Filer Meetup #1 at Worldcon 75

Greg Hullender says of today’s Filer meetup at Worldcon 75, “It was a fun event, full of smiles and laughter.”

Eric Wong snapped these photos of the group:

Hampus Eckerman identified the group — going around clockwise:

  • Hampus Eckerman (who has his arms over his head in both photos)
  • My father Björn
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Heather Rose Jones
  • Chad Saxelid
  • Sylvia Sotomayor
  • Kendall
  • Greg Hullender
  • My brother Jonas
  • Greg Machlin
  • Ingvar

Greg Hullender identified people in the second photo:

  • Hampus Eckerman
  • His father Björn
  • Kendall
  • Heather Rose Jones
  • Chad Saxelid
  • Cora Buhlert
  • Sylvia Sotomayor
  • Greg Hullender
  • Jonas Eckerman (Hampus’s brother)
  • Greg Machlin
  • Ingvar
  • Rick Moen

Pixel Scroll 7/12/17 All The King’s Centaurs

(1) TOP COMICS. NPR asked followers the name their favorite comics and graphic novels. Here are the results: “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels”.

We assembled an amazing team of critics and creators to help winnow down more than 7,000 nominations to this final list of 100 great comics for all ages and tastes, from early readers to adults-only.

This isn’t meant as a comprehensive list of the “best” or “most important” or “most influential” comics, of course. It’s a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you’ll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that’s awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).

Lots of good stuff on this list. Here’s an absolutely chosen-at-random example:

Astro City

by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

At once a sprawling adventure anthology and a witty metariff on the long, whimsical history of the superhero genre, Astro City offers a bracingly bright rejoinder to “grim-and-gritty” superhero storytelling. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson — with Alex Ross supplying character designs and painted covers — don’t merely people their fictional metropolis with analogues of notable heroes, though there are plenty of those on hand. The universe they’ve created pays loving homage to familiar characters and storylines even as it digs deep to continually invent new stories and feature new perspectives. Astro City is a hopeful place that dares to believe in heroes, sincerely and unabashedly; reading it, you will too.

(2) LAST YEAR’S HARDEST SF SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has a new post surveying “Hard SF in 2016”.

Greg Hullender explains, “We’d have done this earlier in the year, but we were experimenting with new features like place and time, and we ended up gradually going back through all 814 stories annotating them. Still, I think the result is of interest.

It has been eighteen months since we explored the Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction), so we’re overdue to take a look at 2016. This report divides into three sections:

(3) TZ REBOOT. Can this writer bring The Twilight Zone back to life? “Christine Lavaf to Pen ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot”.

Screenwriter Christine Lavaf is working on a reboot of The Twilight Zone.

Warner Bros has been trying to develop the new movie version of the hit horror since 2009 and a number of directors were lined up to helm the production, but each left the project before shooting could begin.

However, Warner Bros has now announced Christine will be working on the script despite a director having not yet been found to oversee the production, according to Variety.

The original plan for the movie was for it to be inspired by the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie horror, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and had four segments each with a different director. But the new movie will reportedly follow just one story, which will include elements of The Twilight Zone universe.

(4) DRAWING A BLANK. Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos told his Facebook readers “No Archibald joy this year.”

Last year his painting of Deng Adut was a runner-up for the Archibald Prize for portraits — awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia” – and the winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Stathopoulos is a long-time fan, 10-time winner of the Australian NatCon’s Ditmar Award, and a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee. He is frequently in contention for the annual Archibald awards.

(5) ARTISTS AT WORK. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. Natalie Eggert’s article “This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing An Alternative Model For Artists to Make A Living” for Artsy talks about how Meow Wolf has created 140 jobs with income coming from people who pay $20 to look at their “immersive installations.”

Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members.

One of the most popular attractions in Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return invites visitors into an elaborate Victorian house that is experiencing rifts in space-time. Open up the refrigerator or a closet door and get swept away into a new environment, each one designed by different artists of the Meow Wolf collective. There is no set route to follow and you can climb on, crawl through, and touch everything in sight. Tickets to enter the fun-house-like installation cost $20 for adults (on par with admission to a New York museum), with discounted rates available for New Mexico residents, children, senior citizens, and the military.

The installation’s sci-fi narrative, lawless abandon, and production quality have captured the imaginations of viewers, while its success has caught the art world’s attention. Could this be a sustainable, alternative avenue for artists to collaborate and make a living outside of traditional art world models?

(6) SENDAK BOOK MS. REDISCOVERED. Atlas Obscura reports: “Found: An Unpublished Manuscript by Maurice Sendak”.

Since the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak died in 2012, the foundation set up in his name has been working to collect and sort through his artwork and the records of his life. While working through some old files, Lynn Caponera, the president of the foundation, found the typewritten manuscript for a book. When she looked more closely at it, she realized it was story she didn’t remember, reports Publishers Weekly.

What she had found was the story for Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work that Sendak and collaborator Arthur Yorinks had worked on in the 1990s and never published. “In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks told Publishers Weekly.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 12, 2013  — Pacific Rim debuted.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 12, 1912 — Artist Joseph Mungaini, who illustrated the 1962 Oscar-nominated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright based on Ray Bradbury’s story.

(9) LUCY LIU. Rebecca Rubin in Variety says that Lucy Liu will direct the first episode of season 2 of Luke Cage coming in 2018.  She previously directed four episodes of Elementary.

(10) STAND BY FOR A NEW THEORY. NPR’s Glen Weldon says new Spider-Man wins because we see learning rather than origin: “Origin-al Sin: What Hollywood Must Learn From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'”.

Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses with his origin story completely, which is, at this point, a wise move. Given Spidey’s status as Marvel’s flagship character and his concurrent cultural saturation, it’s perhaps even inevitable, because: We know.

We get it. Spider-bite, spider powers, great responsibility. We’ve, all of us, been there.

And yet! Even without seeing precisely how and why Peter Parker gets from the here of normal life to the there of fantastic, thwippy powers, Tom Holland is eminently, achingly relatable. His Peter is someone in whom we easily see ourselves at our most excited and anxious. Which is the whole secret.

(11) THIS SUCKS. Using ROVs to scoop up invasive species: “Can a robot help solve the Atlantic’s lionfish problem?”. There’s a video report at the link.

Robots in Service of the Environment has designed an underwater robot to combat a growing problem in the Atlantic Ocean: the invasive lionfish.

(12) MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. A league of their own? Overwatch starts city-based videogaming league: “Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?”

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

(13) THEY’RE PINK. Adweek covers a parody of female-targeted products: “‘Cards Against Humanity for Her’ Is the Same Game, but the Box Is Pink and It Costs $5 More”.

In a savage parody of women-targeted products like Bic for Her pens, and Cosmo and Seat’s car for women, Cards Against Humanity has released Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s the exact same game as the original, but comes in a pink box and costs $5 more.

The press release is a gold mine of hilarity.

