what charmed John when he read the 1912 novel, and because I know John from college, I can say without guessing that he has that kind of Intuition. In his mind, the world is full of dots to be connected, and we’ve barely begun to connect them all.

Now the other half of the polarity I’m calling A is Introverted Sensing, which can show up as an intense idealism about human social roles. In fantasy and science fiction, it comes out in taking fairy-tale roles like king and knight very seriously. It also believes strongly in archetypal images like mother and father, male and female. When someone with A writes SFF stories, the setting and events can become wild and even chaotic, but the human roles never move much from archetypes. We see this clearly in both Night Land versions, the original and John’s. Anyone walking in the Night Land is going to be surprised by whatever comes next, whether it’s a fire pit, a dangerous creature, an oddly detached spirit, a living stone monument, or a cluster of blind worms. The stories depend strongly on human thought, activity, and roles to give them structure: like putting a snail into its shell. Human roles are stable, not flexible and random like the setting and ideas….

(11) Vivienne Raper asks “Do the Hugo Awards have a short fiction problem?” at Futures Less Traveled

At least one person complained that the Sad/Rabid Puppy nominees kept award-worthy short stories off the 2015 Hugo ballot… So I was curious. Was this true? Were these stories better than the stuff I’d read? An experiment was in order. I’ve now read the nominees on io9’s Puppy-free ballot. Here’s how I’d have voted.

#1 WINNERWhen it Ends, He Catches Her, Eugie Foster

When It Ends, He Catches Her has a tale behind it, and it’s the saddest in the Hugos. The day after Daily Science Fiction published the story, Eugie Foster died. It was her last chance to win the award.

There is no doubt – to me – that When It Ends, He Catches Her should have won Best Short Story. It is a story I wish I could have written. That – to me – is the purpose of the Hugos, to showcase work that I know I can’t… Perhaps can never write.

But don’t stop there – Vivienne ranks No Award in second place, then goes on to discuss several proposed runners-up.

(12) Prometheus and Alien sequels are expected.

Ridley Scott set tongues wagging the other day by suggesting he might make as many as three more Prometheus sequels before tying it up with the Alien franchise, reports Comicbook.com.

Scott has promised that Prometheus 2 will answer many of the questions left open in the 2012 film. However, Scott has told German website FilmFutter (via bloody-disgusting) that he won’t show how the Prometheus franchise connects to Alien in the next film. He’s saving that reveal for … Prometheus 4?!

“It won’t be in the next one. It will be in the one after this one or maybe even a fourth film before we get back into the Alien franchise…,” explained Scott. “The whole point of it is to explain the Alien franchise and to explain the how and why of the creation of the Alien itself. I always thought of the Alien as kind of a piece of bacterial warfare. I always thought that that original ship, which I call the Croissant, was a battleship, holding these biomechanoid creatures that were all about destruction.”

Jon Spaihts’ original script for Prometheus was a direct prequel to Alien. In it, David (Michael Fassbender) the android comes across and revives the Space Jockey (also referred to as The Pilot) who was last seen as a fossil in the 1979 film. We would’ve seen how The Pilot ended up dead on LV-426 from a Chestburster, but that storyline was jettisoned during extensive rewrites. Instead, Scott chose to have David and the rest of the crew end up on a whole other moon and come upon the Last Engineer.

Prometheus 2 will begin filming in February of 2016.

“Maybe the next Alien will burst out halfway through the third Prometheus sequel??” joked Will R.

Earlier than that, figuratively speaking, There is an Alien sequel aiming for release in 2017.

Director Neill Blomkamp got media attention last February when he released concept art images from a new Alien movie he was working on, reportedly without authorization from any studio.

Variety reports separately that Blomkamp has a deal with 20th Century Fox to direct the movie, which will be a different project altogether to Fox’s Prometheus sequel with Ridley Scott. According to The Wrap, the untitled Blomkamp movie will be produced by Scott and take place after the events of Prometheus 2.

And he generated some more word-of-mouth for the project in July by repeating the stunt. First Showing then recapped what it knew about the prospective movie.

