Pixel Scroll 7/14/17 In The Country Of The Pixelated, The First-Fifth Man Is God(stalk)

(1) GAME OF THRONES AND WORLDCON 75 MAKE NEWS. George R.R. Martin mentioned in his blog the other day (“Tick, Tick, Tick”) that Game of Thrones’ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are coming to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki for the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Chair Jukka Halme confirmed it and the story made it into Finland’s biggest newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat). You can get all the details there…if you read Finnish: “Game of Thrones -sarjan tekijät tulevat vierailulle Suomeen elokuuss”.

(2) TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN. The July 2 New York Times Magazine has an article by Steven Johnson called “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us)” about the search for extraterrestrial life and the debate about whether we should wait for aliens to contact us (the “SETI” approach) or actively send messages to outer space (a method known as “METI”).  Johnson interviews David Brin, who is fiercely opposed to actively broadcasting messages of our existence to other worlds:

Before Doug Vakoch had even filed the papers to form the METI nonprofit organization in July 2015, a dozen or so science-and-tech luminaries, including SpaceX’s Elon Musk, signed a statement categorically opposing the project, at least without extensive further discussion, on a planetary scale. ‘‘Intentionally signaling other civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy,’’ the statement argued, ‘‘raises concerns from all the people of Earth, about both the message and the consequences of contact. A worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent.’’

One signatory to that statement was the astronomer and science-fiction author David Brin, who has been carrying on a spirited but collegial series of debates with Vakoch over the wisdom of his project. ‘‘I just don’t think anybody should give our children a fait accompli based on blithe assumptions and assertions that have been untested and not subjected to critical peer review,’’ he told me over a Skype call from his home office in Southern California. ‘‘If you are going to do something that is going to change some of the fundamental observable parameters of our solar system, then how about an environmental-impact statement?’’

(3) KAISER. JoAnn Kaiser reopened The Magic Door within a week of the death of her husband, Dwain, reports David Allen in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin “Pomona bookstore’s reopening binds community after owner’s death”.

But Saturday she was revived, buoyed by her family and friends. A 12th anniversary sale that had been set to end July 5 instead continues, with all merchandise 30 percent off. The sale pricing may continue indefinitely.

Her goal is not to keep the store long-term. For one thing, she’s 82. But she wasn’t going to let the tragedy mark the end of Magic Door.

“I could have locked the door. I’m not a door-locker,” JoAnn Kaiser told me firmly. “The plan is to get the books he loved to the people who want them, who need them. He didn’t want his books dumped. He wanted them to go to somebody.”

…The bookstore fit the Arts Colony like a glove. “It was just part of the ambience of downtown Pomona,” customer Bill Martinez told me outside after buying two books. (I recognized “The Best of S.J. Perelman” as one I had sold Dwain Kaiser a few weeks ago.)

“Everybody knew them,” Martinez said of the Kaisers. “They were part of the community, and one of the best parts.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval has visited to offer his condolences and at Monday’s City Council meeting asked for a moment of silence in Dwain Kaiser’s memory.

…Not every customer knew of Dwain Kaiser’s death. Monica Berrocal was saddened when I told her. She liked to bring her children there. Once JoAnn Kaiser gave her son a Thomas the Tank Engine book. “They were always so kind,” she said.

Hino, a Pomona High graduate, greeted customers warmly from Dwain Kaiser’s usual seat and thanked them for coming. A hospital executive, he confided that this was his first retail job. He’ll be there helping out as he can, as will his sister, Kim.

“It’s very different from what I normally do,” Hino told me cheerfully. “I’m enjoying it. It’s nice. And it’s good being back in Pomona.”

…“Pomona’s resilient. I think tonight shows the best of Pomona,” JoAnn Kaiser said.

The store has a lot of books, and there are more in storage that Dwain Kaiser, due to age and mobility issues, had not seen in years. JoAnn Kaiser, with help, hopes to dig them all out, put them on the shelves and get them homes before shutting the doors for good.

“He had a mad love affair with books,” she said of her husband of 32 years.

“The support will fade. I know that. But I’m doing what he would have wanted.”

(4) BEAU GESTE. Deadpool gracefully yielded his place on the box office record lists to Wonder Woman:

(5) FOLLOW THE MONEY. What does John Scalzi have in common with Milo Yiannapoulos? Probably not much, except this one thing – Bookscan doesn’t count all their sales. Scalzi explains in “How to Screw Up a Triumphant Bestselling Debut”.

Here’s the deal: Yiannopoulos has asserted his book’s opening week sales were on the order of 100,000 copies. Contrasting this, Nielsen Bookscan, the service which tracks physical book sales via many (but not all) booksellers, including Amazon, has his first week sales as 18,268 in the US (and — heh — 152 in the UK). As most of us probably know, 18,000 is less than 100,000.

Or is it? Because here’s the thing about Bookscan — it doesn’t in fact track all sales of a book. It doesn’t track eBook sales, for example, nor does it track audiobook sales. Nor does it track sales from some small independent booksellers, who might have not signed up to be Bookscan-reporting retailers. As a result, depending on how much you sell in other formats, and where you sell your books, Bookscan can massively underreport your total sales.

I know this because that’s what Bookscan does with me. A couple of years ago I tracked the sales of the hardcover era of Lock In (which is to say, all the sales reported while the physical book was only available in hardcover). For the time it was in hardcover, Bookscan reported 11,175 hardcover sales in the US. However, overall the book sold about 22,500 copies in hardcover and about 87,500 copies across all formats (hardcover, ebook, audio).

In all, Bookscan recorded roughly 12.7% of my total sales. Which is not a lot! If Yiannopoulos were seeing a similar sort of ratio, based on his physical copy sales, he could indeed have sold something on the order of 100,000 copies of his book in the first week. He might not be lying.

With all that said, on further examination, this is why I very strongly suspect that Yiannopoulos has not, in fact, sold, 100,000 copies of his book in the first week…

(6) WE GET LETTERS. CBR.com tells you about “15 Times Fans Changed Comic Book History”.

15. INVISIBLE WOMAN’S POWERS

Other comics had certainly had an element of fan interaction in them before Marvel Comics, but Stan Lee took things to a whole other level when he began the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the early 1960s. Lee made fan interaction a key element of the success of Marvel. In Fantastic Four #11, Lee and Jack Kirby even worked in actual letters to the series into the comic book, having the characters respond to frequently asked questions.

Infamously, though, that issue also included their attempts to defend the Invisible Girl from all the hate mail she got for being seemingly useless (their “defense” was hilariously conceived – “She inspires them! Like Lincoln’s mother!” but still). They got enough of those complaints that they decided to give her invisible force fields in Fantastic Four #22, eventually leading to her becoming the most powerful member of the team!

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 14, 1999 Muppets From Space screened theatrically

(8) A KEY TO WRITING. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles gives tips: “On Character Development”.

An understanding of character development techniques can bring many benefits to your writing and help improve your work, so let’s start by establishing what it is. In essence character development is the change in nature of a character brought about by events in the narrative, it can be subtle or pronounced, and it may happen over a long period or reasonably quickly. The difficult part is actually showing it on the page, and just as importantly, showing it’s justified. For a character to change their whole nature for no apparent cause or just because the plot requires it is sloppy writing and obvious to the reader. While the methods and timeframe may very per character, a well-constructed piece of character development will follow a set formula.

Establishment

In order to show change an author must first establish an original nature to change from. When the author introduces the character they must detail their personality, opinions and mannerisms in order to make us view them as a believable and realistic person, particular focus should be given to any traits that might be relevant to later development.

For example, if you’re planning to have a cowardly character show a moment of bravery and save the day at the end of the novel, then you need at least a couple of scenes showing his cowardice in action. It could be crumbling in an argument with a shopkeeper, avoiding a hostile boss, or literally running away from a fight. Before the development even begins the author must cement a character’s nature quickly in the reader’s mind, this can be done with a variety of traditional characterisation methods and tricks and ideally is accomplished as quickly as possible. Without this establishment there is no baseline to measure development against and the change will lack meaning. Think about our introduction to Daenerys in A Game of Thrones as she is appraised and abused by her brother:

“You don’t want to wake the dragon do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.

“No,” Dany said meekly.

Without seeing the timid girl she was at the start of the story her later accomplishments and changes would be far less moving for the reader, but after Martin has shown us some early scenes of her life the reader gains a greater perspective to realise how pronounced her development is through several books.

(9) ECLIPSE VIEWING AND ECLIPSE CON. Hopkinsville, Kentucky is reputed to be the “point of greatest eclipse” for the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Just call them Eclipseville.

We’re already planning for your visit; our southern hospitality will make you and your group welcome, and your Solar Eclipse experience memorable.  So, whether you are a bona fide eclipse chaser, or just looking for the best place to experience Mother Nature’s rare eclipse show, we invite you to be with us in Hoptown.  Our community’s big enough to provide everything you’ll need and want for the 2017 Eclipse weekend experience… we’re planning a big Friday-Sunday Eclipse celebration before the sun disappears – for two minutes and forty seconds – at 1:24:41 pm CT on Monday, August 21, 2017.

And that’s where you’ll find Eclipse Con “raising awareness and funds for the Boys & Girls Club” with nationally recognized celebrities and vendors in the genres of cartoons, comics, anime, cosplay, sci-fi and superheroes

August 19-20, 2017

James E. Bruce Convention Center

Currently Confirmed Guests:

  • Samantha Newark, best known for her beloved voice-over work as the speaking voices of “Jem” and “Jerrica” on the wildly popular cartoon series Jem and the Holograms;
  • The Walking Dead’s Santiago Cirilo, who was also a member of the 101st Airborne Infantry and was stationed at Fort Campbell prior to his acting career;
  • and the award winning creator of sci-pulp series, VIC BOONE, Shawn Aldridge.

(10) IT’S DARK OUT. Mental Floss explains “How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map”.

Today, James McClean is an eclipse chaser. That’s not the name of some cute weekend hobby. It’s a lifestyle. For the past two decades, McClean, a professional photographer, has given up everything resembling a normal life. He has no permanent home base, opting instead to trot the globe, work odd jobs, and live on tight budgets to see solar eclipses.

Every. Single. One.

McClean has made a living as a cartographer and an aurora borealis tour guide. He’s lived on an island near Sitka, Alaska and taught photography. (When he needed Internet, he’d kayak an hour and a half to the nearest library.) He’s spent summers in Germany doing archaeology and winters in Sweden constructing, and living in, a hotel made of ice. He’s slept in bamboo huts on top of volcanic islands, backpacked through Egypt, and trudged the snows of Svalbard, Norway. One time, in Indonesia, he was invited to sip coffee in a sultan’s palace.

(11) BERNECKER OBIT. The Walking Dead suffered another loss today when stuntman John Bernecker,  seriously injured in a stunt (he reportedly missed the landing mattress while doing a 20-ft. fall), was declared brain-dead. There are many tweets with condolences from industry professionals included in the linked article.

(12) OUT, OUT DARNED SPOT. Nautilus interviews UC Berkeley’s Philip Marcus, a computational physicist and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, about “Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Refuses to Die”. Turns out there’s quite a bit of work been done on this.

Why did it start on Jupiter and not somewhere else?

Here on Earth, if you fly over the ocean, you can almost certainly tell when there’s an island below you because there’s a cloud hanging on top—topographic features often pin clouds to themselves. But there’s no solid surface on Jupiter until you get down to a very small core. It’s basically a ball of fluid. You don’t have differential heating between continents and oceans. You don’t have winds interrupted by mountain ranges. You don’t have all that messy stuff, so it’s got a really well organized set of jet streams on it. Once you’ve got jet streams, vortices just form naturally. You’ve got winds going in opposite directions, shearing against one another. Think of a ball bearing between two oppositely moving walls. The walls make the ball bearing spin, and the oppositely moving jet streams on Jupiter make the air between them spin. Vortices between jet streams are resistant to anything smashing into them. If I create a vortex in a bathtub and I smash it, the vortex is generally gone. If I do a simulation of a big Red Spot on Jupiter sitting between zonal winds and I smack it, try and break it in two, it’ll come back together. So I think of jet streams as gardens in which you want to grow vortices.

(13) DO PANIC. Two Travelers from Galactic Journey praise a low-budget Roger Corman production. You know, somebody should make Roger a Worldcon guest of honor someday — “[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)”.

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

(14) FORK YOU. The January 30 New Yorker article by Raffi Khatchadourian, “The Movie with a Thousand Plotlines”, is about efforts in Hollywood to create films that have alternate endings that viewers can choose among. The article focuses on efforts by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Swiss Army Man, to come up with films that fit this template.  The sf news is that both War Games and The Twilight Zone have had rights sold for interactive television series that are under development.

Treehouse is an intuitive program for a nonintuitive, nonlinear form of storytelling, and Bloch is adept at demonstrating it. In his office, he called up a series of video clips featuring the model Dree Hemingway sitting at a table. Below the clips, in a digital workspace resembling graph paper, he built a flowchart to map the forking narrative—how her story might divide into strands that branch outward, or loop backward, or converge. At first, the flowchart looked like a “Y” turned on its side: a story with just one node. “When you start, it is always ‘To be, or not to be,’ ” he said. The choice here was whether Hemingway would serve herself coffee or tea. Bloch dragged and dropped video clips into the flowchart, then placed buttons for tea and coffee into the frame, and set the amount of time the system would allow viewers to decide. In less than a minute, he was previewing a tiny film: over a soundtrack of music fit for a Philippe Starck lobby, Hemingway smiled and poured the beverage Bloch had selected. He then returned to the graph paper and added a blizzard of hypothetical options: “You can decide that here it will branch again, here it goes into a loop until it knows what to do, and here it becomes a switching node where five things can happen at the same time—and so on.”

As Bloch was getting his company off the ground, a small race was under way among like-minded startups looking for financial backing. In Switzerland, a company called CtrlMovie had developed technology similar to Interlude’s, and was seeking money for a feature-length thriller….

The article also discusses Mr. Payback, a 1995 interactive film about a cyborg – script by Bob Gale! – that was panned by Roger Ebert.

