Pixel Scroll 4/23/17 Scroll White And The Seven Pixels

(1) BORN ON THE SEVENTH OF JULY. In “Spinning a high-tech web”, the LA Times provides an elaborate, photo-illustrated preview of Tony Stark’s upgrade to the new Spider-Man suit that will be seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, due in theaters July 7.

(2) FILK HALL OF FAME. The 2017 inductees to the Filk Halll of Fame were announced at FilkOntario this weekend:

(3) FAHRENHEIT 451 TO SMALL SCREEN? The Bradbury novel is on the road to development once more. “HBO to Adapt Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan”  — BookRiot has the story.

Now, HBO is “moving toward a production commitment” (via Variety) on a feature-length adaptation of Bradbury’s 1953 novel starring Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Chronicle, Fantastic Four) as the protagonist Guy Montag and Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire) as Montag’s boss, Captain Beatty.

The film will be directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes, At Any Price), who is co-writing with Amir Naderi (99 Homes, The Runner). David Coatsworth (production manager on Underworld: Evolution, Ender’s Game, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) will serve as producer.

(4) THEY’RE HUUGE! “Black Holes Are Bigger Than You Thought” accuses Yahoo! News. (Just how big did you think they were? How did Yahoo! News find out?)

Now meet S5 0014+81.

It’s the largest black hole ever discovered and is heavier than our Sun by 40 billion times (40, 000, 000, 000) in the last observation.

If you plug in the equation above, you’ll find that this black hole has a Schwarzschild radius of about… 119 billion kilometers, along with a said diameter of about 236,39 billion km.

(5) THE TOUGHEST AROUND. Let Den of Geek point you at “17 really difficult LEGO sets”.

The Tower Of Orthanc

It may look simple enough on the box, but The Lord Of The Rings’ Tower Of Orthanc is actually a real tough cookie. Because most of its 2,359 pieces are jet black and slim, working out which bit goes where is the stuff of nightmares (in, um, a good way). The Treebeard that comes with it will make the struggle worth it… honest.

Buy The Tower Of Orthanc now for £348.07.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

  • April 23 — World Book and Copyright Day

Pays tribute to authors and books and their social and cultural contribution to the world

(7) DID YOU KNOW? Last year the International Costumers’ Guild participated in a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Public Knowledge, the American Library Association, and others, asking the Court to protect the rights of clothing designers and costumers to freely practice their craft.

(8) AT HOME. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “Netflix will invest billions to shoot its original content in California”:

Netflix is betting that filming closer to home will produce better content. In 2015, the streaming giant has announced that it would be doubling its output of original content, and it is aiming to have original productions make up half of its of its streaming catalog in the coming years. The goal is to entice users to come to the service by providing content that can’t be found elsewhere, but that goal is proving to be a strain on the existing film studio infrastructure. To cope, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that the company would be investing $6 billion to expand infrastructure in California, rather than chase tax incentives offered by states.

Sarandos explained to The Wrap that the company determined that going after the incentives leads to diminishing returns when it comes to their final products. Filming out of state is hard on the actors and crew of a project, and the move will help bring projects back home to California. That could prove to be costly for the company, even as California has increased its own tax incentive program in recent years. While remaining in the state will likely cost Netflix more, Sarandos seems to think that the extra cost will be worth spending.

(9) SQUEAK UP. YouTube’s TheBackyardScientist set up 10 megaphones end-to-end to see how loud a noise he could make.

The video, posted to YouTube by TheBackyardScientist, features Kevin Kohler explaining he was inspired by Bart Simpson‘s prank in the season 8 Simpsons episode The Secret War of Lisa Simpson to place 10 megaphones end-to-end and test the results.

Bart’s experiment led to a shock wave that shattered all of the windows in town — as well as Homer’s fridge full of beer — but Kohler quickly ran into a problem Bart didn’t face: a feedback loop.

 

(10) BITE ON. The number of people who give their smartphones to dogs as chew toys is probably smaller than the number of men who have walked on the moon, but for them — “There’s an anti-dog label inside the Galaxy S8 — here’s what it means”. Let The Verge explain it to you.

Basically, you don’t want Fido in a situation where a battery could hiss and explode in its mouth. It’s obviously possible that a child could bite through the battery as well, but the likelihood of him / her piercing through the battery is lower.

(11) ARTIFICIAL DOG INTELLIGENCE. Amazing. How is it mine doesn’t do that?

(12) FIX THE SLATING PROBLEM FOREVER. That’s what Greg Hullender would like to do. At Rocket Stack Rank he summarizes his views about the effectiveness of 3SV, EPH(+) and their combination. He says, “I  think it makes it really clear that we need both 3SV and either EPH or EPH+. Otherwise, even small slates (100 to 200 people) will be able to control a significant amount of the final ballot, including adding embarrassing nominees.”

For each year, we produced two theoretical maximum graphs. A “finalist graph,” which shows what percentage of finalists a slate could have captured for a given number of slate voters, and a “sweeps” graph, which shows what percentage of entire categories a slate could have captured.

Looking at those four pairs of graphs (2.1-2.4 below), we will draw the following conclusions;

  • Std (5/6) by itself is far too weak.
  • EPH doesn’t protect enough finalists, but it is excellent at preventing sweeps.
  • EPH+ is an improvement on EPH, but it’s still not enough by itself.
  • 3SV is much stronger for protecting finalists, especially for modest numbers of slate voters, but it’s vulnerable to sweeps, and it breaks down for slates above about 300 people.
  • The 3SV/EPH and 3SV/EPH+ combinations are far, far stronger than either component alone. Either combination is probably sufficient, but the second one is stronger.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Business Meeting should ratify both EPH+ and 3SV. That should protect the Hugos from slating interference for the nonce.

(13) DREAM CASTING. Enjoy “Miles To Go” hosted at Archive of Our Own. Note – Password = Vorkosigan (as it says at the post).

There once was a man who dreamt of the stars…

A fanvid based on the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold.

…Obviously, it’s not so easy to make a feast for a fandom with no existing visual source. But where there’s a will, or in my case an enormous and driving folly, there’s a way. It was always going to be an ensemble vid, with Miles as the star, but the question was how to cast it. I did eventually solve that problem, and I won’t discuss my solution in detail here because… spoilers.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Robin Reid, JJ, Doctor Science, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 4/9/17 Ruler of the Pixelgram

(1) SUCCESSFUL CHARITY EVENT. Tom Edwards, one of the best cover designers in science fiction, teamed up with Parkinson’s UK and Keystroke Medium to raise money for Parkinson’s research. Three premade covers by Edwards, as well, as an editing package by Ellen Campbell, went to auction on April 8 and brought in almost 4000 pounds / $5000 US.

Sample cover

(2) FAKE NEWS PIONEER. His role was created to encourage U.S. support for Britain prior to America’s entry into WWII — “Louis deWohl: The Astrologer Who Helped Foil Hitler”.

Then, in June 1941, one of de Wohl’s more detailed predictions seemed to come true. “A strong collaborator of Hitler who is neither German nor a Nazi will go violently insane,” he foretold. “He will be in South or Central America, probably near the Caribbean Sea.” Three days later, U.S. newswires proclaimed that the Vichy High Commissioner of the French West Indies, Admiral Georges Robert, had gone insane and had to be restrained by staff. The New York Post reported that newspaper editors across America “besieged de Wohl with requests for exclusive stories.” The astrologer possessed a mysterious ability to know the unknowable, and millions of Americans wanted to know more.

The way it worked behind the facade was masterful. The British spy agency first fed information to de Wohl, which he would write up in his column. In turn, MI5 would then feed the bogus information to the U.S. press. Unable to fact-check details with the Third Reich, the American press would report the news as real, which it was not. For example, the Vichy High Commissioner of the French West Indies never went insane.

(3) TINGLE TIME AGAIN. Almost a year ago, UrsulaV wrote a series of tweets in the style of Dr. Seuss after Chuck Tingle played Vox Day, who had slated him onto the Hugo ballot. File 770’s unofficial motto is “It’s always news to somebody” – usually me – and besides, this news is practically fresh again, with Tingle renominated and pranking the porn author who replaced him on Vox’s slate.

(4) NESFA STORY CONTEST. The New England Science Fiction Association is looking for entries in its annual story contest.

Do you like to write science fiction or fantasy stories? Are you an aspiring writer, but not sure if you’re ready for the big time? Then you’re just the kind of writer we’re looking for! The New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA for short) is running a writing contest. Prizes include free books, and a grand prize of a free membership to Boskone. More important though is that we offer free critiques of your work. Our goal is to help young & aspiring writers to improve their writing, so you can become our new favorite writer! Check out our website for details:

http://www.nesfa.org/awards/storycon.html

We welcome submissions from everyone, in every country in the world (as long as it’s written in English, please!). Women, people of color, LGBTQ writers, and members of other underrepresented groups are encouraged to enter the contest.

(5) AH ROMANCE. The shortlist for the Romance Writers of America’s 2017 RITA and Golden Heart Awards was announced March 21. Here are the finalists of genre interest.

The RITA Award – “the highest award of distinction in romance fiction” — recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas.

Paranormal Romance

  • Bayou Shadow Hunter by Debbie Herbert Harlequin, Nocturne Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor
  • The Beast by J R Ward New American Library Kara Welsh, editor
  • The Champion of Barésh by Susan Grant Self-published Mary Moran, editor
  • Enchanted Warrior by Sharon Ashwood Harlequin, Nocturne Ann Leslie Tuttle, editor
  • Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella Montlake Publishing Alison Dasho, editor
  • The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre Self-published Sasha Knight, editor
  • The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy Kensington Publishing Corp. Peter Senftleben, editor
  • Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper Pocket Books Abby Zidle, editor

The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts.