We don’t know too much about Blomkamp’s new Alien movie yet, however we’ll recap what we do know. Between this concept art and the last piece, it definitely looks like Sigourney Weaver will be back as Ripley. A few months ago, Blomkamp explained that “She knows about it, and part of it was just inspired by speaking to her on set when we were filming Chappie, and getting her thoughts on Alien and what she thought of the movies that came after Aliens and what she felt about Ripley and what was incomplete for her about Ripley. There was so much fuel in what she was telling me.” Fellow filmmaker Ridley Scott is also producing this new Alien, so he is directly involved in it and working with Blomkamp. The film is currently aiming for release in 2017, so stay tuned for any more updates.

 

A photo posted by Brownsnout (@neillblomkamp) on

[Thanks to Will R., L. Jagi Lamplighter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day James H. Burns.]

Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Puppies 5/5

aka The Puppy Who Mistook His Bark For A Hugo

Today’s roundup gathers together excerpts of Puppy-related thoughts from Mercy Pilkington, Paul St. John Mackintosh, Mike Glyer (who let him in here?), Deborah J. Ross, T.C. McCarthy, Kevin Standlee, Vox Day, Michael Kingswood, Tom Knighton, Lisa J. Goldstein, Jane Frank. Steve Davidson, Alexandra Erin and players to be named later. (Title credits go to File 770 contributing editors of the day Danny Sichel and Dawn Sabados.)

Mercy Pilkington on Good E Reader

“The Sad Joke That Is the Hugo Awards” – May 5

Unfortunately, this year’s nominations have allegedly been shanghaied by a small collective of people under the name “Sad Puppies” and a rival group “Rabid Puppies” who are disheartened with the “touchy feely” decline of science fiction into a genre that allows gay couples and women who don’t have giant breasts to exist. The groups have garnered enough voting support to send their favorites to the top of the lists, then have seemingly been quite open about achieving their goals.

 

Paul St. John Mackintosh on TeleRead

“Locus Awards finalists show the power of open voting” – May 5

You’re either forced to assume that the liberal-left-loony conspiracy beloved of the Sad Puppies ringleaders extends across the entire internet – or that the SP promoters are just a bunch of histrionic opportunists who hijacked the voting process of a particular set of awards in the name of a particular ideological agenda. Which also makes you wonder what future history will make of the 2014 Sad Puppies Hugo list, if not a single one of them has made the cut in a more open ballot. Apologies to any fine writers besmirched by that comment, but in the circumstances, it’s understandable. And apologies too to the Locus Awards for casting their fantastic slate of contenders in the shade of the Hugos/Sad Puppies fiasco. All the same, people, compare and contrast.

 

Mike Glyer in Uncanny Magazine

“It’s The Big One”  – May 5

Does The Award Matter? The award was forged as a weapon in the original culture war—the battle to earn acceptance for science fiction itself.

Isaac Asimov gave readers a taste of the mockery early science fiction fans endured in his introduction to a collection of Hugo–winning short fiction:

“You can imagine the laughter to which we were subjected when sensible, hard–headed, practical, every–day people discovered we were reading crazy stories about atomic bombs, television, guided missiles, and rockets to the moon. All this was obvious crackpotism that could never come to pass, you see.”

….Openly campaigning for a Hugo has long been culturally discouraged in fandom, however, that old–school tradition has not survived a collision with some other significant forces. Individual authors have been forced to shoulder the publicity burdens once carried by their publishers and one aspect of gaining attention is through awards – an approach discussed by Nancy Fulda (“Five Things You Should Know About Award Nominations”) on the SFWA Blog in January 2015. Furthermore, people steeped in the social media culture of constant self–expression and self–celebration have been conditioned to feel reticence is unnatural: Why wouldn’t they recommend themselves for an award?

 

Deborah J. Ross on Deborah’s Journal

“In Which Deborah Learns A New Word” – May 5

Normally, this is a politics-lite zone. Growing up in the ’50s with the McCarthy nuts breathing down my family’s neck has not endeared me to rancorous public discourse. I have, however, been following PuppyGate because I know some of the folks who withdrew their stories from the Hugo ballot and/or Puppy slate. The online debate has at times been pretty vile.

One of the few delightful things to come out of this mess is a new word: Puppysplaining. Akin to mansplaining, it refers to “Explaining to you how you really have no idea how completely wrong you are about your own lived experiences.” It comes to me from Gamer Ghazi. If it follows you home, you have my permission to keep it.

