Pixel Scroll 3/10/18 Great Scroll Title

(1) WIKIPEDIA. What an amazing coincidence (or not)! Amazing Stories is Wikipedia’s Featured Article today. I hope it gives Steve Davidson’s Kickstarter a boost.

(2) WISCON. The WisCon Member Assistance Fund is rising money through sales of t-shirts etc. with this design:

You’ve always been able to support the WMAF via our Donate page, during the Registration process, or by using our direct Paypal link.

But now you can take care of your own need for clothing and benefit the WMAF at the same time! Sam Haney Press has designed artwork based on an idea from Nicasio Andres Reed (inspired by Woodie Guthrie) and we’re making it available on t-shirts! (And on a tote bag, which you will probably need to…carry the multiple t-shirts you are going to want to buy.)

Buy shirts at this link.

(3) UNRECOGNIZED. Scott Bradfield explains why pop culture fame eludes Clark Ashton Smith in “The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley” for LA Review of Books.

WHEN IT COMES to being underrated, Clark Ashton Smith has long been a quadruple-threat. For more than a century, Smith has been unfairly disregarded as a poet, a short story writer, a painter, and even a sculptor; had he perhaps enjoyed just a little professional good fortune during his lifetime, he might have gone on to spend his twilight years being unfairly disregarded in numerous additional endeavors: prose poetry, novel writing, drama, screenwriting, you name it. Instead, he spent those last decades as a gardener and handy-man, never achieving the recognition of his friends and fellow Weird Tales contributors, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Almost unforgivably, no proper biography has yet been published about Smith — only a scattering of bibliographies and essays from small (but resolute) specialty presses.

In many ways, this ponderous, multi-generational neglect of Smith isn’t hard to understand. Unlike Howard (the stylish creator of Conan and Solomon Kane), Smith never wrote filmable series characters that could be played by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel….

(4) BOFFO B.O. Looper tells “Why Black Panther Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office.”

(5) AS SANDS THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. “Dune reboot will span two movies, take at least two years, says Denis Villeneuve” reports SyFy Wire.

We’ve known for a while that Denis Villeneuve is working on a reboot for Dune, Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel famously adapted for the big screen by David Lynch all the way back in 1984. But now we’re learning that Villeneuve has no plans to try to cram everything from the sprawling source material into just one movie.

Via The Playlist, Villeneuve recently told a crowd gathered for a Montreal film event that his adaptation of the 1965 novel “will probably take two years to make,” with a goal of making “two films; maybe more.” That bomb drop reaffirms Villeneuve’s long-haul commitment to what’s long been a passion project.

(6) WIKIMYSTERY. A scholarly paper posits the automatic generation of adventure games from open data such as Wikipedia articles, OpenStreetMap, and images from Wikimedia Commons: “Who Killed Albert Einstein? From Open Data to Murder Mystery Games”.

Every WikiMystery game revolves around the murder of a person with a Wikipedia article and populates the game with suspects who must be arrested by the player if guilty of the murder or absolved if innocent. Starting from only one person as the victim, an extensive generative pipeline finds suspects, their alibis, and paths connecting them from open data, transforms open data into cities, buildings, non-player characters, locks and keys and dialog options. The paper describes in detail each generative step, provides a specific playthrough of one WikiMystery where Albert Einstein is murdered, and evaluates the outcomes of games generated for the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

(7) CARTOON NETWORK. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers: “Cartoon Network Unveils Largest-Ever Slate of Content for 2018-19”.

Among the new shows is Diego Molano’s Victor and Valentino, a supernatural comedy about a pair of half-brothers who spend the summer with their grandmother in a mysterious town where Latin American folklore comes to life, and Owen Dennis’ Infinity Train, which has already developed a passionate following through the network’s Artist Program, about a girl who tries to find her way home from a train full of infinite worlds. Victor and Valentino is slated to release this year, while Infinity Train will reach viewers in 2019.

Other new Cartoon Network shows include buddy-comedy Apple & Onion, set in a world of anthropomorphic food; the surrealist animal adventure Summer Camp Island; and adventure comedy Craig of the Creek, which follows the expeditions of a group of best friends across a neighborhood creek.

And that’s not all!

(8) THE DORKEST HOUR. There’s something you don’t see every day — “Winston Churchill dancing like James Brown, played by Gary Oldman.”

(9) SHARKE WATCH. Shadow Clarke jury convenor Dr. Helen Marshall provides “A Means of Escape: A Round-Up of Our Posts So Far”.

As we eagerly await the end of the snows and the release of the submissions list, which will launch the first major phase of the Arthur C. Clarke jury’s deliberations, I thought it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the major threads introduced by our jury members so far. In assembling the jury, Maureen and I wanted to draw together reviewers from different backgrounds and with different ideas of what criticism might mean and what it ought to do. I’ve been delighted to see the range of approaches offered so far as well as the questions they open up. What follows then are my own impressions of some of the major threads that connect these approaches.

(10) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA CREATOR. Here’s the text of Peter Douglas Nicholls’ death notice that appeared in The Age of Melbourne on March 9.

Science fiction critic, encyclopedist, bon vivant, and pontificator. Died on 6th March 2018, aged 78, surrounded by family. Inspired adoration and exasperation in equal measure. Remembered with enormous love by his sister, Meg; children, Sophie, Saul, Tom, Jack, and Luke; grandchildren, Pia, Cassia and Uma; and his wife, Clare Coney.

My brain tells stories to itself
While I’m asleep. Last night
I smoked and talked, the dead replied
A party in my dreams.
What fun!

– Peter Nicholls


  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premiered
  • March 10, 1997 — The Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(12) ELLISON. Damien Walters posted his 2013 interview with Harlan Ellison last October, and linked to it on Facebook today.

DW: You famously described sci-fi fandom as an “extended family of wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.” But don’t the geeks kind of run the world now?

HE: I am a steadfastly 20th-century guy. I’ve always been pathologically au courant. Even today I can tell you the length of Justin Bieber’s hair. But it has now reduced society to such a trivial, crippled form, that it is beyond my notice. I look at things like Twitter and Facebook, and “reality TV”?—?which is one of the great frauds of our time, an oxymoron like “giant shrimp”?—?and I look at it all, and I say, these people do not really know what the good life is. I look at the parched lives that so many people live, the desperation that underlies their every action, and I say, this has all been brought about by the electronic media. And I do not envy them. I do not wish to partake of it, and I am steadfastly in the 20th century. I do not own a handheld device. Mine is an old dial-up laptop computer, which I barely can use?—?barely. I still write on a manual typewriter. Not even an electronic typewriter, but a manual. My books keep coming out. I have over 100 books published now, and I’ve reached as close to posterity as a poor broken vessel such as I am entitled to reach.