Paranormal Romance

  • “Beryl Blue, Time Cop” by Janet Halpin
  • “Bless Your Heart and Other Southern Curses” by Heather Leonard
  • “Constant Craving” by Kari W. Cole
  • “Fire’s Rising” by Grace Adams
  • “The Mer Chronicles: Love’s Diplomatic Act” by Kate Ramirez
  • “Soul Affinity” by A. Y. Chao

Award winners will be announced on July 27 at the 2017 RWA Conference in Orlando, Florida.

(6) MESSAGE FICTION. Bleeding Cool reports “Marvel Artist Ardian Syaf Hid Anti-Christian And Jewish Messages In This Week’s X-Men Comic”. The political background to the references is:

In Indonesia, 212 is the number used to denote a specific mass protest from 2nd December last year. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims marched against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok,, over allegations of blasphemy regarding his use of the Qu’ran in campaigning against opponents. The march was organised, in part, with the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa. It was pretty hardline conservative and the protest demanded the government prosecute and jail Ahok based on the council’s fatwa, declaring him to be a blasphemer. This year, a 212 2.0 march with similar aims was held on the 21st of February.

(You can see the artwork at the link.)

The information comes from sources including this public Facebook post by an Indonesian comics reader:

Dear Marvel Comics My name is Haykal, I am from Jakarta, Indonesia And I would like to inform you something about your recent comics, X-Men Gold.

…I found out that on X-Men Gold comic, there’s a subliminal message of hatred towards minorities It was done by this person, a Muslim penciller from Indonesia https://www.facebook.com/ArdianSyafComicArt/

And he’s using your comics to spread hatred against non muslim minorities in Indonesia.

The “QS 5:51” on Colossus shirt refers to the Quran verse used by Muslim extremists to discriminate against the current governor which is also one of the governor candidates in the current election in Jakarta, Indonesia. https://quran.com/5/51

Bleeding Cool has since reported that Ardian Syaf was unwilling to discuss the issue with them.

Meanwhile, Marvel has made a statetment via Comicbook.com.

“The mentioned artwork in X-Men Gold #1 was inserted without knowledge behind its reported meanings. These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation. This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions, and trade paperbacks and disciplinary action is being taken.”

Comicbook.com notes –

No further details were provided concerning how exactly Marvel will discipline Syaf. Preview art suggests that Syaf has already completed work on X-Men Gold #2, which releases on April 19. Syaf is also one of three announced rotating artists on X-Men Gold, along with RB Silva and Ken Lashley, so it may be some time before fans know for certain if he will returning to X-Men Gold.

And if you want to take a deep dive into this, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson has a post up — Here is What Quran 5:51 Actually Says.

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Unicorn Day

What mythological creature has been more beloved over the centuries than the unicorn? Symbols of purity and enchantment, unicorns are loved by both children and adults alike and are integral parts of many fairy tales and legends. For all the roles they’ve played in literature, cinematography, and art as a whole, unicorns more than deserve their own day!

Unicorns were mentioned as far back as antiquity—ancient Greek writers believed they lived in the faraway and exotic country of India, which was then largely unknown to Europeans. However, the unicorn was then thought to be a powerful, fierce animal that was not to be meddled with. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn’s image was based greatly on Bible passages that were thought to speak of these animals, and unicorns slowly came to be seen as a symbol of strength, the purest kind of love, and the pets of virgin women. In fact, there is even a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding a unicorn on her lap and patting it in Warsaw’s National Museum. Thus, unicorns have been appearing in works of literature for thousands of years. The most prominent more modern examples include Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and The Last Battle by S.C. Lewis. The whole immensely popular My Little Pony franchise is also based on unicorns.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1959 — NASA introduced the first seven astronauts to the press.

(9) BIG FINISH. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan interviews director Nacho Vigilando, whose film Colossal is a fusion of kaihu eige and romantic comedy that will be released this Friday.

Q: In that film [7:35 in the Morning], you critique the cliches of the movie musical by staging a song-and-dance number in a diner with seemingly ordinary people. “Extraterrestrial” plays with the tropes of the alien invasion movie. In “Colossal,” you do something similar with the genre of the monster movie. What’s so fascinating about genre cinema?

A: The moment in “Colossal” that sums up what you’re talking about is when Gloria calls her ex-boyfriend, because she wants to talk about this monster that is invading South Korea. And he responds by asking, “Why are you calling so late? That happened early this morning.” He thinks that means she has spent the whole day just sleeping. I’m really attracted to the idea of playing inside these sandboxes, in which everybody in the audience knows the rules. Our expectations of these films become part of the show somehow. I admire Superman, but am I a kind person all the time, the way Superman is? How can I relate to a character who has an “S” on his chest, since there are moments in my life when I behave like an a—— to other people?

(10) COUNTING THE PUPPIES. Greg Hullender has written up his analysis of the 2017 Puppy vote at Rocket Stack Rank“Slating Analysis: 2017”. He says, “I get a slightly higher number than you did: 88-118. I make up for that with some cool graphs.”

Now that the 2017 Hugo Awards Finalists lists have come out, we can estimate how many slate voters there were. By our calculations, there were between 88 and 118 of them. This is just slightly higher than Mike Glyer’s estimate of  “80 to 90”. When the detailed statistics are available in August, we’ll make a more precise estimate, using the methods we used in our article Slate Voting Analysis Using EPH Data: 2014-2016

(11) A THREE BLACK HOLE RATING. The Guardian shares Jay Rayner’s brutal review of Le Cinq, Paris, a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

Other things are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says. Spherifications of various kinds – bursting, popping, deflating, always ill-advised – turn up on many dishes. It’s their trick, their shtick, their big idea. It’s all they have. Another canapé, tuile enclosing scallop mush, introduces us to the kitchen’s love of acidity. Not bright, light aromatic acidity of the sort provided by, say, yuzu. This is blunt acidity of the sort that polishes up dulled brass coins.

Do you think we could get a Kickstarter funded if he turned his jaded eye in the direction of the Puppies Forbidden Thoughts anthology?

(12) CRETACEOUS TASTINESS. When you hear a bell, think of tacos — TriceraTACOs, that is.

(13) THE PLANE TRUTH. John Scalzi does not get enough credit for his restraint.

(14) IN MEDEA RACE. “The Ballad of Maui Hair” is practically a companion piece to “The Anthem Sprinters.” These tweets just begin to set the scene:

(15) SONG AND DANCE MAN. In 1993, Christopher Walken appeared on Saturday Zoo with Jonathan Ross (who later got uninvited as toastmaster of the 2014 Worldcon in historic record time.) Walken gave an inimitable reading of “The Three Little Pigs.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Rev. Bob for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/17 The Pixelated Empire. Filed, Scrolled And Godstalked Since The Fifth Era

(1) WHAT DID YOU NOMINATE? Arifel compiled the votes reported in “What Did You Nominate for the 2017 Hugos?” and posted the top-level results in comments:

If you want to see the complete tallies with everything that got even one mention, go to this Google drive document.

(2) SECOND STAGE FANSMEN. Rocket Stack Rank is hosting its own compilation of File 770 commenters’ votes in the short fiction categories, which has the advantage of linking to the works online, as well as to RSR’s reviews.

(3) ONE LUMP OR TWO? Congratulations are in order and everyone is invited to “Celebrate 10 Years of the Black Gate Blog!”

There was precisely one comment on that post, a pingback from something called “The Scrolls of Lankhmar.” 8,355 blog posts and 10 years later, the Black Gate blog is stronger than ever, with a staff of 45 volunteers, and two Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Award under our belt.

Just one thing surprises me – that they are counting Hugo nominations they turned down — withdrawing after the first (though too late to be removed from the ballot), and declining the second. They even got an Alfie for turning down the second.

I admit I was stumped to discover the Science Fiction Awards Database, maintained by Mark R. Kelly of Locus Online, also credits them with two nominations.

I think the final arbiter ought to be the Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II reports of Hugo voting statistics. Black Gate appears in the 2015 report with 489 votes received and the notation “withdrawn after deadline.” In the 2016 report Black Gate is not reported receiving any votes because it was not on the ballot, and in the section counting nominating votes, it is shown above the cutoff but with its name lined out.

So my personal opinion is – Black Gate has one Hugo nomination because it has only appeared on the final ballot one time.

That answer would also square with the way the Science Fiction Awards Database skips over 1996 in its list of File 770’s nominations. I withdrew because I was chair of the Worldcon that year, but the final report shows I still got enough votes to have been a finalist. Since File 770 wasn’t on the ballot, it should not be counted as a 1996 finalist, and isn’t.

(4) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. WIRED writes about “A Stunning Video of Mars That Took Three Months To Stitch Together – By Hand”.

If you should one day find yourself in a spacecraft circling Mars, don’t count on a good view. The Red Planet’s dusty atmosphere will probably obscure any window-seat vistas of its deep valleys and soaring mesas. “The best way to see the planet’s surface would be to take a digital image and enhance it on your computer,” says planetary geologist Alfred McEwen, principal investigator on NASA’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment. He would know: In the past 12 years, the powerful HiRISE camera has snapped 50,000 spectacular, high-resolution stereo images of the Martian terrain from the planet’s orbit, creating anaglyphs that anyone can view in 3D using special glasses. The highly detailed stereograms depict the planet’s surface in remarkable detail—but 3D glasses aren’t always handy, and still images can only convey so much about Mars’ varied topography.

 

(5) THE WEED OF CRIME. Two of quarterback Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl-worn jerseys were recovered from a credentialed member of the international media. A couple of weeks before, Brady had posted a parody suspects list on his Facebook page that includes Gollum and other genre characters.

(6) BEST-OF COMPILATION. At Bookscrolling, “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (A Year-End List Aggregation)”

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016?” We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!

