Pixel Scroll 2/26/17 That Hideous Scroll

(1) EUROFANDOM. Fandom Rover launched today, a new blog focused on Polish sf conventions.

Hello, I’m Marcin, but my fandom nickname is Alqua. I created this blog to write about conventions and fandom in different countries. I live in Poland, so you will probably find a lot of posts about Polish conventions here, but you can expect some information about European fandom, too, as I try to attend cons in other countries as well.

The first post is “Understanding Polish conventions”

We have a lot of conventions. Depending on what events one will count, they may get numbers reaching even 100 per year. If you will be more picky about what you may call a convention, you will still have around 40 or 60 events every year. This means that there should be at least 1 convention per week (maximum 2 weeks). This is partially true, however, most of the conventions take place around summer months, and winter is much less popular for conrunners. Of course not all of the events are SF conventions – some are devoted to SF/F or to manga & anime, some are big LARPs, some are furry conventions and others are devoted to specific franchises (like Doctor Who or Star Wars).

(2) THE WATER WE SWIM IN. The Washington Post’s Zachary Pincus-Roth, in “Aliens as immigrants: How ‘Arrival’ became the latest political sci-fi film”, interviews Arrival producer Shawn Levy, District 9 screenwriter Terri Tatchell, and Tufts University political scientist Daniel Drezner, author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies, about the role politics plays in science fiction films.

“It’s turned out to be loaded with political commentary,” “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy says of the movie’s reflection of the immigration issue, “something our filmmaking team doesn’t regret, but this was largely unanticipated.”

The film’s political themes were intended to be more timeless. “The movie was always a commentary on a world that is often prone to fracturing,” Levy says. “It invests in the faith that cooperation among nations beyond borders can lead to global benefits.”

(3) GENERAL SEMANTICS AND SF. A panel on “Science Fiction, Language and General Semantics” will be hosted by the New York Society for General Semantics on March 1. Free to the public, but registration is required.

Science fiction has long been associated with spaceships, alien beings, futuristic technologies, and the like. But the genre has also provided an opportunity to speculate about the future of human consciousness, about modes of perception and communication, and about language and symbols.

Not surprisingly, general semantics, as a discipline based on applying a scientific approach to thought and action, has influenced science fiction in a number of ways. Science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert were familiar with general semantics and incorporated concepts learned from Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa into their novels and short stories. Through them, the influence of general semantics spread to the fiction of Philip K. Dick, and the films of George Lucas. Moreover, novelists William S. Burroughs and L. Ron Hubbard were students of general semantics, while a fictional (and less than flattering) version of the Institute of General Semantics appears in the Jean Luc-Godard film, Alphaville.

More generally, questions concerning language, meaning, and consciousness have been incorporated into science fiction narratives, for example the presence of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation in The Matrix, references to Julian Jaynes in HBO’s remake of Westworld, and in the problematic nature of translation in stories such as Samuel R. Delaney’s Babel-17, Stanslaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice, and the recent film, Arrival.

Clearly, this is a topic for discussion that is, in many ways, out of this world. so come join us for a panel featuring:

  • Marleen S. Barr, Science Fiction Critic and Novelist
  • Paul Levinson, Past President of the SFFWA and Novelist
  • Lance Strate, NYSGS President and Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
  • Ed Tywoniak, Editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics and Professor of Communication, Saint Mary’s College of California

(4) HOLE IN THEIR POCKETS. Jim C. Hines continues slicing and dicing his data in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 5: Miscellaneous Data”.

Who Lost Money in 2016?

One thing I found interesting — of the 371 people who provided gross income and expenses data, 63 ended up with a net loss in 2016. In other words, roughly one out of six published novelists lost money last year.

17 of these identified as full-time writers, with the other 46 being part-time. Looking at the overall number of full- and part-time respondents, the part-time authors were disproportionately more likely to end up in the red.

(5) BEEN THERE. An Apollo 11 Space-Flown U.S. Flag went for $25,623 (including buyer’s premium) in an auction by the Nate D. Sanders firm this week.

(6) USING THE OLD BEAN. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is honoring “Homer at the Bat” and ‘inducting’ Homer Simpson into Cooperstown. Cut4.com has the story.

The Hall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the episode on May 27 during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. Festivities will include appearances by Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith — both of whom guest-starred in the episode — at a discussion featuring members of The Simpsons team who put the episode together.

 

(7) PAXTON OBIT. Actor Bill Paxton died suddenly today due to complications of surgery. He was 61. Although better known for his non-genre performances in Titanic and Twister, his resume is studded with roles in high-profile sf movie and TV productions such as The Terminator, Aliens, Weird Science, Predator 2, Future Shock, Apollo 13 (as astronaut Fred Haise), Mighty Joe Young, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, The Colony, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as John Garrett), and Edge of Tomorrow.

(8) FINGLETON OBIT. Game of Thrones star Neil Fingleton has died at the age of 36. The story in The Guardian says —

Once named as Britain’s tallest man, the 7ft 7in star played Mag the Mighty in the fantasy series and also took on roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. According to reports, he passed away following heart failure on Saturday.

(9) WAPNER OBIT. Judge Joseph Wapner died February 26 reports the Washington Post. I was going to run this item anyway, but a check of IMDB revealed he actually has a genre credit. Wapner appeared in the pilot episode of Sliders in 1995.

Joseph A. Wapner, a retired California judge whose flinty-folksy style of resolving disputes on the show “The People’s Court” helped spawn an entire genre of courtroom-based reality television with no-nonsense jurists and often clueless litigants, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97….

Within a few years of its debut, the program regularly attracted 20 million viewers. One measure of its success was a Washington Post survey in 1989 that showed that 54 percent of Americans could identify Judge Wapner compared with 9 percent who could name the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist….

Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Tell A Fairy Tale Day is all about exploring myths and stories, old and new. From grim(m) tales to urban legends, tap the dark corners of your subconscious.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 26, 1963 — NASA announced that Venus is about 800 degrees F.
  • February 26, 2005 — The Razzies held their 25th annual ceremony at Hollywood’s historic Ivar Theatre. Making a surprise appearance was Halle Berry, an Oscar winner for Best Actress in Monster’s Ball (2001), who showed up to accept that year’s Razzie for Worst Actress for the title role in the poorly received action extravaganza Catwoman.

(12) NEATNESS COUNTS.

(13) PUB QUIZ. The Sci-Fi London Pub Quiz will happen Tuesday, May 2. The Clarke Award’s Tom Hunter explains —

[W]e’re again joining forces with the team at the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, and we’re aim to celebrate Sir Arthur’s centenary year and raise some money for two excellent causes in the best way we know how, with an EPIC PUB QUIZ.

Tickets are on sale now and already selling well, but we’ve plenty of tables left and we’re looking for teams to compete.

Tickets cost £5 per head (in a team of 6, that’s £30 a table!) and all proceeds go to two amazing charities.

Science Fiction fans, authors, artists, agents, publishers and enthused newbies, we want you all!

GET TICKETS >>

Here are the two great organisations we’re aiming to support with this year’s quiz:

STEMettes, who inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes. http://www.stemettes.org

Rebuilding Sri Lanka. The Asian tsunami on the 26th December 2004 killed over 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.Over a million people were left homeless. Thousands were destitute. Rebuilding Sri Lanka has been active since the day of the disaster and continues to provide support, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and shelter to those affected by the disaster. http://www.rebuildingsrilanka.org.uk

(14) LOOKING FOR IDEAS. Black Gate has compiled Rich Horton’s recent blog posts in “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2017”, including numerous recommendations in the fan categories which few people discuss.

Best Fan Writer

The first thing I’ll do here is mention myself. I am a fan writer (at least my blog writing and my stuff for Black Gate qualifies, if perhaps not my work for Locus, which I guess is now officially professional). I would note in particular my reviews of old magazines at Black Gate, particularly Amazing and Fantastic in the Cele Goldsmith Lalli era, and my various reviews of Ace Doubles (and other SF) at Strange at Ecbatan (and often linked from Black Gate.) I would be greatly honored if anyone thought my work worthy of a Best Fan Writer nomination.

But of course there are many wonderful fan writers out there. For years I have been nominating Abigail Nussbaum, especially for her blog Asking the Wrong Questions, and I see no reason not to do so again this year. I will note in particular her review of Arrival, which captured beautifully the ways in which the movie falls short of the original story, but still acknowledges the movie’s strengths.

Another fan writer who has attracted my notice with some interesting posts is Camestros Felapton. Some of the most interesting work there regarded (alas) the Puppy Kerfuffles, and I was quite amused by this Map of the Puppy Kerfuffle. But the blog is much more than Puppy commentary – indeed, it’s much more than SF commentary. In the more traditional fanwriting area, I can point to the most recent entry (as I write), a well-done review of Greg Egan’s Diaspora.

Another possibility is Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank. The site is run by Greg along with his partner Eric Wong, and both deserve a lot of credit – I mention Greg in particular because of articles like his analysis of the effect of slate voting on the 2016 Hugos.

One of my favorite fan writers does a lot of his stuff in a place relatively few people see, but he has begun to review Amazing Stories for Galactic Journey. This is John Boston, and his work can be found here. The conceit at Galactic Journey is that magazines from 55 years ago are reviewed, with an attempt to make the reviews reflect only knowledge up to the point of publication of the magazine. (It will be obvious to anyone who reads my stuff at Black Gate that this sort of thing is right up my alley, and in particular that reviews of Amazing from the early ‘60s are of special interest, as I am (in a somewhat less disciplined fashion) trying to look at and write about as many issues of Amazing and Fantastic edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli as I can.)) A couple of years ago John (along with Damien Broderick) published a series of books reviewing every issue of New Worlds and Science Fantasy from the Carnell era, which gives another look at his credentials as a fan writer.

And finally I think there are a number of people at Black Gate worthy of a look. Too many to mention, perhaps, but one who definitely deserves recognition is the editor, John O’Neill, who also does a great deal of writing for the site.

(15) BACK TO MIDAMERICON II. Melanie Marttila continues her series of posts about programs at MidAmeriCon II with “WorldCon 2016: The dark side of fairy tales”.

Panellists: Ellen Datlow, Brooke Johnson, Erin Wilcox (moderator), Sandee Rodriguez, Dana Cameron

Joined in progress …

DC: Fairy tales are the intersection between the known and the unknown in a way that other stories aren’t.

BJ: Tone is the defining quality. It’s a sense of magic realism or normalized magic. I’m currently reading the Turnip Princess. It’s meant to be read. Oral storytelling. Fairy tales are mythic, grand and meaningful, larger-than-life, and yet the things that happen are everyday occurrences to the characters of the story.

SR: Folk tales have the element of reality. Fairy tales have no sense of history.

DC: Domesticity is addressed in fairy tales….

Find the rest of her series here.

