Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….


  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.


  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky


  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/17 The Filers On The Hill See The Scroll Going Down, And The Eyes In Their Heads See The Pixels Spinning Round

(1) MUNSTER REVIVAL. “Who will play Marilyn?” John King Tarpinian wants to know. Variety reports “‘Munsters’ Reboot in Development at NBC With Seth Meyers Producing”.

The planned reboot is inspired by the original series and will follow an offbeat family determined to stay true to themselves struggles to fit in in hipster Brooklyn. Jill Kargman will executive produce and write the script, with Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker also executive producing. Universal Television (UTV) will produce along with Meyers’ and Shoemaker’s Sethmaker Shoemeyers Productions, which is set up with a first-look deal at UTV.

The development “The Munsters” reboot keeps Meyers in business with NBC, where he currently hosts the late-night series “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” In addition, the network recently ordered the Meyers-produced comedy “A.P. Bio” to series.

(2) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Gregory Frost and Rajan Khanna on August 16. The evening begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York.

Gregory Frost is the author of Shadowbridge, Lord Tophet, Fitcher’s Brides, and The Pure Cold Light and a whole mess of short stories of the fantastic. His collaboration with Michael Swanwick, “Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters, H’ard and Andy Are Come to Town” won an Asimov’s Readers’ Award for 2015. That worked out so well that he and M. Swanwick are currently engaged in writing another collaboration. Greg is the Fiction Workshop Director at Swarthmore College, and with Jonathan Maberry founded the Philadelphia branch of The Liars Club, a collective of semi-deranged and often inebriated authors. Greg is working on a collaborative series with Jonathan Maberry based upon their novella “Rhymer,” published in the anthology Dark Duets.

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer, and narrator. His post-apocalyptic airship adventure series starting with Falling Sky and Rising Tide concluded in July 2017 with Raining Fire. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in Brooklyn where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group.

(3) ABOUT THE CANCELLED ALZHEIMER’S LARP. Worldcon 75 published a “Statement on the Cancellation of LARP ‘A Home for the Old’”, a planned item that had drawn a lot of criticism in social media after people at the con saw the description in the schedule.

On Friday 11 August Wordcon 75 cancelled one of our programme items. A Nordic Freeform Event entitled “A Home for the Old” by Frederik Berg. The statement that we released in relation to this cancellation was neither a fair nor a full report of the facts and we would like to correct this.

Worldcon 75 believes that the event facilitator, Massi Hannula Thorhauge, would have guided the players with due regard for a subject as serious as Alzheimer’s. The convention asked her to run this event and we know she would have made sure those who signed up did not make light of the disease. She is a valued member of Worldcon 75 staff and we thank her for her time and enthusiasm throughout the con.

The description of the event published in the Worldcon 75 Programme was not a fair representation of the game. It was written for a specific audience and as presented to Worldcon lacks vital context and frameworks.

Both the convention and the event facilitators acknowledge more care should have been given to this, in light of the very sensitive subject and the cultural differences between many Worldcon members.

These cultural and contextual differences were at the root of the decision to cancel the item. While this freeform event has been extremely successful elsewhere we felt that it was not acceptable to the Worldcon members as presented. We were also concerned that some possible players may not have appropriately engaged with the material, given how different Worldcon is from Nordic gaming events.

We would also like to highlight how important gaming is as part of the genres we all love. Games such as “A Home for the Old” have helped those who have lost friends and relatives to Alzheimer’s and given them a greater understanding of the pressures put on those who care for people with the disease.

While playing games purely for fun is vital, they can also be used to teach, to explore even difficult subjects and themes, and to inspire. They are a hugely important part of a Worldcon programme and we are thrilled we have had so many people playing games in Helsinki this August.

(4) TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Dorothy Grant shares a warning about click farms at Mad Genius Club.

  1. Speaking of click farms, several indies have recently reported their accounts being locked / books taken off sale after buying “advertising” with a “guaranteed number of readers.” You know that picture of Batman slapping Robin? Yeah, picture that. Here’s how NOT to get your account locked and books delisted:

A.) You cannot guarantee buyers ethically. If buyers or readers are guaranteed, that means you’re paying a click farm to run a program on a laptop slaved to a bunch of stolen iphones, each loaded to an Amazon account, “borrowing” and “reading” them. Unless you’re paying a click farm in North Korea, in which case it’s a poor schmuck pacing down a table, manually finger-swiping every iphone.

