Pixel Scroll 1/26/16 Things Scroll Apart, The Pixel Cannot Hold

(1) MILLIONS STAYED HOME. The Force Awakens made plenty of money in China, but it did not blow up the way it did in the U.S. Inverse ponders “Why Chinese Audiences Skipped The Force Awakens”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

But Zhen, also the director of NYU’s Asian Film and Media Initiative, says there’s another simple reason why Star Wars isn’t as successful in China.

“Chinese audiences are not as familiar with the series and franchise as a whole,” she says. “There is much less knowledge of it or a cult following, but the curiosity is there.”

It makes perfect sense. The Chinese market is blooming so quickly that it’s easy to forget it’s Hollywood’s youngest sibling. The first Star Wars film to be released in China was The Phantom Menace in 1999, making both the rapid proliferation of Hollywood blockbusters in China in recent years impressive, but also the extreme newness of Star Wars as a phenomenon that much more apparent.

China’s primary moviegoing audience is made up of 17-to-31 year-olds who didn’t get the same embedded, multi-generational cultural significance as American audiences that came of age when Star Wars debuted in 1977.

(2) EYE CANDY. Terra Utopische Romane 1957-68 on the Retro-Futurism LiveJournal.

“These old covers are like candy,” says Will R. And Planet X makes an appearance.

(3) FANDOM’S CLOSER. A pitcher for the Oakland Athletics doubles as a trivia maven — “Watch Sean Doolittle answer your deepest, most important Star Wars Questions”. Cut4 warns there could be SPOILERS – at least there could be if any of the stuff he says is true.

(4) GAME APP. In “Super Barista: Manage your own coffee shop and alien clientele in space”.

If you’re a nerd like us, chances are you also love coffee. Those things tend to go hand-in-hand, and today’s app combines coffee nerdiness with space action gaming nerdiness, and it’s called Super Barista.

The premise behind Super Barista is that you serve a very specific, yet broad clientele in your coffee shop. The trick is, that coffee shop is set in space, and your clientele is an assortment of strange, interesting, and sometimes dangerous alien beings. Your shop will take you across the galaxy to five different unique planets where you’ll have to manage your resources, build your staff and crew, and serve your delicious drinks in a timely and efficient manner.

(5) IN MEMORIAM. Steven H Silver has posted his annual In Memoriam list at SF Site.

(6) PEN HONORS ROWLING. “PEN America to Honor J.K. Rowling, Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch at Annual Literary Gala”.

Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling will receive the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award at PEN America’s annual Literary Gala on May 16 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. PEN America, the country’s largest writer-driven free expression advocacy organization, presents the award annual to a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies its mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity….

Since her rise from single mother to literary superstar, J.K. Rowling has used her talents and stature as a writer to fight inequality on both a local and global level. Her charitable trust, Volant, supports causes in the United Kingdom and abroad that alleviate social exclusion, with particular emphasis on women and children. In 2005 she founded Lumos, a nonprofit organization that works to help eight million children institutionalized around the world regain their right to a family life. Herself the frequent object of censorship in schools and libraries across the globe, as well as online targeting, Rowling has emerged as a vocal proponent of free expression and access to literature and ideas for children as well as incarcerated people, the learning -disables, and women and girls worldwide….

(7) MORE ON FANFIC. Sharrukin at Sharrukin’s Palace tells what he finds helpful about writing fanfic. His is set in the universe of the Mass Effect game.

First advantage of writing fan-fiction: You will immediately start to build an audience, and get feedback for your work.

By the end of that month, I had posted thirteen chapters, about 40,000 words of new material, and I was still going strong. I finished that entire first novel in a little over four months.

Memoirs was followed by a second novel, composed of substantially original work since most of it was set during a period when Liara and Shepard are not on stage together. I took the opportunity to flesh out Liara’s character arc, introduce a bunch of new supporting characters, and start patching the big plot holes I saw in the games. By the time I got to my novelization of the third game, I was working almost entirely without a net, openly rewriting the story from the ground up.

The experience was tremendously valuable. I learned more about my craft from writing a fan-fiction trilogy than I had learned in decades of on-again, off-again dabbling. I even broke my long-standing aversion to the shorter forms, writing several short stories and a novella along the way.

Some pro authors are a little disdainful of fan-fiction. I believe George R. R. Martin has compared it to paint-by-numbers, something that doesn’t rank with original work as a creative endeavor. I’m not going to dispute that. There are several reasons why I’m working hard now to move away from fan-fiction, and one of them is the desire to create something worthwhile that’s really mine. But as an exercise in improving your craft so that you can survive as a genre author, there’s a lot to recommend it.

