Pixel Scroll 10/4/16 But With Strange Pixels Even Scrolls May File

(1) IT CAN WEAR ON YOU. Wendy Ross Kaufman has written a concise history of fan costuming culture that explains why she prefers her activity not be lumped in with cosplay, in “They’re Young. We’re Dead. So it’s Cosplay”.

And so, momentum of the new “cosplay” word grows. The newer, younger crowd makes original work, but since they came to costuming by way of Anime, they still call themselves cosplayers. Cosplayers brand themselves as such, finally showing up on reality shows, and the media is just frantic for them. Most have no idea that this cosplay thing is not Japanese at all. It’s American, misnamed by a Japanese man searching for a name that was not “too noble” for the art he saw at Worldcon in 1984. As one who has never cosplayed, “even once”, it’s understandable how Mr. Takahashi just got it so completely wrong, and completely missed all the subtlety and cultural nuances of what he saw. No outsider could, let alone one from a totally different culture.

Now, as ‘cosplayers’ enjoy their turn at being the darling of the internet, there have been skirmishes about what to call these people who make costumes for conventions. Is it “cosplayer” or “costumer”? Sometimes you hear that one should simply respect a person’s wishes, and call each what they ask to be called. Then you also get the positively rabid insistence from some that it’s all cosplay, and only cosplay, and anything else is somehow insulting to cosplayers. They are absolutely, positively emphatic about it. Even costuming that happened 40 years ago is cosplay and should be renamed as such. No amount of trying to explain how this is not correct, because the whole era was different, will work, and those costumers do not want to rename what they did, nor should they. The audience was different. What was fashionable in costume was different. These costumes can be dated the same way any costumes—even period costumes—date a movie to when it was made, not when it was set. There was a whole community with its own codified rules and expectations at that time that are very different than the cosplayer’s and in no way was the word “cosplay” associated with it, nor would any of them have considered associating what most consider to be “play” with what they did. Simply put, the word “cosplay” did not exist then, nor would it, here in the US, for a decade or more. It would take even longer before it gained any real momentum.

So you can see that it is a bit odd to insist, while virtually stomping oneself into the floor, Rumplestiltskin-like, that 50 years of costume convention history be renamed because the new kids insist there is no difference, and they want their new word—because somehow, it’s better but also the same. It’s a peculiar bit of cultural appropriation that costumers react negatively to. If there is no difference, then that only means that “costumer” is the “correct” term. Why do we need a new word?

You can be cosplayers if you wish, but costumers will continue to be costumers.

(2) RETRO CONVENTION T-SHIRTS. Alison Scott’s Fannish Clothing Emporium (a Facebook link) specializes in wearable fanhistory.  (There’s also a Teespring store).

She launched this summer with a reprise of Margaret Welbank’s shirt for the 1987 Worldcon bid — available in UK and US varieties.

britain-is-heaven-tee

Pat Cadigan put her up to this one –

cadigan-chemo-tee

(3) GET SCALZI AUDIO STORY FREE. This novella is premiering as an audiobook – and you can download it at no charge over the next few weeks – “The Dispatcher: Now Out for Free on Audible + NYCC Signings and Appearances”.

Today’s the day: The Dispatcher, my audiobook novella, is out and exclusively available on Audible.com, for free through November 2. It’s read by Zachary Quinto, who you know from the new Star Trek films as Spock and from Heroes as Sylar, and he is simply a terrific narrator for the story.

And what’s the story? Imagine our world with a simple but profound twist: when someone intentionally kills someone else, 999 out of a thousand, they come back. Murder becomes almost impossible, war is radically altered — and there arises a new class of legal, professional killers called “Dispatchers,” tasked with killing those doomed to die, so they can come back and live again.

(4) LONGER LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 2 Kickstarter passed its first stretch goal of $3,900, enabling it to add the novelettes, and it’s now raised $4,147, on its way to the $5000 for adding two novellas.

That adds the following stories, including one that is just being announced as part of this update (marked with a * in case you’re just tuning in)

  • “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “Another Word For World” by Ann Leckie
  • “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” by Rose Lemberg
  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker*
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente

On to the novella stretch goal! (And if that one’s reached, to consider what else to consider after that.)

Thanks to all 212  backers, BoingBoing and File770 for signal-boosting, and to everyone else who has helped spread the word!

(5) JUST. ONCE. MORE. Can’t find that I’ve linked this story in the Scroll before – it’s Yes! Magazine’s full-length article about the “Just. One. Book.” effort,  “A Mom’s Plea for Library Books Brought in 15,000 – And Transformed Her Small Town”.

Books change lives. Everyone reading this knows that. But what about 15,000 books donated from around the world to a struggling rural school, where the library has been closed for a decade? That many books can change a community.

