Pixel Scroll 6/9/17 A Simple Scrollable Pixel, Or How I Was Mike Glyered Into Filing

(1) OPENING ROUND. Fantasy-Faction, in “The SPFBO: Introducing Round One!”, tells how they’re getting ready to participate in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

As you know, 300 competing titles have now been split into batches of 30 and assigned to one of the ten participating blogs. Here’s the tough part: we can’t keep them all. It’s a bit like being asked to foster a small herd of kittens, then being told you’re only allowed to adopt one of them. We try hard not to become too attached, but it proved very difficult last year and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the same were true again this time.

(2) SPACEBALLS. Profiles in History will be auctioning “Rick Moranis hero ‘Dark Helmet’ helmet from Spaceballs.” At the end of the month reports Invaluable.

Rick Moranis hero “Dark Helmet” helmet from Spaceballs. (MGM, 1987) This articulating oversized signature helmet was worn by Moranis as Dark Helmet throughout the Mel Brooks classic Sci-Fi spoof. Consisting of 20 in. round by 14 in. tall cartoonish “Darth Vader” -stylized helmet constructed of heavy vacuum formed plastic component shell affixed to internal construction worker’s hard-hat liner to fit the actor. With screw-hinged movable faceplate section featuring vents, metalized shower drain mouth piece and triangular embedded tinted see-through lenses. Exhibiting only minor production wear and age. In vintage very good to fine condition. $8,000 – $12,000

(3) M. BANKS. Sam Reader at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog honors the late author — “With The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks Perfected His Space Opera”.

The Scottish author Iain Banks famously led a double life in publishing. Some of his books — the ones published under the name Iain Banks — were sold to readers as “literature,” and shelved as such in bookstores. The rest — the ones that applied his talent for creating boldly unlikeable characters and enormously complex plots to the tropes and trappings of science fiction — were published under the name “Iain M. Banks,” that middle initial serving as a beacon to genre readers across the world, telling them: this one. This is the Banks you’re looking for.

The Algebraist is peak Iain M. Banks. It’s also the only book he ever wrote to be nominated for the Hugo Award, a fact that seems almost unbelievable in retrospect.

The late, great SF pioneer, who died on this day in 2013, spent most of his life experimenting with space opera …

(4) ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY. Yesterday, you didn’t care about this. But today you will passionately brawl about it. Natalie Zutter asks “Is Time Travel Science Fiction or Fantasy?” at Tor.com.

Even though you would expect time travel to require hard rules, it seems to most often appear in both science fiction and fantasy stories that require a certain amount of handwaving on the details. We’re given some sense of how the TARDIS operates — the chameleon circuit, and the sometimes-isometric, sometimes-telepathic controls — but it’s best just to jump in and hang on. Similarly, there’s no clear explanation for the time travel in Kindred or Outlander aside from supernatural forces working outside of our understanding or control, forces that cause certain events to occur as part of some larger cosmic plan.

(5) NEVERMORE. Maybe there’s a more subtle reason Noah’s raven didn’t come back? The Verge reports “If you wrong a raven, it will remember”.

These nine ravens were raised in captivity, growing to become familiar with the researchers. Then came the test.

The ravens were put in a cage along with two trainers on each one. The first trainer gave the raven a piece of bread. The raven then carried the bread to the other trainer on the other side, and exchanged it for cheese.

The second time, the raven was soundly rejected. Instead of getting the cheese, it had to watch as the trainer just ate the cheese in front of it.

Two days later, the researcher rounded up up seven of the birds and presented them with three trainers: the fair one who gave them the bread, the unfair one who ate food in front of them, and a neutral one. Six out of seven birds chose the fair one. One chose the neutral one. Nobody wanted to play with the mean one.

(6) I FORGOT. The City, Awake by Duncan Barlow was released in March by Stalking Horse Press.

Barlow’s metaphysical noir The City, Awake is a novel of chemically induced amnesia, doppelgangers, fanatics, and killers. Saul, a man without a history, awakes in a hotel room with a note in his pocket. Hunting for answers, he must survive rival assassins, a millionaire with an axe to grind, a shape-shifting femme fatal, a silent hit man, and a psychotic who is only looking for an exit. Barlow evokes a vast mid-century modernist cityscape in prose that is by turns hard-boiled, then unexpectedly psychedelic and delicate. With temporal and spatial distortions reminiscent of A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, the novel that inspired Godard’s Alphaville, this is a vivid investigation of identity, scientific speculation, and Biblical Apocrypha. The City, Awake is a mirror maze of dark streets and darker secrets.

(7) FEAR OF THE ARTS. Omni’s Joshua Sky asks the questions in “Where X Marks the Spot: An Interview with Steve Barnes”.

Walk me through it. I’ve read about you, but I haven’t been able to find much on your childhood. Can you give me a recap of your youth?

Steve Barnes: Born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles. I was interested in science fiction, fantasy, films and stories from a very early age. My mother and sister raised me; there wasn’t a father in the home. So I was always very interested in macho adventure.

First book that I can remember clearly reading was called Space Cat. I was in second grade, before then, I loved monster movies and stuff like that. It’s always been apart of my life. The first real sci-fi novel I’ve ever read was probably Robert Heinlein’s, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, in the fifth grade.

When did you start making attempts at writing?

The first story I remember ever writing, was in like, third grade. It was called, The Yeti. It was about an abominable snowman in a Canadian lumber camp. After that, I wrote a lot of sci-fi action adventure, space ship monster stuff. I was doing that from third to fourth grade, up through college.

(8) NOTED FUTURIST. Joshua Sky also did an “Interview with Trina Phillips, Chief Futurist at SciFutures” for Omni.

Describe what SciFutures is. I’ve read about it, I know about it, but I’d like to hear it from you.

TRINA: We do a range of things, but our main idea is that a lot of companies don’t do well with changing their ways and staying up to date with new and near future technology. This isn’t just using new systems. We’re talking about thinking forward. Some of these companies have been around for over a hundred years; being forward thinking and moving fast are not their specialty. The idea behind it is that not only do you use science fiction ideas to help propel them into the future, but we use storytelling to help them understand it, to help them comprehend this new information better. Because someone can sit there and say, I’m doing projections, and with all the graphs and charts and this and that. And we don’t do that. We go further out than those are realistic for, you know, guessing at. We’re not going to tell you what you should do next year; we’re going to tell you what you should be looking to do in five to ten years, or more — if you prefer the long view.

