Pixel Scroll 10/4 Second pixel to the right, and straight on ’til scrolling

(1) Steve Davidson’s ears were burning when he read Neil Clarke’s latest Clarkesworld editorial.

Despite how much I admire what Neil has managed to do over the course of nine years with Clarkesworld, I think his take on the current and developing situation in the genre short fiction market comes from a decidedly glass-half-empty point of view.

I have to be up-front about my reaction to reading that editorial.  My initial summation of the points Neil makes is:  the market is contracting, those of us who have managed to get somewhere need all the help we can get, so please, don’t try to start a new short fiction magazine.

Were it not for the completion of our first writing contest (for which we offered the minimum professional payment), I’d have been able to largely dismiss the doom and gloom, but the fact that Amazing Stories is now firmly on the path to becoming a regular paying market makes me feel as if I and Amazing Stories are part of the “problem” Neil was addressing.

(2) J. K. Rowling sets her fans straight again.

(3) The Martian is making a killing at the box office.

Late night receipts showed 20th Century Fox’s The Martian grossing an estimated $56M over three days, putting it on course to be the highest opening film ever in October. However, this morning, some bean counters are scaling back those projections. 20th Century Fox is calling the weekend for the Ridley Scott film at $55M, while others see it busting past the $55.8M made by Warner Bros.’ Gravity two years ago. As the old line goes: It all boils down to Sunday’s hold. Currently, Martian is the second best debut for October, Scott, and Matt Damon.

(4) Abigail Nussbaum commented on The Martian.

When coming to write about The Martian, Ridley Scott’s space/disaster/survival movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, it’s hard to resist the impulse to draw comparisons.  The Martian is perhaps best-described as a cross between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away.  Its focus on the engineering challenges that survival on Mars poses for hero Mark Watney, and on the equally thorny problem of retrieving him before his meager food supply runs out, is reminiscent of Ron Howard’s Apollo 13.  The fact that Watney is played by Matt Damon (and that the commander of his Mars mission is played by Jessica Chastain) immediately brings to mind Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  The problem with all these comparisons is not so much that they show up The Martian‘s flaws, as that they throw into sharper relief the very narrow limits of what it’s trying to be.

(5) Gary Westfahl gushed about the Martian in “’A Huge Moment for NASA’ … and Novelists: A Review of The Martian at Locus Online.

Let me immediately say that Ridley Scott’s The Martian is the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it can be enthusiastically recommended as involving and uplifting entertainment.

(6) Frank Ochieng’s review of The Martian is posted at SF Crowsnest.

As with other Scott-helmed productions, ‘The Martian’ settles nicely in its majestic scope that taps into visual wonderment, humanistic curiosities, technical impishness and the surreal spryness of the SF experience.

(7) “’The Martian’ Author Andy Weir Asks: Why Send Humans to Mars?” at Omnivoracious.

Robots don’t need life support during their trip to the Red Planet, and they don’t need to return at all. They don’t need abort options. If there’s a mission failure, all we lose is money and effort, not human life. So why would we go to the extra hassle, expense, and risk of sending humans to do a robot’s job?

Because scientific study is not the end goal. It’s one step along a path that ends with human colonization of Mars.

(8) And exploring Pluto is proving to be profitable for New Horizons’ lead scientist.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, has a deal with Picador for a “behind the scenes” account of July’s flyby.

The publisher announced Thursday that the book is called “Chasing New Horizons: Inside Humankind’s First Mission to Pluto.” It’s scheduled for publication in spring 2017. David Grinspoon, a planetary scientist and award-winning science writer, will co-write the book.

(9) Did someone say, “Don’t you think he looks tired?” There are rumors Doctor Who is facing cancellation.

The alleged BBC insider said that “drastic action may be needed” to correct the falling figures. Although a spin-off series has just been announced targeted towards teenagers, the unnamed source said that Doctor Who’s falling ratings are worrying. “At this stage all options are being ­considered,” explained the source.

(10) But before he goes, the sonic screwdriver may be back

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi has been sans Sonic Screwdriver since he threw Davros a bone in the two-part series 9 opener but will the iconic Who accessory be making a comeback?

Speaking in a video for Doctor Who’s official YouTube channel, Moffat hinted that we might not have seen the last of Twelve’s trusty tool. “I’m sure the screwdriver will show up again some day” he teased.

(11) Short review of “City of Ash” by Paolo Baciagalupi on Rocket Stack Rank.

In a near-future, water-starved Phoenix, AZ, Maria hides from the smoke of distant forest fires and thinks about everything that went wrong.

(12) “A Sunday Review” by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog.

The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. First up: the completely non-spoiler review. Starting almost 20 years after an infamous debate ended the experimental Just City (an attempt to create Plato’s Republic in the distant past), this book shows how the fractured populace gets on without help from Athena and the robot workers she provided. This book is not nearly as unsettling as the first in some ways, but in other ways… whew. It’s a wild ride.

Much more follows in Rot13.

(13) Nick Mamatas reviews A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy on Bull Spec.

Subtitled a book of The Anarchist Imagination, Margaret Killjoy’s A Country of Ghosts is more appropriately a work of anarchist speculation. Structurally a Utopian novel—someone from a society very similar to the statist systems we’re all familiar with travels to a Utopia and is told how things work—we can count this book as a “hard” utopia. There’s no quantum computing or frictionless engine that makes the economy go, and the people living in the anarchist confederation of Hron have found themselves in the crosshairs of the Borolian Empire.