At the cusp of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges sits Greenville, California, a town of 1,130 residents. The town and the surrounding Indian Valley community are right now exploring all the benefits of this gift—enough volumes to fill several libraries in a place with scant library services.

Like every good book, there’s a story here.

Margaret Elysia Garcia wasn’t thinking about the shuttered sawmills and empty storefronts of Indian Valley when she posted a blog entry titled “Just. One. Book.” She was thinking about kids…

(6) MASTER OF STONELORE. Fantasy Literature scored a big interview — Hugo Winner N.K. Jemisin talks THE FIFTH SEASON and THE OBELISK GATE

WARNING: THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 AND 2 OF THE BROKEN EARTH SERIES

Kevin Wei: First, let me just say congrats on your recent Hugo win! We’re great fans of your work here at Fantasy Literature, so I just wanted to start us off by talking about how you write. I know you’ve said in the past that your writing process differs depending on what you write. Has the way you’ve written BROKEN EARTH differed significantly from the way you’ve written other works? Was there a large difference between the writing processes for The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate?

N. K. Jemisin: My process is still pretty much the same, at the planning stage. I outline, and I will put together different sets of information storage, like at one point I used to use a wiki. Now I just write notes, endless notes. I’ve got a file that’s nothing more than stonelore that I’ve made up and another file that keeps track of all the seasons, and then a file that keeps track of the way that plate tectonics would have moved over the years, and all kinds of stuff like that. But I think the difference now that I’m writing book three of the trilogy is that I am now completely off the outline; I have been pantsing it almost exclusively, which is not normal for me, and I’m not sure what that’s going to mean. I think it’s mostly just that I’m working at speed right now, and I’m working at such speed that I don’t have time to even slow down enough to check my outline and make sure I’m on track. It’s a fairly simple story at this point, all of the place settings have been moved and the chess board is all set up now it’s just a matter of “now fight.”

(7) REPEALING THE INFORMATION AGE? Poynter.org reports “Newspapers hit with a wave of requests to take down embarrassing archived stories”.

In May 2014, the European Union’s highest court ruled that there is a privacy “right to be forgotten” — and that Google needed to respond to any reasonable request that information “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” be removed. (The case was brought by a Spanish businessman who wanted to unpublish an account of an earlier insolvency).

The right to be forgotten concept has not yet made it across the Atlantic, but it is easy to imagine privacy advocates taking up the cause in state legislatures or Congress.

I became aware of the recent surge in such requests six weeks ago when Zach Ryall, digital managing editor of the Austin American-Statesman called Poynter asking if we knew of an ethics code providing guidance.

“This is getting scary,” Ryall told me. “We are responding to more and more of these…And when I checked with my colleagues at other Cox papers, I found they are too.”…

Checking with chains, Randy Siegel of Advance Local told me the inquiries are not yet a big problem. Brent Jones, standards and ethics editor of the USA Today Network, commented by email:

Newsrooms are guided to keep the bar high when considering removal of content from digital platforms. Our journalists strive daily to preserve the integrity of the published record, including publishing corrections or clarifications. We do so in the interest of the public’s right to know now – and in the future. Take-down requests are weighed on a case-by-case basis with senior editors, and some situations may require legal guidance….

For now, case-by-case seems to be the norm. I was surprised to read that since the EU ruling, Google has received literally hundreds of thousands appeals to disable links, granting about 40 percent but turning down the majority.

Makes me wonder if the Internet Archive is responding to requests to take down old news items?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 4, 1931 — The comic strip Dick Tracy, created by Chester Gould, made its debut.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born October 4, 1941 — Anne Rice
  • Born October 4, 1988 — Melissa Benoist

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 4, 1923 — Charlton Heston.

(11) JACK VANCE PHOTO ALBUMS. Andrew Porter remarks, “If people only knew Jack Vance as an old, sedentary and very rotund author, these images will open your eyes of what he looked like as a newlywed, with his wife Norma, just after World War Two and in the years following: http://menno.pharesm.org/jackvance/albums/.

(12) ANOTHER TIME AT BAT. Collider says Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar are still busy in the genre — “’Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders’ Adds to the Voice Cast as New Images Emerge”.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, the latest animated effort from Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment, has added a few quality names to the film’s voice cast, along with a few new images showing off the classic designs of the 1960s Batman characters.

Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Julie Newmar (Catwoman) own top billing, but Steven Weber and Thomas Lennon–-join as trustworthy butler Alfred Pennyworth and Chief O’Hara, respectively–headline an impressive array of actors who were excited to give voice to a role in a Batman film. In addition to Weber and Lennon, the cast includes:

Jeff Bergman as the Joker and the revered Announcer, William Salyers as The Penguin, Wally Wingert as The Riddler, Lynne Marie Stewart as Aunt Harriett, Jim Ward as Commissioner Gordon, and Sirena Irwin as TV show host Miranda Moore.

