Pixel Scroll 10/1/16 Scrolls from The Times of Darkness

(1) GORGEOUS ART. After yesterday’s link to a website that posts a hideous sf book cover every day, it’s time to balance the score.

On Facebook, Mike Resnick shared the beautiful cover of the Chinese edition of Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, a collection which uses his story as the title.

seven-views-of-olduvai-gorge-cover

(2) ABOUT WRITING. Bertie MacAvoy can’t say enough nice things about those folks — “The Major Importance of Minor Characters”

Just this morning I realized how very grateful I am to have what I had thought to be a minor character in a novel blossoming into something unexpected…..

(3) THE END IS NOT NEAR. Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time is scheduled to go off the air – eventually.

Horrible news: Cartoon Network just announced the impending series finale of Adventure Time, the sci-fi/fantasy post-apocalyptic musical fairy-tale rom-com coming-of-age sitcom epic starring Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.

Great news: Adventure Time won’t end until 2018.

In an official statement, Cartoon Network promised the final run of Adventure Time episodes will encompass ”142 half-hours of content,” which includes new episodes, miniseries, specials, and some mysterious “more.” (By comparison, the complete run of Game of Thrones so far only represents about 120 half-hours of content.)

(4) RIDDLE NOVEL. Departure. A time travel mystery thriller romance.  Out this month in paperback from A.G. Riddle, author of the Origin/Atlantis trilogy.  Described as Quantum Leap meets Bridget Jones’ Diary.

En route to London from New York, Flight 305 suddenly loses power and crash-lands in the English countryside, plunging a group of strangers into a mysterious adventure that will have repercussions for all of humankind.

Struggling to stay alive, the survivors soon realize that the world they’ve crashed in is very different from the one they left. But where are they? Why are they here? And how will they get back home?

Five passengers seem to hold clues about what’s really going on: writer Harper Lane, venture capitalist Nick Stone, German genetic researcher Sabrina Schröder, computer scientist Yul Tan, and Grayson Shaw, the son of a billionaire philanthropist.

As more facts about the crash emerge, it becomes clear that some in this group know more than they’re letting on—answers that will lead Harper and Nick to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy involving their own lives. As they begin to piece together the truth, they discover they have the power to change the future and the past—to save our world . . . or end it.

A wildly inventive and propulsive adventure full of hairpin twists, Departure is a thrilling tale that weaves together power, ambition, fate, memory, and love, from a bold and visionary talent.

(5) POP WARFARE. Stephen Dedman’s May the Armed Forces Be with You: The Relationship Between Science Ficttion and the United States Military is out from McFarland. Dedman is a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Western Australia and the author of five novels and more than 100 short stories.

Science fiction and the United States military often inhabit the same imaginative space. Weapons technology has taken inspiration from science fiction, from the bazooka and the atomic bomb to weaponized lasers and drones. Star-spangled superheroes sold war bonds in comic books sent to GIs during World War II, and adorned the noses of bombers. The same superheroes now appear in big-budget movies made with military assistance, fighting evil in today’s war zones.

A missile shield of laser satellites—dreamed up by writers and embraced by the high command—is partially credited with ending the Cold War. Sci-fi themes and imagery are used to sell weapons programs, military service and wars to the public. Some science fiction creators have willingly cooperated with the military; others have been conscripted. Some have used the genre as a forum for protest. This book examines the relationship between the U.S. military and science fiction through more than 80 years of novels, comics, films and television series, including Captain America, Starship Troopers, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Strangelove, Star Trek, Iron Man, Bill the Galactic Hero, The Forever War, Star Wars, Aliens, Ender’s Game, Space: Above and Beyond and Old Man’s War.

(6) EARWITNESS TO HISTORY. At ThePulp.Net you can listen to a recording of Ted White’s PulpFest guest of honor speech. Ted White, science-fiction author and editor of Amazing Stories from 1968 through 1978, discussed his career in writing and editing. His presentation was recorded on Saturday, July 23, at PulpFest 2016.

(7) MILESTONE ISSUE. Clarkesworld Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Issue is now online.

Congratulations to Neil Clarke and the staff!

(8) STUDYING THE IMPOSSIBLE. In “A Nonlinear History of Time Travel” by James Gleick in Nautilus, Gleick, in an excerpt from his forthcoming book Time Travel: A History, gives a look at time travel paradoxes, but also explains that Robert Heinlein’s classic story “All You Zombies—” was not only pioneering transgender sf, but very accurate physics.

For Einstein’s 70th birthday, in 1949, his friend presented him with a surprising calculation: that his field equations of general relativity allow for the possibility of “universes” in which time is cyclical—or, to put it more precisely, universes in which some world lines loop back upon themselves. These are “closed time-like lines,” or, as a physicist today would say, closed time-like curves (CTCs). These are circular highways lacking on ramps or off ramps. A time-like line is a set of points separated only by time: same place, different times. A closed time-like curve loops back upon itself and thus defies ordinary notions of cause and effect: Events are their own cause. (The universe itself—entire—would be rotating, something for which astronomers have found no evidence, and by Gödel’s calculations a CTC would have to be extremely large—billions of light-years—but people seldom mention these details.)

(9) WEIR CRITIQUES MUSK. Andy Weir on Elon Musk’s Mars plans. You could say Weir had already thought about this a little bit: The Martian’s Andy Weir talks to Ars about the science if Musk’s Mars vision”.

Musk’s rockets are methane-powered, and, as John Timmer discusses in detail, creating methane on Mars actually isn’t complicated. Take some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mix it with hydrogen (which you can crack out of water molecules, which Mars has in surprising abundance), add energy, pressure, and a catalyst, and boom, you’ve got methane and water.

“It turns out that Mars is very cooperative when it comes to the Sabatier reaction,” said Weir in a long conversation earlier this week with Ars. “All you need to do it is carbon dioxide, water, and energy. And presumably you’re bringing some energy source with you if you’re going to colonize Mars—like either a reactor or just tons and tons of solar panels, though the correct answer is reactor.”

(10) THE PESSIMISTIC VIEW. Vox.com would prefer to dwell on “The top 7 ways a trip to Mars could kill you, illustrated”

6. You could get poisoned by the toxins in Mars’s soil

In the movie The Martian, a mighty sandstorm leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded on Mars after high winds rip out an antenna and destroy most of his camp. That scene was a little exaggerated. Because Mars’s atmosphere is so thin, 60 mph winds don’t produce nearly as much force as they do on Earth.

But sand and dirt on Mars is definitely a problem. Mars periodically gets massive sandstorms that spread out across the planet and can last for days or weeks at a time. You don’t want to be outside in one. All those little particles flying around could conceivably tear a hole in your spacesuit. Or, more prosaically, they could clog door seals, mess up machinery, or even cover up solar panels, depriving astronauts of power for extended periods.

A related concern is the fact that Martian soil is toxic. It contains very high concentrations of perchlorates — salts that can do serious damage to the human thyroid gland. “If your backyard had as much perchlorate as Mars does, it’d be a Superfund site,” McKay says.

It’s okay to touch Martian dirt with your bare hands. But you really don’t want any to get into your drinking water or food when you tramp it into your habitat. You also don’t want to grow plants using Martian soil.

McKay also brought up another related risk: Right now we’re pretty sure there’s no life on Mars, no strange microorganisms lurking in the soil. But we’re not absolutely sure. So it might be a good idea to test out any proposed landing site in advance, in case there’s anything harmful lurking.

And that worry goes both ways: We’ll want to be careful about contaminating or killing any Martian life, too. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty forbids the “harmful contamination” of alien worlds with our earthly microbes.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1968: Night of the Living Dead has its first screening in Pittsburgh.
  • October 1, 1974: Dallas hosts the premiere of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

(12) AXANAR SUIT CONTINUES. CinemaBlend reports “The Star Trek Lawsuit Is Trying To Pull J.J. Abrams And Justin Lin In Deeper”.

Last December, the producers of a Star Trek fan film, Star Trek Axanar, were hit with a lawsuit from Paramount after they raised $1 million for funding from Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. Many fans were upset that the studio was citing copyright infringement after years of the fan films being released without any problems, and eventually, J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin, directors of the reboot movies, became involved, and Abrams implied that the lawsuit would go away. Well, it didn’t and now both men could find themselves pulled deeper into this legal mess.

For those who need a refresher, last May at the Star Trek Fan Event, J.J. Abrams told attendees that he and Justin Lin had spoken with paramount bigwigs and “pushed them to stop this lawsuit.” He then said there would be an announcement in the coming weeks of the lawsuit “going away,” but in June, it was confirmed that Paramount is still seeking to continue with it. Now THR has learned that Axanar Productions has brought forward a motion to compel discovery, and one of the things it demands is to learn what Paramount discussed with Abrams and Lin about the lawsuit and fan films in general.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day snowcrash.]

 

Pixel Scroll 7/16/16 Pixels, Scrolls, Roddenberry And Time

(1) POETRY DESTROYED. A sampling of Stoic Cynic’s satirical genius.

A fragmented excerpt from The Filer and the Astronaut by Louise Carol:

‘The time has come,’ the Filer said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of pups — and picks — and palimpsests —
Of Cadigan — and King —
And why this movie, cult is not —
And whether trolls believe.’

‘But scroll a bit,’ the Pixels cried,
‘Before you have your chat;
For some of us are full of links,
Oh do not rush so fast!’
‘No hurry!’ said the Astronaut.
They thanked him much for that.

‘A post of fifth,’ the Filer said
‘Is what we chiefly need:
Filking and Punnery besides
Are very good indeed —
Now, if you’re ready, Pixels dear,
We can begin to read.’

‘Pixels,’ said the Astronaut,
‘You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be posting here again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d scrolled up every one.

(2) GHOSTBUSTERS REVIEW. Rachael Acks get the first word about “[Movie] Ghostbusters (2016)”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Ghostbusters (2016) comes to us in a world saturated with sequels and remakes and reboots that no one wanted, needed, or asked for—and finally, we get a reboot we actually deserve.

I have a lot of love in my heart for 1984’s original Ghostbusters, which came out in theaters when I was way too young to see it. I remember my parents showing me the movie when I was a bit older, and recall that I thought the first ghost in the library was absolutely fucking terrifying, and that Egon was my favorite ghostbuster. I have a moderate little wad of affection for the at-times cringe-worthy sequel, Ghostbusters 2. I got up extra early on Saturday mornings for years so I could watch The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series. I owned action figures. My Ghostbusters love is not a matter for debate.

Two years ago, for the thirtieth anniversary of the movie, I got to watch Ghostbusters (1984) properly in a movie theater. It was still funny, and fun, and I still loved it to pieces. But it broke my heart a little when adult me noticed the incredibly creepy sexism of Venkman that child me skated around and just thought was at worst an endearing quirk.

And now today, I rode my bike over to a movie theater so I could eat some overpriced popcorn and watch a new Ghostbusters that made it all better.

(3) BEST OF 2016. Patrick St. Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist names the five best speculative fiction novels he read in the first half of 2016. Number one on the list —

  1. Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (Canada, USA, Europe) Here’s the blurb:

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide….

(4) CLASSIC SF OR COMFORT FICTION? James W. Harris finds there are many answers to the question “Who Still Reads 1950s Science Fiction?”

When I was growing up, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was considered 1938-1946,  mostly due to the editorship of Astounding Science Fiction by John W. Campbell. Certainly many of the classic science fiction short stories I read in the early 1960s were reprints from that era. Then Peter Graham said, “The Golden Age of science fiction is 12.” That felt so right that no other age has ever usurped it. The science fiction that imprinted on me at age 12 is the atomic clock by which I’ve measured all science fiction since.

My favorite SF novel in 2015 was Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I admire it for great intellectual speculation. But, it’s no match emotionally for my favorite generation ship story, Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein. Orphans first appeared in book form in 1963, reprinting two novellas from 1941, “Universe” and “Common Sense” that were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction.  I turned 12 in 1963. Aurora is a much more ambitious and sophisticated novel than Orphans in the Sky. Aurora had more to say about science and science fiction, but it’s the Heinlein story that resonates with my heart.

(5) 2016 CURT SIODMAK AWARDS. Voting has opened for the Curt Siodmak Preis, given for the best movie and TV program shown in the German language during the previous year. Fans will have until August 4 to cast an online vote.

The award is administered by Science Fiction Club Deutschland. The winners will be announced at MediaKon One over the August 12-14 weekend. [Via Europa SF.]

(6) BEYOND STAR TREK BEYOND. AV Club brings word that Kirk’s dad played by Chris Hemsworth will appear in the next Star Trek film to enter production.

Apparently figuring that it’s never too soon to start stoking the fires for a franchise’s next installment—even if the previous film hasn’t actually, y’know, come out—Star Trek reboot mastermind J.J. Abrams has announced that Chris Hemsworth will be returning to the franchise for the follow-up to Star Trek Beyond. For those of you with hazy memories of Star Trek (2009), Hemsworth briefly appeared in the movie as George Kirk, father of James, who lasted just long enough to pass on his “Handsome Chris” genetics to his son (Chris Pine) before Eric Bana could blow him to bits….

(7) THIRD PARTY. Speaking of bringing back the dead, what about Kirk’s running mate for President…?

kirk spock

(8) POTTERMORE TRAFFIC SPIKE. Word that J.K. Rowling had written a new Sorting Quiz helped her Pottermore site blow up one day in June.

J.K. Rowling now writes algorithms, too.

When the author released new details in June about America’s wizarding school – including a quiz in which fans could be sorted into one of the school’s houses — millions of Muggles flocked to her website, Pottermore.com.

This was the second sorting quiz Pottermore has offered since its beta launch in 2011. The first one sorted fans into one of four houses at Hogwarts.

“Of course, both quizzes are written by Jo,” Pottermore CEO Susan Jurevics said in an interview. “So it’s content that came directly from her. And she’s also been involved in the behind-the-scenes algorithm of it.”