“We crunched the numbers, and to our surprise, we found that women buy more than 50 percent of games,” said Cards Against Humanity community director Jenn Bane. “We decided that hey, it’s 2017, it’s time for women to have a spot at the table, and nevertheless, she persisted. That’s why we made Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s trendy, stylish, and easy to understand. And it’s pink.”

Bane added: “Women love the color pink.”

The game is available for $30 on CardsAgainstHumanityForHer.com, which has all sorts of ridiculous photos and GIFs. The limited-edition version “is expected to sell out,” the brand said.

From the FAQ (where it’s in pink text).

When I inevitably purchase this without reading carefully and then find out it’s the same cards as the original Cards Against Humanity, can I return it and get my money back? That color looks great on you! No.

(14) SHARKE REPELLENT. Mark-kitteh sent these links (and the headline) to the latest posts by the Shadow Clarke jury. He adds, “Only two of these, but the Becky Chambers roundtable is likely to provide enough rises in blood-pressure on its own.”

The inclusion of A Closed and Common Orbit on this year’s Clarke shortlist follows hard on the heels of Chambers’s 2016 shortlisting for her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In a very short time, Chambers’s books have proven extraordinarily popular and drawn an enthusiastic fan response. Unsurprisingly, ACACO has also been shortlisted for the 2017 Hugo. The novel has also drawn praise from reviewers, such as Adam Roberts in the Guardian. However, despite the shadow Clarke jury being split fifty-fifty between those who found ACACO to be a compulsive read and those who struggled to find any interest in it whatsoever, this is also the novel that has come closest to unifying what is often a more diverse body of opinion than it might appear from the outside. We are unanimous in thinking that ACACO is not one of the six best SF novels of the year and, in contrast to the other five works on the list, there is nobody among us who would make any kind of case for its inclusion on the Clarke shortlist.

I am possibly not the right audience for this novel. I have read a number of stories by Yoon Ha Lee before this without being particularly impressed by any of them. The novel, Ninefox Gambit crystallized some of those discontents. In no particular order:

1: Yoon Ha Lee has read too much Iain M. Banks. The influence is everywhere and inescapable: the grotesque deaths, the over-elaborate weapons (including one I couldn’t help identifying as the Lazy Gun from Against a Dark Background), and, of course, the central conceit in which the mind of an ancient general is implanted in a younger person on a suicide mission is a straight lift from Look to Windward. But Banks’s humanity is missing. With Banks you always knew where the author stood, ethically and emotionally; not so with Lee, this is a cold book.

(15) FROM PERKY TO UNBEATABLE. Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, in “Marvel’s New Warriors Sets Its Cast–Including Squirrel Girl”, says that the cast of this ten-episode series on Freeform has been set, and Milana Vayntrub, best known as the Perky Salesperson in 5,271,009 AT&T commercials, has been cast as Squirrel Girl.

Milana Vayntrub (This Is Us) has landed the breakout role of Squirrel Girl, while Baby Daddy grad Derek Theler will stay in business with Freeform after landing the role of Mister Immortal in Marvel’s first live-action scripted comedy.

The duo lead the ensemble cast in the 10-episode series about six young people learning to cope with their abilities in a world where bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates. Joining Vayntrub and Theler are Jeremy Tardy as Night Thrasher, Calum Worthy as Speedball, Matthew Moy as Microbe and Kate Comer as Debrii.

(16) ETCHED IN STONE. It’s been awhile since I checked in on Declan Finn, and I found one of his posts on Superversive SF that could lead to lively discussion.

In “Pius Rules for Writers”, Declan Finn’s advice comes from his viewpoint as a reader.

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

(17) NEWMAN’S NEXT. Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog has great news for Planetfall fans (and a cover reveal) in “Return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall Universe in Before Mars.

I still remember the feeling of closing the cover on a early, bound manuscript copy of Emma Newman’s Planetfall in 2015, sure I had read one of the finest science fiction novels of the year—even though it was only April (I wasn’t wrong).

Considering it’s a complete work, I was surprised—and very pleased—at the arrival of After Atlas, a standalone companion novel set in the same world—another book that, incidentally, turned out to rank with the best of its year (but don’t just take our word for it).

I just can quit being fascinated by this setting—a near future in which 3D printing technology has made resources plentiful, but post-scarcity living has not been evenly distributed, where missions to the stars only expose the dark secrets within the human heart—and it seems Newman can’t quite break away from it either: she’s writing at least two more books in the Planetfall series, and today,we’re showing off the cover of the third, Before Mars, arriving in April 2018 from Ace Books….

(18) NOT YOUR TYPICAL POLICE SHOOTING. Consenting cosplayers suffered a tragic interruption: “Police Shoot People Dressed As The Joker And Harley Quinn”.

Australian police shot a man and a woman dressed as comic book characters while they performed a sexual act at a nightclub early Saturday morning, news.com.au reported. The man and the woman were dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Dale Ewins, 35, was shot in the stomach by police. Authorities said they shot him because he pointed his toy gun at them and they believed it was a real weapon. However, club security said Ewins did not aim the gun at them.

Zita Sukys, 37, was shot in the leg. Both were attending the Saints & Sinners Ball, described as a party “for Australian swingers and those who are just curious.” Promotions for the party also said it has “a well-earned reputation as Australia’s, if not the world’s, raunchiest party.”

(19) FAN FASHION. The Dublin in 2019 bidders think you would look great in their logo shirt. Half-off sale!

(20 TOON FASHION. Why Cartoon Characters Wear Gloves is a video from Vox which goes back to 1900 to answer this question.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/17 Will the Pixel Be Unbroken

As I was about to say yesterday, before I was interrupted…

(1) THE SOUND OF MONEY. Kristine Kathryn Rusch pointed her readers to bestselling writer Michael J. Sullivan’s a post on Reddit titled “Why Del Rey and I Will Be Parting Ways” and gave a complimentary analysis on the way Sullivan handled his audiobook rights.

Here, I want to applaud Michael and his wife Robin for their negotiating skills and for their attitude.

To summarize the highlights of the blog about Del Rey, for those of you who haven’t jumped over to read it, Michael and Robin learned from their first major contract with a traditional publisher to retain audio rights. Michael and Robin didn’t do so on that first big contract, and then the audio rights sold for $400,000, of which Michael and Robin saw only $200,000 (subsidiary rights in a standard publishing contract are split 50/50 with a publisher).

So — and here’s a nice bit of brilliance — Michael and Robin didn’t want to lose audio rights again. When the time to negotiate a new Del Rey contract came around, Michael and Robin had already sold audio rights to those books, taking those rights off the table entirely.

They thought through what they wanted, and rather than argue over the rights, or get the print publisher to bump an advance, or go through all of the little tricks that people on the other side of the table do when negotiating, Michael and Robin were proactive. They made sure they got what they wanted with audio first.

And there’s a lot more good information in Rusch’s post.

(2) THE FLUID PAST. Guy Gavriel Kay tweeted a link to this article, one in which he is cited and discussed. “‘Facts are not truth’: Hilary Mantel goes on the record about historical fiction”.