Early experiments in interactive film were likewise marred by shtick. In 1995, a company called Interfilm collaborated with Sony to produce “Mr. Payback,” based on a script by Bob Gale, who had worked on the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In the movie, a cyborg meted out punishment to baddies while the audience, voting with handheld controllers, chose the act of revenge. The film was released in forty-four theatres. Critics hated it. “The basic problem I had with the choices on the screen with ‘Mr. Payback’ is that they didn’t have one called ‘None of the above,’ ” Roger Ebert said, declaring the movie the worst of the year. “We don’t want to interact with a movie. We want it to act on us. That’s why we go, so we can lose ourselves in the experience.”

(16) IN MOLT. Joe Sherry has reached the artist categories on his Hugo ballot: “Watching the Hugos: Professional and Fan Artist” at Nerds of a Feather. Too bad it includes a slam against Steve Stiles, one of the greatest fan artists of all time.

(17) PINCH HITTER. Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin discovered something at the movies: “Star Trek IV Now Exists in the Same Universe As All Marvel Films Thanks to a Special Cameo”.

When nerds make movies, beautiful things can happen. In this case, the fact that MCU producer Kevin Feige happens to be a big fan of Star Trek IV led to a cameo that now places a character from The Voyage Home into Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I won’t spoiler her spoiler – you’ll have to click through.

(18) UNEXPECTED CASTING. The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch will voice Harley Quinn in the upcoming Bruce Timm animated film Batman And Harley.

CinemaBlend is all in favor:

As far as casting decisions go, Melissa Rauch is a fairly pitch perfect choice for the role of Harley Quinn. Not only does she have a high-pitched voice that’s very reminiscent of Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong; she also has developed a reputation as an actress through her work in a show predicated on the passion and intensity of geek culture. Something tells us that all of those years on The Big Bang Theory have given her an understanding of how fans will respond to her performance, thus ensuring that she will deliver the best possible Harley Quinn.

 

(19) POETRY CORNER. Johnstick joined the throngs who have been raining limericks in the File 770 comments section.

As prophets of eld have foretold,
and pixels of all hues have scrolled,
Death takes the clever
and redshirts forever,
plus all those whose glister’s not gold!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Terhi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/17 The Time Has Come, The Pixel Said, To Talk Of Many Scrolls

(1) TO THE MAX. George R.R. Martin’s never-produced Christmas script for Max Headroom finally came to life — at the Jean Cocteau Theatre: “Merry Xmas to All, and to All a Good Max”.

Our week-long M-M-Maxathon concluded on Satuday night at the Jean Cocteau with a staged table reading of “Xmas,” my thirty-year-old unproduced (until now) MAX HEADROOM script. And I have to say, we went out on a high note. We had a sold-out theatre, and the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of the performance, laughing and applauding at all the right places. After thirty years, I was not at all sure how well my old script would hold up… especially with an audience of Max Headroom fanatics, many of whom had just sat through an entire week of Max, watching every one of the produced episodes. MAX HEADROOM was a really smart show, with some fine writing… tough acts to follow. But most of the viewers seemed to think “Xmas” was just as good as what had gone before, which gratified me no end…

 

(2) SUPER SNIT. There was some huffing and puffing at the London Comic Con between a pair of famous actors although no blows were actually struck, no matter the New York Post’s headline — “Flash Gordon and The Hulk fight at Comic Con”.

It was a real-life battle of the superheroes at a comic fest over the weekend — when Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno got into a brawl with “Flash Gordon” star Sam Jones, and fans had to jump in and break them up.

“I don’t know if I was the real superhero, because if there was a clash of the Titans, I would have got squashed,” said Darryn Clements, who stepped in to help separate the musclebound actors at London’s ComicCon on Saturday, according to the Sun.

In fact, the duo were back at their adjoining tables the next day peaceably signing for fans.

The Hulk talking to Flash Gordon! #IncredibeHulk #flashgordon #MCMComicCon #LouFerrino #superheroes #legends #ExcelLondon #londoncomiccon

A post shared by Social Work Helper, PBC (@socialworkhelper) on

(3) TROLL PATROL. A Twitter troll prompted a question during an MSNBC interview: “George Takei shuts down racist criticism of new “Star Trek’ series”.

“People are finding the time to hate on “Star Trek’ for having diversity,” host Joy Reid prompted. “What?”

“Well you know — today, in this society, we have alien life-forms that we call trolls,” Takei replied.

He explained: “And these trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about. And some of these trolls go on to be presidents of nations.”

(4) URSINE DESIGN. I don’t know why this surprises me. Build-A-Bear offers a whole flock of Star Wars-themed products, including Darth Vader Bear.

Never underestimate the power of the dark side. Our exclusive Darth Vader Bear comes with his signature helmet, cape and control chest panel, permanently attached. Complete your destiny and add Darth Vader’s iconic Breathing Sound, Imperial March Song and his red Lightsaber.

(5) THE (DONUT) HOLE TRUTH. Scott Edelman writes: “Yes, I know, the William F. Nolan episode of Eating the Fantastic was only released Friday — but I couldn’t resist bringing live this donut celebration of Balticon as it was ending, to assuage the sadness of the guests who’d have to wait another year to return — Eating the Fantastic — 13 guests devour 12 donuts and reminisce about 51 years of Balticon.”

Since last July’s Readercon Donut Spectacular episode of Eating the Fantastic has proven to be so popular, I thought I’d try harvesting memories about another long-running con, and so plopped myself down in a high-traffic area of the Balticon hotel with a dozen Diablo Donuts. But first, I shared this photo on social media so the hungry hordes would know to be on the lookout for me.

(6) UNRAVELING THE SLEEVE OF CARE. Camestros Felapton, recognizing the world’s hunger for quality writing advice, nevertheless has decided to let them starve a little longer — “If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Third 5 Minute Interval in a Period of 15 Minutes, Also Never Sleep”.

Here at Felapton Towers and via our leading Science Fiction/Fantasy/Military History publishing arm Cattimothy House, we meet and train many aspiring authors — people who we’ve turned from mere robotic vacuum cleaners into leading voices in modern fiction. We’ve compiled all our experience and writing advice into this one article that WILL help you turn your dreams into a book!

So you are about to write a book? Remember, on the day you start, millions of others will be starting a book also. Worse, BILLIONS of people live on Earth and many of them are also capable of thinking about starting a novel. Bear in mind that approximately only SIX books are published each year and of those FOUR are guide books to Disneyland. In order for your book to be published, it has to be better than the books those several billion people on Earth might write. Most of those people have more interesting lives than you and also probably nicer personalities.

Lesson 1: You have to defeat your rivals. Your book has to be better than your rivals. Looking at that the odds, that implies you’d be best trying to sabotage them from finishing their book. But how? Well, articles like this can help! Find a blog, a writers group or maybe a popular online media organisation and instead of writing a book, write an article full of bad writing advice! BINGO! All those billions of rivals will read it, follow your advice and either write a terrible book or give up in exhaustion…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 29, 1889 — James Whale, who said: “A director must be pretty bad if he can’t get a thrill out of war, murder and robbery.”

(8) COMIC SECTON. Cat Eldridge recommends xkcd’s “Opening crawl”.

(9) HOW THE DRAGON ROLLS. Click to read Declan Finn’s recommendations for the Dragon Awards. Hey, you got to respect the guy’s frankness —

DISCLAIMER: I have not read all of the following. In some cases, I’ve had less and less time to read the more I write. And I’ve submitted to … a lot this year, so I’m a little all over the place. Also, there are some genres I just don’t read, usually. I tend to avoid Horror and Alternate History, even though there are some books that are going to change my mind (Brian Niemeier and Lou Antonelli, for example, for horror and Alt History, respectively). If you have thoughts or suggestions, then by all means, COMMENT. And now, UNLEASH THE DRAGONS

(10) WORDS & PICTURES. Joe Sherry resumes “Reading the Hugos: Graphic Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

We continue our Reading the Hugos series with a look at Graphic Story. I can’t help but compare a bit to the five finalists from last year’s ballot and only Invisible Republic would make the cut here. I was already impressed with Monstress, Saga, and Paper Girls as each collection was on my nominating ballot. Heck, I was impressed enough by Paper Girls to include both of the published collected editions on my ballot – so I was definitely glad to see the first book make the cut. Beyond that, this list is dominated by two publishers with an even split between Marvel and Image. Granting that these are generally some excellent books and were on my ballot, I still would have liked to have seen a wider variety of publisher’s on the list. I just can’t say specifically what because I’m not well read enough in what’s going on in comics today – which I would also guess might be the case of a lot of voters. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Either way, let’s get to this year’s finalists.

(11) FILMMAKER TEASES NEXT PROJECT. Popular Mechanics says “It’s Humans Versus Aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s New Sci-Fi Project” .

Teasing a new sci-fi studio called Oats Studios since April, Neill Blomkamp’s ready to show us what he has in store for his future sci-fi ambitions. A new trailer, released today, for a short film currently named “Volume 1” will stream on Steam “soon.” But while the particulars of the movie are lacking in detail, the trailer is nothing short of a top-notch sci-fi film.

 

(12) ONLY A MEMORY. Carl Slaughter recalls:

At age 27, Josh Trank became the youngest director to open a film at #1 with Chronicle. He was hired to direct a standalone Star Wars film and assigned to direct the Fantastic 4 reboot. The Fantastic 4 set was plagued with production problems and received a 9% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Lucasfilm fired him when Fantastic 4 controversies spilled onto the Internet. He has not been seen on the speculative front since.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/16 Scroll on the Water, Fire in the Sky

(1) YOUTUBER PAYOLA? ScienceFiction.com headlined that “The FTC Has Proven That Warner Brothers Has Paid YouTubers For Positive Reviews”.

In some not so awesome news, Warner Brothers was caught buying off YouTubers to give them positive reviews of their video games. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released details that the company was working with some of the most influential YouTubers out there to provide positive reviews of their games, film gameplay footage that worked around bugs and hype sales numbers that all ignored criticism of the titles they were being paid to look at. Oh, and they of course never disclosed that they were being paid to do this which is against the law. **

While this is currently limited to video games, one has to wonder if it may extend to films as well.

Most damning though is that Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, or PewDiePew as he is known to millions of ‘Let’s Play’viewers was involved as well. PewDiePew is the highest watched YouTube celebrity in gaming circles and had an undisclosed agreement to provide positive press for ‘Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor’ when it was released….

** According to Washington Post reporter Andrea Peterson, the notices that they were paid endorsers of the game appeared in fine print no one read. The FTC settlement says that paid endorsers have to reveal in non-fine print that that they have been paid by game manufacturers.

(2) PAUL AND STORM CONCERT AT MACII. The comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will perform in concert at MidAmeriCon II on Thursday.

MidAmeriCon II is delighted to announce that comedic musical duo Paul and Storm will be appearing at the convention. They will be live in concert at 12 Noon on Thursday, August 18, and interacting with members throughout the convention in the MidAmeriCon II Dealers’ Room.

Paul and Storm (Paul Sabourin and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo) are known internationally and across the Internet for their original comedy music and vaudeville style shows (mostly with a nerdish bent). They also co-founded the geek variety show “w00tstock” (along with Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage) which has toured across America since 2009, and co-produce the annual JoCo Cruise (www.jococruise.com).

The duo’s original webseries musical, LearningTown, debuted on YouTube’s Geek & Sundry channel in January 2013. In the same year, their song “Another Irish Drinking Song” was featured in the movie Despicable Me 2, while their guitar was memorably smashed on stage by George R.R. Martin. Their fifth full-length CD, Ball Pit, came out in 2014, and was the central item of the duo’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

Paul and Storm have a long history of bringing well known personalities on stage during their shows – and with this being their first Worldcon appearance, they will have an exceptionally broad range of writers, editors, artists and other genre names to choose from. Members can look forward to a memorable and entertaining concert, full of “mature immaturity” (NPR).

More information on Paul and Storm can be found on their website at www.paulandstorm.com.

(3) CHARITY AT SDCC. NBC Los Angeles covers Comic-Con charitable events including the Heinlein Blood Drive:

The annual Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive returns to the mega pop culture convention for its 40th go-around. Billed as “the San Diego Blood Bank’s longest-running event,” the Comic-Con blood drive has collected “16,652 pints of blood” over its four-decade history.

Talk about superheroes. Want to give? Head for Grand Hall D at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Once you’ve given your pint, and you want to look for more ways to lend a hand, consider two off-site traditions that, while not affiliated officially with the convention, still keep ties to its cape-wearing themes and charitable heart.

The Heroes Brew Fest raises money each year for Warrior Foundation — Freedom Station. Yep, you can wear your costume, yep, you’ll drink nice beer, and yep, you’ll need to zoom through the clouds from the convention center, or at least catch a ride, to San Diego’s Waterfront Park on Saturday, July 23.

Earlier in the day the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Pawmicon returns, though don’t head for Rancho Santa Fe, the home of the center. The “Cosplay for a Cause” — think furry pumpkins in their “Star Wars” and superhero best — is happening at the Hazard Center in the late morning.

(4) BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. There was also a Blood Drive at LibertyCon – Lou Antonelli says that’s where he met Jason Cordova, one of many first encounters mentioned in his con report.

(5) AUTO CRASH. I found Brad Templeton’s “Understanding the huge gulf between the Tesla Autopilot and a real robocar, in light of the crash” to be very helpful.

It’s not surprising there is huge debate about the fatal Tesla autopilot crash revealed to us last week. The big surprise to me is actually that Tesla and MobilEye stock seem entirely unaffected. For many years, one of the most common refrains I would hear in discussions about robocars was, “This is all great, but the first fatality and it’s all over.” I never believed it would all be over, but I didn’t think there would barely be a blip.

There’s been lots of blips in the press and online, of course, but most of it has had some pretty wrong assumptions. Tesla’s autopilot is a distant cousin of a real robocar, and that would explain why the fatality is no big deal for the field, but the press shows that people don’t know that.