(16) MARTIAN SCIENCE. At NPR, Jacqueline Miller and Thomas Max Roberts discuss “Science Is Cool In ‘The Martian.’ Can It Be Compelling In The Classroom, Too?”

Can learning science be as compelling as applying science is in the movie? Yes. Giving our science students frequent and ongoing opportunities to investigative and problem-solve in the classroom is a start. Students thrive when they are allowed to focus on a problem in depth, apply their learning to real-world situations, and experiment, transferring new knowledge to address a challenge or answer a question.

Reviewers have called “The Martian” a “love letter to science.” It should be required viewing for all middle and high school students, and it should serve as a call to action for improving science education.

How exciting would it be to hear your student, when confronted with a challenge in science, exclaim, “We’re going to have to science the s— out of this!”

(17) FELGERCARB! But in a new edition of The Martian nobody is sciencing the “s—“ out of anything. Bad language has been modified to make the book usable in schools: “Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover”.

After getting dozens of inquiries from teachers, Mr. Weir, who describes himself as “a lifelong space nerd,” asked his publisher, Crown, if they could release a cleaned-up edition of the book.

The novel was pretty easy to amend, by simply replacing the foul language with tamer words like “screwed,” “jerk” and “crap” (Mr. Weir said there were “occasional squabbles” when he tried to lobby the censors to keep some of the less offensive swear words in.) A kid-friendly version came out last year, and it is now being used to help teach science in classrooms around the country.

At Synergy Quantum Academy, a public charter high school in South Los Angeles, students are conducting experiments based on the novel. In physics class, students will build miniature solar-powered cars, and during astronomy next month, they will try to grow potatoes as Watney did, using a chamber modeled on NASA’s Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

(18) FUTURE SCIENCE. David Winnick looks ahead to technological predictions that haven’t happened yet at Quirk Books.

Penfield Wave Transmitter – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Depression and loneliness can be tough sometimes, even for Rick and Iran Deckard. While most people know Rick from Blade Runner, the famous Ridley Scott film adaption of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the original Rick Deckard is quite different. Deckard wakes up in the morning and dials in the emotion he wants for the day on his Penfield Wave Transmitter, a device which controls feelings. Unfortunately for Deckard, he and his wife, Iran, have different ideas about how he should be feeling.

As countless speculative fiction works have shown us, controlling emotions almost always gets people into sticky territory (we’re thinking of The Stepford Wives and shuddering). As useful as the Penfield Wave Transmitter could be, maybe it’s best to leave that tech idea on the shelf.

(19) STONE AGE MUSIC. “The Flintstones Variations for Piano Solo” performed by Ilan Rechtman.

(20) SPACE AGE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping is suggesting that their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery be submitted for a Hugo:

Even if voters take their subtle hint, Clipping would not be the first group to have a nominated music album. That was Jefferson Starship with Blows Against the Empire (1970). True, not many musical performances have made the Hugo ballot – the most recent was Rachel Bloom’s music video, F*** Me, Ray Bradbury (2010). And I don’t remember any in between.

According to the Wikipedia, Splendor & Misery

…follows the story of a person in outer space referred to as Cargo #2331. The musical instrumentations being a mix of futuristic and classical, tells the story of a slave in the future in outer space.

(21) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. George R.R. Martin is also beating a drum for some candidates in “Hugo Thoughts: Best Professional Editor, Long Form”.

JANE JOHNSON

Jane is the editor and publisher of HarperCollins Voyager, one of the leading publishers of SF and fantasy in the United Kingdom. British editors are eligible for the Hugo, just like their American counterparts, but they are NEVER nominated, no matter how great their accomplishments… and that’s bollocks, as the Brits might say. Jane is one of the towering figures in our field across the pond, yet she’s never been recognized, and it is bloody well time that she was.

It would be useful if Martin went back and added the titles of the 2016 books these editors worked on, as this is not a lifetime achievement award.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/17 We Scroll Not Because It Is Easy, But Because It Is Hard

(1) NAME THAT TRILOGY. The game show where you figure out the title of the third movie based on the first two! And who is our contestant today, George?

(2) NUANCES OF LESTER DENT. Cat Rambo’s new Doc Savage post — “Reading Doc Savage: The Spook Legion”.

Hideous and amazing! Let us begin. Leo does, of course, send off the telegraph and soon after Doc Savage calls on the phone. He points out certain subtleties we might have missed earlier:

The mysterious circumstances surrounding the appearance of the message then came out. Dr. Savage heard it through without comment then advised, “There is probably no A. N. Onymous listed in your directory.”

Leo Bell looked in the directory.

“No,” he said. “There is not.”

“The name was the result of a trick writing of the word ‘anonymous,’” Doc pointed out. “The dictionary defines an anonymous work as one of unknown authorship, which seems to fit in this case.”

Lemony Snickett has nothing on Lester Dent. Leo and the night manager discuss the mysterious telegram and then vanish from the book, never to be seen again.

(3) THEY’RE BLACK, AREN’T THEY? Blastr says “We’re finally going to find out what black holes look like. Sort of.”

We think we know what black holes look like. NASA renderings and sci-fi special effects artists usually imagine the eerie glowing ring of an event horizon around what appears to be an impenetrable dark chasm. It happens that they aren’t so far off from the truth — and a groundbreaking (sky-breaking?) telescope is about to prove it.

Supermassive black holes have long been suspected to lurk at the center of every galaxy, including ours. These mysterious phenomena were initially predicted by Einstein’s Theory of Gravity over a hundred years ago. Don’t get any time-travel ideas yet, but their gravitational power is intense enough to warp space-time. Activity that occurs at the edge of one of these dark leviathans can actually ripple through the entire galaxy it resides in. Despite their awe-inspiring power that has fueled pages and pages of brilliant science fiction and even an iconic Muse song, no one has actually ever seen one.

(4) SAVING TED’S HOME. Ted White’s appeal “Save My House” has funded. He asked for $15,000, and within two days 352 donors have given $17,948.

(5) LAWLESS AND DISORDERLY. “Stories ripped from the headlines” as it’s famously said about one TV franchise. Amanda Bressler tells readers of the HWA Blog how to profit from this strategy in her post “Horror in the Headlines: Using the News for Novel Ideas”.

Multiple points of view While good journalism tries to cover a story in a balanced way, you really never get the whole picture. Everyone involved in a tragedy or mysterious event will have a slightly different version of what happened. Fiction gives authors the ability to explore and create those various angles through multiple points of view. School shooting novels especially use this tactic as these encounters are so personal—the gunman, the victims, the bystanders are the friends, teachers, siblings, and classmates with whom there is history and relationships. Allowing for many first person accounts gives a fuller picture of this tangled web of high school connections and emotions that culminate in a horrific and terrifying event.

The book Violent Ends takes a unique approach to multiple points of view by giving 17 YA authors one chapter each to write from the perspective of a student in a high school that has been taken hostage by a fellow classmate. It achieves an even more complex study into what would drive a person to such violence, and the variety of styles throughout the book make for a more interesting reading experience.

(6) WHO KNEW? The President of SFWA may be mighty but she is not in charge of your Wikipedia entry.

(7) ODDS AGAINST. Meanwhile, a former SFWA President swats another fly – “Reminder: There’s No Such Thing as an Automatic Award Nomination”.

Over at Inverse, writer Ryan Britt is annoyed that two of his favorite science fiction books of the year, Death’s End by Cixin Liu, and Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey, are not on the Nebula list of nominees for Best Novel. His argument for both basically boils down to they’re both amazing so they should be obvious nominees, obviously, which to be fair is the same general argument anyone makes when they complain about something they love getting what they perceive to be a snub for whatever award they think the thing the love should be up for….

…It’s pretty much 100% certain this didn’t happen here; instead, people just voted for the novels they preferred, and preferred other books.

But Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes were good books! Indeed they were. But there were five Best Novel slots available on this year’s Nebula ballot and dozens of SF/F novels (at least!) of sufficient quality to make the ballot. The two novels that Britt points out are only a couple of the novels that could have been on the ballot, from the perspective of quality, but aren’t. There are — thankfully — always more good SF/F novels in a year than may fit on a Nebula ballot.

And not just novels but novellas, novelettes, short stories, YA novels and screenplays, those being categories that SFWA awards annually. I mean, let me use me as an example: My novella The Dispatcher was eligible for the Novella category this year. It was very well reviewed, had a huge audience, and is already up for other awards. I’m a well-known and (mostly) liked science fiction writer, and former president of SFWA, so I’m also familiar to the folks who nominate for the Nebula. The Dispatcher should be a shoo-in for a nomination, yes? Yes! I say yes! A thousand times!

(8) THE FLY STRIKES BACK. Swatted is just a metaphor, of course, for while people were reading Scalzi’s fine-tuned mocking, his target, Ryan Britt, was busily (buzzily?) typing a reaction piece, “Science Fiction Awards are Basically Bullshit”. But he writes as if he suffered an actual rather than metaphorical concussion. Today, for a brief and shining moment, Britt seemed to understand how works get shortlisted for the Nebula, something he misstated in Tuesday’s post (“Two Huge Sci-Fi Novels Were Snubbed by the Nebula Awards”) —

In order for something to make it on the ballot of the Nebulas, it has to be nominated by members or associate members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This is a little better than the Hugo nominating process, which is loose enough to create loopholes that let all sorts of bigoted groups to hijack the process. But still, the non-insider fan gets bamboozled: SFWA ignores great science fiction writing published outside of the places they usual look. The Nebulas and Hugos will nominate books about fantasy worlds and spaceships, but when the technological sci-fi speculation gets closer to home, those types of books tend to be overlooked. And this doesn’t mean they aren’t finding really obscure, indie sci-fi authors. Just the opposite. Mainstream literary fiction — which is totally sci-fi — gets snubbed by the Nebulas and the Hugos completely.

Unfortunately, by the last paragraph he was again telling people the Nebula finalists are the product of a “nominating committee.” His syntax was pretty groggy, too —

This year, the Nebula Nominations have proven again that they’re nominating committee is only seeing half the picture. With two huge science fiction novels nowhere on the list — Death’s End and Babylon’s Ashes — it feels like a good time for fans can start looking elsewhere for good science fiction book recommendations.

(9) USE YOUR PLACE AT THE TABLE. What to do after you’ve been to the ISS: “After Making History In Space, Mae Jemison Works To Prime Future Scientists” at NPR.

On encouraging more women and minorities to enter math and science

I think that there are really important things that we have to do with students to get them to succeed in science, to go on and stay with careers. And that includes the idea of being exposed to something.

So if you know that those things exist, it makes it easier for you to get involved. For example, it helps to know what an engineer is. It helps to know what a biotechnician is, so you’re not afraid of it.

Then, it’s experience. When you do hands-on science, you learn to — you learn about electricity by wiring a flashlight. And then it’s expectation. And that expectation is, we should expect our kids to succeed and to achieve. Children live up or down to our expectations. And so, I always call it the three E’s: experience, expectation and exposure.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 23, 1896 — Tootsie Roll introduced by Leo Hirshfield.

