UK in 2024 Discussion Continues

The UK in 2024 Worldcon discussion group now has a landing page at http://www.ukin2024.org/.

The group was begun in 2015 by Emma England, Vanessa May, Esther MacCallum-Stewart and James Bacon.

Esther MacCallum-Stewart adds —

The group was launched in 2015 at Novacon, in order to explore the possibility of bidding for a Worldcon in the UK in 2024. It was formed as a result of the huge enthusiasm generated from Loncon 3, and because of the thriving science fiction, fantasy and horror scene in the UK, which very much wants to see Worldcon returning to our shores in the future. The group is formed of fans old and new, with experience both of running Worldcons and involvement with the UK convention community.

We are currently exploring venues around the UK, and will hold two sessions at the forthcoming UK Conrunner event in February to discuss ways forwards, and to talk more about the locations in depth.

For more information, you can either attend one of the discussion sessions, or write to the group at info@ukin2024.org.

Pixel Scroll 10/26/16 The Tick Against the Box

(1) CAN’T STOP LOOKING. CinemaBlend’s Gregory Wakeman waited to finish his post about this Jar Jar Binks movie poster before gouging out his eyes…

(2) ADD THIS WORLDCON BID TO YOUR SCORECARD. Kevin Standlee reports that, at the request of this bid, he has added UK in 2024 to the Worldcon.org list of bids. The link is a Facebook page. Kevin notes, “They did say to me when they contacted worldcon.org that they plan to have an actual web site eventually as well, not just a Facebook page.”

(3) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. In “The Celebrity Campaign” on National Review Online, Kevin D. Williamson summarizes William Gibson’s Idoru and explains why Gibson’s work is important for understanding the vapid, celebrity-driven campaign we have this year.

(4) OCTOCON. Forbidden Planet bookstore’s correspondent James Bacon easily mixes dance with journalism: “Science Fiction in Ireland: James Reports from Octocon”.

Even though I finished work at 5.30AM in London on a mild autumnal Saturday morning, within a few hours I was in the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin’s city centre, amongst friends and fans at Octocon. The enthusiasm and excitement then carried me through until I hit the sheets at 4.30AM on Sunday morning, fed by the energy of the convention, dancing well past midnight and imbibing great cheer.

This year’s committee is youthful, bucking a trend with similar conventions in the UK, and possess a dynamism that brought together a nice programme, good fun social elements and of course overall a very enjoyable convention. The Guests of Honour, Diane Duaine and Peter Morward and Rhianna Pratchett, allowed much ground to be covered and attracted great audiences. With over two hundred people in attendance, the five-stream programme was busy.

(5) SETTING THE STUPID AFLAME. This Bradbury-related tweet went viral.

Here’s the text:

I love this letter! What a wonderful way to introduce students to the theme of Fahrenheit 451 that books are so dangerous that the institutions of society — schools and parents — might be willing to team up against children to prevent them from reading one. It’s easy enough to read the book and say, ‘This is crazy. It could never really happen,’ but pretending to present students at the start with what seems like a totally reasonable ‘first step’ is a really immersive way to teach them how insidious censorship can be I’m sure that when the book club is over and the students realize the true intent of this letter they’ll be shocked at how many of them accepted it as an actual permission slip. In addition, Milo’s concern that allowing me to add this note will make him stand out as a troublemaker really brings home why most of the characters find it easier to accept the world they live in rather than challenge it. I assured him that his teacher would have his back.

(6) REMAINS OF THAT DAY. The demolition of Ray Bradbury’s house inspired Joshua Sky’s Omni story “The House Had Eyes”.

The exterior was yellow with a brown triangle thatched roof and a thin brick chimney. The windows had been destroyed—the frames, like the living room, were gutted. Their remains tossed into a large blue dumpster resting on a hillside covered in dying grass. All that was left were two large cragged square shaped holes that bore inward yet outward all at once. Inward, laid the wisps of soot polished ruin. Hardwood floors, a mantle, masonry, some shelves and dust. Outward—the structure telepathically transmuted its emotions of loss and sorrow. She knew she was dying.

I was transfixed, my eyeballs locked with the house’s. It was like something straight out of a Bradbury story! My hands tightly gripped the fence, chain-links dug into my finger tendons. Focused on the yellow lawn, my mind pictured a phantom montage of Bradbury, time-lapsed: Watering the grass. Reading on the steps. Puttering about. Stalking the sidewalks. Talking to the neighbors. Talking to himself. Writing. Staring at the sky. Staring at the stars. Staring beyond. Marveling in awe. Downright dreaming—of rockets and Martians and technicolored time travelers.

It all felt so cosmically unfair. Why’d they have to tear it down? Why’d they have to piss on a legacy? It felt like we were all losing something—even if we didn’t know it. That our country—the people—the vanishing literate—were losing not only a landmark, but a sense of our collective wonderment. That we were continuing a bad trend that had no hint of ending—swapping our heritage for a buck. That’s the American way some would say. Some—maybe—but not all.

(7) FROM VELOUR TO MONSTER MAROON. With Halloween just around the corner, Atlas Obscura offers guidance to cosplayers: “How to Read The Secret Language of Starfleet Uniforms”.

It’s Halloween time again, and as it has been for the past 50 years, a Star Trek costume is a safe bet for anyone looking to dress up. But do you want to be a Starfleet captain in 2268? A ship’s doctor in 2368? For the uninitiated, deciphering the language of colors and symbols that place you in the show’s universe is a crapshoot.

Luckily, Atlas Obscura is here to help, with a bit of cosplay codebreaking….

The most recent Star Trek television series, 2001’s Enterprise, was actually a prequel, taking place in the mid-2100s, and strangely, their uniforms take cues from every era of the Star Trek franchise. Taking place prior to the formation of the Federation Starfleet seen in later incarnations, the uniforms of the very first space-faring Enterprise, were once again standardized into a purple workman’s jumpsuit (echoing the red-washed uniforms of the later Original Series films). Position on the ship could be determined by the color of a seam that ran along the shoulder of the jumpsuit, with the colors corresponding to the original command gold, science blue-green, and operations red.

And then rank was indicated by the number of silver bars over the right breast, just like the pips used in The Next Generation. While not everyone’s favorite, this suit kind of had it all.

(8) NEXT AT KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will present John Langan and Matthew Kressel, on Wednesday, November 16, beginning at 7p.m. in New York’s KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

John Langan

John Langan is author of two novels, The Fisherman and House of Windows.  He’s also published two collections, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters.  With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures:  Thirty Years of Monsters.  He is one of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards and he currently reviews horror and dark fantasy for Locus magazine.

New and forthcoming are stories in Children of Lovecraft, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Swords v. Cthulhu, and Children of Gla’aki.  In February of 2017, his third collection of stories, Sefira and Other Betrayals, will be published by Hippocampus Press.

John Langan lives in New York’s Hudson Valley and teaches classes in creative writing and Gothic literature at SUNY New Paltz.  With his younger son, he’s studying for his black belt in Tang Soo Do.

Matthew Kressel

Matthew Kressel is the author of the novels King of Shards and the forthcoming Queen of Static. His short fiction has been twice nominated for a Nebula Award and has or will soon appear in such markets as Lightspeed, Nightmare, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9.com, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and the anthologies Cyber World, After, Naked City, The People of the Book.

From 2003-2010 he published and edited Sybil’s Garage, an acclaimed SF magazine. He also published the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities and for his publishing work, received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Special Award Non-Professional. He co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series alongside Ellen Datlow. When not writing fiction he codes software for companies large and small, studies Yiddish (Nu?), and recites Blade Runner in its entirety from memory.

(9) NEW SF BOARD GAMES. In a piece on arstechnica.com called “Essen 2016: Best board games from the biggest board game convention”, Tom Mendlesohn reports from the International Spieltage convention in Germany, where most of the new board games have sf/fantasy content.

terraforming-mars

Terraforming Mars

FryxGames, 1-5 players, 90-120 mins, 12+

One of the most buzzworthy releases of the whole show, this title sold out by 3pm on the first day—a whole hour before Ars even arrived. The one table that FryxGames ran with a playable copy was booked every day. Fortunately, Ars US staffers already got their grubby little hands on the title and gave it a thorough—and hugely positive—review.

You’re playing as a futuristic global megacorp attempting, as the title suggests, to terraform Mars. Your tools are lots of plastic cubes, which track your resources and which are traded to in for asset cards, which get you more cubes. (The game is a total engine-builder.) Though the art isn’t terribly exciting, this is a terrific thinky Eurogame of interlocking systems and finding the most efficient ways to exchange one set of numbers for a higher set of numbers. 

(10) HE MADE IT SO. In a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Mike Moffitt called “The Real James T. Kirk Built the Bridge of the Enterprise – In the Sunset District” profiles a guy named James Theodore Kirk, who was born a month before Star Trek went on the air and who built a replica of the Enterprise in his house.  He also is a Trekker who once won a chance to meet William Shatner, but he was dressed as the villianous reptile Gorn and wouldn’t tell Shatner his name really was James T. Kirk.

Captain’s log, Stardate 21153.7: After straying into a wormhole, the Enterprise has somehow crash-landed on Earth in early 21st-century San Francisco. We are attempting to effect repairs from a location in the city’s Sunset District.

James T. Kirk commands the Starship Enterprise from the captain’s chair of the ship’s bridge, conveniently located in the back of his house in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset.

The bridge is equipped with a wall of computers blinking with colorful lights, a transporter room and the main viewer, which would toggle to show flickering stars, sensor data or the occasional Romulan or Klingon message demanding the Enterprise’s immediate withdrawal from the Neutral Zone.

There is even an “elevator” in the back that makes a “whoosh” just like the one on the classic 1960s show “Star Trek.” Of course, the bridge is not an exact duplicate of the show’s — it’s a smaller area, so the key fixtures are a bit crammed and the helmsmen seats are missing altogether. But the overall impression is clearly Mid-century Modern Starship.

(11) KUTTNER. You can find Stephen Haffner hawking his wares this weekend at World Fantasy Con. Or you can order online today!

Haffner Press does it again! In 2012 we included a newly discovered Henry Kuttner story—”The Interplanetary Limited”—in THUNDER IN THE VOID. Now, with the upcoming release of THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR: THE EARLY KUTTNER, VOLUME TWO, we are pleased as pandas (!) to announce we have discovered ANOTHER unpublished Henry Kuttner story!

MAN’S CONQUEST OF SPACE or UPSIDE-DOWN IN TIME is an early gag-story (featuring pandas) supposedly written for the fanzines of the 1930s. It likely predates Kuttner’s first professional sale in 1936. “And how can I get a copy?” you ask? Well, we made it simple. So simple that it’s FREE* if you place (or have already placed!) a PAID preorder for THE WATCHER AT THE DOOR: THE EARLY KUTTNER, VOLUME TWO. We’re printing a limited quantity of this new Kuttner story, so Do. Not. Delay.

(12) KEEP WATCHING. Martin Morse Wooster recommends an animated short, Borrowed Time.

A weathered Sheriff returns to the remains of an accident he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With each step forward, the memories come flooding back. Faced with his mistake once again, he must find the strength to carry on.

“Borrowed Time” is an animated short film, directed by Andrew Coats & Lou Hamou-Lhadj, and produced by Amanda Deering Jones. Music by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla.

 

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/16 A Transatlantic Tunnel In The Sky, Hurrah!

(1) CONVERSATION. At Tor.com, Natalie Zutter tells about the appearance of N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ibi Zoboi at the Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturday, in “Masquerade, Initiation, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor in Conversation”.