B.) If you can’t sign up for their mailing list, it’s a click farm. Real promoters want everybody to sign up for their lists, so they can grow. Click farms say they have a list, but if it’s not obvious and easy to find, then it’s a lie.

C.) If they don’t have a website, it’s a click farm. ESPECIALLY if their only presence is a “closed facebook group.” Again, if they’re not soliciting more people to join them, they’re not right.

D.) If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. It’s more likely to be this: https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

(5) NEBRASKA. Have a twofer: Carhenge is in the totality path: “As Eclipse Madness Sweeps U.S., A Stonehenge Made Of Cars Prepares”.

The ancients who built Carhenge back in 1987 didn’t know about this eclipse. Carhenge was the brainchild of a local named Jim Reinders, a petroleum engineer who spent years working in England. While there, he became acquainted with the prehistoric site of Stonehenge. It was built of giant rocks that people dragged for miles from the quarries. Archaeologists think the original Stonehenge was built to mark celestial events, such as the solstice.

Reinders wanted to build a version of Stonehenge as a memorial to his dad, who had passed away a few years earlier. But stones seemed heavy and cumbersome.

“So he decided if we build it out of cars, the wheels on it would greatly simplify the logistics,” says Howard. “And besides that, there’s not a stone in Nebraska that would work.”

(6) BR0K3N. “Password guru regrets past advice” – BBC has the story.

Bill Burr had advised users to change their password every 90 days and to muddle up words by adding capital letters, numbers and symbols – so, for example, “protected” might become “pr0t3cT3d4!”.

The problem, he believes, is that the theory came unstuck in practice.

Mr Burr now acknowledges that his 2003 manual was “barking up the wrong tree”.


  • Born August 13, 1899 — Alfred Hitchcock

(8) KEEP HORROR OUT OF THE KITCHEN. Get your own copy of Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes 1965 – 2015.

A Treasury of Great Recipes has come to be regarded as “one of the most important culinary events of the 20th century” (Saveur Magazine) and was recently named the eighth most popular out-of-print book of any kind by Booklist. It has inspired countless chefs, garnered fans from around the world, and recently spawned many supper clubs who have been “cooking and eating Vincent” around the world.

(9) BY JOVE, I THINK HE’S GOT IT. Camestros Felapton offers a good, precise description of the phenomenon: “Parallels between minor SF kerfuffles & real world politics are both trite & true”.

My interest here was not the Brian Niemeiers of the groups but others, less inclined to create an SJW conspiracy out of nothing. In several cases, you could see them correctly reasoning that if they want the Dragon Awards to have any status then they would need authors like John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin involved. However, they would always return to the idea that it was up to people like John Scalzi to, therefore, fix the problem by participating. Commenting here, author David Van Dyke took a similar tack – the Dragons need broad based participation, therefore can authors that the SF right calls “SJWs” (whether they are or not) please participate. This despite the fact that the reasons WHY authors didn’t want to participate were clear and unambiguous – they didn’t want to get caught up in the culture war that other on the SF right want the Dragons to be.

What is particularly interesting is this. When the right that is adjacent to the more belligerent alt-right NEED somebody to be reasonable, to compromise in WHICH direction do they turn? Note how it is the LEFT? This is more than just the modern conservative dictum of not-shooting-right/no-enemies-on-the-right but a tacit acknowledgement that they themselves have no capacity to control their allies.

The alt-right want the Dragons Awards to be a culture-war shitstorm because culture-war shitstorms help them recruit small numbers of extremists via radicalization and the comradery of a conflict. It’s a tactic anybody on the left will recognise from many micro-Trotskyist groups in the past, whose expectation of a conflict (e.g. a labour dispute) was that making hyper-strong demands (not necessarily EXTREME demands but essentially shitty negotiating positions) would not lead to a successful outcome but would lead to a better struggle and new recruits.

(10) THE YEAR IN RABIDITY. Jason Sanford leafs through the Hugo voting stats and concludes he is “Measuring the slow Hugo Award death of the rabid puppies”.

These numbers back up previous estimates of the weakness of the rabid puppies and give more evidence that 80 to 90 Hugo voters at most support Vox Day’s ballot stuffing. These are extremely small numbers compared to the more the 2,000 people who cast nominating ballots, or the 3,319 people who voted in the final Hugo ballot.

The reason the rabid puppies were able to cause so much trouble with the Hugo Awards in recent years is because the awards were easily gamed by a small group of slate voters. Only cultural constraints within fandom prevented this from happening previous to the rabid puppies.

