Pixel Scroll 7/16/17 Doctor Whoa!

(1) SHE’S THE DOCTOR. The casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor Who hit all the mainstream news outlets.

However, the reaction of some Daily Mail readers left a lot to be desired. But as they say, when you have lemons make lemonade. That’s what comedian Aaron C. M. Gillies did:

And just before the Whittaker announcement, this meme was getting a lot of play on Twitter.

(2) OH NOES! Matthew Foster has also been taking soundings and shared what he found with his Facebook readers.

Fun with sexism. So I just had to go looking to see what the dim set had to say about Doctor Who, and it is amusing. Most that I peaked in on want to keep their sexism on the down low, so while they always object to the Doctor being female, it is never due to her being female. No, no. That’s not the problem… exactly… So there’s lot’s of:

  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because that’s pandering. Yeah.
  • I don’t like the Doctor being a woman, but because it isn’t for a good story reason… You know, the way choosing a male for have been for a good story reason.

Plus 9 more…

(3) RIVER SONG. Radio Times reports actress Alex Kingston was given the news while onstage at a con in North Carolina: “Alex Kingston’s reaction to a female Doctor Who was SO River Song”.

“Jodie Whittaker? Oh my goodness!” the actress told the crowd, after making joke kissing noises. “God, I’m always the damn cradlesnatcher!

“Oh, that’s lovely. She’s a really great actress. She’s fantastic. Oh my God that’s so exciting! Ohhhh! How fabulous.

“Well, we’ve all discovered that together,” she concluded. “That’s marvellous.”

(4) THE FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR. Some argue there’s already been a woman Doctor Who. (Besides Doctor Donna, that is.) It happened in 1997.

Lily Savage (Paul O’Grady) is The Doctor in a comedy sketch from The Lily Savage Show back in 1997. Features Gayle Tuesday (Brenda Gilhooly) as her companion and a classic impression of Liz McDonald from Coronation Street.

 

(5) SCAMMERS LIVE IN VAIN. My latest strategy for finding news is to hang around Camestros Felapton’s blog. He had a bunch of good links in this post: “Is the Kindle store broken?”

And far from living in vain, the scammers are running away with the store, according to David Gaughran: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”.

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples….

How Clickfarms Work

As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

(6) STAR WARS LAND. You can learn preliminary details about Disney’s forthcoming attraction, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from The Verge.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each….

Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, revealed the official name of the Star Wars-inspired lands that are currently under construction at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, and shared details on the immersive experiences guests will be able to enjoy when the lands open in 2019!

 

(7) MARTIN LANDAU OBIT. He won an Oscar playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, but Martin Landau, who passed away today at the age of 89, was first seen by fans in Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (both the Sixties original and again in the Eighties relaunch). Having turned down an offer to play Spock in the original Star Trek series, the pinnacle of Landau’s science fictional success came while playing Commander John Koenig in Space:1999.

He worked constantly over the decades, and appeared in many genre productions — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (one episode, 1966), Mission: Impossible (76 episodes as “Rollin Hand”, 1966-69), Get Smart (one episode, 1969), The Fall of the House of Usher, Meteor (both 1979), The Return (1980), The Being (1983), The Return of the Six-Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Spider-Man (voice, 1995-96), The X-Files (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Frankenweenie (voice, 2012).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1952 Zombies of the Stratosphere flickered briefly through theatres.
  • July 16, 1955 — The TV serial Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe blasted into the popular consciousness.
  • July 16, 1958 — Audiences gasp for the first time at The Fly.
  • July 16, 1959The Alligator People was released.
  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to become the first manned space mission to land on the moon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(10) AND THEY’RE OFF. With Game of Thrones Season 7 starting, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gets its kicks by imagining how each character will die. First up —

Daenerys Targaryen

After finally saying goodbye to noted hellhole Meereen, Dany will be cut down in a tragic boating accident, lest her plot line advance. The tragedy will be of Titanic proportions, with Dany and Missandei struggling to share space on a door before both drowning. Varys will float by moments later and note there was plenty of room on the flotsam for both women. 

