Jody Lynn Nye: Carrying The Torch for Humorous SF

By Carl Slaughter: Humor author Jody Nye has way too much fun. So do the authors she hangs out with.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Why do you write primarily humor?

JODY LYNN NYE: I enjoy it. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud, or even chuckle knowingly. There’s so much out in the real world that is depressing that I want to help lift people’s spirits. If I can help by being the anodyne to the evening news, I will consider my job well done. From the responses I’ve had from readers, they enjoy it. The books I reach for are primarily ones that examine a situation wisely, but with a kind heart behind it. Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, and Mark Twain all had a hand in forming my point of view, and they were masters at what I practice. You can make hard truths palatable if you make people laugh while you’re stating them, but pure entertainment is also a noble cause.

CS: What makes good humor?

JLN: The easiest way to look at humor is to take an ordinary situation, but put a twist in it. (A very quick example is a commercial on television right now, where a man behind a desk is explaining his business, but an adorable two-year-old is asking, as two-year-olds do, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” after every explanation, so he keeps going. At last, he clearly feels that he’s done enough catering to a two-year-old, and glances toward the mother, who scolds him. “These are important questions!” she insists.) Elevate the lowly, bring the lofty down a peg, make the unimportant vital. There’s a saying that humor is tragedy plus time, but I believe it’s also defined as tragedy plus distance. (i.e., “The Ballad of Harry Lewis,” by Allan Sherman.) Exaggeration is another factor. As Mel Brooks says, “If I get a papercut on my finger, that’s a tragedy. If you fall down a manhole and die, that’s comedy.” Most good humor is brief, so you need a good story to base the funny moments upon. Humor should never punch down.

CS: How do you mix humor and speculative?

JLN: Like tragedy or drama, humor can enhance a story. Read any science article while keeping an ironic point of view, and almost anything can sound absurd. Take the ravings of a clear crank seriously, and you also have humor. In my Lord Thomas Kinago space opera series, maintaining humankind’s genetic structure is vital, but it has the unintended consequence of allowing the otherwise useless nobility to keep existing. The humorous SF detective stories I write for Alex Shvartsman’s Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series feature a detective sergeant having to allow the implantation into her abdomen of a symbiotic alien as an extreme form of witness protection. Each story also has a further SF twist to otherwise ordinary objects, rendering such things as contact lenses and a swimming pool as murder weapons.

CS: How did you hook up with Anne McCaffrey and what type of relationship did you have with her?

JLN: Anne had licensed the Pern universe to Mayfair Games for the Dragonriders of Pern role play game. My husband, then fiancè, was one of the partners who owned Mayfair. I wrote game materials for them. Bill created two series of choose-your-own adventures set in licensed fictional worlds, the Crossroads individual adventures for TOR Books and the Combat Command military adventures for Ace. Because I wrote game materials for Mayfair (I had been playing D&D since 1976) and I could write fiction, I ended up penning two Crossroads game novels set on Pern, and Anne’s son Todd, wrote a Combat Command set in David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series. I met Anne at Norwescon that year to go over the proposed plot of the first one, Dragonharper (yes, I know Todd has since written a Pern novel called Dragon Harper.) and explain how a chosen-path story works. Since Dragonharper was going to be about young Journeyman Harper Robinton (later Master Harper Robinton), I wrote a very short sample for her, which was called “Robinton Hits the Sauce.” Anne thought it was hilarious, and it explained game book structure to her. Anne adopted me as one of her large extended family. She told me, “You’re going to be writing official Pern fiction, and a lot of people might be jealous of you. You can tell them, “Oh, that Anne McCaffrey! She’s so hard to deal with! I’ll never work with her again!” Or, you can tell them you’re my daughter.” She was always encouraging and otherwise wonderful and welcoming. I’ll always miss her.

CS: How did you hook up with Robert Asprin and what type of relationship did you have with him?

Jody Lynn Nye and Robert Asprin

JLN: Bob was one of my husband Bill’s best friends. They knew each other long before I met either of them. When Bill and I were still engaged, we went to Ann Arbor, where Bob lived with his second wife, Lynn Abbey. They were so welcoming and kind that I felt I had known them for years. They introduced me to interests such as ice dancing and needlepoint. A lot of people pushed me and Bob to work together. Since we both wrote humor, of course. And we liked cats. And singing show tunes. We eyed each other dubiously, but when Bob hit a hard writer’s block after Phule’s Company hit the New York Times bestseller list (fear of success is a thing), Bill encouraged us to sit down and write something together that had nothing to do with any of our previous series.