But it’s all theoretical in a sense, because it’s from a science fictional standpoint, right?

TRINA: Yes, except it is based on the tech that’s available now, and we have a really good handle on modern technology. Half of our staff consists of tech people — a little more than half, actually. So we have a real grounding in where the tech is, where it’s going. We know what’s feasible, and we base our suggestions on that information. But that doesn’t mean we’re not inventing things that don’t quite exist yet. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

(9) NO FUTURIST. Meantime, John Scalzi was shocked to discover that his go-to soda, Coke Zero, is on its way out: “Is This the End of Our Hero, Coke Zero?!??!!??!?”

It’s that “no sugar” part that’s apparently important, because these days, or so the news reports suggest to me, sugar is in bad odor as being the worst possible thing you can put in your body short of heroin, a proposition I’m not convinced of, but then I’m kind of a sugar fiend, so I may be biased. By calling the new product Coke No Sugar, Coke is making it clear there’s, uh, no sugar in it. So, good for hyper-literal branding, I guess. I think “Coke No Sugar” is kind of terrible as a brand name, and suspect that if consumers didn’t know Coke Zero had, you know, zero sugar in it, the problem was marketing, and not the branding per se. Mind you, if memory serves, the whole point of Coke Zero marketing in the early days was to hide from dudes with fragile masculinity the fact that they were drinking a diet beverage, which is why the word “diet” was never put anywhere near the product dress. So again, I’m not sure consumers are 100% to blame here if they didn’t catch on about the zero sugar thing.

(10) MORE ON BOOKEXPO. Shelf Awareness insists the cup is half-full: “BookCon Draws 20,000; Trade Attendance Up at BookExpo”.

BookExpo drew 7,425 non-exhibiting attendees–primarily booksellers, librarians, retailers and media members — while BookCon brought in 20,000 readers, up 2,000 from two years ago, when the consumer event was last held in New York, ReedPOP announced this week. According to Brien McDonald, event director for BookExpo and BookCon, trade attendance was significantly up this year compared to last year’s show in Chicago, Ill., and in particular, attendance at the show’s author talks and educations sessions was “exceptionally high.” McDonald also noted that for 2017, ReedPOP implemented a review process for all non-buying categories of trade attendees, including self-published authors, bloggers and consultants, in an effort to curate more “high-quality attendance.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 1965 — Ursula Andress stars with Cushing and Lee in Hammer Films’ She
  • June 9, 1978 — Walt Disney’s seminal science fiction classic *coff*  The Cat From Outer Space premieres.
  • June 9, 1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was first seen in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter
  • Born June 9, 1943 — Joe Haldeman

(13) ON THEIR WAY OUT. If you’re trying to make sense of the British elections, actively avoid Camestros Felapton’s “Exit Poll”. But if you need a laugh, click away.

(14) INCONSISTENCY. J.K Rowling calls out a problem I’ve often observed — critics of misogyny who decide to give themselves a pass whenever they have an opportunity write an insult about a politically conservative woman. If someone values human respect, that should control their choices all the time.

(15) ZOMBIES TO THE RESCUE. In the May 25 Financial Times Charles Clover and Sherry Fei Ju note that China, which has long banned any film with ghosts or the supernatural (such as the Ghostbusters remake or the acclaimed South Korean film Train to Busan) has relented and allowed the latest Resident Evil film and Logan to be shown in China, possibly as a way to stimulate slumping box office sales. (“China unleashes zombie films to boost the box office” , behind a paywall.)

(16) GHOSTING CONS. Kara Dennison says “Let’s Talk About Lobbyconning”.

I was very confused by a comment left on Facebook concerning a convention I work for. A potential attendee asked if the con would be “open” or “closed.” No one really had any idea what this meant, until it was clarified: do you have to buy a badge to enter the convention space at all, or can you chill in the hotel lobby without buying a badge? The practice is known as “lobbyconning,” and I had never heard of it until within the last year or so. Essentially, rather than buying a membership to a convention, the lobbyconner just hangs out in the non-convention spaces of the hotel, seeing friends, showing off their cosplay, using Street Pass, etc. They see it as harmless and a way to save money. Now, quickly up front. I have sped by hotels where a convention is going on to say hi to a friend. Like. If the con is in the area. Usually if I want to see a friend at a nearby convention I’m not attending, we go get lunch or something, or if I go to the hotel we’ll meet for a drink in the bar or I go to their room. But if I’m going to see the friend, we generally leave the convention space. If I’m going to the convention to see the friend, I buy a day pass. Why? Because I am using the convention as a way to pass time with my friend, because it means they can still enjoy all parts of the con without having to abandon me for panels, and because dammit, supporting a con.

(17) A MATCH MADE IN HECK. A newsflash from Cattimothy House — “Jon Del Arroz hires Timothy the Talking Cat as his Publicist”.

Prominent local author, Jon Del Arroz entered into extensive negotiations with Cattimothy House yesterday to massively boost his profile by recruiting the services of Timothy the Talking Cat. Timothy, who is notable for his work with John C Wright, Declan Finn, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, is one of the leading editors of modern science fiction and is at the forefront of what he calls “the Pulp Revolution” (Timothy’s Jarvis Cocker cover band).

Timothy is alread taking proactive steps to boost Mr Del Arroz’s profile including new cover design concepts …

Naturally (or perhaps unnaturally), Jon was thrilled to realize “The File 770 Crowd Loves Me, Quite Literally”.

Today, Camestros Felapton upped the game of having a crush on me by making a full on book cover based on For Steam And Country — which is releasing next Thursday. This looks like a pretty time consuming effort, maybe even more so than the File 770 commenter who purchased and distributed convention ribbons for a full weekend homaging me …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Jon Del Arroz, Peer Sylvester, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 4/28/17 Never Mind the Scrollocks, Here’s the Sex Pixels

(1) FARGO/HUGO. On Fargo, the Hugo Award-look-alike turned out to be a “Golden Planet” won by Thaddeus Mobley. Observer’s episode roundup covers it at the end:

But Gloria is on to…something, definitely, something strange. At least as strange as the title Space Elephants Never Forget, one of many cheap pulp-fiction paperbacks written by a Thaddeus Mobley that Gloria found in a safe inside her murdered father-in-law’s house. Or were Thaddeus Mobley and Ennis Stussy one and the same? It appears so, just another way specters from the past–be it a former life as a famed sci-fi writer, or a murderous Cossack with the name Yuri Gulka–continue to materialize in, of all places, Minnesota. But I guess that makes Gloria Burgle uniquely qualified to take this case on; if you’re fighting the past, you may as well employ someone who is stuck there.