There are thousands of year-end lists released every year and, like we do in our weekly Best Book articles, we wanted to see which books appear on them the most. We used 32 Science Fiction & Fantasy book lists and found 254 unique titles. The top 42 books, all appearing on 3 or more lists, are below with images, summaries, and links for learning more or purchasing. The remaining books, along with the articles we used, can be found at the bottom of the page.

(7) OUT OF STEAM. “Denver Based Steampunk Convention Anomaly Con Callls It Quits” – a former guest, Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn, is sorry to see it go.

After seven successful events, Denver, CO based steampunk convention Anomaly Con has called it quits. Organizer Kronda Siebert made a lengthy post to both the con’s official website and Facebook page explaining their reasoning. For the most part it sounds like losing ten of their twelve directors over the years (and not having replacements) was a large part of the decision,

(8) BRESLIN OBIT. Columnist Jimmy Breslin died March 19. While reading about him I followed a link to his 1963 piece “Digging JFK grave was his honor”. It was deeply moving and I thought you might like to see it, too.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

World Storytelling Day

Once upon a time, a long time ago (well, actually, back in 1991 in Sweden), a Storytelling Day was held. The ethos behind this event caught on around the globe, and now we celebrate World Storytelling Day on an international level. The aim of World Storytelling Day is to celebrate the art of oral storytelling, with as many people as possible around the world telling and listening to stories in their own languages on the same day. People taking part can link up with others around the globe who are also contributing – making it a truly international festival that creates new friends and promotes positive understanding of cultures around the world! So, go on, sit down with your friends and loved ones and join the United Nations of storytellers on this day of celebrating cultural folklore and the art of oral storytelling! Why not spin a yarn, and pass down your stories to the next generation?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FOWL

  • Born March 20 Sesame Street’s Big Bird  

(11) COOKING CORNER. She deserves her own show on the Food Channel.

(12) THE PEOPLE’S CLARKE. More input from the Shadow Clarke Jury.

As readers of the finished work we, of course, don’t begin with a blank page. We start with the first chapter, a half-page that introduces its text in the broadest of strokes: “I grew up in a world of music, in a time of war,” says Priest’s narrator. “I became an inadvertent traveller in time.” In this short chapter, Priest effectively summarises the entire novel. But this only serves to emphasise that being provided with the scaffolding is not the same as being able to walk around the whole edifice. This reflects a key aspect of The Gradual the extent to which an extraordinary experience can be captured in a linear narrative.

If science fiction doesn’t make us look differently at our world, then science fiction doesn’t have a point.

Let me unpack that. Science fiction makes changes in the world, that is one of the key things that makes it science fiction. But that change must connect in some way with how we understand the here and now. An alien in a story makes it science fiction, yes, and the author may have taken great pains to specify the greenness of the skin or the exact length of the tentacles, but unless the intrusion of the alien reflects upon what it is to be human it is little more than wallpaper. When H.G. Wells wrote about Martians invading Surrey it wasn’t a novel about Martians, but about being human in the face of that invasion, about people used to being colonisers suddenly finding themselves colonised. The way the novel looks out into the world is why The War of the Worlds is still read today.

One of the ways in which genre reviewing differs from mainstream reviewing is that genre reviewers have traditionally been willing to go after books that get their facts wrong and fail to achieve verisimilitude. It is easy to understand why mainstream reviewing tends to frown on this type of approach as questioning an author’s use of style directs discussion back towards the book while questioning an author’s grasp of how space elevators are supposed to work only ever results in people slapping their slide-rules down on the table.

I mention this as while I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in Joanna Kavenna’s fourth novel, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by my initial urge to disagree with every word of it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from throwing the book across the room was a growing suspicion that I did not so much disagree with A Field Guide to Reality as agree with it far too much.

The story begins in thirteenth-century Oxford where the great and the good of medieval philosophy dine on bread and discuss the nature of reality. Rather than portraying this fledgling academic community as a place of potential and great innovation, Kavenna presents it as dark, dank, and treacherous. Outside the colleges, monks get stabbed for the contents of their pockets. Inside the colleges, monks get burned for the contents of their heads.

(13) REGAL SWIMMER. BBC’s video of this 18th-century masterpiece is a public post on Facebook

The Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality. It plays music, moves its head, preens, and eats a fish.

The Wikipedia entry explains further:

The swan, which is life size, is a clockwork driven device that includes a music box. The swan sits in a “stream” that is made of glass rods and is surrounded by silver leaves. Small silver fish can be seen “swimming” in the stream.

When the clockwork is wound the music box plays and the glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water. The swan turns its head from side to side and also preens itself. After a few moments the swan notices the swimming fish and bends down to catch and eat one. The swan’s head then returns to the upright position and the performance, which has lasted about 32 seconds, is over

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/17 Nomination Street

(1) PATEL SURFACES, THEN SUBMERGES. A new Sunil Patel story that went online two days ago has been taken down. In its place, David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots (and the Long List Anthology) has posted “An Apology, Regarding Sunil Patel’s Story”.

On March 15th, I sent a story to Diabolical Plots publishing newsletter subscribers written by Sunil Patel. The story had been purchased and contracted in August 2016, before stories about Sunil’s abusive behavior surfaced (in October). I neglected to remove the story from the schedule and it went to the inbox of 182 subscribers of the newsletter.

This was not the right choice for me to make. Diabolical Plots is here to serve the SF publishing community, and I am sorry for my lapse in judgment. I can’t unsend an email, but the story will be removed from the publishing lineup scheduled on the Diabolical Plots site (and replaced with a different story if I can work it out). If anyone wishes to provide further feedback, please feel free to email me at editor@diabolicalplots.com.

The incident prompted Sarah Hollowell to tweet –

(2) SLICING UP THE PIE. New from Author Earnings, “February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”.

Greg Hullender says “This report just came out, and it’s fascinating. Although it doesn’t have the breakdown by genre (so probably not useful for File770 yet) it shows big-five publishers continuing to lose ground in e-book sales—mostly to small/medium publishers, not to independents.”

Today, with the click of a button, any author can start selling any title they wish simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo ebook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple ebook stores.

As of yet, most of these non-English-language ebook markets are still fairly early-stage. But that’s not true of the four other major English-language markets outside the US. In those markets, too, as we’ll see, a substantial share of all new-book purchases has already gone digital. And, as we’ll also see, untracked, non-traditional suppliers make up a high percentage of ebook sales in those countries as well. Which means that these other digital markets have also been consistently underestimated and under-reported by traditional publishing-industry statistics.

(3)  IN MEMORY YET GREEN. A St.Patrick’s Day coincidence? Cat Rambo has a new entry in her Lester Dent retrospective — “Reading Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre”.

Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and his footwear worthy of a J. Peterman catalog.

In this read, book eighteen of the series, we finally get to see another of Doc’s men, electrical engineer Long Tom. I do want to begin with a caveat that this book starts in Alexandria and initially features an Islamic villain, Pasha Bey; while I will call out some specific instances, this is the first of these where the racism is oozing all over the page and betrays so many things about the American popular conception of the Middle East. I just want to get that out of the way up front, because it is a big ol’ problem in the beginning of this text….

(4) DRIVING THE TRAINS OUT OF IRELAND. On the other hand, our favorite train driver James Bacon says explicitly that the new Journey Planet is “Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

This is our second issue looking at comic connections, in one way or another, to Ireland. I thought you would be interested, and hope you are.

Co-edited with ‘Pádraig Ó Méalóid and Michael Carrolll, this issue features an interview with Steve Dillon when he was living in Dublin, and an interview with Neil Bailey who co-edited The comic fanzine Sci Fi Adventures where Steve’s comic work began. We have an interview with Steve Moore about Ka-Pow the first British comic Fanzine and the first British Comic Con. We have and extended looks at the fan art of Paul Neary and fan and professional art of Steve Dillon and we reprint a piece about Steve Dillon that I wrote for Forbidden Planet.

This fanzine is all about histories, stories and in many respects is an oral history.  We have a lovely cover by co–editor Michael Carroll.

I’ve loved reading and writing about the comic connections, interesting, yet I feel historically significant happenings. The Fanzine connection, the Irish Connection, the comics connection. It is all connected and it is fascinating fun to find out about them. I am exceptionally graceful to Neil Bailey, Alan Moore, Paul Neary, Dez Skinn, Michael Carroll, Paul Sheridan, and of course to my co-editors Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Michael Carroll and Christopher J Garcia who have grafted very hard on this one. My thoughts are with those who mourn Steve Dillon and Steve Moore and I hope we remember them well here.

(5) FLEET OF FOOT. A scientific study from the University of Felapton Towers, “What Are Pixel Scrolls About?”, shows I haven’t been running nearly as much Bradbury material as I thought. So maybe I don’t really need the excuse of St. Patrick’s Day to plug in this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Irish story “The Anthem Sprinters.”

(6) AURORA AWARDS CALENDAR. The Aurora Awards calendar is up.

Nominations for the 2017 awards will open on March 31, 2017….

Online nominations must be submitted by 11:59:59 PM EDT on May 20th, 2017.

Voting will begin on July 15, 2017. Online votes must be submitted by 11:59:59 EDT on September 2nd.

The Aurora awards will be presented during at Hal-Con / Canvention 37 on the weekend of September 22-24, 2017 in Halifax.

(7) NEW MANDEL STORY. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in collaboration with Slate’s Future Tense channel, just published “Mr. Thursday,” a new short story by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) about time travel, determinism, and unrequited longing. Read it (free) here, along with a response essay, “Can We Really Travel Back in Time to Change History?” by Paul Davies, a theoretical physics professor at Arizona State University and author of the book How to Build a Time Machine.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 17, 1755 – The Transylvania Land Company bought what became the state of Kentucky for $50,000, from a Cherokee Indian chief.

(9) A CUTTHROAT BUSINESS. Matt Wallace’s award suggestion rapidly morphed into a vision for a deadly cage match competition.

(10) PEWPEW. In Myke Cole’s interview by Patrick St.Denis the author does not hold back.

Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hands down an NYT bestseller. Nobody, apart from a tiny cabal of insiders and SMOFs, cares about the Hugos or the WFA. Winning them does help expand your audience and sell more books, but if you hit the list that means you already ARE selling more books. I come out of fandom, and consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, but I want to write for the largest audience possible, and you can only hit the list if you’re selling *outside* the traditional and limited genre audience. Added to this, both sets of awards, but moreso the Hugos, have been so mired in petty controversy that I’m not sure I want to be associated with them anymore.

You are now part of the reality TV show Hunted on CBS. Tell us a bit more about the show and how you became part of the hunters’ team.

Hunted is the most elaborate game of hide-n-seek ever made. It pits 9 teams of ordinary Americans against 34 professional investigators, all of us drawn from the intelligence, military and law enforcement communities, each of us with an average of 20+ years experience. We have state of the art equipment and full powers of law enforcement. Any one of the teams that can evade us in 100,000 square miles of the southeastern US for 28 days wins $250,000.

Most folks know that I worked in intelligence for many years, but most don’t know that my specific discipline was as an SSO-T (Special Skills Officer – Targeter) in the Counterterrorism field. Counterterrorism Targeting is just a fancy way of saying “manhunting” and I guess I built a reputation, because when CBS started making inquiries, my name came up as a go-to guy, and I got a random call out of the blue asking me if I wanted to be on TV.

It was (and is, because the show is running now) and amazing experience. I’m most pleased that it’s a window into who we are and how we work for the general public. Police relations with the public always benefit from visibility, and I think this show is a great move in that direction.

(11) DIY CORNER. Charon Dunn knows a good interview helps publicize a book. But who, oh who, could she get to do the interview?

Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.

IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.

CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old….

II: Hard military science fiction, then?

CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.

And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.

I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.

That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.

The jacket copy is here. And Cora Buhlert ran the cover together with an excerpt from the book at Speculative Ficton Showcase. There’s even a photo of Charon with, as she calls it, “my humongous SJW credential.”

(12) THE CREATOR. With the impetus of the American Gods series, Neil Gaiman is becoming a television maven.

The comic book legend will develop projects from his library as well as original ideas.

Neil Gaiman is pushing deeper into television.

The creator and exec producer of Starz’s upcoming American Gods has signed a first-look TV deal with FremantleMedia.

Under the multiple-year deal, Gaiman will be able to adapt any of his projects — from novels and short stories — as well as adapt other projects and original ideas.

“Working with my friends at FremantleMedia on shepherding American Gods to the screen has been exciting and a delightful way to spend the last three years,” Gaiman said in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. “I’ve learned to trust them, and to harness their talents and enthusiasm, as they’ve learned to harness mine. They don’t mind that I love creating a ridiculously wide variety of things, and I am glad that even the strangest projects of mine will have a home with them. American Gods is TV nobody has seen before and I can’t wait to announce the specifics behind what we have coming up next.”

(13) ALL ABOARD! The Digital Antiquarian tells how Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley cooked up Railroad Tycoon.

The problem of reconciling the two halves of Railroad Tycoon might have seemed intractable to many a design team. Consider the question of time. The operational game would seemingly need to run on a scale of days and hours, as trains chug around the tracks picking up and delivering constant streams of cargo. Yet the high-level economic game needs to run on a scale of months and years. A full game of Railroad Tycoon lasts a full century, over the course of which Big Changes happen on a scale about a million miles removed from the progress of individual trains down the tracks: the economy booms and crashes and booms again; coal and oil deposits are discovered and exploited and exhausted; cities grow; new industries develop; the Age of Steam gives ways to the Age of Diesel; competitors rise and fall and rise again. “You can’t have a game that lasts a hundred years and be running individual trains,” thought Meier and Shelley initially. If they tried to run the whole thing at the natural scale of the operational game, they’d wind up with a game that took a year or two of real-world time to play and left the player so lost in the weeds of day-to-day railroad operations that the bigger economic picture would get lost entirely.

Meier’s audacious solution was to do the opposite, to run the game as a whole at the macro scale of the economic game. This means that, at the beginning of the game when locomotives are weak and slow, it might take six months for a train to go from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. What ought to be one day of train traffic takes two years in the game’s reckoning of time. As a simulation, it’s ridiculous, but if we’re willing to see each train driving on the map as an abstraction representing many individual trains — or, for that matter, if we’re willing to not think about it at all too closely — it works perfectly well. Meier understood that a game doesn’t need to be a literal simulation of its subject to evoke the spirit of its subject — that experiential gaming encompasses more than simulations. Railroad Tycoon is, to use the words of game designer Michael Bate, an “aesthetic simulation” of railroad history.

(14) CAT MAN DUE. Zoe Saldana enlists the help of Stephen Hawking to solve a quantum riddle in order to get Simon Pegg’s cat back in Quantum is Calling. Released by a CalTech production group in December 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, Cat Rambo, Joey Eschrich, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 2/26/17 That Hideous Scroll

(1) EUROFANDOM. Fandom Rover launched today, a new blog focused on Polish sf conventions.

Hello, I’m Marcin, but my fandom nickname is Alqua. I created this blog to write about conventions and fandom in different countries. I live in Poland, so you will probably find a lot of posts about Polish conventions here, but you can expect some information about European fandom, too, as I try to attend cons in other countries as well.

The first post is “Understanding Polish conventions”

We have a lot of conventions. Depending on what events one will count, they may get numbers reaching even 100 per year. If you will be more picky about what you may call a convention, you will still have around 40 or 60 events every year. This means that there should be at least 1 convention per week (maximum 2 weeks). This is partially true, however, most of the conventions take place around summer months, and winter is much less popular for conrunners. Of course not all of the events are SF conventions – some are devoted to SF/F or to manga & anime, some are big LARPs, some are furry conventions and others are devoted to specific franchises (like Doctor Who or Star Wars).

(2) THE WATER WE SWIM IN. The Washington Post’s Zachary Pincus-Roth, in “Aliens as immigrants: How ‘Arrival’ became the latest political sci-fi film”, interviews Arrival producer Shawn Levy, District 9 screenwriter Terri Tatchell, and Tufts University political scientist Daniel Drezner, author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies, about the role politics plays in science fiction films.

“It’s turned out to be loaded with political commentary,” “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy says of the movie’s reflection of the immigration issue, “something our filmmaking team doesn’t regret, but this was largely unanticipated.”

The film’s political themes were intended to be more timeless. “The movie was always a commentary on a world that is often prone to fracturing,” Levy says. “It invests in the faith that cooperation among nations beyond borders can lead to global benefits.”

(3) GENERAL SEMANTICS AND SF. A panel on “Science Fiction, Language and General Semantics” will be hosted by the New York Society for General Semantics on March 1. Free to the public, but registration is required.

Science fiction has long been associated with spaceships, alien beings, futuristic technologies, and the like. But the genre has also provided an opportunity to speculate about the future of human consciousness, about modes of perception and communication, and about language and symbols.

Not surprisingly, general semantics, as a discipline based on applying a scientific approach to thought and action, has influenced science fiction in a number of ways. Science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert were familiar with general semantics and incorporated concepts learned from Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa into their novels and short stories. Through them, the influence of general semantics spread to the fiction of Philip K. Dick, and the films of George Lucas. Moreover, novelists William S. Burroughs and L. Ron Hubbard were students of general semantics, while a fictional (and less than flattering) version of the Institute of General Semantics appears in the Jean Luc-Godard film, Alphaville.

More generally, questions concerning language, meaning, and consciousness have been incorporated into science fiction narratives, for example the presence of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation in The Matrix, references to Julian Jaynes in HBO’s remake of Westworld, and in the problematic nature of translation in stories such as Samuel R. Delaney’s Babel-17, Stanslaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice, and the recent film, Arrival.

Clearly, this is a topic for discussion that is, in many ways, out of this world. so come join us for a panel featuring:

  • Marleen S. Barr, Science Fiction Critic and Novelist
  • Paul Levinson, Past President of the SFFWA and Novelist
  • Lance Strate, NYSGS President and Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
  • Ed Tywoniak, Editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics and Professor of Communication, Saint Mary’s College of California

(4) HOLE IN THEIR POCKETS. Jim C. Hines continues slicing and dicing his data in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 5: Miscellaneous Data”.

Who Lost Money in 2016?

One thing I found interesting — of the 371 people who provided gross income and expenses data, 63 ended up with a net loss in 2016. In other words, roughly one out of six published novelists lost money last year.

17 of these identified as full-time writers, with the other 46 being part-time. Looking at the overall number of full- and part-time respondents, the part-time authors were disproportionately more likely to end up in the red.

(5) BEEN THERE. An Apollo 11 Space-Flown U.S. Flag went for $25,623 (including buyer’s premium) in an auction by the Nate D. Sanders firm this week.

(6) USING THE OLD BEAN. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is honoring “Homer at the Bat” and ‘inducting’ Homer Simpson into Cooperstown. Cut4.com has the story.

The Hall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the episode on May 27 during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. Festivities will include appearances by Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith — both of whom guest-starred in the episode — at a discussion featuring members of The Simpsons team who put the episode together.

 

(7) PAXTON OBIT. Actor Bill Paxton died suddenly today due to complications of surgery. He was 61. Although better known for his non-genre performances in Titanic and Twister, his resume is studded with roles in high-profile sf movie and TV productions such as The Terminator, Aliens, Weird Science, Predator 2, Future Shock, Apollo 13 (as astronaut Fred Haise), Mighty Joe Young, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, The Colony, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as John Garrett), and Edge of Tomorrow.

(8) FINGLETON OBIT. Game of Thrones star Neil Fingleton has died at the age of 36. The story in The Guardian says —

Once named as Britain’s tallest man, the 7ft 7in star played Mag the Mighty in the fantasy series and also took on roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. According to reports, he passed away following heart failure on Saturday.