The results of this year’s Hugo voting shows that making an award resistant to slate voting is a must in today’s genre.

Perhaps the Dragon Awards, a new SF/F award which is now being ravaged by slate voting from the pups, will learn from the Hugo experience. Or perhaps not.

(11) THE POINTS. Camestros Felapton also looks at the Rabid numbers in “Hugo Stats Time Some More”.

So a mean in the low 70s and a median of 83 votes. Which looks to be irrelevant because those votes are probably all from 2016 members. The Rabid vote drops precipitously in the final numbers.

(12) HELP WANTED. There’s a lot of money to be made looking for aliens, if you’re the right person — “The Reason China Can’t Find Anyone to Operate Its Alien-Hunting Telescope”.

China continues to up its game in space sciences, including one particularly ambitious project, the world’s largest radio telescope. There’s just one problem: they can’t find anyone to operate it.

The country’s government is looking to hire a foreigner as chief scientist to oversee the telescope’s daily operation, reports the South China Morning News, and it’s even offering free housing and a $1.2 million salary to boot. But no one has been hired, presumably because of challenges associated with the job and the high level of requirements needed to even apply.

The “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope”, or FAST, is a $180 million, 1,600 foot-long radio telescope that’s capable of receiving radio signals from as far as 1,000 light years away; making it a leading instrument in the search for alien life. To give you an idea of its scale, FAST is roughly the size of 30 soccer fields.

(13) THE SUMMER OF HUH? Hippy disinformation? The BBC explains the accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy.

The Illuminati that we’ve come to hear about today is hardly influenced by the Bavarians at all, as I learned from author and broadcaster David Bramwell, a man who has dedicated himself to documenting the origins of the myth. Instead, an era of counter-culture mania, LSD and interest in Eastern philosophy is largely responsible for the group’s (totally unsubstantiated) modern incarnation. It all began somewhere amid the Summer of Love and the hippie phenomenon, when a small, printed text emerged: Principia Discordia.

The book was, in a nutshell, a parody text for a parody faith – Discordianism – conjured up by enthusiastic anarchists and thinkers to bid its readers to worship Eris, goddess of chaos. The Discordian movement was ultimately a collective that wished to cause civil disobedience, practical jokes and hoaxes

The text itself never amounted to anything more than a counter-culture curiosity, but one of the tenets of the faith – that such miscreant activities could bring about social change and force individuals to question the parameters of reality – was immortalised by one writer, Robert Anton Wilson.

According to Bramwell, Wilson and one of the authors of the Principia Discordia, Kerry Thornley, “decided that the world was becoming too authoritarian, too tight, too closed, too controlled”. They wanted to bring chaos back into society to shake things up, and “the way to do that was to spread disinformation. To disseminate misinformation through all portals – through counter culture, through the mainstream media, through whatever means. And they decided they would do that initially by telling stories about the Illuminati.”

At the time, Wilson worked for the men’s magazine Playboy. He and Thornley started sending in fake letters from readers talking about this secret, elite organisation called the Illuminati. Then they would send in more letters – to contradict the letters they had just written.

“So, the concept behind this was that if you give enough contrary points of view on a story, in theory – idealistically – the population at large start looking at these things and think, ‘hang on a minute’,” says Bramwell.  “They ask themselves, ‘Can I trust how the information is presented to me?’ It’s an idealistic means of getting people to wake up to the suggested realities that they inhabit – which of course didn’t happen quite in the way they were hoping.

… British electronic band The KLF also called themselves The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, named after the band of Discordians that infiltrate the Illuminati in Wilson’s trilogy as they were inspired by the religion’s anarchic ideology. Then, an Illuminati role-playing card game appeared in 1975 which imprinted its mystical world of secret societies onto a whole generation.

Chip Hitchcock, who found the link, assures everyone, “Yes, I’ve sent in a complaint about the incorrect date for the card game.”

(13) WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE. I was surprised to learn he’s still alive.

(14) FLICKER OF TIME. Anti Matter trailer #2.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/17 Pixeldimethylaminotickaldescroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

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

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

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

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


  • History of World UFO Day

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The worst of all was its –

  1. Mockumentary-style Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/16 Raindrops On Scrollses And Pixels On Kittens

(1) IT’S A WRAP. Tom Cruise will star in Universal’s reboot of The Mummy, now scheduled to arrive in theaters on June 9, 2017. This version will be set in the contemporary world. Cruise is not playing the title role, trade outlets are referring to his character as a former Navy SEAL.

