Pixel Scroll 4/4/17 I Used To Be A Filer Like You, But Then I Took A Pixel In The Knee

(1) CATAPOSTROPHE. New Mexico fan Jack Speer’s relentless habit of correcting others’ fanwriting earned him the nickname “Grammar West of the Pecos.” Sounds like they’ve found his soul-mate in England — “’Banksy of punctuation’ puts full stop to bad grammar in Bristol”.

BBC tracks down self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ on mission to rid city of rogue apostrophes

…He told the BBC he was a family man who worked in engineering. “I’m a grammar vigilante,” he said. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing.”

The man said he began by scratching out an extraneous apostrophe on a sign but had since become more sophisticated and has built an “apostrophiser” – a long-handled piece of kit that allows him to reach up to shop signs to add in, or cover up, offending punctuation marks. “This is a device that enables you to plant an apostrophe quite high up and get over any obstacles,” he said.

(2) PACK YOUR BOOKS. For years there have been stories that TOR will move out of the Flatiron Building and a new report from a real estate blog makes it sound like it could happen. Really. Maybe.

Another one of the book business’s “Big 5” publishers is seeking a new chapter in Lower Manhattan. Macmillan Publishers, the sole office tenant at the landmarked Flatiron Building, is weighing a move to Silverstein Properties’Equitable Life Building at 120 Broadway, sources tell The Real Deal.

…If the deal goes through, it would be the first time the Flatiron Building, owned by Sorgente Group of America, would be completely empty since it was built more than 100 years ago. Part of the reason Macmillan is relocating is the fact that the Flatiron District, the area named for the 22-story building, has become the epicenter of the city’s technology industry, driving up rents.

Sorgente could either lease the building to higher-paying tenants, or follow through on a plan it previously considered to convert it into a hotel.

(3) BOOK RECS WANTED. James Davis Nicoll will soon be writing two milestone reviews and is looking for book recommendations.

I have two notable reviews coming up for my Because My Tears Are Delicious To You reviews: the 150th one and the third anniversary one. Tears reviews are of books I read and liked as a teenager (between 1974 and 1981). I welcome suggestions for candidate books.

(4) JACK WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP. The 41st Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship will be given by Melinda Snodgrass on April 7 at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

The 41st Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, with events April 7, 2017, welcomes author and friend of the Lectureship, Melinda M. Snodgrass, with special guest author Michael Cassutt, and writers, friends and fans from across the region for this annual celebration of Jack Williamson and the genre to which he contributed so significantly.

This year’s theme is Wild Cards! – the shared universe anthologies by some of the best writers in science fiction, edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass. First released in 1987, the series published its 23rd volume in 2016. Adapted to role-playing games and comics, the Wild Cards series is now slated for television by Universal Cable Production (UCP), executive producer Melinda Snodgrass, with SyFy Films’ Gregory Noveck….

(5) PREHISTORIC COMIC CON. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler ingeniously makes his visit to last weekend’s Wondercon look like it happened in 1962.

(6) BLACK HOLE BIRTHDAY PARTY. “Massive explosion from unknown source billions of light years away baffles astronomers” starts out as a news item, then delves deep into black holes. As so much news does these days….

This enabled a distance to the burst to be measured: about 12 billion light years. The universe has expanded to four times the size it was then, 12 billion years ago, the time it took the light to reach Earth.

GRB170202 was so far away, even its host galaxy was not visible, just darkness. Because the GRB was a transient, never to be seen again, it is like turning on a light in a dark room (the host galaxy) and trying to record the detail in the room before the light goes out.

Mystery of gamma ray burst

The flash of gamma radiation and subsequent optical transient is the telltale signature of a black hole birth from the cataclysmic collapse of a star. Such events are rare and require some special circumstances, including a very massive star up to tens of solar masses (the mass of our Sun) rotating rapidly with a strong magnetic field….

(7) ON TRACK. Yahoo!’s story “Cyborgs at work: employees getting implanted with microchips” comes from Stockholm.

The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.

(8) COMPETING NARRATIVES. David Gerrold ended his overview of the 2017 Hugo finalists with these comments:

My seat-of-the-pants analysis (I could be wrong) is that the Hugos are in the process of recovering from the 2015 assault, precisely because the Worldcon attendees and supporters see themselves as a community.

There’s a thought buried in that above paragraph — that communities unite to protect themselves when they perceive they are under attack. This works well when the attack is real, such as Pearl Harbor. But it can also have negative effects when hate-mongers such as Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson (both of whom were in fine form this week) invent a scapegoat (LGBT people) for unwarranted attacks in an attempt to unite the community around their own agendas.

So while those who have a long history of participation in Worldcons will see this unity as a good thing — those who identify themselves as the aggrieved outsiders will see it as more evidence that the establishment is shutting them out.

Myself, I see it as a collision of two narratives — one that is based on 75 years of mostly healthy traditions, and one that is based on a fascist perception of how the world works.

Most important, however, is that most of this year’s ballot suggests that we are seeing a return to the previous traditions of nominations based on excellence. Most of the nominations are well-deserved, and my congratulations to the finalists.

(9) GLEE. The Book Smugglers were pleased with their Best Semiprozine nomination and that’s not all —

Now, the best thing about this year’s Hugos? Is that it feels GREAT to be a part of it again – it’s super easy to get excited and happy about the ballot with so many great people and works on it and with what seems to be like an almost canine-free ballot. We can’t wait to spend the next few months squeeing and discussing and agonising over who to vote for. Seriously, check out that Best Novel list – some of our favourites of 2016 are there!!

(10) NO WEISSKOPF. A lot of Finns are happy with the Hugo ballot. Not this one. Declan Finn covered the announcement: “Newsflash: Hugo Awards Swamped by Crap”.

Six nominees for best editor. See anything missing?

I’ll give you a hint: we were all told that This Person would have almost certainly have won the Hugo award for best editor, but she lost because she was a Puppy Pick.

If you said, “Who is Toni Weisskopf, Alex?” you’d be right.

But strangely enough, Toni isn’t here. But she’s not a Puppy Pick this year. We were all told that she would have won if she weren’t a Puppy Pick.

Guess what: she wouldn’t have even been NOMINATED if she weren’t a Puppy Pick.

They lied. Shocking, isn’t it?

He also did not approve of the Best Series finalists. Or anything else, really, except for Jeffro Johnson and the Castalia House blog.

(11) SCHADENFREUDE. Jon del Arroz is thrilled by the substantial dropoff in nominating ballots since a year ago.

Of course, in recent years, they’ve been telling anyone who’s a conservative or Christian that they’re not real fans, and not welcome at their conventions, certainly never allowed to speak.  And so the Sad Puppies were born, and had a good run for a few years before once again, just like their projecting meme, the establishment behind the Hugos said “these are not real fans” and changed the rules to make it impossible for anyone but their chosen to get noticed.

The Puppies pulled out. I promised you numbers, and here’s what we have.

Best Novel: 2,078 ballots in 2017 vs. 3,695 ballots in 2016, a 44% drop.

Best Novella:  1,410 ballots in 2017 vs. 2,416 ballots in 2016, a 42% drop.

Best Novelette: 1,097 ballots in 2017 vs. 1,975 ballots in 2016, a 45% drop.

Best Short Story: 1,275 ballots in 2017 vs. 2,451 ballots in 2016, a 52% drop.

I can keep going on with the numbers here, but that kind of pull out of an audience is staggering. If this were a TV show or a comic, it would be instantly cancelled. The execs would be using this as a case study as to what went wrong and why so that they could never do it again. Kinda like is beginning to happen in comics right now (but they’re still in the denial stage of grief).

You’re seeing about a thousand less votes across the board per category. That means a thousand less people with memberships than last year. Wow. Note to “real science fiction fandom”: you told about half your audience you hate them and you want them to go away. They did. This spells big trouble for you in the future.

(12) FROM A RETIREE. The world is filled with people who are pleased to pass along any piece of news they know will annoy the recipient. Larry Correia has a friend like that, and the upshot was “Don’t Forget to Nominate for the Dragon Awards”.

The reason for this post was that a friend of mine sent me a PM this morning, that they had announced the Hugo nominations, and gave me a link. Being retired from trying to cure Puppy Related Sadness, I only gave the list a brief cursory glance, saw the names of many proper goodthinkers, and counted like a dozen(+) nominations for Tor, so it appears that balance has been restored to their sainted halls of Trufans enjoying themselves in the proper approved manner. I’m sure many wooden buttholes will be sacrificed upon the altar of Social Justice.

(13) EYES RIGHT. The Castalia House blog had not posted an acknowledgement of its Best Fanzine nomination when I looked. They were just doing business as usual, showing how they earned that nomination with their two latest posts, “The Most Overrated Novel of the 20th Century by Alex Stump” (about Frank Herbert’s Dune) and “How Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller Ruined Comics by Jon Del Arroz”.

(14) ON TOUR IN CLEVELAND. John Scalzi tweeted about the ballot several times. He may have been overlooked for awards, but there was good news about his latest novel.

And as Jerry Pournelle often says, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money.”

(15) STILL FLYING. Harrison Ford keeps license, escapes fine for piloting error after an FAA investigation into his taxiway landing:

After actor Harrison Ford landed his small plane on a taxiway, rather than a runway, at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., in February, the Federal Aviation Administration began looking into the incident….

The Federal Aviation Administration determined at the conclusion of its inquiry that “no administrative or enforcement action was warranted,” Ford’s lawyer, Stephen Hofer said in a statement. “Mr. Ford retains his pilot’s certificate without restriction.”

The actor, who played swashbuckling space smuggler and Millennium Falcon pilot Han Solo in the “Star Wars” film franchise, also was cited by the agency for his “long history of compliance” with FAA regulations and “his cooperative attitude during the investigation,” Hofer said.

Although Ford incurred no penalty, he agreed to undergo voluntary “airman counseling” before the FAA closed the matter, his lawyer said.

(The BBC used a more colorful metaphor: No fines for Ford for being a ‘schmuck’)

(16) WHAT IF THEY CHEAT BETTER? Web inventor slams US, UK attacks on net privacy.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was speaking to the BBC following the news that he has been given the Turing Award.

It is sometimes known as the Nobel Prize of computing.

Sir Tim said moves to undermine encryption would be a “bad idea” and represent a massive security breach.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said there should be no safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online. But Sir Tim said giving the authorities a key to unlock coded messages would have serious consequences.

“Now I know that if you’re trying to catch terrorists it’s really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what – so could other people and guess what – they may end up getting better at it than you are,” he said.

(17) WHAT IF THEY CHEAT A LOT BETTER? It depends on how much those cheaters have prospered. These guys made a lot: “Overwatch ‘cheat maker’ told to pay $8.6m to Blizzard”.

“The Bossland hacks destroy the integrity of the Blizzard games, thereby alienating and frustrating legitimate players and diverting revenue from Blizzard to defendants,” the US games developer had argued.

The tools included the ability to see other players’ positions, health scores and other information from a distance within games.

The Zwickau-based firm’s managing director said it did not accept the US court had jurisdiction over it, and that the judgement did not take into account that many of the licences it had sold had been “trials” at a fraction of the normal cost.