(14) Today’s birthday girl:

Anne Rice was born on Saturday, October 4, 1941.

(15) This Day in History –

  • Sunday, October 4, 1931: The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut. (Apple Watch was just fiction back then.)
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made space satellite, Sputnik 1. The Soviet’s successful launch caught America by surprise and was the spark which ignited the Space Race.

(16) “Pokemon demands $4000 from broker superfan who organized Pokemon party” reports Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing.

Larkin Jones is a hardcore Pokemon fan who loses money every year on his annual Pokemon PAX party; he makes up the shortfall from his wages managing a cafe. This year, Pokémon Company International sued him and told him that even though he’d cancelled this year’s party, they’d take everything he had unless he paid them $5,400 in a lump sum (they wouldn’t let him pay it in installments).

Jones charges $2 a head to come to his party, and spends the $500 he grosses from tickets on a DJ, gift cards, decorations, cash prizes, and a Kindle Fire door-prize. He’s lost money on the party every year since he started throwing them in 2011.

He took up a collection on GoFundMe to pay the shakedown:

The day before the PAX party, Pokemon sued me. Without even a  cease and desist.Totally didn’t expect that. I cancelled the party, refunded everyone the 2 dollars I charged to help cover all the prizes I bought for the cosplay contest and smash bros tournament. Pokemon wants $4000 that I just don’t have. I told them I would pay it over a year and they denied that. They want it now with in the next 45 days.

(17) What people in 1900 France thought the year 2000 would like like, from the Washington Post.

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future.

“France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

school COMP

(18) Late night TV guests of interest to fans this week.

[Thanks to SF Signal, Rogers Cadenhead, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10 The Camestrulan Neutral Zone

(1) Today’s birthday girl —

Born September 10, 1953 – Pat Cadigan

She had a good day – “My Birthday Wasn’t All About Cancer”

Even though it started with a blood test at the Macmillan Centre, my birthday was all about Chris, and sushi and sake. It was all about my weight-loss making more clothes fit better. It was all about walking all over central London without worrying about having to find a place to sit. Well, until after I drank most of a small(-ish) bottle of sake. My back became a bit less tractable for a while but it had shaped up pretty well after the bus ride home.

(2) Europa SF has a great feature on the Tblisi, Georgia sf club “Fantasti” by Irakli Lomouri.

The first issue of “Fantasti“, The Georgian Science Fiction Magazine , is dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

The first issue of “Fantasti“, The Georgian Science Fiction Magazine , is dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

Our SF and Fantasy Club “Fantasti” was officially registered in Tbilisi (Georgia) on March 18th, 2015, but its history began in August 2014, when I had a holiday – a free month – and lay down on the couch reading SF stories by means of my new tablet via internet. I love SF from my childhood, so I had to recall my favorite stories, and read many new ones – nearly 150.

I got so much pleasure, that I decided to offer it to others.

I wrote in a Facebook: Dear friends,  let’s create a SF and Fantasy Club and publish  a special dedicated magazine.

In Georgia SF is not popular, so I had no hope I could find real supporters of my idea, but fortunately I found them, so we met and started our club.

Since September 2014 we are having our biweekly meetings at my flat or in the House of Georgian Writers. In our club there are people of all ages, most of them write SF and fantasy themselves, so our club plays the role of literary studio, we read aloud our new stories and discuss them.

In our group on FB we have nearly 500 members (but not all are active)…

(3) Here’s something new to remember: the “t” in Voldemort is silent.

(4) National Geographic has a big article about the discovery of a new species of human ancestor in a South African cave.

A trove of bones hidden deep within a South African cave represents a new species of human ancestor, scientists announced Thursday in the journal eLife. Homo naledi, as they call it, appears very primitive in some respects—it had a tiny brain, for instance, and apelike shoulders for climbing. But in other ways it looks remarkably like modern humans. When did it live? Where does it fit in the human family tree? And how did its bones get into the deepest hidden chamber of the cave—could such a primitive creature have been disposing of its dead intentionally?…

The same schizoid pattern was popping up at the other tables. A fully modern hand sported wackily curved fingers, fit for a creature climbing trees. The shoulders were apish too, and the widely flaring blades of the pelvis were as primitive as Lucy’s—but the bottom of the same pelvis looked like a modern human’s. The leg bones started out shaped like an australopithecine’s but gathered modernity as they descended toward the ground. The feet were virtually indistinguishable from our own.

“You could almost draw a line through the hips—primitive above, modern below,” said Steve Churchill, a paleontologist from Duke University. “If you’d found the foot by itself, you’d think some Bushman had died.”

But then there was the head. Four partial skulls had been found—two were likely male, two female. In their general morphology they clearly looked advanced enough to be called Homo. But the braincases were tiny—a mere 560 cubic centimeters for the males and 465 for the females, far less than H. erectus’s average of 900 cubic centimeters, and well under half the size of our own. A large brain is the sine qua non of humanness, the hallmark of a species that has evolved to live by its wits. These were not human beings. These were pinheads, with some humanlike body parts.

(5) And at the other end of the timescale, NASA is busy today downloading and interpreting photos of Pluto taken by New Horizons.

New Horizons photo of chaos region on Pluto.

New Horizons photo of chaos region on Pluto.

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity.