….The quiz sent Potterheads into a frenzy. Traffic spiked on June 28, with 1.4 million visitors that day and 1.5 million the following day, according to data firm SimilarWeb. Some 9.2 million visitors came to the site over the 28 days ending July 11.

(9) BOOKS SPIKE, TOO. The Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Maloney calls it “The Second Coming of Harry Potter”

“Cursed Child” has hovered between No. 1 and No. 2 on Amazon.com since it was announced in February. It’s Amazon’s top preorder this year in print and e-book, an Amazon spokeswoman said. Scholastic is printing 4.5 million copies of the play in the U.S. and Canada. While that’s far lower than the 12 million advance U.S. print run for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2007, it’s considered a massive launch for a book, let alone a play. Last year’s top-selling book, Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman,” has sold 3.3 million hardcovers in the U.S. and Canada, according to HarperCollins. A typical first print run for a new play by a prominent playwright is around 5,000.

Also news is that Rowling now has script control over anything developed from her books, which she didn’t have in the Harry Potter movies.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1969 Apollo 11, the first moon-landing mission, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley

(12) REJECTION SLIP. Arlan Andrews, Sr. reports that Analog rejected “Fight”, the latest episode of his “Rist” series. Episode #2, “Flow,” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates for the 2015 Hugos. Greg Hullender opines, “Since Analog published the previous three episodes (‘Thaw,’ ‘Flow,’ and ‘Fall’) I’m a bit surprised that they rejected ‘Fight.’”

(13) PRO TIP. The way you get to be President of SFWA is by forcing yourself to exercise an even wilder imagination by constantly raising the bar on what you do in real life. It’s a theory, anyway.

(14) KEEP LOOKING. The Traveler at Galactic Journey found a “saving grace” in the August 1961 issue of Analog – but it’s not Mack Reynolds’ story.

For instance, almost half the issue is taken up by Mack Reynold’s novella, Status Quo.  It’s another of his future cold-war pieces, most of which have been pretty good.  This one, about a revolutionary group of “weirds,” who plan to topple an increasingly conformist American government by destroying all of our computerized records, isn’t.  It’s too preachy to entertain; its protagonist, an FBI agent, is too unintelligent to enjoy (even if his dullness is intentional); the tale is too long for its pay-off.  Two stars.

That said, there are some interesting ideas in there.  The speculation that we will soon become over-reliant on social titles rather than individual merit, while Campbellian in its libertarian sentiment, is plausible.  There is already an “old boy’s club” and it matters what degrees you have and from which school you got them.  It doesn’t take much to imagine a future where the meritocracy is dead and nepotism rules.

And, while it’s hard to imagine a paperless society, should we ever get to the point where the majority of our records only exist within the core memories of a few computers, a few revolutionaries hacking away at our central repositories of knowledge could have quite an impact, indeed!

(15) BIG BUSINESS. The BBC found someone is “Rescuing America’s Roadside Giants”.

Anyone making a road trip across America will sooner or later run across a giant statue – a cowboy, an American Indian chief or a lumberjack, perhaps. Many, now half a century old, are falling apart, but one man and his friends are tracking them down and bringing them back to life.

,,, The founding father was James V Lafferty, who built a six-storey elephant on a strip of undeveloped coastal land just south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1881.

Lucy the Elephant was intended to attract property buyers and visitors and still stands as a tourist attraction today, having survived Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 1882, Lafferty filed a patent on giant buildings “of the form of any other animal than an elephant, as that of a fish, fowl, etc.”, which he claimed was his invention.

 

giant

(16) USE THE CHARGE CARD LUKE. “Mark Hamill says Episode VIII lines will make fans ‘forget all about May the Force be with you’”. Does he means the lines in the script, or the lines to buy the toys?

He compared the avalanche of merchandise to the endless marching brooms from Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. “The toys just start coming to your house. Bum-bah-bump, bah-bump…,” he sang. “Every day, more toys.”

Hamill said one of the earliest words his kids said was “Kenner!”

“I gave all those toys to the kids, and they grew up later and said, ‘Oh my God, Princess Leia in the box is $1,400 in mint condition! Why’d you let us give her a Sinead O’Connor haircut with cuticle scissors?’ I said, ‘They were your toys!’”

(17) LINEUP. BBC Radio Four’s consumer program You and Yours featured Star Wars Celebration Europe. Specifically, as part of the problems with selling tickets to pop events.

Today a new campaign group called Fan Fair Alliance is launched by big players in the music industry to tackle the problem of ticket touts. The manager of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey tells You & Yours what the promoters and musicians are trying to do to stop so many tickets ending up on resale websites.

Sci-fi fans going to a Star Wars Convention this weekend are worried they’ve only bought a ticket which gives them the right to queue for a ticket to see the main events.

(18) YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN MACII. I enjoyed this.

(19) POKÉMON GO STILL GOING. Washington Post editors must be letting all of their writers fill their quotas with stories about the newly released game.

The Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Philip Kennicott spent a week wandering art museums trying to catch Pokémon.

I successfully bag my first creature, a Charmander, while walking the dog. Charmanders emit no detectable odor, so my dog is bored out of his mind as I jerk him around the neighborhood. The Charmander’s bad luck is my good fortune, advancing me to the point that some hipster professor figure who runs the game insists that I create a screen name. I choose Karl Kraus, because I’ve always admired the great Austrian satirist and social critic who died in 1936; but someone has already picked that name. Next, I try Susan Sontag, the American essayist and author, but that name is also taken. Is every pretentious twit on the planet playing this game?

Post humorist Alexandra Petri is excited by Pokémon Go because “I love any excuse to bump into things while walking around staring at my phone, and Pokemon really delivers there.”

She’s decided —

People are praising Pokemon Go as a rare activity that gets you to talk to strangers and go outdoors. Well, we used to have a hobby like that.  It was called smoking.  I’m thinking about taking that up instead.  It might get my mind off Pokemon Go.

(20) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. Lisa Goldstein reviews another Hugo nominee — Novella: “The Builders” – at inferior4+1.

This is such a weird story, you guys.  A captain brings together his old companions for one final battle, an attack on the usurpers who took over the town.  But in this version of the story everyone is a small animal: mouse, stoat, opossum, salamander, and so on….

(21) CHUCK TINGLE. Hugo nominee Chuck Tingle continues to entertain at a frantic pace. He released a work taking advantage of the Pokemon Go craze, with a predictable title. Earlier in the month he posted this silly warning —

(22) OOPS, TOO LATE. A Monster Calls comes to theaters in October.

A visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith.

 

[Thanks to James Bacon, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Greg Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cath.]

CBS and Paramount Issue Trek Fan Film Guidelines

Despite J.J. Abrams’ announcement that the copyright infringement suit would be dropped, Axanar Productions and Paramount and CBS are still sparring. On May 23, Axanar filed an answer and counterclaim with the court (as reported here), and on June 15 the studios filed their reply (which can be downloaded here). And today, the studios issued The Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines, which promise “CBS and Paramount Pictures will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional and amateur and meet the following guidelines….”

Some of the key restrictions are:

  • All participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated, or have been previously employed by any Star Trek franchise.
  • Limited fundraising for production is allowed – no more than $50,000.
  • The production can have no more than two episodes; a single episode limited to 15 minutes, or a combination limited to 30 minutes in length.
  • It must be distributed free, and only online.

It’s not unlikely some Trek fan film production groups operate within these parameters already, but the guidelines will cut the legs from under the best-known of the genre. In comparison, the team behind Axanar raised more than $1.2 million through a crowdfunding campaign, and were planning to pay workers on a professional basis.

Guidelines for Avoiding Objections:

  1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.
  2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.
  3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.
  4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.
  5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.
  6. The fan production must be non-commercial:
  • CBS and Paramount Pictures do not object to limited fundraising for the creation of a fan production, whether 1 or 2 segments and consistent with these guidelines, so long as the total amount does not exceed $50,000, including all platform fees, and when the $50,000 goal is reached, all fundraising must cease.
  • The fan production must only be exhibited or distributed on a no-charge basis and/or shared via streaming services without generating revenue.
  • The fan production cannot be distributed in a physical format such as DVD or Blu-ray.
  • The fan production cannot be used to derive advertising revenue including, but not limited to, through for example, the use of pre or post-roll advertising, click-through advertising banners, that is associated with the fan production.
  • No unlicensed Star Trek-related or fan production-related merchandise or services can be offered for sale or given away as premiums, perks or rewards or in connection with the fan production fundraising.
  • The fan production cannot derive revenue by selling or licensing fan-created production sets, props or costumes.
  1. The fan production must be family friendly and suitable for public presentation. Videos must not include profanity, nudity, obscenity, pornography, depictions of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or any harmful or illegal activity, or any material that is offensive, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, disparaging, sexually explicit, threatening, hateful, or any other inappropriate content. The content of the fan production cannot violate any individual’s right of privacy.
  2. The fan production must display the following disclaimer in the on-screen credits of the fan productions and on any marketing material including the fan production website or page hosting the fan production: “Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film intended for recreational use.  No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”
  3. Creators of fan productions must not seek to register their works, nor any elements of the works, under copyright or trademark law.
  4. Fan productions cannot create or imply any association or endorsement by CBS or Paramount Pictures.

CBS and Paramount Pictures reserve the right to revise, revoke and/or withdraw these guidelines at any time in their own discretion. These guidelines are not a license and do not constitute approval or authorization of any fan productions or a waiver of any rights that CBS or Paramount Pictures may have with respect to fan fiction created outside of these guidelines.

Immediately after the Abrams announcement Alec Peters of Axanar had tried to line up support from other Trek fan filmmmakers for his own “Proposed Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines,” perhaps hoping to forestall the strict rules now laid out by the studios. Peters’ draft aligned with the new guidelines only in a few minor respects, and differed on major points by setting no limit on donations (although banning the use of crowdfunding sites), allowing payment of professional cast and crew (but not “any of the principals”) and permitting a 50-minute film length.

Meanwhile, litigation continues. The Axamonitor site ran an in-depth analysis of the studios’ latest filing with the court.

In their eight-page response, CBS and Paramount generally denied Axanar’s claims, especially challenging Axanar’s assertion that “until this lawsuit, Plaintiffs, or any predecessor claiming to own copyrights in the Star Trek universe, had never filed a lawsuit against any Star Trek fan in connection with that fan’s efforts to contribute to the wealth of Star Trek fan fiction that currently exists.”3) Instead, the plaintiffs replied:

[Plaintiffs] admit that they have not sued with respect to all uses of the Star Trek Copyrighted Works, but deny that they have not previously sued to enforce their intellectual property rights in the Star Trek Copyrighted Works.4)

Tolerated Use

The plaintiffs disputed Peters’ claim that given his “extensive history with CBS,” he believed he was “operating within the tolerated realm of Star Trek fan fiction,” and that he “reached out to CBS on multiple occasions in an effort to seek guidelines about the production.”5) Instead, they stated:

[The plaintiffs] deny that Defendant Alec Peters “reached out to CBS” on multiple occasions, admit that Defendant Alec Peters spoke to [CBS officials] Bill Burke and to John Van Citters, but state that Mr. Peters was never given permission to use Star Trek Copyrighted Works, nor was he provided with “guidelines” regarding ways in which he could use Plaintiffs’ intellectual property for his Star Trek film projects, for either commercial or non-commercial use, nor was he told that his use of such Star Trek Copyrighted Works would be tolerated.

If the case is not settled, trial is scheduled for January 2017.

[Thanks to Stephen Granade for the story.]

Axanar Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Director Justin Lin and Axanar's Alec Peters after the May 20 announcement that the studio suit would be dropped.

Director Justin Lin and Axanar’s Alec Peters after the May 20 announcement that the studio suit would be dropped.

Even after J.J. Abrams told the world on May 20 that Paramount and CBS would drop their lawsuit against Axanar fan filmmaker Alec Peters, legal maneuvering and controversy has continued — initiated by Axanar.

Three days after Abrams’ announcement, fans were surprised to read Axanar filed a 28-page response and counterclaim with the court. Fan Film Factor received this explanation from Axanar attorney Erin R. Ranahan.

We filed the counterclaim only to preserve Axanar’s rights in the event that Paramount and CBS do not dismiss their claims as J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin stated they would, do not issue reasonable guidelines, or the parties are not able to reach a settlement.

CBS both confirmed the settlement discussions and said they were “working on a set of fan film guidelines” to Buzzfeed reporter Adam B. Vary immediately after Abrams’ announcement.

The relief Axanar requested from the court in its May 23 filing is summed up in two points at the end:

Defendants pray for the following relief on their Counterclaim:

1. That the Court declare the rights and obligations of Plaintiffs and

Defendants under the Copyright Act, and declare that Prelude to Axanar and the planned Axanar scripts and film are not infringing;

2. That the Court award attorneys’ fees and costs to Defendants as permitted by law; …

(Read the original here.)  

Attorney Ranahan said Axanar had been required to file in order to meet the case’s deadline for counterclaims. She described the counterclaim as non-provocative:

While we have included a single claim for declaratory relief, this claim is not “upping the ante” given that we are not seeking any monetary damages, but simply a declaration of fair use or non-infringement in the event that the case is not resolved, which we intend and hope that it will be.  Of course, if CBS and Paramount dismiss their claims against Axanar, or we are otherwise able to resolve these claims, we have no intention of pursuing the declaratory relief claim, and would agree to dismiss it as part of any settlement.

Perhaps seeking to influence CBS, Alec Peters drafted his own proposed guidelines and tried to enlist the producers of other Star Trek fan films to support them.

Several accepted his invitation to look at his draft, though not all: James Cawley of Star Trek: New Voyages said no without even hearing a proposal.