…Okorafor’s initiation was her experience with paralysis as a teenage athlete, a difficult period during which she had to relearn how to walk but during which she also turned to writing as a way to cope. Her first story was about a flying woman, “because when you can fly, you don’t have to walk.” She explained, “I know that that experience was my initiation into becoming a writer. When I look back, when it was happening, I didn’t know. I just knew that I was learning how to cope and going deep like that, being so distraught that the only way I [could] stay sane was to go into myself, was how I discovered that thing, that storytelling. From that point on, there is this mystical aspect to storytelling; I’ve had several times where I’m writing stories and I just go somewhere, and something is there. An hour will go by and I’ll look at what I’ve written and it will be new to me and I’m like, ‘Who wrote that?’ […] That actually is very scary to me, but over the years I’ve come to deal with that fear and be comfortable with it and expect it, and know to just sit back and let it happen.”

While Okorafor turned into herself, Jemisin’s initiation was the inverse—she went outward through countless adventures as a child and extensive traveling as an adult. Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, the kind of child who would make little books out of construction paper tied together with yarn, she would visit her father up in New York City (specifically, pre-hipster Williamsburg). “This was my wonderland,” she said, remembering how her father would give her a handful of money and mark a spot on the map, then send her out to traverse the subway system and find her way to her destination. “This was the place I came to become my true self,” she said, “where I shed the masks that I had to wear in Alabama in order to be safe, in order to fit in, to be accepted. I came here, and I could be my little nerdy self and be where I needed to be.” Those childhood adventures prepared her for adulthood as an author navigating the publishing industry: “I’ve always been the little black face, the little ink spot on the page. It did not feel to me like having to go into that space and ask for acceptance or fight to be understood. It felt like ‘You need to reshape yourselves. I am here, this is the industry that you claim to be, you need to be what you claim to be.’ And the industry has been changing in that way, in the last few years. I don’t think it’s me; it’s a lot of people. But the fact that I felt that has been built from that early-adapter stuff I had to do.” …

(2) DISCUSSING DISABILITIES. Today saw the launch of Our Words: Discussing Disabilities in Science Fiction.

The purpose of Our Words is to focus on disabilities in speculative fiction, and give the disabled a place to talk freely and openly about our experiences in the genre. Furthermore, I hope to educate genre fans, authors, publishers, and whoever else about disabilities in the genre, in a comprehensive, well-rounded sort of way. This website will eventually expand to do interviews, discuss and review books, have personal essays, highlight issues in the genre, at conventions, and so more.

Our Words is a website run by a disabled genre fan, for disabled genre fans. This is a place for us to all have a voice. A place for us to use our words, and be heard.

(3) HARRY DRESDEN CARD GAME. Jim Butcher’s Dresden-verse has spawned a cooperative card game that is in the midst of being lavishly funded by fans on Kickstarter. Asked for $48,000, supporters have pledged over $379,000 so far, with nine days to go.

Backers will be rewarded with many extras, including the first chapter of Peace Talks (mid May 2016). More details at: The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game. (Here’s a video that explains how the game is played.)

(4) OWN A BRICK FROM BRADBURY’S HOME. Con or Bust is gathering items for its 2016 fundraising auction. John King Tarpinian has donated a brick from Ray Bradbury’s home, which was demolished in January 2015.

Bidding opens on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern. It will close on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.

(5) CAREER LAUNCH. Tina Jens at Black Gate mentions the magic number in “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Going to the Nebulas”.

I require the students in the more advanced course, the Fantasy Writing Workshop, to complete at least one story and submit it to a semi-pro or pro market. But the course aimed at writing majors and non-writing majors alike, Exploring Fantasy Genre Writing, has more than half the students ready to submit a poem or short story for publication, as well. There’s always a few, each semester, but more this semester, I think….

As part of the last week of classes, for both my courses, I’m having a representative from our department’s Publishing Lab (run by students, for students, to help them submit their poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction) come in. They help read proposed cover letters, find markets, and provide emotional support. The drill is this, with their laptops open and everyone tapped in to the school wi-fi, when a student author says they’re ready to submit, their finger hovering over the send button, the group does a mission-control countdown from five.

Five, four, three, two, one, SEND! When the button is pushed, we ring a bell and give them a cookie. An actual bell, and an actual cookie. We’ve found both help.….

(6) CARL BRANDON AWARD. Nominations are open for the 2014 and 2015 Carl Brandon Awards.

Two awards are given each year:

The Carl Brandon Parallax Award is given to works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color. This Award includes a $1000 cash prize.

The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group. This Award includes a $1000 cash prize.

Nominations open through July 16, 2016

(7) KEN MACLEOD. The Herald of Scotland profiled “Science fiction writer Ken MacLeod on his Free Presbyterian childhood, his time as a Communist Party member and the future of humanity”.

“I got disillusioned with my early Trotskyism and joined the Communist Party at exactly the wrong time in the mid-1980s.” You join us as Ken MacLeod, a man once described as “the greatest living Trotskyist libertarian cyberpunk science-fiction humourist,” is recalling his political history. “I think I left in 90 or 91,” he continues, “a few months before it dissolved itself.

“The CP at that time was certainly a very interesting place to be because they were having their terminal crisis as it were. So it was certainly intellectually stimulating.”

He stops and sips his coffee, looks out through the window of the South Queensferry café where we are sitting at the looming Forth rail bridge. For a moment Scotland’s industrial past and service sector present are invisibly united in the eyesight of one of the country’s most entertaining, politically engaged futurists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

…My wife, Emily, has joined me to help out with the freelancing. So the business has grown. We haven’t killed each other yet being home all the time.

I almost died just a few years into freelancing. Found out I had a heart defect. Spent years recovering and learning how to manage a whole new life.

Had twins. Still trying to figure out this dad thing. Very much a learn as you go.

I have published 9 novels in that 10 years, 2 under a pseudonym. There are two more written as of yet unsold as well. I’ve also done 4 collections, 5 novellas, and sold 36 short stories….

(9) COSPLAY ORIGINS. Jennifer Culp invites everyone to “Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay” in her article for Racked.

Myrtle Rebecca “Morojo” Douglas Smith Gray Nolan was a Gemini, born in June 1904. She was an atheist, an active member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society, and a proponent of the 19th-century constructed auxiliary language Esperanto, meant to foster communication and understanding between people of all cultures. (Obviously, she was a big nerd.)

Between the years of 1938 and 1958, she edited three separate long-running sci-fi fanzines (“editing” including all of the typing, mimeo, and physical work required to manufacture the zines, naturally) and wrote editorials for several major early sci-fi “pro”-mags in the early ‘40s. Basically she was the mid-20th century equivalent of a prolific, influential blogger. She married three times, had one son, and shared a decade-long romantic and creative relationship with fellow fan Forrest J Ackerman, with whose help she sparked off a phenomenon that would develop into costume-loving fan culture we know today. In the decades following her death, her memory has largely been resigned to footnotes designating her a mere “girlfriend,” and that’s a damn shame, because both with and without Ackerman Morojo was a badass….

Following her death in 1964 at the age of 60, Morojo found herself in an unenviable posthumous predicament: the most detailed and accessible record of her life and work exists in the form of eulogies written by two of her ex-boyfriends. (Hold up, just take a second here: can you freakin’ IMAGINE what a hell that could be???) Amazingly, her old flames Elmer Perdue and, of course, Forrie, seem to have done pretty damn right by her memory, publishing (of course!) a fanzine in her honor.

Ackerman comes across as — frankly — a self-absorbed ass in his brief essay “I Remember Morojo,” openly acknowledging his surprise at being asked to contribute. He had barely spoken to the woman since he “got mad at her about half my life ago,” as he puts it. But in spite of the teeth-grindingly irritating paragraph he spends speculating about her position in his own imaginary hierarchy of female sci-fi fandom and the insulting description of 17 years of dedicated work on Guteto as “her own little” zine, Forrie gives Morojo what he surely perceived as the ultimate in (awkward nerd) respect, meticulously listing all of the fannish achievements he could recall to ascribe to her. It is through Ackerman’s remembrance that we know that Morojo was responsible for the world’s first fan costumes, which he specifically notes that she “designed and executed.”

You can download a scanned copy of Ackerman’s I Remember Morojo at eFanzines. Here’s FJA’s quote about her leading role in early costuming —

“She designed & executed my famous ‘futuristicostume’ – and her own – worn at the First World Science-Fiction Convention, the Nycon of 1939. In 1940 at the first Chicon she and I put on a skit based on some dialog from THINGS TO COME, and won some kind of prize. In 1941 at the Denvention she wore a Merrittesque AKKA-mask (frog face) devised by the then young & as yet unknown master filmonster model maker & animator, Ray Harryhausen. In 1949 at the Pacficon in LA, I understand she created a sensation as A. Merritt’s Snake Mother…”

Although Ackerman surpassed all others at drawing fannish attention to himself, as you can see he gave the credit in this case to Morojo. Nor was he the one who gave himself the title the inventor of cosplay. That was masquerade fans of an earlier era who named Ackerman the father of costuming, a move that may have been designed to catch some of his reflected glory for costumers, who at times have felt pushed to the margins by conrunners and fanzine fans. Just the same, Morojo – the actual creator of the costumes – was never treated as the primary historical figure before now.

(10) BRITISH MILIARY SF. SFFWorld has an “Interview with Tim C. Taylor author of The Human Legion series”.

The first book in the series, Marine Cadet has been released as part of the Empire at War collection. How has it been to join forces with fellow British authors and promote British military SF like this?

It’s been wonderful to meet a few fellow military SF authors in the flesh at the recent British convention called Eastercon, because writing can at times be a lonely profession. To begin with, I had a lot of doubts. Can really do this? I had the idea of putting together a box set of military SF books, and hit upon British military SF as a theme, but I was treading new ground. American readers might find this strange, but to the best of my knowledge there has never been such a thing as a ‘British military SF scene’. I mean, the Warhammer 40K novels have been enormously successful, and one of the most successful of all British science fiction authors of recent years is Karen Traviss with her four Halo military SF novels that were all New York Times bestsellers. So it’s not a new thing for British authors to write military SF, but Warhammer 40K and its Black Library publishing arm seems to sit in a splendid and psychotic isolation, and Karen Traviss seems to be largely ignored by much of British fandom, as if writing the tie-in novels where she has seen greatest success so far means that she is not a ‘proper’ writer.

To be honest, I haven’t previously placed a lot of interest in where an author was based, but when I looked at the bios of the new wave of military SF authors I had read in recent years, I was astonished to find how many were British.

So when I started inviting authors (and an artist for the cover and interior illustrations) and saying, “Let’s do something together and call it British military SF”, I don’t think anyone had ever used that term before. Now that I’m more attuned to where people are based, I realize there are many more British authors I could have invited.

By the way, I want to point out that although I kicked off ‘The Empire at War’ project, it was far from just myself doing the work, and it is a good feeling to create something as a group that we can all be proud of.

(11) DAMN RIGHT. Here’s the wisdom Sigrid Ellis serves between two slices of Hamilton and Burr:

…I so often feel this way about Wiscon. It feel like the big things, the stuff everyone talks about later, are always taking place somewhere I am not. In some other panel, some other party, some other room. Never the room I am in.

But I gave this some serious thought and realized that I’ve actually been IN “the room” while “it” is happening at some points in the past. At Wiscon, or other events. I’ve been there. I’ve been, from time to time, the insider. It just never felt that way at the time.

