Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —

  • For THE MAGICIANS

“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”

  • For THE EXPANSE

“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”

  • For A GAME OF THRONES:

“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KAIJU

  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/17 You Cannot Move This Pixel. It Is Still Used By A Scroll On Your Computer

(1) JUST DESERTS. Will Collins describes a little-known influence on Frank Herbert’s Dune, in “The Secret History of Dune” at LA Review of Books.

Melange, the hallucinogenic drug at the heart of Herbert’s book, acts as a prerequisite for interstellar travel and can only be obtained on one harsh, desert planet populated by tribes of warlike nomads. Even a casual political observer will recognize the parallels between the universe of Dune and the Middle East of the late 20th century. Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert’s genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus.

Lesley Blanch, the book’s author, has a memorable biography. A British travel writer of some renown, she is perhaps best known for On the Wilder Shores of Love (1954), an account of the romantic adventures of four British women in the Middle East. She was also a seasoned traveler, a keen observer of Middle Eastern politics and culture, and a passionate Russophile. She called The Sabres of Paradise “the book I was meant to do in my life,” and the novel offers the magnificent, overstuffed account of Imam Shamyl, “The Lion of Dagestan,” and his decades-long struggle against Russian encroachment.

Anyone who has obsessed over the mythology of Dune will immediately recognize the language Herbert borrowed from Blanch’s work.

(2) THE STORY THAT KEEPS ON GIVING. Pajiba’s Kayleigh Donaldson is still hot on the trail of the fake bestseller: “The ‘Handbook For Mortals’ Saga Continues As Lani Sarem Goes On The No Apologies Tour”.

Remember Handbook For Mortals, the urban fantasy novel about magic in Las Vegas that catapulted out of nowhere to take the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list? We thoroughly documented the torrid tale of Lani Sarem’s debut novel, which gamed the system through bulk purchases in order to debut at number 1 on the YA list, knocking off Angie Thomas’s mega-hit The Hate U Give. It had everything – scams, Carrot Top, Blues Traveller, Glory from Buffy, the guy from Rookie of the Year, an in development film adaptation with the author set to play the lead role, art theft, and Jasper from Twilight. It was such a fascinatingly layered scam that even the author of the worst fan-fiction of all time came forward to deny any involvement with it.

The book is no longer on the list, and clearly that’s upset Sarem and her team. While GeekNation, the near abandoned geek news website who published the novel, have been silent on the subject, Sarem has gone into PR overdrive to try and scrape together a semblance of goodwill after angering YA fans, the publishing community and John Popper himself. First, the music manager turned author wrote a piece for Billboard. You know, that bastion of publishing, where she defended her actions. Now she’s over at the Huffington Post doing the same….

(3) LOSING A LANDMARK. More coverage about the closing of a historic bookshop (the story is from July): “After 41 years, Berkeley sci-fi bookstore Dark Carnival is closing”.

“Passion or mania would certainly have played a factor,” he wrote. “One long-time friend described him as a ‘business genius,’ though I felt that, due to the nature of small bookstore business, he was actually more adept at responding to crises (financial) which regularly crept up on him.”

Juricich continued: “It was probably the best stocked, most complete store for sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery fiction in most of California, though The Other Change of Hobbit might have given it a run for its money before it, too, finally closed some years ago. I’m sad for the loss of the store to the community and no one could ever blame Jack for not having applied his intelligence and passion to its continued survival, but, much like the business of comic book retail, selling reading matter is an uphill climb.”

As Juricich points out, running a brick-and-mortar bookstore, or indeed any retail business, in the age of Amazon is notoriously tough, and it’s not the first time Rems has struggled with Dark Carnival. In December 2013, he put out a public plea to the community, writing: “No other way to say this. We need your help. To our staunch supporters: it’s thanks to all of you that we’re still here. Please, if you have any shopping to do, now and for the holidays, do some of it here… P.S.: If you’re broke, and believe me I understand, please come in anyway, say hi, hang out, I’ll give you something good to read, no charge.”

(4) NIGHT OF THE LIVING AUTHORS. Jeff VanderMeer told Facebook readers about his nightmare:

I had this horrible dream last night that I was the host of the World Fantasy Award ceremony, but this was sometime in the future when there were 1,200 categories instead of the dozen or so there are now. And the banquet hall was so huge and I had no assistant, so I had to ride a tiny tricycle (!?) to the back of the hall each time before announcing a winner….

And it gets worse/funnier after that.

(5) LIVE FROM NEW ZEALAND. Well, it was a live performance – now hear Seanan McGuire’s LexiCon concert online.

Did you miss Seanan McGuire’s concert on Saturday night – or enjoy it so much you want to listen again? We recorded it for you and it’s now on YouTube! You can hear Seanan – accompanied by local fans Daphne Lawless of Vostok Lake and Alastair Gibson.

 

(6) ABOUT THOSE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS. In From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars),  Random House Audio Publishing invites fans to “experience Star Wars: A New Hope from a different point of view.” All participating authors have donated their proceeds to charity.

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, more than forty contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the forty short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

  • Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
  • Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
  • Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
  • Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
  • Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter’s final flight during the Rebellion’s harrowing attack on the Death Star.
  • Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.

Plus thirty-four more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from: Ben Acker • Renée Ahdieh • Tom Angleberger • Ben Blacker • Jeffrey Brown • Rae Carson • Adam Christopher • Zoraida Córdova • Delilah S. Dawson • Kelly Sue DeConnick • Paul Dini • Ian Doescher • Ashley Eckstein • Matt Fraction • Alexander Freed • Jason Fry • Kieron Gillen • Christie Golden • Claudia Gray • E. K. Johnston • Paul S. Kemp • Mur Lafferty • Ken Liu • Griffin McElroy • John Jackson Miller • Daniel José Older • Mallory Ortberg • Beth Revis • Madeleine Roux • Greg Rucka • Gary D. Schmidt • Cavan Scott • Charles Soule • Sabaa Tahir • Elizabeth Wein • Glen Weldon • Chuck Wendig

Narrated by a full cast, including: Jonathan Davis, Ashley Eckstein, Janina Gavankar, Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris, January LaVoy, Saskia Maarleveld, Carol Monda, Daniel José Older, and Marc Thompson.

All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book—a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books—valued at $1,000,000—to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past sixteen years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than eighty-eight million books to First Book.

And the contributors have been hyping the book with designer pull quotes.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television on this date.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) PAY TO PLAY. Gabino Iglesias, in “Submission Fees are Classist as Fuck”, delivers an invigorating rant, but it’s just as full of holes as the cases he’s criticizing.

  1. “It’s really about gatekeeping”

If you don’t want to read bad fiction/nonfiction/poetry, don’t edit a book/magazine/blog/journal. Bad writing is to the writing game what dirty teeth are to dentistry; it will happen all the time, the only that varies is the level of awfulness. Submission guidelines, genre specifications, and word counts should help you do your precious gatekeeping. If you need to rely on charging writers $30 to enter your chapbook contest in order to keep what you think are bad writers away, know these two things: having money has absolutely nothing to do with having writing chops and your fees, not to mention your bland gatekeeping excuse, are nothing but classism in action. I’ve also heard that charging writers is just a way to “reduce the workload for overworked editors.” Get the fuck outta here with that. You’re sitting in front a computer because you want to, not working in the mines. Don’t want to edit? Don’t be an editor. There’s a ton of jobs out there that need to get done that don’t involve the arduous task of having to deal with a huge slush pile.

(10) TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK. The Kingsman “funny dinner” movie clip —

(11) OUTRAGED. Lou Antonelli issued a strong challenge to Chris Barkley’s column posted yesterday at Amazing Stories, in particular the part where he was named:

“Their views vastly contrast with The Rabid Puppies, primarily represented by Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day), John C. Wright and Lou Antonelli, they are unabashedly and enthusiastically racist in their worldview and their fiction. They believe a white male hegemony over all peoples of color, women and the LGBTQ community is the best course for the human race AND any aliens we may encounter, to put it mildly.”