(13) PETS WHO SLEEP NEAR WRITERS. Mark-kitteh made sure we didn’t miss “13 Of The Most Adorable Pets Owned By Famous Writers” at Buzzfeed.

  1. J.K. Rowling’s endearing West Highland terrier named Bronte:

(14) DO THE LOCOMOTION. A BBC video shows a “Rollerskating robot to the rescue” (video)

Researchers in Zurich are teaching a robot how to balance on wheels attached to its four legs.

The goal is to help it complete search and rescue missions and other tasks in less time.

(15) BOOM, JAMES BOOM. The volcano used in You Only Live Twice is throwing off ash, lava and rocks – but no rocket launch parts: “Mount Shinmoedake: Warning over Japan’s James Bond volcano”.

(16) PURPLE HAZE? When they’re done, they have an educated guess: “Alien atmospheres recreated on Earth”.

“Clouds and hazes determine the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and also how deep we can look into a planet’s atmosphere,” explained Dr Helling.

“Exoplanet clouds can be made of sparkling minerals, in addition to the photochemical hazes just produced in the lab.”

While clouds form from the continuous cycling of material, much like the hydrological cycle on Earth, the process of producing hazes is “more of a one way trip” according to Dr Hörst.

The solid particles then remain in the planet’s atmosphere, where they can scatter light and affect the surface temperature, or travel to the surface via precipitation.

(17) ROBOTS BEHAVING BADLY. CNN Money gives a video demonstration: “Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware”.

Ransomware is not only a threat on phones or computers. It’s coming for robots, too. Researchers at security firm IOActive successfully conducted a ransomware attack on a SoftBank Robotics robot

(18) MOVIE THEOLOGY. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein finds Coco opens the way for a decreasingly religious America to discuss the idea of an afterlife for loved ones: “How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death”.

There is little solid data on the wide range of beliefs Americans have about post-death existence and how those views are changing. Much of what there is has to do with the words “heaven” and “hell” — amorphous for many. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, and 58 percent in hell — numbers very slightly down since about a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

People who work with the dying say these beliefs are fluid.

“Death opens you up,” said Aram Haroutunian, a longtime hospital and hospice chaplain in Denver. “And death is the great unknown. People are more open. And especially at the very end, they are very open.”

Haroutunian said he doesn’t think hammering out theology around the afterlife is a particularly common priority for the dying. However, he said, a common experience among hospice workers is hearing people who are dying start to speak of the deceased — long-dead family or friends — in the present tense, “like they’ve been talking with them.” Metaphors about travel are extremely common, he said: I’m getting on a train, taking a bus ride, packing my bags. “It’s uncanny,” he added.

(19) PRODIGY. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy, to be released March 13, is available for pre-order at iTunes.

Prodigy follows Dr. Fonda, a psychologist with a mysterious new patient. After being searched and issued warnings, he is taken to a cell where he finds Ellie, a young girl strapped in a straitjacket. Ellie immediately begins dissecting Fonda, revealing her genius-level intellect. Fonda holds fast, only faltering when Ellie claims to have killed her own mother. The team observing this interaction suggest Ellie is more dangerous than Fonda knows. She possesses “gifts” they wish to analyze — a process which will result in Ellie’s death. With the execution scheduled for the next day, Fonda must alter his strategy. He engages Ellie in a battle of wits, which results in Ellie’s telekinetic “gifts” revealing themselves. Objects hover, furniture topples, the foundation of the building quakes, but Fonda continues chipping away at Ellie’s tough facade. His methods begin to win over the experts, but he will need drastic results to prove the monster they see is actually a child worth saving.


[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce Gillespie, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Pixel Scroll 1/24/18 You Can Get Anything You Want At Filer’s Pixel Rant

(1) WORLDCON 76 MEMBERSHIPS SPONSORED FOR MEXICANX FANS, CREATORS. Artist John Picacio, a Worldcon 76 guest of honor, and John Scalzi, are funding four memberships —

John Scalzi, who will fund a pair of the memberships, also publicized the announcement on Whatever: “John Picacio Offering Worldcon Memberships to Mexicanx Fans and Creators”.

(2) COMMEMORATION. Naomi Novik was asked by the New York Times to write an appreciation of Ursula K. LeGuin. She responded with a poem — “For Ursula” – which begins:

I want to tell you something true
Because that’s what she did.
I want to take you down a road she built, only I don’t want to follow it to the end.
I want to step off the edge and go into the underbrush
Clearing another way, because that’s also what she taught
Not how to repave her road but how to lay another
Even if it meant the grass came through the cracks of the pavement, and the thicket ate it up.

(3) DID YOU REMEMBER? Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin were at Berkeley High School at the same time in 1947. However, it spoils the story to add that they didn’t know each other…. See “When Ursula K. Le Guin & Philip K. Dick Went to High School Together” at Open Culture from 2016.

(4) OF ACE BOOPS. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett draws this great anecdote from the pages of a classic Australian fanzine — “Ursula Le Guin & Her Elusive Hugo!”.

And now for my favourite Ursula Le Guin letter, one which highlights the two things I like best in an author, a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of humour. The following letter appeared in Philosophical Gas #2, published by John Bangsund in October 1970. The Hugo in question was awarded to Ursula for The Left Hand of Darkness at Heicon ’70, the worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany in August of 1970. I assume the rocket was accepted on Ursula’s behalf by Terry Carr of Ace Books (which would explain a lot).

(5) SFWA AFFIRMED. Jennifer Brozek on “SFWA and its Community”:

Last night, I went to the SFWA Reading to see my friends Josh Vogt, Greg Bear, and Tod McCoy read. I realized something: I’d missed my SFWA community. These are people I only see at conventions and SFWA events. I’d been so busy with my own stuff lately, and needed some distance from the organization after I stepped down as a Director-At-Large, that I’d pulled away too much. That was the wrong approach, but I suppose it was one I needed at the time.