In Mantel’s view, the past is not something we passively consume, either, but that which we actively “create” in each act of remembrance. That’s not to say, of course, that Mantel is arguing that there are no historical “facts” or that the past didn’t happen. Rather, she reminds us that the evidence we use to give narrative shape to the past is “always partial” , and often “incomplete” . “Facts are not truth” , Mantel argues, but “the record of what’s left on the record.” It is up to the living to interpret, or, indeed, misinterpret, those accounts.

In this respect the writer of historical fiction is not working in direct opposition to the professional historian: both must think creatively about what remains, deploying — especially when faced with gaps and silences in the archive — “selection, elision, artful arrangement” , literary manoeuvres more closely associated with novelist Philippa Gregory than with [John] Guy the historian. However, exceptional examples from both fields should, claims Mantel, be “self-questioning” and always willing to undermine their own claims to authenticity.

(3) WEBCOMICS AT LOC. The Library of Congress now has a webcomics archive, collecting 39 strips including the multi-Hugo winning Girl Genius.

This collection focuses on comics created specifically for the web and supplements the Library of Congress’ extensive holdings in both comic books, graphic novels, and original comic art. Webcomics are an increasingly popular format utilized by contemporary creators in the field and often includes material by artists not available elsewhere. Webcomics selected for this collection include award-winning comics (Eisner Awards, Harvey Awards, Eagle Awards, and Shuster Awards) as well as webcomics that have significance in the field due to longevity, reputation, and subject matter. This collection includes work by artists and subjects not traditionally represented in mainstream comics, including women artists and characters, artists and characters of color, LGBTQ+ artists and characters, as well as subjects such as politics, health and human sexuality, and autobiography. The content of these websites is captured as it was originally produced and may include content that is not suitable for all ages.

(4) EARLY DAYS. Kalimac reminisces about “ Dark Carnival” bookstore.

But I remember Dark Carnival from its earliest days. It was the first sf specialty store in the Bay Area, long before Borderlands or Future Fantasy and even a bit before The Other Change of Hobbit or Fantasy Etc. (Of these, only Borderlands is still with us, and it had a scare not long ago.) I found it down on the south stretch of Telegraph, the first of its three locations, when I returned to UC in the fall of 1976. It was very small then, mostly a large semicircle of paperbacks, but there wasn’t a lot to stock in those days. Jack Rems, owner ever since, was usually there, as was his first clerk, a young woman named Lisa Goldstein, who’d occasionally mention she was working on a novel. It was published several years later and led her on the path to becoming the renowned fantasy author she is today, but then she was a bookstore clerk. D. and I would hang out down there and indulge in a lot of chatter with Jack and Lisa, but we’d also buy books.

(5) LA’S SHINING WEST TRIBUTE. NOTE: WE MISSED THIS ONE. On Thursday Los Angeles city officials will turn on the Bat-SIgnal.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will light the Bat-Signal over Los Angeles in a special ceremony honoring the late Adam West, who starred in the 60s Batman TV series as the Caped Crusader himself.

The ceremony will be conducted on Thursday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. PST at Los Angeles City Hall. Garcetti will be joined by unnamed special guests for the tribute, along with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.

Once lit, the Bat-Signal will be projected on Los Angeles City Hall for an undisclosed period of time.

(6) TRACING BATMAN’S BAT BUCKS. In “How Does Batman make All His Money?” on looper.com, Chris Sims looks at the roots of the Wayne fortune, including how Bruce Wayne’s wealth began with Revolutionary War hero “Mad Anthony” Wayne and how Thomas Wayne’s marriage to Martha Kane united a financial empire with one based on chemicals.

All of this still leaves the question of where Batman gets his fortune in the world of Gotham City, but if you’ve read enough comics, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bruce Wayne’s infinite pile of money has an origin story just like everything else. The short version? The Waynes have always been rich.

As it turns out, they’re about as old as Old Money gets in America, with a merchant fortune that came over from Europe in colonial times, growing as Gotham City expanded to form the cornerstone of an industrial empire. In 2011’s Batman: Gates of Gotham, Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, and Trevor McCarthy put the spotlight on Alan Wayne, a turn-of-the-century ancestor for Batman who helped to shape the city itself by funding the design and construction of bridges, tunnels, and key buildings — including Wayne Tower.

(7) ALT REVIEWING. Jon Mollison reviewed Sarah A. Hoyt’s story “Freeman’s Stand” in Rocket’s Red Glare for the Castalia House blog. He has a particular view of immigrants, as reflected in this excerpt —

I didn’t recognize the tonally inconsistent version of America presented. Perhaps the good old USA had fallen so long ago that the Sons of Liberty had cobbled together an approximation through scraps of history and lost lore. If so, this was never presented, and so instead of enjoying the action, I found myself wondering where this weird America came from.

Normally, I’d be loathe to resort to the petty tactic of mentioning the “About The Author” section of a collection, but in this case it provides an important clue towards understanding why Freeman’s Stand feels like such an alien version of America. The very first thing mentioned in Hoyt’s bio is that she was born and raised in Portugal. That’s the lead-off. It’s important that you know Hoyt is Portuguese before all else. And it’s only now, after the story is concluded, that the pieces fall into place. This is a story of “Nation of Immigrants” America written by an author with a very different perspective of America than one held by a reader born and bred within her borders. That is the source of the disconnect, and I found myself wishing that I’d known from the outset that Molly’s story was that an American outsider fighting for an outsider’s vision of America. It would have resolved a number of discordant passages within the tale.

This prompted Greg Hullender to observe, “Although Sarah Hoyt imagines herself to be a fellow-traveler, given her involvement with the Sad Puppies, it’s pretty clear from this post on the Castalia House Blog that, as an immigrant from Portugal, she can never be a “real American.” Not in any sense the alt-right recognizes, anyway.”

(8) WALKING DEAD. Carl Slaughter would like to tell you about it:

The Walking Dead is a tale of sheriff Rick Grimes and his small band of survivors as they’re transformed from coddled complainers into battle tested, zombie murdering badasses. The zombie subgenre has a rich history of social commentary. Whether they be the slow walking, brain craving type or of the fast running, shrieking persuasion, the figure of the zombie has been a metaphor for all sorts of things that keep us up at night. Zombies have represented everything from mindless consumers under Capitalism in Dawn of the Dead, to fears about public health crisis in 28 Days Later, immigration in World War Z, or mega corporations in Resident Evil. And then there’s the fact that zombies originated in Haiti, where many argue it was a metaphor for slavery. Zombies are projections of our own societal fears. The Walking Dead isn’t quite any of these. Instead, The Walking Dead explores a multitude of issues, like politics, psychology, and our relationship to death. Also, the joys of cosplay. The Walking Dead is, above all else, a show about philosophical bounderies. And three in particular: (1) What constitutes life (2) What constitutes living (3) What constitutes being human.

For homework, Carl recommends The Philosophy of The Walking Dead — Wisecrack Edition.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Stephen Burridge, Tom Galloway, John King Tarpinian, Gregory N. Hullender, and Dann for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 6/1/17 SCROLLS NIX HIX PIXELS

(1) IT BURNS. At Young People Read Old SFF, curator James Davis Nicoll has them reading Connie Willis’ “Fire Watch”.