And that made me think how utterly stupid I am being. I mean, way to proactively ruin a great convention, being upset about whether or not the “important” things are happening where I can see them. It’s my convention experience, dammit! I can and will enjoy it for my friends, the conversations I have, the sleep I’ll get, the people I’ll meet, the dinners I’ll have! …

(12) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL CAT. Ursula K. Le Guin continues “Annals of Pard: My Life So Far, by Pard, Part II” at Book View Café.

I cried very loudly in the roaring moving room-thing on the way here, because I thought the awfulness and strangeness was all happening over again forever. I still always think that when they put me in box that smells of fear and the roaring moving room-thing. But except for that I have hardly cried at all since coming here.

The aunty human went away and left me with the old queen and an old tom. I was distrustful of him at first, but my fears were groundless. When he sits down he has an excellent thing, a lap. Other humans have them, but his is mine. It is full of quietness and fondness. The old queen sometimes pats hers and says prrt? and I know perfectly well what she means; but I only use one lap, his. What I like to use about her is the place behind her knees on the bed, and the top of her head, which having a kind of fur reminds me a little of my Mother, so sometimes I get on the pillow with it and knead it. This works best when she is asleep.

(13) FREE COMICS. James Bacon tells about spending Free Comic Book Day with the creators signing at Forbidden Planet, in  “Fiends of the Eastern Front: Fodder by Hannah Berry and Dani at FCBD in Orbital”.

It is rare that so many cool things could align so nicely.

A free copy of 2000 AD is pretty much a boon, but finding that it contains a ‘Fiends of the Eastern Front’ story was really rather exciting. Entitled ‘Fodder’ the artwork is by Dani and is really quite lovely, but apart from it being on the paper pages, the originals are concurrently on display as part of Orbital comics Danistrips ‘Stay Cool’ exhibition on now until the 31st of May.

This allows fans to get a closer look at the original work, which is always a pleasure to behold.

Added to this, Dani the artist, and the writer, Hannah Berry were doing a signing with Peter Milligan, Matt Smith, Clint Langley and Alec Worley in the same location, to celebrate Free Comic Book Day.

(14) CENSUS OF SF REVIEWERS. Strange Horizons has posted “The 2015 SF Count”.

Welcome to the sixth Strange Horizons “SF count” of representation in SF reviewing. The goal of the count is straightforward: for the last calendar year, for a range of SF review venues, to calculate the gender and race balance of books reviewed, and of reviewers….

A number of limitations should be taken into account when interpreting these data. For gender, the limitations include limited accounting for pseudonyms and, more generally, a reliance on public presentation of gender. The count divides individuals into “men” or “women and non-binary.” However, reliable information about gender identity for the vast majority of people counted is not accessible through our methodology, which means it is probable that some individuals have been misrepresented. We will continue to review our methodology each year, and welcome suggestions. (For instance, we are considering changing our terminology to “women and genderqueer,” based on feedback from genderqueer individuals and the inclusion of that term in the Merriam-Webster dictionary this year.)

For race, our categories were “white” and “person of color.” These are crude, and such a binary division is arguably only valid here (as opposed to more specific categorisation) because the total number of POC is so low. Since race is difficult to determine reliably using only names and Google, it is probable that here, too, some authors, editors, or reviewers have been incorrectly allocated. We nevertheless believe that the count is worth publishing because the number of incorrect allocations is likely to be small compared to the overall number of individuals counted….

(15) GRRM IN GE. This month’s Galaxy’s Edge features short fiction by, and an interview with, George R.R. Martin.

(16) JOE ABERCROMBIE. A week before he placed two novels as finalists in the Locus Awards, Joe Abercrombie participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session.

Hi Joe, can you tell us about your day to day writing process? How much do you outline scenes and how many words do you tend to write a day? Are there any tricks that help you get into it? – Actevious

It depends a lot what stage of the process you’re at, so the workflow is very different depending on whether you’re planning something, drafting something, or revising and editing. There’s always a fair bit of work to do that’s not actually writing – emails, interviews, dealing with the business side. When I’m drafting new stuff I try to make sure I actually write, uninterrupted, for 3 hours each day. That doesn’t sound like much but you can cover a lot of ground if you’re focused. 1,200 words in a day I consider acceptable. 2,000 would be good. 3 or 4,000 would be a great day. But then when you’re revising you might measure progress by how many words you cut. If there’s a trick I’m aware of, it’s just to make sure you put in the time even when you’re not feeling inspired. Sometimes you feel like you’re writing real junk, but just get it down, when you come back maybe you cut a lot of it, but there’ll still be stuff that’s worthwhile in there.

A theme I notice you write quite a lot about is war, vengence and the endless circle of misery and horror they create. How did you come to write about this? – TheOtherWhitman

Well war is certainly a fundamental of epic fantasy – Lord of the Rings is all about a war, likewise the Belgariad, Dragonlance, Wheel of Time, etc., etc. I guess I felt the fantasy I read as a kid had come to show the shiny and heroic side of warfare a bit too much, and the dark actions and dark characters were somewhat overlooked. Not a lot of trauma or PTSD. I wanted to look at the other side of it.

(17) GLADIATOR JOINS MUMMY. CinemaBlend reports Russell Crowe has joined the cast of The Mummy.

It seems like everyday a new reboot or long awaited sequel gets announced. We’ve seen streaming services like Netflix bring back previously cancelled series, and even movies like Independence Day get their sequel after 20 years. One of the most recent of these sequels is the upcoming Mummy reboot, starring Tom Cruise. Now it appears that the film has booked another huge star for its already impressive cast. Collider recently sat down with actor Russell Crowe, where they asked him to confirm or deny the rumors of his involvement in the sequel. He had to say the following:

Yeah, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna play Dr. Henry Jekyll, Fellow of the Royal Society. It’s very interesting, what they’re gonna do with that stuff. I’ve had a couple of chats about it with the director (Alex Kurtzman).

There you go, ladies and gents. Russell Crowe will officially be freaking us all out in The Mummy.

(18) KIP THORNE IN SOCAL. The OC Breeze announced “Astrophysicist Kip Thorne to give free talk on intersection of arts and science” at Chapman College on May 12.

Noted astrophysicist Kip Thorne, Ph.D. knows a lot about the weird phenomena of time and space: black holes, wormholes, time travel and more. As one of the world’s leading experts on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Dr. Thorne has collaborated with many of the top names in science, including Stephen Hawking, and served as science advisor and executive producer on the recent blockbuster movie “Interstellar.” His multi-faceted interests in art, science and the universe know no bounds – and it is precisely this intersection of big ideas that Dr. Thorne will discuss in a free talk at Chapman University on Thursday, May 12, 7:30 p.m. in Musco Center for the Arts.

Admission is free and open to the public, but a ticket is required for entry and can be obtained online at www.muscocenter.org or by calling 844-OC-MUSCO (844-626-8726).

(19) CHEAP SEATS. They aren’t that cheap. Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger will join forces at a London event on May 31. Break your piggy bank.

Author Neil Gaiman will do a rare public event in London to celebrate his new non-fiction collection, “The View from the Cheap Seats” (Headline), together with Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife (Vintage).

The event, run in association with Headline Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Waterstones and video streaming agency Streaming Tank, will take place at The Union Chapel, Islington, on Tuesday, 31st May. The two US-based writers will discuss Gaiman’s latest work, with “a couple of surprises” also in store, according to publishers.

Tickets are £20 each, and include a free signed copy of The View from the Cheap Seats for every ticket-holder. The books will be distributed on the night by Waterstones, which will have a pop-up bookshop in place on the evening.

The event will be live-streamed across the globe by Streaming Tank, via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, so anyone unable to attend can also enjoy the “one-off” event.

Gaiman and Niffenegger will be answering audience questions, both from within the chapel and viewers at home or in bookshops tuning in. Questions can be submitted via Twitter ahead of the event too using the hashtag #CheapSeats.

[Thanks to robinareid, Xtifr, Andrew Porter, Will R., James David Nicoll, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/16 Pixel Like It’s 1999

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO COMPANION. ScreenRant reports the “Doctor Who Season 10 Companion To Be Revealed This Weekend” – in the middle of the BBC One Match of the Day Live soccer broadcast.

[A] new companion has now been cast, the big reveal of exactly who that companion is, will be made this Saturday, April 23rd, on BBC1.

The announcement will be made during half-time of the soccer match between Everton and Manchester United, at approximately 6pm GMT. The news will be posted on all Doctor Who social media sites as it’s announced, enabling viewers across the world to all find out who has been cast at the same time.

 

(2) VIRTUOUS SIGNALING. Rob Boffard at Medium says “You can talk to the International Space Station right now. Here’s how to do it”.  Do you have what it takes?

Of all the things that shouldn’t be possible but are, talking to the International Space Station ranks right up there with Steph Curry’s basketball skills and the existence of Donald Trump.

Think about it. How weird is it that NASA can put a $150bn space station into orbit, which can then be contacted by anybody on Earth? Even you? It’s one of those things that gives you pause?—?the kind of thing you’re vaguely certain is against the law, somewhere.

It’s not something you’re going to be doing tonight?—?not unless you have the relevant equipment already to hand. It takes a little bit of work. But it’s entirely possible, even for those of us who aren’t geeks….

(3) BLOWN AWAY. James Bacon highly recommends The Great British Graphic Novel Comic art exhibition at the Cartoon Museum on the Forbidden Planet blog.

This is a phenomenal experience, it exceeded my expectations and I was blown away by the calibre of the artwork on display. The Cartoon Museum has amassed the finest examples of comic art, an incredible mix of exemplary work, providing a beautiful tapestry of the history and breadth of the greatest works from Britain for public consideration….

Soon I was looking at lovely pieces, starting with Hogarths ‘A Harlots Progress’ from 1732, ‘The Bottle’ from 1847 by George Cruikshank, ‘Ally Sopers; A Moral Lesson’ from 1873, Ronald Searle’s Capsulyssese from 1955, written by Richard Osborne. All giving one a real sense of history, showing that illustrated stories are nothing new in Britain.

Then as I rounded a corner I saw a grouping of Commando Comics placed next to a full colour cover of Charley’s War, and four pages of this seminal work of the First World War. Undoubtedly Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s masterpiece is indeed a crucial addition here, but I had a feeling of true appreciation of the comic form when I saw this colour cover and four original pages lined up. Juxtaposed with this was My Life in Pieces, The Falklands War by Will Kevans from 2014. Original art, cover and concept sketch made for a great grouping….

(4) CHABON AND HASBRO? Birth.Movies.Death almost cannot be believed this time — “Michael Chabon And Brian K. Vaughan To Make Hasbro Cinematic Universe Worth Taking Seriously”. Is there a way to get G.I. Joe taken seriously?

Last December, word came out that Hasbro was going to try their hand a making a cinematic universe based on their various toy properties, namely G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM. I was a little flip about it.

But now Hasbro, lead by Akiva Goldsman, has assembled its writers room and it’s no laughing matter. The big stars of the list are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’s Michael Chabon (who also worked on Spider-Man 2), Brian K. Vaughan, who you should know from comics like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga, Runaways and a bunch of other impressive titles, and Nicole Perlman, co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.

(5) SPACE MARINES. If you remember Space: Above and Beyond, you may be ready for the Space: Above and Beyond 20th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, August 6 at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel.

In 1996, Fox Studios produced the TV series: Space: Above And Beyond (aka S:AAB). The show had Drama, action, mystery and followed the lives of a diverse group of U.S. Marine Space Aviators while fighting against a powerful alien force on the ground, in the air and in outer space. It was part Top Gun, part James Cameron’s Aliens, and all exciting!

This short lived show (1995 to 1996), which fell victim to scheduling conflicts like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, is considered one of the best of Military Science Fiction series to air and is deserving of a convention of its own….