So who is The Mummy?

Sofia Boutella, best recognized as the badass beauty with swords for legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service, will be playing this new version of the Mummy.

Who’s directing it?

Alex Kurtzman will be calling the shots. The only feature film he’s directed to date is People Like Us, but he’s best known for being a writer on a ton of big blockbuster movies, like Transformers, The Island, Mission: Impossible III, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek series. It currently has a script from Jon Spaihts (Prometheus).

(2) TRACING FIREBALLS TO THEIR SOURCE. In “A Precursor to the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement” Jon Peterson of Playing at the World identifies Leonard Patt as a forgotten influence or source on Gary Gygax, whose Chainmail (a collaboration with Jeff Perren) was the first game designed by Gygax sold as a professional product. It included a heavily Tolkien-influenced “Fantasy Supplement”, which made Chainmail the first commercially available set of rules for fantasy wargaming.

Patt, should he still be with us, would surely be unaware of how Chainmail followed his work, let alone the profound influence that concepts like “fire ball” and saving versus spells have had on numberless games over the decades that followed.

…In the early, pre-commercial days of miniature wargaming, the environment was very loose and collaborative, and these kinds of borrowings were not uncommon – but attribution was still an assumed courtesy. Gary Gygax has something of a reputation for adapting and expanding on the work of the gaming community without always attributing his original sources. The case of the Thief class is probably the most famous: the first draft of Gary’s rules do note their debt to the Aero Hobbies crowd, but as the published version of the rules in Greyhawk (1975) did not, the obligation of the Thief rules to Gary Switzer and the others at Aero Hobbies long went unacknowledged. Regarding Chainmail, Gary in late interviews says nothing to suggest that concepts like fireball were not of his own invention; Patt’s rules compel us to reevaluate those claims. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that Gary had a singular gift for streamlining, augmenting and popularizing rules originally devised by others: certainly we wouldn’t say that Patt’s original rules could have inspired Blackmoor, and thus Dungeons & Dragons, without Gary’s magic touch and the elaboration we find in the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement.

But if you ever vanquished an enemy with a fireball in Dungeons & Dragons, or Magic: the Gathering, or Dragon Age, and especially if you ever made a saving throw against a fireball, thank Leonard Patt!

(3) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. The Kickstarter appeal for People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction has raised $20,192 as of this writing – 400% of its original goal. Another special issue of Lightspeed, it will be guest-edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim, in partnership with section editors Nisi Shawl, Berit Ellingsen, Grace Dillon, and Sunil Patel, who are assembling a lineup of fiction, essays, and nonfiction from people of color.

Lightspeed’s Destroy series was started because of assertions that women, LGBTQ, and POC creators were destroying science fiction. The staff of Lightspeed took that as a challenge. Building on the astounding success of Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! (and Horror, and Fantasy) and Queers Destroy Science Fiction! (and Horror, and Fantasy), POC Destroy Science Fiction! brings attention to the rich history and future of POC-created science fiction and fantasy.

Like the previous Destroy issues, this campaign has the potential to unlock additional special issues focusing on Horror and Fantasy as well.

(4) DOUBTFUL. Breitbart.com’s Allum Bokhari dishonestly represents a commenter’s statement as a File 770 news item in “SJWs Are Purging Politically Incorrect Sci-Fi Authors From Bookstores”.

(5) BAKKA PHOENIX REPLIES. Yet he is getting the clicks he wants. One Toronto bookstore owner was intimidated into making a public denial — “A Question Worth Answering”.

We are Bakka Phoenix, a different bookstore entirely. We’re not going to comment on a rumour about XXX’s activities: that way lies madness and a lot of silly Twitter feuds. You might want to contact them directly (their website is XXX). Also, please note: from a Canadian perspective, Breitbart looks more like an outlet for the borderline-lunatic fringe than a credible news source.

But if you were wondering, we can assure you that we ourselves carry many books we find personally or politically reprehensible. Let’s face it, your left wing is somewhere off to our right, enough so that we’d have trouble even agreeing on the definition of ‘conservative’. Frankly, we find a lot of US political posturing completely unhinged.

But… so what? We’re in the business of selling books. Good books. Bad books. Titles some people love; titles others hate enough to throw across the room. Some books will transform readers minds and lives and be remembered for decades. Others will be forgotten immediately upon reading (or even partway through). We don’t have to like a book, its author, or its message in order to sell it. To suggest otherwise merely proves that the suggester spends very little time in actual bookstores.