Bob came up to our house, to Chicago in January, showing incredible faith in his friends, since our winters are not for sissies. Bill sat in the room as we began to outline the story, which later became License Invoked, for Baen Books. After no more than half an hour, it became evident that we were having a blast, and didn’t need him to referee. I think we were born to be collaborators. Bill went back to his office to play computer games, and we wrote the outline and divided it by sections. It seemed to help him get over the hump.

When he finally finished the twelve-book Donning Starblaze contract for Myth, he said he wanted me to collaborate on continuing Myth books. We wrote six novels and a story collection before he passed away in 2008. I’ve done two Myth books since, and continued his Dragons series, also from Ace Books. I adored Bob. Our sense of humor were similar. We had a stunning number of things and attitudes in common. My favorite times were sitting with him in the restaurant of the Hyatt in Atlanta every DragonCon weekend working on the plot of the next Myth book. We’d be laughing like loons, and passersby would rubberneck furiously to try to hear what we were talking about.

CS: What goes on in the Myth Adventures universe?

JLN: Same as always. Skeeve is a soft touch to a hard-luck story and has to deal with his shortcomings as an innocent Klahd. Aahz lets people think he’s a heartless, greedy monster, instead of the soft-hearted old grouse we all know him to be. (Notice I didn’t dispute the “greedy” part.) Their friendship will never die. Bunny is now in charge of M.Y.T.H., Inc., which means more organization for the gang. The series will always be full of horrible puns and chapter quotes which, trivia fact, only appear on the head of chapters in which Skeeve is featured. I have had so many people tell me that the books came along when they needed them. The same is true for me. I started reading them during a tough time in college. I want that joy to be there for future readers.

CS: How long will the Myth Adventure series continue and how often will the stories be released?

JLN: I will continue them as long as I can. I’m trying to keep the breezy mood of the earlier volumes such as Little Myth Marker. I’ve got ideas for several more volumes waiting in the wings, more short stories (a couple have been published in anthologies by Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press), and a young adult series. Keep an eye on my website or the Myth-Adventures website for news as I get it.

CS: You’ve done a lot of work with DAW, Baen’s, Ace, Del Rey, and Tor. What type of relationship have you have with these blue chip speculative publishers?

JLN: Cordial, I hope. Baen is my primary publisher. I’ve been with them since 1988 or 1989, and twelve books so far, if you don’t count the omnibuses. Moon Beam will make it thirteen. I love being part of the Baen family. It’s one of the few publishers that encourages their writers to collaborate and intersect on series. I have only done short stories for DAW, but they’re a joy to work with. Ace encouraged me by bringing out my own science fiction series (Taylor’s Ark). Susan Allison had been the series editor for the Myth-Adventures since the beginning, and pleaded with me to continue the Dragons series after Bob died. Del Rey published the Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern. The editor was surprised when we brought her twice the length and twice the number of illustrations she originally requested, but they got behind it in a big way. Tom Doherty of TOR is my hero. Claire Eddy at TOR was my editor on the Crossroads books, and I am still very fond of her. Brian Thomsen edited my fantasy duology, but died before the second volume came out. He had been my editor on my first fantasy books, the Mythology 101 series (no relation to Myth), and I loved him. I’d still be working with him if he was around.

CS: What type of story is Moon Beam?

JLN: Adventure featuring a group of great characters in an exciting setting. Barbara Winton is the newest member of the Bright Sparks, a group of young scientists working on the Moon under the auspices of Dr. Keegan Bright, the host of a daily science broadcast program for kids. Dr. Bright is the Sparks’ mentor, but they come up with the experiments and programs that they want to explore, and they do all the work. In Moon Beam (this is intended as an ongoing series; the second is already being written), the Sparks are building a radio/radar telescope on the far side of the Moon, well away from the light pollution and atmosphere of Earth. If that wasn’t enough of an adventure by itself, a coronal mass ejection, the hard radioactive rays ejected from a sunspot, is heading toward the Sparks, who are trapped days away from rescue, and have to save themselves as one thing after another goes wrong.

CS: Why a young adult series?

JLN: Since my style makes many people already think I write young adult fiction, it seemed like a natural progression. I got into a conversation at a Baen party with Travis Taylor, who actually IS a rocket scientist as well as an author. He, too, had wanted to write YA fiction, but hadn’t made the jump yet. We started throwing ideas back and forth. They gelled beautifully, and I started taking notes. By the party’s end, we had written an outline and proposed it to our publisher, Toni Weisskopf. She didn’t take that particular outline, but we soon adapted it to something she liked.

CS: What’s the STEM connection?