(13) CHANGING OF THE GUARDIANS. Petréa Mitchell noted MiceAge has a new Disneyland update that includes details about the new Guardians of the Galaxy makeover for the Tower of Terror, and some epic-sounding stuff about Star Wars Land that we may or may not eventually see.

The construction scaffolding has been growing on the sides and back of Tower of Terror, and by Halloween it should be nearly fully shrouded in scaffolding and tarps. That’s about the time that the construction footprint will have to expand enough to shut down the DCA parade route through the remainder of the construction timeline until next May. Without the ability to perform a parade during construction DCA will still go full steam ahead on one of Christie’s pet projects, the food and merch “festivals” in DCA that will begin November 11th and continue through the spring in one form or another. And when the scaffolds come down, this is what will be seen from throughout DCA – as the video says, inspired by oil refineries:…

 

(14) THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. According to the League of Supercritics:

The Wicked Witch of the West is the ultimate archetype for the modern witch, so everyone wants to their own version of her. Too bad MGM holds the copyright to the one everyone knows.

 

(15) OH, THE DINOMANITY! Mark Evanier relives the anguish of being a first-run Flintstones fan, before the invention of the VCR.

Still, that awful night, I actually missed an episode of The Flintstones! A whole, actual episode of The Flintstones! On Monday, I pumped my schoolmates who’d seen it for details…and expressed shock that some of them could have watched but hadn’t. What the hell was wrong with those children?

I consoled myself that all was not lost; that some (not all) of the episodes were rerun near the end of the season…so I had a chance. As it turned out, this was not one of the ones that was repeated and I figured sadly I would never see it. Who knew at the time those would all be rerun and rerun forever and someday, I’d even be able to buy a copy of it and watch it whenever I wanted to? I finally caught it a year or three later in syndication by which time my interest in The Flintstones was somewhat diminished.

So let us pause to remember that because of technology, no child ever has to endure that pain today. Whatever ten-year-olds are watching today — Son of Zorn or Bob’s Burgers or Elena of Avalor or Naked and Afraid — they never have to miss an episode.

It’s a great time to be alive.

(16) NEW SPACE TRAILER. The Space Between Us Official Trailer #2.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Nigel, Petréa Mitchell, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Alison Scott for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/16 A Trans-Atlantic Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Hurrah!

(1) VALUE OF SPECIAL THEME ISSUES. Neil Clarke has written a blog post, “Specials”, to discuss what he learned from a discussion he launched yesterday on Twitter.

So yesterday I took to Twitter to get an answer to a question I had about the value of special theme issues as a tool in addressing representation. It was driven in part by an incomplete editorial sitting on my desktop for a couple of months now…..

Here’s where I made a few mistakes:

  1. Assuming that the primary goal for these projects was long-term (as in taking a long time) or that there ever was just one. In fact, it appears as though in many of these cases, a goal was to spotlight a specific community or provide a safe entry point, not necessarily to focus on altering the landscape for the field or attract a permanent change in the slush pile for the magazine. Yes, some of these already had existing policies in place to monitor and maintain that specific branch of diversity. They were a celebration rather than a corrective measure, but hasn’t been the norm across the years….

What I learned:

  1. That there is a serious and demonstrable benefit to the theme projects, but not necessarily in direct service of the results I hoped for. I heard from a wide variety of people who had career-changing moments from their involvement in projects as ranging from anthologies, to Helix, to Escape Artists, and Lightspeed’s Destroy series. A common refrain was that it encouraged them to try, gave them a confidence boost when they needed it, made them feel like they belonged, and served as a stepping stone. That last one is a long-term thing. It might not be to the big scale of the long-term goal I was talking about, but it was certainly step in the right direction. There is something to be said to the qualitative safety element of these projects even if it doesn’t specifically raise to the level of changing the playing field on a bigger scale….

(2) VERBOSE VERISIMILITUDE. After these introductory paragraphs I found her stylistic demonstration to be deeply intriguing – Sarah A. Hoyt’s “The Quality of Description Should not be Strained” at Mad Genius Club. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Quality of Description Should not be Strained, a Dialogue with Bill and Mike.

“Hey there buddy,” Mike said, as he came into the office, slamming the door behind him and making for the coffee maker like it was on fire and he had the only firehose on the planet.  “Why so glum?”

Bill blinked from where he sat at his desk, looking across him at the red spires dotting the desert landscape outside the office window.  “My writer’s group said I needed more description and sense of place,” he said.  “But then when I put in description, they told me I had stopped the action and given them indigestible infodumps.”