Ok, I don’t know what kind of stupid bullshit rumors have wafted through Mr. Barkley’s empty cranium, but it is specious to lump me in with Vox Day and John C. Wright. Plus to claim I am “unabashedly and enthusiastically racist” in my worldview is simply libelous. I dare this hatemonger to point to anything I have ever said or did that was racist – because I’m not. As the first generation non-white child of an illegal immigrant, I have always felt revulsion towards ethnic and racial prejudice – I have been on the receiving end, believe me….

…Just to make my position on racism clear, I’m a Christian. God made man – all men: White, Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, whatever. A racist is God-defiant. He’s putting himself above God by saying God made a mistake. A racist does the Devil’s work.

(12) DANIEL JOSE OLDER NOVEL REVIEWED. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Older’s Shadowhouse Fall for NPR: “In ‘Shadowhouse Fall,’ Magical Threats Map Real-World Peril”.

Everything I loved about Shadowshaper is found in Shadowhouse Fall, but sharper and fiercer, pushed harder and farther. The love and loyalty Sierra and her friends feel for each other is all the more affecting for being forged in fire: They walk through metal detectors into school every morning, endure and resist casual assaults on their personhood and bodies in relentless routine. As with Shadowshaper, the parts I loved best were the characters, the exuberance of these people’s voices, the intimacy and honesty of their interactions. I loved seeing more of Sierra’s relationship with her best friend Bennie, more of Izzy and Tee’s romance, more of Juan and Pulpo’s devotion to each other. All of these relationships are complex and full of friction, and the sparks they give off illuminate important facets of the story.

(13) DOESN’T PASS GAS. A new type of space drive? “Will This ‘Impossible’ Motor Take People to Other Planets?”

When NASA one day sends humans to Mars, the journey could take six to nine months each way. But there’s a highly-experimental device being developed that could help get us there in less than half that time — if it really works.

A small lab at NASA is creating a motor to propel ships through space much faster than today’s conventional rockets can. Decades from now, a trip to Mars might take mere weeks, without burning any fuel. The only problem? The motor seems to violate the laws of physics.

To power a spacecraft, a propellant is ejected out of the rocket’s end, because you can’t accelerate forward without pushing back against something. But NASA’s alternative gadget, called an EM drive, would generate thrust without the need to belch exhaust. And dropping the weight from fuel could make ships much lighter and space travel more efficient.

(14) SPACE SNAPPERS. The BBC has “In pictures: Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017”, with the winning picture and many runners-up:

The winning images from this year’s competition have now been announced, with Artem Mironov’s vibrant clouds of dust and gas in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex scooping first place.

(15) IG NOBELS. SJW Credentials studied: “Ig Nobels Awarded For Research Into Big Ears, Feline Fluidity”.

Can a cat be both a liquid and a solid? Does contact with a crocodile influence a person’s willingness to gamble? And do old men really have big ears?

Those are just a few of the questions studied by scientists who received Ig Nobel Prizes at Harvard University on Thursday, at the less-than-prestigious ceremony put on by the otherwise-august institution for the past 27 years.

“Each winner has done something that makes people laugh, then think,” said Marc Abrahams, who founded the awards in 1991 and writes for the decidedly non-peer-reviewed journal Annals of Improbable Research.

The complete list of winners is available from Improbable.com.

(16) MAKES THEM WONDER. The Columbian believes “Jenkins the future of DC movies, but not the way you think”.

Jenkins will lead WB/DC into a future where story comes first, not multimovie connectivity. Yes, the potential of “Justice League” movies is exciting, but every single DC film doesn’t have to be a two-hour commercial for the super-team’s gathering. “Wonder Woman” taking place in the past — far away from Batman, Superman, Doomsday and horrible Daily Planet story-budget meetings (why is Clark Kent going from the city beat to covering football?) — was the best thing that could have happened to DC. It showed that singular stories and a strong supporting cast are more important than movie-universe building.

Jenkins also showed the power of having DC Entertainment president Geoff Johns, formerly one of DC Comics’ top comic-book writers who now spends most of his time on the movies, at her side. As the new president, “Wonder Woman” was the first DCEU movie where Johns could provide his superhero storytelling skills in a more authoritative way.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Auto Nom” by Foam Studio is a silly story about all the fun a yellow Mercedes-Benz has in the city.

[Thanks to Rich Lynch, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/16 Bark Side Of the Moon

(1) RELEASE THE MONSTER BALLOT. Jo Lindsay Walton is pleased with the flood of Sputnik Award ballots, and is at least not horrified by one of the suggestions.

Btw: I’ve received some really touching enthusiasm, warmth and wise counsels and offers of support, as well as a pretty significant amount of “eh?” “baroo?” “mph?” “wha-?”, which tbh is also kinda gratifying. One thing I’d love to hear more of is unwise counsel. The best I’ve heard so far is the suggestion that we do the Dungeons of Democracy for real.

Just imagine, ripping it from the Excel and into the streets, playing out the entire vote as a vast LARP, cosplaying Daleky Phoenixes and Hedgehoggy Thing Itselves . . .

(2) WINDLING. Remember, Terri Windling lectures on fantasy at Oxford on Thursday, May 26.

I will be delivering the 4th Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford University this Thursday at 6:30 pm. The Pembroke Fantasy lecture series “explores the history and current state of fantasy literature, in honour of JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings during his twenty years at the college.”

The lecture I’ll be giving is Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era. Admission is free, but you need to register for a ticket and space is limited. Go here for further details.

(3) LUCAS MUSEUM. Mark Guarino’s Washington Post article “George Lucas’s dream of a Chicago lakefront museum faces choppy waters” even-handedly covers the battle to bring the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Chicago, showing the strengths – the vast art collection, and the architecture — and the minuses, chiefly that it will be partially paid with hotel taxes, which raises a question about whether George Lucas really needs to be subsidized by Illinois and Chicago taxpayers.

The Lucases had two real requirements: One, it would be in a prominent location and, two, that it would be near other museums,” he says. “The Lucases are not going to go to another site.”

A new plan approved by Lucas involves reconfiguring an aging extension of the McCormick Place convention center that sits on the lake and partially replacing it with the museum, 12 new acres of parkland, in addition to new convention space. That multipurpose site is more complicated because it involves borrowing nearly $1.2 billion and extending five taxes on hotels and more. Because it is co-owned by the state, approval from Springfield is required. With Illinois in a budget deadlock that is nearing a full year, and the state ranked at the bottom of those with underfunded pensions, the timing could not be worse. Koch says the selling point is long-term revenue in taxes and tourism dollars, as well as that it would add to Chicago’s “meaningful group of museums and cultural assets” that make it globally competitive.

This is both an enormous opportunity to update and modernize McCormick Place,” he says. “It has this element of Lucas, but they are two separate things that would happen to be tied together financially.”

Talks are on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rules on a city petition that asks for the lawsuit to be thrown out. Meanwhile, Hobson released a statement calling Friends of the Park “a small special interest group” that has “co-opted and hijacked” the process. “It saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer,” she says.

She added that she and her husband “are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he would welcome the museum in his city.

If the Lucases leave Chicago, it will ultimately discredit the couple’s statements about wanting to help the children there, park advocates say.

“They keep saying how committed they are to the city, but they’re not committed enough to build anywhere but the lakefront,” [Friends of the Park executive director Juanita] Irizarry says.

(4) THIS HAPPENED. N.K. Jemisin started a Patreon campaign less than a week ago and it’s been so successful she can give up her day job.

So, internets. Big changes in Noraland. For the few of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and FB, I Did A Thing. Specifically, last Friday I started a Patreon campaign with the specific goal of breaking free of the 9 to 5 life. I launched it officially at 5:35 pm on Friday afternoon, thinking nobody would much care since Friday News Dump, and thinking that would give me time to fix bugs and work out any kinks in the campaign over the weekend. Instead, to my absolute shock, I hit my baseline goal within 24 hours, and my stretch goal within 48. And it’s still going. People really, really want me to have a retirement plan, apparently.