The many wonderful independent booksellers I’ve met feel the same way. Independent bookstores exist for precisely that reason: to ensure that readers have the widest choice possible. So we — all of us — stock books we think our readers might be interested in, personal taste bedamned.


  • Born January 22, 1934 – Bill Bixby, of My Favorite Martian and The Hulk.
  • Born January 22, 1959 – Linda Blair, of The Exorcist.

(7) BUTTER WOULDN’T MELT. Kate Paulk wrote a post educating her readers about the Best Editor Hugo categories.

Both these categories have seen controversy since their introduction: first the lobbying to split Best Editor – the whispers say this was so that a specific individual could receive an award instead of always playing second fiddle to a very prominent (and very skilled) magazine editor, the apparent hand-off of both through much of their history between an extremely small number of people – so much so that it appears a group of Tor editors considered the Long Form award to be their property (just look at the list of winners…).

The first comment, by Draven:

“yeah well, you know who we say for long form…”

The second comment, by Dorothy Grant:

“Hmmm, Maybe, maybe not. This year will be the last year David Hartwell will be eligible. (He edited L.E. Modesitt & John C. Wright, among others.) The industry lost a good man, and a good editor, yesterday. Granted, he’s won three, but these things do happen in tribute.”

The third comment, by Kate Paulk:

“They do indeed, and David Hartwell is certainly a worthy nominee.”

(8) BRUSHBACK PITCH. Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the National League, also has a less well known claim to fame – his great-uncle Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. That explains his loyalty to the diminutive world, and his recent contradiction of NASA on Twitter.

(9) SINBAD. The Alex Film Society will screen The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) on Thursday, April 28 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

(10)  A SCI-FI KID REMEMBERS. Film fan Steve Vertlieb has compiled his memories about meeting genre stars into one extravaganza post:

After some forty seven years of writing about films, film makers, and film music, I thought that I’d take a moment to remember the glorious moments, events, and artists who have so generously illustrated the pages of my life, and career, over these many remarkable years.  Do return with me now to Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear when artistry and grandeur populated the days of our lives…days when gallant souls courageously rescued their leading ladies from screen villainy…days when culture and dignity proliferated the screen, television, radio, and the printed page.  Look for it only in books, for its sweet reflection of gentle innocence is but a faded memory…a  tender, poignant whisper of grace and wonder that, sadly, has Gone With The Wind.

Those memories are also the driving force of his autobiographical documentary Steve Vertlieb: The Man Who “Saved” The Movies. The director keeps an online journal of their progress.


Whew!  It would be a bitch of an exhausting marathon, because we had lots of LITERAL ground to cover in Center City, hopscotching from one locale to another blocks away; then to another, then to another; finally finishing up on the “high steel”, the center of the city’s Benjamin Franklin Bridge, stretching from Philadelphia across the Delaware River into Camden, N.J.  But everyone agreed.  And our “Philadelphia Marathon” was off and running.

The documentary film will wrap in February, 2016, with film festival screenings planned for this Spring.

(11) ALAN RICKMAN. Today Star Talk Radio site revisited Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2012 conversation with Alan Rickman.

So what does astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson ask him about? Failing physics in high school, of course. They also talk a little about acting, including how Alan chooses and prepares for his roles, from researching the heart surgeon in Something the Lord Made to the wine-tasting scene in Bottle Shock. You’ll hear Alan explain his sense of responsibility to his audience and what he describes as “the mysterious mechanism of acting and theatre and storytelling.” Neil and Alan also get philosophical about the limits of human perception, the flocking behavior of birds, and the interaction of sound and memory.

(12) MARTIAN HOP. Tintinaus has a great addition to The Martian musical, based on Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.”

Every Martian knows that the secret to survival,
Is solving the next problem,
And then the problem after that.
‘Cause every day’s a winner
Even if you’re gettin’ thinner,
And the best that you can hope for
Is growing tates in your crewmate’s scat.


You gotta know when to sow ’em
Know when to hoe ’em
Know when to harvest
For a bumper yield
You never count sauce satchels
‘Cause that would be depressing.
Knowing how long ungarnished taters
Will be your only meal.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kyra.]

Ayes Wide Mutt 7/3

aka The Doxxer Rebellion

In today’s roundup: Malcolm ‘f.’ Cross, Tom Knighton, Dorothy Grant, Adam-Troy Castro, David Gerrold, Mike Resnick, Lawrence Person, John C. Wright, Nicholas Whyte, and Patrick May. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Will Reichard and Kurt (not Kent) Busiek.)

