Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/16 The Pixel With The Ticks Will Be The Scroll That Is Droll

(1) IS IT DEAD JIM? BBC reports “Fears grow for European Schiaparelli Mars lander”, which arrived on Mars today.

There are growing fears a European probe that attempted to land on Mars on Wednesday has been lost.

Tracking of the Schiaparelli robot’s radio signals was dropped less than a minute before it was expected to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface.

Satellites at Mars have attempted to shed light on the probe’s status, so far without success.

One American satellite even called out to Schiaparelli to try to get it to respond.

The fear will be that the robot has crashed and been destroyed. The European Space Agency, however, is a long way from formally calling that outcome.

(2) CHAMBERS RETURNS. Becky Chambers’ new novel launched this week. Thea James from Book Smugglers gives it thumbs up.

….A Closed and Common Orbit picks up right after the final events of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, with the once-Lovelace Artificial Intelligence, now reset and memory-less, finding a new life aboard a new body. Before, Lovelace had eyes everywhere and her task was to care for the health and wellbeing of the Wayfarer’s crew. Now, renamed Sidra, she finds herself in a new–and illegal–synthetic body, trying to cope with a limited, isolated, and physical existence that simply doesn’t seem enough.

(3) IT COMES IN PINTS? Emily Asher-Perrin undertakes a highly scientific thought experiment at Tor.com “How Much Beer Does it Take to Get a Hobbit Drunk?”

But how much can a hobbit actually drink?

There is a joke in the Lord of the Rings films that is not present in the books–while hanging around at The Prancing Pony, Merry comes back to the table with a great big tankard. and Pippin asks what he’s drinking:

“This, my friend, is a pint,” he says wickedly.

Pippin’s eyes widen. “It comes in pints?”

It makes sense that hobbits would veer toward smaller pours because they are smaller people–you wouldn’t give a five-year-old a pint glass of juice because they have smaller stomachs and the glass would be harder to manage in smaller hands. But even if the average hobbit goes from half-pint to half-pint, that doesn’t mean that their rates of consumption are low in the alcohol department.

(4) ALLUSION OR UNCITED SOURCE? At Electric Literature, Carmen Maria Machado, in “How to Suppress Women’s Criticism”, argues that Neil Gaiman’s jacket blurb for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life essentially did a disservice to Joanna Russ.

It was only then that I saw the lead blurb at the top of the dust jacket. Written by Neil Gaiman, it reads in part:

“Not just a terrific biography, but a remarkable act of reclamation: if there was ever a great writer of the twentieth century who fell victim to ‘How to Dismiss Women’s Fiction,’ it was Shirley Jackson.”

…That might seem like a lot of pressure to put on a blurb, especially because blurbs are an unavoidable part of a professional writer’s life. But Russ is dead. Jackson is dead. And in the thoughtless, uncredited, mangled deployment of that phrase —even in praise— Gaiman broke the chain between the two of them; a prominent, living male artist inserted between Russ’ ideas and Jackson’s reality. It would have been such a little, correct thing to keep that link alive — a gesture whose implications would have far outweighed its size. And yet, like so many tiny, seemingly insignificant cultural gestures — whose collective weight can buoy, or suffocate — it is a symptom of a larger condition.

(5) LOST LIGHT. James Davis Nicoll sent this link with the note, “Female blogger silenced.” After six years in the fight, wundergeek’s (Anna Kreider) game industry blog Go Make Me a Sandwich (how not to sell games to women) is signing off.

While it is undeniable that my blog has resulted in positive change in some parts of the games industry and community, that change has come at tremendous personal cost. First and foremost, it’s cost me my reputation; because of this blog, I will always be “controversial”. Go Make Me a Sandwich started as a personal project, something that I started as a hobby because I wanted to write about something that was a growing area of interest for me. By the time it took off, the damage was done; my Google Rank has inextricably tied my name to feminism forever, and that can be dangerous. It’s certainly translated into a level of difficulty in my meatspace life that I never anticipated before starting this blog.

Writing this blog has also taken a tremendous toll on my mental health. The backlash that I’ve faced because of what I do here has been terrifying…..

There are also those who know about the abuse and choose to believe that the abusers aren’t the problem. The real problem is me: my feelings about my experiences of marginalization and harassment and how I express them. There are many in our community who think that it’s a bigger problem that I’m not nice about my feelings toward my abusers than it is that I’m being abused. So instead of holding the abusers accountable for their abuse, which is known and well-documented, they instead decide to publicly castigate me for committing the womanly sin of having feelings about a thing incorrectly…..