(5) BEVERLEY OBIT. Jo Beverley passed away on May 23 at the age of 68. Though best known as a romance writer, she also wrote romances with fantasy and magic in them, was a Writers of the Future contest finalist (1988), and published in Songs of Love and Death (2010) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

(6) HEARTWARMING WOOKIEE. In “Star Wars’ Favourite Wookiee Goes Back to School”, Lee Costello of the BBC’s Northern Ireland service reports on Chewbacca’s visit to a school in County Kerry.

Chewbacca, Star Wars’ world-famous wookiee, has left pupils at a Republic of Ireland primary school star struck after landing for a visit.

The star is filming the newest instalment of the blockbuster series in County Kerry.

He took a break from the set to visit Scoil Fheirtearaigh National School in Ballyferriter on Monday.

The visit was arranged after some pupils sent impressive artwork to director Rian Johnson.

(7) AND HIS MOM. Meanwhile, Hollywood summoned a viral video maker for 15 more minutes of fame — “J.J. Abrams Surprises Chewbacca Mom”.

Candace Payne, also known as the Chewbacca Mom, took over the Internet this weekend with her Chewbacca mask and infectious laugh. In the video, Candace is sitting in her car, super excited about a purchase she just made: a Star Wars Chewbacca mask with sound. The next few minutes are her trying to contain her infectious laughter. The video broke the all-time total for most views on Facebook Live, and everyone has been talking about the joyful mom from Texas.

James Corden brought Candace out to Los Angeles to appear on The Late Late Show and surprised her with a visit from J.J. Abrams. The trio took a ride in a car, where Abrams gives Candace some notes on how to play Chewbacca, but the best part was her reaction outside of the car when J.J. first surprised her.

Video at the link.

(8) START SPREADING THE NEWS. Looks like this will be no problem in Ireland, but for everyone else IFL Science contemplates “How Do We Tell The World That We’ve Found Alien Life?”

…That’s a topic discussed in a paper from astronomers Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz from the University of St Andrews in Scotland (hat tip to Cosmos Magazine for picking it up). They have examined the protocols that are already in place, and have suggested ways that those involved in the discovery should prepare for the media onslaught that would accompany a tentative detection.

“A critical concern for scientists pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the reaction of the world to the knowledge that humans are not the only technological civilization in the universe,” they write. They suggest that the “culture shock” of such a discovery will put SETI scientists under intense scrutiny, which they must be prepared for…..

“SETI scientists must be prepared to not simply announce a detection via press release, but to be a trusted voice in the global conversation that will begin after the initial announcement,” the authors write. “This will require both pre-search and post-detection protocols to be implemented.”

(9) AWARD JUDGES. In Australia, the 2016 Aurealis Awards judging panels have been selected.

There’s a panel for every category – which means a lot of judges. Scroll down to see the judges’ bios.

(10) TRUER GRIT. Damien Walter believes Dune Deserves A New Film Adaptation”.

Dune’s cinematic qualities have made it a natural target for Hollywood adaptations. But the Lynchian weirdness, followed by a lacklustre mini-series, have left the franchise in a televisual limbo for most of the last two decades. Herbert’s own sequels, while conceptually interesting and widely loved by established fans, lack the storytelling muscle displayed in the first book. A risible series of cash-in prequels have dragged the Dune universe down to the bargain basement of pulp fiction. It’s a sad legacy for such a significant work of fiction.

(11) TROLL HOIST. Death and Taxes did an overview of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo nomination that ends with this paragraph:

Luckily these goons didn’t know who they were dealing with. This is Chuck Tingle, leading author of gay dinosaur erotica, licensed massage therapist, and outspoken enthusiast of hardness and love. Nobody nominates him for a prestigious award and gets away with it.

(12) ANOTHER FINE MESS. There’s reason to be interested in Charlie Jane Anders’ impressions about the field, despite the post ignoring the copious documentation available to answer its strawman question: “One way of looking at the Hugo Awards mess”.

So we’re once again having Hugo Awards drama. It’s confusing, because the people who packed the ballot with their choices have a bunch of vague explanations about why they’re upset. (Ranging from “OMG SJWs” and “affirmative action” to “we just want fun stories.”) They generally keep their grievances vague and nebulous (no pun intended), and it’s hard to pin down what they’re upset about. And this year, they changed tactics slightly, putting more “mainstream” choices on the ballot except for some of the short fiction categories.

So I figure one useful way to look at this issue is to ask: What’s changed? If there’s a group of people who are upset, what recent changes could possibly account for their being upset? Here are a few things that occur to me….

(13) AT WISCON. I see a lot of tweets promoting people’s panel appearances, but rarely one so artistic.

(14) THE SIGN OF THE Z. John Z. Upjohn joined Twitter today. The cause was soon revealed.

Alexandra Erin explained in a GoFundMe appeal update:

And because you all pitched in enough to cover airfare for WorldCon before I head off to my current con, Mr. John Z. Upjohn will be providing live twitter commentary of the event [WisCon]…

Erin also delivered another Sad Puppies Review Books installment once the fundraiser hit $300 (it’s now at $775) – Upjohn’s take on The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the HatThe protagonist of the book is a cat who develops games, games that are fun (like all games should be), and who wants nothing but to share them with children who are bored. Not so fast, cat! There is a game critic in the house, a fish who is clearly used to thinking of himself as a big fish in a small pond.

I almost threw this book across the room at one point, because the cat is playing a game and he is clearly having a lot of fun, but the fish says, “NO! THIS ISN’T FUN!” Imagine hating fun so much that you lie about what’s fun in order to ruin a game for everyone else….

(15) PRONOUN STICKERS. WisCon 40 registration will have pronoun stickers available.

Hihi!  I want to take a minute to talk to you about an exciting option we’re offering at Registration this year: pronoun stickers!

We offered them last year and got a lot of reaction, so here’s the explanation:

Pronoun stickers are totally optional to wear. You don’t have to declare anything to anyone. You don’t have to wear the same sticker all weekend. These exist to make it easier for all of us to treat each other respectfully.

If someone IS wearing a pronoun sticker, we expect you will use that pronoun for them. Part of our social contract is kind and respectful treatment of each other, and there are few things that feel as terrible as being misgendered ON PURPOSE. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on…..

 

Options. God bless WisCon. #WisCon

A post shared by Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) on

(16) TOMORROW IS TOWEL DAY. The annual tribute to Douglas Adams, Towel Day, takes place on May 25.

Naturally there are dedicated social media sites– a Facebook page or a Flickr group, and a way to tag videos on YouTube.

There are also hybrid events with in-person and internet components like Lofty Pursuits’ Vogon Poetry Slam. You have only a few hours left to enter online.

If you are in Tallahassee, please come and enter the International Vogon Poetry Slam. It is a contest for the worst possible poem. It happens at 8pm on May 25th as part of our Towel Day celebrations. If you are coming in person DO NOT ENTER ON-LINE. You will get to read your own poem live in front of your victims. The rules are the same….

The Vogon Poetry contest. Rules: The worst original poem will win as judged by us. No appeal is possible.

Sent to vogon@pd.net to be considered for this contest. We must get the poems by midnight on the 24th, Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). Late entries will go to the spam folder.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1686 — Polish inventor Gabriel Fahrenheit

(18) NAMING CALLS. Rachel Swirsky considers short story titles in “What should I have titled this essay? (Thoughts on John Joseph Adams’ ‘Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling’”).

Titles That Come From the Text

John starts the article by noting several titles that he suggested to authors that he’s published in his magazines and anthologies. He discovered these titles “right there in the text of the stories themselves. When I’m reading or editing a story, I frequently highlight evocative phrases I come across that I can later suggest to the author as a possible alternate title. Sometimes the phrasing isn’t quite right for the title, but it’s something that can be massaged, or combined together with another phrase from elsewhere in the story, that somehow captures the essence of what the story is about.”