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of landforms and complexity of processes that rival anything we’ve seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. “If an artist had painted this Pluto before our flyby, I probably would have called it over the top — but that’s what is actually there.”

New Horizons began its yearlong download of new images and other data over the Labor Day weekend. Images downlinked in the past few days have more than doubled the amount of Pluto’s surface seen at resolutions as good as 400 meters (440 yards) per pixel. They reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface. They also show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.     “The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum.”

In the center of this 300-mile (470-kilometer) wide image of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is a large region of jumbled, broken terrain on the northwestern edge of the vast, icy plain informally called Sputnik Planum, to the right. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).

(6) Huffington Post asked 13 top scientists to name their favorite books and movies.

Jane Goodall

Primatologist, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace

Three books of my childhood probably had the greatest impact on my life. The Story of Doctor Dolittle’ (by Hugh Lofting) and ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ (by Edgar Rice Burroughs) inspired me to understand what animals were trying to tell us and instilled within me an equally strong determination to travel to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them. ‘The Miracle of Life’ was a large book my grandmother got for free by saving up coupons from cereal packets. It was by no means a book intended for children.”

(7) Connie Willis is interviewed by Colorado Public Radio in “Hugos Battle: Both Sides Claim Sci-Fi Is Being Ruined By Politics”. Via Kevin Standlee.

(8) Chuck Wendig has some good news about his new novel.

I kinda didn’t think Star Wars: Aftermath was going to make list. In part because why would I assume that, and also in part because most books come out on Tuesday and this book came out on Friday and it was also a holiday weekend and, and, and.

Apparently, that was wrongo of me.

Because Aftermath debuted on both the New York Times list and the USA Today list at number four. Which is extra funny because it’s a pair of fours which is like Force and because my tweet wanting to be hired to write Star Wars in the first place was on September 4th and because the book then came out exactly one year later on September 4th and also because I actually apparently have the Force. *shoots lightning into the sky*

Of course, if instead of all 4’s it had been all 5’s we could have had a field day on File 770….

(9) And maybe Chuck can sign his next book contract with one of these Star Wars themed pens from Cross.

(10) Science fiction has an advocate in Malaysia.

KUSHAIRI ZURADI discovered late last year that not many publishers were keen to publish Malay science fiction books when he offered his collection of short stories to them.

The 25-year-old author and medical school graduate recalls: “Some ­publishers believe the ­readership for Malay science fiction is too small [for them] to make a decent profit and they do not want to take a chance on these novels.”

Realising this, in August last year, Kushairi ­decided to found his own publishing ­company, Simptomatik Press, to self-publish his first book, ­Biohazard, featuring 14 of his short stories. All 14 ­stories dealt with ­microorganisms.

“In my final year in medical school, I studied microorganisms and I was fascinated by their life-cycles,” says Kushairi, who is currently ­waiting to start his ­housemanship.

“You cannot see them but they are everywhere. We have been taught that 90% of [the cells in the human body are actually] organisms ranging from bacteria to parasites.”

[Thanks to David Doering and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2 Split-Level Headcheese

(1) Pat Cadigan is still making cancer her bitch.

I didn’t plan to travel as much as I did this year, it just happened that way. And I’m not done yet. I have at least one trip, possibly two left before I put the suitcase away till next year.

It’s been very good for me, physically as well as mentally. In May, I visited Copenhagen for the first time. In June, I took a road-trip from Virginia to a college reunion in Massachusetts. In July, I spent most of a week at a festival in Spain. And in mid-August, I went to Spokane, WA for Sasquan, the world sf convention. The difference in my physical condition now compared to the same time last year is virtually miraculous. I could walk reasonable distances without collapsing. On Saturday night, I went to the Hugo Losers Party––the one given by original co-founder George RR Martin––and didn’t go to bed till four a.m. Then I was up at 9-ish to meet a friend for breakfast.

Last year at this time, I was pretty feeble. This year, I’m hopping around like an ingenue. I appear to be well, so much so that you’d never guess I had terminal cancer. A lot of people didn’t know––they thought I was in remission. It was no fun to correct them. I hated making them feel bad. Seriously; I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I have a lot more experience being them than being terminal.

I’ve been saying that more often in the last few weeks: terminal cancer; I’m terminal; treatment is palliative. There’s about a year and four months left of my oncologist’s original two-year estimate. Where did the time go?

(2) Little White Lies “Video Artifacts No. 4 – Andrew Ainsworth”

You may not know the name, but Andrew Ainsworth is the creator of one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – the original Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet. Working out of his shop situated on the quaint, leafy Twickenham Green, Ainsworth began his career in the ’70s as a prop maker for films and has since become one of the leading exponents of products made via plastic moulding techniques.


(3) Here’s a headline I missed: James Potter — Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley’s son — started Hogwarts on September 1.

(4) Tremendous examples of trompe l’oeil posted by George R.R. Martin – all the work of John Pugh, “master of the art style called ‘narrative illusionism.’”

(5) Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time for Doctor Who fans to start counting down until “The Doctor and River Song Reunite For A Spectacular Christmas”

Alex Kingston returns to Cardiff to reclaim her role as Professor River Song for the highly anticipated 2015 Doctor Who Christmas special, part of BBC One’s essential seasonal viewing.

It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveller River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas.

Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by Lead Writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

River Song made her first Doctor Who appearance in 2008 in ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead’ and has appeared in 15 episodes to date.