…. MY WHOLE GODDAMN LIFE I’ve been told that I was “too much”. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too brash. Too arrogant. Too abrasive. Too bossy. My whole life, people have been trying to shove me into a box that I just don’t fit in, no matter how hard I try – the box of proper womanhood. This blog was my place where I could be ME. Unapologetically. Loudly. Defiantly! And walking away from that feels like walking away from part of myself.

It feels like climbing into the box voluntarily.

It feels like capitulation. Like surrender.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be stronger.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 19, 1953 Fahrenheit 451 published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 19, 1945 – John Lithgow, of Buckaroo Banzai and Third Rock from the Sun.

(8) IT BITES. Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley says you can pass on the local production of Zombie Prom.

That shine is missing in “Zombie Prom,” another campy 1990s off-Broadway musical getting its area premiere. Boy meet girl, boy loses girl, boy despairs and jumps into a vat of nuclear waste. He returns as a zombie — but can he still go the prom?

This is strictly for hardcore musical devotees who want to see what Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey wrote before their musicals “The Fix” and “The Witches of Eastwick.” The Unexpected Stage Company, last seen showcasing Deb Margolin in “8 Stops,” isn’t giving buffs a particularly good look. Virtually the only number inspiring a grin is the 1950s-style girl-group ballad “Jonny Don’t Go” (“ . . . to the nuclear plant” is the rest of the plea), sung with nice comic understatement by Julia Klavans as the doomed Jonny’s girlfriend, Toffee. The rock-and-roll quartet tucked up onto a platform in a back corner of the stage tries to capture the feel of the 1950s sock-hop score but can’t quite swing it. Neither can much of the rest of the indifferently designed, unevenly performed show.

(9) REFILL. John King Tarpinian found an even better image of the Logan’s Rum reference on The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episode.

logans-rum-2

(10) RURITANIA MISUNDERSTOOD. Since Ian Sales reads this blog, wouldn’t it be more efficient for him to engage the commenters here and clarify the misunderstanding?

And spare my tender feelings, please – the new LJ, indeed!

(11) BIRDS OF MANY FEATHERS. Publishers Weekly talked to Ursula K. Le Guin about her new collections that are releasing today: “Four Questions for…Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Your work is typically labeled “speculative fiction” or “science fiction” or “fantasy,” in spite of your protests. How do you think the typical demarcations of “mainstream,” “literary,” and “speculative” fiction have evolved since you began writing?

I’ve never protested when my science fiction and fantasy is called science fiction and fantasy—why should I, when that’s what it is? But a lot of it isn’t, and I do protest having all my work lumped into a genre that only some of it belongs to. I’ve written for decades in various genres including realism, SF, fantasy, kiddilit, and fable. I published poetry long before I sold a story, and am still publishing it. I’m no longer writing fiction. I don’t fit into any pigeonhole. I’m all kinds of birds. The walls between fictional genres that were constructed by critical prejudice and ignorance are going down fast, and I love to watch them go! [That being said], genre is a permanently useful idea when used rightly, to indicate actual difference in subject-matter, style, expectation. It’s sort of like dogs, isn’t it? Your basic dog is a mongrel. No one breed is “superior” to all others, and exclusive inbreeding results in monsters. But variety and adaptability are valuable traits in a species, and there are real differences between breeds. Long live the Chihuahua, the Elkhound, the Poodle, and the Mutt.

(12) RESEARCH. Sarah A. Hoyt shares her strategy for “Making it Real – How To do Targeted Research” at Mad Genius Club.

Anyway, this is my method: if I am asked — as I was recently — to write something set in say the time of the revolution, the first thing I do is buy one or two general interest books, preferably ones well thought of.  Then I buy a biography or ten written by people of the time.  And then I outline the book and decide what targeted research I’ll need.  Will they sit down at table?  Will there be a tavern scene?  All of those have books written about them.  I find those and read them for the specific scenes I need.  At this time, too, to “soak in” the feel of things I start watching documentaries about that time and place.  This gives a “texture” to the book it would otherwise lack.