“We are discussing with our lawyers how to continue – if an appeal to the declined motion to dismiss is worth trying,” Zwetan Letschew told the BBC.

Bossland’s website remains active and continues to advertise cheats for several Blizzard games, insisting “botting is not against any law”.

(18) A WIZ OF A WIZ HE IS. “Ian McKellen Explains Why He Refused to Play Dumbledore in Harry Potter” at io9.

Anyway, McKellen is in good spirits about the whole thing. When host Stephen Sackur asked, “You mean you could have been Dumbledore?” McKellen responded, “Well sometimes, sometimes when I see the posters of [Harris’ eventual replacement] Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think sometimes it is me.”

(19) INVENTORY READY TO GO. I foolishly wasted my time writing news posts when I could have been preparing to monetize my nomination!

And The Mary Sue is so excited they turned the Hugo Award announcement into a Chuck Tingle promo with three of his book covers for art.  Love of money is real!

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/17 I Scroll The Pixel Electric

(1) BATTERIES INCLUDED. The BBC reports plans for a short-distance electric passenger plane:

A new start-up says that it intends to offer an electric-powered commercial flight from London to Paris in 10 years.

Its plane, yet to go into development, would carry 150 people on journeys of less than 300 miles.

Wright Electric said by removing the need for jet fuel, the price of travel could drop dramatically.

British low-cost airline Easyjet has expressed its interest in the technology.

“Easyjet has had discussions with Wright Electric and is actively providing an airline operator’s perspective on the development of this exciting technology,” the airline told the BBC.

Chip Hitchcock adds: “Note the caveat of battery tech continuing to improve at its current rate. Reminds of the beginning of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, where the computer says there won’t be famine because matter transformation will be invented in a few years.”

(2) AND THEN I WROTE. In “Using Twine @TwineThreads”, Camestros Felapton gives a demonstration of the interactive story-writing software, amply illustrated by screencaps.

The software doesn’t present you with much: a simple screen with limited menu options. However, this really encourages you to jump straight in, start a story and start typing.

(3) FEWER BOOKS, MORE BOOZE. No, I’m not talking about Raymond Chandler. I’m reporting the observations by Barry Hoffman, publisher of Gauntlet Press, in his March 22 newsletter —

Late last year Barnes & Noble opened a new “superstore” in Eastchester, New York. The store features a full-service restaurant which serves alcohol. And, the store will be 20-25% smaller than its traditional superstores.

Normally, this news would be taken with a yawn (there are other such B&N superstores). But the sad fact is that B&N is responding to Amazon.com by adding a restaurant and cutting the number of books that it will carry. As it is B&N stores in Colorado Springs (where our offices are located) already devote a lot of space to other items besides books. The two stores in Colorado Springs have a Starbucks (a smart idea, in my opinion and it doesn’t take up all that much space), a large display for their Nook device, games, toys and other non-book related items. Since the price of these non-book related items are just as or more expensive than at nearby competitors such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Toys R Us it makes little sense to squeeze out books for them.

The B&N’s here used to sell CDs and DVDs but at a premium price which made no sense since there were competitors selling the same items at a greater discount. It seems that the B&N philosophy is to add these products and now large restaurants to their stores rather than come up with innovative approaches to selling books. To me this doesn’t seem the ideal approach to competing with Amazon.com.

(4) PAY THE WRITER. Lucy A. Snyder aired a grievance about MARCon, the annual Columbus, OH convention, in a public Facebook post.

Several people have asked me if I will be attending MARCon (Multiple Alternate Realities Convention) this year. I will not. As much as I would like to support one of the few remaining local Columbus conventions, I can no longer do so.

Last year, Marcon staff contacted me about leading a couple of writing workshops. We negotiated the same kind of deal as I had arranged for instructors at Context: they would charge for the workshops, and I would get half the fees with a minimum of $50 per workshop.

The convention completely failed to promote the workshops ahead of time, and didn’t even put an information page on their website so that I could promote them myself. They assured me that they would promote the workshops at the door and that I should plan to lead them, so I did my usual preparations.

Unsurprisingly, nobody signed up for my first workshop; I arrived at the expected time and then left when it was clear nobody was coming. They did sell several seats to the second workshop, and so I led that as expected. Aside from my time, my own costs to offer the workshops included $30 in parking garage fees, which I had expected to cover with the $50 for the workshop.

(I had expected a lot *more* than a net of $20, but I adjusted my expectations downward after I realized I wouldn’t be able to adequately promote my sessions. $20 was still better than nothing.)

A few months after the convention was over, I queried the staff who had recruited me to see when payment would be forthcoming, and received no reply.

Later, I forwarded the agreement to the programming email address with an inquiry, which also did not receive a reply.

Most recently, I forwarded the agreement to the convention chairs’ address; it’s been over a week and I haven’t gotten a reply.

So that’s three times I’ve emailed various staff, with zero replies from anyone. Not a “We’re working on it,” or a “The check’s in the mail,” or a “We’re kind of broke and need more time” or even a “Screw you, Snyder, we’re not paying you squat!” Nothing.

I’ve also talked to a Marcon volunteer who spent $120 on convention supplies and was promised reimbursement; so far, the convention has blown off her queries, too.

I would not be surprised to find out that other volunteers who were promised reimbursement of their registration fees have not received them.

The upshot is that Marcon appears to have become the kind of convention that won’t always honor its financial commitments.

There were other problems at last year’s convention that soured me on the experience, but failing to uphold business agreements and refusing to reply to communications is a definite deal breaker for me.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARSHIP CAPTAIN

  • Born March 22, 2233 – James Tiberius Kirk.

(7) SCALZI INTERVIEW. The Verge asked the questions and got this answer: “Sci-fi author John Scalzi on the future of publishing: ‘I aspire to be a cockroach’”.

The author of Old Man’s War and The Collapsing Empire lays out his plan for his 10-year book contract, and the future of science fiction publishing….

With concerns about publishers dying off, it’s intriguing that Tor is making this long-term commitment.

I think there’s a number of things going on there. I do think it was signaling. It is Tor and Macmillan saying: “We’re going to stay in business, and we’re going to do a good job of it.” This is part of an overall thing going on with Tor. Tor recently reorganized; brought in Devi Pillai [from rival publisher Hachette]; moved Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who’s my editor, from senior editor to associate publisher; brought in some new editors and some other new folks; and Macmillan basically gave it a huge vote of confidence.

It’s been fun and fashionable to talk about the death of publishing, and certainly publishing has had “exciting times,” I think that’s the euphemism we want to use, over the last decade. But the people who are in it do feel optimistic that not only are they going to be around for the next 10 years, but that they are going to do what they have always done, which is to bring exciting stories and people into the market, to keep people engaged in the genre, and to be a presence….

Did you just describe yourself as a cockroach?

I am a cockroach. I aspire to be a cockroach. But in all honesty, what that means is that as a writer, you have to recognize that nothing lasts and things change, that there’s no one time in the history of publishing where everything was one way, and then all of a sudden there was change. It’s always changing. So we will definitely try new things to see if they work. And if they don’t, you don’t do them again, or you wait for the market to come around to them again, whatever. I’m totally open to that…

(8) BOOK HEAVEN. Real Simple lists the best bookstore in every state.

When you think of a great local bookstore, you probably single it out for its conscientious curation, enthralling events, and splendid staff. But what makes a bookstore go from great to one of the best in America? We partnered with Yelp to explore the best independent bookstores our country has to offer. There are no chains on this list. Using an algorithm that looks at the number of reviews and star rating for each business, Yelp singled out the top bookseller in each state.

In California, it’s Century Books in Pasadena.

(9) SAD PUPPY SADNESS. On Twitter, SF/F author Matthew W. Rossi thought Declan Finn was telling him that it’s not that big a deal he’s going blind. Apparently that’s not what Finn meant:

(10) INSIDE THE SHELL. Ghost in the Shell (2017) – “Creating The Shell” Featurette.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, rcade, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/21/17 Pixels Are Not Looking Good For Mr. Scroll

(1) PICK YOUR OWN TALKING CATASTROPHE. After the SFWA Blog posted about Twine, the interactive game program, Camestros Felapton decided, “Because I had an important project at work to complete, I naturally ended up downloading Twine and playing with that instead of using my commute to work to get ahead with my deadlines. Here is a tourist guide to Timothy [the Talking Cat]’s home town.”

(2) CHOW TIME. “Binge on pork buns with Rosemary Clare Smith” in Episode 32 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

We discussed why she can’t seem to stop writing about dinosaurs, how her years as a lawyer helped her become a better writer, what caused an angry audience member to confront her after one of her readings, whether she’d be willing to risk Ray Bradbury’s butterfly effect by traveling back in time, if there are editorial differences between Analog editors Stanley Schmidt and Trevor Quachri, and much more.

 

Rosemary Claire Smith

(3) FELLOWSHIP. Sorry I wasn’t able to give advance warning on this – it airs Tuesday night — “D.C. Legends of Tomorrow features cameo by… J.R.R. Tolkien?”

On the upcoming episode of DC Legends of Tomorrow,  airing this Tuesday, March 21 at 9:00 p.m. EST on The CW channel, the team goes back to France during WWI and enlists the help of, yes,  J.R.R. Tolkien. The episode is titled “Fellowship of the Spear.”

From IMDB: “The Legends land in France during World War I and enlist the aid of J.R.R. Tolkien to retrieve the last pieces of the Spear of Destiny from the Legion of Doom.”

(4) INVENTED LANGUAGE. Atlas Obscura tells about the “Boontling Language of Booneville [California]”.

Anderson Valley, the logging region of California where Boontling got its start, was so isolated in those early years that the new language thrived, growing to 1,600 words. It never spread beyond the region. Part of the reason for this was a reluctance on the part of Boonville residents to share their language with visitors. What’s more, while the dialect is based on English, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Spanish, and Pomoan (a Native Californian language), many of the Boontling words were inspired by Boonville residents, and are therefore more personal for people in the area.

For instance, the word zeese, for coffee, came from Zachariah Clifton, or “Z.C.,” who brewed a particularly strong cup of joe. A pay phone is called Buckey Walter; buckey means nickel, and Walter was the first guy in the valley to have a phone. The name of the language is a combination of the Boontling word Boont, for Boonville, and ling, short for lingo.

One summer is the Sixties my father took my brother and me to a dude ranch. Booneville was the nearest town so we were in there a couple times. We didn’t know anything about Boontling, unfortunately, or we probably could have got a demonstration.

(5) GAIL SIMONE. The comics writer Gail Simone was invited on the JoCo 2017 geek cruise where she was asked to write the worst first page to a SF/F novel and deliver it to the crowd. Her part starts at 8:20.

(6) ELECTRONIC PRIVACY FOR TRAVELERS. For those heading to Helsinki for the Worldcon, or leaving the U.S. for anywhere, Cory Doctorow recommends reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s comprehensive guide to protecting your electronic data: “Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In The Cloud”. (There’s also a print-and-fold version).