Award winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance, “To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humour and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September? Why not!”

Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, adds, “Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song? The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time…”

(6) Ken Marable drops his name in the hat as another fan who would like to host the go-to Hugo recommendation site. Details are at 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season.

I am trying to encourage the community to take part in a “Hugo Recommendation Season” from November to February. Basically to both create as much conversation as possible about the works themselves, and to give each category its fair spotlight, I’m hoping to have a Focus Week on each category. During each week, fans would post their recommendations (on their blogs, Facebook, whatever) saying what works they love, and most importantly, why. (There are a lot of recommendation *lists*, I want more – I want to know *why* it is recommended.)

….I am hoping to get as many fans as possible to participate including Sad Puppies, non-Puppies, new members, and long-time fans like you. In fact, my ideal would be to have some of the old guard introduce each category, possibly explaining why it came into existence, things to consider, etc. (e.g. suggestions on how fans can look for a Best Editor; just what is and why do we have a semiprozine; venerable past winners; surprising past winners, etc.). Sure it’s all a Google search away, but it would be nice to have a single, short reference to accompany the recommendations. However, I would be pleased if fans just participated in each Focus Week and talked about works and people they think are award worthy in each category.

(7) David Gerrold has something going too – see Facebook

Here’s a secret cabal for the rest of us. THE SECRET CABAL OF FANNISH FANS [SCOFF]. Anyone can join. Anyone can recommend. There are no slates, just people sharing the books they enjoyed.


(8) Edouard Briere Allard has posted “A Critical Review of Laura J. Mixon’s Essay”, which is as voluminous and heavily annotated as the work it attacks:

This is only my interpretation, but Mixon appears saddened that BS was not kicked out of SFF and that BS has instead decided to become a better person and keep writing in SFF (although to be clear, BS had already made that decision in 2013, possibly even some time in 2012). Mixon later tells us: “trust can’t precede the cessation of abuse. Forgiveness can’t come at the expense of basic fairness. Reconciliation can’t precede regret.” This idea that the WoC in front of her might not be guilty of all the crimes she is accused of is impossible for Mixon to believe; just as impossible as believing that she, herself, might be guilty of comparable crimes. This, I think, explains her desire to pursue the matter until she gets her way. It’s a very American way of seeing things.

In the same follow-up post, Mixon says:

Dividing people into camps, branding those who disagree with us (or whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof), skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. offend us in some way, for that matter) as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice. No matter who does it. That was why I wrote my report.

Here, if nowhere else, this single paragraph illustrates perfectly why I loathed Mixon’s essay, and her apparent inability to empathise with others and to evaluate her own actions. Mixon, in an essay that begins with decrying the difficulty of getting rid of the “evil” that is BS, says: “branding those who disagree with us […] as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice”. This branding, you’ll recall, the only branding RH as ever done that could conceivably fit into what Mixon is saying here, is calling things or people misogynist, racist, homophobic or colonialist. While there is always ample room to discuss strategy and tactics in the fight against misogyny, racism, homophobia or colonialism, I disagree with Mixon’s sweeping condemnation, and I find her framing deeply hypocritical.

(9) Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon – “2015 Hugo Analysis: Category Participation”

[Post includes an assortment of graphs covering several years of history in every category.]

Now 2015: that line is totally inconsistent with the previous 4 years. Previously ignored categories like Editor grabbed an increase of 30 points—there’s your visual representation of how the Puppy kerfuffle drove votes. Thousands of voters voted in categories they would have previously ignored. I imagine this increase is due to both sides of the controversy, as various voters are tying to make their point. Still, 80% participation in a category like Editor, Short or Long Form is highly unusual for the Hugos. Even the Best Novel had a staggering 95% participation rate, up from a prior 4 year average of 87.4%.


(10) Harry Connolly, taking off from a recent Eric Flint post, speculates that Hugo voters and readers have these differences — in “oh god am i really going to write about the hugos again”

But here’s my suggestion, tentatively offered: what if the Hugo voters/nominators aren’t the one’s who’ve changed these last few decades? I mean, sure, some folks age out, new folks come in, so they aren’t the same individuals. But what if they’re the same sort of novelty-seeking reader, preferring clever, flattering books to pretty much everything else?

Because that would mean that the bulk of the readership now are the sorts of readers who don’t care about fandom or voting for Awards. Who have maybe sampled a few award-winners and found them not to their taste. They’re the people who came into the genre through Sword of Shannara, because it was the first fantasy to hit the NYTimes list, through STAR WARS and dozens of other action/adventure-with-ray-guns movies that sold millions of tickets, through D&D novels like Dragonlance, or through shoot-em-up video games.

Maybe the award hasn’t changed very much, but the readership now suddenly includes huge masses of people who are looking for Hollywood-style entertainment, with exaggerated movie characterization and a huge third act full of Big Confrontation.

(11) Robert B. Marks in Escapist Magazine – “The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Awards Burned”

When you take a step back, it’s easy to see the Sad Puppies as the only sympathetic clique of the lot. They bought their memberships and voted for the stories they thought were worthy of recognition, as was their right as members – they’re also the only group who didn’t advocate a response of “if we can’t have it, nobody can!” Of everybody involved in the voting, the Sad Puppies did nothing wrong. In fact, they may be the only clique in this mess who actually honoured the fan-driven spirit of the Hugo Awards. It speaks volumes that when George R.R. Martin asked if he could nominate authors for consideration in next year’s Sad Puppies effort, the answer came back as an unconditional “yes.”