“Hubcap Dave” in his post “Forging Fan Film Guidelines”, citing Peters as his source, listed these producers as participants in a conversation about the draft:

As a starting point, Alec created some suggested guidelines which he forwarded to Todd Haberkorn of Star Trek: Continues, John Broughton of Farragut,  John Atkin of Yorktown, Nick Cook of Intrepid, Michael King of Valiant, Scott Johnson of Starbase Studios (who produce their own fan production as well as let other productions use their facility), Greg Lock of Star Trek Ambush, plus an unnamed representative of Star Trek: Renegades. “Everyone I sent this to agreed to at least look at the draft, and half of them became part of the ongoing discussion. As for the guidelines themselves, “It is still very much a work in progress, but we hope that we can at least have something to send to CBS so they appreciate the concerns of the fan film makers.”, said Peters.

AxaMonitor’s Carlos Pedraza made Peters’ draft public:

PROPOSED STAR TREK FAN FILM GUIDELINES

  1. There must be the following disclaimer at the end of each episode and in all promotional and marketing materials, on all fan production websites:

Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan made film intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted.

  1. Fan productions may not sell, or give away as perks, any item with a Star Trek mark, logos or character, including, but not limited to, the words “Star Trek,” the Enterprise insignia chevron, images of the U.S.S. Enterprise, or any Star Trek trademark.
  2. Fan Productions may not use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any other commercial crowdfunding platform to raise money.
  3. Fan productions may take donations, but all donations must go to the production of the fan film and may not be used to pay any of the principals.
  4. Fan Productions may pay professional cast and crew for their time working on the production.
  5. If a production uses a SAG member, it must become a SAG New Media Signatory.
  6. Finished fan films may be no longer than 50 minutes in length, the approximate duration of TOS episodes.
  7. Fan film makers give to CBS an unlimited, unrestricted license to use their films, or any portion thereof, in any format CBS should deem appropriate.

In the end, the idea has backfired on Peters. Most other Trek fan film producers stayed quiet throughout the Axanar litigation, but in the past couple of days many have issued public statements distancing themselves from Peters and his guidelines.

The spokesman for Star Trek: Excelsior, which was not invited to the talks, wrote a long, negative comment on Facebook. (James Heaney is Executive Producer of Star Trek: Excelsior, however, the comment was unsigned.)

For the past few months, there’s been a drama playing out across the whole community of Star Trek fan productions. We at Excelsior have stayed out of it, but we are no longer able to do so. This is a long post, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what this page is actually about — making new episodes of Excelsior for you to enjoy — so, if you want to skip it, get out now….

Ever since Axanar was served papers, Mr. Peters has done all in his power to either (a) rally other fan productions to his cause or (b) throw them under the CBS/Paramount bus. None, to my knowledge, has rallied to Axanar, and so Axanar has done an awful lot of bus-throwing instead. For example, Peters and Axanar have consistently argued that what Axanar did is not significantly different from what other major fan productions do. These claims deliberately tried to use other, innocent productions as “human shields” against CBS/Paramount. Even if the claims were true, this would constitute a serious breach of the trust and respect between fan producers. And they were not true; it is categorically false that other major productions pay their principal producers a salary or set up coffee-licensing deals.

Fortunately, CBS, which has always been profoundly generous to fan productions, held its fire, refusing to kill off the other shows Mr. Peters offered as bait. There was one major casualty — the people behind the brilliant Star Trek: Horizon were asked to cancel a planned fundraiser for a sequel — but CBS’s easiest path in December would have been to send cease-and-desist orders to ALL fan projects in one fell swoop. That they did not is a profound testament to CBS/Paramount’s steadfast support of the Star Trek fan community… even when it makes things awkward for them, even when they do not get much credit for it in the media, and, yes, even when the fans themselves do not recognize how good we have it. (For goodness’ sake, CBS has tolerated *Kickstarters* for the past several years! That alone shows how much CBS trusts and respects Star Trek fans, especially compared to other studios.)….

However, yesterday, news broke (story below) that Mr. Peters is trying to organize Star Trek fan productions to support a set of proposed “fan film guidelines” that he has created, apparently in the hope that he will be able to represent his proposal to CBS/Paramount as having widespread support among fan producers as a sort of “compromise” between CBS and Axanar. This apparent attempt by Axanar to speak on our behalf forces us to break our silence and publicly clarify our position.

Neither Mr. Peters nor anyone at Axanar Productions has contacted Excelsior Productions or any of its principals about any proposed guidelines. However, even if we had been contacted, we would have refused to participate in discussion of Axanar’s proposal, and we hereby publicly repudiate any proposal Axanar Productions purports to make on our behalf. CBS/Paramount has not, to date, asked for any fan input into any potential fan film guidelines, and we do not presume to offer any to them without their express invitation. Even if CBS/Paramount *were* to invite fan input, we would not consider Mr. Peters a trustworthy, reliable, or community-minded representative. We encourage other fan producers to join us in this firm repudiation, so that Mr. Peters’ presumption that he speaks for the fan film community is rightly discredited in the eyes of the public, the media, the court, and CBS/Paramount….

Starbase Studios, which did take part in the group chat, also released a statement on Facebook:

It has been reported in several articles today that Starbase Studios is part of a group put together by Alec Peters of Axanar, to draft a set of fan film guidelines to be submitted to CBS studios as part of the lawsuit settlement. Scott Johnson, one of the studio owners, was contacted and agreed to view the proposed guidelines but never responded or submitted an opinion on them.

The articles published this morning seems to imply that Starbase Studios, and fan productions that film at the studio, have joined Peters and Axanar in their defense against the CBS/Paramount lawsuit. The names of the individuals and groups who have agreed to preview the proposed guidelines was released without consent. It would appear the reason for releasing the names is to create a false appearance of support for Peters and Axanar as a means to strengthen their negotiating position.

FOR THE RECORD: Starbase Studios has tried to remain publicly neutral on the Axanar lawsuit. We are now forced to state that we are in full support of CBS and Paramount on this matter and have always been willing to comply with any statements, rulings, guidelines they may issue. We have no doubt that CBS/Paramount are the true copyright owners of the Star Trek franchise and respect their ownership of the property. We are also grateful to CBS/Paramount for allowing us to support the Star Trek franchise in our own way.

In an effort to keep any productions filmed at the studio from overstepping bounds of fan films, we have publicly listed a set of guidelines on our website that we insist the productions follow. These guidelines were issued by a former crew member of New Voyages/Phase 2 and have served well so far but we will adapt to whatever new guidelines CBS/Paramount sees fit to issue.

Another inaccuracy in the article states that the studio produces several fan films. The studio itself produces only one film but invites any other productions to use our sets. These other productions are not under control of the studio and although we insist they follow the set guidelines, we can not be responsible for their releases or anything added after filming at the studio is complete.

Michael King of Starship Valiant, another chat participant, made this response:

Yes, I was invited to participate in building guidelines that I felt would help the fan film community overall as a group and although the actual guidelines listed in this article were completed and forged without my input, (as I was sick during the process), I did in fact make a few suggestions as to two of the seven listed. Then I was messaged by a friend this morning and told that our “private” discussion had been made public. Apparently, someone in the group cut & pasted our discussion and shared it with another person that I personally have never heard of, to the bewilderment of myself and my good friend Scott Johnson. Honestly, I feel that the group of people in this “chat” were used and manipulated and I am not and will not be a part of any legal dealings with Paramount/CBS vs. Axanar. To this end, I am publicly stating that Starship Valiant will play by any rules that the powers that be make. I am very thankful that Valiant has been allowed to play in the trek universe. The below article was printed without my consent and I was not asked to be a part of it or to be mentioned in it.

Greg Lock of Star Trek: Ambush, who was on the talk, was supportive of Peters:

…Firstly, I am not involved in anyway as having talks with CBS/Paramount regarding any future guidelines for Star Trek Fan Films. Alec had some ideas for potential guidelines and invited me into a Facebook discussion group to see what my thoughts were. Somehow the entire message thread was leaked to some sources, especially Axanar Haters and damming articles followed. This message leak was a breach of confidentiality and we are all very angry about this. I did not feel that Alec’s actions were unreasonable; he was not telling CBS what to do in my opinion and, if anything, it seemed as always that he wanted to help in anyway he can to facilitate the continuation of fan films. It was quite clear that he was not going to “storm” into the offices of CBS and make demands, far from it. He was also taking advice from his own legal team, still representing him pro-bono who have nothing but Axanar’s future in their interests. I therefore did not feel that Alec putting feelers out to see what kind of guidelines we would be happy with to be unjustified.

I did not feel that the guidelines were unreasonable, for starters if guidelines like those are imposed they will not affect what I have planned for Ambush at all, and would allow me not to worry about possible repercussions. I also felt that the guidelines would not drastically change the plans of much larger ongoing fan films I know of. I will adhere to any guidelines that CBS impose, whether they are drawn from Alec’s input or not. My thoughts were that if those were the kind of guidelines we would have, I would be okay with that…

AxaMonitor has a roundup with statements from many more producersStar Trek Continues, Starship Intrepid, Star Trek: Renegades, The Lexington Adventures, Melbourne, Project NCC-1703, Starship Ajax, Starship Farragut, and Star Trek Phoenix.

Newsweek’s article on the Axanar controversy, which Alec Peters commended on Facebook, says changes have been made to the proposed guidelines due to the negative reactions:

This week, Axanar Productions’ Peters circulated a set of suggested guidelines to other fan film producers, which included proposed language for disclaimers, limits on the length of fan productions, and a clause granting CBS an “unlimited, unrestricted license” to the fan films. An early version of the guidelines included a ban on crowdfunding, something Peters had earlier said he would “certainly be concerned about” if it was part of studio-provided guidelines. Peters dropped the proposed crowdfunding ban after getting negative feedback from other fan filmmakers; an Axanar spokesman says Peters sees a crowdfunding ban as “objectionable but inevitable.”

One notable omission from the proposed guidelines: any reference what kind of intellectual property license the studios would be granting to filmmakers, something likely to be part of any studio-authored rules. As attorney [Peter Kang, a partner at the law firm Sidley Austin] puts it: “In order for guidelines to provide what I assume everyone wants, which is some level of predictability, intellectual property licensing issues are going to have to be fleshed out.”

Pixel Scroll 5/24/16 Bark Side Of the Moon

(1) RELEASE THE MONSTER BALLOT. Jo Lindsay Walton is pleased with the flood of Sputnik Award ballots, and is at least not horrified by one of the suggestions.

Btw: I’ve received some really touching enthusiasm, warmth and wise counsels and offers of support, as well as a pretty significant amount of “eh?” “baroo?” “mph?” “wha-?”, which tbh is also kinda gratifying. One thing I’d love to hear more of is unwise counsel. The best I’ve heard so far is the suggestion that we do the Dungeons of Democracy for real.

Just imagine, ripping it from the Excel and into the streets, playing out the entire vote as a vast LARP, cosplaying Daleky Phoenixes and Hedgehoggy Thing Itselves . . .

(2) WINDLING. Remember, Terri Windling lectures on fantasy at Oxford on Thursday, May 26.

I will be delivering the 4th Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford University this Thursday at 6:30 pm. The Pembroke Fantasy lecture series “explores the history and current state of fantasy literature, in honour of JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings during his twenty years at the college.”

The lecture I’ll be giving is Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era. Admission is free, but you need to register for a ticket and space is limited. Go here for further details.

(3) LUCAS MUSEUM. Mark Guarino’s Washington Post article “George Lucas’s dream of a Chicago lakefront museum faces choppy waters” even-handedly covers the battle to bring the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Chicago, showing the strengths – the vast art collection, and the architecture — and the minuses, chiefly that it will be partially paid with hotel taxes, which raises a question about whether George Lucas really needs to be subsidized by Illinois and Chicago taxpayers.

The Lucases had two real requirements: One, it would be in a prominent location and, two, that it would be near other museums,” he says. “The Lucases are not going to go to another site.”

A new plan approved by Lucas involves reconfiguring an aging extension of the McCormick Place convention center that sits on the lake and partially replacing it with the museum, 12 new acres of parkland, in addition to new convention space. That multipurpose site is more complicated because it involves borrowing nearly $1.2 billion and extending five taxes on hotels and more. Because it is co-owned by the state, approval from Springfield is required. With Illinois in a budget deadlock that is nearing a full year, and the state ranked at the bottom of those with underfunded pensions, the timing could not be worse. Koch says the selling point is long-term revenue in taxes and tourism dollars, as well as that it would add to Chicago’s “meaningful group of museums and cultural assets” that make it globally competitive.

This is both an enormous opportunity to update and modernize McCormick Place,” he says. “It has this element of Lucas, but they are two separate things that would happen to be tied together financially.”

Talks are on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rules on a city petition that asks for the lawsuit to be thrown out. Meanwhile, Hobson released a statement calling Friends of the Park “a small special interest group” that has “co-opted and hijacked” the process. “It saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer,” she says.

She added that she and her husband “are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he would welcome the museum in his city.

If the Lucases leave Chicago, it will ultimately discredit the couple’s statements about wanting to help the children there, park advocates say.

“They keep saying how committed they are to the city, but they’re not committed enough to build anywhere but the lakefront,” [Friends of the Park executive director Juanita] Irizarry says.

(4) THIS HAPPENED. N.K. Jemisin started a Patreon campaign less than a week ago and it’s been so successful she can give up her day job.

So, internets. Big changes in Noraland. For the few of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and FB, I Did A Thing. Specifically, last Friday I started a Patreon campaign with the specific goal of breaking free of the 9 to 5 life. I launched it officially at 5:35 pm on Friday afternoon, thinking nobody would much care since Friday News Dump, and thinking that would give me time to fix bugs and work out any kinks in the campaign over the weekend. Instead, to my absolute shock, I hit my baseline goal within 24 hours, and my stretch goal within 48. And it’s still going. People really, really want me to have a retirement plan, apparently.