(3) INTERNET ANTIQUITY. While rhapsodizing yesterday about the 10-year anniversary of bacon cat and the 18th anniversary of Whatever, John Scalzi said:

It’s an interesting time to be doing a blog, still, because I think it’s safe to declare the Age of Blogging well and truly over, inasmuch as personal blogging as been superseded in nearly every way by social media, including Twitter (my favorite), Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and so on and so forth. I’m not planning on mourning blogs in general — as a phenomenon they had their moment and it was a relatively good one — but it is interesting to watch the blog tide recede, with just a few die-hards left to do them old-school, like I do.

Reading that, I thought no wonder I’ve really been in the swing of blogging this past year. I’m one of the great late-adopters, and seem to have timed my entry into the field perfectly. Had I waited a few moments longer blogs would have been extinct…

(4) OF COURSE NOBODY’S HAPPY. Aaron has penned a long and thoughtful post about slates and this year’s Hugos in “Biased Opinion: 2016 Hugo Awards Post-Mortem” at Dreaming of Other Worlds. This includes a category-by-category breakdown of the results. Filers actually started discussing this yesterday. I want to point even more people at it by including the link in today’s Scroll.

But why have the Pups erupted in paroxysms of rage when their candidates generally did so well in the final Hugo voting? The first reason is that, despite their claims that they were merely nominating and supporting what they felt were the “best” works, it seems that what they really wanted was for their political allies and personal cronies to win. The Puppy picks that won in 2016 were Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Neil Gaiman, Andy Weir, Abigail Larson, Mike Glyer, none of whom are beholden to the Pups in any way. In fact, one of the things that seems to have enraged the Pups is that Gaiman was insufficiently grateful to them for their support, calling them out on their bad behavior over the last couple of years with his acceptance speech. If supporting quality works was the primary goal of the Pups, then Gaiman’s stance wouldn’t matter to them one way or the other – they would be extolling the victory of The Sandman: Overture as a triumph of what they regard as good work.

(5) NEW BUNDLE. Now’s the time to pick up the New StoryBundle: Extreme Sci-Fi:

bundle_113_cover

For three weeks only, from September 14 through October 6, you can get five or ten DRM-free ebooks (your choice) ready for loading on any e-reading device you like. You decide what you want to pay. After that, this bundle will disappear forever.

The initial titles in the Extreme Sci-Fi Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Me and Elsie Chronicles by M. L. Buchman
  • Climbing Olympus by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Orphan – Giant Robot Planetary Competition: Book 1 by J.R. Murdock
  • Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring Do by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Star Fall by Dean Wesley Smith

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • Away Games by Mike Resnick
  • Extremes by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Hadrian’s Flight by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Risk Takers by Fiction River
  • Fairchild by Blaze Ward

We’ve got a classics, best-sellers, and four brand new books written especially for this bundle celebrating the human spirit. Inside, you’ll find dark tales of murder and intrigue, high-comic farce, young adult adventure, awe and wonder, rapture and redemption.

(6) JACK VANCE. Paul Weimer analyzes one of Jack Vance’s richly inventive fictional worlds in “Robinson Crusoe of Tschai: Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure Tetralogy”, posted at Tor.com.

Strange customs and societies, a hallmark of Vance’s fiction, populate (and almost overcrowd) the world. What is near-mandatory in one region of Tschai will get you killed in another. Anyone who despairs of planets in SF which feature all the same terrain and the same people have never visited Tschai. This variety and diversity is such that most people who encounter Reith and hear his story just think he’s from some corner of Tschai that they are unaware of, and probably crazy to boot.

(7) PASSENGER. NPR reports what it’s like to ride along in a self-driving Uber car.

Fourteen self-driving Ford Fusions idle in front of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

On each vehicle, dozens of stationary and spinning cameras collect 1.4 million distance measurements per second, guiding the car on its journey.

Beginning Wednesday, the cars will be deployed on Pittsburgh’s streets in a striking experiment by Uber to introduce self-driving technology to its passengers.

“For me this is really important,” says Anthony Levandowski, the head of Uber’s self-driving car team, “because I really believe that the most important things that computers are going to do in the next 10 years is drive cars.”

(8) LICENSE TO WRITE. Larry Correia says don’t be bullied: “Writers should be Cultural Appropriating all the Awesome Stuff”.

I’ve talked about Cultural Appropriation before, and why it is one of the most appallingly stupid ideas every foisted on the gullible in general, and even worse when used as a bludgeon against fiction authors.

First off, what is “Cultural Appropriation”?  From the linked talk:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

The part that got left out of that definition is that engaging in Cultural Appropriation is a grievous mortal sin that self-righteous busy bodies can then use to shame anyone they don’t like.

Look at that definition. Basically anything you use that comes from another culture is stealing. That is so patently absurd right out the gate that it is laughable. Anybody who has two working brain cells to rub together, who hasn’t been fully indoctrinated in the cult of social justice immediately realizes that sounds like utter bullshit.