(9) WAPNER OBIT. Judge Joseph Wapner died February 26 reports the Washington Post. I was going to run this item anyway, but a check of IMDB revealed he actually has a genre credit. Wapner appeared in the pilot episode of Sliders in 1995.

Joseph A. Wapner, a retired California judge whose flinty-folksy style of resolving disputes on the show “The People’s Court” helped spawn an entire genre of courtroom-based reality television with no-nonsense jurists and often clueless litigants, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97….

Within a few years of its debut, the program regularly attracted 20 million viewers. One measure of its success was a Washington Post survey in 1989 that showed that 54 percent of Americans could identify Judge Wapner compared with 9 percent who could name the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist….

Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Tell A Fairy Tale Day is all about exploring myths and stories, old and new. From grim(m) tales to urban legends, tap the dark corners of your subconscious.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 26, 1963 — NASA announced that Venus is about 800 degrees F.
  • February 26, 2005 — The Razzies held their 25th annual ceremony at Hollywood’s historic Ivar Theatre. Making a surprise appearance was Halle Berry, an Oscar winner for Best Actress in Monster’s Ball (2001), who showed up to accept that year’s Razzie for Worst Actress for the title role in the poorly received action extravaganza Catwoman.

(12) NEATNESS COUNTS.

(13) PUB QUIZ. The Sci-Fi London Pub Quiz will happen Tuesday, May 2. The Clarke Award’s Tom Hunter explains —

[W]e’re again joining forces with the team at the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, and we’re aim to celebrate Sir Arthur’s centenary year and raise some money for two excellent causes in the best way we know how, with an EPIC PUB QUIZ.

Tickets are on sale now and already selling well, but we’ve plenty of tables left and we’re looking for teams to compete.

Tickets cost £5 per head (in a team of 6, that’s £30 a table!) and all proceeds go to two amazing charities.

Science Fiction fans, authors, artists, agents, publishers and enthused newbies, we want you all!

GET TICKETS >>

Here are the two great organisations we’re aiming to support with this year’s quiz:

STEMettes, who inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes. http://www.stemettes.org

Rebuilding Sri Lanka. The Asian tsunami on the 26th December 2004 killed over 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.Over a million people were left homeless. Thousands were destitute. Rebuilding Sri Lanka has been active since the day of the disaster and continues to provide support, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and shelter to those affected by the disaster. http://www.rebuildingsrilanka.org.uk

(14) LOOKING FOR IDEAS. Black Gate has compiled Rich Horton’s recent blog posts in “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2017”, including numerous recommendations in the fan categories which few people discuss.

Best Fan Writer

The first thing I’ll do here is mention myself. I am a fan writer (at least my blog writing and my stuff for Black Gate qualifies, if perhaps not my work for Locus, which I guess is now officially professional). I would note in particular my reviews of old magazines at Black Gate, particularly Amazing and Fantastic in the Cele Goldsmith Lalli era, and my various reviews of Ace Doubles (and other SF) at Strange at Ecbatan (and often linked from Black Gate.) I would be greatly honored if anyone thought my work worthy of a Best Fan Writer nomination.

But of course there are many wonderful fan writers out there. For years I have been nominating Abigail Nussbaum, especially for her blog Asking the Wrong Questions, and I see no reason not to do so again this year. I will note in particular her review of Arrival, which captured beautifully the ways in which the movie falls short of the original story, but still acknowledges the movie’s strengths.

Another fan writer who has attracted my notice with some interesting posts is Camestros Felapton. Some of the most interesting work there regarded (alas) the Puppy Kerfuffles, and I was quite amused by this Map of the Puppy Kerfuffle. But the blog is much more than Puppy commentary – indeed, it’s much more than SF commentary. In the more traditional fanwriting area, I can point to the most recent entry (as I write), a well-done review of Greg Egan’s Diaspora.

Another possibility is Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank. The site is run by Greg along with his partner Eric Wong, and both deserve a lot of credit – I mention Greg in particular because of articles like his analysis of the effect of slate voting on the 2016 Hugos.

One of my favorite fan writers does a lot of his stuff in a place relatively few people see, but he has begun to review Amazing Stories for Galactic Journey. This is John Boston, and his work can be found here. The conceit at Galactic Journey is that magazines from 55 years ago are reviewed, with an attempt to make the reviews reflect only knowledge up to the point of publication of the magazine. (It will be obvious to anyone who reads my stuff at Black Gate that this sort of thing is right up my alley, and in particular that reviews of Amazing from the early ‘60s are of special interest, as I am (in a somewhat less disciplined fashion) trying to look at and write about as many issues of Amazing and Fantastic edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli as I can.)) A couple of years ago John (along with Damien Broderick) published a series of books reviewing every issue of New Worlds and Science Fantasy from the Carnell era, which gives another look at his credentials as a fan writer.

And finally I think there are a number of people at Black Gate worthy of a look. Too many to mention, perhaps, but one who definitely deserves recognition is the editor, John O’Neill, who also does a great deal of writing for the site.

(15) BACK TO MIDAMERICON II. Melanie Marttila continues her series of posts about programs at MidAmeriCon II with “WorldCon 2016: The dark side of fairy tales”.

Panellists: Ellen Datlow, Brooke Johnson, Erin Wilcox (moderator), Sandee Rodriguez, Dana Cameron

Joined in progress …

DC: Fairy tales are the intersection between the known and the unknown in a way that other stories aren’t.

BJ: Tone is the defining quality. It’s a sense of magic realism or normalized magic. I’m currently reading the Turnip Princess. It’s meant to be read. Oral storytelling. Fairy tales are mythic, grand and meaningful, larger-than-life, and yet the things that happen are everyday occurrences to the characters of the story.

SR: Folk tales have the element of reality. Fairy tales have no sense of history.

DC: Domesticity is addressed in fairy tales….

Find the rest of her series here.

(16) MARTIAN SCIENCE. At NPR, Jacqueline Miller and Thomas Max Roberts discuss “Science Is Cool In ‘The Martian.’ Can It Be Compelling In The Classroom, Too?”

Can learning science be as compelling as applying science is in the movie? Yes. Giving our science students frequent and ongoing opportunities to investigative and problem-solve in the classroom is a start. Students thrive when they are allowed to focus on a problem in depth, apply their learning to real-world situations, and experiment, transferring new knowledge to address a challenge or answer a question.

Reviewers have called “The Martian” a “love letter to science.” It should be required viewing for all middle and high school students, and it should serve as a call to action for improving science education.

How exciting would it be to hear your student, when confronted with a challenge in science, exclaim, “We’re going to have to science the s— out of this!”

(17) FELGERCARB! But in a new edition of The Martian nobody is sciencing the “s—“ out of anything. Bad language has been modified to make the book usable in schools: “Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover”.

After getting dozens of inquiries from teachers, Mr. Weir, who describes himself as “a lifelong space nerd,” asked his publisher, Crown, if they could release a cleaned-up edition of the book.

The novel was pretty easy to amend, by simply replacing the foul language with tamer words like “screwed,” “jerk” and “crap” (Mr. Weir said there were “occasional squabbles” when he tried to lobby the censors to keep some of the less offensive swear words in.) A kid-friendly version came out last year, and it is now being used to help teach science in classrooms around the country.

At Synergy Quantum Academy, a public charter high school in South Los Angeles, students are conducting experiments based on the novel. In physics class, students will build miniature solar-powered cars, and during astronomy next month, they will try to grow potatoes as Watney did, using a chamber modeled on NASA’s Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

(18) FUTURE SCIENCE. David Winnick looks ahead to technological predictions that haven’t happened yet at Quirk Books.

Penfield Wave Transmitter – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Depression and loneliness can be tough sometimes, even for Rick and Iran Deckard. While most people know Rick from Blade Runner, the famous Ridley Scott film adaption of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the original Rick Deckard is quite different. Deckard wakes up in the morning and dials in the emotion he wants for the day on his Penfield Wave Transmitter, a device which controls feelings. Unfortunately for Deckard, he and his wife, Iran, have different ideas about how he should be feeling.

As countless speculative fiction works have shown us, controlling emotions almost always gets people into sticky territory (we’re thinking of The Stepford Wives and shuddering). As useful as the Penfield Wave Transmitter could be, maybe it’s best to leave that tech idea on the shelf.

(19) STONE AGE MUSIC. “The Flintstones Variations for Piano Solo” performed by Ilan Rechtman.

(20) SPACE AGE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping is suggesting that their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery be submitted for a Hugo:

Even if voters take their subtle hint, Clipping would not be the first group to have a nominated music album. That was Jefferson Starship with Blows Against the Empire (1970). True, not many musical performances have made the Hugo ballot – the most recent was Rachel Bloom’s music video, F*** Me, Ray Bradbury (2010). And I don’t remember any in between.

According to the Wikipedia, Splendor & Misery

…follows the story of a person in outer space referred to as Cargo #2331. The musical instrumentations being a mix of futuristic and classical, tells the story of a slave in the future in outer space.

(21) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. George R.R. Martin is also beating a drum for some candidates in “Hugo Thoughts: Best Professional Editor, Long Form”.

JANE JOHNSON

Jane is the editor and publisher of HarperCollins Voyager, one of the leading publishers of SF and fantasy in the United Kingdom. British editors are eligible for the Hugo, just like their American counterparts, but they are NEVER nominated, no matter how great their accomplishments… and that’s bollocks, as the Brits might say. Jane is one of the towering figures in our field across the pond, yet she’s never been recognized, and it is bloody well time that she was.

It would be useful if Martin went back and added the titles of the 2016 books these editors worked on, as this is not a lifetime achievement award.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/17 With Many Alternative Facts About The Square Of The Hypotenuse

(1) TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS. Sue Duff thought it would be easy to destroy the Earth, but noooo! She explains the difficulties in a guest post for SFFWorld.

