Wonder and Horror at the KGB Bar With Langan and Kressel

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors John Langan and Matthew Kressel, both very familiar faces, at its longtime venue, the distinctively décored 2nd-floor Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village.

The Series is co-hosted by Kressel (for the past 8 years), however, as he was reading, David Mercurio Rivera ably filled in for him and welcomed the crowd. For over two decades, he noted, the Series, whose other co-host is Ellen Datlow, has presented readings (always free, and thank the Bar by buying drinks) both by luminaries and up-and-comers on the third Wednesday of the month. He announced that next month’s readers would be –

  • December 21 – Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker.
  • January 18, 2017 – Holly Black and Fran Wilde.
  • February 15 – Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann
  • March 15 – Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam.

(Details are available at here.)  Concluding, he introduced the first reader.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel

Aside from co-hosting, Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Nebula Award.  Additionally, he published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, and, for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional.

At the mike, he expressed his humility at reading here, which is a very different experience from hosting. He did not recite Blade Runner in its entirety from memory, but instead read “In Memory of a Summer’s Day,” a story that will be appearing in an as-yet-entitled Alice in Wonderland-themed anthology edited by Datlow. Wonderland has here become a tourist destination and its celebrated locales attractions – the Mad Tea Party, the Croquet Ground (where hedgehogs scream), the Queen’s Court (there are no actual beheadings), etc., and eateries offer Beautiful Soup and Lobster Quadrille. (There are warnings about the Drink Me bottles, and the Caterpillar has an illegal trade in psychedelic mushrooms. Before going down the Rabbit Hole, visitors must sign a waiver. There is also, by the way, a Through the Looking Glass Tour.) Narrated by a veteran tour guide, whose British accent Kressel happily did not attempt, the humor had a strong element of inherent horror (think about it – Wonderland is far from a fun place), and ultimately the question surfaces …where is Alice?

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

John Langan. Photo by Mark Blackman.

After a break, Datlow introduced John Langan. He is the author of the novels The Fisherman and House of Windows, and the collections The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters., as well as the co-editor of Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters. A forthcoming third collection of his stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press in February, and new stories will shortly appear in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki. This venue is one of the first places where he read, he said, and felt privileged to be back. The novella from whose beginning he read, “Hunger,” will be appearing in one of the Lovecraftian anthologies. The story, he revealed, is about two poets, though in the selection that he shared a boy and his father (who are into antique weaponry – they carry, respectively, a spear and a sword) confront an unearthly giant orange bear in their Upstate New York driveway who may be tied to a recent houseguest.

Copies of Langan’s and Kressel’s books were for sale at the back of the room by the Word Bookstores of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Datlow’s photos of the event may be seen at the Series’ website, http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/ .

World Fantasy Award Trophy Update

The World Fantasy Award administrators, who decided a year ago to stop using the Lovecraft bust created by Gahan Wilson, are just weeks away from making a decision in the competition to design the new World Fantasy Award trophy.

Editor Ellen Datlow, of World Fantasy Con’s awards administration, explained how winners were acknowledged at last weekend’s ceremony, and how near the competition is to being decided. “Each winner received a certificate indicating they’ve won. Once the Awards Administration picks the new award sculpture (hopefully within the next several weeks — we’re working with two finalists, tweaking their designs) the new awards will be sent out to the current crop of winners.”

Pixel Scroll 10/20/16 Pixeled In The Scroll By My Own Pixel

(1) PLAYING WITH REAL NUMBERS. Aaron tests the idea that EPH will not distort the results when there is no slate in a new post at Dreaming of Other Worlds. Find out what changed on the 2014 final Hugo ballot.

E Pluribus Hugo was passed largely in response to the results of the 2015 Hugo nomination process. I outlined the background leading up to this in my previous post about the 2016 E Pluribus Hugo Revised Hugo Finalists, and I’m not going to repeat myself here. Anyone who wants a summary of the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, the responses from non-Puppy Hugo voters, and an outline of the mechanics of E Pluribus Hugo can go read about that there.

The E Pluribus Hugo system had several goals. One goal was to dampen the influence of bloc voting. A second goal was to create a system that presented a nominating voter with a means of voting that was substantially similar to the one that voter had under the old system. The third was to create a system that would return results that were as close to those that the old system did in a year in which there was no bloc voting. To test this third goal, the system was used on the 2014 Hugo ballots, which was a year in which there was a Sad Puppy campaign, but no slate in any meaningful sense, and therefore no real bloc voting….

(2) SUMMERTIME. Chapter 10 of T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus has now been released.

When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…

(3) RIDERS OF THE PURPLE PAGE. Max Florschutz enters the perpetual debate about “literary” vs. “genre” in “You Just Keep Pushing Me Away…” .

Granted, I could write a whole thing on how genre fiction can (and does) approach the tough questions, demands intelligent thought and reason, and present ideas (and when it comes down to it, most who disagree are either cherry picking their examples or of the mindset of “that doesn’t support the message and ideas I want,” which doesn’t help). I could talk about that, pull examples, etc. But I won’t. Not at this point.

No, instead, I’m going to tackle a different point. The idea that “literary” fiction is automatically intelligent and thought-provoking. Because this isn’t accurate. No, more accurate would be that it’s fiction that thinks it’s intelligent or thought provoking, written by someone who thinks they’re presenting something much more “intellectual” than it actually is. When it really isn’t … but they’re too “smart” to do the research to know otherwise.