Foozzzball (Malcolm ‘f.’ Cross)  on Weasyl

“My ounce of bile: Yarn is cowardly” – July 3

….Here’s the thing. These guys (and a very, very few women) are all screaming, defensively, that they’re writing good old fashioned YARNS. Entertaining STORIES. Books with rocket ships on the covers instead of that inconvenient new-fangled social commentary. And they point at luminaries like Heinlein, and Asimov, and all those golden age authors.

Heinlein who was talking about contemperaneous issues like the cold war, the morality of total warfare, free love, the impact of new and changing technology and the need for retaining simple skills (such as the much loved slide rule), and was a man who spoke very much to the issues of his time. Asimov who attacked major issues of his lifetime like eugenics and social engineering through his work (what, you think Foundation’s psychohistory has nothing to say about the pursuit of social purity?), wrapping up issues of perception and belief and creation in rip-roaring stories.

These men were not writing yarns. They were products of their time, attacking the issues of their time. That they did so skilfully, entertainingly, and thought-provokingly is testament to their genius. They were not saints, their opinions are not sacrosanct, they, like any other person, held opinions agreeable and disagreeable.

You know who else wasn’t just spinning yarns? Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game is fundamentally about the boundary between being a soldier and a human being. It’s implicitly about genocide, about hands on the big red button, about the ignorance required to perform such a terrible action and remain innocent. It was originally a short story written in 1977, in the middle of the cold war, and rewritten as a novel by 1985, just as the cold war got terrifying all over again. Attacking the issues of his day, OSC put together a masterpiece. And then, quite honestly, he started looking at his personal bugbears instead of the wider world, and never did anything so good again in his life. That’s when he started writing yarns.

Fiction isn’t about entertainment. It never has been. From the earliest stories we’ve told ourselves, the myths that grew into religions, Aesop’s fables, the fairy-tales you were told as a child, they’ve all been about communication. Discussion. Opening a dialogue. They are vehicles for exploring, and thinking about, the world. This is all fiction, not just science fiction…..


Tom Knighton on According To Hoyt

“On Villainy” – July 3

…Right now, the most popular villain is the turdnugget who decided to walk into a church in Charleston, SC and kill people for nothing more than the color of their skin. This is something that the vast majority of us are unable to comprehend. I mean, skin tone is as arbitrary a dividing line as hair color or eye color, so why kill people for just that factor?

We can’t grasp it, yet it happened. I refuse to actually write the turdnugget’s name anywhere, because I don’t want to give him any more press. He already got his fame, which I suspect was a factor in his attack, but I refuse to add to it. It’s a small effort to keep people from mimicking his efforts.

All too often, people think of “villains” as those who oppose them on whatever issue they hold dear. Monsanto is the villain to people like “Food Babe”. The NRA is the villain to the gun control crowd. The Sad Puppies are the villains to the Puppy Kickers. The flip side is also generally true as well.

The thing is, most of us have never truly experienced real “villainy”. We’ve never witnessed the pits of dead Albanians following the break-up of Yugoslavia. We never witnessed the Rwandan tribal slaughter. Many of us have never met a Jewish concentration camp survivor. To us, that level of villainy just doesn’t exist except as an abstract…..

And yet, there are those who are ready to ascribe such motives to us. They’re ready to link this turdnugget to us, despite the fact that most of us not only decry his actions, but we actually supported several authors who don’t fit the “white, Mormon male” narrative (to say nothing of the fact that authors were nominated that we may disagree with politically).

Look, I’m going to make this clear. Bigotry is stupid. Racism is beyond stupid. All we have ever wanted is people and works to be judged based on quality, both the quality of the person and the quality of the work. Anyone who opposes a work because the author is black, or a woman, or gay, or a socialist is a moron. Anyone who dislikes a work because the author is white, or male, or straight, or a conservative/libertarian is just as much of a moron.

There are real villains in this world. How about some of the people screaming the most about villains try something different and start looking at real villains for a change.


Dorothy Grant in a comment on Tom Knighton’s post “On Villainy” at According To Hoyt – July 3

I suspect that people who have very little life experience and not much in the way of bedrock principles shrink their scale of villainy to fit their experience.

The best example of this is the root of the Tor boycott; Irene Gallo was upset at people voting for the Hugos in ways that did not benefit her logrolling clique, and she started calling her customers and her own authors neo-nazis and the books she had even worked on “bad to reprehensible.” In her pampered, privileged world, someone not giving a plastic statue to the clique that was certain they deserved it is the worst villainy possible.