Mobley’s books were shown:

  • The Planet Wyh
  • The Dungeon Lurk
  • Space Elephants Never Forget
  • Toronto Cain Psychic Ranger
  • Organ Fish of Kleus-9
  • The Plague Monkeys
  • A Quantum Vark

(2) I WONDER. Syfy asks “Where is the Wonder Woman movie advertising?” — and starts me wondering is the movie is being “John Carter-ed”?

Wonder Woman finally gets her own movie and the movie marketing machines for DC and Warner Bros. haven’t seemed to have chugged to life.

We’re less than six weeks out. There’s been more advertising for Justice League than the movie that’s supposed to kick off the whole JLU film arc. On Warner Bros.’ YouTube Channel, Wonder Woman has only three trailers to Justice League‘s six. Where are the TV commercials and product tie-ins (yes, I know about Dr. Pepper, other ones please)? Batman and Supes both had their own breakfast cereal, so where’s my Wonder Woman cereal, General Mills? I’ve seen toys but no toy commercials.

It’s been pretty quiet out there, regardless of the fact that people have reacted positively to the little advertising that’s been released. The few trailers Wonder Woman has have garnered close to 60 million views. Imagine what would happen if the trailer were embedded on major entertainment sites and there were stories out there about the film?

(3) DOC OF THE BAY. Cat Rambo doubles back to cover a book in the series she missed — “Reading Doc Savage: Land of Always-Night”:

The man menacing poor Beery, who Beery calls Ool, is odd in many ways, including being skeleton thin and having enormous, pale eyes. He wants something back, something Beery has stolen to take to Doc Savage and is currently carrying on a money belt around his waist

Beery is standing in front of a candy store; when the inevitable happens, he reels back and smashes into the plate glass. After a struggle, he dies, “becoming as inert as the chocolate creams crushed beneath him.”

Ool takes his possession back from Beery, which turns out to be a peculiar pair of goggles with black glass lenses. He tastes one of the scattered chocolates, smacks his lips, and gathers as many chocolates as he can into his hat. As he departs, he eats the candy “avidly, as if it were some exquisite delicacy with which he had just become acquainted.”

(4) THE CULTURE ON RADIO. Available for the next 28 days: a BBC audio adaptation of Iain Banks’s story “State of the Art”, adapted by Paul Cornell.

The Culture ship Arbitrary arrives on Earth in 1977 and finds a planet obsessed with alien concepts like ‘property’ and ‘money’ and on the edge of self-destruction. When Agent Dervley Linter, decides to go native can Diziet Sma change his mind?

(5) GUARDIANS REVIEW. BBC reviewer Caryn James says too many explosions in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…The film’s spindly plot is just an excuse, a peg on which to hang action scenes. When the team is hired to retrieve some valuable battery-sized energy sources, Rocket slips a few in his pocket. Soon the Guardians are being pursued all over the cartoonish universe.

Many antics ensue, but like so many other space movies this is essentially a father-son story. As the last film ended, Peter learned he was only half-human, on his mother’s side. The sequel adds a vivid new character, Peter’s long-lost father. He is played by Kurt Russell with a twinkle in his eye and a swagger that reveals where his son got that roguish attitude.

(6) SILVER CHAIR. ScienceFiction.com has a progress report on the next C.S. Lewis movie adaptation – “Joe Johnston To Helm ‘Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair’”.

Director Joe Johnston (‘Jurassic Park III’,’The Wolfman’) sure likes shields! Having worked with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ he now has a more fantasy based movie to helm where characters will wield shields in in ‘Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair.’ Disney and Fox were only able to bring three of the novels to the big screen previously, and now we’re getting a fresh look into the iconic C.S. Lewis classics through Sony. Apparently, the studio wants to make sure someone with blockbuster experience to bring this film to life.

While Johnston hasn’t been too busy since working with Steve Rogers, the type of work he’s done in films ranging from this to ‘Jumanji’ to ‘The Rocketeer’ seem perfect for the action-adventure portion of this epic fantasy.

As ‘The Silver Chair’ doesn’t follow the original Pevensie children but their cousin Eustace Scrubb it is the perfect way for them to reboot the universe and not have to really dwell on the first movies and move forward at the same time.

(7) THE FEDERALIST POOPERS. Bill Nye was a big hit at the March for Science.  Not surprisingly, The Federalist came out with a dissenting view of Nye a few days later — “Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive”.

Although many thousands of incredibly smart and talented people engage in real scientific inquiry and discovery, “science” is often used as a cudgel to browbeat people into accepting progressive policies. Just look at the coverage of the March for Science last week. The biggest clue that it was nothing more than another political event is that Nye was a keynote speaker.

“We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially,” he told the crowd, “of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.” Fortunately, our health and prosperity has blossomed, despite the work of Nye and his ideological ancestors

(8) ACTRESS PRAISED. A Yahoo! Movies critic recognizes “Alexis Bledel As Ofglen in The Handmaid’s Tale Is the Role She Was Born to Play”.

In the Handmaid’s pilot, Bledel’s character, Ofglen, makes a 180 in the eyes of Elisabeth Moss’s Offred. The two characters, who shop together but are the de facto property of two different men, suspect each other of being enthusiastic participants in Gilead’s totalitarian state. “I sincerely believe that Ofglen is a pious little shit with a broomstick up her ass,” Offred says in voice-over as she approaches her companion with a smile. “She’s my spy and I’m hers.” With Bledel as Ofglen, you instinctively believe Offred’s assessment. Hasn’t she always seemed too perfect? Too brittle? Too willing to be a snitch? (Or was that Rory Gilmore?)

(9) MORE OF OFFRED’S VOICE. Refinery interviews Elizabeth Moss about Handmaid’s Tale, feminism, and the Trump election — “Elisabeth Moss Talks The Handmaid’s Tale — & How It’s Definitely A Feminist Show”.

“I welcome any time feminism enters a conversation. I would firstly say, obviously, it is a feminist work. This is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve been filming it for six months, I’ve been involved with it for a year, I’ve read the book nine million times. It is a feminist show, it is a feminist book, and as a card-carrying feminist, I am proud of that. [Regarding the controversy at the TriBeca Film Festival panel], I think there is a very important word, which is ‘also.’ I think that it is a feminist work, and it is also a humanist work, which is what I believe Margaret says as well, so I’ll defer to the author of the book on that one.  Women’s rights are human rights, hence how it becomes a humanist work.”