… What’s sad about this is I could see myself enjoying more “literary” works.  The writing is more tell, sure, and more purple, but sometimes that’s pretty good purple. Sometimes there’s some neat ideas buried in there.

But my issue is that they are buried in there. It’s like “literary” writers can’t be bothered to do the most basic of research. And that pushes me away. Back towards genre fiction, where, despite not being the “intelligent” fiction choice, the science is real, the facts are usually real (or pretty close), and even when I’m reading about fantasy kingdom of some kind, said kingdom is actually laid out like a real government and civilization would be. As opposed to the “literary” version, which comes off feeling like Disney-mythology in comparison.

It just keeps pushing me away. Especially with all the battles over how “literary” fiction is the “superior” fiction, or the more intelligent, or the more meaningful, etc. I just can’t take a story seriously that can’t grasp basic parts of life, like how a car works. Or a TV. Or science.

(4) ANOTHER MIDDLE-EARTH TALE ON WAY TO PRESS. “JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth love story to be published next year” reports The Guardian.

JRR Tolkien’s legend of the mortal man Beren and the immortal elf Lúthien – a story that meant so much to the Lord of the Rings author that the characters’ names are engraved on the headstone shared by him and his wife – is to be published next year.

The Middle-earth tale tells of the love between the mortal man and the immortal elf. Lúthien’s father, an Elvish lord, is against their relationship, and so gives Beren an impossible task to fulfil before the two can be married, said HarperCollins, which will publish Beren and Lúthien next May. The pair then go on to rob “the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril”, or jewel.

(5) PULITZER EXPANDS ELIGIBILITY. Crain’s New York Business reports print and online magazines are now eligible for Pulitzer Prizes in all journalism categories.

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Wednesday that entries of work done in 2016 will be accepted beginning in December for the 2017 prizes.

The board says it made its decision after two years of experimentation.

New entry guidelines are posted at Pulitzer.org.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY VAMPIRE

  • Born October 20, 1882 — Bela Lugosi.

lugosi-birthday-card

(7) HORROR READING.Ellen Datlow’s photos of the “Children of Lovecraft Reading October 16, 2016” are on Flickr.

Laird Barron, John Langan, A. C. Wise, Siobhan Carroll, Richard Kadrey, and David Nickle all read wonderfully at the Lovecraft Bar on Avenue B in NYC’s east village.

chidren-of-lovecraft-reading

(8) PLAYTIME. I got a kick from John Scalzi’s first line in one of his mallet-is-out warnings:

  1. Hey, two political posts in the same day! Can you tell I finished my book?

(9) TIME TO LEVEL UP YOUR ALIENS. Motherboard’s post “The Way We’ve Been Imagining Aliens Is All Wrong” sets us straight.

Why do we always picture aliens as distorted humans?

Science fiction has failed to creatively, or even accurately, imagine alien life, said British science writer Philip Ball in an article, “The Aeon Idea: Why our imagination for alien life is so impoverished.” Now Aeon, a digital ideas and culture magazine, just released a video called Stranger Aliens, adapted from Ball’s theory and narrated by Ball himself.

 

(10) DIVERSITY ON DISCOVERY. Otaku-kun at Haibane comments on the proposal: “A Muslim crew member on Star Trek: Discovery?”

I think including an explicit Muslim would be jarring since tehre is no other “real world” religion represented in Star Trek, at least for the Human society. It was Roddenberry’s world and he chose to eliminate religion from it. Adding a character who is explicitly Muslim complicates canon and introduces tension that undermines Star Trek’s appeal to all of humanity. Then you also need canon explanations for the status of Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. This mess is exactly why religion was introduced to DS9 using the alien Bajoran society rather than picking one from our own.

The solution is to recognize that Islamophobia is not an intellectual reaction to a religion’s precepts, but rooted in racial and ethnic fears. Having a stand-in on the crew for a “Muslim-y” ethnic type would be great because that way when someone sees a Muslim on the street, they should be able to counter their knee-jerk stereotype by relating that person to this crewmember. Therefore, the ethnic choice of the actor is relevant to maximize that stereotype-defeating analogy. Which ethnicity works best for this purpose?

(11) WHO’S THE GEEZER? selenay articulates the cross-generational stresses affecting fanfic writers in “Regarding all the AO3 bashing” (AO3 = Archive of Our Own).

Us olds remember the old days. The days when you had to label all slash–even when it was just hand-holding–as NC17 and plaster it with warnings. The days when only certain archives accepted slash at all, and you could get your FFN account or LJ suspended if someone objected to your boy kissing fics, so everything was locked down under f-lock or posted to the adult slash-friendly archives with a thousand warning pop-ups. The days when RPF was never to be spoken of because almost no archive accepted it. The days when we all danced around carefully because at any moment, our favourite fics could be deleted and never seen again if a site advertiser threatened to withdraw funding….

Current fandom has splintered and seems to have broken into generational buckets. The youngest part of fandom is on Tumblr and Snapchat. The older part of fandom is on Tumblr a bit, but not much, and many of us have stepped a long way back from it because we’re made so unwelcome. We’re still here on LJ, DW, Twitter, and Imzy, where the youngs aren’t so much. Due to those divides, there isn’t that interaction and mutual learning, so the younger fanfolk don’t know the history. They don’t know why AO3 exists and why we’re so passionate about not censoring it. They’ve never had to creep around on the edges of fandom because they were slashers, or RPF-ers, or wrote explicit fics after FFN banned them.