The U.S. government reported a five-fold increase in the number of electronic media searches at the border in a single year, from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016.1 Every one of those searches was a potential privacy violation. Our lives are minutely documented on the phones and laptops we carry, and in the cloud. Our devices carry records of private conversations, family photos, medical documents, banking information, information about what websites we visit, and much more. Moreover, people in many professions, such as lawyers and journalists, have a heightened need to keep their electronic information confidential. How can travelers keep their digital data safe?

(7) WHERE ISN’T HE? Over the weekend a “’Where’s Waldo?’ fun run” brought in money for a good cause.

Thousands of runners donned iconic red and white-striped costumes in London for a “Where’s Waldo?” themed fun run.

The event Sunday in south London saw thousands of men, women, and children dress as the titular character from the children’s book series for a fun run that raised money for the National Literacy Trust.

(8) SQUARE PEG TIME. Declan Finn got a nip on the nose for trying to start Sad Puppies 5 himself but another website welcomed his “Superversive Dragon Award Suggestions” with open paws. Despite the welcome, he found it wasn’t easy to find the right category for all his friends’ books.

Obviously, certain of the books from the list fit no genre category. One of my novels from the list, Set to Kill, is a murder mystery that takes place in Atlanta, at a place called WyvernCon, in the middle of a political war about Tearful or Hydrophobic Puppies versus Puppy Punters from traditional Big Publishing. Obviously, this book has no similarities to real events. Heh.

However, while it is on the 2016 list, there is no murder mystery genre for the Dragons. Nor are there Westerns, so Brings the Lightning is out.  And while Chasing Freedom and The Big Sheep are both fun books with dystopic elements, they both came out too early last year in order to be eligible — and Chasing Freedom was already nominated for last year’s Dragons.  It’s the same for site favorite Ben Zyycky’s novel Beyond the Mist , which came out in January 2016.

(9) PLAGIARISM SUIT. Variety reports “Disney Accused of Stealing ‘Zootopia’ from ‘Total Recall’ Screenwriter”.

A veteran screenwriter filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing Disney of stealing his idea for the hit animated film “Zootopia.”

Gary Goldman alleges that Disney took character designs, themes, lines of dialogue, and even the name “Zootopia” from a project that he first developed in 2000. He alleges that he twice pitched the project to Disney executives, in 2000 and 2009, and was rejected. The lawsuit accuses Disney of a long history of stealing ideas from others, and contends that “Zootopia” is only the most recent example of an embedded corporate practice.

“Although The Walt Disney Company rigorously enforces its copyrights, it has developed a culture that not only accepts the unauthorized copying of others’ original material, but encourages it,” Goldman alleges. “Instead of lawfully acquiring Goldman’s work, Defendants said they were not interested in producing it and sent him on his way. Thereafter, consistent with their culture of unauthorized copying, Defendants copied Goldman’s work.”

(10) COLLAPSING DAY. At long last it’s the release day for John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire. He noted on Twitter that the trolls had promptly gone to work adding negative reviews to the book’s Amazon page.

Already on thin ice with Amazon, Vox Day interrupted his unwelcoming comments about the book in general to emphasize his policy about fake reviews.

UPDATE: My position on fake reviews is what it has always been: never write fake reviews, for good or for ill. If you have not read a book or played a game, then you should not even consider reviewing it. As a former nationally syndicated professional game reviewer, I do not approve of fake reviews no matter who the author or developer is. Unlike most published authors, I have always abided by Amazon guidelines and never review books or games on Amazon. The only place I write reviews are a) on this blog, and b) on Recommend.

He also made a point in a comment:

How do you explain downvotes on that review if that is not what you wanted when you linked it?

They have nothing to do with me or what I want. If I wanted downvotes, there would be at least 535 downvotes there within an hour. Since there are not, it should be clear that I have not issued any such order or expressed any such desire.

Amazon has been removing the fake one-star reviews throughout the day as they pop up (and people complain). Although it’s gone now, too, an even rarer snarky five-star review stuck around for several hours.

(11) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE. Not all the grumpy people are on the right. On Whatever in Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire Is Here” post, he mentioned that Wil Wheaton voiced the audiobook and got back in comments —

“So you had your book narrated by a white man… Of course!”

(12) SUPERPREDICTABLE. Brian Niemeier marked the day by teeing off against Scalzi’s publisher, in “Tor Gets Desperate”, for having the Castalia House goon book The Corroding Empire taken down yesterday,.

This is what used to be called “parody” before the Left turned into control freaks with zero sense of humor. The only way you’d mistake one of those books for the other is if you couldn’t read. In which case, you’re probably not buying books in the first place.

(13) COVER CHARGE. Camestos Felapton worked over a different part of Niemeier’s post:

However, Brian is deeply impressed by Castalia House re-releasing their book with a new cover:

“While I was writing this post, Vox Day unveiled the new cover for CH’s censored book.

Let that sink in: they got a new cover done in less than a day.

The updated book should be back in the Kindle store tonight. This is why the small, fast mammals are taking down the dinosaurs.”

A generic spaceship against a background cover in LESS THAN A DAY! Gadzooks! Hmmm. I think I can do that in under an hour to Castalia House standards…

(14) MAGI STANDARD TIME. Hodinkee observes, “Balthazar, MB&F’s Latest Robot-Themed Clock, Has a Split Personality”.

Meet Balthazar. He’s a slightly terrifying robot-shaped clock that has a smiling face on one side and a grimacing skull on the other….

MB&F is calling Balthazar the big brother to Melchior, the robot clock it first launched at Baselworld 2015. The clocks have the same basic structure, each with discs for the time and the escapement in the dome on the robot’s head (unlike the smaller cousin clock, Sherman, which uses a more traditional display). If you know your New Testament, you’ll know that Melchior and Balthazar were two of the three magi to visit Jesus in the manger on the night of his birth – will we be seeing a Caspar clock sometime soon too? Personally, I’m hoping yes….

Balthazar is available with four different colors of armor – black, silver, blue, and green – each limited to 50 pieces. All colors will retail for 52,000 CHF (approximately $52,875 at time of publishing). For more, visit MB&F online.

 

(15) ASS-GRINDING HALT. Scarepop.com says “Stop the presses! Rob Lowe and his sons are making a paranormal series”.

Prolific actor, eighties teen heartthrob, Emmy-award winner and general national treasure Rob Lowe will star with his two sons, Matthew and John Owen, in an upcoming supernatural-themed A&E docuseries entitled The Lowe Files, in which the trio will travel around the country investigating unsolved legends and “eerie, age-old stories.”

As Rob Lowe himself (star of The Outsiders, St. Elmo’s Fire, and NBC’s The West Wing) tells us (via an A&E press release):

Since I was a kid I’ve loved unexplained legends, strange phenomena and the scary, supernatural stories told around campfires.

Okay. You can restart the presses now.

(16) COMIC R.I.P.S The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Bernie Wrightson as one of the greatest comic book artists to come from Baltimore…

Bernie Wrightson, who co-created the Swamp Thing, was one of his generation’s greatest masters of horror illustration and comics.

(17) QUITE A CATCH. It’s clickbait, but “Bookstore Earns Instagram Fame With Clever Snaps” only runs three pages and it’s amusing.

A bookstore in France is becoming a popular member of the Instagram community for all the right reasons. Not only does its account showcase products and events the store is offering, but also the creativity of its employees.

Librairie Mollat was the first independent bookstore to open in France in 1896. It is home to over 300,000 titles and has an inventory that spans every genre you can imagine. And while being one of the oldest bookstores in the country is a remarkable feat (especially when you consider the primarily digital world we now live in), it’s the clever Instagram posts that are getting this business noticed.

 

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matt Y.]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/17 And Then The Murders Began

(1) THE SMOOCH ASSUMPTION. The Washington Post knows sexy cavedellers sell, hence the headline “Neanderthal microbes reveal surprises about what they ate – and whom they kissed”.

If it’s true that “you are what you eat,” then there is perhaps no better way to understand someone than by looking at his or her teeth. Especially if that person has been dead for more than 40,000 years.

This is the philosophy of Keith Dobney, a professor of human paleoecology at the University of Liverpool and a co-author of a new study that draws some remarkable conclusions about the lives of Neanderthals by peering beneath their dental enamel.

Teeth are the hardest parts of the human body, and are more likely than any other tissue to survive centuries of corrosion and decay. And dental calculus — that mineralized plaque you get admonished about at the dentist — is particularly good at preserving the bits of food, bacteria and other organic matter that swirl around inside our mouths.

… Weyrich pointed to one eyebrow-raising discovery from the new study: a near-complete genome sequence for a strain of Methanobrevibacter oralis, a simple, single-celled organism that is known to thrive in “pockets” between modern humans’ gums and our teeth (often with not-so-pleasant results).

Weyrich says this is the oldest microbial genome ever sequenced, and it suggests that humans and Neanderthals were swapping spit as early as 120,000 years ago. The find supports the growing consensus that prehistoric hanky-panky was not uncommon between Neanderthals and ancient humans. But it also suggests that these interactions were intimate, consensual affairs.

I may not be a paleoecologist or even a good kisser but I have produced a lot of spit in my time and I can think of some other ways one person’s spit might wind up in another person’s mouth. Like, what if a Neanderthal ate some meat off a bone then handed it to the next person to finish?

(2) YOUR TYRANNOSAURICAL DUNGEON MASTER. Speaking of bones that have been eaten clean (I love a great segue) — “Fossilized Tyrannosaurus Rex starts D&D campaign on Twitter”.

That’s right, SUE the Tyrannosaurus, the oldest female apex predator ever unearthed and sold at auction, has begun leading her own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Using her surprisingly popular Twitter account, SUE is taking willing adventurers on an epic quest to free the land from brigands, evil mages and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

With a bright yellow 20-sided die, 58 “dagger-like teeth” and her 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide to… guide… her, SUE is weaving a tale of intrigue and treachery.

Here’s an example of a move:

(3) WHEN WORLDS DON’T COLLIDE. Just coming on my radar, though given for the first time last year, are the Planetary Awards. And if Declan Finn hadn’t mentioned them today I still wouldn’t have heard about them.

The inaugural awards for 2015 work were posted in May 2016 –

  • Best Novel: Torchship by Karl Gallagher
  • Best Short Story: “Something in the Water” by C.S. Boyack

Although any book blogger, podcaster, or “booktuber” is eligible to nominate, I detected a strong puppy flavor to this year’s Planetary Awards shortlist (for 2016 works), which proved to be the case. The names of nominators include Jeffro Johnson, Jon  del Arroz, Brian Niemeier and The Injustice Gamer.

Short Stories / Novellas

  • “Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision
  • “Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • “Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire
  • “The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1
  • “The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]
  • “Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2
  • Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine
  • “Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

  • Arkwright by Allen Steele
  • Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey
  • The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Hel’s Bet by Doug Sharp
  • The Invisible City by Brian K Lowe [DISQUALIFIED]
  • Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
  • Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright

The awards are administered by the “Planetary Defense Commander” whose real name is – surprise! – shrouded in secrecy.

Although the nominees were chosen by the book bloggers, any blogger, podcaster, or youtuber may vote for the winners.