(11) TOP TEN. And The Daily Beast it getting its clicks by publishing the list of “‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin’s Top 10 Fantasy Films”.

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

The frightening thing about Holy Grail is that it may very well be the best version of the Matter of Britain ever put on film. King Arthur has not been well served by the movies, I fear. Yes, yes, there’s John Boorman’s Excalibur, a flawed film with with some great parts. Beyond that and Holy Grail, what do we have? Knights of the Round Table (some gorgeous spectacle, but a ham-handed script–the Timpo toy knights issued as tie-ins to the film were better than the movie), Prince Valiant (I liked the Singing Sword, and those pigskins full of boiling oil, but it’s hard to get past Robert Wagner’s wig), First Knight (gag), King Arthur (yes, let’s just let all the Saxons through Hadrian’s Wall and fight them on the other side, what a clever tactic)…. I do have a certain fondness for the film version of Camelot, but only because I never got to see the stage play. But back to Holy Grail. Back to Brave Sir Robin. The Black Knight. The Knights Who Say Ni. The Frenchman on the ramparts. The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Castle Anthrax. Coconuts. (They still sell coconuts at Castle Doune in Scotland, where much of Holy Grail was filmed). What more do I need to say? Let’s go to Camelot! Yes, it is a silly place, but that’s what I love about it.

(12) WAIT UP. io9’s Germain Lussier’s post “This Mysterious New Droid Is Rolling Around the Star Wars Section at D23 Expo” has photos, though apparently they weren’t easy to get.

Disney loves a good surprise, and fans at the D23 Expo in Anaheim got plenty of those over the weekend. One of the more subtle ones featured a brand new droid, rolling around the display for the new theme park additions called Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

The droid definitely resembles other Star Wars droids you know, kind of a R5 droid’s body with 2-1B arms. But, according to Walt Disney Imagineers in the area, it does not yet have an official Star Wars distinction. In fact, the may not even be part of Galaxy’s Edge when it opens in 2019. It’s just kind of an experiment at how droids and humans who are just mulling around can interact. And let me tell you, it’s not necessarily a smooth relationship.

The Imagineers call this guy “Jake” and he would not stand still for a photo. You’d set up to snap one, and he’d just start going the other way. Here’s what it’s like.

(13) CONTAINS SOME NUDITY. In fact, that’s what it mostly contains. Chip Hitchcock is convinced fans could break the record at Worldcon 75 if they put it on the program — “Finland naked swimmers bid for biggest skinny dip record”.

Hundreds of naked swimmers have taken to the water in Finland in a bid to break the world record for the biggest naked swim.

Some 789 people at a music festival in eastern Finland went skinny dipping on Saturday, organisers said, beating the previous record set in Australia by just three, reports said.

Organisers were waiting for Guinness World Records to confirm the record.

It is the third Finnish attempt at the record, Yle news website said.

(14) KING’S SECRET IDENTITY. Mental Floss remembers: “Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman”.

King’s cover endured for a surprisingly long period. But the 1985 release of Thinner would usher in fresh suspicion about Bachman. Unlike the other four novels, Thinner was contemporary King, a hardcover written with the knowledge it was a “Bachman book” and perhaps more self-conscious about its attempt at misdirection. And unlike early-period Bachman, which often featured nihilistic but grounded scenarios—a walking marathon that ends in death, or a game show where prisoners can earn their freedom—Thinner took on more of a horror trope, with a robust lawyer cursed to lose weight by a vengeful gypsy until he’s practically nothing but skin and bone.

When Stephen Brown obtained an advance copy at Olsson’s, he had an innate belief he was reading a King novel. To confirm his suspicions, he visited the Library of Congress to examine the copyrights for each Bachman title. All but one were registered to Kirby McCauley, King’s agent. The remaining title, Rage, was registered to King himself. It was the smoking gun.