(10) THE FUTURE IN A BAG. The Verge reports: “An artificial womb successfully grew baby sheep — and humans could be next”. There are lots of “don’t celebrate yet” caveats, but many fans say it sounds like an important first step towards the “uterine replicators” in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.

It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy. But it’s important not to get ahead of the data, says Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study. “It’s complete science fiction to think that you can take an embryo and get it through the early developmental process and put it on our machine without the mother being the critical element there,” he says.

(11) STAR POWER. An interview with the Astronomer Royal tests his ability to envision the limits of the universe: “Astronomer Royal Martin Rees on aliens, parallel universes and the biggest threats to mankind”.

Q: How big is the universe … and is it the only one?

Our cosmic horizons have grown enormously over the last century, but there is a definite limit to the size of the observable universe. It contains all the things from which light has been able to reach us since the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago. But the new realisation is that the observable universe may not be all of reality. There may be more beyond the horizon, just as there’s more beyond the horizon when you’re observing the ocean from a boat.

What’s more, the galaxies are likely to go on and on beyond this horizon, but more interestingly, there is a possibility that our Big Bang was not the only one. There may have been others, spawning other universes, disconnected from ours and therefore not observable, and possibly even governed by different physical laws. Physical reality on this vast scale could therefore be much more varied and interesting than what we can observe.

(12) BAXENDALE OBIT. Passing of a famed comic-strip maker: “Leo Baxendale: Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx comic legend dies”

He was regarded by aficionados as one of Britain’s greatest and most influential cartoonists.

His creations also included The Three Bears, Little Plum and the comic Wham!.

Baxendale’s son Martin, also a cartoonist, said his father died at the age of 86 after a long fight with cancer.

(13) SUSAN WOOD REMEMBERED. Carleton University is still awarding the Susan Joan Wood Memorial Scholarship.

Awarded annually on the recommendation of the Department of English Language and Literature. Preference will be given to a student proceeding from the Third to Fourth year of an Honours program in English with an emphasis on Canadian literature. Donor: Friends and colleagues of Susan Joan Wood. Endowed 1982.

Andrew Porter recalls, “It was folded into Carleton’s general scholarship funds, after an initial funding period during which I and many other individuals and conventions provided funds.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 28, 1930 — Best known as Morticia Addams, Carolyn Jones is born in Texas.

(15) STREAKING ACROSS THE STORIED SKY: Webwatcher Jason of Featured Futures reports on the brightest lights seen this month with the “Summation of Online Fiction: April 2017”:

I thought ralan.com might have been hasty in declaring Terraform dead but I’m calling it, too. Leaving aside comic strips, after four stories in January, there’ve only been two in each of February and March and none in April. The remaining dozen prozines brought us forty-two stories of 199K words.

In one of Dozois’ Annuals (I forget which) he says something about the industry going in streaks with some years producing no anthologies about wombats and others producing ten of them. The same is true of webzines on a monthly basis. As March was Horror and Tor/Nightmare Month, so April was Fantasy, BCS/Lightspeed, and Novella Month….

(16) LONG HIDDEN CONTRIBUTOR’S FIRST NOVEL. Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey was a 2016 release from Thomas Dunne.

In her extraordinary debut, Spells of Blood and Kin, Claire Humphrey deftly weaves her paranormal world with vivid emotional depth and gritty violence. Bringing together themes of death, addiction, and grief, Claire takes readers on a human journey that goes beyond fantasy.

When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother’s magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa’s door.

Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he’s already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.

Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick.

  • Bio: Claire Humphrey’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Crossed Genres, Fantasy Magazine, and Podcastle. Her short story ”Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot” appeared in the Lambda Award-nominated collection Beyond Binary, and her short story “The Witch Of Tarup” was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Long Hidden. Spells of Blood and Kin is her first novel.

(17) DON’T BLAME DIVERSITY. Martin Wisse responds pungently to the question: “Is diversity killing Marvel sales?”

Short answer: no. Long answer:

 

Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different….

(18) DIAGNOSIS MARVEL. ComicsBeat has a few ideas to add: “Tilting at Windmills #259: What the hell is wrong with Marvel Comics anyway?!?!”

The harder you make it to collect “Marvel comics”, the fewer people will do so. And that audience fracturing has finally come home to roost.

One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”. Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.

Sell-through is, thus, what matters for retailers as a class, and it is virtually impossible to sell comics profitably if your initial orders are so low. Even a book like “Amazing Spider-Man”, we now are down to a bare eleven preorders, and we’re selling just three or four more additional rack copies of current issues. There’s no room to “go long” here – I really only have a two copy tolerance for unsold goods before what should be a flagship book of the line becomes an issue-by-issue break-even proposition, at best. It’s just math.

(19) MORE RESOURCES. Here are some of the news reports that set the Marvel discussion in motion.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.”

“I don’t see much evidence of a sales slump at all,” Millers says. “In fact, the comics industry has seen its best stretch it’s seen in many decades over these last five years — we’ve seen five consecutive years of growth in the comics shop market.”

(20) DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Drunk gets into fight with a Knightscope robot on the copany’s premises: “Silicon Valley security robot attacked by drunk man – police”.

One local man told ABC News it was not a fair fight.

“I think this is a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn’t even have any arms.”

(21) ONLINE INTERNATIONAL. Around the world, lots of connectivity used for play: “Unlocking the potential of technology”. A captioned photo gallery at the link.

[Thanks to rcade, Cat Rambo, amk, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Bruce D. Arthurs, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Clack and Bonnie McDaniel, and alternate universe contributing editor Kip. W because he actually said it a month earlier.]

Pixel Scroll 12/28 The Android Who Was Cyber-Monday

(1) VITA BREVIS. Arnie Fenner’s tribute at Muddy Colors to artists and cartoonists who passed in 2015 is excellent.

(2) DOCTOR STRANGE. “First Look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange” at Yahoo! Movies.

The first official glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as Marvel hero Doctor Strange graces the new cover of Entertainment Weekly, and the biggest revelation is that he probably isn’t spending much time in the makeup chair. The actor sports facial hair and a cloak that will be familiar to comic-book fans, as well as Strange’s powerful amulet, the Eye of Agamotto.

(3) DARTH ZIPPO. “Watch This Homemade, Gas-Powered Lightsaber Destroy Things” at Popular Science.