I used to do the large majority of my titling this way until I started my MFA program at Mills, where the teacher told me what John Joseph Adams brings up next: “I should note that some writing professors—including notable literary giants—advise against this practice, largely because, they say, doing this puts too much emphasis and meaning on the eponymous phrase when the reader comes across it in the story.”

(19) DON’T CALL ME ISHMAEL. “Moby goes where Brian Eno, and his ancestor Herman Melville, went before” at the LA Times.

As a famously brainy electronic musician — and a descendant of literary royalty — Moby had plenty of lodestars he might have looked to while writing his first book.

There was, for instance, Brian Eno, the pop experimentalist who reflected on his work with U2 and David Bowie in his 1996 volume “A Year With Swollen Appendices.” And the distant ancestor from whom Moby got his nickname: “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville.

In reality, the DJ and producer best known for 1999’s multi-platinum “Play” album took inspiration from a more unlikely source: Duff McKagan, the tattooed bassist in Guns N’ Roses.

“Honestly, I’d never given much thought to the guy before I read his memoir,” Moby said on a recent morning at home in Los Feliz, referring to “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” in which McKagan writes frankly about the excess and the illusions of show business. “But he wrote a book that’s good enough that it transcends the fact that I wasn’t interested in him.”

(20) BLAME OF THRONES. Juliet McKenna has her own tangle of pop culture references to work through — “Sansa Stark’s joined the X-Men? Thoughts on popcultural cross contamination”

I’ve yet to see the X-Men Apocalypse movie, so I can’t comment on Sophie Turner’s performance. Her work on Game of Thrones – especially at the moment (NO spoilers in comments please!) – gives me every reason to expect she’ll do a thoroughly good job.

The thing is, though, this is becoming A Thing for me. An amusement at the moment, rather than a distraction, but definitely A Thing.

I caught a trailer for A Knight’s Tale on the TV last week, which is one of my favourite movies. Now though? That’s the one where Robert Baratheon makes The Joker’s armour while The Vision bigs him up to the crowd…

(21) DISCO SCI-FI. Thomas A. Foster looks back at the Seventies in “Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut” on Pop Matters.

…Another key to understanding the sci-fi of the era: the shrunken profile of space exploration. In the ‘60s, NASA was perhaps the most popular Federal project, partly because fallen leader John F. Kennedy was associated with the “space race”. Television covered every moment leading up to the first moon walk in 1969, and Hollywood pitched in with movies and TV shows (I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the made-in-England 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Jetsons had a dog named Astro, and Houston chose the same name for its new baseball team, which played, of course, in the Astrodome.

As our radio-alarm-clocks flipped to the ‘70s soundtrack, however, the Apollo Program was curtailed by budget cuts and sharply declining interest. The scientific idealism of the ‘60s was victim to chronic civil unrest, distrust of authority, and general exhaustion, as Americans turned to self-improvement (meditation, back-to-the-land/find-your-roots trends); hedonism (swinging, cocaine, disco); and all things para- (the paranormal, paranoia), including persistent rumors that the moon landings had been faked. In keeping with the zeitgeist, most of our TV astronauts of the decade would be lost, passive, or grounded….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/11/16 Time Enough For LOVE IS REAL!

(1) REDWOMBAT LOVEFEST. Tor.com is hosting — “’THE POTATO GOD WILL RISE.’ We Are Obsessed With Ursula Vernon’s Tumblr”.

But even if you don’t head over for the sketches and art, there are stories in abundance. For example, a true story about Vernon’s childhood, and “the thing” that she knew hid right behind her in her grandmother’s bathroom. (This tale eventually veers into precognition and predestination, believe it or not):

It seemed to me, looking in the enormous bathroom mirror, that I could see every part of the bathroom except the spot directly behind me, so that was where the unseen creature must be standing.

I didn’t know what it looked like. I had a vague feeling it was grey and shadowy and very flat, with long arms. I thought it would probably have eyes, but no mouth, but that was only a guess.

If I moved suddenly, it moved with me. At first, I thought it was just much faster than me, but that seemed sort of improbable–and when my mother would come into the bathroom, it wouldn’t matter how fast it was, it might risk being caught because there wouldn’t be any place it could stand that one of us couldn’t see it.

If fairy tales are more your beat, Vernon wrote her own version of the story about frogs falling from a girl’s lips when she speaks….

(2) RETRO HUGO FAN CATEGORIES. The FANAC Fan History Project is making available online as many 1940 Retro Hugo Nominees as it can. Joe Siclari writes:

For those of you planning to vote in this year’s Retro Hugo Fan Categories, the FANAC Fan History Project is providing relevant original materials for your reading pleasure.  Too many times, Retro Hugos go to the nominee with the best name recognition.  We have worked to make this material available so that everyone has a chance to read for themselves and cast a more knowledgeable vote.

The fanzines are here. They already have —

  • Ray Bradbury’s Futuria Fantasia
  • Bob Tucker’s Le Zombie and
  • Harry Warner, Jr.’s Spaceways

They are trying to get 1940 copies of Forrest J Ackerman’s and Morojo’s Novacious and Ackerman’s Voice of the Imagi-Nation.

If you have copies that you can scan for us or loan to us to scan, please contact Joe Siclari (jsiclari@fanac.org) or Edie Stern (fanac@fanac.org).

FANAC’s Retro Hugo page also includes works by Best Fan Writer nominees from other 1940 fanzines than the fanzines listed above.

They have also made available an array of other fanzines from 1940: Shangri-La, Fantasy News, Futurian Observer and Fantascience Digest. Look for these at Classic Fanzines.

(3) HINES REPOST. Our Words, the new site about disabilities in sf, continues its launch by reposting Jim C. Hines on “Writing with Depression”, which first appeared on SF Signal in 2014.

From what I’ve seen, that anxiety is pretty typical for most novelists. But I’m particularly nervous about my next book, Unbound. This is the third book in my current series, and will probably be out in very early 2015, give or take a few months. I’ve put my protagonist Isaac through an awful lot in the first two books. As a result of those events, when we see Isaac again in Unbound, he’s struggling with clinical depression.

This isn’t the casual “had a rough day” depression people often think about. This is the debilitating one, a mental disability that’s damaging Isaac’s health, his job, and his relationships. This is…well, in a lot of ways, it’s similar to what I was going through two years ago. (Admittedly, Isaac’s depression is a bit more extreme, and I didn’t have to worry about cursed thousand-year-old magical artifacts, or accidentally setting a cathedral on fire with a lightning gun.) …

(4) BESIDES DUNE. John Bardinelli makes sure you don’t miss “5 Overlooked Masterpieces by Frank Herbert” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

This week, Brian Herbert released a collection of his late father Frank’s unpublished short stories. It’s an odd, genre-spanning assemblage from creator of Dune, filled not only with science fiction tales, but mysteries, thrillers, “men’s adventure stories,” and more. It’s an intriguing look at the unheralded work of one of the most influential authors of the 20th century—proof that success in publishing doesn’t mean everything you’ve ever written will be a success, and another reminder the when you write one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, everything else you’ve done suddenly becomes a footnote.

The phenomenon hardly stops with Herbert’s short fiction. Both before and after his signature series took off, he wrote thoughtful, mind bending sci-fi novels that you probably haven’t read, or even heard of, that deserve (almost) as much praise as Dune. Here are five worth tracking down.

Whipping Star One thing Star Trek tends to gloss over is how difficult it is to communicate with alien life. Linguistic and cultural barriers are a challenge, but what if a species doesn’t experience reality the same way we do? The Calebans in 1970’s Whipping Star are the perfect example: they look like stars to our squishy little eyes, and the concepts of linear time and occupying a singular position in space are completely foreign to them. When one of the Caleban needs help from a human, communication is an instant problem. Whipping Star treats us with a firsthand account of this puzzle, feeding us nearly nonsense dialogue until its ideas slowly start to make sense. It’s one of those books that gives you a solid “Ah ha!” moment, independent of the storyline…..