Of course, my books change as I write them, so sometimes I’ll find I have to write a scene that wasn’t in the outline, like horse shoeing or perhaps riding between two specific scenes.  At that time, I will put notes all over the book that say “look up x” — most people use something to bracket those, that isn’t used in normal writing, so that we can do a final look see and make sure we got them all.  I use curly brackets — and also, my monitor gets “porcupined” with sticky notes with things like “try to find book or website or reenactor who knows about x.” and “I’m almost sure the description of horse shoeing in the blah blah novel is wrong,” but it’s all I could find “so, replace it when you figure out the right one.” …

(13) NUMBER ONE. Castalia House again has topped an Amazon sales category with its latest release – a book that apparently was acquired at a bargain price:

Mike Cernovich’s new book, MAGA MINDSET: Making YOU and America Great Again, is the #1 bestseller in Amazon’s Politics & Social Sciences>Leadership category. That’s not surprising, as his prevous book, Gorilla Mindset, self-published in 2015, was also a bestseller

What is surprising, however, is that languishing behind the Donald Trump-supporting author’s latest bestseller is Stronger Together, a book published only last month, written by Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The Clinton-Kaine book, signed by Simon & Schuster to $14 million advance, currently sits at 5th place in the category…..

The new Cernovich bestseller, signed to an advance that was, according to Day, “pretty close to $14 million less than Clinton and Kaine got,”….

(14) ANCILLARY CUISINE. Lunchtime at Ann Leckie’s table earlier this week.

(15) INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. Are people still trying to find out?

[Thanks to Bartimaeus, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3 Ten Things I Slate About You

(1) Disney has optioned the movie rights to Ursula Vernon’s childrens book Castle Hangnail for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres will produce with Jeff Kleeman, her partner at A Very Good Production banner.

The book tells of a 12-year old witch who shows up at a dark castle that needs a master or be decommissioned by the bureaucratic Board of Magic and its many minions, such as a hypochondriac fish and a letter ‘Q’ averse minotaur, dispersed into the world. She projects confidence as she tackles the series of tasks laid forth by the board but underneath lie several simmering secrets, including one of her being an imposter….

DeGeneres and Kleeman are busy in the television world but Hangnail is their second notable move on the movie side and keeps their feet firmly in the fantasy field. Earlier this year the duo set up Uprooted, the novel from Temeraire author Naomi Novik, for Warner Bros.

(2) A magisterial essay by Ursula K. Le Guin at Tin House, “’Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’”.

American critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury one of the great works of twentieth-century fiction, The Lord of the Rings. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of dragons. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they’ll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they’ll have to redefine what literature is.

What American critics and teachers call “literature” is still almost wholly restricted to realism. All other forms of fiction—westerns, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, regional, you name it—are dismissed as “genre.” Sent to the ghetto. That the ghetto is about twelve times larger than the city, and currently a great deal livelier, doesn’t bother those who live in ivory towers. Magic realism, though—that does bother them; they hear Gabriel García Márquez gnawing quietly at the foundations of the ivory tower, they hear all these crazy Indians dancing up in the attic, and they think maybe they should do something about it. Perhaps they should give that fellow who teaches the science fiction course tenure? Oh, surely not.

To say that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to imply that imitation is superior to invention. I have wondered if this unstated but widely accepted (and, incidentally, very puritanical) proposition is related to the recent popularity of the memoir and the personal essay. This has been a genuine popularity, not a matter of academic canonizing. People really do want to read memoir and personal essay, and writers want to write it. I’ve felt rather out of step. I like history and biography fine, but when family and personal memoir seems to be the most popular—the dominant narrative form—well, I have searched my soul for prejudice and found it. I prefer invention to imitation. I love novels. I love made-up stuff.

(3) “The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing“ by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs in Uncanny Magazine #7 uses Joanna Russ’ text to diagnose some critics’ responses to Ancillary Justice.

I snorted. For the past week, Natalie Luhrs and I had been discussing the book in the context of the ongoing fight for the soul of the science fiction community, most recently played out in the failed attempt to take over the Hugo Awards. In HTSWW, Russ uses an alien species called the whelk–finned Glotolog to illustrate the methods by which human cultures control women’s writing without direct censorship (4). These days, the tactics the so–called “sad puppies” use to paint themselves as the true heirs of science fiction, bravely holding the line against the invading masses, are the very same tactics Joanna Russ ascribed to the whelk–finned Glotolog in 1983…

False Categorizing of the Work She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (HTSWW)

False Categorization is, essentially, bad faith. It allows the critic to shift the focus to something else—usually something trivial in the larger context, so as to dismiss the whole. So once again, we’ll look at the pronouns in Ancillary Justice. By focusing on the pronouns, the sad whelkfins are able to dismiss the entire work as nothing more than a political screed against men, as turgid message fiction that doesn’t even tell a good story.