JLN: Young scientists working on the Moon. The subject just begs to be explored.

CS: Why a STEM connection?

JLN: The US is falling far behind other countries in promoting the STEM disciplines, science, technology, engineering and math, to students, particularly female students. Too many kids begin to think that science is too hard, and that there’s no place for them in any program that does anything real or important. They drop away, and we lose brilliant, motivated, interested minds when we should be begging them to share their energy with us. Science can be fun and exciting, and we need young thinkers to be part of our shared future.

CS: How long will the STEM series continue and how often will the stories be released?

JLN: The second one is being written, and we have proposals in for several more. I think that Baen would like to have them out once a year.

CS: What’s Travis Taylor’s connection to the series and connection with you?

JLN: We are collaborators and getting to be friends. We first met at Deep South Con 50 in Huntsville, AL, in 2012, but it wasn’t until LibertyCon the next year, I think, that we had a chance to sit down and talk. (see above)

CS: WordFire, isn’t that Kevin Anderson? What’s it like to work with him?

JLN: I’ve known Kevin since we were all at an awful convention together in 2001. He started WordFire some years later, and did me the honor to invite me to bring out my backlist of out-of-print books through WordFire. He’s been very encouraging. I think it’s been beneficial to both of us. I’m working on a small book for his Million Dollar Productivity series at the moment.

CS: You’ve sold at least 4 stories to Galaxy’s Edge, 3 the same year and one on the horizon. What’s it like to work with Mike Resnick?

JLN: (Correction — our name is usually on the cover because of the book column. I’ve sold three reprints to Mike, but they didn’t all come out in the same year.) Mike’s a national treasure. He has been enormously encouraging to younger writers, including me. He has collaborated with a number of them that he felt could benefit from the attention of being published with him. He calls them his “author daughters.” I’m working on a book with him, too, but I’m waiting to see what title he gives me. Mike created the Stellar Guild series, which pairs “superstars” (his term), including Robert Silverberg, Mercedes Lackey, Harry Turtledove, Kevin J. Anderson, and me, with younger, less experienced writers. The senior author creates a novella, and the junior author writes a prequel or sequel to the main story. I thought it was a wonderful idea. My Stellar Guild book was written with Angelina Adams, a promising new writer whom Todd McCaffrey had been teaching. My husband and I also write the Book Recommendations column for Galaxy’s Edge. So far, Mike seems happy with it.

CS: It’s hard not to notice that all your short fiction is through anthologies. Why not market to periodicals?

JLN: At first, it was blatant cowardice. I sent my first SF story to Stan Schmidt at Analog. He rejected it, but with a full letter telling me that he had seen the plot before, but he really liked my style, and to send him something else. I was only nineteen and had no connection to other SF writers to be reassured how rare and special a thing such a letter was. Instead, I retreated into my shell for several more years. I wrote my first professional short story for David Drake and my husband Bill for The Fleet shared world anthologies. After that, I got on Martin Greenberg’s radar, and wrote at least forty stories for his anthologies. I like the guidance of themed anthologies. The idea creates a frame I can paint in. It turns out that there were three of us who were Marty’s go-to authors when he needed good stories in a hurry, or to fill up a space for a writer who had let him down: me, Esther Friesner, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Other editors reached out to me, filling my schedule with terrific ideas I couldn’t wait to explore. Now, it’s probably pure indolence that I don’t write more stories for magazines. I do want to. The more I read the good things that are being published, the more I want to be part of that.

CS: Did I miss anything?

JLN: I’m a big cat fan. My cat Jeremy enjoys a life of quiet luxury. A few of my friends have told me they’d like to come back as one of my cats. I enjoy reading, cooking and baking, travel, photography, and calligraphy. I have found that I really enjoy teaching. I run the two-day intense basic workshop at DragonCon every year.

Pixel Scroll 4/12/17 Blah, Blah, Blah, Pixels, Blah, Blah, Scroll

(1) FOR THE RECORD. Odyssey Con co-chair Alex Merrill published an official response to the departure of GoH Monica Valentinelli yesterday – filling the void left by Richard S. Russell’s retracted statement with something more socially acceptable.

We, the Convention Committee of Odyssey Con, deeply regret losing Monica as a Guest of Honor, especially in the way the last twenty-four hours have unfolded. Odyssey Con strives to be a warm and welcoming place for all people to express themselves and engage in fandoms. We took a long and hard look at the issue of having Jim Frenkel continue to be a member of our convention committee when he was banned from WisCon in 2012. Our position at that time was to look at our policy on harassment and ensure that any situation that may take place at our convention would be dealt with professionally. We now have an ombudsman, anonymous reporting procedures, and a very detailed policy. There have been no complaints filed against Mr. Frenkel from attendees of Odyssey Con. However, in light of Monica’s email, the following changes have been made: Mr. Frenkel is no longer a member of our ConCom in any capacity, he has no position of authority in the convention proper, and he is not a panelist or lecturer. He has the right to purchase a badge and attend the convention, but as of this writing, I do not know if he is planning to do that.