If you know anything about the history of the world, you would know that it has been one long session of borrowing and stealing ideas from other people, going back to the dawn of civilization. Man, that cuneiform thing is pretty sweet. I’m going to steal writing. NOT OKAY! CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!

Everything was invented by somebody, and if it was awesome, it got used by somebody else. At some point in time thousands of years ago some sharp dude got sick of girding up his loins and invented pants. We’re all stealing from that guy. Damn you racists and your slacks.

In his customary swashbuckling style, he treats anyone’s concern about this issue as an absurd failure to comprehend how culture and the sharing of ideas works. That tone naturally makes people want to fire back on the same terms – whereas I wonder what everyone might say if he had expressed the same views in a persuasive structured argument.

One of Correia’s commenters implied that would look like Moshe Feder’s recent comment on Facebook.

MOSHE FEDER: I’ve always found “cultural appropriation” a weird concept. To me, it’s usually a progressive step toward a future in which humanity realizes that from a galactic point of view, we all share ONE culture — albeit a complex and varied one — the planetary culture developed by homo sapiens over tens of thousands of years. It was by this very so-called “appropriation” that fire, animal husbandry, agriculture, the wheel, and other crucial advances were spread to the benefit of all. Of course, there _are_ cases where CA is rude or inappropriate, as when you use it to mock or misrepresent other groups, and people of good will try to avoid those. But even those uses are protected by our free speech rights. (As are the protestations of those who resent such uses.) But all too often, complaints about cultural appropriation are another example of political correctness carried to the point of absurdity, the point at which it gives unscrupulous demagogues like Trump something they can look sensible for complaining about.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 14, 1914 — Clayton Moore, TV’s The Lone Ranger.
  • Born September 14, 1936 — Walter Koenig (age 80). He was 31 when he started Star Trek.

(10) SQUARE DEAL FOR NUMBER ONE FAN. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city may agree to name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor. The Los Feliz Ledger has the story:

“Sci-Fi” Square: Beloved Local, Ackerman, Up for Honor.

The intersection of Franklin and Vermont avenues may soon be known as “Forrest J Ackerman Square,” thanks to an August motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (CD 4).

The square would honor Ackerman, a lifetime Angeleno best known for coining the term “sci-fi.”….

The notion of honoring Ackerman with a city square was first brought up at a March meeting of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, where a group called “Concerned Citizens of Los Feliz” tried and failed to gain historic status for a bungalow on Russell Avenue, which Ackerman called home for the final six years of his life.

Ackerman referred to the bungalow as his “Acker-Mini-Mansion,” in reference to the “Ackermansion,” his former home on Glendower Avenue in the Hollywood Hills.

(11) GEAR. Vox Day is thinking of doing some Dread Ilk merchandise. Here are the initial ideas.

I’m interested in knowing which designs are of most interest to the Ilk. So, here are a few random ideas; let me know which would be of the most interest to you, assuming that the designs are well-executed. Or if you have any other ideas, feel free to throw them out.

  • Evil Legion of Evil (member’s edition)
  • Evil Legion of Evil (Red Meat cartoon)
  • Vile Faceless Minion
  • Dread Ilk
  • Rabid Puppies 2015
  • Rabid Puppies 2016
  • Vox Day Che
  • Just Say N20 (Psykosonik lyrics on back)
  • Spacebunny (cartoon logo)
  • Supreme Dark Lord (Altar of Hate mask logo)
  • SJWAL cover
  • Cuckservative cover with 1790 law quote
  • That Red Dot On Your Chest Means My Daddy Is Watching
  • Castalia House logo “Restoring Science Fiction Since 2014”
  • There Will Be War
  • The Missionaries

(12) GAME SHOW. Steven H Silver is back with another stfnal Jeopardy! question:

A daily double in Awards. She bet $2400 and got it right on a total guess.

jeop-201690914

I’m sure all you Filers would have cashed that in.

(13) THE HONOR OF THE THING. John Scalzi confessed on Twitter:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/16 Dead Sea Pixel Scrolls

(1) EYEING EARTHSEA. Ursula K. Le Guin talks about working with Charles Vess, illustrator of The Big Book of Earthsea, in a post for Book View Café.

…So, this is how it’s been going:

Charles begins the conversation, emailing me occasonally with questions, remarks, while reading the books. I answer as usefully as I can. Also, we chat. I find out that he has sailed all around Scotland. He tells me about Neil Gunn’s novel The Silver Darlings, which I read with vast pleasure. I don’t know what I tell him, but slowly and at easy intervals a friendship is being established.

Suddenly Charles sends me a sketch of a dragon.

It is an excellent dragon. But it isn’t an Earthsea dragon.

Why?