(12) Charles E. Gannon on Whatever in a comment on “Wrapping Up 2015: A Hugo Awards Open Thread”

This is a proven recipe for quickening passionate partisans into aggressive zealots. When advocates forsake their initial behavioral limits, they have started down a path in which their ends have begun to justify means they would not have countenanced earlier. And so they are on their way to becoming radicalized extremists.

We are familiar enough with the early warning signs of this dynamic at work, and which, cast in the taxonomies of our genre, equate to:

increasing numbers of SF & F readers becoming infected with the same virus of polarization now endemic in so many other parts of our culturescape;

name-calling, mockery, and personal invective that becomes so ubiquitous that it no longer stands out as arresting or unusual;

increasingly strident and absolutist rhetoric, often accompanied by a reflex to screen for “correct think vs. wrong think” semantics.

I don’t propose to have any sweeping answer for how to reverse this trend. (That would make me yet another strident advocate, wouldn’t it?). Rather, I perceive the answer to be ultimately personal: a conscience-informed attempt to balance what one intended to convey with how it was received. In short, to temper oneself without muzzling oneself.

My own answer is to keep talking amiably with people from all over the spectrum, regardless of however different (or not) our opinions may be. Consequently, lots of the folks I’ve spoken with over the last six months will not find the content of this post surprising and have expressed sympathy for larger or smaller parts of it. The list includes people such as Larry Correia, David Gerrold, Brad Torgerson, John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and Eric Flint, just to name a few. And if anything strikes me as even more prevalent than the differences of opinion and perception among the dozens of people with whom I’ve chatted, it is the degree to which the “sides” do not understand each other. Which, given America’s contemporary culturescape, is not really surprising.

(14) Solarbird on crime and the foreces of evil – ”on the business meeting, part 2: e pluribus hugo”

E Pluribus Hugo doesn’t know about intentional slates. It doesn’t need to be told, “this is a slate.” Nobody has to make that call, because it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of like a normalisation function applied to nominations. There are no arguments over whether a pattern or voting is intentional or a plot or intent or political – a lot of identical ballots will be normalised to a first-order approximation of their actual popular support, regardless.

That’s why it’s so elegant, and that’s why it’s so genius. It doesn’t lock anybody out; it just stops campaigns from locking everyone else out, dramatically reducing their value vs. their labour and monetary cost, and eliminating the incentive for opposition parties.

For me, that is fair. For me, that is enough.

I hope that, for the honest flank of the Sad Puppies, it will also be enough. One self-identified Sad came up and voiced active support for E Pluribus Hugo during the business meeting. Those who actually believe in the mythical SJW VOTER CABAL – which was emphatically demonstrated not to exist by the events of this year, but stick with me – will know that E Pluribus Hugo would normalise this supposed SJW CABAL slate just as effectively.

Is it sad that we’ve reached a point where this sort of engineering is necessary? Eh, maybe. Probably, even. But it has driven fandom to create what even some opponents at the business meeting called a more perfect nominating system.

Yes, it’s tedious as all hell to do by hand, but it can be done. Yes, it’s more complicated – but not much. It’s only a little different than what we do for final voting and for site selection already.

(15) Allum Bokhari on Breitbart – “The online culture wars have moved out of comments sections and into Amazon’s Kindle Store”.

Online progressives were not so supportive. Alexandra Erin, a sci-fi writer who described Day’s book as “rehashing old slights”, wrote a short parody of the book for Kindle. Entitled “John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels,” the book makes fun of Day’s alleged fixation with the progressive sci-fi author John Scalzi.

Scalzi himself appeared to be delighted with the parody,  saying he “loved it already.” He used the book in a fundraising drive for a charity promoting diversity at sci-fi conventions, promising to release an audio recording of him reading the book if $2,500 was raised within three days. The target was successfully met, and Scalzi subsequently uploaded an audio recording.

Supporters of Vox Day responded by releasing their own parody book, entitled “John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia.”

The counter-parody was removed by Amazon today following complaints from Scalzi. Prior to its removal, it was the top seller in the “parodies” section of the Kindle store, two places ahead of Erin’s book. Kindle top 100 rankings are calculated on an hourly basis, and surges in popularity for titles usually reflect a short, rapid increase in the number of purchases….

Both parody authors saw genuine returns for their products. The parody books were both under 30 pages long, and are unlikely to have taken much time to write. The fact that they became part of a buying war by two factions in the culture wars shows how animosity can be harnessed for profit.

(16) John Scalzi weighed in throughout the day.

(17) Ken White on Popehat “Satire vs. Potentially Defamatory Factual Statements: An Illustration”

So. If someone wrote an article saying “Ken White’s legal analysis should be disregarded because dresses up in a rubber suit on the weekend and hunts ponies with a handmade crossbow,” and says it on their trash-talking blog, to an audience that knows them and knows about my blogging here, it’s almost certainly parody, because the relevant audiences would be familiar with our in-joke about responding to spam emails with rants about ponies and would therefore not take it seriously.

