(1) GEEK SERVICE. LA Times covers “Loot Crate”, a service that sends buyers a monthly package of mystery merchandise.
In a single town, there might not be enough sci-fi and comics fans to sustain a shop. But across the world, they’ve got plenty of buying power.
The pop-culture-themed T-shirts, dolls, posters, flashlights, magnets and other nicknacks that come stuffed in the Loot Crate box are sometimes available at other online shops. But Loot Crate has separated itself by cultivating relationships with major entertainment companies.
That’s enabled Loot Crate to curate the most interesting products and land at least one big-ticket or highly sought item in every goodie box. Those one-of-a-kind offerings, such as a special “The Walking Dead” comic, often sell for many times the price of the box on EBay.
Entertainment and toy companies sometimes provide Loot Crate with merchandise at a bulk discount and view inclusion in the box as a crucial marketing tactic. Since customers worldwide receive the box around the same date, cool products can spur a blast of social media chatter about, for example, a new movie.
“It’s a virtuous circle of content, commerce and experience with incredible potential for fans and creators alike,” Bettinelli wrote on his blog last week.
(2) STARTING YOUNG. Thoughts on child rearing by Elizabeth Cady in “Raising Your Young Geek” at Black Gate.
A few weeks ago, I was playing with my daughter, who is on the brink of turning four.
“Come here you little demon,” I said.
“I’m not a demon! You’re a demon!” she shrieked before pulling an imaginary sword and shouting “WINDSCAR!!!”
Yup. I got full on Inuyasha-ed by a four year old pixie child….
(3) THAI SCORE. In Episode 10 of Eating the Fantastic Scott Edelman and Mary Turzillo share great food and great conversation at a spot in Las Vegas once dubbed “the best Thai restaurant in America” by Gourmet magazine.
Mary Turzillo and Scott Edelman
We talked about whether there’s a Venn Diagram overlap between her horror and science fiction readership, how her Cajun Sushi Hamsters from Hell writers workshop got its name, why she won’t be self-publishing her unpublished novels, what Gene Wolfe taught her about revising her fiction, and much more.
In podcasts to come: four-time Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Linda Addison … followed by Gene O’Neill, Fran Wilde, and Cecilia Tan.
(4) GHOSTBUSTERS WHEELS. The new Ecto-1 is the perfect vehicle for delivering your loved ones to the grave, and returning them to it when they come back to haunt you.
(5) WHO SPOILAGE: BEWARE. ScienceFiction.com has a reason for asking “’Doctor Who’: Will We See Clara Return In Season 10?”.
At the Washington Awesome Con this past weekend during a panel featuring both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, Capaldi was asked how the Doctor would be getting along now that his companion is gone:
Capaldi: “I’m not sure how successfully Clara was able to wipe his mind. In fact I just did a … I was about to tell you something I can’t tell you.”
Coleman: “I just noticed that. Good save. Good save. It’s something to look forward to.”
Trying to salvage his almost faux paux as well as give a little tease to the attendees, Capaldi added:
“I just shot something… Clara was still there.”
Here’s the video that inspired the article.
(6) WHO’S GOT THE MOST DOE? David Klaus recommends Bjorn Munson’s blog Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: “This man has done an excellent job of detailing all the issues involved in the CBS/Paramount v. Axanar lawsuit, along with timelines.” Munson’s latest post, 22nd in a series, is “Axanar Lawsuit: The Counterclaim and the Road Ahead”.
You’ll see we’re coming up to June 8th where additional defendants, known as “Does” will have to be named or be dropped from the lawsuit (this amounts to a card the Plaintiffs have to play or lose).
There is much speculation about which Does will be named and what their defense lawyers will do. We’ll also know what CBS/Paramount thinks of the counterclaim above by Monday, June 13th.
I’ll save further speculation and observations for others or when I get more information. For now, I mainly wanted to write this post for friends and fellow filmmakers who wanted to know the Axanar lawsuit timeline and how nigh impossible it will be for Axanar to win the case should it go to trial.
I know they’re not going to admit that. That’s playing a card they don’t have to. But they’re going to settle. It’s just a question of when.
(7) RECOVERING AT HOME. Unfortunately, George R.R. Martin came home from Balticon 50 with the con crud. Best wishes for a quick rebound.