VIP tickets and Premium tickets are both on sale NOW at early-bird prices, and general admission tickets will go on sale starting May 1st.

(6) BEFORE THEY WERE BOTTLED. Syfy may order a pilot for David S. Goyer’s Superman prequel series Krypton.

The series, set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, would tell the story of the man of steel’s grandfather as he fights to restore the family honor of the House of El after it has been shamed.

The pilot will be produced by Warner Horizon Television. Goyer — who penned the screenplays for “Batman Begins,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — will write the pilot with Ian Goldberg. He will executive produce through his company Phantom Four with Damian Kindler, who will serve as showrunner. Colm McCarthy is set to direct the pilot.

(7) KIT WEST OBIT. British special effects artist Kit West (1936 – 17 April 2016), known for his work in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, died April 17.

(8) BOND FILM EDITOR HAMILTON OBIT. From the BBC:

Guy Hamilton, who directed four James Bond films, has died aged 93.

Former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore tweeted that he was “incredibly, incredibly saddened to hear the wonderful director Guy Hamilton has gone to the great cutting room in the sky. 2016 is horrid”.

Hamilton directed Sir Roger in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.

He also directed Sir Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever.

…Speaking about his style of directing he said he wanted value for money.

“In the making of Bond films we are some of the meanest toughest film makers. If we spend a million dollars it had better be up there on the screen.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of  Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, journeyed into space.

(10) CAN YOU SAY “CANONICALIZATION”? Will Frank discusses “The Duties of the Hugo Administrative Team” in a MidAmeriCon II blog post.

Once nominations close at the end of March, we go through the data and process it. There are a few steps to this, the biggest one being canonicalization. We review the data to make sure that votes for, for example, “The Three-Body Problem” and “The 3-Body Problem” and “Three Body Problem” and “ The There Body Problem ” —which would all appear separately in our database—are all set up to be recognized as nominations for the same book. And if you think that’s bad, imagine what it’s like when episodes of television get nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, where there are series title, episode title, and season and episode number, and a thousand different ways to put those together…

Once that’s done, we have our preliminary finalists. That’s when we start reaching out to nominees, letting them know they’ve been nominated, and a bit about the awards. That can be surprisingly difficult if we don’t know people’s email addresses. Sometimes, they’re public…but fairly often they’re not. There’s a certain amount of Googling, guessing, or asking people with impressive Rolodexes just to figure out a valid email address sometimes.

(11) SELECTIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY. Kate Paulk says Sad Puppies have a future, in “Miscellany” at Mad Genius Club.

In other news, this of the Puppy-related kind, I’ve heard rumors from several sources (but nothing official, alas) that more than 4000 Hugo nomination ballots were cast. I’ve also heard there are some saying that Sad Puppies 4 is a nonentity, that it’s run out of steam, it’s dead, pining for the fjords, gone to a better place… (erm, sorry?). Well, no.

Sad Puppies 4 is waiting to hear who the nominees (*ahem*. The Hugo Site says they aren’t being called nominees any more. They’re ‘finalists’ from a shortlist. Whatever) are before congratulating them for their recognition, whoever they are, and starting the next round of campaigning to boost involvement in the Hugos process.

(12) CAT PITCHER. He’s mad as a wet you-know-what! “Timothy Under Attack by SJW Warrior Feminist Filers” at Camestros Felapton.

A certain “website” which I shall not name because I shall not provide it with anymore publicity because I am sure nobody but a tiny number of far left Bernie Sanders supporters in a gated community ever read, as they sip champagne frappucinos in their la-di-da literati bookclub but whose name rhymes with smileearnestbevinbeventy, has SELECTIVELY QUOTED ME in a truly monstrous way to suggest that I am nothing but a poo-poo head! The calumny! The outrage!

(13) A MULTIPLE-CHUS PANEL. This program idea was dropped in the MidAmeriCon II suggestion box….

https://twitter.com/kyliu99/status/722967958054666241

(14) IN FACT IT’S COLD AS HELL. Science Alert reports “An abandoned probe just discovered something weird about the atmosphere of Venus”.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express probe spent eight years collecting information on Venus before plunging down to the surface and out of range back in November 2014. But now we finally have the last batch of data it transmitted back to Earth before going offline, and there are some big surprises in all those recordings.

Turns out, the polar atmosphere of Venus is a whole lot colder and a lot less dense than we previously thought, and these regions are dominated by strong atmospheric waves that have never been measured on Venus before.

Maddie Stone from Gizmodo reports that the Venus Express probe found polar areas of Venus to have an average temperature of -157 degrees Celsius, which is colder than any spot on Earth, and about 70 degrees lower than was previously thought.

This is rather surprising, considering Venus’s position as the hottest planet in the Solar System overall.

Not only is Venus much closer to the Sun than we are, it also has a thick, dense cloud layer that traps heat. However, Venus Express also found that the planet’s atmosphere was 22 to 40 percent less dense than expected at the polar regions.

(15) FAMOUS FURNITURE. Heritage Auctions now calls it “The Chair Heard ‘Round the World”.

The online and print publicity pieces for J. K. Rowling’s chair reached over 90 countries, plus all 50 states and all news aggregator sites. It saw total media coverage nationwide, with special interest in New York, Silicon Valley, and major cities in the Midwest, as well as the nation’s capital. The chair also garnered attention with 4,428 mainstream media hits, a number that is still rapidly growing. Print media circulated to 291.7+ million, while 15.6+ billion unique viewers visited websites carrying the article.

(16) THE TRUTH MAY NOT BE OUT THERE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Effie Seiberg, Liar”. (Effie needs an introduction Camestros Felapton’s cat.)

4) Wait, how do I know you aren’t sneakily telling the truth?

The answer to question 3 is a lie.

5) All right, I’ll let it go. Just know that I’m aware that at any point you could be LYING. So. You studied philosophy and logic. Do you use that in your fiction?

Absolutely! There’s a long tradition of slipping philosophy into speculative fiction, especially since they’re both about exploring ideas and taking them to their logical conclusions. Some of my favorites are Italo Calvino’s “All at One Point” and Asimov’s “The Last Question” for metaphysical cosmology, Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware” for ethics, and Roald Dahl’s “William and Mary” for epistemology, and the movies Labyrinth and Monty Python’s Holy Grail for classic logic. Also the entire Discworld series for all the philosophy ever.

(17) FARE LADY. Ann Leckie wrote about her GoH stint at Japan’s Hal-Con, including a special souvenir —

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:… And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:…

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough….

And I learned from her post that when cooked a coelacanth, like every other exotic creature, reportedly “tastes like chicken.”

(18) RUN A LINE THROUGH IT. “SFWA Contracts Committee Alert” at the SFWA Blog.

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways. Writers may choose to bring out a range of books from different publishers — science fiction from one publisher and fantasy from another publisher, for example — and may have to do so in order to earn anything like a living wage.  The problem becomes even worse for hybrid authors who self-publish works in parallel with their traditional publications. Several contracts that we have seen include overlapping restrictions that could keep the author from publishing another book for more than a year….

Our recommendations:

Any limitation on the author’s ability to write new works at any time is unacceptable and should be deleted.

“Competing work” should be defined in the contract as clearly and narrowly as possible, and preferably limited to a work in the same series (whether one is planned or not). The burden should be on the publisher to prove that another work published elsewhere by the author would reduce their sales.

(19) THRONES RETROSPECTIVE. BBC devoted a long post to Game of Thrones at 20: How the saga became a TV hit”.

Still, HBO wavered over whether to make a fantasy show that would be so drastically different from their trademark series, which tended toward the grittily realistic. And even after HBO tentatively signed on, Benioff and Weiss’s original pilot episode had to be completely reshot before the show finally debuted in 2011 – another six years after the producers had first acquired the rights from Martin. But there was hope from another perspective: the rise of prestige television had paralleled the rise of cult fandoms. The passionate online exchanges among fans of books like Martin’s made them desirable targets for marketing. Suddenly, HBO had proof that a Game of Thrones series would have an intensely engaged audience from the start, and the network’s marketers knew exactly how to reach those fans – right on those websites and message boards where they gathered to discuss the minutiae of the books. If the network got particularly lucky, those fans would become ambassadors to a wider audience.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link together with these comments, “They do mention the proper title at one point, although it seems a lost cause generally. OTOH, the night before my cruise got to Dubrovnik two weeks ago, the tour manager specifically called out A Song of Ice and Fire — so some people actually know the original collective.”

(20) HEAD OF THE CLASS. Entertainment Weekly explains what went down.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Late Late Show With James Corden, host James Corden and some high-wattage Game of Thrones cast members spoofed House of Black and White’s Hall of Faces (a prominent part of the show’s season 6 marketing campaign), with a segment imagining what an obnoxious disembodied head might do to the larger group.

The sketch featured recent guests Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, and Iwan Rheon…

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Will R., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the Top Level Poster. On his head be it!]

Pixel Scroll 3/8/16 I Want To Tell You About Texas Pixel And The Big Scroll

(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Iain Clarke’s image of astronaut Mae Jemison, created for the Dublin in 2019 Worldcon bid, makes a great reminder that March 8 is International Women’s Day.

(2) THE FRANCHISE. And the BBC marked the occasion with its article “International Women’s Day: Why women can thrive in sci-fi”.

While the Star Wars expanded universe has a number of popular, female characters, the cultural impact of seeing a female Jedi’s hero journey on the silver screen can not be overstated. “For years we’ve been hearing that women couldn’t front a sci-fi/action film,” Jenna Busch, founder of Legion of Leia.

“The fallacious perception is that they just won’t sell. But, now we have Katniss, Furiosa, and Rey to prove that attitude wrong. There is something about seeing the box office numbers that might be a step in the right direction.”

(3) THERE IS ANOTHER. Last November, James H. Burns saw a van tricked out as the Mystery Machine on Long Island. Now, on the other side of the country, California authorities are seeking a different fan of the Scooby gang who’s been speeding around in her own version of those wheels — “Redding police: Suspect flees in ‘Scooby-Doo’ Mystery Machine”.

On Sunday, March 5, the Redding Police Department was alerted by Shasta County Probation Department about a subject who had allegedly violated their probation around 12:50 p.m. The subject was identified as Sharon Kay Turman, 51, Sgt. Ron Icely said in a news release.

According to the report, officers spotted Turman in the Mystery Machine, a 1994 Chrysler Town and Country minivan, at California and Shasta streets. Turman fled when officers tried to pull her over, traveling at high speeds. A CHP helicopter and Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputies joined the pursuit. Turman is reported to have reached speeds of over 100 m.p.h.

(4) FAKE FAN. A fake GalaxyQuest fan site, created to promote the movie, can still be viewed via the Wayback Machine. One of its features is ”Travis Latke’s” interview with Gwen DeMarco, replete with fannish typos. (I think Travis learned copyediting from me).

TL: How do you do it? How d you deliver one blockbusting performance after another?

GDM: It’s all about the craft. As an actor I try put myself inside the head of my character. Since I sgtarted acting, I always try to become the charactere, that sometimes is very trying. For instance I once played Medea in summerstock in the Hamptons and, gosh, for weeks I hadthey nauseating feeling of having done all the bad things Medea does in the Euripides play.

With Galaxy I delved into scientific research that by the time the show was cancelled I knew enough for a PhD in astrophysics. I mean, it’s a fascianting subject. I made some great friends at the Pasadena Jet Prupolsion Lab who I still consult whenever I have a question aboput quassars and wormholes.

(5) WINE PRESS. To this day, fake fans are still being used to promote things. Hats off to Trae Dorn, who’s been drilling to the bottom of “Wine Country Comic Con’s Bizarre Litany of Lies” at Nerd & Tie. There is no end to it!