As we’ve seen, past popularity means nothing to the young people of today, who insist on judging stories on their merits and not the warm feeling their grandparents may have had reading a now-venerable story. What did the Young People think of this classic story?

Mikayla definitely does not have a warm feeling.

I found the narrator’s reaction to communism ridiculous. As far as I can tell, the narrator is more upset by the idea of communism than by the Nazis actively bombing the city. The idea that someone so removed from these events would have such a personal hatred of communism, despite coming from the far future, makes this story feel very American and very dated.

(2) THE (BRAIN) IMITATION GAME. IEEE Spectrum has a special issue this month on the topic of current attempts to model the human brain: “Special Report: Can We Copy the Brain?” About half the articles are free to nonsubscribers.

Gregory N. Hullender says the key takeaways are:

  • Artificial Neural Network software does have useful applications, but it has little in common with real brain tissue.
  • Special hardware meant to model the brain has been developed but does not yet have any useful applications.
  • Current brain simulations only simulate a fraction of a brain, and they run thousands of times slower than real brains do.
  • Modelling 1 mm^3 of a rat’s brain is considered an ambitious undertaking.
  • There is considerable debate as to whether we understand how the brain works at all.

I liked this quote from “Neuromorphic Chips Are Destined for Deep Learning — or Obscurity”

“It has often been noted that progress in aviation was made only after inventors stopped trying to copy the flapping wings of birds and instead discovered — and then harnessed — basic forces, such as thrust and lift. The knock against neuromorphic computing is that it’s stuck at the level of mimicking flapping wings, an accusation the neuromorphics side obviously rejects. Depending on who is right, the field will either take flight and soar over the chasm, or drop into obscurity.”

The article “Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness” makes some exciting claims about “Integrated Information Theory” (IIT). It’s less exciting when you realize that the authors are the inventors of the IIT concept and not everyone agrees with them.

(3) THE LONG HAUL. “Bias, She Wrote: The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller list” — a statistical study of women writers based on analysis over time of the prestigious list. (Lots of graphs.)

Almost every category started out as heavily male-dominated, and many have stayed that way. These categories align with stereotypes about male interests: fantasy and science fiction, spy and political fiction, suspense fiction, and adventure fiction, have all been consistently male-dominated since their introduction to the list. A best-selling female fantasy/sci-fi author today is just as rare as a best-selling female literary author in the 1950s.

Then, there are the genres that have flipped. The horror/paranormal genre is now almost at gender parity, owing no small thanks to paranormal romance novels. Mystery is the most balanced genre over time, which shouldn’t be surprising given the genre’s history. The 1920s and 30s are known as the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction,” and were dominated by a quartet of female authors known as the Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham.

Best-selling romance novels were mostly written by men in the 1950s, but in the 1960s women took over. By the 1980s, female authors solidly dominated the genre, probably because female writers had a natural advantage writing for mostly female readers about mostly female experiences of love and sex.

(4) SENSELESS DECISION. Io9 says Netflix has whacked fan favorite Sense8:

After a mere two seasons of streaming on Netflix, the Wachowskis’ Sense8 has been cancelled, according to Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland.

(5) CARRIE FISHER ESTATE. The Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Personal Property Auction will be held by Profiles in History on September 23. The catalog is not yet available online. Hardcover copies of this celebrity artifact can be pre-ordered.

Highlights from the upcoming auction include:

  • Carrie Fisher’s life size “Princess Leia” with blaster statue in a vintage wooden phone booth. This is the figure that was featured by Fisher in her in her HBO special Wishful Drinking and the documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Pictured left.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Kathy Seldon” lavender silk chiffon dress from the “You Were Meant For Me” musical sequence in Singin’ in the Rain. Pictured right.
  • Carrie Fisher’s on-set chair with personalized chair back that is embroidered “Star Wars: The Saga Continues” used on Return of the Jedi. Pictured at bottom.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ screen used “Annie” two piece stage costume from Annie Get Your Gun.
  • Carrie Fisher’s life size C-3PO with electronic lighting elements. Pictured below.
  • Carrie Fisher’s life sized bronze, limited edition Yoda statue by Lawrence A. Noble.
  • Carrie Fisher’s vintage original 1978 Kenner Star Wars Princess Leia action figure, still in it’s original packaging.
  • Debbie Reynolds’ personal, rare, vintage original half sheet movie poster for Singin’ in the Rain signed by Debbie and inscribed to her by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor

(6) IT’S COMPELLING. The seventh issue of Compelling Science Fiction is now live. Editor Joe Stech lists the highlights —

I’m proud to present another five compelling stories by some amazing authors! The issue begins with the lengthily-titled “What’s a Few Years When You Get Money and Friends in High Places?” by R R Angell, a story about a bodybuilder who is offered a large sum of money to swap his body with a wealthy man (via head transplant). I was pleasantly surprised at the positive vibe the story manages to convey despite the trials of the protagonist (8400 words). The second story in our line-up, Michèle Laframboise’s “Thinking Inside the Box,” is an outlandish story about an alien race that requires constant environmental change in order to maintain psychological health (6400 words). Our third story, “Cogito Ergo Sum” by Mike Adamson, focuses on a conversation with an android about what it means to be human. It’s a well-known theme in science fiction, but I thought this story was executed particularly well (6950 words). Next we have “Integration” by John Eckelkamp, a very short story about a nascent AI getting its first taste of elementary school (1800 words). Our final story is an underwater tale, “Fathom the Ocean, Deep and Still” by David Bruns. The story is about a living bio-engineered city (6020 words).

(7) WHAT AN EDITOR DOES. Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas answers Katrina J.E. Milton’s questions in The Midweek:

Milton: Have you always loved science fiction?

Thomas: I’ve always loved to read, but I didn’t grow up reading much science fiction. I read mostly classics and some romance until I branched out more during college. My husband avidly read sci-fi and fantasy for years, though. Now I curate a science fiction and fantasy collection as one of 42 special collections at NIU. I need to know what’s happening in the field, so it’s crucial to know what is getting attention, and when to purchase books and add to the collection. … One of my favorite books has always been “A Wrinkle in Time.” I didn’t really think of it as science fiction at the time, but I re-read the book more or less annually. Meg Murry has always been a character I’ve really connected with. Being intelligent and kind were marked as more important than makeup and being pretty in that book, which was a powerful message to an awkward 11-year-old version of me.

(8) HUGO READING. Peter J. Enyeart has ranked his “2017 Hugo picks: Novellas”. Here’s what he has to say about his two top choices.

2. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle The story of a young black Lovecraftian con man in 1920s New York. This is actually a retelling of “The Horror at Red Hook” and, in the spirit of “Shoggoths in Bloom,” is kind of a reinterpretation or even reclaiming of Lovecraft for those groups of humans (which seemed to include anyone not a male WASP) that Lovecraft despised. I found it absorbing and fun. It is interesting how many writers just can’t stop themselves from writing Cthulhu Mythos stories, despite the myriad reasons to dislike Lovecraft. (I was obsessed with him in high school, myself.) I suppose it’s because there’s a lot of breadth and depth there, and also the opportunity for a critical dialogue. Writing Lovecraft fan fiction seems respectable, even, and I certainly seem to enjoy reading it. Speaking of which…

1. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson When one of her students leaves with a man from the waking world, a professor in Ulthar sets out after her. Well, this has a lot going for it that immediately makes me favorably inclined: (1) I’ve always adored this corner of the Mythos and thought it criminally underappreciated; (2) I’m a sucker for quest stories involving travel to varied and strange locales; and (3) I adore Kij Johnson. You never know what you’re going to get when you start in to one of her stories, but you do know you’re in sure hands. And this is no exception. If the LaValle piece is a reclamation of the Mythos for non-whites, this reclaims it for women. I enjoyed every word (and it’s littered with so many lovely ones, like gems in a magic cave). It also has a great ending, which is frequently the difference between a good story and a great one. The best of “escapist” literature gives you something to take back with you to the “real” world, a fresh view as if you’re questing through it yourself [3]. This is the best of escapist literature. Give it awards!

(9) TOUTED FOR NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. The Hugo Award Book Club observes that Gregory Benford has never been shortlisted for the award’s Best Novel category (despite his Timescape having been so well-regarded it won the 1981 Nebula). They think “The Berlin Project (2017) Gregory Benford” might earn him a place on next year’s ballot.

There are reasons to believe his latest novel may be his best shot yet at finally adding that Best Novel Hugo to his list of accolades.

This book is Benford’s first novel as sole author in more than a decade, and it’s a departure for him. But in many ways, the Berlin Project feels like the novel that Benford was born to write.

His knowledge of the people he’s writing about shines through, and they feel like fully rounded human beings, in a way that some of the protagonists in his previous novels have not. These are people that Benford knows, and he writes about them with evident affection. While the science is front and centre (not unusual in a Benford novel), the characters do not take a backseat. The first 350 pages are a taught, meticulously researched alternate history that delves into the nitty-gritty technical details of the race to build an atomic bomb. It’s a believable departure from the real history. One small decision made differently that makes sense, and everything flows from that departure point….

(10) WONDERFEFE. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviewed Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who talks about sexism in the film industry and how women should make sure their voices are heard: “Wonder Woman has been a warrior, a secretary and a sexpot. What version did the movie use?”

For Jenkins, fortunately, there was no wavering. She was determined to bring to the big screen the fierce-but-compassionate type of Wonder Woman she first saw on the ‘70s small screen.

“All these years, there’s been talk about Wonder Woman, and the thing I was very firm and steadfast about was: I only wanted to be involved in this if I can have a chance to bring back the Wonder Woman that I love,” Jenkins tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I’m not interested in an alt-Wonder Woman; I’m not interested a new Wonder Woman. I’m interested in the Wonder Woman that I grew up with.

What Jenkins saw in TV’s bicentennial Wonder Woman was something close to the initial ideal of creator William Moulton Marston.

“It’s been interesting that she was created as such an idealized woman who is incredibly powerful who yet has everything about being a woman at her side,” Jenkins continues. “And it’s been funny: Lynda [Carter] was so that in the ‘70s with her Wonder Woman.”

(11) MORE MENTING, LESS DRINKING. Brenda W. Clough shares brief “SFWA Nebula Conference 2017” report at Book View Cafe.

I signed up to be a mentor, and was assigned not one but two mentees (the evolution of language here is especially notable; not only did I have mentees but we discussed our menting, as in “How did your menting go, did you ever catch up with your mentee?”). I got together with first one and then the other, and essentially tried to cram in tons of professional advice and answer all their questions. I also brought some pussyhats, because Grandmaster Jane Yolen demanded one, and we were photographed, hopefully for Locus.

(12) LOOSED A FATEFUL LIGHTNING. Abigail Nussbaum has eight books to cover in “Recent Reading Roundup 43”, among them a Civil War ghost story and this Hugo nominee —

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer – It’s interesting that in the space of a single year, Tor published two debut novels about non-dystopian, non-corporatist future societies in which the boundaries of national and ethnic identity have been replaced by global affinity groups, to which people assign themselves according to their interests and philosophy. For all my reservations about its technothriller plot, I have to say that I prefer Malka Older’s Infomocracy to Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, largely because I find the world in that book more interesting, and more believable as a place where people like me might possibly live.

(13) THE HOUSE GROUSE. It’s bigger than your average bear — “Microsoft founder Paul Allen reveals world’s biggest-ever plane” .

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has shown off the “Stratolaunch”, a colossal aircraft he hopes can soon help to hoist satellites into low earth orbit.

Allen’s company of the same name has been working on the craft since 2011, with the help of Scaled Composites.

The result of their efforts is 238 feet long, 50 feet tall and has a wingspan of 385 feet [Allen likes Imperial measurements — Ed]. The wingspan is the largest ever built, topping even Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” aka the “Hughes H-4 Hercules.”

The Stratolaunch needs that colossal wing, and six engines typically used for the Boeing 747, because Allen wants it to carry up to 550,000 pounds of payload. His plan calls for the plane to “take off from a runway and fly to the approximate cruising altitude of a commercial airliner before releasing a satellite-bearing launch vehicle.”

(14) ADS THAT SUBTRACT. Marketing puts their foot in it: “Chloe Moretz ‘appalled and angry’ over body-shaming Snow White animated film advert”

Chloe Moretz said she hadn’t seen the marketing and has apologised to fans.

Plus-size model Tess Holliday tweeted a photo of the billboard poster and tagged the actress in her post, saying it was basically body-shaming.

(15) LASSO THE STARS. BBC gives Wonder Woman 4 stars out of 5.

In Wonder Woman’s reimagining of the princess myth, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, leaps through the air deflecting bullets with her bracelets. She enters a formal reception with a sword tucked into the back of her evening dress. But she differs from conventional princesses and superheroes in an even more pointed way — one that speaks to today’s fraught global politics. While Batman is motivated by vengeance for his parents’deaths and Superman is dedicated to saving those in peril, Wonder Woman wants nothing less than world peace. All this in a crisply executed action movie with an engaging narrative, and, in Diana (Gal Gadot), as swift and strong a heroine as anyone could have wished for.

(16) THE BALLAD OF TOLKIEN. J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, later adapted into a piece of The Silmarillion, now published in its original form: “JRR Tolkien book Beren and Lúthien published after 100 years”

Beren and Lúthien has been described as a “very personal story” that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme.

It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion.

The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.

(17) INSIDE BASEBALL. A post for SciFiNow.UK, “Raven Strategem author Yoon Ha Lee on how his spaceships became bags of holding”, jokes about the reason before revealing a disability has something to do with it.

Bags of Holding…in SPAAACE!