Well . . . an Earthsea dragon wouldn’t have this, see? but it would have that . . . And the tail isn’t exactly right, and about those bristly things —

So I send Charles an email full of whines and niggles and what-if-you-trieds-such-and-suches. I realize how inadequate are my attempts to describe in words the fierce and beautiful being I see so clearly.

Brief pause.

The dragon reappears. Now it looks more like an Earthsea dragon….

(2) QUINN KICKSTARTER REACHES TARGET. Jameson Quinn’s YouCaring appeal today passed the $1,300 goal. I, for one, am glad to see that news.

(3) YA HORROR. “And Now for Something Completely Different: Adding Humor to Your Horror”: Amanda Bressler tells YA writers how, at the Horror Writers Association blog.

With the popularity of dark comedies, it should be no surprise that horror and humor can be a compelling mix. However, when it comes to young adult books, few succeed at the balance that keeps a funny horror book from losing its edge or appearing to try too hard. Here are a few humorous elements used in YA horror to enhance the story, characters, or setting without sacrificing their horror-ness.

(4) EARLY HINT OF ELVEN. Soon to be available in print again: “70-year-old Tolkien poem reveals early ‘Lord of the Rings’ character”.

A poem by J.R.R. Tolkien that’s been out of print since the year World War II ended will be published this fall for the first time in 70 years, the Guardian reports.

And even if you were around in 1945, you likely didn’t see the poem unless you were a dedicated reader of literary journal The Welsh Review. That’s where “The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun” (Breton for “lord and lady”) was published, based on a work Tolkien had started around 1930.

Why should modern readers care? The poem suggests an early version of elf queen Galadriel from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion.” The poem tells of a couple that cannot have children until visiting a witch known as the Corrigan, who grants them twins, but later demands a price be paid for her assistance.

(5) GOBBLE GOBBLE. New Scientist calls it “Einstein’s clock: The doomed black hole to set your watch by”.

OJ 287’s situation is a window into what must have happened in galaxies all over the universe. Galaxies grow by eating their own kind, and almost all of them come with a supermassive black hole at the centre.

Once two galaxies merge, their black holes – now forced to live in one new mega-galaxy – will either banish their rival with a gravitational kick that flings their opponent out of the galaxy, or eventually merge into an even bigger black hole.

In OJ 287, the smaller black hole is en route to becoming a snack for the larger one. The larger one is also growing from a surrounding disc of gas and dust, the material from which slowly swirls down the drain. Each time the smaller black hole completes an orbit, it comes crashing through this disc at supersonic speeds.

That violent impact blows bubbles of hot gas that expand, thin out, and then unleash a flood of ultraviolet radiation – releasing as much energy as 20,000 supernova explosions in the same spot. You could stand 36 light years away and tan faster than you would from the sun on Earth.

Even with all this thrashing, the smaller black hole has no chance of escape.  Energy leaches away from the binary orbit, bringing the pair closer together and making each cycle around the behemoth a little shorter than the last.

Although the outbursts may be impressive, the black holes’ orbital dance emits tens of thousands of times more energy as undulations in space time called gravitational waves.

Last year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US offered a preview of the endgame of OJ 287 in miniature. Twice in 2015, LIGO heard gravitational waves from the final orbits of black-hole pairs in which each black hole was a few dozen times the size of the sun, and then the reverberations of the single one left behind.

(6) SFWA CHAT HOUR. In SFWA Chat Hour Episode 4: Special Pokémon Go Edition, SFWA board and staff members Kate Baker, Oz Drummond, M.C.A. Hogarth, Cat Rambo, and Bud Sparhawk as they discuss the latest doings and news of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as well as F&SF news, recent reads, Readercon, Westercon, and more.

(7) FLASH FICTION. Cat Rambo says her “Gods and Magicians” is a free read “brought to you by my awesome Patreon backers, who get bonuses like versions of new books, peeks at story drafts, and sundry other offerings. If backing me’s not in your budget, you can still sign up for my newsletter and get news of posts, classes, and publications as they appear.”

This is a piece of flash fiction written last year – I just got around to going through the notebook it was in lately and transcribing the fictional bits. This didn’t take too much cleaning up. For context, think of the hills of southern California, and a writing retreat with no other human beings around, and thinking a great deal about fantasy and epic fantasy at the time.

(8) LIVE CLASSES. Rambo also reminds writers that July is the last month in 2016 that she’ll be offering her live classes (aside from one special one that’s still in the works). Get full details at her site.

I’ll start doing the live ones again in 2017, but I’m taking the rest of the year to focus on the on demand school (http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/on-demand-classes/), which will adding classes by Juliette Wade and Rachel Swirsky in the next couple of months.

(9) FREE CHICON 7 PROGRAM BOOKS. Steven H Silver announced: “I’m about to recycle several boxes of Chicon 7 Program Books.  If anyone is interested in adding a copy of the book to their collection, I’d be happy to send them one (for the cost of postage). People should get in touch with me at shsilver@sfsite.com, but I need to hear from them before the end of the month.”