The Facts Here

Here the factors point very strongly to the book being treated as parody, and protected by the First Amendment, rather than as a defamatory statement of fact. With all respect to Scalzi, his question is wrong: you can’t analyze the book title in isolation. You have to look at it in the context of the whole. In that context, the intended audience (both fans of Beale and fans of Scalzi) would recognize it as a reference to Beale’s tiresome meme. Plus, the Amazon description explicitly labels it as “a blazingly inventive parody,” and the descriptive text is mostly nonsensical and evocative of ridicule of “SJW” concerns, and references some of the topics that anger Beale’s coterie in connection with Scalzi like the Hugo Awards.

I think this one is protected parody, and I don’t think it’s a very close call.

(18) Vox Day on Vox Popoli – “Why Johnny can’t sue”

I suppose that leaves lobbying Amazon to ban books that make fun of John Scalzi, which I tend to doubt will be a successful strategy. UPDATE: Amazon just pulled down John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia 

Fascinating, in light of how Is George Bush a War Criminal and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Paula Deen is a Big Fat Idiot are still available for sale there. I wonder who will be the next target of these dread parodists?

(19) Brad R. Torgersen – “Tyranny of the Safe”

We must not allow ourselves to become a Tyranny of the Safe. You can have intellectual latitude, or you can have intellectual comfort. But you cannot have both. Larry Niven was 110% correct: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently. Silence the other minds, and you will ultimately find you have silenced yourself. Because any rules you install today, are guaranteed to be abused by your opponents tomorrow. The mob you join in — to metaphorically encircle and burn the homes of the “wrong” people — will encircle and burn your home eventually. Commanded reverence — for an institution, an idea, or a demographic — begets simmering contempt. And the harder you push and punish, the more you use threats and pressure, the more obvious it is that your concepts cannot endure objective criticism.

(20) John C. Wright – “Dantooine is Too Remote”

Look — I hate to get emotional. It is bad for my Vulcan digestion. But the Hugos used to mean something, and now they don’t. A little bit of light and glory have departed the world.

Those who snuffed that light, hating a brightness they could not ignite themselves, must pay.

(21) David Wintheiser on Contrarian Bias “My Only Hugo Disappointment”

But the big problem with [Guardians of the Galaxy]as Hugo-winner came when I discovered what movie got left off the Hugo nominations list because of the three films from the Puppy slate that got on it: Big Hero 6.

The entire plot of Big Hero 6 revolves around the question of who decides how to make the best use of technology, and for what ends. The ‘superpowers’ exhibited in the film all make use of science presented in the film, and while not all the science is strictly ‘real-world’, it still follows the rules set up in the film itself — for example, the limitations of Hiro Hamada’s big invention become a significant plot point in the defeat of the true ‘villain’ of the piece. And, of course, it was a really good story, well-told. Had Big Hero 6 been in the nominations list, I’d have voted for it myself, and felt it was the most deserving potential winner, but because a bunch of butt-hurt white dudes felt like flooding the Hugo nominations market with their own wishlist, the movie I thought would have been the most deserving 2015 Hugo winner didn’t even get nominated.

That, to me, was the biggest and really only disappointment I had from taking part in the 2015 Hugo Award voting. It may well be something I decide to do more regularly in the future, if only to continue to represent a ‘new mainstream’ in SF where diversity in stories and subjects is celebrated, not lamented.

(22) A Stitch in Time – “The World is not Black and White: Hugo-related ramblings”

So. Knowing what I knew about the author’s campaign against the Hugo, and the Puppies slate, and the things said against him, or implied against him, or actually, mostly, the things he wrote that everyone from the Other Side (TM) thinks about him though they’re not actually true… I was really pleasantly surprised. (Now that I’m writing this, I think that I read most of the accusations allegedly done against Correia in his own writing, where he stated them and then vehemently said that he, of course, was none of that. In a way and tone that very much made me think that there was probably a bit of truth to them.)

I did enjoy the books, but knowing about all the personal and sorta-political background story, it felt a little weird to do so, as the Puppy Thing really irked me. I cannot completely part the writing from the author. That may be a good thing for a person: I’ve supported artists because I like the person for their personal qualities or their way of seeing and approaching life, though do not much care for their actual art, for example. But of course it can also mean that I won’t support someone because of their political or general stance on things, and, more importantly, because of the actions they take in this field.

Without the Hugo Kerfuffle, I would choose the Grimnoir books as an Xmas or birthday present for some friends of mine who I’m sure would enjoy them. But… the world is not black and white, and I will not buy these books on their own, because of the Hugo Kerfuffle and the actions the author has taken.

(23) L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – “The Hugos, or ‘You Just Don’t Understand’”

We have two groups with very different perspectives on what constitutes excellence. Each believes the other is wrong, misguided, or the like. Those on each side can argue quite logically their viewpoint. The problem is that, all too often, people with fixed mindsets believe absolutely and firmly that their understanding of a situation is the only way it can be accurately perceived. It has nothing to do with whether one is liberal or conservative, or any other social outlook. It has to do with a certain firmness of thought, described as “principled” by each of themselves, while describing their opponents as misguided or unprincipled.

In the case of the Hugos, as I see it, and I’ve certainly been criticized for the way I see it, there is some truth in both the cases of the “sad puppies” and the “new traditionalists.” [I have to say that I don’t see much truth or objectivity in the points of the “rabid puppies,” but perhaps my mindset just doesn’t accept what seems to be hateful provocation or use of hate to self-publicize.] And, as I’ve said before, not only do I think the field is big enough for both viewpoints, but the sales of a range of authors prove that rather demonstrably.