Tesla’s autopilot is really a fancy cruise control. It combines several key features from the ADAS (Advance Driver Assist) world, such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and forward collision avoidance, among others. All these features have been in cars for years, and they are also combined in similar products in other cars, both commercial offerings and demonstrated prototypes….

(6) JOE HILL’S DAD. Boston.com reports, “Library of Congress to recognize Stephen King for his lifelong work”.

Stephen King—Maine native, horror author, and hater of Fenway’s “protective netting”—will get a new title this fall: Library of Congress honoree.

King is set to open the main stage of the 2016 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., where the Library will recognize the author for his lifelong work promoting literacy, according to a release.

Since his first published novel, Carrie, in 1974, King has written more than 50 novels and hundreds of short stories, according to his website.

The festival takes place Saturday, September 24. Authors Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shonda Rhimes, Bob Woodward, Raina Telgemeier, and Salman Rushdie will also appear on the main stage.

(7) JUNO SHOOTS THE MOONS. IFLScience has the story behind Juno’s first image of Jupiter and its moons from orbit.

This image, taken on July 10, proves that the camera has survived the pass through Jupiter’s intense radiation, meaning it can start taking stunning high-resolution shots in the next few weeks. The camera (called JunoCam) itself has no scientific purpose, but will be used to engage the public with images of the gas giant. You can even vote online for what it takes pictures of.

 

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(8) FUNNY PAGES. A popular fantasy work is referenced in the July 13 Wizard of Id comic strip.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 13, 1940 — Patrick Stewart (age 76)
  • Born July 13, 1942  — Harrison Ford (age 74)

(10) LIVING UNOFFENDED. Maggie Hogarth, SFWA VP, was moved by Cat Rambo’s post yesterday (“SFWA Is Not a Gelatinous Cube”) to make a point about personal growth. The comments are very good, too.

I wanted to call out specifically her comment about having been pleased to recruit me specifically because I’m a conservative writer. When she suggests that we work well together because of our sometimes opposing perspectives, I think she’s entirely correct. It’s not that we talk politics specifically (though unfortunately, sometimes our jobs as officers require us to)… it’s that our beliefs give us oblique approaches to things, and consulting each other helps us find our own weaknesses and blind spots.

This is not a new thing for me. I have always worked in arenas that are overwhelmingly colonized by people of opposing political viewpoints (hello, Art, Academia). The knowledge that I would have to find a way to work with people who believed stuff I found strange, wrong-headed, or toxic is so old by now that I don’t even think about it. But it’s interesting to me that the people who are in the majority in any arena often seem to be offended at the thought that they should have to deal with people who disagree with them. At the university, I have brought up lots of professors short who were upset that I didn’t think they were right. One of them even asked me what I was doing there, which was… frankly bizarre. (Broadening my mind, maybe? By grappling with ideas I don’t necessarily agree with?)

Here then is my takeaway from living as a political minority in the workplace all my life: unless you’re in a group devoted specifically to a political cause you agree with, you cannot expect to be protected from people who don’t share your beliefs. Inevitably someone will tell me that this is an invitation to abuse and cruelty, as if there can be no disagreement without extremism. Reject this false dichotomy. People who don’t share your beliefs aren’t all heartless criminals who long to see you hurt. They just… don’t agree with you.

(11) TAKING THE TEST. Rambo and Hogarth have also publicized their vocabulary quiz results.

Rambo Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.37.22 PM

(12) SCALZI BREAKS THE SPELL. Don’t expect John Scalzi to be posting a quiz score.

No risk of my relitigating my SAT results. I can personally assure John you’ll never see me embarrassing myself by reporting results from an internet math quiz. I did just enough on the math side of the SAT to keep that from sandbagging what I did on the verbal side and get a California State Scholarship. (However, if someone knows a link to an online math quiz the rest of you might enjoy it….)

(13) TIMOTHY BREAKS THE QUIZ. Camestros Felapton published Timothy the Talking Cat’s score plus Timothy’s interpretation of all his test answers.

(14) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE THESAURUS. If there’s anyone who should score high on a vocabulary test it’s John C. Wright – and he did.

My score was 30500, also in the top 0.01% Albeit there was one word I did not know, and guessed.

I am going to the dictionary to look it up, and then I am going to use it three times correctly within the next 24 hours.

I was once told that is the way to accumulate a large and handsome vocabulary.

(15) COMICS HUGO. Nicholas Whyte has posted “My Hugo and #RetroHugos1941 votes: Best Graphic Story”.

It’s really striking that two years ago, it was impossible to find enough comics from 1938 to populate the Retro Hugo category – we gave a Special Committee Award to Superman instead – but this year there is a wealth of 1940 material to choose from. Having said that, there’s not in fact a lot of variety; with one exception, the 1941 Retro Hugo finalists are origin stories of costumed crime-fighters

(16) TASTE TEST. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather, “Reading the Hugos: Novella”.

Today we continue with our Hugo Award coverage with a look at the Novella category. There are not many categories on this year’s ballot which lines up so well with my nomination ballot, but this is one of them. Of the five nominees, I nominated three of them: Binti, The Builders, and Slow Bullets. Naturally, I am happy that the three of them made the cut. If I had the power to add just one more story to this category, I would have loved to have seen Matt Wallace’s wonderful Envy of Angels make the list. That was a fantastic story and everyone should read it. Since people tend not to fully agree with my taste in fiction, let’s take a look at what is actually on the final ballot.

(17) FROM THERE WILL BE WAR. Lisa Goldstein reviews “Novelette: ‘What Price Humanity?’”, a Hugo-nominee, at inferior4+1.

And here we are at the third story from There Will Be War, “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke.  It’s the best of the three, though unfortunately that’s pretty faint praise.  An infodump at the beginning tells us that aliens called Meme (Meme? Really?) are attacking from the outer Solar System, and that when the Meme’s reinforcements come, every decade or so, EarthFleet suffers catastrophic losses.  Captain Vango Markis wakes up in Virtual Reality, having suffered what he thinks is a bad hit, and meets other officers he’s served with, some of whom he remembers as having died.  They find flight simulators, and go on practice runs.

(18) LEVINE HIP-HOPS FOR ARABELLA OF MARS. Science fiction writer David D. Levine performs a hip-hop theme song, based on the opening number of “Hamilton,” for his Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure novel “Arabella of Mars.”

…Every day she was learning posture and Latin
But every night she and her brother would batten
Down the hatches, hit the desert, going trackin’ and whackin’
Her brother backtrackin’, their Martian nanny was clackin’…

The rest of the lyrics are under “Show More” here. Arabella of Mars was released by Tor on July 12.

Arabella Ashby is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world — born and raised on Mars, she was hauled back home by her mother, where she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and attitudes toward women. When she learns that her evil cousin plans to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she joins the crew of an interplanetary clipper ship in order to beat him to Mars. But privateers, mutiny, and insurrection stand in her way. Will she arrive in time?

 

(19) FUTURE PLAY. On her Dive into Worldbuilding hangout, “Games”, Juliette Wade discussed games as a feature of worldbuilding.

Power struggle is one of the big things that games can symbolize. Chess has sometimes been used in science fiction as a form of communication between races. It can reflect or change a power dynamic.

Games are also powerful in folk tales, such as when you play a game with the devil, the fae, or Death.

Games can be critical as a symbolic representation of a larger conflict. If you can engage in single combat instead having whole armies clash, why not do it? If you can play a game and agree on the stakes, might you save many lives?

Games and the ways in which they are played reflect the world around them. If you are playing a game with plastic dice, it’s not the same as playing a game with pig knucklebones. Where do the knucklebones come from? Knucklebones, the word itself, makes the game of dice sound exotic and like it comes from a particular period. There are many games of chance or rune-reading. We noted that people have found real twenty-sided stone dice from the Roman period.

 

(20) TODAY’S UN-FACT-CHECKED TRIVIA

Four Pokémon have palindromic names: Girafarig, Eevee, Ho-oh and Alomomola.

(21) ROUNDUP. In a Washington Post article, Hayley Tsukuyama and Ben Guarino do a Pokemon Go roundup, including that Nintendo’s shares have risen by 38 percent in two days and how police in Riverton, Wyoming say that four men lured victims to a remote spot in the Wind River by promising an elusive Pokemon avatar.

On their screens, players of the viral mobile game “Pokémon Go” are seeing these creatures pop into existence alongside real-world physical objects. The mole-like Diglett peeks out of a toilet. A flaming demon Shetland called Ponyta gallops across the National Mall. A ostrich-like Doduo appears on top of the hold button of an office phone.

Capturing these little monsters isn’t just good for players. In just a few days since its July 6 launch, the game has become a national sensation, nearly overtaking Twitter in daily active users. It currently ranks as the most profitable game on Google and Apple’s app stores. On Monday, Nintendo’s stock jumped 25 percent. On Tuesday, it rose another 13 percent…..

Its makers also have made the game highly shareable. The delight of seeing a little monster pop up on the sidewalk in front of your home, or, in one case, on the bed of your wife while she’s in labor — has been social media gold for players.

The game is perhaps the first real success story of the use of augmented reality technology, which blends the digital and real world together. The combined effect is part bird-watching, part geocaching, part trophy-hunting, with a heavy dose of mid-1990s nostalgia.

(21) POKEMON SNARK. In a humor piece another Washington Post writer, Caitlin Dewey, says she told her fiance to stop playing Pokemon while he is wandering in the supermarket and driving.

This is all well and good, of course, but the hype glosses over something that gives me pause: With an app such as Pokémon Go, we’ve essentially gamified such basic pursuits as going outside, talking to strangers and visiting national monuments. These are activities we’ve long undertaken on their own merits. But everything must be digitally augmented now; no value is inherent.

The same could be said of the sorts of “engagement” trumpeted by the makers of Pokémon Go. If you’ve ventured to a local PokéStop, you know that — counter the pitch — most players aren’t making friends or appreciating the vista anew: They’re squinting into their screens, ignoring each other, hoping to sight that rare Pikachu.

(22) VIP BREW. Time to tap those kegs (or whatever they make it in) — “Drew Curtis/Wil Wheaton/Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout 2016 Release”.

2016_w00tstout4

COLLABORATORS
Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer
Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb
Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

This barrel-aged palate-saver has been a favorite among our fans—and us—since its inception in 2013. Pecans, wheat, flaked rye and bourbon-soaked wood provide this whopping, complex superhero version of an imperial stout with a profound complexity that makes it ideal for cellaring—if you can wait that long. Now, we can’t say this beer bestows jedi powers, exactly, but your taste buds may just be fooled into believing as much….

A famed illustrator celebrated for her characters Vampirella, Power Girl, Silk Spectre and Harley Quinn and comics “Gatecrasher” and “Gargoyles,” Amanda Conner embraced the term “Stone’s bearded leader” for this year’s bottle art design. She transformed the three collaborators into unique renditions of “Star Wars” characters, with Koch playing the woolly role of everyone’s favorite wookiee.

At 13 percent alcohol by volume and with the highest concentration of midi-chlorians seen in a beer, the Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout may be enjoyed fresh, or cellared for several months or years to give way for the deliciously rich flavors to mature and develop more prevalent dark cocoa, coffee and nut notes.

The brew will be a centerpiece of the celebration at Hopcon 4.0 on July 20 in San Diego, where Paul and Storm will be among the many guests.

Our annual celebration of nth-degree beer geekery is back for a fourth round, and this time all 66,000 square feet are dedicated to the convergence of geek culture and beer culture. More retro arcade games, more casks and more bars add up to a release party large enough to match the formidable Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Lisa Goldstein, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Red Wombat.]

Pixel Scroll 6/30/16 Here Come Old Pixel, He Come Scrollin’ Up Slowly

(1) DUCK! Science News explains, “Asteroid Day is a chance to learn about space and plan for disaster”.

Asteroid enthusiasts, rejoice! Thursday, June 30 is your day to remind the world that humankind is just one impact with a space rock away from annihilation (or, at the least, a very bad day)….

The date coincides with the anniversary of the most powerful impact in recorded history, when a roughly 40-meter-wide asteroid crashed near Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908….

(2) GIVING ANTIQUITY A CHANCE. In the second installment of Young People Read Old SF, James Davis Nicoll’s recruits share their reactions to A Martian Odyssey.

Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1934 debut, “A Martian Odyssey,” is the second of the two short stories I have selected to represent the science fiction of the 1930s.

Weinbaum is one of the earliest hard SF writers, someone whose stories were shaped by what was then known (or guessed) of the other worlds of our solar system. Weinbaum’s stories are little known and little read these days, in part because his career was so short: eighteen months from the publication of his first science fiction story to his death.

Jamie, for example, has this to say:

What quaint ideas about “atomic blasts” and the medicinal benefits of hard radiation. Writers of SF in the deep past were much more free to be optimistic about new scientific discoveries. Nowadays every new advance is going to cause at least as many problems as it solves, and the unexpected downsides are what drive the plots. This story is just happy to be exploring a crazy new planet and all it’s crazy improbable life forms, held down by only the lightest of plots. Old fashioned optimism about progress, I suppose

(3) MADE YOU CLICK. Barry Malzberg, in a new Galaxy’s Edge column, says for Judith Merril, “There Is No Defense”. You know, it’s not every day you see someone literally say a woman destroyed sf.

Merril, before she gave up anthologies, criticism, and citizenship to expatriate herself to Canada in 1968, was made desperate by the unending, irretrievable, uncorrectable stupidity and murderousness of Vietnam. She had been on an increasingly evident, now unapologetic campaign to destroy science fiction.

She knew it: the campaign was purposeful. In her story introduction to Bob Shaw’s “Light of Other Days” in her final volume, she conceded that the excellence and rigor of the story called her back to an earlier time when she had been entranced by such work and her own desire to  replicate. But that story introduction was half or three-quarters an apology: its appearance in Best SF, its very quality, were an implicit rebuke to the scattered, unfocused, false literary emptiness which had come to occupy most of the anthology. Meanwhile, she was writing savage reviews in Fantasy& Science Fiction, reviews as savage as those of Alfred Bester’s half a decade earlier which had created a good deal of foul karma and eventually got him fired.