(15) IN THE ARCHIVES. The Verge tells you where to find Galaxy —“One of the greatest science fiction magazines is now available for free online”.

If you like classic science fiction, one of the genre’s best magazines can now be found online for free. Archive.org is now home to a collection of Galaxy Science Fiction, which published some of the genre’s best works, such as an early version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man.

The collection contains 355 separate issues, ranging from 1950 through 1976. Open Culture notes that it’s not quite the entire run of the magazine, but it’s got plenty of material to keep fans occupied for years. It includes stories from science fiction legends such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. There are also some underappreciated authors who deserve re-discovery, such as Kris Neville, Alan E. Nourse, or John Christopher. (Sadly, like most publications of this era, female SF authors were underrepresented.)

(16) LAST-MINUTE VOTING. Spacefaring Kitten got in under the wire with a second set of Hugo recommendations.

(17) NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. Stan Lee is rebranding his Los Angeles convention. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Stan Lee Reintroduces His L.A. Convention: New Name, Even Greater Ambitions”.

Stan Lee is putting Los Angeles on the map in a new way.

The legendary comic book creator is not only getting a citywide day named in his honor (Oct. 28), he is also rebranding his popular pop culture convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and giving it a new name: Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con.

Comic book fans area rejoiced when Lee launched his convention in 2011, and for Lee, the name change makes sense when major cities from New York to San Diego have flagship conventions bearing their cities’ names.

“I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what Comikaze really meant or what it was. And I didn’t think we should hide under a bushel,” Lee tells Heat Vision of the con, which runs Oct. 28-30. “Los Angeles is, to me, the center of the world’s entertainment. It has to have a Comic Con.”

(18) FUNNY AND DIE. Reason TV is getting in on the new season, too, with Game of Thrones: Libertarian Edition.

As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license? Watch!

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

 

Si Logan ang bahala sa'yo! Haha #1stLocation #Unit2 #langitlupa #kapamilya

A post shared by Peeej 🇵🇭 (@peeej05) on

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.

(9) TODAY IN FUTURE HISTORY

  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4 Reach For The Pixels: Even If You Miss, You’ll Be Among Scrolls

(1) CONSUMER COMPLAINT. io9’s Germain Lussier reveals, “Rey Is Missing From New Star Wars Monopoly, And This Is Becoming a Real Problem”.

The problems of female characters being under-represented in geek merchandise is real. But when it’s a secondary character like Gamora or Black Widow, at least toy companies have an excuse. When the girl is not just the star of the movie, but of the whole franchise, that’s another story.

That character, of course, is Rey, the main character of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the latest problem has to do with Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens Monopoly. In the game, the four playable characters are Luke Skywalker, Finn, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. No Rey.

(2) REWRITING CULTURE. Laurie Penny’s New Statesman post “What to do when you’re not the hero anymore”, while not about marketing oversights, covers some reasons why they should be taken seriously.

Capitalism is just a story. Religion is just a story. Patriarchy and white supremacy are just stories. They are the great organising myths that define our societies and determine our futures, and I believe – I hope – that a great rewriting is slowly, surely underway. We can only become what we can imagine, and right now our imagination is being stretched in new ways. We’re learning, as a culture, that heroes aren’t always white guys, that life and love and villainy and victory might look a little different depending on who’s telling it. That’s a good thing. It’s not easy – but nobody ever said that changing the world was going to be easy.

I learned that from Harry Potter.

(3) GATES KEEPERS. Bill Gates says “The Best Books I Read in 2015” included Randall Munroe’s bestseller —

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe. The brain behind XKCD explains various subjects—from how smartphones work to what the U.S. Constitution says—using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language and blueprint-style diagrams. It is a brilliant concept, because if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it. Munroe, who worked on robotics at NASA, is an ideal person to take it on. The book is filled with helpful explanations and drawings of everything from a dishwasher to a nuclear power plant. And Munroe’s jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. This is a wonderful guide for curious minds.