It’s hard to express just how good it feels to be in a room full of like-minded people who all understand why losing one of the greats like Ursula K. Le Guin is such a tragedy or why naming Peter S. Beagle as SFWA’s newest Grand Master is such a joy. So many of the people I met up with last night are at various points in their writing careers. It was like looking at my past, present, and future writing self. They all understood the language of the writing professional and the publishing industry. It felt like coming home. It felt like family.

Recently, SFWA has had to deal with some tough issues. All of them center around protecting its membership at large. I know, intimately, what they’ve been going through—all the time spent, the discussions had, the decisions made—and I’m proud of the Board. I think, with the evidence they had on hand, they did the only thing they could do to protect the SFWA organization and the community they’ve built.

(6) MORE ON COMMUNITY. SFWA President Cat Rambo tweeted —

(7) RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE JURY. CSFF Anglia has empaneled a new Shadow Clarke Jury for 2018 — Gary K. Wolfe, Alasdair Stuart, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Nick Hubble, Samira Nadkarni, and Foz Meadows. (Speller and Hubble are the only returning Sharkes.)

Dr. Helen Marshall, General Director of the Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy says in “And Now for a Word from our Hosts”

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has long been an excellent point of reference for taking stock of the changes in the field. It has a deliberately loose mandate to identify the “best” science fiction book of the year, acknowledging that the definition of “best” must be decided by a changing pool of jurors on an annual basis. The Clarke shortlist and the eventual winner showcase the work that has been done in the field, providing an intriguing snapshot of a field in flux. Since its inception the award has been at the heart of a robust critical discussion which interrogates the centre of the genre, its heartland, as well as the margins, where the genre pushes outward. This is why we’ve chosen the Clarke Award submissions list as a starting point for our discussions, and why we return to their shortlist in our discussions.

…What a shadow jury might do, then, is bring these debates into sharper focus. We believe the criticism is valuable, and that detailed, provocative, and respectful criticism enhances our understanding of the text and the cultures which produced it. This form of criticism is not intended to serve the needs of marketers or publicists but those of readers and writers. It aims not only to make visible but also to illuminate and contextualise.

Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller’s manifesto for the return engagement, “You’re Never Alone with a Critic – Shadowing the Clarke Award, 2018”, says in part —

Here’s the thing – a critic’s job is not to provide plot synopses, nor is it to tell you whether or not you’ll like a novel. It is definitely not a critic’s job to act as an unpaid publicity agent. A critic’s job is to look at the fiction itself, and to have a view about it. Critics write about all sorts of things. They think about where a text sits in relation to other works of sf, they explore themes, tease out aesthetic similarities and differences; they consider what a novel says about the world at large, and, yes, they make judgement based on their experience as informed readers. Which is, if you think about it, exactly the same kind of work as that carried out by an award jury.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that criticism per se has become so frowned upon in the last few years. Is it just that people don’t want to admit this is what is going on behind the scenes? Is it because the word ‘criticism’ carries two meanings, one analytical, the other disapproving? We couldn’t tell but we were fascinated by this pushback against the Shadow Clarke project and decided we needed to explore it further. So, we have decided to run the project for a second year, and this time, rather than simply focusing on the Clarke Award, we’re taking the opportunity to use the shortlisting process as a springboard to exploring the business of criticism more broadly, because we continue to believe that critical analysis has a vital role to play when it comes to talking about science fiction.

(8) STRONG ATTACHMENT. Live Science reports the discovery of a “1.7-Billion-Year-Old Chunk of North America Found Sticking to Australia”.

Geologists matching rocks from opposite sides of the globe have found that part of Australia was once attached to North America 1.7 billion years ago.

Researchers from Curtin University in Australia examined rocks from the Georgetown region of northern Queensland. The rocks — sandstone sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow sea — had signatures that were unknown in Australia but strongly resembled rocks that can be seen in present-day Canada.

Will this open the way for an Aussie Worldcon with adjacent NASFiC?

(9) WHO IS COMING. LA’s premiere Doctor Who convention takes place in three weeks, and the program has been posted: “Gallifrey One 2018 Schedule of Events Now Online”.

With great pleasure, Gallifrey One today is proud to announce the release of our Schedule of Events for our upcoming convention, The 29 Voyages of Gallifrey One in February. As in prior years, we are using the Sched online scheduling system for a seamless and easy-to-navigate program that can be used on your desktop or mobile device….

Full Screen (General Purpose) version
Fully viewable version, with custom views of events, searchable, plus panelist and guest listings


  • January 24, 1984 — Apple Computer, Inc. introduced the Macintosh personal computer.


(12) RON ELLIK AND THE RONVENTION (1962). Although I never met LASFS member Ron Ellik, who died before I ever joined the club, he was a well-known newzine editor (Starspinkle) and influence on Bruce Pelz, who kept his friend’s name alive in the title of his annual wine and cheese party that I attended for years. Now Rob Hansen gives us new reasons to remember him —

Ron Ellik in 1962.

This year’s Eastercon is being held in Harrogate for the first time in more than half a century. Known as the RONVENTION, that earlier one was organised by Ron Bennett and attended by TAFF-winner Ron Ellik, hence the name. At the January first-Thursday pub meeting here in London, Eastercon committee and staff persons Mark Plummer and Caroline Mullan asked me if I could add a section on the RONVENTION to my website that they could link to. Since this was one of those I’d always intended to get around to I was happy to oblige. I drew mainly from conreports by James White and the two Rons when putting it together: “Ronvention, the 1962 Eastercon”.

I’m uploading this earlier than originally intended because of something I realised after I started work on it, namely that tomorrow, 25th January, is the fiftieth anniversary of Ron Ellik’s death at the tragically young age of 30. So I’m publishing it today in memory of him.

Weird to think that when Ron died, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were still alive, the Beatles were still together, and astronauts had yet to leave Earth orbit and strike out for the moon.

(13) OSCAR ISSUE. The Washington Post’s Cindy Boren, in “Kobe Bryant’s Oscar nod rings awkward in a year Hollywood is hyper-focused on sexual assault”, says Dear Basketball, an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film, may be in trouble because, despite its John Williams score and Glen Keane animation, it features Kobe Bryant, who settled a sexual assault case in 2003 for a substantial sum in an out-of-court settlement.

(14) WOEBEGONE. The MPR News (Minnesota Public Radio) post “Investigation: For some who lived in it, Keillor’s world wasn’t funny” has more information on the firing of Garrison Keillor. Several incidents are described at the link.