(11) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

  • February 22, 1957  — Incredible Shrinking Man premieres.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends the LOTR joke in today’s Brevity.

(13) A BOLD DEFENSE. In Kate Paulk’s Mad Genius Club post she never names the person she is standing up for.

So when a controversial figure’s book deal is suddenly canceled because of a manufactured furor (not even over the content of the lies used to create that furor because the publisher has printed and supported far worse from those who happen to have not had the howling mobs roused against them) it impacts all of us readers and authors.

For the record, I don’t give a flying fuck what that – or any other author – does in privacy with consenting partners. Even if I would be squicked to high heaven by the details if anyone was crass enough to tell the world. I don’t care what he – or anyone else – believes as long as it’s not being shoved down my throat and nobody is being damaged by it. If I don’t like the author’s behavior or politics I don’t have to buy their books and I certainly don’t have to read them. I am sufficiently mature that I do not see the need for a legion of sensitivity readers to take their works and massage them into bland, tasteless pap.

What I care about is that someone who has – objectively – done not one damn thing wrong is the subject of a coordinated effort to not merely silence him, but disappear him. I’ve seen this happen in the past. It happened to Larry Correia. To Brad Torgersen. I didn’t get the full force of it last year, but instead got the cold shoulder of people doing their best to pretend I’d already been disappeared

(14) WRITERS GUILD AWARDS. SciFi4Me points out that Arrival hasn’t lost all the awards to its song and dance rival:

LaLa Land may be the heavy favorite to sweep the Oscars this year, but on February 19 the Writers Guild of America (WGA) awarded Best Adapted Screenplay to the underdog science fiction film Arrival.

Here are some WGA winners of genre interest.

FILM NOMINEES

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Arrival, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer; Based on the Story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang; Paramount Pictures- WINNER

TELEVISION AND NEW MEDIA NOMINEES

ADAPTED SHORT FORM NEW MEDIA

“Part 4” (Fear the Walking Dead: Passage), Written by Lauren Signorino & Mike Zunic; amc.com – WINNER

CHILDREN’S EPISODIC

“Mel vs. The Night Mare of Normal Street” (Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street), Written by Laurie Parres; Amazon Studios – WINNER

VIDEOGAME NOMINEES

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEOGAME WRITING

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Written by Neil Druckmann, Josh Scherr; Additional Writing Tom Bissell, Ryan James; Naughty Dog – WINNER

(15) NO BUCK ROGERS, NO BUCKS. Jim C. Hines continues to analyze the data from his latest survey — “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 4: Impact of Marketing and Promotion”.

Does this mean the time and money I spent last year as a large-press author traveling to signings and conventions and doing online promotion was completely wasted? Not necessarily. We’re looking at overall trends, and any individual data point might buck a given trend. (Also, correlation =/= causation. I think I’ve said that on every post so far.)

There’s also the question about how you’re spending that time. 20 hours spent standing on a street corner wearing a BUY LIBRIOMANCER! sign probably wasn’t as effective as 20 hours spent researching reviewers and sending out targeted review copies of my book.

(16) SPACE STATION OF THE APES. First there were snakes on a plane. Now there’s a gorilla on the ISS.

Astronauts aboard the international space station recently had a surprise visitor, but it wasn’t an alien.

In a video posted on Twitter, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly dresses up in a gorilla suit and chases his colleagues around the space station.

Kelly’s brother, Mark Kelly, posted a video of the incident on Monday with the hashtag #ApeInSpace.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day bookworm1398.]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/17 This Scroll Is Spelt Raymond Luxury Pixel, But It’s Pronounced ‘Godstalker Manfile’

(1) TINGLE ON TV. SORT OF. I’m told Chuck Tingle appeared live via remote camera on Comedy Central’s @Midnight last night and that the video is “definitely NSFW.” And that Tingle was disguised (face covered) each time he appeared. I haven’t had a chance to watch the show yet, I’d better mention…

(2) TRAD V. INDIE. Jim C. Hines isn’t trying to referee the debate about which business model works best for writers. However, people selling their work in a variety of ways shared their income data with him and he has compiled it in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 2: The Large/Small/Indie Breakdown”.

Indie authors still have the largest median income, which was predicted by only 19% of the folks in our informal Twitter Poll. The large press authors once again take the highest average. (I think this is mostly because of one large press author whose income was significantly higher than any others.)

(3) BEST IN SF ROMANCE. Veronica Scott lists the nominees for the 2017 SFR Galaxy Awards at Amazing Stories.

First a word about the awards themselves – a panel of well-regarded scifi romance book bloggers and reviewers make the selections, with each judge naming five or six novels, graphic novels or anthologies that they found memorable during the preceding year. The formal description of the awards’ intent, as taken from the website: “The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.”

Although the awards are serious, each judge gives their reasons for selecting the books, as indicated a bit light heartedly in the title of their short essays…

(4) A KIND WORD. James Davis Nicoll sets Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Rule of Names” before the panel at Young People Read Old SFF. And this time butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths….

(5) WHY CLARION. Nancy Jane Moore rhapsodizes about her experience as “A Tricoastal Woman: Clarion West 1997” at Book View Café.

There are lots of reasons to go to Clarion West or Clarion. Yes, you will learn a lot about writing. Yes, you will get to know writers and editors. And yes, the intensity of the workshop will push you to do your best work. I’m glad for all those things.

But what really made me happy was living in a community of writers for six weeks. There is nothing like pacing the hall at two in the morning, trying to figure out how to fix a scene, and finding that someone else is also up struggling with a story.

By the end of the workshop, I wanted to figure out how to live permanently in a community of writers. I’d gladly have spent the rest of my life at Clarion West. Well, OK, with a bit less intensity, because I couldn’t have kept up with the lack of sleep and exercise much longer.

Alas, I have never figured out how to do it, though I still have fantasies about getting together to buy an apartment building with a bunch of other writers. Hell, I’d probably even be willing to live in a dorm room with the bathroom up the hall as I did at Clarion West.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 16, 1923 — In Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born February 16, 1953 – Mike Glyer
  • Born February 16, 1957 LeVar Burton

(8) MOVING ON. There’s a difference between being interested in the Hugos and feeling a sense of stewardship about them. I still feel that we’re seeing through the completion of unfinished business. On the other hand, Abigail Nussbaum, in “The 2017 Hugo Awards: Why Hugo?”, explains why she feels the award doesn’t command the same level of interest for her as last year.

The issue, therefore, is this: it’s not just that the Hugos are trivial, but that the Hugos are solved.  If last year and the year before, we had a strong argument for seeing participation in the Hugos as an important and even progressive act, this year it seems largely meaningless, precisely because the difference between the best-case and worst-case outcomes is so small.  Let’s say the Rabid Puppies come back for a third try this year, and manage to get their trash on a lot of ballots.  So what?  They’ll just get knocked down in the voting phase again, and the only people it’ll really matter to will be the ones who lost out on a nomination–and I say that as someone who did lose out on a Hugo nomination, twice, as a result of the Rabid Puppies’ actions.  Given the current state of the world, lousy Hugo nominations are pretty far down my list of things to get upset over.  And on the other hand, if the Puppies have given up (or, more realistically, moved on to greener pastures, of which there sadly seems to be an abundance), I think we all know by now that the result will not be some progressive, radical-lefty shortlist.  The Hugo will go back to what it has always been, a middle-of-the-road award that tends to reward nostalgia and its own inner circle.  Yes, there has been progress, and especially in the shadow of the Puppies and their interference–2015 best novel winner Cixin Liu was the first POC to win in that category, and 2016 winner N.K. Jemisin was the first African American.  But on the other hand, look at the “first”s in that last sentence, consider that they happened a decade and a half into the 21st century, and then tell me that this is something to crow about.

After having said all this, you’re probably now expecting me to make some huge turnaround, to explain to you why the Hugos still matter, and why it’s still important to talk about them and nominate for them.  But the thing is, I can’t….

(9) GET TO KNOW YOUR GUFFERS. Voting on the Get Up-and-over Fan Fund (GUFF) delegate to Worldcon 75 contiues until April 1.’ The candidates’ platforms and general information about voting is here. The online ballot is here. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald is interviewing the candidates online — Donna Maree Hanson, Sam Hawke, Belle McQuattie, and the tandem of Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein. Her first two interviews are up —

You’re currently working on a PhD focused on feminism in romance. How have you found this has impacted on your SFF writing?

The PhD studies so far have benefited my writing. Part of the study involves reading widely–French philosophers, feminist theory, queer theory–and I find that all mind-expanding. I’m not free to write as much as I’d like but I find with a bit of discipline (say an hour a day, at least) I can do both the PhD and write. I take a writing day once a week too. I don’t think you can study romance without touching on feminism and gender, and that is interesting to say the least. As I’m undertaking a creative writing PhD, l will be writing a novel. That novel is going to be an SF novel, post-human, focussing on gender equality and romance too. To write that novel I have to read SF dealing with that topic as well as straight romance, which is part of my research. Lots of reading. I read Left Hand of Darkness aloud to myself so I could experience it at a deeper level. So it’s a journey that I can bend to include both sides of my interests in genre.

What are you most looking forward to about Worldcon 75?

Is it cheating to say everything? I’m really looking forward to talking to fans and learning more about other areas of SFF that I don’t get exposure to normally, especially because I don’t know much about European SFF. I’m really excited to explore Finland and see another part of the world. I’m also a super huge fan of moose, and I’m hoping to see some … from a very safe distance.

(10) FAKE KNEWS. NakedSecurity tells how everyone, including members of Congress, can spot a fake twitter account. Personally, I don’t think the problem is that they are that hard to spot, but that want to believe the messages and don’t stop to ask the question.

When was it created?

As the Washington Post notes, the fake Flynn account was created a day after the authentic @GenFlynn went offline. Suspicious timing, eh? The creation date can be helpful in spotting bogus accounts, particularly when they’re created at the same time as major news breaks about whatever parodied/spoofed person they’re based on.

(11) ZETA OVER BUT NOT OUT. Mothership Zeta announced plans to go on hiatus four months ago, and the new issue of the magazine confirms that it will be the last issue for now. Here’s a quote from Mur Lafferty’s editorial.

The discussion you hear from nearly every short fiction publication is the worry about money. We are an experiment from Escape Artists, the awesome publisher of free audio fiction; we knew we were taking a risk with creating an ezine that you had to pay for.

We’re fiercely dedicated to paying our authors, our nonfic writers, our artists, and our editorial team. We did our best with the budget we had, but once the money ran out, we had to take a hard look at ourselves. So we are taking some time to figure out a new way of delivering this publication.

We have no current plans to shutter the magazine for good. We are going to take the next few months and look at our options. We may come back with a crowdfunding effort through Patreon, Kickstarter, or IndieGogo. We may come up with other solutions. But we all believe in this magazine, and believe that the world needs satisfying, fun science fiction now more than ever. We want to bring that to you.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/17 Do These Protocol Breeches Make My Throne Look Fat?