Last week we published a piece on Wine Country Comic Con. A first year convention currently scheduled for April 23-24 in Santa Rosa, CA, we were alarmed to find they were using a fake Facebook account to spam groups and talk with potential attendees.

But the more we looked into this event, the more we discovered that this story went further than just the fictional “Frida Avila.” Wine Country Comic Con organizer Uriel Brena has constructed a complex charade of lies, fake staffers, and a whole bunch of weirdness.

This rabbit hole runs deep.

A Full Complement of Fake Staffers

The first thing we found out was that “Frida Avila” wasn’t the only weirdly complex fake staffer created by Wine Country Comic Con. Thanks to some email tips (and a bit of our own digging) we found several more:….

(6) A ROBOT WITH KEANE EYESIGHT. Kirsty Styles at TNW News says “Aido is pretty much the robot they promised everyone back in the 1950s”.

Aido will be friends with your weird kid, act as a security guard, remember your schedule and project movies onto the wall to help with anything from cooking to plumbing.

This is the robot to kill all robots. With kindness.

 

(7) ROWLING ON NORTH AMERICAN MAGIC. Will there be anything left to say about this topic by the time I post it to the Scroll? We’ll find out. Today Pottermore ran the first installment of J. K. Rowling’s revelations about wizardry in the New World.

The first piece of writing from ‘History of Magic in North America’ by J.K. Rowling is here, and we can also give you a taster of what’s to come this week.

Today’s piece goes back through the centuries to reveal the beginnings of the North American magical community and how witches and wizards used magic before they adopted wands.

Wednesday’s piece will divulge more about the dangers faced by witches and wizards in the New World, and on Thursday you’ll discover why the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) took steps to move the magical community deeper underground.

The last piece will take us right up to the Roaring Twenties, when the magical community in North America was under the watchful eye of MACUSA President, Madam Seraphina Picquery – played by Carmen Ejogo in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

These stories will give you some idea of how the wizarding world on this continent evolved over the years, and of the names and events that lay the foundation for the arrival of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November.

(8) TROPE TRIPE. Arguing over Rowling should put everyone in the mood for Mark J. Turner’s post at Smash Dragons, “Five Fantasy Tropes That Should Be Consigned to History”.

2. The Chosen One

In fantasy books the protagonist often begins life as Mr A.N.Other, minding his own business in some nowhere village doing nothing in particular. Then we discover that he is the son of a king or a powerful wizard or warrior, and suddenly he is able to take on the world, no training required. Or if there is training, the author presses the fast forward button on the process, and our protagonist learns in a year what it would take others a lifetime to master.

And the transformation in our hero doesn’t end there. He has spent his formative years as a farm boy or a swineherd, yet for some reason that has prepared him perfectly for the demands of running a kingdom. When he rises to the throne, everyone lives happily ever after. There seems to be a sub-text in these books that in order to stop the world slipping into chaos, all you have to do is put the “right” person in charge. It’s as if the natural order is somehow disturbed if there isn’t a man or a woman ruling everything. Whereas in reality we don’t have to look too far in our own world for examples of where putting all the power in the hands of one person isn’t necessarily a good idea.

(9) ON STAGE. James Bacon reviews The Ghost Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at Forbidden Planet. The play features segments written by authors Christopher Fowler, Stephen Gallagher, Kim Newman, Robert Shearman, Lynda E. Rucker and Lisa Tuttle, alongside a wraparound story by director Sean Hogan.

The writing is hilarious, within moments of our travellers sitting down and their unpleasantness becoming clear, the audience are laughing at dark contemporary humour, riffing off recent well-known scandals, while smart language and profanity reflect more closely the mores and morals of modern society. Using traditional ideas of what we consider horror monsters, the authors skilfully show what monsters really are, that nothing is as monstrous as humanity, and the writers with their sharp razor-like ability to find angles in people, left the audience contemplating where the horror truly lies and what being a monster really is….

The framing worked well – a fancy dress party, as one’s favourite monster on a vintage steam train, a very nice little conceit to create the right atmosphere for the portmanteau of stories. Strobe lights, sudden intrusions, the chimey tinkley creepy music as the stage went dark for the changes, the sound effects and stage work, props and masks/costumes all were just right, adding the perfect amount of tangibility for a lively suspension of belief….

(10) OVER THERE. Larry Correia’s next tour stop is —

(11) SAVE GAME OF THRONES FAVORITES. George R.R. Martin’s characters face “Danger! Peril! Death!” Only this time, it’s not because he’s writing scenes for them in his next novel.

Suvudu is doing another one of their Cage Match tournaments. This time the theme is Dynamic Duos. Jaime (one-handed) and Brienne have been paired together. In the first round they are facing Garth Nix’s Sabriel… and a pussycat.

http://suvudu.com/2016/03/cage-match-2016-round-1-jaime-lannister-and-brienne-of-tarth-vs-sabriel-and-mogget.html

In the first Cage Match, lo these many years ago, Jaime defeated Cthulhu (with a little help from Tyrion). Surely he cannot lose to a fluffy little ball o’ fur (and fleas). Not with the mighty maid of Tarth by his side.

(12) TYSON HOSTS DEBATE. Panelists for the 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate will engage the question: “Is the Universe a Simulation?”

What may have started as a science fiction speculation—that perhaps the universe as we know it is actually a computer simulation—has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers. Join host and moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson and his panel of experts for a lively discussion and debate about the merits and shortcomings of this provocative and revolutionary idea.

The Asimov Debate panelists are: David Chalmers, Professor of philosophy, New York University; Zohreh Davoudi, Theoretical physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Gates, Theoretical physicist, University of Maryland; Lisa Randall, Theoretical physicist, Harvard University; and Max Tegmark, Cosmologist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The debate takes place April 5 at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. Check the website for tickets. The debate also will be livestreamed via <amnh.org/live>.

(13) BOOKS SCIENTISTS LOVE. Charlie Jane Anders at io9 pointed to a forum in reddit’s Print SF Resources where scientists talk about their favorite books and the scientific problems they find in SF. Filer Greg Hullender makes an appearance there.

(14) STEAMPUNK RULES WHERE STEAMBOATS DOCKED. The Riverfront Times was there when “The Science Center Went Steampunk on Friday – and Everyone Had a Victorian Good Time”.

The St. Louis Science Center takes Fridays very seriously, with a themed evening of special events the first Friday of each month. Last Friday was no exception, as the Science Center hosted a night entirely devoted to steampunk science. The event drew everyone from families to costumed fanatics. All enjoyed a night of demonstrations (did someone say “escape artist”?), activities (where else can you try a steampunk shooting range?), films and more devoted to this take on Victorian-era science fiction.

(15) HYPNOTIC SCULPTURES. Everybody with a quarter-of-a-million spare dollars is going to want one of these.

(16) SUPERGIRL WILL BE BACK. The Mary Sue has deduced Supergirl will get a second season.

While technically nothing official’s been announced, while speaking at Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, CBS President Les Moonves pretty much stated that Supergirl is getting another season. Well, specifically he said:

We have about five new shows on this year. Of those five, I believe all five of them will be renewed, and we own four of them.

[Via Nerd & Tie.]

(17) A NEW SUIT. Another Comic Con is being sued for trademark infringement – but the mark involved is not “Comic Con,” as the Houston Chronicle explains — “Convention bureau sues comic convention over ‘Space City’ trademark”

Houston’s convention bureau is suing the operators of a popular local convention over the use of “Space City” in its name, claiming it infringes on a 12-year-old trademark.

The convention in question, Space City Comic Con, also happens to compete with a similar event that is half-owned by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau itself. The bureau acquired a 50 percent stake in the more established Comicpalooza last September, spokesman A.J. Mistretta said….

Houston has billed itself “Space City,” a boastful nod to its founding role in U.S. space exploration, since the 1960s. Over the decades, dozens of local companies from plumbers to construction outfits to tattoo parlors have used the moniker as part of their name. But they are not affected by the trademark registered by the convention bureau in 2004, said Charles S. Baker, an intellectual property lawyer with Locke Lord in Houston who is representing the bureau in its lawsuit.

The trademark is narrowly constructed and applies solely to efforts that promote tourism, business and conventions in the greater Houston area, Baker said.

(18) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 8, 1913 – The Internal Revenue Service began to levy and collect income taxes in the United States. (Go ahead, ask me what that has to do with sf. They’re raising money for the space program, okay?)

(18b) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

Born March 8, 1967 — Tasha Turner

(19) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson makes an ingenious comparison in “The 7 Levels of Recommending”.

Maimonides, a Jewish scholar and Rabbi (which are pretty much the same things: he was an astronomer too…) once developed a “hierarchy of charitable giving”.  He essentially analyzed the different kinds of charity that people extended and attempted to define the different types and then ordered them from least to most selfless.  He ended up with 8 different levels of giving.  The lowest form of charity is giving grudgingly – forced to hand over a dollar to the street bum because he’s blocking your path.  The highest form is giving before it is even needed (my father thought that included my allowance….).

I mention this because, as a result of all of the discussion regarding slates vs recommended readings lists, I thought that a similar hierarchy of the levels of recommending might be instructive.

(20) SHUT UP, PLEASE. Max Florschutz uses “The Loud Neighbor” as a social media analogy. I found his argument appealing until he decloaked his attack —

And this is where a lot of “social” groups these days get it wrong. A lot of what’s being touted online and in social circles these days is the act of calling the landlord to complain about noise, while being just as loud on one’s own, but giving one’s self a free pass to be loud because you have the “right.” It’s wanting the freedom to do what you want, produce as much friction as you want, while not being willing to extend that same courtesy to others. It’s the kind of mentality that leads to things like “safe spaces” where only individuals of one sex or skin tone are allowed entry. Freedom to produce as much friction as possible while denying others the same freedom. One group is allowed to be “loud” while simultaneously “calling the landlord” to complain that the other group needs to be silent.

Is it a perfect allegory? No. But it still holds. We can’t be as loud as we want and expect that no one else be given the same treatment. We need to extend the courtesy that we give ourselves to others. If we don’t do that, then what are we doing but putting ourselves on a pedestal and pushing those around us down?

(21) IS THIS A GOOD THING? You can now pre-order 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush, edited by Kevin J. Anderson and John McFetridge, at various places including Amazon. (My header, there, is just a joke. A message board I used to follow had a devoted Rush fan, and yanking his chain about it was an indirect way of expressing affection.)

Ron Collins drew my attention to the book in a promotional e-mail —

I’m super-thrilled to announce that you can now pre-order copies of 2113, an anthology of stories inspired by Rush songs that includes my work “A Patch of Blue.” I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this one. I’ve spent a lot of good times listening to those guys. [grin]

My story is one inspired by Rush’s “Natural Science,” which is a monstrous work in three acts that’s just cool as all get-out. It was a total blast to write, partially because I got to put it on endless loop while I did it–so, yeah, the song is pretty much indelibly inked onto my brain now.

(22) ENERGIZE – THEN DIE! This is freaking alarming — The Trouble with Transporters.

(23) RAVEN MANIAC. From Amoxtli, the poetic masterwork of the day.

A sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore:

Lenora Rose, people are bound to confuse us, given the name similarity (or not notice that our names were autocorrected to the other version, as my computer tried to do to your name just now).