You won’t have to do all the work yourself. The source material provides a framework on which you can build and experiment. Your audience will already be familiar with it. Still, you will have to work on the mechanics: prose style, description, exposition, dialogue, point of view, characterization and voice. You will end up taking the original material apart and analyzing it, seeing what worked and what didn’t, in the process of putting together your own version. You will get practice in the simple art of sitting down and cranking out word count, week after week, so that your audience doesn’t get bored and wander away.

(7) EBOOK PRICING. Amanda S. Green compares print book and ebook pricing in “Publishers, You Need To Hear This” at Mad Genius Club.

So, is there a trend — or possibly a clue — here as to why e-book sales for the Big 5 are leveling off?

Some folks were having this discussion yesterday in a private FB group I belong to. The consensus among those taking part in the discussion was that the price point publishers were charging, especially for newly released titles, was more than they were willing to pay. Not just for e-books but for hard covers as well. Those who aren’t big fans of  e-books lamented the fact they were turning to used bookstores to buy those hard cover titles they wanted. Not because they were paying less for the book but because they knew authors don’t receive royalties for those sales.

Note, they weren’t worried about the publishers.

And that is something the Big 5 needs to realize. The reading public is starting to look at the prices they pay for their books — whether they are print or digital — and wonder why the prices are so high. They are following their favorite authors, many of whom write for publishers that aren’t the Big 5 or who are indies, and they are paying attention to what the authors are saying. They understand that the life of the writer is closer to struggling author working in a coffee shop than it is to Castle. They are beginning to realize that the majority of the money they pay for that book, the vast majority of it, goes not to the person who created it but to the corporation what distributed it.

(8) STRACZYNSKI INTERVIEW. Lightspeed Magazine has a transcription of the J. Michael Straczynski interview that was originally part of WIRED’s Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

I was a street rat, had grown up a street rat, I come from nothing, my family has no connection to literature or writing, and in his introductions I found a kindred spirit. Harlan Ellison was a street rat. He had run with gangs; he was considered trouble. I remembered that in one of his introductions, he had given his phone number. “I wonder if that’s real,” thought I, so I dialed the number and waited and it began to ring. There was a click and I heard, “Yeah?”

“Is this Har-har-har-lan Ellison?” says I.

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“My-my-my-my name is Joe,” I say, stammering through the whole thing, “And I’m a writer and my stuff isn’t selling and I thought you might have some advice.” Which is the stupidest thing to ask any writer; it’s like saying to someone, “What are you doing to my wife?” There is no good answer to that question.

So he says, “All right. Here’s what you do: If it’s not selling, it’s shit. My advice to you? Stop writing shit.”

“. . .Thank you, Mr. Ellison.” Years later, I got to LA and we met in bits and pieces and eventually we became friends, and I finally reminded him of that conversation. And he said, “Were you offended?” And I said, “Had you been wrong, I would’ve been offended.” But he wasn’t.

(9) SANDIFER WONDERS ALOUD. It’s funny that some people will think Phil Sandifer was the first person to ask this question, in “An Open Letter to Sad Puppies IV”.

As the science fiction community mutters “I thought MidAmericon said nominations would open in early January” with baited breath, I note that certain fascist pricks have begun to ramp up their performative chortling. So I figured “why not write a mildly trolling open letter to someone else entirely?”

Ms. Paulk et al:

I note with some bemusement your efforts to reform the Sad Puppies movement from its oft-criticized 2015 form, stripping away its overtly conservative trappings, widening it to a ten-item recommendation list, et cetera. By and large, I have to admit, these seem like, if not strictly speaking good things, at least less bad things. So thank you for your efforts to be less odious than your predecessors. It’s genuinely appreciated. That said, there’s one rather large issue that you don’t seem to have addressed, and that I’d like to raise.

Simply put, why are you doing this?

(10) GRRM RESPONDS. For the record, here’s how George R.R. Martin answered John C. Wright’s latest overture.

I agree, death has a way of putting life’s other trials and triumphs in perspective. My own political and social views are very much at odds with yours, Mr. Wright, and our views on literary matters, especially as regards science fiction and fantasy, are far apart as well. But I have always believed that science fiction has room for all, and I am pretty sure that David Hartwell believed that as well. If we want to heal the wounds our community suffered last year, all of us need to stop arguing about the things that divide us, and talk instead about the things that unite us… as writers, as fans, as human beings. Our grief in David’s passing is one of those things. Everyone who ever knew him or worked with him will miss him, I do not doubt. So thank you for your note, and your heartfelt and compassionate words about David.

(11) A DIFFERENT WRIGHT. The home of the late Jack Larson – “Jimmy Olsen” on the original Superman TV series – is up for sale.