The divide is also contributing to the feeling that anyone over thirty shouldn’t be fannish anymore, and I suspect that’s part of the AO3 wankery. There aren’t many people from that very young end of the fandom involved with the OTW or AO3, so it feels like the olds run it. We created it, we fundraised for it, we continue to work on it and we’re old, by their standards. We should have shuffled off to our graveyards or our adult lives or something.

Except we haven’t, because when we were the fandom babies, there were all these fans older than us who were still active and we learned we’ll never be too old for fandom. With the divide getting so sharp between the youngest and everyone else, they’re not getting that part of the fannish experience, either. They can’t imagine being thirty (or forty, or fifty), never mind being that age and still being in fandom.

You’ve also got the problem that Tumblr-style activism is very different from what we were doing five or ten years ago. It’s all about protecting young eyes not just from the content, but from knowing the content is even there. About removing it so it doesn’t need to be thought of. For them, “don’t like, don’t read” isn’t enough. They don’t want anyone to read it or see it or write it.

(12) A VISIT TO ANTIQUITY. James Davis Nicoll has posted his latest Young People Read Old SF, assigning them “Snowball Effect” by Katherine MacLean.

Although she won a Nebula Award for The Missing Man, Katherine MacLean is hardly a household name these days. Her most productive period ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. That Nebula was won in 1971; other honours (such as being a professional guest of honor at the very first WisCon in 1977) are almost all of a similar vintage. She was admired for her ability to combine character with plot, character being an element of fiction many of her contemporaries seemed willing to do without.

In her heyday, MacLean was one of the few high-profile women working in the field. In the specific context of these reviews, she is remarkable in a different way: the first author selected who is still with us: born in 1925, she is but 91. Her birthday is January 22: join me in raising a glass to this grand figure of science fiction.

(13) LARPING FOR PEACE. In a piece on Vimeo called “Bjarke Pedersen:  Becoming the Story,”  Danish LARPer Bjarke Pedersen explains what “Nordic LARP” is and how in Scandinavia, LARPers work together to come up with stories they wouldn’t be able to create on their own.  Pedersen’s video was presented at the Future of Storytelling conference held in New York City two weeks ago.

As the Creative Director of Odyssé and one of the world’s experts on LARPing, Bjarke Pedersen has spent many years exploring the power of this collaborative form of storytelling. He’s observed that by getting a chance to engage with different characters, LARPers are also able to learn more about themselves. LARPing is also particularly powerful for the ways in which it relies on building trust among people. Many individuals are able to tell their own stories within a given framework, but it is the larger output of so many different stories being told at the same time that makes LARPing so unique and powerful.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Aziz Poonawalla, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper.]

 

A Dozen “Year’s Best”

By Carl Slaughter: A dozen editors, some of them household names in the speculative community, take their stab at the year’s best stories.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois

dozois-years-best

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume One edited by Neil Clarke

best-sf-of-the-year-clarke

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 edited by Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams

BASFF-2015-220x330

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 Edition edited by Rich Horton

horton-best-2016

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Ten edited by Jonathan Strahan

strahan-best-v-10

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams

BASFF-2016-2_01

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016 edited by Paula Guran

guran-years-best-novellas-2016

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2016 Edition edited by Paula Guran

guran-horror-2016

Nebula Awards Showcase 2016 edited by Mercedes Lackey

lackey-nebula-awards-2016

The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF 2015: Volume 2 edited by David Afsharirad

Years Best milSF 2015

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eight edited by Ellen Datlow

datlow-horror-v-8

The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 8  edited by Allan Kaster

kaster-years-top-ten-v-8

 

Pixel Scroll 9/15/16 Scroll On the Water, Pixels In The Sky

(1) A BEST EDITOR WINNER. SFFWorld interviewed editor Ellen Datlow:

A working life spent reading SF,  Fantasy, and horror short stories sounds like a dream come true.  Are there down sides to being an editor? Do you have any advice for aspiring editors?

ED:  I’ve always loved short stories, so working in the short fiction field is indeed the perfect job for me. It’s hard to find time to read outside the genres in which I’m currently working. I mostly read short fiction for work, so picking novels that I hope I’ll enjoy is the challenge. They usually have to be dark/horror so I can cover them in my annual Best Horror of the Year. The administration is a pain: sending out contracts, paying royalties to a hundred writers is onerous (even with Paypal).  But everything else is great. I love the whole editing process, from soliciting new stories that would not exist except for me asking; working with my authors on story revision (if necessary); and even the line edit.

Advice: Read. Read slush. If you don’t love reading, you have no reason to be an editor

(2) SCIENCE ADVISOR. Financial Times profiled Cal Tech physicist Spyridon Michalakis in “’I help Hollywood film-makers get their science right’”. (Warning: I had to answer a 10-question survey ad to see the full article.)

In the article Michalakis discusses his work through The Science and Entertainment Exchange, “which connects film and TV producers with scientists.”  He’s consulted on Ant-Man, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and other shows.

Here’s what he had to say about Gravity:

“It’s a shame when I see films that inadvertently forgo scientific accuracy for added drama.  For instance, in the movie Gravity when Sandra Bullock’s character grabs hold of George Clooney’s character while they’re both floating out in space, he tells her she has to let go of him, otherwise both of them are going to fly off and die because he’s pulling her farther and farther away from the space station.  The trouble is, they’re so far away from Earth that, in reality, nothing would actually be pulling them.