Yet each side is contending that the other did something hateful and discriminatory, largely because one side refused to abide by unspoken rules that they believed minimized their concerns. In the end, the other aspect of groups that this conflict illustrates, again, is why unspoken rules tend to be superseded by written procedures in larger groups.

[Thanks to Will R., Vox Day, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]

Pixel Scroll 7/30 Gonna Scroll the Bones

A lot of material out there because of the Hugo voting deadline tomorrow but if you want more than the three items I included in today’s Scroll then Google is your friend.

(1) Today in History!

1932: Walt Disney released his first color cartoon, “Flowers and Trees,” made in three-color Technicolor.

1976: NASA released the famous “Face on Mars” photo, taken by Viking 1

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image by its HiRISE camera of the "Face on Mars". Viking Orbiter image inset in bottom right corner.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image by its HiRISE camera of the “Face on Mars”. Viking Orbiter image inset in bottom right corner.

(2) And Today’s Birthday Boy and Girl – what a coincidence!

Born 1965: J. K. Rowling

Born: Harry Potter (main character of Harry Potter series)

(3) “The Tom-cademy Awards: The Only Awards Show Exclusively for Tom Cruise Movies” is part of a weeklong Cruise-themed series on Grantland. The author anoints Emily Blunt as the Best Supporting Actress of any Cruise movie.

The wonderful thing about EoT is that it’s really funny. It achieves that by not pretending the audience has never seen a time-travel movie. Instead, Edge of Tomorrow claps the audience firmly on the shoulder and, smiling, asks (rhetorically), “Hey, wanna see Tom Cruise get iced?” And, as it turns out, watching The Character Named Tom Cruise getting killed in fun and interesting ways, ways that show just enough exposed cranium to make the exercise mean something, is pretty invigorating.

But! Do we not, paradoxically, also want to see The Character Named Tom Cruise succeed? To save the world and get the girl? Yeah, of course we do. This is Tom Cruise we’re talking about. And it’s Blunt, playing it straight the whole time while kicking a Ripley-in-Aliens level of xenomorph butt, who has to downshift from hero-on-a-recruiting-poster to woman-who-we-kind-of-want-to-see-kiss-Tom-Cruise in order to make Cage’s journey from charming coward to soldier/love interest believable. He’s the hero we deserve, that we also need to see die.

Genre films Minority Report (Best Visual Effects) and Interview With The Vampire (Best Costume Design) also take home the hardware.

(4) Janis Ian, who now writes in the sf field, has her own Bill Cosby story from when she was a teenager preparing to sing her hit song on The Smothers Brothers show in 1967.

“No, I was not sexually bothered by Bill Cosby,” said Ian in a Facebook post Tuesday, reacting to a New York magazine report featuring 35 women who accuse Cosby of sexual impropriety.

In her post, Ian accused Cosby of publicly outing her as a lesbian, based on a chance meeting backstage at a television show.

“Cosby was right in one thing. I am gay. Or bi, if you prefer, since I dearly loved the two men I lived with over the years. My tilt is toward women, though, and he was right about that.”

(5) On to tamer subjects – the Worldcon business meeting. Kevin Standlee hopes to discourage complaints while rewarding the reader’s attention with a good discussion of why meetings adopt Roberts Rules or the equivalent:

The reason that parliamentary procedure is complex is that it’s trying to balance a bunch of contradictory rights. If you’re someone who is convinced that your personal, individual right to speak for as long as you want and as many times at you want trumps the rights of the group to be able to finish the discussion and reach a decision in a reasonable time, well, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be happy with any rules that allow for limits on debate. If you’re someone who has no patience with debate and just wants the Strong Man to Make Decisions, you’ll never be pleased with rules that allow for people to debate and reach a group decision through voting….

And he invites your help to improve how WSFS meetings are run.

WSFS rules are complicated because the people who attend the meetings have effectively voted for complexity, but also because some of the complexity is required to protect the rights of members, both individually and in groups, and including the members who aren’t even at the meeting. If you have a better way for deciding how we should run things, the onus is on you to propose something. As long as you just complain that “it’s too complicated,” without proposing something both easier and workable, don’t expect to be taken seriously.

(6 ) Russell Blackford on Metamagician and the Hellfire Club delivers “The Hugo Awards – 2015 – Summation”.

Even if there is a legitimate grain of truth somewhere amongst the complaints of the Sad Puppies group, their actions have led to an exceptionally weak Hugo field this year and to some specific perverse outcomes. If the Sad Puppies campaigners merely thought that there is a “usual suspects” tendency in recent Hugo nomination lists, and that politically conservative authors are often overlooked in recent times, they could have simply argued their case based on evidence. Likewise, they could have taken far wiser, far more moderate – far less destructive – actions to identify some genuinely outstanding works that might otherwise have been missed. What we saw this year, with politicised voting on an unprecedented scale, approached the level of sabotaging the awards. I repeat my hope that the Sad Puppies campaign will not take place next year, at least in anything like the same form. If it does, my attitude will definitely harden. I’ve been rather mild about the Sad Puppies affair compared to many others in SF fandom, and I think I can justify that, but enough is enough.

I really can’t understand how Blackford processes the ethics of the 2015 situation, this being the third go-round for Sad Puppies, that “enough” had not happened already to warrant a stronger expression of his disapproval, but a fourth iteration will.

