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.

 

 

What TOR Boycott?

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

By James Bacon: I went to Comic Con for a couple of days and had a fabulous time. The volunteers and staff run a great con, there were 120,000 people there and it surely felt busy, and I really enjoyed it.

Books are very well represented here, to my surprise, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan amongst other publishers are all present in strength, as are dealers selling prose fiction.

TOR books have a really smart stand in a great location, and both times I managed to go by, they had long queues of people, eager, keen and EXCITED!!! Here anyhow, no one has a notion about the boycott at all.

Many people who I spoke to, have heard about the Hugo situation and have distilled it neatly into succinct and straightforward understandings of what has happened. People I spoke to, couldn’t even name those specifically involved, or mention the Puppies at all. There are colourful variations as to what people perceive, but generally the sentiment amongst those who did know, was that a negative act has occurred this year. The Hugos themselves are held in high regard, they have permeated the memories of many, probably from book covers, and indeed, I met a previous graphic story nominee who was very proud to have been one.

I returned to File 770 to see what I had missed, and laughed at the earnestness with which the TOR boycott is spoken of, because I had come from a place where to the hundreds and thousands of science fiction fans who pick up promotional material or queue at the TOR stand, the boycott is not only irrelevant but it is unnoticed and unknown.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Journey Planet #22 The Superhero Issue

JP 22 CoverJourney Planet’s Superhero issue is now available to download here.

Editors Aurora Celeste, Linda Wenzelburger, Chris Garcia and James Bacon carry out the theme with articles on Wonder Woman, Captain America, Manhunter, Miracleman, Misty Knight, Superhero RPG’s, Andy Warhol, Movies and an interview with Mel Ramos. The art includes a Superman by Hillary Pearlman-Bliss.

Fans in Superhero cosplay enjoy shawarma on the cover. The feature articles, opinion and comment on the world of comic book superheroes comes from comic book shop owners, authors, gaming professionals, scholars, academics and fans. The Instant Fanzine Section boasts 35 contributions from as far afield as Croatia, England, Netherlands, USA and Ireland.

Superman by Hillary Pearlman-Bliss

Superman by Hillary Pearlman-Bliss

Dublin in 2019 Update

After appearances at both the British Eastercon and Norwescon in the U.S, as of the beginning of April Dublin in 2019 has reached the 600 mark in paid supporters.

Broken out by level the numbers are —

  • Pre-Supporting: 458
  • Backer: 6
  • Friend: 100
  • SuperFriend: 11
  • Subscriber: 25
  • Grand Total: 600

“Easter was a cracking weekend for us,” said Chair James Bacon, “and I am very pleased that we exceeded 600 pre-supports. My thanks to all who have helped us get to this substantial number, it is evidence of the hard work and enthusiasm that people have for our Bid.”

Many of these pre-supporters have also volunteered time to assist the bid.

The Drink Tank Takes on GamerGate

Chris Garcia and James Bacon devote the latest issue of Drink Tank to a discussion of GamerGate. 

James says, “It is not good, and we shall not pretend it is not happening or ignore it, for it is already attacking things and people that matter.”

What was ostensibly an alleged scandal about integrity in journalism, turned out to be a lie, and evolved into a machine of hatred and abuse of women.

Chris Garcia and myself realised that this was rampaging amongst people we knew, cared for and who would not ever be expected to tolerate the things that have been said.

Can you imagine a Worldcon Area Head be told to: ”Go commit suicide’ or ‘Can’t you take a joke you stupid whore?’ – of course not, because there is a code of conduct, and people seem to be able to behave in public, yet with the anonymity of the internet, hatred, abuse, and threats have flourished.

To get the issue click here [PDF file].

Stargazing In Staffordshire

James Bacon and Dr. Emma J. King

James Bacon and Dr. Emma J. King

James Bacon offers you the stars next summer in Staffordshire, England where he and Dr. Emma J King, an award-winning science communicator with a Ph.D. in cosmology, will inaugurate astro.CAMPhw.uk, an annual astronomy event, August 7-9, 2015.

People of all ages and from all walks of life are invited to enjoy a series of astronomy-related talks, workshops and activities led by experts in the field. Each night there will be star gazing, facilitated by experienced astronomers.

Attendees will camp in Huntley Wood, a 170-acre outdoor event venue in the heart of the Staffordshire moorlands.

Huntley_Wood_2

The date has been picked because it is during the summer holidays, when families can attend together, also because the second weekend of August tends to be near the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best and brightest meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere

The programme for the weekend already includes bestselling popular science author Simon Singh giving a talk about his book Big Bang, which tells the story of the Big Bang theory from its birth in the 1920s to the observational evidence that backed it and then clinched it.

There will be a talk from Prof. Paul Roche, Director of the Faulkes Telescopes Project, the UK National Schools’ Astronomer and the Space Ambassador for Wales. He has spent over 20 years researching massive stars, neutron stars and black holes, and working in astronomy education, outreach and science communication.

Also speaking is Dr. Ed Trollope founder of science website Things We Don’t Know

Ed studied at several UK universities before cruelly being exiled to “get a job and a haircut!” After originally studying space physics he turned to the dark side (spacecraft engineering), then realised how poorly structured his code was and opted for software engineering too. Now he works in Germany, where he helps to land robots on other worlds and predict the weather.

There will be workshops by Emma Wride of AstroCymru, plus an undercover 3D Celestia and Stellarium, just in case the weather turns bad.

More items will be added, as well as fun activities suitable for children. No previous experience or knowledge of astronomy is necessary to enjoy astro.CAMPhw. Tickets are already on sale via the website which offers an early booking discount.

Keep up-to-date with the event through its website, http://astro.camphw.uk, Facebook (facebook.com/astrocamphw) and Twitter (twitter.com/astrocamphw).