“I find myself watching that scene and thinking they could have achieved the same drama just as easily with something called ‘conservation of momentum.” With this, the only way for her to get back to the station would be for Clooney’s character to actively sacrifice himself by pushing Bullock away from him.  It would have been real science and it would have made the movie better.  You watch these things and you say to yourself, ‘I’m just a phone call away.'”

(3) OHH-KAYYY…. The Washington D.C. public library has an idea for drawing attention to oft-challenged books. Is it innovative, or over-the-top?

Every year, libraries around the country observe Banned Books Week, to remind the public that even well known and much loved books can be the targets of censorship. This year, Washington D.C.’s public library came up with a clever idea to focus attention on the issue: a banned books scavenger hunt.

Now, readers are stalking local shops, cafes and bookstores looking for copies of books that are hidden behind distinctive black and white covers. There is no title on the cover, just a phrase — such as FILTHY, TRASHY or PROFANE — which describes the reason why some people wanted the book banned.

(4) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CONSERVATIVE. John Shirley, who identifies as a progressive, argues “Why Conservatives are a Necessary Component of a Vital Society” in a post for Tangent Online. I have to say it brings to mind the ending of Harlan Ellison’s “Beast Who Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.”

….Every democracy genuinely needs conservatives. And not so we can have someone to argue with. We need them for their perspective; we need them for their call for individual hard work, which is always a good thing in itself, when people can find it; we need them for the reluctance at least some of them show to get engaged in wars that squander blood and treasure. And we need them to be skeptical of our schemes.

We need them to push back.….

This website, Tangent Online, relates to the science-fiction field, and so do I. From time to time the sf field has been storm-lashed by political controversies, essentially conservative vs. liberal and vice versa. Going back, it cuts both ways: back in the day, Donald Wollheim and Fred Pohl and Judith Merril and others were slagged by conservative sf writers and editors for leaning left. Now the pendulum has swung way, way the other direction and certain reasonable conservatives amongst science fiction writers and critics are sometimes being over scrutinized, even punished, for outspokenness and some fairly normal speech tropes—most recently, Dave Truesdale was actually ejected from the Worldcon for having declared on a short story panel, in the space of a few minutes, that science fiction was being unfairly truncated by politics, and free speech gagged by political correctness emanating from the left. I listened to a tape of the remarks and could find nothing that broke any convention rules. Some defending the convention fall back on claims that his use of the term “pearl clutchers” is sexist, is hateful to women. But in my experience the term does not apply to women, particularly—it’s about people who are making a drama of nothing, probably just to get attention. Underlying the con committee’s action was, I suspect, emotional fallout from the “Sad Puppies” Hugo Award controversy. But people shouldn’t let emotions dictate their interpretation of the rules.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 15, 1907 – Fay  Wray

(6) RICK RIORDAN PRESENTS. Disney has announced a new Rick Riordan Presents imprint reports Publishers Weekly. Riordan will curate a line of books that introduces selected writers of mythology-based novels.

Rick Riordan has gotten a variation on the same question from his fans about a zillion times: When are you going to write about (fill in the blank): the Hindu gods and goddesses? Ancient Chinese mythology? Native American legends?

Now, he has an answer – of sorts: Disney-Hyperion is launching Rick Riordan Presents, an imprint devoted to mythology-based books for middle grade readers. The imprint, which will be led by Riordan’s editor, Stephanie Owens Lurie, hopes to launch with two books in summer 2018. The books will not be written by Riordan, whose role will be closer to curator than author.

…The plan is to launch the imprint in July 2018 with two books, though those books have not yet been acquired yet. “We’ve approached a couple of people but some of them are adult writers so they would be trying to do something completely different,” Lurie said. “The point of making this announcement now is to get the word out about what we’re looking for.”

“Rick just can’t write fast enough to satisfy his fans,” said Lurie, whose official title will be editorial director of the imprint. “I think he’s doing an incredible job writing two books a year already.”

There’s also this: ”I know he feels that, in some instances, the books his readers are asking for him to write are really someone else’s story to tell,” Lurie said.

(7) MAJOR SF ART EXHIBIT. The IX Preview Weekend Popup Exhibition will take place at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, DE from September 23-25. Tickets required.

Imaginative Realism combines classical painting techniques with narrative subjects, focusing on the unreal, the unseen, and the impossible. In partnership with IX Arts organizers, the Delaware Art Museum will host the first IX Preview Weekend, celebrating Imaginative Realism and to kick off IX9–the annual groundbreaking art show, symposium, and celebration dedicated solely to the genre.

Imaginative Realism is the cutting edge of contemporary painting and illustration and often includes themes related to science fiction and fantasy movies, games, and books. A pop-up exhibition and the weekend of events will feature over 16 contemporary artists internationally recognized for their contributions to Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Marvel, DC Comics, Blizzard Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast, among others.

There will be workshops by two leading sf artists as well.