I personally wish to apologize for the mishandling of our response to Monica’s concerns. It has never been our intent to minimize any guest’s complaints. Odyssey Con is an all volunteer organization staffed by people who have many strengths, but not all of us are great communicators.

I have already reached out to Monica to personally apologize for the email response she received from one of our ConCom members and for the subsequent posting of email chains publicly. This exchange was not an example of Odyssey Con as a whole, which is run by fans, for fans. I hope to have a continued dialogue with you all.

However, the first comment left on the post identified a number of questions that remained unanswered by the statement.

And after K. Tempest Bradford looked over the new response, she shared her reaction in the comments of her blog.

…No matter how much the Internet is mad at your organization, that does not excuse any implication that the person reporting feeling unsafe because a harasser is involved in running the con is at fault here. That’s immature. That’s not professional. That’s yet another indication that guests would not have been treated professionally by OddCon as an organization.

Also an indication that attendees will not be treated in a professional manner.

And being a volunteer run con is not an excuse for that. Yeah, you’re all volunteers, but you’re running an event. People attending said event as fans or guests have the right to expect a certain level of safety and respectful treatment from those running the event. That was not what happened. Now they’re sorry. Yet I still do not see that behavior addressed in a meaningful way in this Sorry….

(2) MARVEL FIRES SYAF. Marvel pencil artist Ardian Syaf, who inserted anti-Semitic and anti-Christian political references into his work on X-Men Gold has now been officially terminated.

Over the weekend, Marvel released a statement that it had been unaware of the references, and they would remove the artwork from all upcoming versions of the issue.

The company’s follow-up statement, quoted in Paste Magazine, says:

Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately. X-Men: Gold #2 and #3 featuring his work have already been sent to the printer and will continue to ship bi-weekly.

Issues #4, #5, and #6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues #7, #8, and #9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley. A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men: Gold in the coming weeks.

Syaf wrote on his Facebook page:

Hello, Worlds…

My career is over now.

It’s the consequence what I did, and I take it.

Please no more mockery, debat, no more hate. I hope all in peace.

In this last chance, I want to tell you the true meaning of the numbers, 212 and QS 5:51. It is number of JUSTICE. It is number of LOVE. My love to Holy Qur’an…my love to the last prophet, the Messenger…my love to ALLAH, The One God.

My apologize for all the noise. Good bye, May God bless you all. I love all of you.

Ardian Syaf

However, Coconuts warns that statement should not be confused with Syaf actually regretting his actions.

…In an interview about the controversy with local newspaper Jawa Pos published today, Ardian explained why he thought that Marvel could not accept his explanation for including the references.

’But Marvel is owned by Disney. When Jews are offended, there is no mercy,” he was quoted as saying.

After making the anti-Semitic remark, Ardian reiterated to the interviewer that he was not anti-Semitic or anti-Christian because, if he was, he wouldn’t have worked for a foreign publisher.

(3) WHITE AWARD DELAYED. The British Science Fiction Association has postponed the date for revealing the winner of the James White Award:

With apologies to those who have entered this year’s competition, we are sorry to announce that the announcement of this year’s James White Award winner has been delayed.

The longlist will announced shortly after Easter and the shortlist shortly after that. We are working to complete the judging as quickly as possible.

We intend to announce the winner by Friday, 19 May at the latest.

(4) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has unveiled The SFWA Science Fiction Storybundle.

The SFWA Science Fiction Bundle is a very special collection full of great sci-fi books that benefit a great cause! If you’re unfamiliar with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s over 50 years old, and has a membership of professional writers and publishing professionals from around the globe. It administers the Nebula Awards each year. This bundle is filled with talented SFWA members and their wonderful works, such as Tech Heaven by Locus-award-winning Linda Nagata and Factoring Humanity by Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winning Robert J. Sawyer, plus 10 more tremendous reads. You can easily choose to donate part of your purchase to the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America to support these fantastic authors. Don’t forget to click here to read much more about the bundle, and make sure to click on each cover for reviews, a preview and a personal note from our curator!

It has another 22 days to run.

