Pixel Scroll 3/31/18 It’s An Honor Just To Be Pixelated

(1) FAREWELL, PORNOKITSCH. Yesterday Anne Perry and Jared Shurin signed off their long-running sff blog: “Pornokitsch: The Exit Interview”. The existing content will remain online for some time to come.

Anne: …As you say above, Pornokitsch is what we wanted it to be: a home for thoughtful, fun (and funny) essays about… whatever. Back when it was just the two of us writing for the site, that’s what we did. And it’s been a pleasure to watch the site bloom with much, much more of that…

By and large, I’m happy to say that I think I wrote more or less exactly what I wanted to write for the site. There are a few reviews I would do differently now, if I could go back in time. But we  founded Pornokitsch as a way of talking about the pop culture we love with the humour and intelligence we wished to see in those conversations, and at the end of the day, I think we – and our many brilliant contributors over the years – have done just that.

Jared: On that note… We’ve mentioned our amazing contributors: words and art, regular and guest, past and present. We owe them a huge, huge thanks for all of their hard work and help and patience. Thank you all.

Anne: We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks also to all the publishers – editors, marketers and publicists – who offered us books to review and put quotes from us on the actual books, zomg. And, finally, thanks also to our tolerant and very supportive families, enthusiastic friends and – most of all – our readers over the years.

For those arriving too late, they created a kind of postmortem FAQ on their “Bye!” page.

How can I check if you verbally flensed my favourite piece of pop culture? I need know whether or not I should hate you forever.

An index of features and reviews can be found here.

Is there some Pornokitsch memorabilia that I could cherish forever?

Nope. Buy one of our contributor’s books instead.

(2) PUPPY FREE. I like how this was the fifth point in John Scalzi’s “Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot” at Whatever.

  1. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

(3) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Piet Nel said on Facebook about Sarah Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” (from Asimov’s, September/October 2017), a Best Novelette Hugo finalist —

This is the first time since 2013 that a story from Asimov’s has made the final ballot of the Hugos.

(4) NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER. J.R.R. Tolkien on Elvish:

(5) GRIMOIRES. In the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, Lawrence Berry discusses a source of “Forbidden Words (And When to Use Them)”.

Do genuinely forbidden, occult treatises exist in the modern world?

Yes, definitely.

Who has them and how do I get a look?

The great libraries of the world, private antiquarian collectors, and the Vatican’s Secret Archives all house works on satanism and witchcraft. An interested party would need to earn scholar’s credentials or have someone very good at creating false identities counterfeit them. A wide and nimble knowledge of Olde English, Middle English, Latin, Arabic, ancient German and Italian, along with gifted insight into the science of cryptography would help—a person could be burned at the stake for the sin of heresy in more centuries than not and grimoires were often written in code. It would also be wise to attain a master’s knowledge of very old books themselves—the paper they were penned on, the material used to construct the covers, the ink used in the illuminated borders and illustrations, the quality and flow of period quills and brushes. Authentic editions, with provenance, sell for a great price, and forgeries are rampant. An equally lavish fee is charged for a single reading of the rarest, genuine, and powerful spell-books.

(6) SFF AUTHORS ON GENDER PANEL IN HONG KONG. In conjunction with the Melon Conference 2, the University of Hong Kong recently held a seminar on Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Mlex interviewed an attendee about what the panelists had to say in “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Gender in SFF” for Yunchtime.

To find out more about the Hong Kong Science Fiction and Fantasy scene, Yunchtime reached out to Dr. Christine Yi Lai Luk, at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Univeristy of Hong Kong, who attended the panel discussion….

YUNCHTIME: How did the seminar and panel discussion live up to the proposed topic?

LUK: There is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say. It is a panel of three women SF writers, but they did not explore “the world of women in SF” as advertised in the above description. It is more appropriate to call the seminar “women/gender and SF” because it is just three women talking about their SF work.

YUNCHTIME: How about the panelists, can you describe briefly some of their thoughts or comments?