Malzberg argues she was intentionally trying to destroy sf. I read Merril’s anthologies as they came out, and there were so many new and completing voices in the Sixties that it made sf a pretty robust literary form. Pulp writers and experimental New Wave authors were all getting published, which forces me to ask — If sf couldn’t be destroyed by bad writing, how could it be destroyed by good writing?

[Note:  The column about Merril has been pulled back since earlier today. What was posted can still be seen via Google Cache — at least for now.  I subsequently learned this was an effect of an ordinary transition from one online issue to the next. The Merril column is available at The Wayback Machine. So I have linked to that.]

(4) CONVENTION IN LISBON. The Portuguese SF convention Fórum Fantástico will take place in Lisbon from September 23-25 at the Biblioteca Municipal Orlando Ribeiro. Curator Rogerio Ribeiro is organizing the event. No registration needed, no entry fee.

Forum Fantastico

(5) JOE SHERRY. At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry’s analysis of his Hugo ballot moves on to the Best Fanzine category. First place goes to:

Lady Business: Lady Business is smart, incisive, and should be considered a required stop for anyone who wants to read more about genre. It is one of my must read blogs and I don’t have many of those anymore. When I talk about fanzines, this is what I mean. If you’re not too familiar with what Lady Business is all about or where to start, take a look at this post. The editors at Lady Business comment on media, generally SFF media, with “an intersectional feminist perspective”.  Whether they are reviewing books, video games, or recapping Xena: The Warrior Princess, Lady Business is always worth reading and is consistently one of my favorite blogs. You’d think that I would have more to say, but all I want to do is wave my arm, point, and mumble “Lady Business – Awesome – Read” and try not to be awkward about it.

(6) SHORT FICTION NOMINEES. Jonathan Edelstein unpacks his Hugo ballot for novelette and short story.

The two categories are a study in contrasting quality. Despite the second year of Rabid Puppy interference (I still can’t believe I just wrote that), the novelette shortlist is quite credible. Folding Beijing is easily one of the best stories of 2015 and would no doubt have made it onto the ballot without Theodore Beale’s help. And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead belongs on the ballot too – yeah, gratuitous foul language and dated cyberpunk plot, but it’s a hell of a story. Obits isn’t Stephen King’s best work, but even bad King is better than most of what’s out there. Even the two Castalia entries aren’t terrible – What Price Humanity is a tightly written and suspenseful story of war veterans being trained in virtual reality for one last mission, and Flashpoint Titan is no worse than ordinary missile porn. Granted, in a year where the eligible works included Ian McDonald’s Botanica Veneris and Rose Lemberg’s Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds, I’m sorry to see the Castalia stories there instead, but the top of the shortlist is very good indeed and none of it is bad enough to get No Awarded.

The short stories, on the other hand, piss me off.

(7) NOVELLA NOMINEES. Doctor Science’s current post at Obsidian Wings is “Wednesday Reading including Hugo Novella nominees. All re-posts from File 770 comments, but collated.

Penric’s Demon by Lois Bujold. This is another one where the treatment of sexuality confuses me. I think I can say, without major spoilers, that the basic plot is the trope known as “Sharing a Body”, and in this case the body-owner is a young man, while the passenger turns out to be, essentially, n pbafbegvhz bs gjryir jbzra.

Now, I’m used to seeing this trope in fanfiction, where I would expect the story to be heavily focused on issues of sexuality, gender, and the characters’ feelings about bodies. At first I thought Bujold was heading there, but then she sort of veered off to Plot-land, before the POV character had done more than guvax nobhg znfgheongvat. I was left feeling rather wrong-footed, and only sort of interested in the Plot. In sum: for me it was a good enough story, but rather bizarrely incomplete.

(8) GONE VIRAL. Jeremiah Tolbert relives “My Short Time as a Viral Hit Maker”.

On June 23rd, as the results from the British EU Referendum or “Brexit” began to come in, it was clear that the Leave vote was ahead.  Once the lead solidified and the BBC called the result, the Pound Sterling began to tank. The mood on Twitter turned grim.  I had an IM window with Nick Mamatas open at the time.  Sparked by I’m not sure what, I shared the notion that I might Photoshop the big reveal at the end of Planet of the Apes and replace the Statue of Liberty with Big Ben.  Nick said, paraphrasing, “DO IT.”  Not the most original joke I’ve ever come up with, but I’m fairly proficient with photo-editing, so I got to work….

I sent the image over to Nick, and before I could tweet it out myself, he tweeted the image along with credit:

Nick sending it out turned out to be the ticket to success for it, because it spread the image far faster and wider than my own followers list would have. Within seconds, the retweets began.  Early on, Cory Doctorow retweeted it. By the time I went to bed just after midnight, the tweet had over a thousand retweets and showed no sign of slowing down as morning came in the UK….

(9) NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. CNN Money asks “Should robots have to pay taxes?”

If robots are going to steal human jobs and otherwise disrupt society, they should at the very least pay taxes.

That’s the takeaway from a draft report on robotics produced by the European Parliament, which warns that artificial intelligence and increased automation present legal and ethical challenges that could have dire consequences.

“Within the space of a few decades [artificial intelligence] could surpass human intellectual capacity in a manner which, if not prepared for, could pose a challenge to humanity’s capacity to control its own creation and … the survival of the species,” the draft states.

The report offers a series of recommendations to prepare Europe for this advanced breed of robot, which it says now “seem poised to unleash a new industrial revolution.”

The proposal suggests that robots should have to register with authorities, and says laws should be written to hold machines liable for damage they cause, such as loss of jobs. Contact between humans and robots should be regulated, with a special emphasis “given to human safety, privacy, integrity, dignity and autonomy.”

(10) MERINGUE PIE MUSEUM. John Kass cuts loose in the Chicago Tribune: “George ‘Star Wars’ Lucas releases the mayor’s mind and not a moment too soon”.

Somehow, the immortal words of little old Yoda finally got through to his creator, George Lucas:

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

So Lucas let go.

He let go of that ridiculous meringue pie of a museum he wanted to plop on Chicago’s lakefront.

And he let go of the mind of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, so that it was free once more to try running a city that is drowning in red ink and violence.

Unfortunately, Rahm and Lucas didn’t just hush up and go away. Instead, they whined and stamped their feet and complained (in prepared statements) and blamed everything on Friends of the Parks.

But Friends of the Parks did what it’s supposed to do: Stand up for the people of Chicago, to protect the lakefront, because the lakefront doesn’t belong to Hollywood moguls or their political footmen.

I said it a few days ago in the column on Lucas holding Rahm’s mind in thrall with some Jedi trick, and I should say it again.

Rich people have their country clubs and their estates and their private jets to take them away. But the lakefront is the country club for the people. It’s where working people go to take themselves away.

(11) TOFFLER OBIT. “Alvin Toffler, Author of ‘Future Shock,’ Dies at 87”  reports the New York Times.

Mr. Toffler was a self-trained social science scholar and successful freelance magazine writer in the mid-1960s when he decided to spend five years studying the underlying causes of a cultural upheaval that he saw overtaking the United States and other developed countries.

The fruit of his research, “Future Shock” (1970), sold millions of copies and was translated into dozens of languages, catapulting Mr. Toffler to international fame. It is still in print.

In the book, in which he synthesized disparate facts from every corner of the globe, he concluded that the convergence of science, capital and communications was producing such swift change that it was creating an entirely new kind of society.

His predictions about the consequences to culture, the family, government and the economy were remarkably accurate. He foresaw the development of cloning, the popularity and influence of personal computers and the invention of the internet, cable television and telecommuting.

(12) PROPHET OBIT. SF Site News brings word that 1959 Worldcon co-chair Fred Prophet (1929-2016) passed away June 29.

Fred served as the co-chair, with Roger Sims, of the Detention, the 1959 Worldcon in Detroit. He and Roger were appointed Conchairs Emeritus at Detcon1, the 2014 NASFiC, which both men were able to attend. Prior to the Detention, Prophet was active in the Detroit Science Fiction League and Michigan Science Fantasy Society (MISFITS) after attending his first convention,The Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention, in 1953.

(13) MANTEC OBIT. Maurice George Dantec (1959-2016), a French naturalised Canadian science fiction writer and musician, died June 25 in Montreal reports Europa SF.

Dantec’s first novel, La Sirène rouge (“The Red Siren”), was published in 1993 and won the 813 Award for best crime novel. His second novel, Les Racines du mal (“The Roots of Evil”, 1995), had a cyberpunk affinity and was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and Prix Rosny-aîné.

Dantec’s Babylon Babies was adapted for the screen under the direction of Mathieu Kassovitz as Babylon A.D. (2008), starrring Vin Diesel.

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(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1905 — Albert Einstein introduced his theory of relativity in his publication, On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.
  • June 30, 1974 — The July 4th scene from the Steven Spielberg movie Jaws was filmed at Martha’s Vineyard.

(15) THIS IS MY DUBIOUS LOOK. David Russell Mosley, in “The Magician’s Fairy Godmother: A Follow Up to Are there Elves in C.S. Lewis?”, says the answer is yes.

The other day, I wrote a post attempting to answer the question, “are there elves in the works of C. S. Lewis.” As I noted in the original post, the idea came from a discussion on Facebook where the asker was particularly interested in the elvish absence in the Chronicles of Narnia. Well, two nights ago I was reading The Magician’s Nephew when I came across this passage I had forgotten:

“‘For my [Uncle Andrew] godmother [a certain Mrs. Lefay] was a very remarkable woman. The truth is, she was one of the last mortals in this country who had fairy blood in her. (She said there had been two others in her time. One was a duchess and the other was a charwoman.) In fact, Digory, you are now talking to the last man (possibly) who really had a fairy godmother’” (The Magician’s Nephew, 21).

There it was, an elf (for we should keep in mind that fairy and elf are, linguistically at least, interchangeable), or really three partial elves in the Chronicles of Narnia.

(16) YOU’RE QUITE A CHARACTER. Austin Gilkesen explains “How To Tell If You Are In A J.R.R. Tolkien Book” at The Toast. From a long list of diagnostic tests, here are four examples:

  • A Dark Lord fancies your jewelry.
  • A mountain is out to get you.
  • You had to learn the hard way not to follow the lights in the marsh.
  • Your exhaustive knowledge of whimsical riddles has saved your life on multiple occasions.

(17) FANS WANT TO KNOW. Do the houses in Ilvermorny correspond to those at Hogwarts? J.K. Rowling says no.

“There is no equivalence between Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses,” Rowling wrote when a fan asked if Wampus was equivalent to Hogwarts’ Hufflepuff. “But don’t diss Hufflepuff!”

(18) YEARS OF EXPERIENCE. Entertainment Weekly spotted the tweet — “Elizabeth Warren offers to teach at J.K. Rowling’s North American wizarding school”.

(19) FINNCON. Catherynne Valente issued ecstatic tweets about breakfast at a Finnish convention hotel.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Sean Wallace, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohnFromGR.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/16 Where The Scrolls Have No Name

(1) THE LEMONADE IS READY. Rachel Swirsky’s Patreon donors are enjoying the squozen fruits of victory.

One of those donors tells me the story has two Chapter Fives.

(2) AXANAR TEASERS. Space.com ran an exclusive story,  “Trailer for ‘Star Trek: Axanar’ Unveiled Amid Lawsuit”, about the filmmaker’s unexpected decision:

A second teaser trailer for a fan-made “Star Trek” movie was released this week, despite an ongoing lawsuit over the film.

The new teaser trailer for “Star Trek: Axanar” was released by the filmmakers yesterday (June 22). Called “Honor Through Victory,” the trailer shows Klingon ships flying through a planetary ring system and features an intense voice-over that sounds like a prebattle pep talk. This is the second of three teaser trailers set to be released this week. The first, titled “Stands United,” also appeared online yesterday. The “Honor Through Victory” teaser trailer was shared exclusively with Space.com.

 

(3) VINTAGE TV. Echo Ishii is tracking down antique sf shows in “SF Obscure: The wishlist Roundup” for Smart Girls Love Sci-Fi Romance.

Since it’s summer once again, it’s time  to I hunt down the really obscure classics or try to sample B/C list  shows and see how many episodes I can survive. This time around I decided to make a list of those shows which I have not seen, but added to my wishlist. Most are only on limited DVD runs.  Based on cloudy memories jarred by  the vast world of YouTube, I  tracked down a stray episodes, or a set of clips, or an old commercial to remind me of their existence. Here are a select few.

The post discusses Mercy Point, Birds of Prey, Starhunter, and Space Rangers.

(4) JIM CARREY TURNS TO HORROR. Variety reports “Jim Carrey, Eli Roth Team on Horror Film ‘Aleister Arcane’”.

Jim Carrey will star in and executive produce while Eli Roth directs the long-in-development horror movie “Aleister Arcane” for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.

“Aleister Aracane,” written by Steven Niles, was first published in 2004 by IDW Comics. Jon Croker will adapt for the screen.

Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman will produce along with Michael Aguilar.

The story centers on a group of children who befriend a bitter old man ruined and shunned by their parents. After his death, only they have the power to thwart the curse he has laid upon their town.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

Logans Run

  • June 23, 1976 Logan’s Run (the movie) was released.
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s noir spin on the well-known story of the DC Comics hero Batman is released in theaters.
  • June 23, 2016 – Today is National Pink Flamingo Day.

(6) FIRST PAST THE POST. Rachel Neumeier tells how she surprised herself in “Hugo Voting: at last, the novels”:

Okay, now, listen. I went in knowing, just *knowing* that I was either going to put Ancillary Mercy or Uprooted in the top spot, the other one second. I hadn’t read the other three nominees at the time. I was happy to try The Fifth Season, unhappy about being forced to try Seveneves, and okay if not enthusiastic with trying The Aeronaut’s Windlass.

That’s how I started out.

I have seldom been more surprised in my life as to find myself putting Seveneves in the top spot….