 

 

Kevin Standlee on Fandom Is My Way of Life

“Scheduling WSFS Business” – May 5

Because of a comment on the File 770 web site, I find that I’d better write about the subject of when the Business Meeting in Spokane will or might consider specific items, because it would appear some folks are taking this spot as the journal of record on such things.

Parliamentary Neepery about Business Meeting SchedulingCollapse )

So it’s possible for the meeting to put off consideration of proposals until Day 5, the morning after the Hugo Award Ceremony. How could it do this?

Agenda-Setting MechanismsCollapse )

I hope this explanation makes sense. It gets into a number of the finer points of parliamentary detail, but given the complexity of the tasks we may fact this year, I think it important that people understand what tools they have at their disposal.

 

Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“Bi-discoursality” – May 5

The interesting thing about rhetoric is that it makes no sense to those who are limited to the dialectic. I didn’t fully grasp the way it worked until reading RHETORIC for the second time. It can be bewildering when people tell you that they have been convinced by something that you know can’t logically have persuaded them. In such cases, you know they have been persuaded by rhetoric, not facts, reason, or logic.

I wouldn’t expect an individual who only speaks one form of discourse to be any more able to follow me into the other than if I abruptly switched to speaking Italian or French after beginning in English.

For example, this was written for dialecticals. Rhetoricals only see “blah blah blah, I’m so smart, blah blah blah, Aristotle” and scan through it seeking to find some point of attack they can use to minimize or disqualify me. And if they can’t, that’s when they strike a bored pose or return to the snarky ad hom.

 

Michael Kingswood on Magic, Swords, and Laser Beams

“Myke and Brad” – May 5

Look, I’ve had to set fellow officers straight before because they were messing up.  Mostly those junior to me, occasionally a peer, and once or twice more senior officers, up to and including my CO.  It’s part of the job, and expected: forceful backup is a primary tenet of submarine operations.  So I have no issue with one officer correcting another.

That said, there is a way to do that sort of correction, and I do take issue with the nature, style, and content of Myke’s open letter.

The entire letter is condescending, and lacking in professional courtesy or respect.  Does he honestly think that Brad doesn’t know that, as an officer, he has a duty to all of his men, regardless of their personal situation?  Or does he just think Brad knows but doesn’t care?  Brad’s been doing this for a long time now.  I think he gets it.  And who the hell is Myke to lecture anyway?  He doesn’t work with Brad, doesn’t serve with him.  They’re not in the same chain of command, and neither has authority over the other.  Has he ever observed Brad’s professional behavior?  If not, he’s just speculating not even based on hearsay, and has no standing to judge or cast dispersions.

 

Tom Knighton

“An Open Letter to Myke Cole” – May 5

Dear Myke,

As a veteran who is now firmly ensconced in civilian life, I’m writing you to discuss your open letter with CWO Brad Torgersen.  This is not to defend Brad’s comments, because there is nothing I feel like defending.  Brad was out of line, and I think he knows that.  One thing I agree with John Scalzi on is that being gay is not anything to be ashamed of, so there’s no reason it should be categorized as an insult.  Thus far, we are in agreement.

However, you chose to address this issue in an open letter.  In and of itself, this wouldn’t normally be an issue.  Open letters are quite common in this day and age.  However, you opted to do so as a commissioned officer who is addressing a warrant officer.  This is where I must take issue.

You are a commissioned officer, a lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard Reserves.  You are addressing a warrant officer in the United States Army Reserves.  In essence, you are addressing a junior officer in a different chain of command.  As you are an officer, one would assume that somewhere in your training, you were instructed in how to address junior personnel while counseling them in matters such as proper execution of their duties.

If you were, then I am quite sure that the Coast Guard instructed you similarly to the way the Navy instructed me in such matters.  Simply put, you handle stuff like this behind closed doors.  A private message, an email, something.  You address it directly and privately and, if that doesn’t resolve the matter, you address it with his chain of command.

However, that’s not what you did.  Instead, you opted to put your disagreement with Brad’s comments out in public.  Again, had you done this as one writer addressing another writer, then so be it.  You didn’t.  Like most other things on your website, you couched it all under the color of your own uniform and did so publicly.