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY ACTIVITY. Three new entries —

This is a color-coded table of all the jurors plotted against each other, with the color scheme giving how many books each juror had in common with the others. The blue diagonal set of boxes running from top left to lower right shows that every juror has 100% overlap with their own shortlist. Also, the table is symmetric about that line, i.e., you can look at either the rows or the columns to see how each juror overlapped with the others, as they contain the same information. So, for example, Nina had 3 books in common with Megan, none with Victoria, 1 with Nick, 2 with Maureen, etc.

And there’s two book reviews –

Matthew De Abaitua’s third novel The Destructives is the final part in a loose trilogy begun in 2008 with The Red Men and continued in 2015 with If Then. Although each of the three novels can happily be read in isolation from the others, the parallels and resonances between them – not to mention a few continuing characters – make for fascinating contemplation. Above all, it is the world shared by the three – De Abaitua’s vision of catastrophic digital meltdown in the year 2020, leaving the world’s ecosystems lethally compromised and the human species stripped of its agency – that makes these novels significant in terms of their science fiction.

Written in a tight first-person perspective with neither sub-plots nor inserts to break psychological continuity Whiteley’s novel begins by introducing us to a precocious young woman on the verge of adulthood. Born to an ambitious land-owner and educated to a standard then uncommon in farmers’ daughters, Shirley Fearne is a young woman with firm opinions and a confidence that allows her to express them quite openly. In the novel’s opening section, she often holds forth on subjects such as the importance of education, the backward opinions of fellow villagers, and the important role that women will play in helping to rebuild the country after the horrors of war.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1972  — Tales from the Crypt makes its screen debut.

(6) AUDIO BRADBURY. Phil Nichols’ site dedicated to Ray Bradbury includes a page listing radio shows based on Bradbury stories produced anytime from the 1940s til just ten years ago. Many are free downloads from Archive.org.

(7) ODE TO THE UNSUNG. Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica says “Fireside Fiction Company is science fictions best-kept secret”. Her praise even extends to an unsung hero who keeps their website working smoothly.

You may not have heard of Fireside Fiction Company, but it’s time you did. Packed with excellent free science fiction stories, the Patreon-supported publication has been going strong for five years. There are many reasons you need to start reading Fireside, not the least of which is its recent upgrade to GitHub Pages.

You could spend days immersed in Fireside’s back content. Editors Brian White and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry curate quality work from well-known writers and rising stars, including Chuck Wendig, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Daniel Abraham (one half of the Expanse writing team known as James S.E. Corey), Cassandra Khaw (whom you may know from Ars), Ken Liu, Daniel José Older, and more. But it’s not just White and Sjunneson-Henry’s good taste that has earned Fireside a sterling reputation among writers. Unlike many small publications, Fireside pays good rates for fiction. It spends almost all the money it gets from Patreon on its authors and artists.

Fireside Fiction Company also publishes a limited number of books and hosts special projects. One these projects was #BlackSpecFic, a special report on black voices in science fiction. #BlackSpecFic fits into Fireside’s overall commitment to inclusivity, publishing stories by people from a diversity of backgrounds and places.

Another way that Fireside is different from your average publication is its commitment to good code. Design and Technology Director Pablo Defendini, who helped launch Tor.com, has kept Fireside’s back-end as spiffy as what you see in front….

(8) WHIZZING THRU SPACE. Plans for a trip to Mars include scienceing the piss out of problems, too. “Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine”.

A fish tank brimming with urine is the first thing you see when you enter Jens Hauslage’s cramped office at the German space agency, DLR, near Cologne. It sits on a shelf by his desk, surrounded by the usual academic clutter of books, charts and scientific papers.

Rising from the centre of the tank are two transparent plastic cylindrical columns – around a metre in height. Spreading from the top of each tube is a bushy, healthy-looking tomato plant with green leaves, flowers and even a few bright red tomatoes.

(9) FROM HARRY POTTER TO HARRY THE KING? The BBC discusses a former Harry Potter star’s latest turn on the live stage in “After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is Daniel Radcliffe ready for Hamlet?” Or if not Hamlet, why not Henry V?

Daniel Radcliffe says he is really keen to be in a Shakespeare play – although he admits he’s no expert on the Bard.

The Harry Potter star has been praised for his latest role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at London’s Old Vic.

Tom Stoppard’s comedy, first performed in 1966, centres around two minor characters from Hamlet.

The article quotes several critics’ opinions of Radcliffe’s performance, and one’s opinion of the audience — “The Daily Mail‘s Quentin Letts … noted, some Harry Potter fans who have bought tickets may struggle with the play as a whole.” About that Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, asked, “I wonder if he’s heard about growing up.”

(10) COMIC SECTION. And making for a smoother segue than the one that started this Scroll is an installment of Frank and Ernest, submitted by John King Tarpinian, which asks what if Shakespeare had been a baseball umpire?

(11) LISTEN. It’s a Vintage News story, which means it’s been floating around the internet for awhile, but never before have I encountered this bit of history — “Before Radar, they used these giant concrete ‘Sound Mirrors’ to detect incoming enemy aircraft”.

Dr. William Sansome Tucker developed early warning systems known as ‘acoustic mirrors’ around 1915, and up until 1935, Britain built a series of concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts. The acoustic mirror was the forerunner of radar, and it was invented to help detect zeppelins and other enemy aircraft by the sound of their engines.

The British used these devices and with their help, they managed to detect many enemy raids. The acoustic mirrors could detect an incoming aircraft up to 15 miles away, which gave English artillery just enough time to prepare for the attack of the German bombers.

A number of these structures still exist.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day – Soon Lee.]

Jon Del Arroz Off BayCon 2017 Program, Claims Decision Is Politically Motivated

Jon Del Arroz

San Francisco-area writer Jon Del Arroz has spent the past few Memorial Day Weekends speaking at BayCon, but he wasn’t asked back in 2017. He says it’s because he’s a Trump supporter. Del Arroz’ version has been discussed or reblogged today by Vox Day, Nick Cole, Declan Finn, Superversive, Brian Niemeier, and Marina Fontaine, who characterize him as a martyr of science fiction’s culture wars.

The BayCon committee, however, says he had just been rotated off programming for this year. They had already pre-invited him to return in 2018.

Del Arroz, in “Bringing Home The Baycon (Or What I Learned From Being Blackballed)”, accused BayCon of trying to destroy his career, of bigotry — and of simple bad manners.

A couple of weeks ago,  I found out that I had been blackballed from speaking at my own home convention, a place I’ve loved and cherished for almost a decade. This was a wanton act of discrimination, and perhaps more importantly, a show of utter disinterest in promoting prominent local science fiction authors. With a supposed emphasis on diversity, this act done to a Hispanic author casts an even darker shadow. It’s about as disturbing as it gets to see folk that you considered friends for years treat you with that level of disregard, while in the same stripe ignoring attendees who deliver me death threats.

Most shockingly, the event organizers (of whom I know very well and very personally) in question did not respond personally, but delivered a form letter to explain the ostracization. It’s disingenuous and displays a dismissal and dehumanization of which I could hardly conceive….

The reason I was disinvited was because it is well known that I support the President of the United States, duly elected and all, and that I’m happy about the way the country is being run. You know, like most normal people are. That’s the only thing that’s changed between then and now. It’s the same dangerous rhetoric out there that many of these folk who run the convention post on such a consistent basis that has turned Facebook from a “fun catching up with friends” website to a hellhole of fear, anger and hate (which as Master Yoda taught us, leads to suffering!). It’s impossible to communicate anymore, and as such, there is a small but vocal power structure of people in the convention scene and publishing that can’t tolerate the concept of seeing my pretty face. I am a minority that’s been discriminated against, not because of my race, but because of my ideas. In Science Fiction, ideas are everything, and it’s frightening to think about those being shut down as a consequence. These people want my career to fail, and they believe they can accomplish that by silencing me and giving me the cold shoulder.

BayCon chair Chris Castro answers that politics never entered into the decision, it was the result of an overall change in policy designed to freshen the program, Castro wrote on Facebook:

This was shared before, but I want to make sure everyone has had a chance to read how our process for implementing programming this year has changed.

http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

There never has, nor ever will be any decisions made to invite or not invite guests based on their political beliefs or personal philosophies. Every decision we make in regards to who participates in our con as a guest always takes into consideration our theme and focus for the year. Each decision is made professionally, communicated professionally, and always comes down to a group decision by executive and programming staff.

BayCon always seeks to make each convention weekend a fun, engaging and safe place for fans to connect with each other, geek out, and enjoy themselves without harassment. Our decisions are always made with this goal in mind.

The linked text includes this explanation —

“But I’m always on the program!” Going forward there is no such thing as a guest who is guaranteed to be on the program every year. The overwhelming feedback we’ve gotten has been that our attendees have their favorites, but they want new voices and new ideas mixed in with the classic program items and long-time guests. In order to make room for those new voices we will be asking some of our long-standing guests to step back and take a year off now and then. Not receiving an invitation one year does not mean you are off the list, just that this year was a better fit for other participants. At the discretion of the board, the chair and the programming staff, some guests who have been accustomed to an annual invite will be finding themselves with a year off. We encourage those people to come to BayCon as attendees both to enjoy the convention and to support their fellow panelists until they are asked back themselves. “Not this year” is absolutely not code for, “never again!”

Susie Rodriguez, of BayCon’s programming staff, answered File 770’s question about Jon Del Arroz specifically.

Jon has absolutely been a valued member of our program and our community in the past. This year he was not issued an invitation. When he contacted me to ask if he’d been accidentally overlooked, I sent him the following:

“Dear Jon,

Thank you for your interest in BayCon 2017. We have made some changes to the programming which are discussed in detail here: http://baycon.org/bcwp/programming-2/

At this time we are not issuing you an invitation for this year’s convention. You are definitely on our guest list for 2018 and we hope very much to see you there.

Sincerely,

BayCon Programming”

It is not a form letter. It is a personalized letter that was created for him and only him. As you can see, it even included a pre-invitation to participate next year, a thing that is not part of our standard rejection letter.

We are sorry he feels the need to conduct himself in this manner and that he has decided that being off the program for a single year constitutes a blackball. We are choosing to respect his decision not to participate in BayCon in the future and letting it go at that. Other guests have been rotated out in the past and while there are sometimes hurt feelings, this reaction has been unique.

I will reiterate Chris’s words above. Political beliefs and personal philosophies are not a litmus for choosing guests. Who a guest voted for is simply not an issue.

There’s only so many places to use people on convention panels. BayCon’s effort to make room on program for new voices by cycling off some of the regulars addresses a similar problem our local LosCon has also faced. I am reminded that when a friend of mine was left off LosCon program after decades of participation he took it very personally and made the rounds complaining to everyone he knew, exerting all the emotional pressure he could to regain something he felt entitled to have. (It worked, in his case.)

But no, this can’t just be a case of hurt feelings. It must be the tragic fate befalling someone who is a lonely dot of red in California’s sea of blue.

Pixel Scroll 1/26/17 What Is The Pixel Capacity Of A European Scroll? Laden or Unladen? Aaargh!