For weeks, Minnesota Public Radio refused MPR News’ repeated requests to comment on the company’s separation from Keillor. But as negotiations with Keillor’s company stalled and pressure from news organizations mounted, Jon McTaggart, president and CEO of MPR and American Public Media Group, broke his silence.

In an interview with MPR News Tuesday afternoon, he said the company’s separation of business interests from Keillor came after it received allegations of “dozens” of sexually inappropriate incidents involving Keillor and a woman who worked for him on A Prairie Home Companion. He said the allegations included requests for sexual contact and descriptions of unwanted sexual touching.

McTaggart, who after the interview with MPR News sent an email to MPR listeners and members further explaining the separation from Keillor, says cutting Keillor off was the most painful decision he’s made as CEO. But in-house and external investigations into the matter bore details he could not ignore.

“When we reached a point that from all sources we had sufficient confidence in facts that really required us to act, we took the action we did,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. It was the necessary thing to do, and we stand by it.”

Since the firing, Prairie Home Companion has been renamed Live From Here.

(15) WHAT FATE. Charles McNulty ponders “As artists fall into disgrace, must their art be consigned to oblivion?” at the Los Angeles Times.

The cavalier way men have systemically abused their power over women in and around the workplace warrants little leniency. But a more slippery question has emerged in this me-too moment of cultural reckoning: What to do with the works of artists whose conduct has been abhorrent?

In the growing gallery of alleged predators, there aren’t any artists I hold dear. James Toback’s films aren’t in my Netflix queue. I never mistook Kevin Spacey for one of the greats. And my admiration for James Levine’s conducting has been mostly of the dilettantish variety.

But inevitably a contemporary artist with whom I feel a special kinship will shatter my illusions about his or her character. I doubt that I will throw away the books or delete the recordings or swear off the films. I’m sure I’ll be disillusioned and quite possibly disgusted, but I know that an artist is not identical with his or her masterpieces and that few human beings can live up to their greatest achievements.

This is a theme that Marcel Proust returns to in his epic novel, “In Search of Lost Time” (more romantically known in English as “Remembrance of Things Past”). The narrator recalls a dinner party in which, as a young man, he meets his hero, the writer Bergotte. The young Marcel, intimidated to be seated among the important guests of the swanky Swanns, is struck immediately by the way Bergotte bears no physical resemblance to the man he had “slowly and painstakingly constructed … a drop at a time, like a stalactite, out of the limpid beauty of his books.”

More distressing to Marcel than Bergotte’s coarse appearance is “the busy and self-satisfied mentality … which had nothing in common with the type of mind that informed the books.” The narrator, a natural philosopher, begins to understand through this encounter that art is not contingent on the specific circumstances of an artist’s life.

(16) SF HISTORY. Michael Dirda, in “An expert’s guide to science fiction’s greatest — and neglected — works”, reviews the companion volume to A Conversation larger than the Universe, an exhibit on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10 (see the January 19 Pixel Scroll, item 7).

Being well-read both inside and outside the genre, Wessells contends that the first major work of alternate history was a 1931 collection of essays, edited by J.C. Squire, titled “If It Had Happened Otherwise.” Its fanciful “lapses into imaginary history” include “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg,” by none other than Winston Churchill. Wessells also lingers over one of the most chilling dystopian novels of the 20th century, “Swastika Night,” written by Katharine Burdekin under the pen name Murray Constantine. Drafted in 1936 and published in 1937, it projects a Nazified far-future Europe where Hitler is worshiped as an Aryan god and women are kept in pens as breeding animals. (For more about this remarkable book, I recommend Daphne Patai’s excellent Feminist Press edition or the Gollancz SF Masterworks paperback, for which I wrote a short introduction.)

(17) A COMFORTING DOOM. Jill Lepore’s “A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction” in the June 5-12 New Yorker last summer, is an essay-review of several dystopian novels, including Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway and Ben H. Winters’s Underground Airlines. Martin Morse Wooster flagged up its quotable last paragraph:

Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one.  It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices.  Its only admonition is:  Despair more.  It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own.  Left or right, the radical pessimism of an unremitting dystopianism has itself contributed to the unravelling ot the liberal state and the weakening of a commitment to political pluralism. ‘This isn’t a story about war,’ (Omar) El Akkad writes in American War.  ‘It’s about ruin.’  A story about ruin can be beautiful.  Wreckage is romantic.  But a politics of ruin is doomed.

(18) UP IN THE AIR. Maybe we’ll get them after all? “Degree in ‘flying car’ engineering offered online”.

The online course is being offered by Silicon Valley e-learning school Udacity and will begin in February.

It is the brainchild of former Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who previously headed up Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo.

Prof Thrun is hoping to attract at least 10,000 applicants to what he is describing as a “nanodegree”.

A nanodegree, according to Udacity’s website, is an online certification that can be earned in six to 12 months, and aims to teach basic programming skills in various disciplines.

…Previously Udacity has offered a self-driving car course, which has attracted 50,000 applicants since 2016.

(19) KIDS PUT IT TOGETHER. “K’Nex builds toys rollercoaster you can ride in VR”. (Video) A little like those model railroad trains with the tiny camera on the front – only a lot faster.

Toy-maker K’Nex has designed a toy rollercoaster kit that children can assemble and then “ride” by wearing a virtual reality headset.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones tried it out at the Toy Fair 2018 exhibition in London.

(20) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. BBC reports “A submersible mission in Antarctic waters has revealed unique ecosystems so rare they deserve special protection, say scientists.” — “Antarctica’s Weddell Sea ‘deserves protected status'”.

The seabed investigation, co-ordinated by the campaign group Greenpeace, will help build the case for the creation of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuary.

Covering 1.8 million sq km, the marine reserve will be considered by Antarctic nations at a conference in October.

It would ban all fishing in a large part of the Weddell Sea.

… Along with the smaller creatures that live on the seafloor, the reserve would bring additional protection to larger animals such as leopard seals, orcas, humpback whales and penguins.

(21) WETTER RESISTANCE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why ‘The Shape of Water’ is the most relevant film of the year”.