The entire thing was built and modified from existing components, using a replica Skywalker lightsaber shell, a section from a turkey marinade injector, and several 3D printed parts to make it all work together. The result is a finished product by a Youtube craftsman that is neither as clumsy or random as a blaster.

 

(4) PALMER AND SHAVER. “When Good Science Fiction Fans Go Bad” is a companion article to Wired’s “Geeks Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which interviewed Ray Palmer’s biographer and learned about the Shaver Mystery.

Author Fred Nadis relates the strange story of Palmer in his recent biography The Man From Mars, which describes how Hugo Gernsback, founder of the first pulp science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, helped inspire his readers to create a better future.

“He saw [science fiction] in very practical terms of shaping the future,” Nadis says in Episode 182 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Almost a visionary experience of imagining the future and new technologies and what they could do, but he also felt like we had to spread this faith.”

If you’re interested in comparing viewpoints, here’s a link to the post I wrote about fandom’s response to Richard Shaver.

(5) WRITING NEUROMANCER. William Gibson’s 2014 piece for The Guardian, “How I wrote Neuromancer” was news to me, and perhaps will be to you.

On the basis of a few more Omni sales, I was approached by the late Terry Carr, an established SF anthologist. Terry had, once previously, commissioned a limited series of first novels for Ace Books – his Ace SF Specials. Now he was doing it again, and would I care to write one? Of course, I said, in that moment utterly and indescribably terrified, something I remained for the next 18 months or so, when, well out of my one-year contract, I turned in the manuscript.

I was late because I had so very little idea of how to write a novel, but assumed that this might well be my first and last shot at doing so. Whatever else might happen, I doubted anyone would ever again offer me money up front for an unwritten novel. This was to be a paperback original, for a very modest advance. My fantasy of success, then, was that my book, once it had been met with the hostile or indifferent stares I expected, would go out of print. Then, yellowing fragrantly on the SF shelves of secondhand book shops, it might voyage forward, up the time-stream, into some vaguely distant era in which a tiny coterie of esoterics, in London perhaps, or Paris, would seize upon it, however languidly, as perhaps a somewhat good late echo of Bester, Delany or another of the writers I’d pasted, as it were, on the inside of my authorial windshield. And that, I assured myself, sweating metaphorical bullets daily in front of my Hermes 2000 manual portable, would almost certainly be that.

(6) INTERNET TAR. Ursula K. Le Guin tells readers at Book View Café she never said it:

The vapid statement “the creative adult is the child who survived” is currently being attributed to me by something called Aiga

https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/design-quote-creative-adult-is-child-who-survived-ursula-le-guin/

…Meelis pointed out this sentence in the 1974 essay “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (reprinted in the collection The Language of the Night):

I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived.

Nothing about “creativity” whatever. I just said a grown-up is somebody who lived through childhood — a child who survived….

It is high time that this sentence, “The creative adult is the child who has survived,” be attributed to its originator, Prof. Julian F. Fleron.

If he did not originate it, and wishes to be freed from the onus of supposedly having done so, that’s up to him or to those who wish to preserve his good name. I just wish, oh how I wish! that he hadn’t stuck me with the damn thing.

(7) SCHOEN. Lawrence M. Schoen is interviewed by Sara Stamey at Book View Café.

Can you tell us about your small press, Paper Golem, which aims to introduce readers to fresh new authors? Any advice for those interested in setting up a small press?

More than a decade ago, one of my graduate students lured me away from academia to come work for him in the private sector as the Director of Research at the medical center where he was CEO. The result was fewer work hours and more money. I mention this because it meant that I was in a position to start a small press, going into the venture not with an eye toward making a fortune (stop laughing!) but rather the more modest goal of breaking even and using the press to “pay it forward.”

(8) STRAUB SELLS HOUSE. “Horror Author’s Not-Scary UWS Townhouse Sells for $7M” reports NY Curbed.

Despite the nature of author Peter Straub‘s work—he’s a horror author known for Ghost Story, The Throat, and his collaborations with Stephen King—his former Upper West Side townhouse is very much not terrifying. The gorgeous home, located on West 85th Street, was built in the 1880s and has some of its original details, including a stained-glass panel over the staircase and six fireplaces. It went on the market back in April, but unsurprisingly went quickly; according to StreetEasy, it sold at the beginning of the month, for slightly under its original $7.8 million asking price. (h/t 6sqft) Coincidentally, Straub’s daughter Emma, an author herself, recently sold her equally gorgeous townhouse in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

Andrew Porter commented, “This is very disturbing news. I’ve known Straub for decades. He recently decided not to attend the World Fantasy Convention, held the beginning of November in Saratoga Springs NY, because of health concerns. I wonder if the effort of climbing up and down all those stairs finally got to be too much for him.”

(9) COINCIDENCE. Hundreds of readers “liked” the mainstream political graphic David Gerrold posted on Facebook but it seems an ill-considered choice by someone who recently hoped to convince people an asterisk had another meaning than ASSH*LE.

(10) MYTHBUSTER. Sarah A. Hoyt’s discussion of “The Myths of Collapse” is a good antidote to misinterpretations of history that are fairly common in the backstory of created worlds, however, it is also intended as political advice, and while fairly mild as such YMMV.

1 Myth one — collapse creates a tabula rasa, upon which a completely different society can be built.  Honestly, I think this comes from the teachings on the collapse of Rome and the truly execrable way the middle ages are taught.

First of all, once you poke closer, Rome only sort of collapsed.  Depending on the place you lived in, your life might not have changed much between the end of the empire and the next few centuries.  I come from a place where it’s more like Rome got a name change and went underground. In both the good and the bad, Portugal is still Rome, just Rome as you’d expect after 19 centuries of history or so.

Second the society that was rebuilt wasn’t brand new and tabula rasa but partook both of the empire and the incredible complexity of what happened during collapse.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

In 1894, Antoine Lumiere, the father of Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), saw a demonstration of Edison’s Kinetoscope. The elder Lumiere was impressed, but reportedly told his sons, who ran a successful photographic plate factory in Lyon, France, that they could come up with something better. Louis Lumiere’s Cinematographe, which was patented in 1895, was a combination movie camera and projector that could display moving images on a screen for an audience. The Cinematographe was also smaller, lighter and used less film than Edison’s technology.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 28, 1922 — Stan Lee

(13) SF-LOVERS. “Scientists on their favourite science fiction”:

We invited scientists to highlight their favourite science fiction novel or film and tell us what it was that captivated their imagination – and, for some, how it started their career….