(5) BRITISH BOOK INDUSTRY AWARDS. The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley won Book of the Year at the British Book Industry awards. The Guardian has the story.

First published in a limited print run of just 300 copies by independent publisher Tartarus Press, The Loney tells of a pilgrimage to the Lancashire coast, “that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune [where] the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents”. Word-of-mouth success with the small Yorkshire publisher meant it went on to be acquired by John Murray, and to win the Costa first novel award in January.

The British Book Industry awards, for “books that have been both well-written and brilliantly published”, called The Loney a “true British success story”. “A debut novel suspended between literary gothic and supernatural horror, it was written by an unknown author in his 40s, who worked part-time for 10 years to be able to write,” said organisers of the awards, which are run by The Bookseller magazine. “[The Loney] quickly became the hot literary novel, with almost 100 times its original print run.”

The Loney beat titles including Paula Hawkins’s international hit The Girl on the Train, and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman to the top prize at the British Book Industry awards this evening. The award for non-fiction book of the year went to Lars Mytting and Robert Ferguson’s guide to wood-chopping, Norwegian Wood, a title which organisers said “demonstrated great publisher faith and vision”, while best children’s book was won by David Solomons’s My Brother is a Superhero.

(6) NOMINATION CLUSTERS. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon continues his search for statistical clues to the Hugo-winning novel in  “Checking in with the 2016 Awards Meta-List”. Who’s leading the Meta-List? Here’s a hint: it involves the number five.

For this Meta-List, I track 15 of the biggest SFF awards. Since each award has its own methodologies, biases, and blind spots, this gives us more of a 10,000 foot view of the field, to see if there are any consensus books emerging.

As of early May we have nominees for 10 of the 15 awards. I track the following awards: Clarke, British Fantasy, British SF, Campbell, Compton Crook, Gemmell, Hugo, Kitschies, Locus SF, Locus Fantasy, Nebula, Dick, Prometheus, Tiptree, World Fantasy. I ignore the first novel awards….

(7) RACHEL SWIRSKY IN CHICAGO. She has posted her Nebula Awards schedule.

Thursday, 4pm-5pm: Come visit me to discuss short stories: “Brainstorm a problem area, or ask questions about writing short fiction.”

I’m also on three panels:

Friday, 1pm: The Second Life of Stories: handling backlist and reprints. Panelists: Sarah Pinsker, Rachel Swirsky, Colleen Barr, Marco Palmieri, John Joseph Adams, Don Slater

Friday, 4pm: Medicine after the End of the World: managing chronic conditions and serious illness after the apocalypse. Panelists: Annallee Flower Home, Nick Kanas, Daniel Potter, Rachel Swirsky, Michael Damien Thomas, Fran Wilde

Saturday, 4pm: Redefining the Aliens of the Future. Panelists: Juliette Wade, Charles Ganon, Nick Kanas, Fonda Lee, PJ Schnyder, Rachel Swirsky.

I’m also participating in the mass autographing, Friday, 8-9pm. 

(8) MARS MY DESTINATION. David D. Levine, whose Arabella of Mars will be out from Tor in July, also has a full dance card this weekend.

I’m at the airport again, heading for the Nebula Conference in Chicago, where I will learn whether or not my short story “Damage” won the Nebula Award. I will also appear on programming:

  • Thursday May 12, 2:00-3:00 pm: Interfacing with Conventions in LaSalle 2 with Lynne Thomas, Dave McCarty, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota
  • Friday May 13, 8:00-9:30 pm: Mass Autographing in Red Lacquer Room. Free and open to the public. I will have ARCs of Arabella of Mars to give away!
  • Saturday May 14, 8:30-10:00 pm: Nebula Award Ceremony in Empire Room.
  • Saturday May 14, 10:00-11:00 pm: Nebula Alternate Universe Speeches in Empire Room.
  • Sunday May 15, 10:00-11:00 am: When Is It Time for a New Agent? in LaSalle 2 with Kameron Hurley.

As long as I am in Chicago, I will also be appearing at Book Expo America, signing ARCs of Arabella of Mars 1:00-2:00 pm at autograph table 7.

(9) CHECK ANYONE’S NEBULA SCHEDULE. Here’s the tool that will let you find any SFWAn’s panel at this weekend’s event – Nebula Conference 2016 Schedule.

(10) CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CHU FAMILY. No need to look up Wesley Chu’s Nebula schedule –

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 11, 1936 Dracula’s Daughter was released. Trivia: Bela Lugosi was paid for his participation in publicity photos for this film even though he did not appear in it.

DraculasDaughter

  • May 11, 1984 Firestarter premiered, a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

(12) ELLIOTT REVIEWED. We mustn’t overlook a book with the magic number in the title — Microreview [book]: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott at Nerds of a Feather.

It might be easy to, at first glance, compare this book with other YA franchises because of its use of death sports and young people. Fives is a game where participants are part athletes, part combatants, and routinely die or are seriously injured on the court. It’s a game that involves complex traps and requires a keen mind and strong body. And it sits at the heart of a plot that revolves around political intrigue, oppression, and privilege. So at first blush it might seem slightly familiar. And yet the character work and the setting set it apart, give it a more historically grounded feel where Fives is more reminiscent of chariot racing than anything more contemporary.

(13) ADVANCED READING CODEX. At Black Gate, Elizabeth Cady argues “The Birth of the Novel” happened a thousand years earlier than some academics believe.

In my last post, I described one product of the Hellenistic period of ancient art as the invention of the novel. This surprised many people, who thought that the novel was an invention of a much later time. So of course, being an academic of leisure (she says as she ducks a flying juice box), I had to say more about it.

Some scholars do date the invention of the novel to the Modern period in Western Europe. I will display my ignorance and say I do not know why this is. Many books exist outside of English, outside of the Modern period, and in fact outside of the Western hemisphere that easily qualify as novels, so it is difficult for me to see this claim as much more than chauvinism. But if someone wants to correct me on this point, I am willing and eager to be enlightened. Or to fight you on it.

The first novel that we have comes from somewhere between the 2nd Century BCE and the 1st Century CE. It is a positively charming little book called Callirhoe, and it describes the travails of a beautiful young woman who marries her true love, an equally handsome young man named Chaereas. Shortly after their wedding, he kicks her in a fit of jealous rage and she dies.

At least that’s what everyone thinks. She has in fact been put into a coma, only to awaken when pirates invade her tomb. These pirates kidnap her and take her to Miletus to sell her at the slave market; she is then sold to a man named Dionysius. Callirhoe is so beautiful and virtuous that Dionysius falls in love with her as well, and asks her to marry him. She would refuse but she has discovered she is pregnant with her first husband’s child, and agrees to the marriage out of maternal devotion….

(14) THE PEEPS LOOK UP. John DeChancie reposted his homage to the LASFS clubhouse on Facebook.

…I only remember the good times. I remember the late nights, the Mah Jongg, the Hell games, the cook outs, the late night bull sessions. . .but what I cherish most is the sheer pleasure of meeting and talking with other people who share my view of the universe.

No, let me rephrase that. I look forward to people who have a view of the universe to share. Not everyone does. What most distinguishes the mentality of SF and its fandom from that of the mundane is the capacity to be aware of the vastness of everything out there, all the wild possibilities, the fantastic vistas, the realms of infinite regress, the black reaches and streams of bright plasma. Most humans have their myopic eyes fixed on the dirt. They don’t look up much. When they do, it is with fear and apprehension….

(15) AEI STAR WARS PANEL. The American Enterprise Institute presents “The world according to Star Wars”, part of the Bradley Lecture Series, on Tuesday, July 14. RSVP to attend this event, or watch live online here on June 14 at 5:30 PM ET. (Registration is not required for the livestream.)