Frank Lloyd Wright‘s George Sturges House, owned by actor and playwright Jack Larson, will be auctioned on 21 February, 2016, for an estimated $2.5 million to $3 million. It is among 75 lots from the estate owned by Larson to be sold after the actor passed away in September. The residence, designed in 1939, was the first Usonian house on the West Coast and was acquired by Jack Larson and Jim Bridges in 1967.

(12) DON’T PANIC. Thug Notes has done a summary and analysis of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Got to love the moment our narrator explains, “But Dude don’t know what the question is!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Ian P.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1 Let Scrolled Acquaintance Be Forgot…

rhinowaiting(1) HORNING IN. Another rhino run starring Jim Mowatt — “New Year Parkrun Rhino Running at Temple Newsam House”

We set off past the glorious Elizabethan mansion and out through the formal gardens. Down the long hill, left at the motorway and curl back along the edge of the woods until we are once again struggling up the hill toward the house. Twice around we go and the second time we are curved around the hill a little until we burst out into the finish funnel. I queue to be scanned behind the girl in the orange tee shirt. I’d finished before her at Woodhouse Moor but she was really pleased to finish in front of me here at Temple Newsam. “I couldn’t be beaten by a rhino twice in one day” she said.

 

(2) CARRIE FISHER. James H. Burns writes: “Considering that I was never particularly a fan of Carrie Fisher as an actress, I am finding myself becoming quite a fan of her mind!” Burns had just read “Carrie Fisher shuts down the ageist haters as only Carrie Fisher can” on Salon.

She soon followed up with a more direct command, saying, “Please stop debating about whether OR not aged well. unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.” It’s been favorited over 35 thousand times — and still going.

(3) FIRST AMENDMENT. Has he been listening to Fisher, too? George Lucas definitely spoke freely on the Charlie Rose show broadcast on December 25:

At one point he said that filmmakers in the Soviet Union had more freedom than their counterparts in Hollywood, who, he maintained, “have to adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism.”

Mr. Lucas appeared particularly unhappy with the direction the “Star Wars” franchise has taken since he sold the rights to it, along with Lucasfilm, his company, to Disney for $4 billion. He compared the sale to a breakup and a divorce.

“These are my kids. All the Star Wars films,” he said. “I love them, I created them, I’m very intimately involved in them.”

He added, trailing off with a laugh: “And I sold them to the white slavers that take these things and. …”

(4) BABYLON 5.1. Blastr’s headline runs a little ahead of the facts – “Straczynski bringing sci-fi classic Babylon 5 back to life with movie reboot in 2016” – in that he hasn’t finished a script and he doesn’t have a commitment from a studio to produce the movie.

Thanks to some shrewd negotiating, Straczynski actually owns the film rights to the franchise — so he isn’t beholden to getting a particular studio to sign on. But he is apparently hoping Warner Bros. (the studio that produced the original series) might be interested once the script is complete. You know, assuming it’s good.

If Warner Bros. doesn’t bite, Straczynski apparently aims to finance the film through his own Studio JMS, though that might be a tall order to bankroll an $80-100 million sci-fi epic. But considering the franchise’s name cachet with genre fans — not to mention the fact that studios are mining just about any brand they can get their hands on these days — you’d think someone would be interested in co-producing.

(5) MARSHAL BURNS. Ken Burns the documentarian was this year’s Rose Parade Grand Marshal, prompting an exchange between John King Tarpinian and Phil Nichols:

[Tarpinian] The documentarian is this year’s Rose Parade grand marshal.  They keep taking about his “moving” stills as having been groundbreaking, calling it Ken Burns effect. Now his documentaries are very well done and quite enjoyable however when I saw the first one this moving-still effect reminded me of Icarus Montgolfier Wright.  I’m thinking Ray Bradbury and George Clayton Johnson’s contribution to this effect was a bit earlier.

[Nichols] Good point, jkt! In fact, the technique had been used prior to ICARUS, most famously in a Canadian documentary called CITY OF GOLD (1957). In the UK, it has only recently become known as the Ken Burns effect. We have our own Ken (Ken Morse) who did similar work for the BBC for decades. We used to call it “movement in stills”, until the American influence became irresistible.

(6) STAR WARS SPOILERS. Beware spoilers in Alex Ross’ fine discussion of “Listening to Star Wars” at The New Yorker.