(5) BEVERLEY OBIT. Jo Beverley passed away on May 23 at the age of 68. Though best known as a romance writer, she also wrote romances with fantasy and magic in them, was a Writers of the Future contest finalist (1988), and published in Songs of Love and Death (2010) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

(6) HEARTWARMING WOOKIEE. In “Star Wars’ Favourite Wookiee Goes Back to School”, Lee Costello of the BBC’s Northern Ireland service reports on Chewbacca’s visit to a school in County Kerry.

Chewbacca, Star Wars’ world-famous wookiee, has left pupils at a Republic of Ireland primary school star struck after landing for a visit.

The star is filming the newest instalment of the blockbuster series in County Kerry.

He took a break from the set to visit Scoil Fheirtearaigh National School in Ballyferriter on Monday.

The visit was arranged after some pupils sent impressive artwork to director Rian Johnson.

(7) AND HIS MOM. Meanwhile, Hollywood summoned a viral video maker for 15 more minutes of fame — “J.J. Abrams Surprises Chewbacca Mom”.

Candace Payne, also known as the Chewbacca Mom, took over the Internet this weekend with her Chewbacca mask and infectious laugh. In the video, Candace is sitting in her car, super excited about a purchase she just made: a Star Wars Chewbacca mask with sound. The next few minutes are her trying to contain her infectious laughter. The video broke the all-time total for most views on Facebook Live, and everyone has been talking about the joyful mom from Texas.

James Corden brought Candace out to Los Angeles to appear on The Late Late Show and surprised her with a visit from J.J. Abrams. The trio took a ride in a car, where Abrams gives Candace some notes on how to play Chewbacca, but the best part was her reaction outside of the car when J.J. first surprised her.

Video at the link.

(8) START SPREADING THE NEWS. Looks like this will be no problem in Ireland, but for everyone else IFL Science contemplates “How Do We Tell The World That We’ve Found Alien Life?”

…That’s a topic discussed in a paper from astronomers Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz from the University of St Andrews in Scotland (hat tip to Cosmos Magazine for picking it up). They have examined the protocols that are already in place, and have suggested ways that those involved in the discovery should prepare for the media onslaught that would accompany a tentative detection.

“A critical concern for scientists pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the reaction of the world to the knowledge that humans are not the only technological civilization in the universe,” they write. They suggest that the “culture shock” of such a discovery will put SETI scientists under intense scrutiny, which they must be prepared for…..

“SETI scientists must be prepared to not simply announce a detection via press release, but to be a trusted voice in the global conversation that will begin after the initial announcement,” the authors write. “This will require both pre-search and post-detection protocols to be implemented.”

(9) AWARD JUDGES. In Australia, the 2016 Aurealis Awards judging panels have been selected.

There’s a panel for every category – which means a lot of judges. Scroll down to see the judges’ bios.

(10) TRUER GRIT. Damien Walter believes Dune Deserves A New Film Adaptation”.

Dune’s cinematic qualities have made it a natural target for Hollywood adaptations. But the Lynchian weirdness, followed by a lacklustre mini-series, have left the franchise in a televisual limbo for most of the last two decades. Herbert’s own sequels, while conceptually interesting and widely loved by established fans, lack the storytelling muscle displayed in the first book. A risible series of cash-in prequels have dragged the Dune universe down to the bargain basement of pulp fiction. It’s a sad legacy for such a significant work of fiction.

(11) TROLL HOIST. Death and Taxes did an overview of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo nomination that ends with this paragraph:

Luckily these goons didn’t know who they were dealing with. This is Chuck Tingle, leading author of gay dinosaur erotica, licensed massage therapist, and outspoken enthusiast of hardness and love. Nobody nominates him for a prestigious award and gets away with it.

(12) ANOTHER FINE MESS. There’s reason to be interested in Charlie Jane Anders’ impressions about the field, despite the post ignoring the copious documentation available to answer its strawman question: “One way of looking at the Hugo Awards mess”.

So we’re once again having Hugo Awards drama. It’s confusing, because the people who packed the ballot with their choices have a bunch of vague explanations about why they’re upset. (Ranging from “OMG SJWs” and “affirmative action” to “we just want fun stories.”) They generally keep their grievances vague and nebulous (no pun intended), and it’s hard to pin down what they’re upset about. And this year, they changed tactics slightly, putting more “mainstream” choices on the ballot except for some of the short fiction categories.

So I figure one useful way to look at this issue is to ask: What’s changed? If there’s a group of people who are upset, what recent changes could possibly account for their being upset? Here are a few things that occur to me….

(13) AT WISCON. I see a lot of tweets promoting people’s panel appearances, but rarely one so artistic.

(14) THE SIGN OF THE Z. John Z. Upjohn joined Twitter today. The cause was soon revealed.

Alexandra Erin explained in a GoFundMe appeal update:

And because you all pitched in enough to cover airfare for WorldCon before I head off to my current con, Mr. John Z. Upjohn will be providing live twitter commentary of the event [WisCon]…

Erin also delivered another Sad Puppies Review Books installment once the fundraiser hit $300 (it’s now at $775) – Upjohn’s take on The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the HatThe protagonist of the book is a cat who develops games, games that are fun (like all games should be), and who wants nothing but to share them with children who are bored. Not so fast, cat! There is a game critic in the house, a fish who is clearly used to thinking of himself as a big fish in a small pond.

I almost threw this book across the room at one point, because the cat is playing a game and he is clearly having a lot of fun, but the fish says, “NO! THIS ISN’T FUN!” Imagine hating fun so much that you lie about what’s fun in order to ruin a game for everyone else….

(15) PRONOUN STICKERS. WisCon 40 registration will have pronoun stickers available.

Hihi!  I want to take a minute to talk to you about an exciting option we’re offering at Registration this year: pronoun stickers!

We offered them last year and got a lot of reaction, so here’s the explanation:

Pronoun stickers are totally optional to wear. You don’t have to declare anything to anyone. You don’t have to wear the same sticker all weekend. These exist to make it easier for all of us to treat each other respectfully.

If someone IS wearing a pronoun sticker, we expect you will use that pronoun for them. Part of our social contract is kind and respectful treatment of each other, and there are few things that feel as terrible as being misgendered ON PURPOSE. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on…..

 

Options. God bless WisCon. #WisCon

A post shared by Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) on

(16) TOMORROW IS TOWEL DAY. The annual tribute to Douglas Adams, Towel Day, takes place on May 25.

Naturally there are dedicated social media sites– a Facebook page or a Flickr group, and a way to tag videos on YouTube.

There are also hybrid events with in-person and internet components like Lofty Pursuits’ Vogon Poetry Slam. You have only a few hours left to enter online.

If you are in Tallahassee, please come and enter the International Vogon Poetry Slam. It is a contest for the worst possible poem. It happens at 8pm on May 25th as part of our Towel Day celebrations. If you are coming in person DO NOT ENTER ON-LINE. You will get to read your own poem live in front of your victims. The rules are the same….

The Vogon Poetry contest. Rules: The worst original poem will win as judged by us. No appeal is possible.

Sent to vogon@pd.net to be considered for this contest. We must get the poems by midnight on the 24th, Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). Late entries will go to the spam folder.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1686 — Polish inventor Gabriel Fahrenheit

(18) NAMING CALLS. Rachel Swirsky considers short story titles in “What should I have titled this essay? (Thoughts on John Joseph Adams’ ‘Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling’”).

Titles That Come From the Text

John starts the article by noting several titles that he suggested to authors that he’s published in his magazines and anthologies. He discovered these titles “right there in the text of the stories themselves. When I’m reading or editing a story, I frequently highlight evocative phrases I come across that I can later suggest to the author as a possible alternate title. Sometimes the phrasing isn’t quite right for the title, but it’s something that can be massaged, or combined together with another phrase from elsewhere in the story, that somehow captures the essence of what the story is about.”

I used to do the large majority of my titling this way until I started my MFA program at Mills, where the teacher told me what John Joseph Adams brings up next: “I should note that some writing professors—including notable literary giants—advise against this practice, largely because, they say, doing this puts too much emphasis and meaning on the eponymous phrase when the reader comes across it in the story.”

(19) DON’T CALL ME ISHMAEL. “Moby goes where Brian Eno, and his ancestor Herman Melville, went before” at the LA Times.

As a famously brainy electronic musician — and a descendant of literary royalty — Moby had plenty of lodestars he might have looked to while writing his first book.

There was, for instance, Brian Eno, the pop experimentalist who reflected on his work with U2 and David Bowie in his 1996 volume “A Year With Swollen Appendices.” And the distant ancestor from whom Moby got his nickname: “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville.

In reality, the DJ and producer best known for 1999’s multi-platinum “Play” album took inspiration from a more unlikely source: Duff McKagan, the tattooed bassist in Guns N’ Roses.

“Honestly, I’d never given much thought to the guy before I read his memoir,” Moby said on a recent morning at home in Los Feliz, referring to “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” in which McKagan writes frankly about the excess and the illusions of show business. “But he wrote a book that’s good enough that it transcends the fact that I wasn’t interested in him.”

(20) BLAME OF THRONES. Juliet McKenna has her own tangle of pop culture references to work through — “Sansa Stark’s joined the X-Men? Thoughts on popcultural cross contamination”

I’ve yet to see the X-Men Apocalypse movie, so I can’t comment on Sophie Turner’s performance. Her work on Game of Thrones – especially at the moment (NO spoilers in comments please!) – gives me every reason to expect she’ll do a thoroughly good job.

The thing is, though, this is becoming A Thing for me. An amusement at the moment, rather than a distraction, but definitely A Thing.

I caught a trailer for A Knight’s Tale on the TV last week, which is one of my favourite movies. Now though? That’s the one where Robert Baratheon makes The Joker’s armour while The Vision bigs him up to the crowd…

(21) DISCO SCI-FI. Thomas A. Foster looks back at the Seventies in “Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut” on Pop Matters.

…Another key to understanding the sci-fi of the era: the shrunken profile of space exploration. In the ‘60s, NASA was perhaps the most popular Federal project, partly because fallen leader John F. Kennedy was associated with the “space race”. Television covered every moment leading up to the first moon walk in 1969, and Hollywood pitched in with movies and TV shows (I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the made-in-England 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Jetsons had a dog named Astro, and Houston chose the same name for its new baseball team, which played, of course, in the Astrodome.

As our radio-alarm-clocks flipped to the ‘70s soundtrack, however, the Apollo Program was curtailed by budget cuts and sharply declining interest. The scientific idealism of the ‘60s was victim to chronic civil unrest, distrust of authority, and general exhaustion, as Americans turned to self-improvement (meditation, back-to-the-land/find-your-roots trends); hedonism (swinging, cocaine, disco); and all things para- (the paranormal, paranoia), including persistent rumors that the moon landings had been faked. In keeping with the zeitgeist, most of our TV astronauts of the decade would be lost, passive, or grounded….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/16 It’s Better To Pixel Out, Than To Scroll Away

(1) WHILE YOU WERE WAITING. Ann Leckie must be wondering if any of us are paying attention.

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.

(2) JUST SAY THANKS. Joe Vasicek has some intriguing “Thoughts on series and perma-free”.

For the last five years, the conventional wisdom among most indie writers has been to write short books in sequential series and make the first book permanently free. It’s a strategy that works, to a certain extent. It’s what got me from making pizza money on my book sales to making a humble living at this gig. However, I’m starting to question that wisdom….

….Also, when you have a book that’s permanently free, it tends to accumulate a lot of negative reviews. It’s strange, but some people seem to feel more entitled to XYZ when they get it for free, as opposed to paying for it. Or maybe these are the people who try to go through life without actually paying for anything? Who hoard everything, even the stuff that they hate, so long as they can get it for free? I don’t know.

Certainly, that’s not true of everyone who reads free books. But when you have a perma-free book, it tends to accumulate more of the barely-coherent “dis buk sux” kinds of reviews from people who probably weren’t in the target audience to begin with. And over time, that tends to weigh the book’s overall rating down, which unfortunately can be a turn-off for people who are in the book’s audience.

(3) TIPTREE AUCTION. Here’s an advance look at an item in the Tiptree Auction at WisCon.

On Saturday, May 28, fans of the Tiptree Award will have the opportunity to bid on a genuine blaster that was once the sidearm of Space Babe, a legendary feminist superhero. (Blaster is modeled here by a Space Babe impersonator). This rare item will be part of the annual Tiptree Award Auction, to be held at at WisCon in Madison Wisconsin….

 

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

Blaster-wielding Jeanne Gomoll.

(4) MANCUNICON. Starburst brings you Ed Fortune’s 2016 Eastercon report.

Event highlights included interviews with the Guest of Honour John W. Campbell Award-winning novelist Aliette de Bodard, Hugo Award-winning author Ian McDonald, British Fantasy Award-winning creator Sarah Pinborough, and noted astrophysicist David L. Clement. Each drew a huge crowd, and coloured the event in their own unique way. Notably, Clement spearheaded a science-heavy approach to many of the panel items, and many of the talks centred on science and Manchester’s iconic research centre, Jodrell Bank. The iconic building, which has inspired many works of science fiction throughout its history, was thoroughly explored in many talks and lectures.

(5) NUMBER FIVE. Nina Munteanu, at Amazing Stories, continues the series — “The Writer-Editor Relationship, Part 2: Five Things Writers Wish Editors Knew – and Followed”.

  1. Edit to preserve the writer’s voice through open and respectful dialogue

Losing your voice to the “hackings of an editor” is perhaps a beginner writer’s greatest fear. This makes sense, given that a novice writer’s voice is still in its infancy; it is tentative, evolving, and striving for an identity. While a professional editor is not likely to “hack,” the fear may remain well-founded.