 

Font Folly

“Visions and Ventures: why I love sf/f” – May 5

As an adult, I’ve been attending sci fi conventions for decades. I’ve even been a staff member at a few. I’ve had some of my own tales of the fantastic published, even though most of my published stories have been in fanzines and other small semi-pro publications. I’ve had the good fortune to be the editor of a fanzine with a not insignificant subscriber base. I count among my friends and friendly acquaintances people who have been published in more professional venues, people who have run those conventions, people who have won awards for their sf/f stories and art, even people who have designed some of the trophies. Not to mention many, many fans. I have even occasionally referred to that conglomeration of fans, writers, artists, editors, and so forth as my tribe.

All of that only begins to scratch the surface of why I find the entire Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies mess so heart-wrenching. Yes, part of the reason the situation infuriates me is because the perpetrators are all so unabashedly anti-queer. For this queer kid, sf/f and its promise of better worlds and a better future was how I survived the bullying, bashing, hatred, and rejection of my childhood. To find out that there are fans and writers who so despise people like me that they have orchestrated a scheme whose ultimate goal is to erase us goes beyond infuriating.

 

Wikipedia  entry on “Science Fiction”

A controversy about voting slates in the 2015 Hugo Awards highlighted tensions in the science fiction community between a trend of increasingly diverse works and authors being honored by awards, and a backlash by groups of authors and fans who preferred what they considered more traditional science fiction

 

Sappho on Noli Irritare Leones

“The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin” – May 5

This year’s Hugo Awards have proved more controversial than usual, with the sweep of several categories of Hugo Award nominations by two slates known as Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies.

I don’t mean this to be a post about Puppies. If you want to know more about puppies, you can check out the blog of, well, almost any science fiction author right now, or Google “Hugo Awards 2015? and look at all the Puppy posts and articles. But the debate about Puppies raised a meta-Puppies point that interests me: the relationship between politics and art.

You see, two things are true, at the same time. The first thing: Art has always been, and always will be, political, and in the sense in which “politics” is being discussed here, politics can’t be extracted from art. The second thing: What Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns, and Money likes to call aesthetic Stalinism – preachy message fiction where the message overwhelms the story, and preachy reviews that evaluate books, movies, music, or other art solely on their political implications – is really, really annoying.

 

 

Lisa J. Goldstein on theinferior4

“The Hugo Ballot Continued: Short Stories” – May 3

The next story up is “Totaled,” by Kary English.  English is the only woman to make it onto the ballot in the writing categories (short story, novelette, novella, novel) from the Sad Puppies’ slate, although another woman, Annie Bellet, made the ballot but withdrew her story from contention.  Elsewhere the Puppies tout the diversity of their nominees, but their record in this slate is pretty terrible, at least concerning women who write.

 

Lisa J. Goldstein on theinferior4

“The Hugo Ballot, Part 3: Short Stories” – May 5

The story after Diamond’s is John Wright’s “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds.”  Wright’s style here is deliberately archaic, in a stately, somewhat pompous, King James Bible vein, and for the most part this serves him fairly well.  Every so often, though, he will stray from purple into ultraviolet and become lost to human ken.  What, for example, is one to make of “All about the walls of the city were the fields and houses that were empty and still,” which seems to have one too many “were”s in it?  Or a description of leaves as “wallowing”?  Leaves may do a lot of things, but I’ve never seen one wallow.  And then sometimes Wright will leave this style altogether and use words King James would have a hard time recognizing, like “sangfroid.”  The effect for this reader at least is to be yanked, hard, out of the story.

[There should be a law that anyone who wants to write in this style has to read Ursula Le Guin’s essay “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie.”  Sorry, no exceptions.]

 

Jane Frank on Amazing Stories

“The Artful Collector: On the Topic of ‘Puppies’ from a Former ‘Loser’” – May 5

And It’s not that attempts to skew Hugo outcomes have been solely the province of that literary set.   Lobbying to get certain (overlooked) artists on the ballot has been attempted, as well. In years past I’ve been approached to participate in these efforts, to garner support (assuming I had such influence!) from other voters I knew, and get them to nominate one artist or another. I guess I was seen as the perfect lobbyist for such a cause, considering I was then selling original art for such well –known (but never nominated) artists as John Berkey, Paul Lehr, Darrell K. Sweet.  To name just three  . . that never enjoyed that honor during their lifetimes.