Matthew Browne, social scientist, CQUniversity

Consider PhlebasIain M. Banks

I love a lot of science fiction, but Iain M. Banks’ classic space-opera Consider Phlebas is a special favourite.

Banks describes the “Culture”, a diverse, anarchic, utopian and galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society. The Culture is a hybrid of enhanced and altered humanoids and artificial intelligences, which range from rather dull to almost godlike in their capabilities….

Perhaps the best thing about Consider Phlebas (apart from the wonderfully irreverent ship names the Minds give themselves) is the fact that a story from this conflict is told from the perspective of an Indiran agent, who despises the Culture and everything it stands for.

My own take on the book is as an ode to progressive technological humanism, and the astute reader will find many parallels to contemporary political and cultural issues.

(14) THE CLIPULARITY. The December 28 Washington Post has a lengthy article by Joel Achenbach about whether robots will kill us all once AI becomes smarter than people. He references Isaac Asimov and Vernor Vinge and discusses the nightmare scenario developed by Nick Bostrom about whether a machine programmed to make something (like paper clips) Goes Amok and starts ransacking the world for resources to make paper clips, destroying everything that gets in its way.

People will tell you that even Stephen Hawking is worried about it. And Bill Gates. And that Elon Musk gave $10 million for research on how to keep machine intelligence under control. All that is true.

How this came about is as much a story about media relations as it is about technological change. The machines are not on the verge of taking over. This is a topic rife with speculation and perhaps a whiff of hysteria.

But the discussion reflects a broader truth: We live in an age in which machine intelligence has become a part of daily life. Computers fly planes and soon will drive cars. Computer algorithms anticipate our needs and decide which advertisements to show us. Machines create news stories without human intervention. Machines can recognize your face in a crowd.

New technologies — including genetic engineering and nanotechnology — are cascading upon one another and converging. We don’t know how this will play out. But some of the most serious thinkers on Earth worry about potential hazards — and wonder whether we remain fully in control of our inventions.

(15) BAEN AUTHOR JOHN SCALZI. John Scalzi explains why his next novel won’t be out until 2017 in “Very Important News About My 2016 Novel Release (and Other Fiction Plans)” but makes it up to everyone by highlighting several pieces of short fiction that will be in our hands next year including….

* A short story called “On the Wall” which I co-wrote with my pal Dave Klecha, which is part of the Black Tide Rising anthology, co-edited by John Ringo, for Baen. Yes, that John Ringo and that Baen. Pick your jaws up off the floor, people. I’ve made no bones about liking Baen as a publisher, and I’ve noted for a while that John Ringo and I get on pretty well despite our various differences and occasional snark. Also, it was a ton of fun to write in his universe and with Dave. The BTR anthology comes out June 7th.

This news was broken in August but may have been overlooked by fans occupied by another subject at the time….

Black Tide Rising’s announced contributors are John Ringo, Eric Flint, John Scalzi, Dave Klecha, Sarah Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael Z. Williamson, and Kacey Ezell.

(16) WRITER DISARMAMENT TALKS STALL. “George R.R. Martin and Christmas Puppies” is Joe Vasicek’s response to the recent overture.

Now, I don’t disagree with Mr. Martin’s sentiment. I too would like to see reconciliation and de-escalation of the ugliness that we saw from both sides in 2015. And to be fair, Mr. Martin does give a positive characterization of what’s going on right now with Sad Puppies 4. That’s a good first step.

The trouble is, you don’t achieve reconciliation by shouting at the other side to lay down their guns first. You achieve it by hearing and acknowledging their grievances. You might not agree that those grievances need to be rectified, which is fine—that’s what negotiations are for—but you do have to make an effort to listen to the other side. And it’s clear enough that Mr. Martin is not listening.

The core of the Sad Puppies movement is a rejection of elitism….

(17) OUT OF DARKNESS. Were reports that Mark Lawrence is a Grimdark author premature? In Suvudu’s “’Beyond Redemption’ Author Michael R. Fletcher: ‘NO SUCH THING AS GRIMDARK’”, Lawrence says he meant “Aardvark”….

Does anyone actually set out to write grimdark?

I certainly didn’t. I thought Beyond Redemption was fantasy, and maybe dark fantasy if you wanted to label it further. But then I live under a rock.

So I reached out to a few of the authors who have been accused of defiling reality with their overly dark writings.

All quotes are exact and unedited.

Mark Lawrence (Author of The Broken Empire series, and the Red Queen’s War series): “aardvark.”

Other quotes follow, from Django Weler, Teresa Frohock, Scott Oden, Anthony Ryan, Tim Marquitz, and Marc Turner.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26 – The Answer, My Friend, is Scrollin’ in the Wind

Rants, disenchants, and Peter Grant, in today’s Scroll.

(1) “The Taffeta Darling,” a guest brought in by the Dallas Gaming Expo to help direct games, says the whole thing was run so badly she quit and wrote “Where’s The Ball Pit? Or Why I Left Dallas Gaming Expo”.

This weekend is the Dallas Gaming Expo, a video gaming convention that had hired me to be their voice of the convention and help them run their gaming tournaments. For the first time ever as a guest, I left what would have been a paid convention gig due to disgust, disbelief and a good conscious [sic].

The Dallas Gaming Expo turned out to be a classic example of a promoter looking to make loads of money off of the gaming community without really knowing what the should be done. This expo was presented with huge expectations with loads of guests, arcade gaming, skeeball, video game tournaments and more! Unfortunately what attendees got Friday night was a ball room full of chairs, 4 wobbly projection screens and about 6-7 TVs with consoles. As a guest of the event I smiled, and hoped for the best and said I was having fun, well because that’s what ya do.  I also wanted to see this event succeed. I thought maybe more would be coming and hopefully it will be better in the morning. I stayed through the night and ran the Super Smash Bros tournament along with guest Natalie Green, which honestly was a lot of fun for me to watch and engage in. On the flip side the tournament itself had quite a few snags including casual rules for tournament play, broken controllers, lagging screenplay, no official forms, and the reliance on a group of volunteers that tried it’s best to make things work.

After bailing on DGE, she went across town to Quakecon, another gaming event in Dallas this weekend.

A dissastified customer has even started a Change.org petition to ban the Dallas Gaming Expo from happening again (though only 29 signers as of this writing).

(2) I know in the world of sf&f there’s a tremendous competition to be the field’s biggest narcissist, but honestly, is anybody more stuck on himself than Michael Moorcock? The headline of his latest interview — “Michael Moorcock: ‘I think Tolkien was a crypto-fascist”.