A novice’s voice is often tangled and enmeshed in a chaos of poor narrative style, grammatical errors, and a general misunderstanding of the English language. Editors trying to improve a novice writer’s narrative flow without interfering with voice are faced with a challenge. Teasing out the nuances of creative intent amid the turbulent flow of awkward and obscure expression requires finesse—and consideration. Good editors recognize that every writer has a voice, no matter how weak or ill-formed, and that voice is the culmination of a writer’s culture, beliefs, and experiences. Editing to preserve a writer’s voice—particularly when it is weak and not fully formed—needs a “soft touch” that invites more back-and-forth than usual, uses more coaching-style language, and relies on good feedback….

(6) KELLY LINK. Marion Deeds picked the right day to post a review of a Kelly Link story from Get in Trouble at Fantasy Literature.

“The Summer People” by Kelly Link (February 2016, free online at Wall Street Journal, also included in her anthology Get in Trouble)

“The Summer People” is the first story in Kelly Link’s new story collection Get in Trouble. Fran is a teenager living in a rural part of the American southeast. Her mother is gone, and she is neglected by her moonshiner father. While Fran is running a fever of 102 with the flu, her father informs her that he has to go “get right with God.” On his way out the door, he reminds her that one of the summer families is coming up early and she needs to get the house ready. However, that family isn’t the only group of summer people that Fran “does for,” and this is the point of Link’s exquisite, melancholy tale.

(7) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. While Doctor Who can travel to anyplace and nearly any point in time, he invariably ends up in London. The Traveler at Galactic Journey seems likewise constrained always to arrive at the same opinion of John W. Campbell, although his fellow fans voted Analog a Hugo for this year’s work — “[April 18, 1961] Starting on the wrong foot”.

Gideon Marcus, age 42, lord of Galactic Journey, surveyed the proud column that was his creation.  Three years in the making, it represented the very best that old Terra had to offer.  He knew, with complete unironic sincerity, that the sublimity of his articles did much to keep the lesser writers in check, lest they develop sufficient confidence to challenge Gideon’s primacy.  This man, this noble-visaged, pale-skinned man, possibly Earth’s finest writer, knew without a doubt that this was the way to begin all of his stories…

…if he wants to be published in Analog, anyway.

(8) ON MILITARY SF. SFFWorld interviews Christopher Nuttall.

Christopher Nuttall’s Their Darkest Hour has just been released as part of the Empire at War collection where four British Science Fiction authors have joined forces to show the world that British Military Science Fiction is a force to be reckoned with….

So what is different with British Military SF? Obviously in Their Darkest Hour you have the UK setting that probably will be more familiar to a Europeans than Americans, but do you also think there are other aspects where British authors are able to bring something different and unique to military SF? 

I think that’s a hard question to answer.

There is, if you will, a cultural difference between American MIL-SF (and military in general) and British MIL-SF.  Many American military characters (in, say, John Ringo’s work) are very forward, very blunt … I’d go so far as to say that most of them are thoroughly bombastic.  Think a Drill Instructor screaming in your face.  While a great many British characters are often calm, competent and basically just get the job done.  We’re not as outwardly enthusiastic as the Americans; we’re more gritty endurance, stiff upper lip and just keep going until we win.

To some extent, I think that comes from our differing experiences.  The Americans are staggeringly rich and, even as early as their civil war, had little trouble keeping their troops supplied.  Britain, particularly in the years after 1919, had very real problems making ends meet, let alone keeping the troops supplied.  We operate on a shoestring and know it.  The Falklands was our most successful war in years, yet it was a very close run thing.  We simply cannot afford to be as blatant as the Americans.

I think that is reflected in our SF too.  Independence Day was followed by Invasion: Earth, a six-episode TV series set in Britain.  Independence Day is blatant; the enemy is clearly visible, merely overwhelmingly powerful.  Invasion: Earth has an enemy who hides in the shadows, at least up until the final episode.  They both represent, too, a very different set of fears.

(9) OVER THE EDGE OF HISTORY. Jeff Somers considers “6 Historical Fiction Novels That Are Almost Fantasy” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Hild, by Nicola Griffith Set in the so-called “Dark Ages,” after Rome abandoned Britain but before the squabbling kingdoms and tribes were unified under one crown, Griffith’s novel tells the true story of the Christian saint Hild, who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby, patron saint of learning. In 7th century Britain, she is the 6-year old niece of King Edwin of Northumbria, and becomes his seer and mystic upon arrival at his court. The reality of otherworldly forces is taken for granted as real in this brutal, violent land, and Griffith plays with the concept expertly as Hild becomes increasingly masterful at sniffing out plots and advising her uncle in ways that often seem magical. Anyone who has been awed by a brilliant mind’s ability to perceive what most cannot will witness that superpower at work in Hild, one of the most complex and deeply-drawn characters to ever appear in a novel—historical, fantasy, or otherwise.

(10) AN OP-ED. David Dubrow, in “David A Riley and the HWA”, criticizes how Horror Writers of America handled the recent controversy. And he’s announced he’ll be publishing an interview with Riley about it.

At times it’s interesting to get under the hood of the writing business and see how the sausage is made, to mix cliched metaphors. This issue happens to concern horror writers, so it has particular meaning for me at this time.

In short, an English horror author named David A Riley was set to be on the jury for the anthology segment of the upcoming Bram Stoker Awards. As it turns out, Riley was once a member of a far-right, nationalist political party in the UK called the National Front. A Tumblr blog was created to curate some of Riley’s online commentary, titled David Andrew Riley Is a Fascist. Wikipedia’s entry on National Front can be found here.

When outraged members protested Riley’s appointment to the jury, Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton issued a tepid statement on Facebook that satisfied nobody. As is so often the case, the most arresting thing wasn’t the statement, but the ensuing discussion. Three distinct elements stood out and are worth examination….

Second, the thread has really big buts. The biggest but is, of course, “I believe in free speech, but…” A clever reader always ignores everything before the but in any statement containing a but. Anyone who puts his big but into the free speech discussion is not on the side of free speech, but is actually in favor of criminalizing speech he finds offensive (see what I did there?). As someone who worked at the bleeding edge of First (and Second) Amendment issues in publishing for over thirteen years, I find the big buts disturbing, but they’re there, and they stink like hell….

(11) THE FIRST RULE OF CHICXULUB. According to the BBC, this is “What really happened when the ‘dino killer’ asteroid struck”.

Where armies of trees once stretched skywards, seemingly escaping from the thickets of ferns and shrubs that clawed at their roots, only scorched trunks remain. Instead of the incessant hum of insect chatter blotting out the sound of ponderous giant dinosaurs, only the occasional flurry of wind pierces the silence. Darkness rules: the rich blues and greens, and occasional yellows and reds that danced in the Sun’s rays have all been wiped out.

This is Earth after a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into it 66 million years ago.

“In the course of minutes to hours it went from this lush, vibrant world to just absolute silence and nothing,” says Daniel Durda, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “Especially in the thousands of square miles around the impact site, the slate was just wiped clean.”

Much like putting in all the edge pieces of a jigsaw, scientists have outlined the lasting impacts of the meteor strike. It claimed the lives of more than three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. The most famous casualties were the dinosaurs – although in fact many of them survived in the form of birds….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born April 18, 1976 — Melissa Joan Hart. She’s not a teenaged witch anymore.

(13) THE STARLOST. Created then disowned by Harlan Ellison, the 1970s series The Starlost can be seen here on YouTube. The link takes you to the entire series for Starlost (16 episodes plus the “sales pitch.”)

Complaining about how the show was dumbed down from the original concept, Ellison took his name off the credits and substituted his Writers Guild alias Cordwainer Bird.

(14) DUTCH TREATS. Wim Crusio reminisces about conversations with writers at the 1990 Worldcon, in “Writing science, writing fiction (I)”.

Synopsis: Whether writing a good novel or a killer scientific article, the process is much the same: What scientists can learn from science fiction authors…

Many years ago, back in 1990, I attended my first Science Fiction Worldcon, called “ConFiction“, in The Hague. An interesting feature that year was the “Dutch Treat”. One could sign up with a group of about 10 people and invite a science fiction writer for lunch and talk with them in that small circle. To me, these “treats” were the highlights of that particular meeting. I did as many of them as I could and have fond memories of speaking with John Brunner, Harry Harrison (a Guest of Honor, accompanied by his charming wife, Joan), Fred Pohl, Brian Aldiss, and Bob Shaw (I think that’s all of them, but I am writing this from memory, so I may have forgotten one). Of course, these conversations spanned many topics and I was not the only participant, but at some point or another I managed to pose the same question to each of them, namely: how do you write a story (be it a short story or a novel in multiple parts). Do you just start, do you write some parts first and only continue when you’re completely done with revising them, or something else entirely?

(15) REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to writers!

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized…..

(16) STRICTLY ROMANCE. The first romance-only bookstore starts in LA. (Strictly speaking, The Ripped Bodice is in Culver City.)

Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, vastly outselling science fiction, mystery and literary books.

And there’s only one rule for writing a romance – it has to have a happy ending.

Yet the romance genre has long been dismissed as smut or trashy by many in, and out, of the publishing world – a fact that mystifies sisters Bea and Leah Koch, who last month opened the US’s first exclusively romantic fiction bookstore.

Their shop in Los Angeles is called The Ripped Bodice, and the store’s motto is “smart girls read romance”.

(17) DEFINING X. They say it’s the intersection of politics and Marvel comics: “A People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Week 9: The Mutant Metaphor (Part I)” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

A lot of people have discussed the manifold ways in which the “mutant metaphor” is problematic, but what I’m going to argue in this issue is that a big part of the problem with the “mutant metaphor” is that it wasn’t clearly defined from the outset, in part because it wasn’t anywhere close to the dominant thread of X-Men comics.[i] While always an element of the original run, as much time was spent on fighting giant Kirby robots or stopping the likes of Count Nefaria from encasing Washington D.C in a giant crystal bubble. And this was always problematic, because in the shared Marvel Universe, you need to explain why it is that the X-Men are “feared and hated” and must hide beneath the façade of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, whereas the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were treated as celebrities and could live openly on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, respectively.

So what did the “mutant” metaphor mean initially?

One of the best ways to understand how the “mutant metaphor” was originally understood is to look at depictions of anti-mutant prejudice. In the early Lee and Kirby run, anti-mutant prejudice is described almost entirely as a mass phenomenon, a collective hysteria that takes hold of large groups of people. You can see this especially in the way that crowds of humans descend into violence in contexts that you wouldn’t normally expect them. Like sports events:…

(18) SKYWALKERED BACK. J. J. Abrams made a little mistake…. CinemaBlend has the story: “Star Wars: J.J. Abrams Backtracks Statement About Rey’s Parents”.

Earlier, J.J. Abrams sat down with Chris Rock at the Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the director’s work in television and film. During the Q&A segment, a young fan asked the identity of Rey’s parents and Abrams said “they aren’t in Episode VII.” This implies that just about every fan theory is wrong, but Entertainment Weekly caught up with Abrams after the show and he was able to clarify his statement:

What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.

So, Rey’s parents could be somewhere in The Force Awakens as opposed to not being in it at all. That’s a pretty serious backtrack, but it opens the floor back up for fans to come up with theories on the heroine’s lineage. This potentially limits the amount of suspects, but most theories were already focused on Force Awakens characters. There are a few contenders that have risen above the rest, each with there own amount of logic and speculation.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/16 Babylon Hive

(1) RULES OF FASHION. Mary Robinette Kowal knows the inside story about “David Hartwell’s sartorial splendor 1941-2016”.

David was a fashion junkie. I know– I know exactly what you’re thinking. That a man who would wear paisley and pinstripes is not an example of sartorial sense. But wait. He collected haute couture pieces. Those jackets, terrifying ties, shirts, and trousers had been the height of fashion when it was produced.

He might spend years tracking one down. Often, he was wearing them in combinations that the designer had actually intended. When I saw him at conventions after that, we didn’t talk fiction. He would tell me the story behind whatever pieces he was wearing and talk about the designer and the theory behind why this particular combination had been fashionable in its day. He wasn’t buying clothes because they were tacky; he was buying them because he was enjoying this whole meta-conversation about fashion and taste.

(2) YOUR OWN SPACESHIP. SF Signal’s new Mind Meld, curated by Paul Weimer, poses these questions —

Q: Congratulations. You can take a trip on, or if you prefer, captaincy of, the spacecraft of your own choice from genre literature. The only catch is–it can’t be the Millennium Falcon or the Firefly. Rey and Mal refused to give up their ships. What spacecraft would you want to own, or travel on? Why?

The answers come from Amanda Bridgeman, K.V. Johansen, Jay Garmon, Alexandra Pierce, Julia Rios, Joshua Bilmes, Josh Vogt, Brenda Cooper, Jacey Bedford, Laurel Amberdine, L. M. Myles, and Angela Mitchell.

(3) ONE CREEPY LANE. J.J. Abrams is a busy man. His movie 10 Cloverfield Lane is coming to theatres March 11. Esquire writer Michael Sebastian summarizes what the trailer reveals about its story.

The movie stars John Goodman, whose character is living in a bunker with what appears to be his family. There’s a nostalgic sheen to the setting, and it’s reminiscent of the hatch in the Abrams co-created TV show Lost. It’s unclear whether they’re stuck in the bunker because of what happens in Cloverfield, when a giant monster wreaks havoc on New York City. The movie is told through what is said to be found footage of the disaster.

 

(4) HUGO RULES IDEA. Jonathan Cowie’s solution for what he feels is broken in the Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form category is, ironically, to undo the change that was made to fix the category in the first place, and go back to voting for series as a whole.

A possible suggested solution? My suggestion actually would not impact on Hugo nominators and voters in any way! As far as they would be concerned they would carry on nominating and voting on the short-list in the usual way as if nothing had changed.  But what would change would be the way the nominations were treated: both the series and the episode titles would be counted differently.