When I first realized I had to deal with starship layouts in the hexarchate, I had two choices. I could either sit down (probably with my long-suffering husband) and make a loving diagram of a ship and its layout, and refer to it assiduously every time I had someone go from point A to point B. Or I could say, “Screw it,” and not deal with the problem.

Dear reader, as you have no doubt figured out already, I went with the second option.

(18) EVEN DEEPER INSIDE BASEBALL. Hmmm…

(19) THE CURE. Cream by David Firth is a short animated film on YouTube about what happens when a miraculous product that solves all medical problems is introduced and the violent reaction against it.

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, James Davis Nicoll, Gregory N. Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Aaron Pound, Dann, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/21/17 What A Strange Pixel — The Only Winning Scroll Is Not To File

Just an appetizer Scroll today, as my cold has devolved to the flu.

(1) DEMON MEME. And I‘ll make the first course of this appetizer “Occult sandwiches”. No excerpt (can’t get more lo-cal than that) because it looks to be one long Imgur graphic. Its style of humor will reward the attention of anyone who likes the kind of wordplay indulged in by Gaiman and Pratchett.

(2) THE REAL ATWOOD. Years ago all the focus was on Margaret Atwood’s insistence that she didn’t write science fiction. It kept us from learning so many very interesting things about her, as illustrated by this Guardian profile about “Margaret Atwood: a high priestess of fiction who embraces the digital age”.

At 77, Atwood combines the loftiness of a high priestess who does not suffer fools gladly with an unstinting generosity to those she deems not to be foolish. She is a passionate environmentalist, with a particular interest in birds, which she shares with her husband, Graeme Gibson.

If her determination to live by her principles occasionally seems incidentally comic — as when she embarked by boat on an international tour of a stage show publicising the second novel of her MaddAddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood — she also brings to her politics a healthy dose of intentional humour.

On a recent visit to her Toronto home, her longtime UK publisher Lennie Goodings was surprised to meet her carrying a paper bag bulging with four large rubber turkeys. “She showed them to me with that funny, head on a tilt, wicked smile of hers. They squawked when she pressed them.” It turned out that she and Gibson were about to present the prizes at an annual RSPB competition. “The winners each receive a rubber turkey from Margaret, at which point she conducts them in a squeezing squawking choir.”

Atwood traces her concern with the environment back to a childhood spent criss-crossing the forests of Canada with her entomologist father. She was the second of three children, and the family’s itinerant lifestyle meant that she did not go to full-time school until she was eight years old. She began publishing her poetry while a student at the University of Toronto, won her first major literary prize for a poetry collection published in 1964, and three collections later diversified into fiction in 1969 with The Edible Woman, about a woman driven mad by consumerism

(3) I KNOW I DIDN’T VOTE FOR IT. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog just came online in May and they’ve attracted attention with their verdict:

1973: The Worst Hugo Award

1973 was a very good year. Income inequality was at its historical lowest in America, union density was at its highest, major victories were happening in civil rights.

But in the world of science fiction, it was the year that one of the worst novels ever to win the top Hugo award was honoured for all the wrong reasons.

And, yes, they already took into account the traditional loser in the debate.

(4) ELVISH. Greg Hullender (via Nicholas Whyte’s website) discovered Carl F. Hostetter’s “Elvish as She Is Spoke” [PDF file] and he enthusiastically forwarded the link with a flurry of comments.

It’s a linguistic assessment of attempts to flesh out Tolkien’s two Elvish languages.

The first key point is that Tolkien obviously wasn’t fluent in either language himself, partly because he kept changing them both, and partly because he doesn’t seem to have ever worked out all the details of the syntax. He doesn’t seem to have been trying to construct a language like Esperanto that anyone would actually use; he was simply having fun. So this is why he didn’t leave a lot of examples of Elvish text behind: he had difficulty writing anything in Elvish himself.

Second, the “neo” languages that people have tried to construct from Tolkien’s work are terribly naive, and often contradict some of the little bits of Elvish that Tolkien actually left us. The author compares it to the hilarious 19th-Century work “English as She is Spoke.” (If you don’t read anything else, skip to page 249, starting with “Elvish as She is Spoke.”)

That said, I think the author is a little hard on the neo-Elvish folks. Tolkien simply didn’t leave enough behind for them to do what they want to do. Lacking that, they’ve tried to be inventive. In the process, they’ve produced something that at least has a very Elvish “feel” to it, and (judging from the movies) sounds very nice. Also, the things that would make it more realistic (e.g. irregularity and polysemy) would make it much harder for native English speakers to learn. Even though neo-Elvish doesn’t withstand close study, it’s good enough for most people to suspend disbelief. That’s probably the most you can reasonably ask of a fantasy language.

Carl Hostetter is part of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship which has spent decades having scholarly fun exploring Tolkien’s languages.

(5) COMIC SECTION. Wiley in Non Sequitur today comments on the cartoonists’ favorite award, the Reuben.

(6) REUBEN AWARD. The National Cartoonist Society will present the Reuben Awards on May 278. The 2016 Cartoonist of the Year nominees were announced March 2.

LYNDA BARRY is a cartoonist and writer. She’s authored 21 books and received numerous awards and honors including an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from University of the Arts, Philadelphia, two Will Eisner Awards, The American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Washington State Governor’s Award, the Wisconsin Library Associations RR Donnelly Award, the Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2016. Her book, “One! Hundred! Demons!” was required reading for all incoming freshmen at Stanford University in 2008. She’s currently Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity and Director of The Image Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were she teaches writing and picture-making. Lynda was nominated for Cartoonist of the Year for 2016 and will be the recipient of the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award at the 71st Reuben Awards dinner in Portland Oregon this year. You can follow Lynda on Twitter at @NearSightedMonkey.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Universal Uclick. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children. This is his ninth nomination for Cartoonist of the Year. Visit Stephan’s blog and the Pearls Before Swine website.

HILARY PRICE is the creator of Rhymes With Orange, a daily newspaper comic strip syndicated by King Features Syndicate. Created in 1995, Rhymes With Orange has won the NCS Best Newspaper Panel Division four times (2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014). Her work has also appeared in Parade Magazine, The Funny Times, People and Glamour. When she began drawing Rhymes With Orange, she was the youngest woman to ever have a syndicated strip. Hilary draws the strip in an old toothbrush factory that has since been converted to studio space for artists. She lives in western Massachusetts. This is Hilary’s fourth nomination for the Cartoonist of the Year. You can visit Rhymes With Orange online here.

MARK TATULLI is an internationally syndicated cartoonist, best known for his popular comic strips Heart of the City and Lio, which appear in 400 newspapers all over the world. He currently has written three books in a children’s illustrated novel series titled Desmond Pucket, which has been optioned for TV by Radical Sheep. He also has two planned children’s picture books coming from Roaring Book Press, an imprint of McMillian Publishing. The first, Daydreaming, will hit bookstores in September 2016. Lio has been nominated three times for the National Cartoonists Society’s Best Comic Strip, winning in 2009. Lio was nominated for Germany’s Max and Moritz Award in 2010. This is Mark’s third nomination for Cartoonist of the Year. You can follow Mark on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mtatulli/ and find his Lio strips here http://www.gocomics.com/lio.