Williams’s wider influence on musical culture can’t be quantified, but it’s surely vast. The brilliant young composer Andrew Norman took up writing music after watching “Star Wars” on video, as William Robin notes in a Times profile. The conductor David Robertson, a disciple of Pierre Boulez and an unabashed Williams fan, told me that some current London Symphony players first became interested in their instruments after encountering “Star Wars.” Robertson, who regularly stages all-Williams concerts with the St. Louis Symphony, observed that professional musicians enjoy playing the scores because they are full of the kinds of intricacies and motivic connections that enliven the classic repertory. “He’s a man singularly fluent in the language of music,” Robertson said. “He’s very unassuming, very humble, but when he talks about music he can be the most interesting professor you’ve ever heard. He’s a deep listener, and that explains his ability to respond to film so acutely.”

(7) 40% PUPPY CONTENT. Brandon Kempner at Chaos Horizon takes his first cut at predicting the 2016 Best Novel Hugo. Pups get 2 spots out of the top 5.

The difficulty in predicting the 2016 Hugo lies in how little information we have: how big will the Rabid Puppies vote be? How will the Sad Puppies 4 operate? How much will the rest of the Hugo vote increase? Will other Hugo voters change their voting habits to stop a Puppy sweep? Will specific authors turn down endorsements and/or nominations?

(8) RETURN TO SENDER. Kate Paulk, in “Offer? What Offer?” at Sad Puppies 4, dismisses Steve Davidson’s reconciliation post for failing to treat with “the management.”

I’ve heard through the Internet (all right, Facebook) that someone who fancies himself a big shot in the field has “offered” to stop claiming Sad Puppies 4 is all things evil in return for a few “reasonable concessions” on our part.

Since the person in question hasn’t bothered to make this offer to me, Sarah Hoyt, or Amanda Green, Sad Puppy supporters can reasonably assume that the so-called offer is not actually genuine.

(9) KNOW JOHN, NO PEACE. John C. Wright deconstructed George R.R. Martin’s reconciliation post in “Peace on Mars, Good Will Toward Puppies” .

…Mr. Martin wills the ends without willing the means. He wishes for a cessation of enmity but does not identify who caused it and why, nor does he offer any apology or concession. Perhaps he is merely wishing for the status quo ante. Perhaps he regards his role in the matter as an entirely innocent one.

Be that as it may, honor demands a courteous response to a courteous overture….

The second group is a parasite on the first. Its sole purpose rests on expropriating the glory and reputation the award in times past painfully and honestly earned in the public esteem, and expending this stored capital profligately on unworthy objects to give them an outward momentary appearance of worth.

For example, the parasites seek to elevate REDSHIRTS to the stature of DUNE by an outward show of praise without the book being as praiseworthy. However, according to the inevitable rules governing such counterfeits, as soon as the public opinion grows aware of the inflation and adjusts its estimates accordingly, the parasites fail, and the original host fails with them.

In this case, failure means the Hugo Award no longer represents to anyone an honest judgment of worth. The boast ‘Hugo Award Winning!’ becomes a leper’s bell rather than a badge of honor, and any undeceived science fiction readers flee it. REDSHIRTS is not elevated to the stature of DUNE, but DUNE sinks.

Perhaps Mr. Martin can see a means whereby the host and the parasite that forever seeks to destroy the host can coexist in peace. I, for one, cannot….

(10) AN INTERVIEW WITH URASIS DRAGON. But once Wright had a look at Steve Davidson’s reaction to Martin, he discovered a new comradely admiration for GRRM, as expressed in “Constant Discord from Imaginary Dragons”.

Good grief. Observe that by kicking up this smokescreen of false reconciliation, Mr. Davidson actually makes it more difficult for any parties wishing for true reconciliation (I believe George RR Martin is one such) to accomplish the task…..

For the sake of any undecided readers toying with the notion that the puppykickers have some sort of valid argument or same vestigial desire for peace, allow me to address Mr. Davidson’s four points in order.

Point One: Please note that in the same column he says ” Anyone can become a member and all members enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other member.”

So, when we Sad Puppies did exactly this, Mr. Davidson uses this as an example of us “scamming the system” and advises us, as a condition of reconciliation, that we stop.

Logically, since we cannot cease to do what was never done to begin with, the condition cannot be met. As if one offered peace to a confirmed bachelor on the condition he stop beating his wife.

And Mr. Davidson also uses this to contradict our (accurate) accusation that a small group of inside elite writers and editors over the last fifteen years has been manipulating and dominating the awards secretively, that is, scamming the system.

(11) AMAZING NEGOTIATIONS. Meanwhile, Fandom’s self-appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary Steve Davidson is experimenting with a unilateral cease-fire, which he calls a “Self-Inflicted Puppy Moratorium”.

I’ve finally whittled my suggestions down to two:  1.  leave the current SPIV recommendation list as a pure recommendation list.  (It’s almost not a slate – all that needs doing is to drop the associated political rhetoric and the curation down to a “final list” and it will BE a recommendation list) and 2. disassociate SP from RP in a publicly demonstrable way.