(1) RETURN OF INCOME. Jim C. Hines has posted the first results from his annual survey of novelist income.

Gross Income

Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.

  • I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Much more data, sliced and diced various ways, at the post.

(2) NEW AWARD FOR PAKISTANI SF. The inaugural Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction will be given this year. The new short story award, intended to “promote science fiction and related genres of writing in Pakistan,” is named for Dr. Albus Salam, one of the pioneers of science in Pakistan.

The website’s administrator says some Pakistanis may see pirated copies of sf movies, when it comes to written sf there’s little awareness

I don’t know if science fiction as a genre even exist for Pakistani readers. When you go to book stores, you don’t find any books other than religous ones or text books needed for school curriculum. How can an average reader than get exposure to different genres of writing and specially fiction?

Eligible for the award are original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. (The complete guidelines are here.) Entries must be received by July 31.

The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a review by an established literary agent, a review from a professional editor, with the potential for publication by Tor.com.

The award judges for 2017 are sf writers and critics: Jeff VanderMeer, Usman Malik, and Mahvesh Murad.

(3) I LOST ON… Jeopardy! devoted a category to “Sci-Fi Books” on February 14. I only knew the $1,000 question – you’re bound to do better. (The correct reply will display if you scroll over the dollar amount.)

I didn’t get this one despite having read the damn book!

Thomas in this James Dashner sci-fi book awakens being “jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft”

(4) NANOWRIMO’S POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS. Tom Knighton, in an article for PJ Media headlined “Supposedly Nonpolitical Writers Group Goes Hard Left”, criticizes a message he received from NaNoWriMo .

Unfortunately, the minds behind NaNoWriMo don’t seem to appreciate what that word “apolitical” really means. How do I know?  Because of this email the Internet-based creative writing project sent to its mailing list late last week.

Dear [Name],

As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.

Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake….

So while we are not a political organization, we feel moved to take action.

In response to the executive order, as well as any future government efforts that threaten people’s basic freedoms, we will:

Celebrate creativity over apathy, diversity over fear, and productivity over despair.

Welcome all stories and continue to make NaNoWriMo a safe space for all writers.

Advocate for the transformative power of storytelling to connect people and build a better world.

If you have concrete ideas for how we can work toward these goals (or if you have feedback about anything in this message), please share your thoughts.

That wasn’t all. Oh, no, not by any means.  They also took issue with President Trump’s desire to end the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

There are a few things about NaNoWriMo that one must consider before truly understanding the context of the above email.  First, there are no prizes for NaNoWriMo.  “Winners” are basically all who complete a book, and the prize is…well, you wrote a book.  Not insignificant considering how few people who talk about books ever finish one, but that’s about it.

Further, since it is basically an internet writers group/contest, President Trump’s executive order will have precisely zero impact on it.  None.

In short, there’s absolutely no reason for Grant Faulkner to put his name on an email about a piece of political hay that impacts his operation in no way, shape, or form.

The email is more about virtue signaling, a way to tell progressives that NaNoWriMo is with them — and screw the right-leaning members of the email list!  Of course, it’s also possible they couldn’t imagine that anyone on their list actually leans right politically.

(5) THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION. The Shimmer Program has posted Sanfeng’s “Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review”. I found it an interesting contrast with U.S. society – people generally were happy to hear about President Obama’s tastes as an sf fan, but what if he had announced a plan to co-opt science fiction to further his policies?

SF as National Agenda

Historically, the trajectory of Chinese SF was heavily influenced by top-down political forces at times. Recently it begins to receive continuous and influential support from the governments at all levels. On the one hand, following the tradition of focusing on ‘science’ in science fiction, the government re-emphasizes SF as a useful instrument for popularizing science and improving citizen’s scientific literacy. On the other hand, due to the high popularity and penetration rate of SF media, it is conceivable that the so-called ‘SF industry’ is often adopted in governmental agenda for creative and cultural industry development.

In a central government’s paper regarding promoting citizens’ science literacy issued by State Council in February 2016, it is explicitly stipulated that the government shall support science fiction writing as part of popular science writing. More details were revealed in a later talk given by Han Qide, president of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), announcing that CAST will set up a national award for SF and host international SF festivals. The story reached the climax when Vice Chairman Li Yuanchao attended 2016 National SF Convention held in September 2016 and gave a speech at the opening ceremony warmly encouraging SF writing.

The post also tells about the 30th anniversary Galaxy Awards, and the inaugural winners of a new set of Chinese sf awards.

At its 30th anniversary, Galaxy Awards were presented on the evening of September 8th. Best Novel was awarded to Dooms Year by He Xi. Three days later, the ceremony of 7th Chinese Nebula Awards was held in National Library of China. The top award Best Novel was awarded to Jiang Bo for Chasing the Shadows and the Lights, which is the final installment of his epic Heart of Galaxy trilogy.

A couple of new SF awards are noteworthy. First ‘Droplet Awards’, named after a powerful and terrifying alien weapon in TBP, were organized by Tecent to call for submission of SF screenplays, comics and short videos. Best Screenplay was awarded to Day after Day by Feng Zhigang and Best Comics to The Innocent City by Yuzhou Muchang. Besides, First ‘Nebula Awards for Chinese SF Films’ were presented at a ceremony held in Chengdu in August 2016. Best SF Movie was given to a 2008 children SF movie CJ7 directed by Stephen Chow. Best SF Short Film was awarded to Waterdrop, a highly praised fan film of TBP, directed and produced by Wang Ren.

The Shimmer Program has also compiled a list of works from China eligible for 2017 Hugo nominations.

(7) TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, SET A SPELL. Co-Geeking’s Erik Jensen is an American married to a Finn (Eppu) and living in the U.S. He has written a column of advice to fans going to the Worldcon this summer: “How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns”. There are quite a few do’s and don’ts, for example —

DO give people space – Finns expect a lot of it and they will give you a lot of it in return. If you’re talking to a Finn and they back away, don’t chase them. They’re probably not trying to get away from you, they’re just resetting comfortable boundaries. (See previous points.)

DO take your shoes off if you visit a private residence – so you don’t track in dirt that your host then has to clean up. Most Finnish homes have places for taking off and putting on shoes right by the front door….

…DON’T suggest getting together unless you want to make concrete plans – “We should do lunch some time” is just a casual pleasantry in the US. It’s an expression of general good will with no commitment attached. In Finland it is a commitment to future plans and Finns will expect you to follow through.

DON’T make small talk – if you’re in conversation with a Finn and feel like there’s an awkward silence, don’t try to fill it. For most Finns, silence is not awkward at all, but comfortable. The conversation will start again when someone has something to say.

And Eppu has put together an index to cultural resources published by Worldcon 75.

  • “Finland: A Very Short Guide For Your First Trip” (Facebook)
  • “Finland: An Assortment of Notes and Information” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Fandom: Some Unique Characteristics” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Foods and Where to Find Them” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Hotels: Understanding the Differences between Countries” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Non-Fandom Things to Do in Helsinki, If You Have the Time” (in Progress Report 2)
  • “Älä hätäile! Don’t Panic! A Short Guide for Pronouncing Finnish” (in Progress Report 2)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1903  — The first Teddy bear goes on sale.

Toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution

  • February 15, 1950 — Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella opens in theaters across the United States.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1950 — Matt Groening, cartoonist; creator of The Simpsons.

(10) FORD’S IN HIS FLIVVER. Stephen Baxter has an op-ed in the February 11 Financial Times, “Dude, where’s my flying car?” He looks at flying cars, based on Uber’s announcement that they are launching a flying car development project.  Examining the way flying cars are portrayed in movies from Metropolis through Back To the Future and Thunderbirds Are Go, he concludes that it’s more likely that monorails and electric cabs will be the future’s preferred form of transportation and “flying cars will remain a plaything of the super-rich–and a dream (perhaps in virtual reality) for the rest of us.”

Note – you will probably hit a paywall using the direct link. I was able to access and read the article through a Google search.

(11) LITTLE BUNDLES OF JOY. And maybe not all that little, when you pop for the maximum sized bundle.

Both are limited-time offers.

(12) NEW BIMBO VERSE. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff continues her Book View Café series with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 8: Who Reads Reviews, Anyway?” and a story of the Analog Mafia.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

The way Mark Kelly synopsized it,

I barely recognized it,

but they reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

True story. In fact, it happened repeatedly with my Analog stories….

(13) ETHICS BEYOND THE STRATOSPHERE. At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron has reviewed Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation by Tony Milligan.

In Nobody Owns the Moon, Milligan begins his inquiry from the ground up, so to speak, starting with the fundamental question of whether space exploration itself can be ethically justified at all, specifically focusing on whether manned space exploration is justifiable. By starting at such a fundamental level, Milligan indicates that he is going to tackle the questions at hand without presuming that anything is justified. Instead, Milligan works through each issue with as few preconceptions as possible, examining both the arguments for and against the proposition being examined. This can seem frustratingly indecisive at times, because with most questions there is no clear cut answer one way or the other, because there are pros and cons to every position. The end result is that for most such questions, the answer lies in choosing which is the best of a flawed collection of alternatives, not in choosing the one that is clearly correct.

Milligan is also concerned with only dealing with questions that result from actions that are within the realm of possibility. To this end, he spends a fair amount of time examining the question of whether terraforming a planet to be more Earth-like is possible before he gets into the question of whether it is ethical. As he points out, examining a question that could never possibly come to pass is simply idle speculation. To a certain extent, almost all of the questions Milligan addresses in the book are somewhat hypothetical – no one is currently actually mining asteroids or terraforming Mars, but as he outlines in the book, they are all within the realm of reasonable possibility, and thus it is worthwhile to consider their the ethical implications.

(14) FIXING THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joe Stech, of Compelling SF, asks you to help him decide which of his guidelines to work on first.

Every so often I receive engaging story submissions that have wonderful writing and great human elements, but contain clearly implausible science. This can pull readers out of the story and potentially mar an otherwise excellent work.

I’ve been thinking about working with scientists to create a series of writer’s guides to help with this pain point, and I was hoping you could help me out by letting me know which subjects you’d find most useful in such a series. The idea is that we’d provide a general overview of the topic and then give some specific tips regarding common misconceptions that we’ve seen. If you have a moment please let me know what you think via the following survey:

A Survey About Science Fiction Writer’s Guides

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfoME88hE2nuDpuX9JZKsl9GSL-8lRYbBux2phjdwsSDtxMVg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Feel free to share the survey link with others that might have an interest.

(15) CHURCHILL’S LOST ESSAY ABOUT ALIENS. An unpublished essay by Winston Churchill about the possibility of life on other worlds is the subject of an article by Mario Livio in the latest issue of Nature. According to the BBC:

The document was uncovered in the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, by the institution’s new director Timothy Riley….