I guess I’d better read it after all. 😉

(7) PUPPY CHOW. Lisa Goldstein continues her reviews of Hugo nominated work with “Short Story: ‘If You Were an Award, My Love’”. About the review she promises: “It’s a bit intemperate.”

“If You Were an Award, My Love” is not so much a story as a group of schoolkids drawing dirty pictures in their textbooks and snickering.

(8) JUSTICE IS NOT BLIND. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather with “Reading the Hugos: Short Story”, in which No Award does not finish last….

While I am clearly not blind to the controversy surrounding this year’s Hugo Awards (nor is The G, for that matter), I have mostly chosen to cover each category on the relative subjective merits of the nominated works. I understand that this is something that not everyone can or will choose to do, but it is the way that I have elected to engage with the Hugo Awards. While the result of the Hugo Awards short list is not significantly different in regards to the Rabid Puppies straight up dominating most of the categories / finalists with their slate, the difference is that this year they have selected to bulk nominate a group that includes more works that might have otherwise had a reasonable chance of making the ballot and also that meets my subjective definition of “quality”. That slate from the Rabid Puppies also includes a number of works that come across as little more than an extended middle finger to the people who care about the Hugo Awards. Feel free to argue with any or all of my opinions here.

(9) FEELING COLD. Not that Kate Paulk liked any of these Hugo nominees, but in her pass through the Best Semiprozine category she delivered the least condemnation to Sci Phi Journal:

Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie – Sci Phi was the only finalist with any content that drew me in, and honestly, not all of it. I could have done without the philosophical questions at the end of each fiction piece, although that is the journal’s signature, so I guess it’s required. I’d rather ponder the questions the stories in questions raised without the explicit pointers – although I will say they weren’t as heavy-handed as they could have been, and they did highlight the issues quite well. I’m just fussy, I guess.

(10) AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL GRAPHIC NOVEL. Paul Dini signs at Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena on Friday, June 24 at 7:00.

Dark Knight

This is a Batman story like no other the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of writer Paul Dini’s courageous struggle to overcome a desperate situation.

The Caped Crusader has been the all-abiding icon of justice and authority for generations. But in this surprising original graphic novel, we see Batman in a new light as the savior who helps a discouraged man recover from a brutal attack that left him unable to face the world. In the 1990s, legendary writer Paul Dini had a flourishing career writing the hugely popular “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Tiny Toon Adventures.” Walking home one evening, he was jumped and viciously beaten within an inch of his life. His recovery process was arduous, hampered by the imagined antics of the villains he was writing for television including the Joker, Harley Quinn and the Penguin. But despite how bleak his circumstances were, or perhaps because of it, Dini also always imagined the Batman at his side, chivvying him along during his darkest moments. A gripping graphic memoir of one writer’s traumatic experience and his deep connection with his creative material, Dark Night: A True Batman Story is an original graphic novel that will resonate profoundly with fans. Art by the incredible and talented Eduardo Risso…

(11) WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNER. Jesse Hudson reviews Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria at Speculiction.

If it isn’t obvious, A Stranger in Olondria is one of those novels where the road beneath the feet only reveals itself after the reader has taken the step—what the foot lands so rich and engaging as to compel the next step.  The novel a journey of discovery, there are elements of Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle as much as Ursula Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan.  A coming of age via a very personal quest, Samatar unleashes all her skill as a storyteller in relating Jevick’s tale.

But the novel’s heart is nicely summed up by Amel El-Mohtar: it is about the human “vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/16 Schroedinger’s Kzin

(1) ARM-WRESTLING WITH A PUBLISHER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees writers as too prone to follow rules, and too prone to think themselves as powerless in the face of contractual language: “Business Musings: Thus, Lawyers, and Writers (Contracts/Dealbreakers)”.

Lawyers aren’t afraid of thugs and goons and cartoon characters that go bump in the night. They’re not afraid of someone who plays the Big Dog and says, You’ll never work in this town again. Lawyers generally say, Well, let’s see.

Lawyers know there’s usually a solution—and it’s often as simple as standing up and saying to the person on the other side of the contract, I’m not playing your silly game. No. I’m not doing it. Now, what are you going to do?

…. Here’s the bottom line, people. I know a bunch of you are stuck in contracts you don’t like. Publishers are reinterpreting contracts in whole new ways, ways that they never looked at in the past.

The big shift is that publishers no longer see themselves as manufacturers and distributers of books. They’re running a rights management business, which means taking advantage of the full copyright on a property, instead of licensing a tiny part of that copyright. (If you don’t understand that sentence, get a copy of the Copyright Handbook. If you’re too damn lazy or cheap to do that, at least see this blog post of mine.)

(2) ATWOOD. “Margaret Atwood awarded 2016 PEN Pinter Prize”.

Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. She will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13 October, where she will deliver an address.

Margaret Atwood was chosen by this year’s judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely.

The judges praised Atwood as a ‘consistent supporter of political causes’, adding ‘her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights … she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of PEN and of Harold Pinter’.

Atwood said:

I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him – he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid’s Tale, back in 1989 – and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then. Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year’s stand-in.

(3) GUY WITH A GUN. Bruce Arthurs wrote about this army experience in 2012 after the Aurora theater shooting, and it’s relevant again this week: “Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter”.

Several ammo clips later, I and the other trainees have finished the Night Firing exercise and gather around to get our scores. I get a high score.  I get a surprisingly high score.  I get an astonishingly high score, far above the type of scores I’d gotten during daytime firing exercises.  I get a score so high that suddenly I’ve moved up into Sharpshooter-level numbers. That Holy Shit guy?  He skunked it.  Didn’t hit a single target. Well, let’s revise that statement, because it doesn’t take much time or brains to figure out what happened.  In the dark, with everyone firing around him, with multiple targets and multiple dim flashes, he’d gotten his orientation just slightly off and had been shooting at the wrong target.  The target of the guy next to him.  At my target.

(4) HOWARD TAYLER’S TAKE ON GUN OWNERSHIP.

(5) FIRST FIFTH. Joe Sherry continues his series at Nerds of a Feather with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”. Number five on his ballot is: The Aeronaut’s Windlass:

Butcher’s novel is the only finalist not on my nomination ballot. Prior to last year, I was completely unfamiliar with Butcher’s work. I knew that it existed, but until Skin Game‘s nomination, I had never read anything Butcher wrote. Happily, Skin Game was a solid read and one that I vastly preferred over the eventual winner, The Three-Body Problem. The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in a steampunk epic fantasy series from Butcher. I like it more than Skin Game, and I’m happy to be getting in on the ground floor of the series rather than jumping in at Book 15 like I did with the Dresden Files. The setting was fantastic (airships and insanely tall towers), but what drew me in was the characters. Gwen, Benedict, Brother Vincent, Bridget Tagwynn, Rowl, Captain Grimm, and pretty much everyone across the board are what sold me on this book. These are characters I would love to spent more time with.

This is one of those spots on my ballot that I could realistically swap positions with the next one up. I think Seveneves is an overall a better book, but I enjoyed The Aeronaut’s Windlass just about as much as I did Seveneves, just in different ways. They are two very different sorts of novels, and I’m down for more of Butcher’s Cinder Spires series, but Seveneves gets the nod today.

Sherry’s first installment was – “Watching the Hugos: Dramatic Presentation Long Form”.

(6) CONCLUSION OF FROZEN SKY. “Jeff Carlson has finished his Frozen Sky trilogy and the third book is by far the biggest and most ambitious of the 3 books,” reports Carl Slaughter. Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided was released June 11.
Carl interviewed Jeff in 2014 for Diabolical Plots. He was nominated for the John Campbell and Philip Dick awards and has been published in Asimov’s.

The aliens in The Frozen Sky are intelligent, but they look a bit like squids, they don’t speak and they don’t have sight. Why not bipedal aliens like Vulcans or Klingons or Romulans with vocal cords and eyes?

Because I’m not constrained by a production budget! Ha. “Let’s glue some ears on him. We’ll glue some forehead thingies on them. Okay, we’re done.”

Star Trek is good fun but limited in presentation. That’s the beauty of being a novelist. The medium requires the reader’s imagination. Yes, I direct the action, but hard sf readers are smart readers. They want to be strangers in a strange land. So I can say, well, I have this claustrophobic three-dimensional low-gravity environment like the mazes of an ant farm inside Europa’s icy crust. What would kind of creatures would evolve here? Six-foot-tall bipedal creatures like people? Heck no.

Jeff’s other series is the Plague series.

(7) GREAT GHOSTBUSTERS POSTER.

(8) EARLY WRITING. Jami Gray gets a great interview — “Hugo award winner, Seanan McGuire visits with latest InCryptid novel!”

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere? Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you?

My first serious attempt at writing was a fourteen-page essay when I was nine, explaining to my mother why she had to let me read Stephen King. It had footnotes and a bibliography. I finished my first book when I was twelve. It was called Dracula’s Castle, and if I knew where it was, I’d probably put it online.

(9) MORE STORIES. Editor Glenn Hauman’s Indiegogo appeal to fund the Altered States of the Union anthology has an update – “We’re annexing new territory!”

The response to the concept behind Altered States has inspired a lot of authors to join in the fun, so we’re proud to announce we’re expanding the book by almost 60%, adding new stories by:

  • Russ Colchamiro
  • Peter David
  • Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Robert Greenberger
  • Meredith Peruzzi
  • Aaron Rosenberg
  • David Silverman & Hildy Silverman
  • Anne Toole

(10) A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt will be on a book tour in the US in June and July, courtesy of TOR. The trip includes three appearances in California, including an LA-vicinity stop at Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank on the evening of Tuesday, July 19.

TOH-US-Tour-2016

(11) MEDIA STRATEGY. Vox Day’s tells followers at Vox Popoli that his new philosophy is “Don’t talk to the media!”

In light of my ridiculous experience with Wired and after seeing how multiple media outlets turned to George RR Martin and John Scalzi to ask them to interpret my actions, I now turn down most media requests. I do so literally every week; I just turned down two yesterday alone. The media is not in the business of reporting the news, they are in the business of selling their masters’ Narrative.

(12) A MAD GENIUS ON THE HUGOS. Kate Paulk devotes half of “Hugo Awards – The Nominee Highlights – Best Fanzine” to criticizing Gregory Benford’s intention to vote for Steve Stiles in the Best Fan Artist category. Yet his reasons for supporting Stiles — Steve’s years of accomplishment as a cartoonist — parallel my reasons for voting for Toni Weisskopf as Best Pro Editor in 2015.

(13) PRINCE OF TIDES, THE GREAT SANTINI. George R.R. Martin urges readers to donate:

Pat [Conroy] passed away in March… but his books will live on, and so will his memory. In his memory, his family has now establishing a Pat Conroy Literary Center in his beloved home town of Beaufort, South Carolina. You can read about it here: http://patconroyliterarycenter.org/ A worthy project, I think. I’ll be donating. I urge all of you who love good writing to do the same.

(14) LOOKING FOR LAUGHS? The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog is enthusiastic about Joe Zieja’s humorous Mechanical Failure.

Comedy is a tricky beast, especially in science fiction. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is unquestionably a towering achievements of the form, but after than, opinions vary wildly (we’d wager John Scalzi has equal numbers of fans who either want him to stop trying to be funny, or to stop writing books that are so serious). It’s rare in genre to find a book that can do satire without being preachy, comedy without being entirely silly (not that a little silliness is a bad thing), and still manage toss a little “science fiction” into the mix. Joe Zieja’s debut novel, Mechanical Failure (the first part of the Epic Fail trilogy, which gives you a hint as to what you’re in for) makes as good a bid as we’ve seen in quite some time, diving headfirst into full-on military SF parody and making it look easy.

(15) UPJOHN OUTPACED BY REALITY? Alexandra Erin’s facing a challenge that reminds me of the one Garry Trudeau faced while producing Doonesbury during the Watergate era — it’s hard to be more absurd than real life.

Mr. Upjohn’s post-con report from WisCon is still forthcoming; it’s evolved and grown a few times since the con actually ended as I took reality onboard , which once again has made parody seem tame. When actual flesh and blood con attendants are decrying the “dystopian” tape lines designating travel lanes on the crowded party floor, I clearly need to step up the game.

Meanwhile, Erin writes, “I’d really love to close out my WorldCon fundraiser” – still needs $375.

(16) CHANGE OF ADDRESS. Juliette Wade has ported her TalkToYoUniverse content to her Dive Into Worldbuilding site.

Introducing the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop at Patreon!

Dive into Worldbuilding started in 2011 – five years ago – when Google+ introduced their hangouts feature and I decided it would be fun to hang out with fellow writers and talk about worldbuilding. Since then, it has grown and changed, from just a bunch of friends meeting online with no record except my written summaries, to a meeting that got recorded and sent to YouTube, to a show featuring a wide variety of guest authors as well as regular topic discussions. With each change, my goal has been to reach a wider variety of interesting people, listen to more interesting views on worldbuilding, and share insights with as many people as possible.

Today, I’m taking it a step further with the Dive into Worldbuilding Patreon – which is also the Dive into Worldbuilding Workshop.

This Patreon will do more than just support my research into panel topics. It will help me to pay my guest authors for their time and expertise – but it will also let me help more of you.

(17) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 16, 1816 — At the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron reads Fantasmagoriana to his four house guests—Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, and John Polidori—and challenges each guest to write a ghost story, which culminates in Mary Shelley writing the novel Frankenstein, Polidori writing the short story The Vampyre, and Byron writing the poem Darkness.

[Thanks to Petréa Mitchell, Vincent Docherty, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.

A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.

That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…

I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….

At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”

(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.

There’s a Jemisin and Le Guin too. In fact, Nerdlacquer has named its products after all kinds of sf/f references, from Octarine to General Effing Leia.

(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”

Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.

The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….

And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.

“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.

(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.

In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).

According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….

(5) KALDON CLARION SCHOLARSHIP. SF author Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon passed away on April 20. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to create a Dr. Phil Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion workshop.

Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.

The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.

(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…

This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….

(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.

(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.

Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.

  • Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
  • CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
  • Director at Large: Justina Ireland
  • Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen

(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.

…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.

“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”

That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.