As I was on the File a-tapping on my keyboard, posts o’erlapping
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
Suddenly there came a fwapping: “The Rose and Jones are not for swapping.”
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
When the accurs’d hour tolls our doom, shall we mistake the name Lenore?”
Said the Filers, “Fear no more.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, David K.M. Klaus, James Bacon, Martin Morse Wooster, and Kendall for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15 Mother Pixel’s Littul Scrolls

(1) STAR WARS PREMIERE. Photographer Al Ortega has posted 105 photos taken at last night’s Hollywood premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Facebook.

And Craig Miller has an account of attending the premiere on Facebook too. Both are public.

(2) ON THE CARPET. CNN has Big Media’s coverage of celebrities’ responses to seeing the movie. I didn’t spot any spoilers, but caveat emptor.

Finally, the most hilarious comment comes from Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. Talking about how much he possibly enjoys red carpet events, he remarked: “I can’t think of anything better to do! I do these in my backyard on Wednesdays.”

(3) WINDING UP THE REWATCH. Michael J. Martinez completed his Star Wars rewatch in the nick of time — Star Wars wayback machine: Return of the Jedi.

I think the Luke/Vader scenes work much better, especially when the Emperor is in the mix. Ian McDiarmid plays Palpatine with relish and Evil and it’s pretty awesome. Luke’s character goes through the wringer, and the performance is pretty damn good. And of course, we see Vader return to the Light. That wasn’t too horribly predictable going into the movie, and it worked. The one thing that the prequels did well (or didn’t mess up) was to show the beginning of Vader’s arc and how he ended up tossing the Emperor down a well and being the good guy he always wanted to be.

Martinez says, “I’ll be seeing the new one Thursday night, and will post a non-spoiler review on Friday. Thanks yet again for having me on File 770!”

(4) TAKE NO CHANCES. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader claims “This Chrome Extension Will Protect You from Seeing Star Wars Spoilers”.

And that’s why I’m thrilled I found Force Block. This simple Chrome extension saves me from seeing any unwanted spoilers. After it’s installed, any webpage that reveals details about the new Star Wars movie will look like this screenshot from movies.com…

(5) HO HO HO. Reason thinks Star Wars I-VI needs a parody collection of trigger warnings.

(6) MAGNUM OPUS. Whereas The Slipper works for its audience share with a rundown on how the original movies were handled in comics — “Something about that Space Wars thing everyone’s talking about”.

The Slipper knows how to leave them wanting more, as it ends by reproducing a series of Bloom County strips about Star Wars from the late Nineties.

(7) REEPICHEEP’S TAILOR? A Calgary metal artist crafts suits of armor for mice and cats.

Tiny helmets, shields and weapons could (theoretically) protect rodents and felines in battle…

It takes anywhere from 10 to 40 hours for de Boer to complete one suit of mouse armour. Cat armour takes much longer — 50 to 500 hours per piece

The link leads to a photo gallery of his work.

(8) LIVING COLOR. At Harry Bell – Fine Artist you can see glorious work like his oil painting of the London Millennium Bridge.

London Millennium Bridge by Harry Bell

Harry is a past Hugo nominee (1979), Rotsler Award winner (2004), and two-time FAAn Award winner (1977, 2014).

(9) ADDITIONAL NOTES. Deborah J. Ross tells more about “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings” in today’s installment at Book View Café.

Playing

When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released, I bought the easy piano/voice version of “The Song of the Lonely Mountain,” from the closing credits of the movie. By this time, I was on my own, without my teacher, but the piece was comfortably within my skill level. I knew how to drill fiddly fingering passages and such like. The key as written was a little low for my voice, but manageable. I even figured out how to use paper clips to grab on to so I could turn the pages without breaking the flow of the song.

Of course, I wanted more. The song was so much fun, how I could I not want more? But I also wanted to challenge myself.

(10) MAKING SPACE. John Dodd’s talks about letting go (how un-collector-like!) in “The Great Collection in the Sky” for Amazing Stories.

But, after wiping away the tears, I moved on. Later, my massive collection of comics and graphic novels had to go – sold at rock bottom price to a comics shop. There had been mint first editions in there, I thought, how dare he insult me with that price? But in the end, I relented. The collection was holding me back from moving on (quite literally – the new place wasn’t big enough for all that paper and cardboard).

So, do I regret the letting go? Actually no, I don’t. I made space for some truly amazing new things in my life…less “things” and more “experiences”.

(11) RAIN OBITUARY. Author David Rain, who wrote sf as Tom Arden, died December 15 reports Locus Online.

Arden is best known for the five-book Orokon epic fantasy series, beginning with The Harlequin’s Dance (1997). He also wrote standalone novels Shadow Black (2002) and The Translation of Bastian Test (2005), as well as Doctor Who novella Nightdreamers (2002), and numerous stories, reviews, and critical articles. As David Rains he published The Heat of the Sun (2012)….

(12) 3…2…1…BOOM! On December 15, 1960 The Traveler at Galactic Journey witnessed the nadir of America’s space program, a fourth consecutive disaster — “Booby Prize (Pioneer Atlas Able #4)”.

Today, NASA made a record–just not one it wanted to.

For the first time, a space program has been a complete failure.  Sure, we’ve had explosions and flopniks and rockets that veered too high or too low.  We’ve had capsules that popped their tops and capsules that got lost in the snow.  But never has there been a clean streak of bad missions.

(13) APPENDIX N. Jeffro Johnson closes out his series with “Appendix N Matters”, a summary of his views about fantasy and its readers.

The retiring of Lovecraft’s bust from the World Fantasy Awards is therefore not so much reminiscent of statues of Stalin being pulled down in post-Soviet Russia. It’s more a reflection of the Berlin wall… going up. It used to be that reading centuries old books was almost universally considered to be a very good thing, to the point of being the very definition of an education. Now, looking into works that are merely decades old are increasingly beyond the pale. People with this attitude will even go so far as to object to having to read Ovid at university– and college administrators– far from standing up to this– seem instead to be on the lookout to accommodate this sort of thing.

In the not too distant past, though, the “dangerous visions” of the day could be enjoyed side by side with classic fiction by Lord Dunsany and A. Merritt. Professionals with highly divergent views on politics and religion could coexist within the pages of the same magazines. And people that were keen on challenging every imaginable taboo could get on within the same market where more traditional approaches to science fiction and fantasy were still practiced. People were free then in a way that’s hard to even imagine now. Political correctness and its legions of freelance thought police were only just beginning to gain a foothold, and remnants old ways and attitudes could be taken for granted.

The Appendix N list preserves therefore not just a list of books that are of especial interests to fans of classic Dungeons & Dragons. It’s also a snapshot of what fantasy fandom was into in the seventies. And don’t let anyone tell you different. While the list is not without its idiosyncrasies, it is nevertheless a representative sample of the authors that would have been translated into foreign languages when other countries finally got around to importing the fantasy and science fiction phenomenon for themselves.

(14) ABIGAIL ON ANCILLARY. Abigail Nussbaum’s review Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie” does a lot of what used to be called “praising with faint damns.”

For example:

That Ancillary Justice is as much fun as it is feels all the more remarkable when you consider that it is, essentially, a book-long infodump.

Or:

…By this point, we’ve learned enough about the Radch and its stratified, class-conscious society to view the popularity of these kinds of stories with distrust–their narrative of virtue triumphing over social convention is intended to paper over the real issues of class prejudice that hinder most capable lower class citizens from climbing the social ladder (or the pitfalls that trip them up even once they’ve achieved a higher status, as in the case of Lieutenant Awn).  It’s less clear whether we’re meant to notice that Ancillary Justice is also one of these stories–Breq isn’t just lower class, by the standards of the Radchaai she isn’t even human, and yet by the end of the novel her courage and devotion to Lieutenant Awn have not only gained her the respect of several high-ranking Radch officials, but she has been granted citizenship and the command of her own ship.  All that’s missing is the love story with a high-born Radchaai (and I’m betting rather heavily on that for the sequels).  Is it even possible to question the very idea of empire through what is essentially a Horatio Hornblower story?

(15) CORREIA. Don’t just ask any professional, “Ask Correia #18: Creating ‘Offensive’ Characters” at Monster Hunter Nation.

That whole Bechdel Test thing? Where they ask are there two females in a scene who talk about something other than a man? Okay, first off, you shouldn’t have to “test” your story for anything beyond is it readable and entertaining enough to sell it to somebody, but second WHO CARES? (well, a legion of Twitter feminists and gender studies professors obviously) Right off the bat most of the mega-selling romance genre fails the test, and most of those books are written by female authors for a female audience (and the romance genre makes serious bank compared to the rest of us).

There isn’t some arbitrary test that if you pass you’re good, and if you fail you’re sexist. Because you see what they call me, and I wrote Grimnoir, where the single most important, pivotal, critical, essential dialog scene in the entire trilogy was two young women talking about origami on top of a blimp. Test passed, and I’m the International Lord of Hate.

The real test for every scene should be asking yourself, is this scene good? Is this entertaining? Does this advance the story? Does this scene expand the characters or the universe? But that should be every scene, not just the one with two female characters in it.

(16) EMPATHY. I wonder if Larry knows the subject in the neverbeenmad comic ”2015 Voight Kampff Empathy Test”?

(17) Today In History

Peter Boyle Young Frankenstein

  • December 15, 1974Young Frankenstein was released.
  • December 15, 1978Superman with Christopher Reeve premiered.

(18) BRIN REMEMBERS CLARKE. Coinciding with the Syfy show’s premiere, David Brin has penned a tribute “Childhood’s End and Remembering Arthur C. Clarke”.

And yet, what most intrigues me about Arthur’s work is something else – his ongoing fascination with human destiny – a term seemingly at odds with the scientific worldview.

True, a great many of his stories have focused on problem-solving, in the face of some intractable riddle. His characters, confronted with something mysterious, aren’t daunted. They gather resources, pool knowledge, argue, experiment, and then – often – transform the enigmatic into something that’s wondrously known. This part of the human adventure has always shown us at our best. Peeling away layers. Penetrating darkness. Looking back at the wizard, standing behind the curtain.

(19) WHAT WILL BE IN TWO YEAR’S BEST COLLECTIONS . Through SF Signal I found

“Table of Contents: The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1 Edited by Neil Clarke” (31 stories)

and

“Table of Contents: The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 Edited by Rich Horton” (30 stories).

Somebody with more time than I have just now should see if there is any overlap…

(20) WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. James Bacon took “A Superhero Stroll Around New York City” when he was in town, and wrote it up on Forbidden Planet. Lots of photos too!

Paul Lepelletier is our guide for this superhero walk around New York City, and at two pm he gathers us all outside. This is a friendly group, and soon we all know where everyone is from, four from England, four from Boston, two locals from Manhattan, two from Scotland, two from New Jersey, and four other New Yorkers, it is a decent crowd..

Paul has worked for DC comics; he drew comics at one stage of his varied career, worked in the licensing division, and indeed, is an award winning graphic designer and marketer, but his love of comics, and his appreciation for having been involved with them, is quite clear.

His knowledge is strong, and soon we are hearing about Fleicher’s Rotoscope technique and additions they made to the Superman ouevre, such as the famous Phone Booth as we stand outside their offices.

Soon we are on Park Avenue, looking at a building that housed Will Eisner’s studio, and hearing about the relationship between Will Eisner and Bob Kane, about how Batman was sold, and how Bob Kane’s own career developed and again looking at the building that housed his studio back in the day.

Paul’s knowledge of comic characters and their history, especially on TV and Radio, is new ground to me. As well as Batman, he talks about the rise of marvel in the 1960s, the old movie serials and the germination of TV series.

(21) HWA LA SIGNING. On January 16, 2016 members of the Horror Writers Association LA will sign Winter Horror Days edited by David Lucarelli at a Burbank bookstore.