That’s a massive tell to anyone who has actually read the book—because while the pronouns do take some adjustment, they’re a small part of the novel’s world–building and not a major source of plot or conflict. They just are, the way there is air to breathe and skel to eat.

(4) “Updates on the Chinese Nebula Awards and the Coordinates Awards” at Amazing Stories has the full list of award winners (only two were reported here on the night of the ceremony). Since Steve Davidson is able to reproduce the titles in the original language, all the more reason to refer you there.

(5) Liu Cixin participated in “The Future of China through Chinese Science Fiction” at the University of Sydney on November 3.

(6) Crossed Genres Magazine will close after the December 2015 issue reports Locus Online.

Co-publisher Bart Lieb posted a statement:

Two primary factors led to this decision. First, one of Crossed Genres’ co-publishers, Kay Holt, has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than two years. It’s made it extremely difficult for her to help with the running of CG, leaving the lion’s share of responsibilities on the other co-publisher, Bart Leib, who’s also working a day job. Magazine co-editor Kelly Jennings, ebook coordinator Casey Seda, and our team of first readers have all been heroic in their volunteer efforts, but we’ve still been unable to keep from falling behind.

The second factor is simply that the magazine has run out of funds to continue. In April 2014 we ran a successful Kickstarter to keep CG Magazine going, but once another year had passed, roughly 90 percent of those who’d pledged to the Kickstarter chose not to renew their memberships….

(7) Today In History

  • November 3, 1956 — On this night in 1956, CBS presented the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a major event for which the network paid MGM a quarter of a million dollars for the rights (over $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.)
  • November 3, 1976 — Brian De Palma’s Carrie is seen for the very first time

(8) Today’s Birthday Monster

  • November 3, 1954 — Godzilla was released in Japanese theaters.

(9) Today’s Belated Birthday

  • Lovecraft’s 125th birthday (in August) was celebrated in many ways in Providence. A new plaque was installed near his birthplace at 454 Angell Street, designed, created, and installed by Gage Prentiss.

(10) Today’s Yodeling Marmot

(11) “Transparent Aluminum: IT’S REAL!” at Treehugger.

Remember Star Trek: The Voyage Home, where Scotty talks into a computer mouse and then instantly figures out keyboards and gives away the formula for transparent Aluminum? And remember Galaxy Quest, where Commander Taggart tells the Justin Long character about the ship: “IT’S REAL!”

Mash those two scenes together and you have Spinel, described by US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.” He likes it for the same reason Scotty did, according to an NRL press release

(12) Arlan Andrews told Facebook friends that Ken Burnside has answered the Alfies.

The Wreck of the Hugo

So, today I received this 3D-printed crashed rocket ship, titled “The Wreck of the Hugo” as created by artist Charles Oines and commissioned by Ken Burnside. Others went to Kary English, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf. According to Ken Burnside, the official 2015 Hugo voting tallies showed each of us recipients as runners-up to the 2500-vote NO AWARD bloc that wrecked the Hugos this year in many categories. I gratefully accept the gifted award in the spirit in which it was given, and sincerely hope that no future Hugo nominees are ever again voted off the island in such a fashion.

(That last part resonates strangely, at least in my memory, because “I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given” was Norman Spinrad’s answer when handed the Brown Hole Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1973. And he was right to be suspicious.)

(13) Meanwhile, the curator of the Alfies, George R.R. Martin, is already making recommendations for the Dramatic Presentation categories in “Hugo Thoughts”.

In the past, I have usually made my own Hugo recommendations only after nominations have opened. But in light of what happened last year, it seems useful to begin much sooner. To get talking about the things we like, the things we don’t like. This is especially useful in the case of the lesser known and obscure work. Drawing attention to such earlier in the process is the best way to get more fans looking at them… and unless you are aware of a work, you’re not likely to nominate it, are you? (Well, unless you’re voting a slate, and just ticking off boxes).

Let me start with the Dramatic Presentation category. Long form….