Churchill was a prolific writer: in the 1920s and 30s, he penned popular science essays on topics as diverse as evolution and fusion power. Mr Riley, director of the Churchill Museum, believes the essay on alien life was written at the former prime minister’s home in Chartwell in 1939, before World War II broke out.

It may have been informed by conversations with the wartime leader’s friend, Lindemann, who was a physicist, and might have been intended for publication in the News of the World newspaper.

It was also written soon after the 1938 US radio broadcast by Orson Welles dramatising The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. The radio programme sparked a panic when it was mistaken by some listeners for a real news report about the invasion of Earth by Martians.

Dr Livio told BBC News that there were no firm plans to publish the article because of issues surrounding the copyright. However, he said the Churchill Museum was working to resolve these.

(16) SAME BAT CHANNEL, NOT SAME BAT. Carl Slaughter sent a link to “The Evolution of Batman in Television and Film, 1943 – 2016.”

(17) THE GOOD STUFF. Aliette de Bodard has put up her awards eligibility and recommendations post.

I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?

Here is an excerpt from her recommendations.

Novelettes

I enjoyed Fran Wilde’s JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY: set in a universe where gems hold magic but can drive people mad, JEWEL concerns itself with the fall of that kingdom, and the desperate straits in which it leaves its princess and her companion. This is a heart wrenching tale of power, friendship, and two women’s struggle to survive.

Marjorie Liu’s “The Briar and the Rose” (which I suspect is a novelette, from Navah Wolfe’s and Dominik Parisien’s The Starlit Wood) is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a twist: a swordswoman falls in love with Rose–but Rose is only herself one day of the week, when the witch who occupies her body has to rest… I loved the characters and their relationship, and the quest undertaken by the swordswoman to free Rose.

Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay”: a weird Western with a lovely friendship at its core, a tale of the desert, magic, belonging, and the weight of the dead. Definitely sticks in the mind.

Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner is sword and muskets set in colonial Brazil, following the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara in a land filled with strange creatures. It’s a series of linked novelettes (with gorgeous cover art), and it’s great fun. Two volumes came out last year: A Torrential Complication and A Tumultuous Convergence.

(18) SIRI. In “The Voice (Siri)–a 48 hr film” on Vimeo, Yonatan Tal imagines what Siri would do if confronted with too many inane questions, including knock-knock jokes and “Where can I get some drugs?”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Joe H., Peter J, John M. Cowan, John King Tarpinian, Aaron, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/17 Four Scrolls And Seven Pixels Ago

(1) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. SF Crowsnest reviewer Eamonn Murphy isn’t a big fan of Uncanny Magazine. His review of issue #13, which is still online, passes such judgements as —

The non-fiction in ‘Uncanny Magazine’ usually consists of essays complaining about the lack of one-legged Mexican lesbian heroes in films because of the white Anglo-Saxon phallocentric conspiracy that controls the media or about how difficult it is to be a ‘Star Wars’ fan if you have a big nose.

At this hour, however, Murphy’s more recent review of Uncanny Magazine #14 is a 404-sized hole in the internet. It was yanked in response to the outraged reaction provoked by Murphy’s sarcastic comments about the transgender and gay characters in Sam J. Miller’s story “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood.”

Murphy’s review is still available as screenshots in Sarah Gailey’s Twitter feed.

Uncanny Magazine’s editors declared: “A review website published a hateful, heavily transphobic review of Uncanny Magazine 14. They will no longer be receiving review copies.” and “We normally don’t comment on reviews, but we will when there is hate speech in the review directed at the content & the creators.”

Jim C. Hines answered with what I’d call a fisk of Murphy’s review (although Hines doesn’t).

Not only does Mr. Murphy start frothing at the mouth when a story includes a queer or trans character or talks about tolerance, he keeps frothing even when he thinks the story isn’t about those things. We’re talking about a man set to permanent froth, a cross between malfunctioning espresso machine and a dog who ate too much toothpaste and shat all over your carpet.

(2) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. The Nature Conservancy’s Photo of the Month for January pictures the Milky Way over Mount Rainier, positioned so it looks like Rainier is erupting stars. The photographer explains:

This shot was a year in the making. That’s the Milky Way galaxy appearing as if it’s erupting out of the Mount Rainier volcano, with the headlamps of climbers on their way to the summit.

…Once I acquired a good camera from a friend I began tracking the phases of the moon and waiting for that once-a-month new moon when the skies would be darkest. I tracked satellite images of where light pollution was located, tracked weather patterns, and waited for a clear enough sky to perfectly align with the new moon.

I also scouted locations for the exact time and placement in the sky of the core of the Milky Way relative to where I would be hiking. I experienced a lot of trial and error, but finally the ideal location, weather and moon phase all lined up perfectly for a galactic eruption.

(3) FLAME ON. Launched this month — Fiyah Magazine of black speculative fiction.

P. Djeli Clark tells the history behind the magazine and the significance of its title in “The FIYAH This Time”.

Excerpts from the stories in the first issue are available online.

  • Long Time Lurker, First Time Bomber // Malon Edwards
  • Police Magic // Brent Lambert
  • Revival // Wendi Dunlap
  • The Shade Caller // DaVaun Sanders
  • Sisi Je Kuisha (We Have Ended) // V.H. Galloway
  • Chesirah // L.D. Lewis

fiyah_rebirthcover_300

(4) SFWA ELECTIONS. Cat Rambo answered my questions about when the process officially begins:

The official call for candidates goes out January 15, administered by our able Elections Commissioner, Fran Wilde and that’s when we open up the section of our discussion boards where people can post their platforms and answer the inevitably lively “Ask the Candidates” thread. This year the election will be for President, Secretary, and a couple of Director positions.

File770 readers who are SFWA members who’ve never been on the board might want to think about running for Director at Large. The team is super, the organization is moving towards doing some cool stuff, and it’s a great way to pay things forward.

(5) IN BOOKS TO COME. Making sure your TBR stack remains as high as Everest, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has posted “96 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017”. Lots of new authors – but at least one of them is far from unknown:

Talon of God, by Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman (July 25) It’s one thing to hear that Wesley Snipes (yes, that Wesley Snipes!) has written a novel. It’s another thing to find out that it’s one of the best new urban fantasies you’ve read in a long time. Beyond its star appeal and great angels versus demons mythos, the thing that Wesley and Ray Norman do that really drew me in was give us some powerful black heroes at a time when the call for diversity has never been higher—or more necessary.

(6) SHORT FICTION ROUNDUP. The Tangent Online 2016 Recommended Reading List” contains 379 stories — 296 short stories, 65 novelettes, and 18 novellas.

Jason Sanford created a scoreboard showing how many stories various SFF publishers placed on the list.

Sanford personally landed four on the list “including three stars for my Beneath Ceaseless Skies novelette ‘Blood Grains Speak Through Memories.’ This made my day!”

(7) AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE BUT CALIFORNIA. From the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America discussion board:

By now virtually everyone in ABAA knows about how Easton Press is no longer shipping autographed books to California. To see this for yourself, just go to the Easton Press website and click on a specific autographed item for sale.

You will see this message:

Sorry, this product cannot ship to California.

No explanation for this is given on the website. Scott Brown reports that Easton Press won’t confirm it has anything to do with the new California law. But what else could it be?

So many well-known authors are represented by Easton Press that this could be the break we have needed to get legislators to understand what is at stake because of their new law:

No one in California can buy an autographed book from Easton Press any more!  

Easton Press is currently offering 127 signed items.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 4, 1785 — German folklore and fairy tale collector Jacob Grimm.

(10) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Theodora Goss announced she is one of two recipients of a Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship. The fellowship will pay for her to travel to Le Guin’s archives at the University of Oregon so she can research the Le Guin book she’s writing for University of Illinois Press.

I contacted the University of Oregon to ask who is the second recipient and have not had a reply.

(11) DOCUMENTING FANAC. Joe Siclari shared with readers of his Fanac.org newsletter —

We’re starting to get some notice.  Cory Doctorow picked up on our posting of the mid-80s fannish mystery “FAANS” to the FANAC Youtube channel, and wrote about it for BoingBoing.net.  The MAC Video Archeology Project contributed some choice pieces of 1976 video, including a truly entertaining interview with Alfred Bester. The interview has had more than 700 views and FAANs is up over 400.

 

FANAC.ORG website: Our Newszine History Project is still going strong. Since our last update, we have added 200 new issues. We still have 100s more to do and could certainly use some help with  missing issues. We’re not ignoring the rest of the fan publishing world though – we’re adding some choice fanzine titles, like Greg Benford and Ted White’s 1950s VOID and Dave Kyle’s 1930s Fantasy World (credited with being one of the first comics fanzines).

(12) TENSION APPREHENSION. James Gleick’s review of Arrival and Ted Chiang’s new story collection for the New York Review of Books is behind a paywall. It begins —

What tense is this?

I remember a conversation we’ll have when you’re in your junior year of high school. It’ll be Sunday morning, and I’ll be scrambling some eggs….

I remember once when we’ll be driving to the mall to buy some new clothes for you. You’ll be thirteen.

The narrator is Louise Banks in “Story of Your Life,” a 1998 novella by Ted Chiang. She is addressing her daughter, Hannah, who, we soon learn, has died at a young age. Louise is addressing Hannah in memory, evidently. But something peculiar is happening in this story. Time is not operating as expected. As the Queen said to Alice, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”

(13) SMALL BUT LOUD. Astronomers have pinpointed the location of an enigmatic celestial object that spits out brief, but powerful, blasts of radio waves. Nature says the mysterious cosmic radio blasts have been traced to a surprising source.

The latest work, published on 4 January in Nature, is the sharpest look yet at the home of a fast radio burst known as FRB 121102. Located in the constellation Auriga, the intermittent signal was first detected on 2 November 2012. Since then, it has flared up several times, making it the only fast radio burst known to repeat.

A team led by Shami Chatterjee, an astronomer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, began with the 305-metre-wide Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Its sensitivity allowed the scientists to detect multiple bursts from FRB 121102. The team then used two sets of radio telescopes — the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, and the European VLBI Network across Europe — to narrow down the location of FRB 121102 even further.

The bursts originate from a dwarf galaxy that emits faint radiation in both radio and visual wavelengths. Follow-up observations with the Gemini North telescope, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, showed that it is less than one-tenth the size and has less than one-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

”The host galaxy is puny,” says team member Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astronomer at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “That’s weird.” With fewer stars than many galaxies, dwarf galaxies would seem to have less of a chance of hosting whatever creates fast radio bursts. That would include neutron stars, one of the leading candidates for the source of fast radio bursts.

But much more work is needed to pin down the physical mechanism of what causes these mysterious bursts, says Chatterjee. For now, FRB 121102 is just one example.

That need could be filled later this year when a new radio telescope comes online in British Columbia, Canada, dedicated to hunting fast radio bursts.