Here, with nominations, a nominator could nominated episodes from five separate series or, at the other end of the extreme, for five episodes from the same series, or any mix in-between just as nominators can do now. (And ‘yes’, I know that the nominating rules are about to change but for now I want to keep this simple.)  The change would be in the way these nominations were counted.  Nominators would get just one vote per series they nominate. This means that if you voted for four episodes of Star Trek and one of Tripped then that would only  count for one vote each for Star Trek and Tripped (two series votes — one for Star Trek and one for Tripped — even though four episodes of Star Trek were nominated).  At this first nomination stage we would only be considering series (not episodes).  In this specific way the series with the most votes would get on the short-list ballot with nominators effectively getting just one vote per  series they nominate.  Ignoring episode titles at this stage, and considering only series (be they TV or web series or even short films), would ensure that the ballot had on it a list of different series with no duplicates.  In other words all the series on the ballot would reflect the numbers of people nominating series (and not, as is now, the numbers nominating different episodes of the same series).

Then, with the next stage of finalising the shortlist would come the individual episode part.  At this stage we have just a list of series and an episode title needs to be associated with each. However some series may have had more than one episode nominated. Here, all those that nominated for series on the short-list would have their nominations for all  their individual episode titles counted: again, one vote per  episode title.  And so, to continue with our example, all  our nominator’s four Star Trek episodes would all be counted and each episode title get one vote.  Of all the nomination forms submitted, the individual episode with the most nominations for any single series is the one that gets on the ballot.

This would mean that the Hugo for Dramatic Presentation Short Form nominations would better reflect the diversity of televisual SF that exists with a range of different series always ending up being on the short-list final ballot and then with the most popular episode at the nomination stage associated with each one.

(5) KUSHNER REMEMBERS. So many fine reminiscences about David Hartwell are being posted. Here is an excerpt from Ellen Kushner’s:

I quit that job to write my first novel. When I finished Swordspoint, no one in the field would touch it but David. While my agent tried selling it mainstream, David said he would be there waiting (then at Arbor House) if that failed. I joked that it was just his revenge on me for quitting on him – to get me back in his clutches – but they were fine clutches to be in. He made sure my little ms. was read by the likes of Samuel R. Delany, and he proudly told me he was getting me a Thomas Canty cover, knowing that was my ultimate dream…

(6) DONATIONS REQUESTED. Kathryn Cramer, grateful for the care David Hartwell was given at a local hospital, asks people to make a contribution

Though David was on a respirator for an extended period of time, Elizabethtown Community Hospital in Elizabethtown, NY does not have a mechanical respirator of its own. A wonderful nurse whose name I didn’t catch or have forgotten spent FIVE HOURS, yes FIVE FUCKING HOURS, compressing a blue rubber bulb that substituted for the action of David’s diaphragm. They took wonderful, compassionate care of him, and this is not a complaint about the service.

Rather, if you are thinking of David tonight and wish you could have done something, please follow THIS LINK http://www.ech.org/make-a-contribution.html and make a donation earmarked to buy ECH its own mechanical respirator.

ECH is a small, rural hospital. They do not own their own respirator. Rather, there is a shared one that travels from one facility to another.

David did not die for lack of a respirator. Nothing could have saved him. But please, as you think of him this evening, think not just of David, but of the matter of the nurse who was his lungs Tuesday night. I am deeply grateful to her. But what she did should not have been needed.

Based on my experience of the past few days, it is my considered opinion that NO HOSPITAL IN AMERICA SHOULD BE WITHOUT ITS OWN RESPIRATOR.

This is the 21st century. We can do this.

(7) IS COSPLAY IMPERILED? The lawsuit is about copyright protection for cheerleading uniforms, however, Public Knowledge in “Cosplay Goes to the Supreme Court” says the decision could have consequences for recreation costumers. Truth or clickbait?

Yes, you read that right: the Supreme Court of the United States may get to decide the legal status of all those Jedi robes you’ve got squirreled away. The Supreme Court is considering a case that will set the standard for when clothing and costume designs can be covered by copyright—and when people who mimic them (such as costumers) can be sued for potentially enormous damages.

The parties to the case, Star Athletica and Varsity Brands, both design cheerleading uniforms. Varsity claims that major portions of their designs are entitled to copyright protection, while Star Athletica points out (and is backed up by a long line of caselaw) that clothing designs are explicitly exempted from copyright. Their arguments rest on different interpretations of a legal concept known as “separability”—a topic so abstract and murky that even seasoned copyright lawyers avoid it.

To understand the case and its impact, you need to keep in mind two things. First, copyright protects creative works. It does not protect what it calls “useful articles,” or items which are designed purely for utility. Copyright protects a statue; it does not protect the chisel….

All of which brings us back to cosplay. If the Supreme Court decides on a test that gives a lot of leeway for “original” designers to sue others for infringing on the “look” of their clothing, costumers are left right in the crosshairs. And copyright damages can be positively massive, running up thousands of dollars per infringement. Public Knowledge will be filing in support of Star Athletica’s petition before the Supreme Court, highlighting the scope of hobbyists and consumers that the ruling could impact.

(8) TERMINATED. Don’t be looking for a second Terminator 2. Be happy with the one you had. Yahoo! Movies explains, “A Sequel To ‘Terminator Genisys’ Is Likely Dead In The Water, But That’s Okay”.

Hollywood loves reboots and prequels so much right now that they want them to make love and create preboots. Yes, preboots. Something to kickstart cash cows back into delivering that sweet sweet franchise milk. Prometheus is kind of a good preboot, X-Men: First Class was great, but Terminator: Genisys was the motion picture equivalent of Budnick holding onto your waist and spending your arcade cash (except more confusing). That’s probably why the sequel to the prequel reboot (presequeboot?) that was unfathomably titled Terminator 2, has been removed from Paramount’s release calendar.

(9) ELLISON VOICES GAME. The game originally created in 1995 can now be played on a phone. “I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream is now on mobile” reports Jeffrey Matulef on Eurogamer.net.

Based around the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name, I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the last five humans are immortal and forever tortured by a supercomputer that wiped out humanity 109 years ago. You play as all five survivors as they confront the various psychological and physical tortures bestowed upon them by their sadistic, sentient captor.

You can play each chapter in any order and there are multiple endings available. You can also change the graphics and sound by choosing different audio and visual filters and new touch-based control inputs are available as well….

This time out Night Dive, who now owns the rights to the game, joined forces with mobile porting company DotEmu, who previously ported Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition, The Last Express and Double Dragon Trilogy.

I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream costs £2.99 / $3.99 on iOS and Android.

Game play is reviewed in this video from Monsters of the Week by RagnarRox.

(10) ASIMOV ANALOGY. New Republic contributor Jeet Heer, who was quoted here in a Hugo roundup last year, has worked a classic sf reference into his recent speculation about Trump’s appeal within his own party.

Trump, on the other hand, is so anomalous a figure that the GOP establishment can console themselves with the knowledge that he leads no faction. Even if he wins the nomination, Trump can be safely relegated to the category of a one-off, a freak mutation, never to be repeated. Trump would be like the character The Mule, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. In the schema of Asimov’s far future science-fiction series, The Mule is a galactic conquerer who throws history off the course that it was expected to take, but the changes he introduces are ultimately minor because he has no successor.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 21, 1789 – The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy, is published in Boston. (Apparently it wasn’t banned in Boston – think how much that would have helped sales.)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 21, 1938 – Robert “Wolfman Jack” Smith. My friend, “Imponderables” author David Feldman, ran Wolfman Jack’s campaign for president, once upon a time.

For President Wolfman Jack

(13) LOCAL FOSSIL MAKES GOOD. I’m a bit skeptical about the idea of a “Welsh dinosaur” – especially one that avoided being turned into coal. But the BBC feels perfectly comfortable writing headlines like “Welsh dinosaur named ‘dragon thief’”.

A 201-million-year-old dinosaur that fell out of a cliff face at Penarth in South Wales in 2014 has been formally named as Dracoraptor hanigani.

Loosely translated, the Dracoraptor part means “dragon thief”; hanigani honours Rob and Nick Hanigan – the two fossil-hunting brothers who found it.

In a new analysis, scientists say the specimen is possibly the oldest known Jurassic dinosaur from the UK.

(14) PUN CONTENT WARNING. Fresh from reading about the Puppy characterization of Damien G. Walter’s grant, James H. Burns saw that Blackpool is to stage a ‘reimagining’ of the King Kong story, thanks to a £680,000 Arts Council grant and wondered if it was bananas to think this means King Kong is on the Dole…

He’ll be here all week, folks.

(15) OTHER MONKEY BUSINESS. The very last thing in Eric Robert Nolan’s “Throwback Thursday: Weird 1970’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ merchandise” is a book cover identifying Jerry Pournelle as the author of the novelization Escape From The Planet of the Apes. How did we forget that?

Finally, pictured below is a novelization of one of the movie’s sequels, “Escape From the Planet of the Apes” (1971).  I think I saw this among the disheveled paperback library that always occupied the back seat and back floor of my Dad’s car.  I saw Boulle’s source novel in that back seat once, with a weird minimalist art cover.  My Dad explained that it was “very different from the movie.”  Or I might have seen it on the floor of the closet I shared with my brother.  (That closet functioned according to trickle-down economics — the really cool stuff occasionally fell from his top shelf to the floor where I could grab it.)

(16) A LITTLE LIST. No, I am not going to be linking to many more of these, or really, any more of these, but I laughed when I saw Luther M. Siler’s headline – “Oh, why not: #Hugo awards eligibility post”.

Rumor has it that Hugo nominations are going to open up next week, and I have two– count ’em, two! different works that will be eligible for nomination.

(Yes, indie authors are eligible.  I checked.)

(17) ASPIRING SPACE TAILOR. Adam Savage has been talking recently about his desire to make one of the spacesuits from The Martian to add to his costume collection. And he convinced Fox to loan him one to take a look at first.

(18) ZOOLANDER/MOONRAKER MASHUP? It’s not just Adam Savage who wants to wear a spacesuit. In “To infinity and beyond: how space chic is ready for blast off”, The Guardian says all kinds of fashion designers are returning to 2001 — the film, that is.

At the men’s shows in Milan last week, astronauts appeared almost as often on the catwalk as the inevitable Bowie tributes. Versace produced a show dedicated, as Donatella said, to the future. The mood – all shiny white plastic – felt very 2001 (the film, not the year), especially when the show began with models running around the darkened catwalk in bright fibre-optic outfits, like those training for a mission. When the lights went up, Versace’s idea of an astronaut was earthbound, slick and boardroom-ready, probably with important financial reports rather than space food in his backpack-cum-jetpack. He wore a silver mac, or chunky bright white trousers and matching biker jackets, a bit like the fashion version of Buzz Lightyear’s outfit. A cropped leather jacket with Versace’s version of Nasa badges was another highlight of haute astronaut style.

One outfit in the accompanying photos has enough decorative pins on it to be Radch haut-couture.

(19) BINKS RECLAIMED. Chris Hallbeck’s Maximumble comic for January 21 has a new use for Jar-Jar Binks.

And after you read the comic, you’ll understand why it makes me think of this routine by Lily Singh –

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Will R., Glenn Hauman, Lorcan Nagle, James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/16 Have Starship Trooper Power Suit, Will Travel

(1) NOT MY CUPPA. The Traveler at Galactic Journey found the January 1961 issue of Galaxy filled with well-done short stories that didn’t personally appeal to him. Of course, he was younger in those days.

(2) MISS FIT. Liwella at Astounding Yarns was enjoying the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum right up to the moment she discovered their souvenir t-shirts weren’t available in a women’s fit.

I loved the exhibition so much that I wanted to take home some souvenirs.  Particularly one of the range of awesome tshirts that were for sale, given that I love wearing geeky tshirts.  I wear them round the house with jeans.  I wear them with skirts and funky tights when I’m out and about.  Perhaps I should buy one featuring the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.  Or one inspired by those glorious Russian propaganda posters, with their instantly recognisable design aesthetic.  But it turns out that the Science Museum only offered one tshirt in a woman’s fit – a rather dull design based on a spacewalk motif.  When I asked the assistant on duty if there were any woman’s fit tshirts available he seemed surprised I’d even asked.

(3) KEEP YOUR MONEY HANDY. “Hasbro, Disney Launching new Rey ‘Star Wars’ Toys” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“One of the biggest surprises that filmmakers wanted to keep under wraps was that the Force awakens in Rey and she carries a lightsaber,” said Paul Southern, head of licensing for Lucasfilm. “We always planned a second wave of product after the movie’s release that would include secrets revealed in the movie.”

Hasbro’s new Rey toys will be based more on her action scenes later in the film, including a climactic one in which she wields a lightsaber.

There have been products including toys, T-shirts and costumes featuring Rey available for months, but to date virtually all have featured her only as she appears in the movie’s earliest scenes.

Nonetheless, some fans were upset about three toys in which the Rey character was notably absent, including the Monopoly game and a set of action figures, sold exclusively at Target, that excluded her entirely.

The movie’s director, J.J. Abrams, has supported those fans.

“It seems preposterous and wrong that the main character of the movie is not well represented in what is clearly a huge piece of the ‘Star Wars’ world in terms of merchandising,” he said that the Television Critics Association’s press tour Saturday, according to Entertainment Weekly.

(4) BALMORAL-ICAN GRAFITTI. J. K. Rowling celebrated the ninth anniversary of finishing Deathly Hallows with a tweet, says Mashable.

Rowling placed the finishing touches on the seventh Harry Potter book at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, the city where she lives. After finally completing her manuscript, she indulged in a little friendly vandalism to commemorate the occasion, a photo of which she tweeted Monday.