All things considered, the savvy choice for best picture might be Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which has been nominated in a whopping 13 different categories. Admittedly, it’s yet another film with a male director, but it does have a female co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, and a female lead, Sally Hawkins, and it passes the Bechdel Test within minutes. If that weren’t enough, it has major black and gay characters, as well as a South American immigrant; true, he’s a half-human, half-newt South American immigrant, but that’s not the point. More diverse and inclusive than any of the other best picture nominees, the film doesn’t just rail against sexism, racism and homophobia, it argues that they are all symptoms of the same patriarchal disease – a disease which all voiceless and oppressed people should defeat together. In short, The Shape of Water is a lot more militant than the average magic-realist fable about a woman who fancies a fish-monster. What’s more, it’s even more topical now than when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last August.

(22) WORKSHOP WISDOM. Cynthia Felice shared “Five things I learned at Clarion”. The first is:

  1. Writers who write naked or wearing only a fedora do not write any better than a writer who is fully dressed.

(23) TRAILER PARK TRASH. Cnet doesn’t want you to miss it — “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek gets a trashy parody trailer”.

Ever since news emerged that Quentin Tarantino, famous for films like “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill,” had pitched a great idea for a Star Trek movie to film studio Paramount, we’ve been wondering what Tarantino Trek might look like.

We now have one possible answer in the form of “Star Trek: Voyage to Vengeance,” a fake trailer made up of moments from the original series.

The video comes from Nerdist and features a laundry list of some of the original series’ most cringe-worthy moments, including the space hippies and almost everyone Captain Kirk ever kissed.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mark Hepworth, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, David K.M. Klaus, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 11/25/17 In The Scrolling, The Mighty Scrolling, The Pixel Scrolls Tonight

(1) A-WEEMA-WEH. Derek Kunsken, one of the guests of honor, tells Black Gate readers about “The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017”.

Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others. A few of us got to visit the Panda breeding facility the day before the conference started.

…Incidentally, China is interested in hosting a WorldCon, and some of my expedia searching has shown me that flights from Ottawa to Chengdu were in the neighborhood of $900 Canadian, and the hotel they got us in downtown Chengdu was about $110 Canadian a night. I don’t know how much more or less expensive that is compared to Helsinki or Dublin, but I would vote for a Chinese bid on a WorldCon!

Black Gate adds this background about the author —

Derek Künsken writes science fiction and fantasy in Gatineau, Québec. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, is being serialized right now in China in the magazine SFWorld before its publication in book form in the spring.

(2) ALL BRADBURY, ALL THE TIME. Hillsdale College historian Bradley J. Birzer, in “Out of the Shire:  Life Beyond Tolkien” in The American Conservative, recommends several writers for Tolkien fans, but “of all 20th century fabulists, Ray Bradbury comes closest to equaling Tolkien’s literary and imaginative powers.”

If you look at what’s playing on your television, at what’s showing at the local cinema, at what video games your children are playing, or at what is selling in the young adult section of your neighborhood Barnes & Noble, you’ll see something that is at once deeply cultural and deeply countercultural at the exact same moment: Romanticism.

It’s difficult to know exactly where the movement started, though most historians and literary scholars would give the nod to Edmund Burke and his second great work, On the Sublime and the Beautiful. From Burke’s treatise, almost all modern Romantic thought arose. Burke’s presence is, at times, implicit, and, at times, blatant in the works of such critical figures as Wordsworth and Coleridge, but it can be found throughout most of the romantic poetry and art of the early 19th century. It’s not hard even to imagine Burke’s shadow lingering over Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral. In his own writings on Western civilization, Christopher Dawson argued that the rise of Romanticism, whatever its excesses and failings, was as important to Western civilization, as the re-discovery of Hellenic thought in the Renaissance. Whatever its original and essential intent, Romanticism successfully saved Christianity from the utilitarianism and rationalism of the 18th century, Dawson continued. In its recovery of medieval Christianity in the early 19th century, the Anglo-Welsh Roman Catholic scholar asserted, the Romantics actually discovered “a new kind of beauty.”

From its earliest origins, one can trace Romanticism’s history through the 19th century and into the early 20th century through figures as diverse as Friedrich Nietzsche, G.K. Chesterton, and Willa Cather. Perhaps most importantly for Western culture, however, was its manifestation in the vast mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien….

(3) TOP LGBT SFF. Rocket Stack Rank has consulted the ratings for excellent stories and come up with the “Best LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015-2016”.

Greg Hullender sent the link with a note: “We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but we finally got it put together. Note that this is just 2015-2016. Because we depend on scores from other reviewers (including the 4 annual anthologies plus Hugo and Nebula nominations), the earliest we could do anything like it for 2017 would be April 2018, so our current plan is to do 2017 in June for Gay Pride Month and try to make that a regular thing.”

In addition to regular monthly ratings we’re going to start publishing occasional lists of excellent stories from particular subsets of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF). We’ve previously done this for Hard Science Fiction, and this month we’re doing it for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) stories.

As always, our focus is on the stories, not the authors. These are stories with memorable LGBT characters—not necessarily stories by noted LGBT authors. These include excellent stories in which a key character merely happens to be an LGBT person as well as stories where the LGBT angle is crucial to the plot.

Also, these are stories that had at least one recommendation from a “prolific reviewer” (that is, any reviewer who reads at least 500 stories a year from major print and online sources); no single reviewer can really capture the tastes of all readers, so drawing from a pool of reviewers makes it more likely that we haven’t omitted anything.

(4) BLACK FRIDAY. New Zealand’s Weta Workshops is running a Black Friday sale through Monday. All kinds of figures and paraphernalia from Lord of the Rings and other films they’re associated with.

(5) UNICORN ANTIDOTE. This will cure your post-ceramic stress — JJ calls it “Brain bleach for the wine caddy.” If you need that explained, consider yourself lucky.

(6) TIMEY-WIMEY. Holiday shipping has run amok:

(7) XL5. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard turned on the TV and found this new show on channel 1962 — “[November 25, 1962] Great Balls of Fire!  (Gerry Anderson’s new series, Fireball XL5)”

I’ve mentioned in a past article that Britain has Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.  Now we also have Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol.  Not the hero of a comic strip, but rather of a children’s television show from Anderson Provis Films (APF), which you may all remember from when I talked about their production last year, Supercar.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are back with another Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5.  Supermarionation is their term to describe puppets that speak using electronic synchronization, and the Andersons have used it to great effect, creating a brand new medium for SF.