(14) FORD PERFECT. Movie Pilot introduces a clever fan-made Star Wars video

What would you do for your best friend? The 13-minute video follows Solo, yet again being confronted for one of his smuggling antics — but at least this time he’s got a very precise mission in mind. Chewbacca has been captured, and he needs a valuable item to make the trade.

JJ calls it, “A spot-on imitation of Ford’s mannerisms by this actor, and just a fun little film.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Dawn Incognito, JJ, Mark-kitteh, and Bruce D. Arthurs for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who may justly complain that I trimmed half his joke.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bartimaeus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/16 We All Know That The Pixel Never Scrolls Twice

(1) ON ITS WAY TO BEING DEADJOURNAL? LiveJournal was purchased by a Russian company in 2007 but continued to operate on U.S.-based servers until this month. According to Metafilter

As of a few days ago, the IP addresses for blogging service LiveJournal have moved to 81.19.74.*, a block that lookup services locate in Moscow, Russia. Now users — especially those who do not trust the Russian government — are leaving the platform and advising others to leave.

For years, the online blogging community LiveJournal — popular in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine — has served as a key communications platform for Russian dissidents (the Committee to Protect Journalists earlier this month called on Russian authorities to release a LiveJournal user who has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for a critical blog post). Even after Russian company SUP bought it from California-based Six Apart in 2007 (previously), the fact that SUP continued to run the servers in the US meant that users felt relatively safe; a 2009 press release specifically said that LiveJournal, Inc.* would continue to run technical operations and servers in the United States (and claimed that 5.7 million LiveJournal users were Russia-based).

(2) REANIMATION NOW A HOLLYWOOD ISSUE. “Actors seek posthumous protections after big-screen resurrections” – Reuters has the story.

California law already gives heirs control over actors’ posthumous profits by requiring their permission for any of use of their likeness. As technology has improved, many living actors there are more focused on steering their legacy with stipulations on how their images are used – or by forbidding their use.

Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, banned any use of his image for commercial means until 2039, according to court documents. He also blocked anyone from digitally inserting him into a movie or TV scene or using a hologram, as was done with rapper Tupac Shakur at Southern California’s Coachella music festival in 2012 – 16 years after his murder.

Virtual characters have been used when an actor dies in the middle of a film production, as when Universal Pictures combined CGI and previous footage for Paul Walker’s role in 2015’s “Furious 7” after Walker’s 2013 death in a car crash.

But “Rogue One” broke new ground by giving a significant supporting role to a dead star. A digital embodiment of British actor Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, reprised his role from the original 1997 “Star Wars” film as Tarkin.

Walt Disney Co recreated Tarkin with a mix of visual effects and a different actor.

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Princess Leia would appear in films beyond “Episode VIII,” set for release in 2017. Fisher had wrapped filming for the next “Star Wars” episode before she died. She suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

(3) ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS CLOSES. Quoting from JJ in a comment on yesterday’s Scroll:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has made a public posting on Patreon: “All Romance Ebooks and its sister website Omnilit did something incredibly awful on December 28, 2016. It sent out a handful of emails, letting writers, publishers, readers, and others know that it was shutting its doors four days later.”

This is a really well-thought-out and helpful piece. The TL;DR is: 1) if you’re an author who was using them as a distributor, get your rights reverted immediately; 2) if you’re a reader who bought books through them, get them copied to your computer immediately.

There’s a lot more helpful advice for affected authors in there. I really hope that no Filers are affected by this, and I feel bad for all authors who were involved with that business; they are almost certainly not going to get any money they are owed.

Part of what Rusch explained:

ARe is a distributor, mostly, and so it is dealing with its writers as suppliers and unsecured creditors. I’ve been through a bunch of distributor closings, many in the late 1990s, with paper books, and they all happen like this.

One day, everything works, and the next, the distributor is closed for good. In some ways, ARe is unusual in that it gave its suppliers and creditors four days notice. Most places just close their doors, period.

I’m not defending ARe. I’m saying they’re no different than any other company that has gone out of business like this. Traditional publishers have had to deal with this kind of crap for decades. Some comic book companies went out of business as comic book distributors collapsed over the past 25 years. Such closures have incredible (bad) ripple effects. In the past, writers have lost entire careers because of these closures, but haven’t known why, because the publishing house had to cope with the direct losses when the distributor went down.

The difference here is that ARe wasn’t dealing with a dozen other companies. It was dealing with hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers individually, as well as publishers. So, writers are seeing this distribution collapse firsthand instead of secondhand.

To further complicate matters, ARe acted as a publisher for some authors, and is offering them no compensation whatsoever, not even that horrid 10 cents on the dollar (which, I have to say, I’ll be surprised if they pay even that).

(4) NZ ORDER OF MERIT. Professor Anthony Phillip Mann,  a Sir Julius Vogel winner whose novel The Disestablishment of Paradise was a finalist for the Clarke and Campbell Awards, has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature and drama.

(5) NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR SIR JULIUS VOGEL. Nominations for the 2017 Sir Julius Vogel awards are being accepted until 8.00 p.m. on March 31, 2017.

The awards recognise excellence and achhievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2016 calendar year.

We are using a web-based system for nominations this year to aid our administrative processes. Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here.

Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! To make a nomination, go to http://www.sffanz.org.nz/sjv/sjvAwards.shtml  and fill out the web-based nomination form.

Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. We have a list of New Zealand works that may be eligible for nomination here.

(6) CAMPBELL AWARD. Mark-kitteh reports, “Writertopia have set their Campbell Award eligibility page to 2017 mode. It’s obviously very sparse on 1st year eligibility at the moment, but there are a few new entries already.”

The John W. Campbell Award uses the same nomination and voting mechanism as the Hugo, even though the Campbell Award is not a Hugo.

Like the Hugo Awards, the Campbell Award voting takes place in two stages. The first stage, nomination, is open to anyone who had a Supporting or Attending membership in the previous, current, or following year’s Worldcon as of January 31. For Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, this means members of MidAmeriCon II, Worldcon 75 itself, and Worldcon 76 can nominate any eligible author. This web page helps identify eligible authors for the Campbell Award.

The official nomination page will be posted when it is available on the Worldcon 75 website. Nominations will likely close on March 31, 2017.

To be able to vote for the award, you must be a member of Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. If you are not a member of Worldcon 75 and wish to vote, you must purchase a supporting membership or an attending membership before January 31.

(7) COVERS REVEALED. Greg Ruth’s cover art for Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch  and Akata Warrior has debuted online. Ruth wrote —

We often in art mistake race for color, and what this taught me was a way to skip past those initial assumptions and get right to the heart of her structure rather than her tone. This meant a lot of research into what physical features are distinctively Nigerian, and bringing those to bear on this young woman. She had to, without leaning on skin color, be authentically Nigerian and herself as a true native of her culture in every bit as much the same way in which I might need to address and accomplish the same for a Cambodian scientist, or an Icelandic luthier. We all within our tribes carry specific physical marks that stem from our localized familial genetics. Folks of a Rwandan Tutsi heritage have different physical features even from Rwandan Hutu people due to the way we as people form our tribes via family and region. Whether or not my own self-aware whiteness drove me to paying especial attention to these subtle but significant differences, or whether it was just about cleaving close to that aforementioned ethic of art making to be its best and truly objective self, I can’t say. But I do confess to feeling as someone coming from a  different cultural experience, I owe a lot to research as a means to be the best scribe for the cultural truths and realities of one that is not mine. That means, int he case of INDEH, years of research, tracking tribal origins, genetic traits and societal issues so that the Apaches look like Apaches, especially to actual real Apaches. If I had done this first as part of this ongoing series, I am not sure I would have been able to if I were being honest. I think I needed to do the other three to fully grok what it was this pair of images needed to have done. It was entirely essential to this potential hubris that Nnedi had been so excited about the previous three- and particularly to have been so spot on with them both culturally and inherent in her mind to the characters as she see saw them. Her words brought great comfort to me in times of doubt- (Thanks Nnedi!).

(8) HINES AUCTION RESULTS. Jim C. Hines’ fundraiser for Transgender Michigan brought in $1,655.55.

We know transgender youth are at a higher risk of depression and suicide, and these coming months and years could be very difficult. So I’m proud and grateful to announce that with the help of some SF/F friends and the generosity of everyone who bid and donated, we raised a total of $1,655.55 to help Transgender Michigan continue their important work.

I wanted to pass along this thank you from Susan Crocker of Transgender Michigan:

Transgender Michigan would like to thank everyone involved with the fundraiser auctions run by Jim C. Hines. All of you are helping us provide services to the transgender communities of Michigan and beyond. This will help our help line, chapters, referral system, community building, and advocacy.

(9) RULES VARIATION. Cheryl Morgan has “Arabian Nights Questions”:

Something else I did over Christmas, as a bit of a break from the Wagnerthon, was remind myself of the rules for Arabian Nights, just in case I should end up in a game at Chance & Counters. There are solo play rules, and it didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things (not to mention crippled, enslaved, and ensorcelled). However, a couple of questions occurred to me along the way and I was wondering if anyone out there could enlighten me.

First up, I remember from playing the original version that you were not allowed to win if you were gender-swapped. Indeed, I wrote a whole blog post about that a couple of years ago. Checking the rules of the new edition it appears that rule has been dropped. The card for Geas still says you can’t win while you have that status, but no other statuses seem to have that effect. Can anyone confirm this, or have I missed something?

(10) WONG OBIT. Tyrus Wong (1910-2016) who worked on Disney’s Bambi, died December 30 according to the New York Times.

When Walt Disney’s “Bambi” opened in 1942, critics praised its spare, haunting visual style, vastly different from anything Disney had done before. But what they did not know was that the film’s striking appearance had been created by a Chinese immigrant artist, who took as his inspiration the landscape paintings of the Song dynasty. The extent of his contribution to “Bambi,” which remains a high-water mark for film animation, would not be widely known for decades

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1931 — A doctor faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild in Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, seen for the first time on this day. This was the first horror movie ever to win an Academy Award, it was for Best Actor. The movie was also nominated for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

dr-jekyll

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game.
  • December 31, 1958Cosmic Monsters, aka The Strange World of Planet X, opens.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY AMPHIBIAN

  • Born December 31, 1955  — Michigan J. Frog, pictured with his dad, Chuck Jones.

frog-and-chuck-jones

(13) PROGRAM BREAKERS. The BBC discusses examples of names that break computer systems.

Some individuals only have a single name, not a forename and surname. Others have surnames that are just one letter. Problems with such names have been reported before. Consider also the experiences of Janice Keihanaikukauakahihulihe’ekahaunaele, a Hawaiian woman who complained that state ID cards should allow citizens to display surnames even as long as hers – which is 36 characters in total. In the end, government computer systems were updated to have greater flexibility in this area.

Incidents like this are known, in computing terminology, as “edge cases” – that is, unexpected and problematic cases for which the system was not designed.