Cass Sustein joins AEI scholars Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain to discuss his new book, “The World According to Star Wars,” a political and economic comparison of the “Star Wars” series and today’s America.

Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, has turned his attention to one of the most beloved and successful film series of our time, “Star Wars.” In his new book, “The World According to Star Wars” (Dey Street Books, 2016), Mr. Sunstein, who has written widely about constitutional and environmental law and behavioral economics, argues the legendary series can teach us a lot about economics, law, politics, and the power of individual agency.

Mr. Sunstein will be joined by AEI’s Norman Ornstein, James Pethokoukis, and Michael Strain for a discussion of the timeless lessons from “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Books will be available for purchase, and a book signing with follow the event.

(16) NEW SAMPLES AT GRRM SITE. George R. R. Martin told Not A Blog readers where to find new samples from two forthcoming books.

For all the Wild Cards fans out there, we’ve got a taste of HIGH STAKES, due out this August. HIGH STAKES is the twenty-third volume in the overall series, and the third and concluding part of the ‘Fort Freak’ triad. The sample is from the pen of the talented Ian Tregillis, and features Mollie Steunenberg, aka Tesseract. You’ll find it at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/wild-cards-excerpt/

((Readers with weak stomachs be warned, HIGH STAKES is our Lovecraftian horror book, and things do get graphic and bloody and… well… horrible. Althought not so much in the sample)).

And… because I know how much bitching I’d get if I offered a new sample from Wild Cards without also doing one from A SONG OF ICE & FIRE… we’ve also changed the WINDS OF WINTER sample on my wesbite, replacing the Alayne chapter that’s been there for the past year with one featuring Arianne Martell. (Some of you may have heard me read this one at cons).

Have a read at: http://www.georgerrmartin.com/excerpt-from-the-winds-of-winter/

You want to know what the Sand Snakes, Prince Doran, Areo Hotah, Ellaria Sand, Darkstar, and the rest will be up to in WINDS OF WINTER? Quite a lot, actually. The sample will give you a taste. For the rest, you will need to wait.

And no, just to spike any bullshit rumors, changing the sample chapter does NOT mean I am done. See the icon up above? Monkey is still on my back… but he’s growing, he is, and one day…

(17) ZOOM BY TUBE. From Financial Times: “Musk’s Hyperloop in step towards reality”. (Via Chaos Manor.)

Elon Musk’s dream of ultra-high speed travel through a tube came a small step closer to reality on Tuesday, when one of the companies set up to pursue the idea announced it had raised another $80m and said it was ready to show off a key part of the technology.

Mr Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, stirred a wave of interest in 2013 in a technology known as hyperloop — a tube from which air is pumped out to maintain a near-vacuum, theoretically making it possible for pods carrying people or freight to move at close to the speed of sound.

The idea was floated as a potential alternative to California’s plans for a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Coming from an entrepreneur who has come to be seen in some tech circles as a visionary, it attracted enough attention to trigger a race among start-ups trying to prove the technology is in fact practical.

(18) AGENT CARTER. E!News asks“Did ABC Just Secretly Cancel Agent Carter?”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Warning: The following contains mild spoilers for both last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America: Civil War. If you’re particularly averse to those sorts of things, you may want to turn away. Consider yourselves warned.

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to pay tribute to to the life of Agent Peggy Carter. But is it also time that we begin mourning Agent Carter, too?

If you didn’t make it out to the megaplex over the weekend to catch Captain America: Civil War, last night’s new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. probably dropped quite a bomb on you with their brief mention about the passing of the beloved founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the age of 95. That’s right, friends—Peggy Carter is dead….

(19) RED S GOING FROM CBS TO CW? ScreenRant explains why “Supergirl Season 2 Move to The CW Now a Stronger Possibility”.

CBS joined fellow TV networks FOX and The CW in airing its own DC Comics-based TV show in 2015 with Supergirl. However, the future of the series, starring Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers a.k.a. Kara Zor-El (Superman’s cousin), is currently up in the air following the airing of its season 1 finale. Although CBS CEO Les Moonves previously appeared to suggest that Supergirl season 2 is all but a done deal, the show has yet to be formally renewed, even now that the deadline for such a renewal is staring CBS right in the face.

There have been rumors that Supergirl could make the move to The CW – the place that Supergirl co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg’s other DC superhero TV shows (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow) call home – for its sophomore season. While those claims were relatively shaky in nature, it’s now being reported that Supergirl moving to The CW is more of a real possibility and that steps are being taken to prepare for such a change, behind the scenes on the series.

(20) QUICK SAVE. “Here’s hoping The Flash wrote Kevin Smith a big fat check” says Polygon.

Whatever they paid for last night’s episode, it wasn’t enough

Whatever amount of money CW paid Kevin Smith to direct last night’s episode of The Flash, it wasn’t enough. The man responsible for Clerks (and everything that’s followed in its wake) single-handedly pulled the show out of a narrative tailspin the likes of which haven’t been seen on television since the second season of Heroes.

Now it’s up to the show’s core team to follow through and finish on a high note. Here’s how it went down.…

(21) MOVIES TO WATCH FOR. Hampus Eckerman recommends keeping an eye open for a chance to see these three movies.

A group of online gamers are invited to try a state-of-the-art virtual reality video game but things take a turn for the sinister when these masters of the shoot ’em up discover they will literally be fighting for their lives.

 

 NEUROO-X, a German-Swiss-Chinese entertainment company group, stands for games that dissolve the boundary between reality and gaming). A new gadget, the myth-enshrouded RED BOOK, offers the ultimate gaming experience. The most secret longings of gamers are scanned by the engine and transformed into fantastic adventures. The conspiracy psychoses of users are the raw material for the storytelling of NEUROO-X. Marcus, Chief Development Manager of NEUROO-X dies shortly before completion of the RED BOOK. His lover Ryuko finds out that something terrible happened during testing of the game in China, and the deeper she submerges into the secret of NEUROO-X, the more she loses touch with reality. She neglects her son Walter, who logs into the game and disappears into the digital parallel world. The more Ryuko fights the corporation in order to rescue her son, the more she updates the narrative desired by NEUROO-X. Ryuko finds herself in a world full of demons, witches, knights and terrorists.

 

Three ordinary guys are thrust into a parallel world of an old Sci-Fi movie. Trapped in a low budget universe they must somehow fight their way home before it is too late.

 

(22) TEACH YOUR HATCHLINGS WELL. “Godzilla Celebrates Take Your Child to Work Day!” at Tor.com features wonderful kaiju humor.

Take Your Child To Work Day is a chaotic time – hordes of tiny creatures swarming office spaces, demanding attention and snacks and opportunities to spin around in swivel chairs. But imagine, if you will, Godzilla participating in this tradition! Tumblr-er CaqtusComics proposed such a scenario to fellow Tumblr-er Iquanamouth, and the resulting comic is perfection.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, Rachel Swirsky, David D. Levine, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/16 (I’ll Never Be Your) Star Beast of Burden

(1) DANGER WILL ROBINSON! “’Lost in Space’ robot saved from Valley Village fire” reports Daily News.

TV and movie props that included a robot reportedly from TV’s “Lost in Space” were saved from destruction late Wednesday in Valley Village due to the efforts of Los Angeles firefighters.

The LAFD responded about 11:30 p.m. to a garage fire in the 5100 block of Whitsett Avenue. Firefighters attacked the blaze, which was electrical in nature, a fire department spokesman told a photographer at the scene.

The home belongs to a prop designer and special effects artist who was out of town at the time, according to a caretaker who woke to the smell of smoke.

(2) JOCULARITY. Two Easter hams are heard from.

(3) HEARSAY. Mark Evanier’s friend has convinced him this weekend’s blockbuster is “Not the World’s Finest” – as he explains at News From ME.