(5) DISTRACTIONS. With so much happening in 1962, Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf finds it hard to concentrate on her reading — “[April 12, 1962] Don’t Bug Me (May 1962 Fantastic).

Maybe it’s because it’s almost time to mail in those tax forms to Uncle Sam, or maybe it’s because of the tension between President Kennedy and the steel companies, or maybe it’s because Jack Parr left his television series (which will now be known by the boring, generic title The Tonight Show), or maybe it’s because the constant radio play of the smash hit Johnny Angel by actress Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show is driving me out of my mind, or maybe it’s because of George Schelling’s B movie cover art for the May 1962 issue of Fantastic; but for whatever reason your faithful correspondent approached the contents of the magazine with a leery eye….

(6) TIPTREE. There will be a Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41 on Saturday, May 27.

Can’t get enough Tiptree fun on Facebook? Are you curious about Tiptree auctions? Fan of Sumana Harihareswara? Want to support science fiction that explores and expands gender? Want to roar with laughter? There are dozens of possible reasons to go to the Tiptree Auction at WisCon 41.

(7) APEX REPRINTS EDITOR. Apex Magazine is bringing aboard Maurice Broaddus as reprints editor. The magazine publishes one reprint in each issue, and he will be responsible for finding those reprints beginning with issue 98, July 2017.

Maurice Broaddus and Apex Publications have a long history together going back 10 years. He has been published in several of our anthologies, including most recently in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling edited by Monica Vallentinelli and Jaym Gates. He has also had several books published through Apex, including Orgy of Souls (co-written by Wrath James White), I Can Transform You, and the anthologies Dark Faith and Dark Faith: Invocations which he co-edited with Jerry Gordon. Most recently, Maurice Broaddus guest edited an issue of Apex Magazine—issue 95 (http://www.apex-magazine.com/issue-95-april-2017/) , which included original fiction by Walter Mosley, Chesya Burke, Sheree Renee Thomas, and Kendra Fortmeyer, poetry by Linda D. Addison and LH Moore, and nonfiction by Tanya C. DePass.

(8) NEW COLUMNIST. Galaxy’s Edge magazine has a new columnist, Robert J. Sawyer. He’ll replace Barry N. Malzberg starting with issue 27.

Robert J. Sawyer, author of the bestselling novel Quantum Night, has agreed to write a regular column for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Robert is currently one of the foremost science fiction authors in the field and one of Canada’s top writers. He was admitted into The Order of Canada (one of the country’s highest civilian honors) in 2016. His novels have won more awards than any other person in the history of the genre (as per the Locus index for science fiction awards) from countries around the world.

(9) SINISALO. At Europa SF, Cristin Tamas conducts a lengthy interview with 2017 Worldcon GoH Johanna Sinisalo.

Cristian Tamas : Johanna Sinisalo seems to have emerged, along with Leena Krohn and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, as a central figure in the ‘‘Finnish Weird’’, which like many such movements may be a coincidence, a plot, or even, as Sinisalo herself said in her introduction to last year’s Finnish Weird anthology, simply a ‘‘brand.’’ In any case, it seems to carry with it a celebratory feeling of having just rediscovered the possibilities of nonrealistic fiction, even as some of its major works come with pretty grim premises.” – Gary K.Wolfe ; Please comment !

Johanna Sinisalo : Finnish Weird is basically a term invented for commercial uses, based on the fact that most of the Finnish Weird writers do not want to be pigeonholed as fantasy or sf or horror writers. Words like “nonrealistic” or “speculative fiction” are relatively strange to the wider audiences, so we came up with this kind of definition that could perhaps be compared to the commercial term “Nordic Noir”. Analogically, the Scandinavian crime writers have not “rediscovered the possibilities of crime fiction”, but the term Nordic Noir tells the reader that those books are a part of a certain literary tradition (and in many cases it is also considered as a sign of high quality).

Cristian Tamas : Isn’it weird that the oldest (beginning of the 13th century) known document in any Finnic language, the Birch Bark Letter no.292 is written in Cyrillic alphabet in the Karelian dialect of the archaic Finnish (or Finnic language) and it was found in 1957 by a Soviet expedition led by Artemiy Artsikhovsky in the Nerevsky excavation on the left coast side of Novgorod, Russia ? Is this an avant-la-lettre sample of Finnish Weird ?

Johanna Sinisalo: It is an interesting document. As far as I know the only words in that letter that the scholars totally agree upon are “God” and “arrow”, and the most popular theory is that the the text is a spell or prayer protecting from lightnings, saying “Jumaliennuoli on nimezhi”, roughly ”You are / will be called as the Arrow of Gods”. Perhaps it forecasts that we Finnish Weird writers are lightnings of the literary gods?