(7) The shortest “fisking” in history — Larry Correia strikes back at Sad Puppies references in The New Yorker’s Delany interview The boldfaced sentences below are literally 66% of what he had to say.

The ensuing controversy has been described, by Jeet Heer in the New Republic, as “a cultural war over diversity,” since the Sad Puppies, in their pushback against perceived liberals and experimental writers, seem to favor the work of white men.

Diversity my ass. Last years winners were like a dozen white liberals and one Asian liberal and they hailed that as a huge win for diversity. 

Delany said he was dismayed by all this, but not surprised. “The context changes,” he told me, “but the rhetoric remains the same.”

Well, that’s a stupid conclusion. 

Alert the bugler to blow “Taps” over the fallen standards of Correia fisks….

(8) Cheryl Morgan tells fans don’t give up.

Look, there will be some weird stuff in the results this year. There may well be a few No Awards given out, and possibly some really bad works winning awards. It is not as if that hasn’t happened before, though perhaps not in the same quantities. On the other hand, people are talking about the Hugos much more this year than they ever have before, and in many more high profile places. In addition vastly more people have bought supporting memberships, and we are looking at a record number of people participating in the final ballot. All of those people will be eligible to nominate next year. This isn’t the way I would have liked to get that result, but it is a result all the same.

(9) John Scalzi realized he would have a more restful day if instead of discussing the Hugos he spent his time doing computer maintenance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor Soon Lee.]

Harry Potter Today and Tomorrow in History

The May Day story is that research shows Harry Potter readers become more tolerant toward minority groups:

Research published this week in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that kids who read J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular wizarding series are more likely to reduce their prejudices toward minority groups, reports Pacific Standard. The researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy noted that the books provide plenty of examples of bigotry, on which children can then form an opinion. From Harry’s defense of “mudbloods” like his friend Hermione, to Voldemort’s obsession with “pure-blood” witches and wizards, kids were able to recognize the unfairness in these instances and subsequently attach them to real-world examples of prejudice.

Tomorrow, May 2, we’ll be celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts

[Thanks to Orange Mike Lowrey and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

J. K. Rowling Explains
It All To You

Fairy godmothers are not a thing in Harry Potter, but J.K. Rowling sometimes plays one on her Twitter account.

Today she answered three readers’ questions about magical loose ends in her famous series.

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Rowling To Pen New Fantasy Movie

8C8959729-130912-ent-fantasticbeasts-vmed_blocks_desktop_smallIt would be a sin to leave money on the table and that’s one sin Warner Bros. will never be accused of when it comes to exploiting the Harry Potter franchise. So the studio has set J.K. Rowling to work writing the screenplay for a new series of movies based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a fictitious textbook used at Hogwart’s.

The story will be set in New York 70 years before the beginning of the Harry Potter series, and focus on Newt Scamander, the textbook’s author. It is not a prequel, says Rowling, “but an extension of the wizarding world.”

Rowling said the idea for a “Fantastic Beasts” film had come from Warner Bros., and she soon realized she could not entrust another writer with her creation.

“Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it,” she said. “I already knew a lot about Newt.”

“As I considered Warner’s proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.”

George R.R. Martin Makes TIME 100

George R.R. Martin

The 2011 TIME 100 is a list of “the most influential people in the world.” While I’d have expected a full slate of politicians, generals, religious figures, tech geniuses and leaders of protest movements, it’s a more wide-ranging list and George R.R. Martin is on it.

The TIME 100 runs the length of Pennsylvania Avenue (Barack Obama and John Boehner), features real and imitation royalty (Prince William and Kate Middleton, actor Colin Firth of The King’s Speech), and has room left over for Dharma Master Cheng Yen, Buddhist leader of an international relief organization. There is a cricket player, a couple of rap stars and a comedienne.

J.K. Rowling was on the list several times in the past decade, though Martin’s appearance may be the first for an author of epic fantasy.

Time assigned a humorist to write Martin’s brief bio, a decision at odds with such a portentous list but resonant with George’s own droll attitude towards professional writing:

Martin, 62, is as fine a researcher as he is a storyteller, and he packs in enough miserable fact about the meanness of medieval life that it occasionally echoes Baltimore in its harshness.

Besides, won’t the humorous approach help us all feel better about seeing George on a list with one of Qaddafi’s sons and the head of Pakistani military intelligence?

The complete TIME 100 is here.

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Michael Walsh for the story.]

Fantasies Among UK’s Most Stolen Books

UK bookshops suffer an estimated 100 million book thefts a year, feeding a black market worth about £750 million. While London A-Zs: London Street Atlas leads the list of Ten Most Stolen Books, it’s joined on the list by several fantasy novels, with #3 being Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic, #4 J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and #6 Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, specifically, the 50th Anniversary Edition of the trilogy.

Tamer library customers are no less passionate about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and have made it Britain’s most borrowed book according to the UK’s Public Lending Right, a government-funded group that arranges payment to the authors of books stocked in public libraries.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Stephen King Has Opinions

Lorrie Lynch’s USA Today blog has Stephen King in the crosshairs:

King, whose Stephen King Goes to the Movies collection came out last week, doesn’t know how much of an influence he had on [Stephanie] Meyer, but he does know that Rowling read his stuff when she was younger. “I think that has some kind of formative influence the same way reading Richard Matheson had an influence on me,” King explains.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]