Sept 24 @ 7:00 pm

Workshop with Bob Eggleton: Seascapes Sept 24 @ 10:15 am – 12:15 pm and 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm During this hands on demonstration and group painting salon, Bob Eggleton will walk participants through creating a seascape in acrylic paint with a nod to the ocean as ‘character’. Incorporated into the illustration storytelling aspect of this demonstration will be construction of the ocean as narrative using elements, from the subtle to the extreme, like sea monsters, antique ships, rocks, waves, clouds, lighting, and odd bits of flotsam and jetsam debris. Bob will share his own experience as well as that of his heroes, classic 19th and 20th century illustrators and fine art Masters.  Pre-registration required. Supplies: Attendees should bring preferred acrylic painting setup, including brushes, paints, and paper/panels/boards.

Drawing Workshop and Lecture with Donato Giancola: Compositional Drawing Sept 25 @ 10:15 am – 12:15 pm and 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Donato will share his knowledge and approach to producing skillfully drafted drawings. From sketch to finish, the aesthetic and technical decisions the artist makes will be laid bare for observation and comments offering wonderful insight into the foundations of creativity of a modern artist. The four-hour workshop is for the artist who aspires to pursue further development and refinement of their skills in composition and as storytellers. Attendees of all skill levels are welcome as the focus of the workshop is upon creative problem solving, not technical execution. Pre-registration required. Supplies: Attendees should bring along their own preferred drawing utensils (pencils, paper,sketchbooks, etc) as well as a few favorite images/photos of themes they wish to create work upon. Alternative drawing supplies will also be available for use.

delaware-sf-art

(8) WHAT’S A HUGO WIN WORTH? Kay Taylor Rea of Uncanny Magazine says Hugo wins are helping sales there. (Uncanny won the 2016 Best Semiprozine Hugo.)

(9) NOT LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG. Mary Robinette Kowal posted a photo of what’s in the suitcase she’s taking to the Writing Excuses Workshop.

A suitcase of things I need for the Writing Excuses Workshop.

A post shared by Mary Robinette Kowal (@maryrobinettekowal) on

(10) NO ONE BEHIND THE WHEEL. Matthew Johnson is the latest Filer to leave a poetic masterwork in comments:

Inspired by item 7:

My self-driving car must think it queer
To stop without a charger near.
I wonder, did I hurt its pride
When I pressed DRIVER OVERRIDE?

Whose woods these are I think I spy:
in June the Google Car went by
And so the trees, though deep in snow, are green
When viewed upon my tablet screen.

Most days I doze away the route
That my car drives on our commute
And trade the sight of forests dark and deep
For just another hour’s sleep.

This night, the darkest of the year
Some demon woke me, passing here,
And so I stopped, though home is far
Got out and left my loyal car.

A single line of deer track goes
Into the forest, deep with snow
My road, I know, was once just such a trail
Blazed by cloven hooves and white-tipped tails

Crowdsourced by deer to find the gentlest route
Through tree and mountain, lake and chute
Then followed feet, at first in leather clad
To travel where the hooves of deer had.

My car’s soft beep awakens me:
To stay longer would unreasonably
Expose the maker to liability
And besides, it voids the warranty.

Well, a contract is a contract, after all,
And speaks louder than the forest’s call
So I return, my feet no longer free,
Because I clicked on I AGREE.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have Terms of Use to keep,
And miles to go while fast asleep,
And miles to go while fast asleep.

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

Mummies and Mars at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 20 — the 47th anniversary of the first Moon Landing – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors David D. Levine and Helen Marshall at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, and the Series for the excellence of its readers; readings are always free.

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, exhorted us to buy drinks (generously, there is no cover charge), and reported on upcoming events in the Series. Next month’s readers, on August 17, are Leanna Renee Hieber and Theodora Goss. Reading on September 21 will be Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong; on October 19 Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan; and on November 16 John Langan and Kressel himself. (Details are available at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.) Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

David D. Levine is the author of the novel Arabella of Mars and over fifty sf and fantasy stories, one of which “Tk’tk’tk,” won the Hugo Award.  Some of his stories have been anthologized in the Endeavour Award-winning collection Space Magic.  (Full disclosure:  years ago, we were in an apa, or fannish amateur press association, together.  He is, of course, not the New York gamer of that name – though, to their mutual consternation, that distinction was lost by one Worldcon’s “Voodoo Message Board” – nor the caricaturist at the New York Review of Books.)

Levine began with a well-received rap (“Ey girl, what’s your name?,” complete with background music) summarizing the plot of Arabella of Mars, then read from the Prologue, “The Last Straw.” The novel is set in an alternate cosmology (or alternate astrophysics) previously described as “Mars the way it used to be before science ruined it,” with canals, Martians and breathable atmosphere (Venus, of course, has swamps), a reality – a term here used loosely – in which further there is interplanetary atmosphere and airships voyage between worlds.  The heroine, Arabella Ashby, an 18th-century English colonist on Mars (the use of “Marsman,” to distinguish from Martians, was employed as well in a similarly titled novel about a girl named Podkayne), we learn, has been hauled off to Earth and urgently must return to Mars to save her family fortune.  In the final part of his presentation, Arabella is attempting to do just that, disguised as a boy among an airship’s crew as it lifts from London.  Venerable literary devices blend imaginatively and charmingly.

Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall

After a break, Series co-host much-honored editor Ellen Datlow introduced the second reader of the night. Helen Marshall’s first collection of fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, won the Sydney J. Bounds Award in 2013, and her second, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Embalmer,” appears in The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, though, as she described it, it’s “the least mummy-like” story that she could write.  It was nonetheless quirky and amusing.  The boy Henry has a penchant and talent for digging up and mummifying neighbors’ dead and buried pets, including the girl next door’s (Dalia), late Labradane, which he’s anonymously gifted to her and which she smuggles to school.  (We must count it as fortunate that her little brother was not buried in the backyard.)