(10) DETAILS, DETAILS. In 1939, sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz, producers debated about removing one of the songs because it seemed to slow things down. The song: “Over the Rainbow.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

However, according to writer/director James Cameron, most people at that time tried to convince him not to make the movie.

After all, they reasoned, any positive elements of the film would be attributed to “Alien” director Ridley Scott, and all the negative parts would be viewed as Cameron’s fault.

“I said, ‘Yeah, but I really want to do it. It’ll be cool,'” he said in an interview. “It was like this ridiculous, stupid thing. It wasn’t strategic at all, but I knew it would be cool.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn. Here’s a photo from 2012.

(13) GROUNDWORK FOR PREDICTION. Brandon Kempner is back on the job at Chaos Horizon, “Updating the 2016 Awards Meta List”.

A lot of other SFF nominations and awards have been handed out in the past few weeks. These are good indication of who will win the eventual Hugo—every award nomination raises visibility, and the awards that using votes are often good predictors of who will win the Hugo. Lastly, the full range of SFF awards gives us a better sense of what the “major” books of the year than the Hugo or Nebula alone. Since each award is idiosyncratic, a book that emerges across all 14 is doing something right.

Here’s the top of the list, and the full list is linked here. Total number of nominations is on the far left….

(14) VANCE FAN. Dave Freer tells what he admires about Jack Vance, and tries to emulate in his own writing, in “Out of Chocolate Error” for Mad Genius Club. Freer, while straightforward as ever about his worldview, makes an unexpected acknowledgement that another view could be embodied in a good story. Under these conditions —

There are at least four ‘meanings’ and stories that I’ve spotted in this particular book. I’m probably missing a few. Because I wanted to write like this myself, I’ve tried hard to pick up the techniques. I think the first key is that there must be a very strong and clear plot-line. You’re asking it to balance a lot of subtle and quite possibly overpowering elements. The second of course is that your characters cannot be mere PC-token stereotypes. Yes, of course you can have a black lesbian hero, or whatever (it actually doesn’t matter)– but if that stereotype is in the face of the reader rather than the character themselves, that becomes a compound, rather than the portmanteau. The third is that you cannot preach, or tell, your reader your ‘message’. Not ever. You can show it, you can let them derive it. If they fail to: well they still got a good story. And finally – if your audience leaves your book saying ‘that was about feminism… you, as a writer, are a failure, at least at writing entertainment or portmanteau books. There is a market for message, but like the market for sermons: it is small, and largely the converted. If they finish with a smile: you’ve done well. If they leave your book with a smile thinking: “yeah, true… I hadn’t thought of it like that. Look at (someone the reader knows). I could see them in that character (and the character happens to be a woman who is as capable as her male compatriots) then, my writer friend, you are a talent, and I wish I was more like you… Out of chocolate error…

(15) GOTCHA AGAIN. Chuck Tingle announces his retirement.

(16) HE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE. Rue Morgue reports Guillermo del Toro told Fantasia ’16 attendees that he’s retiring from producing and will stick to directing from now on.

(17) GRAPHIC STORY SLATE. Doris V. Sutherland discusses the impact of the slate on The Best Graphic Story Hugo nominees in “Comics and Controversy at the 2016 Hugo Awards” for Women Write About Comics.

After a reasonably strong set of graphic novels, the Best Graphic Story category starts to go downhill when we arrive at the webcomics. When Vox Day posted his provisional choices for the category, the list consisted entirely of online strips: Katie Tiedrich’s Awkward Zombie, Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrig Court, Kukuruyo’s Gamergate Life, Aaron Williams’ Full Frontal Nerdity, and Grey Carter and Cory Rydell’s Erin Dies Alone.

Comprising strip after strip of anti-SJW caricatures, Gamergate Life obviously fits Day’s ideology; I have also heard it suggested that he chose Erin Dies Alone as a dig at Alexandra Erin, who wrote a short e-book spoofing him. Beyond this, it is hard to discern the exact criteria behind his choices. One of the comics, Gunnerkrig Court, proved controversial within Day’s comments section: “Gunnerkrigg Court recently gave us not one, but two big, fat, awful, in-your-face gay/lesbian subplots (involving the main characters no less!) and so I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it anywhere these days,” wrote one poster.

The final Rabid Puppies slate—and, consequently, the final ballot—included only two of the above strips: Full Frontal Nerdity and Erin Dies Alone.

(18) DEEP SPACE PROBE. Will a “broken umbrella” speed space exploration?

…This sounds impressive until you remember that Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, is fitted with early ’70s scientific instruments, cameras and sensors and has been voyaging for almost 40 years.