I’ll note in passing that BOTH of these suggestions are things that the Sad Puppies are claiming to want to do – or to have already done.  It would, therefore, seem to be an easy set of requests to comply with.

As quid pro quo, I offered the following:  I would consult and participate in their recommendation list(s) (participate in order to ‘prove’ that I was doing so); I would give serious consideration to any proposal(s) they might make at WSFS business meetings (they’ve called for a Hugo for tie-ins, among other things);  I will honor their votes and nominations as being valid participation in the Hugos (in other words, won’t assume it’s all politics and market grab on their part); will continue to keep Amazing as an open source (that it has always been – the ONLY people I’ve ever received a “never coming here again” are those who complain the site is biased against them, which, if they stuck around instead of running for the hills….)

AND – I promised a unilateral moratorium on puppy-related posts for two weeks (starting yesterday) while I awaited their response.

(12) NEW YEAR’S FIREWORKS DISPLAY. Scott Lynch, who for reasons explained in the post felt unable to do so immediately after Sasquan, rang in the New Year with a defense of Patrick Nielsen Hayden against John C. Wright’s characterizations.

…This was especially frustrating in the wake of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, after which the ponderously self-important blowhard John C. Wright publicly accused veteran editor and lifelong fan Patrick Nielsen Hayden of both assaulting Wright’s wife and masterminding the long-term “corruption” of the Hugo Awards, to which the SF/F field largely replied: “Meh.” Now, some of that is certainly due to Wright’s tireless self-marginalization and frothing bigotry, but regardless, I think Patrick deserved better of his friends and colleagues. He deserved to have someone stand up and state plainly what he could not– that John C. Wright talks a big game about truth and courage, but that he is demonstrably full of shit.

I wanted to be that person. I prepared a lengthy post to that effect. And then anxiety did its usual crushing, grinding thing, and days became weeks, which became months. It is now the new year, Hugo chat has started up in earnest, and Wright is once again plying his mealy-mouthed combination of false civility and vicious nonsense on the subject. I have decided to weigh in with a reminder that the narrative Wright wants to push is an absolute full-blown fabrication….

(13) YEAR IN REVIEW. Like on that game show, Lou Antonelli delivers the answer in the form of a question: ”2015? The Year in Review?” at This Way to Texas.

And then, what I would have thought would be be a great thing, being nominated for the Hugo award twice, turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened in my life. But it helped me realize that, in the end, I really only write for myself and friends, and in literature – as in other things in life – trying to please other people is the fast track to misery.

[Thanks to Stephen Burridge, Morris Keesan, Nila Thompson, John King Tarpinian, Zenu, and Bruce Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Update 01/02/2016: Corrected item (8) after readers pointed out Paulk was commenting about Steve Davidson’s reconciliation post, not George R.R. Martin’s.

Pixel Scroll 8/3 Crisis in Infinite Victories

A Hollywood bomb that made money, a cable hit with a future, and the perpetual love feast that is the Worldcon, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) James Earl Jones played B-52 bombardier Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove.

It was his seventh professional credit. In five of his first 10 roles he was cast as a doctor. That early typecasting wasn’t enough to get him the part of Dr. Strangelove himself, though… Jones first appears in this YouTube clip at :40.

James Earl Jones would establish his greatness as an actor a few years afterwards on Broadway, earning a Tony as the lead in The Great White Hope, and an Academy Award nomination in the film version of the play. Because of his prominence in mainstream entertainment, gigs like voicing Darth Vader or Mufasa in The Lion King seem like sidelines, however, Jones has often worked in genre, fantasy and offbeat productions.

He played alien abductee Barney Hill in a 1975 TV movie, Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian, the warrior Umslopogaas in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), reclusive author Terence Mann in Field of Dreams (1989), and also has been in many obscure genre and animated productions.

(2) J. Michael Straczynski, interviewed by Comic Book Resources, is cautiously optimistic about a second season of Sense8.

While the streaming service hasn’t officially given the green light to second season, a promising gesture occurred when Netflix hosted a “Sense8″ panel during the Television Critics Association summer press tour with cast and creators in attendance, including Straczynski who updated the status of a possible renewal. “We’re still awaiting word,” he said on stage. “We’re in the process. We’re waiting for a final determination. We’re cautiously optimistic, but ultimately it’s Netflix’s call.”