LUK: I think Becky Chambers‘ views were the most relevant to the proposed topic. Chambers revealed how she was drawn into the world of SF from an early age onward. Raised in a space science-heavy family (her father is a rocket engineer and her mother an astrobiologist), she was introduced to SF and space fantasy movies as early as she could remember.

Her favorite SF novel of all time is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin (a lot of nods from the audience as the name was dropped). She said writing SF gives her confidence as she is an introvert.

I think her experience reflects a certain gender norm in the SF realm: Unlike the blondy sorority type of girls, girls who are into SF are perceived as shy and nerdy, and incapable of drawing the attention from the opposite sex (except maybe from Wookie-dressed superfans).

Tang Fei does not write in English, only in Chinese. Her Chinese works are translated into English and they draw attention in the English-speaking world partly because her works are banned in China. Actually, Tang Fei is a pen name.

Because the conference was being held entirely in English and due to the language barrier, Tang Fei’s sharing was not effective as we could have hoped. She only managed to say a few sentences in English (with a very soft voice). Then, during the Q&A, she was relying on the organizer, Nicole Huang, to act as her interpreter.

The main thing I caught from Tang Fei is that in the future, human beings will exist in disembodied form and thus the only “gender” issue for SF writers to engage in will be purely on the psychological aspect.

Zen Cho talked about her upbringing in Malaysia and her identity as an English-speaking Hokkien among mainstream Malays. She did not identify herself as a SF writer, but as a fantasy writer. I don’t think she has said anything remotely relevant to gender.

(7) STEELE AND SF IN HONG KONG. Mlex also covered “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Allen Steele on the Melon Conference 2018” for Yunchtime.

YUNCHTIME: What is your impression of Fritz Demoupolis? Is he a big SFF fan? Demoupolis is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, do you think he sees a business opportunity for the SFF genre in Hong Kong and China?

STEELE: Fritz Demopoulos is an interesting fellow … a California-born ex-pat who came to Hong Kong about 20 years ago and has stayed to make his fortune. My brother-in-law did much the same thing, so I’m familiar with this sort of entrepreneurship. He’s most definitely a SF fan. He discovered the genre through finding his father’s beat-up copy of Asimov’s Foundation and has been reading SF ever since. He knows the field, is familiar with major authors both old and new, loves the same movies and TV shows the rest of us do, and overall is an example of a highly-successful businessman who also happens to be something of a geek.

Melon is Fritz’s brainchild — he’d have to explain to you why he gave it that name — and it’s unique among SF gatherings. As I said, it’s not a con in the conventional sense — yes, that’s a deliberate pun; stop groaning — but rather a symposium that’s sort of academic without being stuffy or pretentious. The people Fritz invited to be speakers were SF writers — a few Americans like myself, but mainly young Asian authors— scientists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a number of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs working in both emerging technologies like AI and also mass media

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Henry Nicholls, in the Reuters story “Friends, Family, Public Flock To Funeral of Physicist Stephen Hawking,” says that Hawking’s coffin had white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses and a “space music” composition called “Beyond The Night Sky” was played.

The 76-year-old scientist was mourned by his children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, joined by guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.

Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was one of the readers in the ceremony and Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the film also attended the service.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1840 — President Van Buren issued executive order establishing 10-hour workday for federal employees.
  • March 31, 1987 Max Headroom aired on TV.
  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl debuted in theaters.
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHICH COMES FIRST? THE PRESS RELEASE. In “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” the Washington Post says, “Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy.”

…In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

“At Amazon, whenever we build anything we write the press release first and decide what we want the end to be and I bring the same mentality to the backyard chickens,” said Ken Price, the director of Amazon Go, who spent a decade in San Francisco before moving to Seattle. Price, 49, has had six chickens over the past eight years and is already “succession planning” for his next “refresh.”

(12) ENERGIES IMAGINED. In “Fuelling the Future” on Aeon, Aberstywyth University historian Iwan Rhys Morus analyzes Robert A. Heinlein’s 1940 story “Let There Be Light” in an analysis of how sf writers created stories about new power sources.

Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources. This was not a new problem, even in 1940, and it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power? Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? If we want to better understand how we speculate about future energy now, then we need to appreciate the extent to which those speculations have a history, and that their history (from the early Victorian period on) contains such fictions as Heinlein’s story as often as, and frequently mixed in with, highly technical debates about the characteristics and requirements of different modes of energy production and consumption.

(13) RUSS’ INFLUENCE. The Baffler’s Jessa Crispin, in “No Mothers, No Daughters”, an excerpt from her introduction to a new edition of Joanna Russ’s How to Supress Women’s Writing, says “I came at Russ sideways…seeing her name-checked by the punk rock chicks who created their own culture through zines an mix tapes when they failed to see themselves through thee wider culture.”

Reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I wondered, what the hell is it going to take? For decades we have had these types of critiques. We have had books and lectures and personal essays and statistics and scientific studies about unconscious bias. And yet still we have critics like Jonathan Franzen speculating on whether Edith Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, as is his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing, we have a literary culture that is still dominated by one small segment of the population, we have a sense that every significant contribution to the world of letters was made by the heterosexual white man—and that sense is reinforced in the education system, in the history books, and in the visible world.

This complaint wasn’t even exactly fresh territory when Russ wrote her book, which I do not say to diminish her accomplishment. It is always an act of bravery to stand up to say these things, to risk being thought of as ungrateful. Your small pile of crumbs can always get smaller.

But what is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the one we currently inhabit.

(14) THE MARCHING GENIUSES: At Featured Futures, Jason’s prepared another list of bright literary lights in the Summation: March 2018

The fifteen noted stories (nine recommended) come from the 112 (of about 560,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between February 26 and March 31. The printzines were decent, with Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and Interzone (the latter reviewed for Tangent) being represented by more than one story from their bi-monthly issues. On the web, Lightspeed has two from just this month while Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash
Fiction Online
, and Nature also make appearances.

(15) JDA SIGHTING. Kilroy was there.

Or as JDA put it in his press release (!) –

Today was a step forward for the cviil rights of conservative-libertarians in SF/F, as I attended the Hugo Award Nomination ceremony without harassment from the Worldcon 2018 staff. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 1. not disruptive at Worldcon events — or any convention, as FogCon proved and 2. that the discrimination I face from them was for reasons other than my being a danger to any guests (since I am clearly not, and they clearly didn’t think I was here).

The Worldcon Staff was uninviting — a nearly all white group I might add — not seeming to want to have a Hispanic author in their presence. It is something we will have to overcome in fandom together in time.

(16) GRAND THEFT LUNCH. SFF cannot keep up with stories like this from the real world!!!! Begin here —

(17) IN CHARACTER. Jeff Goldblum in his Thor: Ragnarok character in a short film “Grandmaster Moves To Earth.” From 2017, but it’s news to me!

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mlex, Chip Hitchcock, John  King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Jason, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27 So Long, and Thanks for All the Fifths

(1) ORPHAN BLACK TEASER. BBC America says Orphan Black Season 4 has started production and will be shooting in Toronto through March.

Tatiana Maslany returns to her Emmy®-nominated role as multiple clones in 10 new episodes in Spring 2016.

Season 4 of the drama will see leader-of-the-pack, Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

 

(2) UNDERSTANDING CONTRACTS. Fynbospress provides a wide-ranging introduction to contracts for creators in “When do you need a contract?” at Mad Genius Club, a post that does much more than merely answer the title question.

This isn’t just for court; this is when you’ve submitted a rough draft to a copyeditor and found out they only did the first third of the book and the last chapter , or when you paid a cover artist $500 and they returned one proof of concept, then stopped answering emails. This is for when the small press gives you a horrid cover, no release press, and you have some real doubts about your royalty statements. This is for when you’ve agreed to turn in a sequel, and you find out your spouse has cancer, and nothing’s going to get done that’s not medically related. It’s for when you get the avian flu and aren’t going to make your slot with your editor, and aren’t sure you could make a pushback date, either, or the house washes away in a flood and you weren’t even thinking about when your cover artist finished her painting and wants paid.

(3) NOT WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Lela E. Buis in “Safe spaces and personal self defense” conflates safe spaces with the convention antiharassment policies of which she disapproves.