(14) Damien G. Walter does best when the target is as easy to hit as the broad side of a barn. “Gus. A Case Study In Sad Puppy Ignorance”.

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

(15) John Thiel’s responses to Steve Davidson’s queries about “trufandom” appear in “The Voices of Fandom” at Amazing Stories.

Steve’s introduction notes –

I posed a series of interview questions to members of the Fan History group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a good place to start because that group is made up entirely of Trufans.

Today, I present the first in a series of responses to those questions and I should point out that, in typical Fannish fashion, the answers are anything but monolithic.  Apparently Fans have as many different ideas about what it means to be a Fan as there are Fans, which just serves to point out how difficult it is to get a handle on this question.

(16) A video interview with Dame Diana Rigg.

Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969), fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude. Rigg joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

(17) Jon Michaud reviews Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons in The New Yorker and accuses the biographer of shielding Gygax rather than exploring more deeply the controversial topic of his religious views.

Dr. Thomas Radecki, a founding member of the National Coalition on TV Violence, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.” In her book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” Tipper Gore connected the game to satanism and the occult. All of this prompted a “60 Minutes” segment in which Gygax rejected these myriad accusations, calling them “nothing but a witch hunt.”

What was largely unknown or omitted from this brouhaha is that Gygax was an intermittently observant Jehovah’s Witness. This startling fact crops up about halfway through Witwer’s biography, when he notes that Gygax’s “controversial” game, along with his smoking and drinking, had led to a parting of the ways with the local congregation. Up until that point, the matter of Gygax’s faith had gone unmentioned in the biography, and it is barely discussed thereafter. (The book’s index does not have an entry for “Jehovah’s Witness” or “Gygax, Gary—religious beliefs.”) Given the furor that D. & D. caused, the absence of a deeper analysis of Gygax’s faith is a glaring omission. In a recent interview with Tobias Carroll, Witwer acknowledged that Gygax “was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He would go door-to-door and he would give out pamphlets. He was pretty outspoken about it, as a matter of fact.” The reason for almost completely excluding it from the biography, Witwer says, is that “I couldn’t find it [as] a huge driving force in his life.…I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with that, because I’m not clear that, especially with his gaming work and even his home life, how big a factor that was on a day-to-day basis. But I do know he was practicing.”

(18) Galactic Journey visits the year 1960 where young Mike Glyer’s favorite TV series, Men Into Space, is still on the air, and there’s even a tie-in novel by Murray Leinster.

men into space cover COMP.jpg

“Men Into Space” consists of short stories following the career of Space Force officer Ed McCauley:

As a lieutenant, McCauley makes the first manned rocket flight.

As a captain, McCauley deals with an injured crewman while piloting the first space-plane.

As a major, McCauley deals with a potentially-fatal construction accident while in charge the building of the first space station.

As a colonel, McCauley deals with a murderous personnel problem while overseeing the establishment of a series of radio relays to the moon’s far side, then deals with a technical problem aboard a rocket to Venus, and another personnel problem on a Mars mission.

Lots of nuts and bolts details about ballistics, rocket fuels, radiation, the van Allen belts, and so forth.  And with each story, McCauley deals with progressively more complex human problems as he moves up in rank.

Although 7-year-old me would have loved the tie-in novel, 35 cents would have been a king’s ransom in my personal economy….

(19) Here’s a photo of the Cosmos Award presentation to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Planetary Society 35th anniversary celebration on October 24.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek" (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek” (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Before the award was given to Tyson, Nye reminisced about meeting Tyson through the organization. Nye then showed a photo of what Tyson looked like in 1980, when he was a wrestler (Tyson wrestled in high school and college), and Tyson joked that he kicked some serious butt.

Tyson had come prepared, and showed a photo of Nye in 1980, in a “Coneheads” costume, with a silver ring around his head.

(20) The Red Bull Music Academy website has published David Keenan’s “Reality Is For People Who Can’t Handle Science Fiction”, about the influence of SF on French progressive rock from 1969 through 1985.

In 2014 I interviewed Richard Pinhas of Heldon, still one of the central punk/prog mutants to come out of the French underground. I asked him about the influence of the visionary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick on his sound and on his worldview. “Philip K. Dick was a prophet to us,” Pinhas explained. “He saw the future.”