If the call does come, Straczynski said he and the Wachowskis have already given plenty of thought to the next phase of the “Sense8” universe. “We’re looking at expanding that as far as logic goes,” he said. “What’s kind of fun about the characters is that what they’re sharing are not necessarily [powered] – like, in other concepts, which might be superpowers, flight. They have ordinary abilities, and we’re trying to say that there is value and merit and power in [that] – whether you’re an actor or you are a martial arts person or a bus driver, you have something to contribute.”

(3) You have til tomorrow to bid on a copy of the American first edition of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Currently up to $2,400.

twenty thousand leagues vern

(4) “7 Science Fiction Publishers that Pay $750+ for Short Stories” seems to have valid info (I checked the Analog entry and it is good) even if the page itself is an ad for writing jobs.

(5) Today’s birthday boy – Clifford D. Simak, three-time Hugo winner, for “The Big Front Yard” (1959), “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1981), and one of my very favorite sf novels, Way Station (1964). He was named a SFWA Grand Master, received a Bram Stoker Award for Life Achievement, and won the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.

After the original Dean of Science Fiction, Murray Leinster, passed away, Isaac Asimov considered only two writers had earned the right to succeed to the unofficial title, saying in The Hugo Winners: 1980-1982 (1986) “the only writer who can possibly compete with [Clifford D. Simak] as ‘dean of science fiction’ is Jack Williamson, who is four years younger than Cliff but has been publishing three years longer.”

Clifford Simak

Clifford Simak

(6) Artist Bob Eggleton predicts the demise of the Worldcon art show in “We LOVE Worldcon….but here’s what happened…”

Back in the 1980s, it was commonplace for us Pro Artists to schlep or ship our work to the convention. The 80s was a great time,  SF looked good,  major authors were doing major works, the covers were the best they’d ever been.  Costs were low.  Even in the 90s it was still viable. I can remember in 1996 shipping 3 large boxes of artwork to the LACon of that year in Anaheim.  It was a lot of fun, I won a Hugo in fact. The boxes cost me something like $300.00 each way for a total of $600 and change.  I made something like $4500 in the show, so including everything, I still made money.

….It’s the shipping costs that it all comes down to vs the return in sales that are not always congruent. So while people ask “What happened to all the name artists?”….it’s simply cost that we can’t do this anymore. My personal view is also that, Worldcon has changed and few people are interested in the physical art like they used to be, with all the interest in digital media. And it has become a lot of work to prepare for these events. My memories are long and I will always remember the good times, but, they’ve passed. I see a future of an artshow-less Worldcon, due to insurance costs and lack of manpower and, as digital art becomes the mainstay, a lack of physical art.

(7) Dave Freer’s “Show me” at Mad Genius Club is a one-man roundup post.

In this case I’m talking about all those folk who have been telling us ‘we’re doing it wrong’. You know precisely the sort of individuals I’m talking about. They’ll tell me I’m an evil cruel man for killing a chicken or a wallaby… but they have never done it. They’ve never been faced with a choice of that, or no food (let alone meat). They buy a product in the supermarket… which magically makes it appear in the freezer. They’ll tell you that you did your book all wrong and that it is terrible and full of typos… but they haven’t written one. Or if they have, they didn’t have to survive the mill of the slush-pile as I did (or self-pub), but thanks to their ‘disadvantages’ and connections had a publisher pay an editor to help, and proof reader to clear some of those typos. They’ll tell you that the puppies efforts are dragging sf back in time (yes, JUST in time), yet they’ve done nothing to alter the catastrophic plunge of sf/fantasy sales from traditional publishers. If you force them to confront the figures showing they’ve been part of excluding anyone to the right of Lenin from traditional publishing and the various awards (which, it seems extremely likely, downgraded the sale-value of those awards, and the popularity of the genre… they’ll tell you there might be a problem (but of course nothing like as bad as you make it out to be) and we, the puppies just did it wrong.

(8) But never let it be said the Puppies haven’t left their noseprint on the field. Dave Hicks’s cover art for Novacon 45’s progress reports is themed for GoH Stan Nicholls’s Orcs fantasies. Here’s the topical #2.

Art by Dave Hicks.

Art by Dave Hicks.

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

Straczynski Picked To Script Red Mars

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski will write Spike TV’s Red Mars, based on the first book in Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy about the terraforming of Mars.

HBO’s Game of Thrones co-executive producer Vince Gerardis is the producer, and author Robinson is a consultant.

All three novels in the trilogy won major sf awards — Red Mars (Nebula), Green Mars (Hugo) and Blue Mars (Hugo) — and are esteemed as examples of hard sf.

In recent years Straczynski has written the Clint Eastwood feature The Changeling and co-wrote Thor and World War Z. On the TV side, he is wrapping the first season of Sense8 for Netflix, an sf series he co-wrote and executive produces/runs with the Wachowskis.