 

(5) AXANAR UPDATE. Now Alec Peters has written his own FAQ – “Captain’s Log – Jan. 7th, 2016”.

Q:  How can you be non-profit and pay salaries?

A:  Non-profit does not mean “volunteer”.  Just like the CEO of The Red Cross gets $400K a year in salary, non-profits can pay salaries.  Payroll is an expense.

Q:  Why did Alec Peters get paid $ 38,000 as noted in the annual report?

A: Because Alec (as well as Diana) worked full time at Axanar, certainly 60 hours a week not including conventions on the weekends.  That means Alec and Diana probably got paid minimum wage.  And Diana deferred all her salary.  Now go compare that to any Hollywood studio exec putting out medicore content, and tell us Alec and Diana were paid too much!  That doesn’t even cover their expenses.  We don’t expect full time employees to work for free.

Q:  Is Ares Studios a for-profit studio?

A:  Ares Studio is the term we use to describe the warehouse we have built our sound stage to make Axanar.  There is no profit being made, and in fact Alec personally guaranteed the 3 year lease, so the last two years are a $ 250,000 liability he is responsible for.  Axanar Productions has been paying for the building while we build sets and prepare the make the movie.  Would we like to make movies after Axanar?  Sure would, but that is all speculative.  We don’t have any revenue from the studio and so such talk is nonsense.

(6) MAJOR TOM. Bowie lyrics on the marquee of the closed Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena.

Rialto marquee

(7) DANGEROUS. Forbes writer Ron Salkowitz analyzes “David Bowie’s Dangerous Visions: Sci-Fi Touchpoints For The Thin White Duke”.

Much of Bowie’s work throughout his career is a dialogue with New Wave SF, refracting it through his own sensibility and bringing the concepts to a mass audience via the medium of rock and roll. As I’ve been listening to the Bowie catalog for the past day, I’m reminded of a few specific connections and patterns of inspiration.

The Jerry Cornelius Novels (Michael Moorcock). Moorcock, the quintessential New Wave author, is better known for his sword and sorcery character Elric, but in 1968, he unleashed the sexually ambiguous secret agent Jerry Cornelius on an unsuspecting public in a novel called The Final Programme. An acid-drenched mashup of James Bond and Doctor Who, the dapper Cornelius hopscotches around space and time foiling plots against reality, assuming new identities and dazzling people with his avant gard aesthetics as he goes. Three further novels followed, each stranger than the next. Jerry Cornelius is less a specific inspiration for Bowie’s work than a template for his entire persona.

(8) GREETINGS GATES. The passing of David Bowie prompted Mental Floss to remind fans that “Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) Choreographed ‘Labyrinth’”. A photo and video clips there, too.

Most geeks like me know Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But before her Trek role, McFadden was Director of Choreography and Puppet Movement on a bunch of Jim Henson films, including The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and even The Muppets Take Manhattan. As a choreographer, she’s typically credited as Cheryl McFadden — Cheryl is her first name, Gates is her middle name.

(9) DRAWN THAT WAY. The Slipper says farewell to David Bowie the comics reader and reproduces many images that characterized him or were influenced by his appearance.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

In 1695, aged 67, he wrote Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals, a series of moral tales designed to prompt the reader to reflect on the dilemmas presented to the protagonist, which were well-known from folklore even then.

The volume contained the story now known as Mother Goose, alongside perrenially recognised titles such as Puss in Boots, Blue Beard and Cinderella, and less famous stories Ricky of the Tuft and Little Thumb

(12) MEESA QUITS. You won’t have Jar-Jar Binks to kick around anymore. Try not to let it get to you.

Issa bad news from Naboo… Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar Binks will never return to the ‘Star Wars’ movies, even if he was asked, adding ‘I’ve done my damage’.

Binks, perhaps the most reviled character in all of ‘Star Wars’ history, was the Gungan soldier know initially for his cack-handed clumsiness, and then, appropriately, his latter career as a politician in George Lucas’s prequel movies.

But in a rare interview, Best said that he has no intention of ever reprising the character.

(13) HUGO CAMPAIGNER. Robin Wayne Bailey would hate for you to miss a chance to vote his story a Hugo. On Facebook, he’ll tell you how to get a free copy.

Last month, November, saw the release of the very excellent science fiction anthology, MISSION: TOMORROW, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The anthology is chock-full of great stories, and my own “Tombaugh Station,” I’m honored to say, leads it all off.

I believe strongly that “Tombaugh Station” is one of the best science fiction stories I’ve ever written, strongly enough that I’d love to see it make the 2016 Hugo Awards ballot next August right here in my own hometown.

However, that November release, late in the year and only a month before the ballot was released (a week ago) is the very definition of what’s known in this business as an “end of the year handicap,” that is, few voters will have had the chance to see the story before voting begins. Now, I don’t particularly want to quietly fall victim to that handicap.

So I’ve just asked and received permission from Baen Books to give my story away. That’s right — I’m actively campaigning for a place on the 2016 Hugo ballot. I used to frown on such shenanigans, but that stigma obviously has melted away.

LOL! Sure, it’s understandable why a Baen Books author might think that…

(14) AFROFUTURISM & OTHER TOPICS. “The State of Black Science Fiction Convention” will be held June 11-12 in Atlanta, GA.

(15) SHERRY’S LONGLIST. Joe Sherry has posted “My 2016 Hugo Awards Longlist Recommendations” at Adventures In Reading, which is both interesting in its own right, and as an index of where recused creators and works might belong.

With all of the shenanigans regarding groups putting together slates to directly influence what gets on the final ballot, what I’m going to do instead is post a growing long list of stuff I thought was awesome in 2015. This list will likely grow and change as I continue to discover stuff published in 2015 that I likewise think is awesome. I’m listing everything alphabetically either by title or author, so don’t view anything listed at the top of a category as being my ranked order. It’s not.

(16) INSIDE BASEBALL. Lesley Conner’s guest post at Far Beyond Reality tells how several stories got selected for Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1.

From Slush Pile to Magazine to Anthology: The Making of Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1

I came on board as the managing editor of Apex Magazine in October, 2014. I’d been involved with Apex for a while before that, but it wasn’t until then that I was let into the shadowed world of the slush pile and started sifting through to find stories to bring into the light. Because of this, and the fact that Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 covers the first six years of Apex Magazine, I missed that magical moment of discovery for many of the stories that ended up in the anthology. But not all of them.

Today I’d like to give you a peek behind the publishing curtain and share the journey that some of the stories in Best of Apex Magazine took from the slush pile to the anthology.

(17) IT’S A MYSTERY. Vox Day says the count is now up to four of people following his author page who have been banned from Goodreads. What the rest of their Goodreads activity consisted of he doesn’t say.

(18) BB-8. Here are two videos starring science fiction cinema’s latest Small Cute Robot.

Unlike some, BB-8 is too shy to come out of its shell…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Will R., and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/25 All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Pixel Scrolls

Mowatt Rhino run on Christmas

(1) RHINO RACES SANTA. Jim Mowatt ran a 5K on Christmas Day as part of his campaign to Save the Rhino.

It’s Christmas Day in Ayr and Carrie and I are celebrating this festival of wine, beer, pigs in blankets and Christmas pud. by popping down to Rozelle Park to run the 5k parkrun. Just to make it that bit more interesting I’ll be wearing a rhino costume.

I got a great reception when I arrived, with a mighty cheer from all the lovely folks assembled near the start. There were several santas, some dogs and a couple of running buggys amongst the crowd. The run director tried to give her pre run briefing but stumbled a little. “Sorry folks,” she said, “I was distracted by the rhino.”

… If anyone gets the urge to donate to Save The Rhino then please visit the page http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and donate whatever you feel you can afford.

 

(2) CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. “50 Page Fridays: Connie Willis” at Suvudu.

Every Friday, we here @ Del Rey Spectra will place a 50 page excerpt of a selected title on Suvudu. Whether it is science fiction, epic fantasy, alternate history, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, the possibilities are endless.

This week, just in time for the holidays, we’re featuring the first 50 pages of Connie Willis’ MIRACLES AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES. Read what the stories are all about and enjoy the excerpt.

  • This enchanting treasury includes: “Miracle,” in which a young woman’s carefully devised plans to find romance go awry when her guardian angel shows her the true meaning of love
  • “In Coppelius’s Toyshop,” where a jaded narcissist finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime
  • “Epiphany,” in which three modern-day wisemen embark on a quest unlike any they’ve ever experienced
  • “Inn,” where a choir singer gives shelter to a homeless man and his pregnant wife-only to learn later that there’s much more to the couple than meets the eye

And more…

(3) UNSUSPECTED STAR WARRIORS. “13 Actors You Didn’t Realize Were in the Star Wars Movies” at Esquire – illustrative photos at the site.

  1. Brian Blessed

Character: Rogur Nass

Appeared in: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Best known outside of Star Wars for: “GORDON’S ALIVE!” That is to say, Flash Gordon and shouting a lot.

Not convinced about that “Best Known” for Blessed. What about Young Arthur, Augustus Caesar in I, Claudius, or Northumberland in Henry V?

(4) A MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Martin Morse Wooster writes, “Thanks for posting Carol for Another Christmas.  I enjoyed it, and Sterling Hayden was great and Peter Sellers brilliant but…. ….this show is super liberal. It really is. Maybe if you headlined it, ‘THE FILM THE SAD PUPPIES DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE’ you’d get HUNDREDS of comments.”

(5) BEFORE MICROSOFT WAS RICH. The Digital Antiquarian’s post “A Pirate’s Life for me, Part 1: Don’t Copy That Floppy!” reproduces an open letter from Bill Gates that will surely bring a nostalgic tear to the eye.

February 3, 1976

An Open Letter to Hobbyists

To me, the most critical thing in the hobby market right now is the lack of good software courses, books, and software itself. Without good software and an owner who understands programming, a hobby computer is wasted. Will quality software be written for the hobby market?

Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving, and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4 K, 8 K, Extended, ROM, and Disk BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however: 1) most of these “users” never bought BASIC (less than 10 percent of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) the amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 per hour.

(6) THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW. “IBM’s Supercomputer Watson Evolves” at Omni.

Watson has become something of a celebrity, perhaps the first artificially intelligent celebrity, making appearances at notable events such as the Tribeca Film Festival. Lauri Saft is director at IBM Watson Ecosystem. Since Watson, the supercomputer, never makes public appearances, Saft had been asked to speak on his behalf, for a program of talks loosely based on the theme of “imagination.” Saft wears her hair in a wavy blond bob and tends to dress in black. “Film and artists and creative people and narratives—that is the essence of what Watson handles best,” she said, mid-fest. “Words and language and sentiment and ideas, right? That’s what Watson does for a living.” Perhaps one day, Watson will be running a film studio.

The essential question is, what exactly is Watson? Watson is a question-answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM’s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson’s name comes from IBM’s first CEO and industrialist Thomas J. Watson. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, Watson competed on Jeopardy! against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, and received the first place prize of $1 million.

(7) HOIST THE JOLLY ROGER. And then there are Space Pirates! From “Tom Corbett Space Cadet Push-Outs”  at Dreams of Space – Books and Ephemera.

I try every year to have a Christmas posting. Sometimes it is something Christmas related and others it is a toy for my readers. This is one of the most beautiful punch-out or push-out books I know of. Even though it is not children’s non-fiction it evokes the early 1950s vision of space. Plus everyone needs some toy rayguns and other gear for their own space cosplay over the holidays. Enjoy!

 

1952TomCobettPushOuts06

(8) HE WAS THERE. Jack Robins, the last surviving Futurian from the Wollheim side of the divide, says they were much nicer fellows than described by all those nasty fanhistorians. See “The Futurians – A Personal Experience” in The National Fantasy Fan for December 2015. (The issue is not online yet, but eventually will show up here at eFanzines.)

I believe I am the last living member of the Wollheim group of Futurians. But as a science fictionist, I am also a modern type of Futurian who is confident that mankind has a future, that global warming will be resolved before the tipping point (where temperatures keep rising out of control), that new sources of energy, such as Fusion, will become prevalent; and that new forms of space propulsion will be developed so that a trip to Mars would take only a week or two, not months.

PART ONE — THE ISA

I read the article by David Williams and was appalled at his description of the Futurians. David Kyle and I are the only Futurians left alive and neither he nor I would have associated with the Futurians of David’s description. He described them as a mean-spirited group intent only on disrupting other organ-izations. That was not my experience at all.

The first thing I learned was that they were a very active group. One of the members, Don Wollheim, told me that some months back they wanted to prove that the future of mail delivery was that it could be sent by rocket. They tied some letters to a rocket, sent it up at the border of anoth-er city and collected the mail. “So what did you do with the mail?” I asked. “Whatever letters weren’t burned we mailed in the nearest mail box,” was the reply. I read later that the police warned them against any further rocket demonstrations.

(9) RECOMMENDED SHORT. Redheadedfemme urges all to watch Hybrids. The blurb on the YouTube site reads —

Enjoy this fantastic Sci-Fi short film by the talented Patrick Kalyn! In the wake of an alien infestation, an ex-special forces soldier’s daughter is killed in an alien attack. Seeking revenge, she leads a team deep into alien territory to a quarantined lab. Soon, she discovers the aliens aren’t alien at all, but a failed government experiment to create a bio-hybrid soldier. She must then expose the governments cover-up and save the last standing city in the quarantined zone from falling.

 

(10) A DOUBTER. Vox Day responded to yesterday’s puppy post by George R.R. Martin on Vox Popoli.

Is it a Christmas miracle? Has Mr. Martin’s heart grown three sizes? It is an inspiration, is it not?

For my part, I will certainly pledge that when the time comes to make the recommendations for Rabid Puppies 2, there will not be a single reference to CHORFS and ASPS, to Puppykickers, or even to SJWs. There will be no negativity nor will any nominations be urged for the purposes of inspiring rapid cranial expansion; any head-exploding that happens to take place in response to the RP2 recommendations will be entirely unintended on my part.