It makes sense that a musical and cultural moment that was obsessed with the sound of tomorrow would name a sci-fi writer as its central avatar. Indeed, while the Sex Pistols spat on the British vision of the future dream as a shopping scheme, the French underground projected it off the planet altogether.

When Pinhas formed Heldon in 1974 he named the group in tribute to sci-fi writer Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream, conflating his own vision of a mutant amalgam of Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock and cyborg-styled electronics with Spinrad’s re-writing of history.

(21) At CNN, “Art transforms travel photos with paper cutouts”:

That’s what happened when Londoner Rich McCor began adorning pictures of British landmarks with whimsical paper cutouts and posting the results online.

Originally, the 28-year-old creative agency worker intended the photos for the amusement of himself and friends.

Then he got a lesson on the impact of “viral” when Britain’s “Daily Mail” publicized some of his photos.

 

arc-de-triomphe-paris-jpg-rich-mccor-exlarge-169

 [Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Janice Gelb, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Joanna Russ, Stanley Schmidt Are SFWA Solstice Award Recipients

SFWA will honor Joanna Russ and Stanley Schmidt with its 2015 Solstice Awards, granted in recognition of “the positive impact and influence the recipients and their work have had on the science fiction and fantasy genres.” The awards will be presented at SFWA’s 50th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in Chicago, May 4-7.

JOANNA RUSS (1937-2011): Besides honoring her contributions as a fiction writer, SFWA is also honoring her roles as mentor, teacher, editor, and critic–indeed one of the co-creators of SF Feminist Criticism specially remembered such works as How To Suppress Women’s Writing.

How to Suppress Women’s Writing taught me how not to talk about the quality of others work,” notes SFWA President Steven Gould. “I’m pleased that we are honoring Joanna and sad we did not do it while she still lived. In a better world, the Trans Temporal Agency swept her into a future where her back doesn’t hurt and the last thing that beings use to discuss a person’s worth is their gender.”

Russ’s other works included Picnic on Paradise, The Hidden Side of the Moon, Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts: Feminist Essays, and The Country You Have Never Seen: Essays and Reviews. She passed in 2011.

STANLEY SCHMIDT: Stan Schmidt edited Analog for 34 years, retiring in 2012. Called the literary heir to John W. Campbell, he introduced many new writers and upheld the profile of “hard” science fiction in the field. He was nominated for the editor Hugo from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013, when he was presented with the statue, along with a standing ovation.

“All editors can be compared to racehorse trainers, identifying, nurturing, and pushing writers to achieve their best,” comments Steven Gould. “For over 34 years, Stan has been influencing the shape of modern SF, both in his fiction, and his editorial choices. Because of the huge number of scientists, engineers, and technologists who grew up reading SF, he’s had an effect on this future. I’m very pleased to honor him with the Solstice. Almost as pleased as when he bought my first published story back in 1979 and made me part of his stable.”

Other recent recipients of the Solstice Award are Carl Sagan, Ginjer Buchanan, Octavia Butler, John Clute, Tom Doherty, Terri Windling and Donald A. Wollheim.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Joanna Russ (1937-2011)

Joanna Russ died April 29 at the age of 74 in the aftermath of a series of strokes.

Her novella “Souls” won a Hugo in 1983 and her short story “When It Changed” won a Nebula in 1973, despite which her best-known work is her novel The Female Man (1975). Also a nominee for both of the field’s top awards (though it did not win), The Female Man now is one of the standards of the field and appears on many recommended works lists, including the Guardian’s 2009 list of “1000 Novels Everyone Must Read” and Gardner Dozois’ recommended reading list, formerly posted at SFWA.org.

An example of the kind of pioneering SF for which Russ is known, “When It Changed” was described in the following way by Nancy Kress in her speech at ConFuse 93:

 ”When it Changed” takes place on a planet, Whileaway, in which several generations before the story start all the men have been killed by a plague. The women reproduce by parthenogenesis and by a cloning process. And they mate, all relationships are of necessity lesbian. They have a stable and successful society. Then, generations later, a spaceship lands which contains mostly men. And immediately there is misunderstanding on both side. The men view themselves as saviours of this particular abandoned castaway group of women and the women have no idea what they are talking about. This story made a lot of people very mad.

Russ also was a 1996 Hugo nominee for To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Update 04/30/2011: Made corrections following comments by Steve Davidson and Jerry Kaufman.