“I think he’s a crypto-fascist,” says Moorcock, laughing. “In Tolkien, everyone’s in their place and happy to be there. We go there and back, to where we started. There’s no escape, nothing will ever change and nobody will ever break out of this well-­ordered world.” How does he feel about the triumph of Tolkienism and, subsequently, the political sword-and-sorcery epic Game of Thrones, in making fantasy arguably bigger than it has ever been?

“To me, it’s simple,” he says. “Fantasy became as bland as everything else in entertainment. To be a bestseller, you’ve got to rub the corners off. The more you can predict the emotional arc of a book, the more successful it will become.

Nothing ever changes in Middle-Earth? Evil is defeated, the spirits on the paths of the dead are redeemed, all the elves leave, the Shire is trashed…. Never mind. I’ve read bales of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion novels. Entertaining, but he didn’t beat Tolkien at his own game.

(3) A radio dramatization of Iain M. Banks’ novella “The State of the Art” (45 minutes) is available free on the BBC for another three weeks.

The Culture ship Arbitrary arrives on Earth in 1977 and finds a planet obsessed with alien concepts like ‘property’ and ‘money’ and on the edge of self-destruction. When Agent Dervley Linter, decides to go native can Diziet Sma change his mind?

From Wikipedia:

The novella chronicles a Culture mission to Earth in the late 1970s, and also serves as a prequel of sorts to Use of Weapons by featuring one of that novel’s characters, Diziet Sma. Here, Sma argues for contact with Earth, to try to fix the mess the human species has made of it; another Culture citizen, Linter, goes native, choosing to renounce his Culture body enhancements so as to be more like the locals; and Li, who is a Star Trek fan, argues that the whole “incontestably neurotic and clinically insane species” should be eradicated with a micro black hole. The ship Arbitrary has ideas, and a sense of humour, of its own.

“Also while I’d been away, the ship had sent a request on a postcard to the BBC’s World Service, asking for ‘Mr David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for the good ship Arbitrary and all who sail in her.’ (This from a machine that could have swamped Earth’s entire electro-magnetic spectrum with whatever the hell it wanted from somewhere beyond Betelgeuse.) It didn’t get the request played. The ship thought this was hilarious.”

(4) After a 17-year hiatus, W. Paul Ganley’s Weirdbook Magazine is coming back. A Stephen Fabian cover will be on the back and this artwork by Dusan Kostic will be on the front —

Weirdbook 31

(5) Futurefen is a new WordPress site hoping to serve as a news and conrunning resource for kids programming.

I started this site because of frustration with getting timely and accurate info about kid programming from SFF conventions. I wanted to start a larger dialogue about how conventions can better serve ALL members of our community, and provide a centralized resource for information for fans with kids. For many of us, quality kid programs are a necessity to attend a convention. For us as a community, we need to foster and include and welcome kids to our gatherings because kids are our future. They’re the future fans, the future scientists, future writers and artists and inventors, future interesting people. Many of them are those things RIGHT NOW, and they have a lot of good they bring along with the energy they take.

I don’t really know if/how this site is going to work, but here we go. Let’s make a difference. 🙂

(6) Peter Grant scoffs at Jason Sanford’s announcement that the Tor Boycott has failed. Grant encourages supporters to ”Stay the course”.

I repeat what I’ve said before:  the Tor boycott is a long-term effort.  I know for certain, based on solid feedback from literally hundreds of individuals, that it’s already biting.  It was an eye-opener at LibertyCon last month to have so many people come up to me, thank me for taking a stand, and confirm that they were part of the boycott.  I’m certain that in 2015 alone, the boycott will have a six-figure effect on Tor’s turnover – not much for a multi-million-dollar-turnover publisher, but that’s just the start.  As those involved in the boycott continue it and spread the word, the impact will grow.  I fully expect it to reach a cumulative total of seven figures over time.  Again, that may not seem like a lot to scoffers and naysayers;  but I think in today’s publishing market, where margins are already razor-thin, such a loss of turnover may have an impact out of all proportion to its dollar value.  Vox Day, who’s also called for a boycott of Tor, has more ‘inside information’ than I do, and he’s also confident that the campaign is having an impact.

Thank you to all of you who’ve taken a stand on principle and stood up for what is morally and ethically right.  That has a value all its own, in a world that doesn’t attach much value to either morals or ethics.  Stay the course.  This will go on for years, and I think it will bear both short- and long-term fruit.  (As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, there’s already convincing evidence of that.)

(7) Whereas all George R.R. Martin is saying is give peace a chance when you meet in person at Sasquan.

From talking and emailing with various friends and colleagues, however, I know that some of them will NOT be going to Spokane, mainly because the Hugo Wars have left a bad taste in their mouths. Others will attend, but not without trepidation. They wonder how much of the acrimony of Puppygate will spill over into the con itself… to the panels, the parties, the hallways. Will this worldcon be a celebration or a battleground? A family reunion or a family feud?

I wish I could answer that question, but no one really knows. I’m hoping for “celebration” and “family reunion,” and I think that’s the best bet… but we won’t know till the fat lady sings and the dead dogs howl.

And he has some gentle words for people he feels have been caught in the middle.

I don’t know Kary English. (It is possible I have met her or been in the same room with her at some previous con, but if so I don’t remember. I meet a lot of people). Until Puppygate and her double nomination, I had never read any of her work. But I agree with much of what she had to say in those posts, and I applaud her for saying it, knowing (as surely she must have) that by breaking ranks with “her side,” aka the Puppies, she would face the wroth of some of those who had previously championed her. I know that there are some on “my side” who have slammed English despite these posts, insisting that she spoke up too late in the game, that she was trying “to have it both ways.” No, sorry, that’s idiocy. Like Kloos and Bellet and Schubert before her, she’s opting out of the kennel and the slates. I will not fault her for not doing so sooner. This thing has been hard for all concerned, and these choices are painful… especially for a young writer who has just received his or her first Hugo nomination.

If there is any hope for reconciliation post-Puppygate, it lies with voices of moderation and forgiveness on both sides, not with the extremists and the haters. It lies with Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert. I hope they are all at worldcon. I would like to meet them, buy them a drink, shake their hands, and argue about books with them.

[Thanks for these links goes out to JJ and John King Tarpinian. Title credit to Brian Z.]

Elon Musk Honors Iain M. Banks

SpaceX CEO/CTO Elon Musk has named his company’s drone ship/booster rocket landing pads after two of Iain M. Banks’ Culture starships.