I trust that all of the responses to those recommendations, by Mr. Martin and others, will be similarly restrained.

(11) TWO MORE GEORGE CLAYTON JOHNSON OBITS. Many appreciations have been posted since Johnson died earlier today.

Johnson was a longtime advocate for the legalization of marijuana and in his later years wrote comic books and was a frequent guest at sci-fi and comics conventions. He co-created the comic book series “Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology” with cartoonist and author Jay Allen Sanford.

“He had a special place in his heart for all of his fans, who sustained him and gave him a forum to share thoughts at a million miles a second,” his son said.

In a 2003 interview for the Archive of American Television, Johnson said, “I want to be remembered as a person who early on in his life took control of his life and set goals. When people gave me a lined paper, I wrote the other way. When people expect some certain behavior from me, I will frustrate their expectations.”

Although not widely known outside of science-fiction circles, Johnson was revered among fans of the genre for his work, which also included collaborating with Ray Bradbury on the 1962, Oscar-nominated, animated short film “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.”

A popular figure at science-fiction conventions for decades, the soft-spoken but friendly author was instantly recognizable for his long, flowing white hair and beard, as well as what might best be described as his hippie attire.

And here is the tribute to Johnson now on display at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale.

Mystery & Imagination display dedicated to George Clayton Johnson. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Mystery & Imagination display dedicated to George Clayton Johnson. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(12) XMAS PASSINGS. In addition to George Clayton Johnson (2015), notables who passed away on Christmas Day include James Brown (2006), Dean Martin (1995), Charlie Chaplin (1977), and W.C. Fields (1946).

(13) STAR WARS CHARACTER INSPIRED BY TEACHER. “’Star Wars’ Character Based on Late Pali High English Teacher, Abrams Tells Palisadian-Post”:

Director J. J. Abrams, a Pacific Palisades resident and graduate of Palisades Charter High School, revealed to his hometown newspaper the Palisadian-Post that he based one of the characters in his box office record-breaking ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ on… [Rose] Gilbert, who was known to her students as ‘Mama G’… When she announced her retirement in 2013 at the age of 94, Gilbert was the oldest full-time teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and one of the oldest in the country.

David Feldman (author of the Imponderables books) says he took her classes, too.

And I wonder if any of the Hollander brothers did – LASFS members who also attended Pali High while she was on faculty.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4 “Nightrise, Nightfall,” from Astronomer On The Roof

(1) SAFETY LAST. I didn’t know it was this dangerous to work for J.J. Abrams. Or to be J.J. Abrams.

In his interview on the Howard Stern show, Abrams tells stories about (1) how a hydraulic door on the “Force Awakens” set slammed down on Harrison Ford’s ankle, (2) how Abrams broke his back trying to lift the door, and on an earlier occasion, (3) Leonard Nimoy broke his nose while working on the Star Trek reboot.

“He fell, he hit his nose… he had a gash on his nose,” J.J. revealed. “I thought, ‘holy crap, this is a disaster.’ I felt horrible. I wanted to kill myself at this point.

(2) GENERAL LEIA. Louis Virtel of Hitflix decrees: “Carrie Fisher just scorched ‘Good Morning America’ and you’re not worthy” .

The most intense and thrilling part of this universe is the real-life Carrie Fisher, whose self-possessed wooziness makes her one of pop culture’s most sublime entities. She was just on “Good Morning America” chatting about losing weight to play the part of General Leia. She brought her dog. She was electric. She was rad, weird as hell, and right. She awakened America.

I love everything about this interview, namely Carrie’s one-liner about resuming her role in the “Star Wars” universe. “I got in character and I’ve never gotten out again – and really, I’ve tried everything.”

(3) FORBIDDEN BOOM. That highly scientific party-pooper Adam Korenman (When the Stars Fade) pulls back the curtain on “Dramatizing Space Battles in Film and Fiction” at SF Signal.

[First of three points.]

Star Wars, like pretty much every space drama of the past 40 years, is more in the realm of fantasy than science-fiction. Though our understanding of arriving and surviving outside the atmosphere has grown tremendously, our representations of such acts in film and literature remains steadfastly in the realm of fiction. In my series The Gray Wars Saga, I am equally guilty of playing space battles more for the drama than the science. Why is it that every auteur from Heinlein to Abrams showcases a false image of the dark void above? Let’s take a look at the realities of space combat and see if we can find out.

1) Explosions are Pretty, Space-splosions are not.

In any space opera worth its salt, a massive ship is bound to explode. As an audience, we anticipate it the same way we expect anyone in a dark hat to be a bad guy. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you show a spaceship in Act 1, you’d better be blowing it up by Act 3. But explosions, and fire in general require three elements to exist: Heat, Fuel, and Oxygen. You’ll notice I bolded the last word, as it is fairly important. Space is famously lacking in O2—to the point where people think you explode if you’re ever exposed to the vacuum (also not true, but Cracked already covered that, so let’s move on). Space explosions look more like the time you dropped your LEGOs on the kitchen floor than when you dumped a pack of Mentos into a 3 liter of Diet Coke. The rapid expansion of heat (literally the definition of an explosion) will rend your big ol’ ship into pieces, and those shards will head in every direction until acted upon by another force (thanks, Newton). No fireball, no awesome ring-shaped shockwave. Just scrap….

Real space may not be able to carry sound (no oxygen, so nothing to carry the vibrations) but a movie theater with a THX monster system can. If we’re going to allow musical cues in our cinematic experiences to pull our emotional strings, we can surely forgive a few foley artists getting creative with the sound design. It allows the truth of the drama to reach the audience on more levels. And if playing to one of our senses for the sake of drama makes the cut, then allow us science-fiction writers the joy of delivering fiery ends to our marvelous creations.

(4) BOSKONE GUESTS. At the Boskone Blog, “Mini-Interview: Robert J Sawyer and Cerece Rennie Murphy.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you? [Robert J Sawyer:] I’m a hard-SF writer, heavily influenced by the best of Frederik Pohl (I consider his Gateway to be the finest novel our field has ever produced). I’m also liberal, even by Canadian standards, and a rationalist, a secularist, and a humanist (Humanism Canada gave me their first ever “Humanism in the Arts” award) — and my work embraces all those things. I mostly do near-future or present day stories, usually set on Earth, with a strong philosophical bent. My prose is pellucid (much more Arthur C. Clarke than Gene Wolfe) and my tone usually upbeat….

What is your favorite Star Wars memory, scene, or line? What is it that that memory, scene or line that continues to stick with you today? [Cerece Rennie Murphy:] (It could be a moment from within any of the films, a moment associated with the films, or something inspired by the films. – My favorite scenes from Star Wars are all the scenes between Luke Skywalker and Yoda from Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching theses scenes in the theatre when I was 7 years old. They literally changed my perception of God, my place in the world and my potential. I realized then, as I still believe now, that we’re all Jedi, we just don’t know it. Watching Luke’s fear and doubt keep him from fully accessing his own potential was powerful for me, even then. I don’t think you can sum up the human condition any better than that. “Luminous beings are we….not this crude matter,” I really believe that the healing of our entire world could begin with this statement.

(5) HELP ANN TOTUSEK. “I’ve started a GoFundMe to help with my family’s housing situation,” Ann Totusek told me. Her complete narrative about her situation is here.

As a short overview, Ann recommended Steven H Silver’s comment at Whatever.

Through a change in circumstances, Minneapolis fan Ann Totusek has found herself in a situation where she either needs to buy her house or find herself homeless. Ann is currently the caregiver for her mother, suffering dementia, and her teenage son, who suffers SPD. Ann, who helps run conventions throughout the upper Midwest in Iowa, Minneapolis, and Chicago, is running a GoFundMe to raise money for the down payment on their home.

Ann has run Green Room and Program Ops for me at several Windycons as well as the hospitality suite at the Nebula Award Weekend in Chicago in 2015 (and plans to again in 2016). Her hospitality has always been wonderful and now we have the opportunity to repay some of that hospitality by ensuring that Ann and her family can live and thrive.

In the first 11 hours, the appeal brought in $8,463 of its $150,000 goal, including a $2,000 boost from Ctein and another $5,000 anonymous donation.

(6) MARKETING TIP. Fynbospress makes a compelling argument for placing more of the “front matter” in the back of your self-published ebook, in “What’s the matter with front matter?” at Mad Genius Club.

Why? Well, a sample is 10% of your entire file, not 10 percent of your story. When you get a reader interested enough that they downloaded a sample, or are clicking “look inside” on a web page, you really don’t want them to scroll past all of that stuff only to find three paragraphs of story! You want a couple pages to hook them in, draw them deep, and make them immediately click “buy the book” so they can keep reading.

Some very savvy authors actually set up the amount of front matter and their story so the 10% cutoff falls directly after a cliffhanger. This is sneaky and wonderful, because you can immediately deliver the payoff with the rest of the book.

(7) Today In History

  • December 4, 1985:  Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes makes its theatrical debut.
  • December 4, 2008: Forrest J Ackerman passes away.

(8) DOES SIZE MATTER?

Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover test vehicle, a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012.

 

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(9) THEATER HISTORY. Alex Ross’ profile “The Magnificent Memory of Norman Lloyd” at The New Yorker shows the 101-year-old actor still has the power to bring history to life.

Through the Group Theatre, Lloyd came in contact with the Stanislavsky method, and he applied it to his character in “Caesar.” In Act III of Shakespeare’s play, Cinna the Poet ventures out to attend Caesar’s funeral; a mob mistakes him for another Cinna, a member of the conspiracy, and drags him off. Welles had realized that the scene could stand in for contemporary Germany, where even non-Jews were persecuted for having Jewish-sounding names. Initially, Welles thought of the character as a Byronic figure, wearing a beret. But Lloyd wanted to pattern Cinna on someone he knew: the Greenwich Village poet Maxwell Bodenheim, who used to sit on the stoops around Washington Square, offering to write poems for twenty-five cents. Lloyd pictured Cinna as a bum in a suit, foolscap spilling out of his pockets. Welles said, “O.K., do it your way.”

(10) LOGGIA OBIT. The actor who played the President’s military advisor in Independence Day, and the toy company mogul who danced on the piano with Tom Hanks in Big, Robert Loggia, died December 4at the age of 85. He had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease for the past five years.

He was best known for his roles in the movie Scarface and in the TV series Mancuso FBI

During a long career he worked a lot, in the beginning often playing ethnic characters, usually Hispanic or Middle Eastern, and at the end frequently cast as a mobster.

His genre appearances in television included episodes of One Step Beyond (“The Hand,” 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“Graveyard of Fear,” 1966), The Wild Wild West (“Suspicion,” 1967), Wonder Woman (“Wonder Woman vs Gargantua,” 1976), The Bionic Woman (“Jaime and the King,” 1977), The Six Million Dollar Man (1976), Tales of the Unexpected (1984), and The Outer Limits (2000).

(10) REDISCOVERED TALKIE. High Treason (1929), not only one of the earliest sound movies but an sf movie to boot, will be shown December 6 at the Anchorage International Film Festival. The sound version of the film was long thought lost until it was rediscovered in 2005 in a group of old films in Washington State. Kevin Tripp, a moving image archivist in Alaska, arranged transfer of the nitrate films to Library of Congress for salvage – having first completed a hazardous materials training program.

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The film was taken from a play by Noel Pemberton-Billing. He was an aviator, politician and inventor who founded the Supermarine aviation company, which would produce the Spitfire fighter plane in World War II.A declared pacifist, the playwright nonetheless advocated aerial bombing of civilian targets in wartime, two topics that weight heavily in the script.

Read an in-depth study of High Treason illustrated with many stills at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!

File 770 reader Steve Johnson says, “I will be in the Bear Tooth Theatre for the show on Sunday–my wife snapped up two reserved seats.”

(11) DESTROYED AGAIN. Funded as a stretch goal of Lightspeed’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” Kickstarter campaign, a companion publication “Queers Destroy Fantasy!” is now available from Amazon.

…This month we’re presenting a special one-off issue of our otherwise discontinued sister-magazine, FANTASY, called Queers Destroy Fantasy!: an all-fantasy extravaganza entirely written—and edited!—by queer creators. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you in this special issue: Original fantasy—edited by Christopher Barzak—by Catherynne M. Valente, Kai Ashante Wilson, Carlea Holl-Jensen, and Richard Bowes. Reprints—selected by Liz Gorinsky—by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Austin Bunn, Shweta Narayan, and Nicola Griffith. Nonfiction articles—edited by Matthew Cheney—by merritt kopas, Matthew Cheney, Keguro Macharia, Ekaterina Sedia, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Ellen Kushner. Plus an original cover illustration by Priscilla Kim and original interior illustrations by Goñi Montes, Odera Igbokwe, Sam Schechter, Elizabeth Leggett, and Vlada Monakhova.

(12) LOAFING AROUND. Will R. sent along the link to “Make This Awesome Dune-Inspired Sandworm Bread” with a skeptical comment: “I have to agree with the person I saw this via, who said ‘delicious-looking is not the description I would have used.’” Will had a valid point, and that is why I didn’t gank the picture to go with the excerpt.

Fans of the novel and movie Dune will appreciate this spice-filled sandworm bread recipe from geek baker extraordinaire Chris-Rachael Oseland….

The sandworm bread consists of a basic sweet bread with a spice filling and a sugar glaze. Yum. Blanched almonds are added to create the sandworm’s intimidating, toothsome maw. I can smell its melange breath from here!

(13) S.H.I.E.L.D. S.P.O.I.L.E.D. Those who know say that spoilers abound in this trailer for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 3×10 “Maveth” (Winter Finale).

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson’s world forever.

 

[Thanks to Steve Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]