When I plotted out my five-book series a couple years ago, I knew that by book four, it would be time to give my characters a break and began to torture my worlds. I needed to increase the stakes across both dimensions for the big finale in book five. It took quite a bit of research, in spite of my amateur earth and space science interests, and found that it’s not easy to make reality align with your imagination! The challenge was to have my antagonist destroy Thrae, Earth’s mirror dimension, while salvaging enough of the planet to support life. Luckily, I sat on a panel with two NASA scientists at Denver Comic Con and cornered them afterwards to verify my research. I was thrilled, and more than a little relieved, to discover that the details were accurate!

(2) LOCUS AWARD POLL IS OPEN. John Scalzi has beaten me to a pair of headlines today – I’m lucky he spends most of his time on books. John was first with the Audie Awards, and now this —

(3) SHADOW CLARKE. Paul Kincaid tells how he thinks the shadow Clarke jury will operate.

I have never been involved with a shadow jury before, so I’m probably going to be making it up as we go along. But my take on it is that the Clarke Award has become central to the way we see science fiction in Britain, so the shadow jury will use it as a jumping off point from which to expand the discussion of science fiction.

We’ll be starting with the submissions list, which is due to be published shortly and which is probably the best and most convenient way to discover what science fiction has been published in Britain during any particular year. From this we will each, individually, draw up our own preferred shortlists, based on what we’ve read and what we want to read. (No plan survives an encounter with the enemy, so I assume that as we read through our chosen books our views about what should or should not be on the shortlist will change. In many ways, I suspect that will be the most interesting part of the exercise.) We will also, of course, be reading the actual shortlist when that is announced, so the whole exercise will be a scaled-up version of Maureen Kincaid Speller’s wonderful Shortlist Project from a few years back.

(4) THE RIGHTS. Read “SFWA Statements on Register of Copyright and Copyright Reform” at the SFWA Blog.

On January 31, SFWA submitted two sets of copyright-related commentary (authored by SFWA’s Legal Affairs Committee) — one to the Librarian of Congress offering recommendations for choosing the new Register of Copyrights, and one to the House Judiciary Committee regarding its first proposal for copyright reform. SFWA also signed onto a submission from the National Writers Union to the US Copyright Office concerning Group Registration of Contributions to Periodicals.

(5) HEAR THIS ONE BEFORE? From the “Traveler” essay in Larry Niven’s Stars and Gods collection:

Lost luggage? Air France lost a passenger in the Soviet Union, because he annoyed them. They dropped Tom Doherty in Moscow when he only had an internal passport for Leningrad.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PUPPETEER

  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GARÇON

  • February 8, 1828 — Jules Verne

(8) SQUEE. Walter Jon Williams has signed the contract for three more books in the Praxis series. He discusses the deal in “Unto the Breach”.

And so (I hear you ask) why seek publication by the Big Five after all?  Because (1) they offered me money, and (2) I don’t want to put all my career eggs into a single basket.   Ebook sales are volatile, many sales are generated by gimmicks that quickly grow obsolete, and I’m in competition with a couple million self-published authors who can’t write their way out of a paper bag, but who get just as much shelf space as I do.  If you’re published by a traditional publisher, it demonstrates that someone cared enough for your work to pay more than taxi-fare money for it.

And if the books fail, I’ll get them back, and then I’ll market them myself.  Win/win.

The headline was JJ’s reaction to the news.

(9) CONGRATULATIONS. Jason Sanford’s short story collection Never Never Stories has been translated and released in China by Douban Reads.

The collection is being released as two separate books with similar but different covers. Here’s the link to Never Never Stories Book 1 and here’s Book 2.

(10) MAKE YOUR OWN KESSEL RUN. Graeme McMillan at The Hollywood Reporter says Disney has announced that Star Wars Land will open in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios section in 2019, with a smaller one in Anaheim. They’re mum about what will be in it, but it’s 14 acres!

It’s like ‘La La Land,’ but with less dancing and more Jedi.

Disney is planning something big to mark the conclusion of the current Star Wars trilogy. How big? The size of a theme park.

On a call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger on Tuesday revealed that the 14-acre Star Wars Land attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando will open in 2019, the same year as Star Wars Episode IX, the final chapter in the current “Skywalker Saga” arc of the beloved space opera.

Construction started on the Hollywood Studios attraction last April, following its August 2015 announcement. Until Iger’s statement on Tuesday, Disney had remained quiet about the attraction — which will be paired with a similar one in Disneyland Anaheim — beyond the release of concept artwork last summer. While it’s still unconfirmed just what the attraction will include, a Disney Parks blog post promised “guests will get the opportunity to pilot the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” after climbing on board a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. These are the authors who wrote the most short fiction in 2016 that was published in any of the eleven publications or eleven anthologies Rocket Stack Rank reviewed last year. — “2016 Prolific SF/F Short Fiction Authors”

Here are Rocket Stack Rank’s 35 most prolific science fiction & fantasy short fiction authors of 2016. Click on their names in the two tables below to see their stories, and use the Score and AvgScore columns to try some authors you might not have read before. They were selected from the 818 original stories reviewed by RSR in 2016, which include 568 authors who wrote 5.8 million words published in 11 SF/F magazines and 11 SF/F anthologies. (RSR does not read horror magazines or horror anthologies.)

Greg Hullender adds, “Not a surprise to see Rick Larson and Robert Reed at the top in terms of number of stories. The counts by number of words are strongly affected by novella writers, but still interesting.  Could be a useful resource to people looking for a new author to try out.”

(12) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Biblio.com has tips on “Storing A Book Collection”.

We routinely hear from customers who want to know the best way to store collectible books. Sadly, even more commonly, we hear from customers who have inadvertently stored their books improperly, eroding the value of their beloved book collection.

We thought we’d take an opportunity to share with you some tips for proper storage of books, gleaned from not only our own personal experience, but that of seasoned professional booksellers. But before we dive right in to the stacks, let’s preface the whole thing by reminding you that:

CONDITION IS EVERYTHING!

Even the most scarce of titles is rarely worth much when it is in poor condition or beyond repair. Mildew, broken spines, torn or faded dust jackets, cocked bindings and similar issues can conspire to move a desirable book from the display case to the bargain bin.

Ok, that said, let’s learn how we can keep your book collection from ruin when you need to put it in storage for a period of time…

(13) OB SF. The Washington Post’s Michael E. Ruane, in “An American filmed the German army in WWI — until they became the enemy”, has an interesting article about the Library of Congress’s restoration of On the Firing Line with the Germans, a documentary Wilbur H. Durborough did on the Eastern Front in Germany in 1915.

The sf connection is that Durborough’s cameraman, Irving G. Ries, had a long, distinguished career in Hollywood capped by an Oscar nomination for his work on the special effects in Forbidden Planet in 1956.

(14) THE MATRYOSHKA TWEETS. It began when Cat Rambo reminded SFWA members to make their Nebula nominations.

(15) DISBELIEF SUSPENDERS. College Humor poses the question — Which Is Nerdier: Star Wars or Star Trek?

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster,JJ, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/17 I Will Set My Scrolls of Silver And I’ll Sail Toward The Pixel

(1) GET IN ON THE ART. Many museums are offering free downloadable coloring books this week, February 6-10, as part of the #Color Our Collections event. There is quite a lot of fantastic imagery of interest to fans — indeed, one item literally is fan art.

Orycon. (October 30, 1981 – November 1, 1981). A review of Orycon ’80 – Document 1, Page 1 Fritz LeiberScience Fiction & Fantasy Convention Flyers & Programs. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries,

From February 6-10, 2017, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world are sharing free coloring sheets and books based on materials in their collections. Users are invited to download and print the coloring sheets and share their filled-in images, using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

All content is sourced from the collections of participating institutions. With participants from around the globe, this campaign offers an opportunity to explore the vast and varied offerings of the library world, without geographical constraints. Last year’s campaign included over 210 institutions and featured coloring sheets based on children’s classics, natural histories, botanicals, anatomical atlases, university yearbooks, patents, and more.

Here is a list of participating institutions.

(2) THE ECHOING GREEN. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings reviewed by Donald T. Williams at The Five Pilgrims.

Glyer’s detective work is not only intriguing; it is also often insightful.  Her readers will gain useful perspectives on two things: many of the Inklings’ works that they already love, and the writing process itself, especially the role of collaboration and encouragement in it.  Judged by their longevity and their output, the Inklings were surely the most successful writers’ group ever assembled.  There are reasons why.  Each chapter of Bandersnatch ends with a sidebar entitled “Doing What They Did.”  People interested in starting their own writers’ groups, or those already involved in one who want to make it work better, will find a gold mine of practical wisdom there.

(3) WHO WINS. The BBC Audio Drama Awards, shortlisted here last month, were presented on January 30. Just one item of genre interest won this year —

Best Online Only Audio Drama

Dr Who – Absent Friends Big Finish Productions

 

(4) CLARKE CONVERSATION. The first in a series of interviews exploring themes of science fiction and STEM, sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is online at Medium, a conversation between Anne Charnock and Ada Lovelace Day founder Suw Charman-Anderson.

[Charman-Anderson] …The first of my cherished books was Stranded at Staffna by Helen Solomon. Mrs Solomon was my English teacher and when I was nine she gave me a signed copy of her book:

I hope you enjoy reading this story about Morag MacDonald, Susan, and that you agree with me?—?that she was a real heroine. With love, Helen Solomon. December 1980.

Mrs Solomon was right?—?I did enjoy it and I did agree with her that Morag was amazing. It’s the first book I remember crying at the end of, not least because it’s based on the true story of Mary MacNiven, who rescued a horse from a shipwreck in 1940.