(1) END OF PERIOD. As John Hertz said in his report on the dedication of Forrest J Ackerman Square, the city promised to replace the original sign with the erroneous period after the initial “J” – erroneous, because Forry spelled his name without one. And as you can see in this photo by Robert Kerr, the city has installed the corrected sign above the intersection.

Ackerman Square corrected sign

(2) BIG ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION. Greg Ketter’s Minneapolis bookstore is featured in “Wi12: Busman’s Holiday Possibilities” at Shelf Awareness.

DreamHaven Books & Comics

Since opening on April 1, 1977, DreamHaven Books & Comics has moved 10 times and even had multiple locations open at once. Today it’s located in an approximately 3,300-square-foot storefront at 2301 East 38th street, the store’s home for the last eight and a half years, in a neighborhood around five miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis. According to owner Greg Ketter, despite various changes over the years, DreamHaven’s specialization in science fiction, fantasy, horror and comic books has remained constant. The book inventory is a mix of used and new, with a higher proportion of used, rare and collectible books than in years past; Ketter also carries a great deal of movie and comic memorabilia. One of the store’s centerpieces is a towering model of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet. Throughout the store other models and statues abound.

DreamHaven is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a party on April 1. Ketter has author appearances and a sale planned for the day, and is working in concert with Once Upon a Crime, a mystery bookstore in Minneapolis celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

(3) BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES. Randy Byers, co-editor of Chunga, has promising news about the progress of his cancer treatment.

Again, the discussion is too technical for me to follow, but it all sounds pretty hopeful, which I assume is why Dr. Taylor was willing to be so optimistic right to my face. I feel torn between wild optimism on my own part and cautious skepticism. No doubt I’ll need to read and discuss it further, but damn if I didn’t immediately start thinking, “Maybe I *will* get to see Celine grow up!”

(4) INCONSTANT MOON.little birdie told us that Larry Niven’s award-winning story may be filmed — “’Arrival’ Producer Developing ‘Inconstant Moon’ Sci-Fi Movie for Fox”.

Fox 2000 is launching development on a movie based on Larry Niven’s science-fiction story “Inconstant Moon” with Oscar-nominated “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy and his 21 Laps company on board.

“The Specatcular Now” director James Ponsoldt is attached from a script by Daniel Casey. Levy and 21 Laps’ Dan Cohen will produce along with Ponsoldt through his 1978 Pictures company and Vince Gerardis through his Created By company.

“Inconstant Moon,” which first appeared in the 1971 short story collection “All the Myriad Ways,” begins with the moon glowing much brighter than ever before, leading the narrator to presume that the sun has gone nova and that this is the last night of his life. He spends the night with his girlfriend but then discovers that the reality is that the Earth has been hit by massive solar flare that kills most the inhabitants of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Levy received an Oscar nomination Tuesday for producing “Arrival” along with Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde. “Arrival” was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villeneuve.

(5) A REALLY BAD MAN. Atlas Obscura reminds us about a forgotten fictional character who had a major influence on genre fiction over the years: “The Criminal History of Fant?mas, France’s Favorite Fictional Villain”.

As villains go, Fantômas is a nasty one. Created in 1911, he is a gentleman criminal who perpetrates gruesome, elaborate crimes with no clear motivation. He hangs a victim inside a church bell so that when it rings blood rains on the congregation below. He attempts to kill Juve, the detective on his trail, by trapping the man in a room that slowly fills with sand. He skins a victim and makes gloves from the dead man’s hands in order to leave the corpse’s fingerprints all over the scene of a new crime.

His creators called him the “Genius of Evil” and the “Lord of Terror,” but he remained a cipher with so many identities that often only Jove would recognize him. The book that first introduces him begins with a voice asking: Who is Fantômas?

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 26, 1934 — One of America’s best-loved movie projects gets underway as producer Samuel Goldwyn buys the film rights to The Wizard of Oz.

(7) FAUX FACTS FOR SALE. Chuck Tingle’s Buttbart has opened an Alternative Fact Warehouse where you can purchase such alternative facts as “JOM HAMM IS YOUR HANDSOME ONLINE BUD WHO LIKES TO SKYPE” for a few dollars, with the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.

(8) HE SAID ILK. Milo is scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley on February 1. He was prevented by protestors from speaking at another UC campus a few weeks ago. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has issued a statement reminding the university community that theirs is the home of the Free Speech Movement.

Mr. Yiannopoulos is not the first of his ilk to speak at Berkeley and he will not be the last. In our view, Mr. Yiannopoulos is a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to “entertain,” but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas. He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community….

Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and the commitment to free expression is embedded in our Principles of Community as the commitment “to ensur(e) freedom of expression and dialogue that elicits the full spectrum of views held by our varied communities.” As a campus administration, we have honored this principle by defending the right of community members who abide by our campus rules to express a wide range of often-conflicting points of view. We have gone so far as to defend in court the constitutional rights of students of all political persuasions to engage in unpopular expression on campus. Moreover, we are defending the right to free expression at an historic moment for our nation, when this right is once again of paramount importance. In this context, we cannot afford to undermine those rights, and feel a need to make a spirited defense of the principle of tolerance, even when it means we tolerate that which may appear to us as intolerant.

As part of the defense of this crucial right, we have treated the [Berkeley College Republicans’] efforts to hold the Yiannopoulos event exactly as we would that of any other student group. Since the event was announced, staff from our Student Affairs office, as well as officers from the University of California Police Department (UCPD), have worked, as per policy and standard practice, with the BCR to ensure the event goes as planned, and to provide for the safety and security of those who attend, as well as those who will choose to protest Yiannopoulos’s appearance in a lawful manner.

(9) EARLY WARNING. Declan Finn, in “Live and Let Bite, Best Horror at the Dragon Awards”, shows a photo of a Dragon Award trophy and declares —

In 2017, I’m going to be getting one of these.

Nice, huh? They look nifty, right? Here, let’s pull back a bit.

Yeah, I’m pretty much going to lay my cards on the table and say this is going to win the second annual Dragon Awards in 2017. This is not actually a boast. It’s just logical. No, seriously. Follow me around the windmills of my mind. Live and Let Bite is everything you loved in Honor at Stake and Murphy’s Law of Vampires, and then doubles down.

(10) THE MAGIC NUMBER. Dan Koboldt gives “5 Reasons to Vote for the Hugo Awards”.

2. Expose Yourself to Other Forms of SF/F

Most of us read enough novels to know how we want to vote in that category. Novels and series are the bread-and-butter of the SF/F genre. Furthermore, after the commercial success of Game of Thrones, Westworld, and other franchises, there are arguably more people reading SF/F novels than ever before. Thousand of people vote for the “best novel” Hugo Award.

I wish we could say the same about short stories, novelettes, and novellas.

Short fiction is a critical form of SF/F literature, and indeed is how many of us learned how to write. There are some wonderful markets that publish it — Clarkesworld, Galaxy’s Edge, and Nature, just to name a few — but the readership is much, much smaller. The Hugo Awards are a great opportunity to discover, read, and reward outstanding works in these briefer formats.

(11) AN ICE TOUR. Val and Ron Ontell are organizing pre- and post-Worldcon tours designed for those heading to Helsinki. Before the con there is a tour of Scandinavia, Talinn and St. Petersburg, and afterwards a tour of Iceland. Itineraries for both are at the site.

(12) FISHING WITH BAIT. John Joseph Adams has posted Hugo-eligible items and from Lightspeed, Nightmare and anthologies, and is offering to e-mail additional material to Hugo nominators with proof of voting eligibility.

If you are planning and eligible to vote for the Hugos this year, if you email me proof of your Worldcon membership (i.e., your name is listed on the Worldcon website as an attending member, or the email confirmation or receipt you received when you purchased your membership, etc.) I would be happy to make some additional 2016 material I edited available to you in digital format.

(13) ANOTHER FISHERMAN. Jameson Quinn wrote in a comment here today —

The paper on E Pluribus Hugo by Bruce Schneier and I had made it through peer review when the journal that had accepted it (Voting Matters) suddenly lost its funding and retroactively folded. We were trying to pressure the editor who had accepted it to help us find another place for it, but it looks as if that’s not happening. We’re still planning to publish it in another journal, but sadly we’ll probably have to repeat the whole peer review process. However, it is our belief that the paper is still eligible to be nominated for Best Related Work.

(14) TICKY. The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists make it out to be two-and-a-half minutes til Midnight — “Doomsday Click Moves Closer to Midnight, Signaling Concern Among Scientists” in the New York Times.

Ms. Bronson, in a post-announcement interview, explained why the board had included the 30-second mark in the measurement. She said that it was an attention-catching signal that was meant to acknowledge “what a dangerous moment we’re in, and how important it is for people to take note.”

“We’re so concerned about the rhetoric, and the lack of respect for expertise, that we moved it 30 seconds,” she said. “Rather than create panic, we’re hoping that this drives action.”

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Titley and Dr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight.

“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” they wrote. “But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Howard Osler, Van Ontell, David K.M.Klaus, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W and Yours Truly.]

Herding Puppies

his_masters_voice

Both the Sad and Rabid Puppies heard from leadership today.

Someone tried to run ahead of the Sad Puppy pack, compelling Amanda S. Green to swat him with a rolled-up internet – “Sad Puppies 5 and recommendation lists” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this morning, the BP rising bit came in the form of a private message from a friend of mine. We are in a number of groups together on Faceplant. In one of those groups, someone had posted a notice with the header of “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” Now, that got my eyes open real quick because the person posting it wasn’t Sarah [Hoyt] and, the last I heard – which was last night – Sarah was the one coordinating SP5. So, with coffee starting to brew, I figured I’d go see what I had missed overnight…

So, if you woke around 0630 CST to the sound of loud thumping, I apologize. That was me pounding my head against the wall. After reading the post my friend warned me about, I saw why. And I saw red. And I made the mistake of taking to Faceplant to write a response – still before coffee. I should have waited. Then I could have made a more detailed response, complete with link. As it was, it took a couple of posts and I’m still not sure I got my point across….

So, let’s be very clear. The New Year is here and with it comes the time when we need to start thinking about the books we read and whether we feel they are worthy of being nominated for any of the various awards being offered this year. Be it the Hugo, the Dragon, the Rita or whatever, it is something we need to keep in mind and, if we are so moved, we need to nominate them for the appropriate award(s).

It also means we are going to start seeing folks saying they are “making a little list”. Some will follow through with their lists and keep a running tally. Others will simply have a single post where you can add your comments. What they do is up to them – up to a point. However, when they start implying they are involved with something they aren’t, or when they seem to be stepping up and taking control of something they have not been involved in, then they have crossed the line.

To preempt further problems with overeager helpers before the new Sad Puppies 5 website goes up, Green has directed those interested to make their current recommendations in comments on a new post at the old site

Sad Puppies 5

In the near future, this site will be shut down and a new site for Sad Puppies 5 will go live. In the meantime, if you have any books, movies, etc., you think award-worthy, please list them in the comment section. Your recommendations will be migrated to the new site when it is ready.

As for Declan Finn’s “Sad Puppies 5 suggestions” at A Pius Geek, had he chosen any other headline the post would have been indistinguishable from the awards recommendations everyone else is writing this month in which their own books feature prominently.