JMS Bringing Sense8
To Netflix in 2015

Sense8 is an upcoming sf drama series created, co-written and co-directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix). J. Michael Straczynski, executive producer of Sense8, pulled back the curtain a little more on the project for his Facebook fan group on October 13.

[Now] that we’re about a month from the end of shooting on season one of Sense8, with vast amounts of the footage now in hand, I’m sufficiently confident with what we’re doing to make another promise.

Sense8 is going to debut on Netflix in 2015. And it is going to change the way you see television, in terms of production values, storytelling, scope, scale, and action. All of it.

We are going to tell a story on a planetary scale. No cheats. In ways no one else has ever done before.

We are going to treat subjects that most TV series, and pretty much all SF series have avoided.

We are going to present visuals and action in ways that you have simply never, ever seen before. Anywhere.

In 2015 we are going to blow the doors off the television business.

Count on it.

That’s not all Straczynski has in the works. As quoted in the JMS News, he told an audience at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con —

Here’s the plan: We’re going to have, through Studio JMS, at least two, maybe three TV series on the air next year. We’re going to have at least one or two movies going ahead. And we’ll use that to parlay serious investment in the studio. I’m not talking Kickstarter, I’m talking about one hundred million dollars, two hundred million dollars; we already have people who are lined up and interested in doing that.

So in 2015 I will write a Babylon 5 screenplay. I’ll be giving Warner Bros. the opportunity – if they want to step up, “Help yourself”. If they don’t, 2016: We make it. I’m not going to wait around for more of our cast members to die.

The B5 movie would be a reboot, however, he plans to use many of the original cast in other roles.

Straczynski’s Back

Netflix has ordered 10 episodes of Sense8, a science fiction drama produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski in partnership with J. Michael Straczynski.

Just what it will be about has yet to be made public. The Wachowskis only toldThe Hollywood Reporter —

“We’re excited to work with Netflix and Georgeville Television on this project, and we’ve wanted to work with Joe Straczynski for years, chiefly due to the fact his name is harder to pronounce than ours, but also because we share a love of genre and all things nerdy,” said Andy and Lana Wachowski. “Several years ago, we had a late night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us, and out of that paradox Sense8 was born.”

The show will debut in late 2014.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Before Watchmen Panel at C2E2

James Bacon said in an e-mail, “I got the opportunity to see a Before Watchmen presentation, so I told the Vice President I was pissed off.”

“Biden?” I wondered. But no, James’ report for Comic Buzz shows he meant someone with real power — in the comics industry:

I waited a little, then approached the stage…trying to catch Dan Didio [Co-Publishers of DC Comics]…. He leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.

The panel also featured several of the talents who are working on Before Watchmen. One of them addressed the controversy in fandom about enlarging on Alan Moore’s creation:

JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.

Check the report for more information and reaction about DC’s new project.

#4 With a Bullet

harlan with birdWhen Harlan Ellison learned he was ranked fourth in my list of Top Newsmakers of 2011 he gave me a call.

I was away, so he gave Diana the number and promised “He’s not in trouble.” I don’t believe a science fiction writer has ever said that about me before. Readers of this blog will be amazed one has said it now.

When I returned his call Harlan said he was pleased to have appeared in the list of Top 10 Newsmakers – and told me a great many more things I should have reported about him last year. Very true. And here they are.

In 2011 Harlan was voted his fourth Nebula by the members of SFWA, for “How Interesting: A Tiny Man.” At the age of 77 he is the oldest person ever to win the award. He’s the only author with three Nebula-winning short stories. (Harlan won his other Nebula years ago for a novella, A Boy and His Dog.) He’s also a past recipient of SFWA’s Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award (2006).

Last year one of my favorite writers, Robert Crais, dedicated his latest Joe Pike mystery to him. Harlan says over 200 books have been dedicated to him in his lifetime.

He’s been blessed with a revitalization of his writing after being diagnosed and treated for Clinical Depression – ending a stretch of time when he believed he was simply dying and had announced his last convention appearance.

Last year Harlanbooks.com produced four Ellison projects.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison, Volumes One and Two collect his television scripts, which appear exactly as they did when he pulled them from his Olympia manual typewriter, before any alterations by the shows’ producers.

A limited edition of Volume One with special material, signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski (author of the introduction), made over $70K he says.

The second volume of Brain Movies features an introduction by Patton Oswalt and six more Ellison teleplays. Among them are “Mealtime,” an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that resulted in an ABC censor having his pelvis broken by a model of the Seaview (and was aired under the Cordwainer Bird pseudonym); plus two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Then there were two “101” books. Harlan 101: Encountering Ellison, which boasts a foreword by Neil Gaiman, is an introduction to Ellison’s work and advice to writers. There are seven essays on the craft of writing and short stories including his latest Nebula winner, “How Interesting: A Tiny Man,” and five Hugo Award winners “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” “The Deathbird,” “Jeffty Is Five,” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour.”