I am back home again in Santa Fe, after two weeks on the road in Baltimore and New York City.
Great trip… but I seem to have brought the plague home with me.
Some kind of con crud was going around at Balticon. My assistant Jo was stricken with it, as was my friend Lezli Robyn, though in both cases it did not manifest until after the con. Coughing, fever, headache, congestion, more coughing.
I got it too, albeit a milder case. And then my assistant Lenore was stricken. (So far Parris has been spared, knock wood).
(8) ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ELROND. Hampus Eckerman sent the link to a HowStuffWorks quiz —
Can you spot the prescription drug names among Elf names from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium? Test your Elven race IQ.
I scored very badly….
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
- June 8, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. The novel’s all-seeing leader, known as “Big Brother,” becomes a universal symbol for intrusive government and oppressive bureaucracy.
- June 8, 1984 — Ghostbusters was released.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.
(11) NO OCTARINE. Remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction? Well, they didn’t. From SF Site News we get the link to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announcement:
Following earlier reports that the claims for discovery of these elements have been fulfilled [1, 2], the discoverers have been invited to propose names and the following are now disclosed for public review:
- Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113,
- Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115,
- Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117, and
- Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118.
(12) CALLING YOU. Alexandra Erin is offering prizes: “De-Gendering Stories: A Challenge”
I’d love to see more writers exploring this kind of writing, so here we come to my challenge: write a story of any length with at least two characters and no references to their gender.
There are many ways to do this, none of them wrong. You can simply avoid using personal pronouns in the narration, as most of the stories I referenced above do. You can use a gender neutral pronoun. You can write it in first or second person, allowing one of the characters to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns such as I/me or you. The lack of gender can be part of the story (agender characters, distant characters communicating via text, a character whose identity is obscured and unknown) or it can be incidental. It can be a short vignette or dialogue, it can be a classic story with a beginning, middle, and end. It can be a story where the lack of gender is the point, or it can be a story where it’s incidental.
If you undertake this challenge and you post your story somewhere (your blog, Tumblr, a fic archive), please send a link to it to my email address blueauthor (Where? At…) alexandraerin (Neither Wakko nor Yakko, but Dot) com, with the subject heading “Gender Free Writing Challenge”. On August 1st, I’ll post a round-up of links to the stories I have received by that point.
To encourage participation, let’s make it interesting. I will award prizes of $25, $15, and $10 to the story I enjoy the most, second most, and third most, respectively. Depending on how many responses I receive, judging and award of the prizes may not happen until later in the month. As English is the only language in which I am a skilled enough reader to judge stories, I can only provide prizes to stories that are in English or have an English translation. I know there are languages in which the challenge portion of this challenge is trivial, but to be considered for the prize, the English version must also be gender neutral.
(13) OUT OF MY MIND. M.P. Xavier Dalke reviews John Brunner’s 1967 short story collection Out of My Mind at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature.
Out of My Mind, thankfully, doesn’t contain any of the chaff; nor does it, however, show any great ambition or artistry that Brunner later exhibited along the lines of Stand on Zanzibar (1968) or The Sheep Look Up (1972). The best stories in this collection, comparatively, soar far above such dreck as “No Other Gods But Me” (1966). At the same time, they have an aura of whim exuded by the author—many of them aren’t serious in nature, yet are cleverly based on the kernel of an idea that Brunner ran with. This doesn’t always translate well as it feels just like that: this is my seed of my idea (which may be good or bad, depending on the reader) and this is the roughly textured chaff that surrounds it (sometimes good, sometimes bad, too).
(14) ALL THE BIRDS. Camestros Felapton brings us “Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders”.
When we first meet Patricia Delfine she is a young child and her story slips very quickly from realism into fairy-tale with talking birds and unnecessarily cruel parents and sibling. It is unclear what is reality and what is simply the work of an over-active imagination but Charlie Jane Anders’s first novel doesn’t stop to discuss this. Instead she leaves the reader with a choice – to take Patricia’s story at face value (talking birds and magical trees amid the petty tyrannies of school and childhood) or to reject it just as her peers and the adults around her reject it.