Winter Horror Days COMP

Join us Sunday January 10th 2-4 pm as members of HWA LA sign Winter Horror Days at Dark Delicacies, 3512 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, James Bacon, Hampus Eckerman, Will R., Brian Z., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]

See Ghost Train At Covent Garden in March

Ghost Train final posterThe Ghost Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More takes inspiration from the horror portmanteau movies of the past like Tales from the Crypt and Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors

Five passengers meet on a train and agree to tell each other monstrous stories of possession, hauntings, devilry and science gone wrong. Each tale is inspired by a classic monster: vampire, ghost, Frankenstein, the Devil, mummy, ventriloquist’s doll. Each actor plays multiple roles within the tales, and as is traditional in the form, the framing story builds to a suitably macabre climax.

The play features segments written by authors Christopher Fowler, Stephen Gallagher, Kim Newman, Robert Shearman, Lynda E. Rucker and Lisa Tuttle, alongside a wraparound story by director Sean Hogan. It will begin a run of 12 performances at Tristan Bates Theatre in London on March 7.

“I am super excited about this,” says James Bacon, who saw another production by the creators, The Hallowe’en Sessions, and gave it a glowing review on the Forbidden Planet blog. “I attended the Halloween Sessions and it was a fabulous selection of vignette plays that worked beautifully together. The writers involved here are stunning.”

[Poster by Graham Humphreys.]

The Degenderettes Exhibit at Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco

Mission Comics and Art

Mission Comics and Art

By James Bacon: I love checking out comic shops, seeing what they are like, finding things I never knew existed or perhaps something I never expected to find. This is how I was as I walked into Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco. The shop was welcoming and large, a dogleg in the space meant it stretched back further than I expected, the shelves full of good comics, a couple of sofas ready to encourage spontaneous readers to browse and buy, posters, ephemera and years of comics culture adorned the shop.

As I continued into the shop, it became apparent that there was a gallery right at the back, an open functional space perpendicular to the shop, and then I found what must be one of the most interesting exhibits of my year.

The Degenderettes, a Feminist-Genderqueer Bicycle Club, had an exhibit that not only filled the space, but was a fun and vibrant commentary on gender and society.

There is a denim biker jacket in pride of place on the wall, it looks well soiled,  and it is only as I read that I see it is covered in menstrual blood. This is unusual but also potent stuff. There is no fear here by the artists of their own humanity. A whole wall is covered in brutal looking weapons, made of pieces of bicycle. I look at the razor blades on the end of wires coming from a handle bar, and a chain flail with knotted chain at the end, and a try the knuckle duster that is made from a bicycle cog, it tempts me to steal it, and I wonder should I.

The group have their own perspective and explained it as part of their opening:

After subjective collaborative renegotiation of the contemporary dialogue encapsulating the global cultural narratives of gender politics, we have decided to exhibit a Degenderettes jacket stained with menstrual blood, an array of bicyclist weapons and a birth certificate shredder, in addition to projections, paintings and sculptures by individual members. For the opening we will be smashing an R Mutt urinal with a pink sledgehammer, so bring your protective eyewear if you value those sorts of things.

There are seven weapons on one wall, and then a gun rack holds a dozen or so pink painted Nerf guns. A case holds two Maverick rotary Nerf guns, painted white and pink, along with dozens of mini tampons that fit perfectly into the space for Nerf darts. A mannequin has a pink sash covered in intricately made merit badges, sticking two fingers up at what people may consider gender norms, but which in reflection of this rebelliousness which I interpret as a stand against gender conformity. Also modelled is a bandolier holding tampons.

The Biker Jacket hangs in pride of place, while there is a shredding machine to destroy birth certificates, a selection of tampons for men, art on canvas, a ladies’ toilet door into nowhere,  and the smashed Urinal in many pieces on a dais.

It was fabulous use of the space, but also quite challenging in its concept. Here is art that is speaking loudly and prepared to be genuinely uncomfortable for the viewer. This is rare I feel, there was just something honest about what has been done, and at the same time inspirationally thoughtful and brilliant about the wider perception on our society.

There was also two walls are covered in exceptionally beautiful comic art, simply attached to the wall with small bulldog clips, and although one of the images featured a group of Degenderette biker jacketed characters, I was soon to learn that this is Falling Sky, the work of Degenderette  Dax Tran-Caffee.

Failing Sky is a web comic that contains four interrelated stories: the memoir of a failed sailor, the quest of a travelling ghost, the adventure of a genderqueer nancy drew, and giant robots. According to Dax Tran-Caffee:

 I wanted to see in the world – which means not just making art that addressed 21st century feminism, transgender issues, economically viable art careers, etc., but instead I would make something that would intrinsically represent these themes within the real world. In other words, I could have made a series of esoteric oil paintings about how awful rape-culture is, but perhaps it would be better to write a story in a popular medium about human relationships superseding rape-culture.

The artwork is beautifully done, hand drawn with watercolours enhancing the clean style and fine inks, and the structure is fascinating, again best explained by the creator,

Failing Sky is 4 storylines in 30 chapters, with chapters arranged hierarchically by theme instead of sequentially by plotline (not quite like Cortazar’s Hopscotch, but maybe more like if Wikipedia’s articles were narrative). What I’d like is for you to be able to read chapters out of order, selecting which to read solely driven by your own interests, no longer having to suffer through the boring chapters, and where you can stop reading when you feel your own sense of completion, not just because I’ve declared that you’ve reached the final page. I recommend that readers start at “The Sinking Ship,” but wherever you go from there is up to you.

I made my way into Mission Comics a second time.  Leef Smith the owner was exceptionally nice and it was indicative of this comic shop that Joe Keatinge writer on Image’s Shutter was relaxing in a sofa, signing stock as he had passed by. I again was drawn to the back room, and found the artwork utterly fascinating, and inwardly bemoaned that it would not see a wider audience, here in a comic shop, a venue that I love, I was transfixed by the interactiveness and freedom of artistic expression that was telling a story of people, real art and real meaning.

This article appeared in other online outlets.

Dax Tran-Caffee kindly supplied us with the names of those who created the artwork and:

  • hormone potions – Tara Sullivan
  • merit badges – Sara Sherman
  • tampon bandolier – Kian Smith
  • tampon guns – Sara Sherman
  • bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver, Alexander Cotton
  • birth certificate shredder – Ion O’Clast
  • tampons for boys – Sara Sherman & Kian Smith
  • Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes
  • paintings – Alexis Babayan
  • women’s restroom door – Dax Tran-Caffee
  • photographs – Khloe West
  • Failing Sky “Pauvre” original pages – Dax Tran-Caffee

The show was made possible by the support of Alanna Simone and of course Leef Smith at Mission Comics and I have to admit, it felt fantastic. There was an energy and connectivity about this show and a sense of reality that made it really connect, and I am sorry it was ending.

bike weapons - Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

merit badges - Sara Sherman

merit badges – Sara Sherman

paintings - Alexis Babayan

paintings – Alexis Babayan

Degenderettes blood jacket - the Degenderettes

Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes

tampon guns - Sara Sherman

tampon guns – Sara Sherman

Fiddle - Dax Tran-Caffee

Fiddle – Dax Tran-Caffee

Three Speed Chain - Robin G

Three Speed Chain – Robin G

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

From Coast-to-Coast in the Blink of a Red-Eye.

Batgroup Ben, Alex, Q, Josh and Vivian at SDCC.

Batgroup Ben, Alex, Q, Josh and Vivian at SDCC.

By James Bacon: It was a warm sunny Sunday in Burlington, Massachusetts, and people were relaxed, sitting and chatting outside the Marriott Hotel where Readercon was being held. I walked into the relative calmness of Readercon, a quietness that belies the intensity of some conversations and earnestness with which people were going about the convention. It was a very different energy, yet not at all dissimilar from San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in southern California, where I had attended the day before.

Of course, it was the last day of Readercon, and I had red-eyed to Boston from San Diego, the comparison of experience was inevitable, yet it was the commonalities between the two conventions that made me smile. I soon found a free book room and was pleased to pick up some ‘zines from the Richard III Society, dating back to the 1980s. I also picked up a New Worlds from the 1950s and a couple of other pulp digest mags based on promises of excitement on the covers. One of my fellow free book browsers found one a couple of Galaxy Magazines self identifying as “pertinent science fiction” and there was much laughter. The Readercon freebie room was so much calmer than the free table in the Marvel booth, which can only be likened to a Rugby match, or the huge queues for free items at SDCC.

Readercon Pertinant SF 90In the Dealers Room at Readercon, Michael Walsh and Bill Campbell proved as eloquent in greeting and conversation as they were as book sellers, and I was pleased to hear that Bill’s press had their new Samuel R. Delany inspired anthology Stories for Chip for sale and it was selling well.

Beer and a book on the bar at Readercon.

Beer and a book on the bar at Readercon.

Just like San Diego, I found any intention of getting into programme soon waylaid and was side tracked into lively chats with Liza Trombi and then Erin Underwood in the bar, which was nice. Chat seemed to be continuous as I wandered around the Dealers Room and common areas in the Marriott, which were spacious and easy to get around.

I got engaged in a conversation with a fan about current affairs in the SF community. This fan had lost family during the Second World War, in Europe, and as the conversation roamed, opinions and thoughts were exchanged. This was a fabulous conversation, not because there was a meeting of minds, but rather that there was disagreement. However, that disagreement was so polite, and also so recognisably not by many degrees, that we respected one another’s opinion. This is important since there is an adage that those who are of a similar but slightly differing opinions will argue the most, but today I think it is important to recognise allies for decency, rather than wining my exact viewpoint to the point.

I was pleased to see Dave Kyle at Readercon, one of those ever rarer members of First Fandom, and was glad to find him in good spirits. We have met now many times, and I enjoy chatting with him and relished the opportunity to introduce him to Bill as a member of the first Worldcon in 1939. His daughter, Kerry Kyle talked about how there was a schism even then, and it made me smile. Ah, fans! Dave heads off on his moby, skilfully negotiating his way around the Dealers Room at a decent speed.

At San Diego Comic-Con, I saw a lot of people in Moby’s, and the area for disabled people and short separate queues seemed like it was all very positive despite reading that it was not perfect. That indeed would be true, no convention is perfect, but while I can pause and wander around a group of people, I can imagine the choke points in SDCC were both frustrating and upsetting for the less mobile. In contrast, here at Readercon, I see there is a lot of care and attention for anyone who is disabled as I feel is only correct.

There is no doubt the Worldcon bid for 2017 has created interest. At Readercon, I saw Crystal Huff who seemed pleased with Helsinki’s work, and indeed there were no shortage of Helsinki T-shirts to be seen. Ben Yallow was chatting enthusiastically with Bill Campbell, who lives in Washington, about the DC bid. It is all go this year, and even in San Diego there were quite a few people interested for various reasons in the race between Montreal, Japan, DC and Helsinki. In San Diego, I had met Mike Wilmoth, a senior programme ops manager for SDCC, who also happens to be a deputy chair for Sasquan. He had been at Westercon the weekend before where there had been a fannish inquisition. Mike was not the only deputy chair I met in San Diego as Laura Domitz was helping in the art show. I was amazed at how many people from the Worldcon side of fandom were present at SDCC, as I kept bumping into fans as well as volunteers.

A question that came up at Westercon, which I had heard about before SDCC was along the lines of “what is one going to do to increase diversity at conventions?” and for some reason this question entered my consciousness as one to consider hard, especially given my coast-to-coast convention experiences over the weekend. Asking those who I want to welcome was an initial thought and I was conscious to consider this question broadly, mindful that thoughts must be turned into successful actions.