But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.

Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”

(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen.  It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.

Costume-Con 37
Salem, MA
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016

(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø

(12) DARLEY OBIT. Dick Darley, who directed Space Patrol, died April 21 at the age of 92. He also directed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.

Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.

(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.

Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.

Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.

Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.

The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.

And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.

Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….

(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.

On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:

  • Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
  • Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
  • Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
  • It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.

(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.

The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.

The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.

If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….

In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.

(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.

I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.

And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.

Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.

(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.

Although the Indiegogo did not reach its goal, Waverly Labs appeas to be going ahead with production — the preorder campaign is scheduled to launch May 25.

1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.

The rest of the FAQ is here.

[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Lola McCrary, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/5/16 The Barnacles of Narnia

(1) LOST SIGNAL. John DeNardo shocked fans and writers alike by revealing today that SF Signal is shutting down.

When we started SF Signal in 2003, it was because we loved speculative fiction. Having a blog allowed us to share that love with other fans. We never dreamed it would have grown like it has. In these past 12 years and 10 months, we’ve shared our love of genre, we’ve provided a forum for other fans to come on board as contributors to also share their genre love, we gave authors a place to tell us about the exciting new worlds they’re creating, and I like to think we’ve made a ton of new friends. We even picked up a few Hugo Awards along the way. It’s been quite a ride.

But all good things come to an end.

It was a very hard decision to make, but we have decided to close down SF Signal. The reason is boringly simple: time. As the blog has grown, so has its demands for our attention. That is time we would rather spend with our families. We considered scaling back posts, but it felt like SF Signal would only be a shadow of its former self. So yes, it feels sudden, but a “cold turkey” exit seems like the right thing to do.

(2) GAMES OF FAME. Six classic games are being inducted into video game hall of fame – CBS News has the story.

game hall of fame

A video game that had players zapping space aliens with lasers and another that put them in covered wagons in 1848 have been inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, along with four other games recognized for their influence on gaming and pop culture.

“Space Invaders” and “The Oregon Trail,” along with “Grand Theft Auto III,” ”Sonic the Hedgehog,” ”The Legend of Zelda” and “The Sims,” make up the class of 2016 honored Thursday at the hall inside The Strong museum in Rochester.

The winners were chosen from among 15 finalists culled from thousands of nominations from around the world. Contenders that missed the final cut were: “John Madden Football,” ”Elite,” ”Final Fantasy,” ”Minecraft,” ”Nurburgring,” ”Pokemon Red and Green,” ”Sid Meier’s Civilization,” ”Street Fighter II” and “Tomb Raider.”

(3) IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. Abigail Nussbaum, in Captain America: Civil War, launches her review with this lede:

It’s a bit of a strange thing to say, but I might have liked Captain America: Civil War better if it were a less good movie.  When films like The Dark Knight Rises or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice deliver rancid political messages wrapped in equally rancid plots and characterization, the reviewer’s job is made easier.  We can point to how a failure to recognize the actual complexity of a situation, or to imbue characters with full humanity, both informs and reflects the simplistic, quasi-fascist message of the movie.  Civil War is a trickier customer.  It tries–and on some level, manages–to be more intelligent and more thoughtful than something like Batman v Superman.  Its characters take the film’s central conflict seriously, discussing it rationally and trying to find a way to resolve it without descending into fisticuffs.  But even as they do so, they reveal the inherent impossibility of their project, the way the core assumptions of this entire genre combine to form a black hole that it can never escape.  I’ve said it before, but the minute you start taking superheroes seriously, and debating the rights and wrongs of them, only one conclusion is possible: that superheroes are a really bad idea, and that any fictional world that houses more than a handful of them will inevitably devolve into a horrifying dystopia in which the rule of law and the authority of democratic government are meaningless.

(4) SINGING IN THE SHOWER. Space.com told readers “Meteor Shower Spawned by Halley’s Comet Peaks This Week”.

Dusty debris that Halley’s Comet has shed on its 75-year-long laps around the sun slams into Earth’s atmosphere during the first week of May every year, creating an annual meteor shower known as the Eta Aquarids. (Another Halley-spawned shower, the Orionids, occurs every October.)

(5) SWIRSKY INTERVIEWS KOWAL. At Rachel Swirsky’s blog: “Silly Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, intermittently teal storyteller”.

RS: A lot of novelists let short stories lapse when they embark on their novelling careers. You keep publishing strong short fiction, like last year’s “Midnight Hour” in Uncanny Magazine. How do you make time for short stories, and what do you get from them that you don’t get from longer fiction?

MRK: Honestly, these days I start a lot of the short stories while I’m teaching my Short Story Intensive. Part of the process is that I write along with the students in order to demonstrate how to start from a story seed and then develop it into a story. I often have a market in mind when I’m doing these, so the demonstration does double duty. The thing that I love about short fiction as a writer is that I get to experiment with a lot of different styles and ideas without the huge time investment of a novel. Plus, as a reader, I find that a short story can often deliver more of a sucker punch to the emotions and I kinda like that.

(6) SMACK ATTACK. J. R. R. Tolkien is pitted against George R. R. Martin in the latest installment of Epic Rap Battles of History. Tolkien’s shots include: ”You’re a pirate, you even stole my RR!”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 5, 1961 — Astronaut Alan Shepard became the United States’ first man in space in a brief sub-orbital flight from Cape Canaveral.
  • May 5, 2002 Spider-Man is the first movie to top $100 million on opening weekend. (Remember when $100 million was a lot of money?)

(8) RARE ENDORSEMENT. John Picacio gave a strong boost to nominee Larry Elmore in an April 27 post “The 2016 Best Professional Artist Hugo Award”.

Larry Elmore is a legendary and deeply influential fantasy illustration icon, who has had a huge impact on generations of Dungeons & Dragons fans — game players, writers, artists, editors, publishers, designers, filmmakers, convention organizers — and beyond. More to the point, he has a major body of published eligible work in 2015 and that work doesn’t take extensive sleuthing to discern whether it’s eligible. His book The Complete Elmore Volume II contains over 700 drawings from a career dating back to 1981, and was produced and first published in the fall of 2015.

Was Larry Elmore amongst my nomination selections? No. He wasn’t.

Do I believe that ‘No Award’ is an option this year? It’s the Hugos. It’s always an option.

No disrespect to the other finalists, but Larry Elmore winning a Hugo would not be a lifetime achievement award but it would recognize a lifetime of professional art achievement by someone who is legitimately eligible this year.

The history of that winners list would be shinier with his name on it.

Larry Elmore responded in the comments –

thank you for all your nice words, I am honored to be nominated. I never, in my wildest dreams, ever thought of being nominated. I came from the gaming industry (my first big breaks) and it seems like that type of art has been ignored for many years, but I agree that game art has had a large influence on a couple of generations…and still does. Because I take the award seriously, I feel more than honored to be nominated. I have had a career that has spanned over 40 years, I have loved it. I am 67 and I paint or draw every day…I am obsessed I guess…..but I love it, I keep trying to get one good painting!!!!

(9) DIVE! DIVE! If you’re having this problem, Fred Kiesche offers a technological solution.

(10) DAMAGED. Kukuruyo, the artist behind Hugo nominee #GamerGater Life, is under attack. Like some of last year’s slated nominees he’s unwillingly become a ball in the game —

Since i publicy became a gamergate supporter, the ammount of reports i’ve gotten on art sites have increased, many times in very underserved cases (i got a drawing pulled because the characters had sweat. Yes, sweat…) as well as the amount of people lying about me on blogs and such. And i don’t mean making critiques of me, i mean outright lies (one guy even wrote about how i voted for some candidate in the past US elections, which is interesting considering i’m a spaniard living in Spain). Not only that, but my website began to have attemps to break in. At some point i was receiving more than 50 attempts to break in each day, until i upgraded my security.

But this broke into a new level when i was announced as a finalist for best Fan artist at the Hugo awards. Then people in the social justice circles discovered that i support gamergate, and since then, interesting things have been happening one after the other (aside from the wave of verbal attacks, of course).

First one of my gamergate related works got reported and banned from deviantart. Then someone picked a cheap fanart that i was commissioned to do, about a half nude Ms.marvel, and tried to frame me as a pedophile, because aparently the character has 16 in the original canon (something i even didn’t know), ignoring the fact that the character body was adult. This story was writen about in (as far as i know) a blog and then in a comic news article, expanding the idea that i’m a pedophile for an anime style fanart thats no different than the millions upon millions of anime character fanarts out there, and that i was somehow a terrible threat for teenagers out there who have their heroes destroyed by evil me. I was reported in devianart for “pedophilia” and the drawing was taken down. I got reported on twitter. The attemps to break into my website have come arround again. Then they contacted my advertising affiliates, telling them i was hosting child pornography, so they would cease to advertise with me. They acepted a middle ground solution at first, but then they changed their policies, and now i can no longer receive their service. Yes, and advertising website changed their policies just because of me… and just yesteday some guys where trying to get MARVEL to SUE ME because of a fanart!

But hey, i’m sure all of this is just a coincidence! this has nothing to do with the Hugo awards or gamergate. I’m sure it’s just that a whole lot of people randomly decided the same week to try to fuck me up in every way they could, right? this can’t possibly be related with people from a particular ideology, pissed off because someone with the wrong opinions got a Hugo nomination.

(11) TINGLE IS HARD TO TROLL. The Daily Dot compiled the nominee’s tweets to show how “Chuck Tingle counter-trolls the Gamergaters who nominated his erotica for a Hugo Award”.

As hilarious and thorough as these VOXMAN owns are, mere Twitter owns aren’t enough to defeat a campaign whose main goal seems to be attention for Day. He’s expressed, in so many words, that hate can only make him stronger.

That’s where the third prong of Tingle’s trolling makes a difference. As the Daily Dot’s April Siese discussed in her recent profile of Tingle, the hard and sexy author’s true identity remains a mystery. He cannot very well reveal himself by showing up to an award ceremony. So, in his place, he has invited perhaps the one person internet alt-rightists and Gamergate-adjacent agitators hate most.

Zoe Quinn, game developer and anti-harassment activist, was the original target of Gamergate after an ex-boyfriend revealed alleged details of her sex life online. She’s the boogeyman (boogeywoman?) Gamergate frothingly rose up to “defeat,” their imaginary platonic ideal of a “Social Justice Warrior.”

(12) WHAT YOU KNOW V. WHAT YOU CAN PROVE. Andrew Liptak finds a great deal of hearsay to repeat in “Gaming the System: The 1987 Hugo Awards” at Kirkus Reviews. On the other hand, it’s hearsay that a lot of people haven’t read before.

During the lead-up to this convention, Hubbard’s interests seemed to have helped beyond mere sponsorship of convention booklets and workshops. Fans have alleged that Hubbard’s followers worked as a block and voted in such numbers that Black Genesis, the second of the Mission Earth series, found itself a Hugo finalist for Best Novel.  Ian Watson, writing in Conspiracy Theories, noted that the presence of the book as a finalist, was suspect.

“Did all those who nominated [Black Genesis] in the first place merely have supporting memberships — suggesting that the only reason for buying the membership was to nominate BG? Furthermore, how many of the people who nominated BG only nominated BG and nothing else? If we could discover this information from Paul Kincaid [Award Administrator] then we might have an indicator of whether BG was in fact “bought” on to the ballot.”

(13) CURING AWARD FATIGUE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather, in “Other Genre Awards: Or, So You’re Tired of the Hugo Awards”, suggests awards alternatives to revitalize your jaded taste buds.

So, you’re tired of reading about the Hugo Awards, are you? All the fighting and arguing and gnashing of teeth got you down? Do you still like Awards and the recognition of good things? We have some awards for you! If you’re newer to this whole genre awards scene, the first place I would recommend you start (besides this article) is the Science Fiction Awards Database. There’s quite a bit to peruse and a full directory of all the genre awards.While it is certainly possible that they are missing something, it does seem pretty darn exhaustive. Since there are a horde of genre awards out there, the real question, then, is “What are you looking for from a literary award?”

(14) RULES IDEA. Kevin Standlee’s next proposal – “Plus 2”.

Here’s yet another proposal to try and counteract bad actors (I call them “Griefers”) trying to disrupt the Hugo Awards by deliberately nominating works that they expect will be disliked by the majority of the membership as a whole, taking advantage of the “first-five-past-the-post” nature of the nominating round. The other proposals I’ve written up depend on the entire membership participating in a second round of voting, either with 3-Stage Voting (members vote down potential finalists) or Double Nominations (members select finalists from a list of top 15 semi-finalists).

This proposal invokes the subjective judgment call of the Worldcon Committee (in practice, of the Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee), hereafter just “the Committee” or “the Administrators,” to add works to the final ballot. This proposal would authorize the Committee to add up to two additional works to the final ballot. The Committee’s selection would be limited to adding not more than two works from among those works that were among the top 15 nominees or that appeared on at least 5% of the nominating ballots cast in that category.

(15) THE VIEW FROM SP4. Kate Paulk catches up on her Hugo commentary in “Not An Action Report”.

Let’s just say I do not have much patience or goodwill for those who seem to think that I wasn’t sincere in congratulating the Hugo finalists last week. Sweetheart, just because you can’t lie straight in bed doesn’t mean that other people aren’t capable of honesty.

As for the charming specimen who wants to chase up the ballots of all puppy-aligned voters and throw them out (presumably without refunding memberships – even though every one of those ballots was cast by someone who paid for the privilege, no mention of this little issue was made that I saw (although I freely admit that I could have missed it even if it was in huge flashing neon letters)), mine bears very little resemblance to anyone’s lists, including the Sad Puppies 4 list.

Why? Because SP4 collated a whole lot of people’s preferences. My preferences don’t look like anyone else’s. There might be some overlap here and there, but I’m weird even by geek standards.

The second paragraph doubtless is a response to ideas discussed in Facebook’s Journeymen of Fandom group thread, as quoted by Vox Day this week.

(16) DESIGNATED DRIVER. How did this sober advice get on the internet?

(17) INSEUSSANCE. RedWombat made a metrical prediction in a comment.