I remember cracking up when I read an Ann Landers column about the soldier who didn’t have a regular name, just two initials, and once the military had processed him he was legally stuck with the name “Bonly Nonly.”

(14) PRESTIDIGITIZATION. Rich Lynch announces, “From out of the mists of nearly 30 years past, the third issue of the fanzine Mimosa is now online.  You can view it here: Mimosa #3.”

“Like everything else on the Mimosa website, the issue has been put online in eye-friendly HTML format.  This will make it easier to view, as it was originally published in two-column format and you do not need to turn pages to read an article in its entirety.”

Rich has also launched the 17th issue of his personal fanthology My Back Pages at eFanzines.com.

Issue #17 is a year-end collection that starts with a long and at times strange journey, and includes essays involving teetering glass display cases, sweaty dinner expeditions, accusations of spying, protected sanctuaries, icy traverses, well-attired mountain climbs, earthquake epicenters, frigid hitchhikes, altitude-challenged terrain, river confluences, photography challenges, clear skies, city park pow-wows, employment outsourcing, focal-point fanzines, woodland views from on high, Viennese composers, good and bad winter weather, entertaining musicals, minimalist paintings, subway mosaics, and the New York City street grid.  This issue also, for the first time in the run, includes a previously unpublished essay.”

(15) LEGENDS OF THE FALL. Jo Lindsay Walton’s blog has an impressive origin story, but he may be throttling back in 2017.

Superadded to this general siege of opinion, I had started to feel that those closest to me would sometimes, in a real casual way, slip into conversation a chance remark, not obviously aimed at me, which intimated that to hide one’s l33t under a bushel might itself be construed as vanity, and that in a way wouldn’t you say that, like, the most ostentatious blog you can have as a white middle class western cis man is no blog at all — the eyes flick anxiously to mine, linger an unsettling instant, flick away. I caved. My caving is all around you. In the end it was probably the dramatis personae itself that did it: what was reiterated strategum by strategum, however laughable the local strategic design, was this bald provocation: if so many millions of entities, living, dead, exotic, imaginary, could draw together under this one bloggenic banner, if Alex Dally MacFarlane, Alice Tarbuck, and Aliette de Bodard, if Amal El-Mohtar, Amy Sterling Casil, and Ann Leckie, if Anna MacFarlane, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Brad R. Torgersen?, if Carol Emshwiller, Catherynne M. Valente, and China Miéville, if Christina Scholz, Chuck Tingle, and Connie Willis, if Elizabeth Jones, George O. Smith, and George RR Martin, if Gillian Anderson, Harlan Ellison, and Jack Vance, if Jim Butcher, John C. Wright, and John Scalzi, if Jonah Sutton-Morse, Joseph Tomaras, and Kate Paulk, if Kathy Acker, Kevin J. Anderson, and Kim Stanley Robinson, if Kir Bulychev, Lois McMaster Bujold, and L. Ron Hubbard, if Larry Correia, Laura J. Mixon, and Lavie Tidhar, if Margaret Cavendish, N.K. Jemisin, and Nalo Hopkinson, if Naomi Novik, Nick Mamatas, and Paul Weimer, if R.A. Lafferty, Renay, and Robert Heinlein, if Robert Jordan, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Saladin Ahmed, if Sarah Hoyt, Sofia Samatar, and Sophie Mayer, if Steven Gould, Tricia Sullivan, and Vox Day, if countless others, could all make cause together to beg this one blog of me, if even Alice Bradley Sheldon and James Tiptree Jnr. could set aside their differences to ask this one thing, why then could I not set my false modesty aside, look into my historically-determined and socially-constructed heart, and blog? But now the PhD is kinda done, so … well, this will probably go a bit dormant now.

A volcano puffing out the odd mothball.

(16) PAGES TURNED. Abigail Nussbaum closes out with “2016,  Year in Reading: Best Reads of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar (review) I wrote several thousand words about Samatar’s second novel, the companion piece to her equally wonderful A Stranger in Olondria, earlier this year, and yet I still don’t feel that I’ve fully grappled with how special and revolutionary this book is.  This despite the fact that Histories initially feels a great deal more conventional, and much easier to sum up, than Olondria.  Its use of familiar epic fantasy tropes and styles is more pronounced than the previous novel, and whereas Olondria circled around the edges of a fantasyland civil war, Histories sets its story almost in the middle of it.  What ultimately becomes clear, however, is that just like the hero of A Stranger in Olondria, the four women who tell the story of The Winged Histories are trying to give shape to their lives by casting them into literary forms–in this case, the forms of epic fantasy, even if none of them are aware of that genre or would call it that.  And, one by one, they discover the limitations of those forms, especially where women and colonized people are concerned.  Not unlike Olondria, The Winged Histories is ultimately forced to ask whether it is even possible for people to tell their own stories using the tropes and tools left to them by their oppressors.  If the entire purpose of your existence is to be the Other, or the object, in someone else’s story, can you ever take their words, their forms, and make it a story about yourself?  For most of the novel’s characters, the solution is ultimately to fall silent, and yet The Winged Histories itself rings loudly.  As much as it is a rebuke of the fantasy genre, it is also a major work within it, and one that deserves more discussion and attention than it has received.

(17) KYRA LOOKS BACK AT 2016. In comments, Kyra sketched some mini-reviews of what she read this past year.

(18) SOME GOOD IN 2016 AFTER ALL. Creature Features, the Burbank collectibles store, put together a tribute to 2016 sff.

[Thanks to JJ, Andrew Porter, Kip W, Joe Rico, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/16 Kissin’ By the Pixel Scroll

(1) TAILOR-MADE AWARDS. Who can resist a title like that? From The Book Smugglers “The 2016 Unconventional, Not At All Traditional, And Completely Unscientific Book Awards by Sarah Kuhn”.

Choosing a “best of” list is one of those tasks that always seems to send me down a rabbit hole of over-analysis, self-doubt, and internal hand-wringing, somehow ending in watching the same “pug confused by butterfly” video over and over again until I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place.

So! Instead of doing a “best of” list, I’m handing out very specific awards to the books that delighted me in very specific ways in 2016. All of these books brought me so much joy and will surely have a spot on my re-read shelf for years to come.

Best Use of Emoji Flirting Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is one of my favorite authors, a virtuoso at combining endearing characters, ingenious plots, and scorching hot chemistry on every single page. In Hold Me, the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Trade Me, Maria Lopez and Jay na Thalang hate each other at first sight—but don’t realize they’re falling in love via the internet magic of online chat. It’s a tricky feat to give characters palpable, believable chemistry when they’re not even in the same room, but Milan’s depiction of Maria and Jay’s whipsmart, banter-y texts and emails made me die a kazillion swoony deaths. And of course their special use of emojis is [emoji of cat with heart-eyes].

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Nalo Hopkinson is Scott Edelman’s guest on the milestone 25th episode of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson

For the 25th episode of Eating the Fantastic—which is also the final episode of 2016—my guest and I brunched at Aggio during a break from the Baltimore Book Festival. Aggio is a restaurant from Chef Bryan Voltaggio which the Baltimore City Paper recently dubbed as offering the Best Modern Italian in town.

I’d eaten at Aggio before, but that was when it was still a pop-up within a different Voltaggio restaurant, Range, in Friendship Heights—where, by the way, I recorded an earlier episode of Eating the Fantastic with Carolyn Ives Gilman, which I hope you’ll be moved to download for dessert once you’re done with the entree of this episode.

My guest for this meal was the always entertaining Nalo Hopkinson, winner of the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And she’s more than lived up to the promise of that award, winning the World Fantasy Award for her short story collection Skin Folk, as well as winning the Sunburst Award, the Prix Aurora Award, and many others. Plus her novel, Sister Mine, won my own personal award for being one of my favorite novels of 2013.

(3) CHARTING SF. Mark-kitteh sent a link with an introduction, “A long and interesting survey of the field by the VanderMeers (also the introduction to their recent Big Book of Science Fiction). I liked their determination to look more internationally.”

Since the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells, science fiction has not just helped define and shape the course of literature but reached well beyond fictional realms to influence our perspectives on culture, science, and technology. Ideas like electric cars, space travel, and forms of advanced communication comparable to today’s cell phone all first found their way into the public’s awareness through science fiction. In stories like Alicia Yáñez Cossío’s “The IWM 100” from the 1970s you can even find a clear prediction of Information Age giants like Google?—?and when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the event was a very real culmination of a yearning already expressed through science fiction for many decades.

Science fiction has allowed us to dream of a better world by creating visions of future societies without prejudice or war. Dystopias, too, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, have had their place in science fiction, allowing writers to comment on injustice and dangers to democracy. Where would Eastern Bloc writers have been without the creative outlet of science fiction, which by seeming not to speak about the present day often made it past the censors? For many under Soviet domination during those decades, science fiction was a form of subversion and a symbol of freedom. Today, science fiction continues to ask “What if?” about such important topics as global warming, energy dependence, the toxic effects of capitalism, and the uses of our modern technology, while also bringing back to readers strange and wonderful visions.

(4) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION. The finale of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is the TGM raffle to win a book from DAW Books.

In 24 hours, I’ll be drawing the rest of the winners for the DAW Books raffle, which will officially wrap up the fundraiser.

To enter, just  donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”

Winners will receive one of the following:

Tad Williams Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.

DAW December Release Bundle: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).

You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.

Looking at the number of bundles remaining, and the number of entries, every $5 you donate will get you an approximately 1 in 6 chance to win. (And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ve gotten yourself a tax deduction and supported a good cause! Not a bad way to wrap up the year, eh?)

I’ll do one more post in a few days to announce the final results. My thanks to everyone who donated, signal-boosted, bid, and otherwise supported the fundraiser. It makes a difference.

(5) PETER DAVID IMPROVING. Kathleen has good news — “Peter David Update Finally Progress”.

I saw Peter yesterday and he was able to stand and take a few steps. This is monumental to getting him home. He is still in pain but nothing compared to that he was even the day before. We know this because he hasn’t taken any painkillers since Wednesday so again a good sign.

So the nebulous might be date is rapidly turning into Saturday, which will mean that he will be home for Chrismas/Hanukkah.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823: “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1958The 7th Voyage of Sinbad opens in American theaters. There’s your average non-Christmas movie. John King Tarpinian says, “Ask people if they know who Ray Harryhausen is and you’ll most likely get a blank stare.  Ask them if they remember seeing a movie with sword fighting skeletons and all of a sudden their eyes glow bright.”
  • December 23, 1986: U.S. pilots, Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, landed the experimental aircraft Voyager in California after a record nine days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds round-the-world flight without stopping or refueling.

(7) COUNTING ON WOMEN. Aziz Poonawalla writes about “Rogue One, the Force, and gender”.

A (female) friend of mine loved Rogue One, but noted an imbalance in the Force:

Wept tears of joy. And not to nitpick the film’s clear feminist intentions, but couldn’t at least a handful of the nameless cannon-fodder strike force be women?