Not that such efforts would have been without merit, or weren’t well-intentioned. But even I – an outsider who actually never minded the objectification of women AND men on the covers of books and magazines (how else are you gonna get young men to READ, duh?) – knew enough to know that such lobbying was simply NOT DONE.   Voting has always been an individual thing – and I never had any interest in influencing the votes of others. Indeed, I have always been able to act as has been suggested by others. That when I wasn’t familiar with the work, if I hadn’t read the story, if I never heard of the artist, saw the TV episode or movie, I just didn’t vote for it.

 

Steve Davidson on Amazing Stories

“OMG! That SJW Fannish Cabal is WAY Bigger Than They Thought!” – May 5

So lets get this straight.  Locus Magazine publishes the final ballot for this year’s Locus Poll – a poll of the readers of science fiction and fantasy, one that costs nothing to participate in*, one that doesn’t require special membership in a special organization, a poll of the READERS rather than just a poll of those nasty liberal WSFS Trufans and Message Fictioneers, a poll presumably participated in by the folks who really count – consumers!, the ones untainted by the crushing weight of 75 years of special cabal-think (libprog, social justice creep), the Goodread and Amazon four-star-review-unless-we-don’t-like-you crowd, the great unwashed masses of REAL FANS(tm), the folks who supposedly believe that sales figures and best seller lists are the only markers one needs to confer awards, the readers who the Suicide Puppy Squad claim want nothing more than entertaining adventures  (weirdly homoerotic broad chested man adventures at that) is published with NOT ONE SINGLE WORK BY A Puppy of any breed!  (Thank goodness for super lungs!)

 

Aaron Kashtan on The Hooded Ultilitarian

“The End of Comic Geeks?”  – May 5

This piece originated as a paper presented at the 2015 University of Florida Comics Conference. A slightly different form of this paper was incorporated into my lecture “Change the Cover: Superhero Comics, the Internet, and Female Fans,” delivered at Miami University as part of the Comics Scholars Group lecture series. While I have made some slight changes to the version of the paper that I gave at UF, I have decided against editing the paper to make it read like a written essay rather than an oral presentation. The accompanying slide presentation is available here ….

Now in other fan communities, the opening up of previously male-only spaces has triggered a backlash from the straight white men who used to dominate. The obvious example of this is Gamergate, where the inclusion of women in video gaming has led to an organized campaign of misogyny which has even crossed the line into domestic terrorism. SLIDE 6 A less well-known example is what’s been happening in science fiction fandom. In recent years, novels by liberal writers like John Scalzi and female and minority writers like Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar have dominated the major science fiction awards. SLIDE 7 When this started happening, certain mostly white male writers became extremely indignant that science fiction was becoming poiliticized, or rather that it was being politicized in a way they didn’t like. So they started an organized campaign known as Sad Puppies SLIDE 8 whose object was to get works by right-wing white male authors included on the ballot for the Hugo award, which is the only major science fiction and fantasy award where nominations are determined by fan voting. And this led in turn to the Rabid Puppies campaign, which was organized by notorious neo-Nazi Vox Day and which is explicitly racist, sexist and homophobic. SLIDE 9 And these campaigns succeeded partly thanks to assistance from Gamergate. On the 2015 Hugo ballot, the nominees in the short fiction categories consist entirely of works nominated by Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and this has led to an enormous public outcry.

 

Alexandra Erin on Blue Author Is About To Write

“Sad Puppies Review Books: THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK” – May 5

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The cover of this book promises a monster, which implies there’s going to be a battle. But there’s no battle. There is barely even a monster! Just some blue gamma male wimp who begs and pleads with you to stop reading the book on every page.

Looking at the obviously inflated Amazon reviews I can only conclude that a number of weak-willed liberal readers gave in to this blue cuck’s loathsome SJW bullying tactics and stopped reading before the disappointing reveal. Of course this doesn’t stop them from lavishing it with glowing reviews. These people care only about politics and demographics, not merit or value.

Well, I read it all the way to the end. The last thing you want to do is tell this red-blooded American he mustn’t do something or shouldn’t read something because I believe in the first amendment and I will read whatever the hell I want.