ANN TELNAES creates editorial cartoons in various mediums- animation, visual essays, live sketches, and traditional print- for the Washington Post. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for her print cartoons. Telnaes’ print work was shown in a solo exhibition at the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in 2004. Her first book, “Humor’s Edge”, was published by Pomegranate Press and the Library of Congress in 2004. A collection of Vice President Cheney cartoons, “Dick”, was self-published by Telnaes and Sara Thaves in 2006. Other awards include: The National Cartoonists Society Reuben division award for Editorial Cartoons (2016), The National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award (2006) — The Maggie Award, Planned Parenthood (2002) — 15th Annual International Dutch Cartoon Festival (2007) — The National Headliner Award (1997) — The Population Institute XVII Global Media Awards (1996) — Sixth Annual Environmental Media Awards (1996).

Telnaes worked for several years as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. She has also animated and designed for various studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Taiwan.

Telnaes is the current president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and is a member of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS). This is Ann’s first Cartoonist of the Year nomination.You can visit Ann’s website, http://www.anntelnaes.com, and follow her on twitter at @AnnTelnaes.

And there are 45 nominees in 15 NCS Divisional Categories. Needless to say, it’s a lot more entertaining to look at the illustrated lists over at the NCS site.

(7) BATTLE OF THE BOTTLES. Ommegang Brewery is coming out with an additional three beers in its Game of Thrones series, this time in a new line called “Bend the Knee”.

Bend the Knee:

When fans last gripped their glasses at the end of Game of Thrones’ sixth season, the great houses of Westeros were on the brink of an epic conflict. Cersei had ascended to the Iron Throne as the first queen of Westeros, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark had just reclaimed the North, and Daenerys Targaryen had set sail for the Seven Kingdoms. To commemorate the coming melee in the Emmy® Award-winning show’s epic seventh season, Brewery Ommegang and HBO Global Licensing are excited to announce a new beer in their collaborative series: Bend the Knee Golden Ale.

Paying homage to the struggle for control of the Seven Kingdoms, Bend the Knee will be available on draft and in a series of three collectible 750ml bottles, all finished in matte black and adorned with one of the three Great House sigils: Stark, Targaryen, or Lannister.

And while the show returns on July 16, fans can mark their calendars for the official nationwide release of the beer, which will be on shelves around Memorial Day.

(8) A CARD OF HIS OWN. At last night’s Nebula Award ceremony veteran SFWA volunteer Steven H Silver was given a great surprise — he has been added to the Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards Series.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/17 Help, I’m Floating And I Can’t Get Down

(1) D FRANKLIN AWARD PREMIERES. Nominations are open for a new award recognizing work in disability advocacy in SFF literature — “Announcing the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award”.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign!

The Defying Doomsday Award is an annual shortlist and prize. The award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. The award will grant one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2016.

We are now seeking nominations for the 2016 Defying Doomsday Award. Please submit your nominations to Tsana and Holly by filling in this form: https://goo.gl/forms/Kq8jGrXlAcdNumxy1

Submissions are open until July 31. The winner(s) will be announced in September.

(2) NOW ON SALE. It’s not exactly a Meredith moment, but until the end of May you can save $200 on The Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s collected works. That lowers the price tag to $1,300 in the U.S., or $1,600 for an international destination.

(3) SCIENCE BOOM. You can watch a flock of “Science Movies on Netflix in May”. Two examples –

Available May 5

The Mars Generation (Netflix, 2017): Could humanity’s future include travel to Mars? Astrophysicists and astronauts weigh in on the challenges of long-distance spaceflight and the dream of missions that could transport people to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, teenage trainees at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center immerse themselves in work toward making that dream a reality.

Available May 15

Command and Control (PBS, 2017): Building a nuclear arsenal comes with incredible risks, and most Americans may be unaware that in 1980, an accident at a nuclear missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, nearly resulted in the detonation of a warhead 600 times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Based on recently declassified documents, this fascinating glimpse into the American nuclear weapons program tracks its history, and evaluates the human errors and accidents along the way that could have doomed us all.

(4) THE BEER THAT HITCHHIKERS MADE FAMOUS. Martin Morse Wooster knows: “Short’s Brewing is notorious among beer geeks for its crazy beers.  So of course they produce Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster!  (It’s a really cool Space Invaders-style label.)”

(5) ANONYMOUS LONGLIST. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar. An anonymous longlist for the 2017 James White Award has been announced – the titles of 17 short stories listed without the authors’ names, because the entries are still undergoing an anonymous judging process.

The administrators say the shortlist will come out within two weeks, and the winner announced soon after that.

(6) ABOARD THE QUEEN MARY. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from StokerCon 2017 on Flickr. Below: Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder.

Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder

(7) WIN WWII QUICKER. Gregory Benford shares “The Big Idea” that led to his novel The Berlin Project.

How many more concentration camp victims would have survived if the war had ended one year earlier?  For one, Anne Frank. Most CC victims succumbed eventually to the rugged conditions… The difference between 1944 and 1945 as the end of the war is probably quite significant in terms of lives.

The central context for this novel came from the protagonist I chose to follow through it, Karl Cohen. I also folded in my experience of living in the US occupation of Germany in 1955-57, where my father commanded combat units.

Karl’s words made me think, because in the last year of war, whole societies collapsed. A million died each month, the Soviet Union captured many countries into subjugation, and the devastation of the Axis powers took decades to repair.

Alternative histories are ways of thinking. The entire history of nuclear weapons is interlaced with scientists considering the future, often using science fiction as a prompt. The 1913 “atomic bombs” of H. G. Wells and the Robert Heinlein and Cleve Cartmill stories in Astounding Science Fiction were indeed broadly discussed at Los Alamos –as told to me in detail by Teller.

The wartime investigation into the Astounding stories, as I depict from documents I found, now seems odd indeed. The fiction writers had no classified information at all, just good guesses. Still, this possibility was viewed as very important by the security agencies, including the FBI. As Robert Silverberg has wryly remarked, “Turning war secrets into second-rate SF stories might seem, to the dispassionate eye, a very odd way indeed of betraying one’s country.”

Karl Cohen was my father in law. In 2000 he was voted to be among the 50 most prominent American chemists of the 20th Century. But he was haunted by what he felt was his personal failure to convince the U.S. government to pursue the centrifuge approach during the war. He died in 2012 at age 99. Alas, I had only begun on the novel.

(8) A GLOWING SMILE. Win WWII – and prevent tooth decay! Atlas Obscura tells how Manhattan Project experts got sidetracked in their pursuit of Nazi nuclear technology in “The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste”.