(8) KIT SHIRT. Francis Hamit, whose movie script has been winning prizes, offers the “Christopher Marlowe fan T-shirt” through Zazzle.

Check out the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE fan t-shirt that I designed at Zazzle.co.uk. We did this because we have about 1,400 Facebook friends in London and we need to sell something to prove that we are actually in business. Zazzle seemed like the easiest way to do this and we already own the art. We also have a similar product. on CafePress.


(10) THE SLEUTH’S BOSS. The Financial Times’ Henry Mance profiled Mark Gatiss, a writer for Doctor Who and the showrunner for Sherlock, where he also plays Mycroft Holmes: “‘We will all be dust soon’: Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss on death, despair and drama”. (Usually these are behind a paywall, but I was able to see this one. Caveat non-emptor.)

When asked if Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s, Gatiss says, “I don’t think it (Asperger’s) is a disorder.  You can read Conan Doyle and think he is–you can diagnose him. Clearly that is based on people who have manic mood swings.  We made Mycroft the Niles to Holmes’s Frasier, who apparently feels nothing–though of course he does, he just keeps it under control.”

When asked if there will be more episodes of “Sherlock,” Gattis says, “Dunno.  Honestly.  It’s the first time we haven’t had to make plans for 18 months down the line.  The last episode of Sherlock was both “a possible natural ending, and a possible place for them to do another one.”

Gattiss’s next project, with Mark Moffat, is a version of “Dracula” which will appear on the BBC in 2019.

(11) WORTHY OF THE VOGONS. History.com found a by-product of its cipher-cracking project: “This Supercomputer Was Programmed to Think Like the Zodiac Killer. No Wonder Its Poetry is So Creepy”.

Now Knight, CARMEL and a team of code-breaking researchers are working with the HISTORY Channel to try and crack the Z340, the Zodiac killer’s most impenetrable cipher. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-named murderer terrorized Northern California with a succession of random killings and taunting letters to the police and newspapers. Four of those communiqués contained ciphers filled with perplexing letters and abstract symbols. Cryptologists consider the Zodiac’s 340-character cipher, sent to The San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, a holy grail of sorts.

As part of Knight’s research into what computers can do with language, CARMEL can churn out complex verse on any given topic within a matter of seconds.

(12) PARTS OF SPEECH. Fast Company explains why “John Waters Doesn’t Need To Make Movies To Make Trouble”.

Despite the fact that he has “never graduated from anything,” John Waters was invited by the Rhode Island School of Design to deliver its 2015 commencement address. In his speech, Waters urged the graduating class to cause trouble. “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully,” he advised. “Design clothes so hideous they can’t be worn ironically. Horrify us with new ideas. Outrage outdated critics. Use technology for transgression, not lazy social living. Make me nervous.”

Understandably, the speech went viral, or as Waters puts it, “it had a little trip.” In April of this year, the speech was turned into a book called, Make Trouble. Now, that book has been turned into a vinyl record of the same name, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Waters recorded the audio at his dining room table in his New York apartment in an afternoon. “But it took me three days to write it,” he says in mock defensiveness.

(13) SCORING THE COVERS. Camestros Felapton has started the ball rolling with “The Book Cover Thing 2017: Draft Long List”. Jump over and add your suggestions.

A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.

  1. A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
  2. To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
  3. The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
  4. Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
  5. Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.

(14) CULTURE WARRIORS. And while you’re visiting Camestros’ blog, check out the full-length edition of Doris V. Sutherland’s lyrical comment:

Jason Rennie was ill
When the Hugos stood still
But Superversive’s where he stands
And Chuck Tingle was there
While lacking underwear
Dec Finn was the most Pius man
But something’s not right
With Vox Day and John Wright
They got caught in a No Award jam
Then at a deadly pace
It was in cyberspace
And here’s how the message ran…

(15) IT’S WEIRD. Bookmunch recommends this compilation of 2016 weird fiction: “We are living in an apocalyptic moment and we have a duty to be witnesses” – Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Four ed. Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall is the guest editor for this year’s book. An award winning writer and creative writing lecturer, she comes at weird fiction from a very different angle to last year’s editor Simon Strantzas. This is no bad thing. The key to weird fiction is its malleability. Last year, Strantzas put together a very horror centric anthology, with weird fiction’s key players such as Robert Aickman, Rob Shearman (who will be guest editing volume five) and Ramsey Campbell at the forefront. Marshall instead has assembled a vastly different kind of anthology, which demonstrates the vastness of the genre. Yes, there are horror stories in here, most notably Usman T Malik’s ‘In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro’, but then there are also stories like Irenosen Okojie’s magnificent ‘Outtakes’, or Aki Schilz’s ‘Beating the Bounds’, both of which are highlights of a brilliant book.

(16) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Kincaid, whose book about Iain M. Banks came out earlier this year, talks about his next book in “A Priest chronology”.

So, my next book will be about Christopher Priest and will be published by Gylphi, which is something that makes me inordinately pleased. I’ve started the reading and note taking that inevitably accompanies such a task. But I’ve also put together a chronology of his books and short stories, just as a way of keeping everything straight in my mind.

(17) CHOW TIME. Aaron Pound continues cooking his way through Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook — “Ad Astra Review – C3PO by Ef Deal”

Review: C3PO is a pretty simple recipe. It more or less consists of a can of crushed pineapple with chopped bell pepper, onion, and pecans all mixed into a pile of cream cheese. That is basically it. The only change I made from the text of the recipe was that I used a red bell pepper instead of a green bell pepper, mostly because I had a red bell pepper on hand. The end result is a spread than can be used on crackers or fresh vegetables. The end result is also delicious.

(18) AN ETHNIC FIRST. The Washington Post’s Noah Berlatsky, in “With ‘Justice League,’ now there’s a Jewish superhero played by a Jewish actor on the big screen”, notes that The Flash is the first movie superhero to be Jewish, and he looks at other Jewish superheroes in the comics, including The Thing, who was revealed to be Jewish in the early 2000s.

I’m sure this statement will provoke some disagreement among people who pay attention to firsts in films. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that the first superhero was also the first Jewish superhero. Superman, after all, was created by two Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and fans have found some (often overstated) traces of Jewish cultural influence in his creation.