Reading through the proposed convention policies, safe spaces apparently mean that no one can annoy you. When some evil lowlife approaches and says something that disturbs or upsets you, then you should be able to just say “no, go away” and they are required to do so. It means that you can cruise through the convention experience without worrying about anything. If anyone fails to do what you ask, then all you have to do is complain to management and they’ll take care of the lowlife who’s bothering you, pitching him/her out on the street. This is really an ideal situation, where nobody ever has to hear things they don’t want to hear, or deal with situations they don’t want to be in.

However, when you always depend on management to protect you, then you’re not taking personal responsibility for your own well-being. You end up with no self-defense skills….

(4) CHROMIUM SÍ IN AMERICA. “Here’s How Captain Phasma Got Her Silver Armor” explains Andrew Liptak in an intro to a video at io9.

Gwendoline Christie has certainly made her mark in the Star Wars universe as the silver-armored Captain Phasma. This short video shows where that armor came from, and it’s hilarious.

(5) NO SPOILERS. Joe Vasicek’s spoiler-free first impressions of the new Star Wars movie at One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Was it campy? Yep. Was it rife with scientific inaccuracies? Oh heck, yes! Were parts of it over the top? Yeah, probably. But these were all true of the original Star Wars, too. The stuff that really mattered was all there: good writing, solid plot, believable characters, awesome music, and that grand sense of wonder that drew us all into Science Fiction in the first place.

(6) SPOILERY AND FUNNY. Emma Barrie’s “The Confused Notes of a Star Wars Newbie Who Felt Compelled to See The Force Awakens” is a high comedy journal of watching The Force Awakens.  Paragraph two only spoils the original Star Wars trilogy, so that’s safe to quote….

Even as a member of the uninitiated minority, I did know some basic stuff about Star Wars, because how could I not? My birthday is May 4, so there’s that. I knew Darth Vader is bad and has the voice of Mufasa. I knew Han Solo is a person (though I thought it was Hans Solo). I could definitely pick Chewbacca out of a lineup. Princess Leia is Carrie Fisher (whom I primarily associate with hating that wagon-wheel table in When Harry Met Sally). She has those Cinnabon hair swirls and at some point wore a gold bikini (info gleaned from Friends). Lightsabers are kind of like fancy swords. Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.

(7) SPOILERY AND SERIOUS. David Brin was greatly relieved to find things to complain about in “J.J. Abrams Awakens the Force” at Contrary Brin.

Okay we saw it.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SW:TFA), on Christmas Eve.  And although I am lead author — and “prosecuting attorney” — of the book Star Wars on Trial, and hence a leading critic of the series, I must admit that:

(1) The newest installment of the franchise — directed by J.J. Abrams under Disney management — has none of the deeply objectionable traits of Episodes I, II, III and VI that I denounced in that controversial tome. Abrams and Disney shrugged off the lunacies George Lucas compulsively preached in those vividly colorful-yet-wretched flicks….

(8) SPOILERY TROLLING. Nick Mamatas is like one of those basketball players who in the parlance can create his own shot. If there was nothing in The Force Awakens to complain about, Nick would not be inconvenienced in the slightest. His review is at Nihilistic Kid.

Like any Star Wars film, it makes little sense. I’m not even talking about the inexplicable political economy of the galaxy that has both intelligent robots and people hanging out in tents with dirt floors, or the horrifying reactionary theme of an entire galaxy being held a prisoner of fate by about a dozen closely related individuals.

Is that last part so unrealistic, Nick? Think of Queen Victoria’s family ties.

(9) A FAN OF PEACE. I thought Hank Green was a science fiction fan (among other things) yet he exhibits a practically unfannish lack of interest in quarrelling with his fellow fans about Important Genre Definitions.