“Pooh-pooh to the fans!” he was grinchily humming.
“They’re finding out now that No Award is coming!

They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
Their blogs will be blogged and their cries will be cried
My Xanatos Gambit will not be denied!

That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “that I simply must hear!”
He paused, and the Grinch put a hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising out of a tweet
It started in sour but then it went sweet!

And this tweet wasn’t sad!
Why this tweet sounded glad!

Every fan down in Fanville, (well, not quite all)
(Getting fans to agree is an order quite tall)
Was laughing at Tingle’s great big brass…fortitude.

He hadn’t stopped fans from enjoying the Hugo, just the same!
He tried to stop fandom, but fandom still came!
(Though not quite like in books with Chuck Tingle’s name.)

And what happened next? Well, on Twitter they say
The Grinch’s gall bladder grew three sizes that day.

And so the Grinch stands, while elk snivel and whine
Claiming “Don’t you all get it?! Victory’s mine!

Stop thinking it’s funny! Stop having fun!
Why won’t you acknowledge that I’ve really won?!”

But in Fanville it’s Christmas, and fans know it is true–
That this time the Grinch lost to…Literally Who.

 [Thanks to Doctor Science, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Hampus Eckerman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/16 (Take Another) Piece Of My Artificial Heart

May the 4th be with you

(1) BREAKING THINGS. Wired studies the physics behind the destruction of a Super Star Destroyer in Star Wars.

The Mass of the Death Star

The real question remains—why is it moving so fast? There are three possible answers:

After rebels destroyed the bridge, the Super Star Destroyer veered out of control and used its thrusters to drive into the Death Star.

The Destroyer used its engines in some way to stay above the Death Star. The attack eliminated this ability, and the ship fell into the Death Star due to the gravitational interaction between the two objects.

The impact was the result of the engines and gravity.

For the purpose of this analysis, I am going to assume the collision was due only to the gravitational interaction. If that’s the case, I can use this to estimate the mass of the Death Star.

(2) ANATOMY OF A REWRITE. Mark Hamill confirmed the story: “It’s official: ‘The Force Awakens’ almost started with Luke’s severed hand”.

“I can tell you now, the original opening shot of [Episode] VII, the first thing that came into frame was a hand and a lightsaber, a severed hand,” Hamill reveals in a video Q&A with The Sun timed to May the 4th. “It enters the atmosphere [of the desert planet Jakku] and the hand burns away.”

The lightsaber landed in the sand, and an alien hand picked it up. Hamill says he doesn’t know if that alien was Maz Kanata, the castle owner who has the lightsaber in a trunk in the movie.

Then “the movie proceeds as you see it” — presumably meaning we’d cut from the alien hand to a Star Destroyer above Jakku as Stormtroopers depart in shuttles, then Max Von Sydow handing the all-important map with Luke’s whereabouts to Oscar Isaac.

(3) FOURTH WITH. Digg has a compilation of Star Wars related fan art.

The “Star Wars” fanbase has always been fantastically passionate and creative, so in honor of their greatest holiday, here’s a bunch of different kinds of fan art to represent every corner of the “Star Wars” universe.

(4) FASHION STATEMENT. Michael A. Burstein had a big day, and shared a photo with his Facebook readers.

Today, I was sworn in for my fifth term as a Brookline Library Trustee. In honor of Star Wars Day, I wore my Han Solo vest.

(5) EQUAL TIME. That other famous franchise is making news of its own. Canada Post will issue a set of Star Trek themed stamps to commemorate the show’s 50th anniversary. Linn’s Stamp News ran an article about the stamp for Scotty.

The three previous Canada Post Star Trek designs have pictured William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk on a commemorative stamp similar to the Scotty design, the Starship Enterprise on a coil stamp, and Leonard Nimoy as Spock, also in commemorative format. Full details of the set, and the planned issue date, have not been officially revealed by Canada Post, though information released with the “Scotty” stamp design added, “More stamps are to be revealed soon.”

And Canada Post has release several short videos previewing the series.

(6) YOU DID IT. Donors stepped up to support Rosarium Publishing’s Indiegogo appeal and Rick Riordan dropped $10,000 of matching funds in the pot. The appeal has now topped $40,000 in donations.

(7) J.K. ROWLING’S ANNUAL APOLOGY. On May 2, the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling followed her tradition.

(8) FIRST FAN. Inverse knows this is the perfect day to dip into Craig Miller’s font of Star Wars anecdotes: “George Lucas’s Original Plans for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ and Boba Fett Revealed”.

Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s first fan relations officer, reveals the original plan for ‘Return of the Jedi.’

…“At first there was one film, and then George originally announced that it was one of 12, and there were going to be 12, and then that changed to, oh there was never 12, there was only 9, and he was going to make 9,” Miller said. “And then during all of it, George kind of lost interest in continuing it… While we were working on The Empire Strikes Back, George decided he was going to complete the first film trilogy and that would be it.

“And I remember sitting in a mixing room with George, working on Empire, and he told me he was just going to make the third movie, which didn’t have a title at that point, and then stop,” Miller continued. “He was going to retire from making big movies and make experimental movies. And that’s why the whole plot of the third movie, what became Return of the Jedi, completely changed.”

Lucas’s 15-year retirement from Star Wars didn’t do much to derail the enthusiasm amongst hardcore fans, who showed early on that they were very, very dedicated to the Galaxy far, far away. Miller remembers one of his better publicity coups, setting up an 800 number (1-800-521-1980, the film’s release date) that allowed fans to call in before Empire and hear little clues about the upcoming sequel, as recited by Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO and Darth Vader.

“There was no advertising; we talked about it at conventions, and Starlog ran a two paragraph announcement of it,” Miller recalled. “And with just that, we completely swamped the 800 system.”

AT&T forced Lucasfilm to buy more phone lines, cease their advertising (easy, since they weren’t doing any), and apologize to the public and other 800-number users. “That was great because now it was being carried all over the world that we were apologizing that Star Wars fans were so enthusiastic about seeing Empire that they swamped AT&T,” Miller said, laughing.

(9) MAKING THE SCENE. Cat Rambo shares some material from a class, that takes apart what having a scene gives you for purposes of making it into a story: “More From Moving from Idea to Draft”

What it is:

A scene is usually a moment in time that has come to you. It usually has strong visual elements, and something is usually happening, such as a battle, or has just happened in it (a battlefield after the fighting is done). It is probably something that would appear at a significant moment of a story and not be peripheral to it.

What it gives you:

  • Everything but the plot. But actually, that’s not true. What is the main source of tension in the scene, what is the conflict that is driving things? That is probably a version of the overall plot.
  • A scene gives you a strong slice of the world and all that is implicit in that, including history and culture.
  • If characters are included in your scene, they are usually doing or have just done something more purposeful than just milling about. You have some sense of their occupation, their economic circumstances, and often some nuances of their relationship.

(10) NED BROOKS. Part of the late Ned Brooks’ fanzine collection is on display at the University of Georgia, where his family donated it.

The university library’s blog has posted “To Infinity and Beyond! Selections from the Ned Brooks Fanzine Collection”.

A look at a fun collection examining all facets of science fiction fandom. Included are representative fanzine titles from the 17,000+ issues to be found in the Brooks zine collection. They represent a variety of times (including the zine some hold to be the earliest Science Fiction zine in the U.S., Planet #1, from July of 1930), a myriad of international locales, and a broad spectrum of specialized Fandom communities and their interests. Mementos from Brooks’ 38-year career with NASA’s Langley Research Center, along with a vintage typewriter and early reproduction equipment.

The exhibit, in the Rotunda of the Russell Special Collections Libraries, will be up through July.

(11) COOL SPACE PICTURES. Digg has “The Best Space Photos from April”.

Every day satellites are zooming through space, snapping incredible pictures of Earth, the solar system and outer space. Here are the highlights from April.

(12) YA AND AWARDS. Joe Sherry makes raises a point about YA in his post about “2016 Locus Award Finalists” at Adventures in Reading.

This is likely worth a longer discussion, but this year’s Locus Awards are pretty close to what the Hugo Awards should have looked like in the absence of the Rabid Puppy participants voting a slate in apparent lockstep….

Now, there are things we can argue with because it isn’t an awards list or a list of books at all if there isn’t something to argue with. For example, the YA category features five books written by men even though a huuuuuuge number of YA novels are written by women. Further, Navah Wolfe points out that the nominees in this category are, across the board, writers best known for adult science fiction and fantasy.

In terms of the Locus Awards, I think this is a bug rather than a feature. Locus (and it’s readers who voted / nominated), as a whole, is far more plugged into the adult SFF scene. Their nominees for Young Adult Book very strongly reflects this.

This isn’t to say that these finalists are bad, because they very much are not, but they are also not reflective of the YA field.

A committee has been looking at a proposed YA Hugo category for a couple of years. The Hugo voter demographic is probably similar to that of Locus voters. So if we make two assumptions – that the category had existed this year and was not affected by a slate – wouldn’t the shortlist have looked pretty much like the Locus Award YA novel category? And how does that affect people’s interest in having a YA Hugo category?

(13) DEFECTION FROM THE RANKS.

(14) ANOTHER SHOCK. Because that’s what popularly voted awards do?

(15) USE OF WEAPONS. Paul Weimer curated the latest SF Signal Mind Meld reading pleasure today, in which people talk about their favorite SF/F weapons.

(16) TODAY IN HISTORY. Norm Hollyn remembered on Facebook:

May 4 is the 19th anniversary of the death of Lou Stathis, one of my closest friends and major influences (I first heard the Mothers thanks to him). Hopefully you’re happily playing the kazoo wherever you are.

(17) HAY THERE. Signal boosting author Judith Tarr’s appeal to help feed her horses.

Right now I do not know how I’m going to feed the horses for the rest of the month. I have managed to scrape out enough to pay for the last load of hay (if that late check finally gets here), but once it’s eaten, which it will be in about ten days, I don’t know what I’m going to do. The farm will be gone by midsummer unless I find a steady source of sufficient income. I’ve been hustling like a hustling thing but so far with minimal results.

The market does not want either me or the horses. The horses are all old and therefore retired and unsalable, or else would require thousands of dollars’ worth of training and show fees to have any sale value. No one can take them. The market is saturated with unwanted horses and the rescues are overloaded. I am over 60, hearing impaired (ergo, unable to use the phone), and with chronic fatigue syndrome which makes office or minimum-wage work difficult to impossible. And minimum wage would not support the animals, let alone me. All my income streams from backlist books, editing, writing, etc. have shrunk to a trickle or dried up. No one has booked a Camp in over a year.

I have had a few small things come through, but as with everything else, they’ve fallen short or failed to produce. I continue to push, and with the fiction writing regaining its old fluidity, I may manage to make something happen there. I’ve been urged to try an Indiegogo for a short novel, and I am closing in on that. (Indiegogo, unlike Kickstarter, offers an option that pays even if the goal is not met. The goal would be enough to cover mortgage, horses, and utilities for a month.) Since for the first time in my life I’m able to write more than one project at a time, that means I can continue to meet my obligation to backers of last November’s Kickstarter for a science-fiction novel, and also write the novella (and short stories, too).

A friend suggested that I offer sponsorships for the horses. I feel weird about that, but they need to eat. What I would give in return is a little writeup about the horse being sponsored, with a digital album of pictures and a monthly update. And short fiction as it happens, if you are a reader with an interest….

Details and specific support levels at the site.

(18) MEMORY OF THINGS PAST. Katster once was “Dreaming of Rockets”

Of course things got derailed.  My cunning plan to eventually raise myself to a point where I’d get notice from the nominating body of Worldcon crashed hard with two factors — the rise of blogs and fancasts as well as the related fact that pros were getting nominated in the fan awards and, more importantly, my own demons.

I’d end up semi-GAFIAting (the acronym means Getting Away From It All, and covered anybody who’s dropped out of science fiction) and not being very enamored of fandom in general.  The break point came in 2013, with a completely different award.  Fanzine fandom recognizes its own in an award called the Fan Achievement Awards (FAAns) and I’d hoped a particular issue of my fanzine Rhyme and Paradox I’d poured my heart into might have a chance at Best Issue.  A friend of mine said he was nominating it, and I hesitantly nominated it myself, hoping in some way that it would end up on the shortlist.  It didn’t, and the award was won by somebody that was well known in fandom for a typical issue of his (once a year) fanzine.

The blow really came when I got ahold of the longlist and found how many votes my ‘zine had gotten.  It had gotten two, one from my friend and one from me.  It stung like hell.  Here I had poured my heart out writing that zine (I still think it’s some of my best writing ever) and it had sailed quietly in the night.  I know, it’s just an award, and all these things are popularity contests, but even now, I feel the hurt in that moment.

I wonder if it’s the same hurt that has fueled the slates.  The influence of failing to get an award did somewhat lead Larry Correia to start making slates.  As I’ve said before, the Hugos were vulnerable to this kind of attack, but it was explained to me pretty early in fandom that making slates was anathema in fandom, a policy only practiced by Scientologists.  Everybody knows where the rest of this story goes.

(19) ANTI. “’Ghostbusters’ Is the Most Disliked Movie Trailer in YouTube History” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not only does it have the most dislikes for a trailer on the social platform, but it also makes the top 25 most disliked videos overall.

Things are not boding well for director Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters based on the film’s first official trailer on YouTube.

Released March 3, the trailer, viewed 29.2 million times and counting, is the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history, according to “MyTop100Videos” channel’s “Most Disliked Videos” list that was last updated April 16. (Justin Bieber comes in at No. 1 with 5.99 million dislikes for “Baby.”)

Coming in at No. 23, the reboot — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth — has more than double the number of dislikes as likes (208,606)….

Although there has been controversy over the trailer, with many YouTube comments centered around the all-female cast, the video has been generating mostly positive reviews on Facebook with 1,186,569 positive reactions (like, love, haha and wow) and 32,589 negative reactions (sad, angry). The reactions add up to 97.3 percent positive sentiments on Facebook overall.