(And you may be entertained by the suggestions for new Culture ship names that a Banks fan has been making on Twitter.)

[Via Tor.com.]

Iain M. Banks’ Scottish Summer

Edinburgh is celebrating the work of Iain M. Banks through August. The next event is a Book Quiz at the Central Library on July 25:

Book Quiz
Thursday 25th July

6.30-8pm, FREE

Do you know your Iain Banks from your Iain M. Banks? Celebrate one of Scotland’s greatest writers with a special Book Quiz, brought to you by Edinburgh Libraries and Blackwell’s Bookshop.

If you’re an avid fan of Iain M. Banks writing then come along with your team on Thursday evening 25 July. 

Teams of up to 6 people, booking to be made in the name of the Book Group ‘leader’, stating how many tickets you want for your team. 

Iain M. Banks is the name he used on his science fiction, which should be a sufficient hint for any fan.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Iain Banks Dies

Iain Banks in 2009.

Iain Banks in 2009.

Iain Banks, who had been in the late stages of gall bladder cancer, died June 9. His wife, Adele, told Banksophilia, “Iain died in the early hours this morning. His death was calm and without pain.”

Banks announced in April he had only a few months to live. Following his diagnosis he withdrew from all planned public engagements and married his long-term partner Adele Hartley.It was his second marriage.

The Scottish author wrote 15 mainstream novels and a dozen sf novels, nine of them in The Culture series. Mainstream readers knew him best for his novels The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road and Complicity. He was named one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 in a 2008 poll. He loved writing both genre and non-genre work, and if anybody thought one was subordinate to the other, he set them straight in a post for Banksophilia:

Until the last few years or so, when the SF novels started to achieve something approaching parity in sales, the mainstream always out-sold the SF – on average, if my memory isn’t letting me down, by a ratio of about three or four to one. I think a lot of people have assumed that the SF was the trashy but high-selling stuff I had to churn out in order to keep a roof over my head while I wrote the important, serious, non-genre literary novels. Never been the case, and I can’t imagine that I’d have lied about this sort of thing, least of all as some sort of joke. The SF novels have always mattered deeply to me – the Culture series in particular – and while it might not be what people want to hear (academics especially), the mainstream subsidised the SF, not the other way round. And… rant over.

In hindsight it seems bizarre that he never won either of the top SF awards. He received just a single Hugo nomination, for The Algebraist, a non-Culture novel, and was never nominated for a Nebula. Of course I say this with the zeal of a recent convert. For years I’d listened to fans like Kathryn Daugherty praise his writing but never sampled it myself until he was named one of the 2014 Worldcon guests of honor. Purely a case of so many books, so little time.

Collectively, the Culture novels are one of the great epics of space opera. But as the saying goes, science fiction is never about the future, it is always about the present. I felt that Banks made the Culture a hagiography of his most-admired contemporary attitudes and beliefs. He told The Guardian in 2007:

The point about the Culture… who are the most advanced civilisation in my books, is that they alter their genertic inheritance to make themselves sane and not genocidal, as we often seem to be. They also create machines so intelligent that they can save us from ourselves. We have a lot to learn from them. I wish, given what a miserable bunch of murdering bastards we are much of the time, we were more like them.

After announcing his illness in April, Banks asked his publishers to bring forward the release of his latest novel, The Quarry, so he could see it on the shelves. The book will be released on June 20. Last weekend it was revealed the story details the physical and emotional strain of cancer – a coincidence, because Banks had nearly finished the book before discovering he had the disease.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Banks Posts New Message

Iain M. Banks came back from his honeymoon to an outpouring of love and sympathy from well-wishers (and otherwise, from a few nuts) in comments left at Banksophilia after Banks announced he has terminal cancer. He acknowledged the response in his latest post:

Well, what an odd old time it’s been. I’m now a married man – again – and I’ve been truly stunned by the response to the original press release we put out on March 3rd – cunningly timed to hit the outerweb just as we were heading away on honeymoon to mostly-sunny-with-a-touch-of-rain Venice and then mostly-rainy-with-a-touch-of-sun Paris….

Mostly, though – good grief! – what an outpouring of love, affection and respect. I honestly had no idea. Of course I’ve always known I have a fair few fans, and I’ve always been a fan of my fans – certainly of those who turned up at signing sessions, bookshop events, literary festivals, library gigs and so on. The people I spoke to on these occasions always seemed bright, clever, highly informed and sometimes worryingly more intelligent than me (see – somebody really intelligent would have written “I” there). As well as displaying immense good taste in literature, obviously.

Banks’ wife Adele, who now signs herself “Chief Widow-in-Waiting,” added her own post of thanks:

Iain is reading every single comment although with something like 105 pages to get through this might take a little while! That, however, is a very pleasurable task. It is huge fun to read about all the people whose relationships started (and survived!) through mutual love of Iain’s writing; to read about the children who don’t know yet know what stack of books is waiting for them when parents can be reasonably sure that they won’t try any of the stunts from The Wasp Factory; to the people who discovered bands or malts through repeated exposure to Iain’s own passions. And it’s amazing to hear all the kind and sympathetic words – from Laos to Hong Kong to Uruguay to India to Dunedin to Dunfermline – it is just extraordinarily touching to have you all take the time to speak to Iain – he has roared with laughter and been deeply moved by the love, kindness and wit in your messages.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Banks Has Terminal Cancer

IainBanks2009

Iain M. Banks in 2009.

Iain M. Banks revealed on April 3 that he is suffering from cancer and has only a short time to live. He shared his diagnosis in a post at Orbit Books:

The bottom line, now, I’m afraid, is that as a late stage gall bladder cancer patient, I’m expected to live for ‘several months’ and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll live beyond a year.  So it looks like my latest novel, The Quarry, will be my last.

He has cancelled all future public engagements. A website has been set up where people can check his progress and sign a guest book — friends.banksophilia.com.

Banks is a guest of honor at next year’s Worldcon, LonCon 3. The committee extended their wishes and assured he will be celebrated whatever may happen —

Loncon 3 co-chair Alice Lawson said: “We asked Iain to be one of the Guests of Honour at this Worldcon because we wanted to acknowledge the huge contribution he makes to science fiction. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Iain at this time.”

Co-chair Steve Cooper added: “Iain is part of the Worldcon family as well as one of our Guests of Honour. His award-winning work will be celebrated in Loncon 3’s programme, publication and exhibits in 2014.”

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]