I can only tell you what I observe, I cannot and do not have facts or figures, or even evidence of an empirical nature, just what I saw as I wandered about both conventions. Yet it is interesting that San Diego Comic-Con felt very diverse. Of course, Readercon works hard, I feel, to be welcoming in their own way, which is borne out in their programme participant statement: “Readercon is committed to diversity in its program; we believe a wide range of voices makes for better conversation. We strongly encourage members of minority and underprivileged groups to apply.” This is very good, and I feel that leadership can be shown by conventions in working at having diverse panels and programme, which in turn attracts diverse members.

I noted after the con, that Readercon had great levels of diversity on panels, which compared to SDCC was a trump.

During a trip to Baltimore Comic Con a couple of years ago, I felt that convention was more diverse in attendance than any other con I have attended. By observation it was incredible, and I pondered that now, and wondered if it was about the cost, location, or programme participants in Baltimore.

If cost and affordability had an impact, was this why San Diego Comic-Con had a lot of diversity? A day ticket for SDCC was $50 for an adult and children 12 or under get in free with a paying adult. That is if you were lucky enough to get a ticket, of course.  There is also a Junior price of $25 for 13 to 17-year-olds.  Baltimore Comic Con is $30 for a Saturday, and kids under ten go in free with an adult while a day ticket on Saturday for Readercon was $55 and indeed cheaper than both on Sunday at only $25 and children under 15 attend free with an adult too.

I do not know if that is often talked about in the States, but at most of the UK and Irish conventions I have worked on, there have also been discounted rates for those who are on employment benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, or on the dole. Terms change but basically out of work admission has ranged from 25-50% off the ticket price. Students likewise have gotten discounts, or sometimes it is young people up to 26 years of age and so on.  It may be just another difference that in the States student and child prices are lower (or free) while discounts for unemployed fans are just not contemplated as being enabling, but I always approve of them. Indeed, I have had no issue about the disparity in what I pay if it enables someone in an unfortunate situation to come along.

So, I wondered about that. I noted that Readercon had signed up for Con or Bust, so there were three free memberships available to those in need, but I was not sure what SDCC or Baltimore had done in this regard. So, in many ways, that was even more progressive than my leftist European ways of discounts. Although many cons now on both sides of the Atlantic are also singing up, which is fabulous.

I also wondered if location may have been a factor. SDCC is down town in the Gas Lamp District with trolley access. Likewise, the convention is down-town for Baltimore Comic Con, and although Readercon was in Burlington, which is about 35 minutes by Bus (352) from Downtown Boston, a 14 mile drive, and there is also a route using the ‘T’ redline and 350 bus. So, despite not being downtown, it is accessible by decent public transport, which I think is pretty good going. I would be curious about the turnout at other Boston area cons that take place in the downtown area.

On a related note, my trip was not without non-con excitement and I was stopped by a police officer. Getting into the States is not something that is a given for me. Indeed, I have to apply for a visa and then I can get refused at entry and getting arrested would be detrimental for any future travel. The officer was polite. He came to my window, and spoke clearly and explained why I had been stopped. He wanted my licence, and I asked if I could get out to retrieve it from my wallet in the back of the car. He was unsure with this question I thought, so when I repeated it, he seemed surprised that his permission was being sought. He did step back to allow me out, and so we conversed at the rear of the car, and I was warned and sent on my way. Indeed, the manners, courtesy, and also professionalism was incredible. It was like how the US used to be portrayed in that old TV show CHiPs; was this guy Ponch or John?

The British left national press has been consistently reporting negative incidents in the States, so there was some caution and trepidation in my interaction. Articles here seem very in depth and there are no shortage of them, this one “By the numbers: US police kill more in days than other countries do in years; The Guardian has built the most comprehensive database of US police killing ever published” is another example. My police experience was totally at odds with this perception, although I do wonder if Americans realise how other countries look in and see their country and I wondered if that effected tourism or travellers from outside and within.

The world loves America, it really does. From comic heroes to Coke, burgers, Elvis, and Hollywood, everyone loves something about America, and so many people want to make a future there, be they Irish, Eritrean, Iranian or Indonesian. I was pleased that the negative PR I have heard was not my destiny on that day but wondered if that has an impact on what it is to be welcoming.

I felt very welcomed by this cop. Of course, maybe there was a more obvious and distasteful reason for the ease of my interaction. I am aware of that, but would not want to castigate another person or assume that they would by course, treat me different in ways that I think we all hate. We all hate racism, bigotry and discrimination, don’t we? I wondered, is it easy to say I hate racism and then well, get on with my nice life as I drove away, too easy.

In all, I enjoyed myself immensely meeting up with old friends, picking up great books, and pondering some of the bigger convention questions from San Diego to Boston, Baltimore, and beyond. At both SDCC and Readercon, I had a really nice time, and in fairness I came into physical contact by accident with an infinitely larger number of people in San Diego, but manners and niceness were the norm at both conventions. I had great chats and conversations from coast-to-coast that were engaging, and it was good fun… and as an American asked me with a twinkle in their eye and a hint of smile at the edge of their mouth, ‘was it good craic’.. yeah, yeah, it was indeed.

Free books at Readercon.

Free books at Readercon.

Home Is Where the Heart Is: Outreach in Dublin.

Panorama image of the Outreach area during set up.

Panorama image of the Outreach area during set up.

By James Bacon: Dublin Comic Con (DCC) has been growing over the last number of years, and this year moved into the Convention Centre Dublin, expecting 15,000 attendees. For the 8th and 9th August this year, SF Outreach attended Dublin Comic Con to spread the world about fandom by giving out free books to attendees.

SF Outreach in Ireland was initiated to continue the work that has been done in the United Kingdom by John Dowd, and runs concurrently with the work of SF Outreach in the United States, which was at Emerald City Comic Con earlier this year.

It’s so good to be home, and it’s so nice to be at a convention that is being run well, and attracting such a large indigenous interest. A Dublin Radio station set up their broadcasting unit outside and national newspapers gave DCC huge coverage in the run up, so there has been good publicity.

As well as comics, which are well represented, authors, actors, and industry professionals are all present. Comic Cons are increasingly becoming a place for fans to gather for networking, fun and a celebration of the popular cultures that they love. Reading and a love of books is a huge part of this, and Dublin comic writer and YA author Michael Carroll, who had a table upstairs in the convention, sold out of copies of his work on both days.

With 2,500 books at their fingertips, SF Outreach Ireland were given six tables in the main foyer of the Convention Centre. Many publishers threw their weight into the project. They understand that at a comic convention, there are indeed many willing readers, so Angry Robot, Gollancz, Hodder O’Brien Press, Penguin and Tor all provided many (many!) boxes of stock for us to give out. As well as this, personal donations were made. Local business and authors threw their lot in with us and donated to the cause. We ended up with the SF section from the Hackney London Library that had sadly closed, and also a large donation of SF magazines from the estate of Dublin fan Mick O’Connor. The Dublin branch of Forbidden Planet gave us a stack of comics, and during the convention, authors who had seen what we were doing popped by and gave us signed copies of their work. This meant we ended up with a lovely selection of books and items of interest.

Our plan is straightforward. We want to attract attendees of events like DCC to conventions which they may never have heard about. We are all fans, including the organisers of the Comic Con, and we feel there is space for all interests. The free book encourages reading, and allows us to chat with people as they browse, telling them all about fandoms and events that they may not have heard of. And hidden round the back, we had a special ‘secret’ selection of books for children and younger readers, to make sure that everyone can find something suitable and accessible to enjoy.

At the tables we had 15 volunteers on Saturday and as many on Sunday, with representation from Eirtakon, Mancunicon, Nom-con, Octocon, TitanCon, Anime Dublin, Games Expo and the Dublin 2019 Worldcon Bid. Michael Carroll, who is a guest at the Comic City Creative Arts Festival in Derry dropped off some books, and we got flyers from Kaizoku-Con, PotterFest Galway and the Irish Discworld convention.

The Irish government is supporting the Dublin2019 Worldcon Bid, so this meant that there were  materials on hand for that. I had come by a more international selection of flyers left over at Eastercon, and outreach members also mailed local conventions and asked them to send promotional material. Which was grand – especially as they also sent volunteers on the day! Dublin Comic Con gave us the awesome space, and supported what we were doing and we received financial help from Octocon, Shamrokon and SF Outreach in the US.

Getting the flyers out.

Getting the flyers out.

On Saturday, 1,500 books were put out. By close of business, there were four left. The rest of the books were kept for Sunday, so those attending just for one day would have the opportunity to get their own book chat. At the end of Sunday, everything had been taken but people were still coming over to talk, take flyers and find out more about us.

The response was not only positive but heart-warming. So many people were super excited to see the variety of books, and were then faced with the quandary of which one to choose. This terrible choice plagued many fans, as they tried to choose between titles. The engagement was surprising, and so flyers, memberships, supporting memberships and sign ups to volunteer were more active than I had ever expected, and indeed have experienced in the past at UK outreach events.

A disapointed Throne with empty shelves.

A disapointed Throne with empty shelves.

People love their books, and loved what we are doing. Engaging with fans about individual authors, making recommendations and indeed, having conflicting ideas on given books connected the volunteers with the readers and in turn, the readers with what we are doing.

Seeing the potential Worldcon venue in action was also exciting for me. The main hall at the CCD (The Forum), is a mix of dealers and displays. There is huge interest in Ireland in building life scale dioramas, scenes, costumes and props. The Walking Dead, Wasteland, Star Wars, Alien vs. Predator, all had sets to pose in, or get scared in, or walk through and experience. There was of course a De Lorean present – given this iconic car was built here in Ireland – and the roar from the engine when it was moved into position was incredible.

There was a two stream programme, so it was good to hear the acoustics in both programme rooms. The Liffey; the second largest open space in the venue, was used for Artists Alley, guest comic artists, the celebrity signing areas and queues, and a number of interactive elements; again an interesting use of the space.  Connections are all important, so we had arranged for Outreach materials to be given to anyone who asked a question. And of course, all our items had bookmarks and flyers tucked inside.

From a technical standpoint, I got to see how the in-house team worked. The venue hire of the CCD comes with security, hosts, management and a technical team. Watching them in action was impressive. They were professional and speedy, and when we asked for power ourselves, within minutes a floor panel had been adjusted and we had a four bar power extension. Quick and easy. Karl and Derek, who organised the Comic Con, are keen to pass on any learnings they have to the Dublin Worldcon Bid Team, and this type of co-operation is fabulous.  The plan is for Dublin Comic Con to be here for the future, and of and our intention is to continue with our Outreach work, allowing us a chance to get to become familiar with the venue when it is in use.

All cons are different, of course, but the similarities here are good to see – everyone is a fan of something. There was a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and this was demonstrated by Michael Rooker wandering around the Dealers Room, engaging with fans in a fun way. Occasionally the man who played Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy looked liked he would be mobbed, but he got about with ease and skill, and it was unusual and quite lovely to see such engagement.

There was a lot of worldclass cosplay on show; it was really very impressive, and given I was at San Diego not that long ago, I say this with a sense of honest objectivity. I was dressed as The Glimmerman myself, an Irish Comic book hero from the League of Volunteers, and one of our other volunteers came as Victoria from Brian Kesinger’s ‘Walking Your Octopus’. It was great to meet so many fans, who had given cosplaying a go, and even the rain held off to oblige.

Most of all though, it was meeting fans, chatting and talking about the cons. There was a good time here and we did good work.

Jerry and Annis as Spidey and SpiderGwen.

Jerry and Annis as Spidey and SpiderGwen.

Meg as Agent Carter.

Meg as Agent Carter.