I don’t have a whole lot of interest in seeing the new Batman Vs. Superman movie, a film which has achieved something I didn’t think was possible. It actually caused my dear friend Leonard Maltin to use the word “sucks” in his review. Even Rob Schneider never managed that and lord, how he tried.

(4) PARAGRAPH FROM A FUTURE TRIP REPORT. GUFF delegate Jukka Halme outlined how he spent the day.

Sunday at Contact 2016 has been a small whirlwind. Moderated my first panel (Through New Eyes), which went really well. Chatted way too long at the Fan Fund table with the Usual Suspects. Bought books. Just a few. Waited ages for my Pad Thai at the hotel restaurant, that was brimming with people and not too many employees, Presented a Ditmar, with a little bit of Bob Silverberg routine (VERY little) to Galactic Suburbia. Held an auction for fan funds, which went smashingly well. And missed the bar, since this is a dry state and while it is apparently OK to sell alcohol during Easter Sunday, places either close up really early, or everybody had left the bar.

(5) AN AUTHOR’S USE OF NAVAJO CULTURE. “Utah author features Navajo characters, history in new science fiction thriller” in Deseret News.

After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, Robison Wells, who lives in Holladay, fell in love with both the area and the people he served. When he wrote his newest book, “Dark Energy” (HarperTeen, $17.99, ages 13 and up), which features several Native American characters and is scheduled to be released March 29, he worried about portraying them in the correct way.

“I wanted to show respect for the culture,” he said. “I didn’t want to appropriate their culture or their traditions.”

He sent his manuscript out to a lot of Navajo readers to get their reactions and tried to adjust his book accordingly. He knew writing a story centering on Native American characters and history would be a difficult and controversial thing to do, but he felt that it was such a compelling story that he had to tell it.

(6) ADDRESS FOR HAMNER CONDOLENCES. Anyone wishing to send a letter or card to the family may do so at the address below.

Jane Hamner
P.O. Box 220038
Newhall, CA 91322

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 27, 1963 — Quentin Tarantino

(8) TODAY’S BLOOD-PRESSURE BOOSTER. Jason Sanford says “The Retro Hugo Awards must be fixed”.

If any particular Worldcon wants to give out Retro Hugos, then e-book and/or online anthologies of eligible authors and stories must be made available to those nominating for the awards. And that must include works which are not in the public domain. Yes, it would take time to do this but I imagine most publishers and/or author estates would be willing to make the stories available for members at no cost.

But even if voters have access to stories from decades ago, it’s still unlikely that as many people will take part in the Retro Hugo nominating process as takes part in nominating for the regular Hugos. This, unfortunately, leaves the Retro Hugos open to missing important works and to being gamed.

To fix this here’s my next suggestion: Use a combination of juries and regular Worldcon members to nominate works for the Retro Hugos. 

I know juries seem like the ultimate insider power play, but when you’re dealing with stories published 75 or 100 years ago it can be useful to have experts in that genre time period also nominating stories. Perhaps the jury could nominate two of the five works in each category, and Worldcon members could nominate three of five. This also seems like a sensible way to make sure the nominated stories are truly the best that year has to offer.

(9) CAN MUSK AFFORD A MARTIAN ODYSSEY? “Neil deGrasse Tyson to Elon Musk: SpaceX Is ‘Delusional’ About Mars”. A writer at The Motley Fool explains Tyson’s reasons.

In less than 10 years from now, SpaceX may or may not beat NASA in the race to Mars. Astrophysicist, Hayden Planetarium director, and host of the National Geographic Channel’s StarTalk Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is placing his bet on “not.”

“The delusion is thinking that SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier. That’s just not going to happen…” Tyson said in an interview with The Verge. Tyson laid out his arguments for why fans of a solo SpaceX trip to Mars suffer from a “delusion.” According to Tyson, there are three main reasons SpaceX cannot go to Mars on its own.

Reason 1: Cost

“So if you’re going to bring in investors or venture capitalists and say, ‘Hey, I have an idea, I want to put the first humans on Mars.’ They’ll ask, ‘How much will it cost?’ You say, ‘A lot,'” Tyson said in the interview.

Tyson says it’s “very expensive” to go to Mars. How expensive? Some estimate $30 billion, but a bill of $160 billion isn’t out of the question, and critics in Congress charge that the total cost could reach $500 billion….

(10) CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE? Camestros Felapton is away traveling for a month. During their absence, Timothy the Talking Cat has taken over the blog, and has been busy posting such literary gems as “Timothy retells Dune”.

…Now there was this posh elitist liberal progressive family called the Artyfarties. They like super sucked at making money. The dad was a real wimp and the mum was in some sort of feminist cult. The son looked like the crazy guy in Agents of Shield but younger and more wimpy. The kid Artyfarties thought he was so much smarter than everybody but was a big wimp.

Now Boss Harkonen took pity on the Artyfarties. Big mistake! But he had a kind heart and he hated to see the Artyfarties suck so badly at businessing. So Boss Harkonen says to Dad Artyfarties: “You can run this planet for me. It is the only place you get Old Spice Magic which makes people young and makes spaceships run. It’s a classic monopoly, you can’t go wrong. Just don’t screw it up!” ….

(11) MEASURING SUCTION. Which is worse? Timothy the Cat’s retelling, or David Lynch’s? It’s close. Here’s Jonathan K. Dick’s evaluation of the movie at A.V Club, Dune can’t capture the novel’s incalculable brilliance”.

So what the hell is wrong with Lynch’s Dune? Before the collective “everything” echoes through the internet, it’s important to understand that the phrase itself “Lynch’s Dune” should already throw up the kind of red flags usually reserved for impending, air-raid level danger. Four years removed from his time behind the chair as director for the spirit-lifting biopic The Elephant Man and its eight Academy Award nominations, Lynch received the go-ahead from producer Raffaella De Laurentiis to direct the film adaption of Dune. This after 20 years, no less than 10 directors, producers, screenwriters, scripts, and general filmmaking anxiety that included the likes of Ridley Scott, Rudy Wurlitzer, Robert Greenhut, and of course the brilliantly documented attempt by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

(12) FIRST SEASON FLINTSONES COSPLAY? The Traveler from Galactic Journey amusingly interprets cosplay at this weekend’s WonderCon in terms of what fans knew in 1961 — “[March 27, 1961] What A Wonder! (WonderCon)”.

These are generally smallish affairs compared to their business-oriented cousins, with attendance running into the hundreds.  But for the fan who normally has a local community of just a half-dozen fellows (and perhaps many more as pen pals), going to a convention is like a pilgrimage to Mecca.  One meets people with completely different experiences, different perspectives.  There is the opportunity to get news from far and wide on exciting new projects, both fan and professional.  And the carousing is second to none, both in the heights of enthusiasm and creativity.

Take a look at my newly developed roll of shots from “WonderCon”, a sizeable affair held last weekend in Los Angeles.  These are some dedicated fans, some fabulous costumes, and some terrific times!

First off, a few attendees who came in street clothes: …

(13) MILESTONES ABOVE THE SKY. Motherboard advises that “‘In Space We Trust’ is a Beautiful History of Exploration”

In the timeline (which for all its beauty will entirely monopolize your CPU usage) you navigate the history of space as a young cosmonaut. The timeline begins with the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik and takes the user through all the major space milestones: first spacecraft, journeys to other planets, landings on celestial bodies.

Each milestone is accompanied by a series of stunning animations, a brief description of the event and a link to a Wikipedia page on the topic in case you want to read more. Your journey is orchestrated with an ethereal soundtrack that is overlaid with sounds from space like cosmonauts on a radio or rocket engines igniting.

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Larry McMurtry’s Wells Collection To Auction

On April 8, Larry McMurtry’s collection of H.G. Wells items will be auctioned. According to Rare Book Week

Highlights include a true first edition of The Time Machine and a first edition of The Invisible Man, signed by the author. [Also] a first edition of Tales of Space and Time (London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1900), inscribed by Wells to Henry James with an original drawing of Ugh-lomi, protagonist of “A Story of the Stone Age.”