Copies of Arabella of Mars and Gifts for the One Who Comes After were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Afterward, the crowd headed out to dinner.

World Fantasy Award Design Competition Announced

The World Fantasy Award administrators, who decided last year to stop using the Lovecraft bust created by Gahan Wilson, have opened a competition to design the new World Fantasy Award trophy.

Lovecraft’s place will not be taken by another writer:

The ideal design will be simple and elegant, representing both fantasy and horror, without bearing any physical resemblance to any person, living or dead.

The winning design must be sturdy, and able to survive shipping undamaged.

The award statuette will need to fit on a base capable of displaying the name of the award recipient, the year and the award category. The size should be similar to that of the current award (approx. 10″ high x 4″ wide x 5″ deep). It will also need to be a robust piece of work that can travel safely-in the past, awards have been sent to South America, Great Britain, Europe and Australia, so they cannot be fragile, fiddly, prone to come apart or change form with age or extremes of temperature. In the world we live in, they are routinely subjected to security search, so please bear that in mind as well.

… There must be space for a plaque with the details of the specific award, the winner(s) and the year.

The deadline to enter is September 30, 2016. The first round of submissions should include drawings, and give an estimated cost to produce individual copies of the award — up to 20 may be needed in any one year.

Then, up to four artists will be asked to prepare a maquette (a scale model) for review. The board expects to choose the winning design from this group. The winner will be kept secret until the 2015 award winners are revealed at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus on October 30.

The administrators’ announcement also stressed — with boldface type — that the winning artist will not receive any money for the work, which may have overshadowed the other perks being offered:

Whilst there will be no monetary remuneration, as the WFA is not a financial body and does not hold funds of any kind, the winning artist will be publicised as widely as possible. In addition, the winning artist will, for the next ten years, receive two complimentary memberships to the World Fantasy Convention. Also, that artist will receive two complimentary tickets to the 2016 banquet, and complimentary space in the Columbus art room. The winning artist will receive discounted art space for the ten years after 2016.

The new competition is a reboot of last November’s call for artists to submit new award designs. The earlier call did not mention any compensation, which at the time provoked John Picacio to author an “Artists Beware” post.

The latest announcement was greeted with a fresh expression of outrage by Mary Robinette Kowal (“MRK’s very strong feelings about the WFC award specs and paying artists”), a blog post paraphrasing her letter to the award administrators —

…So when World Fantasy announced that they were going to replace the existing award, I asked for more information.

Today I got it. And it is bullshit.

I say this with some pain. A couple of the people on the committee are friends and I feel like they should know better. So I sent back a letter saying that I would not be submitting a design and asking them to change their award criteria.

Here are the points I made, in a slightly edited for in order to provide more information for anyone who is considering submitting a design.

  1. “there will be no monetary remuneration”– World Fantasy is “not a financial body and does not hold funds of any kind.” Okay, fair enough, but if you can require conventions to give away memberships, then you can require them to compensate the artist for their time. There’s also this thing called crowdfunding that would allow payment of an artist and could be done in cooperation with another organization.
  2. “The copyright of the piece must remain with the WFA for the lifetime of the award.” — While a buyout is not uncommon for work-for-hire, it usually comes at a higher price to represent the value of the copyright. There are multiple legal options to allow the artist to maintain the copyright, while at the same time protecting World Fantasy’s right to use and control the use of the image. An unpaid copyright grab is unnecessary and inappropriate….

However, John Picacio responded more favorably to the latest call because the winner will now receive some compensation, even if it is not in cash.

On the subject of the World Fantasy Awards design competition: I’m glad I spoke out in November. I’m glad Mary Robinette Kowal shared her eloquence today. We stand with working artists. May I say this though: Let’s please not lose sight of the fact that the World Fantasy Awards administration is now offering to the winning artist two complimentary memberships for ten years + two complimentary 2016 banquet tickets + complimentary space in the 2016 art show + discounted art space for ten years in the the art show. This is a SIGNIFICANT improvement from their November announcement, and I credit them for doing so, and I credit ALL who continue to speak up on behalf of working creators throughout this process. I’m not sure if the new announcement as posted on Rodger Turner’s site is even fully finished yet, so I won’t share it yet in case further improvements are added.

For example, two WFC memberships per year multiplied by 10 years amounts to several thousand dollars in value.

But Picacio continues to make the point that better compensation will lead to a superior design.

Kowal and World Fantasy board member Ellen Datlow spent the day in a Twitter dialog. With fuller information Kowal agreed one of her objections did not apply.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Fantastic Fiction at the KGB Bar Opens the Year With Readings by Delia Sherman and Ilana C. Meyer

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, January 20, the Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted readings by authors Delia Sherman and Ilana C. Myer in the Red Room of the KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The room, up a steep set of stairs to the 2nd floor, filled up quickly.

The Series, co-hosted by Mathew Kressel (author of King of Shards) and award-winning editor Ellen Datlow, has, for over a decade, on the third Wednesday of the month, presented readings (always free) both by established science fiction and fantasy writers and by new voices in the genre.