(4) PHILISTINE TASTE. Cracked delivers “6 Great Novels that Were Hated in Their Time”. Number one on the list – The Lord of the Rings.

The New Republic described the book and its characters as “anemic, and lacking in fiber” which was apparently a real burn back then in the pre-Cheerios days.

(5) TEA TIME. Ann Leckie talks about “Special Teas”.

I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)

Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of Specialteas.com. They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.

(6) SHE BLINKED. A video of Ursula K. Le Guin celebrating Christmas Eve at the Farm.

(7) OPEN FOR SUBMISSONS. Apex Magazine has reopened for short fiction submissions. Poetry submissions will remained closed at this time. Apex Magazine’s submission guidelines and the link to its online submissions form can be found here.

(8) COVER WEBSITE TO CLOSE. Terry Gibbons’ site Visco – the visual catalogue of science fiction cover art will go away when its domain name expires February 9, unless someone else wants to take over hosting responsibilities. He posted thousands of images online before moving on to other projects in 2005 – and for the moment, they can still be seen there.

I have tried to find time to do something about Visco at intervals since then but matters came to a head when I got a new Windows 10 computer recently and realised that I no longer have the technology to maintain it.  It was developed on a Windows 95 platform – remember that? – using Internet Explorer 3 and such and I guess it is a miracle that it is still accessible at all. But none of the software I used to build it now works on my current machine, so I cannot develop it further even if I had the time.

I could leave Visco sitting there indefinitely, or until advancing technology renders it unusable, but it costs a certain amount of money to run and, more to the point, it is a constant reminder of past glories. So I have decided to let it go to that place in cyberspace where once-loved web sites go to die.

(9) READING RODDENBERRY’S DATA. Joe Otterson at Yahoo! News tells how “’Star Trek’ Creator Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Data Recovered From 200 Floppy Disks”.

Although Roddenberry died in 1991, it wasn’t until much later that his estate discovered nearly 200 5.25-inch floppy disks. One of his custom-built computers had long since been auctioned and the remaining device was no longer functional.

But these were no ordinary floppies. The custom-built computers had also used custom-built operating systems and special word processing software that prevented any modern method of reading what was on the disks.

After receiving the computer and the specially formatted floppies, DriveSavers engineers worked to develop a method of extracting the data.

(10) SIDEBAR TO AXANAR. Kane Lynch’s article in comics form, “Final Frontiers: Star Trek fans take to the Internet to film their own episodes of the original series”, is based on an interview with someone who’s worked on both New Voyages and Star Trek Continues.

(11) BENFORD ON NEW HORIZONS. Click to read Gregory Benford’s contribution to Edge’s roundup “2016: What Do You Consider The Most Interesting Recent [Scientific] News? What Makes It Important?”

The most long-range portentous event of 2015 was NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrowing by Pluto, snapping clean views of the planet and its waltzing moon system. It carries an ounce of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, commemorating his discovery of Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh would have loved seeing the colorful contrasts of this remarkable globe, far out into the dark of near-interstellar space. Pluto is now a sharply-seen world, with much to teach us.

As the spacecraft zooms near an iceteroid on New Year’s Day, 2019, it will show us the first member of the chilly realm beyond, where primordial objects quite different from the wildly eccentric Pluto also dwell. These will show us what sort of matter made up the early disk that clumped into planets like ours—a sort of family tree of worlds. But that’s just an appetizer….

(12) PU 238. The Washington Post reports the U.S. has resumed making plutonium-238, in “This is the fuel NASA needs to make it to the edge of the solar system – and beyond”.

Just in time for the new year, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have unveiled the fruits of a different kind of energy research: For the first time in nearly three decades, they’ve produced a special fuel that scientists hope will power the future exploration of deep space.