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Bookmobile Day

Bookmobile Day is an opportunity to celebrate one of the many services offered through public libraries. Originating in the nineteenth century, the earliest bookmobiles were horse-drawn wagons filled with boxes of books. In the 1920s, Sarah Byrd Askew, a New Jersey librarian, thought reading and literacy so important that she delivered books to rural readers in her own Ford Model T. And today, Kenya still uses camels to deliver materials to fans of reading in rural areas.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 12, 1981 — Space shuttle Columbia first launched.

(12) COMIC SECTION. A horrible pun and a funny gag – John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Brevity.

(13) HATERS. John Scalzi, the midst of his annual Reader Request Week, takes up the subject of “Haters and How I Deal With Them”. This section of his post is from a list of “things I know about haters, and how they relate to me.”

Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.

(14) MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH. Quite coincidentally, Vox Day put up a post titled “This is what ‘Zero Fucks’ looks like” that’s all about….would you like to guess?

(15) LIBRARIANS LIKE IT. Library Journal gives its take on the 2017 Hugo ballot in “Quality and Diversity”

After a contentious two years owing to the Sad/Rapid Puppies dispute, last week’s announcement of the 2017 Hugo Award nominees was received with acclaim. Library Journal sf columnist Megan McArdle, noting that the puppies appeared to have lost their fangs, was thrilled by the lists. “The fact that so many women are represented (and trans women! and women of color!), just shows that diversity is actually valued by the majority of SFF fans, which is great to see after so much drama in past years.” She was also excited to see a couple of her favorites—Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky and Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit—make the list.

Co-columnist Kristi Chadwick was equally excited by the nominations, which are voted on by attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and paying members of the World Science Fiction Society. “I am a big squeeing girlfan of Seanan McGuire, and I think Every Heart a Doorway has given fantastical tropes a way to bend sideways. Then I see N.K. Jesmin, Charlie Jane Anders, and [Lois McMaster] Bujold? Amazing stories that never cross our desks? The editors, movies and everything else that makes this genre amazing? I am so thrilled with the wealth of knowledge and imagination available to readers today.”

(16) A VISIT TO DYSTOPIA. Nerds of a Feather continues its series on Dystopian Visions. Here are excerpts from two of the major critical essays. And the link will also lead you to innumerable posts about individual books and films with dystopian themes.

What marked Utopia out from these fantasies of plenty was that it could be reached, and reached in two ways. Reached physically: there was a long, arduous but supposedly practicable journey that could get you from here to there. It was a journey beyond the abilities and wishes of most people, but the idea was established that perfection did not exist only in dreams or upon death, but here in the everyday world we all inhabited. And it could be reached structurally: this perfection was not the province of god or of fairies or some supernatural inversion of the natural world, this perfection was achieved by rational men. If a safe, secure, happy existence could be achieved by sensible human organisation in Utopia, then sensible, rational men could achieve the same here.

No, I don’t think science fiction’s exploration of dystopian presents and futures has been instrumental in bringing on twenty-first century dystopia, but the genre as a whole does bear some small responsibility for our comfort with what we should be deeply uncomfortable with…

Three science fiction novels spring to mind as examples, published in 2011, 2013 and 2014. One was by a highly-regarded genre writer, who has spent the last twenty years writing fiction not actually published as science fiction. Another was written by a successful British author of space operas. The earliest of the three is also a space opera, the first in a series of, to date, six novels, which was adapted for television in 2014.

…The three books are: The Peripheral by William Gibson, published in 2014, Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey, published in 2011, and Marauder by Gary Gibson, published in 2013.

Since its beginnings, science fiction has exhibited a blithe disregard for the characters who people its stories, outside those of the central cast of heroes, anti-heroes, villains, love interests, etc. Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965, for instance, describes how Paul Muad’Dib launches a jihad across the galaxy which kills billions. EE ‘Doc’ Smith’s Second Stage Lensman, originally serialised in 1941, opens with a space battle between a fleet of over one million giant warships and an equal number of “mobile planets”… Manipulating scale to evoke sense of wonder is one thing, but the lack of affect with which science fiction stories and novels massacre vast numbers of people, for whatever narrative reason, is more astonishing.

(17) DO YOU? I had to answer “No.”

(18) EXOTIC GAME. Review of Simon Stålenhags RPG Tales from The Loop at Geek & Sundry — “Tales from the Loop Invites You to Roleplay in the ‘80s That Never Was”.