Then there’s my husband, who has traded fire with real, actual neo-nazis and dealt with their carbombs and terror tactics. He was working on ending apartheid and giving every human being in South Africa the vote and the recognition of their human dignity. The worst villainy possible that he’s seen… let us pray fervently to all our spirits and deities that we never see its like again.



John C. Wright in a comment on File 770 – July 3

“Putting this in perspective, John C. Wright is trying to stave off a boycott of the publisher who pays him, because of a creative director there who dared to suggest that some of his movement are neo-Nazis, and he’s doing this by applying the adjective “Christ-Hating” in part to an editor named Moshe who wears a yarmulke.”

What a vile and cowardly ort of feces this is. I see the method here is merely to make so many false and outrageous accusations that no one can possibly refute them.

Since I am an open philosemite, active supporter of the State of Israel, an unapologetic Zionist, and married the daughter of a Jew, and since I immediately ban any holocaust deniers who dare to show their subhuman snouts on my blog, the accusation that I am an antisemite is beyond libel, beyond madness.

Why not simply accuse me of being a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater while you are at it?

The Christ-haters hate Christ because they are Social Justice Warriors, which is a religion that is jealous, and excludes the practice of Christian and Jewish faith alike.

It was the God of Abraham, the God worshiped by all practicing Jews, who destroyed the city of Sodom and outlawed the practices which made that name a curse. I am being reviled precisely because I love and fear the God of Moses.

I am against the SJWs precisely for the same reason I am for the Jews. I hate bullies and cowards, and I hate liars, and I hate antisemitism with an unquenchable burning hatred, and I love the people that God loves.

Mr Glyer, for a while, you had won my respect, as you seemed to be an honest fellow, trying to maintain some sense of fairplay. I called your blog a wretched hive of scum and villainy as a joke, which you took up.

But this is beyond the pale, that you should print such things of me, or aid and condone these libels. I trust you will reprint these remarks of mine in a prominent place.


Adam-Troy Castro on Facebook – July 3

…I am aware that I’ve been cited in Larry Correia’s environs, though as far as I know not specifically by Larry Correia (I am careful to make that distinction), as the “stupidest man in science fiction.” Some of my friend Brad Torgersen’s pals have come here to spew rage at me and calling me a false friend for daring to tell Brad that on this subject, at least, he has his head so far up his own ass that he can’t see daylight. I had an illiterate crazy guy come here to slam me for my liberalism, and when the height of his wit was that I should put on my big boy pants, I pretty much plowed him under with a demonstration of how ploughboys should not draw on shootists. And then there’s Tom Monaghan, who has yet to discover the comma, but who has showed up at least one convention panel just to hop up and down in his audience seat and yell at me.

These are glimpses. It is possible that I have not been under any further discussion at all, by these people, because I am that much beneath their notice, and that would make me tremendously happy; it is also possible that there are extended exchanges about what a low-life idiotic liberal prick I am, and this I cannot care much about either, because aside from these manifestations I have not seen it…..

I don’t know. There may be entire threads out there, closed to me, about what a piece of shit I am.

This does not particularly please me. Making enemies can be fun, but having enemies is not.

So why do I persist in doing stuff like pointing out that a guy who uses the phrase “Christ-Hating Crusaders for Sodom” when talking about a Jew, and counts among his allies a lunatic who cheers on spree killers, has little basis for high moral dudgeon at the suggestion that the movement of which he’s a part extends to the realm of neo-Nazidom? Why would I put myself in the cross-hairs of those among his fans who are exactly as crazy in potential as he is in rhetoric?

Simply put: because the one discussion thread I cannot escape is between my ears, and the one troll I cannot block is my conscience…..


David Gerrold on Facebook – July 3

Because silence equals death.

I don’t know Brad or Larry or most of the others who have spoken up on the puppy side of the kerfuffle. I only know them by what they post online.

They may be good people. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I disagree with them. I disagree with their perception of SF. I disagree with their interpretations. But I would never use that disagreement as a justification for behaving unethically.

I don’t speak for anyone else, but I think I know why so many others of merit in the field — George R.R. Martin, Eric Flint, Connie Willis, John Scalzi, Adam-Troy Castro, Mary Robinette Kowal, and many others — have spoken up. It’s why I have spoken up.

For those who missed it the first time, and who think I’m a terrible person — well, yes I might be, but I’ll say it again. I would have cheered a recommended reading list. I would have discovered books I might otherwise have missed.