However, Finn says he felt the need to add the following paragraph – not because of Amanda S. Green’s post, but in response to hearing privately from “770 morons.”

EDIT: FOR THE READING BEREFT — APPARENTLY, THE USUAL CROWD AT FILE 770 CAN’T READ — I MUST PUT IN AN EVEN BIGGER NOTE HERE. I’M NOT IN CHARGE OF SP5. THE FOLLOWING IS, IN PART, A GUIDE FOR MY RECOLLECTION, SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE VOTING,  AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO GUIDE MY VOTING. APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO STUPID TO HAVE FIGURED THIS OUT FROM THE BELOW. THAT IS ALL.

The Rabid Puppies also received marching orders today from Vox Day at Vox Popoli — “Rabid Puppies 2017”.

While I will certainly be making my 2017 recommendations soon – particularly for Best Series – I would NOT recommend anyone to register [for the Worldcon]. As the God-Emperor Ascendant [his nickname for Trump] demonstrated so masterfully, there is a time to press forward and there is a time to sit back and see how things play out. Now, obviously, those of us who are already registered can, and should, nominate, but there is no sense in wasting money that might be more effectively utilized elsewhere on Worldcon this year.

Let the SF-SJWs do their happy dances and celebrate the success of EPH, little realizing that in adopting it, they have done exactly what we intended in pursuit of our long term objective. Let’s face it, thinking through the logical consequences of their actions has never exactly been their strong suit. It’s bewildering that they genuinely appear to believe that we did not anticipate their changing the rules, even though I said right from the very start that they would have no choice but to do so if we were successful.

Even if Day’s readers refrain from joining Helsinki, those who were members of MidAmeriCon II or have joined the San Jose Worldcon (2018) by the end of this month are still eligible to nominate, so it is not unlikely the Rabid Puppies may exert their influence over the composition of this year’s final Hugo ballot. To what extent they can do so remains to be seen, depending on their own numbers and the impact of EPH rules changes in the first year of operation.

Pixel Scroll 7/9/16 Snort, Harlequin, Said the Ear, Nose, Throat Man

(1) HEARTS MADE OF TIN. David Brin says robots will be so charming they won’t have to conquer us physically, in “Endearing Visages”.

I’ve been pondering Artificial Intelligence or AI a lot, lately, with several papers and reviews pending. (Indeed, note who is one of the ‘top ten people followed by AI researchers.’) One aspect that’s far too-little discussed is how robots are being designed to mess with human emotions.

Long before artificial intelligences become truly self-aware or sapient, they will be cleverly programmed by researchers and corporations to seem that way. This – it turns out – is almost trivially easy to accomplish, as (especially in Japan) roboticists strive for every trace of appealing verisimilitude, hauling their creations across the temporary moat of that famed “uncanny valley,” into a realm where cute or pretty or sad-faced automatons skillfully tweak our emotions.

Human empathy is both one of our paramount gifts and among or biggest weaknesses. For at least a million years, we’ve developed skills at lie-detection (for example) in a forever-shifting arms race against those who got reproductive success by lying better!  (And yes, there was always a sexual component to this.)

But no liars ever had the training that these new, Hiers or Human-Interaction Empathic Robots will get, learning via feedback from hundreds, then thousands, then millions of human exchanges around the world, adjusting their simulated voices and facial expressions and specific wordings, till the only folks able to resist will be sociopaths. (And sociopaths have plenty of chinks in their armor, as well.)

(2) READERCON. A lot of good tweets coming out of Readercon this weekend. Here’s a small sampling.

(3) THE TWINKIE OFFENSE. Hostess has marketed two new Twinkie flavors to celebrate the release of the new Ghostbusters movie — Key Lime Slime and White Fudge Marshmallow.

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man wouldn’t be able to contain himself! Or maybe he would — isn’t that kind of like cannibalism? Either way, if you like marshmallows, you are going to like these Twinkies.

Key Lime Green Slime Twinkies

GBWhiteFudgeMarshmallowTwinkiesByHostessSc01 COMP(4) FEZ CLAIM TO FAME. Closed for renovation in 2012, the world’s oldest library in Morocco reopened this year.

A wealthy Tunisian merchant’s daughter, Fatima al-Fihri, founded al-Qarawiyyin University as a mosque in 859 CE. By the 10th century, Atlas Obscura reports, it grew into a full-fledged university with a library. Today, it’s considered to be the world’s oldest existing and continually operating institute of higher education, as well as the first degree-awarding educational institution. Eventually, the University of al-Qarawiyyin moved to another location in Fez, but the mosque and library remained at the original site.

(5) CROTCHETY DOESN’T MEAN WRONG. Steve Davidson has a point – “Pay for the Privilege” at Amazing Stories.

…sometimes a new way of doing things comes along and it is Just. Not. Right.

Take the internet as a perfect example.

Why are we all still individually paying for it?

It watches and records us without our consent.  Data miners have found all manner of ways to entice us into revealing even more behaviors and data through the internet of things.  Those useful, free apps and games aren’t really free, are they?

Aggregated data and its derivatives are both earning and saving business concerns billions of dollars annually.  And we’re just in the infancy of this technology.

(6) MONKEYING AROUND. Those with Facebook accounts might get a kick out of the Turner Classic Movies video of Dr. Zaius sharing stories about working with Charlton Heston on the set of Planet of the Apes.

Dr. Zaius

Dr. Zaius

(7) NOT AS ANIMATED AS THEY USED TO BE. How old are your favorite cartoon characters? Artist Andrew Tarusov has created a gallery of favorites who show their age.

(8) PHYSICIST WHO DID FANAC. Sidney Coleman remembered on the Not Even Wrong blog.

A couple months ago there was a session at an APS meeting with the topic Sidney Coleman Remembered. Slides are available for talks by Coleman’s student Erick Weinberg and colleague Howard Georgi. Georgi has recently posted a written version of the talk here. He also a few years ago wrote this biographical memoir about Coleman for the National Academy of Sciences.

David Derbes and collaborators [see comment section for details] are putting together a book version of Coleman’s famous lectures on quantum field theory, hope to be finished with this by the end of the summer.

Coleman was a long-time Boston fan and a founder of Advent:Publishers.

Sidney, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton. Photo taken and copyright by Andrew Porter.

Sidney, Dave Kyle and James White at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton. Photo taken and copyright by Andrew Porter.

(9) FEYNMAN TALES. Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek writes in Quanta Magazine “How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space”. The story begins in 1982 when Wilczek asked Feynman, “Why doesn’t empty space weigh anything?”

I asked Feynman the most disturbing question in physics, then as now: “There’s something else I’ve been thinking a lot about: Why doesn’t empty space weigh anything?”

Feynman, normally as quick and lively as they come, went silent. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him look wistful. Finally he said dreamily, “I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful.” And then, excited, he began an explanation that crescendoed in a near shout: “The reason space doesn’t weigh anything, I thought, is because there’s nothing there!”

(10) BEAGLE COMING TO SDCC. Peter S. Beagle will be at Comic Con 2016, participating in a panel entitled “Creating Your Own Universe”, in addition to signing autographs and meeting fans at his table.

His first novel in well over a decade, Summerlong, will be released September 15 on Tachyon.

(11) SULU STILL BEING DEBATED. Adam-Troy Castro answered a reply to his post about Sulu being revealed as a gay character in Star Trek Beyond.

Concerned STAR TREK fan in a thread, on the revelation of Sulu’s sexuality:

“It is also pointless for the story to just make the character gay for no other reason than to be so. Is important to the plot? Does it advance the story somehow? This is ultimately the only way it would make sense.”

What you’re talking about is the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. Not Pavel Chekov, but Anton Chekhov, who held that if you put a gun on the mantelpiece in one scene, then at some point somebody was going to have to take it down and fire it.

What perplexes is just how any STAR TREK character’s homosexuality could possibly “be important to the plot” or “advance the story somehow.”….

In the original series, one crew member being Asian, another being Scottish, another being a southern gentleman, another being Russian, another being African, was all texture. It was there, and then for the most part unremarked-upon, because Gene Roddenberry wanted to establish, within the boundaries of his time, that in the far future he wished to present, this was nothing unusual. (And even then, we had manifestations of his time’s near-sightedness, as when Janice Lester bitterly complains that the profession of starship captains is closed to women.)

Similarly, that brief shot of Sulu’s husband does not “advance the plot;” chances are that there will be no action climax where the ship can only be saved by the two of them having sex atop the warp nacelles. It does, however, provide more texture to the hypothetical universe around them, by establishing for the first time ever that Sulu has a personal life, that he must leave his family behind every time he goes on some mission for Kirk’s glory, that in the utopian world where he lives a marriage like his is just something that exists and that it is not remarked-upon as unusual, by anyone.

Texture….

(12) ALL’S QUIET ON THE DRAGON FRONT. Nominations for the inaugural Dragon Awards close on July 25, just a little over two weeks from now. If anybody’s excited about that, they’re mostly keeping it a secret from the internet.

Declan Finn wrote a long post about what to vote for so that he could ask people to nominate his book Honor at Stake (which is absolutely fine under the rules). Then he used the Sad Puppies list as a memory prompt for the rest of his suggestions.

Alfred Gennesson’s picks for the new Dragon Awards led off with John C. Wright, Larry Correia, and Rod Walker (published by Castalia House). Then he signed off with these thoughts —

I like the Dragon Awards already. Quality indicators for the year are going to be more honest than Hugo/Nebula, just in nomination process. And those ignore games. When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Two other writers are looking for support on Twitter —

However, since June 1, the only tweets about the Dragon Awards other than from people already mentioned were generic calls to vote from Larry Correia and Daddy Warpig.

(13) FELAPTON SPEAKS. Camestros Felapton reviews all five Hugo-nominated Novellas.

I think this is one of the most interesting categories this year. Each one of the nominees is a plausible candidate as a finalist but there isn’t a real stand-out winner. Three out of the five are by well-established writers and two are by newer writers. The least good (IMHO) has some excellent writing and made me want to read more by the same author. The best felt lacking in places and didn’t hit knock-your-socks-off great.

(14) STATE OF MIND. The Publishers Weekly story poses the question “Was Philip K. Dick a Madman or a Mystic?”, but do we really have to ask?

In The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, Kyle Arnold delves into the complicated psyche of one of the 20th century’s most important writers. At the center of the subject is the profound vision Dick experienced in 1974, which he referred to as “2-3-74.” Arnold, a psychologist at Coney Island Hospital and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, explains the experience and its significance.

In February of 1974, Philip K. Dick was home recovering from dental surgery when, he said, he was suddenly touched by the divine. The doorbell rang, and when Dick opened the door he was stunned to see what he described as a “girl with black, black hair and large eyes very lovely and intense” wearing a gold necklace with a Christian fish symbol. She was there to deliver a new batch of medications from the pharmacy. After the door shut, Dick was blinded by a flash of pink light and a series of visions ensued. First came images of abstract paintings, followed by philosophical ideas and then, sophisticated engineering blueprints. Dick believed the pink light was a spiritual force which had unlocked his consciousness, granting him access to esoteric knowledge.