I was already an enthusiastic reader, but Mrs Solomon was the person who helped me understand that books didn’t just appear out of nowhere, that someone sat down and wrote them. It was around this time, I think, that I wrote my first complete story, about a girl who lost her sight when she was hit on the head, and who entered into a parallel world when she slept. It was a complete rip-off of Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, of course, but I structured it properly and even had character development! It was then that I started to think that I would become a writer when I grew up.

(5) AUTHORITY DIES, Professor Irwin Corey, the comedian, died February 6 at the age of 102.

It’s impossible to provide a short explanation of Corey’s surreal brand of comedy, which was most potent when delivered in his seemingly nonsensical stream of non sequiturs. But the breadth of his career hints at his creative genius: Who else could have appeared in the 1976 film Car Wash, two years after accepting a National Book Award on behalf of the reclusive Thomas Pynchon?

Billed as “the World’s Foremost Authority,” Corey’s guise as an absent-minded professor offered a way to poke fun at multisyllabic jargon and those who use it. When political or scientific authorities seemed to annex a chunk of language, there was Corey to claw it back — a very human antidote to our complicated modern times.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted

(7) FAN WRITER, FANZINE, EDITOR: Rich Horton posted the final installment of his recommendations, — “Hugo Nomination Thoughts — Other Categories” — which included some very kind comments about Filers, such as the fan writing of Camestros Felapton and Greg Hullender’s Rocket Stack Rank.

But of course there are many wonderful fan writers out there. For years I have been nominating Abigail Nussbaum, especially for her blog Asking the Wrong Questions (http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/), and I see no reason not to do so again this year. I will note in particular her review of Arrival, which captured beautifully the ways in which the movie falls short of the original story, but still acknowledges the movie’s strengths.

Another fan writer who has attracted my notice with some interesting posts is Camestros Felapton (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/). Some of the most interesting work there regarded (alas) the Puppy Kerfuffles, and I was quite amused by this Map of the Puppy Kerfuffle: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/the-puppy-kerfuffle-map/. But the blog is much more than Puppy commentary – indeed, it’s much more than SF commentary. In the more traditional fanwriting area, I can point to the most recent entry (as I write), a well-done review of Greg Egan’s Diaspora.

Another possibility is Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank (http://www.rocketstackrank.com/). The site is run by Greg along with his partner Eric Wong, and both deserve a lot of credit – I mention Greg in particular because of article like his analysis of the effect of slate voting on the 2016 Hugos (http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2016/09/reanalysis-of-slate-voting-in-2016-hugo.html)

(8) THE REAL ESTATE. Curbed reports a bit of literary history is for sale — “A.A. Milne’s Real-Life ‘House at Pooh Corner’ Hits the Market”.

Christopher Robin Milne, the son of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, grew up in this quaint brick manse in the English countryside. Christopher Robin inspired the young boy of the same name in Milne’s iconic children’s stories and, so too did the bucolic setting of the family home serve as the backdrop. Known as Cotchford Farm, and on the market for the first time in more than 40 years, the Grade II listed estate spans 9.5 acres of lawns, forest, and streams. The six-bedroom main house, the quintessential English country house if there ever was one, is listed for $3.22M. There’s more to the Milne house than just Pooh, as it was also later owned by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who reportedly died on the property.

The best part of the news item might be that the author’s name is “Rob Bear.”

(8) HEAVENS TO MURGATROYD. Cartoon Brew has the story — “Warner Bros. Reboots Snagglepuss As A Gay Playwright Being Hunted By The U.S. Government”.,

The eight-page story will debut this March in the Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1, before turning into a regular DC series this fall. “I envision him like a tragic Tennessee Williams figure,” writer Marc Russell told HiLoBrow.com. “Huckleberry Hound is sort of a William Faulkner guy, they’re in New York in the 1950s, Marlon Brando shows up, Dorothy Parker, these socialites of New York from that era come and go.”

The sexual orientation was never affirmed in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but Russell, who has also done an updated take on The Flintstones for DC Comics, is making Snagglepuss’ sexuality a key part of the story, in which the pink mountain lion is dragged before the Communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He’s accused of being a pinko, get it?

This is the first I’ve heard that Snagglepuss was pink. I watched those cartoons when I was really young — the station they were on was still broadcasting in black-and-white.

(9) THE CAT’S MEOW. Naomi Kritzer is releasing her collection Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories” in July 2017.

Table of Contents:

  • “Cat Pictures Please” (Clarkesworld) (Hugo Award-winning story)
  • “Ace of Spades” (not previously published)
  • “The Golem” (Realms of Fantasy)
  • “Wind” (Apex)
  • “In The Witch’s Garden” (Realms of Fantasy)
  • “What Happened at Blessing Creek” (Intergalactic Medicine Show)
  • “Cleanout” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • “Artifice” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)
  • “Perfection” (not previously published)
  • “The Good Son” (Jim Baen’s Universe)
  • “Scrap Dragon” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • “Comrade Grandmother” (Strange Horizons)
  • “Isabella’s Garden” (Realms of Fantasy)
  • “Bits” (Clarkesworld)
  • “Honest Man” (Realms of Fantasy)
  • “The Wall” (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
  • “So Much Cooking” (Clarkesworld)

(10) BACK TO WORK. The Hugo Nominees 2018 Wikia site has gone live. Not to early to list the 2017 works you love that might deserve an award next year.

(11) BIG BROTHER WAS WATCHING WHAT YOU WERE WATCHING. The FTC found that Vizio’s TVs were reporting moment-by-moment viewing, plus location info, back to a server.

TV maker Vizio has agreed to pay out $2.2m in order to settle allegations it unlawfully collected viewing data on its customers.

The US Federal Trade Commission said the company’s smart TV technology had captured data on what was being viewed on screen and transmitted it to the firm’s servers.

The data was sold to third parties, the FTC said.

Vizio has said the data sent could not be matched up to individuals.

It wrote: ” [The firm] never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise.

“Instead, as the complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviours.”

(12) HOLY PUNCHOUT. Netflix is bringing Marvel’s Iron Fist to television in 2017.

[Thanks to John Lorentz, Bruce D. Arthurs, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Gregory N. Hullender, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Neil Clarke Reveals Choices For The Best Science Fiction of the Year

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Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2 will feature these stories from 2016:

Table of Contents

  • “The Visitor from Taured” by Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s, September 2016)
  • “Extraction Request” by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld, January 2016)
  • “A Good Home” by Karin Lowachee (Lightspeed, June 2016)
  • “Prodigal” by Gord Sellar (Analog, December 2016)
  • “Ten Days” by Nina Allan (Now We Are Ten, edited by Ian Whates)
  • “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com, April 2016)
  • “Panic City” by Madeline Ashby (CyberWorld, edited by Jason Heller and Joshua Viola)
  • “Last Gods” by Sam J. Miller (Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathana Strahan)
  • “HigherWorks” by Gregory Norman Bossert (Asimov’s, December 2016)
  • “A Strange Loop” by T.R. Napper (Interzone, January/February 2016)
  • “Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse” by Xia Jia (Invisible Planets, edited by Ken Liu)
  • “Pearl” by Aliette de Bodard (The Starlit Wood, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe)
  • “The Metal Demimonde” by Nick Wolven (Analog, June 2016)
  • “The Iron Tactician” by Alastair Reynolds (Newcon Press)
  • “The Mighty Slinger” by Tobias S. Buckell and Karen Lord (Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathana Strahan)
  • “They All Have One Breath” by Karl Bunker (Asimov’s, December 2016)
  • “Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, February 2016)
  • “And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald (Clarkesworld, June 2016)
  • “The Three Lives of Sonata James” by Lettie Prell (Tor.com, October 2016)
  • “The Charge and the Storm” by An Owomoyela (Asimov’s, February 2016)
  • “Parables of Infinity” by Robert Reed (Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathana Strahan)
  • “Ten Poems for the Mossums, One for the Man” by Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s, July 2016)
  • “You Make Pattaya” by Rich Larson (Interzone, November/December 2016)
  • “Number Nine Moon” by Alex Irvine (F&SF, January/February 2016)
  • “Things with Beards” by Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld, June 2016)
  • “Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts” by Ken Liu (Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathana Strahan)
  • “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld, April 2016)

Greg Hullender has updated the Rocket Stack Rank “2016 Best SF/F Anthologies” page and passed along his count of the stories that multiple editors picked for their year’s best volumes.

  • “The Visitor from Taured,” by Ian R. Macleod, and “Things with Beards,” by Sam J. Miller, are the only two stories to appear in all four anthologies. [Clarke, Dozois, Horton, Strahan]
  • Three other stories arguably got 4-way approval when you include stories the anthologists recommended during the year. (Horton and Dozois both review short fiction for Locus Magazine.)
  • “Touring with the Alien,” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, and “Terminal,” by Lavie Tidhar, appeared in all but Horton’s anthology, but Horton recommended both works in his Locus Magazine column.
  • “Number Nine Moon,” by Alex Irvine only appeared in Strahan and Clarke’s anthologies but Dozois and Horton both recommended it in their Locus Magazine columns.

Pixel Scroll 1/3/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling – Rawhide!

(1) SPACE FLOWING PAST THE PORTS LIKE WINE FROM A PITCHER. Here’s a video excerpt from the class “To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie”, part of the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, in which Leckie discusses the basics of space opera and the definition of it provided by Brian Aldiss.

(2) BEARS DISCOVER MCGUIRE. Reading Omni’s “Best Emerging Fantasy Authors of 2016”, James Davis Nicoll snorted at one of the selections:

They’ve discovered Guy Gavriel Kay! Who they think is an emerging author. But it is not their fault.

Sylvia Moreno-Garcia brought the problem to the attention Omni and was given the brushoff.

Moreno-Garcia persisted – since this is just pixels on the internet and not carved in granite, Omni could do something about it even now.