Tales from the Loop takes place in a retro-futuristic version of the 80’s where Cold War Era science brought us hover-vehicles, robots, and other advancements that pepper this light sci-fi landscape. It’s an idyllic time. Kids are free to roam after dark. The same children who have grown up around robots and Magnetrine Vehicles geek out over Dungeons & Dragons and Atari systems. There are problems, but the future is hopeful.

If this whole setting sounds like a sci-fi version of Stranger Things you wouldn’t be far off. If that’s what it takes to get you to crack into this portal into a future past then by all means: it’s a sci-fi version of Stranger Things. But in reality it captures more of the feeling of E.T. or The Goonies. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas were able to get help from Joyce and Sheriff Hopper. In Tales from the Loop the focus is squarely on the trials, challenges, and successes of the kids. One of the 6 Principles of the game right in the book is that “Adults Are Out of Reach and Out of Touch”, and if your character ever turns 16 years old, they age out of the campaign

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Marc Criley for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W, who will be awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the basic Scroll title DNA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge Editorial

By Mike Resnick: Thanks to all the stink raised by both sides at Worldcon, I have an editorial, “The End of Worldcon as We Know It”, in the just published issue of Galaxy’s Edge. It’s accessable online for free…and if you’d like to run it in File 770, you have my blessing.

The End of Worldcon As We Know It

The recent brouhaha (a much better word than kerfluffle) over the Hugo ballot has caused a number of people, online and elsewhere, to proclaim that this is The End of Worldcon, at least the End of Worldcon As We Know It.

So it’s probably time for a little history lesson, because you know what will actually cause The End of Worldcon As We Know It?

Peace, camaraderie, and tranquility.

You think not?

Do you know what Fredrik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, Cyril M. Kornbluth, and Robert A. W. Lowndes have in common? I mean, besides their positions as giants in the annals of science fiction, with Wollheim and Pohl being Worldcon Guests of Honor, Kornbluth being still in print six decades after his premature death, and Lowndes editing for close to half a century?

They were all stopped at the door and not allowed to attend the very first Worldcon back in 1939.

No kidding. It was clearly going to be the End of Worldcon before it was even born.

It’s all written up in The Immortal Storm: A History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1930s, by Sam Moskowitz, the guy who turned them away. (It seems they wouldn’t sign a pledge to behave and to not distribute Futurian John Michel’s Communist diatribe at the convention. Of course, while these four and Michel were being refused entry, Dave Kyle quietly brought a bundle of copies of Michel’s tract, Mutation or Death, into the con.)

It has become known in the field’s history books as The Exclusion Act. Well, in those histories written before 1956…after which it is known as the First Exclusion Act.

Move the clock ahead and stop it in 1964, the year of the Breendoggle.

You don’t know about the Breendoggle?

It seems that the Pacificon committee decided to bar the spouse of a major writer from attending, and this caused quite an uproar, to the point where literally half of fandom was threatening to boycott the convention if he came, and the other half threatened to boycott it if he was not permitted to attend. It was certainly going to be the End of Worldcon As We Know It.

At the last minute, the spouse elected not to attend, and the Worldcon went off as scheduled. So who was the spouse, I hear you ask? Walter Breen, the husband of Marion Zimmer Bradley. And why didn’t the committee want him to attend? If I tell you that he’d been arrested for pederasty in 1954, and died in jail in 1990 while serving time for child molesting, I think you’ll be able to intuit it.

Clifford D. Simak was not only a fine writer, but probably the most decent and gentle man ever to appear in this field. He was the Guest of Honor at the 1971 Worldcon, during the height of the truly acrimonious Old Wave/New Wave War. He spent most of his Guest of Honor speech talking not about himself, or his writing, or even science fiction, but rather attempting to make peace between the warring sides. Alas, he was too rational and made too much sense; the war continued unabated.

But (I hear you say) this End of Worldcon As We Know It is being caused by Hugo balloting, not all that other stuff that delights fannish historians every few years. Surely there’s never been a problem with voting before!

OK, guys—come back from Barsoom and Mesklin and Hyborea, and spend a little time in the real world again.

Not that long ago, in 1989, the Hugo Committee received a number of ballots for a certain up-and-coming artist. Problem was, most of the voters’ memberships were paid for with consecutively-numbered money orders from the same post office. The committee decided not to allow his name on the ballot, though he had enough paid-for votes. (I am told that some people are publicly buying and giving away a number of memberships to this year’s Worldcon. I have no idea what the Hugo committee plans to do about it.)

Of course, that’s far from the only “irregularity.” Remember a couple of years ago, in 2013, when there were only three short stories on the ballot? The reason for that is embedded in the Hugo rules: to make the ballot, a nominee in any category must receive at least 5% of the ballots cast.