(15) ASIMOV SINGS! Fanac.org has uploaded a third segment of  sound recording of the 1971 Hugo Banquet at Noreascon.

Banter and badinage from Robert Silverberg and Isaac Asimov, and the awarding of the Hugos. Asimov sings!

 

(16) RENT LONG AND PROSPER. Treknews featured this movie-related promotion.

In the commercial, entitled “Business Is Going Boldly,” Enterprise employees are shown beaming, speaking Klingon in the break room and renting the Starship Enterprise to customers.

Remember, the Romulans always get the damage waiver.

As we’ve previously reported, select Enterprise locations will have Star Trek related signage, plus Enterprise airport shuttle buses in New York City and Philadelphia will be wrapped with images of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the phrase: “Until We Can Beam You Up, We’ll Pick You Up”.

The dialect jokes are amusing, but should Enterprise Rent-A-Car really be renting starships to Klingons?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson. (OK Steve – now it’s up to you whether you record a hat trick.)]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/16 You’re on Canid Camera

(1) SUPERGIRLS. Carrie Goldman writes “An Open Letter To Supergirl Stars Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh, From An Adoptive Mom” in Chicago Now.

Her relationship with her younger sisters is complicated. They are our biological daughters, and this creates deep and unavoidable conflict for her. No matter how much we reassure her that we love her the same as the younger girls, she tests us.

During the scenes in Supergirl where Alex and Kara explore the painful aspects of their relationship as sisters through adoption, our whole family absorbs every word, every expression, because seeing this dynamic on mainstream television makes our family feel less alone.  The fact that both Alex and Kara are kickass, strong, smart, flawed, beautiful women who work hard, cry, laugh, yell, fight, and make mistakes has been an incredible model for all of our girls.

(2) READING RESOURCES. The 1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide database includes several sf/f titles.

[From Marley’s Welcome.] Welcome to the #1000blackgirlbooks Resource Guide. I started this campaign because I wanted to read more books where black girls are the main characters. With your help we have collected over 4000 books; many of them are have the same title, but we do have lots of unique ones as well. This guide includes 700 of those books and more is coming.

I believe black girl books are really important because when you are young you want to read lots of books, but you especially like to read books with people that look like you. While I have books at home about black girls, the books at school were not diverse. Children do most of their reading in schools or because of schools. Teachers assign books that you must read. If those books are not diverse and do not show different people’s experiences then kids are going to believe that there is only one type of experience that matters. Also, if books are not diverse then kids will not learn about the experiences of other members in their community.

(3) BELGIUM CALLING. Nicholas Whyte checks in from Brussels, in “Losers” at From the Heart of Europe.

I finally made it to the office at 1022, those last two kilometres having taken me 90 minutes to drive, to find most of my colleagues gathered ashen-faced in the lobby, greeting me tearfully – I was the only person who was unaccounted for, due to my phone being out of order – and giving me the headlines of what had happened. It’s nice to feel appreciated, still more so when I logged on and saw many concerned messages from friends and family, and even more so when people responded to my posts confirming that I was safe. One of the great things about the interconnectedness of today’s world is that we can often catch up with our friends quickly – Facebook’s check-in system in particular is a source of reassurance.

The horror has hit very close to home. I have flown out of Brussels airport in the morning five times this year, and was originally due to do so again on Friday to go to Eastercon in Manchester (in fact my plans have changed and I’ll take the Eurostar to London for work tomorrow and travel on up by train). My wife was flew out on Monday for a funeral in England and was due to fly back last night; her flight was cancelled and she will now return by Eurostar this evening. Maelbeek metro station (the four-pointed star on my map) is in the heart of the EU quarter, and I go past it almost every day and through it several times a month; a former colleague was actually on the train that was bombed, but fortunately escaped without injury; another former staffer (from before my time) was in the departure hall of the airport, and is recovering well from minor injuries.

… This happened because they [the terror movement] are losing. Less than a week ago, a major figure in the terror movement was arrested in Brussels; perhaps yesterday was revenge for his arrest, perhaps it was rushed into because they were afraid he would start talking (or knew that he already had). On the ground, their allies and sponsors are losing territory and resources in Syria and Iraq. I wrote a week ago about violence as story-telling, in the Irish context. This is an attempt to write a story about the weakness of our interconnected world, attacking places where people travel and meet, where many nationalities and cultures join together and build together.

It is a narrative that must not and will not win…

(4) MIND MELD. SF Signal’s current Mind Meld, curated by Andrea Johnson, asks —

Q: What non-mainstream Scifi/fantasy Graphic Novels do you recommend?

The answers come from: Matthew Ciarvella, Sharlene Tan, Taneka Stotts (Full Circle), Stacey Filak, Carl Doherty, Myisha Haynes (The Substitutes), Pipedreamergrey, Christa Seeley (Women Write About Comics), Martin Cahill, Larry Gent, and Jacob Stokes.

(5) VERICON. Ann Leckie has captioned a set of photos of Ancillary cosplayers from Vericon.

It’s obvious what’s going on here, right? That’s Hamilton/Breq in the middle, and she’s recruited Agent Carter, Lieutenant Peepsarwat, and Translator Zeiat in her search for the Presger gun. That case Agent Carter is carrying?

(6) INHUMAN PASSENGERS. “More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought” reports Phys Org.

Think your DNA is all human? Think again. And a new discovery suggests it’s even less human than scientists previously thought.

Nineteen new pieces of non-human DNA—left by viruses that first infected our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago—have just been found, lurking between our own genes.

And one stretch of newfound DNA, found in about 50 of the 2,500 people studied, contains an intact, full genetic recipe for an entire virus, say the scientists who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Whether or not it can replicate, or reproduce, it isn’t yet known. But other studies of ancient virus DNA have shown it can affect the humans who carry it.

In addition to finding these new stretches, the scientists also confirmed 17 other pieces of virus DNA found in human genomes by other scientists in recent years…

(7) LUNAR POLE DANCING. “Earth’s Moon wandered off axis billions of years ago, study finds” at Phys Org.

A new study published today in Nature reports discovery of a rare event—that Earth’s moon slowly moved from its original axis roughly 3 billion years ago.

Planetary scientist Matt Siegler at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and colleagues made the discovery while examining NASA data known to indicate lunar polar hydrogen. The hydrogen, detected by orbital instruments, is presumed to be in the form of ice hidden from the sun in craters surrounding the moon’s north and south poles. Exposure to direct sunlight causes ice to boil off into space, so this ice—perhaps billions of years old—is a very sensitive marker of the moon’s past orientation….

“The moon has a single region of the crust, a large basaltic plain called Procellarum, where radioactive elements ended up as the moon was forming,” Siegler said. “This radioactive crust acted like an oven broiler heating the mantle below.”

Some of the material melted, forming the dark patches we see at night, which are ancient lava, he said.

“This giant blob of hot mantle was lighter than cold mantle elsewhere,” Siegler said. “This change in mass caused Procellarum—and the whole moon—to move.”

The moon likely relocated its axis starting about 3 billion years ago or more, slowly moving over the course of a billion years, Siegler said, etching a path in its ice.

(8) INDICATION OF TOR. John C. Wright still has one last book on the way from Tor – The Vindication of Man. Rather a dim-looking cover on the preorder page. The release date for the hardcover is November 22.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 23, 1952 — Kim Stanley Robinson. The other great sf writer born in Waukegan!

(10) HE WRITES ABOUT THEY. Although John Scalzi’s post about gender-neutral pronouns is interesting, I found his personal demonstration in the comments even more so:

Also, for the record, my stance on pronouns, as they regard me:

He/him/his: My preferred set. Please use them in all things involving me.

They/them/their: Not my preferred set, but I don’t mind them being used for me.

It/it/its: This is a non-gender construction but generally isn’t used for individual humans (excepting, from time to time, infants), and is mostly used for animals and objects. Please don’t use them for me; if you do I’ll wonder why you are, and also wonder if you see me as an object, which would make me wonder if you’re a sociopath of some sort.

She/her/her: Not my gender! Be aware that in my experience when someone uses these for me, they’re usually trying to insult me in one way or another. So unless you want my default impression of you to be that you’re a sexist twit, please don’t use this set for me.

Other constructions: Really, no. “He” or “They” is fine. Thanks.

(11) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY? Claire Rousseau’s series of tweets ends on a rather optimistic note, considering the 2016 Hugo ballot isn’t out yet.

(12) GEOMETRIC LOGIC.

(13) A SELECTED QUOTE. Sarah A. Hoyt takes time out from moving to post at Mad Genius Club.

And after being selectively quoted by Jim Hines who pretended I was calling anyone not with the puppies worse than those who abetted the holocaust and the holodomor, by cutting out the part where I addressed those who destroy lives and reputations for a plastic rocket, we have at least established what Jim Hines is.  He’s not duped by those destroying reputations and lives.  He’s one of the principals.  I have only one question for him: But for Wales, Jim?

(14) PUPPYING WITHOUT UMLAUTS. Some of Declan Finn’s days are better than others. “The Evil of the Puppy Kickers” at A Pius Geek.

But last time I checked, Vox Day has really never dismissed his enemies as being subhuman. Nor has he suggested murdering any of them. Not even NK Jemisen, who has her own little war with Vox going that stretches back at least two years. He’ll still debate, or reason, or scream right back at her, but he’ll at least reply to whatever is thrown his way.

You may not like what he says, but he at least acknowledges that she’s someone worth having a fight with.

Can’t say that for the Puppy Kickers. They like being the ubermensch of their own little Reich, and it’s getting tiresome, really. The ones who are really in charge rarely, if ever, acknowledge any argument outside of their own little echo chamber.

(15) KEEP BANGING ON. Michael Bane, the producer of Outdoor Channel’s Gun Stories hosted by Joe Mantegna, announced Larry Correia will appear in an episode.

Did I mention that the MAIN MONSTER HUNTER HIMSELF, LARRY CORREIA, will be joining us on GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA this season? The MONSTER HUNTER books are modern classics. I just finished reading SON OF THE BLACK SWORD, the first book in his newest series, and it was excellent.

(16) CROWDFUNDED CON. The Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC is running a Kickstarter appeal to fund guests for Escape Velocity, a convention it plans to hold July 1-3. At this writing, people have pledged $14,348 toward the $18,000 goal.

Something special is coming to National Harbor, Maryland – a science fiction convention on a mission. This July 1st to 3rd, the Museum of Science Fiction will be launching ESCAPE VELOCITY, a micro futuristic world’s fair where STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) and science fiction will collide to create a geeky-fun, educational, and above all, fascinating spectacle for kids and adults alike!

A couple of the guests they expect to have are —

Rod Roddenberry, recently announced executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series for 2017 will make a keynote presentation to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary and discuss his work with the Roddenberry Foundation.

Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, is coming to Escape Velocity to discuss his father’s legacy and his new documentary film, For the Love of Spock.