The fuel, known as plutonium-238, is a radioactive isotope of plutonium that’s been used in several types of NASA missions to date, including the New Horizons mission, which reached Pluto earlier in 2015. While spacecraft can typically use solar energy to power themselves if they stick relatively close to Earth, missions that travel farther out in the solar system — where the sun’s radiation becomes more faint — require fuel to keep themselves moving.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

Tales in the Grimm brothers’ collection include “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” The brothers developed the tales by listening to storytellers and attempting to reproduce their words and techniques as faithfully as possible. Their methods helped establish the scientific approach to the documentation of folklore. The collection became a worldwide classic.

  • Born January 4, 1643 – Sir Isaac Newton. Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me…

(14) ZSIGMOND OBIT. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who won an Oscar for his achievements in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and worked on a long list of major productions, died January 1 at the age of 85.

His genre credits included The Time Travelers (1964) directed by Ib Melchior, The Monitors (1969) based on Keith Laumer’s novel, Real Genius (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and The Mists of Avalon TV miniseries based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel.

(15) THE YEAR IN COMPLAINTS. The Book Smugglers continue Smugglivus 2015 with “The Airing of Grievances”. (I’m getting a migraine from looking at those GIFS, and I don’t get migraines, just saying…)

SOMEONE IS (ALWAYS) WRONG ON THE INTERNET – PART II: THE SFF EDITION

Speaking of awards: Another BIG thing in SFF fandom happened when the World Fantasy award announced that it would be remodeling its award statuette, which had been a bust of the late HP Lovecraft’s face. (Lovecraft, if you did not know, was an openly venomous racist in his personal opinions and in his writings–both fiction and nonfiction.) This news–from one of the most prestigious international awards for Fantasy and speculative fiction, no less!–was a long time coming, and many of us within the SFF community celebrated this move… but there were people who were SUPER upset. Because, you know, by not using Lovecraft’s face on the award, we were all like ERASING HIM FROM HISTORY FOREVER LIKE MAGIC. Or something.

(16) MORE FEEDBACK. After what others have written about reconciliation this past week, the Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer sounds practically mellow.

…To the other side this is life or death important. The clique of Trufen who pushed their favorites (and they’re a small, interconnected socio-politically homogenous group of the same people, over and over) have some short term motives in doing exactly what they did last year and the years before. Long term, for anyone with an intellect above gerbil there is a strong motive for the Trufen in general to get rid of that clique and to reach some kind of accommodation with the Sad Puppies. But that clique are powerful and nasty and regard WorldCon and the Hugos as theirs. They have no interest in a future that they do not control completely.

I don’t see the foresight or commitment to take any of the painful (to them) steps they’d have to take to give the Sad or Rabid Puppies a motive for reconciliation, to get them to sharing motives like going to WorldCon. As a writer I simply don’t see characters of sufficient strength or integrity who have the vision or the following to take those steps.

Besides this an election year, both sides will be heated and angry.

We all love sf.

But the motives for our actions are very different.

I am glad I don’t have to write a happy ending for this one. It’d take a clever author to do it convincingly.

(17) RECONCILIATION. Don’t be misled by the placement — I doubt Freer or Gerrold are commenting about each other, just about the same topic. David Gerrold wrote today on Facebook:

…I know that some people have talked about reconciliation — and that’s a good thing. But other people have pointed out why reconciliation is impossible, because for them, the past is still unresolved. I understand that — but rehearsing the past does not take you into the future, it just gets you more of the past.

The only conversation I would be interested in having is not about who’s right and who’s wrong, who should be blamed, and who needs to crawl naked over broken glass to apologize.

No. What a colossal waste of time.

The only conversation worth having is about what you want to build and how you want to get there — stick to the issues and leave the personalities out of this…

(18) PRE CGI. It’s like seeing a star with and without makeup. Bright Side has large format color photos comparing the scenes in “17 favorite movies before and after visual effects”.

(19) GET YOUR RED HOT FOMAX. Charles Rector heartily endorses his fanzine Fomax #7 [PDF file] hosted at eFanzines. Among other things, it has 8 movie reviews and a fair number of LOC’s.

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