Now remember back to 1994. Not the same situation, you say? You just looked, and there were five short stories nominated.

Well, you’re almost right. Only three short stories received 5% of the nominations. So the Hugo Administrator, in his infinite wisdom, added two novelettes to the ballot to fill it out—and sure enough, a novelette won the 1994 Hugo for Best Short Story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niven Aboo

By John Hertz: Larry Niven’s birthday was at the end of April. He threw a party in mid-May, which alas I couldn’t attend. The invitation said “No gifts”. I cheated by sending this 5-7-5-7-7-syllable acrostic.

Laughter, poetry
Appear together in life
Realistically;
Reap the divine comedy
You bring forth with open hands.

I more or less managed to make the middle line pivot, i.e. end the first two and begin the last two. The bottom line alludes to the tenth Oxherding Picture of Ch‘an (or if you prefer the Japanese, Zen) Buddhism. The ox stands for Enlightenment. In the first picture a man searches for the ox. In the next five he sees tracks, glimpses the ox, catches it, tames it, and rides it home. In the seventh there is no ox, the man is alone; the eighth is an empty circle, both ox and self have been transcended. Eight hundred years ago the Chinese master K‘uo-an Shih-yüan (Kakuan Shien to Japanese), realizing this was not the end, added Returning to the Source, followed by Entering the Marketplace with Giving Hands.

In the May Galaxy’s Edge Niven has a fine new Draco Tavern story (he pronounces it to rhyme with wacko, not shako; but don’t feel too bad, the hat for Jerry Pournelle’s costume as a colonel of 1st Hussars, King’s German Legion, built by a local Regency fan, is a busby), tuckerizing a friend of mine. After years of interstellar travelers visiting Rick Schumann the human’s place, making him and Earth rich, he says “Remember when we used to do our own research?”

Niven is among the most comical and most poetic of our authors. Escape from Hell by him and Pournelle is brilliant. You might not notice if you’re one of those folks who think Dante wrote The Divine Comedy to punish his enemies and reward his friends. I just re-read World of Ptavvs which is superb. Good s-f of even a few decades ago – now that we can say such a thing – can be more interesting than when first published. Some of us who read File 770 know the only fan to play a thrint in an s-f convention Masquerade.

Niven is a Scots-Irish name, so Niven aboo!

“Best of Galaxy’s Edge” for 99 Cents Today 4/29

Best of Galaxys Edge COMPThe Kindle edition of The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014 edited by Mike Resnick is priced at 99 cents today.

Table of Contents

• Introduction (The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014) • essay by Mike Resnick
• I, Arachnobot • [The Positronic Robot Stories] • (2014) • shortstory by Brian Trent
• Pocket Full of Mumbles • (2014) • shortstory by Tina Gower
• Creator of the Cosmos Job Interview Today • (2013) • shortstory by Nick DiChario
• Will You Volunteer to Kill Wendy? • (2013) • shortstory by Eric Cline
• Neep • (2014) • shortstory by K. C. Norton
• Effect and Cause • (2013) • shortstory by Ken Liu
• Ghost in the Machine • (2013) • shortstory by Ralph Roberts
• The Prayer Ladder • (2013) • shortstory by Marina J. Lostetter
• Holland: 1944 • (2014) • shortstory by Steve Cameron
• The Spinach Can’s Son • (2013) • shortstory by Robert T. Jeschonek
• Intersection • (2014) • shortstory by Gio Clairval
• No Place for a Hero • (2014) • shortstory by James Aquilone
• Happily Ever After • (1930) • shortstory by C. L. Moore
• Upright, Unlocked • (2014) • shortstory by Tom Gerencer
• Love in Bloom • (2013) • shortstory by Sabina Theo
• Icarus at Noon • (2014) • shortstory by Eric Leif Davin
• Matial • (2014) • shortstory by Lou J. Berger
• Do You Remember Michael Jones? • (2014) • shortstory by Nancy Kress
• Zombies at Work • (2014) • shortstory by Leena Likitalo
• Exemplar • [Secret World Chronicles] • (2014) • novelette by Mercedes Lackey
• The Nechronomator • (2014) • shortstory by Brad R. Torgersen
• Today I Am Nobody • (2013) • shortstory by Tina Gower
• God Walks Into a Bar • [Draco Tavern] • (2014) • shortstory by Larry Niven
• Totaled • (2014) • shortstory by Kary English
• The Unchanging Nature of Stones • (2013) • shortstory by Andrea G. Stewart