Harlan 101: The Sound of A Scythe and 3 Brilliant Novellas is notable for the reappearance of Ellison’s second novel (The Sound of A Scythe) in a substantially revised and expanded form and using the author’s preferred title (the original publisher renamed it The Man With Nine Lives without Ellison’s consent). It’s 25% longer than in the 1960 edition, which Ace chopped by 40,000 words.

In one week in December he had 5 books come out. One of them, Bugf#ck: The Worthless Wit & Wisdom of Harlan Ellison, has already sold through two printings – something like 70,000 copies. The small-sized hardback book (128 numbered pages with a 4 x 5.5 inch trim size) gathers Harlan’s best bon mots.

There is more on the way in 2012.

Harlan has a story in the forthcoming Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle. There will be a numbered edition limited to 500 signed by all the contributors except Bradbury, priced at $75, and a lettered edition limited to 26 copies, which is signed by Bradbury, going for $500. For more information and to order, click this link. Among the other contributors are Margaret Atwood, David Eggers, Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman, and Joe Hill.

In 2012 Kicks Books of Brooklyn will reissue the gang stories he wrote as Paul Merchant in the late 1950s.

Without a doubt, Harlan’s already hard at work securing a spot at the front of the field of this year’s newsmakers.

In the Original Babylonian

The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his (and Cordwainer Bird’s) legend. So naturally many fans will be intrigued to read the master’s own versions of these scripts, the prose as it came directly from his Olympia manual typewriter, when the publisher releases a three-volume set this fall titled Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison:

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 1
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (two different drafts!), The Outer Limits, The Hunger and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (featuring the unfilmed original ending) and “Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” from The Twilight Zone, along with their original treatments.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 2
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his scripts for Ripcord, four episodes of Burke’s Law—weighing in at an average of 75 pages each—and the Flying Nun teleplay (and treatment) written in the hopes of landing a date with Sally Field.

Brain Movies: The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume 3
Reprinted from Harlan Ellison’s original typescripts for the first time: his unmolested teleplay for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, two episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cimarron Strip, the pilot for Ellison’s own series The Starlost (recently adapted into a graphic novel by IDW) and a bonus treatment for the Logan’s Run tv series.

Volume One presents six of Harlan Ellison’s teleplays reproduced from actual file copies, including his handwritten deletions and emendations. Readers also have an immediate opportunity to order the “Limited Babylonian edition” of Volume One signed by Ellison and J. Michael Straczynski which features three documents Straczynski commissioned Ellison to write at the outset of Babylon 5:

(1) A detailed manifesto explaining to potential writers for the series what not to do in science fiction television.

(2) The UNABRIDGED opening narration to be read by Michael O’Hare as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair over the beginning of each episode, written in collaboration with Straczynski and never featured in its entirety in the finished episodes.

(3) Thirteen never-heard humorous voice overs written to be spoken over the Warner Bros. logo that ended each episode. What you heard spoken was, “Babylon 5 was produced by Babylonian Productions Inc. and distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.” But Ellison had other ideas.

Straczynski has written an open letter to Babylon 5 fans plugging Ellison’s collection:

In many cases, the book contains both the script and the treatment, something almost never seen outside the studio. Most amazing of all, the book contains not just the shooting script for Harlan’s HITCHCOCK episode, it contains an earlier draft filled with his handwritten annotations and changes.

When an episode is broadcast, you don’t get to see the writer’s mind at work, don’t have the opportunity to experience the moment he decided to make a line of dialogue or a scene go this way instead of that way, how a turn of phrase was altered in just the right way at the last moment, you see only the end product. By including the draft with the handwritten annotations, you can see the creative process being enacted right before your eyes. The opportunity to see inside the writer’s mind is unspeakably rare.

Best of all, these are not re-typeset versions of the script, they are painstakingly scanned reproductions of the ORIGINAL SCRIPTS, exactly as they were written.

And for the budding science fiction writers out there, what better than having Harlan Ellison break down in his manifesto how to write effectively in the genre, how to avoid various kinds of traps and make your writing better?

Not just those budding writers, many fans who have followed Ellison’s print and media work over the decades still have infinite curiosity about Harlan Ellison’s writing process. What a window this will be into his creative process.

It’s a characteristically bold move, Ellison giving any interested reader the opportunity to compare his original vision to the aired episodes and understandably betting on himself.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]