Which takes us to Laurence. Anders presents us with a choice here as well, but rather than fairy tales Laurence’s apparent escape into fantasy is via science-fiction. He has built himself a two-second time machine and is using broken up bits of old games consoles to create a super-computer. …
Read the review for the verdict.
(15) ALL FELAPTON ALL THE TIME. Do we need File 770 when there are so many Felapton gems to reblog? “A Special Commission for Brian Z (based on an original idea by Dave F.)” – such artistry, Van Gogh would slice off his other ear from sheer envy.
I couldn’t manage a direct pastiche of John Harris’s covers but why not just have a cover based on the core idea of an army of tea drinking, AI-controlled zombie ancillary walruses?
(16) AFTERLIFE AUTOGRAPH SESSION. Paul Davids will read from his new hardcover about Forrest J Ackerman’s posthumous, paranormal adventures An Atheist in Heaven: the Ultimate Evidence of Life After Death? at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale on June 11 from 2-4 p.m. (The book is co-authored by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.) Davids says, “Forry friends, living or dead, please come!!”
Davids other works will be available, too, DVDs of The Life After Death Project and The Sci-Fi Boys.
Cover artist L.J. Dopp will be signing the hardcover and his prints, and reading from his upcoming, satiric fantasy-genre comic book, Tales of The Donald: The Billion-Dollar Time Machine.
Mystery & Imagination is at 238 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203.
(17) COLLECTIBLE COMICS RULE. And mothers world-wide tossed them out…. “High-value comic books are outperforming traditional investments” reports Yahoo! Finance.
Gocompare.com collected information on comic books to determine those that have appreciated the most in price since 2008 compared to the S&P 500’s performance. The top performer was DC’s Batman Adventures #12, first published in 1993. The original cost of the issue was $1.25, and in the last eight years, it has appreciated in price to $800, making a 26,567% return.
“We saw it really take off in terms of rising in value on news that a Suicide Squad spin-off might be in the cards. Then it really rocketed when the producer signed up in 2014, and it was confirmed. That particular comic features Harley Quinn, who we know is going to be one of the main characters in Suicide Squad,” said Nilsson. Suicide Squad will be released in August.
(18) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. Future War Stories lists the Top 10 Critical Elements of Good Military Sci-Fi.
1. An Convincing Enemy
In the real-world, wars and conflicts are fought between groups that have their own philosophies, society, culture, strategies, and point-of-view on the conflict. Rarely, are the parties involved in armed conflict irregular and loosely aligned..even street gangs, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS have their own interior culture and strategies. However, the same cannot be said of the “enemies” seen in science fiction. At times, they are paper-thin antagonists and merely targets for our heroes to shoot at. Creators will forge their protagonist and their side of the conflict in lavish loving detail, but nearly ignore the antagonist side of the conflict. In works like Enemy Mind, Footfall, ROBOTECH, HALO, Killzone, and even Star Trek we see well-developed antagonist to an conflict with the audience seeing more as a fully formed part of the work’s interior universe. This only adds layers to your military sci-fi, making it more memorable and enduring.
However, we have works like Destiny, GI Joe, Armor, Starship Troopers, Edge of Tomorrow, and Oblivion; where we see that the story is mostly centered around the protagonist(s) and their side of the conflict. While Destiny answered some of the questions over the Darkness, the Fallen, the Vex, the Hive, and the space turtle Cabal via Gilmore Cards, they lack any real substance in the actual game besides being targets. And this lack of development leads to a less convincing setting for our military sci-fi universe and for the audience.
There are times, when the story is more about the “good” guys of the story than the enemy, like my book Endangered Species, but I still developed the enemy enough via my characters experiences with them, like the crew of the Nostromo in ALIEN. There has to be a careful balancing act in those kinds of stories. This can also be applied to stories and settings where the enemy is largely unknown for plot and dramatic purposes, like Space: Above and Beyond, ALIENS, and Predator. These types of stories allow the audience a sense of good mystery and wonder about the antagonists, allowing for the work to endure in the minds of the audience. This is the way I felt about the Xenomorphs, the Yautja (Predators), the Skinnies from SST, and the Chigs; I wanted to know more about them and that was compelling, making these enemies more convincing to the fictional universe. Also, an convincing enemy can say more about your protagonist and our fictional universe than you original thought.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, David K.M. Klaus, Andrew Porter, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]