Before mankind attempts to send another probe out towards interstellar space, engineers hope to figure out a way to get there a lot faster and, ideally, within their working lifetime.

There are several options on the table. Some favour solar sails – giant mirrored sheets pushed along by the force of photons from the Sun. Others – including Stephen Hawking – suggest flying these sails on tightly focused beams of photons generated by lasers fired from Earth or satellites in orbit.

Nasa engineer Bruce Wiegmann, however, is investigating the possibility of flying to the stars using a propulsion system that resembles a giant broken umbrella or wiry jellyfish. The concept is known as electric, or e-sail, propulsion and consists of a space probe positioned at the centre of a fan of metal wires….

(19) HORNBLOWERS. Did John Williams tell these kids to get off his lawn? Watch and find out.

This is what happened when 2 guys with horns made a spontaneous decision to set up and play the Star Wars theme in front of John Williams’ house on 7/11/2016!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Xtifr for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]

Jack Vance (1916-2013)

Jack Vance, one of science fiction’s most respected writers, died May 26 at the age of 96.

Vance’s first published story, “The World-Thinker,” appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1945. Another sale early in his career was to 20th Century Fox, who also hired him as a screenwriter for the Captain Video television series.  Over the years Vance wrote more than sixty books in three genres, including 11 mystery novels as John Holbrook Vance and three as Ellery Queen.

While I enjoyed every Vance story I ever read, it was his five-novel Demon Princes series that really hooked me. They relate Kirth Gersen’s revenge on five notorious criminals who carried his village off to slavery when he was a child. The first three books came out in the 1960s, then he didn’t write another for 12 years. I was afraid he’d never finish. I was able to start breathing again when the last two were announced by DAW, finally appearing in 1979 and 1981.

Two traits that set Vance apart from many other writers were use of an elevated diction, and his power to create future cultures that felt deeply changed from our own by time and technology. As Sidney Coleman said in a review for F&SF, “his people are true citizens of the future, not just twentieth-century Americans in fancy dress.”

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance's 2010 Hugo.

Dick Lupoff delivers Jack Vance’s 2010 Hugo.

Jack Vance was a Guest of Honor at MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon, named a SFWA Grand Master in 1997, and recognized with a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 1984. He was inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.

Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” won the Hugo in 1963. His 1966 novelette “The Last Castle” won both the Hugo and Nebula.

In 2010 his autobiography This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) won the Best Related Book Hugo.

In 1946, Vance met and married Norma Genevieve Ingold (she died in 2008).

In years gone by Frank Herbert and Poul Anderson were among Vance’s closest friends. The three jointly built a houseboat which they sailed in the Sacramento Delta. The Vances and the Herberts lived near Lake Chapala in Mexico together for a period.

[Thanks to Sam Long and John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Denvention 3’s Classics of Science Fiction

Denvention 3 accepted John Hertz’ suggestion to program discussions of the “Wonders of 1958,” selected classics of science fiction. Read up and join in! The list of books and John’s notes appear on the Denvention 3 website. But let me save you a click —

Mile Closer to the Stars – Classics of Science Fiction
Book discussions led by John Hertz

We are in the golden-anniversary year of 1958, a golden year for science fiction. We’ll celebrate with five Classics of SF book discussions on books published that year and still famous, often reprinted, worth re-reading or first reading now. Look for them in the program grid as “Wonders of 1958.”

James Blish, A Case of Conscience and The Triumph of Time
Some call Conscience Blish’s finest book. Is it science fiction? Is it a story? Is its best moment when the Pope says “What did you do about it?” In the same year came the last of the four Cities in Flight novels. Is it a success standing alone? How does Time compare to Conscience?

Algis Budrys, Who?
This penetrating study of identity, loyalty, uncertainty may be both more bleak and more hopeful than it seems. If there is a sermon, it is preached by silence. Budrys is known for his deftness and timing; here too are poetry, a fundamental grasp of tragedy, and the surprises of love.

Robert Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children
By painting portraits Heinlein repeatedly asks the next question.  What if your lifespan was two hundred years?  What if you didn’t care?  If you are hunted, should you run?  Where should you go?  Here too is the first and perhaps best of Lazarus Long.  Extra credit: compare the carefully rewritten 1941 version in the July-September Astounding.

Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
Spiders are the good guys, and our hero is a woman.  The first Hero was a woman too, go look up Leander.   Indeed this is a very classical book; it preserves the unities of time, place, and persons, which is mighty strange, considering.  There’s slashing drama, and if you’ve never been a party girl, it might not be what you think.

Jack Vance, The Languages of Pao
With four worlds in the spotlight, one populated by fifteen billion, this is a story of one boy and one man.  Knowledge may be power.  Concentration and diversity may each be extreme.  The characters say linguistics is the science here; perhaps it is really cross-cultural study, or patience.  Vance’s own language is the gold.