(10) FIVE IS ALIVE. At The Book Smugglers, “Jared Shurin’s Five Terrific 2015 Titles That’ll Tie Awards in Knots”  actually contains seven titles. Did he think nobody would count? Or was he worried File 770 wouldn’t link to his post without a “fifth” reference? Never fear, Jared, your praise for “A Small, Angry Planet” deserves to be shared.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

It lurked (and won The Kitschies) as a self-published work at the start of 2015, but as far as the ‘stablishment is concerned, this utterly glorious, brilliantly progressive and undeniably joyous space opera didn’t exist until the UK release in February and the US release soon after. It has been on multiple ‘Best Of’ lists (Waterstones, Guardian, Barnes & Noble), and hopefully that translates to even more well-deserved recognition. The awards scene is dominated by a) Americans and b) traditional publishing, so this book’s… er… long way… to market should hopefully pay off with further acclaim.

(11) SMACKIN’ WITH THE PUPPIES. George R.R. Martin finally froze comments on “Puppies at Christmas” after two days spent duking it out with trolls. Martin’s last entry in the discussion might also be taken as a reply to the coverage here the other day:

When people behave badly (in fandom or out of it), or do things that I find immoral or unethical, I reserve the right to speak out about it, as I did about Sad Puppies 3 last year.

When, on the other hand, I see behavior I regard as positive, I am also going to speak out about that… regardless of whether my words are going to be “spun” to suit someone else’s narrative. So far, what I am seeing on the Sad Puppies 4 boards is a step in the right direction… a spirited literary discussion that includes everyone from Wright and Williamson to Leckie and Jemisin. That’s good.

If it turns into something else later, well, I’ll revise my opinion or raise objections. But I am not going to deal in hypotheticals. Right now what I see is people talking books.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904Peter Pan by James Barrie opens in London.
  • December 27, 1947 — The first “Howdy Doody” show, under the title “Puppet Playhouse,” was telecast on NBC.
  • December 27, 1968 — The Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — returned to Earth after orbiting the moon 10 times.

(13) RESTATE OF THE ART. “How Weinstein Co. Distribution Chief Erik Lomis Rescued 70MM Cinema For Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’” at Deadline Hollywood.

Lomis had an 18-month lead before Hateful Eight would hit the screen, and he promptly began scouring eBay and interfacing with film warehouses and antique collectors across the country “pulling the equipment, checking it and Frankenstein-ing it together. Configuring the lens took six months alone. They needed to be adjusted to today’s stadium auditoriums, which from the booth to the screen have a shorter throw versus the lens on the older machines which had a longer throw due to the sloping floor auditoriums,” explains Lomis. For the first six months, Lomis was picking up 70MM projectors at affordable prices, but once word slipped out that it was for a Tarantino film, collectors tripled and quadrupled their asks.  Essentially, to make three solid working projectors, one needed to pull parts from as many as five projectors.  Gears, shafts, bearings and rollers were the typical replacements. At times, these parts were manufactured from scratch off original blueprints. On average, Schneider Optics made a lens a day during production to restore this antiquated technology.

(14) SIR TERRY. Rhianna Pratchett  in The Guardian“Sir Terry Pratchett remembered by his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett”.

…The reaper came for my father much earlier in his life in the form of Death from his world-famous and much-loved Discworld novels. Death was a towering, cloaked and scythe-wielding skeleton who had a penchant for curries, a love of cats and TALKED LIKE THIS. We got a number of tear-inducing letters from fans who were nearing the end of their lives and took great comfort in imagining that the death that came for them would be riding a white horse called Binky. Dad had done something with more success than anyone else – he made Death friendly.

For me, as for many of his fans, it was his gift for characterisations like this that made his books pure narrative gold. Dad was a great observer of people. And when he ran out of actual people, he was a great imaginer of them. Both his grannies come through in his witch characters, while there’s a fair chunk of me in Tiffany Aching and Susan Sto Helit, Death’s adoptive granddaughter. …

(15) THE JAVA AWAKENS. “Designers Create Star Wars-Themed Coffee Concept” at Comicbook.com.

Graphic designer Spencer Davis and product designer Scott Schenone have come up with “Dark Brew Coffee House,” a concept that imagines what a Star Wars-themed coffee shop would look like.

(Lots more thematic imagery displayed at Dark Brew Coffee House.)

Dark Side coffee

(16) DARK OUTSIDE. Then could we change this to the Darthburger?

[Thanks to DLS,and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Shao Ping.]