There’s also Thing of “The Fantastic Four,” who wasn’t officially declared Jewish in the comics until the 2000s, and hasn’t been identified as Jewish in the films. But he was often seen by fans as a working-class ethnic stand-in for his creator, working-class ethnic Jew, Jack Kirby. The X-Man Kitty Pryde was Jewish in the 1980s, and the X-Man villain Magneto was retconned into a Holocaust survivor at about the same time.

Flash, though, is the first character in our ongoing superhero film frenzy who is identified specifically as Jewish — he mentions he’s Jewish quickly, offhand, when he first meets Batman (Ben Affleck).

(19) SCORCHED PLASTIC. The Lego Millennium Falcon – if you haven’t already ordered, you’re screwed: “What’s $800 And Already Sold Out? This Lego Star Wars Ship”.

It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But a new buildable version of Han Solo’s famous Millennium Falcon is currently stalled.

Those hoping to snag one of Lego’s new Star Wars sets for the 2017 holidays will likely be disappointed. It’s currently sold out online. After a September release only to its VIP list, the company promises it’s working as fast as it can to “make more sets available and keep our LEGO builders happy.” At a cool $799.99 and more than 7,500 pieces, it’s the expensive, easy-to-lose gift that keeps on giving.

Dang, these went faster than Worldcon 76 hotel rooms.

(20) FOR YOUR TREE. Of course, these are still available — “Holiday Gift Idea: ‘Elvira Christmas Ornament’”. I don’t suppose that comes as a surprise.

Sculpted by artist MATTHEW BLACK and painted by DAVID FISHER, these specialty Mistress of the Dark ornaments come in two versions; Standard has Elvira in black dress, while the Limited Edition has her in red and is limited to 500 pieces.

(21) TURNED DOWN. The news behind Deadline.com’s report “Time Responds To Donald Trump’s “Incorrect” Claims Of Turning Down Person Of The Year — Update” is inspiring things like Will Brown’s tweet —

(22) DUDE. Two compilations of “Super Café” videos from How It Should Have Ended.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.


(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.


(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.


[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Leading Critics Form Clarke Award “Shadow” Jury

Nina Allan has announced a “shadow” jury will critique the Clarke Award this year, composed of Megan AM (“The AM stands for Anti-Matter”), Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont.

Allan explains in her introduction:

The idea is not to ‘challenge’ the official jury in any way, but to bring more to the party: more readers, more critics, more books, more discussion. And the beauty of a shadow jury is that everything can be out in the open. Over the following weeks and months, you’ll be able to read along with us, find out which books we love and which we’re not so wild about – and more to the point, why. I’d bet there isn’t a single Clarke-watcher out there who hasn’t at some point found themselves completely at a loss over some jury decision or other.

THROWING SHADE. Will fans feel a thrill of controversy because the group is taking the form of a jury, and reminding people about occasions when they were “completely at a loss” at a Clarke jury decision? (No one will soon forget Christopher Priest’s rant about the 2012 shortlist.) Will the prestigious critics on the shadow jury – some of them among the best-known working today – end up overshadowing the official jury? Is there any reason to mind if they do?

STATEMENTS AND MANIFESTOS. The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, hosting the jury online, has launched its activities with lengthy justifications. And as an added resource, they have posted Paul Kincaid’s introduction to a 2006 essay collection about the award-winners.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: a note from the Centre by Helen Marshall

The Arthur C. Clarke awards are different from the Hugos in that shortlist and eventual winner are determined solely by a juror, thus, in many respects, bypassing the contentious process of lobbying and promotion that has accompanied voted awards. And yet the award has been no less controversial. Paul Kincaid, in his introduction to The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, writes that the original organisers at no point set out firm criteria for what was meant by “best”, by “science fiction”, or even by “novel” (12). In consequence, the earnest debates—of individual juries as well was the broader community of reviewers and critics—have both through their agreement and their opposition sketched out a fascinating survey of what science fiction might have meant in any given year.

After the Clarke award celebration in 2016, when Nina Allan first approached me about arranging a shadow jury of the Clarke Awards, I could see the value of the suggestion. Similar experiments have been illuminating in respect to mainstreams awards such as the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but no such experiment, to my knowledge, has been undertaken for a science fiction award. 2017 seems a particularly auspicious year to begin particularly because it is a time in which many in the community feel the need for an outlet for reasoned debate and discussion. Of course it isn’t our intention that the shadow jury will challenge the decision of the conventional jury; rather the value of the experiment comes, I think, in expanding the commentary. Questions about the state of the field and the underlying definitions of “best” and “science fiction” continue to be meaningful, particularly in an industry that is increasingly dominated by marketing categories and sales figures rather than criticism. What science fiction is and what it ought to be doing should continue to be debated if the field is going to evolve beyond the commercial pressures that inevitably influence the decision to publish.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: an introduction and a manifesto by Nina Allan

It goes without saying that the overall health of a literary award is determined by the quality of the debate surrounding it. No matter how lucrative the prize or how glossy the promotion, no award can remain relevant or even survive unless people – readers, critics and fans alike – are actively talking about the books in contention. For readers, fans and critics to remain engaged, an award must aspire to foster an intellectual climate in which rigorous and impassioned debate is seen as an important and significant aspect of the award itself. Such a climate will by definition ensure that an award can not only survive, but flourish.

Inspired by the shadow juries that have worked wonders in enlivening the climate of debate around mainstream literary awards over the past few years, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to harness some of the considerable critical talent that exists within the SFF community in similarly enlivening the climate of debate and critical engagement around the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The normal process by which shadow juries operate involves a panel of shadow jurors – usually drawn from those readers, critics and book bloggers who habitually follow the award – reading the official longlist of their chosen award when it is released, reviewing the books individually and then coming together as a jury to decide on a shadow shortlist: that is, the shortlist they would have chosen had they been the official jury. When the official shortlist for the prize is announced, the shadow jury would then critique that shortlist, before once again convening to vote on their shadow winner. In the case of the shadow juries for awards such as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now the Man Booker International) and the Baileys Prize, the shadow winner has normally been unveiled on the evening before the announcement of the official prize. One need only cast a casual glance around the literary blogosphere to see how the presence of shadow juries within the literary landscape has increased the feeling of excitement and personal involvement on the part of readers, armchair critics and students of literature.

Because the Arthur C. Clarke Award does not at present implement a longlist stage, the formula we have agreed upon is a little different, but will hopefully prove at least as effective in fostering debate, if not more so.