(9) SAVE YOUR MONEY. BookRiot’s Kay Taylor Rea advises which of the Best Novel Hugo finalists to buy, borrow, or bypass.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

The final book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, Death’s End really goes for broke in its attempts to be an epic tale. I struggled through it for much the same reason I struggled through the first two books: the depictions of women are by turns baffling and infuriating. If you were bothered by that in the first two novels, I warn you it’s still at issue here. The woman at the center of Death’s End, engineer Cheng Xin, is by turns patronized, deified, and vilified both by the male characters and the narrative itself. If you can ignore this, and the author’s tendency toward paragraph upon paragraph of info-dumping, there are certainly the bones of a very compelling tale of humanity’s future within these pages. The science involved is fascinating, and if you’re on the hunt for oldschool hard science fiction this might fit the bill.

Verdict: Bypass unless you’ve read the first two and have a hankering for more hard SF.

(10) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? MeTV offers “TV Aliens, Ranked”.

Mr. Spock, ‘Star Trek’

Was this really a competition? Mr. Spock is beloved by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and fans of Star Trek alike. Even though Williams Shatner tried to take the lead on the original series, Spock’s likability and Leonard Nimoy’s depiction made him the most popular character on one of the most popular series of all time.

(11) WESTON OBIT. G.I. Joe inventor Stan Weston died May 1. The Hollywood Reporter recalls:

When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.

…In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

Jerry Goldsmith Day

Today Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He scored a vast number of movies, including many genre films. Director Joe Dante, for whom Goldsmith scored Gremlins, Explorers, and Innerspace, lent impetus to the award, saying he’d been “flabbergasted” to learn Goldsmith had not already received the honor. Dante told Variety, “Any film he scored was automatically improved tenfold.”

 

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 9, 1980 — Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th premieres in theatres.
  • May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element is released in the U.S.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 9, 1860 – J.M. Barrie

(15) COMPETITIVE LENGTHS. Greg Hullender says, “Inspired by a blog post from Rich Horton I did a quick analysis of the lengths of novellas overall vs. the lengths of the ones that are Hugo finalist.” — “Story Lengths and Awards: When Does Size Matter?” at Rocket Stack Rank.

It looks like (this year, at least), when it came to getting nominated for the Hugo, longer stories definitely did better than shorter ones in the Novella category and (less dramatically) in the Novelette category, but length had no effect on short stories.

In fact, the effect is so dramatic that the longest novella published by any print magazine is shorter than the shortest novella in the Hugo finalist list!

(16) DIAL 2140. Carl Slaughter did a mini-roundup on a popular new novel.

The New Yorker described Kim Stanley Robinson as “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”  The Atlantic described Robinson as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.” Robinson’s novels have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell awards.  His body of work won the Heinlein award.  He was an instructor at Clarion and the 68th World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor.  Major themes in his novels:  nature and culture, ecological sustainability, climate change and global warming, economic and social justice, and scientists as heroes.

“The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson’s oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.”  –  Wiki

Robinson’s latest novel, NewYork 2140 , which came out in March from Orbit, is about residents of New York coping the the drastic affects of climate change, namely rising sea levels.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

Praise for New York 2140:

“Science fiction is threaded everywhere through culture nowadays, and it would take an act of critical myopia to miss the fact that Robinson is one of the world’s finest working novelists, in any genre. NEW YORK 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation.”  ?  The Guardian

“An exploration of human resilience in the face of extreme pressure…starkly beautiful and fundamentally optimistic visions of technological and social change in the face of some of the worst devastation we might bring upon ourselves.”  ?  The Conversation

“As much a critique of contemporary capitalism, social mores and timeless human foibles, this energetic, multi-layered narrative is also a model of visionary worldbuilding.”  ?  RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!) on New York 214

“A thoroughly enjoyable exercise in worldbuilding, written with a cleareyed love for the city’s past, present, and future.”  ?  Kirkus

“The tale is one of adventure, intrigue, relationships, and market forces…. The individual threads weave together into a complex story well worth the read.”  ?  Booklist

(17) SPINRAD REVIEWED. Rob Latham shares his qualified enthusiasm for Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police in “An Unkempt Jeremiad” at LA Review of Books.

I would affirm that The People’s Police is a continuous pleasure to read were it not for the poor production values that persistently hobble the story. While the physical book is well designed, including an arresting dust-jacket by Michael Graziolo, the text itself is littered with distracting typos, oddly repeated words (e.g., “his vehicle had come around again to where where Luke was standing”), and passages still showing the raw compositional process (e.g., “what the upstate Holy Rollers were calling called the People’s Police”). A better job of editing would have caught these various solecisms, as well as the embarrassing fact that some anecdotes — e.g., that Huey Long built “a half-assed half-scale replica of the White House” as his governor’s mansion — are recounted twice, thus compromising their effectiveness. Every time I began to fall under the spell of Spinrad’s kooky grandiloquence, some glaring error like this would throw me out of the story. This is particularly unfortunate given that, as noted above, The People’s Police marks the author’s dogged attempt to break back into the US market after a decade of frustrations.

All in all, though, I think the novel should be well received, as it manifests most of the strengths of Spinrad’s long career….

(18) APOCALYPSE OHIO. There were a few angsty moments at the Scalzi compound today.

(19) AT RISK COMICS. I scanned CosmicBookNews’ list of Marvel comics titles on the bubble, holding in mind the recent controversy about whether diversity sells.

Titles with an asterisk are already cancelled as of July.

CA: Sam Wilson – #21 – 18,650
Gwenpool – #14 – 17,972
Captain Marvel – #4 – 17,893
US Avengers – #5 – 17,880
Ultimates 2 – #6 -17,350
Dr. Strange & Sorcerers Supreme – #7 – 16,887
Man-Thing – #3 – 16,199 [Mini]
Hawkeye – #5 – 16,031
Totally Awesome Hulk – #18 – 16,009
Spider-Man 2099 – #22 – 15,273
Elektra – #3 – 15,113*
Silver Surfer – #10 – 15,041
World Of Wakanda – #6 – 14,547*
Nova – #5 – 14,525*
Silk – #19 – 13,524*
Thunderbolts – #12 – 13,780*
Kingpin – #3 – 13,765*
Rocket Raccoon #5 – 13,373*
Power Man & Iron Fist #15 – 13,055*
Bullseye – #3 – 12,912 [Mini]
Star lord – #6 – 12,278*
Squirrel Girl – #19 – 11,074
Occupy Avengers – #6 – 10,296
Unstoppable Wasp – #4 – 9,780
Great Lakes Avengers – #7 – 8,370
Moon Girl and Devil Dino – #18 – 7,966
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat – #17 – 6,943*
Mosaic – #7 – 5,876*

On the fence:

Ms. Marvel – #17 – 20,881

(20) GUARDIANS INSIDE INFO. Don’t view this unless you are ready for SPOILERS. Looper picks out Small Details In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Only True Fans Understood.

After all the hype, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proved itself a worthy successor to the first film. With another Awesome Mix Tape blasting and another round of adventures for Star-Lord and his gang of unlikely heroes, Vol. 2 offered up the same mix of action and comedy fans have come to love. And like the first installment, the newest Guardians is packed with Easter eggs. Here are all the small details only true fans noticed in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Major spoilers ahead!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Roger Silverstein, Cat Eldridge, Ellen Datlow, ,Andrew Porter, Kat, Kendall, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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.]