JJ adds about another of Omni’s choices, “Given her 8-year career, 25 novels and 4 collections, 9 Hugo finalists plus 2 wins, and a Tiptree finalist, I don’t think Seanan McGuire can be considered “emerging”, either.”

(3) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION YESTERDAY. Mayim Bialik celebrated #NationalScienceFictionDay on January 2 by showing her readers this historic tome –

Here’s me with the book that inspired GrokNation, Heinlein’s Sci Fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land! For more info on what “grok” means, check this out: http://groknation.com/faq/

 

mayim-bialik-nat-sf-day

(4) BIOLOGY LESSON. An educational graphic the young’uns can study.

(5) BEFORE PALPATINECARE. Motherboard’s Sarah Jeong asks “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?”

Padme Never Goes to a OB/GYN

Prenatal visits never happen in Episode III, not even offscreen. Despite Anakin’s spiraling paranoia about Padme’s health, doctors or hospitals are bizarrely never mentioned. And the evidence says that Padme never got an ultrasound.

When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie—shortly before giving birth—she refers to “our child,” rather than “our children.” It doesn’t make sense for her to be hiding the ball here, she’s making one last emotional appeal to the father of her children, to try to bring him back to the light side. Rather, Padme simply doesn’t know that she’s about to give birth to twins.

(6) DISSENTING VOICE. “Vera Rubin Didn’t Discover Dark Matter” avers Richard Panek at Scientific American.

Vera Rubin didn’t discover dark matter.

Rubin died last weekend, at the age of 88. Headlines have repeatedly identified her as having “discovered” dark matter or having “proved” the existence of dark matter. Even the Carnegie Institution’s press release announcing her death—she had worked as a staff astronomer at Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., for half a century before her recent retirement—said that she “confirmed the existence of dark matter.” Rubin would have said she did no such thing. I know, because she did say that, to me, on several occasions.

One could make the argument that the correct formulation of her achievement is that she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, and while Rubin likely would have acquiesced to that construction, she would have found it incomplete, perhaps even misleading. She would have said that while she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, you shouldn’t infer from that statement that dark matter actually exists.

The distinction wasn’t merely a matter of semantics. It was, to her, a matter of philosophy, of integrity—a matter of how science works.

(7) JPL ANNIVERSARY. Thanks to SciFi4me we know “Jet Propulsion Laboratory Celebrates 80 Years With Free 2017 Calendar”.

As part of their 80th anniversary, JPL has released a free 2017 calendar you can download, filled with photos from both JPL and NASA, and including anniversaries and events. They also have an interactive timeline of JPL’s biggest moments. You can access both of these, as well as more history of JPL, over on the JPL website. JPL has regular open houses, and I hope to attend one myself one day now that I’m in Los Angeles.

Download calendar (PDF 28 MB)

(8) GETTING THE WORD OUT. A Tom Gauld strip —

(9) NEW PODCAST. The Blastoff Podcast has been launched this week by Jud Meyers and Scott Tipton, creators of Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood.

In the premiere episode, Scott explains the difference between the golden and silver ages of comic books. Then, Jud muses on the child-like wonder of stepping inside a brick and mortar comic shop.

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(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 3, 1924 – King Tut’s sarcophagus was uncovered.
  • January 3, 2004 — Spirit rover landed on Mars.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 3, 1892 – J. R. R. Tolkien

(12)ESCAPING THE SHADOW. Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R., tells how WWI inspired Lord of the Rings (and his own very modest career).

My grandfather, JRR Tolkien, died when I was 14. He remains vivid to me but through child-like impressions – velvet waistcoats and pipe smoke; word games played on rainy afternoons in the lounge of a seaside hotel or standing on the windy beach down below, skipping flat black pebbles out across the grey waves; a box of matches that he had thrown up in the air to amuse me, rising and falling as if in slow motion through the branches of a horse chestnut tree.

These memories did nothing to illuminate who my grandfather was or how he thought beyond a sense of wise benevolence arching over me like that tree. Nothing except for his religion: I remember the emotion in his voice when he recited prayers with me in the evening – not just the Hail Mary and the Our Father but others too – and the embarrassment I felt at church on Sundays when he insisted on kneeling while everyone else stood, and loudly uttering responses in Latin when everyone else spoke in English.

(13) GOOD FAKES. Timothy Anderson’s online gallery includes a set of clever faux vintage Star Wars paperback covers. They start with The Purloined Plans, second row down, toward the right.

(14) SHUTTERED. Crawford Doyle Booksellers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is closing. Andrew Porter remembers —

The store, at 1082 Madison Ave, New York (between 81st and 82nd), was a bookstore long before 21 years ago. I used to live above it, at 24 East 82nd Street, and when I was a teenager in the early 1960s, and delivered Womrath Library books to subscribers in the neighborhood.

Downstairs, reached by a staircase from the store, there was an antique toy store. At one time, they sold military miniatures, including soldier figures from Donald A. Wollheim’s collection. An occasional visitor, I was told, was a collector by the name of George R.R. Martin. Another small part of my history disappearing into oblivion…

(15) CLIPPING SERVICE. Some of you might like this assortment of topical clips more than Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green did.

Next up, we have yet another call to have a year of publishing nothing but women. Yep, you read that right. Kamila Shamshie has called for 2018 to be the year of publishing only women. Now, I know what you’re going to say. Look at the source of the article. It’s the Guardian. I know. I know. Another bastion of, well, drivel. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such calls, or something similar. Have you forgotten the calls for readers to give up on reading books by men — or non-people of color or other so-called marginalized groups — for a year?

One of the best responses I’ve seen to the Shamshie article comes from Dacry Conroy. These three paragraphs completely dismantle Shamshie’s argument:

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication. This seems to be particularly so of literary writers (a group to which I do not pretend to belong) who appear to have been convinced that even though they are the keepers of the “artistic flame,” they would not have an audience at all without the festivals, the reviewers and the awards the publishing houses so carefully close to all but their own.

Surely the lesson from the independent presses of the 70s isn’t to plead for someone else to start a press and offer better opportunities, it’s to stand up, use the technology available and become our own publishers. Many of us are already doing that.

(16) THE YEAR IN RPG. Shannon Appelcline, respected RPG industry watcher, delivers a big gaming roundup in “Advanced Designers & Dragons #10: 2016: The Year in Review”.

The Continued Rise of Indies. For several years now, I’ve been talking about the rise of indie games, as several once-indie companies have become major players in the industry. In 2016 a few of them started collecting together other games, turning themselves into publishing houses that go beyond just the particular ideas of their owners.

Evil Hat* was the most notable, with their expansion occurring thanks to the success of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (2017?)*. They’ve hired a few people on as full-time employees, which is a luxury in today’s roleplaying industry, let alone the indie industry. Meanwhile, they’re printing and distributing a few successful Kickstarters: Blades in the Dark (2017?)* and Karthun: Lands of Conflict (2017?).

Burning Wheel strikes me as a smaller, more casual organization, but they similarly picked up the publishing and distribution of a few indie games: Dungeon World (2012) and Jared Sorsensen’s Parsely games (2009-2010). This also seems like a more casual partnership, mainly amounting to Burning Wheel HQ, Sage Kobold, and Memento Mori combining forces, like in the Gen Con Forge booth of days gone by, but between Burning Wheel (2002), Torchbearer (2013), and Dungeon World (2012), you have three of the most notable indie fantasy RPGs, all under one roof!

Last year also offered one more example of the indie movement growing and maturing: the blockbuster Apocalypse World (2010) got a second edition (2016).

The Inevitable Kickstarter Report. As in recent years, I’m going to end this review with a look at Kickstarter. And, I think the only description of Kickstarter this year is: wow. I mean, it’s been good for the industry for years, but in 2016 it notched up a higher level of success than ever before.

To start with, we suddenly had 26 pure RPG Kickstarters that raised more than $100,000 in 2016, after years of hovering below 20. Most notably, 7th Sea raised $1.3 million! That’s almost double the previous high, which was Deluxe Exalted 3e, which raised $684,755 in 2013. 7th Sea’s 11,483 backers also beat out the 10,103 backers for Evil Hat’s Fate Core from 2012-2013, a number that I thought might be unassailable.

(17) BEST NEW WRITERS. Rocket Stack Rank has put together a list of stories from Campbell-eligible authors. Greg Hullender explains:

As usual, the entry for each story has a spoiler-free blurb plus a link to a more detailed review. People who have already done their reading for the year and just need to be reminded of which story was which will probably find both of those useful. For people still looking for things to read, we’ve indicated which stories were recommended by us or any of the reviewers we track, and there are links to places to read stories for free (where possible) and otherwise there’s info on how to buy or borrow them.

The graph shows that Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies were the most friendly venues for new authors. Original anthologies are the least.

(18) GROOVY, MAN. @70sscifiart on Twitter shares retro sf covers and art.

(19) SUPERFINE. Melville House has a story about a very overdue library book.

Gillett came across the 1,000-page tome when, after her husband’s death, she was sorting through a collection of 6,000 books. Finding the HCS library stamp on the inside cover, she realized the extraordinary truth, and decided to return the book to the school along with a note reading: “I am sorry to inform you that one of your former pupils, Prof AE Boycott FRS, appears to have stolen the enclosed. I can’t imagine how the school has managed without it!”

Perhaps this book helped inspire the Professor’s future career. The little boy once obsessed with snails now has his own portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Based on the rate at Hereford library, the fine could have been charged at 17 pence a day, over 120 years, totalling around £7,446.

(20) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT AT LOSCON. Courtesy of Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink we have a photo of the Rotsler Award Exhibit from Loscon 2016 featuring the art of Ditmar.

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(21) SCAVENGERS. This is an animated short film about astronauts who were stranded on a planet a long time ago, long enough that they’ve learned a great deal about the planet’s biological organisms and the interactions between the native flora and fauna.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Bruce Baugh, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]