After flitting around photographing the crowd (the photos are posted here), Ellen welcomed the audience, then sadly reported the news that Tor senior editor David Hartwell had fallen the day before, suffering massive head injuries and a brain hemorrhage from which he was not expected to recover. (Soon after, he did pass.) This month’s readings are dedicated to him, she said. She then announced upcoming readings in the Series: On February 17, the readers will be Carola Dibbell and Gemma Files; on March 16, Rio Youers and David Nickle; and on April 20, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. She then introduced the first reader of the evening.

Ilana C. Myer is the author of the just-published Last Song Before Night, an epic fantasy about poets and dark enchantments. She read from the still-in-progress sequel to her debut novel, tentatively titled Fire Dance. In the scene offered, Ned (Lord Alterra), a court poet, has come to a neighboring kingdom to investigate dark magic. An audience with the queen leads to an assignation where they play “the game of kings” – no, not that, chess. (He’s surprised too.) Unfortunately, while it was engaging, her selection was brief and did not allow us a sense of who the main character was or a glimpse of the story’s larger plot.

After a break, Matt thanked the Bar, and urged the crowd to support it (there’s no cover charge, he reminded) by buying drinks, even soft drinks, then introduced the evening’s concluding reader.

Delia Sherman is the author – or “the cause” – of numerous short stories and novels, including the Norton Award-winning The Freedom Maze and the upcoming novel, The Evil Wizard Smallbone (from which I heard her read at December’s NY Review of SF reading).  She entertained us with an excerpt from her novella “The Great Detective,” which is coming out from Tor.com in February, reading “with a Welsh accent, where warranted.” “The game is afoot” in a foggy, steampunk London, as Welsh baronet and inventor Sir Arthur Cwmlech, accompanied by his apprentice Tacy Gof and Angharad Cwmlech, a literal “ghost in the machine” (an English Civil War era spirit inhabiting an automaton), consults Mycroft Holmes about the theft of his “illogic engine,” which would imbue mechanicals with more humanlike qualities. Holmes has his own automaton, a “reasoning machine” that resembles him closely enough “almost” to be his younger brother, though, of course, is thinner. (We know his methods.)

At the back of the room, copies of Last Song Before Night and books by Sherman were for sale by the Word bookstore of Brooklyn and (this is new) Jersey City. Much of the audience hung around for a while afterward, then headed out for dinner.

Pixel Scroll 11/24 The Choler out of Space

(1) Fans beat the pros at trivia – well, of course they did.

The awkward moment when Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss came third in a Doctor Who pub quiz.

The trio – who called themselves The Time Wasters – clearly didn’t know their wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff

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(2) John Picacio teed off against the World Fantasy Con’s call for new award design submissions:

Artists — how do you feel about someone who says, “Give us your ideas for free. If we decide we like one of them, we’ll use it for our own personal branding and for our own prestige. We will hire someone to make multiple images of it and that person will not receive compensation either. We have zero respect for any of you as working professionals.”

As of today, that’s the official message that the World Fantasy Convention just transmitted to all professional artists as the WFC searches for a new image for their World Fantasy Award. See their new “World Fantasy Award Call for Submissions”.

That’s right. Your ideas and your work — for nothing.

It’s an extremely unprofessional message, and it’s not one that befits experienced professionals. It says to all of its members — writers, editors, agents, publishers — that the organization doesn’t value its own branding enough to properly invest in it. That’s very sad to see.

This stirred up debate among commenters on Picacio’s Facebook page, including Ellen Datlow, Sean Wallace, Irene Gallo and others.

(3) Two days ago I ran David Hartwell’s photo of a NY subway car wrapped in a graphical ad for The Man in the High Castle  — but today Amazon announced it will remove the ads amid uproar over their use of insignia inspired by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The online retailer made the decision to pull the ads amid widespread coverage of the wrap, which cover half the 42nd Street shuttle’s seats in decals of the American flag with the stars replaced by an emblem that closely resembles the Nazi Reichsadler, the heraldic eagle used by the Third Reich. The other side features a recreation of a World War II-era Japanese flag in red, white and blue….

Straphanger Ann Toback was disturbed to find the posters wallpapered on the Grand Central shuttle.

“Hate speech, hate insignia requires a response when you see it, you don’t just say, ‘oh, it’s New York,” said Toback. “You see, you have a choice to stare at the Japanese empire insignia or the Nazi insignia.”

A spokesman for the MTA said there were no grounds to reject the ads because they do not violate the authority’s content-neutral ad standards, which only prohibits advertising that disparages an individual or group. ..

Some activists and officials, however, expressed outrage that the advertisements were allowed to run.

“As a Jew, I am offended, and as a New Yorker, I am embarrassed,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Dinowitz. “The MTA should be ashamed of themselves and this ignorant advertising campaign, as it is offensive not just to the Jewish community, but to all Americans.”

Mayor de Blasio also decried the ads, calling them “irresponsible.”

…Not everyone was bothered by the marketing. One rider said, “It’s not like the end of the world, it’s not specifically targeting a group of people. It’s just for a show.”

(4) Justin Raimondo contrasts the novel and miniseries in “Myths of Empire: The Man in the High Castle: a review of sorts” at AntiWar.com.

Dick’s original version would never be allowed on American television: the political realities of our time forbid it. Empires are founded on mythologies – narratives in which historical events are interpreted in a way that justifies the status quo, and crowds out any dissenting version, consigning the truth – if such there is – to the margins.

(5) Myke Cole posted a photo of him receiving his promotion from NYPD Commissioner Bratton. (All I can find in bios is that he does “specialized work” there.)