McMurtry, winner of a Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove and an Oscar for his co-adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, is also a legend among booksellers as the owner of Booked Up in Archer City, TX. Edd Vick wrote about his visit there in 2012 when the business still occupied four buildings around the town square. That year McMurtry auctioned off 300,000 books, however, Booked Up No. 1 is still open today with a vast inventory of more than 150,000 volumes.

Separate from his bookstore business he has assembled many collections, including the Larry McMurtry Collection of H. G. Wells, part of Heritage Auction’s Rare Book Auction #6117 in New York on April 8-9. As Zachary Stacy explained in a recent article —

The collection was developed by Nina Matheson with help from Serendipity Books and added to by McMurtry. It contains items to highlight any Wells collection, including the true first edition of The Time Machine (New York: Henry Holt, 1895) with H. G. Wells’s name misprinted on the title page, The Island of Doctor Moreau (London: William Heinemann, 1896) in trial binding, and a signed first edition of The Invisible Man (London: C. Arthur Pearson, 1897).

Also going under the hammer are numerous association copies once owned by Wells, such as a first edition copy of the 1937 novel Star Maker presented to him by Olaf Stapledon.

Several other sf collectibles will be sold at the April 8 auction, such as a first edition, first printing of Dune, inscribed to John Pierce by Frank Herbert. And a presentation copy of Slaughterhouse-Five inscribed to the owner of Lord John press, Herb Yellin by Kurt Vonnegut, with a little improvised decoration: “Around this inscription, Vonnegut has drawn ten stars.” (Yellin, who passed away in 2014, published limited editions, some of them by Ursula K. Le Guin, Stephen King, Dan Simmons and Ray Bradbury.)

SF Writer Stamps Delayed

Inverted Jenny

Only in the future could we expect to see science fiction writers on stamps – a future that is a little more distant now that the US Postal Service has postponed til 2014 an anticipated set of commemoratives honoring five of them.

The set was originally announced to subscribers of the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date. Ever since there has been fevered speculation about the honorees, who were unnamed. Would the set be composed only of Americans? Would they be a diverse group? Did honorees have to be deceased (no), and if so, had Bradbury been dead long enough to make the list?

Linn’s Stamp News for April 29 carried news of the postponement and reportedly named the writers who will appear on the stamps —

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Robert A. Heinlein
  • Frank Herbert

Collectors discussing the delay observed the science fiction writer issue isn’t the only casualty of the 2013 program. They say the Ingrid Bergman stamp, Just Move stamps, and Medal of Honor Winner stamps and the March on Washington stamp were all set back.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Long: SF in Unexpected Places

By Sam Long: The March 7 issue of The New Yorker magazine has a poem titled “Megamouth Shark” by John Kinsella on page 53 (subscription required).  I quote the following lines from the middle of the poem:

   …and I can’t help but think
   that this tank and its inhabitants are prescient fulfillment
   of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” a pox on emperor houses
   of curators and scientists, this Guild Navigator the benign
   encapsulation of Edric shrouded in orange gas,
   so distorted to outside eyes, plotting the courses of ships
   through space without collision, …

SF is rarely mentioned or even alluded to (as here) in the The New Yorker, such that when it is, it stands out.

Dino De Laurentiis Dies

Dino De Laurentiis

Hollywood legend Dino De Laurentiis has died in Los Angeles at the age of 91.  The producer of two Hugo nominees, Flash Gordon and Dune, was once described by the LA Times as “a master showman, the last survivor of a bygone era of swashbuckling Hollywood producers … who made movies fueled by grandiose schemes and consummate salesmanship.”

He began his career as a producer in Italy in the 1940s. In the following decade produced two Oscar-winning best foreign films, both directed by Fellini, La Strada and Nights of Cabiria. He moved to the United States and made another Academy Award winner, Serpico (1973).

De Laurentiis had a hand in the production of many genre films, including Barbarella, the 1976 remake of King Kong and two Conan movies. Although the uneven quality of his output earned him an ambivalent reputation among sf fans, let us remember – Frank Herbert liked the movie he made of Dune.

Ties for the Best Novel Hugo

That China Miéville’s The City and the City tied Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl for the 2010 Best Novel Hugo surprised me. Maybe, like many fans, I’m prone to underestimate fantasy novels as Hugo contenders.  

Bacigalupi’s SF novel had taken home every prize from the Nebula to the Compton Crook Award. It made Time magazine’s list of the Top 10 of Everything 2009. I expected it to win the Hugo by a landslide.

Now I’ve learned that hindsight is the only sight when it comes to Hugo handicapping. Other major awards may be poor predictors of Hugo success (see “The Unpredictable Best Novel Hugo”), still , they occasionally line up in the rear view mirror to make it seem as if picking against the favorite should have been the easiest thing in the world.

While The Windup Girl won the 2010 Locus Award for First Novel it finished far behind Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker in the SF Novel category. Meanwhile, Miéville’s The City and the City landed on top of the Fantasy Novel category. It was pretty clear that The Windup Girl would have serious competition for the Hugo.

The voters found these two novels indistinguishable in quality on Hugo night. Will they still seem so twenty years from now?

This is the third tie for the Best Novel Hugo in its history. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times.

In 1993 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis tied with A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.

It’s Doomsday Book Diana and I have given to friends we wanted to interest in science fiction. Connie Willis’ time travel adventure builds to a transcendent ending in which the efforts of an individual make a great deal of difference – not measured by how many lives are saved (a typical yardstick of stfnal heroism) but by the compassion shown to characters we care about in their hour of death, proving we do not all die alone.

Credit A Fire Upon the Deep with impressive ingredients: a richly inventive collection of aliens with unique psychologies, a new cosmology, a freshly imagined doom hanging over sentient life everywhere in the galaxy, and a set of mysterious histories that must be unraveled if anyone is to survive.

Three critical shortcomings hold it back.  

First, Vinge never made me really care whether his characters won out, he merely made me curious about the final choices that he’d craft into the ending. When a story of children in jeopardy fails to jump-start a reader’s emotional connection to its characters, that’s a bad sign.

Second, Vinge initiated a romance between the two main adult human characters, then allowed it to fizzle for reasons that were valid in terms of their personalties and circumstances, facts that didn’t keep me from losing interest in their fates.

Third, the author uses a narrative scaffolding that turns this into SF’s only “e-mail punk” novel. Really, even in the early days of the internet when Vinge wrote this novel, were readers expected to believe the myriad alien races filling the galaxy in times to come would communicate with messages that look exactly as e-mail did in 1991? The small amount of intentional humor provided by strange sentient creatures writing like regulars on rec.arts.sf-lovers is swallowed by the vaster, unintentional humor of a future supposedly as limited as the primitive Internet.

At least in my view, history has broken the tie between Willis’s and Vinge’s novels.

Then, in 1966, Roger Zelazny was an author of one of the novels that tied for the Hugo, a story serialized as “…and Call Me Conrad” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1965. That it won an award under the circumstances is remarkable, having been substantially trimmed from the version later published in hardcover as This Immortal.

When Ted White was an assistant editor at F&SF it became his job to pare Zelazny’s manuscript to fit in the magazine. He spoke in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech about his painstaking efforts, the guilt he felt every time he trimmed a word of Zelazny’s prose – and that after he turned in the manuscript editor Ed Ferman summarily cut another 5,000 words. 

Even the full-length This Immortal feels slight compared with the best of Zelazny’s other award-winning novels such as Lord of Light, Jack of Shadows, and Isle of the Dead. Though it’s a good read This Immortal can’t withstand comparison with the novel it tied for the Hugo – Frank Herbert’s Dune, a canonical great work of science fiction.  

Three times there has been a tie for the Best Novel Hugo. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times. What will the verdict be when another generation judges the Miéville and Bacigalupi novels?