Our panel of shadow jurors will convene when the submissions list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award is made public. From the list of these submissions, each shadow juror will then select their own personal, preferred shortlist of six books – these could be books they have already read, books they are keen to read, or a mixture of the two. Having chosen their shortlist, each juror will commit to reading and reviewing their six books before eventually declaring the ‘winner’ they would have chosen, had their shortlist been the official one. We believe that by giving each shadow juror the opportunity to select and discuss what they believe was ‘best’ in ‘science fiction’ in 2016, the Shadow Clarke will be able to showcase a wider variety of books, writers and styles of science fiction, thus generating a sense of involvement and inclusion across the entire length and breadth of science fiction fandom. It goes without saying that we would encourage fans and readers beyond the shadow jury to read along with us, to posit their own guesses and above all to disagree with our choices! That is what critical engagement is all about.

INTRODUCTION from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: a critical anthology by Paul Kincaid

[[Paul Kincaid has been on over a dozen Clarke Award juries, many times serving as the chair. He co-edited The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology (2006) with Andrew Butler, another frequent juror and chair. This is an excerpt from his introduction.]]

…Since Clarke wanted to use the award to encourage British science fiction, our second topic for debate was whether the award should be limited to British writers. In the end we all felt that there were just too few British writers to make that sustainable, so we decided that the award would be for the best science fiction novel receiving its first British publication in the year.

…It is what was left to the jury that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award both idiosyncratic and controversial, often at the same time. At no point did we decide what was meant by ‘best’, by ‘science fiction’, or even by ‘novel’. Consequently, the jury meetings I’ve taken part in have featured some very lively debates on each of these topics – and no two juries have ever arrived at precisely the same definitions.

It is, however, the very nature of those debates, the fact that what is considered ‘best’ or ‘science fiction’ is going to be different every year, that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award such a lively and essential survey of the year in science fiction. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls and founding judge John Clute is at pains to point out, the award was controversial from its very first year. When Margaret Atwood received the first Arthur C Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, it seemed that the Award was deliberately turning its back on the core of the genre (particularly given that the runner-up that year was Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts – not, as Edward James has suggested, Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand). In fact what I think that first jury was doing, after what I recall as very close debate, is something that has been a surprisingly recurrent practice of juries since then: they were not looking in towards the heart of the genre, but outwards from the genre. As Nicholas Ruddick points out, The Handmaid’s Tale has had such resonance, both within and outwith the genre, that it is hard to think why it might ever have been considered a controversial choice.

Of course, that was far from the only time that the Award has skirted controversy. If stimulating debate, not to say heated argument, is one way of raising awareness of science fiction, then we have to admit that the Award has been a rousing success since the start. Tempers have tended to fray most when the Award is imagined to be flirting with the mainstream. There was even jeering at the presentation of the Award to Marge Piercy for Body of Glass (again, I suspect, this was at least in part because the runner up was another popular genre favourite, Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson). But, as Maureen Kincaid Speller shows, you don’t need a rocket ship on the cover to raise exactly the problematic issues of who we are and what we might become which are supposedly central to everything we understand about science fiction.

… Of course the job of the Award is to raise awareness of science fiction, not just inside the genre but more generally, but that is not achieved by saying science fiction and the mainstream are the same. Rather, the Award points out how many interesting, exciting, challenging and innovative things there are to be done with genre materials, some of those things speak to the core of the genre and some bring a freshness and vitality to mainstream, and some do both….

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Mummies and Mars at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, July 20 — the 47th anniversary of the first Moon Landing – the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors David D. Levine and Helen Marshall at the 2nd floor KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. The Bar is known for its red walls and Soviet era-themed décor, and the Series for the excellence of its readers; readings are always free.

Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcomed the capacity crowd, exhorted us to buy drinks (generously, there is no cover charge), and reported on upcoming events in the Series. Next month’s readers, on August 17, are Leanna Renee Hieber and Theodora Goss. Reading on September 21 will be Laird Barron and Alyssa Wong; on October 19 Jack Ketchum and Caitlìn R. Kiernan; and on November 16 John Langan and Kressel himself. (Details are available at http://www.kgbfantasticfiction.org/.) Concluding, he introduced the evening’s first reader.

David D. Levine is the author of the novel Arabella of Mars and over fifty sf and fantasy stories, one of which “Tk’tk’tk,” won the Hugo Award.  Some of his stories have been anthologized in the Endeavour Award-winning collection Space Magic.  (Full disclosure:  years ago, we were in an apa, or fannish amateur press association, together.  He is, of course, not the New York gamer of that name – though, to their mutual consternation, that distinction was lost by one Worldcon’s “Voodoo Message Board” – nor the caricaturist at the New York Review of Books.)

Levine began with a well-received rap (“Ey girl, what’s your name?,” complete with background music) summarizing the plot of Arabella of Mars, then read from the Prologue, “The Last Straw.” The novel is set in an alternate cosmology (or alternate astrophysics) previously described as “Mars the way it used to be before science ruined it,” with canals, Martians and breathable atmosphere (Venus, of course, has swamps), a reality – a term here used loosely – in which further there is interplanetary atmosphere and airships voyage between worlds.  The heroine, Arabella Ashby, an 18th-century English colonist on Mars (the use of “Marsman,” to distinguish from Martians, was employed as well in a similarly titled novel about a girl named Podkayne), we learn, has been hauled off to Earth and urgently must return to Mars to save her family fortune.  In the final part of his presentation, Arabella is attempting to do just that, disguised as a boy among an airship’s crew as it lifts from London.  Venerable literary devices blend imaginatively and charmingly.

Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall

After a break, Series co-host much-honored editor Ellen Datlow introduced the second reader of the night. Helen Marshall’s first collection of fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, won the Sydney J. Bounds Award in 2013, and her second, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  The story that she read, “The Embalmer,” appears in The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, though, as she described it, it’s “the least mummy-like” story that she could write.  It was nonetheless quirky and amusing.  The boy Henry has a penchant and talent for digging up and mummifying neighbors’ dead and buried pets, including the girl next door’s (Dalia), late Labradane, which he’s anonymously gifted to her and which she smuggles to school.  (We must count it as fortunate that her little brother was not buried in the backyard.)

Copies of Arabella of Mars and Gifts for the One Who Comes After were for sale at the back of the room from the Word Bookstores of Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Afterward, the crowd headed out to dinner.