(6) At National Review Online, Katherine Timpf discusses how she got death threats after she joked on the Fox News Channel comedy show Red Eye “I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now.”

And:

“Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive.”

Now, I received a few death threats right after I posted the aforementioned tweet — which, by the way, was why I was saying Star Wars fans were “crazy” in the first place. Overall, though, it wasn’t a big deal, and I kind of forgot about it.

Then, this week, one Star Wars super-super-super fan who calls himself “AlphaOmegaSin” made a ten-minute (!) video brutally ripping me apart.

(7) “NASA not ready for dangers of deep space, auditors say” writes Jerry Markon of the Washington Post.

American culture and cinema often glorifies space travel, from the heroic early adventurers of “The Right Stuff” to the more recent rescue of Matt Damon’s astronaut character from Mars in “The Martian.”

But the reality is less glamorous, with journeys into deep space posing serious dangers to astronauts that include inadequate food, radiation exposure and heightened risks of developing cancer and other maladies. And NASA is not yet ready to handle those dangers as it moves ahead with plans to send the first human mission to Mars by the 2030s, according to a recent audit.

NASA inspector general Paul K. Martin found that the legendary space agency “faces significant challenges” ensuring the safety of any Mars-bound astronauts,  and that its schedule to limit the risks is overly “optimistic.” As a result, he said, Mars crews likely will have to accept more risks to their health and safety than their predecessors who went to the moon and work in the International Space Station.

(8) “Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Masterpiece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tantalizing Animation” at Open Culture.

Last year we featured artwork from the Dune movie that never was, a collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky, the mysticism-minded Chilean director of such oft-described-as-mind-blowing pictures as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, and the artist Jean Giraud, better known as Mœbius, creator of oft-described-as-mind-blowing comics as Arzach, Blueberry, and The Airtight GarageIf ever a meeting of two creative minds made more sense, I haven’t heard about it. Alas, Jodorowsky and Mœbius’ work didn’t lead to their own Dune movie, but it didn’t mark the end of their artistic partnership, as anyone who’s read The Incal knows full well.

Telling a metaphysical, satirical, space-operatic story in the form of comic books originally published throughout the 1980s (with sequel and prequel series to come over the following 25 years), The Incal on the page became the fullest realization of Jodorowsky and Mœbius’ combined vision.

(9) Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.

“But more significant,” notes the Washington Post, “was the landing of the rocket booster, which descended, flew through 119 mph high-altitude crosswinds and touched down on the landing pad by firing its engine again. The company based in Kent, Wash., said it landed just four-and-a-half feet from the center.”

 

(10) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman

(11) “How an industry of ‘Amazon entrepreneurs’ pulled off the Internet’s craftiest catfishing scheme” in the Washington Post.

There’s only one problem with Dagny Taggart — she doesn’t exist. Evidence collected and examined by The Washington Post suggests that Taggart (who is named for a character in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”) is a made-up identity used by an Argentine man named Alexis Pablo Marrocco. Marrocco, meanwhile — and other self-described “Kindle entrepreneurs” like him — form part of a growing industry of “Amazon catfish.”

The catfishing process varies according to the specific “entrepreneur” using it, but it typically follows the same general steps: After hiring a remote worker to write an e-book for the Kindle marketplace, Amazon’s e-book store, publishers put it up for sale under the name and bio of a fictional expert. Frequently, Kindle entrepreneurs will then buy or trade for good book reviews. (Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)

At the end of this process, they hope to have a Kindle store bestseller: something with a catchy title about a hot topic, such as gambling addiction or weight loss.

“Making money with Kindle is by far the easiest and fastest way to get started making money on the Internet today,” enthuses one video that promises to guide viewers to riches. “You don’t even need to write the books yourself!”

(12) Cute set of fandom greeting cards.

Sorry fav show canc tumblr_nwv6pwxkGE1r8pdmio3_500

(13) ‘Tis the season to break this out again: WKRP “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” Thanksgiving

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Amy Sterling Casil, Brian Z., John King Tarpinian, and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day GP.]

The Jocular Joshi

Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, still enraged by the decision to stop using a bust of H. P. Lovecraft bust as the World Fantasy Award, ferments a mix of false equivalence and bitter mockery in his November 19 blog post “More Crusades for the Crusaders!”

I have been led to believe that the celebrated editor Ellen Datlow was a major force in getting the Lovecraft bust discarded from the World Fantasy Awards. If this is so, it casts a dubious light on Datlow herself. One has to wonder about the moral compass of a person who has materially benefited from Lovecraft’s increasing reputation by opportunistically assembling two volumes of Lovecraft-inspired fiction (Lovecraft Unbound [2009] and Lovecraft’s Monsters [2014]) and who then turns around and kicks Lovecraft figuratively in the posterior. Sadly, she does not appear to be alone in this kind of behaviour.

Joshi continues on, constructing arguments why crusaders should also attack Edgar Allan Poe (icon of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award), L. Frank Baum, George Washington, Daniel José Older and Jeff VanderMeer.

I repeat what I’ve said before: Lovecraft will be around a lot longer than any of his current dectractors. Let’s have a show of hands, people, to see who you think will be more remembered in history: H. P. Lovecraft or…Scott Nicolay? Nick Mamatas? Jeff VanderMeer? Daniel José Older? S. J. Bagley? Edward Morris?

Okay, okay, I’ll stop laughing now.