The ramblings that follow began as a long-winded reply, but grew so unwieldy and disorganized that I decided it fit better here. Spoilers may follow.

I thought the gender distributions were significant and consistent with the themes of Balance in the Force, and the tension between Dar and Light, in the movie canon to date. The Empire was entirely male – scientists, warriors, leaders. The Rebellion has women in elite warrior roles (pilots) alongside men, but political leadership is always female, and heroes are equally female (Leia, Rey, and Jyn vs Luke, Finn, and Solo, though the latter was usually just plot catalyst). The Rebellion’s leadership from Mon Mothma to Leia has been female, but the Republic during the Clone Wars was male-led, even before Palpatine (though the Senate had prominent female members). The villains have always been male, with the exception of the Seventh Sister from Rebels (but Rebels is a true ensemble cast and will skew the analysis).

(8) ANYBODY THIRSTY? Space.com poetically sees “Water, Water Everywhere on Dwarf Planet Ceres”.

There’s water, water everywhere on the dwarf planet Ceres, according to new research. New observations have provided direct evidence that water ice is ubiquitous on the surface and shallow subsurface of this massive asteroid.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, and has long been suspected of containing significant amounts of water — estimates projected up to 30 percent of its total mass. Evidence has pointed to water ice being mixed with the rock on Ceres’ surface, and in a few rare cases, more concentrated patches of exposed ice have been found. Ceres has even belched up plumes of water vapor.

(9) A HOMER RUN. There are many strange stories in Odysseus’s long journey home after the sack of Troy, but where do they come from? The BBC speculates about “The strange inspirations behind Greek myths”.

One of the early wrong turns comes when strong northerly winds carry Odysseus off course to the land of the lotus-eaters. The sailors enjoy the local delicacy so much that they forget about returning home and Odysseus has to drag them back to the ships. There are multiple theories for what the lotus could be, such as strong wine or opium.

Another contender is a plant called Diospyros lotus – the scientific name means “fruit of the gods”. The fruits in question are round and yellow with succulent flesh that is said to taste like a cross between a date and a plum. That explains its common name: “date plum”. But could tasty fruit be enough to convince Odysseus’s men to stay put forever?

(10) GREETINGS FROM AN IMAGINARY SEASON. At Fantasy-Faction, Laura M. Hughes reviews Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.

‘On the second day of Hogswatch I . . . sent my true love back, A nasty little letter, hah, yes indeed, and a partridge in a pear tree—’

Of the quarter or so of the Discworld I’ve explored, Hogfather is my favourite. Vadim Jean’s TV adaptation is superb: I watch it religiously every Christmas, struck each time by just how much of it – dialogue, stage directions, settings, narration, everything – is lifted directly from the source material. This should tell you much about the quality of the book itself, for rare indeed is an original story ‘adapted’ for the screen with so few alterations.

For me, reading Terry Pratchett’s work is not only a joy but an indulgence, too. Sir Terry is one of my major influences. Those books of his I’ve read, I’ve re-read again and again, taking the time to savour the deliciousness of the prose, the wryness of tone, the trademark humour that is at once delightful and poignant.

(11) SANTA YODA!

(12) CHEWBACCA SINGS SILENT NIGHT. After listening to this, you will know why a silent night is treasured by so many…

Merry Wookie Christmas from HISHE and James Covenant! The brilliant idea for “Chewbacca Sings Silent Night” was actually created in 1999 by Scott Andersen (story here: http://room34.com/chewbacca/) and since then his audio has been shared many times, often without crediting him.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/16 “You’ll scroll your eye out, kid!”

(1) NEW BOOK REVEAL: The Refrigerator Monologues – basically it’s The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. Catherynne M. Valente tells the book’s origin story at The Mary Sue.

My partner answered, “Sweetheart, you know you can’t fix Gwen Stacy dying. She was always going to die. She always dies. It’s kind of a thing.”

And I said, “YES I CAN. I’m going to write something and it’s going to be called The Refrigerator Monologues and it’s going to be The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. I’m going to fix it. Hold my drink. Don’t believe me? Just watch!”

It’s not like I didn’t know Gwen Stacy was going to die. As has been noted, she always dies. But the way the movie was paced, I kind of thought they’d keep that for the third movie, because the Emma Stone/Andrew Garfield chemistry was kind of all that iteration had going for it. So, it blindsided me in a way that Gwen Stacy taking her dive should never blindside anyone born after 1970, and it was a sucker punch, because more or less the last thing Emma Stone does before she quite literally flounces off to meet her doom is snit, “Nobody makes my decisions for me, nobody! This is my choice. Mine.”

I can make my own decisions! Boom. Splat. Death. Girl down.

It felt like such a harsh slap in the face. People so often think of iconic characters as organic things that proceed semi-autonomously while the writer just records their actions, but someone chose to give her those words. They made it through many rounds of editing and screen-testing. Someone chose to have her say that right before it all goes to hell. To make those powerful words the punchline to a sad joke about female agency by punishing her for them, by making sure that no matter how modern and independent the new Gwen might seem, everything is just as it has always been. That old, familiar message slides into our brains with the warm familiarity of a father’s hug: when women make their own choices, disaster results.

(2) WRITER HOSPITALIZED. Peter David’s wife, Kathleen, reports “Yes, Peter is in the hospital. No, we are not entirely sure why”.

Well this time it is not a stroke or a heart attack. Right now we are eliminating things rather than getting a diagnosis because every time we think we know what is going on, we get another curve that sets us back to figuring out what is going on.

What we do know that Peter is in the hospital with severe leg weakness. He can’t walk and even standing is dicey.

(3) BEST TV. SciFiNow ranks the “20 Best TV Shows of 2016”. At the top of the polls is —

1) Stranger Things

We bet Netflix wished all of their shows delivered like this. Stranger Things became a phenomenon almost instantly, and it’s easy to see why. The Duffer Brothers created a show that was a love-letter to all of our favourite horror and fantasy films and books from the 80s (hands up who started re-reading Stephen King’s IT after finishing the last episode), while remaining thrilling, scary and accessible to a wider audience. It’s perfectly paced (going for eight episodes instead of 13 was a great decision), it’s both sharp and sensitive, and it is perfectly cast. There’s a reason why everyone went nuts over the Stranger Things kids, and why we were just as invested in Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) as we were in Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). There’s no weak link in the ensemble, and there is nothing about the show that lets it down. From the awesome opening credits to the teasers for the second season, we love everything about this show.

(4) BEST HORROR FILMS. Lower on the same page SciFiNow also picks the 16 Best Horror Films of 2016. And what movie was the most horrific?

  1. The Witch

Now that Black Phillip is a bona fide cultural icon, what’s left to say about Robert Eggers’ The Witch? Well, perhaps the most important thing is that it’s still, after repeat viewings, a truly chilling experience. It doesn’t get less powerful, it just gets more interesting. Eggers’ much-publicised attention to detail creates a film that really does immerse in you in the cold, uncaring wilderness with this broken family that’s wondering why God has decided to abandon them, and it is a very scary place to be. There’s nothing about the film that isn’t perfect, from the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke to the score by Mark Korven, and the cast is amazing, with Kate Dickie and Ralph Ineson bringing a heartbreaking tragedy to their Puritan pilgrims and Anya Taylor-Joy providing a complex emotional anchor. There are moments when it definitely establishes itself as a genre film, but it’s the harsh reality of that life and the fear of God that really drive the horror of The Witch. It’s the horror film of the year and we can’t wait to watch it again.

(5) CURIOSITY. The child in me wants to know what story Lou Antonelli created to go with his title “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love”.

Looks like I will have one last publication before the end of the year. Gallery of Curiosities is slated to podcast my story “If You Were a Dinah Shore, My Love” as part of a double bill on Dec. 28. Mark your calendars!

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #23. The twenty-third of Jim C. Hines’ Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed book and an album from Seanan McGuire.

Our final auction comes from award-winning and bestselling author, filker, and all-around talented person Seanan McGuire. Today’s winner will receive an autographed hardcover of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, as well as a copy of McGuire’s album WICKED GIRLS.

About the Book:

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

(7) A 3M REVIEW. James Davis Nicoll has posted a review of Heather Rose Jones’ The Mystic Marriage “Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood”.

2015’s The Mystic Marriage is the second volume in Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series.

Antuniet Chazillen has lost everything: her foolish brother has been executed for treason and her mother is dead by her own hand. Antuniet has been stripped of her aristocratic rank. Determined to restore the family honour, Antuniet flees Alpennia for Austria, there to use her alchemical skills to win back for her family the respect and position her brother cost it.

In Austria she finds a treasure of rare value, a treasure others are determined to wrest from her. She escapes from Vienna to Heidelberg, but her enemies are still close on her heels. She sees no choice but to trade her virtue for transportation to safety.

Which means returning to Alpennia…

(8) SHORT BEER. Beer’d Brewing in Connecticut has a beer called Hobbit Juice. Martin Morse Wooster asks, “Is this what hobbits drink when they are tired of being small and want to ‘get juiced?’”

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(9) A VINTAGE YEAR IN SPACE. Robert Picardo hosts another installment of the Planetary Society’s video series The Planetary Post – “2016: A Magnificent Year for Space Exploration”

Greetings, fellow space fan! Robert Picardo here. As 2016 comes to a close, I thought it would be nice to look back at the year’s highlights in space science and exploration (and a few of the best bloopers from yours truly).

 

(10) BSFA AWARDS SUGGESTION DEADLINE. Members of the British Science Fiction Association – remember that December 31 is the deadline to suggest works for the BSFA Awards. The categories are — Best Novel, Best Short fiction, Best Artwork, Best work of Non-Fiction. Use the online form. Members will have the month of January to vote for the works that belong on the shortlist.

(11) WHEN SCOTTY INVADED NORMANDY. War History Online tells how  “Star Trek star shot two snipers on D-Day and was shot seven times in WWII”.

The beach was so thick with Canadians the later arrivals could not advance. As darkness fell, there was a risk they would end up shooting at each other – which was exactly what happened; not just at Juno Beach, but also at the other landing sites.

At about 11:20 that evening, Doohan finished a cigarette and patted the silver cigarette case he kept in his breast pocket. It had been given to him by his brother as a good luck charm… and a good thing, too.

Some ten minutes later, he was walking back to his command post when he was shot. Six times. By a Bren Gun. The first four bullets slammed into his leg, the fourth whacked him in the chest, while the sixth took off his right middle finger.

It was not a German sniper.  He had been shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Canadian sentry. Fortunately, the cigarette case stopped the bullet aimed at his chest. Doohan later joked it was the only time being a smoker saved his life.

(12) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. “The Twelve Days of Christmas:  A Tale of Avian Misery” is a cartoon on Vimeo about what happens when a British woman living in a small flat gets ALL the presents from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Jim C. Hines for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]