(20) BREAK THE PIGGY BANK. Coming August 16 in Blu-Ray/DVD — “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension [Collector’s Edition]”. (Doesn’t it feel like you’ve been reading the word “buckaroo” a lot this week?)

Expect the unexpected… he does.

Neurosurgeon. Physicist. Rock Star. Hero. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, Robocop) is a true 80s renaissance man. With the help of his uniquely qualified team, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo is ready to save the world on a moment’s notice. But after his successful test of the Oscillation Overthruster – a device that allows him to travel through solid matter – he unleashes the threat of “evil, pure and simple from the 8th Dimension”… the alien Red Lectroids.

Led by the deranged dictator Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow), the Lectroids steal the Overthruster with the intent of using it to return to their home of Planet 10 “real soon!” But no matter where you go, there Buckaroo Banzai is… ready to battle an interdimensional menace that could spell doom for the human race.

How can Buckaroo stop the Lectroids’ fiendish plots? Who is the mysterious Penny Priddy? Why is there a watermelon there? For the answers to these and other questions, you have to watch The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, monkey boy!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, James Davis Nicoll, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/16 Just Hook The TBR Pile Directly To The Vein

(1) DUALING READERS. Rob Dircks delivered an unexpected bonus to those attending his reading at Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night – it’s titled “Today I Invented Time Travel”.

I was invited to read from my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? at the Queens Library Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author Night, and decided to write a short story for the evening — when an unexpected visitor showed up…

Here’s a clip from the story:

And my phone found me the top five reasons to go back in time:

  1. Stop George Lucas from making the prequels to Star Wars.
  2. Bet on the 1969 Mets.
  3. Talk to that girl you had a secret crush on in elementary school.
  4. Kill Hitler.
  5. Meet Jesus.

 

(2) TEMPORAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. For writers determined to stick with real science there are a lot of details to work out, even when it’s only your imagination traveling to the future. R. A. MacAvoy, co-author of Albatross with Nancy Palmer, tells about those challenges.

This ingenious 25-year leap into the future turned from wiggle-room into a straight-jacket. It helped with the science, but not so much, as each of us kept coming up with new discoveries on the news that needed massive re-write. The Higg’s Boson companion (if it is what it seems to be). Gravitational waves.

And that was just the science!

Sweating, sweating, we began to consider all the other important changes in life which would go along with the advances in the sciences and which would touch the lives of the characters in the story even more than The Theory of Everything. In twenty-five years, we assumed, would people still be driving around in automobiles? Seemed likely – as this was not a Zombie Apocalypse novel. Petrol cars? Self-driving cars? Re-write. Rewrite.

Mobile phones. On the wrist, as part of one’s glasses? People still doggedly carrying things the size of card-decks in their pockets? Hey – at least a person in a self-driving car won’t be guilty of much as they babble or text into whatever form of phone they have as their cars zoom them to their destination. Or get lost in a daily traffic jam caused by the inevitable software problems.

And in a moment of O.C.D. we decided to eliminate all references to the daily habit of tea-time in the British Isles. It suddenly seemed too difficult to decide whether or not the increasingly technical lives we lead would have time for such an old custom. Eliminating all references to tea time was perhaps the silliest rewrite. But it explains, better than anything else, the straight-jacket effect of writing in the near-future.

This is only one aspect of the difficulty we found in writing twenty-five years into the future.

(3) TROPE CONSERVATION. Peter McLean on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction” at Black Gate.

The poor old trope had had a lot of bad press in recent years. A lot of people seem to want to deconstruct the little critter, or subvert it or discredit it. Basically people seem to want to hunt the trope to extinction, and I think that’s unfortunate.

Now I agree some members of the trope herd have got a bit long in the tooth and are probably due for culling. No one really needs to read another fantasy novel where a simple farmboy turns out to be the Chosen One / Long Lost Heir who is foretold by prophecy and destined to save the world, do they? No, so the “Farmboy” trope is probably due to meet the huntsman, and I think the “Damsel in Distress” has probably had her day too.

You very rarely if ever see these tropes in modern fantasy now, and that’s because everyone got sick of them. An overused trope can eventually outstay its welcome and evolve into a cliché, a completely different critter, and that’s when the huntsmen need to come after it. And that’s fine. The world moves on, as Stephen King would say.

But I don’t think we should tar the whole herd of tropes with the same brush just because some of them get old and go bad. Healthy tropes can be useful little critters. Tropes are what help to stop every novel being 1000 pages long.

(4) A SCALZI FIRST. “On The Wall,” John Scalzi’s first zombie story, co-written with Dave Klecha, appears in Black Tide Rising, the zombie apocalypse anthology edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole. The book is due in stores June 7, however, Baen Books has the eARC on sale right now For $15.

(5) ATTEND ZOMBIE TECH. Amazon is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Workshop, where you can learn to apply Amazon Web Services technology to recover from the end of civilization. Bring your own laptop and shotgun.

Apocalypse Workshop: Building Serverless Microservices – Washington D.C.

Note: The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has recruited sufficient volunteers for our mission, and all registrants from now until March 10th will be placed on a recruit waitlist. Waitlisted recruits will be admitted if space permits on a first-come, first-serve basis so please arrive early.

Scenario: Zombies have taken over major metropolitan areas. The AWS Lambda Signal Corps has built a communications system to connect the remaining survivors.

Learn how AWS Lambda provides a platform for building event-driven microservices, all without the need to provision, manage, and scale servers. In this workshop, we will introduce the basics of building serverless microservices using AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon S3.

(6) CAN ALTERNATE HISTORY BECOME DATED? Fantasy Literature reviewer Marion Deeds, in 1632: The tale is dated but I love its exuberance”,  makes it hard to figure out why there are (by her count) 23 books in this popular series. (And she may not know about the 1632 conventions…)

Flint lets us know in the prologue of 1632 that there’s going to be no discussion of quantum physics, magical portals, of clicking our heels together and going home. The story is an exciting live-action role-playing game with a small force of Americans who completely outgun the competition. The competition are evil mercenaries, so we don’t have to feel sorry for them as they are chopped down like a summer lawn under the blades of a riding mower.

There are also a few other things that are not going to be problems for twentieth-century people dumped into the seventeenth century. Here’s a short list: no one’s going to struggle with a sense of psychic displacement or post-traumatic stress; no one’s going to pine for family or loved ones left behind; no one’s going to question the basic premise that they are stuck in the 1630s. No one is going to turn, irrationally, on another group; no one is going to scapegoat anyone; no one’s going to have a spiritual crisis.

A few more things no one in the new America is going to have to worry about: sufficient food, clean water, sanitation, electrical power, medicine, radios or even TV, except they do have to create their own programming. That’s because all that stuff came with them. They have their own coal vein, and Grantsville landed next to a river in Europe, so they have water and fuel for steam power. The area had its own power plant and three machine shops, several doctors and a jewelry store, so that as the various couples hook up, they can all get wedding-ring sets. It’s nice. Knowing they can’t maintain their current level of technology for too long, the Americans decide to “gear down,” and convert to steam power, settling at late-eighteenth/early nineteenth century tech. This is smart. All of this clears away survival-level problems so that Flint can get on with what’s important; those battles.

(7) RICHARD DAVALOS OBIT. Best known for roles in East of Eden and Cool Hand Luke, actor Richard Davalos died March 8 at the age of 85. He also was in genre films The Cabinet of Caligari (1962) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). And he was the grandfather of actress Alexa Davalos, who stars in Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle.

(8) MICHAEL WHITE OBIT. Rocky Horror and Monty Python producer Michael White died March 9.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London’s West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1876 — Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first telephone message to his assistant in the next room: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” (It is not true that the second telephone message was, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?”)
  • March 10, 1997 — The CW premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is an oral tradition that Buffy inspired the creation of the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short) Hugo category, and it did receive a couple of nominations before it went off the air.

(10) RABID PUPPIES. After a brief hiatus, Vox Day resumed announcing his slate with “Rabid Puppies 2016: Best Novelette”.

The preliminary recommendations for the Best Novelette category.

  • “Flashpoint: Titan”, Kai Wai Cheah
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfang
  • “What Price Humanity?”, David VanDyke
  • “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”, Chuck Tingle
  • “Obits”, Stephen King

We have been repeatedly informed that homophobia and the lack of diversity is a serious problem in science fiction, and speaking as the leader of Rabid Puppies, I could not agree more. The decades of discrimination against gay dinosaur love in space by the science fiction community stops now, and it stops here!

Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump”.

(11) HUGO LOVE. Joe Sherry at Nerds of a Feather: “My Favorite Stories Don’t Get Nominated: A Hugo Love Story”.

I love the Hugo Awards because in becoming part of the WSFS I get to add one small voice to the multitude and help pick the nominees for the five best novels / stories / whatevers. In 2014, artist Joey Hi-Fi was one nominating vote from making the final ballot for Best Professional Artist and becoming an official Hugo Award Nominee….

Collectively, a bunch of people who love science fiction and fantasy come together and say that these, these novels and stories and artists and fans – this is the best of what I read and watched last year. These are some of the best of what the genre has produced.

Then, when the nominations come out and also after the awards are given, we can all sit back and think…what the hell is everyone else thinking? Why are they so wrong? That book is terrible and this book that I loved is so much better.

Of course my opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people who are just like me except that their taste in great fiction isn’t quite the same disagreed. Or, maybe what I loved was their sixth favorite story and they can only nominate five. Or maybe they just never read it because holy crap there is a lot of stuff published every year. I read a LOT and I don’t even scratch the surface of what’s out there. What the Hugo Awards allows me to do is be part of a group where everyone looks at what they read and tries to figure out what the best of that is – and then collectively, the numbers come together and a ballot is produced.

I love the Hugo Awards even when everyone else obviously gets it wrong because at its heart, the Hugo Award nominees are selected by a group of fans who are passionate about science fiction and fantasy. It’s a group of fans who, ideally with no agenda beyond love of genre, point to something they love and say “this, this is awesome.”

(12) LOOSELY WRAPPED. Kate Paulk has a small update on what Puppies can expect at MidAmeriCon II at Mad Genius Club.

Planning for the Puppy Presence at Worldcon continues under wraps until we have things sufficiently stable to make an announcement. The goal there is to be at the convention, have fun (lots of fun), and meet friends face to face. If I can arrange it there will be a PuppyGate in honor of the Jeopardy question and visitors will have to cross the PuppyGate to enter the fun zone.

(13) TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THAT OTHER THING. Attorney-at-Work blogger Jared Correia finds an excuse to write about a favorite show – “The Truth Is in Here: Lawyer Lessons Buried in ‘The X-Files’”:

The point is that Duchovny did not again discover wide popularity until he made it back to TV, for his turn as debauched author Hank Moody, on Showtime’s “Californication.” Now “Californication” has wrapped, and he’s back on “The X-Files.” Accepting that Mulder was the best role that he’s had, and coming back around to it, feeling at home in it, is the best end for his story.

Sometimes, you can take the circuitous route back to where you belong — but, there’s something to be said for recognizing that you should never have left in the first place.

I don’t think Jared Correia is any relation to Larry, although the click-through ad over Jared’s column “The way attorneys get paid” is very Larry-esque.

(14) GREEN PLANET. CBBC answers the question “Could vegetables grow on Mars?”

The team wanted to find out what could we grown if humans try to live on Mars in the future.

Although they didn’t have real Martian soil, they used dirt supplied by Nasa, which was taken from a Hawaiian volcano that’s thought to be very similar….

But there’s still a long way to go – no one ate the experimental vegetables, because substances in the soil including arsenic and mercury might have made them poisonous.

Now the team are trying to find a way to grow vegetables that are safe to eat.

Wait a minute. So there would have been arsenic in Watney’s potatoes…?

(15) MAD SNACKS. An aeropress is a thing for making coffee. The 2016 Australian AeroPress Championship will be held March 17 —

Australian Aeropress poster COMP

On the night, Australia’s best brewers will be stirring, steeping and pressing coffee generously supplied by Condesa and roasted by the punks at PMC.

Inspired by the Thunderdome of Mad Max, there’ll be beers, industrial disco balls, heaps of food (unlike the Thunderdome), a DJ in full Mad Max dress (not conformed) and, no doubt, some crazy revellers (confirmed), but weirdly the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, declined the offer to MC.

(16) PUPPY IN ORBIT. Galactic Journey’s time traveler has the latest (really late) space program news in “[Mar. 10, 1961] Dog and Puppy Show (Sputnik 9)”.

We are definitely not far away from a person in space.  The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit.  We’re calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it?  On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits.  It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

This is not to say that the American program is standing still—one of our astronauts may go up on a suborbital jaunt as early as next month.  But the Atlas booster, the big one that can put a man in orbit, won’t be ready until the end of the year, at the earliest.

(17) A WRITER WHO WELDS. No, it’s not the Emergency Backup Hugo – it’s Nancy Jane Moore’s “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship”, at Book View Café .

(18) THE ROCKET’S BLUE GLARE. The New York Times has a story on Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ private space program — “Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin”.

Blue Origin is part of a shift of the space business from NASA and aerospace behemoths like Lockheed Martin toward private industry, especially smaller entrepreneurial companies. Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, founded by another Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has been the most visible and most successful of the new generation of rocket companies. Last Friday, it launched another satellite to orbit, but an attempt to land the booster on a floating platform again ended in an explosion.

Much more quietly, Blue Origin has also had big space dreams, but until now did not give outsiders a look at what it was doing.

For almost four hours, Mr. Bezos, who only occasionally talks to the press, led 11 reporters on a tour of the factory and answered a litany of questions over lunch. He talked garrulously, his speech punctured by loud laughs. “It’s my total pleasure. I hope you can sense that I like this,” he said.

He described an image on a wall in the company’s central area, which showed two tortoises holding an hourglass and gazing upward at a stylized image of the planets and cosmos. Below is Blue Origin’s motto: “Gradatim ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously” — no cutting of corners, but no dillydallying, either. “You can do the steps quickly, but you can’t skip any steps,” Mr. Bezos said.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Seth Gordon, Will R., and Tom Galloway for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]