But the slate-mongering was wrong. It wasn’t about the quality of the work. It wasn’t about excellence. It was about a political agenda. And the justifications that have been offered — “we’re creating diversity and inclusiveness” — are disingenuous. (That’s the polite word for pants-on-fire lying.) You don’t create diversity and inclusiveness by denying other people a fair opportunity.

And when I have asked for some discussion, for some explanation why the authors of the slates felt their nominated stories represented “best of the year,” how do these stories represent excellence in the genre, no one has stepped up to the microphone to answer that question, except the usual crickets to indicate an embarrassing silence. When we read the comments by those who are sludging their way through their Hugo packets, we do not find the joyous exhilaration of excellence. We see reactions that range from skeptical to hostile, confirming the perception that the slates were motivated by political bias.

So, yes, I have spoken my opposition to the slates. I have spoken my opposition to the name-calling (regardless of which side it’s coming from), and I have spoken my opposition to the political polarization of this community. I would call it a disastrous miscalculation — except that I wonder if perhaps this polarization is exactly what a couple of the people behind this mess intended from the beginning.

If you want to talk about what makes for a great science fiction story, I’m interested. I’m there. If it’s a conversation I can learn from, I want to be a part of it. If it pushes me in the direction of being a better writer, sign me up.

But all this other stuff — slates and name-calling, boycotts and shit-stirring? I’d say “include me out” except as I said above, silence equals death. ….


Mike Resnick in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine

“The End of the Worldcon As We Know It” – July 3

….Ah, but this year will be different, I hear you say. This year we’ll be voting No Award in a bunch of categories, and history will thank us.

Well, it just so happens that No Award has triumphed before. In fact, it has won Best Dramatic Presentation three different times. (Bet you didn’t know that Rod Serling’s classic “Twilight Zone” series lost to No Award, did you?)

But the most interesting and humiliating No Award came in 1959. The category was Best New Writer, and one of the losers was future Worldcon Guest of Honor and Nebula Grand Master Brian Aldiss, who actually won a Hugo in 1962, just three years later. That No Award was so embarrassing that they discontinued the category until they could find a sponsor eight years later, which is how the Campbell Award, sponsored by Analog, came into being.

Please note that I’ve limited myself to Worldcons. I haven’t mentioned the X Document or the Lem Affair or any of the other notable wars you can find in various pro and fannish histories (or probably even by just googling them). This editorial is only concerned with The End of Worldcon As We Know It.

And hopefully by now the answer should be apparent. You want to End Worldcon As We Know It? Don’t feud. Don’t boycott. Don’t be unpleasant. Don’t be unreasonable. Don’t raise your voices in mindless anger.

Do all that and none of us will recognize the Worldcon that emerges.


Nicholas Whyte on From the Heart of Europe

“2015 Hugo fiction: How bloggers are voting” – July 3

For three of the last four years, I carried out a survey of how bloggers were planning to vote in the Hugos. Last year this proved a fairly effective methodology, calling Best Novel and Best Short Story correctly and pinging the actual winners as front-runners for Best Novella and Best Novelette. In 2013 two winners were clear and two were missed (including Best Novel). In 2011, however, my survey failed to pick a single winner of the four fiction categories. So this should be taken as a straw poll, necessarily incomplete and this year earlier than usual. There is certain to be a selection bias in that people who feel more strongly are more likely to blog about it; so we have no insight into the preferences of less articulate or invested voters.

Having said that, the results are interesting. In particular, No Award appears to be leading in all the short fiction categories (though not necessarily decisively in every case), and there is no clear single front-runner for Best Novel….


Patrick May

“2015 Hugo Awards Novel Category” – July 3

[Comments on all five nominees.]

My Hugo ballot for this category is:

  1. Skin Game
  2. The Goblin Emperor
  3. Ancillary Sword
  4. The Three Body Problem
  5. The Dark Between the Stars

I would really like to give “Skin Game” spots 1-3 and “The Goblin Emperor” and “Ancillary Sword” spots 4 and 5 to demonstrate my real preferences. The other two novels aren’t what I consider Hugo quality, but I’m leaving them above No Award because they’re no worse than some recent winners like “Redshirts”. (I’m not hating on Scalzi. I think all of the “Old Man’s War” series is Hugo worthy. But “Redshirts”? I’ve read better fanfic.)

If Kloos hadn’t declined his nomination, I would have ranked “Lines of Departure” just after “Ancillary Sword”.