In addition to screening parts of the documentary, Nimoy will join Rod Roddenberry on an Escape Velocity discussion panel moderated by screenwriter and Museum of Science Fiction advisory board member, Morgan Gendel, who wrote the Hugo Award-winning Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light.” “I’ve known both Adam and Rod for years and it’s fascinating to see how each has found a way to celebrate the work of their famous fathers,” said Gendel. “I expect the panel to be a very insightful look into the lives and legacies of two Trek icons.”

 

(17) BALLARD REMEMBERED. Malcolm Edwards will guest on The Guardian’s live webchat about JG Ballard on March 25 at noon (UK time).

Malcolm Edwards was JG Ballard’s editor for several years and worked with him on Empire of The Sun, among other classics. He should be able to give invaluable insights into Ballard’s working methods and the wonderful books he produced – and so is uniquely placed to talk about this month’s Reading Group choice, High-Rise, not to mention the recently released film.

(18) NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY’RE NOT WRITTEN ON? Max Florschutz takes a deep dive into the value of ebooks at Unusual Things.

You don’t see articles from music sites talking about how MP3 downloads are worthless and shouldn’t cost more than ten cents. You don’t see game review sites asking how dare Steam or Origin have a digital game on launch day cost the same as its physical compatriots.

So why in the book industry is this such a problem? Why is it that a person will look at a digital MP3 download from their favorite artist and buy it without a second of remorse, but then look at a digital book from their favorite author and send them an angry message about how that ebook shouldn’t be more than a dollar?

I don’t actually have an answer to this question. All I have are theories based on what I’m reading and hearing from other people around the internet. Maybe you’ll agree with some of these, maybe you won’t. But all of these are things I’ve heard expressed in one way or another….

1A- Physical books have physical difficulties that imply value to their purchasers. Yes, this much is true. While the story inside the pages remains the same, the trick with an ebook is that it’s hard to compete with an observation of value when looking at one. A physical book? Well, for one, you can pick it up and feel the weight of it, which, to most people, does imply a value. But you can also flip through it, jostle it, check a few pages, see how long it is.

You know what’s interesting? We can do all these things with an ebook. You can flip through it and read a sample. You can see how many pages there are. You can even check reviews—something you can’t do at a bookstore.

And yet … people don’t value that either. And why? Because it’s easy. It’s fast.

(19) GOTHIC INSPIRATION. Paul Cornell starts watching all the Hammer movies in order: “My Hammer Journey #1”.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

The first thing that strikes one is how much of a Val Guest movie this is, and how much, therefore, as a director, Val Guest establishes the Hammer ethos.  Guest’s forte is a kind of poetic modernist postwar British craft, a deceptive air of understated hard work that nevertheless not only gets everything right, but elevates, through the little details, the whole thing into art.  (Again, that reminds one of the best years of Hammer all in all.) ….

(20) FURY FURIOUS. This was new to me, although it has been making the rounds for several years…

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Dawn Sabados, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 3/21/16 The Incredible Sulk

(1) SCALZI PREDICTS. Today John Scalzi answered “Reader Request Week 2016 #2: Will Humans Survive?”

But we’re smart! I hear you say. Sure, that’s true, but does it then follow that a) we’re smart enough not to basically kill ourselves by wrecking the planet, b) that our intelligence means that evolution is done with us. The answers here, if you ask me (and you did) are: We’ll see, and probably not. In the latter case, there’s an argument to be made that our intelligence will increase speciation, as humans intentionally do to our species what natural selection did unintentionally before, and do it on a much shorter timescale, in order to adapt to the world that is currently rapidly changing under our feet, in no small part because of our own activities.

So, no. Human beings, meaning Homo sapiens, will almost certainly not be here a billion years from now.

(2) LASFS SPEAKERS. Three big names will be guest speakers at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in the coming weeks.

  • March 24 – Jerry Pournelle Speaks (My Favorite Book (LASFS meeting)
  • April 7 — Robert J. Sawyer – Special Guest (LASFS meeting)
  • April 28 — Larry Niven – Guest Speaker (LASFS meeting)

(3) MILLENNICON RIP. Millennicon 30, held last weekend, ended the convention’s run. Con chair Christy Johnson announced on Facebook:

It is with great sadness to announce that Millennicon 30 was our last. We tried our best to keep going but all good things must come to an end. We wanted to go out with a good con, and I think we did.

We were hoping for a higher attendance and hotel room nights, but alas, it was not to be.

Thank you to the best con-com, our guests of honor, dealers, artists, fan clubs and our attendees. Thanks to all those that lived local and still got hotel rooms. Thanks to those that regularly stayed at the hotel to help keep our costs down. Thanks to those that brought in their friends and family to join us. We survived this long because of you.

We hope you have enjoyed yourself over the years and remember us with fondness. We, the con-com, became a family through Millennicon. Many of you were also a part of our family.

Thanks for 30 years!

(4) COVER MODELS. Jim C. Hines has several fascinating photos from Millennicon here, including a faux book cover pose with Laura Resnick.

(5) TAXING MATTERS. At the SFWA blog, the issue that is every tax auditor’s nightmare is covered in “Ask the Tax Czarina: Hobby or Business?”

Q: Is my writing is a hobby or a business?

A: There are a number of factors the IRS looks at. The most important factor is whether or not you have a profit motive. You are not in a trade or business unless you intend to make a profit and have some sort of plan for how you’ll accomplish that. Note that this doesn’t mean you must make a profit. Lots of small businesses fail. But the burden of proof here is on the taxpayer. If you’re losing money, the IRS may assert that you’re engaging in a hobby, especially if you only do it part-time or your primary support comes from another source.

So, wow. That sounds subjective, doesn’t it? Why yes, yes it is. It’s a facts and circumstances test and can be highly individual.

(6) AMAZON LANDS DOCTOR WHO. Amazon Prime, which is replacing Netflix and Hulu as online video streamer, will initiate service this month reports Variety.

The man that stops the monsters is back! Seasons 1-8 of Doctor Who will be exclusively available to stream on Amazon Video starting March 27, with Season 9 coming on September 6 2016 and ‘The Husbands of River Song’ following on September 25. Fantastic!

(7) NUSSBAUM’S FAVORITES. Abigail Nussbaum is back with “The 2016 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Publishing and Fan Categories”. Here’s just one example –

Best Fan Writer:

  • Nina Allan – Allan continues to be one of the smartest, most insightful reviewers currently working.  Her reviews for Strange Horizons never fail to convince me to read the books she raves about, and in her recent blogging about mystery novels she shows herself to be equally insightful about that genre as she is about science fiction.

(8) POLL WORKER. George R.R. Martin works to get out the vote in “Countdown to Liftoff”, which rounds up links to his Hugo recommendation posts, plus a few late additions:

I did overlook some good choices even in the categories I covered. Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED is her best work to date, a very strong fantasy (though I had problems with the ending) and probably worth a nomination in Novel. I forgot about EX MACHINA when talking about Long Form Drama, but it’s a gripping and well done film, worthy of consideration. I recommended OUTLANDER for Short Form Drama, but it should be noted that the first season was telecast in two eight-episode arcs, and only the second eight are eligible, as the first eight were broadcast in 2014. I think JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL should be nominated in Long Form as a whole, rather than in Short Form, by episode, but others disagree.

(9) A PIUS GEEK. In case you’re not getting enough of this, Declan Finn goes 15 rounds with Damien G. Walter, a bit of overkill, since he stretches Damien on the deck in the first round.

The level of stupid maybe be getting to me.  The Puppy Kickers — like Damien — seem to be going full on insane.  They’ve apparently decided that they can just spew insults, and it’s reality. Wright will never be a pro writer again because they hate him, and anyone they hate must be blackballed. Brad and Larry are demagogues, because Damien said so — and they “ran away” because Brad and Larry didn’t want to play with this crap anymore.

Then again, these ARE the same people that insist that Brad ran away to the Middle East, because being shot at was preferable to standing up to the great and powerful Puppy Kickers. Yes, there are some idiots who’ve actually stated this, online. In public.

See what I mean about the stupid? It burns a LOT.

Damien doesn’t even seem to consider that, had more of his friends came to play at the SP4 site, they could have taken over the list entirely. But that would have meant engaging with people who disagree with him.

(10) LISTING TO STARBOARD. Font Folly leads off its roundup “Keymasters and Gatekeepers” with this comment —

So the Sad Puppies have officially released their recommendation list. Yes, I said list, not slate. Last year’s was a slate because there were exactly five “suggestions” in each category and the puppy supporters were encouraged to vote the exact slate (whether they had actually read the stories or not) in order to ensure that they had whole categories locked up. This year different people are in charge of the Sad Puppy campaign, and they gathered a big list after taking recommendations for months. In all of the fiction categories, at least, there are more than five recommendations, so you can’t slate vote it.

A few other people have written about this year’s list. In sad puppies 4: the… better behaving?, Dara Korra’ti says a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the list. I’m glad that the Sad Puppies have taken a more transparent approach. I’m glad that the list isn’t dominated by stories published in only one very small publication house owned by one of the organizers. I’m really glad that three of the recommendations in a single category are not by the same author. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that the people running it this year are sincerely trying to do no more than get more of the works they like on the ballot, rather than push a political agenda. I’ve never objected to recommendation lists no matter who makes those recommendations.

(11) TO REMOVE OR NOT TO REMOVE. Kate Paulk has placed asterisks beside two works on “The List” at Sad Puppies 4 whose authors asked to have them removed altogether. And did so with a characteristic Paulkian turn of phrase.

No corrections have been made yet: I’m still catching up from Lunacon. I’ll note the edits at the top of the page when I make them. The Mad Genius Club post will NOT be edited so my typos and miscategorizations will remain there for all posterity. Or posterior, which I suspect is the more apt way to put it.

In comments on “The List” at Mad Genius Club Paulk made this response:

Alastair,

I will not insult those who consider your novella to be Hugo-worthy by removing you from the List. I will, however, be updating the version of this post at http://sadpuppies4.org/the-list/ to note that you prefer that your work not be purchased, enjoyed, and nominated without your prior approval.

Alastair Reynolds answered:

Hello Kate. You’re welcome to do that, of course, but it does not represent my position. Nonetheless thank you for publishing my comment and I wish you all the best.

(12) SCALZI COMMENTS. John Scalzi has been following the news.

(13) GODWIN IS HOLDING ON LINE TWO. Jim C. Hines weighs in on Twitter.

(14) LOL. If for some reason you’re unhappy being recommended by the Bay Area Science Fiction Association, Kevin’s your man.

(15) GOOD FORM. Rachael Acks’ handy guide to “Reasons why I will not be replying to your argument”. Here is item #4 from a list of 17.

4. You have thus far done such a good job at arguing with straw man conceptions of my words that I’ve come to realize my input is entirely superfluous. Please feel free to continue this argument without me.

(16) FREEDOM. Chris Meadows’ TeleRead article “’Sad Puppies’ Hugo campaign posts recommendation list, spawns new controversy” delivers gritty details along with a broad overview.

In the blog post’s comments, Hoyt explained the current plan was to put an asterisk next to the names of those who asked to be removed—which prompted chuckles from other Puppies, in reference to the controversy of last year’s Hugo Awards ceremony that involved the handing out of laser-cut wooden asterisks to every winner that year.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]